Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Introduction to Gnosticism: The Pistis Sophia, part 1

Blavatsky is well-known as a pioneer in the study of Jewish and Christian Gnosticism and towards the end of her life, delivered a masterful set of lectures on the Pistis Sophia, the great mystical classic of Christian Gnosticism.  (with the able assistance of Hermetic/Gnostic scholar G.R.S. Mead) Her comments can be quite complex and intricate; however, the passages presented in the next series of posts give a satisfying explanation of some of the general concepts underlying this great work.

The reader should carefully study the recital of the “Fall” of Sophia, as told in the Philosophumena (p. 107) and compare it with the allegorical drama of the text which follows. It will be noticed that the first and last of the female Aeôns of the Dodecad, are respectively PISTIS and SOPHIA. The Soul was the one subject, and the knowledge of the Soul the one object of all the ancient Mysteries. In the “Fall” of PISTIS-SOPHIA, and her rescue by her Syzygy, JESUS, we see the ever-enacted drama of the suffering and ignorant Personality, which can only be saved by the immortal Individuality, or rather by its own yearning towards IT. In reading this portion of the Pistis-Sophia, the mysterious Duality of the Manas should always be remembered, and this key applied to every line.

As Wisdom was the end of the Gnôsis, so the pivot of the whole Gnostic teaching was the so-called “Sophia-Mythus.” For whether we interpret the allegory from the macro- or from the micro-cosmic standpoint, it is always the evolution of MIND, that the Initiates of old have sought to teach us. The emanation and evolution of Mahat in cosmogenesis, and of Manas in anthropogenesis, was ever the study of the One Science. The dwelling of Sophia was in the Midst, between the Upper and Lower Worlds, in the Ogdoad. Below was the Hebdomad or Seven Spheres, governed by seven Hierarchies of Rulers. Truly hath “Wisdom built for herself a House, and rested it on Seven Pillars” (Proverbs ix, 1 and again: “She is on the lofty Heights; she stands in the midst of the Paths, for she taketh her seat by the Gates of the Powerful Ones (the Rulers), she tarrieth at the Entrances” (Ibid., viii, 2).

Moreover, Sophia was the Mediatrix between the Upper and Lower Region, and at the same time projected the Types or Ideas of the Plerôma into the Universe. Now, why should Sophia, who was originally of a Pneumatic or Spiritual Essence, be in the Middle Space, an exile from her true Dwelling? Such was the great mystery which the Gnôsis endeavoured to solve. Seeing again that this “Fall of the Soul” from its original purity involved it in suffering and misery, the object that the Gnostic teachers had ever before them, was identical with the problem of “Sorrow,” which Gautama Sâkyamuni set himself to resolve. Moreover, the solution of the two systems was identical in that they traced the Cause of Sorrow to Ignorance, and to remove this, pointed out the Path to Self-knowledge. The Mind was to instruct the Mind: “self-analyzing reflection” was to be the Way. The Material Mind (Kâma-Manas) was to be purified and so become one with the Spiritual Mind (Buddhi-Manas). In the nomenclature of the Gnosis, this was expressed by the Redemption of Sophia by the Christos, who delivered her from her ignorance (agnoia) and sufferings. It is not then surprising that we should find Sophia, whether regarded as a unity, or as a duality, or again as cosmic mind, possessed of many names.

Among these may be mentioned the Mother, or All-Mother, Mother of the Living or Shining Mother; the Power Above; the Holy Spirit (all from the macrocosmic standpoint); and again She of the Left-hand, as opposed to Christos, He of the Right-hand; the Man-woman; Prounikos or the Lustful-one; Matrix; Paradise; Eden; Achamôth; the Virgin; Barbelo; Daughter of Light; Merciful Mother; Consort of the Masculine One; Revelant of the Perfect Mysteries; Perfect Mercy; Revelant of the Mysteries of the whole Magnitude; Hidden Mother; She who knows the Mysteries of the Elect; the Holy Dove, which has given birth to the two Twins; Ennoia; Ruler; and The Lost or Wandering Sheep, Helena. In the Valentinian System, Sophia gives birth to the Christoswith a Shadow.”

The above terms are taken from Smith and Wace’s Dictionary of Christian Biography, art. “Sophia,” where we read: “In the Syriac text of the Acts published by Dr. Wright (Apocryphal Acts of Apostles, pp. 238-245) we find the beautiful Hymn of the Soul, which has been sent down from her heavenly home to fetch the pearl guarded by the serpent, but has forgotten here below her heavenly mission till she is reminded of it by a letter from ‘the father, the mother, and the brother,’ performs her task, receives back again her glorious dress, and returns to her old home.” (Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 13, pp. 40-41)