The entire wisdom of Kabbalah came to us from The Book of Zohar and the works of the Ari. If it were not for Baal HaSulam, we would not be able to study. The Book of Zohar is full of allegories and stories understandable only to a person who is on the same spiritual degree and can decipher these clues.
As for the Ari, he himself never wrote anything; he only talked. All his works are written by the Ari’s disciple Chaim Vital and the entire multi-volume collection of essays is based on what the Ari said over one and a half years. His group existed only for a short time; he taught it and then passed away.
By various ways, this material went to various people who compiled books from it. One part of the records was kept in some secret place; the other was buried in Chaim Vital’s grave and retrieved later, when the grave was opened. The third part was handed down the generations and passed through many people, and who knows what they have done with it.
The Ari talked about the whole system in general, and if a person doesn’t have the complete works and cannot understand the material well, he cannot compile it correctly. That’s why, although these records were collected by Kabbalists, much was missing, and the accurate sequence couldn’t be kept.
Therefore, Baal HaSulam added his commentaries to the Ari’s works so that we could follow a natural progression from simple to increasingly complex and, studying in the correct form, understand the Ari’s writings. We wouldn’t be able to comprehend anything without it. In Kabbalah, this is very dangerous because it you don’t understand what is being described, you fantasize about anything.
So, we have to appreciate the great work that Baal HaSulam has accomplished: We would have achieved nothing without it. Sometimes people ask me: “If there are so many other Kabbalists, why don’t we study their works?” But we don’t have anybody else to learn from because all of them wrote from their high degrees, for example, such Kabbalists as the Vilna Gaon or Ramchal. We can’t base our studies on their works because Kabbalists didn’t interpret them for ordinary people like us so that we could understand, use, and realize them on ourselves.
From the 3rd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 5/27/2011, “General Introduction to the Book, Panim Meirot uMasbirot”