Over the years I have reviewed many books from Larson Publications, including those they publish on behalf of the Paul Brunton Foundation. I have never been disappointed. This publisher has an eye for quality narratives grounded in scholarship and a crucial spiritual insight, and their books are a balm for a sorely troubled world.
Having long been a student of the Gnostic Gospels (e.g., Thomas, Phillip, and Mary), the gospels of the Essenes, and other esoteric documents from the early centuries of Christianity, as well as the true nature of Jesus and those who knew him best, The Magdalene Gates was a book I was keen to read. It takes as its central plot device the uncovering of scrolls from a dig site in Turkey—scrolls that put Mary Magdalene center stage in Jesus’s life and offer spiritual guidance to both the book’s characters and well as the reader.
Mary Magdalene is one of the most contested, misrepresented, and misunderstood characters in the Bible. Many know her only through what they’ve learned from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and the song “Alabaster Box” sung by CeCe Winans. In the Church’s schema of Jesus’s life, Mary Magdalene is the whore side of the Madonna/whore dichotomy completed by Mary Mater.
The problem is, there is no evidence at all of her being a whore. Perhaps she is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus. This would be of crucial importance, as I subscribe to the belief that Lazarus’s “death” was metaphorical and the culmination of his training/induction ritual into the Essenes.
So his sister would be an important figure indeed. Perhaps even Jesus’s wife, another theory to which I subscribe.
Certainly she is, in the Gospel of John, the “Beloved.” Scripture gives us clues that Mary was one of the most important (if not the most) of Jesus’s inner circle of confidants and disciples.
So, her words are important to hear and understand.
The book opens with, in romantic comedy parlance, a “meet cute,” as an uninspired graduate student specializing in ancient Greek tombs named Tonio meets Maia, an educator, at the ruins of a Greek theatre.
The reader will immediately notice the author’s facility with all things Greek, from the landscape, to the architecture, to mythology, history, and theatre.
It brings to mind John Fowles’s The Magus, as well as William Azuski’s Travels in Elysium, for all their Mediterranean mystery and splendor.
Once Tonio and Maia come together, answering the call of adventure in the classic hero’s journey, they blossom into a couple through an Indiana Jones–style adventure and work together—along with an interesting array of secondary characters comprising a blend of Maia’s family and specialist scholars—to solve the clues in the newly found scrolls.
There are rites of passages, secrets, setbacks, and through it all an underlying commentary on spiritual growth and authenticity.
The Magdelene Gates is structured and reads like other spiritual fables, such as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, and The Twelfth Insight by James Redfield.
The chapters, labeled Gates One through Nine, parallel the Nine Gates found in the scrolls. Nine is a sacred and mystical number and Geldard goes the extra step of correlating his meta-story with the spiritual journey through the gates. This careful construction begs close and multiple reads.
As it often throws me off and takes me out of the narrative, I want to let the potential reader know that the book is written in present tense, like some fables, but this style of writing can potentially jar the reader out the otherwise beautifully immersive world of the story after long periods of dialogue.
This admittedly subjective caveat aside, The Magdelene Gates is essential reading for difficult times. Geldard’s characters, in their simplicity and commitment to a spiritual and meaningful life of communitas, signal a path away from the greed, loneliness, and meaninglessness that limits the life of so many in the world and offers a series of gates to a fuller way of living and knowing Source.
Title: The Magdalene Gates
Author: Richard G. Geldard
Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Larson Publications (June 7, 2019)