Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Myth of Sophia

Sophia as Divine Wisdom and Cosmic Woman

            The Gnostic myth of Sophia is about the fall of Wisdom into matter, her suffering and her redemption, and then the ultimate redemption of all her children.  This is another story about the passion of matter.  We ultimately must become the consciousness of the Earth.  The story of Sophia is the story of humanity’s struggle to evolve human consciousness.  

Sophia, one of the first-born of the primal parents, Depth and Silence, is confused by longing and love for her Divine Parent, and falls into the abyss.  Alone and comfortless, Sophia experiences every sort of psychic experience imaginable – passion, sorrow, fear, despair and ignorance.  These experiences flow out of her and create not only the four elements of earth, air, fire and water, but also the Beings who end up creating and controlling our world.  Looking at the flawed and troubled world created by her own ignorant offspring, Sophia is filled with pity for creation and resolves to assist it in any way she can.  Thus she becomes the spirit of the world, the Anima Mundi, watching over it like a mother.  Feminine wisdom, entrapped in the material world, must be rescued by the Masculine principle.  Yet when her consort, Christ, comes into the world to rescue her and bring her back to the heavenly realms, Sophia finds that she cannot totally abandon this troubled world.  And so she splits herself in half, part of her going to the fullness of heaven and the other part staying in touch with this lower world to aid in its redemption.4

Through her compassion and wisdom, Sophia bestows light to her children, like the Bodhisattva, Kwan Yin, whose name, Avalokitesvara, means “one who looks down from on high.”   The Gnostics believed that there was not only a man of light (Jesus) but also a woman of light (Mary Magdalene) who were co-redeemers or partners in the work of salvation.   Sophia is the very image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun, for the archetypal woman brings salvation to men and to the world, just as Christ does.
            Down through the ages, mystics have mediated on Lady Wisdom.   Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), a German mystic, practiced a form of theosophy, a natural knowledge of God.  His meditations and visions led him to understand the workings of nature.  And of Sophia.  He believed that Sophia is a mirror of God's will, the visibility of God.    Boehme believed that Sophia represents the creative faculty, summoning the uncreated into creation, through the power of desire and imagination.  Wisdom provides the form, while God provides the matter from his eternal nature. 
            Jane Leade (1623-1704) was a member of a group called the Philadephians.  She had visions of Sophia and held that Sophia gave you the ability to enter into 'one's own Native country and original Virginity.'  Meaning, you become your true self.   She recommended that in meditation, you 'Draw into thy Centre-deep . . .thy Heavens within . . . because the Virgin . . .there will first appear . . .Dive into your own Celestiality, and see with what manner of spirits you are endued; for in them the Powers do entirely lie for transformation.' 5 Richard Roach, the Philadelphians' historian, talked about the correspondence between the female soul and the spirit of Sophia.  The Philadelphians believed this Virgin wisdom is within women and will one day animate women with her graces and gifts.  In other words, they believed that more and more women would incarnate this Heavenly Woman and spiritual power.
            Then there was Mother Ann Lee, the founder and spiritual mother of the Shaker movement of Quakerism.  She believed that the second coming was within each individual.  Many of her followers believed she was associated with the Woman Clothed with the Sun, and her role was the first born of many sisters and the true Mother of all living in the new creation.

“the Almighty is manifested as proceeding from everlasting as the first source of power, and the fountain of all good, the Creator of all good beings, and is the ETERNAL FATHER: and the Holy spirit of Wisdom, who was the Co-Worker with Him, from everlasting, is the ETERNAL MOTHER, the bearing Spirit of all the works of God.

As God had sent his only begotten Son, so too, “God, the Eternal father and mother, sent forth into the world their beloved Daughter . . the mother-spouse in Christ, the express image and likeness of her Eternal Mother.6

            Throughout the centuries, Sophia has lived in the hearts of Wise Women.  Though we’ve often ignored and reviled her during the height of the patriarchy, she has stayed with us.  Remnants of her story are found in the Cinderella (Ella=Light) fairy tales we tell our children.  She is the light in nature, the wisdom of creation.  And her daughters are awakening and remembering her once more.

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