MARY MAGDALENE AS PERCEIVED BY
ANNA KINGSFORD & EDWARD MAITLAND
Anna Kingsford, who became Mary Kingsford because she was Mary Magdalene in a previous life, was a product of her times. Same with Maitland. Neither knew what we do now, that the smear on Mary Magdalene as a loose, immoral woman, a prostitute even, has no basis in the Bible. It was something assumed from a poor reading of the Bible mixed, likely, with a deliberate effort at putting this woman in a lower place than some may have tried to place her in.
Kingsford and Maitland write of Mary Magdalene and Jesus having a sexual relationship, at first. Jesus needed reach Mary first through loving her in the way she undertood love. Only then could Jesus lift her up and teach her to share love in his way.
I have my suspicions about this view of history. I suspect it was a reflection of a stage that Maitland and Kingsford themselves went through and then 'transcended,' in their Victorian minds. There are just enough hints in their joint life story that one could believe that at some point rather early in their relationship, they vowed to deny the demands of their bodies. This was an attempt to purify themselves for access to the higher occult mysteries after her spirit-informant told her she was not yet ready for the higher knowledge she thirsted for. He prescribed a more ascetic life in terms of diet and behavior.
Just as Mary in the days of yore, then, moved from loose woman to apostle-to-the-apostles, so did Mary Kingsford become a 'Hierophant' --as Jesus had been a Hierophant-- after repenting of a considerably looser life. At least that is how I saw the story, and as I noted, especially in Part Two, there were some compelling hints sending my mind in this direction.
Mary and Edward were pretty high in terms of their societal standing, so it is very likely they were aware of, and no doubt impressed by, the classic art concerning Mary Magdalene. In fact at one point Maitland writes that they could discern some really questionable traits in her character, mimicking traits of persons she had been in previous lives.
My pint is that she may have seen some of this art about Mary M.'s repentance and becoming studious (holding books that did not exist in her time, but all art is symbolic), and perhaps having a skull in her hands or next to her.
I have wondered about that skull before, in my Mary Magdalene pages, and now, having read Kingsford and Maitland, I have a new specualtive theory to add to the many concerning the secrets being portrayed by artists who rendered Mary Magdalene and surrounded her with enigmatic symbolisms.
Where I got this idea was in looking on this website at this pentitent mary M:
The figure caption on this site is:
Title: 'The Repentant Magdalene'
Artist: Antonio Canova
Incident shown: Mary alone in the desert, repenting her past sins.
Bible reference: None
Comment: In the legends that grew up after her death, Mary repented after meeting Christ and then spent many years in the desert, where she lamented her past sins. In keeping with this tradition, Canova shows her dressed in the clothing of a hermit.
The figure of Mary once held a cross, symbol of the Crucifixion. She is clearly grief-stricken and helpless.
In a previous piece of art also showing Mary with a skull (painting by George de la Tour, 1630):
the same commentor suggests:
The skull in Mary's lap reminds her that Death is inevitable for all creatures,
and will come to her as well. It suggests that she should think about the
hereafter as well as the present.
Here is another look, from another web site: "WikiMedia". "Grief stricken and helpless" is not what comes to mind for me in these next two portrayals of the same sculpture:
Note that she has placed part of her robe under her to cushion herself from the roughness of the rock under her. She is determined to be in this position for a while. Her head is in the attitude of prayer. Her hands are extened in parallel and cupped, the universal symbol for supplicating the Divine. She is, in my opinion, a strong person, spiritually, seeking yet greater spirtiual strength.
She is dressed as a hermit living in a cell, in isolation, in the desert. This was an accepted path to spiritual power for some in early Christianity. Jesus set the example when he went into the desert to be tempted and tested. He gained spiritual strength and thereby became prepared for his mission through overcoming, thereby realizing his own spiritual strength, in isolation.
In other words, I see a spiritually strong woman here, exercising her spiritual faculties to obtain still more strength to prepapre her for her mission, which is related to the symbol of death, the skull here beside her. The skull's position is almost as if it were the object of her quest for spiritual strength. It is what she must become able to help Jesus overcome. After this she accompanies Jesus on his mission, materially aiding his effort through giving of her means, and of her self.
It is almost as if in the la Tour painting she is looking back at her joint mission with Christ, looking into the past in that mirror with the two flames, hers and Jesus, and holding her hands reverently over the object they have jointly overcome: the sting of death.
A second curiosity in the portrayals of Mary Magdalene is having her reading a book. Books did not look like this in her day and the artists were aware of this but were using symbolisms from their own time to portray a spiritual message, not a historical reality. Here are two examples from this same site:
In both instances, the alabaster jar is also presented, suggesting she was the one who anointed Jesus in preparation for his debut (and sacrifice) as the king of the Jews (see Margaret Starbird on this subject in my recent Mary Magdalene review). But it is the book that interests me. These artists are presenting Mary as an intellectual, perhaps? I don't think so. They are presenting her as being a learned person. A knowing person, as she is portrayed in the apocryphal, Gnostic literature. Mary knew. Mary knew more, it is strongly suggested in the Gnostic texts, that Jesus' male disciples because she was by his side constantly and was his confidante, the only one who knew whereof he spoke when he spoke mysteriously and in parables.
To me it is obvious that 'Mary' Kingsford picked up on all of these things when she suggests Mary M. had unique knowledge of Jesus' ministry, teachings, and the spiritual realities he knew, manipulated and respected. At the same time, as the last portrayal above showed, she was a very feminine, smiled readily, a highly desirable woman from a discerning man's point of view. Which brings me back to one of my favorite portrayals, from a statue in the middle of Baden, Austria. Here she is very female, smiling, reading, and holding a skull, bring together all of the above!
This is reminiscent of Mary Kingsford. Very nice looking woman, very well read, a delight for a man to be around, and yet she had awesome powers in both this world and the world of the dead.
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