Judaism, perhaps more than any other religion, is a system rooted in language. Word–play is among our deepest spiritual practices. While some contemplative systems speak of ending thought, Judaism seeks to deconstruct thought by subjecting it to endless gaming. Earlier I mentioned the Gematria game where we read Hebrew letters as numbers, and Hebrew words as numeric sums. Another of our games involves playing with the letters themselves. My favorite example of this game is Ain/Ani.
Ain, the divine Name “No–thing,” and refers to the absolute reality that is everything and nothing at the same time. Ain is the name we might give to HaMakom when we try and inevitably fail to make something out of HaMakom when in fact HaMakom is no-thing at all. If this is giving you a headache—good. It is supposed to. If God–talk doesn’t make you dizzy it isn’t doing its job. Being dizzy disorients us, and that can be fun. And theology ought to be fun, though it rarely is. We take theology too seriously. We start to believe our own BS and mistake it for some holy truth. That’s why a Catholic theologian never discovers Krishna rather than Christ is Lord. We should get so dizzy with God–talk that Christ and Krishna, Tao and YHVH, Brahman and Allah all whirl into one and then even further into none. This none is Ain.
Anyway, back to our game of Ain/Ani. Ain, no–thing, shares the same three letters with Ani, “I,” the first person singular: Aleph, Yod, Nun. This suggests to some that Ain and Ani are of one essence, the only difference between them being the placement of the letter Yod.
Yod stands for yadah, “knowing.” When your knowing is externally focused you perceive a world “out there,” and an Ani “in here,” in your head. When your knowing is internally focused both the perceived and the perceiver (out there and in here) disappear, and Ain, no–thing, is present. This is similar to the Figure/Ground notion I mentioned earlier. You can also think of Ain and Ani in terms of computer code as zero and one, or off and on. Reality is the dance of off and on, Ain and Ani. You yourself are this dance. You are constantly spinning from Ain to Ani to Ain again over and over and over.
The message of Ain/Ani is this: you are the way God knows God. You are the way Natura naturata knows the activity of Natura naturans. You are the way nature becomes self–conscious; the way God becomes self–conscious. And when you attain this level of consciousness you know that you are part of and never a part from the infinite whole (Ain Sof) that is God.