This is the second Act of the Sophia Mystery Play, Via Negativa, an Act that truly lives up to this title. Here, Sophia embarks on a harrowing journey, where she flies up towards the incredible Source Light but then, unable to get there, turns and falls from her heavenly home to a tortuous hell. Here we meet the very strange beings called archons (lower angelic beings), which I will discuss more at length in the next post. For a shorter synopsis of the entire Creation Story of Sophia, see it as part of my article on the Song of Songs.
Sophia Goes Towards The Light
Sophia is the youngest of the “aeons”, or energetic expressions of the divine source emanation, along with her consort, the Christ-Logos. Sophia and Christ are a pair, who not only are matched in the highest regions of the great emanation (1) but they also are identified as holding the outermost space in the geometric pattern of the heavenly Pleroma, called the 13th aeon. (2)
Sophia is a being of Light who sees a Light that is far more glorious than her own.
“I (Jesus) will tell you the mystery, how this befell her.” PS1:29
“It came to pass, when Pistis Sophia was in the thirteenth aeon… that Pistis Sophia gazed into the height. She saw the light … and she longed to reach to that region, and she could not reach to that region. But she ceased to perform the mystery of the thirteenth æon.” PS1:30
Here, Sophia, the daughter of the Holy Spirit, sees this First Mystery of the emanation (3), and she becomes overwhelmed with the desire to join with it. Sophia, being young, doesn’t like to play by the rules and instead follows her passion. She gets fired up when she catches a glimpse, a most incredible glint of Light at the farthest center of the heavenly realm. Without thinking, without planning, without making arrangements, she leaves her post and heads towards the Light, like a moth to the flame.
As she is passing the other divine pairs who are holding up their “mystery”, they are dismayed at how she could have abandoned her position in the great architecture of this original divine universe.
However, she could not enter into that inner sanctuary and was prevented from doing so by a limit.
As if she had been locked out of her destination, the Great Palace of the First Mystery, she turned her sights to see another Light, but didn’t know that it was the light of the demiurge, king of the archons. She thought that its light was the Light of the central source. Instead, she was drawn to it, where she ultimately tumbles, out of the Pleroma, down into the realms of chaos. (4)
Sophia recalls, “I gazed … into the lower parts and saw there a light, thinking: I will go to that region, in order that I may take that light. And I went and found myself in the darkness which is in the chaos below…” (PS1:32-2)
There is a theme that runs through some of the texts claiming that it was Sophia’s folly, her arrogance that led to her fall. Not only that, but it was her conceit that led to very creation of the archons. This is a theme that may be a later development in the gnostic tradition, where Sophia is blamed for what was essentially a failed mission. (see Part 13 of this series for more on this.)
Here is from the Secret Book of John.
“It happened that the realm (aeon) Wisdom (Sophia)
Of conceptual thought (Epinoia),
Began to think for herself,
She used the thinking (enthymesis)
And the foreknowledge (prognosis)
Of the Invisible Spirit.
She intended to reveal an image from herself
To do so without the consent of the Spirit,
Who did not approve,
Without the thoughtful assistance of her masculine counterpart,
Who did not approve.
Without the Invisible Spirit’s consent
Without the knowledge of her partner
She brought it into being.”
Yaldabaoth and the Archons
“And when she saw (the consequences of) her desire, it changed into a form of a lion-faced serpent. And its eyes were like lightning fires which flash. She cast it away from her, outside that place, that no one of the immortal ones might see it, for she had created it in ignorance … And she called his name Yaldabaoth.” (Apoch of John) (5)
There are different versions of this part of the story, and it is unclear if Sophia “created” the archons or if they were already there during her “fall” and then turned to persecute her.
“It came to pass then … that all the rulers in the twelve æons (the archons) who are below, hated her, because she had ceased from their mysteries, and because she had desired to go into the height and be above them all. For this cause then they were enraged against her and hated her.” (PS1:30) (6)
In the Pistis Sophia, Jesus continues with the story of Sophia. “…she went forth from her own region, the thirteenth aeon, and went down to the twelve aeons [outside of the Pleroma]. The rulers of the aeons pursued her and were enraged against her, because she had thought of grandeur. And she went forth also from the twelve aeons, and came into the regions of the chaos and drew nigh to that lion-faced light-power to devour it. But all the material emanations of Self-willed [Yaldabaoth] surrounded her, and the great lion-faced light-power devoured all the light-powers in Sophia and cleaned out her light and devoured it, and her matter was thrust into the chaos; it became a lion-faced ruler in the chaos, of which one half is fire and the other darkness,–that is Yaldabaoth, of whom I have spoken unto you many times.” (PS1:31)
Keep in mind that this is an archetypal pattern that features strongly in humanity’s role in this creation story in the complex but highly significant Gnostic tale of Adam and Eve.
“Yaldabaoth is the chief ruler. He took great Power from his mother, left her, and moved away from his birthplace. He assumed command, created realms for himself, with a brilliant flame that continues to exist even now.” (Apoch of John)
Stealing her Light
“When then this befell, Sophia became very greatly exhausted, and that lion-faced light-power set to work to take away from Sophia all her light-powers.” (PS1: 31)
“She fell down into a body and came to this life, then she fell into the hands of many robbers.” (Exegesis of the Soul)
Sophia was tortured, tormented, ridiculed, and forced to barely survive on parched soil and bare rocks, lost in the desert of hardened light, called matter. The archons showed no mercy. And Sophia wept.
“And when I looked unto the height, I saw all the rulers of the æons, how in their numbers they looked down on me and rejoiced over me, though I had done them no ill; but they hated me without a cause. And when the emanations of Self-willed saw the rulers of the æons rejoicing over me, they knew that the rulers of the æons would not come to my aid; and those emanations which sore pressed me with violence, took courage, and the light which I had not taken from them, they have taken from me.” (PS1 32:4)
She becomes lost in the far depths, the outer world of chaos. She mourns over having lost her home and her family. “And because of the delusion of my light, I have become a stranger to my brothers (fellow pairs of aeons), the invisible ones, and also to the great emanations of the Barbelo (Pronnoia/Thought).” (PS1 32:8)
Meanwhile, Yaldabaoth, the demiurge, increased his power and, with no connection to source, presents himself as the One God.
“And when he saw the creation which surrounds him, and the multitude of the angels (archons) around him which had come forth from him, he said to them, ‘I am a jealous God, and there is no other God beside me.'” (Apoch of John)
- According to the Valentinian system, known as Bythos (The Deep) and Ennoia, (The Light of “Thought”).
- In the Pistis Sophia, Jesus describes that the source and First Mystery like in the 24th “aeon” or what I would call “dimensional reality.” From that source, the aeons emanate out in pairs going down in numbers, with the 13th aeon being the last in the Pleroma. The 12th aeon (in other texts, the 7th heaven), lies outside the Pleroma and is where these lower beings called archons reside. It is in this lower realm that Sophia becomes trapped.
- Or the Ineffable/Ein Soph, depending on the text and it is confusing.
- I am not convinced from the various texts that she her “fall” was out of folly, but it might have been that she was on a specific mission. Nevertheless, there are numerous references to how she acted alone, apart from her consort, the Christ. And, according to John Lamb Lash (ref), this fall represents a disruption in the plan to seed this quadrant of the universe with the spark of the divine human. (Lash, Not in his image). There is also questions about how, during this time of strong patriarchy with woman overall having far less status in the culture, that Sophia becomes the object of blame, much like Eve is unfortunately blamed for the fall of Adam (which is basically opposite from the gnostic version of this story which I will present)
- Called Authades and Self-willed in the Pistis Sophia.
- This very specific and unusual motif of an archetypal feminine figure who abandons her post that then results in anger from her brothers, appears specifically in the Song of Songs. “The sons of my own mother they grew angry with me; they appointed me the keeper of the vineyards [although] my vineyard, one that was mine, I did not keep.” (Song of Songs) I speculate that, among many other parallels, this suggests that the Song of Songs may actually be a poem that emerges out of the same roots as the Pistis Sophia. Two other key points contribute to this theory, 1) that the great philosopher of Old Testament religious allegory, Philo (died in 50 CE), made no mention of the the Song of Songs, the greatest poetic expression of allegory in the Old Testament, and 2) I have found no specific reference to this text prior to Rabbi Akiba’s praise for it in 90 CE. This also point to the possibly that the Song of Songs was part of a first century new dispensation of wisdom literature, possibly involving St. Thomas.
- This parallels the Song of Songs. “The watchmen that were going about in the city found me. They struck me, they wounded me. The watchmen of the walls lifted my wide wrap off me.” (5:7)