(Excerpt) The Artist and the Prostitute: The Difficulties of Freedom
(Expected publishing date for Painting Mary Magdalene, Little Miracles Along the Creative Path: July 22, 2016)
Whether or not she was a prostitute, the Magdalene was transformed. The Bible says Jesus removed 7 demons from her. These demons, in our days, stand for those weaknesses that keep us from being the best versions of ourselves. These are the demons that keep our true beings caged, half dead, in fear. We get so attached to them it takes a god to release us.
My experience with cancer reminds me of the capricious gods of Greek mythology. You can get a gift from one of them, but usually you will be required to give up something in the exchange. Cancer scared me profoundly and gave me a permanent mistrust of my physical body. The gift I received was freedom from work and normal life. Because I couldn't work, I became free to create.
But just like caged animals are often afraid of freedom, so are human beings. The world seems scary, unknown when a person is faced with sudden freedom. The choice to come out of the cage takes time. Only the advent of peril makes us come out. And once out, the choices and the loneliness overwhelm us. Because to be free often also means to be alone. Few are willing to risk the perceived loss.
Freedom is difficult. Freedom is about confronting your own decisions, addictions, acquired ideas, and limitations, and attempting to change them, or accept them. Freedom means, sooner or later, transformation.
Both the canonical and apocryphal biblical texts present the Magdalene as a person who was transformed from a conflicted being to a unified one. In the biblical version, Jesus takes 7 demons out of her, and she becomes a free and whole human being. In the apocryphal version of the story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, she is the most beloved disciple, the one who best comprehends the teachings of her raboni, the one who best understood his truth.
In one of these alternative stories, as told by Tau Malachi in his book St. Mary Magdalene, she is born as an enlightened being, just as Jesus Christ was. However, in contrast to his early life, surrounded by love and family, she has to live through the tragedy of being sold as a slave and turned into a prostitute. Nonetheless, her illuminated nature liberates her to the point of crossing the Jordan at the same time as he is being baptized in the river. Having been born as twin souls, this “natural baptism” unites her being with his, and prepares the Magdalene to bring salvation to the world, together with her Beloved.
Isn’t that the way for many of us too? First, we are born innocent, with infinite possibilities, and with with a talent. We are born enlightened, because that talent is our most direct connection to the divine. Our talent grows as we play and discover the world. Imagination reigns in our young lives and makes everything seem possible and reachable. Then we go to school, not just to learn, but to submit to a pattern. There we become slaves to time, grades, a career that sometimes seems senseless and endless. We might even like school, the prescribed path to perceived success, but we often lose our freedom to grow and evolve as a result of that prescription. And those who don't are labeled, often mistreated, and ostracized. Others become perfectionists, never able to relax or feel satisfaction with the present moment.
At 17 or 18, most of us make decisions that affect our lives so profoundly, we often feel unable to correct our perceived paths. All the holiness of childhood goes into hiding somewhere inside us, somewhere we cannot reach through the armor we construct as we go through life.
The best version of ourselves, the most holy vision we could conceive of the person we are, slowly dissipates from our inner mirrors because we put aside our spiritual calling in order to dedicate resources to fit in society and succeed in it. We give in to a slavery of sorts when we have to let go of our dreams to put food on the table. Our imaginations start working against us. We give up our dreams in order to imagine and create cars in our garages and buy extra-large houses where we will accumulate objects and symbols of success. We even agree to work at jobs that ultimately harm humanity.
My own prostitution was literally that. I gave away my talent in a way that harmed the minds of the children who were to use the books I helped create. And I felt it profoundly, but I could not let go because I was chained to my own expectations of myself, learned through my training in slavery. I did it for money. If at least I would have done it for love… but then it would not have been prostitution, and maybe Mary Magdalene would not have called me.
Enough people have already exposed "the truth" about Mary Magdalene, and most of us know that there is not a biblical foundation to sustain the notion that she was really a prostitute. I prefer the theory that Mary Magdalene was the most brilliant disciple of Jesus Christ, and an enlightened being who realized her maximum potential, an interpretation that stands on the few facts that survive about her and my own experience of her presence around here, helping artists, writers and creatives of this dimension to liberate themselves of their own prostitution and use their talent to help humanity.
I like to think that enlightened beings care nothing about the labels that people assign them and that they simply use these labels and concepts as teaching tools. “The prostitute” is a metaphor that can work as a source of liberation from the chains of modern self-slavery. Just like Mary Magdalene was transformed into a saint by agreeing to a profound change, so can we, human beings like her, accept that it is our own responsibility to effect and promote the change that we wish for our own lives. Her gift, her talent, was the ability to understand spiritual concepts through her unwavering faith. Our gifts might be different, but if we have a yearning, it falls upon us to make a decision to create the change we want. And that decision, when made, can turn into faith...