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Celebrating

The

Magdalene

Connection

"I am the mind of Beauty,
and reposing pleasure."
- Thunder, Perfect Mind

We live in a very special moment when something wonderful is emerging in the human imagination. It is as if the entire collective psyche of humankind is having a visitation. The Magdalene is returning. She comes through obscure texts and long-forgotten allusions, but these are the least of the clues to her mysterious strange attraction. Perhaps in time, and quite soon, we will learn to recognize her more easily in many guises (such as in the Mystical Head of a Girl, painted in Fauvist style by Alexej von Jawlensky , c. 1917. If she looks inviting, but a little cross, like a disappointed lover, we can perhaps understand why!) Slowly but surely, her colors, manias and moods may become our own.

The Magdalene Connection introduces Magdalene as a mythical figure, rather than merely a Biblical character. It is possible to see in this particular figure, at best marginally portrayed in the life of Jesus, one variation of a shape-shifting woman whose image and effects cannot be restricted to the setting of 1st Century Palestine. As a human reflection of the Divine Sophia, Magdalene restores to our minds and hearts something we have been missing for almost 2000 years: the wisdom that weaves in beauty, the faith that silently guides the heart, the sacramental passion of our senses, and love that divinizes the soul.

Whoever does not enter the Dance,
Does not know what is happening.

(The Apocryphal Acts of John)

In this feature of Metahistory.org we will celebrate the many phases and faces of the Magdalene with prose, poetry, quotations, and images. [Persian Dancer. Levni, Court painter to Achmed III, 17th C. Topkapi Museum, Istanbul.] Many permutations of beauty are possible, because the quasi-historical figure, variously called Myriam, Miriamne, Mary Magdalen or Magdalene, and Mary of Magdala, is but one ray from in a many-splendored jewel. Like the emanation-bodies of the Buddhas, the intrapsychic expressions of MM are limitless, and can be reflected in rich variety in art and language, yet they always carry a particular signature. Like a Gnostic Aeon, a massive current of divine play, She is known by intensities, signal moments of peak experience.

To celebrate Magdalene is to dance in the beauty and wisdom She evokes in us. But clicking a mouse is not exactly a fine fandango. The permutations of the Muse in word and image shift and pulse in ways that no clicking across screens can duplicate. In this feature of Metahistory.org we propose five dances to be entered as continua, by uninterrupted flow. (In other words, you don't have to click, just scroll.) Each dance takes for its theme certain aspects of numinosity, magical and esthetic power, through which the Magdalene reaches us, and we, in turn, respond to her play and passion. The first dance is entitled

The Scent of Datura

The theme of this sequence is the Magdalene's compassion, compared to the subtle and potent scent of a pychoactive flower, Datura inoxia.

We begin with a song from Spain, a celebrated ode to Magdalene from the latest CD of one of the country's most popular singers.

"A Song for The Magdalene"
By Joaquin Sabina (19 Dias y 500 Noches, 1999)

If on the road I told you about, around midnight,
Behind a gas station where I filled up my car
You see a few red, green and blue light bulbs
Do the right thing and slow down your car
And if Magdalene asks you for a drink,
Invite her to have a hundred,
I will pay for them.

Get close to her door if you are thirsty
Even if you don’t fool around,
Even with your wife.
All I ask is that you write me, and tell me
That the Virgin of Sin is still alive
She is the flower of our saliva
Sex with love, intimacy between people

She has such a five-star heart
that even the son of a God,
as soon as he saw her, went away with her
She never asked him for money,
The Magdalene

If you are lonelier than the moon
Come to know her, and drink to my health.
And when the drinks are double what they were
Give it all away for her favors
And know, that in the house of Maria of Magdala
Bad company is the best company there is.

If, in your glove compartment
You have hidden your lost soul
Park your car next to her incandescence
Her abundance of milk and honey
You will be thrown a curve,
A curve of unexpected redemption
The most forbidden of all fruits
Waits for you till dawn,
The most Lady-like of all the whores
The most whorish of all Ladies

So that with her five-star heart
Bigger than any other heart
Even a son of God when he saw her
Went away with her
She never charged him,
The Magdalene

(Translated by Joanna Harcourt-Smith
)

¶ Sometimes a work of art is dedicated to the Magdalene, like the above poem, where she is expressly named. Sometimes a work of art may be inspired by the Magdalene without her being named. As we become receptive to the colors and moods of the Muse, we can recognize in such works the signs of her effect, showing how she lives and moves within our souls, touching us in ways we may hardly understand.. For instance, in this poem by Salvatore Quasimodo:

A me discesa per nuova innocenza
"Come down to me as innocence renewed"

Blessed was your voice last night
come down to me as innocence renewed
when I was suffering in the birth
of melancholy distractions.

White, you were quivering,
your arms outstretched;
as I lay within you
with my life
gathered into a drop of blood,
the song forgotten that already
had driven it so far,
with the woman who had drawn me aside,

my sadness
of misbegotten tree.

Quasimodo was a religious poet who wrote in a late Symbolist manner called "Hermetic." Interesting, because the Hermetic mood is close to the trobar clos, the "secret or sealed language" of the Troubadours. Poets of the Cult of Amor often referred to "La Domna," the Lady. Doing so, they protected the identity of the woman (usually rich, noble, married, and often, but not always, inaccessible) of whom they sang; but this device also left the song open, so that "The Lady" could be evoked in a manner transcending personal allusion. Tha numinous presence of La Domna was an expression of Magdalene, whose legend and aura permeated the land where the Troubadours wandered and sang. La Domna shined beyond and through the chatelaines the troubadours wooed, mortal women commemorated in immortal love.

Quasimodo describes how the Magdalene gets in our blood, how she lays down beside us (man and woman) and draws us aside from both the gaity and the misery of the world. Like many poets and artists deeply conditioned by Catholicism, Quasimodo had a tortured relation to his faith. The artist afflicted by the "blackmail of transcendence" seeks conversions, transpositions that will authenticate faith at the human level. Joachin Sabina's "Virgin of Sin" is here invoked as "innocence renewed," and there is more, a further trope. Quasimodo poetically transposes the "tree of suffering" (crucifixion) into the instrument of his own personal grief, "my sadness / of misbegotten tree."

la mia tristezza
d'albero malnato

The last line is potentially heretic, even blasphemous. Christ, the Savior who suffered on the tree, is defined theologically as the "only-begotten" Son of God. But in the poet's moment of intimacy with the Magdalene, the ingrained theology changes, the old programmed messages of religion melt away, the only-begotten becomes the misbegotten. And how often is our human sorrow like this, so misbegotten!

(From To Give and to Have, last poems of Salvatore Quasimodo, 1966. Translation from the Italian by Edith Farnsworth, slightly modified.)

¶ In the Gnostic materials, Sophia, the cosmic or deific aspect of Magdalene, is identified with the power of Silence (Greek Sige). "For all human beings, true power resides in Immortal Humanity, whose consort is called Silence because in the reflection beyond words Her majestic presence is perfected." (NHC III, 4, 112.5-10. On Gnostic source materials used throughout Metahistory.org, see the special entry in the Bibliography.)

In Gnosis, theological and cosmological themes convert to direct experience when the attention ripens to the right intensity

Eagles in Andalus'

In skies of pale blue crystal
reflection beyond words:
Attend the distant soar and
hesitation — of birds
whose wings when they pivot
signal to Earth, tawny light
flashing like a soft pulsation of bronze

Golden eagles above the Serrania de Ronda

Your silence, Sophia
that beauty
wreathed in my mind,
turns in widening spirals
where eagles in Andalus'
bank off the invisible
wind

JLL: July 2004


This Dance is developing...

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Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.