Sophia: Wise Folly


The role of Sophia in creation according to Gnostic scriptures is very curious. In the Pistis Sophia, Sophia is deceived by the demiurge and archons who make a false light shine below, and when she descends to embrace the false light they bind her and steal her Light-power. In other Gnostic scriptures she conceives the demiurge without the consent of the Most High or apart from union with her Divine Consort, thus giving birth to the monstrous form of Yaldabaot – the lion-headed serpent. In any case, in one way or another Sophia brings about a shattering of the unity and harmony of the Divine Realm, the Pleroma of Light, and in so doing becomes the cause of the imperfect creation, the Great Matrix or Entirety.

This is called a creation in “deficiency,” “error,” “folly,” or “ignorance” of which Sophia “repents,” setting the Divine Plan for rectification or salvation in motion. Of course, this invokes a question: If the Most High or Barbelo is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and if Sophia exists among the Great Divinities in Sacred Unity, how could she act against the Divine Will of the Most High? In other words, is this “error” an act of Divine Folly ordained by the Most High from the very beginning? Does Sophia play the role of the Fool and Trickster as part of the Divine Plan? After all, apart from her “error” creation would not come into being and sentient beings would not emerge to develop and evolve towards enlightenment – Union with the Divine. The Divine Potential would remain just that – unmanifest potential, with no vehicle of actualization and realization.

The very name Sophia implies knowledge, understanding and wisdom, thus when Gnostic scripture proposes that she acts in ignorance one cannot help but hear this idea as spoken “tongue-in-cheek,” as the saying goes, for the Sophia of the True God is anything but ignorant – rather she plays the enigmatic role of the Divine Fool or Trickster in feminine form. In many Gnostic scriptures this is made perfectly clear, because as the story of creation unfolds she repeatedly tricks the demiurge and archons into drawing more and more of the Divine Light and Divine Spirit into their creation, or she herself, as the Divine Trickster, brings forth the Divine Light and Spirit to their creation. Indeed, from her original “error” something of the Divine is cast into creation – into the Realm of Becoming. As the Fool or Trickster she essentially causes the demiurge and archons to initiate their own demise, playing upon their own imperfection from the very outset.

It is often assumed that all Gnostics in classical Gnosticism held a radical dualistic view, yet given the enigmatic role of Sophia, and her active role as Wisdom Goddess and Savioress along side Christ, this assumption may be in error. In fact, through Sophia, while speaking of the seeming dualism inherent in our experience, Gnostic scriptures often point to an underlying Sacred Unity, or to the non-dual nature of the Pleroma and Entirety. In effect, the appearance of dualism is illusory or is a state of ignorance, which the Gnostic Revealer comes to dispel, being brought forth into the realms, worlds and universes of the Entirety through the agency of Sophia. When understood, it is all a Divine Drama, a Divine Play – the appearance of separation facilitating the joy of conscious unification.

Of course, Sophia is a complex figure, having many different faces, but in terms of Pistis Sophia and Sophia Zoe the archetype of the Divine Feminine as Trickster-Prankster-Fool can lead to deep insights – the mysterious and enigmatic figure that is integral to the Divine Plan and Divine Revelation, who can appear bright or dark, or shine in a rainbow spectrum as the Shape-shifter, but without whom the Divine Drama could not unfold.

Though many speak of Mary Magdalene in very sentimental terms, the reality of Sophia as the Trickster-Prankster-Fool is present in our experience of the Seven Faces of the Holy Bride, especially the Maiden or Light and Mistress of the Night. Invoking her we encounter a playful maiden, omnipresent – she loves us, she hates us; she draws us close, then she cast us away. Indeed, she constantly plays tricks upon us, awakening us and bringing us into the fullness of life, teaching us through direct experience in body, speech and mind – the wisdom of life (Sophia Zoe). It is as though she gambles with our very life, yet all in the most intimate love-play seeking our enlightenment and liberation. Such is the nature of the Shekinah of Messiah, our beloved Sophia.

Greek philosophers may have made Sophia into an intellectual abstraction, but in Gnostic scriptures we encounter the divine fullness of Sophia, with all of her many faces and forms – invoking her we shift from the intellectual approach to the experiential approach, and we discover that spiritual knowledge, understanding and wisdom does not come through words and books, but through symbols and actions: direct experience. Through words and books we may acquire a necessary context into which we may place our Gnostic experience, but it is direct spiritual and mystical experience through which Divine Gnosis is made manifest.

Are we willing to be tricked into our enlightenment; willing to let go to divine passion and let it carry us where it will? Then let us invoke the Holy Bride, Sophia!

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