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Document Details :
Title: Pure Marble Stones or Water?
Subtitle: On Ecstatic Perception, Group Identity, and Authority in Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature
Author(s): ARBEL, Daphne
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 16 Date: 2006
This article examines one of the enigmatic accounts in the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature – the so-called water vision episode. The analysis focuses primarily on one version of this episode, found in Hekhalot Zutarti, to demonstrate how, in its literary presentation, the water test episode prioritizes an inspired mode of ecstatic perception over other more traditional forms of knowing God. The article suggests that in so doing the water test episode constructs epistemic boundaries and establishes certain criteria as to who can access God and the divine realm. Furthermore, this notion of a superior ecstatic mode of perception seems to reflect several social interests of members of the Merkavah circle. In particular, it may be reflective of an attempt on behalf of this group to limit the realm and means of knowing God only to the group’s select members and thus to lay claim to their unique identity and establish their authority. The article further argues that this perception of a superior inspired ecstatic perception is not exceptional. Rather, it maintains that parallel views were widespread in the literary landscape of biblical as well as early Jewish authors. As a heuristic exercise, the article examines this notion in the context of two other traditions that are associated with the Hekhalot and Merkavah lore. These include its Biblical heritage as well as the views of Philo, which were prevalent in the ancient Mediterranean world of late antiquity of which the Hekhalot and Merkavah tradition was a part.