Seeking Sophia the Sacred feminine Presence
Reflection for September 8, 2015
On this day, September 8th, Christians honour the Birth of Mary, nine months following the Feast of her Immaculate Conception. Those of us who grew up with Mary as the focus of our prayers and filial love may by now have grown into a more complex understanding of this woman who showed us the face of the Feminine Divine.
Over recent weeks, we have been exploring the presence of Sophia in our lives, especially as she reveals herself in the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. Has Wisdom-Sophia become entangled for you in a good and holy way with Mary of Nazareth?
This is deep mystery, as well as a reflection of our human need to name what we experience. I believe there is a presence of sacred feminine energy that holds us in an embrace of love, cares profoundly and personally for each one of us and is willing to respond when we call to her.
This morning as I was wondering how to draw our recent reflections on Sophia to a close, I was delighted to receive an email from Barbara Bizou, a spiritual teacher living in New York City, whom some of us met at Jean Houston’s July 2012 Manhattan Mystery School. During that session, Barbara, whose Spiritual Tradition is Jewish, spoke with me of Brigid’s fire and the waters of rebirth. Together we engaged in a powerful ritual of reconciliation of our two traditions.
Today, Barbara recalled being in Paris fourteen years ago at the time of the 9/11 attacks. She writes:
In this time of existential uncertainty, it's often difficult to trust that the Divine has placed us exactly where we are meant to be. On September 10, 2001, I arrived in Paris for a holiday with one of my dearest friends. I awoke on 9/11 with a sense of foreboding and anxiety, which was unusual in one of my most favorite cities in the world. Sharing this with my friend Elynor Johnson, who felt a similar sense of uneasiness, we decided to distract ourselves by window-shopping. But after twenty minutes of aimless gazing, we realized we needed to ground our energy. What called us was the chapel Notre-Dame de la Medaille dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. For me, this has always been a Temple to the Divine Feminine. As we sat and prayed and meditated, the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
Reading her words, I was touched to know that a chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, is for Barbara “a Temple to the Divine Feminine”. I smiled, knowing I was reading this on Mary’s birthday.
Other writers have sought to untangle the Mystery of Mary. Here is Carol P. Christ, in The Laughter of Aphrodite:
…the Virgin Mary inherits many of the aspects of the Virgin Goddesses and functions as Goddess to many of her worshippers. Throughout the Near East, Europe and Latin America, churches to the Virgin Mary were built as places holy to the Goddess. Though she is not prominent in the New Testament, the myths and imagery surrounding her grew as the Goddesses were finally suppressed in Christian Culture. To the Greeks, she is Panaghia, which means simply, “the All Holy”….
Jean Markale writes in his Women of the Celts:
Within the patriarchal framework (goddesses) were often obscured, tarnished and deformed, and submerged into the depth of the unconscious. But they do still exist, if only in dormant state, and sometimes rise triumphantly to rock the supposedly immovable foundations of masculine society. The triumph of Yahweh and Christ was believed sanctified forever, but from behind them reappears the disturbing and desirable figure of the Virgin Mary with her unexpected names: Our Lady of the Water, Our Lady of the Nettles, Our Lady of the Briars, Our Lady of the Mounds, Our Lady of the Pines…. Our Lady of the Night. (p. 86)
Those titles that Markale recalls: water, briars, pines are the sacred things of earth. The waters of the deep unconscious where Seal woman finds her homeplace, where Skeleton Woman waits for someone hungry enough to draw her forth—the briars of Briar Rose – the pines that shelter my own home in the deep woods.
Star of the Sea. Guidance in the deep places within. We may choose to name this loving presence as we wish. She will not be bound by a name.
Given the mystery that surrounds her presence, we may choose to call her Our Lady of the Night, and simply be at peace in her mystery. Her loving presence in our lives is what matters.
The sacred feminine presence needs us as her partners in the great tasks of our time, calls us to co-create with her, to experience directly the power for good that she works within us when we open ourselves to her.
In the voice of the Sealwoman in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ story: “Sealskin, Soulskin”, she reminds us:
I am always with you. Only touch what I have touched… and I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs.
In her poem "Mother Wisdom Speaks", Christine Lore Weber encapsulates what Wisdom might say to us:
Some of you I will hollow out.
I will make you a cave.
I will carve you so deep the stars will shine in your darkness.
You will be a bowl.
You will be the cup in the rock collecting rain.
I will hollow you with knives.
I will not do this to make you clean.
I will not do this to make you pure
You are clean already.
You are pure already.
I will do this because the world needs the hollowness of you.
I will do this for the space that you will be.
I will do this because you must be large.
People will find their way through you.
People will eat from you.
And their hunger will not weaken them to death.
A cup to catch the sacred rain.
My daughter, do not cry.
Do not be afraid.
Nothing you need will be lost.
I am shaping you.
I am making you ready.
Light will flow in your hollowing.
You will be filled with light.
Your bones will shine.
The round open center of you will be radiant.
I will call you brilliant one.
I will call you Daughter Who Is Wide.
I will call you Transformed.
Wisdom Imaged in Nature
The ancient writers see in Wisdom’s flowing, all-pervasive presence an outpouring like rain or floodwaters:
Who knows the root of Her?
Who fathoms Her subtleties?
There is only one so wise and so wondrous – God!
He created Her and saw her true nature
God gave Her life and poured Her out
Upon all creation.
She is with you according to your ability to know Her;
For God has given Her to all who love Him.
(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 1: 6-10)
Of these wonderful images, Shapiro writes:
Wisdom is the way God lays out the foundation of creation….She is both the field and the rain that nurtures the field.
And just as rain falls on all, so too Wisdom. You do not deserve Her; you do not earn Her. You simply receive Her. And yet…
She is with you according to your ability to know Her. It is as if you were begging for pennies in the street without realizing that your pockets were stuffed with hundred dollar bills. Your love of God and your ability to know Wisdom are connected. Knowing Wisdom is the way you love God, and loving God is the way you know Wisdom.
(pp.18-19 in The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Skylight Illuminations, Woodstock, Vermont 2005)
In the following passage, Wisdom speaks to us of Herself as Cosmic Being:
I am the breath of the Most High,
blanketing the earth like mist,
filling the sky like towering clouds.
I encompass distant galaxies,
and walk the innermost abyss.
Over crest and trough,
over sea and land,
over every people and nation
I hold sway.
(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 24:3-6)
Shapiro notes the many water metaphors that hint at Sophia’s nature:
She is poured out, She falls like mist, She rises like clouds. Like water, Wisdom is yielding, and yet, like water She is capable of wearing down the hardest stone. She holds sway not by attacking but by embracing.
In these qualities, Shapiro finds resonance with the “highest good” described in Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching:
The highest good imitates water,
Giving life to all without struggle or striving.
She flows in places you dismiss and in this She is like the Tao.
There is no struggle in Wisdom’s way. She does not exert Herself, but simply is Herself. When you act in accordance with Wisdom, you act without coercion. You act in sync with the moment, engaging what is to nurture what can be. (pp. 20-21)
In our time, when we are beginning to grasp the truth that we are all interconnected, it is Wisdom-Sophia who draws us together:
She arises in God
and is with Him forever…
Established before beginnings,
She transcends time.
She is God’s word, a fountain of understanding;
Her ways are timeless, linking each to all,
and all to One.
(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 1: 1-5)
Shapiro finds here another parallel with the Tao:
The valley spirit never dies;
She is woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.
She is like a sheer veil, translucent, almost transparent.
Use her; She will never fail.
(Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6)
Wisdom arises in God, and is the gateway to God writes Shapiro. Referencing the Tao, Chapter 11, he adds:
She is the foundation of all things and the Way of all things. Wisdom is both timeless and timely, open to you now and capable of lifting you to eternity. She is the center that holds the periphery, just as the spokes of a wheel share a single hub. (pp. 16-7)
Wisdom is honoured as “Mother” in the Hebrew Scriptures:
I am the Mother of true love,
Beyond time, I am yet given to time,
a gift to all My children:
to all that He has named.
(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 24:18)
Shapiro writes: Wisdom is the Mother of quality as well as quantity. Wisdom is the Mother of the metaphysical as well as the physical. Wisdom is not only the Mother of the rose, but the Mother of the delight that arises when you smell one.
Wisdom is a gift to all God has named. The named are the seemingly separate things of the natural world. Until a thing is named, it is undefined and not fully alive. In Hebrew the root of the words “speak,” “word,” and “thing” is the same: dvr. Until the word is spoken, until the thing is addressed, it does not truly exist. Wisdom is the ability to reverse the process, to speak the name in such a way as to return to the silence of God that preceded it. (pp 24-25).
Sophia reflects light and goodness as a mirror of the divine:
She is God’s spotless mirror,
Reflecting eternal light,
and the image of divine goodness.
(Wisdom of Solomon 7: 24-26)
The Mirror of God reflects all things and is none of them. She reflects whatever is: good and bad, hope and horror. Wisdom is not one thing or another, but the Way to deal with all things in their time. (pp. 30-31)
Weaving Our Days with Wisdom-Sophia
Being faithful to a spiritual practice of deep listening brings about a change in our daily living. We notice a presence of Loving Wisdom that embraces us in the ordinary moments of each day, assisting in decisions and choices, lifting our spirits when clouds obscure our inner light, opening us to see the beauty in the life, the beings, around us.
Sophia befriends us in every activity, every aspect of our lives.
As Rabbi Rami Shapiro unpacks the Wisdom Literature of the Bible, we learn that the sages who honour Sophia/Chochma have known this guidance, this companionship for millennia.
Although She is one,
She does all things.
Without leaving Herself
She renews all things.
Generation after generation She slips into holy souls
Making them friends of God, and prophets,
for God loves none more than they who dwell with
(Wisdom of Solomon 7: 27-28)
Commenting on this passage, Shapiro writes:
This is what Wisdom can make of you: a friend and prophet of God. A friend of God is one who dwells in Wisdom. A prophet of God is one who shows others how to do the same.
To dwell in Wisdom is to see the ground from which all things come. To see the ground is to open yourself to what is rather than what you desire. Opened to what is, you engage the Way of things in this very moment.
Things arise from the conditions that precede them, but options are always present. The prophet works with the current embedded in the conditions to nurture justice rather than injustice, compassion rather than cruelty.
(pp.32-3 The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature Rabbi Rami Shapiro Skylight Illuminations. Woodstock Vermont 2005)
Far before words about Wisdom Sophia were recorded in the Bible, long before recorded history of any kind, Wisdom was present in the human heart,though never possessed fully:
The first human did not know Wisdom fully,
Nor will the last ever fathom Her.
For Her mind is more spacious than the sea,
Her counsel more deep than the great abyss.
(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach: 28:29)
Wisdom cannot be contained, Shapiro writes, and that which cannot be contained cannot be known completely….Wisdom is the ground out of which you come, and cannot be separated from your self …. You can no more know Her than your nose can smell itself or your ear can hear itself.
Wisdom is not a thing you can know but a Way you can follow…. The way to follow Wisdom is to surrender narrow mind to spacious mind--- the mind that knows to the knowing itself. (pp. 26-7)
Yet Wisdom’s overflowing presence extends far beyond the humans who honour her:
She is more beautiful than the sun,
And the constellations pale beside Her.
Compared to light, She yet excels it.
For light yields to dark,
while She yields to nothing.
She stretches mightily throughout the cosmos,
and guides the whole universe for its benefit.
(Wisdom of Solomon 7:29-8:1)
Reflecting on this passage, Shapiro comments:
What is to your benefit? To be wise, to immerse yourself in the Way of Wisdom. Wisdom’s desire is for you; She wants what is best for you, and that is for you to embrace Her. (pp.34-5)
Wisdom is not only all-pervasive, but also timeless:
At the beginning of beginnings,
God created Me.
And I shall remain forever.
(Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 24: 9)
Referring to the English language translation of Genesis: In the beginning God created…(Gen 1:1) Shapiro writes:
This is a misreading of the Hebrew. A more precise translation would be, By means of beginning, God created… Creation is the stuff of beginnings. There is no beginning unless there is something that begins.
Wisdom is said to have been created before beginnings. This shows the limits of language, for in fact this cannot be. If She is created, then there is a beginning. What, then, is this Wisdom Who was created before the things of creation? She is the pattern of creation, the Way of God’s unfolding from eternity into time. (pp. 22-23)
Wisdom is the earth’s foundation,
and understanding the sky’s pillar.
She is the divine order patterning all creation,
from the ancient oceans to this morning’s dew. (Proverbs 3: 19-20)
Reflecting on the way Wisdom patterns all creation Shapiro writes:
Wisdom is not separate from creation; She is the order of creation. She is the grain of wood, the currents of wind and sea. Everything rests on a metaphysical order, a principle that patterns all reality. While the world you encounter is impermanent, the principle of Wisdom is limitless. To know Wisdom is to know the current in the midst of the chaos….There is a guiding principle that orders even that which appear as random. That guiding principle is Chochma….
Using the metaphor of a game of dice, Shapiro suggests:
The extent to which you fixate on any one throw is the extent to which you are lost in chaos. As you step back and see the pattern, you are free to engage the game with equanimity. (pp. 14-5)
Discipline as a Way of Love
Of (Wisdom) the most sure beginning is the desire for discipline, care for discipline means loving Her…
(Wisdom 6:17 Jerusalem Bible)
These words about discipline from the Wisdom Literature of the Bible have been with me in recent days. As I thought about them, I noticed how I have come full circle with the concept of discipline. When I was young, I accepted it as a denial of pleasure, like giving up candy for Lent, harsh but ultimately good for me.
Later, I rejected that self-denying approach to life, embracing joy and a sense of being loved without having to “earn” it through sacrificing what I enjoyed. In recent years, I have discovered discipline in a new way, a commitment to “showing up” in a relationship with the Beloved each day…
Reflecting on this, I recalled a story where discipline is a requirement of love.
Here is an excerpt from The Little Prince :
The fox…gazed at the little prince for a long time. “Please tame me!” he said.
“I’d love to,” replied the little prince, “but I don’t have much time. I’ve got friends to find and lots of things to understand.”
“You only understand the things you tame,” said the fox. “People no longer have the time to understand anything….If you want a friend, tame me!”
“What do I have to do?” said the little prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “Sit down in the grass a little way away from me, like this. I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye and you won’t say a word. Language is a source of misunderstanding. And each day, you can sit a little closer.”
The next day, the little prince returned.
“It would have been better if you’d come back at the same time,” said the fox. “If you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then from three o’clock I’ll start feeling happy. The later it gets, the happier I’ll feel….but if you come at any old time, I’ll never know when to feel glad in my heart…we need rituals.”
“What’s a ritual?” said the little prince.
“Something else that is too readily forgotten,” said the fox. “It is what makes one
day different from another, or one hour different from the other hours.”
(from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943; English translation, 2010 by Ros and Chloe Schwartz)
This wisdom from the fox echoes the teaching of spiritual writers that we must be willing to show up, either at the same time each day, or at least at some time each morning and evening, for perhaps a quarter hour. During this time, we need to be willing to wait, to listen, to quiet the inner chaos of anxiety or questioning, of self-reproach or self-justification, just to allow ourselves to be in the silent presence of Love.
In her magnificent book, The Search for the Beloved(Tarcher/Putnam New York, 1987) Jean Houston writes:
While the realm of the Beloved may still remain “other”, the distance can be bridged by bringing the extraordinary into the ordinary….
Although being porous to the Beloved increases the capacity to live in two realms, the growth and maintenance of this capacity seems to depend upon the faithful practice of a discipline. Discipline has had a very bad press. We must recognize that the high practice of a discipline gives enormous freedom, and with this freedom comes a greatly increased capacity to love. Often we do not love others, much less the Divine Beloved, because we are caught up with every whim, irritant, and distraction….
Discipline, conscious and mindful orchestration of the pieces of our lives, gives us a capacity to live in the depths as well as on the surface. Ideally, a discipline has a physical, mental, and spiritual component and is practiced each day. If, however, your discipline becomes compulsive…then it is time to consciously change it and do something funny or ironic.(pp. 132-3)
Shapiro cites words from Proverbs where Wisdom/Chochma/Sophia again speaks of discipline:
Listen to Me:
Follow Me and be happy.
Practice My discipline and grow wise….
(Proverbs 8: 32-33 NRSV Bible)
Commenting on this in his book The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature, he writes:
To listen you must first be silent. When you are silent, the narrow mind, the small self of thought and language, melts into the spacious self of clarity and compassion. To be mindful is to be present. When you are present, the distracted self recedes and the greater self emerges. With this comes Wisdom, joy and happiness.
Sometimes, and I find this usually happens just at the end of the brief listening time that is prayer, Love surprises us with a fresh thought, a somersault of insight, that lifts us to new place.
And when Love is wholly silent and I long for words, I open my book of poems by Hafiz, to find at times a gift that eases my heart. This opened to me on a day when my soul was dark and troubled:
I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!
(I Heard God Laughing trans. Daniel Ladinsky)
Truly, as Wisdom/Sophia/Chochma assures us in Proverbs:
I bring joy to those who listen;
I bring happiness to those who are mindful of Me…
Find Me and find life,
Find Me and find grace…
(Proverbs 8 NRSV Bible)
So I prayed, and understanding
was given me:
I called upon God, and Wisdom came to me.
I preferred Her to scepters and thrones;
Vast wealth was nothing in
Comparison to Her.
Before Her, gold is like sand;
Silver like clay.
I loved Her above health and beauty,
And chose Her eternal radiance
Over the most scintillating light.
All good things came to me with Her,
And I took joy in them because of Her,
But I did not then know She was
(Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-12)
Who is this wondrous being who so captivated the heart of Solomon? He writes of a living, an abiding presence, one capable of giving him “all good things”; yet the joy he found in everything is because of Her. His relationship with this feminine being of “eternal radiance” is one of love. Moreover this love unfolds, evolves as do our best human friendships. For he tells us that there was a time when he knew less of Her, and a time when he understood more: he came to know this Sacred Presence as “Mother” of all the good that She brought to him.
This is astounding. If a clay jar holding these words had been unearthed only in this century, we would be amazed. Yet, the very familiarity of these Biblical passages may have blinded us to their full power. Perhaps we saw them as “metaphor” for a way of knowing, a quality termed “wisdom” not unlike other qualities such as “courage” or “kindness” or “honesty”…
Who can fall in love with a metaphor? Solomon fell in love with a Someone.
One of the more surprising insights in Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s book on the Divine Feminine is that “The Song of Songs”, attributed to King Solomon, is considered part of the Wisdom writings in the Hebrew Bible. Shapiro writes that the love affair described in exquisitely sensual images is between the “sage” (woman or man) and Wisdom/Sophia/Chochma.
You have captured my heart,
My sister, my bride,
You have captured my heart
With a single glance,
With one coil of Your necklace.
How sweet is Your love,
More intoxicating than new wine!
Your perfume more fragrant than the finest spice!
(Song of Songs 4:9-10)
You want to be embraced by Wisdom; you desire Her love as much as She desires to love you. A part of you may doubt and question; a part may seek to hide from your desire in cynicism, but at your core you want Her.
A single encounter with Wisdom is enough to lift you out of your desperately reasoned ego, and to leave you breathless with love and desire. Wisdom is not a cool intellectual exercise, but a hot embrace. Wisdom is not dispassionate, but the Way of passion.
As Rabbi Rami Shapiro explores the question of why Wisdom/ Sophia/Chochma is so little known, he writes:
...Wisdom is a woman and women haven’t fared well in the Western religious tradition of the past three thousand years. While you can point out significant exceptions, the norm in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is to downplay the role of women. One way to do that is to ignore the role of the Mother, Chochma, in creation and the life of us creatures.
It is no small thing to note that Wisdom is feminine. The original language of the texts, both Hebrew and Greek, make this very clear: Hebrew Chochma and Greek Sophia are both feminine nouns. The authors of the Wisdom books took this gender specificity seriously and envisioned Wisdom as Mother, God’s consort and bride, the Divine Feminine through which the masculine God fashioned all creation. Further, they saw in the union of masculine and feminine a powerful analogy for the greater unity of all in the ineffable Godhead that transcends our imagination.
Shapiro makes an important clarification around language when he adds:
I do not believe that God is literally male or that Chochma is literally female. We are not dealing with biological facts but with theological archetypes residing within each of us. What is needed is a marriage of the two within the individual.
The unity of these forces creates a new person, the divine anthropos. The fully integrated human is called the sage in these Wisdom books. The sage, regardless of gender, is married to Chochma; he or she is the partner of the Divine Feminine.
Shapiro calls on each of us to become a sage when he writes:
You and I have the capacity to be sages. As you read the teachings of Mother Wisdom, know that She is speaking to you, inviting you to Her home, to Her Hearth, to Her teachings that you may become a sage.
He encourages each of us to find the image of Chochma that most appeals to us: As the Divine Feminine, Wisdom can appear to you as Mother, Lover, Bride, Sister or any number of feminine archetypal forms… Find the image that best suits you, and allow it to open you to the way that leads to the birth of the divine anthropos within you.
Aside from the feminine identity of Wisdom in Biblical writings, Shapiro believes there is another significant reason why the teachings of Chochma are ignored:
She is intrinsically antiestablishment and nonhierarchical. Wisdom is taught, so the student needs a teacher, but once She is learned there is a great leveling: Teacher and student share the same understanding.
Behold, days are coming…
when I will seal a new covenant
with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah…
I will place My Teaching within them
and I will write it on their heart…
They will no longer teach one another,
saying Know the Lord!
For everyone will know Me, from the smallest to the greatest.
How might this change our way of relating
to the Sacred Presence,
to one another, to ourselves?
(Reference: Rabbi Rami Shapiro The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature, Skylight Illuminations, 2005)
Walking with Wisdom/Sophia
Where do you seek wisdom? Do you have overflowing shelves where, like the nine layers of ancient Troy, recently acquired books hide earlier treasures? Do you seek teachers trained in ancient wisdom? Do you select from among the many speakers now available on-line? Or have you been fortunate enough to find a truly wise teacher who leads you inward to your own source of deep wisdom?
If so, you have already found Wisdom:
She has already found you.
Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen,
and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her,
she makes herself known to them.
Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her
and anxiety will quickly leave you.
She herself walks about looking for
those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.
(Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-17 Jerusalem Bible)
Once we come to know and trust our inner “Sophia”, we have a treasure within us, and the eyes to recognize Her everywhere. The wisdom of the ages, of the sages, of the poets and the mystics takes on a vibrant clarity, a singing resonance, for we have an inner mirror that catches the light, reflecting the heart of reality.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s book, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature (Skylight Illuminations, 2005) which I have been referencing for the past weeks, has opened my eyes as well as my heart to the myriad facets of Wisdom’s presence. I find Her in the natural world from its sunlit morning warmth to night’s radiant moonpath stretching across the river, to its wild winds, crashing thunder, its rain suddenly rushing from the skies, a Niagara of unseen source.
Within my own life, I have become aware of a presence of Wisdom, showing me the moonlit way through challenges in relationships, difficulties in my work, small or larger questions of “What now?” or “How next?” … for,
as The wisdom of Solomon assures us:
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her
and anxiety will quickly leave you.
I have experienced (as you must have done) how at times a day can suddenly open out in beauty, revealing patterns unseen until that moment, making sense of the journey of our life in ways we had not understood.
Two days ago, reflecting on the work I am called to do in Spirituality, I was led by Wisdom-Sophia to Jean Houston’s talk on the fluidity of time from her Quantum Powers course.
Following Jean’s guidance, I stood before a curtain of time, allowing a moment in my life to reappear.
Six years ago, I was invited into a new beginning. I have since believed that I had missed the moment, had not taken the road shown to me, had somehow lost the gift being offered. Now in sacred time, with the assistance of a true Wisdom teacher, I found that the invitation had taken me to just where I needed to be: to this place where I have everything I require for this work among you.
I experienced a moment of joy, a recovery of trust, finding the way right here under my feet, a yellow brick road, hiding under a layer of dust, pine needles, dried autumn leaves.
I share this with you, not that you need to know about my life, but that you may know more about your own, by learning to recognize your path, to find the joy of walking in it, companioned by Sophia.
We live now, as Jean Houston reminds us, in the time of the great confluence, when the wisdom of the ages, from many different sacred traditions, is available to us, along with the newest discoveries of the physicists, who have been called the mystics of our time. What we need is inner guidance to open our hearts so that we recognize wisdom when it presents itself to us.
Often for me, especially when my spirit is deflated, when the moon of my soul is obscured by clouds, light breaks through with poetry.
During this past week, I came upon these works of Hafiz:
You don’t have to act crazy anymore—
We all know you were good at that.
Now retire, my dear,
From all that hard work you do
Of bringing pain to your sweet eyes and heart.
Look in a clear mountain mirror—
See the Beautiful Ancient Warrior
And the Divine elements
You always carry inside
That infused this Universe with sacred Life
So long ago
And join you Eternally
With all Existence—with God!
(trans. Daniel Ladinsky in I Heard God Laughing)
May you too find that clear mountain mirror within,
kneel there beside Wisdom-Sophia
and be amazed at what you see,
O Beautiful Ancient Warrior, bearer of Divine elements.
(Crater Lake, Oregon)
Sophia: Beloved Travelling Companion
What was your favourite story when you were a child? Have you reflected on how that story may have influenced your adult life, shaping your longings, your choices, in ways of which you were unaware?
For the past three days, walking the sand shore by the lake at our Community’s holiday house “Stella Maris”, I have been reflecting upon Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s book, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature (Skylight Illuminations, 2005).
Again and again I found something as old as longing, as fresh and new as a summer breeze.
Like this, from the Wisdom of Solomon (6: 15-16)
Resting your thoughts on Her—
this is perfect understanding.
Staying mindful of Her-
this is perfect calm.
She embraces those who are ready for Her,
revealing Herself in the midst of their travels,
meeting them in every thought.
Now, seeking words to convey the wonder, the joy awakened in me, I think of guidance, then companionship, or having a wise friend to turn to in times of doubt or struggle…
And a memory comes of summers spent in my grandmother’s home, entering the magic within a thick, hard-cover book of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. The tale I turned to over and over again was “The Travelling Companion”.
Like many of Andersen’s stories, it begins with a young person who is sad: John’s father has just died and he is all alone. Before setting out into the wide world, he makes a last visit to the graveyard to say goodbye, promising he will be good and kind, as he, his father had always been.
On his travels, John takes refuge from a storm in a church, where a coffin rests before the altar. To his horror, John sees two men approach the coffin, and open it. From their gruff words, he learns that the dead man owed them money so they plan in revenge to dump his body in a field. John offers the men his entire inheritance from his father if they will leave the dead man in peace. Laughing derisively at his foolishness, they agree.
Now penniless, John resumes his journey. One day, he is joined by a stranger who asks if they might travel together to seek their fortunes. This stranger becomes a companion to John, and much later, after many adventures, guides John to successfully solve magical riddles and thereby win the hand of a beautiful princess.
On the day following the wedding, the stranger, travelling knapsack on his back, walking stick in hand, comes to say goodbye. John is devastated, having hoped his friend would stay with him to share the happiness he had won for him. But the stranger says, “No, my time on earth is over. I have paid my debt. Do you remember the dead man whom the evil men wanted to harm? You gave everything you owned so that he could rest in his coffin. I am the dead man.”
With these words he disappeared.
Somewhere within I have held the longing for such a “travelling companion”, for a friend who would walk with me, guide me, advise me when I was perplexed, comfort me when I was sorrowful, show me how to make my way along the pathways of life as they opened before me.
Through Shapiro’s unfolding of the Wisdom passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, I recognized in Sophia/ Chochma the beloved friend I had sought, the One who
embraces those who are ready for Her,
revealing Herself in the midst of their travels,
meeting them in every thought.
Even more, I recognized that I had already found Her. Through my lifetime, She has come to me in different guises, bearing different names, from Mary to Isis to Sophia to the “Friend” who offers daily guidance in the smaller and greater aspects of life, walking with me, a light in darkness.
It is She whom I now recognise as the presence who sometimes speaks in the poetry of Hafiz, especially in this, sent to me by a friend as I mourned my sister Patti: