Episode 15

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

Published on: 2nd March, 2021

Amy: Welcome to Breaking Down Patriarchy! I’m Amy McPhie Allebest. This week we are inserting an episode out of chronological order. That’s a first for us on the podcast. Our essential text this week is The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was written in the first century of the Common Era, meaning after Jesus Christ, and so it belongs earlier on our reading list right after our discussion of the Virgin Mary. After I recorded that episode on the Virgin Mary and Early Christianity, I realized that we had missed some important parts of the historical story and I heard back from some readers who—or some listeners, rather—that said, “well Amy you said that there isn’t really a book of Mary, so we didn’t know what Mary thought or said, but what about the Gospel of Mary Magdalene?” And so, that was such an important piece that I had left out, and so I was thinking about how to incorporate that and thought maybe I would do an addendum to that episode, but when I found the most incredible reading partner to read this text with me, I knew we had to do it right now even though it’s out of order, and we’ll just stick it in. So next week we’ll resume with the nineteenth century texts, where we were. But for today we’re gonna get our heads back into the various accounts of what happened during the life of Jesus Christ, and we’ll consider how it would feel to have a record that we knew was written by, or about, a woman. And we’re also going to talk about who determined which accounts made it into the Bible that people read today, and here’s a hint: it was not women making those decisions. Surprise, surprise. So, with all that as our introduction to guide us on that journey today, I am just thrilled to welcome the scholar, musician, composer, and poet and Renaissance woman Dr. Kayleen Asbo. Welcome, Kayleen.

Kayleen: Oh thank you Amy, it’s such a pleasure to be with you on this, such an important topic. 


Amy: I’m so excited. I remember, Kayleen, the first time I met you was at Stanford. I hadn’t started my Master’s program yet, I was taking that Continuing Studies course from Professor Bruce Elliott, whom I adore, and you gave a lecture on Classical music in the Catholic tradition as compared to the Protestant tradition, and I was just so blown away by you that I signed up for your email list. And I do not sign up for email lists—I do not like getting things in my inbox. But I read it every week! I feel like it’s the most nourishing thing I read during my week, and I’ve watched your lectures, I attended a retreat with my daughters that we were just talking about, and I’m just so grateful for your work. And, I wonder if you could just start us out today by telling us a little bit about yourself: personally, where you’re from, and your education and your passions, and just kind of your perspective that you bring to the text.


Kayleen: Oh, sure. You know, I actually think that the place I have to begin is actually before I was born, because my parents met each other as students in a class on comparative religion. And, they were the only two non-Mormons at the University of Utah in this particular class, and my father was debating on one side of issues. He was a very eclectic spiritual seeker, I think that’s a generous way to put it, everything from Native American shamanism to different world cultures. My mother was a very—at the time, a very sort of proper Presbyterian. And so I like to say they came from opposite sides, but they were both on their own spiritual quest, and ultimately, neither one of them found the kind of nourishment that they were hungry for within any kind of institutional religion. And they divorced by the time I was two, but I like to think that in the mythic story of my life, a lot of what my life has been dedicated to is trying to find the bridge—the tent that’s large enough, that could nourish enough people that no matter where you come from, you could find something that would speak and nourish your soul. And so part of that story for me is, in a very mythic way, their custody arrangement when I was two, that my mother had me for nine months of the year and my father for three, and the place that they overlapped—where they traded custody—was at art museums and at Disneyland. So I like to say it was sort of preordained that I would become a cultural historian and mythologist who really turned to the arts as a pathway of unity and healing, and therapy. So, my first love was Classical music, and I was on track to become a concert pianist, and soloed with my first orchestra when I was twelve. At least an aspiring concert pianist, I should say. But by the age of eighteen I had a devastating injury, and I was told I would never play piano again. So I had to find something else to live for, so I turned to study the psychology of Carl Yung, and at Smith College where I eventually went to school for a while, I studied Women’s History and Poetry, and I sought out the other things that had nourished me in my youth. And I now look back on that and feel like it’s a great blessing, because one of the things I’m convinced about is the journey of the heroine, as opposed to the hero. It’s that the heroine’s quest is really all about not dividing and dismembering things, and cutting up ourselves in little pieces, but of gathering all the different pieces of who we are and weaving them together in our own unique way to express our individuality and to live out the fullness of who we are. And I think one of the differences between the sort of patriarchal structure, is that it wants you to narrow and confine yourself. I almost went and did a PhD program in Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union, but at my interview there they said, “we want you to be one inch wide and a mile deep,” and so you can’t include everything that you want to study—you have to narrow it and narrow it and narrow it. And I thought there was some part of my soul that revolted against that, and I said, you know like “no, I need to have music, I need to have art, I need to have all of these things because they’re all an expression.” So I ended up doing my PhD in Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara instead, where I wrote my dissertation on Mary Magdalene in myth, art, and culture, because I think it’s not just the text that we can turn to for insight and wisdom and revelation. It is also, “what are the images that have come forth? What are the sounds that have come forth in music?” and I think we’re going to be weaving that together today in our discussion of the Gospel of Mary.


Amy: That’s just gorgeous, that introduction, Kayleen. It actually, your studies and your insistence on incorporating multi-faceted and interdisciplinary work in your PhD and in your studies reminds me of a word that’s gonna come up in the text, which is “anthropos,” which in my understanding, and you’ll I’m sure expound upon this better than I could, but my understanding of that word means to be more fully human, and so I think of the humanities and all of the arts—that to be fully human we need all of those disciplines informing how we see things, or we can become just part of ourselves, and our vision can be distorted if it's too narrow. So that's just...


Kayleen: Absolutely. And we'll—we'll literally miss the point of so much. You know, I've just finished teaching a course on T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, and while I fell in love with them when I was a 16 year old, it took me years before, like, I would not understand them in their wholeness without knowing the late quartets of Beethoven, which they're based on, without also a history of Christian mysticism and also the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana, because those are all parts of it as well. And so if you don't have that perspective where you're gathering them together, you will so much miss the conversation that is happening across disciplines and across the centuries. And those—the most gratifying "aha's!"—those moments of profound epiphany will completely bypass you. So I'm a passionate advocate for the integration of all of the arts. And you're absolutely right. Even that word anthropos, which is at the root of anthropology, has been woefully mistranslated in some translations to mean "I will make Mary male." But really that word would have been "andros." It's "I will make her fully human," and I just want to put out there for all of you who are listening, what would that mean for you? What would that mean for you to flower in your wholeness of your full humanity? What would that mean for our world to be flowering in the fullness of our humanity? And then that, as we're going to see, is, I think, really a central, central message of both the Gospel of Mary and of some of the other early texts that were cut out and dismembered from the story, beginning in the fourth century of Christianity.


Amy: Oh, thank you, Kayleen. That was just an absolutely beautiful introduction. I want to ask you really quickly, because I know how much I've benefited from the work that you're doing right now. Could you tell us just a little bit about the work you're doing personally, and the Mythica Foundation, and any offerings that are coming up so that our listeners can check them out?


Kayleen: Absolutely. Mythica is a company that I created. Again, it was out of frustration that I was an adjunct professor at a number of different colleges, and I felt like I had to be too narrow. You know, in one place I would teach Music, in one place I might teach Art History, and another I would teach Psychology or Women's Studies. But I wanted to bring them all together because I feel like they're all doorways into wisdom, into self-knowledge and into healing ultimately. So I began my own company a few years ago, and Mythica is dedicated to bringing together the wisdom, traditions, contemplation, and the arts and ultimately in the service of creating community. So before Covid, we would take people on sacred journeys to Europe every year, to sites associated with Mary Magdalene, but also to Scotland and to England and to Italy. And then we partner with a number of different organizations to bring together and create programs about history, particularly cultural history that includes women's history. And so the strange gift of the Covid times is that almost for the past year now, I've been offering these online and for 2021 there's a few things that I really focus on. So once a month I do a virtual pilgrimage that's in the footsteps of the mystics, and they range—they're three day programs of art, music, history, story, contemplation, and practices inspired by both Jungian depth psychology and also by the ancient contemplative traditions. And I have a marvelous faculty I've gathered from all over the world to join me to create these offerings. And then the next ones coming up are going to be Mystical Scotland, and then we'll go to Glastonbury, England, and then on the Camino Santiago de Compostela in the Pyrenees, and eventually to Lourdes and then in the fall with Saint Francis and St.


Kayleen: Claire in Italy. So there's one every month, so those are the virtual pilgrimages. And then once a month, they also have a Heroine's Path workshop that looks at the great world mythologies and we incorporate again practices of making art and writing practices and poetry and dramatization and ritual to bring alive these ancient mythologies of strong, powerful female figures. So I began with Ariadne and the Labyrinth, and there will be a whole host of those, again, on an ongoing basis. And then there are the cultural history programs that I just really love and cherish that sometimes highlight a particular saint, like one of my favorites, Julian of Norwich, on her feast day. And then quarterly, there are also a twenty two day online program that, if you're interested in what we're talking about today, is really designed as an ideal place to dive in deeply. It's based on my dissertation, but I wanted my work that I did for my doctoral work to be easily accessible and personally relevant to the reader. So it's twenty two days where there's a part of the story from the biblical Mary Magdalene, to the Nag Hammadi Mary Magdalene, to what happened to her over time in history. And also it's infused with, everyday there are art images across the centuries, there are links to music that has been composed for her, and there are questions for journaling, for your own personal connection and inner insight. And all of that can be found on my website of www.kayleenasbo.com.


Amy: Awesome. Awesome. I can't wait to check out more of those things. As I said before, anything I've ever done that you've produced has been just fantastic. And so I'm just so thrilled that those offerings are out there, yeah, it's true.


Kayleen: You know, I should also say that one of the great, great elements about Covid right now is that partnership is possible all around the world. So I've been partnering with wonderful organizations that I love, love, love, love all over the world from St. Stephen's Episcopal Cathedral in Richmond, Virginia, where I'm currently doing a Lenten series called Anchored in the Heart, and to the Salame Institute of Jungian Studies in Portland, Oregon. And I'm doing monthly broadcasts on the Naracoorte Library and early Christianity that you can also discover if you want to dive more deeply into some of the material we're going to touch on next.


Amy: Fantastic. That's that's so great. Thanks, Kayleen. I'm wondering if to start us out, you could just introduce the text a little bit and tell us where the Gospel of Mary Magdalene came from. I'm guessing that for a lot of our listeners, I mean, everyone will know who Mary Magdalene is, but may not have heard of the Book of Mary Magdalene or the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. So can you just kind of acquaint us with that text?


Kayleen: Absolutely. And I do want to just drop in one thing before I introduce the text, though, because while most people have heard of Mary Magdalene, there's still incredible confusion about who she is. And I still to this day encounter people who say, "wait, wasn't she a prostitute?" So I just want to say that it's really important to lay the groundwork that the biblical Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene are very, very congruent in the sense that the biblical Mary Magdalene, the woman if you look at the canonical text, there is the faithful witness to the crucifixion, and she is the first witness to the resurrection. So the word I would use for her is disciple. And the Gospel of Mary, although it's in fragments and it's dismembered, is a telling of many of the events that are congruent with what we have in the New Testament. Essentially, there is an appearance by Jesus and he disappears, he leaves. The disciples are in fear, as we find, for example, in the Book of Acts where they're hiding in the upstairs room, and they turn to Mary in their fear and their confusion and they ask her and they say, "please, Mary, tell us the words and the teachings that you know, that we don't, because we know that the Teacher gave you private teachings." And so she then recounts a visionary experience that she had, in which Jesus came to her and gave her this profound vision. And that is the text of the Gospel of Mary in a nutshell.


Kayleen: Now, it came as a surprise when this was recovered at the very end of the 19th century. There are three extant copies of it, although there is not currently one in its wholeness. There are three copies, they date—the copies date when you do the carbon dating, from the third century to the fifth century. And they're in two different languages. They're in Coptic, and they're in Greek. And in a nutshell, what that means is that we can surmise that it was a widely disseminated text for several, several hundred years. If you think about what's involved in taking and transcribing and translating and writing texts on papyrus, it's a very laborious, time-consuming project that required great skill. And so these weren't things that were done casually. It indicates that this was a text of deep importance, enough that it persisted and was re-copied over several hundred years and translated into multiple languages. Now, what we have are fragments, because when the original document—there was one that was whole and it was sold. It was bought, actually, in part by a German scholar, but it wasn't deemed to be critically important for a really long time. And it languished in basically a faculty office where there were burst pipes, and World War One happened. And it wasn't until after World War Two and the finding of the Nag Hammadi texts where Mary Magdalene appears in many of those other gospels and other texts as as a disciple of, not just some importance, but some would argue the most important disciple, that that people began to say, "hey, wait a minute, you know, these other things that we have, these other texts that we have, we should take a look at those and translate those and study those more deeply."


Kayleen: So the fragments that we have are from what's known as the Oxyrhynchus manuscript, and then the one that was originally a whole but is in fragments now and parts of it are missing, they were all compared. And Karen King has done a wonderful sort of side-by-side comparison of all three of them. And there's a lot of consistency, even though we have these fragments, and even though what we have is not a full manuscript, what we do have has been called by Hal Taussig and the New Orleans Council of Scholars when they came together, "the single most important recovered document of our times," even though it's in fragments, because what it gives us is a perspective on early Christianity that is radically causing a rethinking of our assumptions. And it just, it just points with sort of laser sharp precision into the difference between what we assumed early Christianity was for hundreds of years and what is now coming to light. And that is so exciting, and it's so exciting, particularly for women and the light that it sheds on women's history.


Amy: Fantastic. Thank you so much, I. You and I were talking a little bit earlier about the Nag Hammadi text, and because you mentioned it just now, I wondered if you could just really quickly explain what that was. Nag Hammadi, I think, is, it's a place in Egypt, right? Where this papyrus book—and that's what a codex is, right? I almost want to provide like a glossary of terms, right? A codex is a book of papyrus, yeah, go ahead.


Kayleen: Sure, thank you for doing that! So a Codex is a collection of multiple books. And what we have in Nag Hammadi is, it was in December of 1945. Some Bedouin sheepherders went and they actually found that as they were searching for fuel, they found this gigantic earthenware jar. And inside of it was a collection of books, of ancient papyri books, that was really a treasure trove. And unfortunately some of those books were destroyed. They were actually used as kindling for a fire. But what we have, what survived...


Amy: I read that, I like...


Kayleen: It's heart stopping...


Amy: Like almost cried!


Kayleen: Oh. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.


Amy: It's just horrid.


Kayleen: Oh, what we have that survives is fifty two books. And these fifty two books include a wide variety of literature. It includes some gorgeous poems that are called The Odds of Solomon, and it includes a Platonic text, but it also includes several so-called gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip. And what these are, is these are stories that were used by early Christian communities about the teachings of Jesus that didn't make it into the final cut of the Bible. And essentially, what you can think of about biblical history is that in the first, especially in the first few centuries when Christianity was an outlawed religion, we didn't have a definitive text. What we had were small communities, many who gathered in people's homes and other communities that would gather, for example, in the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome, in these underground caverns, in places. And the communities that would gather then would share an oral tradition of the teachings of their rabbi, of Jesus. And it wasn't until generations later that any of these texts were written down. For example, biblical scholars will say that most likely the earliest text that we have in the New Testament, the Gospel of Mark, was probably written down in the year 70 and then Gospel of John, Gospel of Luke.


Kayleen: There's a lot of dissension, but one common dating is somewhere between 100 and 110, for example, for those. So if you think that that's multiple generations later before the oral tradition becomes written down. So we at one point probably had hundreds of different texts that were the written form of the oral teachings that had been widely disseminated. You know, after the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection, we're told that the disciples scattered and they went in different directions. So there is a common tradition, for instance, that the disciple Philip went to Syria, that the disciple Thomas went to India, that Peter went to Rome, and that the disciples spread out and they took what they remembered of the teachings of their master, and they shared them with the communities that they went to. And it wasn't until after the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century where Christianity stops becoming a persecuted underground religion and becomes an accepted religion and then eventually becomes the official state religion of the Roman Empire, that it then became sent out. I think the year was 376, but it was definitely the fourth century that a list got sent out by Bishop Athanasius and he sent on a list and he said, "here are the books that are the authorized teachings by the Roman Empire."


Kayleen: And if, the implication was, if you have other stories about the teachings of Jesus, these are no longer acceptable. And it was kind of implied that you should destroy them. So where Nag Hammadi was discovered is about three miles away from one of the largest monasteries in the world—one of the first monasteries! It was a monastery founded by St. Pachomius and collected together the wisdom of the ancient tradition. And Egypt was one of those great centers of Christianity. A side note that after the destruction of the temple and the diaspora of the Jewish people after the year 70, there was this mass migration to the city of Alexandria. And I like to say these days that Alexandria was a little bit like your alma mater—it was like Stanford. It was like this pinnacle of scientific wisdom and philosophical inquiry. And you had people from different faiths that were coexisting. But during the calamitous fourth century, this was no longer acceptable and science was no longer something that was valued. And there was this extreme reactionary...we can look to Iran in the past decades, we can look to our own country where suddenly science and faith are seen to be at odds. And there was this radical political swing. And that's intimately connected to what we're going to be talking about with, why did the Gospel of Mary disappear.


Kayleen: But essentially, the Nag Hammadi library, most scholars believe, were the books that were hidden from this large Christian monastery and hidden because they didn't want to destroy part of their wisdom text collection. And so they hid them and they were safely preserved then until  1945. And it's only been during our lifetime that we are able to see now for the first time, texts that are probably far closer to early Christian teachings than what we've inherited. Because what we've inherited, particularly if we're reading in English, is we're reading English translations that arose during the 16th century, of Latin translations, of Greek texts, of words that were spoken by Yeshua—Jesus in Hebrew or Aramaic. So it's a little bit like telephone, and you write the history of how things were changed. And it's a horror, especially for women and what gets changed. So if I can just say one thing about translations, because I'm so passionate about this, that, you know, when Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit, the word in Hebrew for Holy Spirit would have been "ruach." And that word is gendered feminine. In Aramaic, the word for Holy Spirit is also gendered feminine. When the Bible gets written down in Greek, it becomes gender neutral. So pneuma is a neutral term, but when it gets translated into Latin, it becomes spiritus, which is masculine.


Kayleen: So if you think about that progression, that Jesus speaking about Holy Spirit, whenever people say a creed, they should refer to Holy Spirit as she. And that gets a gender change over the centuries, and so that's just one thing about that shifts when you do translations with language, and another is like the very word sin, which was originally an archery term that means to miss the mark. And it just feels so different, I think. Just take that on. What does it mean to say, "oh, I missed the mark today," versus "forgive me, for I have sinned." You know, it's got such a different nuance and meaning. And I think that those things are really important to look at. So back to Nag Hammadi and the fact that we don't have all these redactions and translations and copying errors that happen between the first copy and the advent of the printing press. We know that there were so many changes over the centuries, means that it's actually closer to the original, and perhaps the original teachings than what we have. For example, with the canonical texts where I think, for example, one of the canonical gospels, the earliest surviving version that we have of this is like 12th century. So if you think about that, it's profound. It's profound.


Amy: It is profound. Yeah. And like you said, I mean, coupled with the fact that, yes, this is there was a period of time where this was all this was oral tradition anyway. And so the game of telephone happens even if it had stayed in one language with that variable being removed. But then when you add all the different translations and then like you said, the lenses that these men saw through, which were patriarchal lenses in deciding how to interpret the, you know, the text that they were reading, especially as they take it from one language to another. And I just think, as you said that and and I had heard that before, that Holy Spirit used to be considered feminine. And I thought, how would that have changed my life and my concept of myself and how I felt in the world, if I had grown up believing that the Holy Spirit were feminine. And what you're saying is that it seems that that is the original way it was actually spoken and intended.


Kayleen: That is the original! And there's actually a movement among some churches now to reclaim that. And I remember the first time I was in an Episcopal church, and a deep bow here to the Reverend Daniel Green, because I remember when he stood up and he recited the Nicene Creed and he used "she" for Holy Spirit. And there was an audible gasp in the congregation: "Huh! What is it?". And just that one little s can be a world of difference.


Amy: Yeah. Yeah, it sure does. You know, I have to throw in here too, the faith tradition of my family is Mormonism, actually, I don't know if you knew that.


Kayleen: I didn't, no! 


Amy: And so yeah, I come from Mormonism and my sister just the other day was reading a book that I'll recommend for any listeners who are Mormon. Terryl and Fiona Givens just wrote—they're Mormon scholars, they do beautiful and really important intellectual work in the Mormon space—and they just published a book called All Things New. And my sister was reading it, and it dovetails so perfectly with the gospel of Mary Magdalene. She and I were sitting next to each other and she had her book and I had mine. And I looked over her shoulder and said, like, "we're reading the same thing, but from different angles." But re-examining these early texts and some distortions that happened early on that took Christianity in a very different direction, than, it seems a different direction than Jesus intended it to go.


Kayleen: Well, I would certainly argue that, and I would say it definitely took it in a different direction that it had evolved in in the first few centuries.


Amy: Mm hmm. Okay, yeah. Interesting.


Kayleen: You know, that women had this amazing place of pretty much unprecedented egalitarianism in the first century of Christianity. And that's one of the reasons why it spread so quickly is because it it was really a women's religion that empowered women and women's experience and the idea of a home church and worshipping in the home. And it was incredibly welcoming to women. And then things changed when it became Romanized.


Amy: Yes. So did you, I wondered if you had anything else that you wanted to say about that process, because the—I did a little bit of preparation before our episode. I watched on the, The Teaching Company. It used to be called The Teaching Company, now I think it's called The Great Courses, and I bought a course on the Nag Hammadi texts and on the Gnostics, so when I say the word Gnostic, for listeners, it's G-N-O-S-T-I-C. And it seems to me, you can tell me if I'm understanding this correctly, that there was you know, there were lots of different factions and lots of different kind of branches of Christianity, and that there were the Gnostics who had...and the Nag Hammadi texts were in the Gnostic tradition, correct? And then the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. And then you had this different, more orthodox, more patriarchal body that eventually won out in the, as they were creating what would be the official church doctrine. Is that an oversimplification, or what would you say?


Kayleen: You have some of it was right. And then I want to put, I want to add a little nuance to it. So one of the things that scholars are realizing more and more, is that to lump it into two categories and to say there were the Orthodox and the Gnostics is very problematic for two reasons. One of which is, there wasn't a defined orthodoxy until the fourth century. There was no one thing. I love scholar Elaine Pagels, who, I just love her work so much. And she wrote the foundational book called The Gnostic Gospels that I encourage everybody to read. And she uses this phrase that early Christianity was a "riot of pluralism." And just today, if we were to say the word Christian today, we would understand that Catholics and Mormons and Presbyterians and Episcopalians and Jehovah's Witnesses and Quakers all consider themselves Christians, but they differ pretty radically in their practices and even their beliefs about things. But they all are Christian. And she makes the point that it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century where there was as much religious diversity within Christianity as there was in the first few centuries.


Amy: Hmm, interesting.


Kayleen: So I want you to really take that in. So the problem with that right away is there was no people who were the Orthodox. There was intense disputes. I mean, you look at, they're there in the new in the New Testament for anybody to see, for example, James, Jesus's own brother, and Paul and Peter, they're all in contention with one another and nobody's in agreement. They all have different views. So you can't say that one person had one viewpoint and everybody was adhering to that except for the small minority, because that just simply wasn't the case yet. It was only when the teachings of Peter and Paul allied themselves with Roman imperial power that you begin to have the sense of what is orthodoxy, because it's instituted by a political power, namely the Roman Empire. But the other problem with calling a group Gnostics is that it implies that they all believe the same thing and they didn't. Where that word is useful—and it's only vaguely useful—is that the word Gnostic comes from Gnosis, G-N-O-S-I-S, and that Greek word means wisdom or inner knowing. So the one thing that you can say is true is that, about these texts and about the text that we find in Nag Hammadi and about the multiple different traditions that have been labeled as Gnostic.


Kayleen: Like, there's a Sethian Tradition, there's a Valentinian tradition, there's a Magdalenian tradition. The one thing that you can say is that the emphasis is not on what you adhere to with a belief, a creed, but more with what you do as a practice and a process of inner awakening. So if you think about that, then it becomes kind of useful. But I still shy away from the word Gnostic, or use it with care. So there is, there does emerge after the fourth century an emphasis on one form of Christianity that's about rules and authority and patriarchy and adhering to a particular kind of creed. There begin to be, in the fourth century, these councils that vote on what we're all going to say and what we're going to believe in. If you subscribe to that, you're in. And if you don't, then you're in danger of heresy, versus the groups, the multiple, multiple, multiple groups of people who say here are the wisdom teachings of Yeshua. I like to use the form of his name that would have been spoken. So here's the teachings of Yeshua. And now here are the processes, here are the prayers he taught. For example, here is the Lord's Prayer. Take it on as a practice. And even that is problematic because if you go to the Aramaic, the very word Ab, that we translate as "Our Father" has so many different meanings.


Kayleen: It can mean father, mother, or birther of the universe or "oh thou." But take on these practices. And the idea is to awaken that word. Jesus is always talking about, you know, those who have eyes to see, those who have ears to hear, to wake up, to pay attention. That great phrase "wachet auf" from Bach's German chorale to wake up. And that would be the emphasis on these other communities that developed and that flourished around practices of awakening rather than doctrines of belief. And I think where that becomes really important is some people say, well, "all Gnostics believed in," like I've heard some ridiculous things about like, well, the Gnostics has hatred of the body, and they believed in this power called Seth and the Sethian doctrine. And if you look at something like the Gospel of Thomas, which is my favorite of the so-called Gnostic texts, what it is, is it's a collection of the sayings of Jesus, maybe about 70 percent of which we find parallels to in the canonical texts. So there's no belief here. It's a series of sayings that are more like the koans of Jesus or, I think Bart Ehrman might have even described it. He's one of the biblical scholars who's done some good historical work. And he describes it as like the class notes of a star student, you know, who's taking down what the master says.


Amy: I love it. I love it. I'm going to really quickly read that one passage of the Gospel of Thomas because it's my favorite.


Kayleen: It's our favorite! 


Amy: When we read...Yeah.


Kayleen: Oh, it's so good.


Amy: And it reminded me of that quote by Martha Graham. Can I read that real quick?


Kayleen: Oh, please do.


Amy: It says, yes it's the verse in the Gospel of Thomas which says, "if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." And I encountered that passage for the first time in this class on the sacred feminine that I took as part of my grad studies a few years ago, and at the time I had a quote on my wall, for my kids to pass by and hopefully read it and take it in, by Martha Graham, the great dancer and choreographer. And she said, "there is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open." That's so powerful to me and seems, yes, very at odds with that other model of kind of hierarchical, "we will determine what you may believe and what you may do. And this is sin and will define everything for you and tell you the right way to live," versus, "what's within you? What is your deep way of knowing, what is yours to express? What is yours to contribute in the world?" It just seems like a very different paradigm.


Kayleen: It's such a different paradigm, that's such a different paradigm. You know, part of this is the reason that Carl Jung describes these so-called Gnostics as being the world's first depth psychologists, because he really believed that what they were exploring and writing about and practicing towards was this idea that there is this deep wisdom inside of us. And in that wisdom, when we bring that forth, then that creates healing and beauty in the world. And if we don't, then it can turn dark and it can become what Jung calls the shadow. And I think that's exactly what happened in the fourth century, to be honest, because the model that developed and was eventually embraced that, you know, that this huge question about, is the original nature of the human being something that was created out of grace and love and is beautiful, or is it something that is so deeply corrupted and evil that there is no redemption possible in the world unless a perfect being —Jesus—is tortured and dies for our sins? And those are two very, very different things. This is, you know, is the human baby when it's born. Is it essentially a blessed being that needs to grow towards its good essence and be schooled so that it will embrace its goodness? Or is it essentially evil? And unfortunately, after the fourth century, with the adoption of the doctrine of St. Augustine and original sin, so much of what evolved in patriarchal religion was this sense of radical distrust of everything that was in the human being. And that there was the scapegoating and particularly of the feminine and and this doctrine that didn't exist before then, it didn't exist in when Jesus was teaching. Judaism doesn't have a doctrine of original sin and damnation; that wouldn't have been part of his culture. But what is this? And so there were communities that said, you know, that define Jesus as the—I love the early Christian,  I love the early Christian definition of Jesus as the great healer, the physician of our soul that calms and heals us from the things that we are ailing from. But that's that's different than having to to say that the human being has no goodness inside it inherently. And that that has been, that is the imago dei, the image of God, that that has been so twisted and corrupted because of, you know, of eating an apple in Eden that that there is no possibility of goodness. And that that really gets tied into...But that would probably be a six month course in Adam and Eve and the Apple and the doctrines of all of that. But what I will turn to, because it will turn us to the teachings of in the gospel of Mary, is that there's this idea that the root of the human being, the seed and the seed pattern, is originally good. And that just like, you know, if you think of the gospel of John, the metaphor of Jesus coming is the gardener, right? It is. It is the return to the garden. And if you think of the horticultural analogy, if you can have a good seed, but it can become unhealthy because it's blocked from the light or it didn't get enough nutrients, or weather has come that has wounded it and broken the tree branches.


Kayleen: And I love this metaphor of Jesus as the gardener or Jesus as the physician or Jesus as the doctor who comes to tend and nourish us. So one of the central teachings in the Gospel of Mary is that Jesus is referred to as the Good with a capital G. And it is, this is why the Good has come into your midst: to reunite you with your roots. And I love that because the root of the word religion is Religare in Latin, and it means to re-ligament, to put back together what has been out of joint or dismembered, to straighten and align and make healthy and whole and healed. And that's something the original word credo also didn't mean "I think," but "I give my heart to."


Amy: Ah, really?


Kayleen: And the idea of giving my heart to— Yeah. From the French, you know, it's related etymologically to the word couer for heart. Credo and couer have this connection. So I give my heart to the story that there is a seed pattern of goodness that needs to be healed and nurtured. And the teachings that derive from this Gospel of Mary that were perpetuated throughout the world in different traditions are to reunite us with the good, to do, to engage in the practices that can return us to the root of goodness that can heal us and make us whole. If you think of holy and whole and how in English they're connected, I think that's an important thing, a really important thing to reclaim.


Amy: That's powerful. Is there a passage, Kayleen, and I know that you did now get us into the text, you just quoted the Gospel of Mary Magdalene a little bit. And I'm wondering if you could read a little bit more from a passage that you think is particularly important and tell us why it's important to you.


Kayleen: Yeah, absolutely. So I'll just set the context on this and just want to encourage everybody. The text itself is very slight, it's like seven pages. But the translation, you know, one of the things that I like to do, because I'm not a Coptic scholar, I can't read it in Coptic and I only have a smattering of Greek, not enough to trust. So what I like to do is I like to put the multiple translations before me of how the words have been translated and to sit with them all. So if it's okay, with your permission, what I'm going to read is, I'm going to read what is the surviving second page of this. And this is, this happens after Peter turns to Mary. Sorry, no, this is the passage in which Jesus is teaching all of the disciples, including Mary Magdalene, and he's giving this particular teaching and most of the translation I'm going to use is from the version that was translated from the Coptic and the Greek into French by Jean-Yves Leloup. And then translated from the French into the English by the scholar who has become a friend of mine, Joseph Rowe. But I'm going to change one thing because there's one phrase that Karen King translates differently that I absolutely love. So just to let you know what that is in the Joseph Rowe and Jean-Yves Leloup translation, the phrase is translated as "the son of man," and Karen King translates that same phrase as "the child of true humanity."


Kayleen: So I'm good to use the child of true humanity. But the rest of this is the very poetic rendering of Jean-Yves Leloup and Joseph Rowe.


Amy: Perfect.


Kayleen: And what I'm going to invite your listeners to listen for is to realize that is a— this may, for some people, particularly those who come from outside of Christianity, might actually feel very eastern. It might feel kind of Buddhist in a way. And so that, it does two things. It's talking about where are the ways that we get led astray, again that word sin meaning to go astray. How do we get astray? How do we get crooked and not in alignment spiritually? And then the other thing is to notice the emphasis on the trust of the heart within. Okay, so here it goes. And this is immediately after. I'm actually going to start it with a previous passage again. "This is why the Good has come into your midst. It acts together with the elements of your nature so as to reunite it with its roots. Attachment to matter gives rise to passion against nature, and thus trouble arises in the whole body. This is why I tell you: be in, be in harmony. If you are out of balance, take inspiration from manifestations of your true nature. Those who have ears. After saying this, the blessed one greeted them all saying, peace be with you, may my peace arise and be fulfilled within you. Be vigilant and allow no one to mislead you by saying, here it is or there it is. For it is within you, the child of true humanity. Twelve.


Amy: Wow. So beautiful.


Kayleen: Isn't it? It's so poetic and that emphasis on the goodness within and turning inward to remember the goodness that is in us and to find those things that can bring us back into balance. It's such a different view. It's such a different view. It's like, oh, I'm out of balance. Not "I'm bad," but I'm out of balance. How do I get back into balance? I turn to the wisdom, teachings and the practices that can return me to the essence of goodness. I think you can hear, I mean, I hope you can feel like why Hal Taussig and the Council of Scholars from all these different denominations said, "oh my gosh, this is such an important text." You know, you could just sit with that one page and dwell on it for months and have it be the subject of sermons and meditations for months. It's so profound.


Amy: It is. It's so profound and so beautiful. I thought, one of the parts that I loved when you read it was where it says "take inspiration from," well to back up, "If you are out of balance, take inspiration from manifestations of your true nature." And you talked about, you know, who we are and viewing ourselves as, whole human beings, that we are good at our birth. And also one beautiful gift that my mom did for me and for all of my siblings was she made these amazing baby books and wrote down things we loved and things that we kind of were drawn to as little children and I have loved throughout my life when I do feel a little bit out of balance to think back. And I have a record because obviously it's, I wouldn't remember any of that, right? But to get back in touch with who I was when I was little is a powerful way of restoring balance, to think like when I was pure, when I was in my body without being self-conscious.


Kayleen: Before you were wounded!


Amy: Before I was wounded! Exactly. Exactly. We are kind of our most whole selves when we're little and the world hasn't...


Kayleen: A shining essence, yeah.


Amy: Yes. That's beautiful. One other thing that I thought, Kayleen, a question I have for you is, I mean, when I'm thinking about the the men who are making the decision to not include this text in the canon, in the official book of scripture that we ended up all inheriting, I am thinking, well, I'm wondering, I guess, do you think that it was deliberate? Because this is a really subversive, it could be seen as very subversive. Right? Because it gives people their own inner authority, which means they're not going to be able to be subjugated very easily if they think that they have, you know, the son of man or the child of true humanity in us. Then we don't need those hierarchical authority structures as much, right?


Kayleen: That's right. If we are utterly dependent for salvation on having sacraments conferred to us by a priest who's been authorized by a lineage that dates back to Peter, we're going to have one sense of things. Yeah, but if we have a sense that no, no, there is a seed of goodness, you know, that there is this imago dei, that Christ dwells within everyone and we need to just connect to that, then it definitely subverts the need for obedience to authority. And it opens up to that sense of, wait, why should I trust this person more than I should trust a cherished friend of my heart to use the Celtic tradition of the Anamcara or trust my own inner knowing? You know, it will lead us to a different place.


Amy: Mhm. So I think that that applies, I mean, obviously to everyone, to men and women to trust their inner knowing. And that this is, again, these two different paradigms of top-down authoritative structures versus, you know, trusting your own heart. That applies to everyone equally, I feel. And then later in the text, there are some passages that I feel like are particularly applicable to women and relevant to, I mean, struggles that I've had in my own life. But I don't want to go there yet if you have anything else that you wanted to share from that passage, Kayleen.


Kayleen: Well, you know, the one thing I do want to put in here is because it's part of sort of like the hidden tradition. There's a pretty fascinating book. Called A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch, who was a biblical historian at Oxford University, and one of the things that he points to about Egypt and Egyptian Christianity is that at the same time that Christianity moves from being this very intimate experience of house churches and small communities that are often led in circle groups, for example, there were many communities where people would simply draw lots as to who would be the speaker, and who would be the preacher, and who would administer the sacraments during that particular worship service, because it was really believed that the light of Christ was inside everyone. And some critics were horrified. And they were like "Ahh! They even let women lead these things." You know, that becomes something that's very much part of it. But Diarmaid McCulloch used a fabulous phrase. He said that there was a silent rebellion that developed in monasticism, particularly in Egypt, that emphasized practices, orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy. And one of the points is that this pathway, this pathway that I will call a pathway of awakening, and that we're going to talk about in the next passage when Mary Magdalene has this vision and she encounters a vision in what's called the nous, the N-O-U-S, a Greek word, a little bit hard to translate, but we could kind of translate it as your imagination, but in not in a way of you're making it up, but more like the imaginal realm of Andre Corban or, Jung talks about this a lot as well.


Kayleen: In active imagination, it's where you kind of connect to a transcendent property, the place where dreams come from. And part of what arises in this is that the awakening of this realm, of awakening, of the inner vision and inner knowing is very dependent on inner discipline as well and cultivating practices. You know, it's not enough to show up on Sundays and, you know, take communion and then have some authority figure, say, okay, you're good for the week. But rather, there was this different tradition out of the monastic practice of every day, how can I turn my heart to the what is good and true and beautiful? Every day, what are the things I can do so that I can return to that essence of goodness? What are the prayer practices? What are the things I need to pay attention to? What are the teachings of Jesus that will that can lead me and connect me to his healing so that I can awaken, so that I can become healed?


Kayleen: And I think that that's important because I don't want to give the impression that, like, oh, all you have to do is, is look to your heart and you're good to go, because we can all get misled. I think we can all look back on our lives and have a sense of like, wow, I thought I was following my heart, but look at the pain and suffering I caused myself and other people. So I really want to put in at this point that the word discernment is really important. And there's a whole tradition about how do you discern and know that your heart is in alignment with the teachings of Jesus. And that's a whole vast topic. But it just really important, particularly in light of some of the things that we sometimes see and the tragic history of Christianity. And I'll point to one that's far away. So I won't get too contemporary with politics. But if you look at the wars between Catholics and Protestants, both of whom burned each other alive because they thought they were following the true spirit, and I can hardly imagine that Jesus would condone either of those. So just a word for discernment, and they're really important.


Amy: No, I really, it's really important. And I actually was thinking that as we were talking earlier about, you know, the different family groups doing their, you know, circles of worship and studying and trying to be, you know, trying to follow the good. But, yeah, there's this tension even in my own life. And I think it is human nature that I do want to trust my heart. And yet, like you just said, sometimes the human heart is not trustworthy and we can think we're right and we can... And our passions or our own biases that we don't even realize that we have can lead us—it can lead us astray. So it's, we have to have, I love that you used the word discernment. That's something that I talk about a lot, too. And having people around us who are wise and comparing lots of different points of view. So, you know, so that we have different people and different texts and different traditions holding up mirrors to us saying like, oh, you might be off here and so that we could really be circumspect and examine our own feelings.


Kayleen: Absolutely, and one of the earliest teachings that goes directly back to Mary Magdalene is something from this Eastern Orthodox saint named John Cassian, who wrote these books and discernment with such a big thing for him. And he wrote his book on discernment in the Cave of Mary Magdalene in France, where she spent the last 30 years of her life. He came there after studying for over a decade in Egypt to write about how do we know, how do we listen? And what he cautions us against is he says it's very, very dangerous to only trust your heart. That, yes, your heart is good, but you also need to have, you know, to be in community and to have voices of wisdom, to have the Celtic term Anamcara so that you can mirror and check it out and say, is it right? And then to test it against scripture and to test it against the teachings of Jesus and to test it against a whole bunch of things. And you go, yes, yes, it's true. But it also leads into the next part, which we won't go into great detail. But I just want to for for the listeners here, when Peter turns to Mary and says, "teach us the things that you know, that we don't" because they they are all in sorrow and in doubt and they turn to her and she says, "do not be in sorrow and doubt because, and he's preparing us to become fully human."


Kayleen: And so they ask her for her secret knowings, the ones, the teachings that he taught only to her. And she recounts this experience in which she had to pass through seven, basically seven, confront seven powers. And they include things like craving and wrath. And she has to face and confront these gateways and pass through them. And for me, this is congruent when you have, in the biblical tradition of Mary Magdalene being healed by the so-called seven demons. These are those seven powers. And in the Catholic tradition particularly, how it got passed down through Dante's Divine Comedy, every human soul who's on the journey to paradise, who's destined for being a blessed being, has to climb up this mountain of purgatory, where they have to confront and grapple with the seven deadly sins of pride and wrath and envy. And once, in all of that tradition, and once they've done that, then they are thoroughly purified and they're ready to be in paradise. And I think it's fascinating that the first person who really writes about this is about these things that we have to confront and overcome is John Cassian and he writes about them in the Cave of Mary Magdalene in France. And the parallels between that and this Gospel of Mary for me are just so striking, so amazing. And so to think, what if to become fully human, what if to flower in our fullness, what if to be reunited with our roots, we needed to confront the ways that we go astray with pride, with envy, with gluttony, with wrath, with all of those things? And when we've done that and we've healed that part of ourselves, then we're ready to go to the next level, the next ladder of spirit, to the next rung on the ladder of spiritual development. And when we've purified ourself, when we've gone through all of that, then we're fully healed. And that's why I love the introduction of the Gospel of Mary, where it says, you know, it points to the East and says, well, in the chakra system, like in Buddhism. You know, if you had each of those seven gateways, there's a demon. And if you expel the demon, that gateway opens up, to someone who's had all seven of them purified and opened is a fully enlightened being, is a bodhisattva. And that gives us, I think, a much more accurate insight into Mary Magdalene.


Amy: Oh, I was going to ask you actually, I thought "we're not going to have time for it." But then you said it anyway, hooray. I was going to say, is that related to the chakras? Because that sure sounds familiar. So, yes, it seems like there's some universal cosmic truth that's being manifested in all, you know, in religions all over the world. And, but just as tragic to me that it was left out of the scriptures that I grew up with; I could have so benefited from that. But I'm benefiting from it now.


Kayleen: Yeah. So I think that probably will lead us into our last piece that, the piece about Peter's response to this vision. Did you want to read that part?


Amy: I would, because this was probably—there were so many passages. And you're right, it is a very short text, but it's so rich. There were so many things that struck me. But if I could only share Part A and Part B from this one passage, then I think that's what I'd like to end on. So as you said, you set it up perfectly. This is a passage where the disciples are all talking. My understanding is that this is after Christ had been resurrected and had ascended. So he was gone. And there are echoes of this. There are other episodes in the New Testament where you have the same thing where the disciples are afraid and, you know, they're afraid they're going to be killed just as Jesus was. So I'll start the passage here. It says, quote, "The disciples were in sorrow, shedding many tears and saying, 'how are we to go among the unbelievers and announce the gospel of the kingdom of the son of man. They did not spare his life, so why should they spare ours?' Then Mary arose, embraced them all, and began to speak to her brothers. 'Do not remain in sorrow and doubt, for His grace will guide you and comfort you.


Amy: Instead, let us praise his greatness, for he has prepared us for this. He is calling upon us to become fully human (anthropos).' Thus Mary turned their hearts toward the good, and they began to discuss the meaning of the teacher's words." So I'll pause there really quickly. I just, I really paused there when I read it and thought how it would have impacted me as a little girl and a young woman to have a passage in my holy text where a woman arose, embraced the men. And I love the way that she is a leader, but this is a passage where a woman is a leader. And I didn't see that growing up. She's a leader, not just—in my faith tradition, women are allowed to be leaders of other women and of children, but not ever of men. And in this passage, she stands up. They're, you know, having very normal human emotions of fear and sorrow, and so does she. It's not to say that she doesn't, but in this moment, she arises and comforts them and embraces them and calls them brothers. There's so much love in her leadership.


Kayleen: So much love.


Amy: So much love! This isn't, you know, this isn't just a reversal of "now she's going to, you know, lead them authoritatively." No, it's just with love. But she gives them the pep talk they need, she reminds them that they have the power inside of them. And so to see that as an exemplar of what a role that a woman could be in, in a spiritual context was so powerful to me. What did you think of that, Kayleen?


Kayleen: Let me just underscore it's just consonant with what we have in the canonical text where Mary, Peter has denied Jesus three times, but Mary is there, present at the foot of the cross, able to be with him in his suffering and then courageously going to the tomb to anoint his body and so trusted by him to become her original title, The Apostle to the Apostles. The Maestra Apostolorum, the teacher of the Apostles. It's such a congruent vision. They are not at odds. It's actually, it just feels like to me the next chapter after Gospel of John. And then she goes here, you know, it's like this is the sequence.


Amy: Yes. But that part was left out. It's just there's a hole there, like a hole in the heart of all women, I think that maybe you don't even realize is there until reading this passage. I, it's just actually really emotional for me to have that visual image.


Kayleen: I've had people burst into tears when they hear that because yeah, it is so powerful.


Amy: It's so powerful. Okay, so the next part is Part B, I guess, of my, what I wanted to share. So what happens in between is then that, what you just shared, Kayleen, which is where they say, "so, you know, you were really, really important to the teacher and he loved you more than all other women. Is there something that he shared with you maybe that we don't know?" And so she shares that beautiful vision of the seven levels and this divine revelation that she's had. And so at Peter's invitation, she shares the vision that she had, right? And then here's how the apostles react. Quote, "Having said all this," so meaning after she shared this vision with them, "Mary became silent, for it was in silence that the teacher spoke to her. Then Andrew began to speak and he said to his brothers, 'Tell me, what do you think of these things she has been telling us? As for me, I do not believe that the teacher would speak like this. These ideas are too different from those we have known.' And Peter added, '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?'" And I'll pause there. I'm going to read just a touch more, but just to pause there, that just feels so familiar to me.


Amy: I've literally had men in positions of authority say to me, like, well, "I've never heard that before, so that can't be true." And of course, women do this, too. That's, it's just not a great practice for anybody to do. But I feel like it's different because women are not in a position of authority to create law or policy or make decisions that impact other people. And so a man disregarding a woman has the ability to affect that woman's life in a way that a woman disregarding a man does not. So the power differential is huge, even though, you know, it's not great for anybody to just stand up and say, like, well, I've never heard that before, so that can't be true. There is a level of power there for a man to disregard a woman that is more devastating to, you know, that woman's life. And then also present in this passage is where Andrew says these ideas are too different. And I just thought, yeah, that's exactly like people don't like change. And Peter says, must we change our customs? And clearly, one of those customs is what Paul was writing about, that from, really from the Hebrew and Greek tradition, that women are inferior, that men should not be speaking to and listening to women. And we know that Jesus worked hard to push back against those gender norms. But those were really entrenched in these men, right?


Kayleen: Yes, absolutely. In particular Peter and Andrew, who were two, you know, illiterate fishermen, and then like this to a whole other thing, but culturally they came from what we would call, you know, a far more conservative element than some of the other disciples. So we see this. And, you know, I just have to say, you know, that the whole thing about Peter is, Peter's like the most problematic disciple. If you just stay in the Bible itself, as I talked about, you know, he denies Jesus three times. But there are other times where Jesus says to him, "get behind me, Satan!" And he says to him, "have I been with you all this time? And you still don't get it?" You know, he expresses exasperation with Peter several times. And we're going to see that echoed in this next passage of what you're reading in terms of how one of the other disciples responds to Peter.


Amy: Yep, yes, so I'll continue with that. So Peter and Andrew stand up and discount what Mary has just said. And this was a really moving part to me, too, because it says, quote, "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?'" And then, the end of that quote, right there I just have to interject how much it meant to me to see myself reflected in this story and just have the empathy of how that feels to be a woman. And I'm sure this isn't the first time that this has happened to her. So I get the sense of like, the fact that she just cried and thinking of my own tears as I've had conversations with beloved men even. Right, because she says, my brother Peter, like this is someone she knows intimately. And just that frustration of like, really, you're not going to take me seriously? And I've just felt that so—


Kayleen: You're not going to believe me?


Amy: Right, because I'm a woman! And that she just has that, you know, kind of thrown in her face again, like, oh, after all of this, even you still see me as less than you. And just that frustration that she just cries. It's actually really validating for me to read that that she that, you know, I could just so relate to that response in her.


Kayleen: Yeah.


Amy: And then this, would you like to say something? Sorry Kayleen.


Kayleen: Just you know, I want to also remind people that there's such a stigma about tears. And I want to remind us that Jesus didn't have that stigma. That actually in the canonical text, when he encounters Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus, when he sees their tears, we have the shortest line in the Bible, "Jesus wept." That Jesus weeps out of empathy and compassion and love. And so this is something, you know, in the monastic tradition it's actually called the Charism, the Gift of Tears. And it's a sign of purity of heart.


Amy: Oh, how beautiful.


Kayleen: Yeah. And so I think it's important to link that, like to look again at who is Jesus and what did he do. And one of the things that he did is he also wept. And he also expressed frustration when people didn't get it and didn't understand.


Amy: And that's so in line again with that word anthropos, to be fully human means to embrace all of our, you know, our human experiences, and things that are traditionally thought of as being masculine and things, parts of ourselves that are traditionally thought of as being feminine, for all people to embrace all those beautiful parts of ourselves. 


Kayleen: All people.


Amy: Including crying.


Kayleen: Yes, including having deep emotional experiences. So I just so love, do you want to read what Levi says? Because I just, I just love this part. Yes.


Amy: I was planning to include—me too. Yes, yes. I'll read it and then I want to hear what you think about it. So after this. So Mary is frustrated and feeling so sad about what's happened and it says, quote, "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 were 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 and laws other than those he witnessed.'" And for me, I just wanted to applaud. And I and I also just have to throw in again, personally, as many experiences of frustration, of not being listened to and being talked down to and demeaned sometimes by men, I also have had so many beautiful experiences of men who do listen and do—and stand up for me and stand up for women and are champions of women. And I just am so grateful for Levi's example and that that's included in this text as well. That's one of the things I thought. What do you think, Kayleen?


Kayleen: Oh, absolutely. I believe it completely. And that is absolutely one thing that we want to reclaim here. It's not an either or, it's not black and white, male/female, this fully human—it is all of it. It is this journey of being anthropos. And, you know, I was so moved at one of the places that I went to in France and I saw this symbol and I was so intrigued by it and I explored it. And it goes back to very early in Christianity within France. And it is, imagine, if you will, one triangle pointing upwards to the sky, interlocked with another triangle, pointing down to the earth. And so it's these two triangles interlocked together, which is what we have in the Jewish star of David or the Seal of Solomon. But inside is a six-petal flower and that six-petal flower I have been thrilled to discover is also called the Flower of Life. And it was a symbol that was on, the symbol that was the part of the earliest Christian tradition to identify Christians. You know, it wasn't the crucifix until the year one thousand was the dominant image, but this six-petal flower, because it was this idea that, when it's enclosed with the star of David, it's like when we unite the masculine and the feminine within each one of us. And in our world, that is what will lead to our fullest flowering. And so I've just been thrilled to find out that that six-petal flower was the symbol that has been associated with the teachings of Mary Magdalene from the very beginning.


Kayleen: And just a few years ago, they were doing excavations in Magdala at a Franciscan... A group of Franciscans bought this property to turn it into a street center, and they uncovered the earliest first century synagogue and it's in the town of Magdala. And what is on that altar is the six-petal flower.


Amy: Oh, you're kidding. Amazing.


Kayleen: And it's called the Magdalene Stone. You can look it up online, the Magdalene Stone, the Magdalene altar. And so if you hold that, that, yes, it is the masculine and the feminine together will lead to our world's flowering, the masculine and feminine within each one of us. You know, Jesus had so much of what we might call the feminine aspect: love, compassion, tenderness, all of those qualities united beautifully with masculine, so-called masculine qualities of strength and power. And you put these together and you think that he taught his first witness, Mary Magdalene, steps into those shoes to become fully human. And now she calls forth all of us to become fully human by connecting to the goodness that is in us and remembering our roots and opening to our fullness. And I think that is such an important message for our times, for men and for women, for everyone. To use the phrase that Paul uses, "neither Greek nor Jew, neither male or female," but to call us into our full humanity.


Amy: Well, that was just a beautiful way to wrap up this conversation, Kayleen. I've learned so much from you and I'm so, so grateful that you agreed to be my reading partner today. Thank you for being here.


Kayleen: Oh, it's been my pleasure. I love having these kinds of conversations. And I hope our listeners are excited to go and go deeper and to read the gospel of Mary and maybe join me on one of the virtual pilgrimages or the twenty-two days of Mary Magdalene. And it's been such a joy. Amy, thank you for all the work you're doing to raise consciousness and awareness in the world and to restore the image of goodness and create community.


Amy: Well, thank you. I would thank you for the same thing. I've already benefited so much. And yes, I would definitely encourage listeners to check out all of the amazing offerings on kayleenasbo.com, and look at Mythica Foundation and yes, definitely read this text. It's short, but it's powerful. And we didn't even get to some of the most, you know, some other really, really powerful parts of this, this incredible essential text. So really quickly too, Kayleen, you've provided some beautiful music for our outro. So normally we just have a little piano piece that we play at the beginning and the end. But today we have something really special. So before I introduce our next text that we're going to be reading for next week, could you just tell us a little bit more about what we're going to hear at the end of this episode?


Kayleen: Yes, absolutely. This is a song composed by my dear friend Catherine Braslavsky, who lives in France, and she's actually the wife of the English translator of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. And it is based on an Aramaic text from the 1st century. So Aramaic, again the language that Jesus spoke. And I think the words really speak to some of these elements that we've been talking about. So roughly translated, it's, "Oh beautiful tree of our hearts' longing. The Lord has planted you and you have grown by the blessed waters. Your leaves heal and your fruit gives life. And we take shelter in your shade. And the Holy Spirit rests in your branches like the dove in ancient olive trees." And as we listen to this then, just realize that the dove again, Holy Spirit, "she" in Aramaic, that the Holy Spirit was often signified and still is by a dove. And the dove is one of the symbols that's been associated with Mary Magdalene from the very beginning. So wherever you are listening, may peace flower in your own heart, may peace arise within you, and may you return again and again and again to the roots of goodness and beauty. That is your essence. Thank you so much.


Amy: Thank you, Kayleen. Well, that is just absolutely beautiful. And I think a perfect way for us to close the conversation, Kayleen. On our next episode of Breaking Down Patriarchy, we will pick up where we left off in the 19th century with Charlotte Perkins Gillman's 1892 novella, The Yellow Wallpaper. I read this book as a freshman in college and wow, is it different reading it now! It's an amazing, kind of like a short story. It's really short and super quick to read. It's also on Audible if you want to listen to it. And it's a landmark work of literature because it's one of the first examples of a female narrator telling the story from inside her own head. It talks about depression, it talks about medical paternalism. And it really vividly depicts all kinds of 19th century social norms that still have echoes today. So the story is really worth reading or rereading again, if you've already read it. But as always, of course, even if you didn't even if you don't read, it will share why it's important in our discussion. So join us next time for Charlotte Perkins Gillman's The Yellow Wallpaper on Breaking Down Patriarchy. And now we'll end with this episode with this beautiful work, "Ilono" by Catherine Braslavsky. And just one more note as you listen, remember Mary Magdalene, whom Christians will remember, especially during the upcoming Easter season. So this is an especially timely episode in a beautiful time for people of the Christian faith. So listen to this music. Remember that Mary Magdalene was from Israel. She wasn't European. And this text, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene that we read and discussed today was written by Egyptian Christians. And you'll hear that in this gorgeous piece of music.





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About the Podcast

Breaking Down Patriarchy
An Essential Texts Book Club
Breaking Down Patriarchy is a podcast for everyone! Learn about the creation of patriarchy and those who have challenged it as you listen to bookclub-style discussions of essential historical texts. Gain life-changing epiphanies and practical takeaways through these smart, relatable conversations.

About your host

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Amy Allebest

I grew up in Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, reading, writing, drawing, singing, and practicing the piano and violin. I attended Brigham Young University, where I met Erik Allebest during my first week of freshman year, studied abroad in Israel, lived in Chile for a year and a half as a missionary, and married Erik all before graduating with a degree in English. Erik and I moved around - to Colorado, Southern California, Utah, Spain, and Northern California - while Erik started and ran chess businesses for a living (primarily chess.com) and I stayed home to raise our four children. Those four kids have become brilliant, hilarious people and are our very best friends. I am a long-time trail runner, a recent CrossFitter, a lifelong reader and writer, and an almost-graduate of Stanford University's Master's of Liberal Arts program.