The Nature of Sophia

This is an important question for it brings to mind all the issues regarding religion and gender. The simple answer is that the Lord of Wisdom, being beyond humanity, is androgynous, or probably more correctly, beyond gender. Though the male image is used in the Bible there is no strict gender imperative in relation to who God is. The

Old testament is comprised of re-Gnostic fact, its views on God are times talks about the Lord of Wis-weh and it is difficult to tell one advice on God it not that useful first. We can appreciate that terms of creative activity there Male, but this can only rightly raphy, not reality. When of sex, can return to the sex bias is non-existent of the most unique tradi-of the Holy Spirit is the dess of Wisdom. This is a beauty that personifies the

ligious iconography and legends not twisted beyond recognition and it some-dom, sometimes about the Archon Yali-account from another. Accordingly its without some Gnostic understanding since The Lord of Wisdom was seen in is a general personification of him as be interpreted as imagery and iconog-we consider humans, regardless Pleroma, then we realise that in the Gnostic tradition. One tions in regards to the nature tradition of Sophia, the God-tradition of great age and some power of the Holy Spirit as distinctly female. For example, in Proverbs particularly we have Sophia wandering the street begging men to love her. While in the following quotes we may even begin to think that Sophia or Wisdom is separate, yet in reality, Sophia is a facet of the Lord of Wisdom himself.

Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him. Proverbs 1:20-33, 8:22,27-30.

Sophia, hence, should not be understood as a distinct deity. We need to understand Sophia in context and see Sophia as a strong personification of the impersonal power of the Lord of Wisdom. As the Logos is male and creative in activity, Sophia is passive and feminine. In some traditions, specifically found within the Russian Orthodox traditions (and many pagan faiths), Sophia's symbolism is even further developed, these images are relevant for the Gnostic and can certainly offer a deeper and more mystical understanding of the nature of the Holy Spirit if understood within the context of the Gnostic view of the Godhood, by themselves they are reduced to the more malefic forms of earth and goddess worship.

This great being, both royal and feminine, who being neither God nor the Eternal Son of God, neither angel nor saint, receives the veneration of the One who accomplishes the Old Testament, as well of the One who is the begetter of the New Testament; who is she, then, but the truest humanity, the purest and most whole of beings, the macrocosmic whole, the living soul of nature and of the universe eternally united and uniting in the process of time with the divine and uniting all that is. The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, Pavel Florensky.

The importance of Sophia can be best understood when we understand the primal myth behind her nature. Throughout many cultures there has been the legend of the Goddess who is stolen from the world of life and is taken to the underworld. There she is kept captive pinning for her lover who is still in the other world. She waits and pines until at last some salvation is achieved by her hero coming into the underworld to save her. However, this salvation is at a cost and together they end in a battle against the underworld until the completion of the tale. Though there are many modifications of this tale, it is the story of the spark of God within man. Mans true self is caught in the coils of earth and is lost in the consciousness of matter. The nature of the spirit-spark within man is that of being a seed, God in potential. In Hebrew it is called the Ruach and interestingly, one definition offered of the Ruach is Sophia. So, here we have an Israelite version of the classic tale. The spirit of God in man is a spark, a seed of Light, it is caught in matter and crying out for Salvation. The Logos embodied in Jesus answers the call and through great suffering offers salvation. But it is not that simple, for while Sophia still lives in the world system, she can only travel to the upperworld by day and must return to the underworld by night or so the legend goes.

So man, on the Path of Transfiguration, though being reborn through the powers of the Lord of Wisdom must live in the world, but try not to be of it. Sophia hence offers us some fascinating insights into the nature of God. She is the Daughter of The Lord of Wisdom and yet is the Lord himself, the Spouse and Lover of the Logos and the Spirit within Man. She is reflected in the light hidden in nature, the Ecclesia, the Gnostic Scripture and Man, and illustrates the presence of light in all things.

In each of these things Sophia manifests the Lord of Wisdom. In the material world Sophia is the presence of God in nature. Even after the fall of man, nature still exhibits the divine spark, though its lustre has been sorely diminished. Nature is fallen and degenerated, granted, but it fell according to the archetypal pattern of spirit on which it was moulded. In the Church Sophia is the Bride of Christ embodied in the Ecclesia, in the Scriptures Sophia is Wisdom and in man she is the very essence which changes him from mortal to immortal, she is the Holy Ghost.

Therefore Sophia is twofold, at once divine and creaturely - above and before creation and in creation In the world, Sophia is actualised - as the earth's Eros for heaven, all creation longing for liberation from the bondage of corruption for the radiance of Sophianic light, for beauty and transfiguration.

Sophia - The Wisdom of God. Sergei Bulgakov, Lindisfarne Press, 1993.

The concept of Sophia is alien to many western Gnostics and yet when we clearly study the Bible in the light of the Gnosis, we find she is an integral part of divinity. When we consider how often the concept of Sophia is linked to the concept of Wisdom, we can achieve a deeper understanding of the power and beauty of the Pleroma.

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