Kheper Home | Kabbalah | Topics Index | New | Search

Adam Kadmon - The Divine Names

Adam Kadmon

As well as the Tzimtzum, Luria introduced into the Kabbalistic cosmology an extra world, "Adam Kadmon" or "Primordial Man" (comparable to the Anthropos of Gnosticism and Manichaeism) above the world of Atzilut.  Adam Kadmon generally signifies the manifest attributes of the transcendent Godhead or En Sof; although paradoxically it is also the first finite world.  (Such inconsistancies as this one are common among esoteric teachers ­ and indicates either that they did not succeed in fully integrating their transcendent cosmic gnosis into a coherent system of understanding, or that their teachings were distorted by their followers later on).

This is the higher revealed Godhead; a part of Manifest Absolute that is still closely tied to the En Sof and like it unknowable.  Yet although unknowable it is still described in Lurianic literature (at least that which has been published) in excessive and generally obscure anthropomorphic detail.  It differs from En Sof in that it is already differentiated into Tetragrammatons or Divine Names, the original archetypes of creation.

This Highest World, Adam Kadmon, is made up of the Divine Name ­ YHVH ("Yahweh") which serves as the archetype for all the other worlds and sefirot:

Yod  Hokmah             Male    Atzilut  Divine
He   Binah              Female  Beriah   Archangelic
Yod  next seven Sefirot Male    Yetzirah Angelic
He   Malkhut            Female  Assiah   Material

In the Lurianic system, each of the Adam Kadmonic Worlds are characterised by Divine Names; more  specifically variants on the name Yod­He­Vau­He (or YHVH), which is considered in Judaism to be the Name of God.  This four­lettered name is called the  "Tetragrammaton" (Latin: "Four Letters") by occultists, who used it at great length as a means of protection in their magical rituals, and as a symbol of correspondences in their philosophies.

As might be expected, the Kabbalists went into great detail elaborating upon the permutations and variant spellings of this, and other Divine Names, in a fashion strongly reminiscent of the mantras or seed syllables and sounds of Hindu and Buddhist Tantra.  In Tantra, mantras are not only Sanskrit letters, but also the essential archetypal principles or original Vibrations behind all manifest existence.  A central aspect of Tantra is the intoning of these mantras, through which consciousness is elevated to the state of existence the mantra represents.   Both the influential but controversial prophetic Spanish Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia (1240­after 1280) and Isaac Luria taught meditations on the letters of Divine Names, which they called Yichudim ("Unities") because they involved uniting various aspects of the Divine Name, and by doing so uniting  the self with God.

The Tetragrammaton is thought by Jews to represent the very essence of the Godhead.  To identify the World of Adam Kadmon with the Tetragrammaton therefore is like saying that it represents or expresses the essence of the Godhead.  We could say it represents the original seed­vibration, the first mantric expression, of the Absolute.  The following summarises the Tetragrammatonic correspondences in tabular form:

As part of Adam Kadmon there emanted various Divine Worlds, which Luria described Anthropomorphically as the Worlds of Seeing, Hearing, Smell, and Speech.

This curious anthropomorphisation is due to Luria's reliance on the Zohar, a massive and impossibly obscure and symbolic work that has, by dint of its very obscurity, become the "Bible" of Kabbalah.

These worlds formed the basis of the subsequent partzufim of the world of Atzilut

Adam Kadmonic  Tetragrammatons   Corresponding
Worlds         (Divine Names)    Sefirot and Partzuf
Seeing (72)   YOD HEH VYV HY    Hokhmah ­ Abba
Hearing (63)  YOD HY VAV HY     Binah   ­ Imma
Smell (45)    YOD HA VAV HA     Tifaret ­ Ze'er
Speech (52)   YOD HH VAV HH     Malkhut ­ Nukvah
Some comments on the meaning of the Divine Name YHVH
Adam Kadmon - parallel concepts
Sri Aurobindo
suggested reality:
The Manifest Absolute

Lurianic Kabbalah

back to Kabbalah main page

page history

page uploaded 12 November 1998