by Susan C. Hamilton (Today’s PRIZE GIVEAWAY is a copy of Susan’s Book. Simply leave a COMMENT to enter. See details below)
Hamilton concludes her Introduction by telling her readers, “My hope is that you, too, will have your own experience of Her presence in your life and continue to recognize “Sophianic” moments when they occur. Blessings on your journey.”
I concur. Here’s an Excerpt from Chapter One:
There are an expanding myriad of descriptions as to what and who Sophia is. She is complex and represents different facets of the Holy to different cultures in different times and to different people. One description of Sophia relates to the basic meaning of her name in Greek: “wisdom”. In Hebrew the word for wisdom is “Chokmah” and where that word appears in Proverbs it is frequently translated as “Lady Wisdom”. She is the characteristic of wisdom itself such as the defining quality of King Solomon and other sages. Elders and crones are often esteemed as wise as are holy men in all religious expressions.
In contemporary Christian doctrine, Sophia is often equated with the Holy Spirit, the third element of the Trinity, and the one who descended upon Jesus at his baptism (as a dove) and who empowered the disciples at Pentecost (as tongues of fire). As the Holy Spirit, Sophia is the ‘Comforter’ whom Jesus predicted would come to the disciples after he had left them and who remains with us as an etheric influence, a collective social concern, or a perspective on the world.
Another of her descriptions is that she is the Goddess, the Holy Feminine, and is known by many names in ancient cultures such as: Ishtar of the Semites, Ashtoreth in the Old Testament, Astarte of Phoenicia, Cybele of Anatolia, Diana of Rome, Demeter of Greece, and Isis/Maat of Egypt to name a few.
We note that in the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism all of the ‘gods’ were masculine until the second century of the Christian era when Tara, the Savioress, appeared, followed in the fourth century by Prajnaparamita “The Perfection of Wisdom.” This introduces the descriptions of the Divine Feminine as a ‘savior’ and wisdom itself. Further, the Buddha declares repeatedly that Prajnaparamita produced all the Buddhas and is their mother and instructress. She symbolizes the supreme liberating wisdom which is the full consciousness of the Absolute or Void. She is the divine mother of the infinite space and her mantra (invocation) has the wondrous effect of opening the mind to enlightenment.
In China and Japan, the only goddess whose popularity equals that of the masculine deities is Kuan-yin (Japanese Kannon), who is the deity (Bodhisattva) of compassion. Since the twelfth century, Kuan Yin has appeared as the goddess of mercy and a source of comfort and salvation.
The conference brought together female theologians, clergy, and lay people to examine ideas about God and the church born out of women’s experience. Approximately two thousand people attended, mostly women but including men, from forty-nine states and twenty-seven countries. Nearly forty different denominations were represented.
This first chapter will provide you with examples from the Judeo-Christian scriptures of wise women and images of God described in feminine terms. For some familiar with the Bible, this will be a grounded beginning. For others who are not involved in a traditional Christian congregation, these lessons may not hold as much interest. From this beginning, however, we will stretch to more adventurous perspectives. You will need a journal for this study and it is suggested that you have a candle to light your way each day as you begin. Try to set aside the same time of day and amount of time for each lesson that you study. This practice will build consistent attunement to the Holy Presence. Mostly, I hope you will open yourself, trust, and receive the insights which will come to you. This will be a rewarding experience.
The late great theologian and cartoonist, Charles Schultz, sketched a vignette one Fall depicting Lucy, Charlie Brown and Linus resting on their elbows on a wall. Charlie says, “Halloween is over and the ‘Great Pumpkin’ didn’t show up again, did he?” Lucy replies, “No, she didn’t, did she?” Linus, to her left, is shocked with his sparse amount of hair standing on end. Lucy turns to him with her smug grin and says, “Never even occurred to you, did it?”
Many of us are like Linus in that it never occurred to us, despite several biblical images, to consider God as female. We’re more familiar in our society with scriptures describing or referring to God in masculine terms. The biblical translations use the supposedly neutral pronoun “he” when speaking of God in second person, and Jesus called God “Father” when he taught the disciples to pray. But there are many other images of God which challenge us to consider different ways to name the One we seek and serve.
In Genesis 1:27, we read that God created humankind in God’s own image; male and female God created them. Our creation story offers us the first opportunity to accept that God’s image includes both male and female! However, God is not a sexual being, so God is not male, female, bi-sexual or androgynous. Yet, something of what it means to be male and female, masculine and feminine is connected with who God is. The profound statement from the first pages of our scriptures is too important for us to ignore. This passage can open us to consider the theological truth that visioning God produces a double image.
In Kabbalistic writings, it is taught that the Godhead (Ain Sof) divided itself into masculine (Binah) and feminine (Chokma). From these two polarities everything else was created through their spark of life. This we see continually reflected in our plant and animal kingdoms. The polarity for creativity is also present in electricity (e.g. positive and negative poles) and other technological sciences. In fact, our entire world as it was created and evolved is presented in masculine and feminine principles or manifestations. Why then do we predominantly use only one term for the image of our Creator?
There are many images used to describe God and our relationship to God including human, animal and abstract. For this next series of lessons, we’ll explore some of the feminine images used in scripture. Realizing that all metaphors, names and languages are inadequate to fully describe the Holy One, we will nevertheless catch a few glimpses of God’s many facets through our work.
Center yourself in a comfortable and prayerful mode. Gently breathe through this phrase and notice your experience. Use the following breath prayer phrase: Holy Sophia…..Mother of God. After a few moments, reflect on these questions and journal your thoughts.
1. Describe your image(s) of God.
2. In what ways do you reflect that image?
3. How is feminine wisdom expressed differently from masculine wisdom?
4. Is there a relationship between having wisdom and being creative?
5. Complete this phrase: Holy Sophia, create in me………….