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In Kabbalistic and Hasidic philosophy, seder hishtalshelus or hishtalshelut (Hebrew: סדר השתלשלות‎) refers to the chain-like descent of spiritual worlds (Olam/Olamot) between God and Creation. Each spiritual world denotes a complete realm of existence, resulting from its general proximity or distance to Divine revelation. Each realm is also a form of consciousness reflected in this world through the psychology of the soul.

The theosophical tradition in Kabbalah is concerned with defining in great detail the esoteric nature, particular divine manifestations, and functional role of each level between the infinite and the finite. Each spiritual realm embodies a creative stage God continually uses to go from his self to the creation of the physical world, the material Universe being the end of the chain, and the only physical realm. Hasidic thought applies the Kabbalistic scheme to its own concern of perceiving divine omnipresence in this material world. In this, Hasidism varies in its use of Kabbalah, Mainstream-Hasidism avoiding Kabbalistic focus, while Chabad thought explains seder hishtalshelus in relation to man's psychology. In contrast to the functional aim of Kabbalah, this contemplates seder hishtalshelus as a vehicle for relating to the divine unity with creation.[1][2]

The term Seder Hishtalshelus is sometimes used restrictively to refer to the actually emergent Created Order (the comprehensive Four Worlds). More broadly, all preceding levels are included, as their function underlies resulting Existence. This page lists and links to all the main spiritual levels described in Lurianic Kabbalah, the scheme of Isaac Luria (1534–1572), the basis of modern Jewish mysticism. Its listing incorporated, expanded and explained earlier Medieval/Classical Kabbalah. After Luria, esoteric Kabbalists broadened explanation within the Lurianic listing. The supra-rational doctrines of Luria described Chokhmah-Wisdom levels of Divinity (Tzimtzum, Shevira) that preceded the "rationally" perceived Binah-Understanding levels of Medieval Kabbalah and Moshe Cordovero.[3] In turn, the Habad Hasidic exploration described Keter-Will levels of Divine intention that preceded Creation.[4][5]

Etymology

Seder hishtalshelus (Hebrew: סדר השתלשלות‎) means the "order of development" or "order of evolution", where the word Hishtalshelus (or Hishtalshelut) is derived from the reduplicated quadriliteral root ŠLŠL "to chain", and so literally means "the chain-like process".[citation needed]

The Upper Unity

Ohr Ein Sof

Preparatory stages in the Ohr Ein Sof ("God's Infinite Light") before the beginning of the creative process. The Ohr Ein Sof is a paradoxical form of divine self-revelation. These are above any world/limitation. Kabbalah considered the functional question whether the Ein Sof represents God's divine essence or God as First Cause. Chabad intellectual Hasidic thought explores Atzmut (divine essence) in the purpose of Creation. Ten stages of God’s Infinite Light in Kabbalistic terminology before the beginning of Creation:[6]

  • Atzmut ("God's Absolute simple Essence" above the limitations of infinitude/finitude, able to be expressed in the divine "desire" for finite mitzvot[7])[8]
  • Yachid ("The Single One")[9]
  • Echad ("The One")[10]
  • Sha'ashuim Atzmi'im ("The Delights of Self")[11]
  • Aliyat Haratzon ("The 'ascent' of God’s will" to create the world)[12]
  • Ana Emloch (The Primordial 'Thought' of “I Shall Rule”, God’s Primordial Will to be 'King')[13]
  • Ein Sof ("No End" - classic term for the Unknowable God in Kabbalah, God as Infinite lifesource continuously sustaining all Creation into Existence, above Being/Non-Being, reciprocally Becoming through the totality of Creation by the divine souls of Man[14])[15]
  • Kadmon ("Primordial One")[16]
  • Avir Kadmon ("Primordial Atmosphere")[17]
  • Adam Kadma'ah Stima'ah ("Concealed Primordial Man", God's will for Creation before the Tzimtzum)[18]

Tzimtzum

Metaphorical diagram of the Kav thin line of light descending from the Ohr Ein Sof into the Khalal vacuum to emanate the concealed 10 sephirot in Adam Kadmon

Three stages of the Sod HaTzimtzum ("Secret of Contraction") taught in the new doctrines of Lurianic Kabbalah. These received differing interpretations after Luria, from the literal (more mythological) to the metaphorical (more philosophical). In this dynamic myth, the first act in Creation was Divine Self-Withdrawal, the opposite of Creative revelation. Tzimtum is a paradox as Creation depends on God also being present in the vacuum and resulting existence:

  • Tzimtzum ("Contraction") "Self-Withdrawal/removal" of God's Infinite Light to create the Khalal ("Vacuum")[19]
  • Reshimu ("Impression") Light left behind in the vacuum, the Residue[20]
  • Kav ("Line/Ray") New Divine light radiated into the primordial darkness/vacuum[21]

Adam Kadmon

Adam Kadmon ("Primordial Man"), an anthropomorphic term, is the revelation of the specific Divine Will for Creation after the Tzimtzum. Its paradoxical nature is expressed as both Adam (creation) and Kadmon ("primary" divinity). As the level of Keter ("Crown") divine will, it is pure light, with no vessels, bounded by its future potential to create vessels. It is sometimes counted as the first of the Five Worlds, but its supreme transcendence is prior to the emergence of the sephirot and Shevirat Hakeilim ("Shattering of their Vessels"):

  • Ratzon Kadum ("Original Desire")
  • Adam Kadmon ("Primordial Man")[22]
  • Orot Ozen-Chotem-Peh (Five "lights from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and forehead" of Adam Kadmon)[23]

Akudim, Nekudim, Berudim

Jacob tending Laban's flocks in Genesis 30 using sympathetic magic,[24] the esoteric source in Kabbalah for the worlds of Akudim Ringed, Nekudim Spotted, Berudim Flecked
The 8 Kings of Edom before any King of Israel in Genesis 36[25] are esoteric symbols in Kabbalah for Shevirat HaKeilim primordial 8 sephirot that broke

Three Worlds of "lights" and "vessels" resulting from the interacting lights that emanated from Adam Kadmon, in the Lurianic Kabbalah. Each embodies different stages in the emergence of the 10 sephirot ("Divine Attributes"). Their progression corresponds to the archetypal realms of Tohu and Tikun ("Chaos and Rectification") described in the new doctrines of Luria. Tohu causes Shevirat HaKeilim ("Shattering of the sephirot Vessels"), the catastrophic exile in Creation:

  • Akudim ("Binding//Ringed") 10 lights in one vessel - Stable Tohu ("Chaos")[26]
  • Nekudim ("Points/Spotted") 10 isolated lights in 10 vessels - Unstable Tohu ("Chaos")[27]
  • Berudim ("Connection/Flecked") 10 inter-relating lights in 10 vessels - beginning of Tikun ("Rectification")[28]

Keter of Atzilut

Diagram of the Partzufim countenances, Reishin heads, and Dikna beard Divine aspects configurations in Atziluth

The World of Atzilut ("Emanation") is the first of the comprehensive Four Worlds (ABiY"A) of our Created Order, which are collectively the realm of Tikun ("Rectification") of the Shattered Vessels from Tohu. Atzilut completes the Upper rectification, which began in Berudim, through the sephirot transforming into Partzufim ("Divine Countenances"). Partzufim harmonise the sephirot in the scheme of Yosher ("Upright") full interacting configurations in the form of Man. Rectification of Atzilut begins with rectification of its Keter ("Crown") Will. Eight rectification stages in Keter D'Atzilut ("The Crown of Emanation"):[29]

Atzilut

General Worlds
in Kabbalah
Shiviti on vellumTetragrammaton.jpg
  1. Atziluth
  2. Beri'ah
  3. Yetzirah
  4. Assiah

Rectification of Olam Ha'Atzilut (the "World of Emanation"), first of the Four Worlds, is completed with ten stages of Partzufim (Divine "Countenances") after Keter. Each of the 6 Primary and 12 Secondary Partzufim correspond to the 10 Sephirot arranging around one of their number. Interaction of the Partzufim rectifies Atzilut eternally, completing Upper rectification. Redemption of the fallen sparks by Man rectifies the time-connected three lower Worlds Below. Atzilut is separated from the three independent lower Worlds by its exclusive consciousness of Divine Unity, without self-awareness. The infinite insight of Chokhmah (Divine Wisdom) predominates, beyond intellectual grasp. Creation from Nothing is seen from the view of Ayin (Nothingness), realising its own non-existence in Bitul ha-Atzmis (Nullificat

The theosophical tradition in Kabbalah is concerned with defining in great detail the esoteric nature, particular divine manifestations, and functional role of each level between the infinite and the finite. Each spiritual realm embodies a creative stage God continually uses to go from his self to the creation of the physical world, the material Universe being the end of the chain, and the only physical realm. Hasidic thought applies the Kabbalistic scheme to its own concern of perceiving divine omnipresence in this material world. In this, Hasidism varies in its use of Kabbalah, Mainstream-Hasidism avoiding Kabbalistic focus, while Chabad thought explains seder hishtalshelus in relation to man's psychology. In contrast to the functional aim of Kabbalah, this contemplates seder hishtalshelus as a vehicle for relating to the divine unity with creation.[1][2]

The term Seder Hishtalshelus is sometimes used restrictively to refer to the actually emergent Created Order (the comprehensive Four Worlds). More broadly, all preceding levels are included, as their function underlies resulting Existence. This page lists and links to all the main spiritual levels described in Lurianic Kabbalah, the scheme of Isaac Luria (1534–1572), the basis of modern Jewish mysticism. Its listing incorporated, expanded and explained earlier Medieval/Classical Kabbalah. After Luria, esoteric Kabbalists broadened explanation within the Lurianic listing. The supra-rational doctrines of Luria described Chokhmah-Wisdom levels of Divinity (Tzimtzum, Shevira) that preceded the "rationally" perceived Binah-Understanding levels of Medieval Kabbalah and Moshe Cordovero.[3] In turn, the Habad Hasidic exploration described Keter-Will levels of Divine intention that preceded Creation.[4][5]

Seder hishtalshelus (Hebrew: סדר השתלשלות‎) means the "order of development" or "order of evolution", where the word Hishtalshelus (or Hishtalshelut) is derived from the reduplicated quadriliteral root ŠLŠL "to chain", and so literally means "the chain-like process".[citation needed]

The Upper Unity

Ohr Ein Sof

Preparatory stages in the Ohr Ein Sof ("God's Infinite Light") before the beginning of the creative process. The Ohr Ein Sof is a paradoxical form of divine self-revelation. These are above any world/limitation. Kabbalah considered the functional question whether the Ein Sof represents God's divine essence or God as First Cause. Chabad intellectual Hasidic thought explores Atzmut (divine essence) in the purpose of Creation. Ten stages of God’s Infinite Light in Kabbalistic terminology before the beginning of Creation:[6]

  • Atzmut ("God's Absolute simple Essence" above the limitations of infinitude/finitude, able to be expressed in the divine "desire" for finite mitzvot[7])[8]
  • Yachid ("The Single One")[9]
  • Echad ("The One")[10]
  • Sha'ashuim Atzmi'im ("The Delights of Self")[11]
  • Aliyat Haratzon ("The 'ascent' of God’s will" to create the world)[12]
  • Ana Emloch (The Primordial 'Thought' of “I Shall Rule”, God’s Primordial Will to be 'King')[13]
  • Ein Sof ("No End" - classic term for the Unknowable God in Kabbalah, God as Infinite lifesource continuously sustaining all Creation into Existence, above Being/Non-Being, reciprocally Becoming through the totality of Creation by the divine souls of Man[14])[15]
  • Kadmon ("Primordial One")[16]
  • Avir Kadmon ("Primordial Atmosphere")Preparatory stages in the Ohr Ein Sof ("God's Infinite Light") before the beginning of the creative process. The Ohr Ein Sof is a paradoxical form of divine self-revelation. These are above any world/limitation. Kabbalah considered the functional question whether the Ein Sof represents God's divine essence or God as First Cause. Chabad intellectual Hasidic thought explores Atzmut (divine essence) in the purpose of Creation. Ten stages of God’s Infinite Light in Kabbalistic terminology before the beginning of Creation:[6]

    • Atzmut ("God's Absolute simple Essence" above the limitations of infinitude/finitude, able to be expressed in the divine "desire" for finite mitzvot[7])[8]
    • Yachid ("The Single One")[9]
    • Echad ("The One")Lurianic Kabbalah. These received differing interpretations after Luria, from the literal (more mythological) to the metaphorical (more philosophical). In this dynamic myth, the first act in Creation was Divine Self-Withdrawal, the opposite of Creative revelation. Tzimtum is a paradox as Creation depends on God also being present in the vacuum and resulting existence:

      • Tzimtzum ("Contraction") "Self-Withdrawal/removal" of God's Infinite Light to create the Khalal ("Vacuum")[19]
      • Reshimu ("Impression") Light left behind in the vacuum, the Residue[20]
      • Kav ("Line/Ray") New Divine light radiated into the primordial darkness/vacuum[21]

      Adam Kadmon

      Adam Kadmon ("Primordial Man"), an anthropomorphic term, is the revelation of the specific Divine Will for Creation after the Tzimtzum. Its paradoxical nature is expressed as both Adam (creation) and Kadmon ("primary" divinity). As the level of Keter ("Crown") divine will, it is pure light, with no vessels, bounded by its future potential to create vessels. It is sometimes counted as the first of the Five Worlds, but its supreme transcendence is prior to the emergence of the sephirot and Shevirat Hakeilim ("Shattering of their Vessels"):

      • Ratzon Kadum ("Original Desire")
      • Adam Kadmon ("Primordial Man")[22]
      • Orot Ozen-Chotem-Peh (Five "lights from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and forehead" of Adam Kadmon)[23]

      Akudim, Nekudim, Berudim