Personally, I have to say that I found learning Gemara opened the door into transcendence. It was just that that transcendence did not come to fruition until I got to Israel. I never really could put my finger, on it but there was some aspect of Gemara got me connected with the Divine.
What I mean to say is this: at first learning Gemara was just that. Learning Gemara. The only thing different about it was my tremendous desire to learn Gemara. But there never was any thought about transcendence at all. It was just that while at the Mir in NY, I could feel the Divine presence. But that was all. It was only in Israel that the Light hit me with full power. But clearly it was because of the door that the Gemara opened. [Though I admit it might have been learning Gemara in the Mir Yeshiva specifically or some kind Litvak yeshiva.]