In Kabbalah, Adam Kadmon ("primordial man") and Adam HaRishon (the Biblical "first man," Adam) are separate, though inter-related, concepts.
Adam Kadmon (abbreviated as A"K) is a pristine spiritual realm in creation, the first of the comprehensive Five Worlds. It represents Keter ("crown"), the specific divine will for subsequent creation. From Adam Kadmon emerge the following Four Worlds of Atziluth ("emanation"-Chokhmah divine wisdom), Beriah ("creation"-Binah divine understanding), Yetzirah ("formation"-Tiferet divine emotions) and Assiah ("action"-Malkuth divine kingdom). Due to the transcendence of Adam Kadmon, it is sometimes listed apart from the Four Worlds, each represented by a letter of the Tetragrammaton name of God; Adam Kadmon is represented only by the thorn of the first letter Yodh.
The anthropomorphic name of Adam Kadmon denotes that man below is both the ultimate divine purpose for creation, as well as an embodiment of the Sephirot divine attributes. Adam HaRishon before the sin of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis was the supreme essence of contemporary man, his soul including all subsequent souls within it. Adam Kadmon is paradoxically both created ("Adam") and divine ("Kadmon-Primary"), a feature it shares with physical Adam as interpreted in mainstream rabbinic Midrashim. Adam Kadmon is a realm of infinite divine light without vessels, bounded by its future potential to create Existence.
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 sephirot and Five 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 "withdrawal") and followed by the Shevira ("shattering" of the sephirot).
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.
There is a fundamental theosophical statement by Rabbi Akiva in the Talmud relative to this topic. He says, in Abot, iii. 14, "How favored is man, seeing that he was created in the image! as it is said, 'For in the image, אֱלֹהִ֔ים made man'" (Genesis 9:6). That "in the image" does not mean "in the image of God" needs no proof; for in no language can "image" be substituted for "image of God." The verse quoted is not that of Genesis 1:27, wherein the creation of man in the image of God is primarily stated. Genesis 9:6 treats only secondarily of man's creation. In fact Akiba does not speak only of the image (צֶ֣לֶם) according to which man was created, but also of the likeness. בְּצֶ֣לֶם really has no other signification than "after the image." Akiba, who denies any resemblance between God and other beings, teaches that man was created after an image, an archetype or an ideal, and interprets Genesis 9:6, "after an image God created man," an interpretation impossible in Genesis 1:27. In the benediction in Ket. 8a, בצלמו בצלם דמות תבניתו, wherein God is blessed because "He made man in His image [בצלמו], in the image of a form created by Him," the concluding explanatory words state, in Akiba's style, that Adam was created after the image of a God-created type (תבנית).
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.
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, was only of a spiritual nature.
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 Palestinian 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.
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.
The concept of Adam Kadmon might be related to the story of creation mentioned in the Sura 39 in the Quran, where a first stage of creation from One Spirit is mentioned and in the subsequent step man and woman are created from that one spirit. Interestingly this one spirit is referenced as feminine.
he created you from a single spirit, then from it [feminine] he created its spouse. and he sent down to you eight pairs of the cattle. he creates you in your mothers' womb, creation after creation, in three (stages of) darkness. such then is the God, your lord. for him is the kingdom. there is no god except him. how, then, can you turn away? - Quran, 39:6
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 "Insan Kadim" (= אדם קדמון) and "Iblis Kadim" (= 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).
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.
One tradition associates Adam Kadmon or the biblical Adam and the figure of Cadmus in Greek mythology, both associated with dragons/serpents.
Adam Kadmon is the Intelligent Designer of The Abs•Tract: Core Philosophy, the ultimate metaphysical workout program that unites mind and body by critically disciplining them with both separate and unified heuristic exercises. He is the personification of enlightenment and the progenitor of the mystery school of the Inner Circle, where he teaches The MetaPhorce and HipGnosis, among other esoteric knowledge.
The Adam Kadmon (character) is a mysterious writer, an ex warrior and a peace activist since 1986, disclosing very rare theories about the illuminati's conspiracy and talking about the importance of a correct application of the humans values ( wisdom, Truth, Right Conduct, Love, Peace, Non-Violence) to free the world from the evil control of any other criminal organisation.
Adam Kadmon appears prominently in the novel Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić.
A character named Adam Kadmon stars in an Italian television show called Le teorie di Adam Kadmon, broadcast on the Italia 1 channel (part of the Mediaset Network).
Adam Kadmon was an inspiration for Adam, the progenitor of the Angels, in the Japanese anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Adam Kadmon is the name of the main character in the Marilyn Manson album Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). Although the name is never used in any of the songs' lyrics, Adam Kadmon is identified in the CD's booklet. Also, the tracks of the CD are divided into four groups, each group's title is prefaced with a letter from the name "Adam". It is commonly held that Adam is also the central figure of the albums Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals.
Adam Kadmon is also mentioned in The Shamen's song Destination Eschaton.
In "Angel Sanctuary" by Kaori Yuki, Adam Kadamon is the first angel, and the only being capable of using time magic.
Adam Kadmon is the pseudonym of the author of a series of guitar-instruction manuals.
The Silver Jews song "Pet Politics" contains the line "Adam was not the first man 'though the Bible tells us so. There was one created before him, whose name we do not know. He also lived in the garden, but he had no mouth or eyes. One day Adam came to kill him and he died beneath these skies" an oblique reference to Adam Kadmon.
In the role-playing game Wild Arms 3, Adam Kadmon is the true name of the character Jet Enduro.
In Marvel Comics the cosmic being Eternity claimed to be Adam Kadamon.
The name of the 7th-century poet Caedmon may allude to Adam Kadmon.