SOPHIAN CONTEMPLATION

by contemplativeinquiry

I have begun a series of Sophian contemplations. They are built around brief passages from texts that I treat as being in her tradition, passages that have drawn and excited me and continue to resonate beyond their initial impact. This is the first.

I am the light within the light.

I am the remembrance of Forethought.*

 

I sit, eyes closed. I say: I am the light within the light. I get the image of someone holding up a lantern. It’s like the Hermit’s lantern from Tarot, except that Sophia is holding it. Then there’s the image of the candle inside the lantern, and I briefly become the flame. I am surrounded by protective walls of glass, safe and steady. I know that the glass will enhance my radiance.

Back outside, I as observer notice that the lantern offers a pool of light in a deep twilight setting. This light is not aggressive or overwhelming. It hardly disturbs the magic of the gloaming, which is also somewhat lit by moon and stars. The contribution of the lantern is that it helps to illuminate a path. Sophia is holding up the lantern so that people can walk somewhere a bit more easily.

Sophia holds the light and points the way. Sophia does not ask for prayers. She does not ask to be loved, though love is in the air. She does not even ask to be followed, or for a path to be followed. Rather she says to me, in my observer position, “now you do it”. To become a lantern bearer, a lantern, and the flame within, is her worship. It begins with the flame within, or there is no light. At a level, it also ends with the flame. From the perspective of the lantern there is no path; just illumination.  From the external perspective, there is a path, and a role of lantern bearing guide. Yet there is only one experience, which can be seen in different ways.

I continue to sit, eyes now half open, soft focus, panoramic vision. I say: I am the remembrance of Forethought. I notice that I feel very comforted by the word ‘remembrance’. I’ve always had a sense of memory beyond memory, predating me and beyond personal. I am not thinking in terms of past lives or other forms of existence. But I do think that if those had a meaning and I could access them, this ‘remembrance’ would be there too. It’s not a memory of any identity or event – it’s just ‘remembrance’. It’s a very deep intuitive sense, and I believe that I share it with others, though the specific experience and ways of attempting to language it will vary. It has the feeling-tone of home. The old Gnostics used the term Pistis Sophia (faith-wisdom), which is the wisdom of deciding to have faith in the value of experiences like this, rather than dismissing them. There’s a decision to build life and meaning around them and to stand by the images, words, metaphors and practices that emerge – though not without examination and inquiry. ‘Forethought’ also has its own special resonance. In this context it’s anything so concrete of definite as ‘forward planning’. Rather, it derives its meaning as a contrast to ‘the Word’. It suggests a prior latency before the beginning that was the Word – a bit like the ain soph of the Kabbalah. As such, I can appreciate that language is being stretched beyond its reasonable reach and is dissolving into Mystery. Yet somehow, all the same, it stands for something I can recognise and assent to. Sophia’s invitation to me is to take ownership of these lines, and taste their reality as fully as I can.

I am the light within the light.

I am the remembrance of Forethought.*

*These lines come from a Gnostic text called The Secret Book of John. The book is a Nag Hammadi text and now available in a number of English translations. This one is taken from The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels translated with an introduction and notes by Marvin W. Meyer, New York: Vintage Books, 1986.

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