Tantra, Gnostic Jesus and Mary Magdalene
‘If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,
Dr Joanna Kujawa, Spiritual Detective :).
This blog comes as an attempt to investigate and perhaps even formulate a possible theory about the connection between the sacred Tantric teaching of Hinduism and esoteric Christianity, especially that which is contained in some of the Gnostic Gospels (primarily the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Thomas).
But before I move in this direction, allow me to share something personal with you. When I was an ardent student of Tantra, I wrote a piece for a well-known men’s magazine about Tantra. As a young woman I used to be fascinated by men’s magazines which, apart from the articles on expensive toys such as Bentleys etc, I found they had some interesting and tongue-in-cheek pieces much better written, I am sorry to say, than those in women’s magazines, with their attempts to ‘dumbify’ women. To cut the long story short the editor loved the piece but said that his readers would not read it unless it had practical tips on how to improve their sex lives!
Here is the major misunderstanding about Tantra. Let me clarify something right from the very beginning: Tantra is not a form of Kama Sutra. That is why the Hindus do have the Kama Sutra and anyone who wants to spice up their sexual life should buy themselves a copy and practise all the positions with a willing partner (albeit they might need to take a few Yoga classes for certain positions :).
Tantra is not about improving your sexual life.
Tantra is about embracing everything, especially the things that have been banished by organised religions, as a possible means for spiritual evolution and focuses on nothing else but complete union with the Divine. Sexuality is a part of that everything. However, Tantra is not about sexuality. The reason we are so obsessed with this part of Tantra is because sexuality is misused by many in so many ways and because the institutionalised religions have not the slightest clue on how to deal with it. The only way they have ever known how to deal with has been to either demonise it or to ask what is impossible for most of us, especially when young; that is, to ‘just sublimate it’. We know how this has turned out, with many religious leaders being painfully bad examples in this area, over and over again.
The sexual aspect of Tantra is fascinating though. Not because it is at the centre of Tantra but because its approach towards sexuality is so enlightening. What if something that is the most powerful, yet often confusing and considered generally ‘bad’, is actually ‘good’ when practised with guidance?
This is no different than going to the jungle for a session of ayahuasca with a shaman. If done with the proper intentions, with a real shaman, it can bring incredible insights and even a transformation. But if done as a drug experiment with some charlatan after a drunken party, the results will be probably different (although some people have received Grace even in those circumstances, while others have paid a terrible price).
Just to clarify one more thing: Tantra is an offspring of Hinduism, or rather a response to the Vedantic approach, which in many ways is as dogmatic as traditional Western religions. Tantra is Hinduism’s rebellious branch, so to speak. Only later was it appropriated by other Eastern religions and is usually presented in this ‘updated’ way to the West. I am going to focus here only on the original Hindu Tantra and its possible application in Esoteric Christianity.
In the original Hindu Tantra, as described by Abhinavagupta in the Tantraloka, the sexual ritual was practised in a group setting of devoted disciples. The guru, his consort and the disciples and their consorts were, ideally, spiritually advanced meditators.
So to start with, you practise sexual Tantra only when you are already an advanced spiritual practitioner and, ideally, with the guidance of a guru. There are some exceptions, some of them very radical, which I have described in earlier blogs.
For this reason, meditation and chants proceed the sensual massage (the worship of the yoni by a man and the worship of the penis by a woman). The sensual massage is directed as the worship of the feminine principle by the man and the masculine principle by the woman. The purpose of the massage and intercourse (whether with or without ejaculation) or oral worship is to experience the original Unity of the feminine and masculine principles, as represented by Shiva-Shakti in Hindu Tantra.
The sensual images of Hinduism, with Shakti on top of Shiva, are reminders of the original ecstasy of the universe, both sensual and procreative. For a Tantrika (a practitioner of Tantra) there is no contradiction here – as pleasure is God/Goddess-given when practised consciously (rather than abusively or perversely). Thus sexual Tantra, when practised consciously and under guidance, can take us to that original rapture from which the entire Universe was created. How beautiful is that?
Now, how can this be applied in the Christian – or really any – Western religious context?
Not until we reach this state of consciousness does it even allow for that possibility. However, we have seen some attempts on the part of the more adventurous (and often sidetracked) Christian clergy and thinkers. The one whom I completely adore is, of course, Jean-Yves Leloup, who, in my life at least, was the first priest to open our minds to the possibility that in his human incarnation Jesus was a sexual being. In fact, Leloup argues in his commentary on the Gospel of Mary Magdalene that for Jesus to be the redeemer he needed to be sexual as well, as ‘you can’t redeem what you have not experienced’.
Another spiritual teacher I know has often told us that it is completely unfair to deify someone as a Great Being by saying ‘he was a God and therefore he was different’. This is spiritual hypocrisy because as a human being he was like us and he achieved what he achieved in this body to show us that we can achieve it too. A true Great Being does not come here to be worshipped; they come to teach us how to evolve and become like them.
Another interesting note can be found in James Hughes Reho’s (PhD) book Tantric Jesus: The Erotic Heart of Early Christianity, with its Introduction by one of my favourites Matthew Fox. Reho says that some early Christians included sexual practices ‘in their lithurgy’. The echoes of these practices can be found in the Gnostic Gospel of Philip and its esoteric sections on the Bridal Chamber. It is also in the Gospel of Philip that Jesus calls Mary Magdalene koinonos – often translated as a ‘companion’ or ‘wife’, which, in fact, is another word for sexual partners or sexual consorts. Incidentally, in Hinduism, female Tantric consorts were often translated as ’messengers’ – perhaps as a form of concealment from the scrutiny of organised religions.
Reho points out that another word is used in the same Gospel, describing someone as a ‘regular spouse’. It is especially interesting that Mary Magdalene is also undoubtedly described through all Gnostic sources as an elevated disciple of great importance who, like Jesus, accomplished spiritual androgyny. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says that Mary Magdalene must be respected by the male disciples as an equal (at least) because he has ‘made her into a male’ (made her equal). In the Pistis Sophia, another early Christian Gnostic source, Mary Magdalene is definitely at the forefront of the rest of the disciples as it is she who asks 39 out 42 spiritual questions asked of Jesus. In a way, the whole work is a dialogue between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Again, in this respect the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is very similar to that of Shiva and Shakti in the Hindu scriptures where Shakti pauses questions to Shiva on spiritual matters.
So, just as in the Hindu Tantra, the female practitioner is also often given advanced spiritual status, and carefully chosen not just to enjoy sex but to experience the Divine Union that created the universe through the joy of that particular union. Reho and the Gnostic Gospels make a good argument for Mary Magdalene being an elevated disciple (yogini) and, possibly, a Tantric consort, in Jesus’ life. This might also explain why the institutionalised church was obsessed with degrading Mary Magdalene’s status – something they could not deal with due to the misogyny of their times and their own sexual neuroses.
What do you think?
I would love to hear your thoughts in Comments as the Goddess News is intended as a free spiritual dialogue for us all.
To read more on Tantra, please refer to my blogs: http://www.joannakujawa.com/tantra-and-the-worship-of-the-goddess/
With Much love,
Dr Joanna Kujawa
Recently, I have discovered your blog and feel a strong resonance with your work. Furthermore, I would like to thank-you for creating this space and inviting others to share their experiences and contribute their impressions upon this truly global meditation of the divine feminine and what that means to us in our life.
My interests are in healing, and specifically how the greatest of all healers was able to accomplish what seems to be impossible for many of us to even comprehend. The method was simple and is a natural and intuitive process that all human beings possess which as you know has to do with our sexuality. What you are describing in this, and many of your additional essays, begins to encompass the multi-dimensionality of our life experience. In the higher evolved practice of sex (such as in Tantra) we discover how energies between polarities are shaped and played with. Through this experience we understand that love is a pathway into multi-dimensional states of existence. Love can ascend or descend through pathways that constitute the full spectrum of our consciousness which can be viewed as the seven Chakras in Eastern teaching or the four elemental bodies of Western tradition. Within a holistic approach both aspects can be appreciated and integrated into practice.
But I would suggest that there is a danger in over analyzing what all of us have the innate capacity to do. Understanding that through the act of love making, when all conditions are removed, it becomes a vehicle for grace and a restorative practice of healing. Once this unconditional state is achieved, we have stepped out of our egotistical construct and have entered into a higher dimensional state where energy can flow freely. In this higher state of heart-based consciousness, we can mutually play with this energy as we see fit while it flows freely throughout the period of time that constitutes the union. Ultimately, the goal of this practice is orgasmic release, which is derived from the Creational Source and is considered to be the most powerful and coveted energy that exists within the universe.
Hierarchy enforces its rule through egotistical constructs which hide this heart-based knowledge (Gnosis), so it is no wonder why this exercise has been decreed as heresy. Those who have discovered this secret have breached a threshold which allows them to channel this new-found power along two specific pathways. This energy is love from the Creational Source which is being intentionally channeled to flow through us. This sexual act constitutes the essence of magical practice. If we put conditions upon the act of channeling this energy, we become practitioners of a lower form of magic. Many have discovered that they can manipulate or divert this energy in exchange for worldly power, influence, and wealth. Those at the top of the pyramid have discovered this secret and are continuously enforcing this deception through their institutions of enslavement. How sad this plays out in the lower egotistical construct that we have been programmed to accept as ‘reality’ where we only know a conditioned form of love which is always self-serving.
Yet, if we can ascend our consciousness and learn to live and love within an unconditional state, we become practitioners of an ascended form of magic akin to what Jesus and Magdalene where trying to teach us. They were the true masters of this practice and are still channeling Christós-Sophia energies into this world in order to evolve Gaia and her children. This is a healing practice and can be understood through the ancient symbol of the staff of Hermes. There are profound mysteries to learn through this exercise. Our Sun’s relationship to our Earth and their energetic exchange helps us to understand how our sexual energy naturally flows between us and how we effortlessly apply it…
So much more to say, but I am afraid that my sentiments could already be viewed as pedantic.
Thank-you again for expressing the love of our celestial goddess and for your inspirational presence in this world which is in desperate need of it.
Paul P. (beyondthesoulsmeridian.org)
Thank you Paul and I love your comment. I agree with you 100% that sexual Tantric practices under the right conditions (which are often difficult to predict) lead to the experience of multi-dimensionality and more. Prompted by you comment I will discuss it probably in my next blog. My Tantric experiences were pure Grace and I have no explanation for them except the fact that I was (and am) an ardent spiritual seeker. In my case, it was a spontaneous experience. I understand your point about over-intellectualising (well, I am an academic ?) but also this inquiry comes from the desire to explore certain possibilities and ‘consequences’. For example, as I am exploring it in my novel women form the Tantric point of view are repositories of the Great Energy but give It away which leads to disempowerment. This is also, as you have noticed, is manipulated by powers at hand and often the gurus themselves. So there is plenty to explore and I am enjoying myself immensely and am grateful for my experiences with the Energy as I not only write about it but also explore it in my life in Her many forms which are not limited the sexual. Having said so, you are right, sexuality once properly understood can be a great healer and has been intended as such. Modern media have a lot to answer for degrading it. Thank you for your wonderful comment,
Dr Joanna Kujawa
Thank you Joanna for your response,
Yes, I could not agree more. Men have abused this sacred relationship. This has to do with Hierarchy and its controlling-masculine-egotistical-construct that all of us are born into. In an ascended state of consciousness a man must have a direct encounter with the divine feminine. This is within the archetype of the Hierios gamos, which is a Gnostic sacrament. Unfortunately, there are very people today who understand the value in seeking this truth. Yet by our efforts today, it is anticipated that in the future there will be many more. Keep in mind that there is only an illusion of sexual differentiation. The developing human fetus is both sexes until 8-12 weeks of development until a polarity manifests. Internally, our psyche develops in a complementary fashion. For a man, the sacred marriage demonstrates that the higher self is a glorious woman within the archetype of the divine feminine. Our spiritual journey leads us to the conclusion that not only are we all hermaphrodites,but that we are an eternal being who has willfully chosen the variables which have led us to be on this planet at this moment in time to have this discussion. Are we not all individuated manifestations of the Oneness? Within the context of our energetic spiritual higher-self, we certainly are. The road of truth is lonely no matter what gender walks it. Those who discover the great way, life and truth of the divine union suffer in love. Your journey is a great interest to me. I sincerely hope that you discover what you are seeking.
Love your page. I was saying this to my school friends when I was 14, and laughed out of the class, I am now 63, and still waiting. What is now needed is a Church of ‘Jesus and Mary the Yogi’s,’ I practiced Tantra, am a follower of Shiva and Kali, and I was born into a Family of Witch’s on my Mothers side. To me Jesus, (Isha Nath) as the Yogi’s named him, studied Buddhism and Shiva Nath Yoga, and simply was a Teacher of Tantra, so ‘Whats so hard to understand?’ He stopped his heart, or slowed it down, therefore appearing dead, he then took his family and returned to the place he loved, being Kashmir, India, where he died and is buried, in his 80’s. He, Jesus, had three children with Mary Magdalen, the Girl Sarah, went over to France with her Mum, the boys stayed with Jesus in India. Which is why so many families in Kashmir and India, state that they are of the Jesus blood line. We need Church’s that absolutely prise and hold high the Female Goddess principle. A church that opens up teaching not only Tantra and Advaita, (Non-duality), but clearly teaching the truth that we are all Divine beings, the universal Consciousness is within us, is us, the whole universe is ONE, everything is the Consciousness. I can’t wait for a New church, thinking of doing it myself, and let’s get rid of the old, priest, bishop silly ideas, all of us are divinity, time we pulled the man-made cloth of sillyness from under their feet. Mal
Thank you, Malcolm, for your wonderful comment. I, too, love seeing connections between (what is called Gnostic) Christian tradition and the Tantra of Kashmir Shaivism.
Dr Joanna Kujawa
This makes me think of Tom Kenyon’s book The Magdalen Manuscript.