Sophia, Mary Magdalene and the Archetype of a Wisdom ‘babe’.

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

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Spiritual Detective

My search for Mary Magdalene and her true identity (beyond the mainstream misconception of her as a prostitute) has launched me on a fascinating and exciting journey. One the first stopovers on this journey was Gnosticism with what are my favourite descriptions of Mary Magdalene as a wise woman, the disciple of Jesus and possibly his partner (see the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Thomas). This, in turn, led me to the Gnostic story of Sophia – the Divine Wisdom – as it became clearer for me that Mary Magdalene was nothing less than the expression of Divine Wisdom in Jesus’ life.

Now this idea is still largely resisted, both in mainstream and alternative circles. In mainstream culture this is because of attachment to prevailing traditions and also due to ubiquitous misogyny.  In alternative circles there is often a general preference to focus on Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ consort or wife. I am not even vaguely inclined at the moment to give any more time to mainstream traditions and their inherent and implicit misogyny.  As for the alternative traditions of Mary Magdalene as Jesus consort/wife, I believe this it is beautifully aligned with the Gnostic idea of Sophia and Divine Wisdom that interests me the most.

I have been fascinated by how two things have usually happened in the past in depictions of wise or educated women. One, they have been completely desexualised so as to lose their feminine or sexual ‘lore’ and made into overly dutiful ‘holy mother’ types, with the Virgin Mary as the classical example, although there are many other ancient and early Christian examples. Two, they have been overly sexualised and often called ‘prostitutes’ or hetairai (educated women who were sexually free who would entertain learned men as much in the art of philosophy as in the art of sexual performance). 

It is my belief based on my research (as much as it is possible to research things that have been purposefully repressed through millennia) that both depictions are likely to be wrong. I do not doubt there were some highly educated prostitutes known as hetairai but I am convinced many other women-philosophers were put into this category out of contempt for women, especially for educated women, a concept considered indecent and scandalous. Since educated women or  women-philosophers have nearly always been recorded as indecent and scandalous then, I have no doubt, by extension they were defined as ‘prostitutes’ because they ‘dared’ to excel in matters of mind, spirit and sexual enchantment. I believe Mary Magdalene fell into this category as well. It us also worthwhile mentioning that apart from ‘courtesans’ hetiaria also meant ‘companions’ and, for me, they can also bring to mind the idea of a tantric consort who is a bridge between the erotic, spiritual and wise.

Joan E Taylor in her book Jewish Women Philosophers  of First-Century Alexandria (a book which I think is unnecessarily mistitled, as she discusses largely women-philosophers of the ancient world, including Greek, Jewish and women of other nationalities) refers to ‘paradigms’ of wise women, which I prefer to refer to as the archetypes of wise-women. I will focus here on some of her excellent distinctions, such as the ‘philosopher babe’, ‘one of the boys’ and women as carriers of spiritual wisdom in the ancient world.

For me at least it was a great treat to learn that there have been other women-philosophers, apart from Hypatia of Alexandria, a famous philosopher who in 415 CE/AD was murdered by a Christian mob in the most brutal way (I will spare you the horrific descriptions) on the orders of the new Bishop of Alexandria, Cyril. With typical misguided flare, the Church made Cyril into a saint.

l am glad that in my search for Mary Magdalene as wise woman I have come across so many other women-philosophers, in fact I have found enough to classify them into different archetypes. For example, Taylor quotes from a Greek philosopher (Chrysippus) who says that he frequently sat next to a female philosophy student in the Stoic school of Cleanthes. Much later (in the 17th century), Gilles Manage mentions 65 women-philosophers. There is more. Women- philosophers were most eminent in the Stoic, Cynics (the rebels), Pythagorean and Epicurean Schools. 

The ones who interest me most are the Pythagoreans, who in mainstream philosophy are usually described as mathematicians but who were also very interested in esoteric spirituality. Taylor, through ancient sources, lists at least 17 famous Pythagorean women-philosophers. Among them, interestingly, is Pythagoras’ wife Theano. Theano was ‘an independent philosopher’ in her own right and in charge of the Pythagorean school after his death. Another wise woman in his life was  Themistoclea, who was a Delphic oracle and priestess who once had Pythagoras as a student!    

But back to my investigation regarding the connection between Mary Magdalene, Sophia – the Divine Wisdom – and the sexy and wise babe archetype. We know from established religions that Mary Magdalene, through complete historical error, was called a prostitute. I also discuss this in my video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwESV8oskrU, in my piece for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation https://www.abc.net.au/religion/something-about-mary-magdalene-recovering-a-central-figure-in-ea/10098428 and in my other blogs. 

In the same way, Sophia, the Divine Wisdom of the Gnostics was also called the ‘lascivious one’. In the mythical rendition of her she falls into matter, forgets who she is and becomes a prostitute (a great metaphor for short-changing ourselves in our lives and forgetting our true greatness).

Could it be, I ask, that these depictions of both Mary Magdalene and the Gnostic Super-goddess Sophia have been influenced by the archetype of the sexy and wise babe of the ancient world?  Taylor calls such a woman ‘the blend of erotic adviser’ and a woman of wisdom/philosopher who gives a ‘pillow talk’ – but I think this is an unfair description. The archetype of the philosopher-babe encompasses both wisdom and sexiness – something that people even today have difficulty imagining. Such women are beautiful, ‘immodest’ and wise. Taylor believes these women had and have not only sexual power but also intellectual and possibly spiritual power (especially in the Pythagorean school) which they exercise(d) freely without any regard for social taboos placed on women. This alone is probably the reason they have pretty much been called whores. In the same way as Mary Magdalene was challenged by some of the male disciples (Peter usually) in the Gnostic sources. 

But let’s look at some examples of these magnificent women. According to Taylor, Thargelia of Miletus was ‘beautiful and wise’ and was the lover of Antiochus King of Thessally in the sixth century BCE. Then there was Cleaobulia, who possessed a great mind and participated in ‘the symposium of Seven Sages’ (also in the sixth century BC) with another woman philosopher called Melissa, who possessed spiritual knowledge. Let’s then continue with Aspasia (fifth century BC) who was a companion and adviser of Pericles, the ruler of Athens, and who, according to ancient sources, also possessed a great sexual allure. These are just some of my favourite of philosopher-babes.

Another archetype that interests me greatly in connection with Mary Magdalene is the archetype of woman as a ‘bearer of a secret knowledge’, as Taylor refers to them. Here we again have Themistoclea, whom I already mentioned was a Delphic priestess who had Pythagoras among her students. Another of my favourites was Diotima, who initiated Socrates into the secrets of sexual knowledge. She, through her Tantric practices, held that Eros is the source of ‘creation and can potentially be divine, a part in the condition of the mortal and the immortal’.

Another no less interesting but more common archetype also associated with some of the Gnostic descriptions of Mary Magdalene is that archetype which Taylor calls ‘the honorary male’. Hypatia of Alexandria, for example, was ‘one of the boys’. An exception was made for her wisdom – as long as she did not use her feminine ‘lure’. At the end of the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus mentions that Mary Magdalene has become ‘male’.

I dedicate this blog to these magnificent women, whose names have been erased from mainstream history.

They are the rightful daughters of Inanna, Ishtar, Hathor and Isis. They are the archetypes of Mary Magdalene and the Gnostic Sophia. They are the rebels of the mind, soul and body.

They stand proud in the glory of the space where the mystery of Wisdom and Eros can be one.

What do you think, my friends?

I would love hear from you through your comments,

Much Love,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Goddess News blog

©Joanna Kujawa
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12 Responses to Sophia, Mary Magdalene and the Archetype of a Wisdom ‘babe’.

  1. Jj says:

    You seem to have either a negative mother or father complex. Just my opinion. What do you think?

    • sundari says:

      Thank you for your comment. Neither actually. I am just exploring the archetypes of the feminine which were left out from mainstream narratives,
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  2. Jj says:

    Oh I’m just saying this cause according to Jung we are ALL made up of complexes. I’ve struggled with many. Knowing this is such a beautiful thing!

    • sundari says:

      Thank you for sharing this with me. I see now what you are saying. I would call it a frustration both existential and spiritual with the limitations of the Mother/Father archetype and their dominance in the spiritual arena. I agree with you that the work needs to be done internally in the Jungian fashion both individually and collectively. There is nothing wrong with either archetype as long as we are not limited by them. So, thank you for pointing it out and noticing that lack of ease and frustration with the limitations of these archetypes – it certainly ‘informs’ those bogs as much as the desire to transcends the boundaries of these limitations for us all.
      Much love and thank you for sharing,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News blog

  3. Linda McLeod says:

    A wonderful, insightful piece as always Goddess. True feminine divinity encompassing all the magnificent facets of womankind has been a source of fear through the mysoginist eras. You so fittingly discuss that women were portrayed as either intellectuals or whores, or both! The idea a woman can encompass sexuality as a feminine power while also being valued for her intelligence and reasoning still appears to be confronting for certain institutions.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, beautiful Goddess Linda, for your encouragement. Funny is it not that the empowered archetype had to be ridiculed or vilify. These were the times and to an extent it is still true. I sometimes wonder who is it that controls our perceptions of ourselves, especially if that perceptions are empowered? Who is bent on disempowering us (and here I mean the whole of humanity but especially women)? And sometimes I wonder if is not just a habitual limitation of our own minds, stuck in al archetypes that do not serve us anymore.
      I love these conversations and Thank you or your beautiful comment,
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News blog

  4. scythian13 says:

    I personally believe in the Divine Feminine, and I don’t see Her as anyone’s “consort” but as the “All” unto Herself. I don’t envision Mary Magdalene to have lived Her life running behind the coat-tails of Jesus in servitude, but instead I see Her as a holy priestess who shared Her mystery with Jesus in a similar manner to Shiva and Parvati (p.s. when Parvati is asking about liberation in their conversation, she’s not actually asking to obtain an answer she already knows…) In fact, I would venture to say that Mary Magdalene was the same person as John the Baptist, but of course the church couldn’t have a woman with that kind of authority, and so… Just a point to add; King Solomon was the wisest king, and he had within his temple “the Holy of Holies”, which was where he worshipped Goddess Asherah…

    • sundari says:

      Yes, I agree and thank you for your wonderful comment. Yes, I, too believe, that that she is the personification of Divine Feminine and was terribly misrepresented and stripped of her power. Also, her power was misunderstood by the limited times and consciousness and societies. Here, I was just looking at a research of another scholar who brought back some names of women who were both wise and empowered (including sexually) and lived their lives on their terms as much as possible. They were perceived as powerful and were considered as a threat – just as Mary Magdalene. Even alternative narratives of Mary Magdalene are so varied and I think it is wonderful that you have your own perception or even experience of who she was and is. And it is more and more clear to me that she stands in her own power now. At the same time, on this plane, according to the Gnostics, everything is expressed through polarities: including the polarity of the feminine masculine, so for them, Mary Magdalene and Jesus were expressions of the Divine: one in the feminine form and the other in masculine form. And, I agree completely with you that they were equal. If they were in a relationship spiritual or physical: he was as much of her consort as she was his as they are two faces of the Divine.
      Once again, Thank you, for your wonderful insight. I love it,
      Much love,
      Joanna,
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News blog

      • Thomas White says:

        Thank you for your responsiveness and kind words. As a heterosexual man with spiritual beliefs like mine, it is difficult to have conversations like this without being filtered into some sort of category because society is much more restrictive than people are aware. The social programming is still very much in progress even though the ‘powers’ like to pretend differently. When I was a child I remember my mother being very angry that a letter for her was addressed to Mrs. Leo White, as if she was just part of the package that was him and didn’t require her name there. People say “well, that was just the times…”. Maybe so, but the times lasted a bit too long. That all said, my father was a good man and a hard worker who would the wash dishes as comfortably as he would mow the hay fields or haul wood for the fire (yes, I’m getting old…lol), so I don’t have any mommy/daddy issues. I just see things from my own perspective, you might say.

        • sundari says:

          Thank you, Thomas. Yes, it is difficult to enter this field (any field) without being put into one box or another. I often wonder why are we so limited in our perceptions of ourselves and who limits us? It is probably both the society and our own minds, if this is so we need to liberate our minds and reach our highest potential, our true greatness. That is why I engage in these explorations, to open my mind and see what is hidden. And, yes, I, too, believe that it has been too long for both women and men and everyone. It is time to break away from those cages, from these limitations – wherever they are coming from.
          Much love,
          Joanna
          Dr Joanna Kujawa
          Goddess News blog

  5. Dj Atwood says:

    Excellent blog entry Dr. Joanna!

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, my friend. I really appreciate your feedback and support.
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News blog

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