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The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity [Kindle Edition]

Cynthia Bourgeault
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mary Magdalene is one of the most influential symbols in the history of Christianity—yet, if you look in the Bible, you’ll find only a handful of verses that speak of her. How did she become such a compelling saint in the face of such paltry evidence? In her effort to answer that question, Cynthia Bourgeault examines the Bible, church tradition, art, legend, and newly discovered texts to see what’s there. She then applies her own reasoning and intuition, informed by the wisdom of the ages-old Christian contemplative tradition. What emerges is a radical view of Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s most important disciple, the one he considered to understand his teaching best. That teaching was characterized by a nondualistic approach to the world and by a deep understanding of the value of the feminine. Cynthia shows how an understanding of Mary Magdalene can revitalize contemporary Christianity, how Christians and others can, through her, find their way to Jesus’s original teachings and apply them to their modern lives.

Editorial Reviews


“A spiritual masterpiece, and by far the wisest and most profound book ever written on Mary Magdalene.”—Andrew Harvey, author of Son of Man and Hope: A Guide to Sacred Action

“A remarkable invitation into the origins and wisdom of Christianity, through the apostolic witness of Mary Magdalene. Expect a challenge, perhaps more than you ’re ready for. This book should change something, as it invites you to deepen your capacity for love, through the witness of Jesus ’s beloved disciple.”—The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schiori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

“It takes courage, intelligence, maturity, but mostly Christian intuitive wisdom to write a book such as this. Cynthia Bourgeault succeeds grandly!”—Richard Rohr, OFM, author of The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

“Pastor, scholar, mystic . . . Cynthia Bourgeault is all of these, but never before has she combined them so compellingly and persuasively, and—dare one say it?—so efficaciously as here in this work that lives so close to the center of her own being.”—Phillis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why

“Bourgeault masterfully takes the best of tradition, history, and recent scholarship, sums it up with clarity, and then respectfully and artfully flings open new doors of insight, wisdom, and possibility.  She offers completely unique and stirring insights about Mary Magdalene.”—Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction

“This is not simply another book on Mary Magdalene along the lines of Dan Brown or the Holy Blood/Holy Grail authors. Yes, Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest, is making an argument about the relationship between Magdalene and Jesus, an argument that is certainly controversial, and in lesser hands has been badly distorted. However, Bourgeault does it in a way that is grounded both spiritually and academically.”—Parabola

About the Author

Cynthia Bourgeault, PhD, is an Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat and conference leader. She is the author of several books, including Chanting the Psalms and Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
100 of 110 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Encountering The Sacred In and Through Relationship September 27, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The gospel narratives leave us with a powerful icon of the deep and pure soul love between Mary Magdalene and Jesus..a deep and mystical bond between them, stronger than physical life or death,(which) becomes profoundly engendering to the whole subsequent unfolding of Christianity" ( C. Bourgeault 2008 The Wisdom Jesus). Picking up themes from earlier work which are at the heart of her teaching and Thomas Keating's, and further exploring her own almost life long interest in Mary Magdalene, this book, takes us on a journey through an imaginal ( not the same as imagined) consideration of the relationship between Jesus and Mary. The Rev. Bourgeault takes us on a journey, informed by faith, experience and a sparkling intellect through an ages old consideration of the relationship between eros and agape. Before taking us on this journey with her, she first visits what we know of Mary in history referring to the bible as well as the gnostic gospels (but not the Pistis Sophia or the Jesus Sophia) and very logically in very human terms points to the evidence that the relationship was deeply personal, intimate and loving and that Mary most likely had her own .spiritual gifts. Rev. Bourgeault tells us that the meaning of Mary is not as sophia incarnate, that the recovery of Magdalene is not a recovery of Sophia, the feminine divine. There is only one ordering principle,not a masculine and a feminine,she says with compelling clarity. The real meaning of Mary Magdalene to Christianity is in her human her being the first Christian..the first to understand and model Jesus' transparency ( not as God but as Human (sic)) There is obviously much more experience, thought and revelation to be shared than could be accommodated in these few pages. There is no question that The Rev. Read more ›
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cynthia and Mary: trustworthy guides November 6, 2010
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I am a middle aged male from the Roman Catholic tradition and Cynthia Bourgeault is my spiritual guide. She does not know this as we have never met. I have read her book on Centering Prayer (8 times), The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Wisdom Jesus (5 times), Mystical Hope, Love is stronger than Death, and now Mary Magdalene. I mention these other works because this might be a reasonable order for approaching her work. She may occasionally be a little off the mark but I always have a deep sense that she is leading me in the right direction. I never get the sense that she has an agenda but that she is following her heart in union with God. I now feel an inner certainty that Mary Magdalene was the first to realize that Jesus continued to live after his death. Then she got Peter on board and the rest is history. I could not stop reading this book and I will soon be reading it again.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book Ever about Love October 13, 2010
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I haven't read a book that has influenced my understanding of love as much as this one since Scott Peck's "The Road Less Traveled" in about 1980. Bourgeault's approach is elegant in the way an advanced mathematical answer can be. She is extraordinarily qualified to say what she says, and I learned a great deal from this book. Conversational in tone, Bourgeault's newest book is deeply, deeply spiritual, as are her well considered conclusions. ALERT: My unconscious mind evacuated for about a week after I read it, and then it took me about another week to re-organize my new realizations. I recommend you buy it today, but give yourself some space to consider what you have read when you are finished. What a blessing it has been to me. My life is richer because of this book.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book is Magnificent! October 9, 2010
By pynn
It is light bursting over the waters beneath a heavily clouded sky--It is a woman speaking out into the clear air after the heart's years of secret conversing. To continue David Whyte's imagery, it is `the opening of eyes long closed'---deep seeing into the true image at the core and resolving back to our origin. I sense an energetic symbiosis between Cynthia's mind and Mary's until I am not sure who is speaking. That is the amazing anamnesis Dr. Bourgeault has achieved. The book is magnificent: another writing to live on -to love through.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
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The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity by Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault

It is hard to put into words the impact this book had on me. It is, of course, beautifully written, but it is more than that. There is a deep teaching coming out of these pages and certainly a book to read more than once. It is a powerful and transformative work written by one of the most relevant teachers of our time.

jean h
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Mary Magdalene February 28, 2011
First let me start out by saying, that this was not quite what I expected. I assumed it would be a scholarly biography of one of Christianity's most enigmatic women. It certainly is that. But I expected it to be along the lines of a general work using the accepted tools of hermeneutics in examining the texts of the Gospel accounts of the New Testament.

That it was not quite, though it certainly examined all the pertinent texts thoroughly. However, much of Cynthia Bourgeault's work delves into the so-called "Gnostic Gospels" of Mary, Thomas, Peter and Philip. These were more or less known to the powers that decided the canon, but were omitted largely because they spoke of a more transcendent and ephemeral Jesus and his teachings. They were "gnostic" and heretical, having lost the battle to the growing "orthodoxy" of the Roman Church.

Rev. Bourgeault crafts with great care and precision her hypothesis that Jesus and Mary were "soul mates," certainly lovers, although she doesn't claim they were physical lovers, although she finds no reason why they may not have been.

She finds in Jesus a Nazarite, much like John the Baptist, but one who gave up the ascetic life, the life of denial, to move to the path of "singleness" where kenotic love became the center of his being. This self-giving or self-emptying attitude was one that he taught Mary and it is what allowed them to transcend his death on the cross. Their unitive love, whether physical or celibate, enabled them to reach the fullness of being human. It is this towards what his teachings point.

It is this message that Jesus sought to teach his disciples. It is what Mary learned, making her the foremost of all the disciples.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Magdalene
brings together all the different images of Mary Magdalene and tears them down to review the true person in the stories
Published 7 days ago by Patrick Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly inspired and inspiring
I recently taught a class about Mary Magdalene at our Unity Church in Portland. After reading and skimming 8 or 10 books I selected this one for the text because it covered so many... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Allen A. Watson
5.0 out of 5 stars This Author Gave Christianity Back to Me
An emotionally exciting and radical book calling out an embodied, progressive (and I mean cutting-edge, not liberal) spirituality. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lisa Macy
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking book!
Well researched and highly insightful study of the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Cynthia provides an alternative understanding of the roots of Christianity that... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael Cecil
5.0 out of 5 stars On the Edge from the Inside!
We don't have many "religious experiences" in our lives. They always make us want more and that is what has kept me searching! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Patricia Lewter
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scholarly Look at Mary Magdalene
The author uses passages from the New Testament Canon as well as so-called Gnostic Gospels to challenge centuries-old characterizations of Mary Magdalene and provide the reader... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Arlene N. Renshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars A Review of "The Meaning of Mary Magdalene"
I've only started to read it but so far, I love it. Cynthia Bourgeault is a women after my own heart.
Published 2 months ago by Louise Tallarico
5.0 out of 5 stars be ready to be challenged
Bourgeault is going to be remembered as one of the leaders of the current movement to bring the feminine essence into Christianity. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Schutt
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book!
Reading this book really had a profound effect on me.
I have since become a real fan of all of Cynthia Bourgeault's books.
Published 3 months ago by Stacey G Moura
5.0 out of 5 stars profoundly, transformative book
Profound book, transformative. Beautifully crafted, extraordinary use of language that is fluid and embracing. Read more
Published 5 months ago by L.J. Joffe
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