Gnostic Imagery of Divine Mother Sophia

The Divine Feminine
Exploring the Feminine Face of God throughout the World

Godsfield Press UK and Conari Press USA 1996
Anne Baring and Andrew Harvey

Gnostic Imagery of Divine Mother Sophia

Yet another strand to this story [of the Shekinah of Judaism] is the Gnostic imagery of the Divine Mother Sophia. Reading the Kabbalistic texts, it is almost as if they are the voice of this lost tradition. By the year 200, all the feminine imagery of God that was part of the Gnostic tradition had been excised from the orthodox canon of Christian teaching so that, until very recently in this century, no one knew that some groups of early Christians had an image of the Divine Mother. They named her the "Invisible within the All." They spoke of how, as the Eternal Silence, she received the seed of light from the ineffable source and how, from this womb, she brought forth all the emanations of light, ranged in harmonious pairs of feminine and masculine energies. They saw her as the womb of life, not only of human life, but the life of the whole cosmos. They named this Divine Mother as Holy Spirit and saw the dove as her emissary: at the baptism of Jesus, it was the Divine Mother who spoke to her son.

The imagery and mythology of the Divine Mother in Gnosticism is so similar to her later imagery as the Shekinah of Kabbalah that they seem to belong to one and the same tradition. In a Gnostic text called the "Trimorphic Protennoia" the speaker describes herself as the intangible Womb that gives shape to the All, the life that moves in every creature. Other texts name her as the Mother of the Universe but also speak of the androgyny of the divine source in imagery similar to the later Kabbalistic texts.

Today we might imagine the Shekinah as the light that manifests as both wave and particle, as the deep unexplored "sea" of cosmic space, and as the extraordinary complex structure and organization of energy manifested as matter - a word that comes from the Latin word for mother: "mater". After so many billions of years the energy of life has evolved a form - the planet earth - and a consciousness - our own - which is slowly helping us to explore the mystery of what we are. Yet, because of the loss of the tradition of the Divine Feminine, we do not know that what we are exploring in the finer and finer gradations of matter we discover, is what the Jewish mystics called the face and the glory of God, nor that the universe we explore with our technology is the outer covering or veil of an unimaginable web of luminous interconnecting pathways. If only these images of the Shekinah could be restored to us, how differently we might see matter, with what respect and awe we might treat it.

In the magnificent passages from the Apocrypha, it seems as if the Shekinah is telling us her story:

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.
I had power over the waves of the sea,
and over all the earth,
and over every people and nation...

He created me from the beginning
before the world, and I shall never fail.
In the holy tabernacle I served before him;
and so was I established in Sion.
Likewise in the beloved city he gave me rest,
and in Jerusalem was my power...

I am the mother of fair love, and fear,
and knowledge and holy hope...
I therefore, being eternal, am given to
all my children which are named of him.
Come unto me, all ye that be desirous of me,
and fill yourselves with my fruits.
For my memorial is sweeter than honey,
and mine inheritance than the honeycomb...

Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach
24:3-6, 9-11, 18-20

Andrew Harvey & Anne Baring The Divine Feminine
Conari Press, Berkeley, CA
ISBN 1-57324-035-4 (hardcover)
Pgs. 96-97.

NOTE: If this page was accessed during a web search you may wish to browse the sites listed below where this topic or related issues are discussed in detail to promote global peace, religious harmony, and spiritual development of humanity:  ' Divine Feminine (Hinduism)  ' Divine Feminine (Christianity)  ' Divine Feminine (Judaism)  ' Divine Feminine (Islam)  ' Divine Feminine (Taoism)  ' Divine Feminine (Buddhism)  ' Divine Feminine (Sikhism)  ' Divine Feminine (Native Traditions)