Ain Soph

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Ain Soph (Hebrewאין סוף "not finite", from אַיִן "nothing" and סוֹף "finite") is, in Kabbalistic mysticism, the indefinable and indeterminate boundless primordial light from which, according to the teachings of Isaac Luria, creation arose. In the beginning, everything was filled with the hidden essence of God, the boundless, featureless primordial light. Through self-restraint, an empty space came into being into which the primordial light shone as a flash of creation and brought forth the created world.

„Know that before the emanations were emanated and the created was created, a supreme simple light filled all reality, so that there was no free place at all in the sense of an empty, hollow space, but everything was filled with that simple light of the En Sof. [...] And when it ascended in its simple will to create the worlds and emanate the emanations, thereby making the perfection of its works, its names and its attributes knowable, which was the reason for the creation of the worlds [...], the En Sof contracted at the middle point, truly in the middle of its light. It contracted the light and moved away on all sides around the centre point. This left a free space around the centre point, an empty, hollow space [...] This contraction (Zimzum) was of absolute equality all around the empty [virtual] centre point, and in such a way that the empty space had the form of a perfect spherical ball [...] because the En Sof had contracted into itself in the form of a perfect ball from all surrounding sides. The reason for this was that the light of the En Sof is of perfect absolute equality [...]“

Sefer Ez Chajim[1]

The divine light withdrew after the Zimzum (Hebrewצמצום), the process of God's contraction and self-restraint, and gave a circular Hebrewעִגּוּל igul "circle"; plural: עִגּוּלים igulim) empty space (Hebrew חלל chalal "space") in which creation could unfold and shape itself. Into this limited space, the creative light condensed into the fine ray of light Kav (or Qav) (Hebrewקו "line [of light]") was thrown in rhythmic pulses, from which another circle emerged, then another, etc., until finally, through a succession of further self-restraints of God (Zimzumim, plural), 10 circles of creation, the 10 Sephirot, in a strictly ordered course of development (Seder Hishtalshelut, Hebrewסדר הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת). Each stage of evolution is directly connected to the preceding one and to the following one; together they form the path of the flaming sword. But the inner six Sephirot, from Chesed downwards to Yesod, could not withstand the force of this divine light formed into a ray. The vessels (Hebrewשבירת הכלים Shvirat ha-Kelim) broke and their shards remained in the world as empty, spirit-abandoned bowls (Hebrewקליפות Qlīpōt), thus forming the basis of evil.

In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, Ain Soph is depicted above the Sephira Kether, with some depictions showing Ain Soph divided into three parts, as Ain (אין), Ain Soph (אין סוף) and Ain Soph Aur (אין סוף אוֹר, from אור Or resp. Aur "light"). In this tripartite division, Ain is understood as nothingness, Ain Soph as the limitless, analogously related to the Apeiron (Greekάπειρον "the infinite, unlimited") of Anaximander, and Ain Soph Aur (literally "the non-finite light") as limitless light, as the aura of Ain Soph. These are the three veils of the Absolute or the three veils of negative existence from which Kether condenses to the conscious centre. From a Christian point of view, the Trinity corresponds to the threefold Ain Soph, and according to the Indian theosophical view, the three levels of Nirvana, i.e. the Nirvana in the narrower sense, the Parinirvana and the Mahaparinirvana.

Some kabbalists also equate Ain Soph with God, as the absolute, only by itself conditioned, but all-conditioning, incomprehensible primordial ground of creation.


  • Papus Die Kabbala, Marix Verlag GmbH 2000, ISBN 3937715614
  • Heinrich Elijah Benedikt: Die Kabbala als jüdisch-christlicher Einweihungswes, 2 Bände, Bauer-Verlag


  1. Sefer Ez Hajjim, Hechal I, Scha'ar I, zitiert nach Karl Erich Grözinger: Jüdisches Denken. Theologie – Philosophie – Mystik, Volume 2, p. 626 f.