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About Gaia and Sophia

The planet Earth is a living being, and just as we have a body, a soul and a higher potentiality we call spirit, so does the Earth.

When we say Mother Earth or Mother Nature, we are acknowledging that the planet’s beingness involves being ‘mother’ to all that dwell upon her and undergo the physical processes of birth, death and regeneration. This is the ‘wisdom of nature’ where natural laws of life operate. In a real sense Mother Earth enfolds all life in her mighty arms. And more, she also undergoes like processes but on a vastly longer cosmic scale.

The names we attribute to her, and especially when people call her Gaia after the primordial Greek Goddess, point to an inherent feeling that she is more than physical, more than matter. She is indeed. Gaia is known esoterically as the World Soul that lives within the physical, and without which the physical earth would be a dead planet.

Complementary to Gaia, Sophia is the spirit. Sophia is Greek for Wisdom, and she is a divine being who exists in the eternal realms. Yet she was active in creation itself. Known as Hokhmah by the Hebrews we find her working with the Creator. She speaks in the Book of Proverbs, ‘When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was with him like a master builder, and I was daily his delight.’ (v. 29-30)

With her heavenly fingers this awesome spirit being worked from the higher realms upon Mother Earth through the World Soul in countless ways. Here she is continuing to order and vitalize creation in the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon (7:27; 8:1), written in the second century in Alexandria, Egypt.

And while remaining in herself, she renews all things ...

She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other

And orders all things well ...

Getting to Know Wisdom-Sophia

Human beings have developed a consciousness with a unique sense of ‘I’ through which we can come to know ourselves. And we can personally discover Wisdom because she lives in our souls as a potential.

How did Wisdom make her home in us? How can we find a divine being in our soul? To explore her we need to follow the evolution of consciousness and our changing experience of the goddess.

In very ancient ages humanity lived within the world soul, absorbed in nature and the spirit active there. It was experienced but was not known in the manner we know. Awareness of soul life had not awakened. Consciousness existed only in a dim dream-like state closer to spirit than the physical. People lived an eternal now.

Esoteric teaching tells us that consciousness shifted with the first glimmerings of soul life. The interweaving of spirit and matter in all life on earth was now perceived spatially as well as clairvoyantly. Spatial perception brought with it an awareness of differentiation in nature and in the spirits active within its forms, and of cyclic rhythms. This enabled people to depict what they experienced in images through art and story. We are looking at the emergence of animistic and shamanistic spirituality.

The Wise Goddess

The human soul functions in three ways, through sentience, thinking and willing. Soul consciousness has continued to evolve over the ages as we learnt to express each of the three functions.

Rudolf Steiner[1] traced this development through different ages. Sentient soul development reached a high point in what he named the Egypto-Chaldean cultural period, 2907-747 BCE, centred on the great empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt and extending widely. The key development was the ability to inwardly know sense experience, including about self, in relation to spirit. Logical thinking and grasping the world through reason did not exist.

Activity through the sentient soul involved a remnant of a more ancient innate clairvoyance. This meant people could come to Sophia, to divine Wisdom, directly through an inner process that linked them with the supersensible. They would perceive something, and the necessary concept just appeared in their souls – that is, the experience of the world of the senses aligned with parallel non-sensory realities, and this kind of knowing emerged from within the soul. It was expressed in a new way through the creation of complex symbols.

The rich complexity of experience led to diverse encounters with spiritual activity. Divine Wisdom was known in a range of guises in different cultures and through many functions. Consequently, she differentiated into many goddesses.

Yet in an age marked by the beginnings of time-based history as a world framework, there was always a role for Wisdom as first-born goddess-queen (along with her masculine counterpart). As with Hokhmah, we have this tribute to supreme Sumerian goddess Ninhursag, mother of all, midwife of heaven and earth. It is by Enheduanna, first known poet, daughter of the mighty King Sargon, high priestess at Ur in the Temple of Inanna in the 23rd century BCE:

Princess of silence

Unfailing great lady of heaven

When she speaks heaven shakes.

And here her poem honouring Wisdom’s expression as Inanna goddess of love and war:

Lady of all divine powers

Lady of the resplendent light!

Righteous lady adorned in heavenly radiance.

Beloved lady of An and Uras

Hierodule of An, sun-adorned and bejewelled

Heavenly mistress with the holy diadem.

Ancient Akkadian cylinder seal:

The goddess Inanna with high priestess Enheduanna on her left

Isis would become the primary goddess of Wisdom in Egypt. These prayers are on the walls of her temple at Philae:

Praise to you, Isis, the Great One, God’s mother, Lady of Heaven, Mistress and Queen of the gods.

Isis, giver of life, residing in the Sacred Mound, Satis, Lady of Bigeh: She is the one who pours out the Inundation That makes all people live and green plants grow, Who provides divine offerings for the gods, And invocation-offerings for the Transfigured Ones.

Philos Sophia

Around seven centuries before Christ, the transition to the Greco-Roman period (from 747 BCE) ushered in the age of the intellectual or mind soul. Increasingly people lacked that older innate perception of the world of soul and spirit. In its place came the capacity for mental reflection, with dependence on the mind and feelings to provide an image of the supersensible along with the ability to think about and explain it.

Meanwhile intellectual soul development was to separate most people from direct knowledge of spirit. Access came then through oral or written tradition and instruction.

Certain initiates, while retaining the older faculty, facilitated a transition from the old to the new. They were able still to perceive aspects of Wisdom, and also form mental concepts about her. The ancient Greek Hymn to Demeter, the mother-daughter goddess myth that held keys to the Eleusinian mysteries is an example of this transitional phase. Homer’s epics The Iliad and the Odyssey are examples of the development as popular story.

Increasingly initiates sought to acquire higher mind faculties through philos Sophia, love of Wisdom – that is, philosophy. By the fifth century BCE Greece had become the philosophical heartland through the Athenian schools of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, known as the three ‘greats’.

Philosophy would become the pinnacle of high culture and mystery teaching throughout the Mediterranean world and as far east as China.

Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria explored how Sophia and Logos (Wisdom and the Word) existed in harmonious balance. Sophia played an important role in both pagan and Christian Gnosticism that involved complex systems to depict the spiritual realms.

The Christ event[2] from which we date the transition from BCE to CE brought something utterly new. In brief, it is about the incarnation of the essence of the Logos so that this high power united with the earth, and now works within the earth’s etheric. But Logos and Sophia, Word and Wisdom are ever one. So she too is now united with the World Soul, with mother Gaia.

Spiritual seekers who grasped this reality were becoming aware that the Christ spirit, which included Wisdom, was also within the human soul. This presented a new potential for the soul's experession.

So the age progressed. By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries initiates in the mystery schools, through developing the higher mind and feeling, were able to break through and experience something of the divine both beyond and within. Wisdom was reborn as the goddess Natura in the French Cathedral school at Chartres. Hildegard of Bingen knew her as Sapienta. Shekinah was the name given to her by Jewish Kabbalists. Philosophers, alchemists, mystics and poets pursued this hidden Wisdom, which remained inaccessible to the majority who relied on received authority. For access to the spiritual realms involves hard work and dedication and, in those days, seekers left the ‘ordinary world’ to achieve spiritual progress.

Anthropos Sophia

But change was coming. In many ways the fifth cultural period that began in 1413 is the age of this world. Focus turns to the physical. Empirical science based on experiment is born through Galileo. Trust in traditional knowledge of, and confidence in the reality of the supersensible world gradually fades. The personal ego often replaces this as the arbiter of what is real.

Yet this is the age of the consciousness soul that is about discovering independence and self-knowledge. When we discover Sophia the Wise within our soul, she helps us to grow into the reality beyond our materialistic limitations. She waits in our soul for us to awaken to her grace and to live accordingly. In the light of her divine grace, we can align our personal ‘I’ with I AM, the Christ spirit.

In that sense Sophia is ‘the Mother’ whose nurturing love brings us to knowledge of who we are as we develop the faculties that will reunite us with the higher realms, but in full consciousness of our destiny as human beings.

This is a do-it-yourself initiatory path. The seeker steps onto it consciously through their own will, which will be refined as the spiritual will. The prevalent individualism of our time will become true individuality. Knowledge of the truth will bring genuine inner freedom. Steiner described this kind of gnosis as anthroposophia (anthropos + Sophia). And he called his mighty body of teaching ‘anthroposophy’.

Anthropos is the fully realised, fully human ‘spiritual’ woman or man. This is a big story about our human purpose, the very reason we have the ability to attain the full consciousness of I AM that enables Sophia-Wisdom to flow from our soul as compassion and universal and unconditional love. It impinges on the whole earth’s healing. The writer of Proverbs looked towards this when he wrote, ‘She is a tree of life for all who lay hold of her’ (Prov 3:18).


[1] Steiner has described seven post-Atlantean ages with soul development gaining momentum in the third, fourth and our current fifth age. I have drawn this history of Sophia in part from chapter 5 ‘Wisdom and Love in Cosmic and Human evolution’ in Isis Mary Sophia – Her Mission and Ours, a selection of writings by Steiner. [2] Christ, Christos in Greek, means ‘anointed’. This was the title early followers of ‘the Way’ gave to their resurrected saviour. Subsequently they would become known as Christians. The Christ mystery reveals how at Golgotha the divine blood of the Logos flowed into the earth through the death of Jesus, the anointed one set apart for this divine purpose of world transformation.


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