Among the prophets of Israel, who more than others have come into contact with the mysteries of the world of God are Ezekiel and Daniel. Actually, they cannot simply be defined ‘mystics’ – a kind of today’s gurus – who lived very mysterious experiences. Ezekiel (in Hebrew yechezeqel, i.e. “God will strengthen”) lived in the late sixth century BC. He was the son of a priest called Buzi (Ezekiel 1:3) and therefore he also belonged to the priestly class. He had to leave his beloved Jewish homeland during the first deportation, in 597 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon all the royal house of Jerusalem, together with the notables of the city (cf. 2 Kings 24:10-17). He was a very particular prophet. Unlike Isaiah or Jeremiah he didn’t formulated real predictions, but received numerous visions (Ezekiel, chapters 1, 3, 8-11, 37, 40-48). The Bible said that the Lord’s hand had seized and taken him to places far away from Babylon (cf. 8:1-3; 37:1; 40:1). For example we can read this emblematic text:
“And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem“(Ezekiel 8:3).
The expression mar’ot ‘elohim (‘visions of God) can be also translated as “ecstasy”, particularly in light of what had been said just before, “and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven”. Ezekiel had been mysteriously brought in half air. Indeed it is a dimension that is ‘in the middle’. Ezekiel was conducted in this intermediate zone by a spirit. So we cannot give to the expression a concrete meaning.
Recently, some experts have approached these and other experiences to the trance phenomenon, typical of shamans, by which a man or woman can be guided by a spirit, doing experiences that cannot be performed in a normal state of consciousness.
Without straying too far from Western culture, in Christian mysticism it is well known the phenomenon whereby a person – e.g. Father Pio – could be simultaneously in more than one place. However, this phenomenon raises many doubts in the scientific community, because the copy of the same person usually is seen at a great distance from the original. There aren’t cases in which the person is ‘doubled’ just at few meters away, allowing an experimental check. So the ecstasy of Ezekiel is a very strange prophetic phenomenon. The expression “between the earth and the heaven” was also used in Genesis (see 1:1) to say that all that exists is somehow originated from God. Outside of this framework, I think it’s difficult explore the mystery of the place where he was transported Ezekiel.
In fact, the phrase “between the earth and the heaven” it would indicate an intermediate dimension, where you can – according to the Bible – make experiences out of the ordinary. This would be one of those cases in which the biblical language can act as an interface for a comparison with scientific research. In fact, the most fascinating and intriguing element of the NDE (Near Death Experiences) is the account of those who said they saw their body from an external point. Therefore is not impossible to say that the dimension in which the soul of the deceased freely floats, can somehow match what the Bible refers to the space between “heaven and earth.” In the case of the NDE, it is a dimension suspended between the man’s world you leave temporarily, and the world in which God lives. (To be continued)