I've just finished watching a great lecture (embedded below) by Professor Elliot R. Wolfson, author of Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson (2009). The main theme (if I am reading him right) is that central to each mystical movement is its distinct path, whose boundaries and limitations must be adhered to in order to arrive at the ultimate manifestation of the Infinite and the Unbound. In oisies hachasidus we would say that the only way to be toifus atzmus or ain sof is through the hagbolo atzmis of mitzvos. (The only way to grasp the Essence of Divine Infinitude is via the essential limitation of the Divine mandate - the fulfilment of the Commandments.)
Unfortunately, Wolfson's vocabulary is somewhat obscure, presenting quite a barrier to the average reader/listener (in Wolfsonian terms, the veil of darkness via which one perceives the light). In an interview with MyJewishLearning, Wolfson claimed that "the delivery of a complex message demands a rhetoric that is commensurately complex and too often Jews outside the academy are not willing to be pushed to think harder and to expand their vocabulary." While I am not sure I agree with him on the first point, and would like to see scholars make the attempt to express themselves in more accessible terms, I do agree that this is rather a tall order.
At any rate, this lecture and the question and answer session that follows is studded with pearls of insight (and humour), and I highly recommend that the effort be made to listen to what is being said and to think about what is meant (don't jump to any hasty conclusions, the ideas are as deep as they are broad).
One important point that he touches on in the question and answer session is the fact that when we conceive of different levels of reality, or of Divine Manifestation, we must not conceive of them as being completely separate from one another. To enlarge on this idea for a moment: The realm of limitations and boundaries in which we function is not distinct from the realm of the Infinite (indeed, it cannot be, for if it was not itself a manifestation of - and a key to - the Infinite, then the Infinite could not truly be describe as Infinite). These are variant perspectives on the same reality. More-so, it is specifically in the finite world that we can experience the ultimate reality of the Infinite. As we said earlier, the only way to be toifus atzmus or ain sof is through the hagbolo atzmis of mitzvos. In Wolfson's words, the transcendent is within the immanent.
If the embed feature doesn't work please click on the link below.
Elliot R. Wolfson: The Path Beyond the Path: Mysticism and the Spiritual Quest for Universal Singularity on Vimeo.