An Israeli psychologist is asking whether Moses may have been tripping when he saw God on Mount Sinai, suggesting that many of our traditional ideas about the Abrahamic God may have been inspired by hallucinogenic drugs.
Professor Benny Shannon’s apparently cites historical evidence that the religious ceremonies of the Israelites included hallucinogenic plants and further bases his speculation on his own experiences with the reportedly similar psychedelic plant ayahuasca.
Of course, the idea is bound to ruffle a few feathers but as it’s so speculative it’s unlikely to make much of a mark on modern theology.
However, it is not the first nor the wackiest attempt to explain religion as arising from hallucinogenic drugs.
Bear with me on this one.
Allegro suggests that the word ‘Jesus’ was actually a code word for amanita muscaria, the red and white speckled mushroom often featured in fairy tales.
Amanita muscaria, otherwise known as Fly Agaric, genuinely exists and can cause quite intense hallucinations, owing to its effect on GABA receptors in the brain.
According to the theory, a religious sect were using these mushrooms for spiritual purposes, and their visions resulted in the Christian religion.
The Bible contains many words which have since been misinterpreted but with enough (of Allegro’s) linguistic detective work, they can be seen to explain the mushroom cult, rather than the later orthodox Christian interpretation.
To recoin a cliché: you don’t need drugs to enjoy the book, but it helps.
As an aside, the article in Haaretz says Shannon’s theory is published in a philosophy journal called ‘Time and Mind’, but I’m damned (excuse the pun) if I can find it.
Links to the original article gratefully received.