Ascesis can be seen as the highest form of truth or as virtually no truth at all. For myself, I can say that I have no idea which of these it is. The highest knowledge is not known piecemeal. It is not discovered by means of experimentation or any sort of induction, deduction or abduction. Ascesis is an experience of direct awareness brought about by a kind of training, a re-wiring. It seems that Plato had great difficulty with the choice of either thinking Ascesis and Catharsis together or separating them. To know, to really know, to get it - it is a joy beyond joy. A sorrow-joy that is also an all-seeing blindness. It doesn't require any content. If there's a ladder needed to get to the truth-cloud of Ascesis, it can surely be kicked down. It is seemingly obvious to us today that this kind of knowledge has practically nothing to do with the type of knowledge promised by a scientific-cosmological theory of everything, or any quantity of intellectual knowledge, but perhaps it is important to reconsider. Plato wanted knowledge and virtue to be the same, and for them to both amount to blessedness. We can say definitively that, according to the coordinates of the present, this is not so - and yet the question remains: shouldn’t they be? Shouldn’t self-realization ultimately have a connection to instrumental knowledge, and to technical coordination in society?
The reason that Transcendental Qabala is necessary is that blessedness-knowledge has to be grounded. If it is couched in religion - whether the creed of a Christian denomination, the gentle exhortations of a yoga instructor or whatever - it simply is not grounded. Catharsis, the second Cardinal, drives research into the nature of ultimate reality - by means of all the tools modernity has to offer. Ascesis, the first Cardinal, drives research into the meaning of blessedness, which requires spiritual techniques and experience. But these two must be put into productive resonance somehow. I’d go as far as saying the question of their resonance is perhaps the philosophical question of the 21st century.