Rising into the Light

A Homily for The Assumption of Sophia

by Bishop Steven Marshall

August 15th is the traditional date for the feast of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic Church and the Dormition of Mary in the Orthodox Church. The feast commemorates the assumption of Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. It was not until the year 1950 that the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was made a dogma in the Roman Catholic Church, yet her feast goes back to the middle ages. According to C.G. Jung the proclamation by the Pope was accompanied by visionary revelations of the Blessed Virgin to himself and others. This suggests that the image of the Assumption of Mary relates to a phenomenon of the archetypal feminine in successive experiences of a revelatory nature. The story of the Ascension of Sophia, originating in the fourth century, predates the Feast of the Assumption by many centuries, and yet its imagery seems to be the archetype upon which later revelations about Mary are patterned. For this reason, it seems apt as Gnostics, to celebrate the Ascension of Sophia, on the Sunday nearest the feast day of the Assumption. The story of Sophia in many ways prefigures the Marian myth that has grown throughout the history of Western civilization. Her image is the archetypal mystery that is closest to us in our terrestrial existence.

The story of Sophia is the story of our own soul. Her ascent follows her descent, but like our own journey, it is not an easy climb. The descent is like a lightning flash, but the ascent is a slow and winding path, like that of the Serpent of Wisdom on the Tree of Life. The Logos does not reach down and immediately pull Sophia out of the chaos of the lower worlds. Her assumption back into the Pleroma is a gradual and incremental process. The Redeemer raises her just a little at the first. She is aware that things are better, that her tormenters, the archons are farther from her, but she does not know who her helper is, nor can she see him. Eventually, after several incremental steps out of the chaos of matter, the Helper is revealed to her. She sees the Logos revealed in all his dazzling glory. At first she feels ashamed and covers herself with a veil, but when she sees the virile emanations of his light-power, she can hold back no longer and rushes to his embrace. In their ecstatic reunion, a fountain of light-sparks pours forth between them, which showers the world with its redemptive seed to empower all of the exiled light of Sophia to return to the Height. With their reunion so consummated in the bridechamber of light he brings her finally into the Height and back to her aeon in the Pleroma.

Sophia is named Pistis Sophia or Faithful Sophia. She was never defiled by the archons, she remained a virgin-power, because she kept faith in the Light; she remained faithful. Though she was betrayed by the false Light of the Chief Archon, the Arrogant One, she never lost her longing for the Light of the Father, the Alone-Begotten, the First Mystery.

So there exists within us a divine spark, a beautiful pearl, unsullied, undefiled by the world and the chaos of matter. This is the priceless pearl, the light of the Gnosis for which we strive, and which in itself is the source of our own longing for the Light of the Pleroma. Though we can effectively approach these mysteries psychologically, Sophia is not just a “head trip.” Neither is our own divine Self a psychological head trip. The things of archetypal, spiritual reality are as real if not more real and more lasting than our physical sensate reality. The Gnosis is a knowing of the heart, not a knowing of the senses. Though sensate experience can be a valuable avenue to Gnosis, the aim and direction of the experience must be on something transcendent and outside of this world. Gnosis requires an experience of the archetypal bedrock of reality, which can not simply be taught in a workshop, lecture hall or classroom. It is a long and winding road to Gnosis.

Many maps of the journey have been left by those who have been “there and back again,” as the original title of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit describes. The story of Sophia is one of those maps. It shows how we got here and how we can return to the Fullness of the Pleroma. Certainly, we can make up our own maps, very beautiful, politically correct, wonderfully creative, but if those making the map do not clearly remember the way, these made up maps are not going to get us back to the Light. Other naive approaches include simply picking the parts of the map we like, or picking a piece from this map of one terrain and another from that of another terrain, either of which appreoaches must ultimately fail to get us to the sought for destination. This is not to say that we must restrict ourselves to following only one spiritual path and symbol system; the more maps we can use, the more terrain we can know and experience in finding our way out of the chaos. But, if a map is to be useful on the journey of the soul, it must be from one who truly knows the way, and it must be maintained in the integrity of the one who made it.

The map must describe the journey from where we are; it must include both our starting point, the goal and the way between them. Like a treasure map that says take so many paces this direction and so many paces another direction, it only works if we start from the right place. But we need more than a map. If that was all that was needed we could more easily blaze our own trails back to the Light. We require also a spiritual energy, a light-power, to be able to see the path ahead and follow the markers along the way. The world in which we live is a dark place, unless we have a spiritual light to illumine it for us. If we can not even see the spiritual reality of ourselves or those closest to us, how can we possibly see our way back to the Light. We can but stumble about in the darkness following the voices of attachment and despair.

We lack sufficient light-power to see who we are and a mirror by which we can see our Self reflected. This is why the Logos says in the Acts of John, “I am a lamp to thee who seest me. I am a mirror to thee who understandest me.” As put forth in the writings of Mani, the Savior comes not only at the right time but at the right place as well. The Messenger of Light, the Savior, comes to us at the place where our journey back to the Light begins. Our ascent begins where our descent ends, at the very bottom, in the furthest depths of the chaos.

The Logos does not bring Sophia out of the chaos by immediately grasping her back into the Pleroma but by restoring her light-power little by little, by revealing to her who she is. So it is in our own souls; the Messenger of Light comes to give us the light to see who we are as spiritual beings, and being akin to that Light, we mystically and simultaneously know both the beginning and end of our spiritual journey within our very Self.

The Christ is the alchemical stone and the Self, the true, constellating center of the psyche, a real, unique and yet universal being, which both surrounds and penetrates us from the very core of our own being. Like Sophia we are mostly and usually unaware of our divine helper. As we become aware of this presence, this mysterious other, we must acknowledge that it is not simply a state of consciousness that the ego may eventually evolve to; we recognize that the ego personality can serve to mediate our true center in the outer world, but it cannot accomplish the redemptive soul-making work of the Self, the Christ within. The ego cannot by itself lift us out of the chaos; it cannot save itself from its own condition—something outside of the ego is required.

The error of the ego is ignorance of any power above it. This also is the error of the Demiurge in the story of Sophia. The demiurge forgets his Mother Sophia who engendered him, when he arrogantly proclaims, “There are no gods before me.” The supernal Sophia then calls from the height to remind him, “You lie, Samael (blind god), there is the Man and there is the Son of Man.” In the same fashion, the demiurgic arrogance of the ego considers itself to be the sole power in the psyche, unneeding of redemption or sufficient to the task itself, whether alone or in a group of other egos all attempting to lift themselves by their own bootstraps and remaining in the chaos together. Christ consciousness is the conscious expression of a real being, the true royal Selfhood, which includes and transcends the ego personality. It does not displace or take over the ego personality but has access to the totality of the psyche, with knowledge, experience, understanding and compassion that is far beyond what the ego alone can possibly know.

By her descent Sophia gives birth to the Demiurge, who like the ego personality, can take command of life in the material world but is incomplete and deficient. The entire story of the descent and ascent of Sophia represents the great scheme for correcting this deficiency both in ourselves and in the world.

In the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, Sophia is called “the Mother of fair love, and of patience and perseverance, and of holy hope.” We must persevere in the work of redemption, the particular task to which we are called, not in response to our ego needs for recognition and greatness but in response to the call of the Holy Spirit who has remained here on earth to give us guidance and spiritual nurturance. We must have the patience to wait for our time to act. We must have holy hope to remember the treasures of the spirit, the Treasury of the Light to which we aspire.

As in the story of Sophia, the Helper comes at the place in our descent where we can acknowledge our powerlessness and regain our remembrance of our Mother Sophia and our faithfulness to the Light. We can not acknowledge our need for redemption until we remember the Light, until we remember who we are and indeed why we descended, the answer to which can only be found in its origin in the Light. And so the Sophia, as our own soul in the chaos of matter, cries, “O Light have mercy upon me, for there is no virtue in the cup of forgetfulness.” In the heart of the Gnostic, this cry brings forth tears of both sorrow and joy, for they are tears of love and tears of beauty—Sorrow for our condition of alienation in the chaos of the world and joy in our discovery of our long forgotten and true spiritual friend whose beaming radiance reminds us of the Place of Light in which we may be united once again.

One of the values of the story of the Ascent of Sophia, is the portrayal of the Logos as a Hero figure, as Liberator and Lover. The Savior comes to Sophia as the Hero to rescue the damsel in distress, yet he does not pick her up and carry her up; he gives her light-power to rise above the chaos, to become more conscious of who she is in her own power. Her response is gratefulness, greater faith in the Light, and love. Like Sophia, all of our souls are damsels in distress, suffering the distress of the soul not knowing who she is and like Sophia beseiged by material powers. Until our response to receiving that light is an increase in gratefulness, faithfulness, and love, the Liberator and Lover is not revealed to us.

In the Biblical stories and the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, the Christ rescues Mary Magdalen in much the same fashion as in the Ascent of Sophia. Jesus rescues her from ignorance by showing her who she is. By her redemption the Magdalen, like Sophia, becomes the one who redeems. She recognizes in herself the feminine image of hero and savior as she treads down the dragon-faced power and awakens to the love of the Logos. “The Lord loved her more than all the other disciples and kissed her on her mouth often.” (Gospel of Philip) The image of Jesus kissing Mary Magdalen is an image of the spiritual reality of the redemptive process. Mary Magdalen, Sophia and the Divine Soul within us all recognize that the bridechamber is not complete without herself.

Sophia is the feminine image of the Redeemer because she is the completion of her Redeemer, the Christ. We require a saving power, a Hero-Liberator-Lover and a Sophia, both of which have been denied us in mainstream Christianity. The Christ of mainstream Christianity is often either a suffering victim, a wrathful judge or a namby-pamby Jesus who could not possibly be a hero figure to anyone. The image of the Hero-Christ requires a Sophia.

The story of Sophia is not just a philosophical conundrum or a moral tale. Sophia is the bringing back of the feminine image of the redeemed redeemer, which restores the hero in all of us. We all have within us, regardless of our gender, the potential to be noble knights in service to Our Lady Sophia; we are all, male or female, prepared as a bride to receive the Bridegroom, our true royal Selfhood, the Christ within.

As described so beautifully in a prayer attributed to Valentinus:

“Prepare yourself as a bride receiving her bridegroom, that you may be what I am, and I what you are. Consecrate in your bridechamber the seed of light. Take from me the bridegroom, and receive him and be received by him. Behold Grace has come upon you.”

So may the grace of the one who is full of grace dwell with us and lead us into the Light, that we may find the redeeming power of Sophia within us, where we might put her on as a “robe of honor” and put her about us as a “crown of joy.”


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

The Beloved of the Logos

A Homily for the Day of Holy Mary of Magdala

by Bishop Steven Marshall

The figure of Mary of Magdala, also known as Mary Magdalen, is both complex and controversial. She has remained a mystery for a very long time and an object of difficulty for the Church from the very beginning of Christianity. One question we receive from those of mainstream backgrounds is why the importance of Mary Magdalen in the Gnostic scriptures and our contemporary practice of Gnosticism.

An attempt to answer this question and sort through the maze of material that has been proposed may come from the Gnostics themselves in the form of their insightful and very helpful threefold division of human understanding: the hyletic (physical), the psychic (mental), and the pneumatic (spiritual). The hyletic point of view, coming mainly from a reductionistic materialism, proposes that Mary’s importance is as the sexual partner, wife, and carrier of the bloodline of Jesus. The evidence for this line of reasoning is so full of surmise, supposition and conjecture that we hardly need consider it, but even if true, many great and benevolent rulers have given rise to progeny who were weak, decadent and cruel. The genes do not necessarily determine the person. So, even if the descendants of Jesus have been maintained in a bloodline throughout history, little of salvific meaning has come from that quarter.

The psychic perspective, assuming Mary Magdalen to be the Mary of Bethany who anoints and washes Jesus’ feet with her hair and the woman at the well who has five husbands, considers her to be the model of the repentant sinner. This again falls short of a really convincing answer. It devolves into an ethical reductionism that proposes that simply changing our behavior on a physical and psychological level will bring about the Gnosis or relationship with the Savior that is truly salvific.

Only the pneumatic perspective, that of the Gnostic seems to penetrate to the core of the issue of what makes the figure of Mary Magdalen so important to Christianity as a whole and to Gnostic Christianity in particular. The Gnostic recognizes Mary Magdalen as the one of the greatest, if not the greatest apostle of Christ.

In the Gnostic literature she is titled, the Apostle who excels the rest, the Disciple of the Lord, the One who knew the All, the One who reveals the Greatness of the Revealer, the Inheritor of the Light, the privileged Interlocutor, the One who is always with the Lord, the One whom they call His Consort, and the Chosen of Women.

To contrast this with the mainstream understanding and attitude, let me share with you a story that my friend Frodo, whom some of you may have met, passed on to me. In one of her theology classes at Mt. Angel Seminary, one of her Benedictine professors was asked about the definition of an apostle. He answered that the apostles were those who saw Jesus and were blessed by him after the resurrection. Frodo piped up, “Then Mary Magdalen must have been the first apostle.” The professor nodded, “Yes, but we don’t talk about that.” Yet even Pope John Paul II has called her “the Apostle of the apostles.” A Manichaean document, The Psalms of Heraclites, calls her the “Net-caster” who gathers together the remaining eleven disciples back to the Savior after the resurrection. This indicates that she was one of the principal apostles of Christ.

And yet we intuitively sense that there was something about Mary; she was not just one of the other disciples. She had a relationship with the Christ that was different than the others. Part of our understanding of the mystery of Mary Magdalen is to understand this relationship with the Logos. Whether it was sexual in the physical way or purely spiritual really makes no difference in the Gnostic perspective, some element of their relationship far transcended the mere physical nature of the flesh.

Even as the Gnostic resurrection takes place while we are in the flesh, so can such a transcendental relationship manifest while in the flesh, even as it manifested between Mary and Jesus. However, theirs was not an ordinary relationship in an erotic or conventional sense. There was something mysterious and transcendent between them that the other disciples could not understand.

“The Lord loved Mary more than all the disciples and kissed her on her mouth often. The others said to him: Why do you love her more than all of us? The Savior answered and said to them: Why do I not love you like her?” (Gospel of Philip)

Jesus is both asking the other disciples about the difference between Mary Magdalen and them, and he is questioning them as to why they are not conscious of the same relationship of love. The kiss, according to the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, is initiatory in character.

“For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in each other.”

One of the more Gnostic lines in one of the songs in Jesus Christ Superstar is where Mary Magdalen sings, “I don’t know how to love him.” Admitting this question, she reveals that Jesus is not like other men, and their relationship must transcend the ordinary sexual relationship between man and woman. In her discovery that she cannot love him in the strictly physical way that she knew before, she apprehends the Mystery of the Christos. In an intuitive way she discovers the Mystery, like Thomas, when Jesus asks the disciples, “Say who I am like,” and Thomas replies, “My tongue can in no way tell whom thou art like.” It is this intuitive and pneumatic perception that makes Mary more beloved than the rest of the disciples.

In this regard, the Pistis Sophia gives one of the most declarative statements of Mary’s importance to the Gnostic tradition.

“It came to pass then, when Mary had heard the Savior say these words, that she gazed fixedly into the air for the space of an hour. She said: “My Lord, give commandment unto me to speak in openness.”

And Jesus, the compassionate, answered and said unto Mary: “Mary, thou blessed one, who I will perfect in all mysteries of those of the height, thou, whose heart is raised to the kingdom of heaven more than all thy brethren…for thou art blessed before all women on the earth, because thou shalt be the fullness of all fullnesses and the perfection of all perfections… thou who shalt be sung of as blessed in all generations…who shall inherit the whole kingdom of the Light.”

That she gazes fixedly into the air for the space of an hour suggests that she experiences a visionary trance or altered state of consciousness. The Gospel of Mary describes one of her visionary experiences in more detail:

Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember—which you know, but we do not know nor have we heard them.” Mary answered and said, “What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.” And she began to speak to them these words: “I,” she said, “I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’ He answered and said to me, ‘Blessed are you, that you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the nous is, there is the treasure.’ I said to him, ‘Lord, now does one who sees the vision see through the soul or through the spirit?’ The Savior answered and said, ‘One does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but through the nous which is between the two—that is what sees the vision…’”

The vision comes by way of a reorientation of the soul, a metanoia, a turning about which gives rise to the nous which is something that comes to birth between the soul and the spirit and which sees the vision. The nous is most often translated as “mind,” yet it means something more spiritual and subtle, more akin to “enlightened mind,” or “divine soul,” or “awakened consciousness.” It is this reorientation of the soul which turns the soul to the spirit and gives birth to the nous. The Exegesis on the Soul describes such a reorientation of the soul from external things to internal and spiritual realities.

“As long as the soul keeps running about everywhere copulating with whomever she meets and defiling herself, she exists in suffering. But when she perceives the straits she is in and weeps before the Father and repents, then the Father will have mercy on her and he will make her womb turn from the external domain and will turn it again inward, so that the soul will regain her proper character…. So when the womb of the soul by the will of the Father, turns itself inward, it is baptized and is immediately cleansed of the external pollution which was pressed upon it, just as garments when dirty, are put into water and turned about until their dirt is removed and they become clean. And so the cleansing of the soul is to regain the newness of her former nature and to turn herself back again.”

This reorientation of the soul towards the spirit, this new relationship between the soul and the spirit from which the nous comes into being, parallels the relationship between Mary Magdalen and the Savior. This perhaps illustrates the meaning of the enigmatic line in the Gospel of Philip, “The Sophia whom they call the barren is the mother of the angels, and the consort of Christ is Mary Magdalen.” Even as the orientation of the soul inward to the spirit gives birth to the nous, so Mary’s orientation toward the Savior gives rise to her vision and understanding. The soul, like Sophia as the mother of the angels, bears spiritual children when she is oriented toward the spirit, as further described in The Exegesis of the Soul:

“Thus when the soul had adorned herself again in her beauty and enjoyed her beloved, and he also loved her. And when she had intercourse with him, she got from him the seed that is the life-giving Spirit, so that by him she bears good children and rears them. For this is the great, perfect marvel of birth.”

This birth is by means of that mystic kiss described in the Gospel of Philip by which the perfect conceive and which the Savior shares often with Mary. This is the birth of the nous when the soul gives birth by the life-giving Spirit.

This metaphoric sexual imagery gives rise to another hotly debated question as to whether Mary Magdalen was actually a prostitute before her metanoia. Whether in history she was or not is really not important to the Gnostic perspective. The association of Mary with the story of the repentant prostitute who after a metanoia becomes united to Christ in a spiritual way becomes a story of the condition of the Gnostic soul in the world and the means for its redemption. The relationship between the existential condition of the human soul in the world and the figure of the prostitute is made most clear in a passage again from The Exegesis of the Soul.

“Wise men of old gave the soul a feminine name. Indeed she is female in her nature as well. She even has a womb. As long she was alone, a single one, with the Father, she was virgin and in form androgynous. But when she fell down into a body and came to this life, then she fell into the hands of many robbers. And the wanton creatures passed her from one to another and made use of her. Some made use of her by force, while others did so by seducing her with a gift. In short they defiled her and she lost her virginity.

“And in her body she prostituted herself and gave herself to one and all, considering each one she was about to embrace to be her husband. When she had given herself to wanton, unfaithful adulterers, so that they might make use of her, then she sighed deeply and repented. But even when she turns her face from those adulterers, she runs to others and they compel her to live with them and render service to them upon their bed, as if they were her masters. Out of shame she no longer dares to leave them, whereas they deceive her for a long time, pretending to be true and faithful husbands, as if they greatly respected her. And after all this, they abandon her and go.”

This passage makes it clear that, as the psychic perspective would propose that repentance and change of behavior is all that is needed, the Gnostic knows that repentance alone is not enough for salvation and freedom, the mystical vision and union as well must take place. There must be a change of relationship between the soul and the spirit, between the nous and Christ. We ourselves, even as Mary Magdalen, must become the Beloved of the Logos.

The key to this relationship is told in the story of Jesus’ response to the kind, loving and knowing act of a weeping woman, who anoints the feet of her Lord, and washes them with her tears and her hair. Jesus responds to her when questioned about her status, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” We can see in this story the keynote of love and forgiveness. Mary Magdalen has been called in our liturgies, “the pattern of our love.” The feeling tone of such love is pure forgiveness. Someone in an exalted state of consciousness once said, “Such forgiveness, such forgiveness, such forgiveness in the very being of consciousness itself.” The response to such forgiveness is a gratitude that transcends the tongue’s speech. If each of us could know what Mary knew, that those from whom we have been sent love us with a gratitude that we can scarcely imagine; if we knew what Mary knew, we would have no fear of death, no fear of anything of this world, for we would know the Beloved of our Souls.

It is such a love that casts out all fear; it is the truth that sets free. It is a love that transcends all of our anxious attachments whether physical, emotional, intellectual or ideational. It is where the soul merges and rests, moves and merges and rests again with the spirit. It is a movement and a rest, a rhythm and a dance, inwardly at rest and outwardly moving in the world or outwardly at rest and inwardly in motion and dynamic union, like looking at your soul in a mirror in front of a mirror, the reflection being reflected upon and within itself for ever and ever. The Gospel of Thomas describes such an experience where Jesus says, “When they ask you what is the sign of the Father in you, tell them: It is a movement and a rest.”

Everything else that worldly life promises us is but a paltry substitute, a sham, a seducing lie distracting us from the real union. The true beauty, the true joy for which the soul, the bride of the spirit, longs is the true Bridegroom. This Beloved never uses or abuses us, never abandons us, as do the false and temporal promises of this world. When we have this Gnosis, we know the Beloved in eternity, we know who we are, from whence we have come, and whither we are going. This is the ecstasy of the union with the Beloved, out of time, out of the limitations of flesh. Sometimes this union is found in another in this world. Most often it is a relationship with something transcendent, which can nonetheless deepen, transform, and give greater meaning to our terrestrial relationships. If we have this love, it does not matter with whom, with what gender, or how this love manifests in our lives. However the silly dramas and romances of our lives play out, however we may have won or lost in love, what is important is that timeless and limitless love of the Savior, and that we recognize ourselves, like Mary, as the Beloved of the Logos. May we find that Bridechamber of the Light, as we take Mary Magdalen as “the pattern of our love.” Just as Jesus said to Mary, so let it be said of us that we “loved much.”


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

Coming of the Holy Spirit

A Homily for Pentecost

by Bishop Steven Marshall

Pentecost is a very important feast day in our Gnostic liturgical calendar. It commemorates the promised coming of the Holy Spirit to the Disciples, which was predicted by Jesus prior to his mystical death and resurrection. The mythic cycle of the liturgical year seems to come to an end at Pentecost, yet, for the Gnostic, it is the beginning of the true spiritual mission of the Christos. The Pistis Sophia describes twelve years of activity by the Logos among the disciples after the Ascension. It also describes the Apostleship of Mary Magdalen and the mythic cycle of the feminine power represented in the descent, suffering and assumption of Sophia.

Pentecost with the insertion of the Trinity season begins an entire half of the year, representing the mythic cycle of the feminine aspect of God, the season of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, like Advent, is a beginning, the beginning of a new level of spiritual activity in our archetypal life. The Holy Spirit, like a great wind, blows into our spiritual life with something new, unexpected, and, even if somewhat unsettling, yet as a consoler and comforter that is not of this world.

The Gospel of St. Matthew states quite accurately “The Spirit bloweth where it listeth.” We cannot constrain the Holy Spirit into artificially created, ego-designed vessels. It does not matter how politically correct or psychologically comfortable they may be; it just doesn’t work. The wisdom of the Spirit suggests an entirely different value system than that of the material and ordinary world. The 8th Ode of Solomon gives a speech from the Holy Spirit to humanity. “Your flesh may not understand that which I am about to say to you; nor your garment that which I am about to show you.” The Holy Spirit requires a vessel for its manifestation, but it is not a worldly vessel or garment; it is a vessel of consciousness. The Gospel of St. John calls Her “the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Her not, neither knoweth Her; but ye know Her, for she dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” The world cannot receive Her because it cannot see Her, because it is not conscious of Her. In order to know Her indwelling we must acknowledge Her, become conscious of Her, feel Her presence, see Her, and finally hear Her. The Holy Prophet Mani was such a vessel; even his name means “vessel.” Mani received the visit of his Light Twin whom he recognized as the Paraclete, the promised Comforter, three times during his earthly life. In this instance, the coming of the Holy Spirit is a direct mystical experience of a transcendent reality. The inscrutability and timelessness of the Holy is expressed by the holy prophet Mani by comparing the timelessness of the Spirit as even beyond the task of counting all the grains of the dust of the earth:

“Know that the grains of the dust of the earth can be measured, one can count the grains of the dust of the earth year after year; but the length of time the Holy Spirit passed with the Father, that one cannot count.” (Kephalaia of the Paraclete)

The coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles was not something that came and went in History; it is a present and timeless, spiritual reality. Jesus knew of his impending death and told his disciples of the Comforter, who would come after him. He told them to expect the coming of the Holy Spirit which would abide with us forever, who “…shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Our Teacher of Gnosis is still here. Her voice remains to teach, to guide, to care for us, and to comfort us.

The Kephalaia of the Paraclete by the holy prophet Mani describes how the Holy Spirit not only looks after the sparks of light on earth, but all of the aeons of the light:

“He first formed her in his inner chambers in quiet and in silence; but when she was needed, than was she called and came forth from the father of greatness; she looked after all the aeons of the light.”

In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus reiterates to the disciples the timeless and unworldly nature of the Holy Spirit:

“Jesus said unto his disciples: I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, the she may abide with you forever… Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”

To know the event of Pentecost as an immanent and interior reality is the goal towards which the Gnostic’s striving is always directed. If we are to know this other Comforter, we must somehow come to the place in spirit where we can reach out and touch this timelessness and transcendence; we must pass over to a non-ordinary state of consciousness and perception.

Pentecost comes from an Israelite harvest festival called the “feast of weeks,” which occurred 50 days (seven weeks) following the Passover. It was a feast prepared from the first fruits of the grain in the form of leavened bread. The leavened as opposed to unleavened bread is symbolic of the power of the Holy Spirit, for the leavening that fills the dough with air and makes it rise has been long regarded as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Thomas makes such a comparison between leavening and the Holy Spirit. “Jesus said: The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman, who has taken a little leaven and has hidden it in dough and has made large loaves of it.” Here the Holy Spirit is associated with the Kingdom and the feminine task of making bread.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit signifies a recognition, a knowing of the feminine aspect of God. The Holy Prophet Mani also describes the Holy Spirit as a feminine image:

“The fount of every blessing and all the invocations is the mother of life, the first Holy Spirit, the first mother who has come forth from the Father and first appeared, the glorious one who is the beginning of all emanations that have come to this world.” (Kephalaia of the Paraclete)

Jewish Christians known as the Ebionites called the Holy Spirit “The Lady,” and described her as the real Mother of Jesus. They prayed to her as God, but called her an Angel because they experienced her personality so strongly and so personally. The Holy Spirit, as the Mother of Jesus occurs in many places in Gnostic literature. “Even so did my Mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away to Mt. tabor.” (Gospel of the Hebrews) In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, “My mother gave me a body, but my true Mother (the Holy Spirit) gave me life.” As we begin to contact transcendent reality, the feminine image of Deity is almost always the first to be experienced, often as an interior vision and voice.

In the Christian mythos the festival of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the fire of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Two principle symbols appear here. The first is the tongue of flame. Shin, the name of the Hebrew letter corresponding to Fire and Spirit, means tooth and also tongue of flame. The addition of the letter Shin (the Holy Spirit) to the name Jehovah (YHVH) reveals the mystery of the Spirit in the qabbalistic name of Jesus, YHShVH. In this fashion, the name of Jesus represents the healing of the deficient and unregenerate Demiurge Jehovah (YHVH) by the addition of the missing feminine aspect of deity, the Holy Spirit. The second image in this description of Pentecost is the speaking “in tongues.” This is not described as the babbling of jibberish, but as recognizable languages, symbolizing a speech that was miraculously understandable to everyone regardless of their language: symbolically, a healing of the division symbolized by the division of languages in the story of the Tower of Babel. This “speaking in tongues” suggests a phenomenon of communication associated with experiences of an otherworldly and transcendent reality, yet on a mass scale.

This phenomenon comes about also through the coming together of the feminine and masculine potencies of the Trinity. While the Logos is the Word, the Holy Spirit is the breath that gives it its utterance, that gives it a voice. Whereas the Logos (the Word) is symbolic of the masculine polarity, the voice of the Holy Spirit is feminine. In Qabbalah, this voice, like the Holy Spirit, is represented by a dove, and is called Bath Qol, “the Daughter of the Voice.î” In the Song of Solomon she is the “voice of the dove… heard again in our land.” In the Jewish Targum she is called the “Voice of the Holy Spirit of Salvation.”

The recognition of the Holy Spirit is an essential step to the restoration of the Kingdom of Heaven, the descent of the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom which is spread out upon the earth but cannot be seen by the eyes of the world. As stated in the Gospel of Thomas, “Jesus said: It (the Kingdom) will not come by expectation; they will not say: ‘See here’, or: ‘See there’. But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.” In late versions of the Gospel of Luke, the portion of the Lord’s Prayer which reads “thy Kingdom come,” is translated as “Thy Holy Spirit come and cleanse us.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the manifestation in a greater consciousness of the Holy Spirit on earth.

In Qabbalah, the Kingdom is referred to the sphere of Malkuth, which is also titled Shekinah, Matrona and Bride, the Kingdom adorned as a Bride as written in the Revelation of St. John the Divine. In Qabbalistic teachings, the Shekinah is a feminine symbol of the immanent presence of God on earth. Followers of Valentinus called the Holy Spirit, “this Holy Earth,” “Mother,” and “Jerusalem.” In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells the disciples of the Holy Spirit that will come in his name and shall bring all things to their remembrance. Remembering the teaching of the Word and the role of the Holy Spirit in giving it a voice gives the Holy Spirit with Her title of “Jerusalem” remarkable meaning. It refers Jerusalem to that spiritual Kingdom of Light, which has been called the New Jerusalem, and which the Gnostics consider their true origin and home. The verse of the 137th Psalm, which is included in our Gnostic Ordination to Cleric reads, “If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember not Jerusalem above my highest Joy.”

Jerusalem is not for us an earthly city but the celestial City, the Kingdom of Light, our true home among the Aeons of the Light. The Holy City is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the coming of the Heavenly City to dwell in our hearts in greater consciousness. Quispel translates Jerusalem as the “Kingdom of Peace.” Such a “Kingdom of Peace” is the Rest, the Repose that the Gnostics used as a metaphor for the Fullness of the Pleroma where all of the warring dualities and opposites are transcended and resolved into a “single one.” Dr Carl Jung, in his treatise on the Trinity, makes a case for the recognition of the feminine aspect of God as the completion and final individuation of the Trinity of God. Therefore, the coming of the Holy Spirit, as an immanent reality in the Gnostic soul, represents not just a beginning but the culmination of Gnosis, both the beginning and the end.

The recognition of the feminine aspect of the Godhead is not a political fancy but a spiritual necessity; our own wholeness as spiritual beings, even the wholeness of God, depends on it. And so we remember this day in honor of the Holy Female Power in every place, who is the Mother of Christ in every heart, and the “wholeness upon which the universe is erected and destroyed.” We, as Gnostics, seek not a political and worldly kingdom on earth but a spiritual kingdom of an interior and transcendent reality that is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit within us. May the Voice of the Holy Spirit guide us on our quest to the Light of the Divine Soul within, comfort us in our travails in the world and restore within us the Kingdom of this Holy Earth within which we “live and move and have our being.” Amen.


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.