The Gypsy Scholar’s Explanation of Images Used in “The Window” Video: the Shekhinah & Sophia
This music video is dedicated to Leonard Cohen, whose song “The Window,” is one of the Gypsy Scholar’s favorites because of its esoteric-mystical content. This being the case, the song presents a problem for interpretation, and both critics and fans have wondered what LC had in mind with some of the song’s veiled images. Thankfully, LC has commented about the main subject of the song that came out on his 1974 Recent Songs album.
“That darling to you, of course, the word darling now, has a lot of resonance…. It's not just a term of endearment between men and women. It has other resonance. So darling of angels, demons and saints, and the whole broken-hearted host means that one which is beloved and cherished by the whole, all the inhabitants of the whole cosmos, that is the arisen one. That is the Christ, or that is the Messiah, or that is the Redeemer, that is the highest aspect of one's own being that has the regenerative capacity. But all those, all that kind of explanation is completely irrelevant to the music of a passage which can evoke those things. But as soon as that evocation is clouded or obscured by the kind of mechanism in the heart or the mind that would desire such an explanation, then the song has failed.”
Thus, risking “such an explanation,” LC has given us a key to unlock the meaning of his mystical song. However, the GS must admit that in this video he’s taken some hermeneutical liberty with the identity of LC’s “darling” “Messiah,” unlocking a slightly different meaning. That said, I don’t think it violates the spirit of the song, and so I also don’t think that LC would object to my altering the gender of the “Messiah” or “Redeemer.”
We know that although LC has stated that his religion is Judaism, he has also stated that he has great respect for Jesus Christ. Thus, the figure of the “darling” “Messiah” in the song is, of course, male, which is the orthodox representation. However, I have taken the liberty to do a sex-change operation on this “Messiah” and turn him into a female “Messiah.” Actually, this is part of my interpreting the first subject of the song, the one who is addressed as standing by the window, as female, when this subject has commonly been interpreted as a male (perhaps an alter-ego of LC himself). It just made more sense to me when it came to the opening lyrics: “Why do you stand by the window /Abandoned to beauty and pride / The thorn of the night in your bosom …” (i.e., the “beauty” and the “bosom,” which, if male, would more likely be “chest”).
I should add here that I already had collected the female Messiah images for the video before I encountered LC’s quote identifying the song’s “darling of angels, demons and saints and the whole broken-hearted host,” which made my interpretation problematic. So, I considered dropping the project. But then I remembered that I had previously added many of LC’s sketches to my “Leonard Cohen” webpage, one of which was a nude woman entitled “Dream of the Fallen Sechina.” That was enough for me to keep to my interpretation and continue my project.
Therefore, I have replaced the “darling” “Messiah” of “Christ” with the Jewish figure of the Shekhinah and the Gnostic-Christian Sophia, both understood as the divine feminine aspect of the Godhead and both considered to be, each in their own way, salvific redeemers. (As I will point out here, it is Sophia-Wisdom that is one with the Christ-Logos, even his “twin.”) This is what I mean by unlocking a “slightly different” meaning.
Now, I feel this alteration of gender is theologically justified, given (1) the context of the song’s imagery background in both Jewish and Christian mysticism, and (2) LC’s background in Kabbalistic literature, specifically the Lurianic Kabbalah.
In my video, I have combined the two figures of the Divine Feminine (one from the Jewish and one from the Christian tradition) into what I’ve termed as Shekhinah-Sophia. I wondered whether I was taking a big risk in doing so—until, that is, I discovered Anne Baring’s presentation on the Shekinah during Ubiquity University’s online “Madonna Rising” of August 2020. (Anne Baring is a Jungian analyst and one of the great pioneers on the resurgence of the “Divine Feminine” in our time. In her presentation she is assisted by Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s writings in “The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature.”) In closing her presentation on the Shekinah, she offered this question for reflection: “What difference would there be in your life if the Shekinah-Sophia was a living presence for you?”
I will start off with the Kabbalah (specifically its sefirotic “Tree of Life”) and the information I’ve found on the Shekhinah, to be followed by information on Sophia. Both female salvific figures correspond with LC’s description the “darling” of the whole cosmos that is “the Christ, or that is the Messiah, or that is the Redeemer, that is the highest aspect of one's own being that has the regenerative capacity.” As will be shown in the following information, this perfectly fits the role of Shekhinah and Sophia, especially Sophia who is responsible for the creation of the cosmos and is “the numinous immanence of God in the world “ and the self—both the world-soul and the soul. I trust that this information will suffice to justify my alteration of the of gender LC’s “darling” “Messiah.”
The Kabbalah (or Cabala) is said to be the “soul of the Torah”and represents the inner and mystical aspect of Judaism. It is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism. The definition of Kabbalah varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it, from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later adaptations in Western esotericism; i.e.; the Christian Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah. The Jewish Kabbalah, which flowered in 13th century Andalusia (Spain) with the writing of the Zohar, is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between the unchanging, eternal G-d and the mortal, finite universe, or G-d’s creation. It forms the foundation of mystical religious interpretations within Judaism. Thus, the Hebrew word Kabbalah refers to the study of the fundamental laws that support all existence and non-existence.
Sefirot, the “Tree of Life,” is central to the Kabbalah. According to Kabbalah, the spectrum of human experience is divided into seven emotions and qualities known as the sefirah. The sefirah, represented by the tree of life, not only outlines the different parts of emotional life of the soul, but is considered by some to be the very spiritual DNA of the entire universe. The Tree of Life is a map of the cosmos and also a map of the mind. It is said that studying it, one will unlock the fundamental building blocks of existence. The Sefirot, or Sephiroth, are the 10 attributes or emanations of the Kabbalah, through which Ein Sof, the Infinite, reveals itself and continuously creates both the physical realm and the chain of higher metaphysical realms, the Seder hishtalshelus. These 10 sefirot can be understood as “Spheres of Manifestation,” which serve as reflective mirrors of the divine entrance into the human world. They are also understood as the 10 creative forces that intervene between the infinite, unknowable G-d (Ein Sof) and our created world. Thus, the Sefirot represent the manner in which Consciousness (G-d, YHWH) expresses Itself in Creation. The sefiroth are organized into three discrete columns or gimel kavim (“three lines” in Hebrew). They are often referred to as the three “Fathers,” derived from the three “Mothers,” and are attributed to the vowels [Vav, Yud, and Heh]. It also consists of 10 nodes symbolizing different archetypes and 22 lines connecting the nodes. The nodes are often arranged into three columns to represent that they belong to a common category. The tree columns, each associated with a Hebrew sacred and creative letter, are: (1) the central column, the “Kether” at the top and the “Yesod” at the bottom, which are usually gender neutral, a balance between the two opposing forces of female and male tendencies; (2) the right column, the “Chokhmah,” which is male; (3) the left column, the “Binah,” which is female. (As will be pointed out below, In Jewish Kabbalah, of all the sefirot only Binah and Malkuth are considered female, while all the other sefirot are male. It is significant that the Shekhinah is at the base of the Tree of Life, the Malkuth). In the imagery of the Kabbalah “the Shekhinah is the most overtly female sefirah, the last of the ten sefirot, referred to imaginatively as ‘the daughter of God ... The harmonious relationship between the female Shekhinah and the six sefirot which precede her causes the world itself to be sustained by the flow of divine energy. She is like the moon reflecting the divine light into the world.” (Cf. Shekhinah as “divine energy” with the Hindu goddess Shakti, who is also conceived of as a cosmic force: “The term shakti refers to multiple ideas. Its general definition is dynamic energy that is responsible for creation, maintenance, and destruction of the universe. It is identified as female cosmic energy, because shakti is responsible for creation, as mothers are responsible for birth.”) As identified with the tenth sefirah (Malkuth), the Shekhinah is the source of life for humans on earth below the sefirotic realm. (The Kabbalistic Tree of Life and Shekhinah are also associated with the “Metatron cube,” which is believed to be originally derived from the Tree of Life. It is the symbol of the unending flow of energy between everything in the universe; the interconnected nature of the universe. As such, it has become a symbol for “sacred geometry.” See explanation below.)
There is an Alphabet of Kabbalah. Hebrew is considered a divinely revealed, sacred language and its letters (22 primary letters) have special importance in Jewish traditions. It is the language of the internal worlds. The symbolism of Kabbalah is delivered through the Hebrew letters. The letters are believed to encode the entire root knowledge of creation and the power of G-d. In Genesis 1, G-d creates the world through the “Word” (Logos) by pronouncing his divine will; hence language has the ultimate creative potential. This view forms the starting point for most of the Jewish mystical and magical traditions, from antiquity right up to present times. Sefer yetsirah, one of the earliest Jewish mystical texts ( 2nd and 7th centuries CE), describes the process of creation as taking place through the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and ten cardinal numbers. Early on, Sefer yetsirah received magically oriented interpretations, which explained how to imagine and possibly repeat the divine process of creation through manipulation of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Primarily, it is important to note that every letter carries an array of meanings that are symbolic and numeric (every letter has a number), constituting a primary expression of the language and mathematics of spirituality. The idea here is that magical powers derive from various numerological and alphabetical “kabbalistic” combinations. Thus, by applying the intricate technique of letter permutations, which comprised both visual and verbal, the Kabbalist would ultimately attain a mental state defined as unification with G-d. Here, names were important. Early Kabbalists would use divine and angelic names to gain special powers, cast magic, and even attain unification with G-d (YHWH).
Of special significance is Tav ת, the 22nd Hebrew letter. It is the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and as such it represents the completion or synthesis of all of the Hebrew letters. Thus, it is believed that within the Tav is found the complete synthesis or sum of everything. The middle letter of the word כתר Kether (at the top of the Tree of Life) is a Tav, which is central to Kether; it is the very point of equilibrium of Kether. Tav is the crown, Kether, and Kether is the entrance into and out of manifestation. Thus, it is the Crown of Life on the Tree of Life. The Tav, the mark, the seal, synthesizes the Tree of Life. It is significant that among the various meanings of this 22nd letter are that it represents life and death. (Hence, my use of the letter Tav ת for the point in the video where the “The Window” lyrics are “For the holy one dreams of a letter / Dreams of a letter’s death / Oh bless thee continuous stutter / Of the word being made into flesh.” These lyrics of the last verse signify LC’s Kabbalistic influence. This Kabbalistic influence of the reading of divine names also figures more prominently in LC’s song “Born In Chains,” where the chorus goes, “Word of words and measure of all measures / Blessed is the name, the name be blessed / Written on my heart in burning letters / That's all I know, I cannot read the rest.”)
The Kabbalah, The Shekhinah, and The Ladder to Heaven
It is important to understand that the story in the Old Testament about “Jacob’s Ladder” is analogous to the Kabbalistic Sefirot, the “Tree of Life.” One of the great mystical events in the Hebrew Bible is Jacob’s dream-vision of the “ladder to heaven,” with angels ascending and descending. Kabbalistically, this same “ladder,” or sulam, represents the ladder of worlds, and is the connection between G‑d and the ethereal with our physical world. The Kabbalah anatomically maps out the ladder’s pathways to Heaven. It is said that through studying this chain of being and meditating upon it, the initiate on this path of the ladder becomes totally sensitized to the Shechinah, as well as becoming aware of not only one’s own purpose, but of the purpose of all of Creation. Thus, the ladder suggests that one may both ascend and descend. This ascent and descent is traditionally called “prayer.” On a Kabbalistic level, the aim of prayer is to attach the soul to its source. The purpose of ascent, the climbing of the ladder, is to gain a higher perspective, to attain higher worlds. The awareness of the Shekinah, in the Jewish tradition, is said to be equivalent to this mystical way of the Tree of Life. That way is the ascent through the paths of wisdom to the stations or realms of the emanations or sephiroth through the four worlds. Shekinah can be found, it is said, in malkuth, the "kingdom", lowest of the sephiroth in the consciousness of this world; and it is sometimes identified only with this stage. It appears, however, that the Shekinah (dwelling or vehicle) of G-d can ascend and descend the Tree of Life. In its active or “masculine” role it has been considered an angel of liberation for human consciousness and given a position inferior only to G-d from the point of view of human salvation. Whether masculine or feminine in its personifications, the Shekinah is a mediating consciousness between the infinitude of God and limited human awareness. In some Qabalah traditions, this “Tree of Life” is known as “The Ladder of Lights,” which is understood as the mystical path of the Initiate, who climbs the steps of the ladder to the highest world. It is believed that the Qabalah, or “received teachings,” is the outcome of experiences of those who have climbed the ladder of the Tree by arranging their lives according to its pattern. The Tree provides the means of receiving inner world contacts with types of consciousness normally inaccessible to the ordinary human mind. It is a map designed to help attain the single objective common to all systems, mysteries and religions; namely, the mystical union of humanity and divinity. “At the innermost level or dimension of reality is the unmanifest and unknowable divine ground; at the outermost the physical forms we call nature, body and matter…. I found myself drawn to this contemplative tradition which emphasized the path to God as a process of awakening through gradual illumination and experience rather than adherence to a specific belief or faith.” -Anne Barring, “The Shekinah of Kabbalah” (I find LC’s paradoxical climbing up the rose’s “ladder of thorns” analogous to this Kabbalistic idea of the initiate climbing up the ladder of the Tree. The analogy fits because, like the Tree of Life, the rose is a very ancient archetypal symbol (once sacred to Venus Aphrodite), which represents both sacred and profane love. In fact, for Dante, the cosmological rose is the very mandala of Heaven. Therefore, I would venture to say that, like other poetic images in “The Window,” this Kabbalistic ladder has influenced LC in this song and others; e.g.,“Born In Chains” : “Ah but all the ladders of the night have fallen / Only darkness now, to lift the longing up.”)
The Kabbalah, Apophatic Theology, and The Cloud Unknowing
According to the teachings of the Kabbalah, no mortal being has any notion of G‑d Himself, as G-d is essentially “unknowable.” Similarly, in the Christian tradition there’s “Apophatic theology,” also known as “negative theology,” a form of theological thinking and religious practice that attempts to approach G-d by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is G-d. The classic text here is The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in the latter half of the 14th century, which draws on the mystical tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Christian Neoplatonism. It served as a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer in the late Middle Ages. It focuses on the via negativa road to discovering God as a pure entity, beyond any capacity of mental conception and so without any definitive image or form. The underlying message of this apophatic work suggests that the way to “know God” is to abandon consideration of God's particular activities and attributes, and be courageous enough to paradoxically surrender one’s mind and ego to the realm of “unknowing,” which leads to silence and the abandonment of all intellectual inquiry, leaving only contemplation and unity, at which point one may begin to glimpse the true nature of G-d. Thus, what is meant by the phrase “to know G‑d” in the Kabbalah is to be fully cognizant and sensitive to the Shechinah, and to totally integrate that presence in all echelons of human experience—and that means “all” of human experience, from the highest to the lowest. The Kabbalistic mystic, then, is not the ascetic with his head in the clouds, but rather he understands that a deep knowledge of the higher realms brings one to a much richer involvement in this world. It is believed that specifically in the “lowest of all realms” that one can make a dwelling place for the Divine, because G‑d desires to have an abode in this world. That “dwelling place” of G-d is literally the Shecinah. Therefore, according to rabbinic scholar, Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubov, “This is achieved by the soul’s descent and its transformation of physical darkness into spiritual light, and of the bitter into the sweet.”
I present all this information on the Kabbalah, the Shekhinah, the Cloud of Unknowing, and Ladder of the Tree of Life because of their primary significance in interpreting LC’s song, “The Window.”
Shekhinah is the female manifestation of God in man (Hebrew, shachan: “to reside;” “indwelling”). The expression “the Shekinah rests” is used as a paraphrase for “God dwells.” Also, Shekhinah is the “bride of the Lord,” In Genesis 48:16, “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil,” uttered by Israel (Jacob), applies to the Shekhinah, according to The Zohar (Balak 187a). The creation of the world was, according to The Zohar, the work of the Shekhinah. Also in The Zohar (Exodus 51a), she is “the way of the Tree of Life” and the “angel of the Lord.” Elsewhere in The Zohar (Balak-Numbers 187a), she is mentioned as a messenger from on high who, when she first appeared to Moses, was called an “angel,” just as she was called by Jacob. (The Zohar is a foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah.) The Talmud tells us that when God drove Adam out of the earthly paradise, the Shekhinah remained behind “enthroned above a cherub under the Tree of Life, her splendor being 65,000 times brighter than the sun,” and that this radiance “made all upon whom it fell exempt from disease.” In another version of the story, the Shekhinah was sent into exile on Adam's fall and that “to lead the Shekinah back to God and to unite her with Him is the true purpose of the Torah.” (Scholem) In the New Testament sense, the Shekhinah is the glory emanating from God, His effulgence. The Shekhinah is the “liberating Angel,” manifesting in her male aspect as the archangel Metatron. The Shekhinah has been identified with the Holy Ghost and the Epinoia of the gnostic Valentinus. In the Kabbalah, she is the 10th sefira (Malkuth), otherwise “the Queen.” The Maimonides (the medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher and Torah scholar) regarded the Shekhinah as an intermediary between God and the world, or as a periphrasis for God. (Moreh Nebuchim) A reference to the dwelling place of the Shekhinah occurs in Canticles Rabba 6: “The original abode of the Shekinah was among the tahtonim [i.e., among the lower ones: human beings, earth]. A haggadah about the Shekhinah is that she hovers over all conjugal unions between Jewish husbands and wives and blesses such unions with her presence. (Talmud Shabbath 55b; Bereshith Rabba 98. In this reference, cf. the Roman goddess Pertunda, presider over the marriage couch.)
Thus far, this information—Shekhinah as the fallen creatrix of the world (just like Sophia), indwelling spirit in man, identified as an angel and with the Holy Ghost, and presiding over erotic couplings—justifies my using her image to sync with L.C's lyrics.
Shekhinah in Judaism
The Shekhinah is the manifestation of the Wisdom Goddess of the Kabbalah, the Old Testament and Merkavah Mysticism. She encompasses the primordial light of creation, the wisdom of the serpent and the inspiration of the dove (the symbol of the Holy Spirit). She is the embodiment of the Tree of Life. She is also the World Soul, heavenly glory, mother of angels, inspiration for prophecy, and source of souls, as well as being the Shabbat Bride and the wife of God. The tradition of the shekhinah as the Shabbat Bride, the Shabbat Kallah, continues to this day.
The development of the Shekhinah comes from earlier wisdom goddesses (e.g., the Sumerian Inanna, the Egyptian Ma’at, the Greco-Egyptian Isis, the Semitic Anat and Astarte and the Canaanite Asherah). From these ancient sources arose the unnamed Wisdom Goddess and wife of God portrayed in the Old Testament and early Jewish wisdom literature. According to anthropologist Raphael Patai, in his book The Hebrew Goddess, “the term shekhinah refers to a goddess in medieval Jewish Kabbalistic source materials.” Patai also discusses the Hebrew goddesses Asherah and Anat-Yahu in connection with Shekhinah. It is this unnamed Wisdom Goddess who would subsequently become the source for the development of the Shekhinah as well as the Gnostic Sophia. The influence of the feminine divine as the Shekhinah continued to find expression, with the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit of Christianity and the Sakina of Islam, all being shaped by the enduring influence of the Wisdom Goddess. Today, this Wisdom Goddess is resurgent and celebrated as one of the prime manifestations of what is termed “The Divine Feminine.”
In Jewish and Christian theology, the glory of the divine presence, conventionally represented as light or interpreted symbolically in Kabbalism as a divine feminine aspect, which is the figure of Shekhinah. (The shekhinah in rabbinic literature is the English transliteration of a feminine Hebrew word, meaning “dwelling” or “settling” and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of G-d.)
In classic Jewish theology, the shekhinah refers to a dwelling or settling in a special sense, a dwelling or settling of divine presence, to the effect that, while in proximity to the Shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable. In some sources of the Talmud, shekhinah represents the feminine attributes of the presence of God, the “Divine Presence,” which in rabbinic literature refers to the numinous immanence of God in the world. The Shekhinah is God viewed in spatio-temporal terms as a presence, particularly in a this-worldly context. In origin, Shekhinah was used to refer to a divine manifestation, particularly to indicate God’s presence at a given place. (However, although grammatically feminine, the Shekhinah, remains male or at the very least androgynous in early rabbinic literature.
The concept of shekhinah is also associated with the concept of the Holy Spirit in Judaism (ruach ha-kodesh). Shekinah’s holy spirit aspect as a divine presence was sometimes depicted as a pillar of fire. In Chasidic teachings the Shekhinah is called [kavod], the divine radiance or glory; and when Shekhinah is considered as an angel, it is related to the cherubim on the throne of God.
The Kabbalah associates the shekhinah with the female. According to the eminent authority on Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem, “The introduction of this idea was one of the most important and lasting innovations of Kabbalism. ...no other element of Kabbalism won such a degree of popular approval.” The “feminine Jewish divine presence, the shekhinah, distinguishes Kabbalistic literature from earlier Jewish literature.”
As for my depicting the Shekhinah as an angel, the Shekhinah is sometimes seen as “a divine winged being.” American poet Gustav Davidson listed shekhinah as an entry in his reference work A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels, stating that “she is the female incarnation of Metatron.” (According to Rabbinic tradition of the Talmud, Metatron was the highest angel created by G-d. He was one of the 13 archangels and the Scribe who recorded the Word of G-d. The angel Metatron, or Mattatron, is also mentioned three times in the Bavli, in a few brief passages in the Aggadah, and in mystical Kabbalistic texts within Rabbinic literature. Metatron is ranked second only to YHVH and was considered G-d’s right-hand man. According to the myth, Metatron created a cube out of his soul which came to be known as the symbol named “Metatron’s cube.” It is a symbol of the unending flow of energy between everything in the universe and thus the interconnected nature of the universe. It has 13 circles representing the archangels, with Metatron as the central node. Metatron was chosen as the patron of this symbol as he is considered the guardian of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, which is one of the oldest and most important images of Kabbalah and another symbol of the interconnected nature of the universe. Scholars have debated about the original purpose and the meaning of this cube. One theory is that the Metatron cube is a way for G-d or YHVH to pass on knowledge to human beings.)
Shekhinah in Christianity
Turning to Christianity, we find that theologians have connected the concept of shekhinah to the Greek term parousia, “presence” or “arrival,” which is used in the New Testament in a similar way for "divine presence". Once more, like in Judaism, it is connected to the Holy Spirit
In the heretical tradition of Gnosticism, such as the writings of the Manichaeans and the Mandaeans, shekinas are described as hidden aspects of God. In Mandaeism, škina is a celestial dwelling where uthra, or benevolent celestial beings, who live in the World of Light.
Sophia in Hellenistic Philosophy, Jewish and Christian Theology, and Gnosticism
Sophia (Koinē Greek: σοφία sophía “wisdom”) is a central idea in Hellenistic philosophy and religion, Platonism, Gnosticism and Christian theology. Sophia is not a “goddess” in classical Greek tradition; Greek goddesses associated with wisdom are Metis and Athena (Latin Minerva). By the Roman Empire, it became common to depict the cardinal virtues and other abstract ideals as female allegories, notably using Sophia.
There are precedents for Sophia in Jewish literature (the Old Testament) known as “wisdom literature,” Wisdom (Hokma in Hebrew). Wisdom was personified, and she gave monologues describing her great deeds and articulating her perspective on the world. Since Hokma, like the Greek Sophia, is a feminine noun, Wisdom was cast as a female figure. In the words of Nicola Denzey Lewis (Introduction to Gnosticism, 2012), Wisdom is “God’s active feminine principle, at once a part of God but also separate from God” (as in Proverbs 8, Job 28, and Sirach 24). In Proverbs 8 Wisdom (the noun is feminine) is described as God's Counsellor and Workmistress (Master-workman, R.V.), who dwelt beside Him before the Creation of the world and sported continually before Him:
When he established the heavens, I was there …
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.
She is also the power of God and the desired bride of Solomon:
For she is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.
I loved her and sought her from my youth;
I desired to take her for my bride,
and became enamoured of her beauty.
She glorifies her noble birth by living with God,
and the Lord of all loves her.
For she is an initiate in the knowledge of God,
and an associate in his works….
(Wisdom Solomon 7:25 - 8:4)
In this regard, she’s much like the Gnostic aeons, who are also semi-independent extensions of God. References to Sophia in Koine Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible translate to the Hebrew term Chokhmah. Chokmâh (חָכְמָה ,חכמה ḥoḵmah) is the Biblical Hebrew word rendered as “wisdom” in English Bible versions (LXX σοφία sophia, Vulgate sapientia). The word occurs 149 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. Adjectival ḥaḵam “wise” is used as a honorific, as in Talmud Chacham (lit. “student of a sage”) for a Torah scholar, or hakham Bashi for a chief rabbi. The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) describes knowledge of the Talmudic order of Kodshim as a high level of wisdom, chokhmah. In the Kabbalah, Chokhmah is the uppermost of the sephirot of the right line (kav yamin, the “Pillar of Mercy”) in the Tree of Life. The archetypal symbol of the Tree of Life “describes the web of relationships which connect invisible spirit with the fabric of life in this world.” According to Hermetic Qabalist William G. Gray, the Tree of Life is “a symbolic representation of the relationships believed to exist between the most abstract Divinity and the most concrete humanity… a family Tree linking God and Man together with Angels and other Beings as a complete conscious creation.” (As such, the relationship of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and the Shekhinah could be interpreted as LC’s poetic image of “Oh tangle of matter and ghost / Oh darling of angels, demons and saints / And the whole broken-hearted host,” which gives confirmation of my images depicting the Shekhinah as representing the divine archetype behind this “tangle of matter and ghost.”) It is to the bottom right of Keter, with Binah across from it. Under it are the sephirot of Chesed and Netzach. It commonly has four paths going to Keter, Binah, Tifereth, and Chesed. (Some kabbalists attribute a path between Chokhmah and Gevurah.)
In the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, the feminine personification of divine wisdom as Holy Wisdom (Hagía Sophía) can refer either to Jesus Christ the Word of God or to the Holy Spirit.
Christian theology received the Old Testament personification of Divine Wisdom (Septuagint Sophia, Vulgate Sapientia). The connection of Divine Wisdom to the concept of the Logos resulted in the interpretation of “Holy Wisdom” (Hagia Sophia) as an aspect of Christ the Logos. (These last two paragraphs provide justification for my associating Christ with Sophia in my interpretation of LC’s “darling ...” Furthermore, we shall soon discover that the Gnostics believed Sophia and Christ were “divine twins.” )
The Pauline epistles equate Christ with the “wisdom of God” (θεοῦ σοφία). The clearest form of the identification of Divine Wisdom with Christ comes in 1 Corinthians 1:17–2:13. In 1 Cor. 2:7, Paul speaks of the Wisdom of God as a mystery which was “ordained before the world unto our glory.”
Following 1 Corinthians, the Church Fathers named Christ as “Wisdom of God” (Sophia). In the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Holy Wisdom is understood as the Divine Logos who became incarnate as Jesus. The Christological identification of Christ the Logos with Divine Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) is strongly represented in the iconographic tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Sophia plays a big part in Christian mysticism. In Russian Orthodox mysticism, Sophia became increasingly indistinguishable from the person of the Theotokos (rather than Christ), to the point of the implication of the Theotokos as a “fourth person of the Trinity.” In the theology known as “Sophianism,” Divine Wisdom is presented as "consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity.”
Within the Protestant mystical tradition in England, Jane Leade, seventeenth-century Christian mystic, wrote copious descriptions of her visions and dialogues with the “Virgin Sophia” who, she said, revealed to her the spiritual workings of the Universe. (Leade was hugely influenced by the theosophical writings of sixteenth century German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, who also speaks of the Sophia in works such as The Way to Christ in 1624).
In Christian iconography, Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia was depicted as a female allegory from the medieval period. In Western (Latin) tradition, she appears as a crowned virgin; in Russian Orthodox iconography, she is depicted with a more supernatural aspect of a crowned woman with wings in a glowing red color.
Sophia (Koinē Greek: Σοφíα "Wisdom", Coptic: ⲧⲥⲟⲫⲓⲁ “the Sophia”) is a major theme, along with Knowledge (γνῶσις gnosis), among the early Christian knowledge-theologies, such as Gnosticism. In Gnosticism. Sophia is a feminine figure, analogous to the soul, but also simultaneously one of the emanations of the Monad. Gnostics held that she was the syzygy of Jesus (i.e. the Bride of Christ) and was the Holy Spirit of the Trinity. She is occasionally referred to by the Hebrew equivalent of the goddess Asherah. “Asherah, the Shekinah, consort and beloved of Yahweh. God-the-Mother. Her sacred pillars or poles once stood right beside Yahweh’s altar, embracing it. Moses and Aaron both carried one of these Asherah.” Sophia is also associated with the pagan goddesses Ishtar and Astarte. The eminent German theologian, Wilhelm Bousset (Hauptprobleme der Gnosis, 1907), suggested that “the Gnostic Sophia is nothing else than a disguise for the Dea Syra, the great goddess Istar, or Astarte.” In 19th-century Theosophy, Sophia was “Wisdom” and referred to as “an emanation of the Divine principle typified by some goddesses—Metis, Neitha, Athena, the Gnostic Sophia….” During the 2nd century CE, Sophia assumes aspects of a goddess or angelic power in Gnosticism.
The Gnostic depiction of Sophia was surely heavily influenced by this earlier Jewish depiction of Wisdom, both directly and indirectly through the works of thinkers such as Philo of Alexandria, a first-century Jewish intellectual who worked personified Wisdom into a rationalized cosmological system that sought to synthesize and harmonize the Jewish scriptures with the works of Plato, another importance influence on the Gnostics and early Christians more generally.
The Eucharistic prayer in the Gnostic Acts of Thomas seems addressed to a supreme female principle, the Æon Sophia.
In Gnosticism, Sophia is a feminine figure, analogous to the human soul but also simultaneously one of the feminine aspects of God. Gnostics held that she was the syzygy (female twin divine Aeon) of Jesus (i.e. the Bride of Christ), and Holy Spirit of the Trinity. She is occasionally referred to by the Hebrew equivalent of Achamōth (Ἀχαμώθ, Hebrew: חכמה chokhmah) and as Prunikos (Προύνικος). In the Nag Hammadi texts (the “Gnostic Gospels”), Sophia is the lowest Aeon, or anthropic expression of the emanation of the light of God. She is considered to have fallen from grace in some way, in so doing creating or helping to create the material world.
In the greater number of Gnostic systems, an important role is played by the Æon Wisdom (Sophia or Achamoth). She represents the supreme female principle, as for instance in the Ptolemaic system, in which the mother of the seven heavens is called Achamoth, in the Valentinian system, in which he ano Sophia, the Wisdom above, is distinguished from he kato Sophia, or Achamoth, the former being the female principle of the noumenal world, and in the Archotian system, where we find a “Lightsome Mother” (he meter he photeine), and in which beyond the heavens of the Archons is he meter ton panton and likewise in the Barbelognosis, where the female Barbelos is but the counterpart of the Unknown Father, which also occurs amongst the Ophites described by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.7.4).
(Significantly, for my depicting the LC’s “darling of angels, demons and saints and the whole broken-hearted host,” with images of the naked Lilith, Eve, and other goddess types, the following from Charles William King, Senior Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge and author of The Gnostics and their Remains , is pertinent. In discussing the Achamoth in relation to Jewish “Wisdom,” he makes the following daring—and to some, obscene—analogy: “The naked woman, or Venus Anadyomene, so often seen on these gems, is the same idea expressed by the ancient Greek type.” Venus Anadyomene is from Greek, “Venus Rising From the Sea.” I could easily have included the naked Venus to my catalogue of images for Sophia, but I hesitated in doing so because, at the time, I deemed it a bit too far off the mark for LC’s song. But, that said, it is nonetheless the case the LC himself sketched the “Fallen Shechina” laid out in full frontal nudity! I included this in my video.)
Sophia in the Gnostic Mythos
Almost all Gnostic systems of the Syrian or Egyptian type have a Gnostic mythos. It tells that the universe began with an original, unknowable God, referred to as the Parent or Bythos, or as the Monad by Monoimus. From this initial unitary beginning, the One spontaneously emanated further Aeons, being pairs of progressively ‘lesser’ beings in sequence. Together with the source from which they emanate they form the Pleroma, or fullness, of God, and thus should not be seen as distinct from the divine, but symbolic abstractions of the divine nature. The transition from the immaterial to the material, from the noumenal to the phenomenal, is brought about by a flaw, or a passion, or a sin, in one of the Aeons.
In most versions of the Gnostic mythos, it is Sophia who brings about this instability in the Pleroma, in turn bringing about the creation of materiality. It tells of the “Fallen Sophia.” (Cf. “the Fallen Shekhinah.”) After cataclysmically falling from the Pleroma, Sophia's fear and anguish of losing her life (just as she lost the light of the One) causes confusion and longing to return to it. Because of these longings, matter (Greek: hylē, ὕλη) and soul (Greek: psychē, ψυχή) accidentally come into existence. The creation of the Demiurge (also known as Yaldabaoth, "Son of Chaos") is also a mistake made during this exile. The Demiurge proceeds to create the physical world in which we live, ignorant of Sophia, who nevertheless manages to infuse some spiritual spark or pneuma into his creation.
In the great Gnostic gospel, the Pistis Sophia, Christ is sent from the Godhead in order to bring Sophia back into the fullness (Pleroma). Christ enables her to again see the light, bringing her knowledge of the spirit (Greek: pneuma, πνευμα). Christ is then sent to earth in the form of the man Jesus to give men the Gnosis needed to rescue themselves from the physical world and return to the spiritual world. In Gnosticism, the Gospel story of Jesus is itself allegorical: it is the Outer Mystery, used as an introduction to Gnosis, rather than it being literally true in a historical context. The Gnostics generally believed that Christ’s crucifixion was an illusion. (See discussion below on docetism.) For the Gnostics, the drama of the redemption of the Sophia through Christ or the Logos is the central drama of the universe. The Sophia resides in all humans as the Divine Spark.
Jewish Alexandrine religious philosophy was much occupied with the concept of the Divine Sophia, as the revelation of God's inward thought, and assigned to her not only the formation and ordering of the natural universe, but also the communication of knowledge to mankind.
In accordance with the description given in the Book of Proverbs, a dwelling-place was assigned by the Gnostics to the Sophia, and her relation to the upper world defined as well as to the seven planetary powers which were placed under her. The seven planetary spheres or heavens were for the ancients the highest regions of the created universe. They were thought of as seven circles rising one above another, and dominated by the seven Archons. These constituted the (Gnostic) Hebdomad. Above the highest of them, and over-vaulting it, was the Ogdoad, the sphere of immutability, which was nigh to the spiritual world (Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata, iv. 25, 161; comp. vi. 16, 138 sqq.). In Proverbs 9:1: it is stated that “Wisdom hath made her house; she has set up its seven pillars.”
These seven pillars being interpreted as the planetary heavens, the habitation of the Sophia herself was placed above the Hebdomad in the Ogdoad (Excerpt. ex Theodot. 8, 47). It is said further of the same divine wisdom (Proverbs 8:2): “She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.”
This meant, according to the Gnostic interpretation, that the Sophia has her dwelling-place “on the heights” above the created universe, in the place of the midst, between the upper and lower world, between the Pleroma and the ektismena. She sits at “the gates of the mighty,” i.e. at the approaches to the realms of the seven Archons, and at the “entrances” to the upper realm of light her praise is sung. The Sophia is therefore the highest ruler over the visible universe, and at the same time the mediatrix between the upper and the lower realms. She shapes this mundane universe after the heavenly prototypes, and forms the seven star-circles with their Archons under whose dominion are placed, according to the astrological conceptions of antiquity, the fates of all earthly things, and more especially of man. She is “the mother” or “the mother of the living.” (Epiph. Haer. 26, 10). As coming from above, she is herself of pneumatic essence, the mētēr phōteinē (Epiph. 40, 2) or the anō dynamis (Epiph. 39, 2) from which all pneumatic souls draw their origin.
The Gnostic mythos also tells of the “Descent of Sophia.” In reconciling the doctrine of the pneumatic nature of the Sophia with the dwelling-place assigned her, according to the Proverbs, in the kingdom of the midst, and so outside the upper realm of light, there was envisioned a descent of Sophia from her heavenly home, the Pleroma, into the void (kenōma) beneath it. The concept was that of a seizure or robbery of light, or of an outburst and diffusion of light-dew into the kenōma, occasioned by a vivifying movement in the upper world. But inasmuch as the light brought down into the darkness of this lower world was thought of and described as involved in suffering, this suffering must be regarded as a punishment. This inference was further aided by the Platonic notion of a spiritual fall.
This is followed by the “Mythos of the soul.”Alienated through their own fault from their heavenly home, souls have sunk down into this lower world without utterly losing the remembrance of their former state, and filled with longing for their lost inheritance, these fallen souls are still striving upwards. In this way the mythos of the fall of Sophia can be regarded as having a typical significance. The fate of the mother was regarded as the prototype of what is repeated in the history of all individual souls, which, being of a heavenly pneumatic origin, have fallen from the upper world of light their home, and come under the sway of evil powers, from whom they must endure a long series of sufferings until a return into the upper world be once more vouchsafed them.
But whereas, according to the Platonic philosophy, fallen souls still retain a remembrance of their lost home, this notion was preserved in another form in Gnostic circles. It was taught that the souls of the Pneumatici, having lost the remembrance of their heavenly derivation, required to become once more partakers of Gnosis, or knowledge of their own pneumatic essence, in order to make a return to the realm of light. In the impartation of this Gnosis consists the redemption brought and vouchsafed by Christ to pneumatic souls. But the various fortunes of such souls were wont to be contemplated in those of Sophia, and so it was taught that the Sophia also needed the redemption wrought by Christ, by whom she is delivered from her agnoia (agony) and her pathe (passion), and will, at the end of the world's development, be again brought back to her long lost home, the Upper Pleroma, into which this mother will find an entrance along with all pneumatic souls her children, and there, in the heavenly bridal chamber, celebrate the marriage feast of eternity.
The Sophia mythos has in the various Gnostic systems undergone great variety of treatment. The oldest, the Syrian Gnosis, referred to the Sophia the formation of the lower world and the production of its rulers the Archons; and along with this they also ascribed to her the preservation and propagation of the spiritual seed.
Formation of the lower world and the “Fallen Sophia”
As described by Irenaeus, the great Mother-principle of the universe appears as the first woman, the Holy Spirit (rūha d'qudshā) moving over the waters, and is also called the mother of all living. Under her are the four material elements—water, darkness, abyss, and chaos. With her, combine themselves into two supreme masculine lights, the first and the second man, the Father and the Son, the latter being also designated as the Father's ennoia. From their union proceeds the third imperishable light, the third man, Christ. But unable to support the abounding fullness of this light, the mother in giving birth to Christ, suffers a portion of this light to overflow on the left side. While Christ as dexios (He of the right hand) mounts upward with his mother into the imperishable Aeon, that other light which has overflowed on the left hand, sinks down into the lower world, and there produces matter. And this is the Sophia of the “left hand,”called also Aristera (“she of the left hand”) Prouneikos (“the Lustful One”) and the also “male-female.” This would be the “fallen Sophia,” the Æon Sophia who plays another role; the once a virginal goddess, who by her fall from original purity is the cause of the material world. (Cf. the “Fallen Shekhinah” and LC’s illustration “Dream of the Fallen Sechina.”)
The Gnostic creation and redemption narrative proceeds to tell of the formation of the seven Archons by Sophia herself, of the creation of man, which "the mother" (i.e. not the first woman, but the Sophia) uses as a mean to deprive the Archons of their share of light, of the perpetual conflict on his mother's part with the self-exalting efforts of the Archons, and of her continuous striving to recover again and again the light-spark hidden in human nature, till, at length, Christ comes to her assistance and in answer to her prayers, proceeds to draw all the sparks of light to Himself, unites Himself with the Sophia as the bridegroom with the bride, descends on Jesus who has been prepared, as a pure vessel for His reception, by Sophia, and leaves him again before the crucifixion, ascending with Sophia into the world or Aeon which will never pass away (Irenaeus, i. 30; Epiph. 37, 3, sqq.; Theodoret, h. f. i. 14). Thus, in another version of the Sophia mythos, the Christos “uniting himself with Sophia (divine Wisdom) descended through the seven planetary regions, assuming in each an analogous form….[and] entered into the man Jesus at the moment of his baptism in the Jordan. From this time forth Jesus began to work miracles; before that he had been entirely ignorant of his own mission.” (Charles William King, The Gnostics and their Remains)
Sophia is also the “world-Soul.” In this system the original cosmogonic significance of the Sophia still stands in the foreground. The antithesis of Christus and Sophia, as He of the right (ho dexios) and She of the Left (hē aristera), as male and female, is but a repetition of the first Cosmogonic Antithesis in another form. The Sophia herself is but a reflex of the Mother of all living and is therefore also called “Mother.” She is the formatrix of heaven and earth, for as much as mere matter can only receive form through the light which, coming down from above has interpenetrated the dark waters of the hylē; but she is also at the same time the spiritual principle of life in creation, or, as the world-soul the representative of all that is truly pneumatic in this lower world: her fates and experiences represent typically those of the pneumatic soul which has sunk down into chaos.
Some theological traditions make the comparison between Sophia and Shekhinah in following way: Sophia is “the Wisdom of God” while the Shekinah is “the Glory of God.”
The depth-psychologist, C. G. Jung, believed that the vital task awaiting the coming age was “a re-valorization of the feminine archetype of divinity, traditionally identified both as Sophia and as the Shekhinah in Kabbalistic tradition.”
Jesus Christ in the Gnostic Tradition
Gnostics believed different things concerning Jesus and the crucifixion. Some Gnostics, like the docetists (the heretical doctrine that Jesus’ body was either absent or illusory; he only seemed to be human, and that his human form was an illusion), believed that the body of Jesus on the cross was an illusion. Gnostics such as the Basilideans reportedly taught that Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ place on the Cross, while Christ himself only appeared to have a physical body. This belief that it wasn’t Jesus that was crucified but someone else is known as the “substitution hypothesis” or “twin hypothesis.” This Gnostic doctrine also maintains that the sightings of a risen Jesus are explained not by physical resurrection, but by the existence of a different person, a twin or lookalike who could have impersonated Jesus after his death. However, as to the identity of the double of Jesus, it is up for grabs, as there are different persons in Jesus’ circle identified; e.g., Simon of Cyrene, Thomas the Apostle, and Judas Iscariot.
The Gnostic text, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, relates Christ’s teaching that it wasn’t him on the cross, and while the crucifixion was going on, “. . . I was rejoicing in the height over . . . their error . . . And I was laughing at their ignorance.” Another Gnostic text, one of the most famous, The Acts of John, explains that Jesus was not a human being at all; instead, he was a spiritual being who adapted himself to human perception. It also relates John’s vision of Jesus which reveals to John a “cross of light,” and explains that “I have suffered none of the things which they will say of me; even that suffering which I showed to you and to the rest in my dance, I will that it be called a mystery.” (So much for the orthodox image of the suffering Jesus on the Cross—the Gnostics saw a laughing and dancing Jesus! Looks like Monty Python's bizarre crucifixion scene in The Life of Brian had it right after all!)
In relation to the Sophia mythos that narrates how Sophia-Wisdom entered the body of the man Jesus, making him the Christos, other Gnostics believed, in a variation of the docetic doctrine, that Jesus Christ was seen in the form of an angel on the Cross, not suffering at all. The explanation is that when Jesus was on the Cross, the Christos and Sophia left his body and returned to their own sphere. The material body of Jesus was abandoned to the earth, but he Himself, the Inner Man was clothed with a body made up of aether. (I have included an image of this Christ-angel on the Cross in my video.)
The Gnostic Gospel of Truth, contrary to orthodox sources that interpret Christ’s death as a sacrifice redeeming humanity from guilt and sin, sees the crucifixion as the occasion for discovering the divine self within.
In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, various disciples compare him to “a righteous angel” or “an angelos dikaios” (“a holy or righteous messenger”). Jesus is a messenger from the heavenly world come to grant liberating or enlightening knowledge to darkened minds or imprisoned divine sparks. Thomas insists that Jesus’ soteriological role lies in the acceptance of his gnosis or special revelation. In the Gnostic text, The Sophia of Jesus Christ, or The Sophia (Wisdom) of Jesus Christ, he appears to his disciples after his death as “a great angel of light.”
However, it should be pointed out the Gnostics were not the first to believe that Jesus Christ was an “angel.” In fact, it was the very first Christian, St. Paul, who set the precedent for this belief. Paul’ s letters, the earliest Christian writing to survive (earlier than those of the Synoptic Gospels), show a Christology that “understood Christ to be an angel who became a human.” (Bart Ehrman). This is specifically stated in Paul’s letter to the Galatians 4:14, where he says of himself: “and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.” The implication is clear—Jesus Christ is an “angel.” The reason for reading the verse this way has to do with the Greek grammar. When Paul uses the construction “but as … as” he is not contrasting two things; he is stating that the two things are the same thing. Thus, Paul is not contrasting Christ to an angel; he is equating him to an angel. This is New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s interpretation of the passage, who elaborates: “As the Angel of the Lord, Christ is a pre-existent being who is divine; he can be called God; and he is God’s manifestation on earth in human flesh. Paul says all these things about Christ, and in no passage more strikingly than in Philippians 2:6-11, a passage that is often called by scholars the ‘Philippians Hymn’ or the ‘Christ Hymn of Philippians,’ since it is widely thought to embody an early hymn or poem devoted to celebrating Christ and his incarnation.” New Testament scholar Susan R. Garrett goes as far as arguing that Gal. 4:14 indicates that Paul “identifies [Jesus Christ] with God’s chief angel” This identification coincides with the controversial interpretation of Christ as the “Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament. The Church Fathers held an unwavering belief that the Second Person of the Trinity appeared frequently in the Old Testament in a variety of forms: the Angel of the Lord, the Burning Bush, the Son of Man, and the one like a Son of God in Daniel. The Greek Church Fathers, for example, St. Athanasius, are convinced that “the Angel of the Lord” is the pre-incarnate Christ. We find the identity of the Angel of the Lord with the Pre-Incarnate Christ also in the early Latin Fathers, such as Saint Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Saint Hilary of Poitiers, and Ambrose. We can see in the opening books of the Bible that the “Angel/ Messenger of the Lord” is divine and speaks as God and is recognized as God. According to Saint Athanasius and Saint Hilary of Poitiers, in all these cases we have the Logos or Second Person of the Trinity acting as the Divine Word or Message to the people of God. If Christ is the Word of the Father, then we might expect Him functioning in the Old Testament as the Message or Messenger of God.)
These are images of Shekhinah and Sophia.
(1) Shekhinah as a pillar of fire above the Tabernacle. (2) Shekhinah as the Glory of God. (3) Shekinah angel. (4) Shekhinah as World-Soul. (5) Shekhina Shabbat
(6) Shekhinah-Sophia. (7) Shekhinah-Sophia. (8) Shekinah-Sophia, the Divine Feminine. (9) Sophia, Divine Feminine. (10) Divine Sophia.
The following newly discovered text is quoted because it provides an excellent account of Sophia that justifies the Gypsy Scholar's choice of of using her images for Leonard Cohen's "The Window" music video, in that (a) its explication of Sophia representing both "light and dark" aspects of the psyche and (b) its revaluing of the important function of the disowned "dark" aspect (Lilith) for the integration of the psyche ("the dark side is where the power lies") illuminates not only the song, "The Window," but even moreso many other "darker" Leonard Cohen songs.
Sophia is light and dark. The dark is not transformed into the light. The light is not superior to the dark. There is no inferior or superior. There is simply one phenomenon--thought--viewed from two different perspectives. Fear of what lies outside the boundaries is cast off by the psyche, disowned and projected onto Other. When thought is frozen or coagulated into a belief about reality, such that parts of life are excluded and demonized, this rigidification hardens into an image--of itself. This image of hardness and division is Hecate. She faces three directions; there is a split into us, them, and the wall that separates the two. Once thought is examined, one can manipulate it, step aside, and not be caught in the trap of "either-or." This release from one-sided literal frozen thought, is experienced as movement, as circulation, and then Sophia in her cosmic, liberating mode is felt to be present….
There is a tendency to portray Sophia as only radiant, light, full of the glory and beauty that is suggested by the figure of heavenly Beatrice when she appears to Dante. The ancient sources reveal a more accurate portrayal of wisdom in the neolithic goddesses, where light and dark, magic and knowledge are united in one image. When the Sophia image is allowed to own its shadow, the earthy sensual aspects do not get split off and demonized. Sophia's other faces--Hecate and Lilith--only look demonic within a denatured, disembodied spirituality.
Ugliness, darkness, and magic have been demonized by Christian theology and associated with hell, the devil, and damnation. Demonization was a drastic and unfortunate consequence of the Christian political agenda. Wisdom and magic were paired in antiquity. Wisdom was symbolized by the serpent and associated with the goddess and woman. With the Church's control came a repression of the feminine by misogynist theologians; the archetypal feminine was split into a holy white side opposed to a witch/whore aspect which was linked to heresy and damnation, black magic and sexuality.
Sophia can be thought of as an archetype, a dynamic ordering pattern of the psyche. Archetypes are dual in nature; there is a positive and negative aspect. It might be easier to think of Sophia's negative side if we remember that what appears to be dark is not intrinsically evil, but rather, in shadow. What is outside the ego's agenda is in touch with the rich treasurehouse of the unconscious.
Why is it important to look at Sophia's dark faces? Why not "seal forever the door where evil dwells"? For two main reasons: 1) denial of the dark is the cause of much evil; and 2) the dark side is where the power lies….
The second reason why it is important to acknowledge and investigate the dark side of Sophia is because that is where the power lies. Wisdom is associated with magic. Magic is individual and religion is collective. There is power in religion; but there is also power to act from the source of inspiration and integrity as individuals. What lies outside the collective agenda, whether it be religious or political is the space of suspension, the sphere of magic and daemons, the place of wisdom. Before we examine this claim, let's take a look at what the ancients said about Hecate and Lilith. Much of what we call evil is produced by a one-sided picture of reality. The order we make is our interpretation of reality. It is this interpretation that creates our demons and devils. Interpretation says "this is so" and "that is not so." If only this is true, then "that" becomes a problem. The "that" gets cut loose. Although it may appear to be safer and more efficient to deny, repress, and hide what is contrary to the prevailing order, in the long run it is dangerous, antithetical to relationship, and leads to dysfunction, dis-ease, and ignorance. Becoming acquainted with the "that" leads to the capacity to relate to the shadow, to assimilate what has become dehumanized.
The status quo rests upon the ashes of fallen gods and devalued cultures. The status quo alone does not give a complete picture. The person who seeks the whole truth will find it in the ashes. What is cast out has power. Light shines beneath the crumbs on wisdom's path.
~ Kathleen Granville Damiani, Sophia: “Exile and Return” (1997)