Moses might have been hallucinating when he spoke to the Burning Bush
In Exodus 3, Moses is tending to the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro in Mount Sinai, when he sees a bush consumed by flames but not affected by the fire.
A voice from the bush rang out claiming to be God and ordering Moses to lead his chosen people to safety.
The story has been interpreted many ways, with some claiming that the voice was more of a metaphor than reality, but many still believe that Moses did hear and see the Burning Bush.
Now Professor Benny Shanon, professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says that what may have actually happened is that Moses was under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance.
The event took place on Mount Sinai
Professor Shanon refers to a plant known as ayahuasca which he has had plenty of experience with.
The plant is typically found in the Amazon, South America, and the professor first tried it in the form of a potion when he went on a religious ceremony there in 1991.
Writing in the philosophy journal Time and Mind, Prof Shanon says: "One of the things that happens when you drink the potion is a visual experience created via sounds.
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"I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations.”
He says that similar plants are found in the region of Mount Sinai, otherwise known as Mount Horeb, especially a tree known as acacia which is mentioned several times in the Bible, including being the substance that is helped to make Noah’s Arc.
Mr Shanon says: ”I propose that this event involved no change in the real world, having nothing to do with either the bush or the fire.
The story of the Burning Bush is open to interpretation
"Rather, it is reflected in the radical alteration in the state of consciousness of the beholder – that is, Moses.
"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."
However, he concedes that there can never be any definitive proof of this.