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The Call of Sophia




  In her coming all good things came to me,
and of her hands riches not to be numbered.
All these I delighted in, since Sophia brings them,
but as yet I did not know She was their mother.
Wisdom 7: 11-12

The Search for Sophia

As the ancient writer of the verse above refers to his ignorance about Sophia, the source of life's blessings, he also expresses the condition of most people in our modern Western world. As a whole, we still do not "know" this powerful figure of the Great Mother as she lives within our Western tradition. However, the Great Mother or Goddess archetype resides within the psyche of all human beings. She is symbolized in many forms and called by many names in diverse cultures throughout human history. She is Isis in Egypt, Ishtar in Babylonia, Inanna in Sumer, Astarte in Canaan, and Kuan-Yin in China. In the Judeo-Christian tradition she is called "Sophia."

The Goddess is calling us today in her myriad forms, asking us to hear her voice of loving wisdom in our dreams and visions and to see her image in all of life around us. The great spiritual task for modern human beings is to once again "know" this Divine Feminine presence within all of creation and within our own souls. This is vitally important for both women and men, because only then can we mediate the healing qualities of the Feminine so as to overcome the divisions which separate us from our true selves, from other human beings, and from the Earth.

I am one among many today who have heard the call of the Goddess. Because I recognized the imprint on my soul of the religious tradition which has shaped my own personal history, I began searching for signs of the Goddess within Christianity. This is where I found Sophia (the Greek word for "Wisdom"). But I also experienced the truth of the words:
  But where shall Sophia be found?…
Man does not know the way…
It is hid from the eyes of all living…
Job 28: 12, 13, 21

For this symbol of the Divine Feminine is certainly hidden within most of Christian tradition. Therefore we must also seek her within our own souls on the path of inner wisdom, inspired by those who have traveled this path before such as the gnostic Valentinus, the Christian mystic Jacob Boehme, and the Russian Sophiologists Vladimir Solovyev and Sergei Bulgakov. We can travel this path with the assurance that Sophia seeks to make her wisdom known to humankind.

 
Does not Sophia call,
Does not understanding raise her voice?
To you, O men, I call,
and my cry is to the sons of men.
Proverbs 8: 1; 4

My own answer to Sophia's call began with inner journeys which used the visionary imagination to contact her and learn of her wisdom. I gained further understanding and clarification of my experiences in meditation with her by reading the works of others who have answered her call. Wisdom grew within me through this process which was both intuitive and rational. Since my own experiences parallel that of many other seekers of Sophia, I offer a description of one of my meditations with Sophia and the insights gained from it. I have found the truth that others who have gone before me on the path have also learned:

 Truly, my heart and soul search for Sophia has not
been for myself alone, but for all seekers of Sophia.
Ecclesiasticus 24: 34

Encounter with Sophia

Using the power of visionary imagination, I go to the great oak tree in the forest where I begin my inner journey, enter a door, and go inside the tree. I find that my right hand is holding a staff with two serpents, one light and one dark, entwined around it. The serpents metamorphose into two bands of light and dark energy circulating around the staff. My left hand is holding an apple. A tremendous light energy fills the tree and then Sophia stands before me. She is dressed in a blue robe, with all the colors of the rainbow emanating from her and filling the tree. It is a beautiful image of radiant glory! She instructs me to eat of the apple. I do, and feel a great sense of sustenance from the fruit. Sophia says, "The apple contains the seeds of wisdom. The five seeds within the apple will awaken the five senses. This is how wisdom is attained, through 'new senses - new perception.' Now the time has come for Eve to be transformed by me, Sophia. Whereas Eve brought sin into the world by eating the apple of the Tree of Knowledge, now I, Sophia, am bringing reconciliation to the world through the apple of the Tree of Wisdom. The serpent which tempted Eve is transformed by me, Sophia, into the serpent of feminine power and wisdom. As Christ began the process of the reconciliation of the human race with God, so I, Sophia, will continue this process of reconciling humans with God manifest in all creation."

I now have a sense of the presence of both Christ and Sophia within the tree - yet they are not really separate. Sophia smiles and says, "I, Sophia, have come to transcend duality. Christ and I are not separate - we are united. This is a time of transformation, and the time has now come for human beings to recognize the presence of both Christ and Sophia as loving wisdom. Christ and I, Sophia, are one!"

The insights I gained from this meditation are similar to those of others who have sought the way of wisdom. Several themes seem to emerge over and over when Sophia calls out to humankind. The interpretation which follows integrates my own understanding with that of others who have listened to her message.


ChristoSophia

In order to understand the full meaning of the statement, "Christ and I, Sophia, are one!" it is necessary to trace the changing image of Sophia as she appeared to people living in Biblical times. At first Sophia appeared in Judaism as a personification of an attribute of God - as God's wisdom. She later developed in importance to become virtually a goddess in her own right.(1) In the texts of the Hebrew Bible Sophia is variously described as the first creation of God (Proverbs 8: 22-23), co-creator with God (Proverbs 3:19), and the manifestation of God's power and glory (Wisdom 7: 25-26.) However, under the influence of patriarchal monotheism, Wisdom became identified with the Torah (Law) in orthodox Judaism.(2)

In the early Christian Church, the struggle to understand the nature of Christ and the meaning of his purpose in history was intimately connected with the figure of Sophia. The attributes of Sophia, love and wisdom, can be readily seen in the figure of Jesus Christ as presented in the texts of the New Testament and the Apocrypha. The earliest Christians apparently viewed Jesus as a prophet of Sophia, or as her child.(3) But the most startling fact is that Jesus was even seen by some early Christians as Sophia herself! During the first few centuries of Christianity the attributes of Sophia were completely transferred to the figure of Jesus Christ so that Jesus was viewed as the incarnation of Sophia. In this interpretation, "Jesus, as Christ-Sophia, is enthroned as a ruler of the whole cosmos, and this is the foundational myth of the Christian community."(4)

However, the dictates of our patriarchal history which caused Sophia (Wisdom) to be subsumed under Christ (Logos) has had disastrous consequences for Christianity and consequently for our entire world. As Sophia lost her unique identity to the figure of Jesus, this powerful symbol of the Divine Feminine subsequently became so hidden as to be lost to most Christians. However, Sophia is proclaiming her message again today that "Christ and I are one!" But oneness does not mean sameness. The unity of Christ and Sophia must be seen as a differentiated wholeness, a dynamic balance between "Logos" and "Wisdom." Instead of disguising Sophia in the figure of Christ as the early Christians did, the term "ChristoSophia" assures that the attributes of both are clearly expressed.

The concept of this synthesis of Christ and Sophia can also be seen in the symbolism of the rainbow colors which emanate from her. Christ is the light (the Sun) which reflects through Sophia (the prism.) Through their union all the colors of the rainbow emanate, symbolizing the diversity which is found as God manifests in creation. Sophia's message to us is that we can glory in all the variety of life that we find around us, while at the same time recognizing the spiritual unity which lies behind it. Likewise, in our modern multicultural world, we can recognize that truth is one, but in the world it is expressed through diverse religions, philosophies, and spiritual beliefs. In fact a major advantage of Sophia as a symbol of the Divine Feminine archetype in our time is that she transcends the strictly Judeo-Christian heritage, as shown in Sophia: The Goddess of Wisdom by Caitlin Matthews. Again we can glory in all the manifestations of Wisdom as they appear in their rainbow hues, while at the same time seeking the inner wisdom which is one. It is precisely this paradoxical wisdom of the one and the many that is a primary message of Sophia today, and the meaning of her claim to transform Eve.

The Transformation of Eve

Sophia states the traditional Christian belief that "Eve brought sin into the world by eating the apple of the Tree of Knowledge." In the light of her message, this "sin" can be interpreted as the recognition of duality; i.e. the knowledge of good and evil which was gained by eating the apple. The result was a "fall from Grace," a "fall" from the paradisal world of unity into a world of separation. This is the world that we now inhabit, marked by our sense of separation from other human beings, from the Earth, from God, and from our true selves. The story of Adam and Eve mythically reveals the process of dawning consciousness as it occurred within the human species, and as it is recapitulated within each individual. The development of the "ego," a sense of one's separate being, is a necessary step in the psychic development of the individual as well as the human race. But we are now at a critical juncture in the history of our species, and Sophia tells us it is time for her to transform Eve. It is she who brings wholeness by integrating the dualities: the masculine and the feminine, the human and the divine, the light and the dark, the creator and the creation.

It is particularly with regard to her role in creation that Sophia's transformation of Eve is imperative for our time. When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden and God said, "cursed is the ground because of you," (Genesis 3: 17) the material world of nature became separated from the spiritual world of God. This dichotomy between matter and spirit, which is at the root of Western culture, has resulted in the worship of God as a transcendent being with the corresponding contempt for the natural world. The human race is just now finally beginning to understand the dire consequences of this viewpoint as we witness the increasing destruction of our Earth. But Sophia calls to us today to change our image of the Divine as we recognize that her role is twofold: she is both the creator and the creation itself. This is often depicted by Christian mystics as the "higher" and "lower" Sophia, the "Divine" and the "creaturely" Sophia, the figure which is transcendent Wisdom and the World-Soul as the presence of God in creation.(5) That the Divine Sophia is the creative power of the universe is shown in the statement "by Sophia God made the world." (Psalm 104: 24) At the same time, the creaturely Sophia is the emanation of God through all of creation, for "She pervades and penetrates all things." (Book of Wisdom of Solomon, 7:30) Acquiring the wisdom of Sophia leads to a panentheistic view in which the Divine is recognized as transcendent and at the same time immanent within nature, including our own bodies and souls.

Thus Sophia's transformation of Eve includes honoring the sacredness of each human being and appreciating the joys of the body. Sophia calls us to develop her attitude toward life which "rejoices in his (God's) inhabited world, and delights in the sons of men." (Proverbs 8:31) The entire world, including all of its inhabitants, is a blessing from the Divine who exists within it.

Symbols of Sophia

A primary way that Sophia reveals her wisdom to us is through the symbols which she sends in dream and vision. The apple and the serpent staff which were given to me in my visionary encounter with Sophia are blessings from her. They are transformative symbols and reflection upon them leads to a deeper understanding of the message she brings.

The Apple

The apple that Sophia offers is the fruit of the Tree of Wisdom instead of Eve's apple from the Tree of Knowledge. The Tree of Sophia (Wisdom) is identical to the Tree of Life, for it is known that "She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her." (Proverbs 3: 18) The apple from this tree contains Sophia's five seeds of wisdom, and she instructs one to eat these seeds, thus taking her wisdom within and assimilating it in one's deepest being. This is an organic process by which wisdom is the fruit which grows from a "new perception." As we are instructed to "Acquire Sophia, acquire perception" (Proverbs 4: 5), it is apparent that Sophia (Wisdom) is identified with perception. This "new perception" that Sophia brings is precisely the wholeness of her apple which integrates the dichotomies of existence. It is the perception of the interconnectedness of all life and the wisdom that comes from that awareness; it is the perception of creation as a blessing and the joy that comes from that recognition. Eating the seeds of the apple of wisdom leads to an "ecosophianic perspective of nature"(6) as we recognize Sophia's presence in all things. Truly it is the apple of joyful wisdom that she blesses us with!

The Serpent Staff

The serpent which tempted Eve, and has subsequently become a symbol of evil, is transformed by Sophia into the serpent of feminine power and wisdom. The two serpents, one light and one dark, which entwine around the staff are symbols of Sophia. Thus she connects us with an earlier time in human history when the serpent as a primal symbol of the Divine Feminine was honored for its wisdom of the Earth and its power of healing and immortality. As the patriarchal world view gained dominance, this ancient symbol of the Goddess became hated and feared and its true meaning was banished along with the Divine Feminine. Sophia's call to us today is to reclaim the Feminine in all of her aspects from the patriarchal world view, and to once again honor the wisdom of the Earth and the wisdom of the body as symbolized by the serpent.

The serpent and staff also symbolize the process of transformative growth which cannot be understood by rational thought. As Erich Neumann says, "This phenomenon dominates the symbolism of the 'fall from grace' that leads to consciousness…"(7) While the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the staff with its one serpent, the Tree of Life is often depicted with two serpents. Thus Sophia's tree, like the serpent staff with its two entwining snakes, symbolizes the uniting of the opposites in a balanced equilibrium. As the serpents on the staff metamorphose into two circulating bands of light and dark energy, so the transformation of consciousness takes place through Sophia's wisdom. The fertility of the Goddess which is also symbolized by entwining snakes results from this transformation. Today this "fertility" may be viewed as the transformative creative power which must emerge in order to bring healing to our world.

The Reconciliation of Sophia

It is apparent that we live in a world today of chaos and confusion. It is in precisely such times as these that Sophia calls most strongly. Sophia emerged in the Hebrew Wisdom literature during a time of upheaval and complexity to help the people relate to their changing world.(8) This was a time seemingly similar to our own in many respects. It appears that Sophia re-emerges at critical periods of cultural transformation, during those times of "paradigm shift" when new perceptions, values, and world views are needed. She helps reconcile the opposing forces in the psyche and in the world, bringing a much needed balance in a time of disequilibrium. Sophia assures us in our fragmented modern world that she is continuing the process of reconciliation with God. Just as Christ, who was Sophia incarnated, called for "fresh wineskins" to hold his teaching of the primacy of love over the law, so today we need the new containers of symbols, myths, and images to express the wisdom of Sophia. Now Sophia must re-emerge from her hidden place within Christian tradition to manifest her full power and beauty. It is through the union of Christ's love and Sophia's wisdom, the dynamic equilibrium of the loving wisdom of ChristoSophia, that the reconciliation process continues in our age.

Through this process of reconciliation, "Sophia leads…back to the wholeness of Paradise."(9) But the original state of paradisal unity is now the differentiated oneness characteristic of the transformed consciousness. Jean Houston describes this process as she traces the psychospiritual evolution of human beings. The "pre-individual" human who was continuous with the natural world prior to ego development is mythically represented by Adam and Eve prior to the "fall." The "post-individual" or "planetary person" which is now in the process of emerging, consistent with the return of the Feminine archetype, is "a far more realized being who exists in an ecological continuum with the realities of inner and outer worlds…"(10)

The need today, as Sophia tells us, is for the reconciliation of humans with God manifest in all creation. No longer can we afford to view God, or ourselves, as separate from the Earth. In recognizing the divine presence of Sophia within all created things, the sacredness of nature is restored. With the wisdom of Sophia we can now return to the Garden of Paradise and experience the unity with God and all the other creatures of Earth and still retain our hard-won individual consciousness.

Sophia's process of reconciliation can be symbolized once again by the rainbow. The rainbow which appeared to the Hebrews after the flood was certainly a symbol of God's reconciliation with the human race. However, God said the rainbow is to be "the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you." (Genesis 9:12) This statement of divine reconciliation with all the creatures of Earth suggests the loving inclusiveness of Sophia. Similarly, Vladimir Solovyev refers to Sophia in one of his poems as "the rainbow reconciling heaven and earth."(11) The rainbow is a visual image that reminds us that "Heaven stoops toward Earth; the world is not only a world in itself, it is also the world in God, and God abides not only in heaven but also on Earth."(12) In the rainbow, Sophia unites her transcendent and her creaturely dimension, creating a divine synthesis which symbolizes the restoration of the unity between God and creation.

Co-creators with Sophia

It is possible that the Second Coming of Christ so long anticipated by Christians is actually the re-emergence of the Divine Feminine through the loving wisdom of ChristoSophia within the human heart. With Sophia's "rebirth" into human consciousness, nature is again seen in its sacred dimensions; the entire cosmos is seen as a manifestation of the Divine; all human beings are seen as souls who bear Sophia within them. With this transformed consciousness we are called by Sophia to be co-creators with her in the world, helping her to usher in the new "Sophianic millennium."(13) We are called to be channels for the revelation of Sophia into the world, for she is hidden no longer. We must create new rituals, art, music and stories which reveal the symbols of Sophia. Of course this task cannot be accomplished by intellect alone. The symbols come through us, rather than being created by us. We must, both men and women, take the feminine role of "midwife" to help birth these symbols of the archetypal Divine Feminine from the depths of the collective unconscious. There are many people today who are doing this that can serve as models for us. For example, Susan Cady, Marian Ronan, and Hal Taussig in their book Wisdom's Feast give numerous examples of rituals, liturgies, and songs which honor Sophia. Aurora Terrenus provides us with new myths which tell the story of Sophia in her books The Shroud of Sophia and My Sister the Unicorn. As models for how to co-create with Sophia through "living symbolically," Alice Howell's books The Dove in the Stone and The Web and the Sea are rare gems. Whether we are working alone or with others to answer Sophia's call, these are excellent resources to aid us.

We are called to be co-creators with Sophia in the process of reconciling humanity with God as manifest in all creation. Arthur Versluis states that the redemption process of Sophia must be "manifested in an inward visionary realm through a personal devotional practice."(14) We can aid Sophia in the reconciliation process through spiritual practices utilizing the visionary imagination. However, just as Sophia overcomes the dichotomy between the inner and the outer world, we also need to work with Sophia in the outer world to heal the divisions which plague us and threaten the Earth. "By bridging the supposed gap between creator and creation, Sophia provides exactly the image needed to make us aware of our own collective power, not as God's puppets, but as co-creators - or potential destroyers - of this planet."(15)

If we heed Sophia's call, she will provide us with the blessings that we need to create with her. She gives us the apple with the seeds of wisdom to help us grow into a new perspective that recognizes the sacred connectedness of all life. She gives us the serpent staff of power and wisdom which enables us to integrate the light and the dark and thus to bring about creative transformation in ourselves and in the world. Through "living" the symbols that Sophia gives to us and actualizing these powers within our souls, we will truly be co-creators with her in the process of reconciliation.

A Vision of the Mystery of Sophia

At the depth of Sophia's call to us to be co-creators with her lies the mystery of creation. This is symbolized in the following visualization:

I find myself within Sophia's holy temple. Many others are also in the Temple of Wisdom, of all different races and cultures, yet there is a sense of very deep peace, love and unity. I realize that we are on many different spiritual paths but the inner wisdom is the same; it is a mystery too great to fathom. Christ appears in the temple with Sophia, and tremendous light energy emanates from Christ, flowing upward to the top of the temple like a fountain, and then flowing back downward like drops of rainbow energy. With the continued flow of this ChristoSophia energy, the dome of the temple opens. We all look upwards and see the sun and moon shining at the same time as well as all the stars. I realize that the ChristoSophia energy of loving wisdom which is within the temple is also the heart of the mystery of all creation. Sophia says, "The most important thing is to remain open to this great mystery. Experience it with wonder and awe. It is this mystery of creation which also fuels your own creativity."

The wisdom of Sophia is ultimately beyond all words, beyond all concepts, beyond all human understanding. We must treasure this wisdom and hold this great mystery within our hearts.

For more information refer to Walking the Path of ChristoSophia: Discovering the Hidden Tradition in Christian Spirituality, Chapter III "Sophia"

NOTES

1. Joan Engelsman, The Feminine Dimension of the Divine (Philadelphia: the Westminster Press, 1979), 74.
2. Asphodel Long, In a Chariot Drawn by Lions: The Search for the Female in Deity (Freedom, Cal.: The Crossing Press, 1993), 31.
3. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), 134.
4. Susan Cady, Marian Ronan, and Hal Taussig, Sophia: The Future of Feminist Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 14.
5. Arthur Versluis, TheoSophia (New York: Lindisfarne Press, 1994), 159.
6. Ibid., 61.
7. Erich Neumann, The Great Mother (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 171.
8. Cady, Ronan, and Taussig, 73.
9. Versluis, 151.
10. Jean Houston, Life Force (Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books, 1993), 38.
11. Samuel D. Cioran, Vladimir Solov'ev and the Knighthood of the Divine Sophia (Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977), 51.
12. Sergei Bulgakov, Sophia: The Wisdom of God (New York: Lindisfarne Press, 1993), 17.
13. Caitlin Matthews, Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom (London: Mandala, 1991), 2. 14. Versluis, 160.
15. Cady, Ronan, and Taussig, 80.




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The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth ...

When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command ...

then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

(Proverbs 8, 22-31).