I read all the books about Mary I can find. Some are good. Some aren't...although it seems to me that all are sincerely trying to bring Mary Magdalene back from the tomb she's been sealed up in for so long. A few really impress me with how much the writer has read themselves, and how much thought they've given to Mary and to her true place in history, as well as her rightful place in spiritual thought. But none of them are quite like this one. The book took my breath away. It's a novel, which means the author took liberties with the story. But since every New Testament Gospel is also different, I'd say there was a precedent for taking liberties with the life of Jesus. There's so much here. Bible stories, history, adventures, philosophy, interesting connections between historical figures I've heard of, and some I have never heard of. It's so rich and so exciting and so profound, I'm almost at a loss for words. One of the ideas that jumped out at me while I read along, gripped by the story, was this: you cannot "learn" what Jesus meant just by listening. You don "get it" by being taught. It's not an intellectual process. No one can "teach" another person to know God. It has to be deeply felt. So deeply, it can change you on a cellular level. This was what the ancients did with their mystery religions and their Passions. The Egyptians with Osiris, the Greeks with Dionysus. And the earliest Christians with Jesus Christ. The story of Jesus is meant to shake you to the core of your being. It's meant to rack you with feeling: joy, awe, reverence, then pity, then horror, then sorrow. That's what this book does. You follow Magdalene from her childhood to the Cross. And beyond. And on the way, you don't just learn something, you experience the Passion. This is a great book.
Told solely in the voice of Mary Magdalene (throughout the book called
Mariamne, eventually to be called Magdal-eder, or She of the Temple
Tower), this book begins when Mariamne is still a child in the home of
her prosperous Jewish father, a glass merchant. Her mother dead, her
only friend a ward of her father's called Salome (an Egyptian raised in
Jerusalem), and her only confidante a fierce body slave named Tata,
Mariamne is highly intelligent, always curious, and desperate for
knowledge. Along with Salome, a child of wit, insight, and cruelty,
Mariamne finds herself banned from her privileged home and dependent on
the care and concern of a mysterious man called Seth. Eventually all
three find themselves living for seven years in the Great Library of
This is an immensely inventive book, a book that turns the known and not
so known gospels on their heads, revealing meaning in them virtually
unique in my experience. To have a familiar story turned inside out is
to view it so differently that the meaning we think we know, becomes
Through Salome we meet a John the Baptist who is both sly and childlike,
wise and brash, a loveable frightening man, willing to lose his life to
save his chosen people. Through Mariamne we meet Jesus. This Jesus,
known to her as Yeshu, is deeply complex, driven, a man of his times,
and yet a man for all times. Raised as zealous for the Law, yet he is a
man tortured by "visions," called on by a god who speaks so completely
at odds from the jealous angry violent god he has been taught to follow,
that his torment almost breaks him. Only by meeting Mariamne through
their mutual friend Seth, does he slowly and painfully come to terms
with the harsh demands of a simple man called on to be more than any
man. He is the hero, reluctant, in constant hope of escaping his
destiny, yet ultimately bowing to the inevitable, at which point he
fulfills his "destiny" with a triumph of will almost unbearable in the
implications of its choice...for he has a choice and by choosing it,
rather than turning away, he uplifts our souls.
And all the while we follow Mariamne as witness, as student, as teacher,
as philosopher, as companion, as a woman perhaps unique in literature.
She is not merely a disciple or a witness. She too is gifted with vision
and she too struggles with "knowing" god. But in the mouth of Mariamne
Magdal-eder we learn it is not "a god," a being, something outside the
self, it is perfect love and inherent divinity that seeks us and whom we
As for Judas...this Judas is almost more a hero than any other in this
extraordinary tale of tales. A double of his brother Jesus, a boon
companion, Judas does what is needed when it is needed, sealing his fate
for all time as betrayer, yet without him Jesus could not become the
Mariamne's voice is a voice to be heard. It speaks to us with a clear
ring of human honesty and doubt but also with a voice beyond our normal
voice, that of a visionary making thrilling sense of reality in
unforgettable sentences replete with the meaning we all seek.
on March 28, 2007
If you think this just another "religious" book, or something merely for questioning Christians, think again. If you think it is just another "Grail" attempt, wrong again. There is no Grail here. no bloodline, no claiming to be descended from anyone. This is a beautifully written work of spiritual depth and a search for real understanding. It uses the truth/myth of Mary Magdalene to explore questions we've been asking ourselves as humans for as long we could phrase a question at all. No creed is pushed here, nothing is required of us in this book but an open heart and an open mind. It's also a great read, a gripping adventure of mind, body, and spirit. I recommend it most highly.
on August 8, 2005
As many who know me well are aware, I rarely have a good word for organized religion, and yet will often curl up with a book which concerns man's search for meaning.
Recently read `The Secret Magdalene', and now weeks later I can still feel the vibrancy of that ancient time and her incredible life. Not perhaps the Magdalene most are familiar with, but one whose life, words, ideas and world will transform all who encounter her in this phenomenal adventure.
Have been partial to historical novels since first encountering Mika Waltari's `The Egyptian' as an adolescent. "I, Sinhue, the son of Senmut and his wife Kipa, write this..." and I had entered another time and a fascinating world. Now more than half a century later I have discovered the exciting and very real world of Yeshu and Magdalene, and all those whose lives they encountered along the way and how each in turn was changed. I felt that I was present as the ideas and concepts of Gnosticism were born and developed. Indeed, I was changing as the protagonists changed.
A thought provoking work of infinite beauty. Not just the exquisite telling of a incredible story, but an experience. And one which I will return to again and again.
on June 22, 2005
I'm a Christian. I've always been a Christian and I can't imagine not remaining a Christian. But that doesn't mean I'm a fool. It doesn't mean I hate Muslims or Jews or that I believe other people are going to hell for not being Christians or that I think gay people ought to be castrated or that I voted for Bush. I certainly did not. I wasn't happy with the old pope and I'm sure not happy with the new one. I'm a Christian because I believe in charity and I believe in a loving God and I believe that there was once a man who walked this earth who understood that God was love for each and every creature under the sun. Or under any old sun anywhere in this vast and mysterious universe. I say all this because I love my religion, and I still love this book. It doesn't follow scripture, but then scripture hardly follows scripture. You can find anything you want in the Bible, Old or New Testament. You can use the Bible to prove anything you want to prove. All of this matters little to me. What matters is the story of Jesus Christ. The story of Jesus Christ is the story of us all as we stumble through this world, trying our best to do our best. The way this book told the story of Jesus made my heart soar with love for all men and all women. It made me bleed with sorrow. But the most wonderful thing it did for me was make Mary Magdalene real, and then this very real and very human Mary Magdalene made the true teaching of Jesus real. I'm not only a Christian, I'm a Christian woman. There are so many of us out here in the world dominated by men in most every way who need to hear a woman's voice like this woman's voice. This Mary Magdalene made me proud. She made me understand who Jesus was and who she was. Bless this book.
on May 18, 2005
Ki Longfellow has achieved, in my opinion, the best Mary Magdalene novel ever written. She has left no trace of the weepy penitent, the sultry courtesan, or the harlot with a heart of gold. Gone are the demons, the groveling, and the superficial saintliness. The Magdalene that has replaced these tired old caricatures is complicated, robust, strong, tender, pensive, awkward, imaginative, and loving. In a word, Mary Magdalene is finally human.
The Secret Magdalene brings the world of first century Palestine to life; a rich cultural milieu in which Greek philosophy mingles with Mosaic Law against a highly charged Hellenized backdrop. We follow the story of Mariamne (Mary Magdalene) from a pivotal event in her childhood through her education as a boy, eventually finding herself at a zealot outpost among those seeking a Messiah. While everyone points toward John the Baptist as the One, Mariamne finds herself drawn to his cousin, a red-haired Galilean named Yehoshua. In disguise as a young man named John the Less, Mariamne becomes Yehoshua's best friend and confidant. At about halfway through the book, this relationship is the beginning of a profound and insightful retelling of the Gospel story.
Perhaps the greatest joy I found in this book aside from the powerful depiction of a realistic Mary Magdalene was Longfellow's deft ability to convey so much information about the ideas that form the foundation of gnosis, the driving concept behind classical Gnosticism. But so talented is the author that her efforts to educate us are transparent; we learn along with the characters, and because the plot flows so smoothly, the pages seem to just turn themselves. Unlike other books about Mary Magdalene that attempt to convey some larger message, this does NOT read like a dry, preachy tome. It's a literary and philosophical treasure that will be savored by the spiritual seeker and casual reader alike.
+++ A Twenty One Round Salute to The Secret Magdalene +++
Amazing Balanced Christian Dramatic Egyptian Faithful Gnostic Historic Inspired Jewish Knowing Loving Moving Natural Original Profound Questing Romantic Shocking Tragic Unique Visionary
+++ Quoted from the back cover +++
"A powerful evocation of a Mary Magdalene who was in her own right a philosopher, a traveler, a teacher, and a prophet. This Magdalene was more than a favored follower, more even than the Beloved Disciple. Mariamne Magdal-eder 'knew the All'. KNOWING THE ALL is the heart of the Christ's original Gnostic teaching. It was the Apostle Paul's 'revelation of the Lord' that blinded him on the way to 'Damascus'. It was the very heart of early Christianity. Still beating, Gnosis or 'knowing' was cut from the body of the Church more than sixteen hundred years ago. But with the discovery in 1945 of the Nag Hammadi codices, perhaps the last of their kind, both Gnosis and the Magdalene have returned to us...offering Wisdom and Hope in these confused and troubling times. The Secret Magdalene is not only a painstakingly researched portrait of a great woman who was wise beyond her time and place, it is a portrait of the search for GNOSIS...the individual's direct experience of God."
on March 27, 2007
Ki Longfellow's The Secret Magdalene is an important book and I would suggest every new age seeker and for that matter, every sentient being, to read this extraordinary novel. What I take away form this book is the idea that "we are all the one," the one thought that is so hard to believe!
The language of this book is sublime and you can't help but go back and re-read sentences so the poetry of her words linger awhile longer. "All men and women are angels of light clothed in the cloth of self." Ki Longfellow makes you feel a range of emotions. I found myself laughing out loud as well as weeping. I had many revelations while reading The Secret Magdalene, one being that it was time to take the photos of my teachers off of my altar because now all I need is a candle to remind me that I am the light.
I usually read a book once and then pass it on but The Secret Magdalene will remain on my shelf because I know I shall read this again and again.
on September 23, 2005
As a feminist and a scholar and a lapsed Catholic, this is the book I knew was out there, or it would be someday. And now, here it is. The Secret Magdalene goes far beyond the usual fare served up in the name of Mary Magdalene. There's no apology for her being a "sinner" since the only sin this Mary commits is the sin of wanting to be free of a man's world, or if that can't be, at least to be a player in it. Mariamne and her childhood friend Salome long to be magicians and philosophers. They want to read everything they can get their hands on. They want to travel, see the world, have adventures. But the only way they can do that is to become "men." In the parlance of the time, to call a woman "a man" was a great compliment. It meant she held few qualities deemed to be womanly and exhibited other qualities deemed to be manly. You can guess what the womanly qualities were: sly and devious, craven and lustful, foolish and weak. I could go on, but we've all heard the litany. There have been lots of women in the past who've lived as men in order to "be" something, or to be listened to. I grew up in the Catholic Church and I hated every minute of it beginning around the age of nine when I began to understand what those men standing up at their altar in their matching tablecloths and silly hats were telling me. They were telling me I could not speak out. They said if I as a woman held a mass I would pollute the very air of the Church with my blasphemy. They said God did not see me as he saw a male. After all, God himself was male. And I seethed inside. I hurt. It was hard not to believe these people (out back with their cigarettes before every mass, how well I remember that), since they'd been telling everyone who would listen this same thing for centuries. But if Mary Magdalene was as The Secret Magdalene (and I bet she was), then with her "second coming," how she would lament the church founded in her companion's name. Read this book. Treasure this book. Understand this book. There's TRUTH in it. Much more than I ever found in the church of my childhood.
Ki Longfellow's "The Secret Magdalene" offers a mesmerizing account of Mariamne of Magdal Eder (known as Mary Magdalene) and her astonishing journey from ardent pupil to teacher and companion of the most famous man in history - Jesus of Nazareth. Much has been written about Mary Magdalene but Ms Longfellow's book is perhaps the most worthy addition to the fiction canon of her life, both in its breathtaking scope, meticulous research, and expert mixture of Gnostic philosophy with grand historical fiction. Framed as the narrative scrolls of Mariamne, she tells her story with wit, sensitivity and spirit, from her travels with her father's ward Salome into Alexandria, where they absorb mysterious religious philosophies, to their return to Jerusalem and their life-altering relationships with Jesus and John the Baptist and Mariamne's emergence as a prophet in her own right. Eschewing the legend of redeemed prostitute and delving far beyond the traditional Biblical tale, Longfellow immerses us in the daily life, travails, and spiritual awakening of an intelligent woman and leader, whose mystic appeal continues to enthrall us centuries after her death.