The Zohar, Introduction, Article “The Donkey Driver”: They said, “It is Rav Hamnuna Saba,” for now they have recognized his degree, that he was Rav Hamnuna Saba himself, and not as they previously thought—that he was only Rav Hamnuna Saba’s son.
Question: Usually we study that the “son” is the next level of the “father.” So why does this paragraph say that the son of Rav Hamnuna Saba is a smaller degree than him?
Answer: During the descent from Above downward, every greater degree is higher. Thus the grandfather (Saba in Hebrew) is the higher level, and the father (Aba) is beneath it, and lower still is the son (Ben).
We ascend up the levels from below upwards, going through them in the opposite order: from grandfather, to father, to son. A “son” is the most advanced level, above all of them. But during the descent of the degrees, the son is below everyone.
The levels that the “donkey driver” goes through are the levels of the worlds. These forces descend to the sages from the height of all 125 levels in the form of “grandfather” and “father” being higher than the son.
But when these sages ascend, their levels of attainment: grandfather, father, and son are expressed from above downwards, in which case the son is the most advanced level.
From the 2nd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson on 1/20/11, The Zohar