Culture, Mishegas, Religion

Boy, was that a trip…

From JTA:

Benny Shanon, professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has argued that the miraculous sights and sounds in the Exodus account of God’s giving of the Torah to Moses may have been drug-induced.

And how do you think he deduced that?

Shanon, who published his theory in the scholarly journal “Time and Mind”, said the Mount Sinai spectacle recalled a “trip” he experienced after drinking psychotropic drugs of a kind that can be found in some desert plants.
“I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations,” Haaretz quoted him as saying. “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.”

And here’s the kicker:

But he added: “I have no direct proof of this interpretation.”
According to Shanon, the drug theory is more feasible than other explanations for the Mount Sinai story — that indeed the Israelites communicated with God, or that it is all just a fairy tale.

Seriously? For a far more interesting piece on the relationship of psychedics to Judaism, check out this article over at Jewcy.
Full story.

8 thoughts on “Boy, was that a trip…

  1. I love how scientists think they know about other people’s fields, too. I don’t tell you how to do your cognitive whatever, do I?

  2. Actually, this makes more sense to me then the more traditional explanation, and I don’t think it makes it any less authentic.
    You should also be aware that Shannon is actually a well known expert in the area of understanding psychedlics, particulary the Amazonian shamanic brew know as Ayahuasca (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayahuasca). Indeed, he wrote the insanely thorough catalogue of Ayahusca experiences entitled Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience (See:http://www.amazon.com/Antipodes-Mind-Phenomenology-Ayahuasca-Experience/dp/0199252939).
    Thanks for the link to the Jewcy piece. I would be interested in reading more about this interesting and worth subject.

  3. The man is ignoring more than 100 years of the study of the bible and of the religious experience. He is an am haaretz in all fields qualifying one to speak about Torah and religion.
    I don’t care how much he knows about psychadelics, he doesn’t know jack about the Near East or the Bible.

  4. Amit, if you read is book you would find that you are wrong about what Shannon knows about. Further, are you saying that only those who have advanced degress in particular areas of study can have opinions about those areas? Even further, are you suggesting that another explanation is more likely, like perhaps the suggestion that a supernatural power spoke to a man on a mountain and presesnted him with two slabs of rock carved with rules written by said supernatural power? Just wondering, because as I mentioned, the collective hallucenation explanation seems much more likely to have happened the the supernatural power explanation.

  5. Even further, are you suggesting that another explanation is more likely, like perhaps the suggestion that a supernatural power spoke to a man on a mountain and presesnted him with two slabs of rock carved with rules written by said supernatural power? Just wondering, because as I mentioned, the collective hallucenation explanation seems much more likely to have happened the the supernatural power explanation.
    1. THere are seven things is a wise man, and seven in a golem.
    2. My explanation is that this is a founding myth of a law system, most law systems in the area had them, and trying to find “scientific” explanations for SInai or the Splitting of the Sea or the Flood is as logical is trying to find remains of Odysseus’ cyclops.
    3. Everyone is entitled to opinions, but not to authority. My opinion is the good professor is stoned, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to publish it in the paper.

  6. Amit, I agree, it is the founding myth of a law system. Now ask yourself where myth comes from. The Aboriginal people in Australia call it “dreamtime”. Its a conciousness that is still accessable today by using certain substances. You would be mistaken to shrug off the use of psychedelic substances in the ancient near east. See Terrance McKenna’s “Food of the Gods” to start.

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