A writer, if they’re lucky, doesn’t know what time it is. A writer, if they’re lucky, doesn’t know which day of the week it is. Hours, days, weeks, months, are nothing more than Now… and Now is anytime. It’s any place the work is.
As Mary Magdalene, I studied in the Great Library of Alexandria. And when I was done filling my head with the knowledge of the world, I walked the land of what Rome called Palestine with Jesus. I was his teacher. I was his Beloved Companion. And we talked to all who would listen as I worked for seven years on The Secret Magdalene.
I was born during the last part of the fourth century to Alexandria’s leading mathematician breathing the air of of Rome’s Egypt as Hypatia . In my time, I was exalted beyond all women and most men, and then, still young, still fair, still revered by thousands, I was cruelly brought down by a few in a way hard to comprehend. And when that was done, the world tried to forget me.
I was pampered and rich, white and foolish in the city of San Francisco. It was the Roaring Twenties and I fell in love with a man forbidden to me, a man I destroyed in China Blues.
I was a writer, a woman who destroyed herself in a small town in a sweet slice of green called Vermont… or perhaps I recreated myself? Running from what I had done, I found a haunted hotel to die in. Or to live in forever. As I wrote Houdini Heart, I did not plan or plot or scheme. The work simply came with barely a change of word when it was finished. I don’t know if my hotel was haunted. I don’t know if everything is haunted, but I suspect it is.
Over my own years, the years I live as Ki, these things come to me. They are almost easy now. But only because I prepared for their coming. I learned how to write by reading. I learned how to write by writing. I took no course. I followed no rules but those that seemed mine. They were never mine. Story telling is ancient and all who listen know when a story is right and when it is wrong. They did not get taught this. Humans are born to tell stories or to hear them.
If the life you live seems pale to you, uneventful, unimportant, all that can change with a word. Even better, with thousands of words. Read them or write them. Better, do both. And you too will forget what time it is and your life will seemingly last forever.
Writers and artists have often stood up for social and political beliefs. They’ve been silenced for it, sent to Stalin’s Siberia or Hitler’s concentration camps for it, stood up against walls. Hell only knows exactly what the Chinese or Koreans or Muslim terrorists do. But it’s bad. I’m not that kind of writer. I love what artists make, I care deeply about our planet and all lifeforms on it that are essentially innocent of its destruction, namely very young children, all animals, most women. In the historical novel form I write about what I know is the answer to human fear and greed and the insanity that grows from these like tumors. In The Secret Magdalene and in Flow Down like Silver I write in the hope I am able to give people that answer: awakening. Not to set aside the ego. The ego is a necessary tool to live in the world. But we have exalted the ego high above the spirit. And the ego is afraid and it works not for the good of all, but for its own perceived safety and gain.
I become more and more political now. As a species we have been destructive in so many ways for so long. The Earth could, until recently, accommodate our selfish wasteful violence. But we are fast reaching a time when it can’t accommodate us. The Earth has known almost the complete eradication of life at least 6 times. Over billions of years, it blooms again. This time, the eradication of life will take us with it: the pollution of the environment, the death of the sea, the extinction of every sort of other living form but ours, Monsanto’s evil design on owning genetically altered seeds, outlawing the use of natural seeds, and poisoning the land with pesticides, Big Oil’s hideously irresponsible dirty oil pipeline across Canada and the US. These terrible things will not take the Earth. As ever, the Earth will survive. But we won’t. Short term greed and fear and the insane need for power will take us down as a species. So I become political… something I thought I would never again do after watching the calculating media’s (spurred on behind the scenes) destruction of the brilliant and caring Howard Dean as a presidential candidate. I sign almost every petition sent me by Moveon.org or Dean’s “Democracy for America.” Does it do any good? Yes, it does. Loss of votes means loss of power. Those who have or seek power care about this.
But there is really only one true answer to all this madness. For every soul on Earth to know its source, to KNOW it is divine. Well, perhaps not all, but for enough to wake up in love and grace and understanding that ALL is One. “Enough” means millions.
What we do to what we see as “others,” we do to ourselves. And others do not include only what we call human, it means ALL others: plants, other species, the Earth itself.
If only millions could awake NOW to what we truly are and to what those still asleep are doing. Pipe dream? Perhaps.
But then I am an artist, and artists are prone to Pipe Dreams.
A long time ago I began a book about Mary Magdalene. I honestly don’t know why. I’d never given her much thought. I am not a Christian. Truthfully, I do not subscribe to any religion. Religion, to me, is not spiritual. It’s a human construct carefully designed to control and direct the human desire for meaning. I long for meaning as much as anyone, but have never sought it from other humans. Dogma is dogma, no matter which religion we speak of. As for the Magdalene…perhaps if I’d known it would absorb seven years of my life, I might have set it aside and written a sequel to The Saggy Baggy Elephant instead. But day after day went by and The Secret Magdalene grew word by word, sentence by sentence. And then, one amazing morning, I honestly believed I had finished.
But something niggled at me, whispering: You are not finished. More would have their say. So back I went to the keyboard and out came Flow Down Like Silver. I wish I could say it “flowed.” But I can’t. To slip under the skin of Hypatia of Alexandria was no easy thing…especially with so little truly known about her. Hopeful speculations, unsupported hopes, dogged assumptions, but facts? So few, so very few. Hypatia and I struggled for three years. Less time than the Magdalene only because in researching Mariamne I’d found so much that applied to Hypatia.
This time I knew I wasn’t finished. I thought the Magdalene had more to say. And back I went to the words, a letter at a time. I finished that book. It’s called The Woman Who Knew the All. But when the last word was typed and I’d lifted my hands from the keyboard, I already knew it wasn’t right. I’d known it as I wrote it. Some of it was. Some of it was very right. But as a whole, no. Something was very wrong. I could not offer it for publication. So I let it rest quietly by itself. Perhaps when I went back?
And while waiting I wrote Houdini Heart, absolutely nothing like I’d spent years of my life writing and feeling and thinking about. Houdini Heart came fast. It did flow. And then it too was finished.
Back I went to the last of my trilogy of the Divine Feminine…simply words allowing me a way to think about what I thought I was doing. I thought The Woman Who Knew the All could be “fixed.” She could be rewritten, re-felt. But something in me said: This is not the voice that would speak. A new voice awaits you. Listen for her. I trust my heart. I trust what it whispers to me. So I left the Magdalene in her file and waited. A month ago, She came, the woman who would speak the last of what needed to be said. By me? Through me? Does it matter? I don’t know her name yet. But I do know the name she would call her book. THE TIME OF THE BEE. And I know when it takes place: in the last moment of the Goddess, almost 12,000 years ago.
Not what I expected at all. But whatever is?
I’m one of a dying breed: going the way of the Dodo, the tailfin, and the cocktail napkin. When people like me are gone (and we’re really going; I’ve finally reached the age where I can wrap my few remaining brain cells around that one), much of our world will go with us.
I love books. I love handling them, riffling their pages, admiring the design, the dust jacket, the binding, their smell, their feel, how they look with their sisters all-in-a-row on shelf after shelf.
I love arranging my own books. Six of them now. In English, Chinese, Spanish, Hebrew, Swedish, Czech, French…bedad, I’ve lost count of the translations. I grieve that my books are all in storage, packed away in boxes, waiting in the dark for the day I once again own a shelf. Which implies owning a house. Or near enough. Which surely means having a home. Having a home is my New Years wish.
Enough of that.
I was given a Kindle for Christmas. A funny flat grey thing. With buttons.
With help (of course) I got it registered or assigned or acknowledged…surely it’s one of those. With help, I learned the rudiments. I can now download a book. Which has become two books, then five, then—have you any idea how many books are fa-fa-fa-free from amazon? Not the new ones, oh no, but the good ones: the classics, the forgotten gems, the newly discovered oddities, so many works of ancient philosophy. It’s an Alexandria of free books.
I press the button called Home and up comes a growing list of books I don’t have packed away. I found Talbot Mundy! Only known to me by one book long long ago found somewhere, old even then, I went crazy nuts for it. Om: The Secret of Abhor Valley. Which now resides in one of those cold dark boxes in cold dark storage.
Mundy was all the rage a hundred years or so ago. He sold then as much as yet another vampire book would today. The King of the Khyber Rifles. Black Light. The Winds of the World. Compared to these, vampires are dull stuff. Talbot Mundy was a veritable genius and to follow his ripping yarns highly spiced with dazzling mysticism made his readers only a little less so. It took imagination to write those books and it took imagination to read them.
Last night I found The Yellow Wallpaper. My own book, Houdini Heart, has been compared to it…favorably. So to see its name on offer made my ears ring. It’s very short but wonderfully disturbing. Written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, it’s a strong, terrifying, symbolic tale of how women were once treated by “caring” men: their “devoted” husbands, fathers, brothers. That is, if they were rich. (For the poor female or a member of the lower classes, go directly to Charles Dickens.) Devouring Charlotte’s tale in one gulp, I found it amazingly similar to Houdini Heart in many ways. But the huge difference lies in the female narrator’s essential character. In The Yellow Wallpaper the woman is virtually helpless, in bondage to men and to how she is perceived by them. (Freud really helped out there. Be interesting to know how many women he drove to despair, insanity, even suicide.) In Houdini Heart, the woman is a creative master of her descent (or ascent) into, ah…your guess is as good as mine.
To read Gilman is to MUCH better understand the incredible strength it took to be an Emily Dickinson, a Jane Austin, a George Sand…and so many more. How should I have fared then? Would I have done as my Mary Magdalene did, dressed as a man so I might learn and survive?
Or would I have shot myself?
Must get back to searching for free books. Oh, how a Luddite loves her Kindle. Never thought it could happen to me. But then I resisted computers too. And classes in Creative Writing. That last one was a good idea.
I hope this causes a wee spot of outrage, since, as my now temporarily out-of-body husband, the wonderfully outrageous Vivian Stanshall, used to say, “An outrage a day keeps complaisance at bay.” (He also said, once he’d gotten over the shock of his unexpected Viking death: “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.”)
Once upon a time, the very first people who followed the teachings of Jesus were Pagan. Who Jesus actually was is a matter of much debate; that he actually was, is also a matter of debate. But that a religion formed in his name is a matter of accepted fact. But what becomes increasingly evident to those paying attention is Christianity is what became of a Pagan Mystery religion called Gnosticism. Gnosis, a Greek word meaning knowledge” (but not any knowledge: “intimate personal knowledge of the divine”), lay at the very heart of this new Mystery religion, just as it lies at the center of all Mystery religions.
Before Rome and the Catholic Church spent three hundred violent years changing history, and with it human values and expectations, there were at least two dozen life-death-rebirth deities throughout the world, some of whom were female, and the most famous of whom are: Osiris of the Egyptians, Tammuz of the Akkadians (to the horror of Jewish priests, Tammuz was beloved of Jewish women before and during the life of Jesus), Atunis of the Etruscans, Adonis (who was born of a virgin in a cave in the sacred grove called Bethlehem), Dionysus of the Greeks, Vishnu of the Indians, Attis of the Phrygians, Aeneas of the Romans, Mithras of the Persians, and the sweet shepherd of Sumer, who was the dying god Dumuzi. Even the Celts had a Godman: Cernunnos, the Horn-ed One, Lord of the Wild Things.
Many of these Godmen were born of a virgin whose name was often Mary, or a form of Mari, Queen of Heaven. They came forth in a cave in the deepest darkest part of the winter (December 25th was the birthday of the Persian Godman Mithras which is why at the First Council of Nicaea this birth-date was given to Jesus: a way to silence Mithraism, the only religion to challenge Catholicism for the official blessing of Rome), each Godman was tortured and then brutally slain for our sins, very often hung on a tree or a stake, and was then interred or buried—but rose again on the third day. All this derives from observing the skies: especially the truly ancient twelve signs of the Zodiac, the constellation of Orion (then called Osiris), and the brightest star in the sky, Sirius (known as Sopdet in ancient Egypt, meaning Isis of Ten Thousand Names)…for all of this is symbolic of the Sun, our first God. (The Moon was our first Goddess who predated the Sun God by many thousands of years, but now is not the time.) In Christianity, astrological astronomy is everywhere…not that many seem to notice: twelve disciples, twelve loaves, twelve days of Christmas, twelve tribes.
Jesus Christ was the Godman of Gnosticism who in every important way was a copy of Osiris, the Pagan Godman who died each year in The Passion of Osiris so that Egyptians might live. But Jesus was tailored specifically for the Jews by the Jewish philosopher Philo Judaeus, as well as by a few of his friends throughout the range of the Jewish diaspora. The only difference between Osiris and the new Christ—and this difference turned out to be fatal for Pagans—was that Jesus was a Jewish Godman. Tailored for Jews, Philo and his friends were required to weave in the potent strands of the Jewish Messiah myth in order to “sell” him to the Jews. (Just as Pythagoras, wishing to bring the Passion of Osiris to the Greeks, made a minor Greek god called Dionysus into a Greek Godman.) The big glitch in Philo’s plans was this: the Jews expected the Messiah to come “in the flesh”. They expected him to arrive as their living King and to sweep the Romans from Judaea, the Arabic sons of the great Herod from their palaces, and the lax and unLawful Priests from the Temple. Forced to combine the usual Godman with this Messiah turned what had been a perfectly good, tried-and-true concept into something that had never been before: a living Godman. Over the course of the next few centuries a smattering of converts to Jesus Christ began to clumsily blend together the Gnostic teacher, Jesus the Nazorean, the new Jewish Godman, and the Messiah. It was a messy process and remains messy, especially as so soon as they accomplished this, they forgot the symbolic meaning of Gnostic teaching, and became preoccupied with the supposed “facts” of the life of Jesus, a life now mirroring the myth of any Godman’s “life” and “death.”
Things now get complicated, only growing more complicated over the years as more and more voices added their clamor to the once symbolic Passion and the once simple Gnostic teachings. And here’s where the Gnostics, beginning without the burden of priests or a hierarchy of Papal Power, and once embracing women and the Goddess, began to splinter and shatter into literalist groups espousing beliefs antithetical to any true Pagan, and—had he been there—to Jesus himself.
But to go back one thousand nine hundred and a few dozen years ago, the first scattered groups of what could be called proto-Christians knew their new Godman Jesus Christ was a form of deity already in existence. They knew he was a Godman amongst other Godmen. They knew also that Mary Magdalene was his consort as Isis was the consort of Osiris, and that she was the Goddess. They did not believe that Jesus Christ was God made flesh. They did not believe he was the only Son of God. They called themselves “Gnostics” because at the heart of this new movement (although in truth a movement as old as time) was the quest for gnosis, or divine insight.
This is what Saul of Tarsus (Paul in Latin) taught. Although there are fifteen or so letters by Paul in the New Testament, only eight (maybe less) of these letters are authentic. All the rest are forgeries written many years later by early church fathers to claim him for Christianity. But Paul was a Gnostic. He was not an anti-Semite, nor was he a woman hater. These are “qualities” given him later in the forged letters. In truth, he traveled with a woman called Thecla, who baptized and preached at his side. Nowhere in Paul’s letters to the various Gnostic groups he was trying to organize, does he mention the “life” of Jesus Christ, for nothing about Jesus interests Paul save his crucifixion. Since Paul’s authentic letters were the earliest documents claimed by the Catholic Church as evidence of the historical truth of Jesus, it would seem odd he does not write of Christ’s life. It ceases to be odd when you realize that for Paul, whilst Jesus may or may not have existed, the “Christ” was the Jewish Godman. Paul’s interest was in the suffering and death of the Godman, and that’s because the crucifixion is The Passion of Osiris or Dionysus remade for new ears. Ironically, those new ears were expected by Philo and his friends to be Jewish, but the Jews rejected Philo’s new Godman and they rejected Paul and his Jewish/Pagan Gnostic teaching. (To this day, for observant Jews, the Messiah is yet to come.) In despair and anger, Paul turned to Gentiles. He died a disappointed man, and, at the time, a forgotten figure in Gnosticism. Doubly ironic, those who did not reject Paul’s message of the “Christ,” by which he meant divine insight, or enlightenment (for that’s what happened to him on the Road to Damascus: he was filled with Christ Consciousness or the God Realization or Nirvana or what-have-you) were simple Gentile peasants, who increasingly took the message “literally.” And gradually, over the next few hundred years, it was these non-Jewish literalists who created Christianity by their very insistence on taking what was meant as outer symbol for historical truth.
But they did not create Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. That was the work of the Emperor Constantine and a gathering of Literalist Bishops at the First Counsel of Nicaea in 325 CE. From this came the Nicene Creed, or “the profession of faith.” It was here that the central beliefs of Christianity were set down, and virtually none of these beliefs stemmed from the very first Jewish Gnostics, or from the symbolic Godman teachings of Paul, or from the probable earlier teaching of Jesus. It was also here that the newly Rome-accepted Catholic Church was granted the use of the Roman army to suppress by any means necessary the Gnostic Pagans who also claimed Jesus Christ as their own. If you’ve all grown up, as I have, hearing about the terrible tribulations of the early Christians, I am here to state boldly: it was not the literalist Christians who were suppressed so much as it was the literalist Christians, now become the Catholic Church, who tortured and killed the Gnostics, and destroyed their work…which is why the Western World is not Pagan today, or Gnostic, but Christian. More irony, the four gospels accepted by the Church (out of thousands once extant) are Gnostic gospels (very evident in the Gospel of John which begins with a direct quote from the Egyptian Book of the Dead) and are entirely symbolic. To read them today is to read Pagan teaching if we realize we are not reading history, but symbolism.
What I am saying is that Christmas is a pure Pagan holiday. By this, I don’t mean that it’s based on a Pagan Winter Solstice celebration, and I don’t mean that it was “stolen” from Pagans since Christianity hasn’t one single thing about it that is original, and I don’t mean that it contains within itself countless hidden Pagan references—although all these things are true. No, I mean a flat-out: Christmas is Pagan. I mean there’s nothing “Christian” about it. What I really mean is that Jesus Christ was and remains a Pagan Godman. I mean that Mary Magdalene was and remains his consort, his mother, and the old woman who stood under his cross. She is The Triple Goddess in the guise of the seemingly separate Mary, Martha, and the Magdalene: maiden, mother, crone. (From the Gospel of Philip, discovered amongst the Gnostic codices dug up in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, sometime in 1945: “There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.”)
To go deeper: by its very nature the secret heart of a Mystery religion is unknowable. It is beyond that which can be expressed in words. But it does express itself in sacred symbols and secret rites which confer spiritual and magical benefits. To follow a Gnostic Mystery religion is to travel a path leading to a blessed and beatific understanding.
The highest promise for the exoteric initiates was to share, and therefore to feel, the natural life-death-rebirth cycle as it was evoked through the life-death-rebirth of a Godman, and in some cases, Godwoman. (Persephone of the Greeks is an example of this, as is Innana of the Sumerians.) But the true highest promise, that one given to the esoteric “inner” initiates, was to achieve gnosis, or divine insight. In the tradition of the Buddha, and as Jesus taught, this is called enlightenment and is a state of personal rapture allowing the one so blessed to Know the All.
Contrary to popular thought, Enlightenment or gnosis does not make a person “perfect.” It does not erase the Ego. It does not exalt them above all other people. But it does allow the “enlightened” person, or Gnostic, to Know the All.
What is there to “know”? That we are all One. That we are all Loved. That we are all Eternal and we are all Safe. Therefore we do not require “saving” or “redeeming” since we are not lost. This world is not lesser or evil or fallen or failed. There is no male God sitting in judgment over us. We do not have to “behave.” There is nothing that is not blessed in Consciousness for all is Experience. We each and every one of us create what we think of as “reality” making us all, by definition, creators. We are all Divine. What could be further from Christian belief?
But as all esoteric members of a Mystery religion understood, divine insight cannot be taught, it is not an understanding of the intellect. It must be felt. And it must be felt with the whole of the self through the arousal of terror, pity, horror, sorrow, joy. Mel Gibson with his “Passion of Christ” seems to me and to perhaps many others a misguided soul, but he also seems innately, and without knowing it, to have grasped the deepest intent behind the Passion, which is to make people feel. In the original Passion, that of Osiris, which took place once a year in front of thousands of devotees, this is exactly what was intended…for people to feel and to feel deeply. First, pity as Osiris the Godman was tortured, then terror as he was hung up to die in terrible pain, then reverence as he was tenderly taken down by the Triple Goddess and placed in a tomb. And then awe as he rose on the third day—and finally, hopefully, to know gnosis.
Basically, the gospel story of Jesus Christ is a spiritual allegory, Pagan in source, encapsulating a profound philosophy that leads to mythical enlightenment. Therefore, the Jewish Gnostic teacher, Jesus the Nazorean, is Pagan. The Godman, Jesus Christ, is Pagan. Early Gnosticism is Pagan.
And with that, I wish you all a very merry Pagan Christmas, and an eternal New Year.
* Holiday = Holy Day = Heli = Sun = all adding up to Day of the Sun. Not to mention that the Holy Land is the land over which the First God Sun rises each day, meaning the East.
Drawing from so many works on this subject, enough to fill an entire library (it certainly fills mine), I offer only mine. (So many others upon request.)
“The Secret Magdalene” found online in the usual places and in bookstores.
(Trimmed from an article written long ago. It certainly seems long ago.)