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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, December 2022


ITSELF:
(Part Nine)
Merkavah, The Visionary Idiom in A Personal History:
Language And Mystical Consciousness.

by: James Edward Carlos






“A vision (mareh) occurs when a man is awake and reflects upon the wonders of God, or when he does not reflect upon them, but pronounces the Holy Names or those of the angels, in order that he be shown {whatever} he wishes or be informed of a hidden matter - and the Holy Spirit then reveals itself to him, and he know that he is a worm and that his flesh is like a garment, and he trembles and shakes from the power of the Holy Spirit, and is unable to stand it. Then that man stands up like one who is faint, and does not know where he is standing, nor does he see or hear or feel his body, but his soul sees and hears—and this is called vision and sign, and this is the matter of most prophecy.”

(As to mareh or vision, each such description reflects the widespread use of Names: from Ashkenazic Hasidim; Sefer ha-Hayym, as attributed to R. Abraham ibn Ezra. p. 16. The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia. Moshe Idel).

The affective acceptance of confusion as to the vision born of the mystical flight occurs in various capacities and through various means. The mystical encounter involves the chariot (merkavah) of Ezekiel’s vision of wheels (ophanim) and throne (tron) - (incorporated into Isaiah’s Vision of Four Spiritual Worlds – Atziluth, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiah as sefirotic levels of transport (p. 353, The Zohar--Volume Two). Comparatively, as in a Hindu tradition the chariot is spoken of as a sacred metallic vessel--vimana that transports gods and goddesses in the sky surrounding the world. Note that in kabalistic terms a mystical tradition (of the medieval era) exists which is termed Merkavah (chariot) -- the tradition of a personal encounter essentially inferred, as to Ezekiel, and to some extent conveyed in this essay; similarly related references include heikhalot (palaces; thrones, both of which seem to indicate ritual-based central crystal forms, perhaps akin to an altar and heavenly fire, in the largest room-space of the vessel). Also, hayyot (a holy species with names such as cherubim, seraphim, and others accompanies the designate, a form or forms of angelic beings referred to as living beings whose work includes the means by which the flights occur. All words are conjectures as to meaning, words indicative of divine processes of supernal travel, bearing the imprimatur of that which is sacred in this phase, after the encounter. The angels necessary to the existential, the phenomenological, are prone to enter a human given initially to the extravagance of freedom – a manner of being, together, and sensational one to the other.

The species involved (i.e., holy hayyot) reside inside the vessels on these visitations, as with my own inferential supernal encounters. Hence these beings (encounter beings in my reference) are often referred to in ancient literature based on their activities as watchers, guardians, gardeners, and messengers while other descriptive titles are characteristic of their countenance: angel, archangel, beings of light, the radiant ones, and even robotic creatures. The most momentous manifestations in the encounter phase is the angelic appearance as another human, seemingly as in various prophets or apostles as a male being.

“The fourth strand of earlier tradition is that of Merkavah mysticism. Merkavah designates a form of visionary mystical praxis that reaches back into the Hellenistic era but was still alive as late as tenth-century Babylonia. Its roots lie close to apocalyptic literature, except that here the voyager taken up into the heavens is usually offered a private encounter with the divine glory, one that does not involve metahistorical predications. Those who ‘went down into the merkavah’ sought visions that took them before the throne of God, allowing them to travel through the divine “palaces” (heikhalot), realms replete with angels and, at the height of ecstasy, to participate in or even lead the angelic chorus. The term merkavah (chariot) links this tradition to the opening vision of the prophet Ezekiel, which was seen as the great paradigm for all such visionary experiences and accounts. It is also connected to the qedushah formula (“Holy, holy, holy is of hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory!”) of Isaiah 6, since it is this refrain that most Merkavah voyagers recount hearing the angels sing as they stand with them in the heavenly heights.” (p. xxxvi. Introduction, The Zohar--Volume One. Daniel C. Matt, translator).

A comment on the above passage: The sense of ecstasy inherent to the mystical encounter is that of a quality of being when immersed in an altered state of conscious during the experience. Angelic choruses, I speculate, are quickenings as to a mirrored emergence via tiffereth. the result of being in the near-physical and corporeal aspects at the edges of these intense spiritual experiences. The splendor is an affective realization of holiness. I speculate further by assessing that the imagery of the chorus singing and the musical sounds of the voice insilled in the expansion of instrumentation, and participation is a telepathic message and a symbolic gesture--an image for discernment as to the meaning entailed. Meaning is inherent as a quality for consolation for those in need and a process of initiatory imagery for the newly deceased who may be appropriated by the image for the appearance of such in the mind’s eye; although dialogue per se is rare, i.e., hearing a spoken voice aloud in one’s own language, communication is telepathic for the most part and a reason why the visual imagery is so significant. Any such musical reverberation is ecstatic by intention. You are to be seduced by what had not previously been incorporated as to the sensual.

Another important image in the above passage for speculation as to a meaning of the conception/imagery is the chariot (the merkavh – a matter of instrumentation) and although history would admonish the actual mystical event shifting through metaphors into a meditational practice dynamic as an attempt to recreate the mystical experience, the word itself, as an inference as a drawing back into the depth of the encounter and as drawn from the references by Ezekiel, is a cultural and historical semblance of that particular time. As to language differentiations, such as a chariot, otherwise as vimana and merkavah, within the implicit expansiveness of such terms, one to another, the naming suggests an objective form, being a means to the voyage for the destination to be achieved. I suggest in this phase the human entity through telling becomes the instrumentation and the mystical revelation, that necessity of being as such, for the human entity then, riding the chariot is an internalization of becoming the chariot.

Comparably and exemplementary, the word “boat” (a vessel for voyaging) would be normal and appropriate out of the culture of the Dogon tribe, Mali, West Africa, in their attempts to clarify how their amphibious-half human ancestors - Nommos arrived in Africa from the star system of Sirius. The image-based metaphors used in the “teachings” of these apparently semi-aquatic beings with regard to humans and their survival as a community, encountering significantly stems from the individual consciousness of the mystical adept which, in turn, is radiant, luminous, and illusive as to the contemporary culture. The intimations of such poetic connotations are in measures in terms of accounting that can be equally abrasive and highly variable as to effect. In the vessels of the cosmic ocean, divinity, i.e., that outer space which is transcendent, is poetically connected with flying or ascendance such as “water” rising (as in flight) from a “well” - for instance: “the rest of world is watered by messengers while Israel is watered by the Blessed Holy One Himself.” ... and... “as soon as he sat by the well, water rose toward him“ (Ibid.), the water rushing up from the tunnel-well, sperm from phallus amplifying union into possibly, conceivably, generation. The offering is divine as is the “it” from whom the flow gushes. The patriarchs encountered these mystical objectifications, indicated by degree of personage, tribal contributions, and “local” placement in the sefirotic scheme. From the covenant of the Companions in The Zohar who discuss the Talmud comes the following:

“Rabbi Yehudah continued, “They all encountered this well. Why not David? Because at the time it was hostile toward David, so he didn’t encounter it. Jacob and Moses were welcomed joyously by this well, who was eager to approach them; as soon as it saw them, water rose toward them, like a woman delighting with her husband.

“Now, you might say ’Look, Elijah fled and didn’t encounter it! Why not?’ Because Elijah was below the well, not above, as were Moses and Jacob. So he is an angel, carrying out missions, whereas Jacob and Moses are above the well, the well delights in them – rising toward them like a woman delighting with her husband, receiving him.” (pp. 346-347. “Va-Yetse,” The Zohar-Pritzker Edition. Volume. Daniel C. Matt, translator).

This is a presentiment of the massive universal vastness of all of outer space is that the ocean as an instrument of the ranges given as the expanse itself as the boat, the Merkavah as an indication of the vastness ensued as the radiant splendor of being – all such correlation of space as eternal. We as beings are resplendent as an element of that eternality as an embodiment, creation being brought of itself into form.

Prominent in this metaphoric process with its emphatic repetitions of certain phrases is the manifestation of a symbol in juxtaposition with other symbols; additionally, it is the transforming from physical object to an abstract collusion of idea and flesh in that which is called “metaphysical.” The derived momentum in this process includes an emphasis mainly (rather than an obsessive mind-set, although such might be conceivable, too). The phrasing is witness to effects manifesting as with the complicit ”Itself,” the progenitor of the complexity of being and multiple levels in the spiritual codex. Throughout the text of what is deemed metaphysical are “itself” and its forms given a multi-symbolic characterization. As in general, then, a word represents many facets and assets, thus the inherent meaning is multiple in scope and reference, without being contiguous each to each other (more or less, that is). I am reminded when litanies of characteristics are listed to define “properties” and “symbolic associations,” a saint or another religious icon or personage might symbolize the wider expanded premise, the ocean that is eternal consciousness illustrated by our breath; i.e., essential breathing especially to a given populace such as was imagined of Israel as the spouse of God. The fusion of these based on adding pre-existing musical sections or written verses or quotes with other materials (a process called centonization), with each inclusion speaks the more of a holistic “god” or form of divinity being defined. The supreme majesty!

The meanings remain open therefore to the expansive possibility, to other interpretations and borrowing from other religious idioms, via a method of patching together psalms or otherwise individual ritual items, often from separate religious edicts and literar emergences such as poetry), hence the various rabbis discussing the meaning of passages in The Zohar, each with an interpretation of the possible meaning upon which they are searching, ferreting through the complications, and expounding. Words, such as well and water especially compounded with the infusion of angel nearby in the text suggest a supernal mode. Yet the angelic level of the sefirot, represented by Yesod (Divine Phallus), is immediately adjacent to the physical level, Malkhut (the fecund Mother Earth). Yesod is Malkuth’s, or Earth’s, spiritual counterpart in the ladder of the dream of Jacob. The archangelic expanses rise from their partnership (heaven and earth; Yesod and Malkuth, sky and ground; above and below). The archangelic presences, as forces often, are transcendent on the upper levels of the lower seven idioms in the sefirotic scheme. The angels might appear as humans in instances, thus in stride will appear at the level of Yesod as to the tradition. The mirroring aspect is essential in such a given format, a cosmic counterpartnering akin with an impression perhaps of being a soul mate. These angels may appear as another entity entirely or appear as a momentary internalizing action of that other human countenance, however. Eventually the angelic resonance will disappear, the angel’s role having dissipated in terms of originally needed at that time and the human-mystic will carry on as being the human entity. What changes is the affective power of the previous momentary angelic beauty as magnetizing, as if invitational. The mystic-initiate will come to recognize the changes once occurred.

The prepositional potential of itself indicates a multidimensional injunction, being one (i.e., a union of matrixes) and at once as one in symbolic code within mystical consciousness given the language inference thereof or, too, sometimes within the viability coming into focus. The tenets of a mystical experience defy fulfilling explanatory commentary; yet these same tenets turn into descriptive adjectives that further materialize into the implied mystical depth (another such phase) aligned with and merging into metaphoric lyricism, symbol by symbol, word by word, image to image, and, thus, create a relationship of high, deep, drama. Even so, the language in such accordance forms in the turn of a description like the encounter dynamics maneuvering an adept’s mind into acceptance of their resourceful spiritual demeanor and potential additionally maneuvers toward and from memory. The term is conciliated as inhered by the novice in the initiatory phases of mystical consciousness developing within one. The subject and object will then, with the change, mesh at an appropriate period of time. The inferential may then potentially be drastically altered. The metaphor is formed on the turf of human description (description being an effort toward explanation via the encountering responsiveness); thereby the terms used act as a kind of judicator marking any anecdotal reference as such, as metaphorical and subtle prevaricator of meaning open to interpretation and, hopefully, right action following. Some element of the essence of the experience is contained in the images that come to pass once attended to and conversely the words employed in conveyance with the imagery intact might so convey the images appropriate to the mystical endeavor and hayyot-intentionality. The intent then may turn into our expressive annotation, such as expressions in the fine arts (if not impeded by mere illustration). Descriptions in the designation of process and with reference to nouns, symbolically inclined, plus narrations that offer a mythic and legendary sense to the mystical experience are means for clarifying something of the mystical encounter. And, the marks of the encounter as assumed by the adept in the creative efforts when attempting to understand and even express the nature of the mystical experience or the experience of itself, if so deemed, leading to the following presumption about expression. Hence, ...“most mystical writings employ both kataphatic and apophatic modes, “(the) apophatic tendency is most pronounced.” (p. 206. (Epilogue. Mystical Languages of Unsaying. Michael A. Sells. (Chicago: University of Chicago press.1994).

“That an affirmative saying, the kataphatic reference, is given, the grasp of any kind of transcendent mystical moment is in such short-coming that one must amend the affirmation, by extension positing the undoing of the phrase, i.e., an unsaying or apophatic as indicated in negative theology.” (Sells, Ibid. continuing). ...(and) ...“This moment in which the transcendent reveals itself as the immanent is the moment of mystical union. At this moment, the standard referential structures of language are transformed: the breakdown of the reflexive/nonreflexive grammatical distinction in the antecedence of a pronoun {It sees it(self) or in it(self)}”: the breakdown of the perfect/imperfect distinction (it always has been occurred and always is occurring). At the moment of mystical union, the divine attributes are not known to a non-divine subject, the distinction of deity and creation and the duality of love and beloved are undone. The attributes appear in the mirror, and the image in the mirror is divine in human and human in divine. As soon as the attributes are “known” (perceived as objects by a subject other than them) they harden into idols.”

(p. 212. Epilogue. Mystical Languages of Unsaying. Michael A. Sells. (Chicago: University of Chicago press.1994)). I suggest this transcendental “moment” as significant as suggested therein, is not permanent but once conferred tends to enter once again perhaps from when it appears becoming invisible once again. Tradition and culture play their parts in signification as occurs in general terms with stereotyping (as with the reference to idols thereof), and in past revelations the appropriating of a religious climate has been highly pronounced, whether St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa d’Avila, Meister Eckhart, Ibn ‘Arabi, Muhammad, or Abraham Abulafia, for instances. Patriarchs and apostles in varying eras or in overlapping appropriately play a similar but different encountering in the human condition. The attempt to recreate the experience is a reformation of belief. Metaphor and parable, as with Jesus’ teachings, are signifiers in the mystical tradition, as Sells and others indicate. The insistence of some researchers on a mystical union “at the critical center of apophatic discourse through a fusing of divine and human referent” (p.11. Sells) is a concept with which I have some difficulty, although placing such an idea of union in the context of verbal expression offers some justification to what I consider a rationalization of event and meaning. Sells, however, indicates that he intends no presuppositions concerning mystical experience, but rather, his concern is with the meaning event which ”indicates that moment when the meaning has become identical or fused with the act of predication. In metaphysical terms, essence is identical with existence, but such identity is not only asserted, it is performed.” (p. 9. Ibid.). I affirm this when using “primal point” as that centering of action/activity. (I distrust word” perform” as desultory to the implications of close encounters and expressions concerning.

Predication is an affirmative active and dynamic exposition from the moment the adept is drawn forward into the encounter, and remains in the arbitration of all, there after, seemingly forever once past that current life-time. including realizations as revealed in the mystical experiences. The word, “union,” becomes an inference drawn by some scholars with the name of unio mystica, (or mysterious union with God). Gershom Scholem offers clarification; Scholem cites that ...“to the general history or religion this fundamental experience is known under the name of unio mystica, or mystical union with God). The term, however, has no particular significance. Numerous mystics, Jews as well as non-Jews, have by no means represented the essence of their ecstatic experience, the tremendous uprush and soaring of the soul to its highest plane, as a union with God. To take an instance, the earliest Jewish mystics who formed an organized fraternity in Talmudic times and later, described their experience in terms derived from the diction characteristic of their age. They speak of an ascent of the soul to the Celestial Throne where it obtains an ecstatic view of the majesty of God and the secrets of His Realm.” (p. 5. Major Trend. Gershom Scholem).

Louis Jacobs, who concurs with and cites Scholem as do I, comments that:
“Mystics do not interpret their experience as being a union with God.”
(p. 19. The Schocken Book of Jewish Mystical Testimonies. Commentary by Louis Jacobs. 1996: Pantheon Book New York).

Such effrontery would lead to and tends to an attempt for objectifying such desire for this implausible, relationship amounting to a self-sanctification that demeans all that the concept touches such as in cultures of fundamentalists sects who extol the sovereignty of their selected style of worship which must by mere idiom degenerate into deception. Self-deception! Although mystical union is a recurrent symbolization regarding connections between levels of the sefirot, in terms of the relationship between any level of spiritual consciousness and physicality, an arbitration at the human level is implied rather than being an affirmation, because one’s perceiving sensibility remains, and this is not an inference of predication as to any difference. That the ancient rabbis in their conversation know that their symbolizations are conceptual in nature alleviates such blockages that lead to theological trivialities. The thought of union is suppositional, not qualified, whether or not others find such “connection” as meaningful in connotation. Possibly, at some point in time, irrespective of any such specific religious connotation, such interpretations later lead to such espousing as of St. Teresa, for example, and her expression dealing with “the orison of union,” as eventually recognized by William James who qualifies the questioning of how intimacy and distance in the mystical experience are expressed.

“I confess that the subdivisions and names which we find in the Catholic books seem to me to represent nothing objectively distinct. So many men, so many minds I imagine that these experiences can be as infinitely varied as are the idiosyncrasies of individuals. … ‘In the orison of union,’ says Saint Teresa, the soul is full awake as regards God but wholly asleep as regards things of this world, and in respect of herself. During the short time the union lasts, she is as it were deprived of every feeling, and even if she would, she could not think of any single things. … Thus does God, when he raises a soul to with himself, suspend the natural action of all her faculties. She neither sees, hears, nor understands, so long as she is united with God. … God establishes himself in the interior of this soul in such a way, that when she returns to herself, it is wholly impossible for her to doubt that she has been in God, and God in her.”” (p .321.The Varieties of Religious Experience. William James. 1961: Collier Books, Toronto).

Such transport, as I have learned from my own reckonings with the hayyot, with the variable shifting metaphors is not to be taken as a literal exposition. Although resuming the regular life, the mystical adept now has to deal with the sense of enlargement, wrapped in a sense of extravagance, and the difficulty in doing so obliges a constant state of humiliation in regard to one’s capability. Poetic verse and the narrative parable offer an expressive declamation akin to the ongoing metaphoric nature of the experience, before, during, and after the encounter. Sells affirms from his study of the above mystics that ...“the mystical writers … claim a moment of ‘realization’ - a moment in which, again, the sense and reference are fused into identity with event. In contrast to the realization of an instance of mystical union which entails a complete psychological, epistemological, and ontological transformation, the meaning event is a semantic occurrence.” (p. 9, Sells) .

Transformation is existentially complete, and yet the processing is not ever permanently completed. A mystical diffusion in the after-reach does signify that boundaries are less effective than before, and yet boundaries are once again imposed in the perceiving awareness and shifting nuances of consciousness, and thus a sense of boundlessness exists despite the return; this is most substantial to the returning sensibility, in the physical, perceiving sense, the corporeality of oneself and all perceived being suddenly, once again, objectified ((like after having fallen in love the first time at first sight and then eventually (most likely) awakening from that altered state of infatuation)). In some respect, while accepting a religious idiom as a kind of secularization, and later during the mystical ascension transcending religious codification the mystic realizes that Itself insists on being Itself – a non-religious God (i.e., an itself beyond selves and human counterparts as in the anthropomorphic sense despite being the many religious claims of gods as such. Thereby .... “...an emanation from the impersonal ground of Being, En Sof, the Limitless, God as He is in Himself. The term Sefirot, originally meaning simply “numbers,” is used by the kabbalist for these powers in God.”

(p. 101. “The Zohar on the High Priest’s Ecstasy.” Jewish Mystical Testimonies. Compiled by Louis Jacobs).

The rising from human and human body imagery, however transfixed in spiritual confirmation, is then given resolutely, ultimately, to a supernal and vast cosmic instance. An essence is discovered within the range of somethingness, an inclusive species of subjectivity, as a given from within the vast and incomprehensible Nothingness including and yet emanating beyond the Void of Itself; although the encounter is not an adept’s coherence with the greater divine significance stated as Who, and realizing a What, thereof, is always in the distance. In other words the illumination, the intense and pervasive marvel of light that is beyond the field and over the far hill, is divined when such radiance is seen. Even within the mystical encounter, the adept’s mystical experience is more about fulfillment for the moment as of itself as a cognition of holiness; and, yet that moment is a movement toward the next process of transference, an act of service such as in creativity, teaching, and healing. These acts are about learning and meaning in the ongoing flow of Creation, with a rising consciousness about acceptance, openness, and patience (i.e., waiting to return home). I note, however, home may be other than the Source and may be an imposition of an earlier life by which one is still caught as the ensuring echo.

The mystical or spiritual encounter for the human being is born from within the adjunctive disciples of the higher transcendence--an archangelic inclination as in a force and angelic incitation as in a mode of connection to the larger (and higher) arena; In this sensing of meta-imagery one finds oneself involving risks of occasion, as in creativity and artistry, as in poetry and verse - attempts to philosophically and theologically grasp the nature of the experience through writing: taking the risk that the content and form excite in the contemporary climate of its incidence. Risk-taking is part of the transference mechanism of the intellect and emotion with regard to the transcendental appropriations of the mystical experience. Imagery as appropriation will enable content to reach its form (as in an artwork of right depth). Such incurs the relationship between a mystic and the manner of expression akin to the spirit of Itself as given and as received.

An expression partakes of imagery that is often the subtle, sinuous, sensuous, physicality implied (as in “smooth members of the body”) in the intimacy of the mystical experience. The sensibility of being involved with the intimacy of such great distancing marks the mystical exchange as erotically dramatic despite other implications of feeling: awe, being powerless, grasping the nature of uncertainty and confusion. Yet, a sense of calm assurance through trust or faith signifies that one participates in a necessary endeavor even while feeling a violation of the former sense of being and comprehension (the overwhelming shock of the new penetration with each next encounter). A sense of pervasive beneficence comes along with a kind of immanent inscrutability, a sense of joy and terror intermingling while one feels, tremulously, fear and awe. An actualizing spastically intense but brief pain occurs in each of the transformation stages that remind the mystic of the very real and natural biological sensibility never removed despite the surreal and psychic nature, indeed an angelic and/or archangelic mystique of the experience. While recognizing religious authority for religion, indeed, however, as an external expediency to that authority and in recognition of the mystical experience operative within oneself, one is open in the grasp (perhaps modern, perhaps numerical and scientific but also in my case the fine arts and imagining context) of the supernal to sense the vaster more remote capacities that lie beyond any particularization of a religious idiom, power and wealth (despite a seemingly truly authentic experience as that faith might promise). This sensing - a knowing kind of feeling - is experienced as a kind of higher morality - an amorality in keeping with the intermixing boundaries of the vastness that has no boundaries despite objective variances, despite sequences of reactive species as in evolutionary process The sensibility in this awareness is yet of a higher code of moral righteousness, although such a sense of righteousness (rightness of being; rightness of process; rightness of the multiplicity of experience, rightness of the cohesion between form and content as image) affirms the initial (at least) unconscious no-thingness of the mystical activity. An irony exists, one of distance and intimacy, of externality at one with the interiorizing of affect. Such awakening is outside of any given framework of specific religious preferences, although historically occasioned and understood by such, and in depth—the augmentation of a truth grasped and, then, held to the individual binding mechanism, according to the nature of the individual given the experience.

Similar to the rabbinical conceptualized and emblematic sefirotic grid-components symbolizing God’s Consciousness and similar to Franklin Merrell-Wolff’s stages of initial enlightenment, Michael Sells interestingly lists a guide of seven principles of apophatic language. (p. 207. Ibid.), and he indicates an order of ascendancy in expressing the mystical experience. In turn, Sells confirms levels of risks in expressing whatever about the experience. The risks of such studies are indicated as a warning about mystical ascendance and transformation is expressed in The Talmud. “....The Talmud (Chagiga 14b, Zohar I, 26b and Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 40) reports the following incident regarding four Mishnaic Sages: The Rabbis taught: Four [Sages] entered the Pardes [literally "the orchard."]. Rashi explains that they ascended to heaven by utilizing the [Divine] Name [i.e., they achieved a spiritual elevation through intense meditation on G d's Name] (Tosafot, ad loc). They were Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher [Elisha ben Avuya, called Acher— the other one — because of what happened to him after he entered the Pardes] and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them [prior to their ascension]: "When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say, 'Water! Water!' for it is said, 'He who speaks untruths shall not stand before My eyes' (Psalms 101:7)." Ben Azzai gazed [at the Divine Presence - Rashi] and died. Regarding him the verse states, "Precious in the eyes of G d is the death of His pious ones" (Psalms 116:15) . Ben Zoma gazed and was harmed [he lost his sanity — Rashi]. Regarding him the verse states, "Did you find honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be overfilled and vomit it up" (Proverbs 25:16). Acher cut down the plantings [he became a heretic]. Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and left in peace.” (Four Who Entered Paradise,” Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. Kaballah Online).

The mystical experience, as in the supernal visionary encounters, presages the risks involved, subjected via differences in individual personalities, the lessons attained by the levels of consciousness per subject, the manner of prayer which implies the persona and ego of the adept, and what presses the mystic, thereof, to continue the hours of midnight studies. By numerology, one might adduce Sells’ listing of seven principles to be akin to processes as in Abraham Abulafia’s assignment of numbers to letters and texts, and to the Hebraic sefirotic system of stages in the ladder of grasping the nature of Divine Consciousness. But to do so is to risk the abrasive penetration of two or more systems depending on the range of comparison, systems within each other that transcribe nothing of much value although any such urgency might act as appealing (as an idea to make comparisons, but this process of theorizing, too, contains the risk of averting the insights, if gained at all, to derasha (interpretation) sidestepping thereof “essence” (a variety of terms may or may not be applicable such as tachless, esans, because of the various sects’ traditions of the mystical adaptation).

Although I find Sells’ recognition of the profundity in the unsaying of meaning as assiduously intelligent as well as cryptic and exacting as to process, his insistence on the specific schematic order that leads from one stage of writing to another higher stage in the seven-stage pattern is as directional and limiting as it may be kataphatic. Finally, ultimately, I find the codification unconvincing from the vision of my own experience and efforts to express what manifests in one’s ongoing consciousness. Sells’ specified approach to mystical order, like Merrell-Wolff’s to enlightenment-first stages, might be viewed as an intellectually desperate act of codifying the sensing of any element of objectivity in the process, the discovery of it-ness, and its multiple variations. My critique sounds negative in demeanor but speaks to the complexity of study, and my own attempt is not without self-ramifications in that my own attempt to be related in this study is in itself mystifying and always lacking because of the various levels of consciousness that provides vision to impulse. I leaned on an artwork to speak somewhat of the developmental process that is after-the-face of an encounter. (See the initial page in this manuscript). So, apologies to the scholars above, but through them I realize that effect is never sufficient, nor really sustained. We each face such a feeling of desperateness when penetrating the mystical language of ascendancy, a risk in entering any aspect of the supernal world/s. I evoke their efforts because of utilizing their policies forthwith without apology.

Perhaps such is necessary in the arbitration, a consummation completed as a place to begin (or end). However, from this kind of delineation all too often comes stereotyping according to the norm attempting to be established in the desired movement toward a specific relevance. One wants to hold on to something stable in an essential instability of term, to describe that ineffability. And, in the case of defined stages of progression, following various other speculators, as to the mystical experience leading to a marriage between human and God (as sometime suggested) is to be granted as a kind of norm deriving from study of the experience at the distance. Such a notion of mystical union might momentarily suffice for consideration of the subjectivity of the subject in a larger subjectivity, as a posit within a greater exteriority, but it is the difficult task and a responsibility of the mystic to not allow such impediments or codifications to thwart the nature of the encounter with those kinds of provocative messages. Such union is not a goal; nor is it an achievement. I find such allusion as desperate and distracting from the premise of the encounter at hand.

I understand such a defining system to be dependent upon performance as a means of effectiveness; such codification leads, with mystics as well as scholars of mysticism, to attempt methods (of return) for instigating a mystical experience which may lead to altered states of consciousness with similarities especially since the encounter is itself an altered state and operating within an altered awareness. But, this is not to confuse altered states in general with mystical encounters. I find in such systems including the physical silence of meditation and the numerical system of Abraham Abulafia, a grievous dislocation, a distraction, albeit with their tendency to both unionize the discomforting separate aspects. Emphases on methodology or technique via process and, hence, ultimately on performance act as nullifications of the metaphoric experience within the mystical encounter. Imagery is displaced onto objective frameworks, and thereby the framework is seen as a course of events to act upon.

A danger always exists in verifying (explaining, even describing) the mystical capacity as something achieved or to be achieved, as something transcribed in any mannerism to any kind of order or codification including ritual enactment. As with anecdotes, generally, the aperture of such is especially dangerous because the tendency is to affix objectivity to the seemingly objective elements present as imagery and metaphoric experiences. I believe biblical exegesis bears my adherence to the notion that mystical experience is not created by a mystic, priest, rabbi, monk, teacher, artist, or even prophet in the manner of the patriarchs, in spite of any deep reverence and desire for a reoccurrence. In depth the demarcation occurs from other (Other) than the maneuvering of such beings. The source is inestimable, and the entity is taken over, and is not the origin of the occurrence, a font only regardless of the values inherent in their telling. Those so driven to re-comprise a comparable system of effect often use (and misuse) the word, “mystical,” by stretching any semblance of the supposition into the widest possible application, such as with meditation and with shamanism; each valid confirmation of the spirit occurs in the affirmation’s own right and each acts as a gradient in the altered states of consciousness. The mystical encounter is a force that incurs and modifies our own physical presence and the emotional qualities inherent. Seemingly, less apparent is the effect that must be made manifest, again, by any means within one’s own yearning. And so, processes occur and deliberate steps move toward re-commissioning what has indeed become ethereal, the effort contrived for the hopefully effective transposition of such magical and ecstatic moments. Such temptation! Do we humans all succumb, by degree?

Finis James Edward Carlos
Herein completed SEGMENT 9 –December 2022.
SEGMENT #10 – January, 2023 will


Monday, February 06, 2023