Merkabah (Hebrew: מרכבה "chariot") is the Throne Chariot of God or better the Throne Chariot of the LORD in the vision of Ezekiel. Merkabah mysticism shaped the first epoch of Jewish mysticism from about the 1st century BC onwards and was developed even before the Kabbalah and was dedicated to the exploration of the heavenly throne world, which roughly corresponds to the Pleroma of the Gnostics. Here the spiritual archetypes of all creation can be seen.
The initiation path
The initiation path, on which some tests had to be passed and some thresholds overcome, led the mystic through the seven planetary spheres and the seven heavenly palaces or temples to the Throne of God, which is why one also speaks of Hekhalot mysticism (Hebrew: היכלות Hekhalot, from היכל Hechal "hall, temple, palace"). In the Saturn sphere the Thrones (Hebrew: גלגלים Galgalim "wheels") rule, which are probably to be equated with the Ophanim (Hebrew: אוֹפַנִּים "wheels") written by Ezekiel. Above them rises the zodiac with the Cherubim.
In answering questions to a lecture given in Leipzig on 12 January 1908, Rudolf Steiner relates the ten Sefirot to the wheels of the Throne Chariot of God described in the vision of Ezekiel.
„The wheels of the chariot, Merkabah, indicate the turns by which man moves on ahead, and rounds are meant by them. The ten sephirot indicate periods of time, stages of development, through which man has passed. The physical body went through four stages of development: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth. Three stages of the etheric body: Sun, Moon, Earth. Two stages of the astral body: Moon, Earth. The I is on the first stage: together there are ten.“ (Lit.: Contributions 32, p. 31)
Physiognomy and chiromancy played a major role in the selection of suitable neophytes. In preparation for ascension through the heavenly spheres, strict asceticism had to be practised for 12 or even 40 days and meditation in a special posture that promoted visionary experience, like the prayer posture of the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:42 LUT).
„Many scholars said that whoever excelled in many qualities mentioned in the scriptures and wished to see the Merkaba and behold the palaces of the angels in the heights had to follow certain procedures. He must fast for a certain number of days and place his head between his knees and whisper many hymns and chants whose text has been handed down. Then he would look at the interior and the chambers as if he were looking with his own eyes into the seven palaces, and he would look as if he were entering from one palace into another, and see what there was.“
On his ascent (or descent) to the throne world, the spiritual disciple encounters angelic beings who act as gatekeepers. Seals with magical spells help him to master the dangers of the next level. Tests such as the fire proof, which burns the veil of the sensual world, and at the gate of the sixth palace the water proof, in which the etheric body is loosened, have to be passed.
The Merkaba is also interpreted as the light-vehicle that guides the spiritual disciple in clairvoyant experience through the astral world; what is meant by this is the connection of the etheric body and the astral body, which have been loosened from the physical body in such a way that the perception of the lotuses activated by meditation in the astral body are imaged in the etheric body and thus consciously experienced as imaginations. In this sense, the name Mer-Ka-Ba is also occasionally derived from ancient Egyptian as a combination of Mer = light, Ka = etheric body and Ba = astral body.
In Hekhalot mysticism, God is presented as the highest king of heaven with all pomp and splendour. The way into the divine throne world is through ecstasy, through being outside oneself. Thoughts about the immanence of God, the Shekhinah (Hebrew: שכינה "indwelling of God"), which are later essential for the Kabbalah, are almost not found here. There is no mention of a Unio Mystica as in late medieval mysticism. There is also hardly any mention of the love of God or love for God. Merkaba mysticism describes a world of power, glory and austerity.
Probably from the 3rd century comes the Midrash Shi'ur Qomah (Hebrew: שיעור קומה The Measures of God), in which the exact body measures of God - in anthropomorphic form - and the secret names of his "body parts" are described. Whoever studies these teachings will surely become part of the "world to come" (Hebrew: עולם הבא Olam ha-Ba), i.e. eternal life in paradise. The teachings are at the same time an interpretation of the Song of Solomon 5:11–16, in which the beauty of the "beloved" is poetically sung about with flowers and a thoroughly erotic undertone.
- Gershom Scholem: Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1965
- Gershom Scholem: Die jüdische Mystik in ihren Hauptströmungen, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-27930-0
- Drunvalo Melchizedek: Mer Ka Ba Meditation (audiobook), google
- Andreas Beutel: Mer-Ka-Ba - Lichtkörper, Herzensraum und heilige Geometrie, google
- Jeanne Ruland: Merkaba: Die Aktivierung des Lichtkörpers für die neue Zeit, google
- Rudolf Steiner: Okkulte Zeichen und Symbole der astralen und der geistigen Welt, Vortrag in Leipzig, 12. Januar 1908 (nicht in der GA veröffentlicht) pdf
- Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, Heft 32, 1970 Beiträge (Contributions) 32, S. 30f
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.
- Scholem (2000), p. 51
- Cf. Scholem (2000), p. 53
- While the older texts of Hekhalot mysticism speak of ascending to the throne world, the later texts speak of descending to the Merkabah (cf. Scholem (2000), p. 50)
- Cf. also Dante's "Divine Comedy", Purgatorio 27,7-18 or the probes in Mozart's "Magic Flute".
- Scholem (2000), p, 57