Further Reflections on the Divine Feminine — The Holy Spirit
Is it not logical that, in any trinitarian understanding of divinity, if one principle is called the Father, and the second the Son, then the third principle must be either the Wife or the Daughter?
That’s a rhetorical question, because I’m assuming that the answer must be ‘yes’. So the question turns to whether the third principle is the Wife or the Daughter. If the Wife, this would suggest that the Father is not the Ultimate Source of Being, having already separated into two complementary aspects. The Father would not then be ‘God’. I therefore prefer the suggestion that the third principle is the Daughter, and that, even though ‘God’ is called the Father, this entity is actually androgynous, being the source of everything that exists. This was the understanding of various ancient spiritual traditions, as I outlined in the first of the two articles mentioned above.
If the Logos (‘the Word’ as in the Gospel of John) is the ‘Son’, then the third element of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, must surely be the Daughter, and therefore feminine. Let’s consider the reasons for believing this. Firstly, in the Old Testament the Hebrew word for spirit ruach is of the feminine gender, as noted by various commentators. For example:
- Acharya S, who says that “In many cultures, the Holy Ghost was considered female, as Sophia, Sapientia, or Hokmah — Wisdom…”¹
- Rudolf Steiner, who says that “the cult of the Virgin Mary (was) in the East always somehow connected with the feminine Sophia being in the Old Testament sense of the feminine divine wisdom (ruach — spirit, wind, breath)”²
- T. W. Doane, who adds that the concept of Holy Spirit as father must be Greek or from somewhere else³
- Charles François Dupuis, who adds that the Holy Ghost “was called the mother of the seven houses, signifying… mother of the seven Heavens”⁴.
Secondly, the idea of the Holy Spirit as feminine was suppressed with the rise of patriarchal societies:
- Acharya S follows the quote above with “…but the patriarchy masculinized it”.
- J. M. Robertson says: “The Samaritans seem to have conceived of a female Holy Spirit, symbolized… by a dove… (It was rather the Jews who) were so anxious to avoid goddess-worship…”⁵. He later says: “The original feminine ‘Holy Spirit’ had been kept very much in the background, perhaps in fear of contamination by a Goddess worship which symbolized sexuality and fecundity by the dove” (p61). And: “The male Spirit has always remained an extremely dim conception, and there are many grounds for regarding the female Sophia as more suitable. She would have supplied the normal demand for a Mother-goddess. But asceticism was in the ascendant when the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated. This vetoed the admission of a goddess…” (p62). It is stating the obvious to say that conventional Christianity is an offspring of Judaism, and has inherited its traditions.
Has the Holy Spirit always been considered masculine in Christian theology? According to John Ivey: “ ‘Divine Breath’ later became known as the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Christian Trinity from the fifth century AD and, prior to this, the female consort of the Aeon Christ in the Valentinian Gnosis”⁶, (thus feminine in Gnostic Christianity).
Hopefully what follows will not seem too esoteric, but Ivey is interested in Gematria, described as “the correspondence between letter and number inherent in the Greek language”. He says that in this system 1746 “is the number of the perfect fusion between male and female elements, from which all things spring… It is the addition of 666: The Number of the Sun (the Male Principle) + 1080: The Holy Spirit (the Female Principle, the moon) = 1746”⁷ . This fusion of male and female is called The Grain of Mustard Seed. (As far as I can understand, this is so called because, in the system of Gematria, the adding together of the associated numbers of the Greek KOKKOΣ ΣINAΠEΩΣ gives the answer 1746.)
Christians will know that Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a grain of mustard seed (Mark 4:31). We are then immediately advised: “With many such parables he spoke the word to them… He did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples (v33–34). If Ivey’s analysis is correct, we can assume that Jesus’s private teaching included an understanding of the Holy Spirit as feminine.
It is an open question whether the ancient conceptions of spirit — Hebrew ruach, Sophia, Wisdom, Hokmah — is what the New Testament means by the Holy Spirit. It is also an interesting question whether the later Catholic Church understood what the writers included in the New Testament meant by it. We must therefore consider what we should understand in a cosmological sense by the term. Given its presence in the Divine Trinity, it must have profound cosmic significance. It seems to me therefore that there are two credible possibilities.
1. The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind creation. Genesis 1.2, for example, says that “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. Thus it was not God, the Ultimate, which swept over the waters, rather its spirit, thus one aspect of the Ultimate, believed to be feminine. In The Secret History of the World, which describes the worldview of Mystery traditions and secret societies down the ages, Jonathan Black, interpreting the early verses of Genesis, says: “In the beginning there precipitated out of the void matter that was finer and more subtle than light. Then came an exceptionally fine gas… (which) was the Mother of All Living, carrying everything needed for the creation of life. The Mother Goddess, as she was sometimes also called, will… assume many different forms, many different names, but in the beginning ‘the earth was without form and void’ ”⁸.
2. The Holy Spirit is the principle of change in the universe, the driving force behind evolution. This is not necessarily different from the first possibility, and may be complementary to it. In the first of the two articles mentioned above I suggested that one reason why God is considered to be masculine is that in a theological system that considers God to be both transcendent and immanent, Being and Becoming, the transcendent aspect (the Ultimate Spirit) is considered masculine, and the immanent aspect (the material universe) feminine. The Holy Spirit may therefore be this evolutionary Becoming aspect, what in Taoism is called “the immutable, eternal law at work in all change… the course of things, the principle of the one in the many”⁹.
Interestingly, John Ivey offers both alternatives: “Associating it (the female consort) with prime substance suggests that it was the flow of spirit, either passing through a pre-existent matter, or else actually causing the formation of matter”. “Prime substance in whatever sense was always regarded as female…” (p52, p53).
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics, and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website www.spiritualityinpolitics.com (click here and here).
1. The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999, p223
2. The Enigma of Canon XI: The ‘Abolition of the Spirit — The Year 869 and Its Significance in the Destiny of Europe. http://www.monju32.webspace.virginmedia.com/Council%20of%20869.htm
3. Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, Kessinger, 1882, p134
4. The Origin of All Religious Worship, The Michigan Historical Reprint Series, p274
5. Pagan Christs, Barnes & Noble, 1993, p22
6. The Promethean Fire, Able Publishing, 1998, p52
7. ibid., p60. Acharya S says the same: “As Christ was the sun, the Holy ghost was also the moon, which was often considered female” (as footnote 1, also p223).
8. Quercus, 2010, p62–63
9. Richard Wilhelm, Introduction to the I Ching, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968, P lv