Friday, January 25, 2008

Pistis Sophia

The following is a column I submitted to an astrology magazine. Regular readers of this blog will recognise it as based on something I wrote in these pages about two years ago. Unfortunately the editors didn't feel it was suitable and it was rejected. This is only the second time a story of mine has been turned down by this particular publication. Interestingly enough, the first time it was a story about Christianity too: about Pro-Life Christians.

Here's a copy of the e-mail exchange between me and the editor just after it was rejected:

Chris: "What's the reasoning for this, just out of interest? No-go on Christianity?"

Editor: "Yeah bang on, we have to give religion a wide berth."

Which is odd, don't you think? Why would an astrology magazine feel that it has to give a wide berth to religious questions?

But as I pointed out to a Christian friend of mine these texts have been suppressed for nearly 2,000 years now, so it's not surprising that they should continue to be. I expect they would get a lot of noisy hate mail if they published. Christians just seem to find the idea of a feminine aspect to the divinity too difficult to contemplate it seems....

On my birthday I typed the words “The Hypostasis of the Archons” into my mobile phone and sent it as a text to my ex-wife, the mother of my son.

The funny thing is, of course, that using predictive text, my mobile phone did not recognise the words at all. Well it recognised some of the words, but not others. The others I had to spell out. Hypostasis. Archons. Letter by letter. Therefore my mobile phone now contains the title of an early Christian Gnostic text in its memory.

The Hypostasis of the Archons. It means, “The Reality of the Rulers”. It is one of the Gnostic gospels found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945. They are a collection of early Christian writings which had been buried in the desert to hide them from destruction by the Orthodox elites at the time. They date from between the first century to the fourth century AD and show what a very different force Christianity was in these early years.

When I found the text on the Internet is was like a thrill of instant electric recognition passing through my whole body.

I’d never read anything quite like this before, and yet is was oddly familiar. Christianity, and yet not-quite Christianity. Something else.

The reason I typed the title into my mobile phone to send to my ex was that she had asked me about Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code.

I’d said that Dan Brown was sort of onto a half-truth in his book. Not that Jesus ever married Mary Magdalene, but that the feminine has been systematically exorcised from Christianity over the centuries and that certain forgotten forms of the religion were much more sympathetic to the notion of a female side to the deity.

This is clear in The Hypostasis of the Archons, where the feminine part of the deity is given a name: Pistis Sophia.

“Sophia” means “Wisdom”, “Pistis” means “Faith”.

Her name therefore means “the Wisdom of Faith”, or, perhaps, “the Faith of the Wise”.

This is how she is described in the book:

“As incorruptibility looked down into the region of the waters, her image appeared in the waters; and the authorities of the darkness became enamoured of her. But they could not lay hold of that image, which had appeared to them in the waters, because of their weakness - since beings that merely possess a soul cannot lay hold of those that possess a spirit - for they were from below, while it was from above. This is the reason why ‘incorruptibility looked down into the region (etc.)’: so that, by the father's will, she might bring the entirety into union with the light.”

It was the image of the goddess reflected in the waters that caused a resonance in me. The goddess as “incorruptibility”. The idea of the “authorities of the darkness” becoming enamoured of her, but being unable to lay hold of her. They fail to lay hold of her firstly because they are looking in the wrong place. (What they are looking at is merely a reflection.) But secondly, because she is the image of incorruptibility and cannot, therefore be “laid hold of”. She is beyond objectification. She is beyond property. She is beyond measure.

As I read the words it conjured up an image in my mind.

This image sent a message to me about the true nature of our world, as a reflection of another world. Sometimes, even, I can sense that other world - not so far away - as a world of immense, intense almost unbearable beauty; as a world of true kindness; as a world of friends, not strangers; as a world where exploitation and violence have ceased to exist; as a world which glows with its own inner light, where the works of art and nature are forever intertwined in an elaborately playful dance of sheer delight. The naturalising of the human. The humanising of nature.

The rebirth of the goddess.

1 comment:

Maritzia said...

Have you read CS Lewis's "The Great Divorce". It's about concepts of heaven and hell. It talks about that same concept, that what we perceive as real is just an insubstantial shadow, but we don't understand that until we see the what is truly real when we get to heaven.

It's a book that had a big impact on my own spirituality.

Now I'm off to read the Hypostasis book you just linked!