Just who is the mysterious and much talked about Italian television personality and conspiracy theorist Adam Kadmon, who always appears on TV with a mask to hide his identity?
Is he an imaginative Italian investigative journalist? The descendant, as he claims to be, of an ancient family endowed with mystical powers, stemming from seven androids created thousands of years ago by an extraterrestrial geneticist in ancient Sumeria? A former peace activist — as he also claims — who was attacked and put out of commission in 1986 by a secret group of mobsters called “the Illuminati,” only to resurface again, in 2009, as a popular media figure?
It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, as the guessing goes on, so does a weekly show on Italia 1 television in which Adam Kadmon, which means “primordial man” in the Hebrew of the Kabbalah, unravels such “mysteries” as the abdication of Pope Benedict, the death of Hugo Chávez and the secret life of Michael Jackson, and tilts with the Illuminati, who are still out to get him.
Despite his Hebrew name, there’s no need to suspect that he’s Jewish, because the kabbalistic figure of Adam Kadmon has had literary currency outside the Jewish world for a century or more; this goes back at least as far as the late 19th-century vogue for Theosophy, a movement that drew eclectically on a wide range of mystical sources.
In her 1892 Theosophical Glossary, the famed “Madame Blavatsky,” who was living in New York at the time, has an entry for Adam Kadmon that reads in part, “Archetypical man; Humanity; the ‘’Heavenly Man’ not fallen into sin….” Readers of James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novel “Ulysses,” which was published in 1914, may remember Joyce’s character Stephen Dedalus imagining Earth’s first woman and thinking, “Spouse and helpmate of Adam Kadmon: Heva, naked Eve.”
Joyce (who must have picked up the term from some theosophical tract) should have, of course, written “Hava,” not “Heva,” and he was confusing the kabbalistic adam kadmon with the biblical Adam of the book of Genesis, known in Hebrew as adam ha-rishon, “the first Adam.” The kabbalistic “primordial man,” first found in the 16th-century Tikkunei ha-Zohar, is not the physical Adam of Creation; rather, he is a spiritual prototype antedating Creation and containing in himself the soul of every human being to be born.
As the great scholar of Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem, puts it in his “Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism”: “Adam Kadmon is nothing but a first configuration of the divine light which flows from the essence of En-Sof [God conceived of as the infinitely unknowable source of All] into the primeval space of the Tsimtsum [the space created by God to make room for the universe by His own contraction]…. He therefore is the first and highest form in which the divinity begins to manifest itself after the Tsimtsum.”