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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Mary Magdalene
From a pastoral perspective this book could cause problems for many readers, for it may create doubt and confusion, and their resolution may involve considerable prayer, study and reflection.

I came to it after reading the author's earlier work, and that was helpful.
So I recommend reading her books The Mystic Hope and The Wisdom Jesus, in particular,...
Published on 27 May 2011 by St. Cuthman of Sussex

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gnostic or non Gnostic? That is the question.
There is much to commend this book. It promotes a Christianity that is non-dualistic and sex-positive and it accepts that there is much wisdom in the apocryphal gospels. However, the author makes it sound as if the male fathers of the church, in selecting which books went into the canon of scripture, were deliberately conspiring to reject anything that showed any...
Published on 26 Dec. 2012 by Mr. D. P. Jay


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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, 27 May 2011
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This review is from: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Paperback)
From a pastoral perspective this book could cause problems for many readers, for it may create doubt and confusion, and their resolution may involve considerable prayer, study and reflection.

I came to it after reading the author's earlier work, and that was helpful.
So I recommend reading her books The Mystic Hope and The Wisdom Jesus, in particular, before you read this work.

And if the reader has profited from Love is Stronger than Death, then s/he will also benefit from this work.

Cynthia's central thesis is obvious from the title. What has happened to the Marys of the gospel accounts?

Mary Magdalene has been deleted from Church history and to the extent she is remembered, her memory and reputation has been blackened by male celibate church leaders who happily espoused and endorsed a tradition that Mary had been a harlot.

The author points out that Mary was the first witness to the resurrection.
My late father used to say that " reverent agnosticism is to be preferred to irreverent speculation", and some would say that Bourgeault indulges in extreme speculation, calling upon intuition as a major source of truth and support for her readings of both text and tradition.

I have no doubt that some would reject her insights as yet another brand of radical feminism. But her critique of the winners in church history is cogent, her comments about holiness/purity through kenotic mysticism rather than ascent (and therefore celibate) mysticism is persuasive. She elevates eros, human love to its rightful place as both sacred vehicle and soulmate (and thence Godmate- my terminology) formation.

I doubt any fundamentalist should read this book as it might bring on an apoplectic fit. What many hungry readers will find of help is Cynthia's deconstruction of many aspects of church institutions and practice that have hurt them and become major stumbling blocks.

On the other hand she strays far outside orthodoxy as to the Canon, and can be accused of undervaluing Atonement theology. Some may dismiss her as just another feminist, which would be a travesty.

Her take upon the loss of the Inner Path in Western Christianity is concise and finds much support elsewhere.The reader may disagree with Cynthia's conclusions but the safari is worthwhile. As some wisdom masters would say, the journey may be the destination.

Her writing style is very clear, only occasionally academic, but above all very human. It feels as if she has opened her heart to us, and it is a very large heart!

She emphasises love and connection, champions inclusion, and proposes some new rituals, and her Endnotes disclose her sources and thus open up a new realm of previously unknown esoteric authors for further reading. There is also a very helpful index.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great scholarly work with revolutionary insights, 27 Feb. 2012
This review is from: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Paperback)
This is a great scholarly work that will turn many people's ideas of the very essence of the Christian teaching upside down. Conscious Love as expressed and lived by Jesus and Mary Magdalene appears at the very core of the teaching. The book is an impressive scholarly work based on an in-depth study of the Gospels of Mary Magdalene, Philip and Thomas, as well as the four canonical gospels.
It is also obvious that the Christian teaching is a teaching of unitive consciousness, essentially no different from the teaching of Nonduality/Oneness/Advaita. In that context, I also warmly recommend another work by the same author, "The Wisdom Jesus" The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind - a New Perspective on Christ and His Message
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gnostic or non Gnostic? That is the question., 26 Dec. 2012
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Mr. D. P. Jay (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Paperback)
There is much to commend this book. It promotes a Christianity that is non-dualistic and sex-positive and it accepts that there is much wisdom in the apocryphal gospels. However, the author makes it sound as if the male fathers of the church, in selecting which books went into the canon of scripture, were deliberately conspiring to reject anything that showed any ascendancy of Mary Magdalen over the male apostles. What became of the gospel notion that the Holy Spirit would guide the church into all truth - albeit through fallible human beings?

If she thinks that Mary Magdalene has somehow been `deleted' from the canon, then she hasn't experienced that `hairs on the back of my neck rising experience' as the gospel at the Easter Vigil is proclaimed and Mary experiences the Risen Jesus.

I am pleased that the author demonstrates successfully that Anders Nygren and the dreadful C S Lewis were wrong about agape. John Climacus regarded eros as a way in to loving God. So did St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Celibacy is not, the author rightly claims, a superior way to love because it is not distracted by earthly loves. God loves as a subject, not as an object so we needn't be torn between loving Him and loving others since he loves them through us.

While I like much in this book, certain things are bugging me at the end of my reading of it:

The moment she mentioned, with approval, Gurdjieff, my hackles rose, even if his claim to have been taught my monks on Mount Athos is true. Most people evaluate him as being a charlatan.

To see the Eucharist as akin to something sexual is nothing new, though she cites a Roman Catholic authority from the 1940s and suggests that the idea didn't catch on. It certainly did in the UK in the 1960s and beyond.
The author claims a non-dualistic faith but she is simply wrong to claim that the Resurrection, in Christian orthodoxy, is merely the resuscitation of a corpse. She sees physical resurrection is somehow inferior to the notion that Jesus lives on in our hearts. Surely, God has redeemed matter, including the material body of Jesus: otherwise it is dualistic.

She has a strange, almost contradictory approach to modern scholarship. With one hand, she accepts that John's gospel has access to more primitive sources than Luke (the modern view), with the other she regards John as less historical, more `spiritual' (the older view) and proceeds to erect some symbolic equating of the woman at the well with Mary and also with her sister Martha. The latter, we are told, is `a spunky women' - not a slang term that travels well across the pond to the UK.

She wants to `update' the Holy Week liturgies by having an anointing of feet ceremony to parallel the foot-washing on Maundy Thursday. That sounds good but she goes on to suggest that the Church has somehow censored references of Mary Magdalen in the Passion readings. Well, I don't know what her Episcopal Church in the USA has done with the lectionary but Mary's anointing of Jesus is certainly already in the Passion for Palm Sunday in Year B and was in Cranmer's 1662 Monday in Holy Week gospel reading.

I can't help feeling that the author is cashing in on the best-selling Da Vinci Coder and other such conspiracy stories, though doubtless she would claim to `start where people are' and lead them to a deeper truth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gnostic Gospel Rescued from Ignominy, 14 July 2012
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For those who are seeking a more balanced account of the writings which influenced the early followers of Jesus and those who would understand the way in which the New Testament canon was established, this book is a must read. The male-dominated view of the Jesus message expressed in the pages of the New Testament canon was won by those who chose to exclude the Gospel of Mary (and others). As a result, we have a view of Jesus's 'Way' which is characterised by striving for victories, overcoming enemies and heroism. This is not the character of Jesus we meet in the Gospel of Mary. He is the wisdom teacher who leads us to the life worth living. Cynthia Bourgeault is a scholarly writer but the style is highly accessible. Change your perspective on the Jesus story.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Eternal Feminine at the Heart of the Godhead, 10 July 2012
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H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Paperback)
After perusing this well researched, well written and very readable work by Cynthia Bourgeault I couldn't help thinking that, if the interpretation of Christianity were to be left to her and those who think like her, how much better it would be for everyone concerned. Almost from its inception Christianity was taken over and misinterpreted by male chauvinists, a fact epitomised in the rivalry between Mary Magdalene and Peter for leadership in the interpretation of the teaching of Jesus. Even in the four canonical gospels there seems to be confusion as to who was first to witness the Resurrection. Was it Mary Magdalene or Peter? In the Gospel of Mary Magdalene the rivalry between these two is developed and explained. Since it's generally agreed that this gospel was written in the early years of the Second Century AD, which would date it not long after the writing of Saint John's Gospel (circa 95-100 AD), it would suggest that, in the seventy years or so following the death of Jesus, Mary Magdalene must have been regarded, by at least some Christians, as an important interpreter of the teaching of Jesus on a par with the male apostles.

The early Christians would not have had a New Testament as we have it today. In fact, the form in which it now exists wasn't finalised until over 400 years after the the time of Jesus, who had been born long after the beginnings of the male dominated Heroic Age. The men who took over the leadership of Christianity in the early Second Century AD would not have been keen to include works that elevated the position of women in the Church in an embryonic New Testament. As it turned out quite a number of books, such as the Epistle of James, in the New Testament, as we now have it, were complied long after the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Cynthia Bourgeault suggests that works such as the Gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene are worthy of inclusion in the New Testament. She is also careful not to designate these gospels as 'gnostic', which has become a modern term used to denigrate any gospel that is not included in the NT canon as it currently exists.

Ms Bourgeault interpretations go beyond their obvious interest to practising Christians. Anyone interested in the origins and development of early Christianity, including atheists, will find what she has to say both thought provoking and realistic. Quite a number of atheists know their bibles very well and often better than many Christians, which is why they have become atheists. However, Christians and atheists are often good friends with each other on a person to person basis and this is the kind of work both of them will find helpful. If Jesus could be seen as a normal Jewish man to whom marriage is seen as an essential fulfilment of manhood and that he could have been married to Mary Magdalene, then he could also be regarded as complete god-man figure who fully understood family relationships and the eternal feminine would not have been kicked into the heretical long grass. After all, why should God be called 'he' any more than she should be called 'she'?

History tells us that majorities are more often wrong than right. It also teaches us that a few powerful men can control the minds of millions of gullible humans. The function of the eternal feminine is to nurture, not to dominate. The universe is like a vast, nurturing womb. Since Jesus came from a womb, he needed the wombfulness of Mary Magdalene in order to achieve a balanced understanding of the needs of all people. In this beautifully constructed work, Cynthia Bourgeault has gone a long way towards restoring the concept of the Eternal Feminine to its rightful place at the heart of the god concept.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation, 1 Jun. 2011
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Mrs. T. Marshall "Teressa" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Paperback)
Very well written and easy to follow. The author keeps the interest going about a fascinating character who understood Jesus more than any of the disciples but who was not recognised in her lifetime in this capacity. A revelation for our times I think.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, 24 Jun. 2012
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Ms. Margaret Mckenzie "Meg McKenzie" (Moray-Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Paperback)
This book finally addresses questions about Mary Magdalene with insight, respect and dignity. The author has a gift for fleshing out and enspiriting those she chooses to focus on. Her presentation makes fascinating reading and takes nothing, if adding nothing, from the personhood of Jesus the Christ. I strongly recommend this book and further work by Bourgeault to anyone with an enquiring mind.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Real Mary?, 4 April 2014
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N. Caines - See all my reviews
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Disappointing. While she talks about the importance of scholarship, I don't find her thinking rigorous enough. This is mainly speculation, the 'evidence' being actually very slight. You decide what you want to believe and then manipulate what's there to fit your theory. There were some good challenges to the male-dominated imbalance in the gospels, eg. The concept of 'the Mary's' balancing the Twelve, but I don't find much justification for the conflating of the Mary's into one. Largely a case of wishful thinking which failed to convince me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars eye opener, 23 Feb. 2014
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I had suspected this for many years. there are many unanswered questions in the story of Jesus and this answers them. It also makes sense of things which don't add up otherwise.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mary Magdalene, 5 April 2014
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This review is from: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Paperback)
A book I need to read many times to really get into what the author is saying. Requires an open mind, and being prepared to be challenged. If one takes this book seriously, then what it says will require a change in the reader.
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