The Wisdom of Not Knowing Praise   |   Reviews   |   Featured In   |   Interviews   |   Reader’s Reviews   |   Audio-Video

“For most of us the unknown is both friend and foe. At times it can be a source of paralyzing fear and uncertainty, and at other times it can be a starting point for adventure, creativity, and transformation. How we relate to the unknown is a key element in all personal growth and healing; its mystery forms a deep current that runs throughout all religious and mystical traditions. In this deeply affirming exploration of the challenges and possibilities of the unknown, Estelle Frankel draws on insights from Kabbalah, depth psychology, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and ancient myth to show us how we can grow our souls by tapping into the wisdom of not knowing. Frankel offers clear, accessible psychological and spiritual insights and a set of practical tools, including mindfulness exercises, guided meditations, and journaling exercises—all aimed at increasing one’s comfort with the unknown.”

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 …the human mind and heart are unfathomable and unpredictable. When we rest in not knowing and remain open to what is, we give ourselves and others the freedom to unfold and become — to say and do the unexpected. — The Wisdom of Not Knowing


Gold medal prize for best self-help book 2017
Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Bronze medal prize for books on religion 2017
Independent Publishers Book Awards

2017 National Jewish Book Award Finalist
Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice category

Winner Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards
Silver Medal for Religion and self-help


“This book inspires as it delights. Estelle Frankel's graceful and authoritative voice--fluent and informed as it seamlessly weaves together religion, psychoanalytic theory, literature, philosophy and modern science--recasts the "unknown" from, a situation of dread to an invitation to ever more liberating awareness.”– Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life

“Drawing on insights from the Jewish mystical tradition, as well as Buddhism and psychoanalysis, Estelle Frankel demonstrates the surprisingly positive value of "not knowing." This book is profound and clear. It will enable you to become more intimate with your own experience, to overcome fear, and to overcome the mental and emotional challenges of daily life.”– Daniel Matt, author of The Essential Kabbalah and the annotated translation The Zohar: Pritzker Edition

“Another gem from Estelle Frankel!  Like her previous book on Sacred Therapy, this book bristles with depth and insight, practical stories and humor as the author takes us on a deep and necessary journey into the via negativa, the land of unknowing, the wisdom we learn from darkness and nothingness, intuition and paradox, and not being in control.  Frankel, like many mystics before her, wrestles wonderfully with the path of the via negativa and the apophatic Divinity.  She urges us in a time of darkness and uncertainty to learn from the dark and to grow our courage and our creativity in the process.    Her book reveals the deep richness of her Jewish mystical lineage but it also opens the door to deep ecumenism-so many times in reading the book I wanted to shout: ‘And Meister Eckhart said this’ or ‘just like the Cloud of Unknowing.’  It is important that humans today get to the depth of our mystical traditions which includes a discussion of the via negativa and Frankel provides an excellent guide for us all.  While gifting us with an eminently readable rendering of a difficult-to-talk-about topic, the author challenges her fellow therapists to apply the deep teachings of the mystics about the wisdom of unknowing to their work.  In this way she is resacralizing her profession with the help of the mystical wisdom traditions.  A needed and timely book!”– Rev Dr. Matthew Fox, author of Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times; A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey; A Spirituality Named Compassion; The Reinvention of Work, Stations of the Cosmic Christ, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart.

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Read the “The Conscious Life Journal” review

“Do you fly thourgh life on the wings of openness and adventure? Or have your fears gotten the best of you, restricting your choices and limiting your options?”

Read the “The Therapist Magazine” review

“Frankel draws on her experience as a licensed therapist, spiritual advisor, and teacher of Jewish mysticism to examine the concept of “not knowing” from a variety of perspectives... examples from religion, music, film, poetry, ancient myth, quantum physics, and readers trust that moving through darkness with an open and curious mind can lead to personal enlightenment. real–life cases from her therapy practice ... highlight how clients can grow if we help them reframe the unknown from a black hole into which they will fall to a blank canvas onto which they can paint.”

Read the “Publisher’s Weekly” review

“...As Americans leave traditional faiths, publishers release books to give them alternatives...Readers seeking help with life’s problems can find it in a broad range of titles. In “The Wisdom of Not Knowing” (Shambhala, out now), Estelle Frankel–a therapist who also teaches Jewish mysticism–proposes that psychological, emotional, and spiritual health depend on accepting how much in life cannot be known, and that it is important to have the courage to face uncertainty and ambiguity....”

Read the review by Axie Barclay, “San Francisco Book Review”

“...This work is surprisingly encouraging given the subject matter and is deeply insightful, always pushing to find creativity, adventure, and wonder in the unknown. Frankel’s voice comes across as competent and relatable, yet never loses a sense of professionalism. This deft and compassionate handling of complex ideas and theory makes this read feel like listening to a good therapist. She makes the reader feel comforted and inspired, ready to take action in their own life and also calm enough to sit still and get comfortable with their own thoughts. ... a great read for the person seeking a thought-provoking read and a little bit of insight into life’s biggest unknowns”

Mindful Magazine

“Estelle Frankel, a practicing psychotherapist and teacher of Jewish mysticism, has written a timely new book about daring to not know. Certainty in extreme situations, she says in a passage that resonates today, can lead to bigotry and hatred, which “thrive in environments where people are too certain-when they think they know the truth and consider their version of it to be the only valid perspective.” Too often we allow our fears to shape our imagination; this prevents genuine possibility from emerging in our lives, and holds us back from taking risks and venturing into the unknown. Frankel suggests that we should use our imagination to embrace the possibilities that not knowing can offer us, and as a result, “our lives and our consciousness expand”

Read the “Psych-Central” review

“...Uncertainty, while typically a stopping point, can also be an open door, a door through which our deepest transformations can occur; from fear to courage, from mistrust to love, and from worry to freedom. With powerful stories, rich philosophical insight, and timeless wisdom, ‘The Wisdom of Not Knowing’ shows us how to step through that door.”

Read the “American Jewish World News” review

In The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty (Shambhala), Frankel draws on Kabbala and varied religious traditions to formulate “mindfulness” exercises to help manage worrisome thoughts....”

Read the “Experience Life” magazine review

“Success or failure, in other words, becomes almost immaterial when compared with the grounded feeling that comes from confidently welcoming whatever the next moment delivers. After all, the unknown is always just around the corner. Failure to grasp this, Frankel warns, can leave us in a state of constant worry, unable to enjoy what life offers. ‘The less willing we are to bear uncertainty, the more likely we are to prematurely foreclose on reality.’”

Read the review by J. Aislynn d’Merricksson, “Manhattan Book Review”

“Using lessons garnered from such diverse sources as Jewish mysticism, Buddhism, psychology, mythic studies, and spiritual alchemy, Frankel offers a new way of looking at the unknown and embracing the chaos of uncertainty. ... Frankel teaches us to regain that sense of wonder we once had as a child. ... With gentle, piercing clarity, Frankel reminds us ... how to transmute fear to delight, to transmute xenophobia to xenophilia ...”

Read the “Spirituality & Practice” review

“...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....”

Read the “Beliefnet” review

“Psychotherapist and spiritual advisor Estelle Frankel, in her book, “The Wisdom of Not Knowing,” explores the power of the unknown to be friend rather than foe-it is the key to our personal growth. Let’s take a look at what she has to say about embracing uncertainty for a better life.”

Featured In

How to Befriend the Unknown “We fear the unknown. Which is why we stay in bad relationships, in jobs we hate and in other situations that are not good for us. Because what if the alternative – the nebulous, nameless alternative – is worse? We find comfort in the familiar – even if that comfort isn’t very comfortable. It’s the known, and the known feels as cozy as an old, tattered and torn sweater, even if it keeps us cold. But the unknown is packed with potential for possibility and personal growth....writes Estelle Frankel in “The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty”. Below are three exercises for embracing or at least becoming a bit more comfortable with uncertainty from Frankel’s powerful, thoughtful book....”– Margarita Tartakovsky, PsychCentral

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Readers Reviews

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The read deal that is a pleasure to read I was drawn to this book by its title. For a long time, I have been interested in the Capacity to Not Know, first as a psychotherapy research tool and second as an important way to approach the mystery of death. I have been disappointed in the past by titles that promise one thing and then deliver something quite different, a literary bait and switch, as it were. The author provides the examples and amplifications of the wisdom of not knowing in the form of stories from Jewish mysticism, Zen, and her personal life as well as the lives of her patients. Estelle writes in a simple lyrical style. Reading the book and reflecting on the wisdom it contains is a real pleasure.”– Seth Isaiah Rubin, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Jungian Analyst

Deep Mystical Thought I learn so much about the wisdom of the Kabbalah and the Old Testament through the way that Estelle Frankel brings the stories and teachings alive and applies them to our modern situation. She sparks a conversation about ‘not knowing’ that is much needed in the therapeutic community and offers therapists permission to drop into a larger knowing to help their patients, thus providing an alternative method of understanding them beyond diagnosis and labels. Her explorations of intuition – and her reporting on others’ explorations – provides a wonderful basis for inquiry in and of itself. I heartily recommend this book.”– Isa Gucciardi, PhD

“Estelle Frankel’s book is pure music. It flows along with the modulated cadence of a Paul Simon song. ”“The Wisdom of Not Knowing”” holds to its premise of exploring how the context of things, the unspoken, the dark, the uncertain, and the mysterious, feed us in profound ways.

Like Simon, she too invokes the wisdom of various cultures and traditions outside of her own personal Jewish background and training. The work moves effortlessly from chapter to chapter, exploring the paradoxical twins of light and dark, sacred and profane, silence and sound, science and spirituality, intuition and predictability, in short, a dozen “verses” that challenge our notions of what it means to know or not know.

In this book we hear teachings and tales of Zen Masters, Hasidic Rebbes, Sufi poets, Western physicists, philosophers, artists and movie-makers, and yet, Frankel always returns to the “chorus” of her own psychotherapeutic encounters as a healer and her personal Jewish mystical practice without a hint of dogmatism or stridency.

At the core of the book are the woefully misconstrued notions about darkness and light that plague our culture and our world.

This, I believe, is the most misunderstood and dangerous of all paradoxes that feed fear, projection, racism and violence. Frankel’s work artfully and methodically addresses this fundamental misconception by exploring the many traditions of “non-duality” with quotes, anecdotes, poems, and stories artfully presented.

The book is so rife with such nuggets of wisdom that I’ve started utilizing it as an I Ching in my own counseling practice. I’ve dared to hand it to clients on the cusp of making daring life changes who then randomly open the work, and there to our shared amazement, we sit together, mouth agape, and the clients wonder if I’ve enacted some therapeutic slight of hand that led to the perfect passage that mirrors their struggle, question, or immanent transformation.

Yes there are many works that attempt to synthesize the polarities of good and evil, science and religion, and doing and being, but Frankel’s books (Sacred Therapy being her first) are certainly at or near the top of the heap in terms of depth, tone and especially, sheer humanity. This book is soothing to read a well as informative; you will smile, cry, and be moved by the writings of a master storyteller.

The poet Rumi peaks of the “doorsill where the two worlds touch.” Frankel effortlessly welcomes us at that gate, counseling mystery as well as planning, spontaneity as well as ritual observance, white space as well as the printed word, silence as well as speech, and yes, even the value of heartbreak and despair as well as good fortune.

Even Paul Simon might be pleased a half century after penning the line: “Hello darkness my old friend” that those words had more essential truth and power than he might have intended.”– Bruce Silverman

“I figure anyone who is bothering to read reviews must be like I am...very careful about what they choose to read. And how in the world do I give you Estelle Frankel, and how do I give you this book? I think of the word, “beyond”. I don’t know Estelle, except through her books. I read her book “Sacred Therapy” years ago, and knew this book would be one I would read again and again. I heard that she had a new book out, titled “The Wisdom of Not Knowing”, and considering the author, and the subject, I left the book I was reading to finish another time, and pulled down “The Wisdom of Not Knowing”. I’m only half way through it, planned on writing this when I finished, but I can’t wait till then. Estelle Frankel is “beyond”. She is a Psychotherapist and a scholar, but she is beyond that. I find with many scholars that what they write is true, but so often they tend to stretch their truth beyond its proper bounds. Estelle Frankel’s writing is true, but fits in such a balanced way with all that is true. I’ve wondered why she can write like this, and it must be an aspect of nonduality that enables her conceptions to be not only true, but Wholey true. See if you don’t agree, she writes the Truth with a capital T. So is this it? Have I given you Estelle Frankel and this book? No, far, far from it. We humans are multidimensional masterpieces of “being”. So many books share concepts, and we do our best to read them and absorb. Estelle Frankel gives us stories, metaphorical stories, and allows the concepts to live and breathe in her books through these stories. We don’t so much read a Frankel book as we open the pages and fall into them, walk around in them. She must have 10,000 stories in her mind, and they are each like spools of thread, each story with its own texture and color, and this author selects them one by one and weaves for us a book of mataphor giving us in the end a whole tapestry of truth we can touch and feel, and come to know to our very bones. THIS is the writing of Estelle Frankel. She is one of my very favorite authors, I cannot place a value on her work. Her books will also kindly challenge you, as “The Wisdom of Not Knowing” is challenging me. Certainty has offered me the siren song of safety throughout my iife, at the price of a life not fully lived. To say thanks for this book is not nearly enough, I wish everyone would read it.”– Anonymous Amazon Reader

“Estelle Frankel has written an inspiring new book.....Frankel includes teachings from diverse wisdom paths in a very respectful manner without oversimplifying or cultural appropriation... She invites readers from all perspectives to enjoy the rich teachings of Judaism...a generous volume filled with abundant resources.”– Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction (reviewed by Karen Ehrlichman,LCSW)

The White Spaces of Wisdom/A Smiling Mystery Sometimes the journey of how we find a book–or a book ‘finds’ us–has its own mystery. Years ago, I had been deeply moved by Estelle Frankel’s first book, Sacred Therapy, in which she deftly blends the stages of the therapeutic journey with core concepts in Jewish myth and mysticism. In that book, Frankel showed how such profound, kabbalistic concepts as the shattering of the vessels, or the healing of our world (known as tikun olam) could be traced within the odyssey of our days, and how adopting a Jewish mystical ‘lens’ in which to behold our lives brings a profound sense of living out a timeless myth. I had wondered, for several years, if she would publish another book. Several weeks ago, I was browsing at a local Barnes and Noble, lamenting that there didn‘t seem to be any new Jewish books. At that moment, I dropped my keys on the ground. Bending to pick them up, I found, on a corner of the bottom shelf, in the tiny section on Jewish mysticism, Frankel‘s new book. I was caught by the title, “The Wisdom of Not Knowing”. In this book, Frankel attempts something very subtle: depicting, with poetic precision, the potential relationship we can have with not knowing, with a living mystery, and with divining the ‘white spaces’ of the Torah of Life. The next morning, I was at a local cafe, writing in my journal. I had left Frankel’s book, with its purple and silvery cover that simply says, “The Wisdom of Not Knowing”, out on the table. Suddenly, seeming to appear out of nowhere–out of the ‘white, mystery spaces‘ of the Torah, Frankel might say–a lady with a luminous smile asked me if she could look at the book. As she looked at it, I strongly recommended Frankel’s first book to her. A few moments later, as she stood in line to get her coffee, she told me that she had already ordered both books. A few hours later, as I exited the cafe, handing her my contact information, I invited Smiling Lady to perhaps let me know someday what she thought of the book. Over the coming weeks, as I continued to read Frankel’s powerful therapy vignettes, braided with poetic explorations of the place of not knowing, of ‘nothing,’ and of mystery in relation to Jewish mysticism and other wisdom traditions, I reflected that this encounter with a beautiful stranger was much like the mystery, the unknowingness that Frankel continually illuminates throughout this very special text. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see Smiling Lady again–and perhaps it doesn’t, ultimately, matter. This very special book, like our lives, invites us to be at home with not knowing, with walking into the heart of a mystery.”– Jacob Shefa

“In “The Wisdom of Not Knowing”, Estelle Frankel takes readers on a journey into the heart of the “unknown” and, there, shines a light on this hidden terrain with insights from Kabbalah and other wisdom traditions, poetry and spiritual practice. As the book progresses fear and resistance turn to curiosity and open-mindedness. I found freedom and strength in the darkness of not knowing and meaning in the silence beyond thought.  This book is a natural continuation of Estelle’s first book, Sacred Therapy.  Both are deeply spiritual, full of wisdom and helpful for any inner search.”– Tali Barr

“With grace, compassion and unfailing honesty, Estelle Frankel describes her lifelong quest to develop the courage and faith to embrace the unknown.  She invites us to join her on this journey.  In “The Wisdom of Not Knowing”, she describes how our lives can be stunted by fear and the perceived safety of the familiar. She weaves together spiritual teachings from Jewish mysticism, Buddhism, depth psychology and poetry to convey the human condition – both the terror and beauty of uncertainty. Frankel is a fine writer, with a lovely sense of humor and an unusual capacity to present somewhat lofty ideas with humility and practicality.  I have found that my work as a psychotherapist, as well as my personal (life’s) journey have been subtly transformed since reading her book.   I feel (more) supported and inspired to push past my anxious tendency to play it safe, and have learned to be more open to the unknown and its limitless possibilities for growth and meaning.  Anyone with an interest in spirituality and psychology will find much to reflect on in this compelling and engaging book.”– Malka Gorman

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Live Teachings

Estelle’s talk at The Open Faith Salon 3-5-17 Chochmat HaLev
“Befriending the Unknown and Embracing Uncertainty”
(filmed by Rudi Halbright)

Listen to an exerpt from the teaching:
“Open Faith Talk“ (YouTube)

Listen to the entire teaching:
“Open Faith Talk“ (YouTube)

Podcasts & Radio Shows

Interview from “Inside Personal Growth”
iTunes podcast
Inside Personal Growth podcast

“Embracing the Unknown” w/Dr. Laura Trajillo
“The Yoga Hour”

A free interview w/Estelle is available at:
“Inner Truth w/ David Newell”

Conscious Talk Radio - the Interview with Brenda Michael & Rob Spears available for download at:
“The Conscious Talk Radio Interview”

The Soul Directed Life - the Janet Conner interview with Estelle is available for download at:
“The Soul Directed Life Interview”

New Spirit Journal:  
The New Spirit Journal interview

New Dimensions Radio - this hour long radio interview with Estelle is available for download at:
“Learning to live with Uncertainty”

New Dimensions Radio - a free ten minute interview with Estelle is available at:
“Awakening Each Moment Through Questioning”

A free copy of Estelle’s interview with Travis Taylor is available at:
The Divine Insight Show (Apple iTunes)

Estelle on the radio w/ Robert Schmidt and Stuart Goodnick:
“The Mystical Positivist” Show

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Copyright © Estelle Frankel 2022