Introduction by Colin Wilson to High Priests, Quantum Genes: Science, Religion and the Theory of Everything (American edition re-titled: The Hermetic Code in DNA: The Sacred Principles in the Ordering of the Universe).
I suspect that the name Michael Hayes is going to be remembered with those of Stephen Hawking and Watson and Crick as a thinker who has made a revolutionary contribution to our vision of modern science.
Some time in 1995 I received a copy of a book called The Infinite Harmony, and subtitled Musical Structures in Science and Theology, published by the respectable firm of Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Since I was overworked, trying to complete a book to a deadline, it took some time before I got around to reading it. My book was about ancient Egypt, and was called From Atlantis to the Sphinx; its starting point was the theory of John Anthony West that the Sphinx may be thousands of years older than anyone had supposed. And the amount of reading required was enormous.
One evening I was relaxing with a glass of wine when I noticed The Infinite Harmony in a pile of books beside my chair. I picked it up idly, glanced down the table of contents, and saw that the second chapter is devoted to ancient Egypt. Naturally, I turned to it immediately, and was soon reading with excitement and absorption. I quickly learned something I had not come across before:
“that in the antechamber to the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid, there is a square granite relief whose area is exactly equal to the area of a circle whose diameter happens to be precisely the same length as the antechamber floor. What is more, when this length is multiplied by pi, the result is precisely the length of the solar year: 365.2412 pyramid inches”.
I was fascinated. It had long been clear to me that the ancients attached some mystical significance to numbers and that the sophistication of their knowledge was often greater than ours. Hayes reinforced my feeling that we are dealing with a very ancient knowledge-system whose secret has been lost.
I was so excited that I looked around to see if I could locate the letter that had accompanied the book. It had vanished. The inscription in the book showed that it had been lying around my sitting room for months. And my wife had made a note of the sender’s address, which was in Moseley, Birmingham. I rang Directory Enquiries and asked them if they had a telephone number for Michael Hayes; they had. And although it was now after ten in the evening, I rang him. A girl answered the phone, and went off to get her father. A few moments later, I was speaking to Michael Hayes, apologising for keeping him waiting so long for a reply, and telling him that I found his book enormously exciting.
I asked him some questions about himself, and about how he had become interested in the subject. He told me that it had started in his hippie days, when he was living in Mashad, in Iran, and was in the great mosque of the Imam Reza, impressed by the sheer number of worshippers, and by their devoutness. It was obvious that to them, religion was a living reality, just as it had been to the thousands of worshippers who had brought stones for the building of Chartres cathedral in the twelfth century. And during his travels in Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Michael Hayes had
felt exactly the same thing - that their religions had a living source. He experienced an overpowering sense of being on the brink of learning some enormous secret.
Back in England, he had decided that it was time he learned something about the genetic code, and the mysterious letters DNA. He enrolled at a course at Leicester University. And there he took an important step closer to the secret. It proved to be numerical.
The spiral-shaped DNA molecule involves four chemical bases called adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. And these four can combine together in sixty-four different ways to form triplet units called RNA codons.
The number sixty-four struck a chord. Then he remembered what it was: that the Chinese “Book of Changes”, the I-Ching, has sixty-four “hexagrams”, each made up of two different lines. Any reader who has ever tried throwing down three coins to consult the I-Ching will recall that a preponderance of tails result in a broken line, while three heads form an unbroken line. The first symbolises the Chinese concept of “yin”, the feminine, the yielding, while the second is “yang”, the forceful and masculine. The coins are thrown six times, and the six lines are laid on one another in a kind of six-decker sandwich.
Those who use Richard Wilhelm’s translation, with the introduction by Jung, will recall that the next step is to turn to the chart at the back of the book, which contains sixty-four numbers in a grid of squares, whose sides are eight units long. You then look up your “top” trigram along the horizontal edge, and your “lower” trigram along the vertical edge, and the square where the two trigrams meet is the number of the hexagram you are looking for.
In the early stage of his quest, Mike Hayes (as he prefers to be known) had studied the I-Ching, and wondered idly why the number of hexagrams is eight times eight, not seven times seven or nine times nine. And now, with the coincidence of the DNA code and the hexagrams of the I-Ching, he found himself wondering if this number sixty-four is some basic code of life.
When he learned that there were eight trigrams hidden in DNA, he began to feel that this was more than an odd coincidence...
All this Mike sketched out for me during that phone conversation. And when it was over, I had decided that reading the whole book was a major priority.
What I learned in The Infinite Harmony was that this coincidence was just the beginning of a whole series of related discoveries. For example, the number twenty-two plays a basic part in the DNA code. Proteins are formed by twenty amino acids, but with two codons forming start and stop signals, making twenty-two in all. And twenty-two also plays an important part in music, being the number of notes in three octaves on the piano. The followers of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras regarded twenty-two as a sacred number, and also three.
Previously, studying the Russian mage Gurdjieff, Mike had also been introduced to something called the “law of three”. Positive and negative, good and evil, light and darkness, merely counterbalance one another, but a third force is necessary to combine them - just as the two sides of a zip are made to interlock with the fastener in the middle, or two gases will only combine in the presence of a catalyst which is itself unaffected.
Studying the world’s major religions, Mike was struck by how often the numbers twenty-two, three and seven occur. The number pi, the relation of a diameter of a circle to its circumference, is twenty-two divided by seven. So now he began to look in detail at the world’s major religions - ancient Egypt, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity. With increasing excitement, he realised that his numerical discoveries constituted a code that connected them all. The same code turned up in alchemy, which led him to label it the Hermetic Code, after Hermes Trismegistus, the Greek god who is the patron of alchemists, and whose best-known dictum is “As above, so below”. And so The Infinite Harmony came to be written.
His chances of publishing such a strange and abstruse book seemed minimal, yet its importance was recognised by an editor at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and it appeared in 1994. But there the marvellous wave of coincidence and synchronicity that had carried him so far seemed to run out of strength. The book was not widely recognised, and opened no further opportunities. And just as Mike was beginning to experience a sense of anticlimax, I rang up, and said I intended to write about it in From Atlantis to the Sphinx.
I did just that, and the book came out in 1996, and went into several editions - partly because the whole subject of ancient civilisations had become popular as a result of Graham Hancock’s remarkable bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods, which argued that civilisation may be thousands of years older than archaeologists believe.
By that time, I had met Mike Hayes. He had spent a part of his childhood in Penzance, in Cornwall, and accepted eagerly when I suggested that he should take a few days off writing his second book, and come and renew his acquaintance with Cornwall. We spent days driving around, talking endlessly, and he told me many things about himself and his development which I shall not repeat here, since they are in the remarkable and absorbing introduction to this book.
Mike proved to be a slightly built, fair-haired man who was in his mid-forties at the time I met him. And during the few days he spent in Cornwall (his wife Ali had to stay behind to look after their three daughters), I got the same odd feeling I had experienced while reading The Infinite Harmony: that here was one of those people that fate seems to throw down into the world to make some important discovery.
This has always seemed to me true of all scientists and inventors. One of my favourite television programmes is Adam Hart Davis’s Local Heroes, in which he cycles from place to place, and comes upon dozens - in fact hundreds - of remarkable men and women who have left something behind them - perhaps something as straightforward but essential as the lawnmower or hovercraft, perhaps some world-changing knowledge like relativity or quantum theory.
Mike Hayes, I soon came to feel, is one of these. And why do I think he is so important? Because if the genetic code and Mike’s “Hermetic Code” - these numbers which recur constantly throughout all world religions - are identical, then there is a fundamental connection between molecular biology and religion. And why is that important? Because ever since Gregor Mendel created genetics in the nineteenth century, it has been regarded as a science of the mechanism of evolution. Darwin suggested that evolution progresses through a mechanical process of the survival of the fittest, but he was not sure about the nature of the mechanism that creates species. Mendel’s discoveries pointed to the genes as the answer.
But Darwinism plus Mendelism was even more mechanical than Darwinism alone. At least Darwin believed that his colleague Lamarck - and his grandfather Erasmus - might be partly correct in believing that the will of the individual influences evolutionary changes. But the neo-Darwinists who accepted Mendel’s discoveries as the mechanism of evolution felt that it explained everything. Evolution was now a totally mechanical process - like the erosion of a landscape by geological forces - for the will of the individual cannot influence his genes. And the most influential of modern geneticists, like Richard Dawkins, are rigid materialists.
I personally have been attacking this view for the past half-century, and have pointed out anomalies that cannot be explained in terms of mechanical evolution - for example, how a colony of little insects called the flattid bug can crawl on to a dead twig and then shape themselves into the likeness of a living flower - a flower that does not even exist in nature. This cannot be explained by “survival of the fittest”. It seems to involve some “group mind” operating at an unconscious level.
Now, in showing the connection between the Hermetic Code and the genetic code, Mike Hayes has pointed to the fact that the essence of evolution can also be found in religion, and therefore in the realm of the evolution of consciousness.
I found his introductory remarks about the insights he obtained through LSD exciting partly because of his comment, “I clearly perceived that (everything solid) is composed, literally, of sparkling, vibrant ‘particles’ of light”, a view that is of central importance to the argument of the book, and which echoes the vision of so many mystics.
Now I had already come upon this notion in a book called Essay on the Origin of Thought (1974) by a remarkable young philosopher named Jurij Moskvitin. Lying one day in the sunlight with his eyes half closed, he became aware of a kind of moving mosaic pattern through his eyelashes. It seemed to be made of tiny light fragments, and as he slowly developed the ability to focus them, he recognised patterns like those in religious art, “art and ornamentation created by civilisations dominated by mystical initiation and experience”. These forms, he finally decided, were made up of “dancing sparks”, a little like the tiny lines in the work of the painter Signac. These sparks, which he decided looked a little like tadpoles, make up our whole, visual field, on which we impose shapes. He compares it to the way that, in a Dutch painting, a wine glass examined closely proves to be merely a few strokes of yellow paint. Moskvitin is suggesting that the external world our eyes reveal to us is simply a limited version of a larger inner world. I was reminded of Moskvitin’s thesis by Mike Hayes’s theory of light - on which he expands greatly in this book.
His insights were also close to those of a remarkable anthropologist called Jeremy Narby, who studied among the Ashaninca Indians of Peru, and became convinced that their extraordinary knowledge of the medicinal properties of forest plants was obtained through a visionary process involving the drug ayahuasca.
For example, the drug curare, used on poison darts, is made from a combination of plants, and the first stage is to boil them for three days, while staying clear of the deadly vapours. The final product kills monkeys without poisoning their meat, and also causes them to relax their grip so they fall from the tree to the ground, instead of clinging to the tree in a death spasm.
But there are about 80,000 species of forest plants. How did the Indians stumble on curare without poisoning themselves first, or wasting their lives in endless experiment?
The same questions arise with regard to ayahuasca. It is made up of two plants, one of which contains a hormone secreted in the human brain, a hallucinogen that is rendered harmless by a stomach enzyme. In order to prevent it being rendered harmless (and useless as a drug), it has to be mixed with a substance from a creeper. Then it induces visions.
How, Narby wondered, did the Indians discover anything so complex? Surely not by trial and error - trying millions of possible combinations? The shaman’s answer was that they learned it from drugs, which “told” them the answer.
Narby learned a great deal from another anthropologist, Michael Harner, who had also experimented with drugs among the Indians. And Harner had declared that his visions emanated from giant reptile creatures “like DNA” that resided at the lowest depth of his brain.
It struck Narby that DNA looks like two intertwined serpents (as Mike Hayes also points out). The molecule also looks like a spiral ladder, and shamans the world over talk about ascending a ladder to higher realms of the spirit.
Narby himself tried ayahuasca, and reached the same conclusions as Harmer. The drug introduced him to Harmer’s “serpents”:
“Suddenly I found myself surrounded by two gigantic boa constrictors that seemed fifty feet long. I was terrified...In the middle of these hazy thoughts, the snakes start talking to me without words. They explain that I am merely a human being. I feel my mind crack, and in the fissures, I see the bottomless arrogance of my presuppositions. It is profoundly true that I am just a human being, and, most of the time, I have the impression of understanding everything, whereas here I find myself in a more powerful reality that I do not understand at all and that, in my arrogance, I did not even suspect existed.”
He began to feel that language itself was inadequate, and that words would no longer stick to images.
But after this alarming beginning, things began to improve as he realised that the Indians know their way around in this bizarre reality, and that the most apparently absurd things they had told him were true. And somehow, the Indians seemed to be obtaining their information direct from DNA, a concept that seems less odd when we remember Mike Hayes’s discovery of the similarity between the genetic code and the I-Ching.
Later in The Cosmic Serpent, Narby writes, “It seemed that no one had noticed the possible links between the ‘myths’ of ‘primitive peoples’ and molecular biology”. And he goes on to make the important comment (in view of Mike Hayes’s emphasis on music), “According to the shamans of the entire world, one establishes communication with the spirits via music”.
Narby dares to ask, “Is there a goal to life? Do we exist for a reason? I believe so, and I think that the combination of shamanism and biology gives undisputed answers to these questions”.
Obviously, Jeremy Narby and Mike Hayes have been pursuing parallel courses, and arrived at very similar conclusions.
A few words about the present book. In many ways, it is easier to absorb than The Infinite Harmony. To begin with, Hayes discusses in his introduction the pertinent biographical facts that enable the reader to watch the discovery and unfolding of his ideas. This introduction says everything that is in The Infinite Harmony, and makes it all beautifully clear. He then plunges into the questions that are directly related to Graham Hancock’s thesis in Fingerprints of the Gods, Robert Bauval’s in The Orion Mystery, and my own in From Atlantis to the Sphinx. Even I, who have now devoted about ten years to these matters, was fascinated by his treatment of them. He also points out that there is evidence that Neanderthal man knew about the Hermetic Code 75,000 years ago.
I shall not try to summarise the rest of the book except to say that it is remarkable for the confidence he shows in handling an immense range of subjects, from modern physics to the paranormal, from evolutionary biology to musical theory, from yoga to superconductivity. I was familiar with some of this material, but much of it was unknown to me, and the use he makes of it is strikingly his own.
The performance is often so dazzling, reminding a reader of a juggler who can keep ten balls in the air at the same time, that the reader might easily be misled into thinking that this is no more than a brilliant piece of eclectic exposition. But make no mistake: what Mike Hayes has discovered could be as important as the original discovery of DNA. Like Jurij Moskvitin and Jeremy Narby, he has created a new paradigm - that is, he is looking at our familiar universe from a new angle, and making us aware of magical possibilities.