Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

The regular meditation schedule resumed today. This Sunday we will have a discussion of the role of women in early Christianity, with special emphasis on the curious case of Mary Magdalene. Immediately after the shift in consciousness experienced in 2002, a deep interest in and resonance with the teachings of Jesus emerged spontaneously. I began to read the four Gospels, as I was primarily interested in the direct teachings straight from Jesus, not interpretations via Paul, Peter, or others. I was struck by several observations. First, Jesus was continuously exasperated with how poorly his male disciples understood his teachings, even though they were with him full time. And second, it seemed that Mary Magdalene had a huge role to play in the Christ story of the crucifixion (she was at the foot of the cross with Christ's mother Mary) and the resurrection (she was there at the tomb, again with his mother). I intuited that she was the only disciple of Jesus who was fearless and who truly understood his teachings. 

Over the next few years, I read some of the Gnostic gospels, especially the wonderful Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala. This latter text was originally discovered in 1896, but not translated into English and published until 1955. Reading the surviving excerpts from The Gospel of Mary of Magdala (available here: http://gnosis.org/library/marygosp.htm) confirmed the intuitive knowing of the primacy of Mary in the Jesus story. In today's talk we will review this Gospel, as well as consider the role of women in early Christianity. How did Mary, the natural successor/primary interpreter of Jesus, get relegated to such a secondary role that by the 6th century Pope Gregory had declared her to be a prostitute, inaccurately conflating several other women in the Bible with Mary of Magdala? Why was the official position of the Catholic Church that Mary, the apostle to the apostles, was a prostitute and 'fallen woman' not rectified until 1969? And how did women, who were pivotal figures in the early church, become such second-class citizens in the Church, a travesty that continues until the present day? Here is a link to "an imaginative interpretation of The Gospel of Mary. Watch as the text becomes art through the animation of Elizabeth Honer and the storytelling of Dr. Althea Spencer Miller. Hear anew of the inter-connectedness of life, the ascent of the soul, and the call to face fears through this early Christian scripture." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCSplV9bC3Q

Below is a link to an interesting article about Paramhansa Yogananda's meeting with Therese Neumann, in 1935.


Although Therese will not be the focus of the talk, we will briefly discuss her experience as it reminds me of both Saint Teresa of Avila, who spent the first 6 years of life in her convent totally bed ridden, and Padre Pio, who had very similar stigmata. 

"Yogananda later revealed that Therese had been Mary Magdalene in a past life, and for this reason was blessed with Christ’s wounds and the weekly visions. He explained that Therese’s life was intended to reassure Christians everywhere of the authenticity of Jesus’ life and crucifixion as recorded in the New Testament, and to show the ever-living bond between Christ and his disciples. Yogananda also said that Therese was a jivan mukta, a free soul who enjoyed the highest state of nirbikalpa samadhi."


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