Moses was very probably high on psychedelic drugs, says Cognitive Psychologist

According to Hebrew University (Jerusalem) cognitive psychologist Benny Shanon, Moses was very probably under the influence of psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments and when he saw the burning bush. In a study published in the Time and Mind Journal of Philosophy, Shanon says that such mind-altering substances played an integral role in the religious rites of Israelites in Biblical times (1). Shanon points out that the acacia tree, mentioned frequently in the Bible, contains one of the most psychedelic substances known to man. Shanon developed this theory after experiencing firsthand the effects of a hallucinogen, ayahuasca, used in religious rituals in Brazil. The experiences of Moses include the hallmarks of a psychelic experience.


 (Picture from: The Daily Mail)

Take the story of the burning bush in Exodus which was not consumed by the fire, which Moses attributed to God. Telltale signs of drug-induced visions include a loss of sense of time, seeing bright lights or fire, the blurring of senses, and profound religious and spiritual feelings. (Indeed, Shanon is not the first academic to speak of the spirituality that can be induced by psychedelics. In January I wrote a post on the scientific study of the spirituality often induced by psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms”, and implications of this finding for considerations of religious belief.). Shanon interprets the perception of a bush burning but not being consumed as follows:

“Moses’s sense of time changed and an actual moment in physical time was subjectively perceived as an eternity…enough time for the bush in front of him to be burnt and consumed.

“But in the external physical domain, only a fraction of a second had elapsed, hence no actual change in the bush was perceived.”

The Daily Mail writes:

According to the professor, Moses was not alone in dabbling with drugs, with the assembled Children of Israel likely to have been in “an altered state of awareness” when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai.

Even a description of Moses with “shining skin” is seen as a reference to the euphoric, sweat-inducing effects associated with drug use.

He concludes: “Admittedly, the smoking gun is not available to us.

However, so many clues present themselves, which, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, seem to cohere into a intriguing, unified whole.”I leave it to the reader to pass his or her judgment.”

Hat Tip: Sexual Harrassment Panda (aka Tyler H)

25 Responses to “Moses was very probably high on psychedelic drugs, says Cognitive Psychologist”
  1. evolution says:

    I don’ know if you’re familiar with the Daily Mail, but in the UK, it’s known for being possibly the least news-worthy of all sources. It’s a sub-standard paper, mostly read by morons, i.e. nobody with half a brain takes it seriously… It’s also covertly racist IMO…

    Don’t have a problem with your point of view – I just hate the Daily Mail with a passion 🙂

  2. Bad journalism exists everywhere. That is why science relies on peer reviewed journals (although they have problems from time to time as well). This story was picked up all over the world by all kinds of media. The only real contribution by the Daily Mail here is the spiffy graphic Ron poached.

    My biggest problem with this story is that it works from the assumption that Moses existed and the exodus happened at all, which would both be preconditions for Moses to be half-baked on the mountain in the first place. Being that there is no evidence that Moses and a couple million of his friends were in the desert in the first place, it’s still more likely fiction than a written account of good drug trip in the desert.

  3. evolution says:

    Beyond bad journalism, you should see the Daily Mail’s reporting on science, it really is quite amusing.

    i just read this on another blog, which I thought I’d share. i found it quite amusing:

    “Oh, yes, because one obviously has to be high on LSD, weed or both in order to deduce that God doesn’t want you murdering, stealing, committing adultery, lying, and so on. Usually, psychedelics contribute to their users being anything but pious.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Because usually people are not pious in first place. Give pious person psychedelics you will see that pious person become super spiritually pious. That is my experience.

  4. How is it that religious nuts can dismiss the entire fossil record, DNA evidence, etc. and then go on to pretend to have an academic debate as to whether a fictional character like Moses was on drugs or not in the made up story about him? The sad part is that a story like this is even considered scientific / academic.

    We might as well be debating whether Red Riding Hood’s grandmother was really having an affair with the wolf. It’s a fairy tale! Moses didn’t exist, Jesus didn’t exist, Mohamed story is seriously full of holes which likely means he’s a work of fiction too. All they are is a trifecta of fictional nonsense.

    Everyone criticizes post-modernism, but at least they have the intellectual honesty to admit that they are making shit up as they go.

  5. evolution says:

    This is most likely a very stupid question to ask, but I would be interested in finding out why you think they don’t exist. I’m not starting a debate either way, but I would just like to understand your point of view.

  6. I think they didn’t exist because of the same reasons I think the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist. Outside the religious texts, which are notoriously unreliable (historically) and have been edited again and again throughout the ages, there isn’t any credible historical evidence. Moses story is similar to Egyptian myths, Jesus’ story similar to 80 or so other messiah stories and (although I’m not at all familiar with this) Mohamad’s tale appears to be equally lacking in anything except religious tradition.

    Religious nuts have been adopting and co-opting each others stories through all recorded history. With no credible evidence to the contrary, why should be believe these three tales are the exception?

  7. L. Ron Brown says:


    In my experience arguments for God tend to fall into one or more of the following categories of fallacious reasoning. In order for me personally to give a theistic argument the time of day, it has to stand outside of these pitfalls.

    1. Arguments from ignorance (“I don’t know how this could have happened without someone deliberately designing it”, or claims that “this could not have happened without a designer”—just because it appears impossible doesn’t necessarily mean that it is and moreover, on what grounds would we say that the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient being that exists outside of time and space is more possible, or is the best alternative explanation?; This reasoning error is often intertwined with misunderstandings of evolutionary biology, cosmology, or other sciences)

    2. Arguments from consensus (if all these people believe in it, it’s gotta be a good idea).

    3. Arguments from authority (e.g., The Bible/Priest/Pope/Imam says; Scientist X is a Christian and she’s a scientist!…; This often overlaps with arguments from consensus)

    4. Arguments from the need for morality (“we need an objective morality”, or “where else would morals come from?”; There is no evidence for there being an objective morality that transcends humanity; there have been perfectly reasonable accounts for moral cognition from the cognitive sciences and evolutionary biology; a big set of factors include mirror neurons, kin selection, and the finding of apparent moral cognition in a variety of species ranging from mice to primates)

    5. Arguments from cherry-picked scripture (Religious texts contain hundreds of densely packed pages with many statements that are sufficiently vague to be interpreted in terms of things we know happened. Further, if they were not divinely inspired, then they were written by humans—humans who probably had a fairly good understanding of how humans and tribes interact. Humans also have a confirmation bias—they recognize and remember things that confirm their beliefs far more readily than things that are neutral or contrary to their beliefs. It is hardly surprising, then, that one will detect a modest collection of statements in their religious text that seem to map onto the world. But how many lines of scripture do they have to wiz by in order to find these gems? And how often are these gems quite vague and multiply interpretable? And how many of the supposed predictions could have reasonably been put forth given what people at the time knew? And, importantly, were the supposed prophecies even intended as prophecies, versus cautionary tales of what sorts of things could/would happen if something else were to happen?)

    6. Arguments from personal religious experience (Problems with this include: People of all religious traditions have these experiences; they can’t all be correct. Now one may say that there could very well be a God, and each religion presents a path to that God. And what about the numerous tribes around the world that have and continue to believe that the success of their crops, their personal good and bad luck, and so on is guided by benevolent and demonic local spirits? Not all supernatural belief systems invoke gods. And then there are the cases of users of psychedelic drugs reporting religious experiences, and subjects of Laurentian University professor Michael Persinger’s research using the “God Helmet”, which have been led to feel a sort of external agentive presence as a function of having their brain waves altered. Moreover, secular meditators have also experienced significantly altered states of consciousness which have many of the qualities often described in religious experiences–e.g., decreased sense of separation of self from other people and from the universe, decreased self-consciousness, insight, etc.. Humans *do* have profound experiences. I myself have been experiencing qualitatively different states of consciousness of late through meditation. But humans also tend to anthropomorphize (e.g., imparting human-like mindedness onto animals, insects, organizations and countries, etc), to anthropomorphize on a grand scale in the form of attributing major things like weather, luck, the universe, etc. to Gods and spirits that are remarkably different from one group to the next, to be very receptive to information presented to them by their parents, peers and societies, and to attach great personal and social importance to their religious beliefs which can make it very difficult to truly challenge these beliefs)

    7. Misunderstandings of evolutionary biology or other sciences

    8. Mischaracterization of atheism as a religion in and of itself, containing its own dogmatism. (Firstly, while it would be dogmatic and intellectually unjustified for one to refuse the possibility that there could be a God (any God), the position of agnostic atheism (my position) involves no dogmatism or faith. It’s simply a lack of belief in a God until presented with compelling evidence. There is no claim that a God doesn’t exist, just that at present it seems unreasonable to believe that one does exist. I should also say that even if atheism were just another dogmatism, it wouldn’t make any other religion any more true)

  8. evolution says:


    I think you misunderstood me. Religion and belief in God aside (which a very long-winded debate), I meant I was interested in finding out why people don’t believe in Moses, Jesus and Muhammad exist as historical figures.

    it is very late here so i will read your comments tomorrow.

    By the by, have you ever seen the Rajabali/Dan Barker debate? Theist vs atheist. It’s interesting from a debate perspective regardless of your beliefs. There are two of them, 2003 and 2004 but I think out of the two of them, 2003 is probably worth seeing over 2004 as the second one ended with personal attacks on either side, which is never a good idea in a debate 😉

  9. The more interesting question is, why do people believe so much of what they are told without questioning it at all?

    The ease and speed with which urban legends propagate, even in societies with high literacy rates and advanced communications networks, should make it pretty obvious that thousands of years ago when history was recorded orally and nomadic tribes swapped stories and ideas all the time, much of what was passed around wasn’t true.

    When faced with a story, like the bible, which has about the same amount of evidence as any other urban legend, why would you believe it?

  10. Mr_Spliff says:

    I think that if Moses did exist, which I see no reason to be biased on either approach, he may have or may not have, I have come to the conclusion that Moses was using mushrooms either Aminita or Psylisibian. I personally think that he was using Psylisibian mushrooms. Read up on manna, just google “manna mushrooms” and good deal of refrences to the actual bible passages (king James Version) indicate that their “God” sent down flesh or bread to the ground, which could be found in the mornings as the dew departes, it is a small round thing and rots black with worms if left to wax hot in the sun (many mushroom hunters know of the roting mushrooms). God did this to see if they walked in his law or no. Also once picked, Moses instructed them to set them up before the sun, and the manna did not wax hot and melt(commonly known as sun drying, used to be used in Europe as a backdoor route for mushrooms to be legal, as it did not, by definition, constitute prossessing) Also Psylisiban commonly induces a voice, and less frequently voices, in the user. Another thing is that Moses’ “God” instructed them to find this manna in the “wilderness” which I believe in Ahramaic translates to pastuer. Also the people of Moses began worshiping a golden cow, revering it as a god of sorts, hmmm I wonder why?
    I think that Moses did exist, most of the old testament is a record of the preservation of these golden vessels in which the manna was preserved for future generations, which king Nebikanezer(sp?) stole out of Jeruslehem after ransacing the temple and destroying it, the remains are still found there to this day, Jewish folks are usually found at the only remaining wall prying. So later in the book of daniel King Nebikanezer’s(sp?) son Balbashazar(sp?) during a great feast brought forth the golden vessels which his father had taken out of jeruslehem, and drank(Mushroom tea, ayahuasca?)) the contents within and with in the hour the king was having visions and his knees where shaking and he lost his contenance, a giant hand appeared and wrote on the wall of plaster, he cried for his scribes and wise men but non could read it(they couldn’t see it), so the king wrote what the hand wrote and showed it to Danieal who desiphered it to mean that the king would surely parish soon, that night two men slayed him (the king), but I bet it was not a prophecy come true, but slayed him for such a desplay of drunkeness, sometimes it can be frightneing to be around somone on a bad trip when your sober and one hundred times more so if your not.

    I believe the New Testament is mostly about Jesus, who I also believe exist, I know his name was found written on a wall, also if I understood correctly his name was not spelt Jesus but more like Isus or something. I dont believe he was the son of god or that he resurected, but that he was triping out trying to preach peace, much like a hippie would. He gave his deciples Manna, and they asked “did not our for fathers eat manna and die(manny are poisonous)?” jesus said “Moses had not the true manna of god, I give you the true manna of god” and the desiples respond”give us this evermore” and Jesus then says something about his flesh being manna and manna being his flesh and to that the people murmered. Throughout the new testament, the pharacies are always saying that he has a devil in him, I think it was those fiendishly tricky little buggers called shroomes, not a devil.

    These are just my objective conclusions I have come to about the bible (in very short, very paraphrased), after actually reading the bible for myself, and doing a bit of research. I find it very intriging that anyone can have the same direct experience Moses was having of god, if one so chooses to partake of the Holy Manna, the Sacred Sacrement. I find it funny that the priest replaced it with normal bread or crackers, probably just to increase his own importance in the community, because with out the Mushroom, the audience relies on the priests “direct contact with god” but it is not direct contact, it is passed on from generation to generation like a game of telephone.

    Just take a trip of shrooms and see for your selves, and also one last word, Psylisibian Mushrooms are absolutly non toxic and man has had a beutiful symbioses with these little buggers for thousands upon thousands of years, much much longer than Zoloft or Prozac.

    Peace, Love, and Pot

  11. L. Ron Brown says:

    Mr Spliff:

    Thanks for the write-up.

    I’ve only done mushrooms once and really enjoyed it. I would very much like to do them again, but in a larger dose and with a bit of pot. I didn’t have any hallucinations or feelings of increased connection with reality or delusions of being connected to God or anything when I did them. I”ve heard that such types of experiences are more likely with higher doses (I only had about 2 grams) and with a bit of pot. However, I did very much enjoy the experience. It was basically an “enhancer” experience – everything was enhanced. The beer was the best beer ever, the song the best song ever, the way my body felt was amazing and different, and well, everything was just fantastic!

    That some of the Biblical figures were on mushrooms seems to be a pretty plausible scenario.

  12. Jimson says:

    L. Ron Brown:

    You ate 2 grams, everything became enhanced, and you call higher dose trips (full visual/auditory hallucinations, the Oneness, etc.) concerning God Consciousness delusions? It is not a matter of being an illusion or a reality, that is something deeply personal and subjected to your own opinion/lack there of. Trust me, when it comes to a REAL trip on psychedelic mushrooms (moreso than LSD, in my experience), there is no room for doubt left that what you experience is that your consciousness itself is a malleable substance and time nor space do not exist outside of a human beings limited comprehension of the fabric of reality. God is not the illusion, duality is the illusion, and until you tap into that higher realm of awareness, it will remain distant to you, something to either fear, reject, loathe, etc. but as you have done with your longer post above, seperation will only prolong a person’s illusion. What you experience on a powerful trip is only called God because of it’s sheer beauty, which in turn is very painful as more and more of ‘you’ slips away into the first stages of physical and mental death. What happens after you can let go, as shamans have done for thousands of years, as kids did in the 60’s, as people native have done with peyote, etc. is beyond anything you can ever imagine and is quite simply, profound on a level that sadly can never be expressed until you have gone through it yourself.
    Mushrooms are ANYTHING but fun when are forced to feel like you are dying from poison, only to ‘wake up’ in a sense to an awareness of something that more or less melts your perception of being an individual. I am not trying to offend you, but in your longer post, well, it just stinks of the common flight or fight mentality that humans were nearly forced to adapt and evolve with, but what I am telling you is that when you are not nervous, let your mind wander on these ancient fungi as they thank you for the use of your nervous system, you will see that you are your own universe and you have muce to learn that no science or math or bible or priest could ever begin to share.
    Namaste, sorry for comming off as a jerk but someone had to say it.

    • Kyle says:


      I am reading your post now 12 years later. What you said here is beautiful and I am amazed by every word. At the first experience of a psychedelic experience a new duality is created – the trip and reality. But with a mind that is open to dying and an awareness that can see the duality, the trip and reality merge into one. There was never a true and a false, only truth with no opposite, a truth that has no word because any word would reduce it back to something that has an opposite. The merging into one may seem of no importance or of utter nonsense to a mind that is attached to the separation of reality and illusion. The separation is no less true than the merge and the merge only sees to reveal the infinity which the mind cannot grasp and so it grows quiet in the presence of infinity, in being pure consciousness.

      The life of Moses, whether it happened or not, or whether Moses was on psychedelics are all stories of the mind as it tries to make sense out of the infinite light to which it looks upon. And it is love, so much love that it cannot even be expressed by anything less than infinite manifestations.

      Namaste ❤

  13. Jordan says:

    I love this. it’s so funny.

  14. Susanna says:

    “The more interesting question is, why do people believe so much of what they are told without questioning it at all?” Who said they have never questioned it? I think many have very well not, but I also think many have, and after questioning, they just think the same. I don’t think it is just to consider religious persons as stupids who don’t have thoughts and maybe doubts on their own.
    Other: saying that the fact that psychedelic things cause hallucinations and so on necessarily means that this hallucinations cannot come by themselves for me seems just the same as saying that because a cell can be fertilized artificially it cannot be fertilized by nature. As we know it happens quite often. 😀 Just for questioning things I have been told here… :)))

    • Anonymous says:

      I Moses was hallucinating this shit without psychedelics, then he was not a well man.
      Also your logic doesn’t make sense. If the body could do everything on its own, there would be no point in medicine existing

  15. Svitlana says:

    It seems the great kabbalist rabbi Moses Kordovero in his work ‘Pardes Rimonim’ between the lines says about a use of plants as hallucinogen in researches of spirituality and mind. And he mentions a smell of the malt also.

  16. stephany williams says:

    U r full of crap

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  18. Simon Gonzo Lemin says:

    As a former DMT explorer and a believer in God our creator. I find the reference of acacia in exodus and the description of the tabernacle tapestrys are clear indicators that this beautiful man of God was using DMT to “access” a direct link to our beautiful father! ☺

  19. Anonymous says:

    It’s just plain obvious that dmt has been used since the beginning of time to acces archaic knowledge. Was limited to Shamans but now everybody is entitled to speak to the Gods

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