Beholders of Divine Secrets
Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: State University of New York Press
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication Page
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This book emerged from a doctoral thesis, written in Hebrew, which I submitted to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1997. In the course of further research, revision and translation, however, the book has taken on a new form. In it I examine mystical notions present in the enigmatic Hekhalot and Merkavah literature, the manner in which these are expressed through...
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This question is posed by Rabbi Akiva, a central figure of the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature of late antiquity. In it we find mentioned several claims and aspects which distinguish the mysticism found in this literature. We hear of “contemplation,” “ascent to heaven,” and “vision of divine palaces.” We learn that a human being can cross traditional boundaries between the phenomenological and the...
1. The Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature and Its Mystical Tradition
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The title of this chapter associates mysticism with the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature, suggesting that this literature includes records of a mystical tradition. Before attempting an examination of this proposal, it is important to clarify the following. What is the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature? What is meant when applying the debated and ambiguous term mysticism in this context? Which...
2. Hekhalot and Merkavah Mysticism
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The current chapter will examine mystical notions of the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature. From a literary-penomenological perspective, it will seek to distinguish the specific mystical characteristics of this tradition, in light of current observations and methodological premises in the study of mysticism. The discussion will first classify significant aspects present in Hekhalot and Merkavah...
3. Mythical Language of Hekhalot and Merkavah Mysticism
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As many studies of mysticism have observed, mystical phenomena are often distinct from concrete situations of everyday life. Moreover, they frequently evolve outside the conventional realms of normative religions. Thus, by their very nature, specific mystical notions of various traditions often stand beyond common verbal expression and familiar vocabulary. Nonetheless, even mystical notions...
4. Mystical Journeys in Mythological Language
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The mystical journey is the focus of this chapter. The discussion will examine the modes in which its various aspects are stated, with particular emphasis on two issues: use of mythological patterns of thought and expression, and adoption of biblical and Mesopotamian mythological themes. As chapter 2 has shown, many Hekhalot and Merkavah accounts depict an inner processes of crossing...
5. The Concept of God: Mystical and Mythological Dimensions
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Abstract images of spirit and soul are employed to express the essence of God in Hekhalot and Merkavah mysticism. Many statements, likewise, convey God’s inconceivable and sublime nature, beyond human or angelic perception. Other descriptions, in sharp contrast, denote the divine in figurative, tangible, and corporeal images. God is portrayed as an anthropomorphic mighty king. Draped in regal...
6. Literary, Phenomenological, Cultural, and Social Implications
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At the beginning of this study we looked at Rabbi Akiva’s question as a framework for this analysis of Hekhalot and Merkavah mysticism of late antiquity. Rabbi Akiva asks: Who is able to contemplate the seven palaces and behold the heaven of heavens and see the chambers of chambers and say: “I saw the chamber of YH?”1 Thus far the discussion has addressed several aspects of this question. It examined the nature of the meditative process which leads the Merkavah...
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Index of Passages Discussed
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Index of Authors
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Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2003