Mary Magdalene, the Wound and the Forgery

If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Spiritual Detective

As the strangeness around continues and the line between what is real and what is not is becoming thinner by the minute, I have been pondering what is the right thing to write about and what is not, and have come across material that has deepened my sense that what we call reality and the authorities associated with it cannot be treated with the same serious rigour that we have given them in the past. 

But there is a story here that I want to share with you – and it wants to be told. I was reluctant to write about it as it touches in a very painful way on something that I consider very dear – the alternative intepretations of Mary Magdalene. I do not want to delve here into the story of Mary Magdalene as the Grail which has been put forward by Michael Beigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, then by Margaret Starbird in The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and in its fictional thriller rendition The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I have never related well to these stories, although they definitely bring up for scrutiny the traditional version of Mary Magdalene as presented in the canonical gospels and their dogmatic interpretations, even if not really in scholarly terms. (I am much more interested in how the Gnostics portrayed her as a disciple and companion of Jesus. In my research, I have also found symbolic and mythological connections with the goddesses of the past such as Inanna, Isis and possibly even Hathor.) 

However, these kinds of cultural events (for example, the interest in Mary Magdalene as the Grail) are very powerful and should not be disregarded. Some scholars like to compare them to ‘tectonic shifts in the sacred landscape’ and new spirituality.

They emerge in our consciousness and manifest in our reality for good reason and in this case, the revision of Mary Magdalene from the orthodox point of view and its obvious errors (such as the story by Gregory the Great who started the myth of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute). This cultural momentum has a lot to do with the awakening of spirituality which searches for the feminine aspect of the divine, as well as being an expression of a deep psychic rage among women who have felt either left out, repressed or have been presented with limiting versions of the feminine divine which are unacceptable for them. So, in a sense we are living in a time of feminist revisionism of the divine – which I support and even deem necessary for the common evolution of human consciousness which addresses the other half (the feminine) of the divine. 

The question here is what are we willing to do to correct past errors – and this is where the main topic of this blog comes to light. Here comes a cautionary tale which has been published in the brilliant book by an investigative journalist, Ariel Sabar, Veritas: the Harvard Professor, the Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife published only a month ago.

In his book, Sabar follows the controversial story of the famous Harvard professor Karen King, who joined the Harvard staff in 1997 and is a well-known and respected scholar of the Gnostic Gospels. For those who are not interested in the careers of academics, you probably saw her on TV or social media during the peak of interest in the Da Vinci Code, as she was a professor whose opinion was sought on the topic. More recently, the Hay House bestseller, Mary Magdalene Revealed by Meggan Watterson  refers to Professor Karen King’s research. 

So what is the controversy that was worthy of inclusion in Ariel Sabar’s book?

In 2012, Professor Karen King presented at a scholarly conference in Rome and announced that she had been given a fragment of a papyrus in which Jesus called Mary Magdalene his wife and his disciple.  Although it was only a very small fragment with unknown missing parts, it may change the course of scholarly research on Mary Magdalene. 

The fragment reads: ‘… The disciples said to Jesus … deny. Mary is (not?) worthy of it … Jesus said to them, “My wife … she is able to be my disciple … Let wicked people swell up … As for me, I am with her in order to … an image …

As you can imagine, Professor King’s announcement created a bit of a stir at the conference, as it neatly brought together two theories on Mary Magdalene: one propagated by Holy Grail enthusiasts (Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus) and the other based on the Gnostic Gospels (the theory I am interested in – that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ disciple). Thus, although these two interpretations already existed, they now seem neatly weaved together in this fragment from the papyrus of mysterious origin.

Some scholars support Professor King’s claim but most have rejected it and are very skeptical of the papyrus – and with good reasons. For example (and Sabar explains this in a fascinating detail in his book), most of the lines from the papyrus can already be found in the Gospel of Thomas, with the exception of the line ‘my wife’, which in itself Sabar considers suspicious. As if this was not enough, the lines that are also in the Gospel of Thomas were taken from one particular copy of the Gospel of Thomas available online which contained some mistakes. The same mistakes are seen repeated in the fragment of the papyrus which Professor King calls the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Hmmm … right?

This observation sent Sabar on a journey first to Florida, then to East Germany to find out who was the possible forger (if there was a forger) that had presented Professor King with the fragment. The story becomes bizarre when Sabar manages to identify the forger as Walter Fritz, a Florida resident, who in his earlier years studied Egyptology in Berlin and has even published a scholarly paper in a respected academic journal. Fritz quit his studies but forged his degree when later applying for a job. This would probably be enough to make the story of one of the great forgeries embarrassing to a scholar, except that Fritz and his wife also had a porn business on a side, to make the indignity complete.

In the end, Sabar pretty much proves that Professor King has been shown a forged papyrus and here, as far as I am concerned, the real value of Sabar’s book can be found, where he asks the question: Did Professor King know that she had been given a forged manuscript but decided to use it anyway?  And if she did, why did she use it? To prove her theories?  Out of scholarly ambition or to bring attention back to Mary Magdalene – or even herself? 

What Sabar did not take into consideration in his analysis is the deep hurt, the immense psychic wound that women have carried for millennia at being edited out of anything of real importance except for the vague ideal of the virginal mother. That psychic and spiritual wound is real and one day most institutionalised religions will have to deal with it. 

Personally, I do not think ambition or the desire to be in the spotlight again were King’s main motivations. I also do not think that anything needed to be proved in this area, as we already have the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and Pistis Sophia which describe Mary Magdalene as a disciple. We also have the Gospel of Philip, which describes Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ special companion.

But the question remains: why? It is doubtful that King did not notice what other scholars were concerned about or what any investigative journalists could find out by themselves. So why would she endanger her own career and bring into question the research of many other scholars who work with the authentic Gnostic Gospels such as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Philip?

The best way to approach this is to ask ourselves: why would we do something like this?

  1. We can want something so much that we will desire it at any cost and stop thinking about the consequences. We have all been at this point at some stage in our lives and have made (or almost made) such a mistake. All the great stories of crimes of passion fall into this category.
  2. Or is this a simple case of temporary blindness, as often happens in love, when we (blindly) believe someone/something is the one, even if signs to the contrary are all around us?
  3. Or – and I believe that this is the case here – we can choose to accept something knowing it is not true (for example a forged piece of papyrus) because we believe it SHOULD BE TRUE.

Why should this be true? Following this line of reasoning, the papyrus could be authentic because we know that the canonical gospels were edited too, that what is called ‘holy’ and ‘orthodox’ and what is determined as ‘heretical’ is due to nothing but particular points of view. We know that the old powers often played with the gospels for political reasons – these actions are documented. We know that the old powers gave themselves the authority to decide what is God’s word and what is mere heresy. They gave this authority to themselves and took it away from those who did not fit in with their version of what was divine or politically convenient for them.

One can, I suppose, sympathise with Professor King’s temptation to make her announcement about the ‘ancient papyrus’ only a street away from the Vatican. I can relate to this on an emotional level, even if I personally do not care whether Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus or anyone else, for that matter. 

But as a truth seeker and scholar I do agree with Ariel Sabar. Just because something could have been or even should have been true, does not mean it necessarily is, or can be proved, true. Past injustices cannot be fixed by pretending that a forged document has not been forged.

What we can do though, it occurs to me, is to focus on the present and the future.  The past has never been what it should have been. The goddesses were called prostitutes and abominations by the powers who came after them. The feminine was dispelled from religions – and religions suffer because of it. So even when we try to reconstruct the repressed past, we also have to reconstruct ourselves from within. The old wounds need to be healed not use as points to take action from.

For me, Professor King has become a major player of the tragic expression of these wounds – a cry of fury that has led her to accept what is scholarly unacceptable. And this makes me very sad.     

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Much love,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Goddess News

If you would like to learn more, I recommend Ariel Sabar’s book or an excellent interview with him on Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio: https://thegodabovegod.com/a-harvard-professor-a-con-man-and-the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife/?fbclid=IwAR1A9xwNL3GGx7hoDaAAy2OoORfaXSZaGAbJlVP-KQLvtnAPdhdxmiQzp2c

I also attach my most recent video created for Peace Weekend – an international event with  many luminaries such as Deepak Chopra, Mirabai Starr, Jane Goodall and many others.  This is my contribution to this event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3CdPdJ2UgY&t=1982s

If you prefer something more conservative on Mary Magdalene I recommend my first video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwESV8oskrU&t=88s

©Joanna Kujawa

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10 Responses to Mary Magdalene, the Wound and the Forgery

  1. Ian Robinson says:

    Absolutely fascinating stuff Sundari! And very well reasoned. Thank you.

  2. Vinzent Liebig says:

    Dear Joanna,

    In 1985 an international conference was held here with the title “Feminism and Spirituality” and I made the poster for the conference. The poster is a collage and it shows the silhouette of a woman standing on the planet Earth – similar to some statues of Mother Mary, where Mary is standing on a crescent moon. And around her are about 100 small picture details of flowers, stars, animals, etc. and among them there is also a small picture showing a baby at its mother’s breast while breastfeeding.

    The organizers of the conference showed the design of my poster before it was printed to one of the feminists who was supposed to speak at the conference to ask if she would agree to it. This feminist found my design okay on the whole. But she didn’t like the little picture of the baby on his mother’s bosom. This feminist was a professor of feminist Christian theology.

    Of course you can wish for palm trees to grow at the South Pole. But wanting to change such a corrupt, retarded, neurotic and perverse structure like the Catholic Church is probably even more difficult than planting palm trees at the South Pole and will inevitably lead to injuries. Forget the damn “Mother Church”!

    If I want to be a free and creative individual in this life, then I should start NOW! I shouldn’t wait for the Catholic Church to become enlightened first, because that could take another few thousand years.

    According to my astrological research on the female and male patterns in the human psyche, there are a few female patterns which are roughly: “I suffer, so I am, I whine about it with my girlfriends, so I am, I consume, so I am, etc.”. And of course there are similarly strange male patterns, sure.

    But the theme of the “wound of the feminine” that you address is staged again and again, probably because it corresponds to the unreflected self-image of the feminine. Just as the pattern of the “lonely male hero” is staged anew again and again because it corresponds to the unreflected self-image of the masculine. And we absolutely want to maintain our unreflected self-images, or more precisely, they want to maintain themselves, because they are part of our unreflected egos – giving them up feels extremely threatening.

    A few female friends with whom I have been able to talk about my astrological research on female and male patterns have confirmed the following:

    If a woman wants to develop, she has to become creative herself, which can also mean doing things on her own. And then she might be thrown out of the club of her “friends” who do nothing creative and only chat and whine together.

    The female is communal in her preconscious dispositions, because the female embryo grows up in a female and not in a male uterus.

    The female embryo experiences a “we” on the basis of sexual equality with the uterus, a “we” that does not exist at all for the male embryo. Amniotic fluid, uterus, mother’s heartbeat, the hormones that communicate with the embryo through the umbilical cord, are all female without exception. The male embryo is already in utero a “lonely male hero in a foreign world”.

    The communal self-image of the female and the isolated self-image of the male are thus of prenatal origin and not achievements of individual individuation. When we as human beings reach our wholeness, we will have gone beyond isolation as men and beyond the communal as women.

    All the best, dear Joanna
    Cordially
    Vincento

    • sundari says:

      Vinceto, I have missed your presence here. As always, your comment is insightful and I like that you always speak what you believe what is true. First of all, I think your poster at the conference sounds absolutely beautiful but I think that both you and the feminist speaker were right and I will explain below why. I also completely agree with the your observation of the ‘victimhood’ in women. I am not saying that this focus is good for women or that we should hold on to it but rather pointing out the it does exist and can, as in the case of the Professor King, lead to a debatable action. It is also interesting what you have said about the ‘lonely hero’ – very interesting – the famous song by Johnny Cash ‘Solitary man’. These archetypes are powerful and seductive and like you, I hope that they are matters of the past and as we uncover them and consciously face them we can move on passed them – I am working on it myself. So here we are on the same page. But now, I am going to say something that often upsets people and especially creates a disbelief in men – that not all women want to be mothers and not all women want to be constantly shown the image of the feminine with a child in her hands or by her breasts. So what I am saying here is that women are tired of being with the mother archetype. It is a beautiful archetype but no the only one. It is also a very limiting archetype especially that is almost always connected with being a wife and mother in relation to a man. I am not interested in being anything in relation to anyone. I am a woman and I love my man. We are equal and we honour our choices. We are biologically and emotionally different on many levels and this is the beauty of this equation – in a way the whole life in this beautiful planet revolves around that. I personally love that divine play between the woman and the man. I love it. So what I am saying here that we need to see each other in a deeper way, not just a mother in man’s eyes or a provider in woman’s eyes.
      I agree with what you said about Catholic Church and, of course, it is not just the Church I dare to say most traditional religions do that. On a reflection, perhaps Professor King could not help herself and just wanted to show her middle finger to the hierarchy across the street – and I do not support her decision but I understand why it was tempting to do.
      As always, your comments make my day.
      Much love,
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

      • Vinzent Liebig says:

        Dear Joanna, my temporary absence resulted from the fact that I became involved in the mobile phone critical movement from mid-2019. That took a lot of energy and time. But it was also very interesting to get a lively impression of political and social life. It seems to me that this is an area of experience that is much more complex than anything I have experienced before.

        Concerning the “victim role” it seems to me that when women talk to their female friends about their problems, they create an emotional common ground which in itself has a healing effect. This is certainly good, there is comfort, relief and stabilization. This is healing at the moment, but not yet a long-term creative and evolutionary approach.

        In contrast, men often tend to want to solve their problems on their own. But in order to come to the creative, men need the insight that their rational thinking and all the problems that can be perceived and solved through it only cover a very small part of reality. A small limited area, surrounded at all its boundaries by something mysterious, a secret as well as obvious reality that cannot be grasped by rational thinking. So men need a certain amount of mysticism or “madness”, they need the contact with the mysterious to become really alive and whole. And that’s where it comes naturally to many men to fall in love with a woman and let her drive them a little bit into “madness”. Just kidding – I mean to be inspired, of course, of course. And of course this mysteriousness does not only appear in the form of women – fortunately. 🙂

        What you write about your love relationship has touched me the most of everything you have written. I am always very happy when lovers are happy.

        As an astrologer I see again and again that every person is unique and I think that this how the universe wants us to be. So it doesn’t matter if someone becomes a mother or father or not. It doesn’t matter which tasks someone fulfils and which areas of experience someone lives out. There are no general rules for that and I as an astrologer always stand on the side of the individual. Religious and social concepts are really secondary when it comes to an individual’s relationship to himself and his unique experience of the universe.

        In your horoscope, I suspect that Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, plays a particularly important role and I wish you happiness and good luck in it. And I think that you can also see yourself as a “mother”, namely as the mother of all the research, ideas, insights and writings you have brought forth and also as the mother of all the talks, dialogues and discussions about the divine feminine that have been initiated and vitalized by it. I truly believe that you can be understood as the mother of something that is alive and invigorating in a spiritual sense.

        What do you think, dear Joanna?

        Have a wonderful day
        Vincento

        • sundari says:

          HI Vincento,
          Thank you for your support. I agree that sharing the sounds together provides some comfort but a bigger more evolutionary steps need to be taken. I think that in the past being together was one of the very few options for women but now, at least, in many places, we do have other options to explore. It is also interesting what you said about men seeking answers intellectually – that could be my animus doing too. But I am not worried because I have done enough (and continue so) doing ‘mad’ and crazy things for love and spirit adventure and Eros – what can I say? 😊
          I assume when you speak in your introduction about mobile related conflict, you meant 5G? We live in super strange times but I think it is good too. It is good because it exposes the madness of our pre-Covid lives. Hopefully, we collectively and individually find new, more harmonious ways of being.
          PS I am certainly a mother of all ideas and like children they drive me crazy. Also, that side of my feminine psyche is connected deeply to the natural world and I suffer with it.
          Much love,
          Joanna
          Dr Joanna Kujawa
          Goddess News

  3. Richard Neftin says:

    The God, Goddess and their place in human history, as husbands and wives etc lay in the emotion/feeling realm of creativity and imagination. There is much we may never know. and even if the truth was an pink elephant playing trombone in our bathroom and the bathwater was running yellow with vodka, some may never see it or taste it. The difficulty is persuasion, always, and in Knowing. Do we want to Know the Goddess Personally, or are we satisfied with Believing, or do we need archaeology to confirm what we need/feel/want to be true before integrating the Divine (feminine, masculine…) into our lives? Integration into our every day is the Practice, and the Spirit of Discord is in the details. Not to get too bogged down or boxed in. This was a very interesting article, thank you.

    • sundari says:

      Hi Richard,
      Thank you for your insightful comment and I am glad that you liked the article. Yes, certain things we will never know especially in a tangible and empirical way. But, of course we live in times when the empirical evidence is considered the only truth which is frankly extremely limiting. The best things in life including love, including our connection with Nature and Spirit cannot be proved empirically. This is my only argument with science – not broadening its spectrum of investigation to finer and subtler things in our lives. So, I agree with your point that some people will never see it and I also think it might be pointless to exert oneself in proving empirically what can be only experienced spiritually.
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  4. Lilith Martin says:

    The male is “trapped” in his consciousness of the ideal, original state of the reality. His challenge in working toward the reunion is to “get out of his head”, to realize and yearn for the superior fulfilment that is possible only trough uniting with what female represents. The female, in contrast, is “trapped” in her consciousness of perfecting created reality. Her challenge is to remember the goal towards which she is working, to reveal the subconscious yearnings of her heart to transcend created reality. Although God is generally assigned the role of the male and creation that of the female, the male-female dynamic is replayed throughout all levels of created reality. In other words, every level of creation has its male and female aspects. The final, lowest manifestation of this duality is, of course, man and woman in our physical world.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, Lilith, for your excellent comment. Yes, the male-female dynamic is replayed on many levels of consciousness-reality. Depending on the tradition, they sometimes switch roles but, pretty much, re-play the dynamic you have just discussed. It is sad, in a way, that in the world of hard core science or even academia dealing with the Divine on any level, what counts is the empirical/physical evidence while the mystical energies have much subtler presence. Once again, I appreciate your wonderful insight and thank you for contributing to the Goddess News forum.
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

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