Salt Lake Gnosis

Ancient of Days
Fellow Travellers


Literary critic Harold Bloom, a self-professed gnostic, finds a kindred spirit in Joseph Smith:

"One sees why Smith was fascinated by Enoch, and actually identified himself with that extraordinary being. In his own final phase, Smith evidently studied Kabbalah, and came to understand that as the resurrected Enoch his ultimate transformation would be into the angel Metatron, the 'lesser Yahweh,' who is also the angel Michael and resurrected Adam. . .Joseph Smith thus brings together (whether he knew it or not) the three great esoteric traditions of Christian Gnosticism, Sufism, and Kabbalah." (Harold Bloom, Omens of Millenium, p. 80).

Some of Joseph Smith's later ideas are familiar to students of the Kabbalah, including the pre-existence of the human soul, the idea that God shares a bodily form with humanity, the promise of a career path with promotion elevating human beings to angelhood and beyond, and the premise of many worlds. The Kabbalah is a medieval renaissance of gnosticism. Early Christian authors like Tertullian, Irenaeus and Hippolytus fought tooth and nail against the gnostics, because their profuse and elaborate mythology simply cannot be reconciled with such bedrock Christian convictions as monotheism and God's goodness. Let's trace the history of one Kabbalistic idea, that primal Adam is the 'Ancient of Days' of Daniel's vision, into the train-wreck that became the 'Adam-God' doctrine, which has by now been largely abandoned by the Latter-day Saints. Joseph himself taught that Adam was the 'Ancient of Days:'

  • “And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days;. . .”
  • (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 27:11).

Although the 'Adam-God' equation was fundamental to the religion of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, in time it came to be unpopular:

"Heresy six: There are those who believe or say they believe that Adam is our father and our god, that he is the father of our spirits and our bodies, and that he is the one we worship.

"The devil keeps this heresy alive as a means of obtaining converts to cultism. . . Those who are so ensnared reject the living prophet and close their ears to the apostles of their day. 'We will follow those who went before,' they say. And having so determined, they soon are ready to enter polygamous relationships that destroy their souls." (Bruce R. McConkie, The Seven Deadly Heresies, June 1, 1980, BYU Fireside).

But what, after all, did 'those who went before' understand by this doctrine? And where did they get it from?

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation

Ancient of Days

So it is to Joseph, and none other, that we owe this identification of Adam as the "Ancient of Days." Who is the Ancient of Days? That title occurs in one book of the Bible, the Old Testament book of Daniel, who saw the "Son of Man" receive a kingdom from the "Ancient of Days:"

  • “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. . .I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
  • (Daniel 7:9-14).

From whence comes the identification of this figure with Adam? From the Kabbalah:

  • “Ancient of Days — Atique Yomin — Zohar term

    “The Ancient of Days, as it is described in Zoharic literature, is the garment for the sacred Primordial Adam. This is the cosmic adjustment/alignment of infinite light vis-a-vis the Primordial Adam. The act of clothing the upper body of Primordial Adam is the adjustment itself. This first covering (enclothing/protection, as it were) is through this state of the Ancient of Days. There are two major cosmic adjustments tikkunim. One tikkun is the protecting of Primordial Adam; this happens when the Ancient of Days bedecks and covers Primordial Adam. The second tikkun is when all entitities/archetypes/partzufim manifest and become the adornments of the Great Face — the Macro Face (Mavo Shearim, Shaar Gimmel 1:1).”
  • (Kabbalah of Creation: The Mysticism of Isaac Luria, Founder of Modern Kabbalah, by Eliahu Klein, Hayyim ben Joseph Vital, Isaac ben Solomon Luria, p. 219).

Thus we learn that the Ancient of Days is the primordial or original Adam, or more precisely the wrapper that he comes in, as of a garment of light. How does this fit in with the New Testament evidence? This of course is a question that would not have occurred to the Kabbalists, who were not Christians. But in the New Testament we learn that Jesus Christ is the Son of Man of Daniel's vision. He so identifies Himself, including not only Daniel's title 'Son of Man,' but also another element of the vision, the clouds:

  • “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
  • (Matthew 24:30).

  • “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
  • (Matthew 26:64)

  • “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”
  • (Mark 13:26).

  • “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
  • (Mark 14:62).

  • “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
  • (Luke 21:27).

Even some of the rabbis understood that the Son of Man in Daniel's vision was the Messiah: "Till thrones were placed and one that was ancient did sit. Why were these necessary?. . .Now, that is satisfactory for all [the other verses], but how explain Till thrones were placed? — One [throne] was for Himself and one for David. Even as it has been taught: One was for Himself and one for David: this is R. Akiba's view. R. Jose protested to him: Akiba, how long will thou profane the Shechinah? Rather, one [throne] for justice, and the other for mercy. Did he accept [this answer] from him or not? Come and hear!" (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 38b). So if Jesus the Messiah is the Son of Man, then who is the 'Ancient of Days' who gives Him the Kingdom? Well, who gives the Kingdom to the Messiah?:

  • “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”
  • (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22).

  • “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
  • (Luke 22:29-30).

  • “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
  • (Psalm 2:6-8).

Thus we learn that it is God the Father who gave the Kingdom to the Messiah, Jesus. The reader of the book of Revelation will have seen Jesus Christ, the image of God, appearing to John in similar fashion: "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters." (Revelation 1:14-15). The chariot wheels were seen also by Ezekiel: "Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel." (Ezekiel 1:15-16). So the very appearance of the 'Ancient of Days' is not what the Bible-reader is conditioned to expect from a creature, from the man of clay. Add to this that He gives the Kingdom to the Son and the identification is clear.

Do you see the train-wreck coming? Joseph, a 'prophet,' identified Daniel's 'Ancient of Days' with the primordial Adam, in accordance with the Kabbalah. This identification was repeated by his successors:

"Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all,

"And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God." (Doctrine and Covenants 138:38-39).

It is repeated by them to this day. But the New Testament identifies Daniel's 'Ancient of Days,' with very little room for controversy, as God the Father. What happens when you put these two 'revelations' together?:

  • “The question has been, and is often, asked, who it was that begat the Son of the Virgin Mary. The infidel world have concluded that if what the Apostles wrote about his father and mother be true, and the present marriage discipline acknowledged by Christendom be correct then Christians must believe that God is the father of an illegitimate son, in the person of Jesus Christ! The infidel fraternity teach that to their disciples. I will tell you how it is. Our Father in Heaven begat all the spirits that ever were, or ever will be, upon this earth; and they were born spirits in the eternal world. Then the Lord by His power and wisdom organized the mortal tabernacle of man. We were made first spiritual, and afterwards temporal.

  • “Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken—HE is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later. They came here, organized the raw material, and arranged in their order the herbs of the field, the trees, the apple, the peach, the plum, the pear, and every other fruit that is desirable and good for man; the seed was brought from another sphere, and planted in this earth. The thistle, the thorn, the brier, and the obnoxious weed did not appear until after the earth was cursed. When Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, their bodies became mortal from its effects, and therefore their offspring were mortal. When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when he took a tabernacle, it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father, and so on in succession. I could tell you much more about this; but were I to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be nothing to it, in the estimation of the superstitious and over-righteous of mankind. However, I have told you the truth as far as i have gone. I have heard men preach upon the divinity of Christ, and exhaust all the wisdom they possessed. All Scripturalists, and approved theologians who were considered exemplary for piety and education, have undertaken to expound on this subject, in every age of the Christian era; and after they have done all, they are obliged to conclude by exclaiming "great is the mystery of godliness," and tell nothing.

  • “It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented in the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

  • “Again, they will try to tell how the divinity of Jesus is joined to his humanity, and exhaust all their mental faculties, and wind up with this profound language, as describing the soul of man, "it is an immaterial substance!" What a learned idea! Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven.”
  • (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 1, Page 50-51).

The two locomotives, the Kabbalah and the New Testament, both come barrelling down the same track, and they meet at just about the point Brigham Young is standing. The hierarchy of the Latter-day Saints, more concerned with respectability than fidelity to Joseph's vision, once they discovered how badly the Christian world reacted against the idea of old Adam, the original sinner, as God the Father, dropped it, just as they have done with Joseph's other revelations, such as polygamy, that have proven unpopular. Not only does the idea of Adam as the 'Ancient of Days' not fit into the New Testament paradigm, it doesn't fit well with Joseph's other 'revelations,' for instance:

  • “And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;
  • “And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;
  • “And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.”
  • (Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants, 29:36-38).

How is that going to work out: that the devil was "before Adam," yet Adam is God the Father, the Ancient of Days? The devil, in Mormon mythology, is a sibling of Jesus and indeed of us all, our 'spirit brother,' one of the numerous spirit-children resulting from the union between Heavenly Father and Mother. We are left with God the Father descending into flesh, somehow in the descent losing or forgetting His deity and paternity, and so far losing His way as to be tricked by His own offspring, in a manner uncomfortably reminiscent of Hesiod's Theogony. The intent of both doctrines, the Kabbalistic original and Joseph's copy, seems to be the same: to elevate man and to demote God. While it is certainly true that man was created in the image of God, what gets lost in this doctrine is that man was created in the image of God, he is not his own Creator:

"Somewhere behind this, and now untraceable, there was an earlier Jewish Gnosis, perhaps largely an oral tradition, that was to flourish more than a thousand years later in medieval Provencal and Spanish Kabbalah. This ultimate vision of Adam, preserved later in Hermetic and Christian heterodox texts, has been called the doctrine of the God-Man, the primeval Anthropos. Sometimes this God-Adam was seen as identical with the highest God himself, so that the earthly Adam appeared as a copy or reflection of this original." (Harold Bloom, Omens of Millenium, p. 161).

What has been lost here is the sense that, "Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." (Psalm 100:3). The man of clay who was fashioned in the image is not "identical with the highest God himself," because he is the creature, not the Creator. Moreover such image as we bear has grown clouded and occluded owing to sin. That the image can be lost in this way is partly how we know it is not, and never was, physical conformation. As we are born again and refashioned into the same image in which we were originally created, we change inwardly, not outwardly: "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Corinthians 15:49). When Harold Bloom asks, "Was God originally anything more than the Adam Kadmon?" (Harold Bloom, Omens of Millenium, p. 205), what Christian can fail to answer 'Yes!'— because the intention here is not good, the intention is to elevate man and drag God downward. The usage of these terms starts with scripture, but takes a wrong turn at a certain point, at which it is prudent to bail out.


Even the Mormons cannot possibly want to wander in the Garden of Eden, lost with a God who has forgotten who He is. And yet they have not discarded the identification of Adam as the 'Ancient of Days;' they have merely suspended the laws of logic for as long a time as necessary to avoid the consequent identification of Adam as God the Father. Brigham Young, to his credit, was trying to make sense of the 'revelations' he had inherited from Joseph, but this simply cannot be done. In the King Follett Discourse, Joseph had revealed that God the Father had once been a mere man; what likelier candidate than old Adam, who had been plainly identified by Joseph as the 'Ancient of Days,' a divine title, understood as such by the Kabbalists? Like Joseph, the Kabbalists were not impressed by the barrier between God and man. Indeed they were not over-awed by God Himself, diminishing Him at every turn. Had these self-infatuated men taken the Bible to heart, rather than gazing rapt at their own marvellous selves, they would have fallen down on their faces and worshipped. So all Brigham Young did was connect the dots. But better not, better put your crayon away. For if you put these pieces together, if you assemble the machine according to instructions, it blows up.

There is a robust analogy between Joseph Smith and Mohammed ibn Abdallah, first suggested by Joseph himself, and later taken up by some of his early critics. Both men claimed to be restorationists; both collected a harem; both threatened violence against their opponents. One other point of similarity is that both men labored over a work product that could most accurately be described as a pastiche: a composite work made up of bits and pieces from here and there, not necessarily fitting together. For example, Mohammed ibn Abdallah borrowed from the Christian Docetists the idea that Jesus did not really die upon the cross. Because he gave no clear instructions to his followers on how this is to be understood, they favor various theories: Judas Iscariot was substituted, or maybe Simon of Cyrene, or maybe they crucified a phantom. The first people who told the story had a good reason for it: they were so fully convinced of the deity of Jesus Christ that they could not conceive of Him bleeding and dying on a cross. But Mohammed ibn Abdallah did not think that Jesus was God at all, he thought Him a mere prophet. So why is that story in the Koran? Perhaps because Mohammed believed, against the Bible, that prophets of God should never suffer reverses. Or perhaps it is there not to advance any particular agenda, but simply because he heard the story and put everything he heard into the Koran. The story has outlived its rationale, it has survived the heretics who first composed it: it is there for no reason, basically.

In a similar vein, did Joseph Smith fully understand that in buying into the Kabbalah he was embracing gnosticism with all its dark blasphemies? Did he really want to do that, or did he hear from his Kabbalistic informants that Adam was the Ancient of Days, and so just tossed that out there without a thought in the world for where it led? Was he a prophet like Mohammed ibn Abdallah who tossed everything into the hopper, or did he actually know what he was doing? In either case, his modern-day followers plainly do not consider him a prophet at all, because they will not follow where he leads. Brigham Young claimed to have learned this doctrine from Joseph himself. While some of the breakaway polygamous sects still believe in Adam-God, the Salt Lake City leadership has shoved him aside, along with his erring prophet.

The Kabbalah

Joseph Smith God's Sex Life
Glorified Man Primal Man
Measure of the Body Bad Theology
Reincarnation Metatron
Sparks Adam-God
God the Sinner Tsaddik
Pot, Kettle In Practice

Fellow Travellers

Joseph Smith was not the last or only Kabbalist. Though none precisely reproduced his eclectic mix, other students of this dark science upheld one element or another. Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, an eclectic pagan who wrote in the latter part of the nineteenth century, is on board with the general concept of promotion to deity, though not exactly in the Mormon manner:

"Who is bold enough to say that the divine Egos of our mankind — at least the elect out of the multitudes passing on to other spheres — will not become in their turn the 'divine' instructors of a new mankind generated by them on a new globe, called to life and activity by the disembodied 'principles' of our Earth?" (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 33267, SD p. 309).

Margaret Barker is a contemporary author who is popular with those Mormons who retain their loyalty to the old school. She has pioneered a field of study called 'Temple Theology' which purports to show that the authentic worship of ancient Israel, during the first temple period, was polytheistic and devoted in part to a mother goddess.

She identifies the Kabbalists as like-minded practitioners of her 'Temple Theology:' "Beneath the sefiroth of the mediaeval Kabbalists we glimpse the ancient powers of Yahweh, complete with their Eden and temple setting." (Margaret Barker, The Great Angel, p. 93). This is true only insofar as paganism is a constant, rolling along like Old Man River, accompanying faithful Israel on its pilgrimage; compromise with paganism always will show a family resemblance to itself. Want a goddess of wisdom? That's Athena, who sprung fully armed from Zeus' brow! And so there is always an echo. She is aware of the Kabbalists' 'Adam-God' teaching: "Further, the manifestation was in human form; the symbolism depicts the God of the sefiroth as primordial Man, and the great Name Yahweh was shown by Gematria to be the same as Adam." (Margaret Barker, The Great Angel, p. 93).:

Fellow Travelers
How Many Gods?
Divine Kings
Lost Book
Julius Wellhausen
The Lady
Philo Judaeus
Only Begotten
Great Angel
Not Left Orphans
Authentic Islam