Will the Real Mary Magdalene Please Stand Up?

In the forty years (or so) that I have been working with Mary Magdalene I have come across at least a million different theories about who she was/is, what her life looked like, where she lived, who she slept with and who her children might be. In the twenty years (or so) that I have been actively studying and researching the Magdalene, I have read at least a hundred books specifically dedicated to her which also bears their own theories of the Magdalene. Some call her an Ascended Master, others an Essene High Priestess, others a prostitute, others an adulterous woman, others the Sang Grael and the mother of a dynasty of European kings and queens (Jesus’ own progeny), and some claim her as a goddess.  Most of these books are based entirely on theory, oral legend or claim to have been “directly channeled” from the Magdalene herself.

Scholars who study the Magdalene refrain from making such claims and instead stick to what they are able to glean from archeological evidence, scripture itself, and ancient re-discovered manuscripts. My personal preference is to lean toward a more scholarly approach while avoiding the temptation to either define the Magdalene or condemn another’s theory.  It is for this reason that I call my book Song of the Beloved – the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene fiction.  At the end of the day, unless we were there, we know nothing certain about the Magdalene, and until we have passed from this plane, we will never know.

All that being said, I cannot discount the direct, personal experiences and revelations I have had of the Magdalene (and Jesus) through my meditation and prayer. These revelations have guided and informed my work – my writing and publishing, but most importantly, these revelations guided and informed the human development courses that I have developed and which now make up the Magdalene Priest/ess Training.  This work is rooted in scripture (canonical as well as non-canonical) and embraces the rich tradition of Christian contemplative meditation and prayer practices as its foundation. This work is further supported by modern theories of human development as they have been expressed through Humanist and Transpersonal Psychology.

Through the integration of scholarly research and personal revelation, what I have come to understand about the Magdalene and the view I present to the world is that:

  • She was not the adulterous woman of scripture.
  • The “healed of seven demons” said of her is likely referring to a formal process of initiation that supported her journey of self-actualization which she underwent with Jesus’ guidance, successfully completed, and then went on to teach others.
  • She is the only one is scripture said to have completed such a process.
  • She stood beside Jesus (unlike his other disciples who hid in the Upper Room) through his trial, crucifixion, death and burial.
  • She was the one to whom the Resurrected Christ was revealed and THE ONE commissioned to bring the news to the other disciples.
  • She continued to have direct, personal and private visitations by Christ through which he imparted upon her his secret teachings. When she tried to share these teachings with the other disciples they ridiculed and condemned her.

All of these “theories” of the Magdalene are taken directly from scripture and affirmed through scholarship (See resources below).

Beyond this, I personally like to believe that Jesus and Mary were husband and wife and that they were equal, co-ministers in sharing the law of love. I also like to believe that Mary is the only one to have received the full understanding and knowledge of what Jesus came to teach and that she was chosen by Jesus to continue his work.  Legend tells us that she went forth from Palestine and ventured to Alexandria, Egypt, the South of France and perhaps even Glastonbury, England in her journey of sharing the message of love.  None of this can be verified, but it resonates as truth to me.

While these are the “truths” I embrace regarding the Magdalene, to none of these am I attached, because again, unless we were there, we will never know. What I have come to understand about the Magdalene is that she reveals herself to us in the ways that are consistent with our temperament, our personalities, our unique lens into the world and in concert with our unique giftedness and calling in this life.  As such, the Magdalene has revealed herself to me through the lens of my Catholic-Christian upbringing and education and through the reasoned lens of scholarship where the scientific method might provide some assurance of truth.  For others, she reveals herself as an Essene High Priestess, a Priestess of Isis, a pseudo-pagan priestess and goddess, to others an Ascended Master and to others still, the Goddess herself.

As St. Paul once said of himself, Mary Magdalene has become all things for all people for the sake of fulfilling her mission which is to complete the mission that Jesus began of turning our world from one in fear to one ruled by and for the purpose of love.

And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion, to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come, the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem.

Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in labor? Writhe and groan,O daughter Zion, like a woman in labor; for now you shall go forth from the city and camp in the open country; you shall go to Babylon.

There you shall be rescued, there the Lord will redeem you from the hands of your enemies.

Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be profaned, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.” But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter Zion, for I will make your horn iron and your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples,  and shall devote their gain to the Lord,  their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

Micah 4: 8-13

 

Select Resources

Bourgeault, Cynthia, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene – Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity, Shambhala Publications, 2010.

Haskins, Susan, Mary Magdalene – Myth and Metaphor, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993.

Hoeller, Stephan, Gnosticism – New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing, Quest Books, 2002.

Johnston, William (Ed.), The Cloud of Unknowing, Image Books, 1973.

King, Karen, L., The Gospel of Mary of Magdala – Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, Polebridge Press, 2003.

Leloup, Jean-Yves, Judas and Jesus – Two Faces of a Single Revelation, Inner Traditions, 2006.

Leloup, Jean-Yves, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Inner Traditions, 2002.

Leloup, Jean-Yves, The Gospel of Philip, Inner Traditions, 2003.

Leloup, Jean-Yves, The Gospel of Thomas, Inner Traditions, 2005.

Leloup, Jean-Yves, The Sacred Embrace of Jesus and Mary – The Sexual Mystery at the Heart of the Christian Tradition, Inner Traditions, 2005.

MacDermot, Violet, The Fall of Sophia – A Gnostic Text on the Redemption of Universal Consciousness, Lindisfarne Books, 2001.

Malachi, Tau, The Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas – Meditations on the Mystical Teachings, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2004.

Malachi, Tau, Gnosis of the Cosmic Christ – a Gnostic Christian Kabbalah, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2005.

Malachi, Tau, Living Gnosis – A Practical Guide to Gnostic Christianity, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2005.

Malachi, Tau, St. Mary Magdalene – The Gnostic Tradition of the Holy Bride, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2006.

Pagels, Elaine, Beyond Belief – The Secret Gospel of Thomas, Random House, 2003.

Schwan, Marie, Syrup-Bergin, Jacqueline, Take and Receive Series – Love, Forgiveness, Birth, Surrender, Freedom, Word Among Us Press, 2004.

 

 

 

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