Mishkan ha-Echad

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Which Is Closest To Kether?

One of the "conundrums" I've run into over the past few years in the Qabalah is the confusion over the Three Veils of Negative Existence (Ain = Nothing; Ain Soph = Limitless; Ain Soph Aur = Limitless Light) and which one, Ain or Ain Soph Aur, is "closest" to Kether (as in, bordering it). To illustrate my point, here's the formation given by most Hermetic Qabalists:

The above makes "logical" sense (in as much as these abstract, negative concepts can make logical sense), in that the Ain, the Nothing, which is the most abstract and theologically furthest from creation, is furthest from Kether, the first expression of positive existence (albeit a highly abstract formation in its own right). The Ain Soph Aur, the Limitless Light, is then closest to Kether, the source of the Light that "feeds" and emanates the Sephiroth. Kether is sometimes paired with the passage "Let there be Light" from Genesis, which also suggests that this formation is accurate. Aaron Leitch made the excellent point on the above that each one "adds to" the other as they get closer to the level of existence in Kether and beyond (the Ain [1] becoming Ain Soph [2] becoming Ain Soph Aur [3] becoming Kether).

But let's have a look at the alternative, which tends to be used more in Jewish circles:

Here we have the complete reverse of the above, with the Ain closest to Kether and the Ain Soph Aur furthest away. It doesn't make sense on the surface, although from a graphical point of view the larger name corresponds to the larger "arc" around Kether. Is this enough, however? Well, firstly we have the fact that Kether and Ain are sometimes used interchangeably, and Kether is often seen as unknowable, just as the Ain is (although technically this applies to all the Three Veils).

Secondly we have the image of the "Cloud-Veils", where the Ain Soph Aur (AIN SVP AVR) becomes more concentrated as Ain Soph (AIN SVP), which becomes more concentrated as Ain (AIN), and they give birth to Kether in the centre. There is no real way of reversing this, as this image is dependent on the larger name forming the larger outer ring of cloud "petals", with the smaller name of three letters closest to the centre.

Personally speaking I lean towards the more logical option of the first (Ain Soph Aur closest to Kether), but I have a hard time reconciling it with the above, particularly the Cloud-Veils diagram, which is beautiful and concise, yet completely contradictory. If any of you find more information on this matter, from Qabalistic treatises or your own musings and thoughts, please share them here, as this is an issue I would love to see addressed.
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