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The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow
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The Secret Magdalene (2005)

by Ki Longfellow

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3934727,240 (4.67)68
  1. 20
    The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels (saltypepper)
    saltypepper: An accessible, NOT DRY, non-fiction work that deals with a lot of what Longfellow talks about here.
  2. 00
    Her-Bak: Egyptian Initiate by Isha Schwaller de Lubicz (elenchus)
    elenchus: Her-Bak and Secret Magdalene each guides the reader through rite and theology by following an initiate from youth through adulthood. Longfellow feels more confessional in the manner of a contemporary novel, despite some archaic stylings in dialogue and narration. Schwaller de Lubicz's prose is reminiscent of a late 19c. novel. Both motivate me to seek out source documents hinted at in plot and setting.… (more)
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The Secret Magdalene gathers elements in the Christ myth as conceived in the Gnostic tradition, and unifies them through the character of Mariamne / Mary Magdal-Eder / Mary Magdalene. Longfellow imagines the actions of Jesus / Jehoshua as a deliberate effort to craft a Jewish godman myth, after the myth of Osiris. The book itself reinforces the idea the Bible usefully can be read this way: in effect a constellation of important themes and positions, arranged as a story; and not as divine revelation as advocated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Brings home the End Times atmosphere prevalent among many during the life of Jesus, the competing doctrines and sects such as the Essenes, the Sicarii, the sense of urgency driving their members.

Nice evocation of landscape and geography.

Intriguing portrayal of the family of Jesus and his cousin John of the River / John the Baptiser: presumably not all were so related within the Bible as edited by Deuteronomists? I'm not sufficiently familiar with the Bible narratives to identify when & how Longfellow changed or invented relations, or to assess how plausible these relations are. Similarly, unclear how closely the Biblical stories such as the Woman at the Well were followed in this story.

Hieratic to the extent Longfellow first references explicitly the doctrine of constructing a godman myth as a medicinal lie, then proceeds to relate her story (which, in fact, follows that narrative). Suggests Longfellow's story is itself a Socratic teaching.

Also raises the possibility the tale is constructed as a variant of the Memory Palace, predicated on the structural elements of narrative rather than architecture. This possibility in turn suggests that Longfellow's story would be useful primarily as a mnemonic, that is: to recall facts and concepts, and prompt reflection thereupon, and not as the initial presentation of the argument or concepts. Yet for all but an extremely small minority of readers, the story will be just that, the first encounter of the argument, not an engaged recollection of it. Of course the author would anticipate that situation: does she play with that duality, with a separate intent for each audience? Use it pragmatically as a means for propagating the meme (an established hieratic practice)? ( )
  elenchus | May 12, 2012 |
While I enjoyed the story, this novel was too academic for me, especially all the references to the various tribes and their beliefs. I thought it took a lot away from this adaptation of Magdalene. ( )
  cacky | Feb 9, 2011 |
This is a superb novel that assumes that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a couple during his life and that once he had died, she was the focus of one among several teaching/preaching groups. Its ideas follow on from the (non-canonical) Gospel of Philip. Thought provoking. ( )
9 vote PeterClack | Aug 6, 2010 |
I really loved this book... eagerly awaiting the third (this is the first) in her series. ( )
13 vote CynWetzel | Jan 18, 2010 |
Stunning. Changed my mind and my life. This book MUST stay in print for all those like me who need meaning and great writing and a great story. ( )
14 vote merryme | Nov 22, 2009 |
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"This Issa," she [Salome] says, "I would hear of him."
Seth answers her, "I will tell you what is said of Issa, to show what men make of a man who confounds them. There are those who claim Issa was born of a virgin called Mari, that he was not human but divine, that he performed miracles and raised the dead, that he was crucified, taken up into heaven, and that he will come again as the Messiah." [48]
Osiris, born of God and a mortal virgin, is led before us in triumph seated on a donkey. But is then abused and is scorned and caused to dire horribly, hung bleeding on a crooked tree. Just before I think I too would die from grief, he is taken down and placed in a tomb where three women attend his body. But oh! He rises on the third day! And how I weep as he ascends to heaven accompanied by such music as is made by the transported, and in the blaze of glorious celestial lights. [Mariamne at Osiris rite: 98]
"Best of all," continues Seth, "is that we argue with God. If one can argue with a god, surely this means that one's own thoughts count, however humble the source. In the Jew, humanity is elevated, for while other gods and goddesses bestow gifts on their people, the god of the Jews requires us to gift ourselves." Seth touches my hand. "Was Moses not a Jew? Is Hillel not a Jew? Is John of the River not a Jew or, in any case, a Nazorean? Are you not a Jew and the Magdal-eder? Are these not great things?" [88]
As I listen [to Philo Judaeus reading from the Book of the Dead], I wonder, could not the visible world be God speaking to itself? I run with this thought to Seth, as a child runs to its mother with something it has made. [94-95]
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307346676, Paperback)

Raised like sisters, Mariamne and Salome are indulged with riches, position, and learning-a rare thing for females in Jerusalem. But Mariamne has a further gift: an illness has left her with visions; she has the power of prophecy. It is her prophesying that drives the two girls to flee to Egypt, where they study philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy in the Great Library of Alexandria.

After seven years they return to a Judaea where many now believe John the Baptizer is the messiah. Salome too begins to believe, but Mariamne, now called Magdalene, is drawn to his cousin, Yeshu’a, a man touched by the divine in the same way she was during her days of illness. Together they speak of sharing their direct experience of God; but Yeshu’a unexpectedly gains a reputation as a healer, and as the ill and the troubled flock to him, he and Magdalene are forced to make a terrible decision.

This radical retelling of the greatest story ever told brings Mary Magdalene to life-not as a prostitute or demon-possessed-but as an educated woman who was truly the “apostle to the apostles.”


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:40 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

General Adult. Based on the revelations of the Nag Hammadi codices, a historical novel follows the life of Mary Magdalene, detailing her privileged childhood, the prophetic visions that torment her, her banishment, her study in the Great Library of Alexandria disguised as a young man, her fascination with John the Baptizers cousin Yesha, and her role as teacher and advisor to Jesus. Reprint. 40,000 first printing.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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