Beholders of Divine Secrets: Mysticism and Myth in the by Vita Daphna Arbel

By Vita Daphna Arbel

"A wide-ranging exploration of the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature, a magical Jewish culture from past due antiquity, together with a dialogue of the prospective cultural context of this material's creators."

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Additional info for Beholders of Divine Secrets: Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature

Example text

Journeys to heaven, according to many Hekhalot and Merkavah accounts, are not dependent upon the divine’s will. Instead, human beings, under certain conditions, can initiate a voyage out of this world. Not only do the visionaries’ own decisions constitute the heavenly ascents, but also their personal deeds, perception, and inner awareness affect the outcome of such journeys. Seekers who ascend to heaven are concerned with eschatological revelations, and deterministic plans of future history to a degree.

The following discussion will examine the significance of the transformation process and the way it leads the Merkavah seekers to accomplish their mystical goal and to behold divine revelations and visions. Several Hekhalot and Merkavah literary traditions, especially 3 Enoch, Hekhalot Rabbati, Hekhalot Zutarti, Ma’aseh Merkavah, and Shi’ur Komah, demonstrate this aspect. Rabbi Ishmael, in the beginning of 3 Enoch, recounts his ecstatic experience. Having passed from palace to palace, attempting to gain sight of the celestial realm, he stands finally at the gates of the seventh palace, receives permission to enter, and is immediately overwhelmed by God’s closeness.

Consideration of the many-sided mystical literature of any tradition, followed by an analysis of its significant literary genres, can contribute to a wide understanding of this specific mystical tradition. The broad range of significant literary texts, genres, and forms do not obscure the investigation. Rather, they reveal its many aspects, phases, and outlooks, and can be of great value for comprehending the complexity of any specific mystical tradition. In his discussion of mystical literature, Keller observes diverse literary genres which are often included in mystical sources.

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