Young Sophia

Young Sophia
Art by Norman E. Masters


by Lynea Search


I had this unusual dream in August of 1996. I had just returned to the Anglican Church on Pentecost Sunday, after 30 years away from organized religion. I had poring through both orthodox and mystical literature, and was practicing some very Catholic disciplines on a daily basis. Still, occasionally I read feminist theology. In particular, a few days before the dream, I read an article by Jay Williams from Theology Today called "Yahweh, Women, and the Trinity." During a discussion of the argument that God's gender is just metaphorical, so why all the fuss, Williams challenges the reader with the following question: "Why this metaphor rather than some other? Why not Mother and Daughter rather than Father and Son?" I bring this up because, while I am fairly certain that this was a truly archetypal dream in the Jungian sense, conscious thinking from such reading doubtless influenced it as well. I believe that overall it was, as Jung calls archetypal dreams, a "Big Dream." That is, as opposed to a "personal dream," it comes from God/the Collective Unconscious, and is meant for a larger audience than just myself.

I. The Dream

Just before dawn on the morning of August 2, 1996, I was graced with a simple but wonderful dream. The night before, I had gone to sleep praying one or two decades of the Rosary, adding "Comforter" (meaning the Holy Spirit) after each "Holy Mary, Mother of God" (with no small guilt for changing the "Hail Mary"!). Until recently, I puzzled over why, on this occasion as well as during the "messages" that came afterward, God touched me in such a "heretical" way, while I was doing things that can only be viewed as very traditionally Catholic!

The dream had two scenes. In the first, I was in a small crowd of people. WE were all listening to a girl of about eight years of age, speaking in front of what looked like an ancient church or temple. She was a numinous figure, shining with a bluish-white light that immediately drew me to her. I can't remember the specific words she said, but they conveyed both authority and compassion. I do remember they were very wise words -- indeed, the wisest I had ever heard. Her vocabulary, I also remember thinking, was quite adult. I felt myself in the presence of great Love, and a great Teacher.

The second scene took place at her house. She lived in a modest, 1950s-style house with her mother, her mother's father, a four-year-old brother, and a cherubic infant sister. I'm not sure why I was visiting her, though I did go away with a bag of groceries assembled by her mother. The Girl, still shining, was interacting with her family and me. A conversation was taking place, the details of which, again, I cannot recall. She was a normal-looking, rather pretty white girl. She seemed very focused, yet natural and graceful, smiling at times. Her mother, while clearly human, was also very special and loving. Her grandfather seemed wonderful too; throughout the dream, he sat on a couch and helped care for the younger children, who were just regular kids. Both Mother and Grandfather were holy persons, but neither "glowed" like the Daughter. The scene and the dream concluded with the mother driving me home. We took the baby sister with us, while Grandfather stayed home to watch the other two children.

The immediate feelings I had upon awakening were of overwhelming JOY and WONDER! I felt truly happy -- happier than I can ever remember feeling. I knew I had been visited by a contagious Grace. Upon the heels of these feelings came an immediate and urgent desire to communicate with others about the dream.

II. The Aftermath: Two "Messages"

First "Message": A few days after the dream, on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6th), I received some clarification. I was again engaged in an orthodox exercise, having just completed saying "three o'clock prayers" that the Blessed Faustina received from Jesus, which focus on his mercy and on the importance of trusting him. Still kneeling at my altar, I asked the Holy Spirit, "Please, what did the dream mean? Who are Daughter, Mother, and Grandfather?" She "answered" me that "the Daughter is the new flesh of Christ." Enthralled, I then "saw" the image of Jesus descend on the Daughter and blend with her. She received a name, Zoe. The true nature of this Child had been revealed to me, just as on the occasion of the Transfiguration, Jesus's true nature was revealed to His disciples.

Second "Message": Almost as an afterthought, I asked the Holy Spirit, "But what is my role in all this?" I distinctly "heard" Her say, "You are kadesh." I had never heard nor read that word, and had no idea what it meant. I looked in all my old academic books and notes, but it appeared nowhere. I began an intense, almost feverish, search for the word. Oddly, though I knew rationally that I was awake during this search, at times over the next two days I wasn't certain that I wasn't dreaming. I know that sounds like I was having a schizophrenic break, but I'm quite certain that wasn't the case. Finally, I found a book at the library called The Seed of Abraham, by Raphael Patai, which indexed "Qedesh" -- Her Holiness. I read that she was an ancient Canaanite "goddess of love," her name derived from the word quedesah, the Hebrew-Canaanite name for a "temple harlot." I also found a reference in a Jonathan Kirsch book (1997) that argued that the Hebrew term simply meant a "consecrated woman" -- a priestess. It also meant, throughout the Near East, a midwife, a wet-nurse, and a singer (Kirsch, pp. 131-132). At any rate, this goddess unfortunately became "degraded" (read, demonized) over time into a Morrocan jenniya, an "evil, dangerous, over-sexed she-demon who seduces men into marriage and appears in dreams and visions" (Patai, p. 226).

Well, I thought, luckily that last description couldn't apply to me, since I was the one to whom the dream appeared. And it certainly didn't describe the Child. I have not focused on figuring out my "role" in the dream which, you'll recall, I only asked for as an afterthought. I don't know whether the second message means I am some kind of "priestess" or prophet or goddess incarnate! Instead, what amazes and humbles me about this message (and the other one as well) is that, while I was fully awake, God chose this means to convince me that the events of the past few days were real, and therefore meant to be taken seriously.

III. The Meaning of the Dream

First, did this dream make me a "better" person? This is the question traditionally asked of people claiming to have had a "miraculous" experience, in order to ascertain whether the vision or dream is from God or from "the devil." I'm not sure of the answer, but I do believe that I have become somewhat more patient, loving, and less angry since this dream.

From the very first, I have felt that this Holy Girl is in some sense real. That either she has been born, will be soon, or was long ago and is coming back, that other people may be having similar dreams or even know her, if she is currenly alive and incarnate. I realize that this may sound strange, even delusional, but so be it.

For months after the dream, I sought feedback from a selected few people -- some close friends and relatives, some priests. Almost everyone said that it was about my Higher Self, about how I was growing spiritually, etc. Only one person, the rector of my parish, with whom I had had a close relationship as confessor and friend, had a negative response. Very soon after the dream, I showed him a short typed copy of it, and of the picture I had drawn of the Girl. He frowned with disapproval and said, "Jesus would not come back as a little girl! It's unscriptural!" He added that I should not show this dream to anyone else, which hurt and puzzled me. Needless to say, I have not followed the rector's instructions. Our assistant priest, a more intellectual and liberal fellow, recommended that I pray about the meaning of the dream and its aftermath, assuring me that it was probably about my "good" inner child. A few "new age" friends were supportive, saying I had "channeled" the Goddess. But I sought Christian verification, which I received, in qualified form, from a few people. However, no one seemed to understand, then or now, my excitement and my sense of urgency about talking about it. Resigned, I let the dream lay dormant for the next two years.

In 1998 I "stumbled" upon Jung and the Christian Way, a book by Anglican monk Christopher Bryant. I was not a Jungian at that time, but this little book seemed to contain some important insights about dreams and archetypes. I read that Jung divides dreams into two types: "personal dreams," which issue simply from one's personal unconscious; and "archetypal dreams," which issue from the Collective Unconscious -- though often with personal touches. The Collective Unconscious is very close to Jung's experience of the God that he says he "knows" exists.

But how to tell them apart? If one has had a personal dream, s/he can usually tell what most of the images refer to after some reflection. But the central images or symbols in an archetypal dream, a Big Dream, are generally totally unrecognizable to the dreamer, or at least far removed from his or her personal experience.

Jung has no problem with the idea that one's imagination or unconscious may be the source of an archetypal dream. He believes that God guides us via the Collective Unconscious at the center of our souls. Most important, Jung insists that the dreamer should not try to identify with an archetypal dream figure. Contrasting the personal with the archetypal dream, Bryant states of the former that, "The more [the dreamer] is able to accept [forgotten or repressed] memories as his own possession, the more his personality will gain in strength and inner coherence." But the Collective Unconscious and archetypal dreams which proceed from it are other matters altogether. According to Bryant, "The contents of this level of the [dreamer's] psyche are not his personal possession, but the shared possession of [hu]mankind. Archetypal forces are at work in it from which he can derive energy and wisdom; but if he tries to identify with them and possess them he will become their victim." (emphasis added)

Bryant uses "the King" archetype as an example of a symbol from which a dreamer can derive strength and wisdom, but about which s/he needs "the humility and strength to keep constantly aware of his own ordinary humanity . . . as the steward and guardian [of the archetype]." In other words, it is actually dangerous for the dreamer of an archetypal dream to identify him or herself with the dream's central symbol or symbols. Bryant cites the infamous leaders of the 20th century like Stalin and Hitler, whose presumed identification with the King archetype "unleashed demonic forces" (p. 32). Curiously, he doesn't mention whether, say, Hitler, actually had archetypal dreams/visions, although this is implied.

At any rate, Jung's theories have merely reinforced the strong intuition I have had from the first: that the Shining Girl is not only, or even mainly, myself. Rather, I believe she represents the (potential or actual, and long neglected) archetype of Sophia/Wisdom/The Feminine Side of an androgynous God. Her appearance tells me that there is no earthly reason why the Eternal Sophia could not, or has not, become incarnate in a female body, just as the Eternal Word incarnated into the male body of Jesus.

Of the several archetypes that Jung identifies, the Daughter seems to combine aspects of "the Wise Old Man/Crone," "the Great Mother," "the Child" (which represents a "new attitude that must be allowed to grow within us," according to Bryant), and "the Savior." Further, Jung acknowledges that a given archetype may actually be new, or at least "asleep until the appropriate image awakens it." I hope it is not too presumptuous to think that the image of Sophia/Zoe that I saw may be one of many similar or identical images being received to awaken an archetype. To me she is Life, not a "Redeemer over Death." If there is to be a female savior, I feel she will be a teacher who will model for us a new relationship with one another and with the planet. She won't need to "atone" by blood sacrifice for the sins of the patriarchal/state/corporate hell we have created. That has already been done by Jesus Christ, if one accepts the doctrine of the atonement. Instead, the Shining Child is meant to help us embrace Life and Love -- and not as "wimpy" moral concepts, but as forces more powerful even than our current culture's strong and cynical deathwish. I don't think she'll have to die to do this, though she may certainly suffer, or even die. It is often said that human beings are the only creatures who are aware that we die. But, as I recently heard someone comment, human beings are also "the only creatures who are aware that we give birth. Sophia/Zoe can help us create a culture in which this respect for Life -- with all its implications for women, men, children, and peace -- can move to the cultural and spiritual forefront.

Jung also throws some light onto why I couldn't remember Sophia's words, and why I find it so hard to adequately describe this amazing dream. He says that "a symbol does not define or explain; it points beyond itself . . . and cannot be adequately expressed in the familiar words of our language" (Bryant, p.83).

IV. Similar Experiences

Other people have had important dreams or visions of a female child or young woman. None of these stories were familiar to me before I had the dream. In his newly released autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung himself describes a vision in which he was sitting on his porch when a dove descended to his table. This dove became a little girl, who smiled and stayed awhile, quietly playing, and then turned back into a dove and flew away.

Likewise, modern mystic/monk Thomas Merton, one of whose many books is titled Hagia Sophia (Holy Sophia), "saw" a girl or young woman on two occasions. The first was a dream in February 1958, which he describes as follows: "On the porch at Douglaston I am embraced with determined and virginal passion by a young Jewish girl. She clings to me and will not let me go, and I get to like the idea [Merton was good-humored about his lustful side]. I see that she is a nice kid in a plain, sincere sort of way. I reflect, 'She belongs to the same race as St. Anne.' I ask her name and she says her name is Proverb. I tell her that is a beautiful and significant name, but she does not appear to like it -- perhaps the others have mocked her for it." (Interestingly, the Book of Proverbs, and especially Chapter Eight, is one of the places in which Wisdom is most vividly portrayed in the Bible.) Merton's second experience followed within a month, on March 18, 1958, when he had a waking vision that was to affect him for years. He was outside his monastery for the first time in many years, standing at the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets in Louisville, KY. He had been thinking of "the Annunciation, of the Incarnation, of Sophia, and of the so far largely imaginary Proverb," when he experienced a sense of intense love for, and lack of separation from, all the "strangers" milling around on that street corner. In his journal entry the next day (March 19) he addresses Proverb, whom he felt he had mystically encountered at that street corner the day before: ". . . I knew that when I saw you again it would be very different, in a different place, different in form, and in the most unexpected circumstances. I shall never forget our meeting yesterday. The touch of your hand makes me a different person. To be with you is rest and Truth. Only with you are these things found, dear child, sent to me by God!" After this experience, Merton also wrote of it that "It cannot be explained. There is no way to tell people that they are all walking around shining like the sun." Finally, though he doesn't elaborate on this statement, Merton insists that Vladimir Soloviev once saw some kind of personification of Holy Wisdom in Egypt. (Restricted Journals)

In 1201, Moslem Sufi poet/mystic Ibn al-Arabi, while circumambulating the Kabah, saw a young girl he called Nizam. According to Karen Armstrong, author of the book A History of God, al-Arabi was "surrounded by a heavenly aura, and he realized that she was an incarnation of Sophia, the divine Wisdom." Armstrong says that al-Arabi's epiphany made him realize that "it would be impossible for us to love God if we relied only on the rational arguments of philosophy." The creative imagination al-Arabi employed in composing love poems to Nizam "transformed [her] into an avatar of God" (pp. 234-235).

Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash has also experienced Godde as female. The following is a passage from her autobiography, Bodies of Water: "The Deity is a five-year-old girl with enormous dark eyes and a strangely mature demeanor. Her capacity for pain is infinite. The Deity is fragile, almost invisible; not many can really see her. She is ignored, reviled, trivialized, dismissed, reprimanded, misunderstood . . . her Silence is as remarkable as the Marianas trench . . . The Deity is a five-year-old girl. She exists out of time . . . The Deity is a five-year-old girl, and all ages below that and some above. The Deity is an ongoing experiment. She awaits reclaiming. She needs peace and quiet, and a little time to reflect. She needs to be granted the authority to set the pace for awhile. Her capacity for pain, infinite as it is, is exceeded only by her capacity for joy. . . ." (pp. 98-105)

Clearly none of these people see the girl or woman of their vision simply as their own "inner child." Rather, all of them see her as Someone Else, whose characteristics are remarkably consistent one with the other.

Concluding Remarks

I've often wondered about the very "orthodox" Christian context in which my dream and its aftermath occurred. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that the friends who were the instrumental in my return to the Church were Roman Catholics, upon whom I was modeling my spiritual life. They taught me how to say the Rosary, and about Faustina's three o'clock prayer. But I think that, more importantly, it means that God wanted me to stay within the Church, at least for a while, and that is was okay to share this message with its members and others, in order to help all of us reach a new understanding of God's closeness to us.

I cannot -- or at least, I don't wish to -- hold on to this dream any longer. This is because I believe that it is not my own dream. I would like very much to know whether anyone else (besides those people I have just described) has experienced, or is experiencing, an incarnate Sophia or Wisdom figure -- as I did in this dream, and continue to do in meditation. I would very much appreciate hearing from anyone who has a similar experience to share.

People who have archetypal dreams are urged to make an "icon" of the image(s) they saw. I have made a rough icon by drawing a color picture of Her as She appeared on the temple steps, pasting it on cardboard, and inserting it in a small standing picture frame, which I keep on my home altar. I have also composed a short hymn/prayer to her. I will conclude with its lyrics:

Come, Holy Child
Full of Grace and Truth
Your Mother sends You;
Word of Life
O Daughter of God

Receive our prayer!

Young Sophia 2

Young Sophia 2
Art by Norman E. Masters

I am open to comments and shared experiences, everyone!

Love in Her,

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