Here’s a layout of the twelve basic degrees of prophecy as Rambam understands them. The first two are actually stepping-stones to prophecy rather than prophecy per se, as we’ll see.
The first is termed “Divine Inspiration”, and those who attained it were inspired to engage in or to lead others in great, lofty, important deeds, though the one experiencing the inspiration couldn’t prophesy. And those who achieved the second degree, termed “The Spirit of Holiness”, had a sense of being overtaken by something or another quite impalpable that somehow moved them to wisdom, moral insight, or to engage in important civil action, but they too couldn’t prophesy.
Here’s how the other degrees are depicted. Those who achieved the third degree of prophecy would experience a vision in a dream; the fourth would involve hearing voices in a dream as well, without seeing anyone; the fifth involved being actually addressed by someone in a dream; and those who’d arrived at the sixth degree would be addressed by an angel in a dream.
Those on the next levels would experience a revelation while fully awake. Those who’d arrived at the seventh level would be addressed by G-d’s voice, the eighth was characterized by having symbolic visions, the ninth by hearing voices in a vision, the tenth by a human form addressing the prophet in a vision, and those who’d attained the eleventh degree of prophecy would see an angel who’d then address them in a vision.
The twelfth degree of prophecy was unique to Moses, and we’ll describe it later on.
Here’s how the actual experience of prophecy was portrayed. The prophet would sit alone and concentrate while in a cheerful and benevolent mood. He’d then enter into a state of mind Rambam and others termed “active reason” and conjoin that frame of mind with G-d’s own “active reason”. That implies that the prophet would consciously immerse his mind with thoughts of G-d and try to attune it to G-d’s thoughts and intentions.
An “emanation” would then flow down into the prophet’s intellect which would pass through to his creative mind — though, as we said, a prophet could also receive a vision in a dream state — which would itself allow for a vision that would then have the prophet shake and grow weak, and would temporarily confuse him but would become crystal clear to him after a time.
In any event, all prophets had to come under the tutelage of an older prophet when young, and had to have been of a certain type, which we’ll explore next.