Andrew Cort’s Mini-Review:
Filled with warmth and wisdom (“Sophia”), as well as insights from Jung and her own extraordinary personal insights, The Web in the Sea by Alice O. Howell unravels the inner meaning of numbers, shapes, and other symbols, and in the process deepens our awareness and appreciation for life, mystery, and our essential unity and oneness. A companion to her earlier work, The Dove in the Stone, the book is illustrated with drawings, charts, and figures, and includes an entertaining workbook to help readers explore the Sacred Geometry of life for themselves.
Rather than telling her readers what is so and what they should understand and believe, Howell (like all genuine Teachers) encourages and guides her readers humbly to discover answers for themselves. Her main method is to simply share a part of her own path of discovery, in conversations with her husband during a visit to the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland.
The book is a treasure, both learned and inspirational. Here is an Excerpt from her introductory material in Chapter One:
The name Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, Holy Spirit, is becoming more familiar to people everywhere. According to various prophesies Sophia has a special connection to the isle of Iona. In the Old Testament, Wisdom is called cocreator of the world, which implies that she is a feminine principle or “goddess.” Such a term may shock some Christian sensibilities – it would have mine in the past – and so it is essential for me to define “gods and goddesses of old” as personifications of universal processes or archetypes. Since they are universal, humanity has considered them to be “divine.” They were symbolic and descriptive extensions of that great mystery we name God. To look at gods and goddesses this way opens us to greater compassion, tolerance, and understanding of humanity past and present. To understand this specific definition at the outset is most important.
When I was a child, my mother explained to me that she could be a daughter, a wife, a mother, a neighbor, an author, and on and on, and yet essentially remain herself. The various terms given were based on her relationships. We used to play a game extending ourselves to dog-owners, bread-eaters, tax-payers, and on and on. I learned in this way to see how one person could by extension become many, and later on it helped me to grasp the multiple names and extensions given to the mysterious One God, Light of Lights, that we struggle to grasp and to name and cannot. I learned early on in this fashion that we need not limit or reject the different ways we and others may relate to the sacred.
Here in the West we tend to fall too easily into literalizing and concretizing. So to call wisdom by the name “Sophia” might imply to some that this separates her from the same archetype that goes by other names in other cultures. Naming and personifying wisdom, in this instance, gives her life in human experience. We ourselves are personifications of our essence. We come from somewhere and return somewhere, leaving that personification behind; yet we can hope to continue. A so-called god or a goddess, being archetypal, is for keeps. The names may change, the idols built in their honor may be smashed, but the essential nature of what they personify remains. One cannot kill an archetype. Archetypes are living principles of a kind that move the world, but they come closer to our understanding if we can relate to them in a personal way by naming them. And yet we can remain in awe of their mystery when we perceive them in a transpersonal way.
At the very outset, it is vital to understand what Hagia Sophia represents here: the loving, intimate, kind, helpful, and practical aspect of Holy Wisdom in each individual and, at the same time, the great ordering principle of the physical creation of the cosmos. The function of her archetype is to unite both of these principles through greater consciousness and love. She is the anima mundi, the soul of the world, for some, or the lumen naturae, the light within nature, for others. At the simplest level, for the child in us, she may even disguise herself as the Fairy Godmother or the beloved guardian angel. To Socrates, her name was the daemon. Jesus called her the Paraclete, the Comforter. Early Christians called her Hagia Sophia, the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. Her symbol then and now is the dove.
Hagia and Sophia are Greek words. They were translated into Latin Spiritus Sanctus, a masculine proper noun, requiring a masculine pronoun. So Wisdom’s essential feminine nature in both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament got lost in the Latin translation. This eventually turned the Christian Trinity or triangle of the Godhead into a totally masculine one, leaving out the feminine, women, and Mother Nature completely. Mat[t]er became an “it” to conquer, rape, and manipulate through power.
I am not a theologian, but perhaps somebody could bring this to the attention of some. Oddly enough, a friend sent me word of one, a Professor Jurgen Moltman, who wrote the following in the Scottish Journal of Theology, citing the work of Macarius the Egyptian/Symeon:
Hebrew and Syriac are languages which themselves make it easy to call the Holy Spirit “the heavenly Mother” for both ruach and ruho are feminine words. But Macarius has two essential theological arguments for the motherly functions of the Holy Spirit: 1. He links John 14:26 with Isaiah 66:13 – the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, the promised Comforter…. 2. Only the person “who is born anew” can see the kingdom of God. And people are born anew from the Spirit (John 3:3-5). So believers are “children of the Spirit.” The Spirit is their “Mother.”… The motherly image makes it possible to grasp the personal character of the Holy Spirit more precisely than other images. The motherly image makes it more possible to understand the unique community of the Trinity better than other concepts of the Spirit. Incidentally, the dove as symbol for the Holy Spirit is also a feminine image and points in the same direction. “The fellowship of the Holy Spirit” in its feminine and motherly character operates sympathetically on men and women, healing them and liberating them.
Now that’s my idea of a theologian!
As archetypal Comforter, Sophia speaks to us – if we will listen – within our souls and wakens us to remembering who we really are. Her motto is “Ego coniungo,” I unite.
Alice O. Howell is a former faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institutes of Los Angeles and Chicago. A widely known lecturer, she is known as a pioneer in linking a psychology and astrology. She is also the author of The Dove and the Stone, Jungian Symbolism in Astrology, The Beejum Book, and many others which are all, in the author’s words, “easy to read, as my mission in life, is to convey serious ideas as simply as possible with humor and delight.” Ms. Howell lives in a tiny village in the Berkshires of New England surrounded by beauty.
Alice is offering a Free Copy of THE WEB IN THE SEA, in Paperback, to today’s lucky winner.
Today’s Prize Giveaway has the same rules as the other giveaways:
1.To enter to win, simply COMMENT ON THIS BLOG, leaving an email address so we can contact you if you win. All names of commenters go into the ‘hat’.
2. The giveaway period runs for ONE week following posting. The winner will then be chosen by random drawing and contacted.
3. Only one entry per giveaway. (But you can enter as many different Daily Giveaway Contests as you want!)
If you don’t win this one, be sure to order a copy of Alice’s book from Amazon: