Merkavah Mysticism


Merkavah Mysticism is a type of Jewish ecstatic visionary mysticism that is difficult to date precisely but is generally attributed to Late Antiquity, c. 200-800CE. It appears to have been inspired by various Biblical theophanies, in particular those of Ezekiel, Isaiah and Daniel. It is also associated with ascent literature, such as the books of Enoch. The central part of the experience was the vision of a figure on a throne-chariot (merkavah).

One of the key legends connected with these experiences is that of the Four Who Entered Paradise, R. Akiva, R. Ben Zoma, R. Ben Azzai, and R. Elisha Ben Abuyah. Only R. Akiva was sufficiently holy to survive the experience without damage.

A secondary literature describing the detailed circumstances of the ascent is called the Hekhalot literature. This literature was transmitted to medieval Europe and was important in establishing new traditions of mysticism, including Kabbalah.

See Also

Merkabah at Wikipedia
Notes on the Study of Merkabah Mysticism and Hekhalot Literature in English by Don Karr (PDF)
Hekhalot Rabbati: the Greater Treatise concerning the Palaces of Heaven, ed. Don Karr
The Ancient Jewish Mysticism, Joseph Dan
The Faces of the Chariot, David Halperin

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