Coronation of the Virgin, Velazquez, 1644

[Below is a paper I wrote in 1998 during my first semester at the Pacifica Graduate Institute.  I share this to help give context to my work with the theme of Sophia.  Please note this was written nearly 20 years ago, is personal in nature, and represents the value of Jung’s pioneering work with not only the depth model but also with gnosticism in particular. The above image represents a completion of a trinity into a quaternity, (referred to in this paper) according to Jung who believed that the Pope’s recognition of the Assumption was one of the greatest advances in Western Christianity as the feminine principle was now included in the constellation of the Godhead (see footnote A) and is a motif which I believe was introduced into the early French Gothic Cathedrals where the earliest depictions of the Coronation appear, in cryptic reference to the deeper mythos of Sophia (article forthcoming).]

The Story of Sophia
from a Jungian Psychological Perspective

By Dan Craig-Morse, MA, MFT

Jungian Psychology class, Professor Cathy Rives,
Pacifica Graduate Institute, Fall, 1998

            In May, 1998, I received a Master’s degree in Humanities from the University of Creation Spirituality.    For my final Master’s project, I developed a “bardic” presentation called The Myth of Sophia, Recalling an Ancient Gnostic Creation Story (Craig-Morse, 1998).   Using my own acoustic instruments, two African drummers, singers and a dancer, the tale of Lady Wisdom was told.

Sophia is the central figure in a complex creation myth which remains obscure because few original writings survived the heresy campaigns of the Roman Catholic Church.  In 1945, a valuable set of codexes were discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, which included many early Coptic translations of Greek Gnostic texts.   It was primarily from translations of these texts that I developed the story line for this creation myth. (footnote 1) (Layton, 1987)

After giving a brief synopsis, I will interpret the myth as if it were my dream.  Given my fascination for the material, it might also be appropriate to consider this myth as a waking dream and interpret its symbolic significance accordingly.

The Dream of Sophia

In the beginning was the Unknown Father (Craig-Morse, 1998, from my thesis at UCS).   It was out of him that a brilliant Emanation burst forth.   A beautiful being, she was called Barbelo (footnote 2).   These two original beings, as divine lovers, produced pairs of offspring, known as Aeons (footnote 3) who became the guardians of their corner of the great heaven, known in the Gnostic literature as Pleroma, the Fullness.

Last of these Aeons was Sophia, the youngest, the light-filled one, who was so eager and adventurous that she did not wait for her consort to accompany her.   She saw a light in the distance and realized that it was coming from her Father, the Unknown God.    Infatuated, she flew to meet him even though she was warned that to do so would bring about her annihilation by the overwhelming power of this being.   Yet like a moth to a flame, she flew to him, only to be stopped by “The Limit”, which she later learned was her forgotten consort, Christ.

Still intoxicated by this brush with this numinous, original source, she fell.    Down into the darkness, out of the Pleroma she tumbled.   Yet she decided, not being able to let go of her feeling of self-importance, that she would birth to a great son, whom she could boast was like the Invisible Father.    Ialdabaoth was born, though deformed because he was not conceived through a loving union with Sophia’s consort.    Sophia was ashamed because he had the face of a lion and the body of a serpent.

Ialdabaoth was overcome with the urge to power.   He ripped the divine light from his mother and threw her down into the darkest realms of chaos saying, “I am God and there are no other God’s before me.”    Sophia then became trapped in matter.

Sophia mourned bitterly for her loss.    She feared death from the absence of her light.    She was overcome with confusion and was ashamed of a fate that she had brought upon herself.    With this intolerable shame, Sophia turned to the heavens and prayed for her consort to rescue her, as a new found humility took hold.

In time, Jesus Christ did appear to her within the world of matter. He filled her with a light from heaven and brought her to the eighth heaven, called the Ogdoad, which was safe from the tyranny of Ialdabaoth, ruler of the Hebdomad, the seventh heaven.

She then set out to trick Ialdabaoth as he was creating Adam and Eve.    She convinced this dark God to blow the light he had stolen from Sophia into Adam.   Adam became filled with Sophia’s light in a way that Ialdabaoth was unable to do himself.    Eve was also given the divine light by Sophia.  Adam and Eve created a son, Seth, who carried this divine spark, the latent essence of divine spirit, into humanity where it lies latent to this day.

When this divine light is released from its entrapment in matter, Sophia will be reunited with her lost essence, and, in sacred marriage, return with her consort back into the Pleroma.

Dream Interpretation

This Wisdom creation story associated with gnostic mystery traditions carries vast psychological significance.    Within the scope of this short paper, I will focus on some Jungian themes that relate to my subjective psychological experience.

First, Sophia in both her heavenly form as the Wisdom of God and her fallen form represent a positive and negative anima figure (Rives, 9/26/1998).   Ialdabaoth represents the various shadow aspects within my psyche.   I will elucidate the meaning of the Christ image in terms of Edinger’s (1992) concept of the ego-self axis and Whitmont’s (Stein, 1995) idea of an emerging “new ego” that corresponds to a current decline of patriarchy.   In addressing the problems of anima, shadow and Self, a process of individuation is undertaken as is represented in the dream by the efforts of Adam, Eve and Seth in their carrying the light of Wisdom into humanity.

There is a tension of two identities attributed to Sophia in this myth; a higher and a lower image.   In her higher form, Sophia is both the last aeon and she is associated with the first emanation from the unknown God, called Barbelo.   In First Thought in Three Forms, Barbelo says, “It is I who am the vision for those who dwell in sleep” (Layton, 1987, pp. 86-100).  She is the positive anima or the archetype (footnote 4) of the woman within the man who directs the male ego towards the greater possibilities of Self (footnote 5).   She is “invisible” (Layton, 1987, p. 89) and elusive within the psyche.

There is also the “vulgar” or fallen Sophia who is seized by the belief that she can join with the Unknown Source.   When she is stopped and tumbles from the Pleroma, Sophia thinks that she can create a God, just as the unknown father had.   This only brings about the domination of a shadow figure and the deterioration of psychic balance.

This dream reflects my process of bringing more consciousness to the dynamics of my anima which has been helpful in navigating the tumultuous waters of my psychic life.   The negative influences of my lower anima have been seductive and destructive.   As is typical of the anima problem, I experience periods of dark moodiness that cloud direct encounters with other people.   Being swept away by this inner woman robs me of intimate feelings towards my wife and when the needs of this insatiable anima are left unattended, my anima drags me into her inflated outlook (Whitmont, 1969).

In the grip of my anima, represented by the inflated, fallen Sophia, I develop a luminous but carefully guarded fantasy involving lofty plans or radical understandings that sweep my attention away from the everyday affairs of my life.  This pattern is usually accompanied by drinking more coffee and eating more sugar.    The cycle lasts as long as I can get away with it or until my wife’s stern appeal, a bounced check or a forgotten appointment shock me out of my dreamy state.   Then, like the bursting of a balloon, this inflationary state comes crashing down.   Sometimes I try to resurrect the original source of inspiration or I feel the horrible shame that lurks behind the false grandiosity and my immersion in this wave of archetypal energy subsides.   Gradually my attention once again focuses back onto the simple circumstances and even pleasures of the mundane responsibilities of everyday life.

And yet, as the dream reflects, “My Lady Soul ” (Jung, as quoted in Campbell, 1971, p. 150) speaks to a necessary desire for luminous experience that can easily be overshadowed by the business of daily life.   To stop and listen to “the silence of silent silence” (Layton, 1987, p. 107) is to allow this midwife of my soul to be heard, reminding me of what is not inflationary but truly soulful and expanding.   It was, in fact, the two performances of this myth (footnote 6) that satisfied this teleological pull towards individuation (footnote 7) where this positive anima helped to facilitate my “bardic” artistry where a clearer channel of communication between my ego and Self is developed. (Stein, 1997, pp. 144-145.)

Ialdabaoth, Sophia’s bastard son, presents me with a disturbing image of my shadow.   The shadow is a term that refers to disowned contents of ego consciousness, that “has an immoral or at least a disreputable quality, containing features of a person’s nature that are contrary to the customs and moral conventions of society.” (Stein, 1998, p. 106).   Ialdabaoth makes no secret of his belief that he is God, the all-powerful (footnote 8).     This inflated state (footnote 9) can be interpreted as the shadow side of Christianity, where this image that figured prominently in early Christian (gnostic) writing is virtually unknown (i.e. suppressed) within Roman Catholic and Protestant theology.

As the Grandson of a Baptist seminarian, my shadow parallels this Christian shadow image.   I was raised to be kind, soft spoken, courteous and well mannered.   My chthonic masculinity has remained underdeveloped, held back by the tight apron strings of my mother’s Christian influence.   And yet, what is unspoken is a secret desire for greatness.   Occasionally, when I returned home from school, my mother would ask, “Did you get the best grade on your test?” or “Did you come in first in the contest?”   These comments reflected a desire on my mother’s part for me to be better than others, to be “the best.”   Like Sophia, my mother had difficulty connecting with her emotionally distant father who had a strong desire to have a son.   He had two daughters and only with the birth of his first grandson (following two granddaughters) was there a certain fulfillment achieved in my mother’s relationship with her father.

Just as Ialdabaoth was originally praised as well as shamed for his lack of perfection by his mother, so was I afflicted with the shadow of my mother’s shame (footnote 10).  Behind my kind, gentle, courteous mask, lies a fragment of a conceited megalomaniac that strives for perfection in the hope of finding a permanent escape from a deep condition of shame.  Within my guarded introversion lies a self-centered, insensitive patriarch who thinks of little else other than his own hope of success.

Opposing this shadow image is that of Christ, the redeemer, who rescues the debased Sophia from her misery.  Sophia follows the course of Edinger’s life cycle (1972) through the inflationary attitude and down into “metanoia”, achieving an attitude of humility and sacrifice.   When this turning around of an inflationary tendency is achieved through the trials of emotional suffering, a profound new possibility appears in this image of Christ, the same figure who had some hand in Sophia’s journey into matter as he stopped her from falling into the oblivion of the Unknown Father.

If the Unknown Father represents the grand Self both for me personally as well as for the collective psyche (Rives, 9/26/98), then this redeeming figure might have more to do with the development of the ego in relation to the Self (and to the anima), rather than just simply being a dream image of the Self.

Edinger presents the model of an ego-Self axis in his book, Ego and Archetype (1992).   “This axis is the gateway or path of communication between the conscious personality and the archetypal psyche.” (1972, p. 38)  When there is damage to this axis through “adverse environmental influences” (1972, p. 39) in our parental relationships as children then the cycle of grandiosity and depression ensue.  To repair or develop this essential path of communication between ego and Self would be to call on this dream image of Christ.

The presence of the Self, as depicted both in this dream and in psychic reality, is unknowable and untouchable.    In my own life, if I neglect to acknowledge that my elusive Self is the real captain of my ship, then I will continue to fall into the abysmal condition of psychic disorientation and inflation due to the overwhelming unconscious influences of both my anima and shadow.   To implement a firmer ego-Self axis is to experience an emotional, initiatory descent in order to be more humbly available, through prayer and spiritual practice, to a process of communion with that which is greater than myself as ego.    “The way of ascent is the way of descent” (Layton, 1987, p. 158).

Another interpretation of this Christ image is to consider the way in which ego is formed in the context of changing cultural values.    In his essay, Recent Influences on the Practice of Jungian Analysis (Stein, 1995), Whitmont defines the ego as actualized, minute aspect of Self, that develops according to “conditioned ideas and images of what one has been trained by family and culture to assume one is like or should be like, in terms of standards, values, and aspirations” (Stein, 1995, p. 337).   The cultural context prior to the influence of the post-60’s, post modern era, involves a patriarchal “hero ideal of outer-directedness, shalt and shalt-not concepts of ethics…with its learned need to control and to dominate its rationality, its extraversion, and its sense of isolation from body, emotion, group and world.”   Perhaps the feminist movement has allowed us to finally gain some perspective on a masculine dominated paradigm that has been firmly embedded in our culture for hundreds, even thousands of years.

This is also the patriarchal ego of my father.   He is a successful (retired) radiologist who worships the law of science and suspects and dismisses anything that can’t be proven concretely.   This is the idealized ego that I have struggled to accommodate while, during my youth (footnote 11) I was privately intrigued by models of feminism, child-centeredness, spirituality and transpersonal psychology.    Straddling the 60’s generation gap, I may have simply been rebelling against my father’s older values.   But Whitmont suggests that this might be apart of a larger trend; the emergence of a new ego.

“A new ego, genuinely subjective or, rather, directly Self- and inner-determined and motivated, is beginning to make itself felt in our time.  In contrast to the patriarchal ego, this emerging ego is oriented not so much by outer-directed action, concept, and thought, as by nonverbal experience.”  (Stein, 1995, p. 338)

Just as the identification of individual typology can help bring a better understanding of one’s unique path of individuation, so can this model of a new ego help those who are confused by this age of changing paradigms.   Whitmont even identifies Jung with the older, more heroic model of ego that establishes his mark on the world in the first half of life and pursues introspective individuation in the second half of life.    For myself, who has not achieved any substantial career success as the first half of my life comes to a close, Whitmont’s idea brings some relief from the accusing eyes of the old guard.

Perhaps it is this new Christ, or this forgotten image of Christ as servant to the dual Sophia who represents this stage in my process of individuation.    Whitmont says that “individuation now comes to mean a ‘becoming consciously what one is or is meant to be,’ (Whitmont, 1969, p. 48) an aware and conscious living commitment to one’s experienced reality, an aware and responsible enacting, rather than acting out, of one’s motivating impulses, including those of the inferior function, which need differentiation and conscious training.” (Stein, 1995, p. 339)

If my dominant function is introverted intuitive, then the difficulty I experience in respecting the hard facts of material reality is a problem of my inferior function, extraverted sensation.   That Sophia falls into matter, or becomes matter, or is matter (depending on which account one reads) would indicate that attention paid to the material realm would be an honorable activity for the Christ part of myself, the new ego with a more in tact ego-Self axis.   Better money management, more attention to physical health and to the physical quality of my home, and taking practical steps to pursue a career in therapy are all ways in which I can bring find more balance within my typological functions. (Von Franz, 1993 pp. 16-145)

“The repetitive cycle of inflation and alienation is superseded by the conscious process of individuation when awareness of the reality of the ego-Self axis occurs.” (Edinger, 1972, p. 103)   It is the images of Adam and Seth that represent the task of individuation as carried on by a more humbled, Self-aligned ego which is able to manage the dangers of the shadow.   To carry the latent light trapped in matter is the central theme of the individuation process.  “Psychological development in all its phases is a redemptive process.  The goal is to redeem by conscious realization, the hidden Self, hidden in unconscious identification with the ego.”  (Edinger, 1972, italics his)

An alchemical image from the Rosarium Philosophorum of 1550 (Von Franz, 1980, p. 64) consisting of Father, Son, Holy Ghost as dove, with the feminine as matter, appears in Von Franz’s book, Alchemy (1980) [see Valasquez painting above].    This image is a good illustration of how the dream reflects my efforts to reconcile the tensions between the masculine aspects of ego and shadow, ego and Self, and the feminine aspects of a positive anima and negative anima, soul and matter.  To find a healthy means of relieving the pressures of a personal shadow, as well as to find my ego’s right place in relationship to both the Self and the anima are grand tasks of individuation.

The emphasis of this illustration is on the lower feminine who is being lifted from her entrapment in matter.   How can I attend more clearly and consciously to the “mundane”, or the spiritual latency of daily life?    Whether in relationship with my wife, children, emotions, current employment,  friendships, financial affairs, and even daily school work, this dream points to the beauty I might derive from the repeated failures of attending to these matters.   To find balance between the draw of a demanding anima, an elusive positive anima that points to more soulfulness, the temptations of a power-hungry shadow and the responsibilities of a new ego-Self axis is a task set forth by this myth.   That I am aware of these psychic forces and themes in my life indicates that the process of individuation have been partially attended to.   But the continued imbalances of self-centeredness, compulsive eating patterns, lack of social fulfillment and mental cloudiness suggest that the process is by no means complete.

As we enter the uncertainty of a declining patriarchal age, the road map of Jungian depth psychology offers valuable insight into new directions for individual and collective growth.    Finding new forms of masculinity that are closer and more respecting of the ways of the feminine are clues suggested by this dream.    And as the collective implications of this initiatory myth might suggest,  our concise yet treacherous task is to bring the light of conscious wisdom into the dark corners of personal psychological contraction.


A.  “As an example of how the archetypes work on the collective consciousness, Jung notes the then recent papal decree making the Assumption of Mary, Christ’s mother, part of Christian dogma. This was of enormous importance for Jung: it showed that Christianity recognized the need to include the feminine in the Godhead, something it had lacked and which has weakened its appeal. The idea that Mary didn’t die but was taken, body and soul, to heaven, had been accepted for nearly a century but it wasn’t made part of divine revelation until Pope Pius XII’s decree on November 1, 1950. The masses demanded it and their insistence was, Jung writes, “the urge of the archetype to realize itself.”
Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings, by Gary Lachman, 2010

  1. “No single complete telling of the gnostic myth seems to have survived, though one may be reflected in The Secret Book According to John and The Egyptian Gospel, and by St. Irenaeus’s account of Satorninos.”  (Layton, 1987, 14).  My rendition was developed using many of the gnostic scriptures included in Layton’s (1987) translations including the writings associated with Valentinus and his school.   These texts are dated from approximately the second to fourth centuries, A.D.
  1. Barbelo, an Egyptian word for “the great emission”, (Layton, 1987, p. 15) is the deity more commonly refered to as the Holy Spirit (Quispel, 1982), the Feminine Face of God, and The Wisdom of God of the Old Testament.   She could therefore be interpreted as a higher manifestation of “Sophia, The Wisdom of God” but in Layton’s translations, “Sophia” is reserved for the figure of the lastaeon.   Barbelo is often called Forethought, while the lower Sophia is called Afterthought (Layton, 1987, 23-51 and 156).
  1. “Aeons” might be viewed as ages, periods of time, geometric spacialities, or dimensional realities.
  1. An archetype is “an innate, inherent pattern of psychological performance, linked to instinct.” (Young-Eisendrath, Polly and Dawson, Terence, Eds, 1997)
  1. Self is a Jungian term refering that structure within the psyche that brings order, wholeness, unity, totality and meaning.    The Self is inclusive of all other psychic structures and can also be viewed as inclusive of all structures within the collective unconscious as well (Rives, 9/26/98).
  1. A “bardic presentation” of The Myth of Sophia (Craig-Morse, 1998) was given at the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland on May 18, 1998 as part of my Master’s Project.   I presented the myth a second time at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa on September 2, 1998.
  1. “That state or life dynamism in which consciousness realizes itself as a split and separated personality that yearns and strives toward union with its unknown and unknowable partner, the Self, Jung has called the individuation process.  It is a conscious striving for becoming what one ‘is’ or rather ‘is meant to be.’   However, since the goal of this process, the Self, is like ‘a priori existent,’ ‘the God within us,’ individuation is always a road, a way, a process, travel or travail, a dynamism; it is never, at least not while one lives in time and space, a static or accomplished state.  It is ‘becoming,’ not ‘being.’  The Self as the ‘goal’ of the individuation process may be likened to the pole star: one may plot one’s course by i, but one does not expect to reach it.”  (Whitmont, 1969, 221-222)
  1. Edinger attributes a form of inflation that involves “living out the attribute of deity” and “the attempt to force and coerce one’s environment” to “a kind of Yahweh complex” (Edinger, 1972, p. 14). For references to an interpretation  of Yahweh, the God of Israel, as Ialdabaoth, see Jung, 1959, vol. 9 part II, para 128, and Layton, 1987, p. 16.
  1. Inflation as defined by Edinger involves an over-identification of the ego with the Self.  (Edinger, 1972, p. 7)
  1. One translation of the name Ialdabaoth is “Son of Shame” (Couliano, 1992).
  1. Jung writes that youth “extends roughly from the years just after puberty to middle life, which itself begins between the thirty-fifth and fortieth year.” (Jung, quoted in Campbell, 1971).  I am currently 38 years old.