TWO ASPECTS OF MAN
the Kabbalists see it, there are two
basic aspects of man. We can either view him as Adam, or Ben Adam,
Hebrew means “the son of man.” Another term we could use when
human being is “Ish”. There are more possibilities, but we will stay
with these two, while later we will look into Adam’s androgyneity and
possible implications. The reason for this is that Adam
best describe the two different conditions or states of the mind a
might find itself in, while living predominantly either in the world
the world above. By “world below” I don’t mean an infernal world, or
underworld, but Malkhut, or the world (kingdom) of the Earth, the world
living in, where and from which we were born, and where we stay until
comes for us to depart from it. The name Ben Adam means the son of man,
also “the son of the Earth,” because in Hebrew “Adamah”
means the Earth,
the land. Ben Adam or Adam Kadmon, stands as an intermediary between
and the Earth. The other man, named Ish, is the spiritual man. The
the word is in “esh,” which means fire.
mythology, fire is
always associated with the spirit, with energy, transmission and
energy. The Greek mythological bird Phoenix, for instance, has
a life span of one thousand years. When that comes near its end the
phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs, which it then ignites.
nest and bird then burn and are reduced to ashes, from which a new,
Phoenix (or sometimes a Phoenix egg) arises, to live another thousand
The Phoenix legend has its parallels in the Egyptian mythology and the Bennu
bird, which also created itself from a fire that was burned on a holy
outside the Temple of the sun god Ra, or in some versions burst forth
heart of Osiris. Similar to the Egyptian Bennu bird is also the Persian
or the Russian Zhar-Ptitza, or the Firebird.
The latter is
particularly well known,
inspired Igor Stravinsky to composing probably the most famous (and at
controversial) ballet music of the 20th century.
this connection I will also mention Pták
Ohnivák (also firebird) from
Czech folklore, which like those
above is also an object of a difficult quest, most of which involve the
egg in some way or another. The analogy of the magical bird’s egg and
Cosmic Egg, now more fashionably called the “Big Bang,” the source of
should be plain enough.
the Divine or spiritual man, is the man animated by the breath of
In the Old Testament (Genesis 1:27) it is first
God created humankind in his image,
in the image
of God he created them;
female he created them.
2:7 we find is an elaboration on the
the Lord God formed man
from the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of
life; and the man became a
dual aspect of man is thus nicely explained to us here:
man is formed from the dust of the ground. This is Adam, the man made
the earth, the man of the earth, the physical man, an androgynous being.
God breathes into the man’s nostrils. This was the breath of God, the
fire, the breath that made the man become Ish, the
spiritual man. Before
this he was only Adam, now he became the living
soul, endowed with the
breath of God.
is the very origin of the legends about the Golem, an artificial man.
“golem” means something imperfect, incomplete. There are several such
from various parts of the world, and similar themes can be found in the
Egyptian or Mesopotamian lore. The best-known legend is probably the
the Golem of Prague. Like Adam, Golem too was made of clay and then
in this case however not by the breath of God but through a formula
“shem”, which contained either the sacred name of God or according to
the word “emet”. His human creator was named Rabbi Lev (or Löw,
reputation a highly scholarly chief rabbi of the Prague Jewish
during the reign of the Emperor Rudolf of Hapsburg, towards the end of
century. The Golem went well about his task, which was protecting the
community from the “pogroms” lead by the Christian marauders, until his
made a very human error. For the duration of the Sabbath the Golem was
put to rest, some say by having the word "emet"
changed to “met” by erasing the first letter aleph from the creature's
forehead. “Emet” means truth or reality in Hebrew, while “met” means
On one occasion the rabbi forgot to change the spell, which caused the
to go berserk, breaking furniture and killing domestic animals. Before
turn against humans the rabbi fortunately managed to de-activate him by
the letter aleph. What was left of the Golem was then put to the attic
Old-New Synagogue, where eventually it fell into dust.
Golem legend is here mainly to illustrate how impossible it is for a
do the Creator’s work. God alone could do this and create Adam, who at
beginning was a kind of a golem. God’s breath was needed to complete
and create the spiritual man, in contrast to the physical man. However,
potential conflict between the two was there from the beginning, as we
easily put together from these verses (Genesis
the man knew his wife Eve,
she conceived and bore Cain, saying,
have produced a man with the help of the Lord.’
she bore his brother Abel.
Abel was a keeper of sheep,
Cain a tiller of the ground.
of the brothers makes his living through keeping sheep, a sedative,
contemplative form of engagement, while the other works as a tiller of
ground, in other words he is compelled to do the heavy manual labour.
idyll, and bound to cause problems sooner rather than later. And
both brothers bring God their offerings, God ‘has regard’ for Abel’s
but no regard for Cain’s offering. Quite naturally, Cain, who
presumably had to
work the butt off to get his, is not at all happy.
Lord said to
Cain, ‘Why are you angry,
why has your countenance fallen?
you do well, will you not be accepted?
if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door;
desire is for you, but you must master it.’ (Genesis 4:6,7)
obviously a test that God has designed for Cain, the test that
is going to fail. When discussing the myths of firebirds and the
cosmic eggs, I said that in mythology these are usually objects of
trial that God sets up for Cain is a most difficult one, the ultimate,
Cain here symbolises the whole of mankind, which unavoidably has to
the clutches of sin that is ‘lurking at the door’. As for passing the
success, countless generations of Cain’s descendants have been
such monumental task, and to a huge majority of them it is still a lost
Meanwhile, one generation after another have become more and more
immersed into the world of matter, while working in response to their
rather than to their needs, has made them ever less and less conscious
spirituality. Symbolically at least, we are all descendants of Cain,
who committed the first mortal sin on Earth (his mother Eve committed
original sin while she and Adam were still in Paradise, so technically
out of it), and ever since then we have not only been suffering the
consequences, but also pilling up more and more sinful deeds, thus
task ever more difficult for ourselves. It is not unlike falling into
constantly borrowing more money from the bank, while only managing to
interest. The role of Kabbalah is to help us get into the black and
there, by making us more aware of our spirituality.
Hegedus: Kain and Abel
COSMOGONY OF KABBALAH
stands in the middle, halfway between the Heaven and the Earth, and he
develop between these two very different worlds. Therefore he has to
liaison between his worldly aspect and his Divine aspect. Study of the
can help him reach the state where he can form some sort of
between the two.
be able to
understand the basic concepts of the Kabbalah we will need a road map.
the Kabbalah uses a certain cosmogony to explain how the world was
problem we have when we want to talk about the Creator is that we
no way of understanding him. Or her. Or it? We tend to anthropomorphise
because this is for us the only way to form some sort of image, some
understanding, even though from this point on it is always going to be
hopeless task. That should not stop us from trying, though. Because of
would like to make an agreement with the reader about some of the terms
would be using. Thus when I write “God” or “Creator”, I mean the one
creative force. I don’t mean a wise senior male sitting on a cloud
by angelic choirs. However, if this is how you imagine the Creator I
even think about trying to talk you out of it. I don’t mean a “big
either, but if such an image suits you, so be it. The Big Bang theory
around from about the middle of the 20th
century, and it has provided a good shelter to
those who do not agree with the idea of a Creator. Or who cannot afford
seen as such. Nevertheless, the whole of Kabbalah is about this: If
was a bang, how has it come about? Who or what caused it; it couldn’t
happened by itself. Also, whatever it was that went bang, had to be
at least some gas or similar, to at all be able to go bang! Where did
“something” come from? Do I hear somebody saying it was always here? Well, what does “always”
mean? What was
before it? And so on…
Kabbalah’s underlaying position is that “something” or “someone” was
the beginning. What happened at the beginning and why did it happen we
speculate; it is completely beyond the boundaries of human
people, those with natural leanings towards metaphysics, might have
imagination, but this cannot be taken for granted. Therefore, some
anthropomorphic expressions here and there would be hard to avoid,
propose missing out on clouds with angels, the pearl gate, etc.
are two aspects of the Creator. There is the transcendental God, who as
we are concerned forever remains behind a thick veil, completely beyond
our perception, or our understanding. William Blake’s painting of the
taking the measure of the future world is a stunning piece of art,
only have come out of the mind of a true visionary! The transcendental
thus far was hiding behind a wall of impenetrable mist, has at some
reasons completely unknown to us, decided to express himself.
only way he could do this is to withdraw from his omnipotence,
all the other ‘omnis’ that we might heap upon his bearded head, and
sort of vacuum, by constricting himself. This is called Tzim-Tzum,
very difficult concept to explain. To understand at least some of it we
first accept that God transcends space, that he does not occupy space,
his presence fills the entire space, which is of course
only to make things even more difficult for us to grasp. In the
course, I use this term only for lack on any other that would be
the God created the Universe. The moment the Creator emerges from
veil he becomes manifested, but there follows the whole process by
Kabbalists demonstrate how he involutes (as opposed to evolves) from
spirituality, pure Divinity, into materiality. This system or glyph is
the Sephirotic Tree.
TO: ACT OF CREATION