The highest, or most exalted, of the five worlds is called Adam Kadmon. Adam means "in the likeness of" or "in the image of," from the Hebrew word domeh. Kadmon means "primordial", or "primary", from the Hebrew root kadam. So, Adam Kadmon is the primordial world which is "in the likeness of" the Infinite Light which preceded it and which was concealed in the process of creation. This means that even though Adam Kadmon is a world, meaning that it comes into being through the concealment of the Infinite Light, it is such an elevated plane of reality that it is "in the likeness of" the Infinite Light (which, by nature, "precedes" the world of Adam Kadmon).
Adam Kadmon...mirrors the original Infinite Light...
Thus, although the world of Adam Kadmon is a world, it is a level so sublime, pure and transcendent that that it is almost imperceptible. It cleaves to and mirrors the original Infinite Light.
In Kabbala, the world of Adam Kadmon represents the transcendent will of G‑d. G‑d's desire for the Creation and how it is manifest are planned out in one broad, all-encompassing overview, without separation into specific details. This is called the machshava kedumah, or "primordial thought" of Adam Kadmon. The primordial thought functions as the blueprint for all of Creation.
In the world of Adam Kadmon everything is seen in one broad overview, but the exact details are not yet separated and ordered into the categories of reality. All the details of Creation, from the beginning of space to the end of space and from the beginning of time to the end of time, are all superimposed in this one thought, for, in Adam Kadmon, there is no concept of space and time whatsoever. There is as yet no inside and no outside, no up and no down, no before and no after. There is only a potential for these limitations. Everything is undefined, unified, and simultaneous. Here lies the root and source of all the other planes of reality, which descend from Adam Kadmon.
As the light descends from Adam Kadmon, it breaks up into ten individual qualities...
It is clear that the succeeding levels of Creation, i.e. the series of worlds which descend from Adam Kadmon, particularly the lowest world, cannot possibly exist within the parameters of the existence of Adam Kadmon. Everything in Adam Kadmon is undefined, unified, and simultaneous, superimposed in a single primordial thought, which contradicts the very idea of worlds in the sense that we understand them, as limited being which presupposes separation and division. Subjectively, in terms of our awareness of G‑d, the world of Adam Kadmon parallels the highest source of consciousness in man. It is the awareness of total unity with the Infinite Light.
The first step in bringing about the separation and division necessary for creating the lower worlds, is by "breaking" the unity of the light as it is in Adam Kadmon. As the light descends from Adam Kadmon, it breaks up into ten individual qualities or attributes (sefirot, sefira in the singular), which act as separate independent points of light. Each of these points is an extremely powerful concentration of light as it descends from Adam Kadmon. These are called the sefirot of Tohu, which means "chaos" or "disorder". The world of Tohu is not included in the scheme of the five worlds mentioned previously, by virtue of the fact that it shattered and does not exist as a stable plane of reality.
The Sefirot of Tohu
It will be explained later that sefirot generally constitute the inner structure of each of the worlds, somewhat like the bones give shape and form to the body; however, in Tohu ("chaos" in Hebrew) this is precisely what is absent. The sefirot of Tohu are absolutely independent of each other and form no inter-relationships with each other. Thus there is no order and no structure. Moreover, each sefira in Tohu is the manifestation of only one absolute and quintessential aspect of the light of Adam Kadmon, and therefore it does not interact with the other sefirot, since they have nothing in common.
A consequence of this lack of interaction is that none of the sefirot of Tohu are able to limit the activity and expansion of any of the other sefirot to a level in which all the sefirot can function together. Therefore none of the sefirot can endure the activity of any of the other sefirot. This results in the disintegration, or "shattering" of the sefirot of Tohu.
The separateness brought about by the shattering of Tohu is rectified in Tikun...
Scripture hints at this process in describing the succeeding kings of Edom:
"These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites [representing the rectification of Tohu as will be explained shortly]. Bela son of Beor became king…died and was succeeded as king by Yoav…Yoav died, and he was succeeded as king by Chusham….Chusham died, and he was succeeded…" (Gen. 36:31-39)
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria explains that this refers to the sefirot of Tohu, each of which rules exclusively, and then shatters and "dies".
Nevertheless, the shattering of the sefirot of Tohu is no coincidence, nor does it signify a flaw in the creative process. On the contrary, it serves a very specific and important purpose: to bring about a state of separation or partitioning of the light into distinct qualities and attributes and thus introduce diversity in creation. However, because the ultimate purpose of creation is not to remain in a state of separation and diversity but rather to achieve unity and harmony, the separateness brought about by the shattering of Tohu is rectified in Tikun, meaning "rectification", "restitution", or "reformation". Tikun signifies the syntheses and re-unification of the diversity and fragmentation introduced by the shattering of the vessels of Tohu. The nature and specifics of the rectification that takes place in Tikun will be discussed more fully below.
The next article in the Worlds series: Close to the Light.