She has become a divine heroine among both Gnostic and Christian mystics. While She was left out of the Godhead in the construction of the mainstream Church, She was never truly forgotten, nor did She ever abandon Her children. But who is Sophia?
Put as simply as possible, She is the Greek word for ‘Wisdom’. However, those who have come to meet and have a relationship with Sophia through Gnosticism or esoteric Christianity will most likely agree how She represents so much more than that one virtue, as holy and admirable as it is. In Orthodox Filianism, Sophia is often equated with Sai Mati of the Janyati, honouring Her powers of understanding, knowledge and – obviously – wisdom. Sophian Déanism is not an attempt to hold up Sai Mati / Kyria Metis / Janae Sophia as the ‘supreme Aeon’ above the other six. We look to Kyria Metis for those virtues in times of prayer and guidance. When applying the name ‘Sophia’ to the Mother aspect of Déa, we are calling upon the divine Aeon whom we have come to see as more than a mere avatar or Aeon for wisdom alone.
Wisdom was greatly personified in Jewish and Christian writing (under the Hebrew word ‘Chokhmah’), to the extent that it becomes difficult for a lot of mystics to not see Her almost as a literal goddess when compared to the Father God and Yeshua. King Solomon is described as being a devotee of Sophia and even imploring God to send Her to him as his bride. In the book of Proverbs; Sophia is described as having existed next to the Father God at the beginning of time, of being his ‘delight’, his muse (Proverbs 8:30). In some verses She acts as his assistant or counsellor. When Wisdom speaks in first person, She speaks as a Queen or Prophet, chastising mankind for their folly while also inviting them to embrace Her.
Most look upon these scriptural verses as mere metaphors, a personification of a holy virtue of God, as opposed to an individual person in Her own right. But there have been many who disagree and have venerated Sophia, or Divine Wisdom, as a divine power that could almost be compared to that of a ‘goddess’. In mystic theology of both Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholicism, Sophia is compared to the Logos, meaning ‘Word’, who is given similar importance within the Godhead. Many of these mystics believe that while the Logos became incarnate in Yeshua the Christ (John 1:1), Sophia was either another power who became whole in the body of Yeshua or became the unifying soul of the Christian church – the ‘Bride of Christ’ – which would also be called the Holy Spirit of the Trinity. She becomes a Christianized concept of the ‘Shekinah’ who was the holy presence of God that dwelled among the Jewish community.
While these are held as heretical ideas in the mainstream Church, Gnostic Christianity embraces them and more. In the apocryphal texts studied among Gnostics, namely those discovered at Nag Hammadi, Sophia’s origin and character is greatly expanded upon. In many ways Her reputation falls when discovering the story the Gnostics gave to Her, yet in other ways She is uplifted and honoured greater than the canon Biblical texts would allow. Sophians, whether Déanist or otherwise, are free to look upon all ways Sophia has been interpreted and personified across time and cultures, for truly She exists partly within them all; yet none know the full story.
In Gnosticism, Sophia is one of the Aeons residing in the Pleroma (the Fullness of God). While Barbelo, the Great Mother, was the First Power to have existed and generates many Aeons from Her, Sophia is the last. What is always striking in any version of the Gnostic creation myth is that the Aeons who were born before Sophia have almost no character beyond their name and function. They are split into ‘male and female’ pairs to compliment each other and set up as a structure of Heaven itself. Sophia is the last and therefore pictured as existing farthest from ‘the Light’ which all Aeons came from. Sophia looks to the Light, the ‘Unknown Father’, and wishes to copy ‘Him’ by creating something on her own without the need for a consort. This turns out to be an act which is the opposite of what one would expect from ‘Wisdom’, as the being She creates is corrupted and flawed. She exiles it, attempting to hide her mistake, but the child takes form and becomes the Demiurge, whom Sophia calls Yaldaboath (“Return here, Child.”).
The Demiurge defines a lot of Gnostic theology as he is seen as the ‘false god’ who believes there is no God above him. He ignores the chastising of his mother (and later his sister, Zoe) who try to tell him that he’s wrong. Yaldaboath creates Seven Powers, called Archons, which he sets up as rulers of the material Universe he creates, separated from the Pleroma. Enough of God’s essence exists for Yaldaboath to create life on Earth in the form of Adam, but he is born blind and dumb. Sophia takes pity on the creature and bestows a part of Herself in him, in the form of her daughter Zoe (Origin of the World). After crying to the Light in repentance, the Father and Barbelo eventually send down the Logos in the form of Yeshua to redeem Sophia and free both Her and Her children from the world of the Archons (Book of Pistis Sophia).
Gnostics believed that the soul and Sophia were connected as one.
“Wise men of old gave the soul a feminine name. Indeed she is female in her nature as well. She even has her womb. As long as she was alone with the father, she was virgin and in form androgynous. But when she fell down into a body and came to this life, she fell into the hands of robbers.” – Exegesis of the Soul.
The majority of Christian mystics who venerate Sophia as part of the Quaternity place Her in the role of God-the-Daughter. These seem to follow the implications of apocryphal and Gnostic texts that Sophia represents the Holy Soul of creation and the redeemed ‘Bride’ of God-the-Son. But the beauty of Sophia is that She is adaptable to any part of the Trinity; many traditions outside Déanism have already given Her one of Herself next to the masculine Trinity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit – the Mother, Daughter and Holy Soul.
One famous poem discovered at Nag Hammadi, while narrated by an unknown character, is heavily attributed to Sophia and highlights her multifaceted image:
For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one, and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great, and I have not taken a husband. – Thunder, Perfect Mind.
While Barbelo is often mentioned as being the great Mother-Father who created the Universe with the Invisible ‘Father’, Sophia as a Mother figure herself is also a common occurrence. Many have taken to seeing Her as the true influence behind the many apparations of the Virgin Mary. While Barbelo is credited as being the Mother of all that is supernal, Sophia (for better or worse) is credited with being the Mother of all that is tangible. Not just empty matter itself but the soul living and breathing within. While She no doubt separates a part of Herself to aid creation internally, via Daughter Zoe, She continues to act from ‘above’ as well.
The following passages are only fragments of evidence for why Sophia has come to be accepted among many Neognostics and Christian mystics as the ‘Holy Mother Spirit’.
The Holy One said to him: “I want you to know that First Man is called ‘Begetter, Self-perfected Mind’. He reflected with Great Sophia, his consort, and revealed his first-begotten, androgynous child. His male name is designated ‘First Begetter, Son of God’, his female name, ‘First Begettress Sophia, Mother of the Universe’. Some call her ‘Love’.”- Wisdom of Jesus Christ.
“Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away on to the great mountain Tabor.” – Gospel of the Hebrews
“My mother gave me a body, but my True Mother gave me Life.” – Gospel of Thomas
In Sophian Déanism; Déa Sophia has no male consort. She is not the twin-sister of a male saviour, nor is She the prodigal daughter of a Father God. While the Gnostics gave Sophia a fascinating origin story, by placing her as a metaphor for the fallen state of the human soul, they made Her into a short-sighted fool who brings about the downfall of paradise (similar to the classical Eve or Pandora) and then cries out in repentance for a saviour. She is a typical Damsel in Distress. While patriarchal Gnostics and Mystics may not recognise the harm in this portrayal of their central Divine Feminine, Sophian Déanism attempts to worship Sophia outside of the sexist portrayal she was given by the ancient Middle Eastern philosophers. Now, that is not to say there is anything inherently wrong in giving Sophia flaws; it makes Her much more interesting and relatable as a character. After all; how is one to gain wisdom without being able to make up for ones mistakes? The problem is very much how redemption is achieved in Gnostic theology, in that Sophia is basically put in the same spot as the Virgin Mary in Catholicism – praying to God on behalf of Her children but not being in a position of divine power Herself.
Déanism rejects the Gnostic concept of the Demiurge; for everything in the world comes from Déa and, as Déa is all that is Good, then so is all of creation. It is only kear which brings about the illusion of separation from which all ideas of ‘suffering’ and ‘evil’ are born. Now it is possible to draw a parallel to the Mythos of the First Maid agreeing to rest with the snake and Sophia, or in some versions Her daughter ‘Achamoth’, defying the laws of the Pleroma and creating life by Her own will. Both of these result in a ‘fall from grace’ which sets the stage in place for the coming of the Saviour (Christ/Déa Filia). However there are a few Neognostic traditions that don’t view Sophia’s actions as a fault for suffering, but rather part of a necessary plan already set in motion by God to separate part of Themselves in order to gain knowledge from the outside. Sophian Filainism differs from Orthodox tradition in that we hold the same belief as these Neognostics. We believe that the First Maid, acting as part of Sophia, chose to separate Herself from Her divine root in order for creation to exist as it does and in order Déa to gain knowledge of Déaself. There is no tragic ‘fall’ or blame put on a female character. It is merely a fact of existence. While sounding harsh by itself, the existence of the Holy Daughter proves Sophia’s love for us, in that no matter how difficult our lessons may be, we are always promised a return to Her side. Both Sophia and Zoe, Mother and Daughter, act as One in two different forms for the evolution and enlightenment of all living beings; all of whom are held in the cosmic womb of Barbelo; the Dark Mother.
When we call on Sophia as Mari, we are calling to that Bright Mother aspect of Her which has appeared in the hearts of many connected to Mother God, even going back long before the existence of Mary, mother of Jesus. The name Mari (MA-ree, as opposed to ‘Mare-ee’) means Mother Sea and is one of the oldest pan-cultural names of God the Mother. One such example is the Basque Goddess Mari whose worship became synchronised with that of the Virgin Mary after the Christianization of Spain. It is commonly known that many forms of worship and rituals for Mother Goddesses in certain areas became adapted into devotions to the the Virgin Mary; the statues of Isis cradling her ‘sun god’ child Horus being famous examples. Mary’s many claimed apparition sightings also gain connections to goddesses who were previously worshipped in those areas; such as the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Aztec Mother Goddess Tonatzin.
Unlike many pagans, however, who deny the divinity of the Virgin Mother in favour of the goddesses worshipped before, Sophians acknowledge a reason and purpose for why Déa chose to take on this popular avatar to appear to Her children in a form that would be familiar and comforting to them. We also recognise the importance of Mary as a spiritual woman in her own right. Whether a Sophian believes in a literal virgin conception or a metaphor for purity, in whether her child was the Son incarnate or an enlightened Rabbi, most of us agree She had found gnosis and reached a special connection with God the Mother. Something about Her caused many followers to accept Her image into their hearts. And when worship of Sophia as Mother was declared heretical by the Church, the people turned to Her in the image of Mary, clinging to the mantle of their Heavenly Mother.
It is difficult to get across the sheer emotion Sophia brings to those who are devoted to Her outside of being just a ‘goddess of wisdom’. Hopefully by reading some of the character and journey She has taken in the minds of many believers, one can imagine many virtues She exhibits outside of just spiritual or mental intellect. Indeed, She shows Herself as encompassing all of the virtues of the Seven Holy Aeons (the Janati) in one place of another.
“‘Sophia has built Her house, she has built out her Seven Pillars.” – Proverbs 9:1
In Her temperance, which is the very journey She embarks as the spirit of the world and Her children, through all that is destroyed and rebuilt – she is Kyria Rhea.
In Her mission to put order and harmony into the world of amoral chaos brought about the Demiurge and kear – She is Kyria Themis.
In Her courage and passion to fight against opposing forces by chastising the Demiurge to protect Her children – She is Kyria Nike.
In Her love and compassion which is Her primary motive for all that She does for us – She is Kyria Tethys.
In Her most common titles as ‘Virgin’ (pure) and the calm reflection of Her presence within and around us – She is Kyria Phoebe.
In Her shining brilliance and joy Her presence brings in so many different forms – She is Kyria Theia.
And yes, last but not least, In Her wisdom and guidance which has been shared throughout the ages – She is Kyria Metis.
These are the Seven Pillars or Seven Holy Aeons who are the true ‘Daughters’ of Déa Sophia within the Déanic path. The Demiurge and the Seven Archons are seen as malevolent opposites to these Holy powers, recognised within the Clear Recital as the Fallen Queen Irkalla and her seven daughters at the gates of hell. However, neither Irkalla or Her Archonic daughters are outside of the redemption Sophia offers to all who have turned on Her, such is the glory and magnitude of Her love. While She is forever fighting to defend Her children spiritually from harmful forces, at the same time She is also offering out a hand of peace, understanding and forgiveness.
“On the day when I am close to you, you are far away from me, and on the day when I am far away from you, I am close to you.” – Thunder.
Blessed is Our Mother.
Blessed is She.