With regard to the blessed Creator, there is no attribute or measure, since He is the Infinite.
It arose in His simple will that near [in Hebrew, "etzel"] Him should be the attribute of chesed, so that He would be able to love Israel. He then brought into existence [in Hebrew, "atzal"] the concept of love, just like one flame brings another into existence [without giving up any of its substance]. This is called the Universe of Nearness (Atzilut ). …like an artisan who has a thought to make something…
It then arose in His will to create all universes and thus reveal His divinity to the world. This is called the Universe of Creation (Beriya ). This was His original thought, namely that his love be revealed to the world.
He then depicted in His thought what form the world would take. This is like an artisan who has a thought to make something, but its form is still concealed and stored in his thought. It is only after he decides to make the thing that he depicts how it will be made. The same is true of the Creator, who decided what form in which to create the universe. This is called the Universe of Formation (Yetzira ) coming from the word "form" [in Hebrew, "tzura"].
After this, He brought His thought from potential to actuality, thus creating His universe. This is called the Universe of Making (Asiya ) - for it is made with bounds and limits.
[from Kedushat Levi by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p. 116
The Chasidic Masters, Moznaim Press]