|Alvin Boyd Kuhn's "Mary Magdalene and her Seven Devils": A Critique|
We now look at works of Kuhn actually cited by Harpur in The Pagan Christ, and one of these is topical today as it deals with Mary Magdalene. Kuhn goes far beyond the imagination of even Dan Brown here; his thesis is not that Mary was the bride of Jesus, but in fact, "a mythical figure" who "was never a living personage of flesh and blood..."
By now there is no need to deal directly with Kuhn's pompous prefaces declaring this sort of counter-consensus to be the "common and assured knowledge of every erudite student of ancient Comparative Religion and Mythology" (as of course, as usual, he never names any such students, much less actual scholars) and his paragraphs of bombast claiming the high grounds under the pretense of declaring all those who deny his truths to be under a religious hypnotic spell. We will skip past Kuhn's hot air and get right to the point.
The theme is not one unfamiliar from Kuhn: Arbitrarily, it is declared, that the story of Magdalene is an example of one of many "allegorical depictions of an element of cosmic meaning which is the key, so to say, to practically one half of the interpretation of all sacred scriptures." Not surprisingly, we have yet again this sort of linguistic gymnastics:
It has, on the whole, availed but little to remind feminine remonstrators against the immediate invidiousness of the typism that the very word "mother" is in Latin our word "matter," with but one "t" left out: Mater. (Greek "meter," French "mere," Spanish "madre," German "mutter.")
The irony here is that Kuhn for once gives a decent account of derivation, but still commits the came typical error. Yes, "matter" and "mater" are related, as it happens -- but the Latin word materia meant wood or timber, and mater came of this, as dictionary.com says, because the woody part was seen as the source of growth. In other words, Kuhn fails here because materia in no sense was used like our word matter as Kuhn appeals to it: to mean, in other words, Something that has mass and exists as a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma. Though it is less criminal than his other imaginiative derivations, it is no less incorrect. Kuhn once again mixes together modern English and ancient languages arbitrarily to derive a conclusion.
It is claimed further that these words for mother come from the same root which gives us our word "mud." I find no support for this idea; "mud" comes from the Middle English mudde, which in turn came from an earlier German and Dutch word modde. There is no connection to mater or materia to be found. But in the end, Kuhn's point to make is that "female characters typify matter." The convenience is that Kuhn calls "matter" the "great World Mother, since it is the one vehicle of all manifested life" -- thus stretching the definition of "mother" to such an extent that it can be applied to every living thing from a blade of grass to a chunk of lichen. When definitions become that expansive, it is a sign that credulity is to be sacrificed and shenanigans are afoot.
We have seen Kuhn's reckless abuse of the alphabet for his purposes; here again it comes into play:
The letter "M" is the archaic hieroglyph for water, and it reads "water" in the Hebrew alphabet; and its numerical value is 40, the duration of the great deluge of rain. It is shaped to represent the line of a wave, and it begins all words for "mother."
Once again, Kuhn mixes languages and symbols together arbitrarily; in fact, the letter M is NOT "the archaic hieroglyph for water" -- the hieroglyph for water in Egpypian was for the sound we now represent for the letter N, not M; and it was of such length that it looks like several letter M's run together -- with the ends sloping, not vertical, as our M is. In Hebrew, it is true that mem is water; but the Hebrew symbol looks like a hollow square with a tail on the upper left (see here; note in fact that there are two versions of mem). Then there is the matter of numeric value: that is indeed true (mem was used to represent 40) but it is just as well to say that this derives from the historic circumstance of a 40-day deluge. Finally, of the claim that M "begins all words for 'mother'" -- it is true that it begins MANY words for "mother" in various languages (many of them related, and so of no significance) but this has been explained by linguists as having to do with that the M sound is one of the first that a baby is able to make -- noticeably missing is any idea that these words for a mother-figure all begin with an M sound because of some esoteric magic. As is often the case, there are far more prosaic explanations for much of Kuhn's nonsense.
Kuhn goes on:
In outline it is itself a "u" between two "n's," if the lines are taken in overlap; and N U N spells the ancient Egyptian name for the aboriginal abyss of the firmamental waters, whence was born the whole creation. So that Biblical Joshua (Jesus) son of Nun, is in simple statement the spiritual mind born of matter.
This is again an absurd mix of modern English characters with ancient words transliterated into English; there is no way the ancient M (or actually, N) could be meant to look like a conflation of Us and Ns (indeed, there is no gentle curve of a U, so that if anything, if would be a "v" between two Ns; and anyway, as we have observed, the U did not develop as a separate symbol until the Middle Ages). It is true that "Nun" was the name of the ancient Egyptian deity; but this is no more remarkable than that any person born in Egypt should be given the name of an Egpyptian deity, especially as part of a captive people -- and it is merely creative foment to relate this to "spiritual mind born of matter."
There follows yet more occult nonsense mixed with linguistic games, thus:
Most aptly, then, the maternal function of earth has been recognized in the common poetic designation "Mother Earth." We have no similar phrase ascribing motherhood to water, but the ancients did give to the primal mother of life the very name for "sea" in several countries. In Berosus' account of the Chaldean Creation, Tiamat, the first Mother, is named Thallath, which is the Greek thallasa, the sea. The feminine Sephiroth, Binah, is termed by the Kabalists "the Great Sea." And Mary is allied in derivation with maria, the plural of the Latin mare, the sea.
Not even the Internet Infidels buy this nonsense, as seen here. Not surprisingly, Kuhn's only source appealed to is not by any sort of credentialed linguist, but Blavatskty's The Secret Doctrine, which plays the same sort of linguistic games: All the lunar goddesses had a dual aspect,--the one divine, the other infernal. All were the virgin mothers of an immaculately born Son--the Sun. "Ancient wisdom," undocumented by source, not informed and credentialed linguistic scholarship, tells us that the "-hovah" portion of Jehovah is identical with Binah, Eve and the other lunar goddesses. So likewise Blavatsky -- not a credentialed scholar of mythology -- "settles it categorically" merely by saying so, that "The Flames or 'Fires' represent spirit or the male element, and 'Water,' matter, or the opposing element."
The critical mind will hold no truck for such wild and unsupported assertionsas there. But worse it gets:
This phase can best be introduced by quoting St. Paul's sententious statement, a mighty pronouncement never accorded its full significance, in I Corinthians, 15:46: "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." And he immediately follows this verse by the corollary fact that "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from the heaven." Here is the basic text of all religion and philosophy. Everywhere in the cosmos the natural comes first, to become the mother of the spiritual.
It is of no moment to Kuhn that 1 Cor. 15:46 is part of a larger treatise by Paul on the nature of the resurrection body, and has nothing to do with "the cosmos" and everything in it. As elsewhere the Biblical text is manhandled into obedience to Kuhn's occultic imagination: Jesus in the Temple at 12 (not at all offering "rude incivility" as Kuhn claims; see here) is made out to be man "graduat[ing] at length from the school of his natural mother training into the university of higher consciousness." No less subject to Kuhn's whims are the Gnostic texts; the phrase of the Pistis Sophia, in which Jesus says he "came to end the works of the female", is taken not in the misogynist sense that it is known to have been, bit as Jesus ending "the material, natural order."
Next of interest:
The Talmud has a passage which says that in the early days "the rule of all Israel was in the hand of a woman, who was called Helene." And it is a notable fact that in most countries where religious organization was framed over the model of the spiritual "pattern in the heavens," the nation was first divided into a heptanomis or heptarchy, of seven nomes or tribes, before it was divided into the kingdom of twelve sections. And seven, as shall be seen, denotes the feminine or natural, and twelve the spiritual, characterization. And likewise in the earliest sociological systems, there was the Matriarchate, or rule of the mother, long before the fatherhood was exalted to headship.
All of this blather seems to miss a salient point -- this quote from the Talmud is part of a heavily sarcastic "Life of Jesus" (see here full of vivid imaginations and looking-glass craziness. It is not reported as an actual history of Israel; what then of Kuhn's attempt to use it as such? (The matriarchate idea, incidentally, is regarded as purely hypothetical.)
On it goes: Cain slaying Abel is a metaphor for "the material, maternal lower self, slain finally by the developing higher self" supported by the contention that "Abel is charactered as feminine in old scriptures" (where this is so, is left unsaid). Much more offered is occult blather without basis, despite Kuhn's pontifications to the contrary; rot such as this not even Harpur would dare to quote, lest his readers see the foolidhness of his source material:
Arcane science of old informs us that the first three creative waves of energy proceeding forth from the First God brought matter from its inchoate formless condition into a sub-atomic state available for crystallization into actual substance. The fourth wave then precipitated it into visible "matter" as we know it, physical substance, embracing the ninety-three elements of our mineral kingdom. The fifth wave raised it to the vegetable kingdom, and the sixth lifted it to the complex development of animal forms. Man, as animal, on the side of body, is thus the highest product of six evolutionary impulses or outgoings of force. Six is therefore the numerical index of man the first, the natural man, child of Mother Nature.
One can only imagine what Richard Dawkins would have to say about this, and it wouldn't be very pretty!
But the ancient books say: "With the sixth creation closed the order of song." This odd statement seems more than mystifying. Its meaning must be sought in connection with another recondite text: "The Framer made the Creations six in number, and for the seventh he threw into the midst the fire of the Sun."
What "books" say this? We are not told. Online, Kuhn is the only source to say such a thing. (In another work he attributes the latter to an ancient Egyptian text; not named, naturally.) More esoteric sermonizing follows; it speaks for itself and warrants no refutation, if indeed any were "possible" for such conveniently non-disprovable claims:
The natural order, the creation of the first six elementary powers, is under forces that move in stately rhythm, the poetic "music of the spheres" and "the morning stars singing together." This is the harmony of Nature, so eulogized. There is no element of mind to step in and inject independent, self-willed movement into the melodious chant of Nature. But with the seventh comes Man, the independent thinker (Sanskrit man means "to think") and venturesome actor, and he can throw the movement into discord, or inject discordant notes into it, if he acts "out of tune with the Infinite." Hence his coming with the seventh principle, mind, the germ of self-acting divinity, to mingle with Nature's harmonious procession, breaks the order of song--until man learns through aeons to fall once more into rhythm with Nature at a higher level and restore the harmony he jangled into dissonance for a time. And the "fire of the Sun" thrown into the work of the first six creations to subject them to a higher lordship is none other than the ray of conscious spiritual intelligence, the divine Ego in man. The Promethean fire myth and the theological Fall of Lucifer (the name meaning Light-Bringer) amplifies this section of the allegory and needs no further elucidation.
Six would stand for the feminine or the Mother, Nature, water, animal man; seven for the god in man. And many scriptural constructions carry out this allotment of meaning. It is seen for instance in such an enigmatical passage as is found in Job 5:19: "He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea in seven there shall no evil touch thee." Here we find six associated with "trouble," which can mean evolutionary darkness, undevelopment, animal sensuality, bondage to the flesh; and seven standing as symbol of release from such troubles.
One need only say that Kuhn's "mental light" for such blather is that of an oncoming train! How far does it go? The Old Testament's "cities of refuge" are allegorized into "the refuge for weary souls fleeing earth life"! Does any critical reader dare to give this sort of arbitrary nonsense any credence? Kuhn becomes so wild here that he even supposes Josephus to be testifying to the "purely typal nature" of the OT is his words, "About this time David was become the father of six sons, born of as many mothers." Typal? Does this look like Josephus doesn't think he is reporting history?
About this time David was become the father of six sons, born of as many mothers. The eldest was by Ahinoam, and he was called Arenon; the second was Daniel, by his wife Abigail; the name of the third was Absalom, by Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; the fourth he named Adonijah, by his wife Haggith; the fifth was Shephatiah, by Abital; the sixth he called Ithream, by Eglah. Now while this intestine war went on, and the subjects of the two kings came frequently to action and to fighting, it was Abner, the general of the host of Saul's son, who, by his prudence, and the great interest he had among the multitude, made them all continue with Ishbosheth; and indeed it was a considerable time that they continued of his party; but afterwards Abner was blamed, and an accusation was laid against him, that he went in unto Saul's concubine: her name was Rispah, the daughter of Aiah.
For thousands of years the Egyptian name of the Messiah was Iu-em-hetep (condensed by the Greeks into Imhotep), which name reads: "The divinity that comes as number seven, bringing peace." (hetep reading both "peace" and "seven").
While the "peace" part is correct, there is no indication that Imhotep was considered a "messiah" -- the "peace" brought by Imhotep appears to have been a function of the order he brought to Egyptian society as an architect, doctor, and man of many trades (see here). The idea that it also means "seven" I find verified nowhere other than occult source, not credentialed Egyptological ones, and an inquirer here on the Ancient Egyptian Language List, received no confirmation.)
Again and again we find seven signalizing the Woman, the elemental Nature, the Beast (with seven heads) and the physical creation. In short, seven must be given in these structures the signification assigned first to the number six. The god, number seven, did confuse his high nature inextricably with the nature of the beast, number six, and so the symbolism of the two blended until seven came to carry what six originally and solely stood for. Though the Beast of Revelation has seven heads, his number is there given as 666, which is probably just six taken three times for emphasis, though the Greek word Teitan, which was one of his names, yields the total of 666 in Hebrew numerology.
"Again and again" isn't as much as justified with examples; but let it speak for itself that Kuhn is compelled to adjust his thesis with unsubstantiated ideas of "blending" because the evidence does not cooperate. The name "Teitan" is not given as the name of this beast anywhere in the text; Irenaeus mentioned it as a possible name, here, in a passage decidedly antithetical to Kuhn's purposes:
It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfilment of the prophecy, than to be making surmises, and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved. For if there are many names found possessing this number, it will be asked which among them shall the coming man bear. It is not through a want of names containing the number of that name that I say this, but on account of the fear of God, and zeal for the truth: for the name Evanthas contains the required number, but I make no allegation regarding it. Then also Lateinos has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this [coincidence]. Teitan too, among all the names which are found among us, is rather worthy of credit. For it has in itself the predicted number, and is composed of six letters, each syllable containing three letters; and [the word itself] is ancient, and removed from ordinary use; for among our kings we find none bearing this name Titan, nor have any of the idols which are worshipped in public among the Greeks and barbarians this appellation. Among many persons, too, this name is accounted divine, so that even the sun is termed "Titan" by those who do now possess [the rule]. This word, too, contains a certain outward appearance of vengeance, and of one inflicting merited punishment because he (Antichrist) pretends that he vindicates the oppressed. And besides this, it is an ancient name, one worthy of credit, of royal dignity, and still further, a name belonging to a tyrant. Inasmuch, then, as this name "Titan" has so much to recommend it, there is a strong degree of probability, that from among the many [names suggested], we infer, that perchance he who is to come shall be called "Titan." We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.
By now you're wondering when we might get to Mary Magdalene and her seven devils; well, it is close. First Kuhn has a spiel on the number seven itself, which now stands for the powers in our constitution that are to be crushed down and thrust out, subdued and "killed." Kuhn even find this symbolized (hold on) in the Seven Dwarfs of Disney fame. I seem to have some problems finding some of Kuhn's septismal examples, however, or their alleged significane. The old First Mother, Typhon or Apt, in Egypt, with her progeny of seven sons isn't found anywhere; no source I yet find grants this hippo-goddess of fertility seven sons. Hathor of the seven cows, or the cow with seven heads is a true one: but Hathor is known as a goddess of "love, fertility, naughtiness, moon, music and cavorting" but nothing to do with "powers in our constitution," though I am sure Kuhn could create a stretch out of it. The goddess Rerit is another form of Typhon, and so no new example, that this is whom Massey equates with Lilith, Adam's "first wife" is nice, but the idea of Lilith as Adam's wife is the product of medieval Jewish material. Kuhn obviously has no concern for chronology when it comes to his occult games of connect-the-dots. What it boils down to though is that Kuhn is obsessed with how many times "seven" appears in the Bible; but this numbers game is one we have had before. "Seven" (or "seventh") appears 583 times in the Bible; "five" or "fifth" appears 406 times; "two" or "second" appears 1008 times; "four" or "fourth" appears 667 times. What is mystical about any of this? Despite Kuhn, the sevens of the Bible are not in the least "numberless" and seven is outnumbered by lower numbers, as we would expect. But operating from this idea that seven outranks other numbers, Kuhn feels that he has "sufficiently illuminated the mental horizon" to attach all of this to Mary M's seven devils as showing her to be "one with the other women and the goddesses mentioned above" such as Hathor. And so it becomes a good time to make a serious point for any reader who thinks that there might indeed be something to all of Kuhn's magic number shuffling. Given that:
...it follows that Kuhn's entire presentation suffers from a lack of discernible controls, is thus conveniently unfalsifiable (even appealing to scribal connivance if needed!), and is therefore critcally worthless. No amount of pompous propagandizing can obscure the fact that Kuhn makes the rules for his own game, and is therefore guaranteed a win.
With that said, connection to Mary Magdalene's seven devils by some means is virtually guaranteed; Kuhn could have nothing but the "seven dwarves" and end up saying that the dwarves represent shrunken masculinity, hence femininity. Massey is noted as finding seven Marys in the Gospels (some commentators agree, but others count 6); that "Mary" was the name of at least a third of Jewish women in this period is not noted, but as noted, the number of "sevens" in existence in history and fiction means that Massey would have found a match for Kuhn somewhere and somehow, by hook or by crook. Claimed further is that "it is more than coincidence that the early Egyptian name for Hathor was Meri" but in fact, "Meri" in Egyptian meant "beloved" and was attached often to the name of a deity to mean, "loved by [deity]" -- there were apparently Egyptian pharaohs named Meri-Hathor; perhaps Hathor was called "beloved" somewhere as well, but it is not another name for Hathor. "Mary" does not mean "beloved" however -- the name Mary means bitterness.
Kuhn further comments about "the character of harlotry ascribed to [Mary Magdalene]" and credits it to "another phase of the typal depiction, which assayed to present vividly to ancient minds the prolific productivity of Mother Nature out of wedlock, which is to say, before she had been impregnated with the higher Luciferian germ of divine Intelligence." That mouthful is refuted by the point -- which we know so well from refuting The Da Vinci Code -- that the first regard of Mary Mag as a harlot came from Pope Gregory in 591 AD. No doubt Kuhn would assure us that Gregory was unwittingly doing his part to create the "typal depiction" assisted by mysterious forces associated with the Ancient Wisdom. So much as well for Kuhn connecting her to "The Great Harlot of Revelation" and other Biblical "harlots". (On that, Kuhn commits quite the gaffe when he says: "The Great Whore and the Scarlet Woman seated on seven hills (later grossly taken to be a reference to Rome on its seven hills!) are just typal figures for our great common physical Mother Nature, resting on her seven powers." Regrettably this "gross" interpretation is universally accepted by Biblical scholarship whether conservative or liberal.)
And it gets worse yet. Not only is Mary Magdalene and the Harlor of Revelation "Mother Nature"; so likewise was the woman whose issue of blood was stopped; we are told: The grand meaning here has been lost because tender Christian sensibilities shrank from facing a bit of sexual or creative symbolism. The incident of course refers to the menstrual stoppage which is the index of impregnation and announces the prospective birth of a child. Here again the woman is Mother Nature, who for twelve ages (years) has run to waste with her very life-blood and had not yet produced the Christ child! "Of course" that is the obvious meaning -- what "twelve ages" are these, though? Kuhn hopes no one bothers to ask. Why not instead say that the story is a metaphor for the stoppage of strawberry jelly being infused into a dozen (twelve) jelly-filled donuts? As noted, when you make the rules, the game is easy to "win". In the very next section those "twelve ages" become "six long aeons of slow evolution" that had to be endured for "the Christ consciousness [to] come to birth". Well, is it six, or twelve? Or whatever number Kuhn needs at the moment?
More: Jesus' cursing the barren fig tree, which is one of the chief symbols of the motherhood, is just another glyph of the Christ consciousness rebuking the natural order for not having, late in time, consummated his divine birth. The "fig tree" idea is new; credentialed commenators lacking Kuhn's rabid genious have seen the fig tree as a symbol of Israel; in the OT it may be seen as a symbol of prosperity. But of motherhood? Attested nowhere I can find, other than in Kuhn.
From here, it ends thus: Kuhn seeks out instances of six and seven in the NT to suit his esoteric purposes; e.g., the six jars of water Jesus turned to wine, become "six lower forces" we all must spiritualize or "six primary elements of our being" (it would be nice to know their names). One supposes as well that when Joash was hidden six years (2 Chr. 22:12) this represented the "six primary elements of our being" we have to pass throuygh before maturation. Then again, perhaps eggs are sold in half-cartons by some stores to likewise remind us of this essential truth (surely the ancient sages could have rigged egg markets the way they rigged the alphabet). Does any more need saying? No, it's all the same: Kuhn makes the rules; Kuhn creates the interpretation, and thus rigs the game from the beginning. Harpur was wise not to quote some of Kuhn's more blatant absurdities as we have.