Stacks Image 905




CHAPTER V.


God as Unity and Duality.


1.—Having given in the preceding chapters some of the marks or characteristics of Life, and shown its identity with Love; and having seen that God is Life in the highest sense of the term, or what may conveniently be named Essential Life; in other words, that the fact of his existence is a problem of necessity, that Life is in Him by essence or being, that He cannot be otherwise than what He is, and is without beginning and without end; and having seen also that God, notwithstanding the objections that have been so freely made in these later times, is a Personality, and is susceptible of being recognized and approached as such; we are now prepared to go a step further, and to say in the light both of the Absolute Religion and the Scriptures, that God, the great fact and mystery of the universe, is at the same moment and by the necessities of existence, Unity, Duality, and Trinity.

2.—It may be said, however, that neither of these great expressions standing alone, pregnant as they are with a deep and divine meaning, can convey to us the full idea of that wonderful being whom we call God. But taken in connection with each other and with Personality as the basis of their application, they open views of the Infinite, which the exploration of ages would not fully satisfy. We shall treat of them in the order in which they have been named.

Of the first affirmation, namely, the Unity of the divine Nature, we shall have but little comparatively to say, because it is a subject on which much has been ably written, and is one which to thinking and philosophic minds is but little short of self-evident. The argument on the subject is commonly and very justly drawn from the evidences of oneness of design in the multiplied objects of creation.

3.—There is a foundation for the argument from creation, because creation implies the fact of a creator, and because, looking at these objects in the light of their logical relation, creation does not contain anything which did not antecedently exist in the ideas of the creating Mind, so that creation, existing in the universe of objects around us, may justly be regarded as the out-going, the reflex, or if it be preferred, the shadows of the Infinite. And accordingly what God is in the eternal principles of his nature, including his Unity, is written not merely in the messages of Prophets and Apostles, but in his out-goings, in the emanations of Himself which exist in the things that are made, in the great robe of created forms and life which hangs as a garment around the brightness of his essential being. And there, as we read in accordance with the laws of our mental beings the multiplied facts of emanated or created existence, which are expressions of the oneness of thought and plan that lie hidden in the Source or Centre from which they come, our convictions become harmonized and consolidated in a particular direction; and at last it is impossible for us to doubt the Unity of that great Creative Centre. We cannot dwell, nor do we feel it to be necessary, upon the specific processes of thought by which this is done. Nevertheless, UNITY is the first word in the divine alphabet; and Nature, speaking in her silent voices, and writing her record in the book of the Absolute Religion, harmonizes with the Scriptures in saying, God is ONE God.

4.—But this is not the only or the final word in the great facts of God’s existence. We proceed therefore to say, without however, confidently expecting an equal unanimity of opinion in regard to it, that the Divine Nature is dual, or two-fold, at the same time that it is one. This great mystery in the nature of the Divine Being is rendered possible by the great fact of Personality, which has this peculiarity, that, while it necessarily implies and includes existence, it may be regarded as something more than existence, because it is a fixed and discriminated modification of existence. The unity is in the existence; the duality which attaches to the same existence, and can never yield its claim to it, reveals itself in that real and indestructible modification of existence—that elemental fact of the universe, not easily explained, but which can never be ignored,—called Personality. It is upon this basis that the Absolute Religion, which cannot interpret itself independently of existing facts, harmonizes with the Scriptures in breaking up the desolateness of Unity and proclaiming the two-foldness or duality of the Divine Nature. And if we will but open our eyes, so significant are the facts that have relation to it, we cannot fail to see at least some evidences of it.

5.—Some of the facts upon which our conclusions are founded are these: In every form or kind of existence which comes fully within the limits of human knowledge, we find that each form, while it is discriminated from every other form, reveals within the prescribed limits of its own existence the wonderful combination of unity of nature with a two-foldness or duality in the constitution of that nature. Take our common humanity as an example. No one can well deny that humanity is one in nature or being, while at the same time, without abrogating in any degree its unity and identity of nature, it is dualistic in personality. Man is not woman and woman is not man, and yet neither man nor woman is out of the limits of humanity. They stand revealed, to the comprehension of all true and candid judgment, forever one in the essential identicalness of being or nature, and yet forever discriminated by facts and relations which make them two in one. And our argument is, that God, in revealing this great fact in everything that is made, has revealed, in connection with the primal and essential unity in his own existence, the additional fact of duality. In other words, God is both Fatherhood and Motherhood.

To the mind impelled by the laws of its own being, that intuitionally accepts the great fact of Causation, and can read the inherent nature of the cause in the facts that flow from it, this, I think, is the inevitable conclusion. And from the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood, furnishing, in their coexistent and co-operative duality, the only conceivable basis of such a result, all things proceed.

6.—But is there anything in the Scriptures, anything in the common and generally accepted forms of religious thought and feeling which harmonizes with this view? It may, perhaps, be admitted that the Scriptures are not very full or very explicit on this subject, and yet there are some things that favor what has been said. It is worthy of notice, that in the very earliest part of the Bible there are expressions which clearly intimate a plurality, not, indeed, in the essential nature, but in the personalities of the Godhead. The Hebrew word ELOHIM, which often occurs as the name of the Supreme Being, and which is translated God, is in the plural form. In the account which is given in the first, third, and eleventh chapters of Genesis of God’s early doings, he is represented as conversing with another, and in such a way as to convey the idea of more than one divine personality. It is a part of this early history that God made man in his own image; and yet it seems to be obvious from what follows that the man who was thus created contained in himself a combination of male and female elements, which either constituted, or was destined subsequently to constitute, a duality of persons. And it may be remarked in this connection that the intermingling of the plural pronouns us and our with the singular pronouns he and his, when God himself is the subject of discourse, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, may be regarded as natural or at least explainable, on the supposition of a plurality of persons; but not otherwise.

7.—In the book of Proverbs, the authorship of which is generally, and probably with justice, ascribed to Solomon, the second Personality, as it is sometimes called by writers, or that personality which indicates the maternal element and power of the Godhead, is understood by many commentators, especially those of a deeply intuitive and devout cast of mind, to be announced under the name of Wisdom, called in the Greek Septuagint translation, SOPHIA. “Wisdom,” or the “Divine Sophia,” is represented in the eighth chapter of the book, as lifting up her voice, as standing in the top of high places, as crying aloud at the entrance of the city gates. The character of the language is so remarkable in some parts of the chapter, that it is certainly difficult to explain it on the ground merely of figurative forms of expression. “By me,” says Wisdom, “kings reign and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” And again, in language which reminds one of what is said of the Wisdom or Logos in John’s gospel, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before the works of old.” And again, “There I was by him as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Proverbs 8:15, 16, 23, 30.

I am aware that different and somewhat conflicting interpretations have been given by learned men to this portion of Proverbs. The reader who wishes to go into a minute examination of it, which our limits and the pressure of numerous topics will not permit us to do, will find valuable aids in the 15th volume of the Bibliotheca Sacra, in a very able and exhaustive article, in support of the position that Wisdom in these passages is a divine Personality, by Professor Barrows, of Andover.

We find evidence also, that the doctrine of a duality in the Godhead, and of a Wisdom or Maternal principle, existed widely among the Jews, from various passages in that portion of the Jewish writings which are regarded by the Protestants as apocryphal. In the apocryphal book, entitled the Wisdom of Solomon, written about one hundred years before Christ, and in the Greek language, the SOPHIA or Wisdom is repeatedly introduced, and in such a way as to indicate personality. In the 9th chapter, 4th verse, it is said, “Give me the SOPHIA [or Wisdom] which sitteth by thy throne.” At the ninth verse, she is represented as being present with God when he made the world. And I think it is worthy of notice, that in the 1st and 2d verses of the 9th chapter, Sophia or Wisdom is used as a parallel expression, and as synonymous with Logos. It is the same in the 12th verse of the 16th chapter. Similar passages, and which have been understood, to some extent, as indicating a Motherhood or maternal personality in the Divine Nature, are found also in the apocryphal book, entitled, the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach.

9.—In the Jewish CABALA, or traditional scriptural commentary, which began to be collected some years before the coming of Christ, there are evidences of such a belief. Mrs. Child, in a work entitled “The Progress of Religious Ideas,” has made reference to this fact in a passage near the commencement of her second volume. “According to the cabalistic doctrine,” she says, “God was pure, uncreated light, existing by the necessity of its own nature, filling the immensity of space, and containing within itself the principle of life and motion. The souls of all beings were portions of Him, and had existed in Him. All forms of being were merely manifestations of his eternal, indwelling ideas. The Wisdom of the Eternal they supposed to be a feminine deity, whom they called SOPHIA.”

10.—The most satisfactory announcement, however, on this deeply interesting subject, is that which occurs in the generally recognized Scriptures; and is to be found in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. To understand its full force, we must keep in mind, what I think a careful and critical examination will fully justify, the identity of the Logos and the Sophia. “In the beginning was the Logos or Word; and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In other words; God, the great positive principle of the universe, the divine Personality, which is characterized especially by the attributes of power and causation, existed in the beginning, and as the antecedent of all created things. But He had a companion; He did not exist alone. The Word or Logos, the Wisdom or Sophia, different expressions for the same principle of Eternal Life, was
with Him. And the Logos was God; not only with God, but was God.

11.—An Infinite Love, existing as a positive personality, implies and requires, as the complement to its own nature, a correspondent existence, receptive of whatever it is able to communicate; in other words, an Infinite Beloved. On no other supposition can we understand how the wants of its affectional nature, for we cannot suppose that God is destitute of such a nature, can be met. The personality of the infinite Love, which is characterized by the attributes of causation and power, would fail in the great purposes of being, and thus would essentially destroy itself, if—speaking after the imperfect manner of men—it were not enfolded in the arms of the Eternal Wisdom, the Logos, the Sophia. Such, in the somewhat mystic words of the Apostle John, words liable, perhaps, to be misunderstood or perverted, but nevertheless significant of a truth of heavenly beauty, is the announcement of the infinite Paternity and the Infinite Motherhood.

Undoubtedly the language of John, like everything else that takes the imperfect form of words, is susceptible of criticism. We are aware there are those who are of opinion that the expressions he employs can be explained on the ground that the Logos is the name of an attribute merely, and not of a personality. But it must be admitted, I think, especially when all the facts brought to notice in the various passages are carefully compared, that such an explanation is not the most natural and obvious one.

12.—The thought, which finds its expression in the fact of celestial maternity, makes its appearance in other quarters. The word Logos, as applicable to God, and used in a way to indicate, in the opinion of many, a divine personality, is found in the writings of Philo of Alexandria, a learned Jew, who wrote a number of works in Greek previous to the time of John. According to a statement to be found in the Critical Greek Testament of Dr. Alford, Philo identifies the
Logos with the Sophia, using the terms as convertible; a circumstance of a good deal of interest in connection with the history of the use of these terms. It is worthy of remark, also, that the Logos, as the Eternal Reason, and spoken of in such a way as to imply, if not directly affirm, personality, has a place in the writings of Plato. It is not necessary to suppose, however, that John, who leaned on Jesus’ bosom, and learned sympathetically, as well as in other forms of instruction, the great truths that had their lodgement there, derived his views, as some have conjectured, from either Plato or Philo. He had other and higher sources of knowledge. Nor is it necessary to suppose with Dr. Adam Clarke on the other hand, although there are some facts which look in that direction, that Plato derived his knowledge on this subject, to whatever extent it may have existed, either directly or indirectly from the Jews. There is reason to believe that many of the leading philosophers of Greece, including Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras and Zeno in the number, were true and earnest seekers after moral and religious truth. And it is true of all men in all ages of the world—not an accident but an eternal principle—that they who seek in simplicity and sincerity of spirit shall not fail to find, Scholars well understand, and perhaps more fully so at the present time than at any antecedent period, that there are many thoughts and suggestions in the doctrines and writings of Socrates and Plato, in particular, which harmonize well with the doctrines of the Scriptures. The same infinite Mind, which has never ignored its children in any country or in any age, may have been the source of knowledge in both cases.

13.—The doctrine under consideration makes its appearance from time to time subsequently to the time of Christ and his immediate successors. It is found for instance, in the writings of the learned Valentinus, who lived in the second century, a Jew by birth, but educated in Alexandria, and subsequently resident in Rome. He regarded the Supreme Being, in the first or earliest aspect in which he presents himself, as a great Primal Essence, a sort of unfathomable Abyss of Existence, an immeasurable ocean of life. His vast primal Existence either gradually develops itself, or manifests itself connaturally and from the beginning, as Aeons or Powers, which, as they were far removed according to Neander, “from abstract notional attributes,” were probably regarded by Valentinus in the light of Personalities. And these appear to be represented as complements or correspondences to each other, namely, as Positive or Causative on the one hand, and as Receptive on the other. He speaks of the Aeon SOPHIA, or the Eternal Wisdom, as unfolding itself, though at first weakly and imperfectly, as the designing or contriving mind of the universe; in other words the fashioning or artistic power. It at last incarnates itself in Christ, who in his human nature is the highest finite out-birth; the beginning or Elder Brother of a great family, who may be expected to inherit the truth and purity which, in his human nature, were manifested in him. The doctrine of Valentinus is undoubtedly in many respects complex and obscure; and these few sentences which give the most favorable aspect, necessarily impart a very imperfect idea of it. But all that it is important here to know is, that it recognizes in the Divine Nature the fact of innate or connatural powers and personalities, which may be regarded as distinct and self-conscious in their manifestations, though having a common basis of existence, and also as being correspondent and complementary as Positive and Receptive, as Fatherhood and Motherhood. [See Neander’s History of the Christian Religion and Church. Vol. I. Art. on Valentine and his School.]

14.—Other writers, among whom Heracleon and Barsanides may be particularly named, who lived subsequently to Valentinus, may be regarded as sympathizing with him, and as being essentially of the same school of religious thought. Not unfrequently they apply the term
Sophia, or Wisdom (the term adopted by all these writers from the Greek version of the striking passage in the book of Proverbs, which has already been named), in such a way, and in such connected epithets, as not only to indicate the fact of personality, but that divine and eternal relation of Fatherhood and Motherhood to which our attention in this chapter is particularly directed. The doctrine is found in Clement of Alexandria, who also lived subsequently to Valentinus, and whose views of religious truth were in other respects somewhat different.

15.—In coming down to later times we find intimations of the doctrine under consideration in the writings possessing far more depth and value than is commonly supposed, of the Mystics and Quietists. Suso, one of the truly devout and learned German Mystics of the fourteenth century wrote a work which he entitled “The Book of Eternal Wisdom.” Suso recognized the common doctrine on the subject, that this living and personal principle, the divine SOPHIA of the Greek mode of expression and the “La Sagesse Eternelle” as he calls it in the French, the eternal LOGOS or Wisdom, that dwelt with God and was God, bowed itself to the sphere of our erring humanity, and became incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth. And he expressly teaches, near the close of the first chapter, that we have a knowledge in its higher or pre-existent state by means of the knowledge which we have of Christ in his lower or incarnate nature. WISDOM speaks, “If thou wouldst contemplate me,” she says “in my ineffable Divinity, thou must gain a knowledge of me in my suffering humanity,” a declaration which contains volumes of true knowledge. It is difficult to read the work to which we have referred, without recognizing in it the deep conviction on the part of the writer, of a Personality in the Divine Nature, of the same essentiality of being,
with God and of God, and yet entitled to be characterized by that attribute of Motherhood, without which the infinite Fatherhood, dear as it is, becomes a misnomer and a nullity, Suso lived in the fifteenth century. At an earlier period in the twelfth century, Richard of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris used expressions which involve the same doctrine.

16.—At a later period Jacob Boehmen, a Mystic, though in some respects differing from the school of Suso and Tauler recognized the doctrine of the Divine Motherhood. We can make nothing else of his frequent mention of the “Virgin SOPHIA,” whom he describes in various passages as the “Divine Wisdom,” as “Eternal,” and as a “Living Essentiality.” If we understand him rightly, it was the Sophia, the Wisdom or Maternal ESSENTIA or Personality of the Godhead, which incarnated itself in Christ, and which caused him, in a mother’s Spirit though in a male form, to endure his great sufferings in behalf of a world which was to be born into a saved and regenerated life
of him and through him. Not unfrequently the language of Christ, when it is allowed to enter and to leave its true impress on the interiors of the soul, has the sound and import of a mother’s language: “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he exclaims with true maternal feeling, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”—Matthew 23:37. The language which he utters on the cross is the very language of a loving mother, who is willing to suffer and even die for her erring children, if she can thereby bring them back to their father’s house and to truth. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

17. A few centuries ago, a sect came into existence in Holland and England, who took the name of Familists, or Family of Love. Some years later, there appeared in England a sect whose views were similar in some leading respects to those of the Familists, who took the name of Philadelphians. In some of the writings which originated in these religious movements, we find evidence of the same tendency to recognize the Maternal Principle as a true and distinct Personality in the Godhead. One of these works is entitled “The Great Crisis,” published anonymously, but generally ascribed to a pious and learned man by the name of Roach. References to the subject which we have been considering, will be found in “The Great Crisis,” on pages 93, 94, and 95. Roach, as is common with all these writers, speaks of the Motherhood of the Infinite, under the name of the “Virgin Sophia.” His language, in the pages referred to and in other places, is somewhat obscure, as if he hesitated to give a clear announcement to views which would be likely to meet with much opposition; but on a careful examination of them, there seems to be no doubt as to his meaning. On page 93 we find the following passage: “That the doctrine of the Sophia, or Wisdom of God, as represented in the
Virgin nature or Female property, is no new thing, will appear from what Solomon has written so peculiarly of her, and from Christ’s own expressions, Luke 7:35.” The passage in Luke is this: “But Wisdom is justified of all her children.” Wisdom here, as Roach understands it and explains it in a brief remark, is the Eternal Mother. And then, speaking of the doctrine farther, he immediately adds, “Nor has it been without peculiar regard in the writings, also, of the ancient Fathers, though by them more generally applied to the Divine Wisdom as derivative in the Son (a meaning which is good and true in its place). But the sense of the Primitive Church, as taking it in the superior sense also, [namely as applicable to the Sophia or Pre-existent Christ] appears from that noted passage of Tertullian versus Hermogenenem, cap. iv.” This passage, which Roach understands as sustaining his views, he quotes and comments upon.

18.—As we approach nearer our own times, we find the same view taken. It differs, it will be noticed, from the generally received view chiefly in going a step farther and indicating, though of course very imperfectly, the nature of the relations existing. The doctrine that the second person of the Trinity as it is frequently denominated by writers, sustains a relation which may properly be expressed by the term Motherhood, is recognized in the views and writings of the sect of the United Society of Believers commonly called Shakers. In the “Summary View,” so called, which is published under the authority of the Society, and contains a brief exposition of their doctrines, it is said, p. 219, speaking of Ann Lee, that the image and likeness of the
Eternal Mother was formed in her as the first-born daughter. And again it is said on the same page, that the “human tabernacle of Ann Lee,” meaning her earthly body, “was but flesh and blood like those of all other women; but it was a chosen vessel, occupied as an instrument by the Spirit of Christ; “that is to say, by the same pure and celestial Spirit which dwelt in Christ. “It is this Spirit,” it is afterward said, “which is the image and likeness of the Eternal Mother.” At page 217 it is remarked in relation to Christ, it was “necessary that the human tabernacle of Jesus should be created by the immediate operation of the Eternal Father and Mother.”

19.—The doctrine, that the Divine Nature is dual in its personalities, and that this duality implies and includes the fact of a divine maternity, is adopted and advocated by the sect known as Bible Communists. The leading doctrines of this people are found in a work entitled the Berean; a work which is characterized by acuteness of thought and reasoning, and by no small share of biblical learning.

“We believe,” says the author of this work in his Preface, in the Duality of the Godhead; and that Duality, in our view, is imaged in the twofold personality of the first man, who was made male and female, Genesis 1:27. The doctrine is brought out more fully in the chapter on the Divine Nature. On page 87 are the following expressions: “For our part, instead of having any repugnance against the idea that God is a bi-personal Being [that is, one in essential nature, but distinct and correlative in dual personalities] we find all our natural prepossessions in its favor. We are quite willing that the indications of the created universe should be true; that woman, as well as man, should have her archetype in the primary sphere of existence; that the Receptive as well as the Active principle, subordination as well as power, should have its representative in the Godhead. And we believe that an unsophisticated child would much prefer the family idea of a dual head over all, a
Father and Mother of the universe, to the conception of a solitary God.”

20.—We will only add further, that the Catholic Church is often regarded, with how much reason we will not undertake to say, as embodying the idea of the Motherhood element which exists in the Infinite, in its recognition of the holy or deific nature of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and in the high honors, and even worship, which it is understood to render to her. In the paintings of the great masters, which often adorn the Catholic churches, and particularly the Cathedrals, the admiring and tearful eye of the worshipper often rests with the deepest reverence and hope upon that benign countenance, which becomes to the eye of faith the imperfect and yet beautiful symbol of the great and overshadowing Maternity, which exists innate and glorious in the Godhead.

21.—Such appears to be the new and dawning thought of the world on this important subject; at first but dimly appearing in the Scriptures; but in accordance with the promise of the great Teacher, who said, “when the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth,” revealed at last with clearer and ever-increasing distinctness by the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of God, or Spirit of universal truth and love, finding its way into and operating intelligently and effectively in the hearts of humble and sincere men; and thus unfolding in these latter days the great and eternal facts which harmonize with and which sustain the progress of humanity.

It is with interest therefore, in opening the volumes of a remarkable man, the late Theodore Parker, who accepted the doctrines of the Absolute Religion while he demurred vigorously to some of the positions of dogmatic theology, that we find him not only announcing God as the primal, unific, and causative principle of things, but also defending the truth, hardly less essential and important, of the Personality of God, and announcing still further, with a boldness and clearness indicative of the strength of his convictions, the duality of the Divine Nature as being Motherhood as well as Fatherhood.