Sophia

Icon of Sophia from St George Church in Vologda- 16th century. US public domiain via wikimedia
Icon of Sophia from St George Church in Vologda- 16th century. US public domiain via wikimedia

Sophia (Greek Σοφíα), means ‘wisdom.’ [1]  Sophia is the Goddess of Wisdom.  As Goddess of Wisdom, Sophia is a guiding archetype in the transformations of consciousness. What follows is a description of the image by Engelina Smirnova:

“An angel in royal attire with a red face and red wings is in a round halo in the center as a symbol of Divine Wisdom, Sophia, and Logos. Right above is Jesus Christ in an aureole. The overlapping of the aureole and the angel’s halo may serve as a reminder of the Incarnation. Higher up, the angels are unfolding the fabric of Heaven with the stars and the Throne of God in the center. The three images placed along the vertical axis of the icon may allude to the three hypostases of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Mother of God is to the left of the central image. Jesus Christ Incarnate is represented on Her bosom, thus stressing Her importance to the overall theological concept of the icon. Saint John the Forerunner stands on the right with his words about the advent of Christ inscribed on the scroll: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! John 1:29.”

The story of Sophia speaks of the fall from infinite divine light, as well as the path of enlightenment, as a return to the divine. Through the Wisdom of Sophia, God is realized as the light within us. Acts of Thomas says:

Jesus said: If they say to you: Whence have you come?, say to them: We have come from the light, the place where the light came into being of itself. It [established itself], and it revealed itself in their image. If they say to you: Who are you?, say: We are his sons, and we are the elect of the living Father. If they ask you: What is the sign of your Father in you?, say to them: It is movement and rest.

According to the in Kabbalah, in the beginning was Ein Sof. Ein Sof may be translated as “no end”, “unending”, “there is no end”, or infinity.[2] Ein Sof is the infinite light of God.

Some say that the first action of creation was the Tzimtzum Constriction. Tzimtzum means “contraction/constriction/condensation”. God contracted his Ein Sof, his infinite light, creating a “conceptual space” for the finite. [3]

In this creation story, Sophia is the word of God, bringing forth the emanation of creation. Ecclesiasticus 24:1-9 says:

“Wisdom shall praise herself, and shall glory in the midst of her people.
In the congregation of the most High shall she open her mouth, and triumph before his power.
I came out of the mouth of the most High, and covered the earth as a cloud.
I dwelt in high places, and my throne is in a cloudy pillar.
I alone compassed the circuit of heaven, and walked in the bottom of the deep.
In the waves of the sea and in all the earth, and in every people and nation, I got a possession.
With all these I sought rest: and in whose inheritance shall I abide?
So the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and he that made me caused my tabernacle to rest, and said, Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thine inheritance in Israel.
He created me from the beginning before the world, and I shall never fail.”

Thus in the beginning of creation, we have the divine couple, as divine mother and father. The Gospel of the Holy Twelve says:

“Therefore shall the name of the Father and the Mother be equally hallowed, for They are the great Powers of God, and the one is not without the other, in the One God.”

According to one story, the Mother Sophia gives birth to a daughter as an image of herself, also named Sophia. The daughter Sophia loses contact with her heavenly origin and wanders in the darkness. A curtain exists between the light and dark, so little Sophia can not make it home to her cosmic realm of light. Thus, she is bound to wander in the labyrinth of darkness. Little Sophia is the yearning of the human soul. [Cashford & Baring, 4]

“Sometimes she mourned and grieved,
for she was left alone in the darkness and void;
Sometimes she reached a thought of the light which had left her,
And she was cheered and laughed;
Sometimes she feared;
At other times she was perplexed and astonished!”[5]

Mother Sophia hears her daughter’s calls and sends her son, Christ. Christ is the embodiment of light and wisdom. He is sent to awaken little Sophia from her slumber, to reveal her true nature to her.

In other stories, Christ and Sohia form a union, as Syzygy. The Acts of Thomas, tells of the “sacred marriage of the Sophia with her Bridegroom the Christ”:

“In this marriage the cosmic Sophia was received back into the Light-world, and united with her. Its meaning, heavenly spouse. This was to take place at the Great Consummation; but, mystically, it was ever taking place for those who united themselves with their Higher Selves.” [6]

In another story, Sophia’s longs and mourns, bringing matter into existence. With existence arrives the Demiurge, also known as Yaldabaoth, ‘Son of Chaos’ [2]. The demiurge shapes matter, and traps human beings within his creation:

“Matter was shaped into the cosmos or world we know by a demiurge—a lower creator god brought into being as a result of the fall. This demiurge was ignorant or hostile to the spiritual realms… and created the world and the human beings in an attempt to dominate them.” [Smith]

Sophia as wisdom offers her spiritual light to those dominated by the demiurge. Sophia shows us that each of us has within us a spark of divine light. We can transcend the material world and the influence of the demiurge through re-connecting our light with the infinite light.

What follows is the Od to Sophia from the Acts of Thomas,

“Come Thou Holy Name of Christ, Name above all names; come Power from above; come Perfect Mercy; come highest gift!

Thou Mother of compassion, come; come Spouse of Him, the Man; come Thou Revealer of the mysteries concealed; Thou Mother of the seven mansions come, who in the eighth hath found Thy rest!

Come Thou who art more ancient far than the five holy Limbs–Mind, Thought, Reflection, Thinking, Reasoning; commune with those of later birth!

Come Holy Spirit, purge Thou their reins and heart!” [6]

References:

  1. Contextualizing Some Byzantine and Russian Images of the Mother of God and Saints from the British Museum. 08.13.2015. By Engelina Smirnova.
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Wikipedia
  4. The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image [Jules Cashford, Anne Baring]
  5. Gnosticism by Robert Grant, p.171 in Cashford
  6. Fragments Of A Faith Forgotten (Extended Annotated Edition) By G. R. S. Mead
  7. A Dictionary of Gnosticism By Andrew Phillip Smith