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!

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