Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Ten Commandments - a psychedelic delusion?

According to Professor Benny Shanon, Moses "was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments".

Yeah, right.

Let me tell you a few things to your advantage, Professor. I've worked with drug addicts who've been hopped-up on everything from marijuana to morphine and from hemp to heroin. I've learned to recognize a few signs of their condition.

First, if Moses had been hopped-up he wouldn't have come down from the mountain carrying heavy tablets of stone and speaking gravely about God's Will. He'd have slid down the mountain on top of the tablets screeching, "Yo! Y'all ain't gonna believe dis, but I seen Da Man! I s*** you not!"

Second, you claim that Mount Sinai was "an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics". I have news for you. If they were hopped-up, the last thing on the minds of the people of Israel (individually and collectively) would have been issues such as "Thou Shalt Not Kill" or "Thou Shalt Not Steal" or "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery". If they were hopped-up, killing wouldn't bother them (because they wouldn't remember it afterwards); theft is how they would get the money to become hopped-up in the first place; and committing adultery (irrespective of marital status) is what they would do (repeatedly, indiscriminately and sometimes without bothering to obtain permission) as soon as they'd succeeded in becoming hopped-up.

Third, in their hopped-up state neither Moses nor his people would be in any condition to debate moral imperatives or discuss commandments with one another, let alone their Creator. Some would be jiving to a tune in their heads (that only they could hear); others would be trying to stomp on the fluorescent psychedelic spiders crawling all over them (that only they could see); and still others (the older ones who started this crap back in the BC equivalent of the '60's) would be lying back, watching the first two groups and murmuring "Cool, man! Like, far out!" in ancient Aramaic.

If such people "witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking" (Exodus 20:18), and saw that the skin of Moses' face "shone" (Exodus 34:30), their first reaction would be that Moses must have been smoking some heavy s*** and why hadn't he shared it with them? In the ensuing violence the tablets would have been smashed, Moses would probably have been killed, and next day not a soul would have remembered even one Commandment, much less ten.

The fact that the Commandments have survived to this day (albeit honored more in the breach than in the observance) suggests to me that there was perhaps a little more to their creation than a drug-induced hallucination.

Sorry, Professor Shanon, but your theory is as full of it as are the brains of most drug addicts.



Caprice Hokstad said...

Umm, what sort of drugs were even available in this place and time in history? It's not like they had hypodermic needle factories by the Nile. And even if drug use was widespread (and if it was, then why have we not seen any evidence of peyote or marijuanna or whatever in the pyramids?) at this time, would slaves really have had access to aything recreational?

Seriously. Where do scholars come up with these theories?

SherryT said...

Yeah... It's called desperation. You see here a scholar who cannot accept the possibility that a mortal could see God or alternatively that there is a God to be seen.

Consequently, he just -had- to come up with a way to explain Moses' wild and obviously false story.

Hmm. Think! Think!

Where could he have gotten such an idea? Completely deluding first himself, and then all those poor innocent gullible people.

Oh! Delusional! Drugs delude! That's it! He must have been on a drug. I wonder if there was anything growing naturally around Sinai that could mess up someone's thinking. Let's see. Where can I check ...

Nah. Too much research.

Let's just pretend there was, and move on to the conclusion. Type. Type. Type.

Phewww! That was a close call!


Karina Fabian said...

I'm no expert, but to give this researcher at least some credit, there was plenty of drug use associated with ancient religions. Like Caprice said, in the Americas, some native American tribes used peyote as part of spirit quests. The ancient Greek oracles were thought to have been high on some hallucinogen or another.

Where would slaves have gotten it? From their masters. What better way to control a population than to get them addicted? It's possible they would have taken some with them. There is the theory that Egyptian beer, "liquid bread," was used for this purpose--it nourished the slaves and knocked them out at night so they couldn't revolt. (10 points to anyone who can tell me what sci-fi series used that line.)

As for where to find drugs: poisonous plants, molds...

So there's enough to at least speculate the possibility of drugs.

HOWEVER, the whole thing falls apart when you apply it to the events.

1. Moses climbed down a mountain, carrying two heavy stone tablets. How many people on drugs would even care to accomplish such a physical feat?
2. He had an organized, coherent LIST of commandments. How many drug-induced visions lead to an itemized list? How many even make sense?
3. The Commandments dictate things that are against the more animal nature of man. It's highly unlikely that anyone under the influence of drugs--which tend to give the animal side freer reign--would come up with a strong, coherent, CONSERVATIVE code of morals.

My conclusion: this scholar, like too many, did just enough research to support his pet theory and not enough critical thinking.

But hey! He got international press coverage. That seems to count for a lot in the academic world nowadays.

Andrea Graham said...

My first reaction when Adam mentioned this to me was that it didn't make a lick of sense. Besides the fact everyone heard the Voice, and drugs don't give everyone the SAME "delusion," Moses claimed God wrote the tablets himself. And produced the tablets. Which means one of two things:

1)Moses lied and wrote them himself
2)God actually wrote them.

That would have been a very stupid thing to lie about. Most false religions, when they feature something "written" by their god, someone comes with a document THEY wrote, claiming God dictated it, so to speak. God said this, and I wrote it down. It doesn't make much sense from the position of a hoax for him to say God personally wrote these stone tablets.

If he were on drugs, he'd have woken up from the trip, and presuming that he had lucid memories of hearing God say this, and decided to write it down, it wouldn't be necessary or reasonable to say God wrote it and if he saw it in a dream, you wouldn't have the actual tablets.

Andrea Graham said...

Plus, if it were a drug trip, that would mean when he broke them, he went up and had the exact same "trip" again. I find that harder to believe.

Anonymous said...

Dude...like...what? (giggle) Like, it was so real, all...fiery...and stuff.

Great stuff, g. I'll be expecting a Weird War submission from you for Coach's Midnight Diner. You might just be the guy to write a good one.

Anonymous said...

What the Professor is lacking - as well as all of the commentators - is an understanding of Julian Jaynes's theory of the bicameral mind.

Auditory hallucinations evolved along with language and can be seen throughout history: the oracles in ancient Greece, the early prophets, medieval ascetics, Joan-of-Arc, William Blake, Joseph Smith, and modern voice-hearers and schizophrenics. No psychedelics required.

Those interested in challenging their preconceived notions with regard to human and religious history should read Jaynes's "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind," as well as "Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited." Another related book is Muses, Madmen, and Prophets.