Thursday, 6 March 2008

Fly, Moses, Fly!

A (great) headline: 'Thou shalt take drugs, Moses...' And then a sub-head: 'Religious visions "were hallucinations."'

The article detailed claims made by Israeli researcher Benny Shanon that Moses was under the influence of psychedelics when he saw visions of God in the burning bush. Moses may also have been tripping when he received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Shanon theorizes that many of the stories in the Old Testament are actually recorded experiences with the drink Ayahuasca, a very powerful hallucinogen containing DMT. The Guardian reports he noticed that many of the descriptions in the Bible were very similar to encounters he had with the drink 15 years ago. Indeed, encountering the divine is a very common experience while under the influence of the drug, which is still used to this say by Amazonian shamanic tribes. The plant, Shanon says, is derived from roots and plants that grow in the Holy Land and the Sinai peninsula.

But anybody who's ever taken a psychedelic and/or has a single athiestic molecule in his/her body has probably considered this at least one, and not just about Moses. Alternative thinkers, hippie dreamers and 'atheists' in the eyes of many have claimed Jesus, too, may have been under the influence of some such substance. And Ezekial's flying wheel? That bastard was tripping.

This notion is not all that far-fetched a concept, though it is likely to offend a certain sector of the earth's population, i.e., dedicated scholars and narrow-minded zealots. But primative and ancient cultures have used mind-altering substances as an avenue for seeking the divine for thousands of years, looooong before the current perspective of drugs had become the norm. The roots and plants used to make Ayahuasca are found in the Holy Land and the Sinai Peninsula. 'Drugs' were a very different issue when Moses was rocking out: they were sacred rites for accessing hidden dimensions of consciousness inhabited by our spiritual superiors. It sounds a bit quacky, I know, but many of the world's religions are based on this primitive practice--including Hindu and the ancient drink Soma, all shamanic religions and quite possibly Judaism, according to Shanon. Substances like Ayahuasca and peyote, among other, have historically been used to access mystical portals in the psyche.

But message boards on hyper-Christian websites like have been dominated by angry posts by people who KNOW Moses was not a 'druggie' and that these 'athiests' should 'read the bible,' fueled by that backwards notion that all drugs are the devil's fruit. But wait, pious scholar! Check this Exodus ditty that God supposedly said to Moses:

34 Take fragrant drugs -- stacte, and onycha, and galbanum -- fragrant drugs and pure frankincense; in like proportions shall it be.

35 And thou shalt make it into incense, a perfume, after the work of the perfumer, salted, pure, holy.

36 And thou shalt beat [some] of it to powder, and put [some] of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.

Sounds like some potent shizz to me, son...

To lump all drugs into the same basket is like comparing apples to McDonalds. There's no question that crystal meth and heroin are soul-suckers, obliterators of the spirit. Cocaine too. Take a walk down Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and you'll see. Bad news bears.

But there is little evidence to suggest that, say, LSD is all that harmful to the human body, beyond media reports of worst-case-scenarios and legislative fear-mongering at the peak of the 60s. But to those that are open to it, and who are brave enough, and who use it responsibly (to the extent that drug use can be 'responsible'), psychedelics or ethneogens or whatever you call them can be a rather beneficial experience. Even light trips will make the individual more aware of their relation to the cosmos, more sensitive to the life's little coincidences. These are spiritual encounters on a much lower level. A grazing of divinity's cheek.

Of course, all these substances play on the peaks and lulls of the human condition, so while they can be an exhilirating and positive experience, they can also be quite damaging too. All these drugs--psilocybin, LSD, mescaline, DMT, even cannabis and the list goes on--are a wildly unpredictable bunch. You never quite know what'll happen. Those horror stories you've heard are true but they are not the only stories.

But ANYWAY, most people today seeing God in burning bushes or in waterfalls or in the bellies of large mammals are either higher than heaven or crazy. Or both. Usually both. But prophets do still exist, usually in the form poets or artists. And, yes, artists and poets and all the other though- and culture-shifters and -makers have been using mind-altering substances all along, always and forever, to gain insight into the spiritual and the humane. Lennon was on drugs. Coleridge was on drugs. Shakespeare was on drugs. Moses...I wouldn't be suprised. If anything, it's more likely that he would have been high. He was a less evolved specimen. Think about it.

The fact that Planet Earth's three major belief systems have been predicated on the story of Moses and the mythologized version of who he was means the benefactors of these systems of thought--Muslim, Jewish and Christian--will dismiss Moses 'drug habits' without much consideration. But remember kids, their version of what's true is only theirs--it just happens to be one of the oldest, the most accessable and of the most influential.

Unfortunately, these religions regard drug use--ALL drug use--equally to rape or thievery. To find that over 3000 years of history was shaped by a particularly inspiring trip in the desert would mean that their current versions of what's what who's who are threaded with some serious bullshit. Islamic law would have to reconfigure. The US would have to revamp it's entire action plan. It would be the end of the world as we now know it.

Maybe this is the Apocalypse. Fly, Moses, fly!

The problem with British journalism

A front-page headline: 'Patrick Swayze Has 5 Weeks To Live!'

But then every other headline on the newspaper rack reads something different. He has cancer but he's not dying. He may die but he's well enought to work. It's offensive--ney, depraved--to scream the tragic details of someone's unfortunate circumstance in oversized block letters to garner readership--especially when the facts may not even be true.

The Globe and Mail, Canada's faithfully objective newspaper, simply states Swayze's 'battling pancreatic cancer,' with there's no speculation of when or if he'll die. Indeed, the Liverpool Daily Echo (who do practice the unfortunate British tradition of editorializing news stories) reports Swayze's publicist dismissed the 'five-week' claim.

Now, I don't give a fuck about Patrick Swayze beyond the fact that he's a human being like (presumably) you or I. I'm only using him as an example because it's the most recent in what I see as the problem with British journalism. Many (not all, but many, many) of these British papers routinely bend the truth, blatantly distort facts with no reservations of who they offend or how they affect anything, only sell more papers. The industry is so saturated with reading material in this country--most of it absolute garbage--that 'news' papers must resort to sensationlizing lies to swindle more readers. Who are these editors? Did they decide on journalism to add to the insurmountable idiocy of the Western world ? Or maybe the jading realities of the business corrupted their once idealistic spirits and they are now taking it out on the rest of us. Or (most likely) the bosses want more money.

Not all papers are like this but it's very telling when the Sun, the ultimate in tabloid schlock, is the country's #1 paper. On the other hand, it is quite endearing that several of these papers, Sun included, feature the perky bare breasts of young vixens on page 3 every issue. It's a fine way to start the day, let ME tell YOU. If only there were a way to feature tits and respectable journalism in one publication. The fact that it doesn't exist is Britain's biggest problem. Bar none.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

While scribbling

I was scribbling in my notebook about Moses being stoned, high up on that mountaintop  on a train back from Liverpool. I stopped , put my pen down and the woman sitting across from me asked: "Are you writing a book?

"One day. But I'm a journalist for now."

"You're a bit young to be a journalist, aren't you?"

I shrugged, jotted something down.

"I dabbled myself, you know," she said, etching the air with her finger to illustrate what she meant. "It's nice to see something, to scribble it down."

I shrugged again. "It's more of a disease for me. But I'm writing a story about the Beatles for a paper back home, cramming as much Beatles tourism in a day as I can. It's a travel story."

She nodded, said: "I lived through the birth of the Beatles, you know. I wasn't actually there--I'm from Manchester, out that way--but I grew up with it. Grew up with them in the 60s. It was really quite exciting."

I love meeting these people, ex-hippie types, the nostalgic misfits of a time  my generation can only fathom through the music and photo stills and our imaginations. I smirked. "So you lived through the 60s?" She nodded. "How was that?"

She smiled, gazed out the window at the rolling green passing us by. She had the wrinkled, weathered face of a person who had, indeed, been there. She went there again, just for a moment. She came back and said: "It was alright, you know. People seem to think of it as quite daring but when you look back, it's not nearly as bad as what we have now, in Britain anyway. These people getting all drunk and beating each other up..."

"When you think about it, maybe all that LSD they were taking was better than all this booze they have now."

She nodded and gazed out the window again. "It was wonderful then. Really."

"I see then as the beginning of the world we have now. The catalyst for all this degeneracy, the bullshit" I said. I didn't realize I felt that way until it came out. And there it was. She nodded. She agreed with me.

"It'll come full circle again," she said. "It can't stay this way forever."

"Sure. It's going to happen sooner than later, I think. We can all feel it...building. Something's got to give. It's kind of scary when you think about it." I paused, said: "It could be better than what we have now."

"It better be, anyway," she said. She kept talking but I zoned out. The train was approaching Preston station and I gathered my belongings, bundled them in my lap.

I came back, listened to her say: "..I'm not a religious person by any means. I'm bit of everything..." I nodded. I zoned out again, I noticed the book she was reading. Cosmic Ordinance. My innards stirred. I felt something building, a climax of sorts. The train pulled up, stopped and I got up to leave. She remained seated, probably on her way to Blackpool.

And then she said: "'s like Moses with the burning bush, up there on the mountain--"
I cut her off, said: "Do you have any idea what I was just writing about? Moses! I was writing about Moses, on the mountain!"

She smiled and her eyes twinkled up at me. She tapped her book with a finger, tapped her temple three times. "Good luck to you," she said.

"Yeah." I stumbled out to the platform, head stirring. I found the closest seat and started scribbling.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Burger King Nation

That'll be four-nineteen, the manager said.

You don't do onion rings here, do you?

A side of onion rings?

I nodded.

That'll be five-nineteen, she said.

She held out her palm. The tattoo on her inner wrist said take.

I gave her my money.