Glossary entry for
Ancient of Days

Ancient of Days The image shown here is "The Ancient of Days", by William Blake. Downloadable versions of this painting can be found at the William Blake home page (30Kb) and a larger, far more colour-rich version at the WebMuseum, Paris (150Kb).

"When the Blessed Holy One is aroused to delight Himself with the righteous, the Face of the Ancient of Days shines into the face of the Impatient One. Its Forehead is revealed and shines to this forehead. Then it is called 'a time of favor' (Psalms 69:14). Whenever Judgment looms and the forehead of the Impatient One is revealed, the Forehead of the Ancient of Ancients is revealed; Judgment subsides and is not executed."
Idra Rabba, Zohar 3:136b

The term Ancient of Days originates in the Old Testment Book by the Prophet Daniel (7:9, 13, 22):

7:9 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.

7:13-14 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.

7:21-22 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the Saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.

And it is from here that the Diety representing the first person of the Holy Trinity is derived. But it is clear that the most powerful effect of this particular Name of God stems from the Jewish mystical Kaballah, a document that stems from 13th century Spain.

The Kaballah, whose name approximately signifies "tradition" and derives from the semetic root KBL which means "to receive", is a significant document in that it successfully brought together traditional Jewish thought (by being an esoteric commentary on the book of Genesis), Gnosticism, and Neoplatonism. Though it is tradtionally held that the main book, the Zohar (or Book of Splendors) was written by Moses de Leon of Spain, mystical tradtion holds that this was based on an earlier Arabic Kaballah that was written by the mysterious group know as the Brethren of Sincerity (Ikhwan El Safa). It was this same Brethren that wrote the 52 volume encyclopedia of all known knowledge (of the time) in 960 AD.

In the Kaballah there is mention of the Ancient of Ancients, also interpreted as En Sof or the unmanifested God. The Ancient of Days is the maifestation of the Ancient of Ancients in space and time. The Kaballah goes into great detail describing the White Head of God and ultimately the emanation of it's personality or attributes. The tradition holds that originally there were eight attributes or sephirah, but this was later changed to ten because the knowledge of the eight true attributes was deemed too powerful for general consumption. As a result almost all systems of Magick derived from the Kaballah (of which the Golden Dawn, Rosicrucians, and Freemason are but a few) are based on this faulty information.

The ten sephirah are organized as a hirarchy, with the second tier deriving it's power from the first; the third from the second, and so on. Like a waterfall. The descriptions of the sephirah are as follows:

  1. Kether (Crown), also called the Old One, the Ancient of Days (from Daniel 7:9), the White head, or the Long Face.
  2. Hochmah (Wisdom) was also known as Aba (Father) and was the masculine outgrowth of the Ancient One.
  3. Binah (Understanding or Intelligence), the highest feminine emanation in the order of sephirot, also known as Ima (Mother).
  4. Hesed (Kindness) is also called Gedulah (Greatness) and is masculine.
  5. Geburah (Power) is also called Din (Justice) and is feminine.
  6. Tipheret (Glory or Beauty) is both masculine and feminine because it is a combination of Hesed and Geburah.
  7. Netzah (Firmness, Might, Victory) is masculine.
  8. Hod (Splendor) is feminine.
  9. Yesod (Foundation) combines Netzah and Hod.
  10. Malkut (Kingdom) has no special attributes but is a kind of funnel through which the qualities of the upper nine sephirot are transmitted to the physical world. It is therefore also called Shechinah, the Spirit of God.

The physical world, as we experience it, is for this reason called Malkut.

"When the desire arose in the Will of the White Head to manifest Its Glory, It arrayed, prepared, and generated from the Blinding Flash one spark, radiating in 370 directions. The spark stood still. A pure aura emerged whirling and breathed upon the spark. The spark congealed and one hard skull emerged, emanating to four sides. Surrounded by this pure aura, the spark was contained and absorbed. Completely absorbed, you think? No, secreted within. That is how this skull emanated to its sides. This aura is the secret of secrets of the Ancient of Days. Through the breath hidden in this skull fire emanated on one side, and air on the other, with the pure aura standing over this side and pure fire over the other. What is a fire doing here? It is not fire, but the spark surrounded by the pure aura illuminates 270 worlds, and from its side, Judgment comes into being. That is why this skull is called the Hard Skull."

Contributed by Frank LoPinto

Ozro W. Childs notes

One assumes Van went to church as a lad, where he may or may not have been exposed to Blake (and almost certainly learned nothing of the Kabbalah). But he sang -- he must have sung --

"O Worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing, his pow'r and his love,
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise!"

It's a fine hymn with a good tune.

Van references in:

Part of the unofficial website