God, The Mother ?


In addition to the eternal, mystical Silence and the Holy Spirit, certain gnostics suggest a third characterization of the divine Mother: as Wisdom. Here the Greek feminine term for "wisdom", sophia, translates a Hebrew feminine term, hokhmah. Early interpreters had pondered the meaning of certain Biblical passages--for example, the saying in Proverbs that "God made the world in Wisdom." Could Wisdom be the feminine power in which God's creation was "conceived"? According to one teacher, the double meaning of the term conception--physical and intellectual-- suggests this possibility: "The image of thought [ennoia] is feminine, since . . . [it] is a power of conception."

[...]To shape and manage her creation, Wisdom brought forth the demiurge, the creator-God of Israel, as her agent. Wisdom, then, bears several connotations in gnostic sources. Besides being the "first universal creator," who brings forth all creatures, she also enlightens human beings and makes them wise. Followers of Valentinus and Marcus therefore prayed to the Mother as the "mystical, eternal Silence" and to "Grace, She who is before all things," and as "incorruptible Wisdom" for insight (gnosis). Other gnostics attributed to her the benefits that Adam and Eve received in Paradise. First, she taught them self-awareness; second, she guided them to find food; third, she assisted in the conception of their third and fourth children, who were, according to this account, their third son, Seth, and their first daughter, Norea. Even more: when the creator became angry with the human race

because they did not worship or honor him as Father and God, he sent forth a flood upon them, that he might destroy them all. But Wisdom opposed him . . . and Noah and his family were saved in the ark by means of the sprinkling of the light that proceeded from her, and through it the world was again filled with humankind.




[...]Gnostic sources which describe God as a dyad whose nature includes both masculine and feminine elements often give a similar description of human nature. Yet all the sources cited so far--secret gospels, revelations, mystical teachings--are among those not included in the select list that constitutes the New Testament collection. Every one of the secret texts which gnostic groups revered was omitted from the canonical collection, and branded as heretical by those who called themselves orthodox Christians. By the time the process of sorting the various writings ended--probably as late as the year 200--virtually all the feminine imagery for God had disappeared from orthodox Christian tradition. What is the reason for this total rejection? The gnostics themselves asked this question of their orthodox opponents and pondered it among themselves. Some concluded that the God of Israel himself initiated the polemics which his followers carried out in his name. For, they argued, this creator was a derivative, merely instrumental power whom the Mother had created to administer the universe, but his own self-conception was far more grandiose. They say that he believed that he had made everything by himself, but that, in reality, he had created the world because Wisdom, his Mother, "infused him with energy" and implanted into him her own ideas. But he was foolish, and acted unconsciously, unaware that the ideas he used came from her; "he was even ignorant of his own Mother."

Followers of Valentinus suggested that the Mother Herself had encouraged the God of Israel to think that he was acting autonomously, but, as they explain, "It was because he was foolish and ignorant of his Mother that he said, 'I am God; there is none beside me.' " According to another account, the creator caused his Mother to grieve by creating inferior beings, so she left him alone and withdrew into the upper regions of the heavens. "Since she had departed, he imagined that he was the only being in existence; and therefore he declared, 'I am a jealous God, and besides me there is no one.' " Others agree in attributing to him this more sinister motive--jealousy. According to the Secret Book of John:

. . . he said . . . , "I am a jealous God, and there is no other God beside me." But by announcing this he indicated to the angels . . . that another God does exist; for if there were no other one, of whom would he be jealous? . . . Then the mother began to be distressed.

Others declared that his Mother refused to tolerate such presumption:

[The creator], becoming arrogant in spirit, boasted himself over all those things that were below him, and exclaimed, "I am father, and God, and above me there is no one." But his mother, hearing him speak thus, cried out against him, "Do not lie, Ialdabaoth . . ."

Often, in these gnostic texts, the creator is castigated for his arrogance--nearly always by a superior feminine power. According to the Hypostasis of the Archons, discovered at Nag Hammadi, both the mother and her daughter objected when

he became arrogant, saying, "It is I who am God, and there is no other apart from me." . . . And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying, "You are wrong, Samael" [which means, "god of the blind"]. And he said, "If any other thing exists before me, let it appear to me!" And immediately, Sophia ("Wisdom") stretched forth her finger, and introduced light into matter, and she followed it down into the region of Chaos. . . . And he again said to his offspring, "It is I who am the God of All." And Life, the daughter of Wisdom, cried out; she said to him, "You are wrong, Saklas! (that is, "fool"). She breathed into his face, and her breath became for her a fiery angel; and that angel bound him and cast him down into Tartyros below the abyss."

The gnostic teacher Justinus describes the Lord's shock, terror, and anxiety "when he discovered that he was not the God of the universe." Gradually his shock gave way to wonder, and finally he came to welcome what Wisdom had taught him. The teacher concludes: "This is the meaning of the saying, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.' "

[Source: Elaine Pagels - The Gnostic Gospels]


[...]In the universe depicted by this teacher there is no devil, and no need for one, for "the Lord"--the God of Jews and most Christians alike--himself acts as chief of the fallen angels who seduce and enslave human beings. By declaring himself to be the supreme and unique God of the universe, he "sinned against the whole," refusing to recognize himself as part of a much larger divine reality. His boasts reveal him to be only a lesser, ignorant being whose power has led him into overweening pride (hybris) and into destruction. According to the Reality of the Rulers, it is Samael and his fellow "rulers of the darkness" (Eph. 6:12), not the true God, who formed Adam's physical body (Gen. 2:7), set him to work in Paradise "to till it and cultivate it" (Gen. 2:15), then put him to sleep and fashioned his female partner out of his rib (Gen. 2:2122). These same rulers commanded Adam not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which could open his eyes to the truth, because they jealously wanted to keep control over him. When Adam and Eve, enlightened by the feminine spiritual principle who appeared to her in the form of the serpent, defied them, the rulers cursed the woman and the snake, and expelled Adam and Eve from Paradise:

Moreover, they threw humankind into great distraction and into a life of toil, so that humankind might be occupied with worldly affairs, and might not have the opportunity of being devoted to the holy spirit.

According to the authors of such teachings, the human condition, involving work, marriage, and procreation, does not reflect divine blessing, but demonstrates enslavement to cosmic forces that want to blind human beings to their innate capacity for spiritual enlightenment. Such radical Christians believe that most people, including most Christians, have fallen prey to the rulers of darkness and so, like most Jews and pagans, remain entangled in sexual, social, and economic bondage.

[Source: Elaine Pagels - The Origin of Satan]