Female References

The Beginning of the Initiation Journey: A Descent into Darkness

Female References

Let us begin with a series of articles – to be continued over time – based on some female figures found throughout humankind’s known history. Now seems to be the appropriate moment to do so due to the emergence of a huge need for reinforcing those female qualities within human beings, both men and women. Consequently, the latter will be visibly placed in order to be appreciated for her contribution. This movement is currently spreading to social, cultural, political and other areas.

Both mythological and flesh-and-bone women will be used as positive references to illustrate the human evolutionary stream and its consciousness. Nevertheless, rather than covering a great variety of figures, we will go in depth to reflect on the existing information. This may enable us to meet and rescue the feminine essential as a paired aspect to – in our interpretation – the masculine essential, which inevitably have to participate in the development of an abundant life.

Let us begin with Pistis Sophia, a mythic female figure starring the gospel of the same name. It is an apocryphal gospel from the Gnosticism of the first centuries of our era. First, we will introduce her figure, its context and some other elements for the understanding of its possible meaning; in a forthcoming article, we will immerse ourselves into her initiation journey.

This is actually a beautiful representation which might probably appear dull as a result of the language describing her journey – her dark and painful experience. We usually perceive this language as strange due to its repetitiveness and symbolism. It actually belongs to another evolutionary time span of human thought and consciousness. In addition to that, the story of Pistis Sophia has been reinterpreted several times through highlighting and scrutinizing of sins, errors and guilt. Her figure does carry tough negative weight because she – according to what we could refer to as a ‘primitive’ interpretation – performs an act that a human being ‘must not do’, that is– descend into darkness. Pistis Sophia makes the mistake of letting herself be carried along with an impulse for searching for the Light – if we consider light to be a creative knowledge.

We would like to rescue her value, approaching her experience from another angle, taking it as an instance of both an initiation and the possible transformation which lies behind a layer of simplistic morality. The story of Pistis Sophia explains, by means of a myth, the inner journey of a human’s soul. Some may identify themselves or acknowledge similarities between facts, thoughts, emotions, ideas or images described in the story and those in their inner world. The experiences Pistis Sophia goes through are archetypical, that is to say, they obey some patterns of development probably disclosing something that may well be of some importance to a full understanding of our life experiences.

While trying to explain the unknown, human beings have added new elements to their comprehension throughout the history of thought. Consequently, it is essential to place ourselves in those times and the context when the Gospel of Pistis Sophia originated so as to neither address it as untouchable – from the religious perspective – nor reject it as obsolete.

Pistis Sophia has its gestation period during the first two or three centuries of our present era. On the one hand, there was the need of an only God’s pre-eminence. The search for unity paradoxically coexisted with a moral separation of god and bad leaning toward radicalism. Human consciousness faced then the challenge of making compatible the usage of opposed notions. On the other hand, mythology – as a way of approaching the mysteries of the unknown – was getting mixed with another emergent tendency: rational thought. Applying concepts for putting images into words began to be used to explain mystery. Having entered Gnosticism, the Greek philosophy gave birth to the interesting, strange blend of thoughts and beliefs reproduced in the journey of Pistis Sophia.

In spite of her appearance in other Gnostic texts, her descent into darkness is less mentally dull in this gospel. The author’s view on this female figure’s impulse who speaks for the human soul has reminiscences of both empathy and benevolence. Sophia is shown as Mother Sophia’s descendant, whose name means ‘wisdom’. She was considered to be God’s partner in some Gnosticism streams of the time.

The descent journey of Sophia – so called almost every time she is mentioned in the text – appears in every spiritual tradition requiring an immersion into darkness for the profound change in a human being to take place. This descent is sometimes played as a symbolic death, representing an essential transit for a further rebirth. A seed is placed into the darkness of the ground to emerge afterwards as a plant or a tree growing up to the sun. Also appearing in other myths as an experience of staying for a while in a cave, in a tomb, in the guts of a whale, etc., this plunging into darkness represents an episode of initiation. In those places, the radical transformation occurs allowing the person to be reborn.

For the Rosycross, that initiation transit currently takes place through events and experiences in our daily life. It is our belief that we go through terribly hard moments when we are emotionally in the darkness, feeling the inherent suffering from the loss of certainty, which provides safety, stability and comfort. Those crises symbolically keep us in our ‘grave’ to think deeply about our own thoughts and feelings thus letting the transformation within ourselves occur. Welcomed, in the sense of an initiation, these difficulties illustrate some crucial periods within one’s inner depth. After acquiring some knowledge and regeneration, the person is able to access a different state of consciousness.

The story of Pistis Sophia, therefore, is a metaphor unfolding in the inner world of a human being: the world of the soul. The characters playing different roles there draw analogies with any dynamic force, tendency, impulse, strain, etc. with some likelihood of being experienced in a subjective way. Pistis Sophia would personify the celestial human soul – or feminine aspect of both man and woman, ‘the sidereal soul’.

Such an important journey into the depths is a prerequisite in order to experience an elevation. Some others before Sophia had done it: Goddess Inanna (Sumeria), Goddess Isthar (Mesopotamia), God Osiris (Egypt), Psyche (playing the human soul in the myth of Psyche and Eros), and many more. All of them depict that inherent need for transformation in human beings. It is here where Jesus deserves a special mention. He appears in the journey of Pistis Sophia as the first human being who consciously faces the descent. He actually follows the model of journey to the underworld that began in the Sphere of Gods to step into the sphere of humans afterwards. In our next article, we will dig deeper into this journey.

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Date: June 8, 2020
Author: Irene Mira (Spain)
Photo: SofieZborilova - Pixabay CCO

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