Prophetic vision and its relevance to religious life remains of central importance in Judaism. Rather than being an interesting and historically limited quirk, prophecy is a paradigm of spiritual life in the Jewish tradition. Prophecy is a part of a continuum of inspiration that leads directly to the Almighty. At the top is prophecy, in its middle is Ruach Hakodesh, and at the bottom spiritual inspiration and enthusiasm. "It is impossible for a person to maintain consciousness of God's eminence and greatness unless he first delves into the essence of his own soul. (Noam Elimelech, Vaeschanan, q.v.Hishomer ..)"
We have spoken before about the concept of Deeper is Higher. It says that this soul is a microcosm of the world and, therefore, one perrceives higher worlds by descending deeper into one's soul. R. Chaim Vital puts it like this (Shaarei Kedusha 3:7): "...thought of a prophet spreads out and rises form level to level, from below to above, until it reaches a place of origin of his own soul. (Standing) at that place he "thinks" to lift the light of sefiros to the Infinite (ain sof) and pull from there the returning light from above to below... until it reaches his intellect. It takes its portion in that light according to the amount of origin of his soul in the higher worlds, from there it pulls through the power of the imaginative faculty of Chaya-soul has in supernal worlds. There in his senses there come to be formed things (meaning images) or in his external senses".
Dr. Alan Brill recently posted on the only recorded lecture by G. Scholem, in which he discusses this concept. Here is a quote from this very interesting post:
Scholem quoted from Moshe of Kiev – Shushan Sodot, the following passage from a studentof Abulafia. As you read the passage note that Scholem reads the passage as reaching the psychology depth of the soul and Moshe Idel in his work uses the same passage to discuss prophecy, prophetic kabbalah, and visual phenomena.
The wise and illuminated R. Nathan, blessed be his memory, told me ‘Know that the perfection of the secret of prophecy for the prophet is that he should suddenly see the form of his self-standing in front of him. He will then forget his own self and it will disappear from him. And he will see the form of his self in front of him, speaking with him and telling him the future.
Scholem explains it as showing the Kabblah as offering self-knowledge into the depths of the human nature...
However, you got to be careful with Scholem. A longer quote can be found in Zinberg's History of Jewish Literature, p. 17-19. While in isolation, it can certainly be understood this way, and the idea itself is certainly correct, an earlier passage in Shushan Sodot (also quoted by Zinberg) seems to talk of every person's image imperceptibly float over his body. It is this image, external and not internal ,that speaks and communicates with the prophet. In essence it is simply a restatement of the widely known idea that the deepest part of a person's soul, the Chaya and Yechida are located outside of the body.
As expressed by Scholem, the idea partakes of a heretical rejoinder that prophetic experience comes solely from inside the person and in no way reflects reality outside of him - "it's all in your mind". In contrast to this formulation that undoubtedly appealed to Scholem, the source that he quotes is more subtle. Yes, it is the person's own image that speaks to him, but not form inside his imagination and misguided religious zeal, but from that part of him which is outside and unaffected by his psychological makeup, that's part which is the mediator between the spiritual world and his mind and senses. This is an important, albeit a subtle distinction between how Scholem explains that and what the source actually says.
Minor point: the author of Shashan Sodot was not exactly a student of Abulafia, though he was influenced by his writings - see the extended discussion by Zinberg.
Zinberg was a fascincating individual. From what I remember from the introduction to his amazing multivolume overview of the entire Jewish literature until his time, he was a chemical engineer by profession, who, left behind in the Stalinist Russia, devoted all his free time to sitting and researching in the Leningrad library. Ultimately, he was exlied by Stalin and died somewhere in the Stalin Gulag.