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Ein-sof and the Sefirot by James R. Russell


Ein-Sof, the Infinite God, has no static, definable form. Instead, the Kabbalists conceive God, the world and humanity as evolving together through, and thus embodying, a number of distinct stages and aspects, with later stages opposing, but at the same time encompassing, earlier ones. The Kabbalistıs God is both perfectly simple and infinitely complex, nothing and everything, hidden and revealed, reality and illusion, creator of man and created by man,. As Ein-Sof evolves it is progressively revealed as "nothing whatsoever" (Ayin), the totality of being, the Infinite Will (Ratzon) , Thought and Wisdom, the embodiment of all value and significance (the Sefirot), the wedding of male and female, and ultimately the union of all contradictions. Ein-Sof is both the totality of this dialectic and each of the points along the way. Ein-Sof must be constantly redefined, as by its very nature, it is in a constant process of self-creation and redefinition. This self-creation is actually embodied and perfected in the creativity of humanity, who through practical, ethical, intellectual and spiritual activities, strives to redeem and perfect a chaotic, contradictory and imperfect world.

The Kabbalists used a variety of negative epistemological terms to make reference to the hidden God; "the concealment of secrecy", "the concealed light", "that which thought cannot contain" etc. (Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, p. 88) each of which signifies that this God is somehow beyond human knowledge and comprehension. However, there are other terms, e.g., "Root of all roots", "Indifferent Unity", "Great Reality," (Scholem. Major Trends, p. 12) "Creator," "Cause of Causes" and "Prime Mover" (as well as the term, Ein-Sof, "without end") which signify that God is the origin of the world, the reality of the world, or the totality of all things. Yet in spite of the positive connotations, even those Kabbalists who utilized such terms held that they referred to a God who is completely unknowable and concealed. Of this God, the proto-Kabbalistic work,Sefer Yetzirah had earlier said "restrain your mouth from speaking and your heart from thinking, and if your heart runs let it return to its place" (Sefer Yetzirah. I. 8, as translated in Tishby, The Wisdom of the Zohar. Vol , 1 p 234).

As explained in Symbols of the Kabbalah, Chapter Two, Ein-sof provides a rational/spiritual answer to the questions "Why is there anything at all?" and "What is the meaning of human life?" Ein-sof begets a world so that He, as the source of all meaning and value, can come to know Himself, and in order for His values, which in Him exist only in the abstract, can become fully actualized in humanity. Ein-sof is both the fullness of being and absolute nothingness, but is not complete in its essence until He is made real through the spiritualizing and redemptive activity of mankind. Ein-sof is mirrored in the heart and soul of man, but, more importantly, He is actualized in man's deeds.

Ein-sof is discussed in detail throughout Symbols of the Kabbalah, but in particular in Chapter 2, pp. 60-119). Ein-sof is discussed in relation to Brahman in Hinduism, the Pleroma in Gnosticism, the One and the Good in Plato and Plotinus, the Absolute in Hegel, and the unconscious in Freud and Jung, in Kabbalistic Metaphors. Daniel Matt has written a scientifically oriented introduction to Ein-sof appears in Tikkun Magazine and is excerpted from his book God and the Big Bang.

The Lurianic Kabbalah is treated in detail in Sanford Drob's Symbols of the Kabbalah and Kabbalistic Metaphors .

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All material on New Kabbalah website (c) Sanford L. Drob, 2001.

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