Some researchers claim that Moses and the Israelites were on drugs during their legendary quest across the desert. According to Benny Shanon, an Israeli professor of cognitive philosophy at Hebrew University, this detail could explain the vision in which Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.
This theory may also explain that the “burning bush” in the bible is not a literal bush on fire, but a bush that creates a figurative fire in the mind. Shannon says that the components needed to make the psychedelic brew ayahuasca are native to the Sinai Peninsula, just as they are in the Amazon where the brew is more popular.
“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,” Shannon told Israel Radio.
In The Book of Exodus, the encounter that Moses has with God is marked by thunder, lightning and blaring trumpets, which is similar to the visions described by people under the influence of psychedelics.
In addition to the burning bush being a metaphor, Shannon says that it could have also been a literal hallucination.
“In advanced forms of ayahuasca inebriation. the seeing of light is accompanied by profound religious and spiritual feelings,” Shannon says.
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Shannon has admitted that he is speaking from experience, as he tried ayahuasca at least once while traveling in the Amazon in 1991.
“Encountering the divine is one of the most powerful experiences associated with high-level Ayahuasca inebriation,” Shannon told the Guardian.
These theories are controversial among religious scholars, but psychedelic drugs and spirituality have gone hand in hand since the beginning of recorded history, in many different cultures across the world.
The taboo associated with altered states of consciousness is a very new idea in human history. Our ancestors looked at drugs as just another part of life and often sought religious experiences through intoxication.
According to a study from the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, psychedelic mushrooms tend to make people more resistant to authority. They also found the psychedelic experience induced by these mushrooms also cause people to be more connected with nature.
It was announced last year that a startup called Compass Pathways had received approval from The Food and Drug Administration to develop treatments for depression, and possibly even pharmaceuticals, with psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic “magic mushrooms.”
Compass Pathways launched in the UK in 2016 thanks to funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel. While the company is just now receiving approval to run trials in the US, they were already approved in Canada, the Netherlands and at their base of operations in the UK.
It is also possible that psychedelics could be legalized in different jurisdictions across the US in upcoming elections.
Activists in Denver have recently proposed a legal measure that would do away with felony charges for people caught in possession of mushrooms and over the past year, they have been collecting signatures to get the measure put on the city’s election ballot.
Activists have managed to gather thousands of signatures, which is enough to put the initiative on the ballot in May. Kevin Matthews, campaign director for Decriminalize Denver, believes that the tides of public opinion are turning against prohibition.
“I think it’s going to be pretty big. There are a lot of people throughout our country that want to see the drug policy laws change around psychedelics and psilocybin in particular,” Matthews said.