Stairway to Heaven: Chinese Alchemists, Jewish Kabbalists, and the Art of Spiritual Transformation

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Overview

Stairway to Heaven is an incredibly broad ranging new study that stretches from ancient Egypt and Babylon to Jewish and Christian Kabbalists, Chinese Daoists, Hindu Tantra and Haitian Vodun and finally to 19th and 20th century European occult societies, uncovering a hitherto unrecognized common myth that has been employed the world over in roughly the same form since the earliest recorded texts. Beginning with the oldest form of Jewish mysticism and extending this search through the dead sea scrolls, Levenda ...

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Stairway to Heaven: Chinese Alchemists, Jewish Kabbalists, and the Art of Spiritual Transformation

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Overview

Stairway to Heaven is an incredibly broad ranging new study that stretches from ancient Egypt and Babylon to Jewish and Christian Kabbalists, Chinese Daoists, Hindu Tantra and Haitian Vodun and finally to 19th and 20th century European occult societies, uncovering a hitherto unrecognized common myth that has been employed the world over in roughly the same form since the earliest recorded texts. Beginning with the oldest form of Jewish mysticism and extending this search through the dead sea scrolls, Levenda reveals a consistent emphasis on the number seven and its association with heavenly themes, including those of a chariot, a Throne, a Temple and a divine Being. The author then examines the myths and rituals of egypt, sumer and Babylon to locate the origin of this myth and comes up with some surprising results in the ascent rituals of the middle east. Shifting to the far east, Levenda demonstrates how the mystical practices of China and India display important similarities to these rituals, most notably in the practices of the Chinese alchemists who used a map of seven stars as their ladder to heaven.

 

Reinforced by visits to the Buddhist shrine of Borobudur in indonesia, Levenda concludes that there was a myth common to peoples across the ancient world that an ascent to the heavens was possible using a ladder of seven stars, a process running parallel to the alchemical idea of the perfection of metals and the perfectibility of the soul.

This concept was enshrined in the rituals of the Western secret societies of the 19th and 20th centuries such as the golden dawn and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and influenced the development of new age occultism. exhaustive in scope and revealing in its scholarship, Stairway to Heaven casts a fascinating new multidisciplinary perspective on the mystical practices of heavenly ascent.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Independent scholar Levenda (Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult) has been studying and writing about occult history for more than a decade. Here, he looks deeply into the astrological/astronomical roots of the occult tradition as well as at the related theme of an adept's celestial ascent through seven stages. Central to the narrative are the North Pole Star (Polaris) and those stars around the pole that never set, in particular, the seven stars of the Big Dipper. Scholarly, complex, and reliant on a thorough knowledge of occult history, Levenda's book is not always easy to understand and will not appeal to casual readers. Moreover, longitudinal studies of this sort are open to the charge that the author is selectively choosing favorable elements to include while omitting mention of things that disprove the case. Every culture can be interpreted from widely disparate viewpoints. This study is recommended for academic libraries and public libraries with strong religion collections.
—James F. DeRoche

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826428509
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 6/1/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,026,919
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Levenda is the author of The Secret Temple: Masons, Mysteries and the Founding of America (Continuum, 2009) and Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult (Continuum, 2002), which has appeared in 6 foreign-language editions.

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Table of Contents

Part I: Pre-Biblical Israel 1. Ascent Myth and Ritual in Ancient Egypt 2. Ascent Myth and Ritual in Ancient Babylon Part II: Ezekiel 3. The Vision of Ezekiel 4. Ezekiel and Apocalypse Part III: Hekhalot Literature 5. Ezekiel's Vision as Template for Mystical Ascent 6. The Chariots and the Throne: The Seven Palaces and Ursa Major Part IV: 7. Ecstatic Flight in Siberian Shamanism 8.Ecstatic Flight in Afro-Caribbean Ritual 9. Ecstatic Flight in Asian Ritual and Alchemy Part V: European Esotericism 10. Pico della Mirandola and the Christian Kabbala 11. The Sabbatian Movement, the Frankist Phenomenon, and Da'ath 12. The Initiatory System of the SRIA and the Golden Dawn 13. Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Grant, and Da'ath

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