Mary Magdalene seems to be all the rage these days with women such as Kayleen Asbo, who gives compellingly clear and evocative lectures such as “Gnostic Gospels Image of Mary Magdalene.” There’s a strange disconnect from Jesus in her talks however, and in the Magdalene trend generally.
At the end of our communication, I asked Asbo a rather rhetorical question: Isn’t Mary Magdalene divorced from Jesus like the Ganges cut off from its Himalayan source?
Though it may well be true that Magdalene was “the preeminent leader of the Jesus community” following the crucifixion, confusion over Jesus’ execution has continued through the centuries. Magdalene did not resolve it in Judea, or from the cave in France she made her home for 30 years.
As H.G. Wells, of all people, wrote, “Towards the end of the long day of suffering this abandoned leader roused himself to one supreme effort, cried out with a loud voice, “My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” and, leaving these words to echo down through the ages, a perpetual riddle to the faithful, died.”
Does it have to remain a “perpetual riddle?” I don’t feel so, though the attempts by the faithful to resolve it are confusing at best, contorted at worst.
Statements like “Mary Magdalene is known in some of the texts as ‘the woman who knew all,’” and “the most powerful leader of the Apostles” indicate that a hidden agenda is operating. Even if Magdalene was the “most insightful” of the disciples, Jesus was the teacher, not Mary. The need to portray Magdalene as distinct from and equal to Jesus has to more to do with “the divine feminine” movement of our time than whatever the truth of the relationship between Jesus and Magdalene was.
There are three issues in play here—the failure of Jesus’ mission and the riddle of his last words; the relationship between Jesus and Magdalene and its meaning for equality between the sexes; and the nature of truth, whether it is dynamic and singular, or many-sided and kaleidoscopic.
Addressing all three questions in one column seems a fool’s errand, but time and space are short, and they compel the attempt.
Taking the last first, since it provides the foundation for the first two questions, the overwhelmingly conventional idea that the truth is a matter of combining perspectives, which scholars and sophisticated people say we must ‘honor’ (usually while not stating and holding up their own for inquiry) is utterly unworkable.
If truth is a matter of perspective (either ‘my truth’ or multiple viewpoints), there is no such thing as truth. Truth is dynamic and singular. It may not be “the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God,” but there is such a thing as what is, and insight into what is. (That is, the truth with a small ‘t.’ Truth with a capital ‘T’ is another question.)
Regarding the question of the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, it was no doubt (I hesitate to use the phrase)…very special. However holding up Magdalene as the leader of the apostles after Jesus’ crucifixion does nothing to bring insight that relationship, much less make the case that women should now be the leaders.
What happened to equality between the sexes? Undoubtedly, that is what Jesus was about, irrespective of gender, class, station or religion. When and why did domination by women over men become acceptable, though the domination of men over women over the ages has been wrong?
Lastly, when we acknowledge that Jesus’ mission failed, and that it isn’t just ‘another perspective’ to see it, the riddle of his last words becomes clear. Jesus was a human being, however much truth flowed through him, and he didn’t understand what went wrong. Looking back from the present age of darkness, we can understand—if we want to.
With complete negation in meditation, one drinks from the infinite wellspring of creation. Even living in a dead culture like this, as undoubtedly Jesus did in his time (“let the dead bury their dead”), there is renewal in negation, however temporary, of the self and its mental and emotional content.
But it isn’t for that reason, or any reason one negates everything by attending to what is without the separation and judgment of the observer/self. It is for no reason except itself, since completeness in being only comes with the complete negation of becoming.