There are some pretty intense moments in the Bible - bushes erupt in fire, lightning screeches from the sky, and loud symphonic sounds lead prophets and saints to sacred events. Moses has several experiences in which he encounters God in an intense sensory fashion. But was he really experiencing all of these things, or was Moses on drugs?
When it comes to the sensitive subject of drug use in the Bible, Doctor Benny Shanon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is the leading expert. He claims that specific plants available on the Sinai Peninsula could have created a hallucinogenic effect when consumed together, extremely similar to the Amazonian tradition of ayahuasca tea. He has used ayahuasca himself, and believes it can open the mind to a religious experience like no other.
Dr. Shanon makes it very clear that he wants to retain respect for the Jewish and Christian faiths. Publications such as The Guardian have misrepresented his work in the past, touting the "Moses was high" headline and twisting the Professor's words - "Terms such as "drug," "trip," "high," and "stoned," are ones I have nothing to do with and which I do not condone," Dr. Shanon stated.
The Effects Of The Plants May Explain A Few Very Important Biblical Moments
Dr. Shanon claims that two of the major events that most people know Moses for in the Bible occurred while he was possibly under the influence of hallucinogenics. Those events are the receiving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and the encounter with the burning bush with which he had a conversation.
He also experienced things throughout the Book of Exodus that include bright light and the sound of trumpets, visual and auditory sensations that can be experienced through drug use.
Moses Experienced Common Side Effects Of Someone Who Has Taken Ayahuasca
Dr. Shanon came up with the hypothesis that Moses and his fellow Israelites were in an "altered state of consciousness" when they experienced God at Mount Sinai. According to Shanon, the effects of ayahuasca consumption can result in hallucinations, which can include seeing light and experiencing intense religious feelings.
Shanon posits that experiencing seeing a bright while also feeling deep religious connections can give one the illusion of seeing God.
The Use Of Hallucinogens May Have United The People Of Israel
Although his theory has been somewhat divisive for the religious community, Shanon believes that the use of hallucinogens may have been a uniting factor for the early people of Israel. He stated that opinion in an interview with Israel Radio:
"As far as 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 effects of narcotics."
The Two Plants Found On The Sinai Peninsula Are Also Used In Ayahuasca Ceremonies
Ayahuasca contains two key ingredients, DMT and MAO, that give it its hallucinogenic effect; two plants in the Sinai region contain the same ingredients. The Acacia bush contains DMT, and the Peganum harmala bush contains MAO. The ancient Israelites would have had access to both critical plants.
There are always very specific preparations made for ayahuasca ceremonies, and similar preparations have actually been described in the book of Exodus in the Bible, in relation to the Mount Sinai events.