The Feminine Essence of God
The knowledge and mystery about the relationship between Divine Sophia and the Holy Trinity is the most overlooked or ignored and therefore, the most unknown enigma regarding the future of Divine Humanity. Divine Sophia came into being before the world was created. The following paper presents one of the most important topics regarding the spiritual awakening and future destiny of humanity. This esoteric knowledge reveals the divine nature of humanity which is referred to as Sophia, who in her creaturely aspect, is identified with the awakened and spiritualized humanity.
Sophia, in her divine aspect, is intimately connected to the Holy Trinity in its guidance of humanity. A fitting analogy of Sophia’s relationship to the Holy Trinity is: what motor oil is to the functioning of a smooth running engine is what Divine Sophia is to the Holy Trinity. This is the divine mystery of the Feminine Essence of God of which humanity has not yet become conscious. Since the time of Jesus Christ, humanity has been under the dominate rule of patriarchal religion and the mental perspective of theology and dogma. Humanity has yet to accept and acknowledge the feminine mystical experiences and the ecstatic inspirations which come from the Holy Spirit.
Divine Sophia and creaturely Sophia are one and the same; however, there is a distinguishing difference between the two: Divine Sophia is considered to have been with God from the beginning as His Divine Nature or Divine World. Biblically, the knowledge and role of Divine Sophia is revealed to us in Proverbs 8:22-36, “The Lord created me as the first of his creations, before all of his works. I was established from everlasting, from the beginning, before he made the earth. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills were formed I was conceived; while as yet he had not made the earth nor the valleys nor the best soil of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he set a circle upon the face of the deep; when he made firm the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the seas its bounds, that the water should not transgress his commandment; when he laid down the fountains of the earth: I together with him was establishing them: and daily I was his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in his habitable earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken to me, O you children; for blessed is he who keeps my ways. Hear instruction and be wise and do not go astray. Blessed is the man who heeds me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my threshold. For my objectives are the issues of life, they proclaim the will of the Lord. Those who sin against me wrong his own soul; all those who hate me love death.”
Lamsa’s translation from the Ancient Eastern Text – the Aramaic of the Peshitta.
In reality, Divine Sophia is considered to be the Divine Mother of Creation and humanity. When God spoke the Word of Creation, while still in Eternity, God and Divine Sophia were also present in the creation of the world and in humanity. Consequently, as the story of Adam and Eve represents, when humanity fell from the Edenic state into the elemental world of duality or good/evil, in Divine Sophia’s oneness with humanity, a part of her Divine Light also fell into the world and became trapped and vulnerable to the forces of evil and misguided will; and She, as the World Soul, suffers with humanity. As a mother, creaturely Sophia suffers with humans individually in their life experience and she suffers with humanity collectively. As the Eternal Mother, She mostly suffers as humanity delays, resists or struggles to awaken spiritually from the “earthly cocoon” in our process of “becoming” Divine Humanity.
“In her divine aspect, Sophia is the “divine world,” existent in God and for God, eternal and uncreated, in which God lives in the Holy Trinity. In her creaturely aspect, Sophia can be identified with spiritualized humanity, the community of persons united in Divine-humanity. She is the kingdom of God, the society of those participating in Divine-humanity.” (Bulgakov)
The absolute nature and content of God’s life is Divine Wisdom or Sophia. Thus, Divine Sophia as God’s nature is not only the power and depth, but also the content of His self-revealing Truth. When we consider God’s Divinity, we have in mind God as the source of life and as life itself. Divinity as Sophia, in reality, is no different from God’s nature, insofar as the source of life cannot be opposed, separated or distinct from its revelation. God’s Divine Nature, like Sophia, is the Oneness that is the life of God and that lives in God by the whole of Divine reality. In other words, God’s Divine Essence (ousia) and Sophia are identical; having Divine Essence, God also has it as Sophia.
God is Divine Essence; however, the reverse is not true. Essence is not the personal God, as Divinity is not the Divine Personality. Likewise, God is Sophia and Sophia is Divine. She is God in His self-revelation, but she cannot be equated with the Divine Personality and therefore, particularly not with the Logos. Divine Essence itself is not a personality, although in God it exists only personally. If we consider Essence only in the aspect of personal being, we effectively abolish it.
Sophia is the Pleroma, the Divine world, existent in God and for God, eternal and uncreated, in which God lives in the Holy Trinity. And in itself this Divine world contains all that the Holy Trinity reveals about itself in itself; it is the image of God in God Himself. Essence/Sophia is a living principle, and it lives such a profound life that no creaturely life can be compared with it. Essence/Sophia is the Life of life and the proto-ground of all creaturely life. She is the Divine Life in God.
God is Sophia signifies that God, hypostatic (underlying reality) love, loves Sophia, and that she loves God with an answering, though not hypostatic, love. In the same way a creator loves his creation, and a doer loves his deed: he loves it for the sake of the deed itself, although he does not separate himself from it but in a certain sense identifies himself with it. Here the image of God’s love for Sophia is imprinted in humankind.
Sophia is not a Triune Spirit like the Trinity, but she is a living entity. The divine world is alive, for nothing nonliving can be conceived in God. The power of life – its fire – is love, and to live in God is to love. Nonhypostatic love cannot know the self-renouncing, sacrificial love expressed in divine trihypostatic love, the circulation of personal depletion aimed at filling oneself in the other. The nature of nonhypostatic love is different: it can only belong, surrendering itself, loving, and in this self-surrendering, “feminine” love, realizing the power of life, the bliss of love. It is in this sense that Sophia’s love is feminine. It is precisely Sophia’s self-surrender to God that signifies her love.
God is Spirit and nothing nonspiritual can be attributed to Him. Consequently, the divine world in Sophia is a spiritual reality. In order to be supremely real, this world must be spiritual. In general, reality is by no means connected, as many think, with materiality. Reality, to the supreme degree, is proper to God Himself, who is in the Holy Trinity: we cannot speak of His nonreality because there is no material principle. Consequently, spiritual reality exists as the prototype of reality in general.
The reality of the divine world is that this world exists in God as the self-revelation of the entire Holy Trinity – of the Father, who reveals Himself in the Word and shows the All in it; and in the Holy Spirit, who accomplishes this All for the Father and the Son. The entire life of this world, with its spiritual reality, is centered in love as an all-unity, and in this sense as a spiritual body, living one life, but a life that is all-one. This organizing principle of the spiritual body, this centering spiritual force, is precisely love as the inner life of this body.
This love is completely devoid of the personal principle, for if Sophia is not a person, her inner life is not personal. Love is manifested here impersonally, as the connecting and organizing principle, as the universal mutual attraction and order of divine ideas existing in the divine world. This is the inner attraction and interpenetration of love in the oneness of nature. Love here is the natural order of the divine world.
Divine Sophia & Holy Trinity
In the self-revelation of the Absolute, Divine Spirit there is only the transparency of God’s essential nature or ousia. The Divine nature is thoroughly transparent for the Spirit and in this sense is Sophia, whose divine essence leaves no place in itself for unclarified or untransparent reality. There is no place here for a “self-loving” limited nature because the Divine Spirit is the Holy Trinity; He is not a monohypostatic (self-focused nature) subject, but a trihypostatic Spirit, Who abolishes in Himself the limits of self-love. He is not self-love, but Love.
The Father, as the initial reality, is not only revealed in His Sophia-Essence through the Son, but also lives in her by the Holy Spirit. And the Son not only reveals the Father through Himself in His Sophia-Essence, but also lives in her by the Holy Spirit. And this essential life as the divine reality of the Truth, or Beauty, actualizes in itself the mutual being of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father in the dynamics of the life of the one hypostasis through the other.
The self-revelation of the nature of Sophia-Essence, which is realized through trihypostatic self-revelation and interrelation, is also the self-revelation of Love, for if God is Love, this means that the Holy Trinity is trihypostatic love. The Holy Spirit completes the self-revelation of the Divine in the Spirit of God and this name attests precisely to such a completing as the self-revealing spirituality of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit in the Divine Spirit is the Third hypostasis because, in a certain sense, He is also the Final hypostasis.
The Divine Sophia possesses being not only for the Holy Spirit but also in herself, as the glory and revelation of Divinity. Divine Sophia is also a spiritual principle, the spirituality of the Holy Triune Spirit. She exists inseparability from the divine Triunity but not indistinguishably from it. She possesses autonomous being as the divinity or spirituality of the Trinitarian spirit. In her, this triune spirit is revealed in itself and for itself in its proper spirituality, but this revealing principle, the spirituality of the triune spirit, has also its own being according to itself, as the Divinity of God. In this sense, God is also spirit as the Divine Sophia. And in this spirituality of hers, the Divine Sophia, in her final fullness, receives the seal of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, one can say about her that, in general being spirituality, she is also a revelation of the Holy Spirit. This revelation includes, as its ontological precondition, the entire content of the revelation of the Father in the Son, which content is manifested and realized by the Holy Spirit; and in this sense it is the Holy Spirit. God reveals His spirituality in the Divine Sophia, not only in the Word but also in the Holy Spirit. He reveals it not only in her herself, but also outside of her, in creation, in the creaturely Sophia.
In other words, the direct revelation of God to creatures, of the Divine Sophia in creation, is an action of the Holy Spirit called Grace; and this revelation has as its content the Word, Who in Himself shows the Father. The Spirit of God, who is also the Holy Spirit, is not his own, not a spirit self-enclosed in his own content. He is the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, the Spirit of the Holy Trinity.
The Divine Sophia is not only the Son, just as she is not only the Holy Spirit; rather, she is the bi-unity of the Son and the Holy Spirit as one self-revelation of the Father. The true definition of the Divine Sophia is established by her identical relation to the self-revelation of both the Son and the Spirit, in their dyadic interpenetration. This dyadic relation cannot be reduced to a unity or sundered in half; it signifies the two hypostasis are united through the self-revelation of the Father in the Divine Sophia. Sophia is the revelation of the Son and the Holy Spirit, without separation and without confusion.
The one cannot be revealed without the other, just as they cannot be united to the point of complete fusion or identification. Furthermore, in the depths of the trinitarian self-revelation the Divine Sophia, as the all-ideal or all-verbal all-reality, the divine world, cannot be realized through the Word alone, or through the Spirit alone. There can be no Word from the Son Himself, for it is spoken not by the Son but only by the Father. It is the Father’s Word.
The Creaturely Sophia
Holy Sophia is the Angel of the creature and the beginning of the ways of God. She is the love of Love. This object of love is not an abstract idea, but a living essence, having essential beingness. This love is Sophia, the eternal object of God’s love, delight, and joy. Sophia is not only loved, rather she loves with a corresponding Love and in this mutual love she receives everything and is everything. And as the love of Love and the love for Love, Sophia possesses personhood and countenance and has beingness, like the Holy Trinity, but different. Her beingness is different since she does not participate in the inner life-divine life, she is not God; she is not a fourth member of the Holy Trinity.
Sophia is the beginning of a new creaturely multi-beingness, for after her follow the beingness of people and angels who have a rich sophianic relation to Divinity. However, she herself is found outside the Divine world, and does not enter into its self-enclosed, absolute fullness. But she is admitted into it according to an ineffable condescension of the love of God, and thanks to this she reveals the mysteries of the Divinity and its depths and rejoices with these gifts before the face of God.
Holy Sophia first appears to creaturely humanity in the Old Testament as Shekinah which means “one who dwells.” Shekinah is a visible manifestation of God on earth, whose presence is portrayed through a natural occurrence. She appears on three separate occasions in Exodus in the form of a cloud, as a pillar of smoke and fire, and as the fire and burning bush. In addition, it states in Exodus that the voice of God speaks to Moses as a friend. Today, many Christians refer to her as Shekinah Glory, the divine presence of God on earth. Since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, these Christians say the Shekinah Glory is now with the Lord, but this is not entirely correct. In reality, Christ and Sophia have become one in the glory of God and work synchronistically as explained below.
The Eternal Feminine
The life of the Holy Trinity is a pre-eternal act of self-surrender, of self-exhaustion of the Trinitarian Spirit in Divine Love. Holy Sophia likewise surrenders herself to Divine Love and received its gifts, the revelations of its mysteries. But she gives herself up differently than the Divine Trinity which complete themselves by it and it by themselves. Sophia only accepts, not having anything to return; she contains only what she has received. By the self-surrender of Divine Love she commences everything in herself. In this sense she is “feminine,” the one who receives; she is the “Eternal Feminine.”
In the Feminine are the mysteries of the world. In the feminine principle, the world is generated before it is created and from this seed of God, implanted in it by a path of disclosure; the world is fashioned out of nothing. This generation is something fundamentally different from that generation by God from his inner recesses by which the Father pre-eternally begets his Only-begotten Son without man and without woman, and in him and through him regenerates God’s offspring who are born not of flesh and blood but of God.
The generation of the world in Sophia is the operation of the whole Holy Trinity in each of its hypostases which extends to the receptive essence, the Eternal Feminine. Through this she becomes the beginning of the world, as it were with “nature doing what nature does,” forming the basis of the self-causing activity of the creaturely world. By taking into herself the revelation of the Divine mysteries, she introduces through herself and for herself a distinction, an order, an internal sequence in the life of the Divine Triunity.
She apprehends the one and whole Divinity in the fullness of its being as: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As one who receives the essence from the Father she is the creation and daughter of God; as one who knows the Divine Logos and is known by him, she is the bride of the Son and the wife of the Lamb; as one who receives the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, she is the church. And together with this, she becomes the Mother of the Son who is incarnated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit from Mary, the Heart of the Church, and she is the ideal soul of the creature, Beauty.
All of this at once, the entirety of the divine Light, Life and Love: Daughter and Bride, Wife and Mother, triunity of Good, Truth, and Beauty, the Holy Trinity in the world, is divine Sophia. Christ primarily turns towards Sophia, for he is the Light of the world, all things were through him, and by apprehending the rays of the Logos, Sophia becomes Christosophia, Logos in the world and like him, loved by the Father which pours out on her the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
What is this Eternal Feminine in her metaphysical essence? She is not a creature for she is not created. The beginning of creatureliness comes from the nothing; from nonbeing into elemental manifestation. Although Sophia is not the Absolute or God, she has received from God what she has in an absolute manner; she is free of being submerged in the nothing which is appropriate to worldly being. We cannot ascribe beingness to her, at least not in the manner in which we ascribe it to the creaturely world. As such she borders closely upon it; she is the indeterminable and unattainable bounds between being-creaturely and super-being, the essence of Divinity – neither being nor super-being.
Sophia occupies the place between God and the world. Simultaneously, she is everything, one-many, affirmation without negation, light without darkness, she is that which is not in being, which means, she both
is and is not, she participates in the one side of being and with the other, she transcends it. Occupying the realm between God and the creaturely world, Sophia abides between being and super-being; she is neither the one nor the other, or she appears as both at once; she is an enigma.
The unique nature of Sophia is clear from her relationship with time. Without herself being Eternity, she possesses everything as an eternal form. She is not made, and as a result, she did not arise in time. In other words, in her time does not arise, for she is the idea of God in God himself, but not in creation. Sophia is not Eternity, for that belongs to God; to ascribe Sophia to Eternity would mean to convert her into a Divine Hypostasis which would erase any bounds between her and God. These bounds must be maintained unconditionally as between God and the creatures, although in a different sense. Thus, Sophia is free from time and rises above it. She participates in it as Sophia, as love of Love; however, she participates not by reason of her essence but by the grace of Love.
The metaphysical nature of Sophia is not covered at all by the usual philosophical categories: absolute and relative, eternal and temporal, divine and creaturely. With her face turned towards God, she is His Image, Idea, and Name. Turned towards nothing, she is the eternal foundation of the world; the empyrean world of intelligible, eternal ideas. The created world exists, having as its foundation the world of ideas which illuminates it; it is sophianic.
This is the supreme, richest, and most important truth about the world… it was revealed to Greek speculation as the most indisputable truth, that at the basis of phenomena lies the world of ideas beyond the limits, that is, essences. These ultimate essences of things was defined as numbers by Pythagoreans, as names in various mystical doctrines, as ideas by Plato, as creative forms (entelechies) by Aristotle, and as letters of the Hebrew alphabet in the Kabbalah. These various definitions reflect different means of comprehending one and the same essence. All of philosophy is a mental vision of these ideas or a quest for this vision; it is inflamed by authentic love for Sophia – hence, it is given the name philo-sophia.
* Excerpts from the books by Sergius Bulgakov, The Unfading Light, The Bride of the Lamb, and The Comforter have been reinterpreted and paraphrased for easy reading.