If you’ve tried psychedelics, you know from experience that they can bestow spiritual enlightenment. For the religiously inclined, this can be revolutionary, giving them insight into beliefs not previously explored by them. Is it possible that these trips are so pronounced that they have influenced the core of modern Western beliefs? One psychologist thinks so. According to Benny Shanon, a Stanford-trained psychologist who currently teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, there is a good chance that Moses was under the influence of DMT at key moments in history. It is quite a theory and you can probably imagine that it is dismissed by many as unfounded and even heretical.
DMT: THE CORE OF RELIGION?
The theory stems from Shanon’s own experiences with Ayahuasca, a DMT-rich brew from the Amazon used for mind-altering practices. Coincidentally, the components needed to make this powerful brew are also available in the Middle East, with parts of the Acacia tree and the Peganum harmala bush combining to create an MAOI and DMT brew, leading to one of the most powerful, hallucinogenic experiences known to date. The mix is not technically Ayahuasca, but the basic molecules are the same.
For Shanon, it is not far-fetched to assume that the powerful, hallucinogenic experience of these plants, which were treated with reverence and even considered sacred, were used by ancient holy figures to get closer to God. Although there is no direct evidence to show that Moses used such concoctions, the religious preparations described in Exodus are very similar to the ritual precursor to Ayahuasca. So, when was Moses under the influence of DMT? Well, Shanon says this was probably when he saw God as the burning bush and when he received the Ten Commandments. It would explain a lot. In a radio interview he said: “As far as Moses on Mount Sinai, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I also don’t believe, or finally, and this is very likely, an event that connected Moses to the people of Israel under the influence of narcotics.”
He also described that the experiences, which Moses encountered, such as seeing fire, adjusted perception of time, serpents, entities whose faces are not visible, hearing and seeing sounds and colors, and encountering the Divine, are all common experiences that have been documented by Ayahuasca users. It is also claimed that Ayahuasca users exhibit a kind of radiant glow after use, which would explain the “radiation” seen around Moses. Is it true? Well, no one can say for sure. However, there are many holes in the theory that have yet to be explained. For example, although the two aforementioned plants, considered sacred, can be found throughout the Middle East, there is no evidence that they were ever used together as hallucinogens. For the theologically skeptical among us, there is also the question of whether Moses ever existed. Besides the fact that he is mentioned in the Bible, there is no other reference to him. Despite these flaws, it does raise questions: Could this mean that the foundation of a particular religion is based on a DMT trip? It’s an innovative and interesting idea and one that is sure to generate some heated debates in the future.