Many years back, on a monotonous Sunday night my Shaman fiend skillfully stirred a murky glutinous mixture made of a sacred Amazonian medicinal concoction. He then served me a cup of the bitter nauseant tea that I hastily gulped without second thoughts. What happened next was a psychedelic transcendental voyage outside the fabric of reality. An abrupt ego dissociation where the soul meets celestial beings and fades into kaleidoscopic lights that confer beatitude and healing. The miraculous tea is called Ayahuasca, and its active ingredient is Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), commonly known as the “Molecule of God”.
The recent tautological debate on the legalization of cannabis for medical use in my home country of Morocco brought me back to that night and my own mystical experience with a psychoactive herb. Among the general public in the Islamic world, consuming any substance that alters your state of consciousness is an unforgiven sacrilege. Most make no distinction between highly addictive narcotics or chemically manufactured drugs and ancient medicinal plants with hallucinogenic properties like Ayahuasca, LSD, Psilocybin, Ibogaine, or Cannabis, the least potent of the bunch.
Psychonauts are generally perceived as sluggish shameless underdogs prone to delinquency and low morality, yet here I am, a completely ordinary and healthy Arab female with a functional intellect and flawless academic and professional records. So were some of the most brilliant minds of their times associated with psychedelic consumption like Aldous Huxley, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Steve Jobs or even some of the religious figure you might think you know so well from the Coran and the Bible.
Did Adam and Eve Get High and Were Kicked Out of Paradise?
Did you ever wonder why monotheist religions are so obsessed with trees: The forbidden tree of knowledge, Christ's thorn jujube ziziphus spina-christi, the burning bush, the olive tree, and the Lote tree Sidrat al-Muntaha, to cite only a few. You may think this is blasphemous, but what if botanical references in sacred scriptures are codes for mythical rituals using psychoactive plants. Archeological findings provide proof for such ceremonies, starting from the 11,000 years old Mushroom Shaman found in Algeria’s Tassili caves to the mysterious Soma/Haoma brew consumed in secrecy by initiates in all of India, Persia, and Greece or again the Pharaonic alchemic elixir of eternity called Mfkzt.
Middle Eastern countries are starting to erase orientalist prejudice and embrace the medicinal and economic values of psychedelics, with Lebanon decriminalizing the Royal Seed’s farming in the fertile Bekaa valley in April 2020
In his book Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge, Terence McKenna the renown American ethnobotanist and rave culture icon proposes a revised history where psychedelic plants are credited for human evolution and encounters with divinities. He concludes that Adam and Even’s tree is no other than a DMT rich shrub, which enabled the tempted couple to access otherworldly forbidden knowledge. Similarly, Professor Benny Shanon revealed in her controversial research that key events of the Old Testament are actually chronicles of visions experienced by ancient Israelites high on hallucinogens. Moses’ dialogue with the almighty for example, might have been facilitated by the smokes emanating from an Acacia tree native to the Sinai region. When I climbed mount Sinai, I did feel the urge to get stoned and commune with God. In all cases, there is a strong probability that religion might have been literally “the Opium of the People” around the Arab region.
DMT itself is presumably a natural substance produced by the human body in minute quantities at the level of the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland responsible for producing the sleep hormone melatonin, and known in mystical traditions as the third eye or the eye of Horus/Ra. According to Doctor Rick Strassman, who carried extensive clinical research with Dimethyltryptamine and author of DMT - The Spirit Molecule, this exceptional yet common substance could be responsible for near death and spiritual experiences when the pineal gland is stimulated through meditation, a higher state of consciousness nirvana, or the consumption of the molecule using certain indigenous barks or animals as it’s the case is Amazonian Ayahuasca ceremonies.
It’s All Marco Polo’s Fault
The project of law to legalize cannabis in Morocco created a feeling of discomfort among the Islamist majority party known for its Muslim Brotherhood ideology. Many even resigned or threatened to resign because the law was deemed inconsistent with Islamic jurisprudence. Although there are no explicit prohibition accounts of narcotics in Islamic traditions, clerics still tend to adopt strict codes of ban against any mind-altering plants.
In contrast, Islamic pharmacopoeia is rich with references and medical uses of different psychoactive drugs like cannabis and Harmal Peganum harmala or even the poppy plant and opium, commonly referred to as the cure Tiryaq. Prominent doctors like Avicenna and Razi are known for using these plants to treat headaches, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, certain skin conditions, and even epilepsy. So how did we get here? Well, an Italian explorer called Marco Polo, known for his inflated and often fabricated accounts, spread fear among Europeans after a presumed encounter with Ismaeli Shiaa figure Hassan Al Sabah in Alamut. Bernard Lewis’ book on the Assassins recounts Polo’s stories of the sect’s use of Hashish for heretical spirituality, sexual debauchery, and malicious political assassinations.
The purpose of this article is not to encourage youth to use drugs but to provide an alternative stance on botanical plants and how they might have framed our deepest religious beliefs and how they can be a great source of esoteric knowledge and medical healing when used in the right set and setting
Lately, many Middle Eastern countries are starting to erase orientalist prejudice and embrace the medicinal and economic values of psychedelics, with Lebanon decriminalizing the Royal Seed’s farming in the fertile Bekaa valley in April 2020. More prominently, a study carried among some of the most influential Shiaa sources of emulation marjia al taqlid in 2018, showed that most are in favor of the medical use of cannabis including Neser Shirazi, Asadollah Zanjani, Mussa Zanjani, Abul-Karim Ardebili, Mohammad Gorgani, and the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq Ali Sistani. A more avant-gardist cleric like Mohammad Sadeq Rohani even gave the legal permit to Wahid Azal, founder of the Fatimiya Sufi Order, to utilize Ayahuasca (DMT) as their central sacrament.
The purpose of this article is not to encourage youth to use drugs but to provide an alternative stance on botanical plants and how they might have framed our deepest religious beliefs and how they can be a great source of esoteric knowledge and medical healing when used in the right set and setting. My personal encounter with the Ayahuasca brew taught me a great deal about the value of traditional medicinal knowledge and how between big pharma’s monopoly and twisted orientalist misinterpretations, Muslims might have lost ancestral wisdom encoded in fauna and flora. So if Moses could get high, why can’t we?