There is another divine feminine aspect worth throwing into the mix here, and that is Sophia
. No. Not one of the Golden Girls!
She's not the Holy Ghost however. At least not in the minds of the majority of believers. However, Gnostics think of her as such. Interesting, no?
Here's the Wikipedia entry. Sorry I can't get the link to work!
Sophia (Σoφíα, Greek for "wisdom") is a central term in Hellenistic philosophy and religion, Platonism, Gnosticism, Orthodox Christianity, Esoteric Christianity, as well as Christian mysticism. Sophiology is a philosophical concept regarding wisdom, as well as a theological concept regarding the wisdom of God.
In the mystical theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church wisdom is understood as the Divine Logos who became incarnate as Jesus Christ. In the Holy Family, Sophia is often seen as being represented by the Theotokos (Virgin Mary). Sophia is expressed as the Holy Wisdom of God and the saints, obtained through humility, and Mary the Theotokos is the first and greatest of all saints. In Eastern Orthodoxy humility is the highest wisdom and is to be sought more than any other virtue. It is humility that cultivates not only the Holy Wisdom, but humility (in contrast to knowledge) is the defining quality that grants people salvation and entrance into Heaven. The Hagia Sophia or Holy Wisdom church in Constantinople was the religious center of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly a thousand years.
Exterior view of the Hagia Sophia or the Holy Wisdom, 2004.
In the liturgy of the Orthodox Church, the exclamation Sophia! or in English Wisdom! will be proclaimed by the deacon or priest at certain moments, especially before the reading of scripture, to draw the congregation's attention to sacred teaching.
The concept of Sophia has been championed as a key part of the Godhead by some Eastern Orthodox religious thinkers. These included Vladimir Solovyov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Sergei Bulgakov whose book Sophia: The Wisdom of God is in many ways the apotheosis of Sophiology. For Bulgakov, the Sophia is co-existent with the Trinity, operating as the feminine aspect of God in concert with the three masculine principles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Vladimir Lossky rejects Solovyev and Bulgakov's teachings as error. Lossky states that Wisdom as an energy of God (just as love, faith and grace are also energies of God) is not to be ascribed to be the true essence of God, to do so is to deny the apophatic and incomprehesiblity of God as God's essence. This is contrary to the official view of the Orthodox Church, and Bulgakov's work was denounced by the Russian Orthodox authorities as heretical.
Hildegard of Bingen's art depicting Ecclesia and Sophia.
Roman Catholic mysticism
In Roman Catholic mysticism, Hildegard of Bingen celebrated Sophia as a cosmic figure in both her writing and her art.
Virgin Sophia design on a Harmony Society doorway in Harmony, Pennsylvania, carved by Frederick Reichert Rapp in 1809.
Within the Protestant tradition in England, Jane Leade, 17th-century Christian mystic, Universalist, and founder of the Philadelphian Society, wrote copious descriptions of her visions and dialogues with the "Virgin Sophia" who, she said, revealed to her the spiritual workings of the Universe.
Leade was hugely influenced by the theosophical writings of 16th Century German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, who also speaks of the Sophia in works such as The Way to Christ. Jakob Böhme was very influential to a number of Christian mystics and religious leaders, including George Rapp and the Harmony Society.
Sophia can be described as the wisdom of God, and, at times, as a pure virgin spirit which emanates from God. The Sophia is seen as being expressed in all creation and the natural world as well as, for some of the Christian mystics mentioned above, integral to the spiritual well-being of humankind, the church, and the cosmos. The Virgin is seen as outside creation but compassionately interceding on behalf of humanity to alleviate its suffering by illuminating true spiritual seekers with wisdom and the love of God.
The main difference between the concept of Sophia found in most traditional forms of Christian mysticism and the one more aligned with the Gnostic view of Sophia is that to many Christian mystics she is not seen as fallen or in need of redemption. Conversely, she is not as central in most forms of established Christianity as she is in Gnosticism, but to some Christian mystics the Sophia is a very important concept.
An interfaith spiritual community currently has its center at what it calls Sancta Sophia Seminary located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
A mystical depiction of Sophia from Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, Altona, 1785.
A feminine figure, analogous to the human soul but also simultaneously one of the Feminine aspects of God and the Bride of Christ, she is considered to have fallen from grace in some way, in so doing creating or helping to create the material world.
In Gnostic tradition, the term Sophia refers to the final and lowest emanation of God. In most if not all versions of the Gnostic religion, Sophia brings about an instability in the Pleroma, in turn bringing about the creation of materiality. Thus a positive or negative view of materiality depends a great deal on the interpretations of Sophia's actions in the myths. She is occasionally referred to by the Hebrew equivalent of Achamoth (this is a feature of Ptolemy's version of the Valentinian Gnostic myth). For the Gnostics, the drama of the redemption of the Sophia through Christ or the Logos is the central drama of the universe. The Sophia resides in all of us as the Divine Spark. According to the Pistis Sophia, Christ is sent from the Godhead in order to bring Sophia back into the fullness of Pleroma following her repentance.
Almost all Gnostic systems of the Syrian or Egyptian type taught that the universe began with an original, unknowable God, referred to as the Parent or Bythos, or as the Monad by Monoimus. It can also be equated to the concept of Logos in stoic, esoteric, or theosophical terms (The 'Unknown Root') as well as the Ein Sof of the Kabbalah and Brahman in Hinduism. It is also known as the first Æon by still other traditions. From this initial unitary beginning, the One spontaneously emanated further Æons, being pairs of progressively 'lesser' beings in sequence. The lowest of these pairs were Sophia and Christ. The Æons together made up the Pleroma, or fullness, of God, and thus should not be seen as distinct from the divine, but symbolic abstractions of the divine nature.
In the Nag Hammadi, Sophia is the lowest Æon, or anthropic expression of the emanation of the light of God. She is the syzygy of Jesus Christ (i.e. she forms a unity with Christ, being cojoined with him), and Gnostics believed that she was the Holy Spirit of the Trinity. Sophia is depicted as the creator of the material universe in On the Origin of the World. Furthermore, the planet Earth and everything on it was indeed created by the Old Testament God, but he is depicted as fundamentally corrupt. Because Sophia created the material universe and its god (also known as Yaldabaoth, Samael, and Demiurge) either without her syzygy Jesus Christ or, in another tradition, because she tried to breach the barrier between herself and the unknowable Bythos.
Furthermore, she is also depicted as the destroyer of both this material universe, and Yaldabaoth and all his Heavens. Later in "On the Origin of the World," it states:
She [Sophia] will cast them down into the abyss. They [the Archons] will be obliterated because of their wickedness. For they will come to be like volcanoes and consume one another until they perish at the hand of the prime parent. When he has destroyed them, he will turn against himself and destroy himself until he ceases to exist. And their heavens will fall one upon the next and their forces will be consumed by fire. Their eternal realms, too, will be overturned. And his heaven will fall and break in two. His [...] will fall down upon the [...] support them; they will fall into the abyss, and the abyss will be overturned. The light will [...] the darkness and obliterate it: it will be like something that never was.
The fall of Sophia
Sophia's fear and anguish of losing her life (just as she lost the light of the One) caused confusion and longing to return to it. Because of these longings, matter (Greek: hyle, ‘υλη) and soul (Greek: psyche, ψυχή) accidentally came into existence through the four elements: fire, water, earth, and air. The creation of the lion-faced Demiurge is also a mistake made during this exile, according to some Gnostic sources as a result of Sophia trying to emanate on her own, without her male counterpart. The Demiurge proceeds to create the physical world in which we live, ignorant of Sophia, who nevertheless managed to infuse some spiritual spark or pneuma into the creation of the Demiurge.
After this the savior (Christ) returns and lets her see the light again, bringing her knowledge of the spirit (Greek: pneuma, πνευμα). Christ was then sent to earth in the form of the man Jesus to give men the gnosis needed to rescue themselves from the physical world and return to the spiritual world. Note that, in Gnosticism, the Gospel story of Jesus is itself allegorical: it is the Outer Mystery, used as an introduction to Gnosis, rather than being literally true in a historical context.
In Valentinian cosmology, the three sensations experienced by Sophia create three correspondent types of humans:
* Hylics (who bond to matter, the principle of evil)
* Psychics (who bond to the soul and are partly saved from evil)
* Pneumatics who can return to the Pleroma if they achieve gnosis and can behold the world of light. The Gnostics regarded themselves as members of this group.
The analogy of the fall and recovery of Sophia is echoed (to a varying degree) in many different myths and stories (see Damsel in distress). Among these are:
* The story of Isis told by Plutarch, who while still in the cosmic womb, brings forth the flawed Elder Horus without a consort
* The Christian Gospels: The Church as the bride of Christ
* The abduction and rescue of Helen of Troy, an allegory of special significance to the Gnostic Simon Magus
* Persephone and her descent into Hades, from which she returns to life [but is bound to return to Hades for 3 months every year]
* The story of Eve and the birth of Christ through the Virgin Mary
* The descent of Orpheus into the underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice
* The return of Odysseus to his kingdom, Ithaca, to reclaim his wife, Penelope
* The rescue of Andromeda by Perseus
* The story of Pandora
* The stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty
* The slaying of the Dragon by St. George to rescue the Princess
* The rescue of the kidnapped Sita by her husband, the god-king Rama, with the help of Hanuman in the Ramayana
Note that many of these myths have alternative psychological interpretations. For example Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz interpreted fairly tales like Sleeping Beauty as symbolizing the 'rescue' or reintegration of the anima, the more 'feminine' part of a man's uconscious, but not wisdom or sophia per se.
Be the love you seek.
Last edited by Daniel; 09-05-2009 at 11:20 PM.
Reason: correction & edit