In Kabbalah, the historical aspect plays a minor role. It doesn’t matter when or in which generation a certain Kabbalist operated; what’s important is what he did and what he fulfilled in the general system of the worlds, which corrections he made, so that thanks to this, those who come after him would be able to advance in a better, easier way. I cannot assess the Kabbalists or compare them until I am in the upper system myself. I judge according to what I see today. Suppose someone has left wonderful writings that light my emotions and my mind and enable me to advance. Accordingly I see that Kabbalist as great.
On the other hand, Baal Shem Tov, for example, didn’t leave any books, but all the Kabbalists that followed him rose thanks to his study. The Ari didn’t write anything either, all his teachings were written by his disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital. There were also Kabbalists who shortened the way for the next generations. It all depends on the root of a person’s soul. Only in the network of the connections between the souls can we discern what each of them did in the general framework, and what corrections he made in it.
Rabash says that the Talmud sages made the greatest corrections. On the one hand, they had attained spirituality on a very high level, and on the other hand, they were already in exile. This allowed them to write and to describe the states on a corporeal level and at the same time to make great spiritual corrections. In the “Introduction to TES” Baal HaSulam speaks about the requirements of those times: “You shall eat bread and salt, drink water sparingly, sleep on the ground, and labor in the Torah.” But by their spiritual work, Kabbalists have annulled these extremely difficult conditions and left us only one means, the Light that Reforms. Since then, it is enough in order to fulfill the goal of creation.
They, of course, drew the Light before that too, as it says: “You shall labor in the Torah,” but this was in addition to asceticism. Later the authors of the Talmud developed the channels of abundance to such an extent that now we can lead an ordinary corporeal life, needing no luxuries and settling for the necessities. The Light creates such a reality that we don’t need to think or to worry about that.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 11/12/12, “The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah”