• Michael Martin

March 25th, as many people are no doubt aware, is the Feast of the Annunciation, known in much of the Anglosphere as Lady Day. It’s an important feast in the Christian year, marking, as it does, one of the quarters along with St. John’s Day, Michaelmas, and Christmas. The feast is so important that from early on in Christian history (6th century or thereabouts) the calendar year changed at Lady Day (and not on New Year’s Day) since the Annunciation recalibrated both history and time itself. It was sort of a Cosmic Reset Button, when salvation had at last come to the household of mankind. In the Eastern churches, if the Annunciation falls during the Holy Week its observation is not transferred (as it is in most Western churches), even if it falls on Good Friday or Easter. John Donne, a great lover of paradox, wrote of this great paradox in one of his finest poems, “Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day”:

All this, and all between, this day hath shown, Th' abridgement of Christ's story, which makes one— As in plain maps, the furthest west is east— Of th’ angels Ave, and Consummatum est. How well the Church, God’s Court of Faculties, Deals, in sometimes, and seldom joining these. As by the self-fix’d Pole we never do Direct our course, but the next star thereto, Which shows where th’other is, and which we say —Because it strays not far—doth never stray, So God by His Church, nearest to him, we know, And stand firm, if we by her motion go.

As anyone familiar with this blog or my published work knows, the essence of Sophiology is, for me, centered on the recognition of the inherent unity of the natural and supernatural orders; and the metaxological center of that reality is the Virgin Mary, the incarnation of Sophia: she who makes the invisible Godhead manifest to the senses. The Annunciation is the feast celebrating this reality in harmony with the Feast of the Nativity—and it’s no accident that March 25th falls exactly nine months before Christmas. It’s a witness of nature’s marriage to the supernatural. This is spirituality. This is biology.

In the writings of Jacob Boehme, the role of the Virgin in the Incarnation is an office engaged in the regeneration of all things—nature as well as the human soul—an absolute participation in redemption. As he writes in Signatura Rerum:

God became man and made man to God, the Seed of the Woman, that is, of the Heavenly Virginity, which disappeared in Adam, and also corrupted man’s Seed in the Anger, that is, Mary’s Seed, were formed into one Person, which was Christ; and the Seed of the Woman, that is, of the Virgin of God, understand the Heavenly Essentiality, should bruise the head of the Serpent, understand, the wrath of God in the Corrupted man; the head is the might of God’s Anger; the Divine man, understand the Divine property, should change the earthly into itself & turn the earth to heaven.” [1]

And he explicitly identifies the Mother of Jesus with the Sophia of Proverbs:

Therefore we set it down here (according to our knowledge) that the pure chaste virgin (in which God was born [or generated]) is the chaste virgin [that is] in the presence of God: and it is an Eternal virgin; before ever Heaven and Earth was created, it was a virgin, and without blemish; and that pure chaste virgin of God put itself into Mary, in her Incarnation, and her new Man, was in the holy Element of God; and therefore she was blessed among all Women, and the Lord was with her, as the Angel said.” [2]

This sensibility is found throughout the sophiological literature—poetry as well as prose, science as well as mysticism—and sweetly phrased in these lines from William Everson’s (aka Brother Antoninus) “Canticle to the Great Mother of God”:

Clearly you are to us as God, who bring God to us.

Not otherwise than of those arms does grace emerge, blessing our birth-blank brow.

Wombed of earth’s wildness, flank darked and void, we have been healed in light,

Traced to the sweet mutation of those hands, a touch closing the anguish-actual stripe,

Whip-flashed the sin, lip-festered on our soul.

So much of our culture and times distances us from the Real that shimmers beneath above and between All Things, as infinity is found at both ends of a number line and between every number, every fraction. Our task, most especially now under the threat of an absolute technocracy, is to participate in the regenerative actuality of Christ and Sophia. This is our Annunciation, our affirmation, our entrance into the Mysterion of the Real.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. Jacob Behmen (Jacob Boehme), Signatura Rerum: Or the Signature of all Things…translated by J. Ellistone (London, 1651), 11.11.

2. Jacob Behmen [Jacob Boehme], The Third Booke of the Author, being The High and Deepe Searching out of The Threefold Life of Man through [or according to] the Three Principles, translated by John Sparrow (London, 1650), 22.31.

234 views6 comments
  • Michael Martin

John Duncan, St. Bride (1913)

Celtic Christianity has haunted my soul since my early youth, from at least the time when at the age of eighteen I bought a Celtic cross from the gift shop of The Detroit Institute of Arts and which has hung about my neck for most of the intervening forty years. That cross was the seed. Over a decade later, my wife and I chose Claddagh rings as wedding bands—for one, because they were relatively inexpensive and we were poor, and, more importantly, because Celtic spirituality spoke to our souls in a profound way. In addition, my five eldest children all have Celtic names—Brendan, Dylan, Thomas Gwynn, Mae, and Aidan—and Brendan was baptized with water from the Chalice Well in Glastonbury.

Inspired by the lives of the Celtic saints, in my first or second year as a Waldorf teacher I wrote a play, The Journey of St. Brendan the Navigator, for my students to perform. Our school’s eurythmy teacher, Brigitta (Bridget to us Celts) helped me turn it into a kind of Miracle Play, with my class performing the parts of Brendan and his monks, another class as the whale upon whose back Brendan and his companions celebrated Easter Mass, another class as the island of birds, and so on. The teachers even participated, and my dear friend Mary Jo played the role of the wise hermit Brendan met on the Isle of the Blessed. I still recall her face and gestures as her character told Brendan and his crew the time had not yet come to settle upon those shores. I wrote the play out in long hand, and I’m not even sure if I still have a copy, alas. Nevertheless, the entire thing was one of the most beautiful moments in my thirty years of teaching. It felt as if light filled the room. No one was untouched.

Certainly, among other things, what really appealed to me then (and continues to) is the synergy between the angelic and natural orders in Celtic spirituality. The Celtic churches, so difficult to perceive clearly through the mists of history, moved in such an awareness. The legends of the Celtic saints—Patrick, Brendan, Brigid, and Columba for example—are rich with a natural world barely touched by agriculture. It is also interesting to note that Celtic monasticism with its extraordinary emphasis on asceticism and learning arose in a geographical area almost complete devoid of urban centers. It may be precisely because of this that Celtic monks participated in the wildness of Creation in a manner almost entirely unknown in other contexts. The exquisite Welsh “Litany of the Creation” (c. 7th century) voices this beautifully:

I beseech the people of heaven with bright-armed Michael; I beseech you by the triad of wind, sun, and moon.

I beseech you by water and the cruel air; I beseech you by fire, I beseech you by earth.[1]

This sensibility inhabits so much of the liturgical, devotional, and mythic language of Celtic Christianity that it is hard to miss, as in this excerpt from one of the more powerful prayers in the Christian tradition, St. Patrick’s Breastplate, also known as The Deer’s Cry:

I arise today Through the strength of heaven; Light of sun, Radiance of moon, Splendour of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.

In Celtic spirituality, all of Creation participates in Divinity. As Christopher Bamford writes in the introduction to his outstanding collection (edited with William Parker Marsh), Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness, what we find in Celtic spirituality is “a continuity in cosmic process, that extended from its inception, Creation, to its conclusion, Deification.” [2]

When St. Patrick was asked by the Irish pagan royalty who this God he spoke of was, he had this to say:

Our God is the God of all men, the God of heaven and earth, of sea and river, of sun and moon and stars, of the lofty mountain and the lowly valleys, the God above heaven and in heaven and under heaven; he has his dwelling round heaven and earth and sea and all that in them is. He inspires all, he quickens all, he dominates all, he sustains all. He lights the light of the sun; he furnishes the light of the light; he has made springs in the dry land and has set stars to minister to the greater lights. [3]

The Celtic Church was its own unique individuality, not Roman and not Byzantine, and not encumbered by the bureaucratic complications of hierarchical administration and the annoyances and interferences of ecclesial busybodies. (Those interested in this topic may want to check out F. E. Warren’s The Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church, first published in 1881). The Irish Church, in particular, had no martyrs to speak of and was characterized by “its pastoral way, its uncomplicated fervour, the dislike of its representatives for all manner of officialdom and organization [which] was precisely what the men of Rome so disliked.” [4] The Celtic ethos took seriously Christ’s admonishment to “Preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That sounds like my kind of church.

This all sounds a lot like Sophiology, too, of course, and for good reason (and I haven’t even mentioned the important place of women in Celtic religion and culture). And Sophiology, I claim, is the default position for Judeo-Christian ways of being—ways of being long since compromised by the designs of religious politicians and ecclesial people of power to the point of almost absolute disfigurement. As Margaret Barker argues, in the context of First Temple Judaism, “Those with the ‘biblical’ way of thinking saw the creation as the work of God, and felt that people who saw it in any other way were not liberated but deprived.” [5] Furthermore, “the covenant of creation bound everything in one system: the material world, living beings, human society, and the invisible forces they called angels or powers.” [6] I was right: this is Sophiology.

This is also, I claim, the Kingdom Christ proclaimed.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. Oliver Davies, trans. with Thomas O’Loughlin, Celtic Spirituality New York: Paulist Press, 1999), 298.

2. Christopher Bamford and William Parker Marsh, Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness (Lindisfarne, 1982), 12.

3. In H. J. Massingham, The Tree of Life (London, 1943), 37-38.

4. Gerhard Herm, The Celts: The People Who Came out of the Darkness (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977), 268.

5. Margaret Barker, Creation: A Biblical Vision for the Environment (London: T&T Clark, 2010), 26.

6. Ibid., 111.

418 views0 comments
  • Michael Martin

While I am happy to see Sophiology reaching a wider audience over the last few years (and David Bentley Hart’s sophiological sensibilities are definitely exposed in his new book, Roland in Moonlight) I am nevertheless concerned that it is often an intellectual exercise with which some become fascinated or intrigued at the expense of the engagement with the Real which is the true core of Sophiology. That engagement, as I have said many times, resides in an agapeic attention to the Creation and the simultaneous shining of Divinity through Creation. Sophia is the name of that shining; she is the metaxu who occupies the threshold.

This agapeic engagement is not realized in isolation, however, even though a contemplative disposition allows one access to the sophianic. The sophianic is realized in diversity, in engagement, and in interaction: with the natural world—with the diversity of plants, animals, and other human beings—as well as in the panoply found in the more purely spiritual worlds of ideas and concepts. The sophianic can be experienced in agapeic engagement with the world, the cosmos, even if one has never heard of Sophia or Sophiology. I would even go as far as to suggest that the vast panorama of religions and spiritual traditions all touch on this reality in various dimensions, though I would hesitate to suggest that dogmas or theological propositions do much to foster such insights. This is why traditions as diverse as the cult of the Great Mother of late-antiquity (delightfully and fancifully illustrated in Apuleius’s The Golden Ass), Sufism, Hinduism, the Kabbalah, and, of course, Christianity have often come to sophianic insights quite naturally and spontaneously—and before turning to theologies or available religious or philosophical vocabularies to find a language for making sense of the experience. That is, the experience of the sophianic comes first, while the intellectual grasping to explain or understand comes afterwards. I’m sure the reverse can be true—that one comes upon sophiological discourse and begins to appreciate it, and then looks for it in the Creation; but without the experience of the sophianic in Creation, the appreciation for it as an intellectual stream becomes arid and sterile—just like any other conceptual framework—and becomes idolatry if it is not discarded in its entirety out of a sort of spiritual ennui or atrophy.

Sophiology, that is, is practical. This is why my wife and I are involved with biodynamic farming. Nothing is more real than dealing with Natura on her own terms—without the mechanistic and dogmatic commitments of domination and colonization that so characterize much of conventional agriculture and reach their apotheosis in the marriage of BigAg to BigTech.

For these (and other) reasons, I have for a long time been a great supporter of Indian bioactivist Vandana Shiva, who since the 1980s has fought against the encroachments of BigAg in Indian farming, and which she has since turned into a worldwide movement. Shiva holds a doctorate in quantum physics, ideas of which still inform her work, upholding as they do “the non-separation and the potential” and which she believes “will get the mechanistic thinking out of the world.” She extends this commitment to include civil disobedience, the moment for which, in the context of farming, has more than arrived.

I caught Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s recent interview with Shiva (as far as I’m concerned, both of them are practically saints). The main topic of their interview was Bill Gates and his ventures into agriculture—which are part and parcel of his interventions into “health” and medicine—and which are nothing less than diabolical in their implications.

Gates, as you’ve probably heard, in addition to his role as primary funder of the WHO and as a proponent of vaccines, vaccine mandates, and vaccine passports (even though his investment portfolios are rank with conflicts of interest through his investments in these technologies), has moved into farming—gobbling up farmland at a gluttonous rate, investing large amounts of capital in the production of synthetic meat, and pushing GMO seed on the world. He wants control over them. GMO seed is patented, and Gates is avidly gaining control of seedbanks across the globe. As Shiva argues, Gates is “turning the land into a portfolio, the biodiversity into a portfolio, and thinking it’s some smart economics.” In addition, Gates is also investing in the Google company Alphabet to develop robotic farm workers designed to replace human farmers. This is why Shiva is calling for civil disobedience: “let us do a civil disobedience against force feeding of bad food. Whether it be lab food, like Impossible Burger, or golden rice, because he’s preparing for biofortification to be made compulsory. And we’ve seen how he can make things compulsory.” This man is no friend of humanity. “Bill Gates, keeps talking about innovation, all he’s doing is colonization.” And not only are farms being colonized, so are bodies. Our bodies.

And we’re being colonized with the full cooperation of the political class, for the most part.

Gates has money, and politicians—not to mention NGOs, universities, and other institutions—have an addiction to it. Thoreau describes our current situation with great alacrity in Civil Disobedience:

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others—as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders—serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few—as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men—serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.”

So don’t let Sophiology be a purely theoretical exercise of spiritual self-pleasuring. Do something. Engage the world. Don’t hide in your Covid bunker. Don’t fill your body with poisons, whether ingested or injected. Fight for biodiversity. Join an organic or biodynamic CSA. Start an organic garden. Choose life.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

249 views9 comments