07 September 2007

The Wisdom tradition

Vol.3: The Wisdom Tradition: Visions and prophecies of the Goddess in the Sapiential (Wisdom) tradition. 178p. illus. pbk.
Available as a print-on-demand book through lulu.com

This volume examines the various ways in which a feminine Divine figure, described variously as the Goddess, Sophia and the Divine (or Eternal) Feminine, has manifested Herself throughout history to guide and encourage those who worship Her. Descriptions of these visitations - described in the present work as 'visions' - have been found in a wide range of written accounts including materials not traditionally regarded as 'religious', such as philosophy, literature, and those areas of study - alchemy, astrology, theosophy, and various magical traditions - known as Western Esotericism.

Chapter 1: Sophia and feminine Wisdom
The first chapter presents an overview of feminine Wisdom from Proverbs in the eighth-century BCE through to Suso and his contemporaries in the 14/15th centuries CE, with particular emphasis on the divine manifestations as received in visions and dreams, and recorded in a variety of written forms. Throughout this period of time much of the surviving literature presents Divinity in masculine terms as an omnipotent God, able to assert His authority over nature. In the Sapiential tradition however, Wisdom is presented in feminine terms, working with nature. It can be argued therefore that the descriptions of feminine Wisdom encountered in this time period, and particularly in the medieval period, can be seen as providing alternative forms for the (safe) expression of the matriarchal view of the Divine inside the increasingly rigid and authoritarian patriarchy of the Christian Church.
Chapter 2: From Boehme to Goethe: visions of Sophia in early modern Europe
This chapter is a survey of Sophianic theosophism from its beginnings in the writings of Jakob Boehme in the early seventeenth century. Included here are the English mystics, John Pordage and Jane Lead, the German theosophists, Johann Georg Gichtel and Gottfried Arnold, and their influence on the German Romantic writers, Novalis, Holderlin and Goethe at the turn of the nineteenth century.
Chapter 3: Sophia and the Russian mystical tradition
Awareness of Wisdom (Sophia) is not unique to the Western tradition. Relatively little attention has been given to the origins of the Russian understanding of Sophia. In this chapter I propose that there were in fact two sources: namely the understanding of Sophia as divine Wisdom in Byzantium, and the later introduction to Russia of the Boehmian theosophical understanding of Sophia. I then present and discuss the visions of Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900) whose understanding of Sophia was so influential on later writers including those in the Symbolist movement. The chapter concludes with an examination of Soloviev’s influence on contemporary and later writers in the Orthodox tradition.
Chapter 4: Prophetic visions of the Divine Feminine in 19th/20th century Europe
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, writings about the Divine Feminine began to develop a vision of social transformation through the impending arrival of the Divine Feminine in human form. Included here are the English visionaries William Blake and Goodwyn Barmby, the writers Hans Christian Andersen and Nathaniel Hawthorne, the English and French spiritualists/theosophists, Lady Caithness, Anna Kingsford, and the Gnostics, Jules Doinel and Leonce Fabre Des Essarts. The chapter concludes with the theories of the forthcoming ‘third age’ of the Divine Feminine, some of which were inspired, directly or indirectly, by the writings of the twelfth-century Christian monk, Joachim of Fiore, and found across nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe in a diverse range of writings, including those of the Russian exiles, Zinaida Gippius and Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, and the later Russian dissident Daniil Andreev.

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