The following is a presentation of the first part of our Mystery Play on the Creation Story of Sophia.
It is the early Gnostic texts, which I have introduced in this previous post, plus the Jewish mystical tradition known as Kabbalah where the raw elements of this story are gathered. The Kabbalah has a long and varied history. Acclaimed scholar and student of the Jewish mystical path, Gersham Scholem, identified the Bahir as a 1st century CE text that was a foundation for what later flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries in France and Spain. (1) Kabbalah could be considered a close Jewish relative of Gnosticism and there are numerous overlaps in their creation cosmologies.
There are many variations to the themes and players who appear in this story however there is a fairly consistent and coherent narrative that I have found described in these texts. Given the variations, I am taking very general concepts and painting this story with broad brush strokes.
I will be exploring in future posts the possibility that this story originated primarily from a central source, I am referring to as the Wisdom New Dispensation and is not tied to any one indigenous culture, as are most creation stories. (2) This thesis is in contrast to what many gnostic scholars believe, that gnosticism and these cosmologies developed over a couple of hundreds of years, involving a variety of different sources such as Platonic Greek philosophy as well as Egyptian and Persian theologies. I will go more into this thesis as we sleuth the mystery of the Deep Christ.
Regarding the problem of gender, the cultural context of the times when these scriptures were written was largely patriarchal and I believe this factored into identifying the Ineffable/Ein Soph (see below) as “he” and “father.” However, there are also references to “him” being androgynous and so, to help pull back from the long standing preference for the Father God, I am adjusting the pronouns accordingly.
The Story Synopsis
There was once a lone being who knew of nothing beyond itself. Finally, it withdrew its mind deep into itself and then there was a massive emanation of unimaginable Holy Light. This was a threefold Emanation: A Holy Spirit Mother (Higher Sophia), A Steadfast Father, and a third, the offspring, the Divine Human Form. Other pairs emanated to fill a new heavenly realm called the Pleroma. The female of the last of these pairs was the main heroine of this story, the younger Sophia.
Now let us look in detail at the characters and their movements.
The Ineffable-Ein Soph
Imagine if you can, that in the very very beginning, the whole universe was once totally contained in one lone Being. Perhaps the idea of the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe comes to mind. What was there before this massive burst of creation?
In the beginning, actually before the beginning, there was a Being who was completely alone. The origins of this singular Being are completely unknown. Nothing in the universe knows where it came from.
In the Kabbalah, this singularity is called Ein Soph (without limit), “outside of which there is nothing.” (3) Ein Soph “was alone, without form and without resemblance to anything else.” (4)
“S/he is the Father-Mother of everything…above corruption, which is pure light into which no eye can look.” (AJ)
Imagine that this single “monad” (AJ) was the only thing in the universe, only there was no universe! The only thing that existed was just this one Being that had a unique a consciousness, with a personality, a mind, thoughts and words.
This is our origins, this is us, this is “The All.” When I pray, I invoke this Being. It still exists, though it is no longer just completely alone.
Great praises were sung to this Being.
“S/he is unchanging good. S/he is faultless. S/he is everlasting. S/he is blessed. S/he is unknowable… S/he is immeasurable. S/he is untraceable. S/he is perfect, having no defect. S/he is imperishably blessed.” (Eug)
Inside the Ineffable-Ein Soph
In some of the most incredible books of these mysteries, there are descriptions of what existed inside of this Ineffable Being prior to the Big Explosion.
“…above all the emanated powers, there exist in ‘the root of all roots’, three hidden lights which have no beginning, ‘for they are the name and essence of the root of all roots and are beyond the grasp of thought.” (5)
Below is what I believe to be an illustration of what the Kabbalah is referring to as the three hidden lights within the Ineffable prior to the emanation. This is from a book called the Book of Jeu or IEAU (6), one of the most obscure of the early gnostic texts, which is an extensive description of the esoteric teachings and rituals of the Christ.
The three lines in the center are ” the voices” that “sing praises” upon being emanated. (6)
This being is like a massive furnace of energy and Light, called the Ein Soph Or, the Unlimited Light.
Tzimtzum (Pulling back deep into itself)
There is a highly unusual part of original creation that is most obscure. It is referring to how the identity of this Being, its consciousness of itself, actually pulled itself back deeper into itself and that this then allowed it to “emanate”.
Like the two opposing energies in childbirth; contractions and delivery.
“Prior to Creation, there was only the infinite Or Ein Sof filling all existence. When it arose in G-d’s Will to create worlds and emanate the emanated … He contracted (in Hebrew “tzimtzum”) Himself in the point at the center, in the very center of His light…” (7)
The Great Emanation (Three-Fold Nature) Female Thought, Masculine Face, Anthropos (The Son).
In the Islamic tradition, there is a saying; “I was a treasure that longed to be known, and so I created the world.” (8) This Being, Ein Soph, longed to be known. There is something that went on from within itself that led to an Explosion of Great Light.
- Divine Mother Thought (Pronnoia), Barbelo, Higher Sophia, Holy Spirit
As this Great Emanation took place, there burst forth a Holy Light that filled the Universe, indeed it was the universe. Though there are three aspects of this original emanation, this feminine aspect is spoken about at length, with great praises sung to her. If the Ineffable was “Mind” then it produced “Thought”, called in Greek, Pronnoia.
The higher Sophia and Christ are a pair, who lie in the highest regions of the great emanation, in the Valentinian system, known as Bythos (The Deep) and Ennoia, The Light of “Thought”.
The Ineffable’s “thought” performed “a deed and she came forth.” (AJ)
And Its thinking became a thing. She appeared. She stood in Its presence in the brilliance of the light; she is the power which is before the All. (AJ). She goes by various names, one being Barbelo.
The invisible Spirit (Ineffable-Ein Soph) rejoiced over the light which had come into being, the one who was the first to appear from the primal power, which is Its Pronnoia (thought). (AJ)
“She is the spring of the living water.” (AJ)
I am first thought, the thought that is in light. I am movement that is in all, she in whom the realm of all takes its stand, the firstborn among those who came into being, she who exists before all. (TP)
She is called by three names, although she exists alone, since she is perfect. I am invisible within the thought of the invisible one. I am revealed in the immeasurable, ineffable things. I am intangible, dwelling in the intangible. I move in every creature. (TP)
- The Masculine Face of this Ineffable. Called Father, Ancient of Days
From this Ineffable-Ein Soph emerged both the feminine Light of this Holy Spirit and a masculine face or “forehead”. This is a highly ambiguous part of the story (9), but correlates to the Kabbalah’s idea of The Ancient of Days, who emerged from what was referred to as the “Ancient of Ancients” (i.e. The Ineffable). (Zohar)
“Nor was He called Father before [Mother-Thought] called Him Father.” (10) This gives us just a faint clue as to what happened here, as the Female Divine Light Mother looks at this masculine aspect that has emerged and sees him, giving him a name, Father. This might just be the universe’s first experience of love. It is at this point that the Ineffable-Ein Soph now experiences being in relationship, where his loneliness if finally met with the eyes of care and tenderness.
Christ calls him “father” although he also seems to be calling this Ineffable “father” as well. We are dealing with such vast unfathomable sweeps of original creation, which clearly are difficult to categorize, as the early gnostics tried so hard to do`.
Ancient of Days is the “manifestation of the” Ein Soph within creation.
- Anthropos – Adam Kadmon: The Archetypal Divine Human Form
Also called: Anthropos (gnostic), Adam Kadmon (Kabbalah), Logos (Philo, gnostic, orthodox), Word (orthodox and gnostic), Light of Lights (Pistis Sophia), Nous (Greek, gnostic), Primal Androgynous Man, Christus (latin/greek), The Standing One (Simonian), Allogenes and Autogenes (gnostic). Christ (gnostic, orthodox), Man of Light (Pistis Sophia). (11)
From this Holy Light Mother and Steadfast Father, came a third. This is referred to as a son (though there is also a female aspect).
“I radiated forth in this small idea as one originating from my Father. I bubbled up and I flowed forth from it. I radiated forth from it. It emanated me forth and I was the first emanation from within it. And I was its whole likeness and its image. As it emanated me forth I stood in its presence.”
And It gazed into Barbelo in the pure light which surrounds the invisible Spirit and Its luminescence, and she conceived from It. It begot a spark of light in a light resembling blessedness…” (AJ)
“It (the Word) is a hidden Light, bearing a fruit of life, pouring forth a living water from the invisible, unpolluted, immeasurable spring, that is, the unreproducible Voice of the glory of the Mother, the glory of the offspring of God…” (TP)
“In the beginning, he decided to have his likeness become a great power. Immediately, the principle (or beginning) of that Light appeared as Immortal Androgynous Man. His male name is ‘Begotten, Perfect Mind’.” (Eug)
The Pleroma (12)
Male-Female pairs of angelic beings, called Aeons, emanate out into this heavenly realm like ripples from a stone dropped in water. This divine universe is called the Pleroma, which might generally equate with the Christian word heaven. The presence of these sacred pairs hold geometric anchors to the structure of this divine universe. It is these beings, who later in the tale, become upset over Sophia leaving her station within this complex structure.
The Younger Sophia.
At this point, just before the closing curtain of this First Act of the Mystery Play, enters from stage right the heroine of our story. She is the youngest of these 32 pairs of these Aeons of the heavenly realm and is filled with Light. She is known as Sophia. As the feminine emanation of the original Ineffable, this Sophia is the younger expression of the higher Sophia, the Pronnoia/Thought, Holy Spirit. Little was said about her prior to the unfolding of the Second Act, however there was one very striking reference to who she was.
Christ’s “female name is ‘All-wise Begettress Sophia’. It is also said that she resembles her brother and her consort.” (Eug)
“The perfect Savior said: ‘Son of Man consented with Sophia, his consort, and revealed a great androgynous light. His male name is designated ‘Savior, Begetter of All Things’. His female name is designated ‘All-Begettress Sophia’. Some call her ‘Pistis’.” (Sophia of JC)
Sophia and Christ are a pair, who lie in the highest regions of the great emanation, in the Valentinian system, known as Bythos (The Deep) and Ennoia, The Light of “Thought”. This pair is also identified as holding the lowest dimension in the geometric pattern of this heaven.
Sophia will soon embark of a most remarkable journey. Stay tuned!
- Scholem, Gershom. Origins of the Kabbalah. Princeton: Jewish Publication Society. 1987
- Layton, Bentley. The Gnostic Scriptures, Ancient Wisdom for the New Age. Doubleday: NY. 1987. p.12
- Scholem, Gershom. Kabbalah (hardcover). 1978. p. 100
- Scholem, Gershom. Zohar: The Book of Splendors. NY: Schocken Books. 1949.
- Ibid, Scholem. Kabbalah, p. 95.
- Schmidt, Carl. Text edited by. The books of jeu and the untitled codex, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill: Leiden. 1978. p. 25
- Corbin, Henry. Alone With the Alone: Creative Imagination of the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi. Princeton U Press. 1978. p. 114.
- I find that there is much confusion around the Father who is the “Ineffable” and this Father who is part of the threefold emanation.
- Attributed to Simon Magus in the Apophasis Megale
- Corbin, Henry. The Man of Light: In Iranian Sufism. New Lebanon, NY: Omega Publications. 1978.