The idea of heavenly ascent, while popularized in Jewish mysticism, is neither a unique nor recent one. Expertly tracing its origins back to the ancient Middle East, Levenda unearths ascent literature in Africa, India, and China, discerns a common connection in the heavens themselves, and determines that this connection has been sorely neglected in contemporary scholarship. Because scholars treat the “heavens” as metaphorical, it is necessary to recreate the physical context of the culture under discussion in order to better understand it.For the benefit of the reader, Levenda offers two useful concepts for his investigative journey: a “map,” whereby he means the cosmological system to better understand the mystical technologies of each culture investigated, and a “vehicle,” the method by which the individual equipped with special knowledge is able to navigate the culture’s particular cosmology. With these two tools, Levenda travels from the worlds of ancient Egypt and Babylon to the Hebrew Bible, to Jewish and Christian kabbalists, to Daoists in ancient China, to Hindu Tantra and Haitian Vodoun, and, finally, to nineteenth and twentieth century European occult societies.
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