The meaning of Mary Magdalene: love as transformative path

When a new infusion of love is needed, Mary Magdalene shows up
– Cynthia Bourgeault

This morning in Norwich RC Cathedral I saw a poster advertising the forthcoming visit to Norwich of Cynthia Bourgeault which opens with her discussing her book on Mary Magdalene. I am really excited about the book and the opportunity to hear Cynthia talking in person.

Who was Mary Magdalene? In the words of Ken Wilber, she was apostolic leader, feminine archetype, flesh-and-blood human being, beloved, teacher and spiritual master.

Cynthia’s interview with Ken Wilber, in which he quotes extensively from her book, is so good that the whole thing could be quoted verbatim. Here are some choice extracts from the book which Ken quotes:

[On] the emotionally charged question of a possible love relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene…
my conclusion is that such a relationship most likely did exist
and is in fact at the heart of the Christian transformational path…
the kind of relationship I have in mind is not the sentimentalised melodrama our culture commonly holds up as love,
but a spiritual love so refined and luminous as to be virtually unknown in the West today

This healing has unfolded and continues to unfold through the largely unacknowledged infusion of Mary Magdalene’s presence

As with all lovers who have lived to the full the wager that love is stronger than death, the faithfulness of their two hearts resonating across time and space forms a kind of energy channel through which divine compassion pours itself forth as wisdom and creativity

When a new infusion of love is needed, Mary Magdalene shows up
our real choice is whether or not to co-operate

If we can hold her being in its fullness, the payoff is huge
When we see what she is
we see what Christianity really is,
what it could have been,
and, pray to God, can still become

– Cynthia Bourgeault

Later in the interview, again quoting from the book, comes this on the meaning of gnosis as understood in the Christian wisdom tradition which includes Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s most accomplished disciple.

Gnosis speaks of a complete integral knowing, uniting body, mind and heart, and by its very largeness connecting the seen and unseen.

This knowing is not initiatic wisdom
It is not about mystery rituals or secret initiation ceremonies where esoteric information is imparted
The difference between these two kinds of wisdoms can be summed up in a helpful distinction suggested by Ken Wilber between states and stages.

Initiatic rituals can briefly change people’s states
transforming them into ecstatic visions and cosmic consciousness
But gnosis is about stages:
Integral knowledge brought about by the slow unification of one’s being
In the wonderful words of contemporary Jewish teacher Rami Shapiro, it is not
about an altered state of mind, moving from narrow to spacious
but about an altered trait of character, moving from selfishness and fear and narcissism to justice, compassion and humility

Jesus taught gnosis and was a master of gnosis
but he did not change anyone’s states
either by secret rituals or esoteric information
rather he set his disciples upon the only known path to integral transformation
the slow and persistne overcoming of the ego through a lifelong practice of surrender and non-attachment
his gnosis is gradual, conscious and sober

Unlike the canonical gospels which emphasise right belief
These wisdom gospels [Mary, Thomas and Philip] emphasise right practice
They are about transformation

– Cynthia Bourgeault

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~ by scalambra on March 25, 2011.

One Response to “The meaning of Mary Magdalene: love as transformative path”

  1. Often thought that selfishness is a much better equivalent word than the heavily loaded word sinfulness. Jesus as a Gnostic who taught esoteric truths which have been main-streamed into exoteric teachings sounds dead right too.

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