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Title: Angels that Kill - Meditation and the Threat of Bodly Destruction in Hekhalot Narratives
Author(s): LIEBER, A.
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 14    Date: 2004   
Pages: 17-36
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.14.0.505186

Abstract :
The aim of this paper is to appreciate the violent imagery in hekhalot sources as an expression of the tension implicit in the mediation between sacred and profane. In appearing before the divine throne, a human being can no longer be human because in his ascent he has transcended the realm of humanity. Thus, the threat of bodily annihilation can thus be said to symbolize the ontic impossibly of appearing before the divine presence. In this way the threat of physical violence represents an integral component in the logic of mediation expressed in hekhalot literature. The ontic ambiguity of the mystical adept is reflected in his physical vulnerability. This study suggests that the danger motif in the hekhalot corpus is related to the violence inherent in the metaphor of sacrifice. The violent death that threatens the improperly-equipped, or ‘unworthy' mystic in hekhalot texts, functions like sacrifice as a symbolic act of violence that mediates between humanity and God. This symbolic annihilation expresses the ontological paradox in the bridging of human and divine realms: a human being cannot approach the divine without ceasing to be human.

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