Have you ever had a feeling that you were going to run into someone and then you actually saw them moments later? Of course, it’s a common thing that happens to everyone, and it’s typically shrugged off as a mere coincidence. But in the haunting novel “Gifts of Unknown Things: A True Story of Nature, Healing, and Initiation from Indonesia’s Dancing Island”, renowned biologist Lyall Watson explores the notion that this kind of event is not a coincidence at all, but the result of people picking up on the invisible vibrational frequencies that everything- rocks, trees, animals, and even humans- are constantly transmitting. If this sounds like a bunch of hippie mumbo jumbo to you, bear with me, because Watson is actually an accomplished biologist who completely changed my perspective by merging scientific facts with supernatural phenomenon.

In the novel, Watson tells in vivid detail the true story of time he spent on Nus Tarian, a tiny Indonesian island east of Bali, in the late 1970’s. No ordinary island, Nus Tarian is a place where inexplicable events, magic, and psychic healing are commonplace, where superstitious tradition and primitive religion rule the tight-knit community, and where the primary language is dance. Most of the book’s events revolve around Tia, an extraordinary young orphan who comes of age with the ability to interpret sound as color, heal people with her mind, and transform the island through mesmerizing dance. But this is not a book about mysticism. On the contrary, because Watson is a renowned biologist, he takes an astonishing look at the science behind the supernatural happenings on the island, leaving readers with a profound understanding of the true power of human intuition. He suggests not that humans have supernatural abilities, but that we have an innate power to harness our intuition, which is something we no longer realize like the people of Nus Tarian who rely on it. I will not even attempt to go into detail about the theories Watson presents in the book because there’s no way I can express them as eloquently as he, but I will say that this book makes you think about- and believe in- the true power of the human mind and our symbiosis with nature.

Throughout the novel, Watson weaves in stories and anecdotes of other mystical events he has witnessed throughout his travels, from Indonesia to South America, and it seems the common factor is that it happens only with indigenous people. He always stresses the fact that although these people do not have access to computers, books, or higher education, they still possess complex knowledge of physics, nature, and the human body- and this is how they are able to survive. Perhaps “advances” in society might actually be digressions. Maybe the more we depend on technology, the less we rely on our natural instincts, and the more we lose touch with our ability to harness the power of the human mind. Animals are commonly regarded as “less intelligent” than people (because people are the ones who define intelligence) but when you think about all the amazing things animals can do that we cannot, it paints a different picture. From whales and dolphins who can communicate through echolocation, to sheep who know exactly which medicinal plants to eat when they are feeling sick, and even beetles that can navigate by the light from the moon, you could argue that animals are actually more clever than humans because they follow their instincts instead of trying to supress them.

Diving in deeper to the novel, Watson suggests that maybe we are too quick to dismiss intergalactic order as “supernatural”. Through haunting examples, he shows that there is a natural cycle and rhythm of the world that we have become numb to as we ignore our inherent intuition. Watson suggests that if we can just tap into the reservoirs of human sensitivity, we can unlock the mysteries of the universe (woah). To call this novel brilliant would not be doing it justice. It is a life-changer.


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