Moses high on more than Mount Sinai

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.

Biblical scholar John Allegro wrote an astounding 1970 book called The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross where he argued that Jesus was actually an hallucinogenic mushroom.

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.

Link to article on Shannon’s theory about Moses.
Link to 1970 Time article on Allegro’s book.
Link to full text of The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.

8 thoughts on “Moses high on more than Mount Sinai”

  1. The 2008 Shannon article is titled “Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis”.

    The fulltext can be found on a web site called “Lucid Consciousness”.

  2. The full text of The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, has now been removed “This content has been removed due to suspected copyright infringement”

  3. It seems like a bit of a simplification to say that Jesus actually was a mushroom? I think this is more about inducing the ‘Christ consciousness’ in people. Similar to the Eastern concept of Kundalini, a spiritual awakening.

    I don’t know anything about mushrooms in the Canaan region at that this time – but it certainly seems likely that Cannabis was used ritually for its psychedelic properties. Hebrew scholar Sula Benet and others have provided a theory about the use of kineboisin in the ingredients of a holy anointing oil. Christ was ‘the anointed one’.

  4. Well…cannabis isnt a latin American plant…its originated in india n was cultivated in mid-east…bt i dnt think jesus is a drug or plant

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