Thursday, March 6, 2008

Was Moses a Dopehead?

I first came across the article in reuters, which quotes "an Israeli researcher" who believes Moses was under the influence of psychedelic drugs when he saw the burning bush, talked with God and received the Ten Commandments.

Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says,
"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics."

As far as Shannon is concerned, Moses could not possibly have had a "supernatural cosmic event" so the only explanation for the "event" in Exodus is hallucinogenic drugs.

He goes on to say that two plants in the Sinai desert contain the same psychoactive molecules as those found in plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic concoction ayahuasca is made.
Shannon does know a thing or two about ayahuasca....the reuters article says he "dabbled with such substances." Interesting choice of words since Shannon has written a book and a number of articles about the drug and has claimed to have "partaken of the ... brew about 160 times in various locales and contexts."

According to an article on, Shannon says,

"I have no direct proof of this interpretation," and such proof cannot be expected, he says. However, "it seems logical that something was altered in people's consciousness. There are other stories in the Bible that mention the use of plants: for example, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden."

One of the plants that Shannon thinks could have caused these hallucinations is the acacia tree.The acacia is mentioned frequently in the Bible, and it was the type of wood of which the Ark of the Covenant was said to have been made.

One problem I see with this theory of Shannon's is the obvious fact that there is no mention anywhere in the Old Testament of Moses - or any other Biblical prophet - ever using plants or herbal concoctions before communicating with God. Just as groups in the Amazon have a tradition of shaman using these drugs, the Hebrews would have maintained the same sort of tradition had the early prophets used these substances.

Wine drinking and intoxication is mentioned frequently in the Bible....I doubt the writers would have self censored themselves concerning hallucinogens.
Cynics like Shannon can't fathom a living God, so, the only logical answer for them is that it's all a drug induced fantasy.

Does anyone take these people seriously?

1 comment:

Tom Niblock said...

Interesting post. If you assume that the supernatural is impossible, I suppose that most of the Bible doesn't make sense. Entire careers have been made by academics trying to find the "real" truth behind Biblical stories.