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What are the major ancient literature on Judaic mysticism and spiritual development? By ancient I mean B.C.E.

I also would appreciate if you can also provide links to online English translations if it is possible.

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Are you also interested in later works of kabbala? –  Hacham Gabriel Dec 12 '11 at 3:50
    
@H' Gabriel, not in this question. I asked this to be to compare it with early Christian mysticism. –  Kaveh Dec 12 '11 at 17:03
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3 Answers

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The books you are looking for are called "Merkavah" and "Heichalot" literature. These are based on the "Merkava" (Chariot) described in Ezekiel.

I do not know if they date back to "BCE", because the way that we date modern writings it's impossible to know, but they are darn close to 0 anyways. They certainly date to the time of the Talmud if not earlier. As far as I am aware, there are no Jewish texts currently used which are dated before 0 outside of the Tanach by modern scholars (which is what made the dead sea scrolls such a huge find since it pushed some texts further back than earlierly recognized)

The earliest mystical writings in Judaism of course though belong to specific passages of Tanach. (the saphire brick work mentioned in the passages of the 10 commandments, the Seraphim and angles of Bereshit and the Prophets etc.)

Some quick links I found from wikipeida..

http://www.tabick.abel.co.uk/heichalot.html

http://www.digital-brilliance.com/contributed/Karr/HekRab/index.php

http://www.digital-brilliance.com/contributed/Karr/Biblios/mmhie.pdf

EDIT: Apparently, the Sefer Yetzirah also qualifies as Ancient.
Link to the text in English here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/yetzirah.htm http://www.psyche.com/psyche/txt/kaplan_sy_short.html While a link to Aryeh Kaplan's translation plus commentary and context is here: http://www.amazon.com/Sefer-Yetzirah-Creation-Aryeh-Kaplan/dp/0877288550

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The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that the Jewish mystical tradition of divine union went back to the first, perhaps even the third century B.C.E. Jewish mysticism has its origins in Greek mysticism, a system of belief which included reincarnation. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of the hymns found are similar to the Hekhaloth hymns of the Jewish mystics. One text of hymns gives us clear evidence of Jewish mysticism. The text is called "Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice." Fragments of 1 Enoch, which is considered the oldest text of Jewish mysticism, were also found with the Scrolls. Since evidence shows Jewish mysticism existed in the third century B.C.E., as Enoch indicates, then it would certainly have existed in first-century Israel.

Quote from: Jewish Afterlife Beliefs

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Just incase people follow your link and read more... Today, the dead sea scrolls are NOT associated with Josephus's Esecenes. amazon.com/Qumran-Context-Reassessing-Archaeological-Evidence/… –  avi Dec 6 '11 at 16:45
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Here are a few in Hebrew:

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The Ramak says that Sefer Yetzira was written by Rabbi Akiva, and it's impossible for Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to have written all of the Zohar, since it mentions rabbis who lived hundreds of years after he did. And it is known that the Zohar was actually composed by Moshe ben Shemtov D'leon. Which sections are from Rabbi Shimon bar yochai and which parts are not, is not known. So putting him as the author is just not correct. –  avi Dec 7 '11 at 7:52
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@avi: many people greater than me have discussed these issues and have explanations for them. For example, about the later rabbis mentioned in the Zohar: some say that these were their future souls discussing these matters in Gan Eden. (Or, more simply, they might well be otherwise unrecorded namesakes of later scholars; there are thousands of sages throughout the generations whose names are unknown even though there is evidence that they existed.) It's certainly incorrect to say dogmatically that "it is known" that R. Moshe composed the Zohar, when there are well-known arguments against that. –  Alex Dec 7 '11 at 15:28
    
Nobody denies that R. Moshe composed the Zohar... Just because someone has an explanation doesn't mean it's true. Otherwise I have some silver bracelets to sell you... –  avi Dec 8 '11 at 7:02
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@avi Nobody is an extreme phrase. Most in the Chareidi world (and in the general Jewish world since the time of the Rishonim until recently) believed that R' Shimon Bar Yochai wrote the Zohar. –  Shmuel Brin Dec 8 '11 at 19:09
    
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