From the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Page 17-18:
“How is it possible that the Teacher talked in this manner with a woman about secrets of which we ourselves are ignorant? Must we change our customs, and listen to this woman? Did he really choose her, and prefer her to us?”
Then Mary wept, and answered him: “My brother Peter, what can you be thinking? Do you believe that this is just my own imagination, that I invented this vision? Or do you believe that I would lie about our Teacher?”
At this, Levi spoke up:
“Peter, you have always been hot-tempered, and now we see you repudiating a woman, just as our adversaries do. Yet if the Teacher held her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Teacher knew her very well, for he loved her more than us. Therefore let us atone, and become fully human [Anthropos], so that the Teacher can take root in us. Let us grow as he demanded of us, and walk forth to spread the gospel, without trying to lay down any rules or laws other than those he witnessed.”
It took a big crash to my ego for me to even consider Jesus Christ might be anyone worth listening to.
I believed in his message of love. I believed that we should love other people, and not judge them, and forgive grievances. But the Christian religion that was born in his name, unfortunately, seemed all about judging, and full of sickness. I saw that people who used his name ubiquitously were people who were ego-centric, who worshipped money and power and domination over other people. I saw a Catholic church that treated women as inferior and covered up widespread pedophilia. I heard story after story of Christian “ministers” who condemned other people to hell because someone didn’t follow their rigid thinking.
I saw so many good people, people who were kind and generous and thoughtful, suffer at the hands of Christianity, and I decided I wanted no parts. I would stay away. I would study Buddhism and yoga and shamanism and any other fucking thing rather than turn to Jesus, because that guy was just scary. The things done in his name were scary. No thank you.
I started reading the Bible for a novel I had written, a novel that was, in fact, a reaction to the trauma of Christianity. In my book, which I felt was delivered to me by some power divine, I presented a matriarchal world before Christianity took precedence. A community of love and togetherness, an appreciation of the female to trust her body and her instincts, a story of what it meant to be a mother. I had grown up without a father myself, so it felt much more natural to me to envision God as Goddess, as a motherly womb we all come from and return to. A place where there is a deep appreciation of the earth and all it provides. A deep appreciation for women and their stories. And an acknowledgment that there are forces that wish to overpower this kind of love and honor of the female, and that those forces came into play to lead us to where we are in contemporary society—a distrust of the feminine.
I read the Bible to get some grounding in how this matriarchal world I’d created, a tribe called Gishira, would fit time-wise into the dominant power of Christianity.
I started getting up early every morning to read the Bible, and I didn’t understand a fucking thing. I really didn’t. The Bible is not beautifully written, and I am a writer. I was frustrated, and many stories I didn’t understand. I didn’t like a lot of what Jesus said. He spoke of division more than union, despite what I had thought he stood for. He talked about dividing families, about leaving families to follow him, about letting the dead bury their dead instead of one guy going home to bury his mom. Who was this guy? What was the deal? Why did people listen to him?
But he did heal people, and I wanted to be healed. I wanted to be healed of the trauma of my past. I wanted a new start, and a clean body, a body that could feel things again.
As I read, and continued to meditate, a change took root in me. It was a change below the level of cognizance. I was welcoming something in that had wanted to be there, something that had been wanting to help, but which I resisted for a long time, because consciously, I was worried about how I’d look, what label I’d get, my own sense of identity. Say the word Jesus and everybody shutters. I did, for a long time. I still worry about saying his name, because it has been tainted and maimed and abused.
Finally I reached a tipping point in my life. I knew I needed to quit my job. I do not judge anyone who takes medication to help with mental anguish, but I also came to know that I could change my circumstance instead of asking for drugs. And I desperately needed to change my circumstance. I was afraid that if I kept my job, I’d become suicidal, because I was deeply unhappy. And then one Monday morning, after a weekend of reflection that showed me I was perfectly healthy and not depressed, I woke up to go to work and was unable to move. My inner voice, the voice I’d long been taught to suppress and not listen to, said I have to quit. I knew it deep in my bones, but I unfortunately did not have another plan. That didn’t matter. I just knew that I had to take that first step, and let the rest fall into place.
Once I did that, and knew it was the right choice—knew without one iota of doubt—I still felt overcome with fear. I had no idea what was next, how I was going to provide for myself and my kids.
And that’s when, on the phone with my father, sobbing uncontrollably until I barely had anything left, he asked if he could pray for me. He asked if I was willing to, as the cliche phrase goes, “accept Jesus.”
Oh, boy. Those words. The way men on the sidewalks hold up signs about your condemnation using those words. The way people with false eyes tell you to accept Jesus and all your problems will be solved.
But baby, I had nothing. I was empty. And I had three kids to care for, and did not want to fall into the pit of despair. So I was willing to try this motherfucker. Fine. I’ll do it. Whatever it takes.
Whatever the fuck it takes.
And baby, the prayer I said as I wept was to please lead me out of the darkness into the light. Please give me the light. I don’t want to be in the darkness anymore. Because I had been there, wanting to die. And I didn’t want to die. I wanted to have an amazing life.
And that good shit rained down all over me. That light filtered through and encompassed me and put a flame in my heart that I felt for days. It woke me up again, it made me alive. I’d felt that kind of thing in meditation before, but this was bigger. This was more powerful. This was True Peace. And it stayed there, and it guided me, and it made all the subsequent pieces fall into place, and it made me calm, and suddenly everything was better. That didn’t mean I knew how the rest of my life was going to go. It just meant I had the peace and calm and confidence to know I could handle it, and all would be okay.
And so I believed.
I am not the kind of person who tells other people what to do. I just know something about suffering, about being at the foot of despair. About living your life paralyzed by fear. And now I know that there is a presence so great, so kind, so loving and filled with good, good fire, that I am willing to chip in to do my part to see if I can help. Because when something gives you your whole life back, and tells you you matter, and starts giving you a reason to live, and helps you see beauty and love everywhere, how can you do anything but say, I’m yours. Take me where you want me to go. I’ll do whatever you ask.
That kind of commitment, though, requires humility, and it requires a rewiring of your ego. It requires operating from your heart and your spirit, and not from a dualistic mind that picks and chooses and judges. And all the spiritual practices I’ve studied talk about a dissolution of the ego. I just didn’t know Jesus was about that, too. Because my experience of him—as a shaman, a yogi, a healer, an enlightened teacher—is much different than the one we’ve been told.
In fact, our Christian culture has been sitting on top of a ton of lies, and I think that I can do something to help make amends.
A little like Mary Magdalene, who has been hidden and suppressed, her words and experiences buried and discounted, not only by her male peers, but by the Christian church who decided to eliminate her gospel from the canonical Bible. We don’t know her, and we’re scared of her. She seems bad. We got the message that she was a prostitute. Or perhaps she was emotional. Dear God. What would we do with a spiritual woman leader who is emotional? A woman who doesn’t fit into a nice little box of virginity?
We may have to rethink some things about the connection of sensuality, femininity, and Jesus. And Mary Magdalene will help us do it, if we open up to her.
Woah! Can the world handle this?
I think so. Because damn, it is so, so worth it. We are so, so ready and ripe for a religion that honors the union of feminine and masculine, that helps the feminine divine break through the surface in a real and sustainable way.
Want to come on this ride with me?
I’m ready to go.
*If you’re curious about the role Mary Magdalene plays—or has the potential to play—in Christianity, here are some resources:
Gospel of Mary (you can read online!)
Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity
(*Cynthia Bourgeault also teaches about the Wisdom stream of Christianity, which is a much more encompassing, mystical approach to Christianity that is healing and enlightening.)
Vezelay Abbey, just one place dedicated to Mary Magdalene in France, which I had the honor to visit: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/vezelay-church