"The unknown is the very same gate that unlocks not only what we fear, but also the great mystery that can inspire us and give our lives depth," writes Estelle Frankel, a practicing psychotherapist, spiritual advisor, storyteller, and seasoned teacher of Jewish mysticism. She has taught Jewish Studies for more than 40 years in both academic and religious settings. She is the author of Sacred Therapy: Jewish Spiritual Teachings on Emotional Healing and Inner Wholeness.
Respect for the unknown is an essential foundation of Jewish mystical thought, the Kabbalah, and other religions as well. Frankel has spent a decade studying the wisdom of not knowing as her "personal spiritual curriculum."
Here are some keys to open the doors of the unknown before reading this book:
- "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."
— Martin Buber in The Legend of the Baal-Shem
- "As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears."
— Rumi in A Year with Rumi, translated by Colman Barks
- "Not knowing where to go, I go to you. Not knowing where to turn, I turn to you. Not knowing how to speak, I speak to you. Not knowing what to hold, I bind myself to you. Having lost my way, I make my way to you."
— Leonard Cohen in Book of Mercy
We stand on the shoulders of others, like the Biblical figures Abraham and Sarah, as we venture out into the unknown, sensing that the territory we are exploring is new ground. Buddhist Sharon Salzberg praises faith as "a willingness to take the next step, to see the unknown as an adventure."
To join this quest, it helps to cherish imagination and to ask questions. In her wide-ranging coverage of this subject, Frankel delineates the qualities of curiosity and open-mindedness as two paths that lead to growth and freedom; the many benefits of darkness found in the shadow and the dark night of the soul; the importance of the uncertainty principle; the roles of silence in psychotherapy, solitude, and responding to loss; and opening the gates of creativity and spiritual inquiry through insight and innovation. She identifies a few of the markers in the process of becoming intimate with the unknown: love, intuition, illumination, and courage.
As she demonstrated in Sacred Therapy, Frankel is a masterful meaning-maker. She skillfully marshals ideas and values from mystical Judaism and psychotherapy and then launches into astonishing intimations of the spiritual maturity that comes with quests, creativity, darkness, questions, and open-mindedness.