Chaim Vital on the Hebrew Prophets and the Work of the Chariot
The prophecy (of the Hebrew Neviim) is in the past, but the Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha-Qodesh) one can achieve in our days.
[…]The four worlds of Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Matter are set above the lowest world, which is divided into Four Elements (Ysudot) that together, with the forces of their Mental Spirits (Neshamot) of Foundation (Yesod), appear as Ten Sapphire Spheres (Sephirot).
We have learned that every world has an inner light, which are the Ten Spheres. Farther outside is the light of the Origin of the Mental Spirits; (even) farther outside is the light of the Origin of the Angels, and (farthest) outside is the World of Actualization, which are the Firmaments of every specific world.
The same can be applied to the lowest world; for the matter of the four elements is the Body (Guf) and the world, and the body contains the other lights that are made of the four aspects of the Emotional Spirit (Nefesh) of Foundation.
We have also learned that there are an INFINITE (Ein Sof) number of levels; for each sphere is made of ten, and each one of the ten is made of another ten, and so on. So each world contains an infinite amount of levels.
We learned in the Fifth Gate [or dimension] about the quality of the prophecy; for the thought of the prophets spreads and ascends from level to level, from bottom to top, till it reaches the place where the root of his mentality is connected.
As his [or her] thought ascends, it brings the Light of the Spheres to the Infinite, and as it descends it draws light and brings it down through the levels it ascended before, till it reaches his emotional spirit of the Mind (sekhel). The emotional spirit of the mind takes a portion of this light according to the quality of the connection [made to] the root of his mental spirit above. Then, the imaginative power in his living spirit draws the light, and produces images that can be perceived by the internal OR external senses.
However, the transmission of this thought does not ascend by itself, for it needs prayers and unification techniques (Yechudim), which were taught by the prophets — as in the cases of the Sons of the Prophets, Shmuel, Eliyahu, and Elisha, of Blessed Memory [see the Books of the Kings of Israel]. For in order to draw the light and abundance according to one’s will, one should profess the Unity (Yichud) of God, and this is the whole purpose of the prophecy.
(The Neviim) taught them the prayers, and the names of the Sentinals of the Gates, (as well as) the names of the Firmaments, and the Palaces of each and every world.
(They taught each one,) from the last of the worlds — which (comprise) the four Foundations and the Air they contain — to the lofty world of Emanation, as mentioned in the Zohar in the torah section Vayakhel, and as it was written in the chapters of Hechalot (A Book of Ascensions) and in their Barait`a (further teachings).
First, they would open the Gates in one level, and then they would profess the Unity, and pray the special prayer that fit that specific level. (So doing), they ascended from one level to another, until they reached their upper root, where they rested. Their thoughts continued to the Infinite, and as they returned they transmitted the abundance downwards, as I mentioned before.
As for the sentinels and the names, they employed the force of a Holy Name for the specific level, (in order) to summon the angel that has his root and origin in the same level: the Angel who is in charge of the Gate of the Firmament — which is the Matter of the level — and therefore has a known name.
When the angel opened the gate, the thought of the prophet entered through it and passed from light to light, until it arrived at the inner light of the sphere of this level. Then, the prophet prayed the proper prayer of the level. Thus, he ascended, from level to level.
This is the reason the vision of Ezekiel is called the “Work of the Chariot” (Maaseh Merkava), for the levels build one on top of the other.
First, the Sky was opened: the gate of the firmament which is the light of the matter and the vessels of this world [of ours].
Then, the Shells (Qlipot) entered, as it was written:
As I looked, behold; a stormy wind came out of the north… (Ezekiel 1:4).
And also, as it was written:
When YHWH first spoke through Hosea, YHWH said to Hosea, ‘Go and take to yourself a harlot for a wife, and have children of prostitution, for the land commits great prostitution by forsaking YHWH.’ (Hosea 1:2)
meaning, that the Shell and its forces, which are the wife and children of harlotry, were revealed at the beginning of the prophecy.
When he was in the Sky, (the prophet) attached himself as he watched, as it was written:
The Heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)
However, when he reached the place of the shells, he did not attach himself to them, but slashed through them. He did not connect himself to them, but he saw them as he passed through them.
This is the Deeper Meaning (Sod) of Eliyahu of blessed memory:
But YHWH was not in the earthquake…but YHWH was not in the Fire. (1 Kings 19)
From there, he passed through the Screen (Masach) of the Light of the Angels; for as we already explained, the Lights are seperated by a Screen.
This is the Depth of the word Chasmal, which is the numeric equivalent of Malbush (Garment): the Vessel and Matter of the Lights of the Angels.
And Havayah (The Cause) will forgive me for revealing such a secret.