The Turtle Sings Again, The Screwloose Letters, Vol 1, #8
Voice of the Turtle (cont.) The Screwloose Letters, Vol 1, #8
Good Friday, April 19, 2019
It might just as well be a singing turtle. It would make as much sense, you’ll say.
The King James Bible has got it wrong here; it should read turtledove, you’ll say… Yes, yes I know but just a minute, please. Hold on. When I tell you who’s really speaking to us here in this enigmatic slice of early Christian poetry, you may well opt to return to the turtle.
It’s Mary. Mary the Magdalene.
Mary the Tower.
That would be according to S. P. Laurie, whose book The Rock and the Tower: How Mary Invented Christianity, is available on Amazon. (See my rave review on Goodreads). Don’t throw up your hands. This one may take a while to ingest. A major paradigm shift, this may be the most radical breakthrough yet in the search for understanding early Christianity, what really happened. Feel free to balk. Hey, I understand. Laurie takes Pagels and Earl Doherty a few steps beyond, that’s all, into the twilight zone, where truth, maddeningly enough, is often found hiding. This world of ours is stranger than you thought, or hadn’t you noticed? But Laurie is a trustworthy guide, a true scientist. A mathematician even, by profession, it seems. A British academic with most respectable credentials. He makes no moves, In his trip to the mind's new penumbral regions, that are not thought through and well documented, despite their often initial outrageousness. This is no feminist tract, though it probably should be. No New Age novelty here, no simulated, second hand Dan Brown sensationalism. Much like our early Christian turtle poem, his book refuses to be fitted into anybody’s idea of genre. It’s sui generis, one of a kind.
The name of our turtle poem, btw, is Thunder, Perfect Mind: last, but not least, in the Nag Hammadi Library. A title to think about, speaking of mind, is it not? Just consider for a moment its pregnant suggestion that consciousness is the key to conquering Death... That's what's being proposed here after all, the idea that a state of mind can lift us into Life. Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.. Perfect means whole. No longer divided.
And now for some Thunder! This is one of her many names: Mary, the shaman who thought it all up, in the very beginning. Dreamed it all up I should say, visioned it all up, possessed as she was by the Living Jesus, channeling him who was her spiritual twin, her divine bridegroom, her heavenly spouse, yes, even her son, for in a very real sense she gave him birth, though even while not parting the womb. These earliest proto-Christians had a belief, you see, that each of us has a counterpart spirit in heaven from whom we've been separated, our "twin," of the opposite sex with whom we must be re-united if we are to come alive and be complete, if we are to survive the death of the corrupt and spiritless body. Mary’s husband was Jesus. She was his mother also, for she gave him birth in that she co-wrote, together with her personal secretary and perhaps sometime lover John Mark, what became the wellspring of the much later Gospel of John, namely the Gospel of Thomas, or Wisdom of the Twin. She morphs into all the other Marys of our New Testament… Virgin Mary, Mary of Bethany, Mother of God, they’re all the same person, the Samaritan woman at the well in John, wife of Clopas, even one Salome, who appears with her at the empty tomb at the end of John’s Gospel. Don’t ask me how right now, but the original Mary becomes fragmented as the story is literalised, splitting off into various characters called Mary. Step by step, Laurie can lead you, show you how all this makes "perfect"sense.
Mary is the shaman who channels the heavenly visitor, Jesus.
I am bride and groom, and my husband produced me. I am the mother of my father and sister of my husband, and he is my offspring.
These primitive proto-Christians came along first; they were the original Jesus Folk, out of Samaria. It was only in the next century that their intense and imaginative spirituality would become literalised and adapted for the masses, would begin to be called Christian, the Gospels we know composed, providing a by then much-needed fictional narrative for the original spiritual Being Mary knew as Jesus.
But Thunder. Why Thunder? This person Mary must have been something. She had “sons,” you know, not biological but those she took under her wing, taught them, Buddha-like, until they too had seen the risen Jesus, had their own resurrections. First the Seven, then the Twelve, made literarily only later into the eventual Disciples, Apostles, Paul's "over 500 brethren" who too, he would list as having seen the risen Christ , just as he had himself--only he hadn't needed Mary , coming along later with his "abortive" entry into the Jesus Movement.
I am the barren one with many sons…
We’re all sons of Mary, you and I, all of us Christians.
Boanerges… is that a word you know? (It means Thunder!) ...Jesus found John the son of Zebedee, and his brother James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The Sons of Thunder...(cf Mark 3:17).
Thunder… it was one of her titles, among others: Dove, Rock, the Magdalene. This last had nothing to do with any town she supposedly came from, but rather it was the Hebrew word migdal, which translates to Tower. Paul knew her as Cephas, which means rock--and no, this is not the same as Peter, a later generation apostle.
This Mary must have been something else...
I was sent out from the power and have come to you who study me and am found by you who seek me.
At this point we are hearing a clear echo of the apocryphal book Wisdom of Solomon, and so we can be assured, in the opening lines of Thunder, Perfect Mind, that we are hearing the voice of Sophia or the personified companion of Yahweh, as encountered in Proverbs and the other Wisdom Literature:
Wisdom is bright and does not grow dim
By those who love her she is readily seen
and found by those who look for her.
These lines are clearly about Wisdom or the spirit rather than Mary. But hear Laurie at this juncture:
“But what is intriguing is the possibility that an earlier work has been incorporated into Thunder: Perfect Mind and that this earlier work was called "Thunder" and did relate to Mary. There is one section near the beginning that is distinctive compared to the rest of the work.”
Excluding then this other section , we have the rest of this which Laurie suggests we call the Song of Mary, a much earlier work, as is the Gospel of Thomas. I make bold to suggest that with Laurie’s book, a new song is being heard in our land, a new voice indeed, and it is every bit as strange as any turtle's.
This Eastertime, this spring, it may be time to sing a new song. Our song is strange, but not absurd. It is a glorious song, a song of Spring.
A song of Resurrection.
The Song of Mary.
She was first to see the Risen Lord.
For her, the resurrection and the birth of her Jesus were the same event, for they happened within her head… a reflection, as it was with Paul, of an event that had even more reality than would a mere earthly happening have had, an event that had for them transpired in the heavenlies, made known to them in visions and epiphanies, an event they were wont to call the Resurrection—yes, an event later reflected in the literalised Gospel accounts of the Empty Tomb, the Road to Emmaus, the gardener who uttered the one wondrous word, Mary. And at last Paul’s account of this Resurrection can be reconciled with the Gospel stories, for as you may recall, he has in First Corinthians 15 named his “Cephas” as the one to whom the Lord first appeared, thus apparently contradicting John’s account. But now, not to worry, for Cephas is really Mary! Later, she and Paul will both be martyred in Rome by Nero. It’s all here, even an account of the bones of an old lady dug up precisely there under St Peter’s Square, in more recent times, when excavators hoped to find the bones of their own alleged first "Pope."
Mary is something else. Not was, but is--for she lives on as the original Wisdom or Sophia of God. No God of the dead, but of the Living. No turtle here.
I like to think that Lady Wisdom has always been around and available, side by side with any and all religions, from the very beginning of the human adventure. She's always been an option for those few brave souls who seek an antidote for what they see around them that passes itself off, somewhat ironically, as "tradition:" the shallowness, the chicanery, that certain emptiness, the perpetual lying, the lust for power and filthy lucre masquerading as piety. Such often turn away, retreat into myth, thus discover her there, hear her song, rise from the dead.
It happens every Spring.