The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham – A Visionary Fiction Book Review by Stefan Emunds

Celtic spirituality, temple prostitution, and an enlightened view on Jesus’ life – the Passion of Mary Magdalen will take you for a fantastic, visionary ride. Fantastic indeed, the Passion of Mary Magdalen is bold, historical fantasy and requires an equally bold leap of faith.

This applies to the narrative style too. The characters in the story act and talk like modern people and the author likes to intrude. My favorite intrusion: ‘Papal bulls in a china shop.’ What was Elizabeth thinking? She lets the reader know: “Until now I assume I’ve had your willing suspension of disbelief. A Celtic girl encounters the young Jesus at druid school? Unlikely, perhaps, but fun.” Yep, you can read her joy between the lines.

‘Jesus did many more things and there is not enough space in the world to write it all down.’ – John 21:25. Likely, he did those things during the lost years. Elizabeth mused that he ventured to the land of the Celts and fell in love with Maeve, a Celtic Priestess he met at druid school. Elizabeth Cunningham is a brave author.

The first part of the Passion of Mary Magdalen relates Maeve’s adventure after fate tore the two lovers apart. She was taken to Rome and sold into slavery – prostitution that is. After a few urban adventures, she was set free and ventured to Galilee to find Jesus. In Magdala, she took on the name Mary Magdalen, founded a temple in the honor of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and introduced ‘therapeutic prostitution’ to the devout region.

Elizabeth is relentless in her effort to redeem the oldest profession on the planet. Rightly so. We still need a change of attitude towards sex and, consequently, prostitution. Don’t judge a woman before you walked in her high heels for a moon. Reading this book spares you from that.

Elizabeth’s point: “Some rich and powerful men turn back. This is not their idea of a whorehouse where they are accustomed to paying for (the illusion of) control. To become the god-bearing stranger, the suppliant must surrender, forget who he is in the world, be naked as he was at birth. When he leaves everything behind but himself, the whore-priestess leads him to a hot spring. She bathes him from head to toe. She anoints him with warm, fragrant oils. And here is our mystery, our surrender: to know that each stranger is the beloved of Isis. Through us she will know him, love him, heal him. Always it is when I touch the stranger’s feet that she becomes fully present in me; there is no more distinction between goddess and priestess. And I know something more. For it is my own beloved’s feet that I picture most clearly when I think of him. It is his feet that walk beside me in my dreams, his feet, brown as earth, beautiful as the flight of birds. In the feet of every god-bearing stranger I remember him whom my soul loves. When I open myself to the goddess, he is restored to me again in the stranger’s embrace.”

While I agree that we should return prostitution to a respectable profession, I don’t believe that something like temple prostitution existed. If priests and priestesses performed sex in sacred spaces, the purpose was enlightenment, not therapy or satisfaction.

Sexuality is an expression, the expression of a (secret) force. This force, which curses through our meridian and nervous system, also regenerates – that’s where therapy comes in – and fuels mental activities like thinking, dreaming, and meditation.

This creative-organic-mental force is sacred. It is the organic manifestation of the Divine Mojo with which the Godness created the multiverse. Sacred sex aims at the sublimation of this force and avoids orgasm at all costs. The latter would spill that precious energy onto the earth – the enlightened meaning of Onan’s allegory. The technicalities: Performers of sacred sex resonate the vibes of their creative forces to boost their amplitudes. At the peak of collaborative vibrancy, they enter stillness (Samadhi) and a higher state of mind, a state they couldn’t achieve by solitaire meditation. Kamasutra still preserves some of that ancient tradition.

Elizabeth dedicated the second part of the Passion of Mary Magdalen to Jesus’ mission and Maeve’s involvement in his miracles. In the context of religion, Jesus was the great exception, in the context of enlightenment (Visionary Fiction), he was the great example. How did Jesus Nazareth turn into Jesus Christ? Good question. The gospel is dead silent on that subject, Elizabeth Cunningham rather outspoken.

You will need to re-suspend your disbelieve in these chapters. Spoiler alert: Maeve shape-shifted into the dove that descended from the sky during Jesus’ baptismal, she calmed the stormy sea, and she healed the tree Jesus cursed.

I don’t think it matters whether Elizabeth is right or wrong. The effort matters. Her efforts are one of many contemporary attempts to reclaim the lost, better half of religion, which changed, two thousand years ago from a beautiful mystery into a manly, scholastic debate (and instrument of war). Religion has been a bit of a dick and we need more women like Elizabeth to do something about that.

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