Sophia Through Time tells the story of a woman who finds herself trapped in our world with no memory of how she got there. Alone, but immortal, she searches for the way out. Her path crosses the lives of many eminent philosophers: Lao Tse, Socrates, Aristotle, Rumi and others . In a series of vignettes (from the unpublished Aristotle’s Beard) we follow her journey through time, confused and perplexed by our world, to finally find liberation.
1. Lao Tse
I know that I’ve lived for hundreds of years, but does that mean anything if time doesn’t mark you? More than once, as a young girl, I struggled through a blighted childhood, became a middle aged chattel and finally a bent crone who only wants to be freed from a body racked by pain and sour memories. Before I could die, time reversed and I became young again. Memories would disappear like sand falling through a sieve, places, people knew, old thoughts and attitudes. By the time I became a carefree ten year old, I’d almost forgotten my name.
Timaeus knows how to throw a good party. Despite the city’s food shortages he manages to produce a spread of shrimp, pickled fish, olives, grapes and many sheep cheeses. The wine flows as if it will never end. Half drunk, the philosophers sprawl on the couches, more interested in rising athletic stars and small city gossip than in ideal societies. Socrates stands in the kitchen door. While he sips his wine he appears to cogitate whether to stand or sit. He studies his friends with gaze notes every detail, not matter how small, but he’d as soon be far away.
Over the many lifetimes of my imprisonment I’ve lived in fear of meeting the old wanderer. He used to be a king, even an emperor, but what else? There my memory fails me. I hoped that he’d forgotten me too, but he hadn’t. One summer evening his shadow crosses the doorway of my Athens home, the house of pleasure where I was staying with two other women. I see a man in worn leather boots, a blue cloak tattered, muddy from a long journey. A large hat covers his head, pulled to one side so only the gleam of a single eye is visible. He resembles Odin of old, but he’s in the wrong country.
4. Simon Magus
(Picture: Disputation with Simon Magus — Filippino Lippi)
From the rooftop I look out over Tyre harbour and at the setting sun. I’ve lived so long in the house that I might have been born there. There are seven of us, Electra, Maia, Merope, Pleione, Calaeno, Asterope and I. I’m not one of the Pleiades. Helen is the name that always belonged to me so Severus let me keep it. Each of us must take at least two clients a day. I enforce the house rules, two denarii payment and no touching until the client has taken a bath. I prefer Greek men for whom lovemaking is a leisurely art; and who pay a little more. Unfortunately most clients are Roman soldiers for whom sex is like relieving themselves. They’ll take whoever is available, climax fast and fall asleep. The hours in a Roman soldier’s embrace pass slowly. I rarely sleep and when I do, I dream of life far away from Severus, where I might live with a man I can respect and love. But how to purchase my freedom? Extra clients have given me a small pile of money but not the mountain I need to satisfy Severus.
5. Mevlana (Rumi)
It had to happen.
I knew that one day he would confront me over what I had done. To most people he was known as Jalal-al-Din, poet and saint, but for me always Mevlana, into whose hands I entrusted my soul. After our bitter parting I hoped never to hear his voice again. Suspecting my complicity in the crime, he cut off all ties. I’m married, now live in Damascus, far enough from Konya to feel safe, but I always knew that I would not escape him. He cannot forget someone so close, who wounded him so deeply.
Next Episode — The Rowan Tree — coming in April