Pistis Sophia (‘faith-wisdom’) was the most significant text to have surfaced prior to the Nag Hammadi discovery in 1945, discovered in Upper Egypt in the late 18th century. A simpler, shorter version of Pistis Sophia was later found at Nag Hammadi.
Like the Gospel of Mary, Pistis Sophia takes place after the resurrection and features Mary Magdalene in a prominent role, revealing a deep spiritual relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.
The text relates that the Saviour remained on earth for 11 years after the crucifixion to instruct the disciples (including his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Martha), teaching them only the lower mysteries. After 11 years, the Saviour receives his true garment and is able to reveal the higher mysteries. These mysteries relate to complex cosmologies and knowledge necessary for the soul to reach the highest divine realms.
To the Gnostics, Sophia was a divine syzygy of Christ; in a papyrus codex found at Nag Hammadi the Saviour explains Pistis as follows;-
“Again, his disciples said: ‘Tell us clearly how they came down from the invisibilities, from the immortal to the world that dies?’
The perfect Saviour said: ‘son of Man consented with Sophia, his consort, and revealed a great androgynous light. Its male name is designated ‘Saviour, begetter of all things’. Its female name is designated ‘All-begrettress Sophia’. Some call her ‘Pistis’.
The translation I have by G.R.S Mead divides the text into six books (these did not exist in the original manuscript). Over half the text is dedicated to the myth of the fall and restoration of the figure known as Pistis Sophia, giving detailed parallels between her prayers of repentance and Psalms and Odes of Solomon.
The first book (Chapters 1-62) sets the scene with the Saviour remaining with the disciples for 11 years teaching them the ‘lower mysteries’. The disciples believe they have progressed far along the path of gnosis, announcing:
“Blessed are we before all men who are on the earth, because the Saviour hath revealed this unto us, and we have received the Fullness and the total completion.”
However, the disciples are mistaken. Light descends over the Saviour, which “Stretched from under the earth right up to heaven. – And when the disciples saw that light, they fell into fear and great agitation.”
Upon his return, the Saviour, seeing their fear and agitation reassures them. He informs them,
“I have gone to the regions out of which I had come forth. From this day on I will discourse with you in openness, from the beginning of the Truth unto its completion.”
A lengthy narrative the Saviour relates concerning his journey ‘upwards and inwards’ and of his receiving a garment of light. He travels through the heavenly spheres, revealing the existence of the First Mystery – the true God – to the rulers of the spheres and their attendant angels. When he reaches the twelfth sphere, he encounters ‘Adamas, the Great Tyrant’, who tries to resist the light and, along with the archons, fights against it. The Saviour relates, “And I took a third of their power, in order that they should not be able to accomplish their evil deeds.. Who hath ears to hear, let them hear.” This can be interpreted as the Saviour reducing the effectiveness of astrological magic.
Mary Magdalene meditates for an hour and then asks to speak. The Saviour’s reply shows the esteem in which he holds her:
“Mary, thou blessed one, whom I will perfect in all mysteries of those of the height, discourse in openness, thou, whose heart is raised to the kingdom of heaven more than all thy brethren.”
Mary interprets the Saviour’s narrative, describing how Isaiah prophesied what he has told them, then she begins to ask various questions; the only male disciple to quiz the Saviour is Philip, who has been transcribing the Saviour’s words. Mary is taking the lead in asking the Saviour to explain himself further, showing she is actively assimilating the Saviour’s teachings, more so than the other disciples .
The Saviour continues his discourse, revealing that he encountered Pistis Sophia “grieving and mourning, because she had not been admitted into the thirteenth aeon, her higher region.”
Unlike the version of the Sophia myth in the Secret Book of John, here Pistis Sophia is a being of the lower, material aeons. She is not a high, divine being, and her restoration is not to the realms of light, but only back to her pace in the thirteenth aeon. Her longing for the first Mystery – the true God – led to her being tricked out of the thirteenth aeon by the great triple-powered ‘Self-Willed’, who together with other aeons, project their own light downwards. Pistis Sophia mistakes this light for the light of the First Mystery, heads towards it and becomes entrapped in the world of chaos and matter. She meets Yaldabaoth (the Demiurge), who strips her of her remaining power. Pistis Sophia begins to sing hymns of repentance (there are 13 in all):
“Now, therefore, O Light of Truth, thou knowest that I have done this in my innocence, thinking that the lion-faced light power (Yaldabaoth) belonged to thee; and the sin which I have done is open before thee. Suffer me no more to lack, O Lord, for I have had faith in thy light from the beginning; O Lord, O Light of the powers, suffer me no more to lack my light. And because of the illusion of thy light, I am become a stranger to my brethren, the invisibles, and to the great emanations of Barbelo.”
Mary once again interprets the story of Pistis Sophia, telling the disciples that what they have just heard was prophesied in Psalm 68. The Saviour commends her interpretation and continues with a description of Pistis Sophia’s second repentance. Once the Saviour has finished speaking, Peter clearly agitated by Mary’s understanding of the teaching, complains that, “My Lord, we will not endure this woman, for she taketh the opportunity from us and hath let none of us speak, but she discourseth many times.”
The Saviour invites Peter to give his interpretation of the second repentance (there are thirteen in all). The Saviour continues to answer questions from his disciples; with Mary Magdalene asking the majority of them. The rift between Mary and Peter is clear:-
“My Lord, my mind is ever understanding, at every time to come forwards and set forth the solution of the words that she (Pistis Sophia) hath uttered; but I am afraid of Peter, because he threatened me and hateth our sex.”
The Saviour defends her,
“Everyone who shall be filled with the spirit of light to come forwards and set forth the solution of what I say, no one shall be able to prevent him.”
Peter backs down, and Mary Magdalene continues to be the main questioner and interpreter of the Saviour’s words. Pistis Sophia is finally allowed to return to the thirteenth aeon, where she sings a song of praise to the First Mystery.
The second book makes up Chapters 63-101. After the conclusion of the story of Pistis Sophia, the text turns to long explanations of cosmology and knowledge of the prized mysteries.
Books three and four (Chapters 102-135) is taken up with further revelations, together with ethical instructions which the disciples are to preach once the Saviour has returned to the light. It outlines what is needed for right thought and right action, as well as actions that are not acceptable and their punishments.
“Renounce love of the world, that ye may be worthy of the mysteries of the light and be saved from the pitch and fire-coats of the dog-faced one.”
“Renounce wickedness, that ye may be worthy of the mysteries of the light and be saved from the fire-sea of Ariel.”
Further exhortations follow, bringing together the Gnostic and the orthodox:
“Say unto them: Be ye loving unto men.. Be ye gentle.. Minister unto the poor.. and the sick and the distressed.. Be ye loving unto God, that ye may receive the mysteries of the Light and go on high into the Light-kingdom.
The fourth book provides an outline of what to expect for the first baptism. Two more baptisms follow; a fire-baptism and a baptism of the Holy Spirit of the Light, but these are not described; the initiate must persist on the path and be deemed ready.
Mary asks questions about the afterlife states of the sinner and the re-incarnational cycle that souls must endure in order to be cleansed, referring to a ‘cup of forgetfulness’ administered prior to incarnation, which explains why we do not remember our past lives:- “..And then Adamas, bringeth a cup filled with the water of forgetfulness and handeth it to the soul, and it drinketh it and forgetteth all regions and all the regions to which it hath gone. And they cast it down into a body, which will spend its time continually troubled in its heart. And that cup of forgetfulness becometh body outside the soul, and resembleth the soul in all – which is what is called the counterfeiting spirit.”
* In 2003 scientists discovered a molecule in the brain called PP1 which affects the memory. My cellular memory tells me the ‘cup of forgetfulness’ refers to PP1 – we are programmed to forget.
Baptism purifies our soul – the counterfeit spirit is separated from our soul and we can become a ‘perfect soul’.
The Saviour urges people not to defer spiritual development for another lifetime, as the critical number of perfect souls could be reached at any moment. This is the completion of the First Mystery and the gnosis of the universe. At this point, no more souls will be able to return to the Light-kingdom.
“And from this hour onwards no one will be able to enter into the Light. For at the completion of the time of the number of the perfect souls, before I have set fire to the world*, in order that it may purify the aeons and the veils and the firmaments and the whole earth, mankind will be still existing.”
* Apparently this will be a sequence of natural events forest fires, volcanoes, which with global warming at its present rate it is a real possibility.
“Strive thereafter, to renounce the whole world and the whole matter therein, that ye may receive the mysteries of the Light before the number of the perfect souls is completed*, in order that they may not stop you before the gates of Light and lead you away into the outer darkness.”
* My cellular memory tells me the number of perfect souls required is 360. If you define a perfect soul as someone with a Level of Truth +700, there are currently 20 alive today.
Mary Magdalene asks questions about the ‘outer darkness’ and ‘regions of chastisement’. The Saviour answers:- “The outer darkness is a great dragon, whose tail is in its mouth, outside the whole world and surrounding the whole world. And there are many regions of chastisement within it. There are twelve mighty chastisement-dungeons and a ruler is in every dungeon and the face of the rulers is different one from another.”
The Saviour says “.at the dissolution of the world, that is at the ascension of the universe, those souls will perish through the violent cold and the exceedingly violent fire and be non-existent for ever.”
Pistis Sophia says the only way to access the Treasury of Light is via Jesus. Jesus is a frequency, a high vibration – and we all have the capacity to experience the Inner Christ within us.
This ancient text is relevant today as I believe we are at this point in history now..
#gnostic #marymagdalene #naghammadi #sophia