A SELECTION OF SOME SOPHIA MEANINGS
& RELATED FEMALE WISDOM FIGURES
> Word Philosophy means "love of wisdom" from Greek word philein for (brotherly love) and sophia, meaning wisdom.
> Sophia is the philosopher's angel (Iranian Sufism).
> Sophia has been summed up simply as "Life." She is the wisdom principle in man, which is the intellectual aspect of the soul, (which) redeems itself by renouncing error (philosophy)
> Sophia is the World Soul (anima mundi), divine feminine. Perfect Nature…
> Sophia is the visionary organ of the soul (Ir. Sufism).
> The "fourth person of God" (Russian Sophiology).
> Sophia is "this 'wisdom', this
'understanding,' (which) "must... signify something like the 'meaning' implanted
by God in creation, the divine mystery of Creation." (Gerhard von Rad).
> Sophia represents the wisdom that was handed down from generation to generation by sages (James
Robinson, ed. The Nag Hammadi Library.) She appears as the goal of individual transformation in the esoteric interpretations of the 3 largest western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She personifies a certain archetypal power or presence within the human psyche that pre-dates the formation of these religions and whose ancestral roots were described in spiritual traditions around the world:
India: Sakti/Saci: the Dyad: creative principle, the manifesting power: "I am the form of the Immensity; from me the world arises as Nature and Person (prakrti-purusa)." The all-powerful goddess described in the Devi Bhagavata Tika as a "dual energy, presiding deity of life and intellect,... called the universal ruler.
The gift of liberation depends
on it. Liberation depends on the union of intellect and life, their uniting and
going apart." (Danielou 1964,265)
Rg-Veda: Vak—the Word, exalted "beyond the Heavens and beyond this broad Earth." This is the vibration of Truth, the source and nourisher of Creation.
Ancient Near Eastern wisdom goddesses:
Mesopotamian wisdom goddess symbolized wisdom tradition in Syria.
Isis: "the cognomen of lsis was ... the Black One. Apuleius stresses the blackness of her robe... and since ancient times she was reputed to possess the elixir of life as well as being adept in sundry magical arts.
She was also called the Old One, and she was rated a pupil of Hermes, or even his daughter. She appears
as a teacher of alchemy... signifies earth,... and was equated with Sophia.... She is ... the vessel and the
matter of good and evil. She is the moon... the One, who art All." [CW 14 (14-15)]
Pallas Athene: name in pre-Greek and Etruscans in Italy from Etruscan word for "holy vessel of the priest" (althanulus), "clay beaker for use in sacrifice" (atena) and "pan" (attana). (Pallas is a Greek word for robust maiden or youth).
The central idea of wisdom teaching is Maat, 'law', 'justice', 'primeval order'....
She came down to
mean at 'the beginning of time' as the right order of all things.... The divine Maat, a central concept in Egyptian
wisdom teaching, embodies law, world order, justice. ... there can be no doubt that Israelite teachers have
been dependent on the idea of the Egyptian goddess of order and have even borrowed characteristic, individual expressions. (Themis is her Greek counterpart, the foundation of law in nature that was the basis of development of Western law).
Sophia after 5th c. before common era:
Torah/Old Testament: Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom which is a "she" who personifies integrity, honesty, clear perception, the power by which kings and princes rule, and the creative power present with Yahweh at creation.
New Testament: Sophia was first equated with Jesus, then deleted from mainstream religion because she was a problematic presence in the exclusively male monotheistic theology.
New Testament: Sophia is the Sun Woman in Revelation, (Ch. 12), who stands in glorious radiance crowned with stars. Under her feet is the moon, she is pregnant and pursued by the great dragon. She is the feminine Anthropos, the counterpart of the masculine principle... she adds the dark to the light, symbolizes the hierogamy of opposites, and reconciles nature with spirit. [CW 11 (711)]
"Anamnesis of Sophia" (Jung): Sophia personifies
the existence of another "fact" about the creation of the world; that Yahweh is
a lower, more unconscious mode of a much greater power lying beyond being and
knowing. Jung proposes that Yahweh is himself subject to the tides of consciousness/unconsciousness.
In Answer to Job, Job becomes greater than God because he can "see" God's
shadow, because he is victim of it. "Self-reflection becomes an imperative necessity,
and for this Wisdom is needed. Yahweh has to remember his absolute knowledge;
for, if Job gains knowledge of God, then God must also learn to know himself."
[CW 11 (617) '"Anamnesis of Sophia' refers to the recollection by God of Wisdom: 'But at that time she
was still hidden in Yahweh, or rather, she was not yet remembered by him.'" [CW 11 (742)]
In Iranian Sufism, Sophia is Perfect Nature, the object of ecstatic vision. She is also called: the philosopher's Sun, the Daena—the visionary organ of the soul"; personal master and suprasensory guide, sun of the heart, etc. She is the guide in exile, the watcher and shepherd, and paradoxically, the essential individuality and the "pre-terrestrial vision of the celestial world."
Perfect Nature was described in an 11th century
text as '"the philosopher's angel,' his initiator and tutor,
and the object and secret of all philosophy, the dominant figure in the Sage's personal religion. She has
been equated with the Purple Archangel of Supreme Illumination in the writings of the Persian Neoplatonists.
Socrates declared Perfect Nature to be the sun of the philosopher, the "original root of his being and at the same time the branch springing from him." The philosopher's Angel is the Form of light, the heavenly Sophia "conjoined with his star, which rules him and opens the doors of wisdom for him, teaches him what is difficult, reveals to him what is right, in sleeping as in waking." (Corbin, 1978, 17)
Sophia was the goal of transformation, the "lead deity" in these traditions:
> Gnosticism (Thunder Perfect Mind;
2 Sophias, higher & lower—Sophia Achamoth, the generative wisdom
of the world).> Alchemy (Sapientia, moon, tree, ogdoad, alchemical salt—the psychic form of the body, the
ash remaining that serves to fix the 'volatile' spirit.)
> Russian Sophiology
Other associations & identities:
> Christian mysticism (Sophia equated with Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit
in the Trinity, and was the object
of mystical visions for Jacob Boehme, etc.)
> Jungian psychology: the 4th & highest stage of anima development in male psychology.
> Contemporary spiritual schools: Anthroposophy, Creation Spirituality movement, Sophia movement
in American churches and Robert Sardello's Sophia school in North Carolina.