But I'm a little confused why all of a sudden there are a bunch of articles about this one psychology prof at Hebrew U in Jerusalem who apparently has come up with a unified "Tripping Moses" theory- which happens to be basically the same one that every single kid (Jewish and otherwise) thought of back in third grade. But the prof's written a "study" about it, so I guess he now gets to be the center of attention for it as though he's actually come up with something new. Lame.
Shanon presents a provocative theory in an article published this week in the philosophy journal Time and Mind. The religious ceremonies of the Israelites included the use of psychotropic materials that can found in the Negev and Sinai, he says.
"I have no direct proof of this interpretation," and such proof cannot be expected, he says. However, "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."
...The acacia tree also has psychedelic properties, Shanon says, which the Israelites could have used. The acacia is mentioned frequently in the Bible, and was the type of wood of which the Ark of the Covenant was made. According to Shanon, he drank a potion prepared from a species of acacia while he was in South America, which caused similar experiences to those produced by the ayahuasca.
You know, I'm pretty sure my desk is made of cherry wood. That doesn't mean I spend my free-time turning it into smoothies.
Yes, apparently psychoactive plants grow in the Middle East, which is interesting, but far from definitive. I guess for me the problem with Shanon's theory is that it doesn't tell us anything new or particularly useful- especially since the entire community of Israelites would have had to be consuming the substance as well (or enough of them to sway the others into going along with the mass "vision").
I can't decide if this reminds me more of the theory that the Salem Witch trials can all be blamed on ergot poisoning, or of how one time a friend of mine was giving a drash at a hippy-ish shul about Moses at Sinai. IIRC, my friend mentioned a Midrash that says the people saw the letters of the Torah flying around. My friend said this was meant metaphorically, but some random schmoe in the audience countered that "clearly" it was a vision brought on by hashish, and used his floor time to add (presumably to whatever agents of "the man" were listening) that the ancient cultures weren't so prudish about drug use. Well said, doofus. Now take off that damn pakul, you look like an idiot.
Hat-tip: Rafi G at DovBear