Nothing, naught, the Negative Existence; its numeration is 61. It also signifies, ‘No, not, without.’ It is the first and innermost of the Qabalistic Three Veils of the Absolute comprising Qabalistic Cosmogony. The Veils precede Kether on the Qabalistic Tree. AIN, אין, is the No-Thing, the unimaginable darkness preceding any outward expression of the Creator. Hindus define this as Pralaya, the 'Night of Brahma.' It is the same as the TAO of which Lao-tze is often quoted: "The Tao which is the subject of discussion is not the true Tao; the quality which can be named is not the true attribute." Therefore, paragraph 65 in Chapter II of The Lesser Holy Assembly it is written:
"And therefore is the Most Holy Ancient One called AIN, the Negatively Existent; seeing that back from Him dependeth the Ain, the Negative Existence."1
In the Kybalion the authors' commentary on THE ALL includes all three of the Veils of the Absolute under One:
"In its Essence, THE ALL is UNKNOWABLE...human reason, whose reports we must accept so long as we think at all, informs us as follows regarding THE ALL, and that without attempting to remove the veil of the Unknowable: (1) THE ALL must be ALL that REALLY IS. There can be nothing existing outside of THE ALL, else THE ALL would not be THE ALL. (2) THE ALL must be INFINITE, for there is nothing else to define, confine, bound, limit; or restrict THE ALL. It must be Infinite in Time, or ETERNAL, -- it must have always continuously existed, for there is nothing else to have ever created it, and something can never evolve from nothing."2
And yet the first Veil is NOTHING. That is to say that it is something, some mysterious ONE-THING, behind Nothing. However, this mysterious One Thing is nothing we can describe or even conceive, let alone understand. Aristotle, when presenting his cosmological arguments concerning the origins of the universe, offers the term 'uncaused cause,' or the 'unmoved mover.' The paradoxical universe begins from this inexplicable No-Thing, and nothing can be said concerning it since saying so would make it positively something. Analysis cannot penetrate it. From the Zohar, iii, fol. 288b it is written of AIN:
It is so named because we do not know, and it is impossible to know, that which there is in this Principle, because it never descends as far as our ignorance and because it is Wisdom itself.
Mathematically speaking, 'nothing' is symbolized by the glyph '0'. When something is pointed out preceding the idea of nothing, it is represented by the 'negative.' Therefore, something that would precede '0' would be symbolized by a (-1), minus one. And this is the very idea expressed by the first sentence of this definition, "AIN Nothing, naught, the Negative Existence," and in the quotation above from The Lesser Holy Assembly. Another possible and imaginative way of pondering AIN might be rather like contemplating the film negative of a photograph.
Job 28:12 and 28:20 seems not to be translated entirely accurately in authorized versions of the Old Testament. In both verses מאין, meayin, is translated as “from where,” rather than from AIN, or from no-where. A more accurate translation would render: "And Wisdom is found from AIN, and is where the place of Understanding."
All the quotations above would establish the relative position of AIN well beyond the three supernals, Kether, Chokmah, and Binah on the Tree of Life. It is futile and presumptuous to attempt any further written or verbal explanations of AIN. What can be accomplished, Qabalists teach, is that through the aid of gematria, and reason, additional imagery might be invoked into our consciousness to facilitate our apprehension, if not our comprehension of AIN. Qabalists use words or expressions of equal number value to expand upon ideas. Four such words are suggested by Philosophers that may help with AIN: אדון, adon, 'Lord or Master'; אמך, amek, 'Thy Mother'; אני, ahnee, 'myself'; and נוה, nuwah, 'home, hostel'. Each of these words sums to 61 numerically. AIN, then, according to Qabalistic reasoning, might be said to exude qualities of paternal love, guidance and beneficence, combined with images of a loving, nurturing mother. It is the no-substance of our very selves. We are composed of it while we live, move and have our being within it. It is above, below, between and within all. Nowhere is it NOT! Alchemists and Qabalists learn to trust in the No-Thing implicitly and explicitly for all their needs on any level, wherever. Their writings implore us to never hesitate, never doubt the existence of AIN. It is the actual home of any True Aspirant. See AIN SUPh.
1 Mathers, S.L. MacGregor, The Kabbalah Unveiled. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1974 ed., pg. 266.
2 Three Initiates, The Kybalion. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society, 1940, chpt. 4.