The Nativity of Our Lady
The date that Gnostics celebrate as the Descent of Sophia corresponds
to the traditional date for the Birth of Mary in the Church Calendar. Both
of these mythic motifs relate to the coming down to earth of the feminine
image of the Redeemer. The story of the descent of Sophia is the story
of our own fall into matter. The story of the birth of Mary describes the
role of the Holy Female Power in our own redemption and liberation. The
apocryphal text of the Protevangelion describes the mission of Mary
in this light:
...But being an unparalleled instance without any pollution or defilement,
and a Virgin not knowing any man, shall bring forth a son, and a maid shall
bring forth the Lord, who both by his grace and name and works, shall be
the saviour of the world.
Here Mary is described as a Virgin-Power and relates to that feminine spirit
of the Epinoia who was sent down into Eve and who was not defiled by the
archons. This Holy Female Power watches over the Children of the Light
and finds its fulfillment in the birth of Mary who is to bear the savior
of the world. Whereas Sophia in her initial error, without her consort,
gives birth to a flawed Demiurge, so Mary, without knowing any man, gives
birth to a saving power that can correct the deficiency. By putting the
two stories together in this fashion we can begin to see that Sophias
fall into matter is a pre-ordained act in the pattern of redemption.
According to the Pistis Sophia, Sophia does everything that she
does and suffers all that she suffers by the command of the First Mystery.
Much of what happens to her is not her fault or intent; the very act of
her leaving the Pleroma comes out of her yearning for the Light of the
Father. That she was led downward into the chaos by the false light of
the Arrogant One brings about the alchemical condition for her redemption.
She becomes the light shining in the darkness. She becomes herself the
manifestation of the redeeming mission that is the redemption of all creation.
As she suffers and languishes in the darkness and the chaos, her calls
for deliverance are the calls of our own souls for redemption. Our own
yearning for the light and wholeness of the Pleroma leads us to follow
the false light of the lower ego and fall into the chaos of material existence.
It is not until we have truly descended into the chaos; it is not until
we have bottomed out that we can become conscious of the nature of our
own suffering and the divine light that suffers with us in the world. Not
until we become conscious of the nature of our suffering in the chaos can
we discover the true direction of our yearning for the Light of the Fullness.
The descent of Sophia and her suffering in the chaos represents the
existential condition of the human soul in the world. The feelings of fear,
frustration, alienation and despair that Sophia experiences when she is
trapped in the chaos are certainly not unknown to the Gnostic soul, nor
to many in our contemporary society. If we lift up our repentances to the
Light, our voice becomes Sophias voice and we are redeemed from this condition
with her. Sophia is then the redeemed redeemer. Through her prayers to
the Light all salvation has come to earth and our redeemer and liberator
comes to us.
In Ptolemaeus Letter to Flora it is not Sophia herself who gives birth
to the Demiurge but her passions: grief, fear and ignorance. These passions
become a Pandora-like figure named Achamoth. Achamoth, filled with some
of the light-power of Sophia and left in the material chaos, gives birth
to the Demiurge. She longs to return to the Pleroma but cannot pass the
Limit, that boundary which exists between the spheres of the archons and
the fullness of the Pleroma.
In response to the distress of Achamoth, the Alone-Begotten, the First
Mystery, engenders a new pair for her redemption: Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The Christ brings Achamoth out of the chaos and into the Pleroma, while
the Holy Spirit remains on earth to guide and care for all the scattered
sparks of Sophias light that remained. The fragments of light still trapped
in the material world are collectively the anima mundi, the Soul of the
The Soul of the World still suffers. She is the anima mundi who cries
out for redemption from the cruel and oppressive system in which she is
trapped. The Holy Sophia still sorrows for us lonely ones in this world.
As stated in the Sequence of Sophia, I will never fall asleep upon
the green grass, while the earth rings with the cries of the exiles. We
can seem to ignore and often even forget the worlds pain until we remember
something better, our true and perfect home above the aeons.
We can not go to that perfect home until we find and bring back those
sparks of light, our own human souls, which are trapped in the world. We
must recover that pearl of consciousness that Sophia sowed in us in the
beginning, for only through human consciousness can the redemption of all
We, the children of Sophia, are the mediators between heaven and
earth. The bodiless powers are really quite helpless in this world without
our hands, and we are quite helpless to bring the redeeming light-power
that can awaken the slumbering sparks without their divine aid and assistance.
Even as the human soul cries out for redemption, so the soul of the world
cries out for deliverance, a deliverance that can only occur when all human
souls have been awakened and liberated.
The descent of Sophia is the descent of the redeeming power of the Divine
Feminine as expressed in three important female images: Eve, the Virgin
Mary, and Mary Magdalen. In the Gnostic account of the myth of Genesis,
Eve takes on the figure of the first redeemer. In this story, the first
human created by the Demiurge has no intelligence or consciousness. He
can only crawl around on the ground; he cannot even stand. Sophia, taking
pity on this creature, infuses the first human, Adam, with an emanation
of her own light-power and spirit which she calls Zoe (Life). The Demiurge
is jealous of the light of this spirit-woman. The Demiurge causes a sleep
to fall over Adam and, while he sleeps, takes the spirit-woman out of Adam
and places her in another image of his own fashioning. This feminine spirit-self
of Adam is named Eve. She awakens Adam from his sleep and raises him up.
Adam recognizes the light of his own spirit in her and exclaims, You are
the one who gave me life. (Eve means the Mother of All Living.) The
archons become jealous of Eves light and attempt to rape her, so that
her offspring might come under their dominion. When they forcibly take
her, she secretly enters into a tree and leaves only a material replica
behind. The archons cast their seed upon and defile only their own creation.
Eves true spiritual self remains undefiled and virgin. She is an image
of the virgin whom no power (archon) defiled. Through Eve a portion of
the light-power of Sophia descends as the seed of light in the divine race
of humanity. She becomes the source of that essential spark of the divine
light which is the redeeming power within each of us.
Another image of the descent of Sophia is the Virgin Mary, the Mother
of Jesus. The Gospel of Philip refers to her as the virgin whom
no power (archon) defiled, who is anathema to the Hebrews, the apostles,
and ignorant men. This enigmatic description refers the Virgin Mary back
to the figure of Eve and the descent of the Woman Spirit who gave life
and intelligence to Adam. The Church has had a long tradition of Mary as
the second Eve, and Christ as the second Adam, yet the Gnostics put an
unusual twist to the story. The Hebrews do not simply refer to those descended
from the cultural heritage of the Jews but to the psychic Christians
who upheld the conventional teachings and laws of Judaism and Christianity,
and failed to see the spiritual and redeeming role of the feminine. Eve
is anathema to ignorant men, because of the conventional view of Eve as
the origin and cause of the Curse and the Fall. The Gnostics, however,
see the figure of Eve as the original embodiment of the redemptive feminine
power, which is carried in the seed of light among the race of humanity
and brought unto its later fulfillment in the image of the Virgin Mary.
A third image of the descent of Sophia is Mary Magdalen, the consort
of Christ. The church has had a long tradition of identifying Mary Magdalen
with the harlot who anoints the feet of Jesus with myrrh oil and her tears.
Not only is one of the titles of Sophia Prunikos (harlot) but in the
Simonian gnosis the Holy Spirit is also incarnated in a harlot named Helen.
In the Simonian myth, Simon finds Helen in a brothel, recognizes her as
the embodiment of the Epinoia, takes her as his consort and restores to
her the memory of her divine estate. Even so, Mary Magdalen is depicted
as the image of the harlot given to men that do not recognize her, yet
who is eventually redeemed through her love of her consort, the Christ.
So too, the divine soul of humanity is given to material powers and forgets
her divine nature, awaiting the Savior who can come and restore her memory.
The Gospel of Philip describes Mary Magdalen as a reflexive image of
the Virgin Mary, the spiritual and physical aspects of virginity being
counterchanged between them. The Sophia whom they call the barren is the
Mother of the Angels and the consort of Christ is Mary Magdalen. The Virgin
Mary knows no man physically and yet gives birth as a physical mother.
Mary Magdalen knows many men physically, is barren physically, and yet
has given birth to spiritual children as the Mother of the Angels. By this
description Mary Magdalen refers to that aspect of Sophia, the consort
of the Christos, who emanates the light-power that becomes the sparks of
light, the angelic light-seeds that come to rest in the Children of the
In these three images of the descent of Sophia, we find a continuity
of the manifestation of the Holy Female Power from illo tempore (outside
of time) to the present day. The manifestation of Sophia in the world is
the connecting principle between the feminine figures of redemption from
the generation of Eve and the nativity of Our Lady to the love of Mary
Magdalen. In this way, Sophia is present in all the relationships of the
feminine to the Redeemer Christ. Even so, these three images describe our
relationship to the Redeemer as well. As stated in the Gospel of Philip,
For Mary was his mother and his sister and his consort.
-- Rev. Steven Marshall