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Merkavah (Hebrew – “Chariot”) Mysticism is an early form of Jewish Mysticism dating from the Early Rabbinic Period, circa 600 AD. It is thus the predecessor of the Qabalah by about six centuries. Aryeh Kaplan, in his commentary on The Bahir goes further by saying that the Qabalah is its direct descendant, so much so that by the twelfth century, the phrases “Works of the Chariot” and “Qabalah” are synonymous.
The main source of what we know about details of Merkavah comes from a Hebrew text Hekhalot Rabbati, The Greater Heavenly Halls. Although dating from the seventh century, the Hekhalot Rabbati claims that Merkavah Mysticism was being taught as early as the second century, at the time of the Roman persecution of the Jewish people. However, the implication of Merkavah is that it originally dates back to at least the time of the Prophet Ezekiel himself. (Ezekiel lived during the deportation of the Jews to Babylon, in the sixth century BC).
Simply put, the object of Merkavah Mysticism is to recreate the ecstatic vision which the Prophet experienced, as described in Ezekiel Chapters 1-3. Central to this vision was the Chariot of hwhy, drawn by the Four Holy Living Creatures.
The procedure, as laid down in Hekhalot Rabbati, describes the Mystic travelling out of the body, and into seven chambers, one inside the other. At the door to each Chamber are Angelic Guardians whom the Mystic must propitiate before being allowed to continue his journey. The Seven Chambers represent seven levels of purity and holiness (or to use a modern phrase, energy levels), to which the Mystic must be successively raised, before he can complete his quest: which is to enter the Seventh Chamber, and stand before the Throne of Glory.
Of the Seven Chambers, the first five and the seventh may be simply entered by correctly mastering the “composition of place”. That is, the Mystic presents Holy Seals to the Angels guarding the Portals of the Chamber. For each pair of Seals, the one given to the Angels on the right of the Door is a Divine Seal, representing one of the names of : while that given to the Angels on the left of the door is a Seal representing an aspect of the Archangel Metatron.
The test of the portal of the Sixth Chamber is more difficult. It requires the Mystic firstly to have perfect knowledge of the whole Tanakh (i.e. the Jewish Bible or “Old Testament”) as well as the Torah, the commentary thereon (Talmud) and the deeper meaning thereof (what would later be called the Qabalah); secondly he must keep the entire Torah as it was originally handed down to Moses.
But assuming that the Mystic can pass this test, and passes on, his ultimate prize is to enter the Seventh Palace, where he beholds the same vision as did Ezekiel, complete with the Angels, the Holy Living Creatures, the Shekinah, and “the King in his magnificence.”
To commence Merkavah mysticism, the Mystic calls upon Surayah, the Prince of the Countenance (a title of Metatron). He then binds him by an Oath precisely 112 times, in the Divine Name of Tutrsyay, the Lord who is called: Tutrsyay Tzurtk Tutrbyal, Tofgr Ashruylyay Zvudial, and Tndal Shudk, Yozya, Dhyvuryn and Adiryron – the Lord, God of Israel.
Why 112? This is not explained, and if it has a Gematria connection it is not immediately obvious. Suffice to say that this appears to be a form of mantra-meditation, which causes the Mystic to project outside the body and “descend to the Merkavah”.
The First Chamber
The Guardians of the Portal of the First Chamber are Dahaviel, Kashriel, Gahuriel, Buthiel, Tofhiel, Dahariel, Mathkiel and Shaviel.
|THE PORTAL OF THE FIRST CHAMBER|
The Mystic shows the Divine Seal of Tutrosyay to the Angels on the Right, and the Archangelic Seal of Surayah to the Angels on the Left. Dahaviel, the Chief Angel of the First Chamber, who stands on the right, and Tofhiel, who stands of the left, will then grasp the mystic and take him inside to:
The Second Chamber
The Guardians of the Portal of the Second Chamber are Tagriel, Mathpiel, Sarchiel, Arpiel, Shahariel, Satriel, Ragaiel & Sahiviel.
The Mystic shows the Divine Seal of Adryhon to Tagriel, and the Archangelic Seal of Ohazyya to Mathpiel. The Guardians then grasp him, “perfect him and illuminate him” and take him to:
The Third Chamber
The Guardians of the Portal of the Third Chamber are Shaburiel, Ratzutziel, Shalmiel & Sabliel, Zachzachiel, Hadariel & Bazriel.
The Mystic shows the Divine Seal of Tzurtk to Shaburiel, the chief of those who stand to the right of the portal, and the Archangelic Seal of Dahavyoron to Ratzutziel, the chief of those who stand to the left. These then themselves grasp the Mystic, Perfecting and Illuminating him, and lead him inside to:
The Fourth Chamber
The Guardians of the Portal of the Fourth Chamber are Pachadiel, Geburathiel, Cazviel, Shehinyael, Shathakiel, Araviel, Capiel & Anpeil.
The Mystic shows the Divine Seal of Zvudiel to Pachadiel, the Chief Guardian of the door to this chamber, standing on the right, and the Archangelic Seal of Margiviel to Geburathiel, the chief of those who stand to the left. These then grasp the mystic, Perfecting and Illuminating him, and turn him over to the Angels guarding the door of…
The Fifth Chamber
The Guardians of the Portal of the Fifth Chamber are Techiel, Uziel, Gatiel, Gatchiel, Saafriel, Garfiel, Gariel, Dariel &Paltriel.
The Mystic now shows the Divine Seal of Tutrbyal to Techiel, the Chief guardian, who is on the right, and the Archangelic Seal of Zachapniryai to Uziel, the chief of those on the left. Immediately, Angels grasp the Mystic, “three from the front, and three from behind.”
The Sixth Chamber
The Guardians of the Portal of the Sixth Chamber are (to the right) Dumiel, Katzpiel, Gahagiel & Arsbarsabiel, and (to the left) Agromiel, Partziel, Machakiel & Tofriel.
It is here that Dumiel tests the Mystic to see that he is perfectly established in the Tanakh, the Talmud, and the Qabalah, both intellectually and practically – as noted in the introduction above. The penalties for someone who is unworthy to approach the portal to this chamber are severe: the Guardians are said to “throng around such individuals, striking and burning them.
If, however, Dumiel finds that he is worthy, then Gabriel the Scribe writes a note (in red ink) stating:
- The Mystic’s Torah scholarship;
- A record of his deeds;
- That the Mystic wants to approach the Throne of Glory.
This is then attached to the front of the Mystic’s Chariot. The Mystic now advances, preceded by Dumiel, Katzpiel and Gabriel to:
The Seventh Chamber
The names of the Guardians of the Seventh Chamber are said to be derived from the name of the King of the Universe, and thus far more potent – and terrifying – than the names of those of the preceding chambers. The Mystic should bow down and fall on his face, when uttering each individual name.
The names are (by ascent): Zehpanuryay YVY*, Abirzehyay YVY, Atarigiash YVY, Nagarniel YVY, Anpiel YVY, Naazuriel YVY, Sastiel YVY, and Anpiel YVY.
By descent: Nurpield YVY, who is called Abirhyay YVY; Dalukiel YVY, who is called Levkapiel YVY; Yakriel YVY who is called Atrigiel YVY; Yasisiel YVY who is called Banaaniel YVY; Nurpiniel YVY who is called Shakadyahiel YVY; Naarukiel YVY who is called Zuhaliel YVY; Anpiel YVY who is called Tufriel YVY.
*YVY – this is a convention adopted by the author of the Hekhalot Rabbati to avoid having to speak hwhy, the Ineffable Name of God. Note that the Gematria of both the Tetragrammaton and YVY is identical:
|Yod + Vav + Yod||=||26|
|Yod + Heh + Vav + Heh||=||26|
On coming to the portal of the Seventh and last chamber, the Mystic presents to the guardians the great seal and fearsome crown of Aer Sobr Mtzugyyh and Beshptsh, (which are names of God). The Guardians then take him inside, before the Throne of Glory. The Holy Living Creatures lift him up, and sit him next to the Cherubim and Ophanim, while the Guardians of the Chamber play music for him.
Within the Seventh Chamber, the Mystic experiences “wonders and powers, majesty and greatness, holiness, purity, terror, humility and uprightness.” He is astounded by the eyes of the Holy Living Creatures (512 in total), which are like lightning. He sees the wheels of the Shekinah, which are like “torches of light and flames of burning coals”. These sights are so awesome that the Mystic is liable to be terrified and to faint – but Anpiel and sixty three watchmen of the seven gates of the palace support the Mystic saying:
Do not fear, son of the beloved seed. Enter and see the King in his magnificence. You will not be slaughtered and you will not be burnt.
The Merkavah experience concludes by the Mystic chanting the following Hymn of Glory before the Throne:
King of the King of Kings, God of Gods, and Lord of Lords, Who is surrounded with chains of crowns, Who is encompassed by the cluster of the rulers of radiance, Who covers the heavens with the wings of his magnificence And in his majesty appeared from the heights From his beauty the deeps are kindled And from his stature the heavens are sparked. His stature sends out the lofty, And his crown blazes out the might, And his garment flows with the precious. And all trees shall rejoice in his word, And herbs shall exult in his rejoicing, And his words shall drop as perfumes, Flowing forth in flames of fire, Giving joy to those who search them, And quiet to those who fulfil them.