Spirit of Sophia
A Qabalistic Analysis of Sophia's Path
The 17th Path of the Lovers - From Tipareth to Binah
(This article assumes a basic knowledge of the structure of the Qabalistic Tree of Life - The Otz Chiim)
The question has arisen, what kind of movement should the Spirit Of Sophia be? Certainly if we take solely the image of Sophia as Mary mother of God, spreading her protective mantle across humanity, then her role is to protect humanity from threats - both from without, from the demiurge of the Gnostics, the Archons, but also from the evil inherent within the self, which seek to keep us bogged down in the mud of ignorance, war, intolerance, selfishness and greed. The White Goddess - whether as Sophia, Mary or Isis - main mythological function, is to gather together the scattered fragments of spirituality on earth and to bring them back together. And to guide us with her call so that ultimately the divine sparks inherent within each of us may return to their home.
But what of the Goddess in her dark aspects, the Dark Isis, Black Madonna, as Ishtar and Artemis and in her guise as Lilith or even Mary Magdalene? How far should our campaigns balance these twin aspects of the Goddess and seek a middle way? Qabalistically it is difficult to keep to the middle way, since once the path to Sophia is begun from Tiphareth, the path veers away from the middle pillar, toward the pillar of severity upon which Sophia sits as its figure head in Binah. If we are seeking our individual mystical transformations upon the middle way, then it is through the white Goddess, the bright Isis, symbolised by the 11th Path of the High Priestess that we must travel. This leads us from Tipareth’s Christ consciousness across the abyss at Daath, to Kether, via the beloved 11th Path of The Priestess on the Tree of Life, ruled by the Moon.
But Sophia’s path is not a middle path, nor one of pure pacifism. The Path leading from Geburah to Binah, the path of the Emperor, is the true path of warring crusaders, and as it has been noted that in the wars on this path, all sides claim God on their side. The keys to the 17th path lie in the symbolism of both The Lovers Tarot Card and of the symbolic polarities of the Grail and the Sword. Some variations of the lovers card shows humanity procrastinating over the choice of two paths, sometimes it is over a choice between two women - in essence we have to follow both, one is the involutionary current - that of humanities' creation and debasement or fall into matter and the second is the ascending returning evolutionary current of regeneration back into the spirit of Light and Wisdom.
The answers to redemption are complicated and unclear, but imply using both aspects of the Goddess. Some may choose to be Light AND dark. Others will resonate more with the Light aspect of the Goddess. Others may choose the darker interpretations. In SOS we have both aspects of the Goddess at the forefront of our campaign - Sophia as the loving Mother and Sophia as an apocalyptic warrior goddess and together they form the twin driving forces of Sophia’s work.
The Goddess and the divine feminine is a totality – whose black and white aspects are useful in that they show the polarities and contradictions inherent in human experience. On the one hand, such polarisation and dualism can merge into those grey realities that symbolise the complexities of humanities problems on earth. Yet they can also combine to produce all of the colours of the spectrum – symbolic of the wonders of human accomplishments. But some of the big questions are: how critical should we be of humanity and its leaders and institutions? How much, if at all, should we highlight and point out where things are going wrong? How far we should prepare for peace and how much should we prepare for war...or for something else we can't anticipate?
To experience Binah proper is to experience the sorrow, loss and anger of the black goddess. This is equally as valid as finding her in her white aspects of purity, peace, wisdom and unity. But the white goddess is not the Queen of this path. The twins of Gemini and the sword symbolism that dominates it remind us that the path is ruled by stark contradictions and polarities.
Similarly the air element of the sword is that of reason, the intellect. Gemini is yet another hint, suggesting that the powers of its ruler, Mercury (and Hermes - Thoth), the gods of writing, communication and speech, and indeed magic, are key players in this work. It is very true that the pen is often mightier than the sword. Here the sword is the word; it is double edged and used both for defence and for moving forward.
When the forces of evil will not make peace with us or compromise and are determined to destroy us, we may have to place the Graal aside in a safe place and take up the sword of power and go. It is then we should stride forward with the shield of our faith. This is why the 17th path is the path of the Knights Templars par excellence, whereas the 15th Path of the Emperor is the path for mundane warriors and crusaders - the 15th is a path that leads to sorrow, since it leads only to the unbalanced powers of Saturn on the pillar of Severity, and for all killing there is karma to pay, ‘and verily I say unto you, he who takes a life, shall surely lose theirs’.
It is interesting that the parallel path from Tiphareth to Chockmah, ‘Wisdom’ on the pillar of Mercy, is the path of the Hierophant or Pope. It is symbolised by the letter 'Heh', meaning ‘window’, which is attributed to Taurus and to her ruler Venus. But aspects of the divine feminine have become diminished by the patriarchal dominance of the modern religions. The path of the hierophant, which in earthly terms is expressed through the priesthood, the Church and the Pope, had until very recently, largely lost the connections to the Divine Feminine as Venus/Mary/Isis - who first formed this path. But it is encouraging that there are some early indications that perhaps Pope Francis is on Sophia's side, time will tell.
The Path of the Hierophant is a true path of peace. Inherent in this path is the determined refusal of pacifists to ever kill, to never take a life. As is seen in some Christian missions and some schools of Buddhist monks and Indian yogis, there is a stubborn refusal to ever take up arms, even in self-defence. But the 17th path to Sophia is neither truly a path of peace nor a war path. In some ways the Sword of ‘Zain’ attributed to the path is the Excalibur of Arthurian Legend, which can only be wrested from the rock by an initiate. But it is also the Sword of Damocles, double - edged and hanging perilously above our heads, we are damned if we use it, and damned if we don’t. So how does this relate to peoples lives today?
We understand people’s fear, confusion and anger today; there are no jobs for the young, and the world is run on debt created to serve the interests of the banking cartels. The rich elites and their puppets appear to control almost everything and our semi-corrupt democracies change little for the poor and suffering of the world. Our environment is being ruined and huge profits continue to be made from the trade and use of weapons of terror and destruction worldwide. We have been lied to by our leaders many times and many people don’t know who or what to believe or trust anymore. So why in a world where most people are decent and kind human beings, do we find ourselves in this state?
According to the Gnostics, this is because of the evil influnces of the Archon lords, evil servants of the demiurge, Yaldaboath, who can be roughly equated with Saturn (or Satan). Some believe this influence is inherent within human nature as a result of the fall, others believe that Archons also inhabit an extra terrestrial dimension and seek to influence and enslave humankind.
Wherever one believes Archonic energies to originate from, they are strongly associated with humankinds' base and negative emotions. Archon anger is based upon power and ego. It is an anger based on a desire for domination and suppression. Sophia’s anger is righteous anger. In her role as an avenging Goddess, like Artemis or Bride or Britannia, her anger is a passion developed from human loneliness, pain and suffering. Hers is the righteous anger of Maat, or Themis, the Goddess of Justice, whose mighty sword defends the principles of balance with the scales of Divine justice. Mother chides her children for running away and calls sternly and for their return.
The connections on the 17th path do not escape from the influences of the other paths of the tree, particularly those of Justice, and of Strength, which also relate to national and individual karma and regeneration. The Path of the Tower, running laterally between the spheres of Gedulah and Geburah, also symbolised by the balancing scales of the Goddess Maat - and ruled by the sign of Libra, indicate the dangers of corruption in both the leadership of the church and the state. In our times there’s a desperate need to cultivate newer visions of balance and justice for the future of humanity.
Maat wields a sword as well as the scales, representing the justice of karma, and she is impartial when it comes to paying back our karmic debts through fate. Another clue as to the expression of the practical Goddess is to be found in Sophia’s symbolism further down the tree. In Malkuth she rules less as the Holy Virgin (which is better shown on the 25th Path from the Moon Mother to the Christ child of Tiphareth) but also below, on the 32nd path, where she is the Earth Mother, bride of the earth (as well as being the bride of Kether) She is Cybele, Demeter, Persephone, and Virgo the Earth virgin.
Ruled by mercury, Virgo is the sign of all teachers, and there is a critical aspect to her active intelligence, which seeks perfection through practical reason. As such she represents all schools of philosophy. The crucial difference between the dark and light aspects of her teachings lie in the methods used for transmitting her wisdoms. In Virgo we see the rise of the sciences over intuition, and the employment of the critical faculties of humanity’s intellect. These are our ‘sword’ as much as the ‘Graal’ is our compassion, our intuition and guidance from the spirit.
History shows that Archon energy operates by forcing others into submission ; by means of a cruel inquisition, or by the declaration that certain views are heresies, by burning books and censorship, by the killing of prophets, or suppressing or taking away people’s freedoms, and their right to find their own paths to wisdom. Sophia’s message must not be so critical of others that it does damage, if the Spirit of Sophia message apportions blame and is damning, many will turn against it. For this is the power of the black tongue, or the curse, it is the Scorpion’s sting, it is Archonic and ultimately destructive.
But equally we cannot obscure Sophia’s light and dark messages by means of bland platitudes and appeals which do not illumine the heart of the matter just to avoid hurting some people’s feelings. We should seek not to intentionally hurt or blame anyone, but positions have to be made clear and stands have to be taken on certain issues which then need to be defended. The message of Virgo is to be constructively critical. But be prepared that even the most balanced and constructive criticism will rub some people up the wrong way - especially Sophia's enemies.
Sadly, conflict in its many forms cannot be avoided on the path of the sword. Learning to Love your enemies is one key alchemical message of the path. Sometimes this means not avenging wrong doings, but encouraging all along the path of Light. At other times, it implies we must take up the sword of critical construction and wield it with love.
One of Sophia’s hardest lessons is to have to sometimes sit back and watch the lost and vulnerable children of earth hurting each other and knowing that our calls for peace and reconciliation are falling upon deaf ears. This is one of the 'visions of sorrow' linked to the spiritual experience of Binah as Great Mother. But equally hard is the Saturn like task of Sophia to discipline her children, in ways that truly help them to feel cared for and to likewise care for each other. The divine mother, in her guise as a stern and corrective parent must sometimes set very clear limits, and be prepared to enforce them out of love.
Looking at the Path of the Lightning Struck Tower, ruled by Mars, we are shown how Babylon falls. This is another alchemical card and the path shows the process of metamorphosis from human material into divine. The letter of the path, ‘peh’, means ‘mouth’. Words carry energy on the astral planes, and so words (and images) should be chosen carefully. One of the problems with the contemporary alternative media, the protest movement and conspiracy theorists is that a destructive form of anger – hate even, is directed towards those they blame for the current state of the world. Many of their campaigns and ideas are very valuable, and mass awakening to some of the issues may provide the impetus for Sophia’s active manifestations at this time, but this will backfire if one type of hate and oppression is simply replaced by another.
Another theme of the Sword on the 17th path is the revealing of uncomfortable truths. The Hermit card in the Tarot is the wise old man, also attributed to Virgo, with his lamp of illumination held high; he shows us the way ahead in the darkness. But sometimes he reveals what we do not really want to see; sometimes we are too immature, or too fragile and frightened or just not ready to receive his wisdoms, yet he will never force them upon us, our karma does that.
The hardest thing a mother has to bear is hate from her own children, when they shout at her ‘no, I hate you!’ How hard it is for mother when her children run away from her, when they refuse to come under the mantle of her protection, when they seek to break away from her loving care and in so doing, run the risk of hurting themselves in the process. But mother knows in her high wisdom, that this is the way her children have to learn - however much sorrow and sadness it brings to her.