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We who have survived the past few years are weary. We feel stale and pointless as we wait for COVID-19 to be de-fanged. We look in the mirror and find we aren’t what we had supposed we were. Our achievements seem smaller than they did before and our challenges loom larger. We seek a path to feeling cleaner and more complete. At the risk of stepping on the trailing underskirts of someone’s avowed religion, I’ve adapted advice from another time to our use. It was allegedly written by a woman’s hand, and I’ve elaborated on her concepts. Her advice leads us along a hierarchical progression.
We begin in the darkness where truth and empathy have been tossed with baser goals. We have to feel our steps forward. We stumble upon the fruits of love and compassion, but there’s a caveat. We must free ourselves of judgment and wrath before we can dine. After these past years, this is a difficult assignment. We begin to wonder if friends were really foes. We swallow harsh words that burn in our stomachs. We watch those who are consumed by hate and know we have only unconditional love to quench their flames. In the end, we’re filled with sorrow because we can’t make their choices for them, nor can we judge. We must release our anger as though it were a fierce, mad beast best left to die alone.
We approach the fruit of wisdom and understanding, but again, we aren’t free to eat until we banish our own ignorance and intolerance. This is a tricky task, because we aren’t aware of all the subtle forms of our intolerance. We must look hard and long not only at what we say, but also what we think and what we do, who we embrace and who we avoid. We don’t want to see our weak moments or hear our patronizing comments, but when we do, we can replace them with improvements as we learn about what is there behind our prejudices. Ignorance is easy and comfortable and sometimes fun, but a toxic companion.
We see more clearly as we advance now. We have reached the dumping station for duplicity and arrogance. Oddly, arrogance often wears self-doubt. If we don’t believe we’re worthy and yet not superior, charged with carrying the heavy weight of honest transparency, we may not pluck the fruit of honor and humility. If we pretend we have these fruits in hand, we’ll be holding only facsimiles that weigh us down and brand us as frauds.
The path grows yet more difficult now. We falter when we discover we must rise above weaknesses of the flesh. We’re no friends to pain or want. We see that we must also confront and conquer the illusion of our fears. We fall back momentarily. These challenges are the drugs of the world, and we’ve wondered at those who could defeat them. How can we shrug off fear when it’s fed to us daily on huge silver platters? Yet, if we can’t overcome these weaknesses, we won’t enjoy the fruits of strength and courage.
Many have fallen beside the path now. They know they can’t utterly reject the siren song of Deception that wields so much power in the world, so they have no access to the fruits of clarity and truth. Who could have guessed clarity and truth would be offered so far along the path, with so much work to be done to reach them? Only those who have triumphed and satiated themselves with clarity and truth can reach the next level—that of power and healing. They gain the power to heal their own spirits and be bathed in light and goodness.
The advice attributed to Mary Magdalene as she described the directions she received from the One who loved her best have been disregarded and often discredited. I’m no religious scholar, nor do I pretend to qualify to instruct theology or provenance. I’m not advocating anything. I’m simply presenting concepts for discussion and consideration, since the wisdom of women has so often been swept aside by greater egos. I thought these concepts felt like sound ideas, regardless of who originated them. I didn’t include the final steps of the progression. They’re for those who want to know them, not a secular blog.
Adapted from The Gospel of the Beloved Companion: The Complete Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Jehanne de Quillan; photo by Joyce Tenneson