If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,
Dr Joanna Kujawa
As I promised, in this blog I am exploring the theme of Mary Magdalene and Alchemy, and their relationship to Isis.
But first: What is the definition of Alchemy?
In my opinion, there are two definitions. One focuses on the chemical process of crafting gold from a base metal, while the other is concerned with the transmutation of matter into spirit as a form of transcendence. This, of course, can mean many things. Some believe it is about achieving immortality while still in this body, others believe it is about transforming into a pure spirit, among other things. Some people dismiss all of this as pre-scientific nonsense, but I disagree. My inner sense and my own spiritual journey have led me to read, live and respect the scriptures of many traditions. By inclination and through study, I am more inclined to seek the truth in alternative traditions which have often been discounted by institutionalised or mainstream traditions.
Why? You may ask.
I do so because these alternative and often ‘secret’ traditions aim at empowering us and recognising our inherent divinity or, at least, our deep connection with It. They are interested in unlocking our potential – and not in controlling our destiny. They guide the persistent ones through practice and initiation processes to lead us to what some call Gnosis, and others call Liberation. Both mean the same thing: they teach us to pierce through the veil of our perceptions and recognise not only our own divinity but also the divinity of everything and everyone around us – even if it is covered either by maya (delusion) or as Gnostics would say the archonic forces of the world. Both, I believe, are located within our own consciousness; only by working on our own consciousness can we overcome these limitations. But this is only my personal opinion.
However, many esoteric traditions I respect also refer to Alchemy as a form of magic; that is, it is a set of tools that help us to perceive through the veils covering our own perception Margaret Starbird and many other writers are excellent sources for those interested in texts where Mary Magdalene is portrayed with a sacred vessel, an egg or a secret book. Some Gnostic sources claim she is the woman who knows the All.
But what was the All? What mysteries was she aware of?
And I must say that after tiresome research of both scholarly sources and mythological narratives I am convinced that this Secret Knowledge, this Alchemy, has to do with the crossing of the passage between death and life, with immortal life or multidimensional crossing (call it what you want). The narratives of resurrection, which in my opinion make no sense as they are described in mainstream religion, take on a different meaning in esoteric sources. I believe resurrection stands for the initiation of the crossing between of what is considered ‘material’ and what is considered ‘spiritual’. In my other blogs and videos I have discussed the connection between the narratives of resurrection prevalent in many Goddess traditions, from Inanna to Isis to Mary Magdalene. I am convinced they represent the same Goddess or archetype (whichever vocabulary you prefer) re-emerging through the millennia, including into our time. So the time is Now.
(To check my other blogs on this topic please go to https://www.joannakujawa.com/inanna-ishtar-isis-mary-magdalene-recovering-the-lineage-of-the-lost-goddess-and-other-stolen-stories/
If you prefer a video, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YJgouMIvyA).
If we agree with my assumption about the lineage of Goddesses going back at least to Ninmah (predating Inanna or Isis) in ancient Sumer sees them all share the same elements, then in this blog I would like to focus on the possible connection between Isis and Mary Magdalene, in terms of Alchemy.
The Great Magic of Isis
Since the topic is open to much speculation and sometimes very flamboyant conclusions, I wanted to enhance the topic with some scholarly background. At first this was difficult, as many academic books on Isis are of a historical nature (how worship of her developed and how it moved to Rome) and do not touch upon the topic of Alchemy. But then a friend pointed me in the direction of an exceptional scholarly book by Lesley Jackson, Isis – the Eternal Goddess of Egypt and Rome (2016). In this book, especially in the chapter ‘The Great Magician’, Jackson explores Isis and her connection to what the Egyptians called ‘Magic’. Jackson makes an important point that the Egyptians viewed magic in a completely different way as it is viewed now, or as it was viewed in the Greco-Roman period. Magic as understood by the Romans and carried through to modern times is basically a clever but gross – and often dangerous – manipulation of worldly forces for our own benefit or to cause someone else harm (if conceived this way). So, in my understanding, magic as we know it is like child’s play with material forces – and with a price to pay. There is nothing alchemical or noble about this, with the only benefit usually being short-term gain or control over something.
According to Jackson, for the ancient Egyptians magic was ‘not sinister’ and was understood as a form of appeal to the higher powers of the Universe ‘in the war against the chaos and negativity that was always threatening creation’. Thus, magic was intended to bring harmony to the world and turn chaos into the Cosmos. In other words, magic was not used to manipulate matter but to reach the very Source, to correct what was obviously wrong or spoiled. And in ancient Egyptian lore, Isis was the great magician, she had the most heka (the creative energy of the Universe) of all the gods and even the Magic God Thoth called her the ‘Mistress of Magic’.
So what is the connection here with Alchemy?
Well, heka, says Jackson, ‘flows between the sacred and ‘secular … world’. It flows between spirit and matter – which is my understanding of spiritual Alchemy. This power (heka) works through a proper use of words and incantations which ‘create a spiritual image’ and ‘reveal the essence’ of the intended outcome.
Another term akhu refers to magic connected to the afterlife. Both can only be used if one knows the true name of the object or the person (which were often hidden) to be affected. One incantation is ‘I am Isis the Wise, the words of whose mouth of mine come to pass.’ Using this most ‘powerful magic’, Isis managed to resurrect Osiris and ‘through Osiris everyone’. Do you see the similarity to Mary Magdalene at the tomb and to Jesus as a redeemer? Not only can Isis resurrect the dead but she can also grant immortality to humans. She can also grant the power of magic to others, though only temporarily.
For my personal interest, Isis is also the Goddess of Wisdom (‘Magician with Divine Wisdom’), since for the Egyptians knowledge ‘is power’. And Isis had human apprentices. She also used ‘magical numbers’, with 3 and 7 the most sacred, where 3 represents ‘many’ (Egyptian gods are usually clustered in threes, just like the Catholic Trinity) while 7 is associated with perfection and effectiveness. In other ancient sources mentioned in the Berlin Papyrus 7 also ‘stands for Isis’ and thus has the special power of the goddess.
Thus, by repeating an incantation three times we call upon one the trinities of goddesses-gods which now need to support our request. By repeating it 7 times we assure its fulfillment by the virtue of the sacredness of the number itself.
Divination was also one of Isis’ skills, with skulls often used for this, although the practice was considered risky as, apparently, sometimes they refused to shut up!
For me, the most interesting aspect of the use of the skull as one of Isis’ magic tools is that Mary Magdalene as well as Tantric goddess Kali are often portrayed with a skull as the tool capable of destroying death, and in the case of Mary Magdalene also assisting in resurrection.
The Sexual Alchemy of Mary Magdalene?
Now let’s move to a much more difficult connection (which is, however, popular in some circles) between May Magdalene, Egypt and Isis – a connection which goes beyond my blog on the Lineage of Goddesses. This is more contested territory, as I have not come across any scholarly sources on the topic, and can only rely on other people’s revelations, often of the intuitive kind, such as channelling. It’s not that I discount channelling as a source of information or even revelation (many spiritual texts come to us in just this way) but rather I admit that there is no way of checking their validity. Having said that, I have come across a book, the authors of which claim has been be channelled. Tom Kenyon and Judi Sion’swork The Magdalen Manuscript: The Alchemies of Horus and The Sex Magic of Isis links Mary Magdalene to both Egypt and Isis.
Do I believe the book was channelled? Personally, no, but I’ll leave this for you to judge. I will refrain from arguing against it, however, because there can be no proof either way. (However, I am happy to discuss it in comments, if you ask). At the same time, I do believe it is an interesting book and I am glad that someone has written it, even if I question the claims of its origin.
In the first part of the book one of the authors apparently channels Mary Magdalen, who recounts, in a rather beautiful way, the story of her and Yeshua’s love. The Mary Magdalen of that book tells us that she was an advanced initiate in the temple of Isis in Egypt, and that her mother was from Egypt and her father from Mesopotamia. She describes how she met Yeshua and his mother by a well and how the disciples judged her to be a whore because she had a gold bracelet of Isis on her arm, signifying her initiation into secret sexual mysteries.
After that meeting she practises a form of sexual magic with Yeshua (an equivalent of Tantra but with Egyptian terminology) to increase his ka (energetic body) and prepare him for his final ordeal of death and resurrection. For those interested, the book gives some Tantric methods, such as The Pathway of the Two Serpents, which is another form of raising one’s spiritual energy. More specifically, by using breathing techniques and imagination to raise of the two ‘serpents’ (energetic channels): the left Black Lunar Serpent and the right Gold Solar Serpent which cross their paths at the main ‘seals’ or chakhras of the body (from the base ‘seal’ up to the crown ‘seal’) until the ‘subtle energies’ are released’within the brain’ For those who are familiar with Tantric and/or Hindu terminology, the Egyptian ‘Djed’ is a Sushumna, or the energetic channel along the spine, while ‘Sekhem’ is Shakti-Kundalini (the actual Energy). The book gives instructions on how to awaken and move the energy through the ‘Djed’, the way Mary Magdalen did with Yeshua.
What is interesting for me is that the Sexual Alchemy she used refers to the working on the energetic body or ka, thus allowing the survival of the essence of the person (Yeshua/Jesus in this case) to transcend death. In short, the practice (like Tantra) uses sexual energy (orgasm) to move spiritual energy upward and eventually to a more subtle level of existence. In my experience of sexual Tantra the movement of Energy was palpable (no imagination was required) and distinctly different from that of orgasm but, perhaps that was due to the spontaneous nature of that experience.
Was there Sexual Alchemy in Isis’s tradition?
Unlike with Tantric sources, I have never come across ancient Egyptian Sex magic sources which are historically defendable. At the same time, if you read between the lines of some Gnostic sources, it could be argued that there definitely was something akin to ‘sex magic’ in Egypt and in the ancient world in general. This magic was kept secret for fear of it falling into the wrong hands, being accessed by people who would not use it for their spiritual advancement but rather for their own often selfish means or to harm others. So, hypothetically, sex magic in Isis’ temple was possible, especially as we know that her Sumerian predecessor Inanna and her priestesses definitely performed sexual rituals.
Still, is it probable that Mary Magdalen/e was connected to Egypt somehow?
My answer – in mythological terms – is ‘yes’. But not in an historical sense and not from sources available to us.
What do I mean by this?
For me, Mary Magdalene can stand for one of two things.
One, she represents the same archetype remerging from our Collective Unconscious as Nimnah, Inanna, Isis, etc. She is all of them, under different names, with small changes in the twists of essentially the same plot. This archetype, although repressed for millennia, carries the secret of our true Destiny and Powers. It carries the secret locked in our ‘junk’ DNA that can, and one day will, completely transform us as species. So, in a way, arguing from an historical point of view about Mary Magdalen/e as an individual or as a character from a particular set of scriptures is secondary. What is important is the possibility that we carry her message to us within us – the greatest Alchemy of our transformation (transfiguration) into our highest possibility. And this is where I choose to focus.
Two, Mary Magdalene as the other goddesses (including Isis) could be the human embodiment of the Divine Story of our potential. That is, every so often a human being may embody the essence of that Story and live yet another version of how it plays itself out. In each case though, the Goddess is the centre of a very important transformation from matter into spirit and assists the crossing over to the spiritual realm. The Story is relived and repeated for our benefit until we finally understand its Alchemy or Magic, which are only tools for this transformation.
So, instead of asking ourselves where Mary Magdalen/e came from, I think the more important question to ask is: What are we supposed to learn from this story that we are not getting yet? For me, both Isis and Mary Magdalene (and the whole lineage of goddesses under different names) are the keys to answering this question.
I would love to hear your thoughts in Comments.
Please note that I always respond to your comments.
Dr Joanna Kujawa
Goddess News blog ©Joanna Kujawa©Joanna Kujawa