Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
IN THE BEGINNING, as the ancient Egyptians told the story, a blue lotus rose from the waters of chaos. This euphoriogenic and hypnotic psychoactive, which archeologists found scattered on the mummy of Tutankhamun, is illustrated and given voice in The Egyptian Book of the Dead:[i]
I am the holy lotus that cometh forth from the light which belongeth to the nostrils of Ra, and which belongeth to the head of Hathor. I have made my way, and I seek after him, that is to say, Horus.[ii]
Like The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a guide to the transition in the afterlife, though the living have also used it to illuminate less fatal shifts of consciousness, as Tim Leary did (after a fashion).[iii] This scroll is also associated with the lotus, though indirectly via its legend. It is said to have been buried until an auspicious time for its discovery by Padmasambhava, a magician who vanquished demons and brought Tantra to Tibet. His name means ‘the one born of a lotus’. Tradition does not record the colour of his lotus, but the blue lotus appears elsewhere in Buddhist folklore, again between the worlds; Blue Lotus is the name of the body-swapping character who visits the underworld in the 16th century Chinese chaotic classic Journey to the West (Monkey).[iv] Homer’s Odyssey also places the lotus in a gateway role on the Island of the Lotus-eaters, the first port of call on Odysseus’ mythic journey.[v] Its colour is not described but its psychoactive effect is; crewmen eat it and fall into a deep and blissful sleep, from which they are unwilling to be risen.
Homer’s source material was oral history and legend, songs and stories that had been refined around the fire for generations, absorbing the wisdom of lifetimes. The earliest books of The Bible committed to letters date from roughly the same era, compiled from oral sources by exceptional poets (or by God, if you prefer). Wordsmiths retelling Greek and Hebrew myths had to treat the stories and their motifs faithfully enough to satisfy listeners who knew the material, and so details such as lotuses may predate the individual poets, or even their entire culture. Oral traditions and the scriptures that arise from them are, among other things, repositories of history, and various Aboriginal stories have preserved details about changes to the Australian coastline that occured over ten thousand years ago.[vi]
Our history has long been interwoven with psychedelic experience. Plato, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and various movers and shakers in the Hellenistic world travelled considerable distances to the Eleusinian Mysteries at the “shrine common to the whole earth, and of all the divine things that exist among men”.[vii] There they drank the mysterious kykeon, and witnessed the drama of Persephone as she journeyed through the underworld. She was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of cereals, and Gordon Wasson argued that the symbolism here relates to ergot being produced from barley and going into kykeon. Robert Graves proposed that the brew was was made from mushrooms rather, according to his proclivities, others have proposed that it was an ayahuasca analogue according to theirs.[viii] There are even some depraved metaphor addicts who take kykeon to be a metaphor! But whatever it was, kykeon was a physical artifact subject to strict controls, and only to be consumed at Eleusis. In one of history’s earliest drug busts, in 415BC, Plato’s friend Alcibiades (more than a Platonic friend, as it happens) was fined and exiled for serving up kykeon at a party.[ix]
Kykeon visions are variously recorded as terrifying, exhilarating, transformative and “new, astonishing, inaccessible to rational cognition”.[x] 500 years before Christ the poet Pindar compared the experience to death and rebirth:
Blessed is he who hath seen these things before he goeth beneath the hollow earth; for he understandeth the end of mortal life, and the beginning of a new life given of god.[xi]
After 2,000 years the mind-bending Eleusinian mystery tradition was finally curtailed by Christian moralists in the fourth century, but not before it had left its mark on the development of Western culture and Christian imagery. Graves believed that the Eleusinian Mysteries were responsible for the fact that the silent abode of the dead in The OT transmorgified during the early Christian period into heavens and hells filled with sublime and infernal species.[xii]
Sanskrit verses from the Bronze Age in The Rig Veda describe how to prepare, store and consume the mysterious soma, a drink which cures, excites and gives song.[xiii] Again mushroom heads, ganja fiends and ayahuasca loons present evidence for it being their favoured tipple.[xiv] [xv] [xvi] I favour the latter of course, along with Matthew Clark, who cites compelling textual evidence.[xvii] On the other side of the Indus River, the Zoroastrian magi of the East consumed a linguistically related brew called haoma. It was one of the two trees in the Zoroastrian garden of paradise, in one of the many ancient myths that bring together a garden, a temptress, a sneaky snake and a potent plant, such as the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. Then there is the Tree of the Hesperides, depicted on ancient Greek pottery looking like all kinds of trouble, with naked women dancing about it, a snake climbing it, and mushrooms growing from its base.[xviii] The mushrooms may or may not be significant, and we should take care not to assume that every fungus on a vase or plant in a scroll is psychoactive. It is clear, however, from archeology, anthropology and literature, that power plants were exalted and consumed in pagan rites in the Middle East and the rest of the world. Indeed, before sobriety became a virtue, when botany was the science of the day and the long arm of the law was shorter, what would have stopped you from enjoying your garden? Apart from taboo, of course.
Cannabis was used in the ancient world as it is today, in ritual and medicine, as well as for food, paper and textiles.[xix] [xx] According to some Islamic judges it was permissable, and was sometimes smoked in mosques.[xxi] Cannabis pollen was also detected on the mummy of Ramses II.[xxii] In China, Mao Shan Taoism was derived from scriptures chanelled by mediums burning cannabis, and the hemp ropes that still adorn Japanese shrines today used to be ritually burned once a year at what must have been a pretty groovy bonfire party.[xxiii] The boss ganja god must surely be Lord Shiva, though, and he consumes it in quantities one might expect from the lord of dissolution. He is also the god of yoga (dissolving knots on another plane), and of the Ganges river, which flows through his dreadlocks and dissolves away the karma of those who bathe in it.[xxiv] Shaivite Sadhus follow his example by leaving behind their families along with their clothes and other worldly posessions, and religiously smoking chillums to forget their former attachments.
While naked avatars enthusing with psychedelics at beach parties are a relatively new cultural phenomenon, there is nothing new about mixing potions and devotions. The poison path winds back through the ancient world and beyond, even into the animal kingdom. Bighorn sheep brave precarious rocks for narcotic lichen, wallabies raid opium farms, and some very naughty dogs have developed a penchant for licking psychedelic toads, even carefully modulating their dose.[xxv][xxvi] Vietnamese water buffalo started breaking into opium plantations when the bombs began to fall.[xxvii] Jaguars have been filmed eating the ayahuasca vine, and then either purging or looking rather like my cat after a dose of catnip; the folkoric name of ‘jaguar medicine’ used by some indigenous groups may be derived from this laudable habit.[xxviii] Gorillas eat the visionary stimulant iboga, sometimes for the purposes of overturning the current order, waiting for the effects to kick in before challenging the authority of the dominant male.[xxix] For courage, for kicks, for escape and maybe for reasons of their own, many animals are enthusiastic drug users.
Some of the old religions (or rather, some of the cults in very old societies) limited drugs to certain castes, but blanket prohibitions tend to emerge only in younger doctrines. Buddhist precepts warn against using drugs “that befuddle the mind”.[xxx] The Koran forbids certain classes of drugs including wine, though Bedouins interpret this as only grape wine, and brew their own from dates.[xxxi] Islamic law allowed certain “drugs that cause joy” such as saffron, and a recent fatwah from the highest circle of Shi’i jurisprudence ruled that psychedelics are permissable if used correctly.[xxxii] [xxxiii] In the Jewish tradition, there are no non-kosher plants at all, despite an immense number of prohibitions in the literature, specifying exactly what is lawful at which hours and in which combinations in every conceivable sphere of life. The deity’s only comment about vegetation is that is “good”, and in Psalm 104 “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man”.[xxxiv] [xxxv] ‘Service’ would include medicine, construction, or whatever else you might want to do with a herb, and some of the most exalted herbs in The Bible are psychoactive. The Song of Solomon describes how
The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my beloved.
While mandrakes are a useless foodstuff, their hallucinogenic and aphrodisiac qualities were well-known in the ancient Middle East.[xxxvi] A number of cautions should be observed by the curous. The first is dosage, as with any new godfood, because the effects of mandrakes range from creativity to euphoria to “erotic delirium” and even “muco-bloody dysenteric discharges” if you are very careless.[xxxvii] Another caution concerns the harvesting of mandrakes, as not only does the root look like a person but it also screams like a person when uprooted, killing anyone who hears it. The first century Jewish historian Josephus recommends that
they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately.[xxxviii]
Mandrake is duday in Hebrew, meaning ‘love plant’.[xxxix] Rachel allows her rival Leah to sleep with their shared husband in return for mandrakes.[xl] Other drugs are also highly valued, including the gifts given to Jesus along with gold.[xli] Frankincense was saught-after enough to justify a six month, 1,500 mile camel trek across robber-infested deserts, which seems like a lot of trouble for a posh whiff.[xlii] We tend to think of it as a symbolically loaded “prodigal waste of precious material”, as one of the Pope’s favourite theologians puts it, and it is precious, but it is wasted on the likes of him.[xliii] Frankincense has has potent actions on the TRPV3 ion channel, which is involved in temperature sensation in the skin, and is also widely distributed in the brain, though its function there remains unclear.[xliv] Frankincense also targets GABA receptors, as Xanax, Diazepam and other tranquilizers do. Scientists have tortured mice with hotplates and drowning to establish to the satisfaction of their weirdo colleagues that it has effects against anxiety and depression.[xlv]
Using words like anxiolytic, catatonic or other terms from the poor houses and lunacy wards of history helps us to talk about them, but the category can obscure the detail, in conversation as in cognition. Public discourse is comfortable with depression and mental illness, but not with dissolving into the Godhead or giggling all night behind the sofa. In the language of abnormal psychiatry excitement is mania, inspiration is delusion, and bliss can be regression to primary narcissism if you talk to the wrong Freudian. But tranquilizers do more than make one tranquil, and the real empirical test is to eat some. A pea-sized dose is about right to begin with, or two, but go slowly with much more than that, because at some point your intestinal flora will be offended. Frankinsence is lovely, but the Greek physician Dioscordes believed it could cause madness. You have been warned.
Myrrh is another ‘tranquilizer’, which Roman medics knew as an aprodisiac.[xlvi] [xlvii] Its terpenes are mu- and delta-opioid receptor agonists, and it is pleasant in its own right; but its depths are revealed in combination.[xlviii] It synergises well with frankincense, and both frankincense and myrrh go well with alcohol (best infused in wine, though there is no pharmacological reason you can’t snort the gifts of the magi off a nightclub toilet). Jesus refused myrrh in wine at his crucifixion, maybe to keep his head clear.[xlix] Priests have always had their secrets, who is to say that they didn’t mix their sacraments more directly once upon a time, sweetening the blood of Christ for the faithful, perhaps spiking it with some dysphoric tincture for those who were frugal at the collection plate?
Both myrrh and frankincense grow in a paradisical garden in The Song of Songs:
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant [or precious] fruits [or fresh things]; camphire, with spikenard. Spikenard and saffron; cane and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and agarwood, with all the chief spices[l]
Nearly everything mentioned hre is psychoactive. Saffron is the stigma of Crocus sativus, which is burned reverently around Asia and permissable accordig to Islamic law.[li] Pliny wrote that it “has a gentle effect of the head, and whets the sex drive.”[lii] More costly by weight than gold, it is analgesic, anxiolytic and hypnotic, with effects that have been likened to opium. [liii] [liv][lv] The GABA agonist it contains is called safrole. Cinamon also contains saffrole, as well as eugenol, a close relative of MDMA from which the love powder can be synthesised.[lvi] Agarwood is a sedative and analgesic traditionally used in Middle Eastern rites, produced by an Aquilaria tree when infected with a fungus.[lvii] Its wonderful smell makes it a highly-prized perfume today. Spikenard (pronounced “spick ‘n ‘ard”) is Nardostachys jatamansi, and is also “very costly” in The Bible, so much so that Judas complains when it is being used liberally on Jesus’ feet.[lviii] It boosts levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and GABA, and is classed as a nootropic, meaning that it boosts the memory.[lix]
While these plants in the paradisical garden could have been valued for their beauty, their medical properties or their fragrances, it is striking that six of the eight identified plants are safe, reliable and pleasant psychoactives. These plants are called rosh bosem, where bosem is a fragrant balsam or resin, and rosh can mean ‘principle’, ‘chief’, ‘first’, or simply ‘head’. ‘Head resins’ works for me, but the KJV prefers “chief spices”. Kaneh remains unidentified, like many biblical plants. It is likely the same as kaneh bosm described elsewhere as a “head spice”, and combined with other “head spices” in a preparation we shall come to shortly. The KJV translates it as calamus reed, which is a poor guess; the dead were buried in kaneh shirts, indicating that it was a tough fibrous cane rather than a reed which would quickly decompose. Kaneh means ‘cane’. Bosm is the adjective ‘fragrant’, related to the noun meaning ‘resin’. Kaneh bosm might be translated as ‘fragrant and resinous cane’.[lx] In the singular it is kaneh bos, later fused into one word: kanebos.[lxi]
This particularly fragrant line of speculation leads us to the fifth century BC, when Herodotus visited the Scythians to the north of Judah. He reported that they used a plant they called kannabis, “creeping under the felt coverings [of the tent, to] throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy”.[lxii][lxiii] Residues left in Scythian golden vessels have tested positive for cannabis (as well as opium), and other archeological evidence confirms widespread cannabis use by local tribes.[lxiv] It was called kannab by the Persians to the north of Israel, kannabis by the Greeks to the west, and qunubu in Assyrian to the east.[lxv] Physical evidence from the pyramids attests that cannabis was also used in Egypt to the south, but it is not native there. It would have been brought in through Palestine, which was crossed by several major trade routes, and in Jeremiah, kaneh bosm is itself described as “from a far country”.[lxvi] Some speculate that ne-penthe, which Egyptians powdered and mixed with wine, is the unidentified pannag being traded in Ezekiel, and the same is the Sanskrit bangha (cannabis).[lxvii][lxviii] It is all speculative, of course, but the rabbis and linguists speculating come with good credentials.
Regarding the other plants mentioned in The Song of Songs, camphire is henna, and has not been found to have psychoactive effects, but then again, the ancients may have known something we don’t. Pomegranate has a complex pharmocological profile, including melatonin, serotonin and tryptamine.[lxix] Some people report effects of smoking the resin, and also a synergy with Syrian rue.[lxx] While modern pharmocology seeks to isolate chemicals, plant lore has traditionally worked through exploring combinations. Exodus describes a mix of “head spices” that was central to the cult:
YHWH spake unto Moses, saying: Take thou also unto thee principal spices [rosh bosm], of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of kaneh bosm two hundred and fifty shekels. And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin. And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.[lxxi]
Even disregarding the speculative identity of kaneh bosm, the synergy between the other three is potent. Cassia contains the psychoactive linalool, as well as methyl chavicol, whose psychoactive effect has been established by peer-reviewed rat torture.[lxxii] Sadly it is broken down by our P450 enzymes, but they can be inhibited. This class of enzymes has many different members, CYP2D6, CYP2E1 and so on, and the spread varies between people, but some psychonauts are busy reviving the art of the apothecary, combining plants to see explore their synergies. One intrepid chap mixed cinnamon and pomegranite seeds, along with cayene pepper, star anise and chai tea:
I felt like I had a warm fuzzy blanket wrapped around me without CYP2D6 inhibition; but with the CYP2D6 inhibition I feel that I AM that warm fuzzy blanket [capitalization his, or maybe YHWH’s].[lxxiii]
Cinnamon is known to inhibit at least CYP2A6 and CYP2E1. Cassia may inhibit others. When P450 enzymes are sufficiently inhibited, methyl chavicol’s effects change from mildly sedative to “electric LSD-like psychedelic”.[lxxiv] Together cassia and cinnamon would contain various psychoactive allylbenzenes, including saffrole, eugenol and methyl chavicol, as well as myristicin and elemicin.[lxxv][lxxvi] All of these compounds are present in nutmeg, which was once prized enough to cause two wars between the Dutch and the English.[lxxvii] [lxxviii] [lxxix] Its powerful effects at the right dose are well documented:
intensely pleasurable tactile sensations, that seemed to send shivers up my spine every time I acknowledged them. The only thought going through my head at this time was, what a wonderful life I have.[lxxx]
It sounds very much like its close cousin MDMA.[lxxxi] Mixing it with myrrh, however, is something else entirely. The combination is refered to in tantric scripture as a path to “pure pnowledge… which illuminates the nature of all things.”[lxxxii] One intrepid tantrika tried it out and left a fascinating trip report:
Awakening – as if possessed by a fierce and aggressive deity: deep, monstrous voice boiling out of me unbidden etc.
Open eyed visions and closed eyed visions of a bulging-eyed, white-skinned man in ceremonial armor
The real world perceived as a far-away and distorted window
This window also emanated and originated a mental fireball or supernova
This fireball had as its identity the fierce deity above.
My voice seemed to penetrate the walls and echo off of the sky
New doors/avenues opened up inside familiar mantra, new knowledge disclosed, new perspectives on hidden meanings[lxxxiii]
The fierce deity and the martial imagery, and the apocalyptic penetrating of the walls and discovery of new knowledge, is particularly pertinent given that the mixture is pharmacologically quite similar to the holy anointing oil. The function of that oil was to introduce new kings to the mighty YHWH:
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of YHWH came upon David from that day forward.[lxxxiv]
Myrrh, cinnamon and cassia were also mixed together as a massage oil by Egyptian apothecaries, the undisputed plantlore champions of the ancient Middle East.[lxxxv] Massage, especially with cinnamon in the oil, would dilate capillaries and increase absorption, and it seems to have been the method of application in the tabernacle as well. The anointing oil is shemen ha-mishchah, where MaShaCh means to wipe or paint, and mashach may be the root of the French word ‘massage’.[lxxxvi] [lxxxvii]
With an extra letter yod, MaShaCh becomes MaShiYaCh, or messiah, meaning ‘an anointed person’. The title once described any descendent of David anointed to become king, but meaning drifts over time. Back in pre-exile Israel priests were annointed as well as kings, “that they may minister unto me [YHWH] in the priest’s office”.[lxxxviii] For everyone else it was forbidden, and “whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.”[lxxxix] Other taboos surrounding the anointing oil included not “drinking wine nor strong drink… when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation”, and not leaving the tabernacle while under its effects.[xc] That is sound advice for any psychedelic session, YHWH or no YHWH. As Jimi Hendrix discovered, the mix of tranquilizers and alcohol can be a bad one.
If the oil reliably induces the experience of YHWH, does that mean that the deity is simply a byproduct of allylbenzene pharmacology? Or does the pharmacology bring Him into focus? Such questions are best approached empirically. You could mix up the medicines and ask Him directly, though He might wax a bit wrath. More importantly, do you notice any changes after you check in with your fiery god? Are you luckier, or wiser? Do your enemies scatter at your approach, and dry channels open up before your outstretched hand, as is written of the prophet of YHWH at the Red Sea?
According to the editor of Jewish Life, some traditional kabbalistic meditations “include the use of ‘grasses’, which were possibly psychedelic drugs”.[xci] The medieval rabbinical authority Bahya ben Asher wrote that drugs he was familiar with gave access to higher knowledge relating to the Tree of Knowledge, as manna had done in the wilderness.[xcii] Note that he didn’t suggest that the Tree of Knowledge itself was a drug, but something that could be understood via drugs. The Egyptian Tree of Life, however, is reliably identified as one of the acacias.[xciii] From this tree emerged the primordial couple, Isis and Osiris, and the latter returned to an acacia tomb after his murder. Another god-man back from the dead was Christ, crowned with acacia thorns according to tradition.[xciv] Middle Eastern folklore consistently places acacia at the juncture between worlds, and the plant was used to commune with and exorcise spirts.[xcv] When YHWH instructs the Israelites to construct the Ark of the Covenant “that I may dwell among them”, it was to be made of acacia, which is shittim in Hebrew.[xcvi]
There are many subspecies of acacia, but authorities from The Hastings Dictionary of the Bible to the Freemasons identify shittim as Acacia seyal.[xcvii][xcviii] This also happens to be the plant with the highest concentration of DMT in the region, and it contains other psychoactive tryptamines as well, including the “spatial hallucinogen” NMT.[xcix] These alkaloids are easily extracted with alcohol, and the evaporated crystals would have been mind-blowing if thrown by the handful onto hot coals in confined space, which is how YHWH demanded incense be burned, in a 4½m2 sealed chamber in the tabernacle.[c]
The word shittim is derived from the verb shotet (to pierce), describing precisely what DMT does to the veil of everyday reality (as well as what acacia thorns do to the skin). The Talmud also relates shittim to shetuth, meaning ‘nonsense’, which is curious for such an exalted substance, but makes more sense given the effects of DMT.[ci] Elsewhere The Talmud records a song from the oral tradition it in rather pagan-sounding verses:
Sing, O sing, acacia tree,
Ascend in all thy gracefulness.
With golden weave they cover thee,
The sanctuary-palace hears thy eulogy,
With divers jewels art thou adorned.[cii]
And the angel of YHWH appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush [seneh]: and he looked, and, behold, the seneh burned with fire, and the seneh was not consumed.[cv]
Flames are emissions of light that would be a fitting metaphor for the colourful geometric patterns that blaze around but don’t consume the objects of one’s attention in the DMT state. The only other example of flames flickering around natural objects like this is at Mount Sinai, where sense modalities are muddled up in the “unconstrained cognition” of synaesthesia:
And all the people are seeing the voices, and the flames, and the sound of the trumpet.[cvi]
Given the congruence of imagery at the burning bush and the mountain, the similarity in the Hebrew words is interesting. Both seneh (SNH) and Sinai (SYNY) are modified from the root SN, meaning ‘to pierce’ or ‘a thorn’.[cvii] SNH takes the femanine ending H. SYNY has the quintessential letter of masculine potential inserted into it twice. YY is also a divine name in itself.[cviii]
Several scholars interpret the flaming imagery as indicative of the DMT state. Dr. Benny Shanon of Jerusalem University speculates that Moses’ vision might have been due to an orally-effective ayahuasca analogue, made by combining acacia with Peganum harmala. This plant is known locally as harmal, meaning ‘taboo’ in Hebrew, and it grows abundantly by the caves where Essene mystics once lived. In Arabic it means ‘sacred’ as well as ‘taboo’, and it was burned for bravery and because it “expels devils and averts misfortune”, according to the sayings of the prophet Muhammad – peace be upon his tryptophan receptors.[cix] Harmal inhibits MAO enzymes, and that allows DMT to do its thing in the brain, but at the right dose it is also psychoactive and visionary in its own right, without the admixture of DMT (as is the ayahuasca vine which also contains harmaline). Another of Muhammad’s sayings recommends a strong psychoactive dose:
Whoever for 40 days eats 1 mesghal (4.6 grams) of harmala mixed in water every morning, the light of wisdom will turn on in their heart
40 days is the traditional length of a Sufi retreat, and the amount of time that Moses spent upon the mountain.[cx]
Like Shannon, psychopharmacologist Rick Strassman also sees psychedelic imagery in the flames that do not burn, but he proposes that the prophetic state is mediated by DMT produced naturally by the body. Comparing accounts of prophetic experiences in The Hebrew Bible with lab-notes taken from thousands of DMT sessions he facilitated, Strassman found many similarities in psychological, physical and emotional experiences described, particularly in the way that the entities interact with each other and the individual encountering them.
Strassman proposes a ‘theoneurological’ model of mystical experience, where God communicates with humans using the brain, which is a welcome counterbalance to the basic assumption of ‘neurotheology’, where the experience of God is generated by the brain.[cxi] His suggestion to make the High Holy days even higher with psychedelics in the synagogue might be a giggle, and I’d certainly agree that The Bible might inform psychedelic drug experiences by suggesting skillful ways of interacting with the entities encountered.[cxii] As for his claim that that there is “little, if any, evidence in the text” for drugs being responsible for the prophetic states described, perhaps he is exercising due diligence in an academic culture where textual analysis, archaeology and snorting powdered resins off holy books cannot compete with the truth as revealed by putting rodents to the question.[cxiii] The bulk of his study focuses on the books of the prophets, where it does seem that the visionary state comes on spontaneously, or through fasting, meditation, certain postures and other techniques he lists.[cxiv] But in the tabernacle and the first temple, which were managed not by prophets but by priests, there is clear evidence that psychoactive incense was burned in quantity in a confined space. This was a common method of imbibing smoke before pipes were introduced; Scythians did it in their tents, Chinese sages did it in their cells, and the Oracle at Delphi did it in her cave (with frankincense, myrrh, laurel, olibanum and henbane).[cxv] Concerning the tabernacle, here even Strassman concedes that the mode in which incense was burned “suggests an exogenous mind-altering agent”:[cxvi]
He shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before YHWH, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before YHWH, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony[cxvii]
This is not a little stick of nag champa, but handfuls of finely ground incense hotboxing a 4½m2 chamber beneath four layers of tightly drawn skins and fabrics.[cxviii] Nothing in The Bible is described in anything like the amount of detail given about the construction of the tabernacle, with over five chapters meticulously detailing the length of its acacia boards, the types of fabrics to use and the space between the rings holding the sheets down.[cxix] The Holy of Holies had only one object in it, the Ark of the Covenant, and the space was used exclusively for burning incense and communicating with angels. TABERNACLE DIAGRAM The Talmud adds that “the veil was one handbreadth thick” in the time of the first temple, where incense was burned in the Holy of Holies in the same manner.[cxx] If the veil was to shield the eyes it wouldn’t need to be thick, and surely any thickness would be unlikely to constrain the power of YHWH. It would make more sense if the thick veil was to keep the smoke within, and it would also fit with Strassman’s alternative translation of another verse:
Through the agency of the cloud I will appear upon the Ark-cover.[cxxi]
“Oil and incense make the heart rejoice,” goes the proverb, using the same word for ‘rejoice’ that describes the effect of wine.[cxxii] The exact recipe of the incense has been lost, but those ingredients which have been identified are nearly all psychoactive. Exodus lists “stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet incense with pure frankincense”.[cxxiii] It is unclear what onycha was, but Pliny and others identify stacte as high grade myrrh.[cxxiv] Most scholars identify galbanum as Ferula gummosa, which has actions on opioid receptors.[cxxv] Regarding “sweet incense”, ‘sweet’ is samim, and samim means ‘drugs’ in modern Hebrew – anything from MDMA to heroin.[cxxvi] The nuances of ancient Hebrew words can be difficult to ascertain, but perhaps in this case the meaning is not so far removed. Ktoreth ha-samim might literally be translated as ‘the incense of pychoactives’.
The recipe in The Talmud lists 16 ingredients used to prepare the incense. These include the opioid receptor agonist saffron, the sedative agarwood, and cassia and cinnamon with their psychoactive allylbenzenes.[cxxvii] Mastic was traditionally used as a stimulant, and Sassurea costus is an analgesic, smoked in Tibet and burned reverently around Asia.[cxxviii] [cxxix] [cxxx] Spikenard, which facilitates memory, may have been added to help priests recall their tranquilized apocalypses.
The Jordan Amber of the ktoreth ha-samim may have an extraordinary provenance. Indigestible squid lips are occasionally vomited up by whales covered in solidified bile, and drift across the sea until making landfall. This stuff smells far better than it sounds, and is a prized aphrodisiac, but not known to be psychoactive – but what a trip![cxxxi] Ma’aleh ashan (literally ‘that which causes smoke to rise’) may be Nebtadini pyrotechnica, which is used in fireworks, but this secret was witheld even from the rabbis who wrote down the oral tradition.[cxxxii] The commentary does state that some components were used to pre-process others, indicating extremely refined techniques of production:
Why was Carshina lye brought? To refine the onycha, that it be pleasant.
Why was Cyprus wine brought? To steep the onycha, that it be pungent.
When the thick veil was drawn back, smoke would come pouring out of the chamber to rise up from the tabernacle door. Exodus has a famous pillar of smoke, at the door of the tabernacle rather than over the Holy of Holies at the back of the tent; but the translation describes it as descending, not ascending:
As Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses…
The most outrageous addition here is “the LORD”. Of all the popular translations only The Hebrew Names Version Bible faithfully relates that it was the cloud itself that spoke with Moses (fitting neatly with Strassman’s alternative translation describing “the agency of the cloud”). In fact, there is no YHWH mentioned until two verses later:
… And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And YHWH spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.[cxxxiii]
Also curious is that the pillar descends (yered) as Moses enters the tabernacle, but the people outside don’t see that. They see it “stand” (or alternatively ‘appear’ or ‘arise’, as amood can be translated). This is exactly what one would expect if there was a large amount of incense being burned inside. Yered means ‘to go down’, but also ‘to go “to a lower region, as the shore, a boundary, the enemy, etc.”’[cxxxiv] [cxxxv] When a divine being goes down to a lower region it is a revelation, as when “YHWH came down [yered] upon mount Sinai”.[cxxxvi] It seems more elegant to interpret this as YHWH appearing to the senses of Moses, rather than Him tumbling out of the sky. To retranslate, then:
As Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar revealed, and appeared / arose at the door of the tabernacle, and talked with Moses…
Whatever yered means it is reserved for Moses, happening either inside the tent or inside his mind.[cxxxvii] He enters the Holy of Holies alone as the Amazonian medicine-man goes into his hut alone on behalf of his tribe, journeying with his ayahuasca or his mushrooms, surrounded by his magical objects and familiar spirits. Both Moses and the shaman undertake periods of austerity and solitude to deepen their connection with their ally, and both share their wisdom in song.[cxxxviii]Traditionally, shamanising was done to perform sorcery, to cure, and to inform war strategy through divination, and all of these functions have parallels in the tabernacle.[cxxxix] In the place of casting shells or bones, the mysterious urim and thummim were used as tools in the tabernacle to divine the will of YHWH.[cxl] [cxli]Could the story of the Israelites following the pillar of smoke be an echo of a time when the cloud guided the tribe by guiding its prophet?
I have experimented, with much less material and poorer quality chambers, including once after a talk I gave on the subject. I didn’t put any kaneh bosm in it, but my audience informed me in spaced out slurs that they were feeling tranquilised. In my own experiments I was surprised to see the symbol of a strange god god behind my closed eyelids when offering this mixture to the LORD, an abomination of a god no less, and I was even more surprised to discover that he was also worshipped with frankincense. Again, do your own research, but take care, because the incense of drugs does what it says on the tin (and watch out for abominable gods). If you are going to experiment with larger doses, bear in mind that there are mortal taboos against doing just that. YHWH has quite a kick, and there are a lot of chemicals in synergy.
There may have been yet more ingredients, because much was hidden and much has been forgotten. Other sources also tell tales. Josephus describes a golden image of the henbane flower decorating the High Priest’s ceremonial hat during the time of the second temple; even the scent of the heavy-duty scopolamine in henbane flowers can make you dizzy.[cxlii] [cxliii] There are no obvious references to acacia in the incense anywhere, but “ascend in all thy gracefulness” is strange poetry to acacia in the serenade recorded in The Talmud quoted above. The acacia panels and altars doesn’t ascend; they just sit there. Smoke ascends, but not planks. Acacia “sings” in the poem, and its “eulogy” is heard; but in the tabernacle the speaking comes “from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims”, and these things are made of gold, not acacia.[cxliv] So why would the acacia be described as singing? Speculating around the imagery of a poem may be going a little far, but we can conclude for sure that the most potent source of DMT in the region was also the most exalted building material.
In the time of the tabernacle, the incense recipe was kept secret by the Korahite clan.[cxlv] They were also guards to the sanctuary entrance, ritual musicians and executioners.[cxlvi][cxlvii] It seems a strange mix of party tricks, but each of these roles situates them in different ways as gate-keepers to a liminal zone. All of the ritual psychoactives were prepared by the Korahites. As well as the incense and the oil, they made the wine (which is psychoactive of course, and LORD knows how much more psychoactive if they were extracting alkaloids into it, as cocktail mixers did in Greece, Persia and Egypt).[cxlviii] [cxlix][cl] The Korahites also made the lechem hapanim (literally ‘the bread of faces/presences’) that rested on an acacia table inside the tabernacle. Called “shewbread” in the KJV, it was eaten by the lowly priests together while the High Priest ate manna alone in the Holy of Holies:[cli]
And thou shalt set the lechem hapanim in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before YHWH. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial[clii]
It was eaten with psychoactive frankincense for a memorial, meaning that it was to make people remember what they had forgotten. In Jewish thought, discovery is understood to be a process of remembering, as it was for Socrates.[cliii]
In [High Priest] Simeon the Upright’s time a blessing was sent into the omer, the two loaves of bread, and the showbread, and every priest who received only the size of an olive became satiated, and some was left over…[cliv]
This dose is more appropriate for a hit than a snack, and probably about right for a hit of frankincense (though such a simple recipe might be underpar for the master mixers of the tabernacle treats). Simeon was clearly in the know about mixing shewbread dough, but later standards slipped, and communion required a strong constitution:
…but after him, these things were cursed, and every priest got only the size of a bean. And the delicate priests refused to take it altogether, but the voracious ones accepted and consumed. It once happened, one took his own share and his fellow’s: he was nicknamed “robber” till his death.[clv]
This story suggests not potent symbolism but potent drugs, drugs that are morish even. Or if it is purely symbolic then no one has been able to unravel the symbolism. Even the great sage Moses Maimonides was perplexed by “the bread of presences”, and he wrote A Guide for the Perplexed.[clvi] Was he just a bit square? Or maybe he was keeping secrets himself. Maybe Dr. Strassman is too.
Prophets almost invariably see sights and hear sounds alone, but at Sinai everyone witnesses the glory of YHWH together. It is also the only biblical story where sense modalities are mixed up synaesthetically. A collective vision is unique in The Bible, and very rare in ancient mythology, but there was a well-documented case in October 1917, when tens of thousands of pilgrims and a pack of journalists flocked to Fátima in Portugal for the final apparition in a series that had been announced months in advance.[clvii] “Look at the sun!” cried the young prophetess, and behold! The sun danced. Or it span. Or it approached the earth. Or it flared in purples, yellows and blue “as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands”.[clviii] Some believers saw nothing. Some sceptics saw visions. Accounts vary enormously, but some visually extraordinary event was experienced simultaneously in the brains of many thousands of people, often with the phenomenology of fire.
As Strassman remarks, psychedelics need not be invoked to explain prophetic visions.[clix] Stress increases levels of endogenous DMT and 5MEO-DMT (in rats at least, and presumably in Portuguese people, who share 85% of their genes with rodents).[clx] [clxi] Did years of war and terrifying uncertainty provoke an episode of mass hysteria amongst the witnesses? Or did Our Lady of Perpetual Succour exploit a favourable neurochemical environment to slip through the veil and comfort her children in their hour of need? Or did something else happen?
Like the Fátima witnesses, the fleeing Israelites in the story were facing great uncertainties, and this could contribute to a mass vision. That said, biblical history is not without moments of collective stress, but this is still the only collective vision. Another difference between the wilderness and other biblical visions is that at this time everyone is eating manna together:
And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, it is manna [man hu]: for they wist not what it was [ma hu].[clxii]
“It is manna”, as the KJV puts it here, doesn’t really work, because if “they wist not what it was”, how would they know what to call it? Most other bibles translate man hu as “what is it?”, even though the Hebrew for ‘what’ is not man but ma. Some authorities argue that man could be the Egyptian or Aramaic word for ‘what’, but others respond by asking why the ecapees use this fairly random loan word when the rest of their vocabulary is normal Hebrew.[clxiii] The fact that ma hu is found again in the same verse suggests something more in the poetry.
Other interpreters read man hu as an incorrect guess: “this is man”, where man is the Bedouin word for an edible resinous secretion collected from tamarisk trees.[clxiv] Though we might imagine “bread from heaven” falling like sacks of humanitarian aid, the description of manna strongly suggests a secretion that drips and forms “thin flakes like frost on the ground”, or hardens on the plant into resinous pellets the size of coriander seeds:[clxv] [clxvi]
And the manna was as coriander seed, and the appearance [or colour] thereof as the appearance [or colour] of bdellium.[clxvii]
Bedouin man would have been a good guess because man forms pellets that taste like honey, as Exodus describes the taste of manna.[clxviii] But “they wist not” indicates that the guess was wrong. If my friend Ferdinand grabbed a tangerine and called it an orange, I might say “He called it an orange, for he wist not what it was”. But if it actually was an orange my phrase would be bizarre. Another problem is that they harvested manna and “ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar”, but the Tamarisk secretion and cannot be ground, as it is gummy rather than brittle. For the same reason it does not form “thin flakes like frost” where it drips but globulous mounds.
Furthermore, finding pellets of Bedouin man in the desert is not much of a miracle, as the Bedouins were accustomed to doing just that without divine intervention. The quails which helpfully come to the ground every night seem far more miraculously sourced, but they are not called “angel’s food”, and nor are they remarked upon much. One line specifically connects a feeling of satisfaction to the manna but not the quail meat, implying that manna satisfies them in a way that meat does not:
At evening you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be satisfied with bread [manna]: and you shall know that I am YHWH your God.[clxix]
Finally, Bedouin man can be stored for up to a year, but…
Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them… kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.[clxx]
The Israelites were close with their guess of man, but they were wrong, and this rapid rate of decay suggests that they had found a fungal infection. Any guess can only be speculative 3,000 odd years after the penning of legends that were centuries older still; my guess is ergot. It is prevalent in the region, and appears at the onset of spring when the fungus emerges from its dormancy, just at the period when the Israelites first encounter manna.[clxxi] [clxxii] It would also require vegetation, and therefore water; and manna is found during one of the stages in the journey where they have access to water.[clxxiii]
The first stage of ergot infection produces a honeydew with a honey taste, like manna, and like manna it hardens to small resinous pellets that are brittle and can be ground. Ergot secretion also drips onto the ground and dries to a white frosty scale.[clxxiv] It soon begins to stink of rotting fish, but there is a simple way to halt the infection:
“Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest [said Moses]… So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.” So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.[clxxv]
Heat wouldn’t do much for Bedouin man, but it would kill off an ergot infection while preserving the psychedelic alkaloids. Boiling may also be significant as a method of preparation, as it is the simplest way to separate the psychoactive alkaloids in ergot from the insoluble toxic compounds.[clxxvi] Albert Hofmann, the first to convert ergot to LSD in the modern era, wrote that such an operation was “well within the range of possibilities open to Early Man”.[clxxvii] Maybe one of those clever Jewish doctors figured out how to produce a safe and powerful psychedelic? Or perhaps they realised that the ergot growing on knotgrass was psychedelic but non-toxic.[clxxviii]
Presumably it would not have been beyond an omnipotent deity to provide food with a longer shelf-life; but then YHWH is not omnipotent, despite the hype.[clxxix] His miracles in the desert are subject to the limitations of the natural world, or they were until some supernatural snake-charming was edited in by a later hand (we will return to these details later). Such a meterologically exciting escape as described in Exodus seems a little far-fetched, but legend combines elements of the oral tradition, hanging historical details and timeless truths on the biographies of larger than life characters. Quails do wait in large numbers for favourable winds during their migrations across the desert, and are easily rounded up; other Middle Eastern tribes did just that.[clxxx] Plagues plague and floods flood, the earth quakes and swallows men.[clxxxi] Strong east winds blow, and the St. Petersberg Institute of Oceanology calculated that 67 mph winds would have sufficed to part the Red Sea.[clxxxii] [clxxxiii] Maybe the miracle of the “angel’s food” is not that it comes from an extraordinary place, but that it takes one to an extraordinary place.
To speculate further, perhaps beyond the limits of good taste, what if the myth-makers were in altered states when they wrote, as Shakespeare and as other superb later writers were on occasion (like I am sometimes, but not today – I’m at my mother-in-law’s today).[clxxxiv] And what if the thread onto which some of the stories were hung was itself an allegory of the psychedelic experience? If so then the poetry of Exodus is poignant. The Israelites escape through a dry channel in the watery chaos of the Red Sea, which consumes behind them the masters who had ruled over their bonded condition. Freed from what they know, they find themselves in a boundless wilderness, a wild and unknown place without rules, with only a memory that a distant Promised Land awaits them.
The names of the wildernesses also evoke stages on the psychedelic journey, of lines dissolving and then visionary experiences errupting. The first wilderness is midbar shur, where shur means ‘wall’. Manna is encountered in the second wilderness, midbar sin, where sin means ‘clay’ – the unified substance from which dividing walls are made. Another meaning of sin is ‘thorn’, which also suggests boundaries being broken, as a thorn pierces the flesh and the veils, letting the contents of one space spill through into another. The final wilderness is midbar sinai, the Wilderness of Sinai, again related to ‘thorn’, where the Israelites witness the mountain in its flaming, piercing, synaesthetic glory. When the Israelites discover manna, the walls that divide concepts in the mind become malleable like clay, and then the liberated travellers see flaming visions of splendour.
Moses’ 40-day retreat up the mountain is mirrored by the 40-year treck through the desert, as well as the traditional 40-day Islamic fast with harmal. The rabbis explain that 40 years is long enough for everyone to die off, so a new generation that had never known slavery could enter the promised land. The number is also connected via the ancient calculus of numerology to mem, the letter of the womb and birth.SRC The motif of death and rebirth, which appears in so many rites and legends that feature psychedelics, is also found in Exodus.
Meaning is in the mind of the reader making sense of the letters, but we need not speculate so far to acknowledge a wide variety of psychoactive agents in the tabernacle. The manna ends up in the tabernacle as well, though here the narrative buckles in a manner most unsightly. In one line, Moses prepares for the approaching day when manna will no longer appear:
Fill an omer of it to be kept [or cultivated] for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness…[clxxxv]
The command is clear enough, but the prophet repeats it again the following verse in a slightly different way:
Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before YHWH, to be kept for your generations. As YHWH commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the [tablets of the] Testimony, to be kept.[clxxxvi]
Something is fishy here, as fishy as yesterday’s manna. Firstly, why would Moses give a command twice, and in slightly different ways? Secondly, manna is to be seen by the people of the generations to come, so why is it being hidden behind two veils, off-limits to everyone except the High Priest? Stranger still is that this command is issued and followed a full nine verses before the first mention of the tabernacle and the second mention of the Ark. The Ark hasn’t even been constructed yet, so how can the pot be put in front of it?
The second command renders the first both redundant and unworkable. And it is the second was followed, while the first was disobeyed. Manna is not mentioned from the arrival in the Promised Land in 1406BC until the first century AD and The NT, when it is safely esconsed inside the Holy of Holies:
And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all… wherein was the golden pot that had manna… and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly[clxxxvii]
The veil of secrecy has grown thicker than ever. At some point the story changed, and to understand why we need to understand a little more about how The Bible was put together.
Tradition recalls that Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were all written by Moses, but textual scholars almost unanimously agree that it is complied from several source documents which can be distinguished by their particular styles. It is a complex topic, and while no two scholars seem to agree on the details, overall it is extremely compelling – so much so that even the Vatican has come to acknowledge the possibility of “diverse sources” in The Bible.[clxxxviii] Richard Elliot Friedman’s book Who Wrote The Bible? is an excellent introduction to the field.
The sources were written by various representatives of different communities in different centuries, with vastly different theological conceptions and political agendas. The commonwealth became a monarchy, and later split into two warring kingdoms, each striking alliences with their neighbours. Israel in the north was overrun, and in Judah the religion of the land was violently reformed and centralized, but then the temple was destroyed and the intelligensia exiled to Babylon. After half a century Persia conquered Babylon and released them.
Over a period of half a millennium the duty of leadership passed from prophets to kings to vassals of the Persian emperor. Different texts were produced as power structures shifted, and they were then joined together by redactors with agendas of their own, sometimes splicing them together line by line. Out of reverence for the texts, or in trying to keep different communities happy, the redactors endeavoured to include as much as they could, even where stories contradict each other. So Ishmaelites become Midianites halfway through a story, and poor old Noah enters the ark twice in the same chapter to endure a flood that lasted both 150 and 40 days.[clxxxix] [cxc] Exodus is mostly produced by the oldest of the sources, the Jahwist, and seems to be about getting out of it most of the time, as one might hope from its name – but shortly after escaping slavery the tribe is are subjected to a new law, given to them in various ways on various mountains by a lawmaker YHWH with little in common with his namesake.[cxci]
The law comes from later sources, one of which is the Priestly document. This contains the meticulously detailed tabernacle technology, and also nearly 200 verses at the beginning of Numbers counting people and their stuff, “even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basons”. This is followed by instructions on how to set up a leper colony, and by this point it is clear that The Bible has become a very different type of book. Deuteronomy came later still, with a big chunk of law and a very different project in mind. All of this was edited into something like its final form after the Babylonian exile, becoming The Bible that we know and love and hate today.
Biblical exegesis isn’t an exact science like mammal drowning, and with such uncertainty it is tempting to have one’s wicked way with the limited and disputed facts available. A series of priesthoods made an industry of doing this, and perhaps I am guilty of it in my own enthusiasm. It seems clear that there is something wrong with Exodus 16, as scholars have noted, where manna is placed in a tabernacle that doesn’t exist, and hidden away for a millennium and a half.[cxcii]
Perhaps the priestly caste worried, as a later generation of secret service executioners with a monopoly over mind kontrol worried in the 1960s, that a freely-available ergot preparation might dissolve into clay the walls holding the world up. Manna ends up with the other Godfoods, beyond the reach of everyone except certain powerful and secretive families.[cxciii] It was to be eaten once a year in the Holy of Holies by the High Priest alone, and there was evidently some concern that the High Priest might get too high.[cxciv] A chain was tied to his robe so the people outside would know if he stopped moving. Perhaps they could have dragged him out if he passed out.
Back in the wilderness a veil was torn and a new veil arose, but that all changed with the coming of a new a masseuse Messiah, basting and baking his followers in the rite of the Chrism. The Greek equivalent to mashiyach is christos, from chrió (to anoint).[cxcv] According to The Gospel of Philip
The Chrism is superior to baptism, for it is from the word “Chrism” that we have been called “Christians,” certainly not because of the word “baptism”. And it is because of the chrism that “the Christ” has his name. For the Father anointed the Son, and the Son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us.[cxcvi]
Gnostic texts relate that the ever egalitarian Christ took the anointing oil from the preserve of elites to his followers. Even in the stuffy old orthodox gospels he sends his followers off to anoint the sick with oil.[cxcvii] The Chrism is still performed today in the Eastern churches, though with less spicy spices.
Jesus’ most famous prayer, repeated daily by the faithful, goes “Give us this day our daily bread”, but this is rather a lot of ‘day’.[cxcviii] “Daily” here is epiousion, found nowhere else in the Bible and nowhere in Greek literature. The epi (of epitaph and epilogue) takes the bread ‘beyond’. The rest is less clear, probably related to ousia, ‘to exist’ or ‘to go’. St. Jerome translated epiousion as “supersubstantial”, which might mean something like ‘excessively real’ or ‘extremely nourishing’. It is certainly something sublime, and ancient sources equated it with manna.SRC The return of manna is also mentioned in apocalyptic verses in The Second Book of Baruch:
When all that which should come to pass in these parts is accomplished, the Messiah will begin to be revealed… At that time that the treasury of manna will come down again from on high, and they will eat of it in those years because these are they who will have arrived at the consummation of time.[cxcix]
Matthew describes a literal re-vel-ation at the death of Christ:
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.[cc]
In the rainforests of Africa and the Amazon psychedelic cults continue to contact the gods in the head with plants and the practices of ecstacy. In the Abrahamic traditions, however, central government has persecuted those using their neurotechnologies since at least the Babylonian exile. Today sacred psychedelia in the global north is limited to a few underground sects with complicated legal histories. Profane drug use is endemic outside the churches, but priests keep their bongs hidden under the altar and the spicebox passed around and inhaled at the closing Havdalah ritual of Jewish Sabbath may be the last faint whiff of much sweeter spices.
 Wilderness = mouth = MDBR = M + DBR, the womb of the word
[i] Sacred Weeds: Blue Water Lilly /Ancient Egypt Pt1/6
[ii] Book of the Dead, translated by E.A.Wallis Budge
[iii] The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead Leary T et al, (New York: 1964)
[iv] Monkey chap. 11-12
[v] The Aeneid Homer, 9:83-102
[vi] Reid, Nicholas and Patrick Nunn and Margaret Sharpe. Indigenous Australian Stories and Sea-Level Change. In Patrick Heinrich and Nicholas Ostler, eds. Indigenous Languages and their Value to the Community. Proceedings of the 18th Foundation for Endangered Languages conference, Okinawa, Japan, 2014
[vii] Aristides the Rhetor, quoted in The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries, Wasson, G. et al, chapter 1
[viii] LSD and Ololiuhqui Postscriptum: The Secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries Revealed in Pharmacotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, Their Plant Sources and History Ott, J. (California, 1993)
[ix] Food of the Gods Terence McKenna (New York, 1992) chap. 8
[x] The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries Wasson, G. et al (Berkely, 2008) p. 27
[xi] Dirges Pindar, Fragment 137 in The Odes of Pindar, including the principal fragments Sandys, J.E. (London, 1915)
[xii] The Greek Myths Graves, R (Folio editions) Author’s preface
[xiii] The Rig Veda: Soma, book 9
[xiv] Haoma and Harmaline. The Botanical Identity of the Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen ‘Soma’ and its Legacy in Religion, Language, and Middle Eastern Folklore Flattery, D. S., & Schwartz, M. (California, 1989) vol. 21
[xv] Cannabis and the Soma Solution Bennett, C. (Chicago, 2010)
[xvi] Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality Wasson, R. G. (Harcourt, 1972)
[xvii] AYA2014 – Matthew Clark. The botanical identity of the soma/haoma plant
ICEERS Ayahuasca conference video. Retrieved on 5 September 2015 from www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0o3t3ZkWgY
[xviii] Occidental Mythology – Campbell, J. , p. 21
[xix] The Emperor Wears No Clothes Herer, J. (Austin, 1985)
[xxi] Tripping with Allah Knight, M. M., (Berkely: 2014) p. 43
[xxii] Balababova, S., F. Parsche, and W. Pirsig. 1992. First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies. Naturwissenschaften 79:358.
[xxiii] Aimless Wandering: Chuang Tzu’s Chaos Linguistics Hakim Bey, Fringeware Review, issue 10(1996)
[xxiv] Cannabis and the Soma Solution Bennett, C. (Chicago, 2010) p. 470-488
[xxv] Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances – Siegel, RK, p. 53
[xxvi] Stoned wallabies make crop circles – BBC website (25 June 2009)
[xxvii] Sara Gates Dogs Licking Cane Toads Prompt Vests To Warn Pet Owners Huffington Post 17 December 2013
[xxviii] Peculiar Potions, from the BBC series Weird Nature
[xxix] Samorini G. Animals and Psychedelics; The Natural World and the Instinct to Alter Consciousness. Park Street Press. 2000, p. 57
[xxx] The Lotus and the Spinning Wheel Byles, M. B. (Allen & Unwin, 1963) p. 39
[xxxi] Pers. comm. Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hussaini
[xxxii] Tripping with Allah Knight, M. M., (Berkely: 2014) p. 44
[xxxiii] Ayahuasca and the Godhead: An Interview with Wahid Azal of the Fatimiya Sufi Order. Reality Sandwich retrived 16 December, 2014 http://realitysandwich.com/219826/ayahuasca-and-the-godhead-an-interview-with-wahid-azal-of-the-the-fatimiya-sufi-order/
[xxxiv] Psalms 104:14
[xxxv] Genesis 1:12
[xxxvi] The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications Rätsch, C. (Inner Traditions, 2005)
[xxxvii] Pathogenetic materia medica Enz, E. E. (Kansas City, 1911) p. 249
[xxxviii] Wars of the Jews Josephus Book VII, 6.3 in The Works of Flavius Josephus (Whiston, W. trans) (1737)
[xxxix] Strong’s H1736
[xl] Genesis 30:14-15
[xli] Matthew 2:11
[xlii] Groom, Nigel, Frankincense and Myrrh: A Study of the Ancient Arabian Incense Trade
[xliii] Sacred Signs, Guardini, R. (Branham, G. Trans) (St. Louis, 1956) Section on incense
[xliv] Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain Moussaieff, A. et al August 2008 The FASEB Journal – Vol. 22 no. 8 3024-3034
[xlv] Anticonvulsant effect of Boswellia serrata by modulation of endogenous Biomarkers Ziyaurrahman A.R & Jayvadan Patel Der Pharmacia Lettre, 2012, 4 (4):1308-1325 Scholar Research Library
[xlvi] Dolara, P. Nature 379, 29 (04 January 1996) Analgesic effects of myrrh
[xlvii] Fulgentius the Mythographer (Whitebread, L. G. trans.) (Ohio: 1971) p. 92
[xlviii] Dolora, P. et al (1996). Characterisation of the action on central opioid receptors of furanoeudesma-1,3-diene, a sesquiterpene extracted from myrrh, Phytotherapy Research, Vol. 10, pp. S81-S83, ISN:0951-418X
[xlix] Mark 15:23
[l] Song of Songs 4:13-14
[li] Comparison of the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of three medicinal plants known as “Snow Lotus” herb in traditional Uighur and Tibetan medicines.
Yi, T. et al J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Mar 24;128(2):405-11.
[lii] The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications Rätsch, C. (Vermont: 1998)
[liii] How an ounce of saffron is more expensive than gold Daily Mail online (I know, sorry. I could have got it from Business Insider, but it said that gold was a bit more expensive, I guess it depends who is selling) Retreived on 6 September 2015 from www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2823029/How-ounce-saffron-expensive-gold-Cultivation-exotic-spice-returns-Essex-time-200-years.html#ixzz3kuolMA7M
[liv] Protective effect of safranal on pentylenetetrazol-induced seizures in the rat: Involvement of GABAergic and opioids systems Hosseinzadeh, H. & Sadeghnia, H .R. Phytomedicine Vol. 14, Issue 4, 10 April 2007, pp. 256–262
[lv] Effects of the active constituents of Crocus sativus L., crocins, in an animal model of anxiety Pitsikas, N et al. Phytomedicine Vol. 15, Issue 12, December 2008, pp. 1135–1139
[lvi] Comparative study on the effect of cinnamon and clove extracts and their main components on different types of ATPases. Usta, J. et al. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2003 Jul;22(7) pp.355-62
[lvii] Psychobiological Assessment of Smoke of Agarwood (Aquilaria spp.) in Male Rats
Miraghaee, S. S. et al. Journal of Applied Biological Sciences 5 (2): 45-53, 2011
[lviii] John 12:3-5
[lix] Effects of Nardostachys jatamansi on Biogenic Amines and Inhibitory Amino Acids in the Rat Brain, Prabhu, V. & Karanth K. S. Planta Med 1994; 60(2): pp. 114-117
[lx] Bennett, p. 353
[lxi] Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp, Sula Benet, in Cannabis and Culture, Rubin, Vera & Comitas, Lambros (eds.) 1975, pp. 39-49
[lxii] Herodotus, Book 4 (G. Rawlinson trans.), 74-75
[lxiii] Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp – Cannabis and Culture,” Rubin, Vera & Comitas, Lambros, (eds.) 1975. pp. 39-49
[lxiv] Scythian gold vessels used in ‘hemp rituals’ Archeology News Network
Retrieved on May 28 2015 from http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/scythian-gold-vessels-used-in-hemp.html#.VWcNeusxmU0
[lxv] Bennett p. 356
[lxvi] Jeremiah 6:20
[lxvii] Cannabis: The Genus Cannabis, David T. Brown (ed) (Taylor and Francis e-library, 2003), p. 3
[lxviii] Cannabis and the Soma Solution, Chris Bennett (Chicago 2010) p. 351
[lxix] Melatonin, serotonin, and tryptamine in some egyptian food and medicinal plants.
Badria, F. J Med Food. 2002 Fall;5(3):pp. 153-7.
[lxx] Retrieved on 3 June 2015 from http://www.entheogen-network.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=5698&start=20#p42383
[lxxi] Exodus 30:22-25
[lxxii] Estragole-induced behavioural changes in rats Rosana M. C. et al Phytotherapy Research Vol. 18 (11), November 2004, pp. 921–924
[lxxiii]The Psychedelic Effects of Sweet Basil Oil (Methyl Chavicol)
[lxxiv] Oilahuasca: The new psychedelic frontier. Retrieved on 03 June 2015 from https://drugs-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=156755
[lxxv]Anti-inflammatory effect of myristicin on RAW 264.7 macrophages stimulated with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid. Lee J. Y. & Park, W. Molecules. 2011;16(8):7132-42
[lxxvi] Cinnamon and Cassia: The Genus Cinnamomum (Ravindran, P. N., Nirmal-Babu, K. & Shylaj, M. eds.) (Taylor & Francis elibrary: 2005) p. 334
[lxxvii] Extraction of essential oil and lipids from nutmeg by liquid carbon dioxide. Spricigo C. B. et al. J Supercritical Fluids . 1999;15:253-259.
[lxxviii] Antioxidant capacity of 26 spice extracts and characterization of their phenolic constituents. Shan, B. et al J Agric Food Chem . 2005;53(20):7749-7759.
[lxxix] In vitro evaluation of antioxidant activity of essential oils and their components. Dorman H. J. et al Flavour Fragr J . 2000;15:12-16.
[lxxxi] Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium Findlay, R & O’ Rourke, K. H. (New Jersey: 2007) p. 179-180
[lxxxii] Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstacy Douglas, N. & Slinger, P. (Rochester, Vermont: 2000) p. 246
[lxxxiii] Om Vision Synergy: Nutmeg & Myrrh – Mr. Sunday Retrieved on 3 June 2015 from https://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=95112
[lxxxiv] 1 Samuel 16: 13
[lxxxv] The Seven Books of Paulus Aegineta Vol. 3 (Francis, A. trans) (London: 1847) p. 595
[lxxxvi] Strong’s Numbers 4886
[lxxxvii] The American Heritage Dictionary Semitic Roots Appendix II Retrieved on 6 September 2015 from https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/semitic.html
[lxxxviii] Exodus 30:30
[lxxxix] Exodus 30:33
[xc] Leviticus 10:7-9
[xci] Kaplan, A. Meditation and Kabbalah. Rowman & Littlefield. 1982, p. 156
[xcii] Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis Shanon, B. in Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology Consciousness and Culture Vol. 1, Issue 1m March 1st, 2008 pp. 51-74
[xciii] Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis Benny Shanon Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology Consciousness and Culture, Vol. I—Issue I March 2008 pp. 51–74
[xciv] Dictionary of Symbols.Chevalier and Gheerbrant. Penguin Reference.1996.
[xcv] Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham (Llewellyn e-book 2012)
[xcvii] Ars Quatuor Coronatorum – W.J. Songhurs
[xcviii] Sprig of Acacia. Short Talk Bulletin, Vol. X, November, 1932 No.11
[c] Leviticus 16:12-13
[ci] Tractate Sanhedrin, 106a
[cii] Abodah Zarah, 24
[ciii] Sinai and Palestine, In Connection with their History, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, p. 75
[civ] Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis – Benny Shanon in Time and Mind: The Journal of
Archaeology Consciousness and Culture Vol. 1, Issue 1m March 1st, 2008 pp. 51-74
[cv] Exodus 3:2
[cvi] Exodus 20:18 – Young’s Literal Translation
[cvii] Strong’s H5572
[cviii] Jewish Traditions: A JPS Guide – Ronald L. Eisenberg (Jewish Publication Society, 2004) p. 627
[cix] Haoma and Harmaline: The Botanical Identity of the Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen ‘Soma’ and its Legacy in Religion, Language, and Middle Eastern Folklore
Flattery, D. S & Schwartz, M. (University of California Press, 1989) p. 63
[cx] Sufism and Bhakti: A Comparative Study Md. Sirajul Islam (Washington, 2004) p. 46
[cxi] DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible Strassman, R. (Vermont, 2014) p. 241
[cxii] DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible Strassman, R. (Vermont, 2014) p. 291 & 192
[cxiii] DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible Strassman, R. (Vermont, 2014) p. 14
[cxiv] DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible Strassman, R. (Vermont, 2014) p. 260
[cxv] Strange fires, weird smokes and psychoactive combustibles: entheogens and incense in ancient traditions Dannaway, F. R. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2010 Dec;42(4) pp. 485-97.
[cxvi] DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible Strassman, R. (Vermont, 2014) p. 101
[cxvii] Lev 16:12
[cxviii] W. Gunther Plaut, Bernard J. Bamberger, William W. Hallo (eds.) (1981). The Torah. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Footnote to Gen. 6:15
[cxix] Exodus 25-31:10
[cxx] The Mishna: Translated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes Danby, H. (Massachusetts, 2011) p. 161
[cxxi] Leviticus 16:2
[cxxii] Proverbs 27:9
[cxxiii] Exodus 30:34
[cxxiv] A Natural History Pliny the Elder, chap. 35 in Complete Workes of Pliny the Elder (Delphi Clasics, 2015) p. 406
[cxxv] Anticonvulsant Effect of Ferula Gummosa Root Extract against Experimental Seizures
Sayyah, M. and Mandgary, A. Iranian Biomedical Journal 7 (3): 139-143 (July 2003)
[cxxvi] Word of the Day / Samim Wlon Gilad, HaAretz, June 30 2013
[cxxvii] The Standard Prayer Book Authorized English Translation
Singer, S. (New York, 1915)
[cxxviii] Comparison of different extraction methods of Pistacia lentiscus var. chia leaves: Yield, antioxidant activity and essential oil chemical composition Bampouli, A. et al Journal of Applied Research on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants 09/2014; 1(3).
[cxxix] Comparison of the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of three medicinal plants known as “Snow Lotus” herb in traditional Uighur and Tibetan medicines.
Yi, T. et al J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Mar 24;128(2):405-11.
[cxxx] Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke: Its Ethnobotany as Hallucinogen …
Marcello Pennacchio, Lara Jefferson, Kayri Havens (Oxford: 2010)
[cxxxi] Aphrodisiacs past and present: a historical review Sandroni, P. Clin Auton Res. 2001 Oct;11(5):303-7.
[cxxxii] Shir HaShirim Rabbah, 3:4
[cxxxiii] Exodus 33:9-11
[cxxxiv] Brown-Driver-Briggs (Old Testament Hebrew-English Lexicon)
[cxxxv] Strong’s H3381
[cxxxvi] Exodus 19:20
[cxxxvii] Daniel 11:12 (New International Version)
[cxxxviii] Deuteronomy 32:44
[cxxxix] Warfare and Shamanism in Amazonia Fausto, C. (New York, 2012) p. 147
[cxl] Exodus 28:30
[cxli] Numbers 27:21
[cxlii] The Poison Garden website. Retrieved on 5 September 2015 from http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/hyoscyamus_niger.htm
[cxliii] Antiquities of the Jews Josephus, 3.7.6
[cxliv] Numbers 7:89
[cxlv] 1 Chronicles 9:17-34: The Tabernacle and Temple Responsibilities of the Sons of Korah Edge Induced Cohesion website, retrieved 11 December 2014: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/1-chronicles-9-17-34-the-tabernacle-and-temple-responsibilities-of-the-sons-of-korah/
[cxlvi] 1 Chronicles 9:19
[cxlvii] Tractate Yoma 3
[cxlviii] Pharmakon: Plato, Drug Culture, and Identity in Ancient Athens Rinella, M. A. (Plymouth, 2010) p. 8
[cxlix] Ratsch 1998, pp. 279-280.
[cl] Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture McGovern, P. E. (New Jersey, 2003) p. 132
[cli] 1Chronicles 9:32
[clii] Leviticus 24:6-7
[cliii] Tractate Niddah 30b
[cliv] Tractate Yoma 4
[clv] Tractate Yoma 4
[clvi] Guide for the Perplexed Moses Maimonides (Digireads, 2009) p. 367
[clvii] DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible Strassman, R. (Vermont, 2014) p. 285
[clviii] De Marchi, John (1952). “The Immaculate Heart”. New York: Farrar, Straus and Young. P.143
[clix] DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible Strassman, R. (Vermont, 2014) p. 101
[clx] Beaton J. M. & Christian ST (1977) Stress induced changes in whole brain indolealkylamine levels in the rat: using gas liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Abstr Soc Neurosci 4:1322
[clxi] Of Mice and Men: Striking similarities at the DNA level could aid research Russell, S, SF Gate, December 5, 2002 Retrieved on 26 September 2015 from http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/OF-MICE-AND-MEN-Striking-similarities-at-the-2748350.php
[clxii] Exodus 16:15 (Young’s Literal Translation and KJV)
[clxiii] “What is it?” Interpreting Exodus 16:15 – Zvi Ron, Jewish Bible Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 4, 2010
[clxiv] Yehuda Felix, Nature and Land in the Bible (Jerusalem: 1992) p. 46.
[clxv] Exodus 16:14 (NIV)
[clxvi] Psalm 78:21-25
[clxvii] Numbers 11:17 (with a better translation)
[clxviii] Exodus 16:31
[clxix] Exodus 16:12 (with my alteration of ‘filled’ for ‘satisfied’)
[clxx] Exodus 16:19-20 (NIV)
[clxxi] A Laboratory Guide to the Identification of Claviceps purpurea and Claviceps africana in Grass and Sorghum Seed Samples Alderman, S. (Oregon Department of Agriculture, 1999)
[clxxii] Midrash Mekilta Exodus 16:1
[clxxiii] They first find water at Elim, at an oasis (Exodus 15:27), and then they travel to the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:1). While there is no oasis mentioned at Sin, they clearly have no trouble finding water there, as Exodus does mention any trouble finding water until the following campsite, at Rephidim (Exodus 17:1)
[clxxiv] On Ergot Carruthers, W. in The American Naturalist, Vol. 9, No. 8 (Aug. 1875) pp. 450-465
[clxxv] Exodus 16:23-24 (NIV)
[clxxvi] LSD and Ololiuhqui Postscriptum: The Secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries Revealed in Pharmacotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, Their Plant Sources and History Ott, J. (California, 1996)
[clxxvii] The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries Wasson, G. et al (Berkely, 2008) p. 43
[clxxviii] Invasive Species Compendium: Paspalum distichum (knotgrass) Retrieved on 5 September 2015 from http://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/38952
[clxxix] Judges 1:19
[clxxx] The Quail Epidemic of Numbers 11.31-34 Wilkinson, J. Evangelical Quarterly 71:3 (1999), 195-208
[clxxxi] Numbers 26:10
[clxxxii] Exodus 14:21
[clxxxiii] Voltzinger, N. & Androsov, A. (2003): Modelling the Hydrodynamic Situation of the Exodus, Izvestiya, Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics, 39, 8470;4, pp. 482-496
[clxxxiv] Did Shakespeare Puff on “Noted Weed”? Smillie, S. National Geographic News 1 March 2001 Retrieved on 25 September, 2015 from news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/03/0301_shakespeare.html
[clxxxv] Exodus 16:32
[clxxxvi] Exodus 16:33-34
[clxxxvii] Hebrews 9:3
[clxxxviii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 289
[clxxxix] Genesis 37:28, 37:36 and 39:1
[cxc] Genesis 7
[cxci] Deuteronomy 4, 5
[cxcii] The Original Place of the Priestly Manna Story in Exodus 16, Baden, J., Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 122 (2010): 491–504. p. 501
[cxciii] Shir HaShirim Rabbah, 3:4
[cxciv] Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis Shanon, B. in Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology Consciousness and Culture Vol. 1, Issue 1m March 1st, 2008 pp. 51-74
[cxcv] Strong’s Numbers
[cxcvi] The Gospel of Philip (Isenberg, W. W. trans.) Retrieved on 27 September 2015 from www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html
[cxcvii] Mark 6:13
[cxcviii] The first part is is ‘kath hemeran’ (i.e. ‘by day’, as it is elsewhere in (e.g. Luke 9:23)
[cxcix] 2 Baruch 29:3–8
[cc] Matthew 27:50