Graham Hancock’s ‘The Divine Spark: Psychedelics, Consciousness and the Birth of Civilization’ – Review
Graham Hancock is an international bestselling author and his books have sold over 5 million copies worldwide.
The Divine Spark: Psychedelics, Consciousness and the Birth of Civilization is a collection of essays from over 20 leading figures in the area of consciousness and psychedelics. Some contributors include ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Rick Doblin, artist Alex Grey, and medical doctor and researcher Rick Strassman.
According to Graham, individual freedom is the chief accomplishment of Western civilization. Hancock skillfully articulated the travesty of the war on drugs and explored the idea behind cognitive liberty and sovereignty over ones consciousness (Bonus TED talk video here from Graham Hancock).
Psychologist William James was cited several times with his provoking and popular quote: “Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential form of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality that probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.”
Dennis McKenna’s essay mentioned that we yearn for Mircea Eliade’s idea of the eternal return which is another interesting idea. The eternal return is that idea that we have a desire to transcend history and return to a period of blissful origins.
In the chapter by Don Lattin he shared how in a follow up study from 36 subjects who took psilocybin under Roland Griffith's supervision (professor of psychiatry and neuroscience) found that 2/3rds of them rated the sessions as among the top 5 most important experiences of their whole lives.
Lastly, the book explicated how the psychedelic sixties caused a backlash of prohibition by some proponents exaggerating the benefits of psychedelics and minimizing the risks. The failure resulted from departing from the scientific method and the culture was not prepared to handle psychedelics.
I enjoyed Graham Hancock’s balanced attitude towards psychedelics; in a chapter explaining his ayahuasca experiences, he notes how he doesn’t take ayahuasca for fun or recreation.
The book also broached taboo and controversial areas which was admirable.
No major criticisms.
Check out his book, here: (Amazon link)
I’ve also investigated the merits of New Atheism (militant atheism), what I think about psychedelics (such as what I think psychedelics do or whether I think you can achieve psychedelic states with meditation), the limits of science, the purpose of life, and other topics in my essay The Search for Truth.
Graham Hancock. The Divine Spark: Psychedelics, Consciousness, and the Birth of Civilization. San Francisco: Red Wheel Weiser, 2015. Kindle Edition.