Wisdom Seeds, Rainbow Metamorphosis

Art by Norman E. Masters


"...when the anointed (Christ) was descending into this world, it first put on its sister Wisdom (Sophia), and both rejoiced, reposing in one another; this they (Christian Gnostics) declare to be Bridegroom and Bride. Moreover Jesus, by being begotten of a virgin through the agency of God, was wiser, purer, and more righteous than all other [men]. The anointed (Christ), in combination with Wisdom (Sophia) descended into him, and thus was made Jesus Christ." ~~Irenaeus


The Maiden is Light's Daughter;
On her the Kings' Radiance resteth.

Stately her Look and delightsome,
With radiant beauty forth-shining.

Like unto spring-flowers are her Garments,
From them streameth scent of sweet odour.

On the Crown of her Head the King throneth,
[With Living Food] feeding those 'neath Him.

Truth on her Head doth repose,
She sendeth forth Joy from her Feet.

Her Mouth is opened, and meetly;
Two-and-thirty are they who sing praises.

* * * * * * * * * * 
* * * * * * * * * *
((two lines missing from original text))

Her Tongue is like the Door-hanging
Set in motion by those who enter.

Step-wise her Neck riseth -- a Stairway
The first of all Builders hath builded.

The Two Palms of her Hands
Suggest the Choir of the Aeons.

Her fingers are secretly setting
The Gates of the City ajar.

Her Bridechamber shineth with Light,
Forth-pouring scent of balsam and sweet-herbs,

Exhaling the sweet perfume both of myrrh
    and savoury plants,
And crowds of scented flowers.

Inside 'tis strewn with myrtle-boughs;
Its Folding-doors are beautified with reeds.

Her Bridesmen are grouped round her,
Seven in number, whom she hath invited.

Her Bridesmaids, too, are Seven,
Who lead the Dance before her.

And Twelve are her Servants before her,
Their gaze looking out for the Bridegroom;
That at His sight they may be filled with Light.

And then for ever more shall they be with Him
In that eternal everlasting Joy;

And share in that eternal Wedding-feast,
At which the Great Ones [all] assemble;

And so abide in that Delight
Of which the Ever-living are deemed worthy.

With Kingly Clothes shall they be clad,
And put on Robes of Light.

And both shall be in Joy and Exultation
    and praise the Father of the Wholes,
Whose Light magnificent they have received.

For at their Master's sight they were now
    filled with Light;

They tasted of His Living Food
That hath no waste at all,

And drank of that [eternal] Wine
That causes thirst and longing never more.

[So] with the Living Spirit they sang
    praise and hymn
Unto Truth's Father and to Wisdom's

                   ~~ from the Greek Version
                   ~~ translated by G. R. S. Mead

Wisdom's HeartPulse, Rainbow Love

Art by Norman E. Masters

If then the Hymn was incorporated by the Syrian compiler of the Acts [of Judas Thomas] from some other source, was it taken over just as it stood? That is to say, Was it originally composed as a Gnostic Hymn? I think it was; and if it be suggested, as it has been by early critical opinion, that it was originally a profane Syrian Bridal Ode, and that it was subsequently Gnosticized, this two-stage hypothesis seems unnecessary if we admit, with Preuschen (pp. 7 and 29), the simpler probability that it was built on the model of similar Syrian wedding-songs and customs, even as they obtain to-day, during the seven days festivities, when the bride and bridgroom are represented as a royal couple.

And now what shall we call our Ode, for it has no title? On the whole I think that "The Wedding-Song of Wisdom" is a good description, if we take "of Wisdom" to signify "in praise of Wisdom," where Wisdom stands for the Gnostic Sophia, the purified human soul, awaiting the coming of her Divine Spouse and Complement the Christ. That this is a legitimate title may be seen from the Hymn itself, which in the Greek ends with the couplet:

"So with the Living Spirit they sang praise and hymn unto Truth's Father and to Wisdom's Mother."

This plainly stood in the lost Syriac original, for which in the present text the redactor or over-worker has substituted an orthodox doxology from some liturgy, beginning:

"Praise ye the Father, the Lord."

As to the contents and style of this Song, it must be confessed that we have to do with a poem of far less originality than the Hymn of the Robe of Glory, and I have taken it as a subject not so much for its intrinsic merits, as because it affords an opportunity to set forth some information on that great mystery which was in antiquity generally known as the Sacred Marriage.

With these brief introductory remarks the reader may perhaps approach the perusal of the translation from the Greek, Syriac and Armenian with greater understanding. For the Syriac I have compared all the existing versions, and for the Armenian fragments I have translated from the German the version printed by Preuschen.

From THE WEDDING SONG OF WISDOM by G. R. S. Mead, pp. 16-22



In all the ancient great religions the Power whereby the God brought Himself into manifestation was regarded as His Divine spouse; and so it is even today in Indian theosophy, every God has his Shakti or Power, every Deva his Devi. This was apparently (apart from Judaism) a common feature in all the ancient Semitic traditions, as may be seen in the Phoenician cosmogony preserved in the Histories of Philo Byblius (H. i. 122 ff.).

In Babylonian cosmogony the Spouse of the Supreme was Wisdom. Wisdom dwelt in the Depths of the Great Sea with Ea the Creative Deity. Ea is the Bel-nimequi, the Lord of Unfathomable Wisdom; emequ = to be deep, to be wise. The Deep or Depth is, therefore, symbol of Unfathomable Wisdom; compare Apsu = Waterdeep and House of Wisdom.

The post-exilic scriptures of the Hebrews (and pre-exilic for a matter of that) were strongly tinctured with Babylonian ideas, and a Wisdom-literature was gradually developed which later on became strongly influenced by the "philosophizing" of Hellas. This Hokmah-literature (for references see Kohler's art. "Wisdom" in The Jewish Encyclopaedia) was partly included in the later canon, but the major part of it, of which large portions have been lost, was apocryphal.

In the now canonical literature Wisdom was regarded as "the all-encompassing Intelligence of God, the Helper of the Creator, the Foundation of the World.

"In exact proportion as Israel's God was believed to be the God of the universe, Wisdom was regarded as the Cosmic Power, God's Master-Workman [lit. Master-Workwoman] and His Designer, while at the same time Wisdom became the law of life and the Divine guide and ruler of man....

"Under the influence of Greek philosophy Wisdom became a divine agency of a personal character, so that Philo terms it...the Mother of the creative Word....

"In Christian and Gentile Gnosticism Wisdom became the centre of speculation."

In the last sentence we would reverse the order, the doctrines were Gentile first of all and were later Christianized.

The orthodox Jews, with their fantaticism for the exclusive masculine, regarded Wisdom as a Constructive Formative Energy. The Gnostics regarded Her as a Conceptive, all-encompassing Power, that received and brought forth the Ideas of the Divine Mind, and manifested the Divine Laws.

In brief, Wisdom was the World-Soul for cosmos, and the individual soul for man; and what specially interested the Gnostics, what indeed is the special interest of all mystics, was that the myth of the one was the myth of the other. To use Sanskrit terms, she is Maha-buddhi, Great Buddhi, the World-Soul or Divine Instinct, and individual Buddhi in man. We will, therefore, turn to the doctrines of the Christianized Gnosis on this mystery.

Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek, both feminine) dwelt with God before the Creation of the World, and sported continually before Him (Proverbs, viii.). Wisdom is the Lila or Sport of Deity, His Maya in Sanskrit, which does not mean Illusion, but rather Creative Power, from ma, to measure.

In the "Syrian Gnosis," perhaps the oldest form of the Christianized Gnosis, to Wisdom is assigned both the conception of the manifested worlds and the production of its Seven Ruling Powers (the Hebdomad). She herself was throned above them all, in the Place of the Midst (the Ogdoad), between the Spiritual World proper, that is the Divine Mind (the Pleroma or Fullness) and the Sensible World (the Kenoma or Emptiness, or Hysterema or Insufficience). The same idea is seen in Proverbs, ix. I (LXX.):

"Wisdom hath built for herself a House and underpropped it with Seven Pillars."

What these Seven may be we will inquire later on. They are referred to in "her Pillars beneath" of our Syriac Ode (1. 8).

That there was already a fully developed Gnosis among the Jewish Mystics when the Proverbs-collection was compiled, may be seen from the graphic description (viii. 2, LXX.):

"Wisdom is on the lofty Heights; she standeth in the Midst of the Paths; for she sitteth by the Gates of the Mighty, and singeth Hymns at the Entrances."

The Gnostics knew that this referred to Sophia sitting in the Place of the Midst, above the Seven Fate-spheres, in the Eighth or Ogdoad, at the Gates of the Mighty, that is the Entrances of the Pleroma or Fullness, the Shekinah, to which the Paths of return lead.

She is thus the Mediatrix between the Upper and the Lower, and brings forth the mundane appearances after the spiritual prototypes. She is thus called Mother, and Mother of the Living. (All the references may be obtained from Lipsius' art. "Sophia," in Smith and Wace's Dict. of Christ. Biog.). She is also called Light-Mother or Shining Mother, and the Power Above, and from her all spiritual souls draw their origin.

But how is it that the Divine Spouse, in bringing the universe into manifestation, had herself apparently fallen from the Perfection, and stood between it and the Imperfection? There were many myths which speculated concerning this mystery, but as it would take several small volumes to set them forth in detail, we must content ourselves with a few brief indications only.

To quote from Lipsius (loc. cit.):

"The fate of the 'Mother' was regarded as the prototype of what is repeated in the history of all individual souls, which being of heavenly pneumatic [spiritual] 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 in transmigration till a Return to the Upper World be vouchsafed them...

"It was....taught that the souls of the Pneumatici {Spiritual}, having lost the remembrance of their heavenly derivation, required to become once more partakers of Gnosis, or knowledge of their own pneumatic essence [not intellectual but spiritual knowledge therefore], in order to make a Return to the Realm of Light. In the impartation of this Gnosis consists, according to the doctrine common to all Gnostics, the Redemption brought and vouchsafed by Christ to all pneumatic souls. But the various fortunes of all such souls were wont to be contemplated in those of this mythical personage Sophia, and so it was taught that the Sophia also needed Redemption wrought by Christ, by whom she is delivered from her [spiritual] ignorance and her passions, and will at the end of the World's development [in the case of individual souls at the end of their development or evolution, that is when perfected] be 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 [in the case of the individual soul, her powers, that is the powers of her past lives which are worthy of immortality], and there, in the Heavenly Bridal Chamber, celebrate the Marriage Feast of Eternity."

In the Gnostic systems mangled by Irenaeus, "the cosmogonies of Syrian paganism have a preponderating influence."

In one of these we are told of the creation of man, whom the Sophia uses as a means to deprive the Opposing Powers of the Light they have stolen, "of the perpetual conflict on his Mother's part with the self-exalting efforts of the Archontes [the Rulers or Opposing Powers, without whom, however, there would be no manifestation], and of her continuous striving to recover again and again the Light-spark [Atmic or Spiritual energy] hidden in human nature, till, at length, Christ [the Logos] comes to her assistance and, in answer to her prayers, proceeds to draw all the Sparks of Light to Himself, unites himself with Sophia as the Bridegroom with the Bride, descends on Jesus [purified man] who has been prepared, as a pure vessel for His reception, by Sophia [Jesus as the purified soul is also Sophia from another point of view], and leaves him again before the crucifixion [here meaning the death of the body], ascending with Sophia into the AEon that will never pass away."

One of the names given to Wisdom by the Gnostics was Prunicus, which is generally rendered the Lustful or Lewd, but which mystically refers to "her attempts to entice away again from the Cosmic Powers [the Powers forth to procreation] the Seeds of Divine Light."

She is called the Harlot, because she unites with the Light-sparks. Thus in the Simonian legend, Helen (Sophia), the consort of Simon (Shamash, the Sun, the Christ), is fabled to have been a harlot whom he picked up in a brothel at Tyre. This betrays a Phoenician background, and Tyre probably equates with the Jerusalem Below, and Egypt, the manifested world of physical nature.

The Sophia was further regarded as the World-Womb, and the symbolism worked out instructively for the mystic. This is the Jagad-yoni of the Hindus.

IntraDimensional Womb Portal of the Living Light

Art by Norman E. Masters

All these theories are ancient, and certainly did not derive from the "Wisdom" of the Old Testasment; it was rather the latter that was accommodated to them. We, therefore, agree with Lipsius when he writes:

"It is obvious that all these cosmogonic theories have their source or archetype not in the Sophia of the Old Testament, but in the Thalatth or Moledet of Syrian paganism, the Life-Mother of whom Berossus has so much to relate, or in the World-Egg out of which when cloven asunder Heaven and Earth and all things proceed."

It is true that some very ancient wisdom was at the back of it all, whether originating with Thalatth or not, and modern science entirely corroborates this ancient wide-spread mysticism; indeed it is difficult to find a symbolism that works out more naturally and satisfactorily.

Another name for Sophia used by the Greek-writing Gnostics was Achamoth, the transliteration of the Aramaic Hachmuth (= Hebrew Hokmah). Another of her names, of which, however, the derivation is very uncertain, is Barbelo, or Barbero. In the Pistis Sophia (p. 361), Barbelo is the Mother of the repentant or returning Sophia, the human soul. If in one of her aspects she was called the Harlot, equally so was she called the Virgin and Virgin of Light.

In the system of Bardaisan, Hachmuth gives birth to two daughters, probably typifying the twin soul of man, who are poetically called "Shame of the Dry Land" and "Image of the Waters," earthy and watery. We also hear of "the Maiden who, having sunk down from the upper Paradise, offers up prayers... for help from above, and being heard, returns to the joys of the Upper Paradise."

As the Mother of the twin daughters, Hachmuth is elsewhere called by Bardaisan the Holy Dove, that is the Divine Mother Bird, who lays and hatches both cosmic and human "Eggs." The two poetical names given to the daughters of Hachmuth, Wisdom (Buddhi), have hitherto proved an insoluble puzzle. The Mother, however, is always on the substance side of things, and therefore her daughters, as all daughters must be, are equally on the substance side. Now the "Image of the Waters," is also referred to as the "type of the watery body." The names may thus designate the cosmic prototypes of what in the individual are the subtle or watery vehicle, and the gross or physical vehicle.

That this is not so wild a speculation may be seen from the Hellenistic mystery-poem known as the Chaldaean Oracles, consisting of Chaldaean (that is, Syrian) stuff elaborately "philosophized." In them (ii. 37, 81, 83), the physical body is characterized as the "dung" (? = "shame") of gross matter (hyle). This Hyle or Gross Matter is not regarded as the Fruitful Substance of the Universe, the "Land flowing with Milk and Honey" (the Jerusalem Above, or Sophia, Mother of all living), but as the dry and squalid element beneath the Moon, which, Proclus tells us, is called in the Oracles, the "Unwatered," that is, which is in itself Unfruitful, the Desert as compared with the Promised Land.

Equally so as to "Image of the Waters" we have information (ii, 57 f.). For we read:

"Extend on every side the reins of Fire [Mind] to guide the unformed soul."

This is to say, constrain the flowing watery nature of the soul by means of the Fire of the Spirit; and this seems also to be the meaning of the difficult fragment:

"If thou extendest Fiery Mind to flowing work of piety, thou shalt preserve thy body too."

This seems to mean that, when by means of purification the soul is made fluid -- that is to say, is no longer bound to any configuration of external things, when it is freed from prejudice, or opinion, and personal passion and sentiment, and is "with pure purities now purified," as the Mithriac Ritual has it -- then is this regenerated soul and plasm, the germ of the "perfect body," ready for union with the true Mind of the Father.

Speaking of the Acts of Thomas, Lipsius writes, after mentioning The Hymn of the Soul :

"Of the other hymns which are preserved in the Greek version more faithfully than in the Syriac text which has undergone Catholic revision, the first deserving of notice is the Ode to the Sophia, which describes the marriage of the 'Maiden' with her Heavenly Bridegroom and her introduction into the Upper Realm of Light. This 'Maiden,' called 'Daughter of Light,' is not, as the Catholic reviser supposes, the Church, but Hachmuth (Sophia), over whose head the 'King,' i.e. the Father of the Living Ones [Light-sparks] sits enthroned; her Bridegroom is, according to the most probable interpretation, the Son of the Living One, ie. Christ. With her the Living Ones, i.e. pneumatic souls, enter into the Pleroma, and receive the glorious Light of the Living Father, and praise along with the 'Living Spirit,' the 'Father of Truth' and the 'Mother of Wisdom.'"

Much more could be written on this fascinating subject, but enough has now been given for our immediate purpose.

From THE WEDDING SONG OF WISDOM by G. R. S. Mead, pp. 51-67:


G. R. S. Mead was writing circa 1900 without the benefit of access to THE NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY.

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