Religious liberty

Eight Miles High on the Sinai

|

According to Israeli researcher Benny Shanon, Moses, son of Amram, did indeed scale the heights of Mount Sinai; he did hear the word of god; and did happen upon a burning bush. All of this is to be believed, Shanon says, but—and this is a big caveat—he was probably higher than a Strawberry Alarm Clock roadie when receiving celestial revelations. The AFP reports:

"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.

Moses Malone's career stats here.

NEXT: Every Man a Warden

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Does this create a Judeo-Christian rationale for legalizing drugs? Yes*!

    * I am not a theologian

  2. Does this create a Judeo-Christian rationale for legalizing drugs? Yes*!

    * I am not a theologian

    I disagree. I think they would see it differently.

    “Jesus did drugs so we don’t have to.”

  3. Shannon seems to lack any evidence to support this theory.

  4. In this specific instance, wouldn’t it be more like “Moses did drugs so we won’t have to?” Eh, whatever. I’m with Epsiarch on this anyway.

  5. Is there any evidence at all that Moses even existed?

  6. No, it’s “Moses did drugs for our sins”.

  7. Shanon seems to have a very shaky grasp of drug effects. “Narcotics” aren’t going to produce the kinds of visions that are described in the bible.

    As for hallucinogens or entheogens, sure. But this is hardly news – people have been speculating about this at least since Timothy Leary.

    The real question is one for ethnobotanists – were there any plants or preparations available to the Israelites that could induce visions?

  8. qaneh-bosm

  9. Does this guy think he’s the first person to suggest that ancient prophets were hallucinating on psychedelic drugs? He’s not.
    As siv says, he doesn’t even provide supporting evidence.
    He’s basically saying, ‘that story sounds like a trip I had, so I’m concluding that Moses was on the same drugs I was on’

  10. How about Julian Jaynes’ theory: ancient people’s brains were still split – left/brain right brain style – and were all effectively schizophrenics and literally heard the voices of their gods in their heads almost constantly…

    http://tinyurl.com/2ts76f

  11. I see RC Dean said basically the same thing as me. I never preview

  12. Judeo-christianity (not unlike Objectivism) puts a high emphasis on reason (logos). The bible speaks positively about the use of wine and other drugs to counteract sickness, pain, and even unbearable sadness. It doesn’t condone drunkenness or use of narcotics that result in the abandonment of the rational faculties.

  13. Drawn-

    That would seem to make sense since there were no major world religions founded after Islam (the Middle Ages).

  14. JJ-

    Why do evangelicals say drinking alcohol is a sin then? I’m from a Catholic background (though atheist now) and I’ve never understood how they can twist the Bible or Church Fathers to support that position.

  15. That link to Moses Malone’s career stats is beautifully place to add ridiculous humor to a cool post.

    Nicely done!

  16. I agree with SIV that the professor is sucking the theory out of his pipe.

    Yes, there is evidence that Moses exists: ancient manuscripts compiled in the book we call the bible. There’s about as much evidence for Moses as there is for Socrates or a host of other accepted historical figures.

  17. Cesar:

    See… you just need to use the correct references to see how to react to anti-alcohol nuts.

    Nephilium

  18. jj,

    That’s like saying we have proof the Weibskobold exists because the Urkobold has written about her.

    (She does exist, but you see my point, yes?)

  19. Cesar,

    Why do evangelicals say drinking alcohol is a sin then?

    The bible speaks ambivalently about alcohol. We are told that “wine is a mocker” (an observation that any user of alcohol would agree with), but it also talks about wine being something of positive value. Traditionally evangelicals with a puritanical streak were against alcohol (often because of negative experiences of its detrimental effects on family members or others), and took passages that warned of excessive use as commands against any imbibing. Evangelical scholars (and most younger evangelicals) do not see alcohol in such a harsh light. There is a definite, generational change in the way it is viewed.

  20. jj,

    Yes, there is evidence that Moses exists: ancient manuscripts compiled in the book we call the bible.

    how much of that is historical fact and how much is legend to explain the development of a religion to latter peoples. The old testament was written hundreds of years after moses supposedly led the jews out of egypt.

  21. Some have suggested that Moses may have eaten ergot, a fungus that infects crops indigenous to that area. Ergot contains numerous psychoactive alkaloids, including one used as a precursor to LSD… so Moses might’ve been tripping face.

  22. “””Yes, there is evidence that Moses exists: ancient manuscripts compiled in the book we call the bible. There’s about as much evidence for Moses as there is for Socrates or a host of other accepted historical figures.”””

    Right, which would be like saying the Grinch really exist because Dr. Suess wrote about him.

  23. That’s like saying we have proof the Weibskobold exists because the Urkobold has written about her.

    Agreed, highnumber. I was being a tad provocative. 😉 We actually have very little evidence for many of the historic figures or early history.

    There is some evidence in the hieroglyphs for a semitic tribe (the Hyksos in Egyptian, I believe) living in Egypt, of asiatic tombs with palestinian type burial artefacts built with egyptian style bricks, and the migration of a monotheistic semitic tribe into the area of Israel, where they displaced other peoples. We have some evidence that these Hyksos, although foreigners, had an important place in Egyptian society for some time, and were ultimately expelled. (This theory is supported by later historian Josephus.)

    Not too much to go on, I agree. But enough to speculate… 🙂

    See “Hyksos Possibilities” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exodus if you are so inclined.

  24. SIV | March 4, 2008, 4:10pm | #

    Shannon seems to lack any evidence to support this theory.”

    And this would be a problem concerning religion how?

  25. I have a confession. I don’t believe in Socrates.

  26. Or, you know, he could have just made it all up.

    Never chalk up to psychotropics what is better explained by authoritarianism.

  27. Faux, faux, faux.

  28. I have a confession. I don’t believe in Socrates.

    Dude, Bill and Ted went back in time and grabbed him, thereby proving that he exists. So I don’t want to hear any skepticism about him, Billy the Kid, Napoleon, Freud, Joan of Arc, Beethoven, or Abraham Lincoln. Or Rufus.

  29. Yes, there is evidence that Moses exists: ancient manuscripts compiled in the book we call the bible. There’s about as much evidence for Moses as there is for Socrates or a host of other accepted historical figures.

    Actually, there’s quite a division among Old Testament scholars as to whether or not Moses was a real person. There’s no such debate about the existence of Socrates.

    The old testament was written hundreds of years after moses supposedly led the jews out of egypt.

    And I’m pretty sure there’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the Jews were enslaved in Egypt in the great numbers described in the Bible and there’s certainly no evidence whatsoever that they wandered the desert for 40 years.

  30. Whoops, or Ghengis Khan.

  31. The old testament was written hundreds of years after moses supposedly led the jews out of egypt.

    This may in fact be the case. Although historical literary criticism in this area is a lot more fluid than we are led to believe. For instance, it was accepted theory in the 40’s that the Tanakh was not more than a thousand or so years old, and that it had been irretrievably altered through time. Then came the incredible discovery at the Essene community at Qumran. We learned there that the Tanakh is much, much older than we believed, and that the contents had remained practically unchanged despite thousands of copyings. The Jewish scribes, an incredibly anal class had, through incredibly tough Quality Assurance customs maintained the contents intact.

  32. I took a course in college called “the search for the historical jesus,” and it basically concluded that he was a pain in the ass hippie-type philosopher who wouldn’t shut his hole.
    At least that’s what I’ll tell God before he puts me on the greased rail to hell.

  33. Right, which would be like saying the Grinch really exist because Dr. Suess wrote about him.

    Jewish courts required at least two or three witnesses. But yes, that’s exactly how our courts work today. If two or three people are able to convincingly claim that I killed JFK, then, yes, for all intents and purposes the law said I did.

    …I’m not saying I like the idea. But it’s the way the world works.

  34. You were the second gunman on the grassy knoll?!? I thought that was Ace Ventura.

  35. Yes, there is evidence that Moses exists: ancient manuscripts compiled in the book we call the bible.

    Ancient manuscripts also support Noah’s flood, Adam and Eve, Methuselah, and many other obviously untrue things.

    There is no credible evidence that Moses exists. Likewise, the Jews imprisonment in Egypt is also unsupported by accepted evidence.

  36. There’s no such debate about the existence of Socrates.

    There should be, you, you Apologist.

  37. *SOB*

    No, you’re the son of a bitch, Socrates. All fuckin’ thinkin’ you’re the shit, fuckin’ hemlock-drinkin’ bitch.

  38. You were the second gunman on the grassy knoll?!

    Sshhhh. I was simply reading a textbook on sharpshooting in the repository. I took my rifle along for reference.

  39. I’ve seen this on a few news oriented sites as well. It is a bad omen. A professor pulls something from his ass, and from what I have read so far, he hasn’t done any field research like finding 3200 year old hash residue on Mount Sinai or anything else to back up, but pulls it out of his ass, and it makes the news. It is only going to encourage a wave of academics do the same to get attention.

  40. I have always felt that Socrates was rightfuly put to death for asking too many assholey questions.

    Nobody likes a gadfly.

  41. Indeed. I wondered once whether he was really a troll, not a philosopher.

  42. How powerful where drugs back then? For some reason, I have trouble believing that in the age before LSD and the deliberate cultivation of narcotics for consumption that there was something that could make a guy trip balls so hard that he sees a flaming shrub talk to him.

  43. J sub D: Likewise, the Jews imprisonment in Egypt is also unsupported by accepted evidence.

    You Doubting Thomas, you. The Bible is as factual as Socrates, or haven’t you heard?

    Look, it’s really very simple: the ancient tribal war god of the Hebrews told the stories to some preliterate guy whose name we don’t know, who subsequently passed it on to future generations through oral tradition until writing was invented, after which the stories were redacted multiple times by unknown parties, sifted through and voted on by a council of wide-eyed primitives and finally translated into the King’s English.

    See? It just has to be true.

  44. Actually it is Homer who may mot have existed.The Illiad and the tales of Atlantis were passed on in much the same way as the Bible.Many believe they were based in actual events and changed to heroic tales of gods and men.Many were a way for ancient man to explain events of the natural world.These would include earthquakes,comets,volcano’s and other large events,

  45. It’s awesome how this has become a thread about who all don’t exist.

    I heard Darwin and his magical floating beagle were myths as well.

  46. I’ve been thinking.Everyone on this site should love the Ten Commandments.They really say treat others with respect,do no harm to others and no harm will come to you.If our laws were base as such the WOR would not exist.

  47. Actually it is Homer who may mot have existed.

    Homer? Fictitious? Well I never!

  48. speaking of the ‘factuality’ of socrates…

    Check out IM Stone’s “The Trial of Socrates” Good book that.

    As far as drugs = Teh Bible… that strikes me as the argument of someone who really thinks drugs are like, awesome and stuff.

    as in, “when all you’ve got is psychedelics, everything problem looks like… Psilocybin”

    Also, Altered States is a funny movie

  49. Likewise, the Jews imprisonment in Egypt is also unsupported by accepted evidence.

    Actually I’ve heard that even though the escape from Egypt is the foundational story of their religion many devout Jews accept the fact that the story has no basis in fact or history.

    Apparently this has noe affect on the inspiration they are able to draw from it.

    Likewise many Christians (from liberal mainline sects) likewise accept the factthat while there may have been an historical person (or persons) upon which the Biblical Jesus was based the Gospels cannot be taken literally as accurate historical records.

    Apparently for many believers faith and proof exist worlds apart.

  50. Everyone on this site should love the Ten Commandments.They really say treat others with respect,do no harm to others and no harm will come to you.If our laws were base as such the WOR would not exist.

    ONE: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’ I’ve got a problem with this one.
    TWO: ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’ I’ve got a problem with this one too.
    THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’ Nope, this one’s no good either.
    FOUR: ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’ And give up my NFL Sundays? Uh Uh.
    FIVE: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ What if your parents were assholes?
    SIX: ‘You shall not murder.’ I’m cool with this one.
    SEVEN: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ You shouldn’t, but I don’t want a law about it.
    EIGHT: ‘You shall not steal.’ That’s a good law. Jehovah is 2 of 8 so far.
    NINE: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’ 3 of nine. Jehovah is on a roll!
    TEN: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.’ Nope, that’s a thought crime.

    The final tally shows Jehovah batting a mere .300 on commandments. .333 if you count #7 as a sacrifice fly. You’d think a god would do better than that.

  51. Apparently for many believers faith and proof exist worlds apart.

    The honest ones admit it. It’s no fun to try and argue with them.

  52. Actually J sub D, those aren’t the “10 commandments” at all.

    Check out

    http://www.xs4all.nl/~sbpoley/mistaeks/tencommandments.html

    Those are the ONLY time in the bible the “10 commandments” are directly listed.

  53. J sub D

    The one about adultery shall be heretofor known as the seventh commandment stretch.

  54. On “seeing sound”: you don’t have to be on drugs to get those effects. Seizures, migraines, and natural synesthesia can all make people experience blurring of the senses. I wouldn’t be surprised if stress and awe (and maybe some strange weather) could do it.

    ktc2: those “ten commandments” are the ones prefaced by the word “ten.” The familiar Ten Commandments were the ones associated with Moses’ forty-day wait on Mount Sinai, and there are ten of them, so I don’t see that the traditional usage is really wrong.

  55. The phrase “ten commandments” occurs just three times in the bible. Two of these are in Deuteronomy: chapters 4 and 10 tell us that the ten commandments were written on two tablets of stone, but neither chapter says what the ten commandments actually were. The other reference to the ten commandments occurs in Exodus, and I will return to it shortly.

    The STCs are given in two places: firstly in Exodus 20 and then, slightly reworded, in Deuteronomy 5. Neither chapter refers to them as the ten commandments! The former does not give them any title, while the latter defines them as the statutes and ordinances (or ‘statutes and judgments’ in the KJV). The statutes and ordinances are not the commandments, but something distinct. This is clear from several references in the bible, among them the previously mentioned Deuteronomy chapters 4 and 10.

  56. I would be happy to do drugs so that other might not or for their sins for that matter….

    “Seventh Commandment Stretch”….that was damn funny.

    I guess God would make a decent baseball player but a lousy field goal kicker.

    And I saw a movie that proves that Moses actually came down with 15 commandments but he was an oaf, tripped, and dropped one of the tablets.

  57. History of the World all the way!

  58. “””And I saw a movie that proves that Moses actually came down with 15 commandments but he was an oaf, tripped, and dropped one of the tablets.”””

    It was the drugs!!!!

  59. Isaac said:

    Apparently for many believers faith and proof exist worlds apart.

    J sub D said:

    The honest ones admit it. It’s no fun to try and argue with them.

    What I was trying to say was that true faith requires no proof. The believer who has integrated his faith with his intellect has no problem with conflicts of religion and science.

    Most days I am quite content to live with my conviction that I need no belief in a Heavenly Father (or Mother) to sustain me. Everything I see in the world and the universe confirms my skepticism and atheism.

    Other days I am forced to confess that I lack faith because I have no imagination.

    In the end even a lapsed Quaker atheist like me is forced to concede that the religious texts of the world contain inspirational and informative messages that most of us could benefit from becoming acquainted with.

  60. Is there any evidence at all that Moses even existed?

    Sure. Right there in a glass case in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, they’ve got his wooden staff. Along with hairs , the Prophet’s beard and Joseph’s kitchenware.

  61. Sorry, just double checked. That’s Abraham’s cookware.

  62. For some reason, I have trouble believing that in the age before LSD and the deliberate cultivation of narcotics for consumption that there was something that could make a guy trip balls so hard that he sees a flaming shrub talk to him.

    In South America, which is just chock-full of hallucinogenic plants, stone age natives have been preparing concoctions that are at least the equal of LSD for ages.

    The real question is, was there anything growing in the Middle East at the time that would create serious visions?

  63. Some Native Americans used peyote way before LSD was invented.

  64. As one of the original Strawberry Alarm Clock “Roadies” I can say without a doubt; “I was never that high”. Witchcraft, Voodoo, Superstition and Fiction are just that, they are not “Historic Fact”.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.