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Adam Kadmon (אָדָם קַדְמוֹן, "Primordial Man"; also called Adam Elyon אָדָם עֶלִיוֹן or Adam Ila'ah אָדָם עִילָּאָה, "Supreme Man"; abbreviated as א"ק, A"K), in Kabbalah, is the first spiritual World that came into being after the contraction of God's infinite light. Adam Kadmon is not the same as the physical Adam Ha-Rishon.
In Lurianic Kabbalah, the description of Adam Kadmon is anthropomorphic. Nonetheless, Adam Kadmon is divine light without vessels, i.e., pure potential. In the human psyche, Adam Kadmon corresponds to the yechidah, the collective essence of the soul.
In Kabbalah, before creation began, all that existed was God's Infinite Light. The first stage of creation began when God contracted His Infinite Light to create the vacuum. Then a ray of divine light penetrated the vacuum and the persona of Adam Kadmon was projected into the vacuum. The first stage of Adam Kadmon was in the form of ten concentric circles (igulim), which emanated from the ray. The ray of light was then enclothed by the anthropomorphic form of Adam Kadmon (yosher), which is a realm of infinite divine light without vessels, constrained by its potential to create future Existence. Adam Kadmon is sometimes referred to as Adam Ila'a (Aramaic: "upper man") or Adam Elyon (Hebrew: "upper man").
The soul of Adam HaRishon ("the first man") was the supreme essence of mankind. It contained within it all subsequent souls. In the midrash, he is sometimes referred to as Adam HaKadmoni ("the ancient man"), Adam Tata'a (Aramaic: "lower man") or Adam Tachton (Hebrew: "lower man").
The anthropomorphic name of Adam Kadmon denotes that it contains both the ultimate divine purpose for creation, i.e., mankind, as well as an embodiment of the Sefirot (divine attributes). Adam Kadmon is paradoxically both "Adam" and divine ("Kadmon-Primary").
Adam Kadmon preceded the manifestation of the Four Worlds, Atzilut ("emanation"), Beriah ("creation"), Yetzirah ("formation") and Asiyah ("action"). Whereas each of the Four Worlds is represented by one letter of the divine four-lettered name of God, Adam Kadmon is represented by the transcendental cusp of the first letter Yud.
The two versions of Kabbalistic theosophy, the "medieval/classic/Zoharic" (systemised by Moshe Cordovero) and the more comprehensive Lurianic, describe the process of descending worlds differently. For Cordovero, the sefirot, Adam Kadmon and the Four Worlds evolve sequentially from the Ein Sof (divine infinity). For Luria, creation is a dynamic process of divine exile-rectification enclothement, where Adam Kadmon is preceded by the Tzimtzum (Divine "contraction") and followed by Shevira (the "shattering" of the sefirot).
Closely related to the Philonic doctrine of the heavenly Adam is the Adam Ḳadmon (called also Adam 'Ilaya, the "high man," the "heavenly man") of the Zohar, whose conception of the original man can be deduced from the following passages: "The form of man is the image of everything that is above [in heaven] and below [upon earth]; therefore did the Holy Ancient [God] select it for His own form."
As with Philo the Logos is the original image of man, or the original man, so in the Zohar the heavenly man is the embodiment of all divine manifestations: the ten Sefirot, the original image of man. The heavenly Adam, stepping forth out of the highest original darkness, created the earthly Adam. In other words, the activity of the original essence manifested itself in the creation of man, who at the same time is the image of the heavenly man and of the universe, just as with Plato and Philo the idea of man, as microcosm, embraces the idea of the universe or macrocosm.
The conception of Adam Ḳadmon becomes an important factor in the later Kabbalah of Isaac Luria. Adam Ḳadmon is with him no longer the concentrated manifestation of the Sefirot, but a mediator between the En-Sof ("infinite") and the Sefirot. The En-Sof, according to Luria, is so utterly incomprehensible that the older Kabbalistic doctrine of the manifestation of the En-Sof in the Sefirot must be abandoned. Hence he teaches that only the Adam Ḳadmon, who arose in the way of self-limitation by the En-Sof, can be said to manifest himself in the Sefirot. This theory of Luria is treated by Ḥayyim Vital in "'Eẓ Ḥayyim; Derush 'Agulim we-Yosher" (Treatise on Circles and the Straight Line).
The first to use the expression "original man," or "heavenly man," was Philo, in whose view the γενικός, or οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος, "as being born in the image of God, has no participation in any corruptible or earthlike essence; whereas the earthly man is made of loose material, called a lump of clay." The heavenly man, as the perfect image of the Logos, is neither man nor woman, but an incorporeal intelligence purely an idea; while the earthly man, who was created by God later, is perceptible to the senses and partakes of earthly qualities. Philo is evidently combining philosophy and Midrash, Plato and the rabbis. Setting out from the duplicate Biblical account of Adam, who was formed in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and of the first man, whose body God formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7), he combines with it the Platonic doctrine of ideas; taking the primordial Adam as the idea, and the created man of flesh and blood as the "image." That Philo's philosophic views are grounded on the Midrash, and not vice versa, is evident from his seemingly senseless statement that the "heavenly man," the οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος (who is merely an idea), is "neither man nor woman." This doctrine, however, becomes quite intelligible in view of the following ancient Midrash.
The remarkable contradiction between the two above-quoted passages of Genesis could not escape the attention of the Pharisees, for whom the Bible was a subject of close study. In explaining the various views concerning Eve's creation, they taught that Adam was created as a man-woman (androgynous), explaining זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה (Genesis 1:27) as "male and female" instead of "man and woman," and that the separation of the sexes arose from the subsequent operation upon Adam's body, as related in the Scripture. This explains Philo's statement that the original man was neither man nor woman.
This doctrine concerning the Logos, as also that of man made "in the likeness," though tinged with true Philonic coloring, is also based on the theology of the Pharisees. For in an old Midrash it is remarked:
'Thou hast formed me behind and before' (Psalms 139:5) is to be explained 'before the first and after the last day of Creation.' For it is said, 'And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,' meaning the spirit of the Messiah ["the spirit of Adam" in the parallel passage, Midr. Teh. to cxxxix. 5; both readings are essentially the same], of whom it is said (Isaiah 11:2), 'And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.'
This contains the kernel of Philo's philosophical doctrine of the creation of the original man. He calls him the idea of the earthly Adam, while with the rabbis the spirit (רוח) of Adam not only existed before the creation of the earthly Adam, but was preexistent to the whole of creation. From the preexisting Adam, or Messiah, to the Logos is merely a step.
In Greek philosophy
Around the late first century BC, Arius Didymus wrote in Concerning the Opinions of Plato:
Ideas are certain patterns arranged class by class of the things which are by nature sensible, and that these are the sources of the different sciences and definitions. For besides all individual men there is a certain conception of man ... uncreated and imperishable.
And in the same way as many impressions are made of one seal, and many images of one man, so from each single idea of the objects of sense a multitude of individual natures are formed, from the idea of man all men, and in like manner in the case of all other things in nature.
Also the idea is an eternal essence, cause, and principle, making each thing to be of a character such as its own.
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The above-quoted Midrash is even of greater importance for the understanding of the Pauline Christology, as affording the key to Paul's doctrine of the first and second Adam. The main passage in Pauline Christology is 1 Corinthians 15:45–50. According to this there is a double form of man's existence; for God created a heavenly Adam in the spiritual world and an earthly one of clay for the material world. The earthly Adam came first into view, although created last. The first Adam was of flesh and blood and therefore subject to death—merely "a living soul"; the second Adam was "a life-giving spirit"—a spirit whose body, like the heavenly beings in general, is immaterial.
As a pupil of Gamaliel, Paul simply operates with conceptions familiar to the Palestinian theologians. Messiah, as the Midrash remarks, is, on the one hand, the first Adam, the original man who existed before Creation, his spirit being already present. On the other hand, he is also the second Adam in so far as his bodily appearance followed the Creation, and inasmuch as, according to the flesh, he is of the posterity of Adam.
With Philo the original man is an idea; with Paul He is the pre-existent Logos, incarnate as the man Jesus Christ. With Philo the first man is the original man; Paul identifies the original man with the second Adam. The Christian Apostle evidently drew upon the Judean theology of his day; but it can not be denied that in ancient times this theology was indebted to the Alexandrians for many of its ideas, and probably among them for that of pre-existence. The Midrash thus considered affords a suitable transition to the Gnostic theories of the original man. (Cf. “Original Man” (Nāšā Qaḏmāyā in Aramaic) under Manichaeism#Cosmogony.)
It has been said that the Midrash already speaks of the spirit (πνεῦμα) of the first Adam or of the Messiah without, however, absolutely identifying Adam and Messiah. This identification could only be made by persons who regarded only the spirit of the Scripture (meaning, of course, their conception of it) and not the letter as binding. In such circles originated the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, in which the doctrine of the original man (called also in the Clementine writings "the true prophet") is of prime importance. It is quite certain that this doctrine is of Judæo-Christian origin. The identity of Adam and Jesus seems to have been taught in the original form of the Clementine writings. The Homilies distinctly assert:
If any one do not allow the man fashioned by the hands of God to have the holy spirit of Christ, is he not guilty of the greatest impiety in allowing another, born of an impure stock, to have it? But he would act most piously if he should say that He alone has it who has changed His form and His name from the beginning of the world, and so appeared again and again in the world until, coming to his own times, . . . He shall enjoy rest forever.
The Recognitions also lay stress upon the identity of Adam and Jesus; for in the passage wherein it is mysteriously hinted that Adam was anointed with the eternal oil, the meaning can only be that Adam is the anointed (מָשִׁיחַ). If other passages in the "Recognitions" seem to contradict this identification they only serve to show how vacillating the work is in reference to the doctrine of the original man. This conception is expressed in true Philonic and Platonic fashion in i. 18, where it is declared that the "interna species" (ἰδέα) of man had its existence earlier. The original man of the Clementines is, therefore, simply a product of three elements, namely, Jewish theology, Platonic-Philonic philosophy, and Oriental theosophy; and this fact serves to explain their obscurity of expression on the subject.
Other Christian sects
In close relationship to the Clementine writings stand the Bible translator Symmachus and the Jewish-Christian sect to which he belonged. Victorinus Rhetor states that "The Symmachiani teach Eum—Christum—Adam esse et esse animam generalem." The Jewish-Christian sect of the Elcesaites also taught (about the year 100) that Jesus appeared on earth in changing human forms, and that He will reappear. That by these "changing human forms" are to be understood the appearances of Adam and the patriarchs is pointed out by Epiphanius, according to whom the Jewish-Christian sects of Sampsæans, Ossenes, Nazarene, and Ebionites adopted the doctrine of the Elcesaites that Jesus and Adam are identical.
The "Primal Man" of the Elcesaites, was also, according to the conception of these Jewish Gnostics, of huge dimensions; viz., ninety-six miles in height and ninety-four miles in breadth; being originally androgynous, and then cleft in two, the masculine part becoming the Messiah, and the feminine part the Holy Ghost.
The Primeval Man (Protanthropos, Adam) occupies a prominent place in several Gnostic systems. According to Irenaeus the Aeon Autogenes emits the true and perfect Anthrôpos, also called Adamas; he has a helpmate, "Perfect Knowledge", and receives an irresistible force, so that all things rest in him. Others say there is a blessed and incorruptible and endless light in the power of Bythos; this is the Father of all things who is invoked as the First Man, who, with his Ennoia, emits "the Son of Man", or Euteranthrôpos.
According to Valentinus, Adam was created in the name of Anthrôpos and overawes the demons by the fear of the pre-existent man (tou proontos anthropou). In the Valentinian syzygies and in the Marcosian system we meet in the fourth (originally the third) place Anthrôpos and Ecclesia.
In the Pistis Sophia the Aeon Jeu is called the First Man, he is the overseer of the Light, messenger of the First Precept, and constitutes the forces of the Heimarmene. In the Books of Jeu this "great Man" is the King of the Light-treasure, he is enthroned above all things and is the goal of all souls.
According to the Naassenes, the Protanthropos is the first element; the fundamental being before its differentiation into individuals. "The Son of Man" is the same being after it has been individualized into existing things and thus sunk into matter.
The Gnostic Anthrôpos, therefore, or Adamas, as it is sometimes called, is a cosmogonic element, pure mind as distinct from matter, mind conceived hypostatically as emanating from God and not yet darkened by contact with matter. This mind is considered as the reason of humanity, or humanity itself, as a personified idea, a category without corporeality, the human reason conceived as the World-Soul. The same idea, somewhat modified, occurs in Hermetic literature, especially the Poimandres.
A portion of these Gnostic teachings, or what the church fathers maintain Mani received from Terebinthus, or, "Buddas" during the time of the Apostles, when combined with Persian and old Babylonian mythology, furnished Mani with his particular doctrine of the original man. He even retains the Jewish designations "Adam Kadmon" (= אדם קדמון) and "Nakhash Kadmon" (= נחש קדמון), as may be seen in the Fihrist. But, according to Mani, the original man is fundamentally distinct from the first father of the human race. He is a creation of the King of Light, and is therefore endowed with five elements of the kingdom of light; whereas Adam really owes his existence to the kingdom of darkness, and only escapes belonging altogether to the number of demons through the fact that he bears the likeness of the original man in the elements of light concentered in him. The Gnostic doctrine of the identity of Adam, as the original man, with the Messiah appears in Mani in his teaching of the "Redeeming Christ," who has His abode in the sun and moon, but is identical with the original man. It also appears in this theory that Adam was the first of the sevenfold series of true prophets, comprising Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Zoroaster, Buddha, and Jesus. The stepping-stone from the Gnostic original man to Manichaeism was probably the older Mandaean conception, which may have exercised great influence. Of this conception, however, there remains in the later Mandaean writings little more than the expression "Gabra Ḳadmaya" (Adam Ḳadmon).
In other traditions
Outside of an Abrahamic context, the Cosmic Man is also an archetypical figure that appears in creation myths of a wide variety of cultures. Generally he is described as bestowing life upon all things, and is also frequently the physical basis of the world, such that after death parts of his body became physical parts of the universe. He also represents the oneness of human existence, or the universe.
For instance, in the Purusha sukta of the Rigveda, Purusha (Sanskrit puruṣa, पुरुष "man," or "Cosmic Man") is sacrificed by the devas from the foundation of the world—his mind is the Moon, his eyes are the Sun, and his breath is the wind. He is described as having a thousand heads and a thousand feet.
In popular culture
The true name of Jet from the game Wild Arms 3.
Conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles has endorsed a conspiracy theory claiming that the transgender rights movement is a Zionist plot inspired by the Adam Kadmon doctrine to turn all of humanity androgynous.
- Numbers Rabbah 10:2
- Idra R. 141b.
- Zohar, ii. 70b.
- Zohar, ii. 48.
- Philo, De Allegoriis Legum, I. xii.
- Philo, De Mundi Opificio, i. 46.
- Gen. R. viii.
- Philo, De Confusione Linguarum, xxviii.
- Gen. R. viii. 1.
- Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, xi. 23.
- Hom. iii. 20.
- Recognitions i. 45.
- "Ad Gal." i. 19; Migne, "Patr. Lat." viii. col. 1155.
- Hippolytus, Philosophumena, x. 25.
- Epiphanius, Panarion, xxx. 3.
- Epiphanius, Panarion, xxx. 4, 16, 17; liii. 1.
- Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, I, xxix, 3.
- Irenaeus, I, xxx.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Arendzen, John Peter (1909). "Gnosticism". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- As Kessler, in Herzog's "Realencyclopädie für Protestant. Theologie," 2 ed. ix. 247, has pointed out.
- Kolasta, i. 11.
- Rigveda, 10.90.
Beer, John B. (1969). Blake's Visionary Universe. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 340. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
It is likely, on the other hand, that the name 'Cadmus' reminded Blake of Adam Kadmon, the primitive Man of the Cabbala, and so set him thinking about the curse on Adam and his sons — the curse, that is, that lies upon all men. [...] The resemblance between 'Cadmus' and Adam Kadmon, it may be added, would focus Blake's attention all the more closely on this story of two divine figures who were transformed into harmless serpents [...]
Nesbit, Thomas (2007). "6: The Rosy Crucifixion". Henry Miller and Religion. Studies in major literary authors. New York: Routledge. p. 117. ISBN 9780415956031. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
Twice, [Henry Miller] acknowledges his lineage to "Adam Cadmus," a fusion of Adam and the Greek god Cadmus, who was the grandfather of Dionysus and father to Semele.
- "DRSTR13_AdamQadmon.jpg". SuperMegaMonkey's Marvel Comics Chronology. Archived from the original on 11 January 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
- "TruNews: Zionism Is Using the Transgender Rights Movement to Make All of Humanity Androgynous".
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Adam Kadmon". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.