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The Negative Veils

The Negative VeilsThe Negative Veils

The major problem that mystics of all eras have come up against in trying to express their transcendental experiences to others is that these experiences lie beyond the bounds of the rational (and even intuitional) mind on which human written and verbal communication is based. Many methods have been tried, including allegory, antinomy, poetry and mundane approximation; but all founder on the fact that transcendental experience cannot be adequately conveyed through sub-transcendental means of communication.

In Kabbalism, this problem occurs especially in discussions of the higher sefirot on the Tree of Life, and becomes insurmountable in discussing that which lies beyond or above the Tree. The manifest Tree expressed through the sefirot in the Four Worlds is as much as can usefully be conveyed to the human mind through language, and Atziluth and even Briah are really beyond human conception, their "structures" being hinted at through the tangible expressions of the sefirot in the lower worlds. Beyond Kether of Atziluth are drawn the Three Veils of Negative Existence (which are sometimes numbered 0, 00 and 000 respectively):

en (nothing)
en sof (limitless nothing)
en sof or (limitless light)

The very epithets "veil" and "negative existence" serve to remind us that what the Veils represent cannot be conceived of by the human mind, let alone expressed in words. The Veils thus serve as a backdrop in front of which we can see more clearly that which it is possible for us to apprehend, and as a goal for us to reach for and beyond at a later stage in our personal or collective evolution. As Samuel Liddell Mathers wrote in The Kabbalah Unveiled (a translation of Knorr Von Rosenroth's Kabbala Denudata):

"To define negative existence clearly is impossible, for when it is distinctly defined it ceases to be negative existence; it is then negative existence passing into static condition. Therefore wisely have the Qabalists shut out from mortal comprehension the primal Ain, the negatively existent One, and the Ain Soph, the limitless Expansion; while of even the Ain Soph Aur, the illimitable Light, only a dim conception can be formed."

The Veils contain and conceal the unmanifest aspects of the sefirot, i.e. precisely those aspects which we cannot comprehend. They are considered as lying back from Kether without being separate from it, which is why terms like "The Concealed of the Concealed" are often applied to both the first sefira and the Veils. Kether is brought into being by the concentration of the en sof or:

"Kether is the Malkuth of the Unmanifest."

So while Kether is "the First Cause" in the sense of being the first comprehensible point of manifestation, its cause is unknowable within the confines of the human mind (though this does not mean that it is absolutely unknowable), and this is expressed through the Veils. Though their appellations are meaningless, they are nonetheless carefully chosen to be redolent of that which they represent. Thus, the statement that "Kether is manifested through the focusing of the en sof or" is meaningless in itself, but it can convey a shadow of its mystery to our transcendental selves.

Kether is the uncreated and all-encompassing "point" of actionless unity which is both transcendent and immanent in its evanescent reflection: the Creation. The immanence of Kether is experienced in progressively more diluted forms in the remainder of the sefirot; its transcendence is found in the three Veils of Negative Existence.

Negative Existence is, by its very essence, beyond definition; and the fact that there is considered to be a triad of Negative Veils should not detract from their essential unity: the three-fold process is a fundamental precept of many occult systems. The triadic unity of the Negative Veils foreshadows that of the Supernals. The Veils hold the transcendent aspects of the manifest sefirot, and their focus on Kether makes it the Malkuth of the transcendent tree.