This essay is inspired by my run into the desert:
Moses was herding sheep in the desert when, likely as a result of malnutrition and dehydration, he had a vision of a burning bush. This was a hallucination, but it speaks to a reality like any archetypal metaphor, symbol or myth. The burning bush was a proof of the sacred- the benevolent flame kindling on the inside- and acted as motivation to dedicate Self to this presence. When Moses survived and his story spread in the historical tradition, he was deemed a prophet, a chosen vessel to dictate divine lessons to the masses. The masses are now his flock, encouraged to take his vision and message as law, because it is assumed that the patriarch carries greater clarity than the discoveries derived from Self.
In various Native American traditions (Navajo, Hopi), there is a juxtaposition of this philosophy. There are many Moses figures and he is not a patriarch, but an example to take a personal desert journey. The crucial rite of passage into maturity is the self-guided vision quest. This occurs when a young man or woman enters into the isolation of the wilderness and is forced into a period of self deprivation with the intent on bringing about a personalized epiphany. If a transformative moment is reached, the vision quest is a success. In this tradition everyone is Moses, not just the destined selected prophets. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the masses are Hebrews, followers of an unquestioned tract, just like the flock of sheep. We are encouraged to avoid the wilderness, engage in commerce and focus on civility.
For many, there is really not too much wrong with that.
Cultural traditions are based on cultural structures: a nomadic tribe will need strong individuals while a populated city requires a slightly diminished sense of Self to allow for an easier controlled community. Yet, we still have the biological make up of nomads. Even though we wear clothes, there are naked processes influencing our behavior and health. As a result, modern human holds the capacity to grow from the vision quest. This should not be a lost ritual in crowded times and it is important to find one’s inner Moses on the journey for self-actualization.