Original writings by Tereza Coraggio available by permission of the author.
Ask and you shall receive!
When we were Hebrews, we were orphans
and had only our mother,
but when we became Christians, we had
both father and mother.
Gospel of Philip 6
The image of the infant who hasn't learned to smile is picturesque, but the reality behind this sweet phrase is patriarchy. The newborn baby is "kept in seclusion". How does that work? Oh, they mean with the women, who don't count. The father teaches it to laugh? Okay, if they say so. Does the mother strictly refrain from smiling at the baby in the meantime, to keep the baby from smiling back? Does a three-month old who's never been smiled at suddenly gurgle and coo contentedly at this stranger they call her father? The baby gets a superior soul from his father, with the name identical to his destiny. No wonder the rest of this passage from the Tao claims the inferior soul as its preferred state. Nothing could be less Tao than the desire to be superior.
But what men do to save their pride doesn't necessarily hurt us. Three months, relieved of all family duties, to bond with a newborn is heaven. What a balm to sanity if the other women tend to you, take care of your family and help with the transition. A three-month abstinence after childbirth seems more designed to curb the husband than wife - let them call it purification if they like. As deftly as a tai kwon do master, Lao Tzu flips the patriarchal system through its own imbalance. He rejects the infant's rite of passage into society and status when he ends, "I alone drink from the breasts of the Divine Mother." To be removed from society is to move backwards into the time of being sequestered. The origin of the word "sequester" comes from Latin sequesterāre, to place in safekeeping, derived from sequī - to follow or one who attends. What a delightful state: to be in safekeeping, sequestered to attend to the Divine Mother's breasts.
Is Philip doing something revolutionary or merely claiming the superior status of Christianity by saying that, as Hebrews, they knew only their mother? Even when the God of Genesis evolved into the God of the Covenant throughout the Torah, He remained He. Was the God who parted the Red Sea a girly-kind of God? How about the booming voice from the fire on Mt. Sinai? It seems the ultimate insult to say that the Hebrews knew only their mother. But maybe the emphasis should be on having a mother, not "only" a mother, and maybe not all the Hebrews had her.
Who is the divine mother of the Hebrews? The gnostics were an intentional mystical community born of the Spirit. Through ritual, they invited revelations from the Spirit. Through the synagogue, they shared the insights of the Spirit. Through the law, they honored the intentions of the Spirit. The Spirit would seem to be the voice of their Mother. The relationship to the Spirit is a unique, one-to-one communication. It's an actively receptive state, a way of being dependant and creative at the same time, like a child to a mother. The ancient word for the Spirit was Sophia, or Wisdom. You can't choose to receive Wisdom, as a child can't feed themselves. But perhaps Sophia didn't refuse her breast to anyone who reached for it.
If the Hebrews had achieved this level of communal, mystical readiness, they were far ahead of us as Christians today. Both the Tao and A Course in Miracles stress not-doing, the non-striving way of letting right-action come to you. Although Christianity has a contemplative tradition, it's considered an exceptional way of life for a select few. We have no dialogical community sharing the insights and revelation, like the synagogue. Prophecy and visions among the congregation are not encouraged. If we're drinking from the breast of the Great Mother, we'd better keep it to ourselves. So if we've forgotten our mother, do we stand a prayer of discovering our father without her help?
I can't help but suspect that Joseph helped him to this realization by being an example of a fair and equal father. Whether Yeshua's brothers and sisters were by blood or step-siblings, we know that several of his disciples, men and women, were family. If Yeshua were the youngest of much older step-siblings, as the infancy narrative of James indicates, it's particularly remarkable that he would be supported as the leader. James is a well-respected rabbi, yet he becomes a follower. There's no evidence of contention or competition among family members. If nothing else within the scriptures is, this alone is evidence of miracles.