Finding Holy Spirit Mother

Most of  the persons, of whom I am aware, who advocate the restoration of the Divine Feminine to Christianity believe that Jesus was a worshiper of the Feminine Divine either in the form of Asherah, Sophia or even Isis the Egyptian goddess. I do believe that it is possible that Jesus may have had a relationship to the divine feminine in the form of Wisdom / Hokhma. However regarding the other two?  The worship of Asherah had been suppressed about 500 years earlier when the Jewish people became monotheistic. Isis? It is hardly worth discussing. Suffice it to say that no temples to pagan gods existed in First century Judea / Palestine.

The Holy Spirit has also been suggested as another possibility. After all the word for “spirit”  in Hebrew is “ruah” which because of its ending is grammatically feminine. Since verbs and adjectives in Hebrew also have grammatical gender these are also feminine when used in relation to the spirit / ruah. Note. Aramaic a language closely linked to Hebrew was the daily language of Jews in biblical Palestine and Syria. However in spite of these facts, I have always had some reservations regarding  the possibility that Jesus may have envisioned the Holy Spirit as both Feminine and Mother. One problem for me  has always been based on my lack of knowledge regarding the significance of grammatically  gender in language. In English most nouns words have  no gender and  verbs and adjectives certainly do not. So I tend to not understand the feeling / meaning of words in a language in which grammatical gender is important.

The other problem I have had with the idea that the Holy Spirit is a female divine being is that most of the ways the “spirit” as used in our Bibles seem to be impersonal in nature and often seems in fact to be just another way of verbalizing God’s force or power. That for instance is how the Holy Spirit is expressed in the bibles of the Jehovah’s Witness church and their interpretation has always seemed fairly credible to me.

Well some days ago I started rereading a little booklet called Finding Holy Spirit Mother by Ally Kateusz, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, and the primary writer for the Divine Balance blog. I initially read it when it was shared  here several months ago  by an occasional poster Mary Ann Beavis. I read it then and was  impressed. On rereading it, I am even more impressed. I think that Ally Kateusz makes the best argument of which I am aware that Jesus may in fact have regarded the Holy Spirit as being both female and  as his Divine Mother. To do this she cites from several sources. Among these are those often cited from the Gnostic gospels of Philip and Thomas.

What is unusual, however, is that in addition to these sources, she adds evidence from the writings of the early Syriac Church, the church of Syria in which Judea was a part. The language of the Syriac Church was  Aramaic the language that Jesus actually spoke and the language of the earliest church churches. Kateusz cites scholars of the early Syrian church such as Sebastian Brock, who basing their findings on their studies of the ancient  baptism liturgy and of the other ch literature of Syriac church during its first four centuries, believe that in this time period the Holy Spirit was almost always envisioned as feminine.

That began to change only in the fourth and fifth centuries after a converted Roman Empire began to suppress the so called Christian “heresies.” At that time the femaleness of the Holy Spirit began to be edited out of the texts. This finding is particularly important because the Syriac Church may have contained traditions that predate even Paul’s letters. The fact that the Syriac Church envisioned the Holy Spirit as both female and mother and believed that Jesus did as well is powerful evidence that perhaps he did.

The same process that occurred in the Syrian church occurred in some of the most important apocryphal  Christian texts as well. For example in the earliest version of the Acts of Thomas that  the Holy Spirits was viewed both as feminine and mother. As an example within it, Thomas ends a prayer with ” We glorify and praise thee and thine invisible Father and thine Holy Spirit the Mother of all creation.” During the 4th and 5th centuries these references are all edited out of the book.

The same process seems to have occurred in the Acts of Philip in which the earliest protagonists were apparently Philip and Mary Magdalene. Within the book Mary preached “You are guilty of having forgotten your origins your Father in heaven and your spiritual Mother. If you wake up, however you will receive illumination.” In the latter orthodox version of the book Mary and the offensive passages are edited out. Mary is replaced by the safely conventional Peter.

Ally Kateusz ends her book with a discussion of the Biblical gospels. She examines each of the four gospels and notes the number of times Jesus uses the language of the Father as opposed to the times he uses the language of the Holy Spirit. Thus in the Gospel of Mark both the Holy Spirit and the Father are each mentioned  four times. In Luke a strong balance between Spirit language and Father language also occurs. There are 11 verses each containing references to the Holy Spirit and to the Father. However in Matthew the situation changes. Here the references to the Father occur 44 times and to the Holy Spirit only 12 times. In John the change is even more radical. Within this book Jesus refers to his Father 110 times and to the Holy Spirit only four times.

Thus it is clear that each of the gospel writers had very clear differences regarding Jesus’ use of language in referring to God. Both Mark and Luke seem to suggest that the Holy Spirit was as important to Jesus as was the Father. In both Matthew and John in contrast Jesus relates primarily to the Father and only quite secondarily to the Holy Spirit. This perhaps explains why we tend to think that Jesus’ primary spiritual relationship was with his intimate Father and that he was only secondarily connected to an  impersonal ( and to us abstract) Holy Spirit.

These are just a few of the intriguing things that I found in Ally Kateusz’ book. There are more that may be just as significant. Finding Holy Spirit Mother is only of 31 pages long and I would strongly suggest that those interested in these issues to read it. The link to the booklet is http://divinebalance.org/ebooks/Finding%20Holy%20Spirit%20Mother.pdf

Glenn King

early medieval fresco of Trinity

early medieval fresco of Trinity

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5 thoughts on “Finding Holy Spirit Mother

  1. Reblogged this on The Sodality of Thea and commented:

    While the primary focus of this blog is not divine balance theology within Christianity, I do think persons may find this to be of interest. It is a book review of a powerful little book which I think makes one of the best arguments of which I am aware that Jesus may have worshiped the divine feminine in the form of the Holy Spirit.
    Glenn

  2. Thanks Glenn for posting this.

    To the extent it’s correct that Jesus worshiped the feminine Holy Spirit, it opens the question of where that idea originated. Some have argued that Jesus was educated and initiated in India and familiar with Shiva-Shakti, which is certainly possible though hardly demonstrable. Another possibility is that the feminine Wisdom (Hokmah/Sophia) of Proverbs 8 and 9 was worshiped, and identified with Ruah..In short, who knows?

    Another idea is that Christ is Sophia, rather than that Sophia is another hidden divine person. As such Christ can be conceived in feminine as well as masculine terms (compare the “Mother Jesus” of mystics such as Julian of Norwich). Logos was introduced by Philo as a translation into Greek terms of the feminine Hokmah. The Sophia in Orthodox Christianity is Christ (Hagia Sophia is the Logos).

    Some conceive Wisdom in both both male and female persons: Logos and
    Sophia. I think this is the basis for the idea of Jesus & Mary Magdalene as co-avatars. This is comparable to the Indian tradition that Lakshmi always incarnates with Vishnu.

    Another presence of the Divine Feminine is of course the Blessed Virgin. The Virgin is so strongly associated with the Holy Spirit that Frithjof Schuon calls her the “impersonification of the Holy Spirit”.

    • Philemon you bring up several interesting questions and suggestions. I will share a few brief responses to them. First my belief is that if Jesus did believe that the Holy Spirit was first feminine and then Mother, he probably came to that conclusion based on his own spiritual experience. The very linguistic structure of Aramaic / Syriac would have been very suggestive of this type of conclusion. I do not think that he necessarily needed any non Jewish influences to come to this conclusion.

      I also think as you do that the nature of relationship of Jesus and Hokhma / Sophia is very important. Unfortunately I am aware of only one Biblical scripture in which Jesus speaks directly of Sophia. Of course within the Pauline letters and other biblical books Sophia is all over the place. Unfortunately it seems to be used in Paul’s letters primarily to refer to an impersonal wisdom which is not also a personal / spiritual being. In fact these letters as you have stated suggest that perhaps Sophia is simply the essence of Jesus and not a separate female divine being at all. This of course works well for conventional Christians but not for me. Worship of Dea / the Lady / the Queen is central to my life. An all male trinity even one who shows conventional feminine qualities is to me a half measure at best. It is simply not what I believe.

      You also mention the possibility of a Sophia / Logos combination in which Jesus might incarnate the Logos and Mary Magdalene might incarnate Sophia. I find this idea very attractive theologically. Unfortunately it does not appear from any historic perspective that this option was ever taken seriously by historic Christianity. It does not appear that even most gnostics believed that Mary was more than the first apostle, a far thing from being any kind of co-redeemer.

      It is of course possible that Mary Magdalene might now be a co-redeemer with Jesus but this would have had to have happened after her death. It is also possible that the modern Magdalene movement is in fact a revelation of this fact. However since the modern Magdalene movement does not seem to be developing either strong religious communities nor developing theologies that I believe to be particularly compelling I inclined to discount this possibility. Again thanks for the comments.

      Glenn

  3. Thank you for posting this! I also agree that earlier, Gnostic sources tend to be closer to the reality of Christianity’s origins than later interpretations made by the Catholic Church outside of the religion’s native culture and context.

  4. Glenn,

    Thanks for the response above. I’ve had the opportunity to read Ally Kateusz’s essay and it’s certainly impressive. I have read the Gospel of Thomas, and noted the use of both Mother and Father, but I haven’t read the other texts she references.

    For my part (and it’s in no way an original view), I see the Holy Spirit and the Shakti as terms for the same divine reality. For example, Shakti is also called the prana or breath of Shiva. I quite agree that similarities between Christian and Indian thought do not require a cultural connection. This is true for the simple reason that any genuine tradition is founded on the same Truth.

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