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Adam Kadmon: Primordial Man

The symbol of Primordial Man, the first being to emerge with the creation of the cosmos is common to a number of religious and philosophical traditions. The Upanishads describe a primal man composed of the very elements which were to become the world. According to the Upanishads this "gigantic divine being" is both infinitely far and deposited near the innermost recesses of the human heart. Indeed, in the Hindu tradition, the Primordial Man is identified both with the entire Universe and the soul or essence of all things.

Interestingly, a similar image is found in Plutarch who relates that the entirety of the heavens is arranged in the form of a macroanthropos, a colossal human being who is conceived as a model for the human world. For Plutarch, the sun is at the heart of this being and the moon, the sunıs androgynous messenger, is located in between the heart and belly.

The Primordial Man is also an important symbol in Gnosticism. The Gnostics inferred from the verse in Genesis "Let us make man in our own image" that the first earthly man was created on the model of a cosmic Adam on high. In the Nag Hammadi text, the Apocryphon of John, we learn that this anthropos is the first creation of "knowledge and Perfect Intellect" and the first luminary of the heavens. This Anthropos becomes the heavenly model through which the demiurge forges an earthly Adam. Other Gnostic sources relate how the "archons" (conceived of as female demigods corresponding to each of the seven planets) formed an earthly Adam to fulfill their sexual desire for the heavenly anthropos who was beyond their spiritual reach. Amongst the Mandeans (a Gnostic sect that today survives in Iraq) the primordial Adam is coextensive with the cosmos, his body is the body of the world, and his soul the soul of all souls. In an image which would later reappear in the Kabbalah, the Gnostics held that individual human beings are descended from the cosmic anthropos as a result of the fragmentation of the Primordial Man.

In the Kabbalah, the Primordial Man is spoken of as Adam Kadmon, and, in the Lurianic Kabbalah this symbol becomes a pivotal notion linking God, Man, and the World. Adam Kadmon, as the first being to emerge from the infinite Godhead, Ein-sof, is essentially indistinguishable from the deity, yet at the same time his body is said to both emanate and constitute the world. Man, having been created in Godıs image, is said by the Kabbalists to be comprised of the very same cosmic elements, the sefirot, which comprise the "body" of Adam Kadmon. The symbol of Adam Kadmon expresses the idea that the cosmos itself has both a soul and body very much like that of man, and that the world too is garbed in the interest, value and Eros which is normally thought to be the exclusive province of humankind.

In the Lurianic Kabbalah, Adam Kadmon is the first being to spontaneously emerge in the metaphysical void, which was formed in the center of the cosmos after the Tzimtzum. The Sefirot and worlds which they comprise are, according to Luria and his disciple, Vital, emanated from the various orifices in Adam Kadmonıs head: from the ear, the nose, eyes, and mouth. The highest, most sublime of these emanations, forms the world of Atziluth, from the Hebrew "etzel", meaning "near" (to the infinite God). However, even higher than Atziluth, according to the Lurianists, is the World of Adam Kadmon itself, often abbreviated as the World of AıK, a world so high and sublime as to be virtually indistinguishable from Ein-sof. From within this realm, so close to the infinite God, Adam Kadmon directs the subsequent course of events in the lower worlds.

Adam Kadmon, from his abode in the highest world, is instrumental not only in the emanation of the Sefirot, but also in their reconstruction and repair. Lights, this time from the forehead of Adam Kadmon, bathe the broken vessels and actually occasion their initial reconstruction into Partzufim. As such, according to Luria, the Primordial Man is instrumental not only for the worldıs creation, but for its redemption as well. Still it is the province of actual men and women to assure the worldıs Tikkun The symbol of Primordial Man and Adam Kadmon is discussed in detail Chapter 4 of Symbols of the Kabbalah, and in relationship to similar notions in Indian Philosophy, Gnosticism and Carl Jung in Chapters 3, 5 and 8 of Kabbalistic Metaphors. The Lurianic Kabbalah is treated in detail in Sanford Drob's Symbols of the Kabbalah and Kabbalistic Metaphors .

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All material on New Kabbalah website (c) Sanford L. Drob, 2001.

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