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Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflections on Sophia

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing.
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.

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 and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.

I've been reconnecting with Sophia lately. When things were getting very dark in my life and it seemed I had too much to handle, I started thinking what had gone wrong. I realized, having stumbled upon a quote from "The Thunder, Perfect Mind," that she was what had gone wrong, or at least, missing. I'd forgotten to take time to connect with her.

Who is this 'Sophia,' you ask?

She is, put simply, the Christian goddess. Now that I have your attention with a statement most Christians would regard as blasphemous, I'll continue.

I was stumbling around in the dark when my stumbles brought me to Pitt's Religious Studies department, where I fell in love with the major. Religious studies is not theology; it doesn't concern itself with the existence and nature of God. Rather, it is a multidisciplinary field that studies the history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and even archaeology of the phenomenon of religion. What, for example, does Hindu have in common with Norse or Native American traditions? Where did religion come from, what does it do for us (or to us), and what are the elements, commonalities, and important writings involved? Stuff like that.

Nevertheless, when you study so many different paths, you can't help often but come across one (or even several) that just make sense to you.

I'd known of Gnosticism in passing for a long time. But I never knew anything about Gnosticism until I started studying ancient Christianity and Judaism. I came to realize, as I delved more deeply into the roots of Western religion, that I could no longer reconcile a cosmos with a Father but no Mother. Sophia filled that role, and she's been around since the beginning, and indeed is present (albeit somewhat obfuscated) in the canon Bible--ever wonder exactly what the Song of Songs is about? She has been canonized in Church lore as St. Sophia, because it was difficult to get rid of her entirely.

The long and short of it: I believe in her, and the first time I devoted some time to thinking about her I felt her touch. I felt a real connection and warmth. I felt comfort. Am I Gnostic? Not quite. I do think they got some things right, but they also got some things very wrong (or perhaps we're just interpreting them wrong--we have so little to go on). I guess I'm a sort of pseudo-Gnostic.

Who is she, then? She is a creatrix, the entity who is responsible for the creation of the material universe (if not the world). She is Wisdom. Not common sense or profound thoughts, though both are part of her, but of Divine Wisdom, the understanding and the thirst for understanding of everything we can and can't see, touch, hear, and feel. Her hunger for understanding was her downfall, and she has ever sought to be restored to her rightful place. Gnostic literature posits that she will be, one day, and that will be the end of the imperfect material and the return to the perfect spiritual. She is love--the manifestation of Divine Love and the Presence of God on Earth. She can be equated to two places on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life: Shekhinah (The Presence of God) and Chokhmah (The Wisdom of God). She is beauty and warmth and she is the one who, according to Gnostic myth, gave humankind our souls, our divine spark. Hebrew Wisdom literature goes out of its way to expressly position her as an exception to Yahwist monotheism--she, specifically, is okay with the Covenant because she is God's wife and partner.

Discussing Sophia is complex, as who she is and what she means is so wide and open that each person finds the aspect of her that's most applicable to them. At least, that's what I believe.

In Religious Studies, you have to do a capstone research paper to get your degree. Mine was on Sophia. I got an "A." You can read it here if you want:

Some more spiritual and less academic information about Sophia can be found here:

And if you're interested in the text of "The Thunder, Perfect Mind," a Gnostic poem about Sophia from sometime in the 3rd through 5th centuries, that can be found here:

I guess that's all. I'd wanted this to be a bit deeper than it was, because she's on my mind today, but there you have it. If I've encouraged you to just seek out a bit of interesting knowledge about early Christianity that you've never before heard or known about, then it's a good day. If not, that's fine, too. As my favorite professor once said, "There are many paths to God, and none are more valid than any other."


  1. Very cool. I liked your paper (so far).
    Could this be comon ground for Christians and Goddess worship Pagans?

  2. Goddess worship is the oldest form of religion. It's common ground for everyone.

  3. As an aside, I went down this road . . . until I met St. Ireneus. As one of our primary witnesses to Gnosticism (as an opponent) prior to the Dead Sea Scrolls I had to read him. In the end, I found myself agreeing with him. I'd be curious if you would have a similar experience.

  4. I've read Ireneus. I find him to be biased and with a clear agenda. I don't agree with everything the Gnostics said, but Ireneus was an angry man who was out to stamp out and destroy anything that didn't jibe with his own small-minded beliefs. He exemplified everything a Christian is NOT supposed to be--judgmental, wrathful, spiteful, and prideful.

    I much prefer Origen, who taught that all beings are deserving, worthy, and capable of receiving forgiveness and a place in Heaven.

  5. I shouldn't also fail to mention that I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Pittsburgh, so I'm not an armchair theologian.


Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and Mary Magdalene.

I'm not a mad bible thumper--Sophia, however, is my inspiration and always in my heart