Mary Magdalene in memory

22nd July was the feastday and commemoration of Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene is perhaps the most specific and unique manifestation of Gnostic discipleship to the Christ one can imagine. We are reminded in the reports of the Canonical Gospels that Jesus associated people of all levels in society, especially from different degrees of paria-hood with regards to what his contemporaries, each in their own particular sect or branch, considered Orthodox Jewry. We hear that this arrogance also had polluted his male disciples, that they contested amongst themselves for attention and status – and when he reported he would depart from them, for the first time, they immediately began thinking about who would succeed him. All this was prior to quite extraordinary encounters they would have with the Christ, whose revelation to them accorded a change of heart.

Mary Magdalene quitely went into her cell to meditate and pray, to be present spirituality – instead of rushing into the street and see the spectacle of Lazarus’ resurrection. Likewise, without flinching, she insisted on treating the body of Christ, upon his testimony that he from then on would be as if dead already, as if it was dead, anointing it, not on account of royalty, but according to custom. The disciples could not bear, physically, to have their feet washed by Jesus, in total contrast to this. The male disciples were becoming accustomed to Mary as being this person who was always present around Jesus, who did not open her mouth in company of others, who meekly faded into the background – but whose actions and attitude greatly pleased Jesus. When she finally began speaking and insist on being heard, they, especially Peter, was outraged; he must have thought she had forgot the lesson the Master had taught her. But it was he, rather, that had not understood what it was she had been taught.

Jesus had not told Mary to act according to the consensus appreciation of what is proper for young Jewish women – he had taught her, by example, in silence, to act what she knew, to respond directly, bodily – to embody the Gnosis in herself.

Henry Corbin, in The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (pp.15-16), writes:

“it is…the man of light who speaks through the mouth of Mary Magdalene when, in the course of the initiatic conversations between the Resurrected Christ and his disciples, she assumes the predominant role conferred on her in the book of the Pistis Sophia, the New Testament of the religion of the man of light
:”The Power which issued from the Saviour and which is now the man of light within us…My Lord! Not only does the man of light in me have ears but my soul has heard and understood all the words that thou has spoken…The man of light in me has guided mel he has rejoiced and bubbled up in me as if wishing to emerge from me and pass into thee.” Just as Zosimos places on the one hand Prometheus-Phos opposite his guide of light who is “the son of God” and on the other the earthly Adam opposite his guide, the Antimimos, the “counterfeiter”, so in the book of the Pistis Sophia:
“It is I, declares the Resurrected One, who brought thee the power which is in thee and which issued from the twelve saviours of the Treasury of Light”

By the same inversion and reciprocity which in Sufism makes the “heavenly Witness” simultaneously the one Contemplated and the Contemplator, the man of light appears both as the one guided and the guide: this communicatio idiomatum forewarns us that the bi-unity, the dialogic unity, cannot be taken as the association of Phos and carnal Adam,who follows another guide.The Light cannot be compounded with the demonic Darkness; the latter is Phos’ prison, from which hs struggles to separate himself and which will return to its primordial negativity. The syzygy of light is Prometheus-Phos and his guide, the “son of God.” This very fact also points clearly to a structure, which has nevertheless been subject to all kinds of misunderstandings. “The power which is in thee,” in each one of you, cannot refer to a collective guide, to a manifestation and a relationship identical for each one of the souls of light.

Nor, a fortiori, can it be the macrocosm or Universal Man (insan kolli) which assumes the role of heavenly counter-part of each microcosm. The infinite price attached to spiritual individuality makes it inconceivable that salvation could consist in its absorption into a totality, even a mystical one. What is important is to see that it refers to an analogical relationship presupposing four terms, and this essentially is just what is so admirably expressed in the angelology of Valentinian Gnosis: Christ’s Angels are Christ himself, because each Angel is Christ related to individual existence.

What Christ is for the souls of Light as a whole, each Angel is for each soul.Every time one of these conjunctions of soul and Angel takes place, the relationship which constitutes the Pleroma of Light is reproduced.The relationship is in fact so fundamental that it is found again in Manicheism, and is also what, in Suhravardi‘s “Oriental Theosophy”, makes it possible for us to conceive the relationshop between the Perfect Nature of the mystic and the archetypal Angel of humanity (identified with the Holy Ghost; the Angel Gabriel of Qoranic Revelation, the active Intelligence of the Avicennan philosophers.” What this Figure represents in relation to the totality of the souls of light emanated from itself, each Perfect Nature represents respectively for each soul.

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