Philobiblon: God the Mother

Thursday, September 02, 2004

God the Mother

Continuing from Elaine Pagel's The Gnostic Gospels ....

"The absence of feminine symbolism for God marks Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in striking contrast to the world's other religious traditions" but the Gnostics were different.

One group believed it had received a secret tradition from Jesus via James to Mary Magdalene. They prayed ... "From The, Father, and through Thee, Mother, the two immortal names, Parents of the divine being ..." (p. 71)

Marcus the magician invokes her as Grace (charis) and taught that the wine symbolised his blood. (p. 73)

Others declared her to be the Holy Spirit, or Wisdom, or sometimes she seems to be an earlier goddess, as in the Secret Book of John:

"[The creator] becoming arrogant in spirit, boasted himself over all those things that were below him, and exclaimed, 'I am father, and God, and above me there is no one.' But his mother, hearing him speak thus, cried out agains him, 'Do not lie, Ialdabaoth ..."(p. 77)

This seems to have had practical consequences, since at least three heretical groups had women in leadership positions: the Marcionites, Montanists (who honoured Priscilla and Maximilla as founders) and Carpocratians, but after 200 there is no evidence of any such role in the orthodox churchs.

Sometimes this went a long way into true democracy. A congregation in Lyon refused any hierarchy. At each meeting they cast lots (men and women equally) to decide who should be priest, bishop or prophet for the day. They believed by this they were leaving the choice to God. (p. 66)

What a different world it could have been, had the Gnostics won, although (see previous) post, it seems the meek never could inherit the earth.


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