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What does Jewish law or tradition have to say about magic mushrooms? Or in general, about any hallucinogen.

Is it forbidden to consume psilocybin mushrooms or other hallucinogens? Is it advocated? Why?

It seems like the large psychedelic community of Israel approves. Do they have any authority or tradition to support them?

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Even if there is a "psychedelic community" in Israel that approves of "magic mushrooms," that is not an indication that Judaism approves of it. In nearly every country there is a small group of people obsessed with psychedelic drugs, and they pretty much approve of them all. Since they are ideologues, they have no credibility. Don't listen to them.

These mushrooms were not known to people outside of Mexico/Central America until very recent times. So the Torah says nothing about it. But major gedolim such as R' Moshe Feinstein have said not to use marijuana (which is a mild hallucinogen so it's also a psychedelic). And there is no respected Orthodox rabbi I'm aware of who has approved of any illegal drug use.

Common sense, scientific evidence and common experience also should keep us from using this drug. As with any psychedelic drug, there are grave risks of severe, long-lasting psychological problems, such as permanent perceptual changes ("hallucinogen persisting perception disorder" or HPPD), panic attacks, and anxiety problems. There is also the danger that one will have experiences which one thinks are genuine spiritual experiences but in fact are misleading or dangerous. For this reason, some kabbalists (such as Rabbi Ariel bar Tzadok) do not take anyone as a student who has used psychedelic drugs.

The Torah requires us to guard our health. That includes our mental health, of course. So we should avoid all illegal drugs, and psychedelic drugs in particular, like the plague.

If you want an interesting or transcendental experience, Judaism provides traditional means for doing so: prayer, meditation, fasting, wine, dancing, music, etc. These are safe in moderation. There's no need to experiment with dangerous drugs.

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    Aside from the fact that there is no pharmocological evidence to suggest that psilocybin (which are non-toxic) are "dangerous drugs", it's simply untrue to claim that psychotropic plants were never native to the Ancient Near East. We have evidence for a range of different hallucinogenic plants, used in medicine and ritual, from Mespotomia to Egypt - including certain fungi. While they appear to be absent from Tanakh, they may be alluded to in the "apocryphal" literature. Consider 4 Ezra 9:26ff, where Ezra eats flowers and then has a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. – Shimon bM Feb 22 '13 at 6:09
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    Benny, that is not correct. Jewish law requires us to follow the law of the land. You are also incorrect about safety. There is no such thing as consuming it correctly. People take "normal" doses under normal conditions all the time (even with the best of idealistic or "spiritual" intentions) and end up with serious negative side effects such as panic attacks or HPPD. This happens with every psychedelic (whether "natural" or synthetic). This is documented by numerous studies, and is common knowledge among sufferers of drug-induced disorders (see their message boards, etc.) – Kordovero Feb 22 '13 at 18:45
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    Jewish law makes no requirements on us whatsoever to follow the law of the land, though this might be another topic altogether. The oft-used "דינא דמלכותא דינא" clause refers to taxation. Alcohol didn't become halakhically prohibited by virtue of prohibition, and nor do psilocybin by virtue of the legislation that prevents people purchasing them. One has a civil, not an halakhic, obligation to observe the laws of the state in which one lives, which is why one faces civil punishments and never halakhic ones for infringing them. – Shimon bM Feb 23 '13 at 7:36
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    The foregoing is not an argument in favour of fungi, but it needed to be said. @Kordovero is correct in saying that there's no evidence of Jews using such drugs in the ancient world, but incorrect to suggest that this is necessarily an argument against them. There is no evidence of Jews using tobacco in the ancient world either, yet despite insurmountable evidence of its addictiveness and toxicology, there was a long period when it was encouraged in Jewish circles, and many religious Jews today continue to use it. – Shimon bM Feb 23 '13 at 7:39
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    @Benny if you're questioning your faith over being able to do psychedelic drugs, I strongly recommend you take it up with your rabbi. If you prefer not to take it directly to your own rabbi, might I humbly suggest Rabbi Lazer Brody of Ashdod (rabbi_lazer@yahoo.com), who, being very involved in outreach in Israel, is no stranger to the large Israeli psychedelic community and can surely offer you fair and balanced guidance. – yoel Feb 24 '13 at 6:35
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See Aryeh Kaplan in Meditation and Kabbalah, where he mentions that R' Chaim Vital may have used psychedelic grasses. The gemara in Shabbos, I believe talks about "peiros ginosar" who's flavor is seemingly psychedelic. Although I asked a certain R' Sokol, and was told that the gemara in a different location says "once the beis hamikdash was destroyed, the taste of fruits was annulled." He said this means there is no longer fruit that raises consciousness, it only comes from herbs and grasses. The mishkan was made almost entirely of acacia or mimosa wood, both of the worlds most potent hallucinogens. The anointing oil contained "kaneh bosom" which R' Aryeh Kaplan identifies as cannabis. The Holy Zohar says that, "There is no grass or herb that grows in which G-d's wisdom is not greatly manifested and which cannot exert great influence in heaven" and "If men but knew the wisdom of all the Holy One, blessed be He, has planted in the earth, and the power of all that is to be found in the world, they would proclaim the power of their Lrd in His great wisdom" (Zoh. II, 80B).

Also see http://lucidconsciousness.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/biblical_entheogens.pdf and http://koshertorah.com/PDF/Drug%20Use.pdf

I have heard many things from many rabbis. The general consensus seems to be that we have a path to follow and it is the way we walk. There are no shortcuts, there is no running before you walk. But this is the messianic age. Who knows what will come to be. I remember hearing from one rabbi that the gemara says "When the temple was destroyed, prophecy was given to the insane, children, and dogs" If you take a chemical that makes you "insane" maybe you can get prophecy, who knows. It is supposed to return when Moshiach gets here.

  • "peiros ginosar" seems to be a sugar high – Shmuel Brin Jul 24 '13 at 23:59
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    Asher Burrows, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for posting this answer! You could make it even more valuable by adding links or bibliographic information for all books mentioned, breaking it up into paragraphs, and separating speculation from ideas you have sources for (or even removing the former). I hope you'll look around the site and find other top-quality stuff, perhaps including our 13 other questions about inebriation. – Isaac Moses Jul 25 '13 at 14:22
  • "identifies" is a strong word bible.ort.org/books/… – Double AA Mar 4 '14 at 6:35
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The response of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Igrot Moshe concerning the prohibition of marijuana consumption would also apply to all hallucinogenics. He prohibited intoxication that was to such an extent that it made proper Torah study impossible. Clearly, Purim would be an exception in regard to wine, but as a general practice, he found that level of intoxication to be prohibited.

Although there are many voices saying the usage of hallucinogenics is prohibited, several being cited above, there is one popular voice that some people used to listen to that goes to the contrary.

That would be Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. He stated publicly that he personally consumed hallucinogenics and advocated for their usage in connection with religious experience. While he was living in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, he even composed and taught a blessing to be said before consumption.

http://www.yesodfoundation.org/Yesod-RZLP/Reb_Zalman.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zalman_Schachter-Shalomi

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/167091/zalman-schachter-shalomi-december

https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/sacredmatters/2014/08/14/lsd-and-the-rabbis/

He is clearly in the minority, but it is worth noting that his view is out there.

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