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The Cygnus Mystery: Did Cosmic Rays Affect Human Evolution? (cont.)
By Andrew Collins

We Are Star-stuff

This staggering scenario might well explain why our ancestors came to recognize the celestial swan as so important to their religious mindset, since there is every reason to conclude that ancient shamans who achieved altered states of consciousness in deep caves, most obviously using hallucinogens, somehow became aware of the effect Cygnus was having on their lives. Uniquely, they would have been able to see the disintegration underground of the cygnet particles, through a process known as Cherenkov radiation, which allows decaying cosmic rays to be seen as flashes of white or blue-white light as they pass through the viscous part of the eye.

Such 'visions' in total darkness would have increased and decreased in accordance with the presence overhead of Cygnus, enabling the Palaeolithic shamans eventually to synchronize their underworld activities with its cosmic ray cycle, and thus identify it as the source of origin of these profound experiences. Moreover, the appearance of these seemingly objective flashes in the eyes might additionally have been taken as manifestations of divine light, triggering more complex connections with the mysteries of Cygnus through contact with supernatural entities and the attainment of otherworldly knowledge and wisdom. This scenario might well have led our ancestors to learn what science is now confirming today - that life came from the stars. Indeed, the modern theory of panspermia, literally 'life everywhere', proposes that the most primitive forms of life probably arrived on this planet having hitched a ride either on a comet, meteor or asteroid.

In my opinion, this communion with the great unknown in deep cave settings led the ancients to celebrate the idea that we were star-stuff by teaching that the sun was periodically reborn from between the thighs of the Cosmic Mother, symbolised by the Milky Way's Great Rift and the Cygnus constellation. Moreover, I suspect that at least a proportion of the cosmic rays that affected the Palaeolithic world came from the direction of Cygnus, explaining why it is at the heart of religious symbolism worldwide.

Yet Cygnus X-3 had a rival in the Cat's Eye nebula, the chosen candidate for cosmic rays proposed by Aden Meinel and the Meinel Institute. Unfortunately, astrophysicists are unanimous in their opinion that the Cat's Eye is a wimpy object unable to produce cosmic rays that might reach the Earth. What is more, the Meinels, by their own admission, looked first in Cygnus for a possible point source of cosmic rays, and found none - Cygnus X-3 being overlooked.

When in 1973 Carl Sagan wrote that cosmic rays might have been responsible for changes in human evolution he boldly asserted that their source was most probably a neutron star, which he saw as one of the most fascinating stellar bodies in the whole of the universe. Today there can be little doubt that Cygnus X-3, as a neutron star/black hole as well as the galaxy's first confirmed blazar, is the best candidate by far for at least a proportion of the cosmic radiation responsible for the acceleration of human evolution at a time when we were just beginning to emerge as modern human beings. Yet more disturbing is the fact that Cygnus X-3 is still out there, its cosmic gun barrel trained on the Earth, ever ready to release a volley of cosmic particles in our direction. Astrophysicists studying Cygnus X-3 are waiting for what they see as the 'next big bang', showers of cosmic particles on a level never seen before, and when this happens, who knows, we might well be ready for the next stage in evolution.

THE CYGNUS MYSTERY by Andrew Collins is published by Watkins Books. For further information go to, or For more information on Denis Montgomery's forward-thinking anthropological ideas visit his website at

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