Adam Kadmon

views updated May 17 2018


ADAM KADMON (Primordial Man ), kabbalistic concept. The Gnostics inferred from the verse "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26) that the physical Adam was created in the image of a spiritual entity also called Adam. The early *Kabbalah speaks of adam elyon ("supreme man"; in the Zohar the corresponding Aramaic is adam di-l'ela or adam ila'ah). The term sometimes represents the totality of the Divine emanation in the ten *Sefirot ("spheres") and sometimes in a single Sefirah such as Keter ("crown"), Ḥokhmah ("wisdom"), or Tiferet ("beauty"). The term "Adam Kadmon" is first found in Sod Yedi'at ha-Meẓi'ut, an early 13th-century kabbalistic treatise. In the Tikkunei Zohar, the Divine Wisdom is called Adam ha-Gadol ("The Great Man"). The spiritual man is hinted at in the verse "a likeness as the appearance of a man" (Ezek. 1:26) which the prophet Ezekiel saw in the vision of the divine chariot. The letters of the Tetragrammaton (see Names of *God) when spelled out in full have the numerical value of 45, as do the letters of the word Adam. In this fact support was found for the revelation of God in the form of a spiritual man (Midrash Ruth Ne'elam in the Zohar). In contrast to the First Man Adam, this spiritual man is called in the Zohar proper the adam kadma'ah ila'ah ("primordial supreme man"), and in Tikkunei Zohar he is called Adam Kadmon ("primordial man") or Adam Kadmon le-khol ha-kedumim ("prototype of primordial man"). In the Kabbalah of Isaac *Luria, great importance and new significance is given to Adam Kadmon. There Adam Kadmon signifies the worlds of light which, after the retraction of the light of *Ein-Sof ("The Infinite"), emanated into primeval space. This Adam Kadmon is the most sublime manifestation of the Deity that is to some extent accessible to human meditation. It ranks higher in this system than all four worlds: Aẓilut ("emanation"), Beri'ah ("creation"), Yeẓirah ("formation"), and Asiyyah ("making"). The portrayal of this Adam Kadmon and his mysteries, and in particular the description of the lights which flow from his ears, mouth, nose, and eyes plays an important role in Ḥayyim *Vital's Eẓ Ḥayyim and in other kabbalistic works of the Lurianic school. Through this theory the mystical anthropomorphism of the school becomes crystallized. This anthropomorphic figure recurs in all the stages and in all the worlds. Consequently there is an adam de-veriah ("man of creation"), adam di-yzirah ("man of formation"), and an adam de-asiyyah ("man of making"). In contrast to Adam Kadmon, who is from the holy emanation, stands Satan, from the world of iniquity. In the Tikkunei Zohar, and subsequently in the Lurianic Kabbalah, Satan is called adam beliyya'al ("evil man"). In the Lurianic Kabbalah, there is no relationship between Adam Kadmon, which is the light which transcends all other lights, and the *Messiah. Such a connection was made only in the system of the extreme Shabbateans, who believed in the divinity of the Messiah and regarded *Shabbetai Ẓevi as the incarnation of Adam Kadmon. (He figures as such in a number of poems of the sect of the *Doenmeh.)


S.A. Horodezky, in: Ha-Goren, 10 (1928), 95 ff.

[Gershom Scholem]

Adam Kadmon

views updated May 18 2018

Adam Kadmon (Heb., primordial Man). A kabbalistic notion, summarizing, in mystical terms, the divine symbolism of the human body. Isaac Luria described Adam Kadmon as the most perfect manifestation of God that the human mind can contemplate, and his followers contrasted Adam Kadmon with Satan, ‘adam beliyyaʾal’ (the evil man). Later still Adam Kadmon was identified with the messiah, and Shabbetai Zevi was regarded as an incarnation of Adam Kadmon by his disciples.

Adam Kadmon

views updated Jun 08 2018

Adam Kadmon

A Tree of Life in the Kabala in the form of an idealized spiritual being.


Halevi, Z'ev ben Shimon. Adam and the Kabbalistic Tree. London: Rider, 1974.