On December 8, 1-3pm ET, Kayleen Asbo will lead a webinar titled Mary Magdalene: Apostle for Our Times. Find out more, here.
By Kayleen Asbo
In the past decade since The Da Vinci Code shot to prominence, Mary Magdalene has been speaking with an ever-insistent voice to people across the world. She is popping up unexpectedly in dreams, appearing in visions, showing up as a muse for artists, writers, and composers, many who do not feel any affiliation with Christianity whatsoever. What is this pointing towards?
Our modern world is suffering from seismic splits in the psyche. On a global level, there are the violent schisms between different religions and the increasing sense of ecological fragility. At the national level, there is the growing frustration and anger with political and economic systems and the government. At the individual level, there is rampant alienation, loneliness and unprecedented depression. On the one hand is a tendency to enter into complete denial about the potential destruction we are facing — on the other, the temptation to succumb to despair, resignation and cynicism. How can we be honest about the horrors we face in life and yet maintain hope? How can we enter into grief while maintaining the capacity for joy? That is exactly where Mary Magdalene comes in: as a guide to help us heal the painful chasms between the spiritual and the sexual, the numinous and the material, the masculine and the feminine and as a beacon of light who can help us learn how to hold the tension of the opposites we face as human beings.
Mary Magdalene has appeared throughout history in many guises. Her earliest incarnations were based on her pivotal role as the most faithful of the disciples. The Gospel stories in the New Testament agree that she persevered after all the other disciples had fled in fear to stand vigil at the cross. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John she was the first privileged witness to the Resurrection. Given the mandate to tell the story to the other disciples, she was dubbed “The Apostle to the Apostles”- a title she still holds within the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
In the ensuing centuries, however, Magdalene’s image was clouded, conflated and occasionally downright corrupted. She became the woman in the New Testament who was burdened with carrying the collective shadow. Scapegoated as a fallen woman, an adulteress, a penitent prostitute and an emotional histrionic, her pioneering role as a teacher- and some would argue, Christ’s spiritual heir- was gradually suppressed and erased.
Thanks to the discovery in Egypt of many early Christian documents ( some predating the Gospels of Mathew, Luke and John), a new image of Mary Magdalene is emerging, one that our time is in desperate need of. Texts like The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip and Pistis Sophia reveal a woman of profound strength and compassion, insight and wisdom, who calls us to discover our full humanity and liberate ourselves from ignorance. She embodies the ability to confront death and darkness and yet still open to radiance and new life. This is something we all fervently need.
I’ve been so blessed in the past few years to encounter hundreds of individuals who have connected to Mary Magdalene and found not only profound personal healing of their psyches, but also the beginnings of community making that transcend all social, political and religious dogmatic barriers. The potency of Magdalene as Muse has been breathtakingly evident the past few years as thousands of visual artists, increasing numbers of fiction and film writers and a handful of the greatest Classical composers of our time have used her myths and teachings to auger in powerful new creations.
I am delighted to be sharing with the New York Open Community some of the fruits of my decade long work on this vast subject. During our webinar on December 8, we’ll be exploring the foundations of the shifting images of Mary Magdalene throughout time, paying particular attention to the powerful role she is currently playing in the arts, in the genesis of new, non hierarchical spiritual communities and as an archetypal force who points the way to wholeness and integration. We’ll end with some resources and a practice that may enable you to connect with your inner light and truth.