I’ve always suspected this myself, but a Hebrew University researcher is daring enough to say it out loud in a recent article:
On perusing the momentous occasion of Moses’ trip up Mount Sinai to collect and deliver God’s words to the people, Professor Benny Shanon is reminded of a ‘trip’ of his own:
…[Shanon] recalls a powerful hallucinatory experience he had when he visited the Amazon and drank a potion made from a plant called ayahuasca. “One of the things that happens when you drink the potion is a visual experience created via sounds,” he says.
Shanon presents a provocative theory in an article published this week in the philosophy journal Time and Mind. The religious ceremonies of the Israelites included the use of psychotropic materials that can found in the Negev and Sinai, he 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.” (Haaretz)
I’m sure there are plenty of people who will find this offensive, but I don’t see why. What’s wrong with using the materials of God’s earth in order to get a little closer to him? Providing it’s done for purely spiritual means? I think that probably works out a lot better than getting ridiculously drunk on Simchat Torah or Purim.
So, kudos to this professor for saying what a lot of us are probably thinking.
And, hey, I want whatever Moses is smoking. No, really – that’s gotta be pretty good if it’s good enough for freakin’ Moses. Like Shanon sums up:
“But not everyone who uses a plant like this brings the Torah,” Shanon concedes. “For that, you have to be Moses.”