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The Mystery of the Bridal Chamber in the Gospel of Philip




One of the Gnostic texts which give us the most information about the ‘mystical marriage’ is the Gospel of Philip. It reveals the bridal chamber as a sacrament:

"The Lord did everything in a mystery: a baptism and a chrism, and a Eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber." (Philip 67:26)

Some scholars see clear lines of demarcation between the disciples Peter and Philip: one, a bearer of the orthodox Christian message, whose power was monarchical and consolidated—the ‘rock’ upon which the solid structure would be built that would last for centuries; and the other, Philip, who represented the more fluid leadership within the Gnostic circles. (26) This latter group—who also emerged from the disciples of Jesus, and included Mary Magdalene—was chosen to be the bearers of the distinctive Christian Gnostic message. Attributed to the Philip circle were the tractates Thomas the Contender, Dialogue of the Savior, The Gospel of Mary, Pistis Sophia, The Sophia of Jesus Christ, and The Gospel of Philip. Douglas Parrott, a scholar who has done extensive research in these gospels, has explained that in the Philip circle, unlike the orthodox Petrine circle, there was a "sharing of the spotlight" among the disciples. All "have their day and then step back and make room for someone else...no one disciple emerged to whom the Gnostics looked as their founder." (27)

A number of these texts seem to reflect a Gnostic effort to remove apocalyptic concerns from orthodox gospels and perceive the Kingdom of God as a present eschatological reality. How this may have the possibility of occurring is often very ambiguous, however. One of the great disconcerting factors about Hellenistic Gnosticism is that, in its extreme dualism between God and matter, all possibility of cosmic renewal, such as we see in Jewish and Christian eschatology, is excluded. Most scholars, in fact, interpret the bulk of Gnostic thought to stress Gnosis because, in achieving it one understands "who he is, whence he has come, and whither he goes" (28) and enjoys a kind of ‘instant eschatology’; something, we may add, that belonged not to the whole of nature and humankind, but to the privileged few who had Gnosis. It has frequently been observed that unlike the apocalypticist, the Gnostic did not conceive the world as the place of a new creation, but looked forward to escaping from it to return to the Plorema, the place of perfection. (29) To the Gnostic, the world was an alien place, rather like the insane asylum of the universe.

However, the problem is somewhat resolved in the Gospel of Philip because the ‘kingdom" is achieved when the initiate understands the mystery of union in the bridal chamber. Before we examine this mystery of the bridal chamber, which in the Gospel of Philip, includes all the raw material for the sacramental community—e.g., prayers, liturgy, rituals, etc., we need to flesh out the implications of this second line of discipleship, particularly the singular importance placed in it on the figure of Magdalene. The "beloved disciple" who appears in the Gospel of Philip is not John but Mary Magdalene:

But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on the mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’ (Philip 63. 30-35)

In the Gospel of Mary, Peter himself, in addressing Mary, acknowledges that "the Savior loved you more than the rest of women" (10:5) and proceeds to then ask her for an interpretation of the hidden wisdom of the savior, which was revealed in a particular way to her. Mary then explains her vision, which is an account of the soul’s journey through the Aeons, from which she was eventually released, to finally experience the fullness of the Light.

When she reveals her mystical experience to the rest of the apostles, however, Peter rebukes her, saying, "Did he really speak privately to a woman and not openly to us?" (Mary 17:20) A dispute arises among the male disciples challenging her authority with Peter clearly seeming to represent a patriarchal hostility towards women s equality in ministry. Most of the apostles in this text, however, affirm the power of the Spirit communicated through Mary and go out to preach the gospel, adhering to the last words of Christ, "not to lay down any other rule or law than that which the Savior gave to them," (Mary 18:20) a clear reference to the opposition to the other laws, creeds, etc., which were being developed by the hierarchy of the Church at that time.

A conflict is again portrayed in Pistis Sophia: Peter complains that Mary is displacing his authority and is monopolizing time. When he asks Jesus to silence her, he is rebuked, but Mary is sufficiently frightened, and says, "Peter makes me hesitate, I am afraid of him because he hates the female race." (30) Christ’s reply, however, is that whoever is inspired by the Spirit is empowered to speak, whether it be man or woman. Here, Magdalene emerges as the heroine who, like in the Gospel of Mary, is the participant of the secret Gnosis of Jesus. In this text, she also absorbs elements of the goddess Sophia, the all-maternal creatrix who falls into the Chaos where, in fact, she loses her name. Mary emerges in this portrait, like Helen, a redeemed soul whom Jesus will complete through the mysteries.

Marjorie Malvern has noted a distinct anti-feminist theme in this myth, i.e, the emergence of a "Venus in Sackcloth" (31) who is the prototype of the reformed prostitute who was to dominate Western art and literature for numerous centuries. She perceives such Gnostic speculations of the ‘fallen’ Sophia to reflect the "preoccupation and fear of sexual intercourse, a conflict resulting from a view of matter as female and evil and of spirit as male and good." (32)

In an era of turmoil and transition, however, where new spiritual themes were emerging which no longer embraced only the goddess of fertility but also goddesses of the heavens, this dualism should not be surprising. Furthermore, it does not necessarily follow that such prejudices against sex, women, the body, etc., existed as a result of dualisms perpetrated by Gnostic mythologies. It is true that many Gnostics probably saw the sexual act as one which kept the soul enslaved in an endless round of suffering, and therefore may have practiced rigid ascetic practices. The evils of the world were perceived as so intolerable by some sects that their only version of liberation was liberation from sexuality. However, sexuality may have played an important role in some of the Gnostic sects; there has, in fact, been much hypothesized about the role of sexuality in the cult of Philip, but the rite itself was too secretive for us to ever definitively know. Most scholars feel that the bridal-chamber ritual was metaphorical. We know, however, that it was an important sacrament (not known to the Orthodox church); therefore, some ritual activity must have been involved.

Nonetheless, the problem remains: what was the relationship between Jesus and Magdalene in the Gnostic gospels, and why was Magdalene demoted to the role of prostitute in the Christian tradition, when there is not a shred of evidence, as Biblical scholars have long since noted, linking her to prostitution in the Bible? Rosemary Reuther identifies an obvious reason for Magdalene s demotion to prostitute in myth:

"the powerful role of Mary Magdalene as beloved disciple and apostle to the apostles of the Lord’s resurrection threaten to sanction leadership for women in a later patriarchal Christianity." (33)

Here, then, we see the conflicts of the line of Peter and Magdalene, which also claims apostolic descent. This assumption is principally based on John’s Gospel where, after arriving at the tomb and seeing Jesus, Mary becomes, at his request an active participant in announcing the miracle of the resurrection. Perhaps because she was the first to ‘proclaim" the good news (the gospel), she is, even today, the patron saint of preachers. This explanation is intriguing, but it is only the political one.

There is also another, more esoteric, interpretation. Those who enter the bridal chamber have already ‘‘made the two one" perhaps, because, like in the Gospel of Thomas, the initiates are already "solitaries."(ll,2:l06) The more ancient understanding of a "sacred prostitute’’ was one who was "one-in-herself." In the Gospel of Philip, this is the stage of living in the spirit; it is equated with entering the kingdom, which normally earthly men and women cannot enter, unless they re-create the state of the pre-paradisial Fall through the mystery of the bridal chamber. The special relationship between Jesus and Magdalene reflects the relationship between the savior and initiate figures in the gospel, and they are explicitly referred to as spiritual spouses. (Philip 63:34) This spiritual goal of balancing the complementary relationship between male and female is a psychological one which Carl Jung saw as necessary for individuation. In Philip, Mary personifies the syzygos of Jesus, whose presence is necessary for the creation of spiritual offspring. It is in this context that Gnostic scholar Jorunn Buckley sees the special character of the kiss (quoted earlier in Philip 63.35): "The Logos lives in those whom he has kissed, hence the disciples’ jealousy! for they are not yet worthy of the kiss." (34) The remarkably intimate relationship between Jesus and Mary is hinted at in John’s resurrection gospel. When Christ appeared to Magdalene, she at first did not recognize him—until he said one word: her name.

Actually, the misinterpretation of Mary as converted prostitute occurs through a convoluted convergence of Biblical texts. References are made in Luke 7:36-50 to a sinner wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair, but the passage never identifies this person as Magdalene, but only as an anonymous woman. The gospel passage most frequently associated with her is the one in Mark, where she comes in to anoint the head of Christ. This anointing took place at Bethany, where legend reports Mary to have lived. What happens in this scene? A woman comes in with an alabaster jar of perfume, she breaks the jar and anoints Jesus on the head, much to the protest of those standing nearby. Why waste such expensive perfume? The reply of Christ is curt and pointed:

"Let her alone...she has done what she could. By perfuming my body she is anticipating its preparation for burial. I assure you, whereever the good news is proclaimed throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." (Mark 14: 3—9)

The anointing ritual, in fact, tells us that Mary knew, perhaps in some kind of prophetic way, about the coming death of Jesus, something which most of the disciples still did not understand or refused to believe. What does this gesture mean? Anointings are done by a priest or a priestess in the ancient world for three reasons: as a sacramental confirmation with the accompanying new name of the initiate, for burials, or for the priesthood itself.

According to Ean Begg, (35) Magdalene may have been a priestess of Astarte, or Isis, (perhaps this is where the association with "virgin-prostitute" comes from) before her conversion to the mysteries of Jesus. Although Luke’s Gospel (8:2) speaks of Jesus casting out seven spirits from Magdalene, it does not associate her with prostitution. Generally scholars interpret this to mean some kind of mental or physical illness, such as epilepsy. A more "gnostic’’ interpretation is that Magdalene was ‘‘saved’’ from the planetary archons which were possessing" (testing?) her prior to her initiation into the Gnosis of Jesus.

It is not necessary to automatically associate prejudices against sexual intercourse with either virginity or prostitution (and therefore with women as the cause of the fall into the material world,) as a necessary evil of Gnostic mythology. Although Sophia is often described as either virgin or prostitute, neither captures the esoteric significance of the Sophia—motif. Sophia is an archetype that defies easy analysis. He or she that would know the complete transformation of Wisdom is said to drink from the virgin’s milk of Sophia. In this sense, we must dig for a deeper understanding of virginity than the "body-hating" one many feminists see as a projected image of some of the early church fathers, both Gnostic and Orthodox. The preoccupation with virginity was an obvious concern which developed for a number of reasons.

If we are stuck in the point of view that ‘dualisms are always bad’, we are prohibited from understanding Gnosticism's more hidden, esoteric secrets. In the Gnostic mysteries, the state of virginity is the opposite of the state of being defiled by the archons. In the Gospel of Philip, for example, Mary, the Mother of Christ, is a virgin "whom no power defiled." (55:27) The defilement of being exposed to the archons concerns a darkening of the soul’s light of discernment: its opportunity for true Gnosis. Virginity implies that this Light is pure and intact.

Philo used the term ‘virgin’ in much the same way: it is the state of the soul which is receptive to the pure influx of God’s grace. In Philip, the "spirit" given to Adam was his mother. (70:25) This archetypal image links Sophia with Mary. For Mary, virginity was the precondition necessary for the spiritual state required of her to understand the heavenly message that she was to become the Mother of God. The ‘fall’ of ordinary humanity into the material world implies that the soul lost contact with its divine origin. In the orthodox exegesis, it is true, this fall is primarily blamed on Eve; however, Gnostic interpretations turn the tale of Genesis on its head. When, in the Apocryphon of John Eve attempts to awaken Adam to spiritual illumination, she says:

"I am the thinking of the virginal spirit... Arise and remember, and follow your root, which is I...and beware of the deep sleep." (Ap. John 31:10-20)

In the Gospel of Philip it is the separation of the spiritual element (Eve) from the psyche (Adam) that was the original cause of death in the world:

"When Eve was in Adam, death did not exist. But when she separated from him, death came into being." (Philip 68:22-25)

It is apparent that "spirit" is not stereotypically identified as ‘male and good" in reviewing many of the Gnostic texts. The principle point, rather, is that the perfected human being—one who has achieved salvation—is one who has united within him or herself the elements of both sexes, the union of both psyche and spirit. The function of the redeeming Logos is to effect this reunion:

"Because of this Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and again unite the two." (Philip 70:10-20)

A powerful statement about this union is found in the Gospel of Thomas:

"When you make the two, one...and you say, ‘Mountain, move away, ‘ it will move." (Thomas 11,2:106)

Sometimes, then, the virgin is characterized as an androgyne, i.e, for example in the figure of the metropator, the Father-Mother God. Christ/Sophia thus becomes the prototype for the perfected male/female unity, acknowledged by both Gnostic and orthodox Christians (see, for example, Gal, 3:28, where Paul says, "There does not exist among you…male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus.")

In Jungian terms this would be the harmonious union of opposites, the ‘coincidentia oppositorium.' (36) This is the condition which was enacted in the sacrament of the bridal chamber, a union characterized by a kind of virginal innocence, wherein the soul was freed from opposition or dualism.

In the Gospel of Philip, it is said that:

"Bridegrooms and brides belong to the bridal chamber. No one shall he able to see the bridegroom with the bride unless one become one." (Philip 82: 20-25)

and also that:

"It is certainly necessary that they should be born again through the image. What is the resurrection? The image must rise again through the image. The bridegroom and the image must enter through the image into truth." (Philip 67:15-20)

We do not know what the ‘images’ were, or exactly how the initiates experienced the ‘truth’ and the ‘rebirth’; however, the metaphorical language of the text has much in common with modern symbolic psychology, (which is probably why a major preoccupation of Jung’s life was Gnosticism.) In another place the author of Philip says "Truth did not come into the world naked, but it came in types and images." (67: 10)

References to the "bridal chamber" are also found in the Gospels, e.g., in Mark 2:19, where Jesus says that the "sons of the bridechamber" could not fast while he was with them. It seems no small coincidence that in the Gospel of John, Jesus is said to have "manifested his Glory" at the wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-11) And John (3:39) also describes John the Baptist as the "bridegroom’s friend." Paul speaks of how Genesis 2:24 ("the two shall be one flesh") is described as a ‘great mystery" for Christians.

For the Valentinian Gnostics, the idea of perfect marriage was connected to eschatology. At the end of the world, when all has been perfected, the Mother (Sophia) will re-enter the Pleroma and be re-united with the Bridegroom-Savior. The bride chamber thus becomes the entire Pleroma. Those who have true Gnosis will become brides to the angels, where they will finally put on their "wedding garments" (Matthew 22:12) for the heavenly marriage. Robert Grant points out that Valentinian eschatology is based, to no small degree, on New Testament metaphors of this sacred union. (37)

Irenaeus, in his polemic, Against Heresies, quotes one of the Valentinian formulas of the mystical imitation of the bridechamber sacrament:

"Adorn yourself as a bride awaiting her bridegroom so that you may be what I am and I may be what you are. Place the seed of Light in your bridechamber. Receive the bridegroom from me and contain him and be contained by him. Behold, grace has come upon you." (38)

The address, "Behold grace has come upon you" mimics the words of Gabriel when addressing the Virgin Mary, and the reference here points to union through the mystery of the "spiritual marriage" which results in the great mystery of the conception of the Incarnation: the birth of the Christ within.

The metaphor of the Indwelling Glory which Christians saw as Christ is also alluded to in Philip in language which reminds us of the Shekinah-Glory, veiled in the Holy of Holies:

"The bridal chamber is hidden. It is the Holy of Holies. The veil at first concealed how God arranged the creation, but when the veil is rent, the things inside are revealed.., this Ark will be its salvation." (Philip 84: 20-35)

Since Christ is the new Ark, the veil is now "torn from above to below" (85:10) and here Philip seems to quote Matthew 27:51 directly.

The Virgin-Bride, which could represent Mary, Sophia, or the Gnostic soul, is metaphorically this veil which has now been rent to illuminate the mystery of Christian Gnosis. The author of Philip explains:

"Is it permitted to express a mystery? The Father of everything united with the virgin who came down below, And a fire shone for them on that day. It revealed the great bridal chamber. Therefore, his body came into being on that very day. It left the bridal chamber as one who came into being from the bridegroom and the bride. So Jesus established everything in and through these." (Philip 71: 5-15)

Later, the Gospel of Philip makes it clear that only the initiated can fully comprehend this realized eschatology:

"If anyone becomes a son of the bridal chamber, he will receive the Light. If anyone does not receive it while he is in these places, he cannot receive it in the other place." (Philip 86:5-7)

This mimics Luke 16:26, in a story where Abraham says from heaven, "so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."

For Philip, the Gnostic Christian need not wait till the end of the world, for "if he has already received the Truth in images...the world has become the Aeon." (86:10-12) In other words, correct cultic practice is the application of Gnosis, that which abolishes any distinctions between this world and the beyond. To receive the sacrament implies that one has obtained the truth present in its symbols. This is why the mystery must be experienced in both places: it must be first received below, in order to be recognized above. Perhaps, for this reason, some have seen the bridal chamber sacrament as one given at the moment of death.

Others see in it a very Christ-centered mysticism, which evades the dualism that is present in many other Gnostic texts. Jorunn Buckley, for instance, sees in the Gospel of Philip an exception to the prevalent Gnosticism of the time, which postulated an alien God, a divine fall and unredeemable matter. In Philip, there are "few gloomy descriptions of the sad lot of the fallen soul on earth" but rather a "stubborn conviction of full salvation in the earthly world." (39) The unified resurrected initiate in the sacrament of the bridal-chamber is marked by the merging of the image and the angel: name and form become one. Although the creation may have begun in ignorance, the true Gnostic knows how to use the vehicles in the world to transcend it.

The Genesis legend seems to have provided the medium for the special configuration of the clothing symbolism, e.g., the "robes of skin’ (Gen. 3:21), which refers to the body, is the replacement for the lost Image of God, which corresponds to the ‘lost" body or garment of Light. Philip says "There is no other way for a person to acquire this quality except by putting on the perfect Light." (76:25) Restoration of the Image in Philip, therefore, comes about through clothing oneself in the garments of "water and fire" (baptism and chrism), which, unlike the earthly garments, prepare the soul for ascent. The garment of Light is thus better than those who put in on for it reveals the true nature of the soul. This restoration of the Image can most clearly be seen in the Gnostic text Hymn of the Pearl where the prince sees in the angel of light which comes to meet him the reflection of his own true Self, or alter ego, which had been preserved in the upper world. Perhaps a somewhat gnostic Paul spoke of "putting on the new man, who is renewed…after the image of his creator." (Col. 3:10)

In the theology of the Valentinians, it is the division of the sexes in the Genesis story which is the root of the human dilemma, not curiosity over the forbidden fruit. In the mystery of re-unification, demonstrated by the mission of Christ's institution of the sacrament of the bridal chamber, the original Edenic androgyny is transmitted to the initiate. It was intimately connected to the chrism sacrament, which in fact is related to Christ’s very name:

"It is because of the chrism that Christ has his name…he who has been anointed possesses everything...the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit. The Father gave him this in the mystery of the bridal—chamber." (Philip 74: 10-20)

For the Gnostic, the bridal chamber represented the sacred enclosure which became the place of reconciliation of soul and spirit, male and female, ie. , an end to the dualisms inherent in the cosmos:

"Light and darkness, life and death, right and left…are inseparable. (but) neither are the good good, nor the evil evil...each one will dissolve into its original nature. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal." (Philip 53:10—25)

The message here is a very mystical one: knower and known merge into the other, In one place the text says: "God is a man-eater.’ (Philip 63:1) God consumes humans because the human is made in the likeness (image) of God; sharing in God’s divinity, the human is, therefore, food fit for God.

In the bridal chamber opposites meet in God, represented by Light and Will:

"It belongs not to desire but to the will. It belongs not to the darkness or the night, but to the day and the light…Those who are separated will be united (and) will be filled. Every one who will enter the bridal chamber will kindle the light, for it turns just as in marriages…(observed) at night...But the mysteries of this marriage are perfected rather in the day and in the light. Neither that day not its light ever sets. " (82.5—86.5)

Mary Magdalene, then, is the beloved disciple and the prototype of the perfected soul because, through her favored and unique relationship with Christ, she has entered into the perfect of Adam/Eve, then by becoming a perfected human being, Mary becomes, like Christ, androgynous, a true spiritual being. The Magdalene myth recapitulates the fall of both Sophia and Helen; and in rediscovering her divinity, she becomes a model for the soul who seeks to do the same.

It has been much debated if, in fact, the bridal chamber mystery was some kind of ‘hieros gamos’, like the more ancient fertility rites that were physically acted out. However, the literal analysis will remain as much of a mystery as what ‘really’ went on at any of the mystery schools. The esoteric significance holds much more promise in terms of interpretation. The image of the bridal chamber is an obvious symbol of the ‘conjunctio.' This divine union which is represented in marriage or sacred partnership reflects an archetypal unity which is part of the human drama. It points to an original androgynous unity which in the Gospel of Philip significantly pictures salvation as equivalent to a reunion of the divided Adam.

In Hebrew, Adam does not mean "man.' The word meaning a "man" is "ish." ‘Adam" means "mortal" or "human being," signifying an androgynous unity. An ancient Jewish midrash says, "Man and woman were originally undivided," that is, Adam was at first created bisexual a hermaphrodite. (40) Philo wrote that the original Human Being, the "Adam" (or Adam Kadmon) preceded the Biblical Adam, the perfect human who would return to the world at the time of redemption.(41) We have seen that this savior—motif is repeatedly characterized in the Gnostic literature as variously female as well as male, because the syzygy metaphor is at the so much variation in the Gnostic texts, it is difficult to even stereotype the transcendent ‘spirit’ world as masculine and the material world as feminine, In the Tremorphic Protennoia, for example, masculinity is identified with the fallen world and the spiritual elevated feminine principle is seen to be the revealer of Light. Other examples have been given previously.

Sophia is an archetype that defies stereotyping. Jungian Erich Neumann perceives the Sophia as being the most elevated form of the feminine principle:

"As spirit Mother, she is not, like the Great Nother of the lower phase, interested primarily in the infant, the child, the immature man who clings to her in these early stages...[she] governs the transformation from the elementary to the spiritual level...[she] desires whole men knowing life in all its breadth." (42)

This is the function of Wisdom, patiently waiting, yet always eluding our complete understanding until the whole person is prepared; until the individuation process is complete.

Sophia/Magdalene is a paradoxical image until we interpret her in the light of the esoteric significance of the bridal-chamber. I see the sexual metaphors alluded to in the myths as intimately linked to those secret places of wisdom, hard to grasp. There are difficulties and risks inherent in approaching her. She is not always easy to relate to. She is, after all, a type of hetaira, a ‘virgin-prostitute", who is one-in-herself. She is unrelatable. perhaps, because she is detached. She is secret knowledge. reserved for those few who have the courage and persistance to continue to search for her and grapple with her mysteries. The hearer of true Gnosis is being called to follow this Wisdom, despite the fact that she may not always be honored by this world. Magdalene may also represent the dark side of the Virgin

Mary herself, historically portrayed by the Church as lily white. She is perhaps the secret part of our own selves which we cannot so easily analyze, decipher, or understand. Magdalene will continue to remain one of the most mysterious of the Gnostic and Christian myths precisely because she refuses to be categorically fit into a box: whether it be a virgin box, a whore box, a Christian box, a feminist box…she is, in the last analysis, ineffable, arid she remains a mystery.

In her dualism, Sophia is indeed an ambivalent image. She is the symbol of life, earth, and the striving human soul in her fallen aspect as Achamoth. However, consistent in even her immanent aspect, the Sophia figure is portrayed as active, divine and powerful. But ultimately, Sophia is a reflection of the highest power of the saving Word, the Voice that internally beckons. She is, perhaps, the light at the end of the tunnel we catch qlimpses of through a sometimes hard-won Wisdom.


AEON: Hypostasi, or celestial being that makes up the Pleroma.

ARCHON: ‘Ruler" or power, of a lower nature than the aeons (which were pure emanations of God. The first archon was usually the Demiurge.

DEMIURGE: World creator, or craftsman; not the highest God.

ESCHATOLOGY: Theology concerning the final events in world history, or the ultimate destiny of humankind.

GNOSIS: Knowledge, usually of secret or initiatory nature.

HYPOSTASIS: Deification or personification of an abstract concept, or the elaboration of divine parts or powers into active entities.

HYLE: Matter

LOGOS: The Greek word for "Word" or "Reason."

PLEROMA: The Fullness of the God-head, opposed to kenoma, or emptiness, the Void.

PNEUMA: Highest spark of the soul. Pneumatics (opposed to psychics or hylics) were those who had Gnosis.

SOPHIA:The Greek word for "Wisdom."

SYZYGY: A pair of Aeons, e.g., Unbegotten Father, or Depth of Silence (sometimes characterized as separate entities, i.e, Logos and Zoe).

VIRGIN'S MILK: The "milk of Wisdom’ (Sophia), a metaphor for the food of the philosophers (the lovers of Sophia), the Gnostics, as well as the alchemists.

ZOE: The Greek word for "Life."



26. See, in particular, Douglas Parrot, "Gnostic and Orthodox Disciples" in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early Christianity ed. Hedrick & Hodgson, (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1986).

27. Ibid., p. 218.

28. Valentinian formula, quoted in Hans Jonas, Gnostic Religion, p. 45.

29. See, in particular, Karen King (#1)

30. quoted in Elaine Pagels, Gnostic Gospels, p.65.

31, See #1.

32. Marjorie Malvern, Venus, p. 51.

33. Rosemary Ruether, Womanguides (Boston: Beacon Press, 1935),pp. 177-78.

34. Jorunn Buckley, ‘‘The Holy Spirit is a Double Name’’ in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism ed. Karen King Fortress Press, 1988), p. 216.

35. Ean Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin (London: Arcana, 1985), p. 100.

36. For example, Jung's work Mysterium Conjunctionis Trans. By RFC Hull (London: Routeledge & Kegan Paul, 1963).

37. Robert Grant, "The Mystery of Marriage in the Gospel of Philip" in Vigiliae Christianae # 15 (1961), pp. 129-140.

38. Irenaeus, quoted in Grant, p. 132.

39. Jorunn J. Buckley, "A Cult-Mystery in the Gospel of Philip"Journal of Biblical Literature, V.99, (1980), p. 575.

40. Genesis Rabbah 8:1.

41. Philo, summarized by Samuel Sandmel, Philo’s place in Judaism (N.Y. : KTAV, 1971), pp. xxi, 100.

42. Erich Neumann, The Great Mother (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 331.

Copyright ©1997 by Soror A.L.


About the Author

Soror A.L. lives and writes in a niche in the woods with her cat and her herb garden. She belongs to a working Hermetic lodge on the West Coast and is the author of the book "Western Mandalas of Transformation."



Refer also to:

The Role of the Sacred Femanine in the Gnostic Pantheons

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