Home Guidelines Reading Alternative Grail Psychonautics
Lydia's Well Gnostique Gaia-Sophia Magdalene Living Myth
Sky Lore 2012 S h i f t Rite Action

 




Up


Bibliography


Seven Classics


Book Reviews


Background

 

 

She Who Anoints


The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen King (Polebridge Press, Santa Rosa, California, 2003)

Karen King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History of Harvard Divinity School, is currently on a roll. In the last eight years she has published three major books of Gnostic studies: Revelation of the Unknowable God (1995), What is Gnosticism? (2003), and the book here reviewed. Revelation of the Unknowable God , a product of seventeen years of research, is her translation and in-depth analysis of a revelation discourse from the Nag Hammadi Library (abbreviated NHL). This is a cache of documents, widely regarded as Gnostic in character, discovered in a cave in Egypt in 1945 and made available in English in 1979. Revelation of the Unknowable God solidly establishes King at the leading edge of the new generation of Gnostic scholars. In What is Gnosticism? Professor King addresses the issue broached in the controversial book by Michael A.Williams, Rethinking Gnosticism(1996), and largely endorses his argument that the term Gnosticism ought to be eliminated from scholarly discourse. In the book here reviewed she declares, "I never call the Gospel of Mary a Gnostic text because there was no such thing as Gnosticism" (p. 156).

These are of course matters to be debated by experts, and The Gospel of Mary of Magdala is a work written by a scholar for other scholars, but some matters are too important to be left to the recognized authorities. For a Magdalene scholar of Gnostic convictions like myself, it is both painful and alarming to watch from inside the field what King and others aligned with her are doing to Our Lady of Wisdom. The issues raised by her book have huge implications for the general perception of Magdalene in popular culture and the collective imagination of our time.

Disciple or Lover?

Although Mary Magdalene cuts a vivid figure in European folklore (see also my review of The Da Vinci Code), the conventional Gospels tell us precious little about her life or person. The profusion of Marys in the New Testament is a puzzle to scholars and non-scholars alike. King resumes all allusions and presumed allusions to MM in the New Testament, but no coherent picture emerges. It remains impossible to determine if Magdalene can be placed among the women associated with Lazurus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, or among the women gathered on Golgotha to witness the Crucifixion. Nor can she with certitude be identified with the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven devils, or the woman who on Maundy Thursday anointed Jesus feet and dried them with her hair. One single point of identification seems to be accepted. The Gospel of John (20:15) indicates that she was the first person to encounter Jesus on Easter Sunday, apparently mistaking him (due to his resurrected state?) for the gardener.

So, finally, what kind of portrait can be made from the textual clues? Reviewing the evidence from non-Gnostic sources, King profiles Magdalene as an early and important disciple of Jesus and a leader in the early Christian movement (p. 149), and distinguishes this respectable figure from the repentant whore of folkloric tradition. She asserts that the Gospel of Mary (the Berlin Codex, BG 8502, the main source material for her book) presents Magdalene in a role closer to her actual position in early Christian history (p. 149) closer, that is, than the repentant prostitute. The effect of this interpretation is to raise the status of Magdalene by distancing her from that tawdry image and underscoring her importance as a real-life player in the historical formation of Christianity.

All this seems to bode well for Magdalene, but does it really? Whether intended or not, the effect of Kings study is to demarginalize Mary of Magdala so that she becomes more acceptable to mainstream Christianity. She is no longer an outsider, no longer an exotic, threatening figure on the sidelines of the Passion. Instead, she is elevated to the rank of the first woman apostle, as the subtitle of the book declares. This is preferable to seeing her as a prostitute.

But how is this enticing and troubling woman, a mysterious figure that has haunted the Western imagination for centuries, affected by being made into a faithful apostle of Jesus? The answer depends, of course, on what one thinks of Jesus and the message attributed to him. It depends also on how one understands Gnostic views of Jesus Christ, views condemned as heretical by early proponents of Christian doctrine. If Mary of Magdala is regarded as a faithful apostle of the Jesus revered in mainstream faith, the Sunday school savior, what happens to the Magdalene of heresy, the Gnostic consort of the other Jesus?

And who is that other Jesus?

According to a Gnostic text, the Gospel of Philip, Jesus is an enlightened sage who shows open affection for his lover, Mary Magdalene (also called Miriam), kissing her on the mouth in public, much to the dismay of his male entourage. She is the koinonos, the consort of the Gnostic master, his most intimate accomplice in love and life. Gnostic texts make it clear that their complicity is both spiritual and sexual. The French-kissing vignette in the Gospel of Philip is a minor scandal compared to another text that describes Jesus and Mary meeting for sex in the mountains and even discussing techniques of oral intercourse (in the Questions of Mary, a lost text paraphrased by Epiphanius: Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha, v. 1, p 328-9).

King remarks laconically, the notion of a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene has surfaced at odd moments throughout Western history and is still capable of arousing a good deal of public ire. (p. 153) Well, if the popularity of Dan Brown's book is any measure of truth, we do appear to be in one of those odd moments. King and scholars of her status may not agree, but this illicit and, to many, blasphemous liaison makes sense within a larger historical perspective than she considers. Gnostic and Biblical scholars rarely look outside their specialist genres, so they may be excused for missing the Tantric character of the alleged relationship between Jesus and Magdalene. And scholars unacquainted with the millennial traditions of Asian sexual mysticism (Hindu, Chinese, Tibetan) would certainly not realize that in those ancient practices, when practiced correctly, the female consort of the master is the true master.

The Denial of Gnosis

In Gnostic terms Jesus is a telestes, an initiate of the Mysteries. The Pagan schools of experimental mysticism existed all over the classical world from Ireland to Egypt, and their origins stretched to times far before the Christian era. The early Christian movement was set in the late Pagan world when the Mysteries still commanded tremendous influence. As a telestes, Jesus is an ordinary mortal gifted with extraordinary knowledge, the flowering of gnosis, transcendent insight. He is a phoster, an illuminator who brings a message of freedom from error and illusion, not redemption from sin.

The Gnostic Jesus is an inspired teacher who does not claim to be a divinity capable by his death of redeeming the world, changing the nature of human suffering, and altering the course of history. Most, though not all, Gnostic texts firmly reject the resurrection and some passages in the NHL even ridicule belief in salvation by attachment to the name of a dead man (The Apocalypse of Peter 74:13-21). Gnostics who protested the rise of Christianity warned that by blind faith of this kind people will become greatly defiled and fall into error, even into the clutch of evil and they will be perversely overwhelmed (Ibid).

When Karen King declares that Gnosticism does not exist, she speaks as a scholar pronouncing her judgement on a categorical term, an -ism invented in the 19th century; but in doing so, she also risks discounting the concrete and undeniable religious and cultural phenomenon to which the label Gnosticism refers. Her curt dismissal of Gnosticism verges on a denial of Gnosis, the illuminist path of Pagan spirituality, as if such a path never existed, or if it did, is irrelevant. But a rich and long-enduring tradition of pre-Christian spirituality akin to Asian mysticism culminated in the phenomenon labelled by that now dispensable term, Gnosticism. And the legacy Gnosis carries for humankind may not be so confidently or easily discounted.

The illuminist path does not carry a magical cure for human suffering, although it offers insight on the all-too-human factors that cause us to suffer and to inflict suffering. Ignorance is the mother of all evil, says one NHL text. Gnostics considered error rather than sin to be the main problem facing humanity. Distinctions such as this characterize the Gnostic protest against Christian Salvationist doctrines, and in turn affect the way we regard Magdalene as a Gnostic teacher in her own right.

But considerations of this sort are not made by Karen King. Instead, she asserts that the early church fathers, who vehemently opposed Gnostic teachings, present her [Magdalene] in a consistently favourable light. She is usually mentioned to support points they are trying to make about the reality of physical resurrection or the nature of the soul. (p. 149) In other words, Magdalene is acceptable in support of doctrinal belief of the apostolic succession. Thus, King not only rejects the term Gnosticism, but also gives an anti-Gnostic spin to the central feminine model of Gnosis.

Pagan Virtues

King sidelines the penitent whore, as noted above, only to reintroduce her as a model of human weakness:

    The role of the repentant prostitute is symbolically appealing in its own right. It has proven itself to be a much more evocative figure than that of Mary as Jesus wife or lover. The image of Mary as the redeemed sinner has nourished a deep empathy that resonates with our human imperfection, frailty, and mortality. The fallen redeemer figure has enormous power to redeem (p. 153).

In this skilful and seamless feat of scholarly co-optation, King assimilates Magdalene to the whole agenda of Salvationist values and quasi-magical attributes, including the trump card, the redemptive value of suffering. I am kindly informed by a close friend that the word Pagan has no currency except in arcane discussions among scholars. Nevertheless, I offer my vain attempt to define a key aspect of Pagan spirituality that relates intimately to the myth and person of Magdalene. By contrast to the glorification of suffering through the sacrifice of the racial Messiah (Jewish) or the Divine Redeemer (Christian), Paganism attributed no redemptive value to suffering, although it did allow that suffering has a profound bonding effect, similar to that of love. In the Pagan view, suffering grounds us as individuals in the universal human condition, and it may, if faced honestly and compassionately, teach us some crucial lessons about being sane and humane.

By evaluating Magdalene (even in a seemingly positive light) against the standards of a non-Pagan creed, King makes it difficult for anyone not versed in Gnostic texts and thought to realize how Magdalene may represent an entirely different set of values, such as honor, self-love, independence, beauty of character and person, moral and physical courage, and willingness to accept suffering as an inevitable fact of human existence but not as a transcendent device. Suffering to be born with dignity rather than despised as a divine curse in need of redemption by a higher power. Imagine that: Mary Magdalene as a paragon of Pagan virtues. But there are no Pagan virtues (as we all know, because we are told so), just as there are no Gnostic teachings worthy of the name. Or, apparently, this scholar would have it.

King continues:
    And indeed Mary Magdalene has been a figure of importance not just for patriarchy, where too often Gregory's praise of a woman who immolated herself in order to burn out every delight she had had in herself has resulted in untold anguish, physical abuse and self-destruction. Nonetheless, women are not only victims, but like all people are agents of their own lives, and so women have often interpreted her in ways that were unanticipated and no doubt not entirely welcomed. From the second to the twenty-first century, women prophets and preachers have continued to appeal to her to legitimate their own leadership roles (p.153).
In the spin applied here, Mary Magdalene is important for contributing to the patriarchal dominator system, even when she empowers women to seek leadership roles within or against that system. (Few women I have known who identify with Mary Magdalene find acceptance within the dominator system to be their calling.) As for the penitent whore who immolates herself and burns out every delight she has in her body, I suggest that this image is wickedly confounded with that of countless women who were immolated for being witches, burned for burning with loveliness and delight, for adoring their own sensuality, for learning from natures mysteries, for teaching the sacredness of the Earth and healing by its powers, and precisely for not denying the delight in their bodies, and the wisdom that plays in that delight, but living it out, sharing and celebrating it. To many women today, this mystique of corporeal wisdom is the inspiring example of Mary of Magdala. It is also the interpretation of her personality consistent with much of the Gnostic teaching. There is no hint of such a woman in King's book.

The Mystique of MM

King builds her impressive case on the slim textual evidence of the Gospel of Mary, a non-NHL text that surfaced in 1896 in Berlin. Four fragmentary versions are extant, but even the longest one, Berolinensis 8502, known as the Berlin Codex, is missing the first six pages. King's translation of several compiled variants does not fill five pages of her book. She skilfully uses brief passages and even single words from the Berlin compilation to extrapolate the person and mission of Mary of Magdala as the first and most faithful apostle. In her inventory of textual references or supposed references to Magdalene, she largely ignores Gnostic materials that could be cited to profile her subject along quite different lines.

King's book is an outstanding piece of scholarly exegesis on her chosen text, but an extremely narrow and misdirecting treatment of Magdalene. If the Gnostic Jesus is a messenger of enlightenment, not a messiah whose suffering redeems the world, the suffering attributed to the figure of the penitent whore may hold a different meaning. Regardless of what scholars think, Mary of Magdala carries a mystique that surpasses textual and historical discussion. This woman is numinous. In King's work what might be called the mythic dimension of Magdalen'es personality (in Jungian terms, her archetypal power) has been demolished, along with the Gnostic and Pagan background against which she can best be measured.

In the Sophia of Jesus Christ , Magdalene (called Miriam) discourses on matters of the highest import to humanity. In the Dialogue of the Saviour, the Gnostic master, presumed to be Jesus but not so named, declares that Magdalene is the one who reveals the truth of the revealer. In Kings set-piece, the Gospel of Mary, the Lord, not identified with Jesus, speaks like a Buddhist master, telling her: "Where the mind is, there is the treasure" (GMary 7:4, discussed by King, p. 65). But if the presumed Jesus of Gnostic tradition speaks in this way, so can Magdalene, for she is regarded as the woman who knows all, whose word and wisdom are equal to that of the Lord.

The Pistis Sophia Magdalene portrays MM as having secret and superior knowledge of Jesus mission -- indeed, having just the knowledge that complements and completes his work in the world. She embodies wisdom (Greek Sophia) as much as Jesus embodies divinity. She is not a follower who repeats the message she has received from a higher authority. She is no mere disciple but an equal, a co-creator. All this pertains to heretical views of Jesus and Magdalene, derived from schools of Gnostic illuminism so detested by early Christians that they demolished every evidence of the Mysteries, destroyed innumerable writings of Pagan spirituality, and, if they did not murder them publicly, as they did with Hypatia of Alexandria, hounded Gnostics into exile and extinction. King's exegesis of the Gospel of Mary belongs to this legacy of sexual apartheid and suppression.

The perennial mystique of MM resides in large measure in her mythic, cosmological identity. Gnostics would have regarded her as the embodiment of the Fallen Sophia, the goddess figure central to their creation myth. The divine Sophia was called the Whore of Wisdom. This cosmological motif is certainly the origin of the prostitute image attached to Magdalene. She was not a sole embodiment of Sophia in the sense of a divinity made flesh, once and once only, but a good-enough reflection in human terms (to borrow a term from the developmental psychology of D. W. Winnicott). In the mythologized morality that uniquely marks Gnostic teaching, Jesus is a wise man who teaches the way of the Anthropos, the authentic human spirit, and Magdalene is a wise woman who does the same. Their teachings are complementary. In the Gnostic view, the true and entire teaching on humanity has to come from both sides, both genders. The role of the Gnostic Magdalene is not one of female authority equal to man in expounding scripture and inculcating moral dogmas, it is a model of balanced spirituality.

An article in Newsweek (December 8, 2003) containing a full page photo of Karen King, cites John Dominic Crossan of DePaul University in Chicago: "Let's not continue the relentless denigration of Mary Magdalene by reducing her importance to a sexual connection with Jesus. Shes not important because she was Mrs. Jesus." Dr. Crossan is either incapable of comprehending the Gnostic profile of MM, or simply refuses to acknowledge it. He dismisses the current debate on the sexuality of Jesus (started with Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1981, and now revived by Dan Brown's bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, slated to become a film) as an insult to Magdalene, and insists that she is not important as Mrs. Jesus. But even if Jesus and Magdalene were married -- an unlikely prospect in the Gnostic-Tantric version of the story -- the point is that they were gender counterparts who co-created a message about the nature of our common humanity. The ideal humanity presented by the human Jesus, and elevated into an ideological phantom as Christ, is incomplete without its feminine half. The outrageous connection between Jesus and Magdalene is sexual and theological, ethical and cosmological, exactly as Gnostics represented it.

A Gnostic Warning

King emphasizes the paramount importance of the Greek theological term, Anthropos, but astonishingly without allusion to its Gnostic provenance. Reaching for a humanistic tone, she translates uios tou anthropou as the child of true Humanity rather than as Son of Man, the conventional term. She cites Mary saying of the Lord, "We should praise his greatness, for he has prepared us and made us true Human beings" (5:7-8). King adds: "The notion of the perfect Human (Coptic ptome ntelios; Greek teleion anthropon) refers to the Saviour's earlier admonition to find the child of true Humanity within" (p. 60-1). This is specific Gnostic terminology from the Mystery Schools, lifted from its source without acknowledgement. Teleion anthropon can be translated as ultimate humanity, ultra-human, or even initiated humanity. It refers not to a special status of being, but a self-awareness that comes through exceptional insight (gnosis) into the Anthropos, the authentic spirit of humanity.

The Anthropos doctrine was central to the Gnostic worldview, as all scholars admit. It was co-opted and turned into the divine humanity of the hybrid, Jesus/Christ, by Christian ideologues. The doctrine of the God-man presents an ideal that no human can match. It is a potent archetypal model, though certainly a pathological one. The spin into pathology is inherent in the story of Jesus ordeal, for the story says that he is unjustly murdered, and by so dying becomes the divine victim whose death redeems the world. The Pauline ideology of the glorified victim was specifically targeted by Gnostics who warned of deviant ideas coming from a clever man and his manifold dogma. This warning occurs in the Gospel of Philip, cited by King (p. 166) who concurs, as most scholars do, that it likely refers to Saint Paul.

The Pauline Jesus Christ is not the Gnostic Anthropos, and Magdalene is not a woman who would teach such doctrines. Yet King says that she was a prominent Jewish disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, leaving us to assume that the Jesus in question was presumably historical and can be, if we so wish, identified with the Christ of Paul. At least King says nothing to the contrary, nothing to obviate such assumptions. This being so, we are left with the impression that Mary of Magdala, now elevated to the rank of the first apostle, must have expounded Pauline doctrines or, at the very least, faithfully repeated the teachings of Jesus, whatever they might have been.

Down to the last page of her book, King is deeply ambiguous on the distinction between the religious ideology attached to Jesus, the Son of God, and the ethical message of Jesus, the spiritual teacher. She concludes her book by stating: "The Gospel of Mary and other works argue energetically that the appropriation of Jesus teachings points the way to true discipleship and salvation" (p. 190). Apparently she means that Mary of Magdala represents someone who appropriates Jesus message but does not propound the ideological doctrines attached to the Jesus/Christ hybrid. But what aspects of Jesus message does Magdalene embrace, and how does she represent his message in a uniquely feminine way? Kings study throws no light on these issues, even though her identification of Magdalene as the first apostle clearly raises them.

Going Beyond Belief

It is always the same problem with Christianity, this split between what Jesus himself said (the true message) and what was said about him and his teachings (the ideological program). The problem is insurmountable as long as the belief persists that the ideals of humanity must be dictated to us by a model of ideal humanity, the superhuman god-man. But if it is not impossible ideals we need, but attainable humane values and ways to actualise them, and if there is no ideal humanity to teach this, but only the divine wisdom potential in us, our Gaian endowment to unfold, then this belief is erroneous and will be extremely harmful. As a human or good-enough reflection of Sophia, divine wisdom, Magdalene represents a resource within both men and women, the force of that precious insight (gnosis) by which human potential can be nurtured. This is her anointing of the Christ within, if such a term be allowed.

In Gnosticism there was no comparable split between the message and its source. The cosmological and moral aspects of Gnostic spirituality form a coherent unit. Mary Magdalene was a reflection of a deific principle, the Aeon Sophia, and she was a carnal woman who taught human truth without transcendental pretence. "On the cosmos we have taken our stand, and to the world we are transparent." These are her words from the Dialogue of the Savior. Transparency of the message as well as the messenger is a Gnostic criterion.

In Kings subtitle, Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, Jesus comes first. According to the Newsweek article, Magdalene presents a model that inspires women of today to find a place in the modern church, correct the male misreading of key texts, and legitimate the female contribution to religious history. But the male misreading of sacred texts may be no worse than the female misreading, especially where Magdalene is concerned. The trouble with all such exhortation is that women still end up in church, bound to the scriptures, locked in the dominant belief-system and identified with the history of the dominator culture where Jesus comes first: i.e., dominates, prevails.

But if Magdalene is seen to be on the side that lost out to the dominators, the Roman and Catholic alliance of historical Christianity, then she represents today, not a model of female participation in apostolic succession, but an inspiration to dissent against the entire con-game of scripture and authority. She represents for men and women alike the option to break away from religious control by taking the path of spiritual insight that goes beyond belief: Gnosis.

The co-creatorship of Jesus and Magdalene, focused on presenting the Anthropos doctrine, was celebrated in Gnostic writings that have now been sidelined by some religious scholars. The result is the same old same old version of our HIStory. King claims that in the first centuries of the Common Era Christian community constituted a new humanity, in the image of the true Human within. (p. 189) This will come as a fine reassurance to many, but an outrageous pretence to others. The notion that early Christians discovered the meaning of humanity unknown to anyone before them is typical of the arrogance of religious creed, most especially of monotheism. The mere suggestion that Christians, then or now, represent the human species in some unique manner, better and more deeply than other people, does not belong in the careful exegesis of a scholar. The teaching on the true Human within is not the monopoly of Christianity or its kin belief-systems, Judaism and Islam.

The Anthropos, authentic humanity, was presented by Gnostics in the Mysteries centuries before the Christian era, and is clearly reflected in the Purusha of Asian mysticism, ante-dating the Abrahamic creeds by millennia. This teaching was suppressed, co-opted and finally consigned to oblivion by self-declared representatives of Christianity. Pagan intellectuals in the time of Jesus viewed the doctrine of the redemptive value of suffering as horrific superstition. Now Magdalene herself is updated and touted at a faithful instrument of this anti-Pagan, trans-human and, in the end, inhumane creed. (No scholar has observed that a transhuman ideal attached to an inhumane creed can throw the entire human species into a schizophrenic spin, but radicals such as D. H. Lawrence and R. D. Liang have done so with great lucidity. Lawrence's Apocalypse, published in 1931, says more about Christian origins than a dozen Professor Kings, and in The Politics of Experience Liang explains how our very capacity to experience can be destroyed by schizophrenic double-binds as seen in the Judeo-Christian ideology of salvation.)

Perhaps the way Magdalene has been portrayed by popular imagination as maudlin, sad and suffering, can now be viewed in a different light. What if she is immersed, not in penitence, but grief? For all we have lost about knowing ourselves. For the bond to Gaia ruptured. For wisdom perverted. Perhaps she is not sorry for what she did, but for what we are doing to ourselves.


Goddess Reclamation

For some today, Gnosticism is not an obsolete term but a living experience. Gender warfare lies at the heart of Christianity, the authors of the Newsweek article rightly tell us, but gender harmony lies at the heart of Gnosticism. To the extent that Pagan religions reflected the ethics of the Goddess-oriented societies from which they derived, they were tolerant and egalitarian. Gnostic teachings were the exotic flower of Pagan spirituality. The alleged new image of humanity discovered by early Christians (as the dominant version of history tells us) did not, and still largely does not, tolerate other views on what it means to be male or female or for that matter, to be human.

Text-bound to history, and claiming to be the main moral shaping force in history, Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion has not delivered positively on sexual mores. On the contrary, it has produced centuries of shame, repression, misogyny, and sexual apartheid (the last, particularly in Islam). But the message of Gnosis reaches beyond history and the historical conditioning of sexual stereotypes. AsDolores LaChapelle writes, referring to deep ecology:

    It is not limited by being trapped within the entire Greek, Christian, humanistic tradition. Its a much bigger concept based on the essential nature of human beings for at least the last 50,000 years; not the distortions humanity has imposed upon itself within the last short span of 2000 years (Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep, p. 10).

Well, the same could be said of Gnosticism, which might be defined as the deep ecology of the human soul. Its roots long precede the complex of beliefs initially formulated in Middle Eastern political agendas slimly disguised as religion, agendas that now support the global machinations of the pathological dominator system (to borrow Ralph Metzners term). The plague of the global society today that is, religiously legitimated terrorism or defence against it, framed in the same righteous preachments -- has arisen from the fusion of the Abrahamic creeds with the highest idealism of the Hellenistic Era, transmitted down the ages through Platonic rationalism and Athenian pedagogy. But, as D. H. Lawrence said many years ago, The gospel of salvation through the Ideals and escape from the body coincided with the tragic conception of human life. Salvation and tragedy are the same thing, and they are both now beside the point. (Cited by LaChapelle, ibid.)

Magdalene belongs to the older and deeper roots of our story. She was before Christ and the Prophets. The mother of Jesus is but a version of the Great Mother, Gaia, who indwells the planet. Before Magdalene was the consort of the Gnostic master, she was the heirodule, the Pagan priestess who anointed kings and theocrats. The groundwork studies of Merlin Stone, Barbara Walker, Monica Sjoo, and a large team of other women scholars involved in Goddess reclamation bring into high relief the ancient image of the mysterious empowering woman, the sacred prostitute.

Magdala is a place name, perhaps the hometown of one version of Our Lady, but it is also a variant of amygdala, almond, and a Pagan allusion to the shape and scent of female genitalia. The amygdala is a region of the cerebellum that releases intoxicating nectars in mystic states of heightened awareness. To produce this awareness in a man and guide him with it through states of higher knowing was the sacred work of the initiating priestess: she who anoints. The consort is the true master. By steeping the royal candidate in ecstatic revelations of the Goddess, she qualified him for kingship. The heiros gamos of priestess and king modelled sexual equality for pagan theocracies. The wanton attributes of the sacred prostitute were inherent to her wisdom-bestowing powers. As free agents commanding respect for their sexuality, the priestesses of Sophia, the Whore of Wisdom, were beyond approbation and condemnation alike. They modelled womans autonomy in the gylanic (sexually and spiritually balanced) social systems they helped to establish.

Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning anointed. In ancient times kings and theocrats were anointed with precious oils to symbolize their authority. But who was the anointer? It must have been a superior agency because the anointer is the one who empowers the sacred king, the messiah, christos, the anointed. The one who confers power is anterior to the one who receives it.

Rather than suppress the magic of Mary of Magdala and deny her mythic dimension as the sacred whore, current advocates of Gnosis would celebrate the meaning of these ancient rites and revelations. Sophianic Gnosis is an instrument of the wisdom endowment of our species, our divine birthright. Any study of Magdalene that does not take her whorish manners seriously into account is cheating us of that birthright.

JLL: March 2004

 


Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2014 by John Lash.