“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and what never will be (Thomas Jefferson)”
Throughout human history, wisdom and knowledge were revered. Kings paid high salaries to wise men to advise them on politics, finance and other matters of importance. The ancient Greeks wrote extensively about the nature of wisdom and called it “Sophia,” and personified the virtue as the goddess Sophia. Sophia appears in ancient Hebrew and Christian traditions, but the legacy of the goddess Sophia is elusive. While she is absent from Genesis, she makes shadowy appearances in more esoteric biblical texts where as wisdom, she guides the hand of creation.
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race (Proverbs 8:27-31)
Sophia has also existed throughout human history in multiple forms. Ancient texts unearthed throughout India and the Near East show Sophia was a significant deity thousands of years before the Hebrew religion existed. In Ancient Greece, she was partially embodied by Athena. The ancient Egyptians knew her as the all-seeing Isis, and before much of history was written, she was Ashera, so revered that the Old Testament God jealously seeks her temples for destruction.
Prior to the council of Nicaea and the purging of all scriptures that offered competing views to the prevailing power orthodoxy, Sophia was a principle divinity for many early Christian sects and held a prominent position in a variety of scriptures. The Gnostics, whose name literally means “knowing,” Sophia’s knowledge was the key to salvation.
The Gnostics believed that Jesus brought a message to the world that each of us is divine spark tied to the material earth through our physical bodies. Sophia is the Holy Spirit that exists within us all. Salvation lies in our knowing her and opening ourselves to the wisdom of the universe. We are saved by knowing this sacred truth. In this way Jesus was the savior.
The kingdom of God is among you (Luke 17:21)
Sophia’s wisdom was often rebellious. She encouraged her followers to question authority when it was morally and spiritually lacking. She was the embodiment of free and independent thought. Her wisdom urged followers to constantly challenge the status quo in the quest for higher ground. To the Christian orthodoxy of the day, Sophia’s knowledge was threatening. Truth and morality often stood in opposition to the actions and deeds of the existing power structures. For example, Emperor Constantine, who murdered many of his close family members, declared the Gnostic scriptures heresy and ordered the systematic destruction of every document and the mass genocide of every adherent to Sophia’s way. Constantine’s actions were exactly the tyranny of orthodoxy that Sophia sought to eradicate with wisdom, justice and truth.
Wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her (Proverbs 8:11)
Constantine and the orthodoxy he created managed to keep Sophia’s message under wraps for almost two millennia. For literally thousands of years, she existed in the shadowy recesses of the bible and in the underground crafts of alchemy. The unearthing and subsequent translation of the Gnostic gospels at Nag Hammadi symbolically brought her wisdom again into the light to offer the world a glimpse of a deeper, wiser Christian tradition. With Sophia’s return from exile, she offers a new interpretation of the events that transpired in the Garden of Eden.
God said ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened… (Genesis 3:3 – 3:7)
Eden is described as paradise on earth. All physical needs are attended to and peace prevails among all the creatures contained within its idyllic boundaries. But Eden’s paradise carries a high price. Residents are expected to dwell in ignorance, unquestioning and oblivious to the existence of good and evil.
A common symbol for wisdom during biblical times was the serpent. The cobra bears an all-seeing eye, and Sophia was often depicted as both a dove and a snake. Sophia’s twin Isis bears the insignia of the cobra’s eye of wisdom.
In the orthodox interpretation of the events in the Garden of Eden, the message is clear – good citizens do not question authority or make attempts at free and creative thought. The woman Eve, with her mysterious, lusty desires, seductive feminism and curiosity was responsible for man’s expulsion from paradise. Indulging in such stimulations of the flesh and mind are dangerous and fraught with unintended consequences. Knowledge does not shelter us or give us peace. Frequently, the opposite is true. Ignorance is bliss, and many still chose to dwell in it.
Since the fall of Eve, our male God in heaven has demanded we serve Him with blind faith. In spite of all the scientific evidence to the contrary, He dictates we must accept His word in the Bible as truth. Our reward for adherence to His doctrine is a return to paradise. For many, the promise of paradise is enough to secure unquestioning contrition, but for others, the seductive lure of Sophia still beckons.
Although she has been practically expunged from the bible, the divine spark of wisdom that resides within us all is not so easily silenced. She lurks within the shadows, giving us flashes of insight, gnawing at our conscience, and urging us to wisdom in spite of ourselves. It is time for her return.
The greatest threat to the long-term welfare of planet earth is ignorance. The current issues that face the globe are monumental and complex. The obedient followers of Yahweh have shaped life on earth into a form that is anything but paradise for most of the planet's residents. Issues such as global warming, resource depletion, genetic modification of crops, pollution of air, water and land and all the other problems that plague our existence are part of a political debate that engages the American public and demands our attention. We influence this process and are at its base, as we direct law makers in the policy directions we feel are important. We make our opinions known with our votes.
In order to engage effectively in the democratic process, the voting public needs an adequate grasp of the scientific, logical, moral and social complexities of the issues at hand. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us are not up to the task.
It is time for us to worship Sophia again and question the orthodox power structures who like Emperor Constantine, would choose to keep us all naked and ignorant. Do not let Eve’s sacrifices be in vain.
p.s. Yahweh lied. Adam and Eve did not die. The serpent told the truth.