Faithlife Corporation

Business Hours

Monday – Saturday
6 AM – 6 PM PST
Local: 4:58 PM
Flights of the Soul: Visions, Heavenly Journeys, and Peak Experiences in the Biblical World
See inside
This image is for illustration only. The product is a download.

Flights of the Soul: Visions, Heavenly Journeys, and Peak Experiences in the Biblical World


Eerdmans 2011

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


Reports of prophetic dreams, of journeys into the heavens, and of other alternate states of consciousness abound in the Old and New Testaments and in extra-biblical literature. And although some scholars consider such reports to be simple literary devices, John J. Pilch—a leading expert in social scientific interpretation of the Bible—argues that ancient accounts of alternate consciousness are both plausible and significant, constituting a very commonplace, very real, and very human experience in their cultures of origin.

Integrating biblical exegesis with insights from anthropology, cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and the social sciences, Pilch investigates and interprets such phenomena as Ezekiel’s prophetic visions, Enoch’s sky journeys, Jesus’ transfiguration and ascension, Paul’s ecstatic vision on the road to Damascus, John’s heavenly journeys described in Revelation, and more. His innovative study presents a fresh and intriguing perspective on these fascinating, sometimes puzzling biblical accounts.

Key Features

  • Anthropological research on over 400 representative cultures in the world
  • Includes an Index of Authors and an Index of Scripture and Other Ancient Literature
  • Completely interactive with your Logos digital library


  • Introduction
  • Part One: ASCs in the Old Testament
    1. The Nose and Altered States of Consciousness: Tascodrugites and Ezekiel
    2. The Call of Ezekiel (Ezek. 1–3): An Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) Experience
    3. Holy Men and Their Sky Journeys: A Cross-Cultural Model
    4. The Holy Man, Enoch, and His Sky Journeys
    5. Music in Second (Slavonic) Enoch
    6. Flute Players, Death, and Music in the Afterlife (Matt. 9:18-19, 23-26)
  • Part Two: ASCs in the New Testament
    1. Altered States of Consciousness Events in the Synoptics
    2. The Transfiguration of Jesus: An Experience of Alternate Reality
    3. Appearances of the Risen Jesus in Cultural Context: Experiences of Alternate Reality
    4. The Ascension of Jesus: A Social-Scientific Perspective
    5. Paul’s Ecstatic Trance Experience near Damascus in Acts of the Apostles
    6. Paul’s Call to Be a Holy Man (Apostle): In His Own Words and in Other Words
    7. Paul’s Call to Be an Apostle
    8. Visions in Revelation and Alternate Consciousness: A Perspective from Cultural Anthropology
  • Index of Authors
  • Index of Scripture and Other Ancient Literature

Praise for the Print Edition

The scope of Pilch's scholarship is impressive: he offers enlightening perspectives on music, cultural anthropology, biblical interpretation, and alternate states of consciousness, referencing international and cross-cultural research and commentary. . . . Be prepared to have your assumptions challenged and 'the doors of perception cleansed' as you read and explore the possibilities in Flights of the Soul.

—Belinda Gore, President, Cuyamungue Institute

John J. Pilch has been at the task of leading his readers into dimensions of first-century Palestine that have been assiduously avoided by most exegetes. Often through selective inattentiveness, biblical readers, both professional and nonprofessional, have simply overlooked a range of common first-century experiences that are portrayed on the pages of the New Testament: visions, soul flight, dream dimensions, angelic messengers, and the like. While these experiences are not readily available to 'scientifically' oriented Americans, they are still known to much of the world’s population. A careful study of Pilch’s essays here will provide rewarding access to those alternate states of consciousness reported in the New Testament and will make cultural sense to the empathetic reader.

—Bruce J. Malina, Creighton University

Shamanic practitioners and students of shamanism will find Flights of the Soul an abundant source of stories, examples, methods, journeys, and visions well explicated in their anthropological and cross-cultural setting. All is researched and precisely described, yet most is easy reading. Dr. Pilch's type of presentation can be translated to other cultures. Much of his presentation can be applied directly to shamanic understanding with the added benefit of comparison to many other types of altered states of consciousness.

—Lisa N. Woodside, Certified Teacher of Ritual Trance

Considers topics that will be appealing and useful to students of the psychology of religion.

—Mary Anne Siderits, Marquette University

Nobody has done more than John Pilch to relate anthropological research on alternate states of consciousness to New Testament studies. His Flights of the Soul is a benchmark in this area.

—Pieter F. Craffert, University of South Africa, Pretoria

Product Details

  • Title: Flights of the Soul: Visions, Heavenly Journeys, and Peak Experiences in the Biblical World
  • Author: John J. Pilch
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Pages: 252

About John J. Pilch

John J. Pilch was visiting professor of biblical literature at Georgetown University for eighteen years. He is currently visiting professor at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Hong Kong and director of research for Cuyamungue: The Felicitas D. Goodman Anthropological Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His books include The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible and Visions and Healing in the Acts of the Apostles: How the Early Believers Experienced God.