Moses was high on drugs: Israeli researcher

High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week.

Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

“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,” Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the “burning bush,” suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

“The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a clasic phenomenon,” he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to “see music.”

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest in 1991. “I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations,” Shanon said.

He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.

From: Breitbart.

(Thanks Bill!)

I’d like to know what his evidence is. The idea that it’s all just a bunch of myths seems plenty plausible to me, but I’m obviously not privy to his research. I’m also curious what psychedelics were available in that part of the world (amanitas? psilocybin?)


  1. If his only evidence is “seeing sounds” then he needs to do more research. That could very easily have been a case of synesthesia, in which senses can get mixed. The Middle Pillar ritual is said to have this effect on certain people as well, so it isn’t something that is purely drug induced. It could have been a natural neurological event, or even ritualistically induced by non-psychedelic means.

  2. I think it’s safe to say he has more evidence than that. Besides he’s not the first to propose this. Clifford Pickover, a psychedelic author among many other things, has written about moses and dmt, here’s two links I can find for now, I’ll post a blog entry later today with more on Moses ideas.

  3. Magick Pickles

    March 6, 2008 at 1:47 am

    Of course they were high,ever read the torah?

  4. I’m familiar with Pickover’s work; but he wasn’t claiming Moses was high on DMT. He was hypothesizing that Moses and Jesus possibly had overactive pineal glands that produced larger amounts of DMT – which, in turn, caused the “visions” or spiritual connection.

    I’m sure there are some old Hebrew or Canaanite rites requiring mind-altering substances, but to chock up every religion experience to drug use is a very big generalization.

  5. More info:

    “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.”

  6. Jesus Rodriguez

    March 11, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Let’s quickly consider the smount of cannabis and opium that is currently grown in the middle east, and extrapolate: If a bush was burning, and Moses was downwind…

  7. I don’t believe in G_d or in miracles therefore; some hallucinogenic agency must be involved. Seeing visions and hearing voices can’t be caused by the Supernatural (which doesn’t exist) so let’s find a natural reason for such phenomena.

    Such is the prevailing PC approach to anything in the Bible. It is PC to have one’s mind absolutely closed to the possibility of the existence of G_d. So Moses and Jesus must have been on drugs. Jesus must have been the bastard son of a whore and his body didn’t rise from the dead but was probably put into a shallow grave and was eaten by jackals. His followers were so duped into believing he rose and walked among them that they preached this belief even to the point dying rather than give up their faith.

    Whatever you choose to believe takes a lot of faith. I choose to believe the Bible because at the end of my life, if I am wrong, “No harm, no foul.” I will die just like everyone else. BUT, if you are wrong…

  8. Pascal’s Wager. Well played, Paul. Unfortunately, you neglect to think of the literally thousands of other religions with their own afterlife. You say if you’re wrong, no harm, no foul? What if, say, the ancient Norse were right? I think that Thor and Odin would be pretty ticked at you, off to Niflheim for ya. Oops, there’s a harm and a foul!

    I am, in fact, Christian, by the way. But when people pull out Pascal’s Wager, I do sorely wish to dismember them.

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