At all spiritual degrees, until the very final correction (Gmar Tikkun), a special force from the upper degree becomes revealed to us. This force accompanies a person while helping him to ascend from one spiritual degree to the next.
As a matter of fact, a person, while at a given degree, can never ascend to a higher one on his own since he has only the power of the current degree. If he had the force of the higher degree, he would be there already.
Yet, between the degrees, there is always some intermediary link, a mediator on the path. Between beast and man, such an intermediary is the ape; between plant and animal, it is a “dog of the field,” and so on.
In spirituality, such an intermediary is the “donkey driver.” There are other “angels” as well, meaning forces that assist us in various ways in ascension from one state to the next. Even now, when we wish to take some actions, an upper force comes and assists us. No matter whether we call it the Surrounding Light or an angel, this particular force leads us forward by helping us to rise from degree to degree.
The lower one supplies only a desire, a vital need. He has to strive to ascend along with his “donkey,” and be almost able to do so while being fully aware of his inability to accomplish this alone.
This is why two sages who embark on a journey take time to arrange a guide for it in advance, the “donkey driver.” They have the donkeys which are loaded with luggage; they know where they are going, and only a guide is needed to lead them on.
Usually this help from Above comes from Rav Hamnuna Saba (see “Introduction of The Book of Zohar,” Article, “The Letters of Rav Hamnuna Saba”). It is a very exalted spiritual degree from which the Upper Light expands in order to assist us. It is regarded as the “donkey driver.”
From the 2nd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 1/9/2011, “Introduction of The Book of Zohar,” Article “Yitro (Jethro)”