By Michael Goldstein
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By LA Weekly
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Lynch’s work has frequently been pegged by film critics as “Manichaean,” and Mani, the third-century Babylonian prophet who framed the world in terms of the eternal struggle between co-equal forces of Light and Darkness, is a Gnostic hero. Hoeller has seen Mulholland Drive,and I have a hunch he might view the gruesome bum with the blue box who occupies the alley behind Winkie’s Diner as an embodiment of the Demiurge, manipulating reality so as to keep the characters (and us) from seeing the truth. His reply is Jungian: “I can’t say if David Lynch is familiar with the writings, but Gnostic archetypes are present in the underground stream of the subconscious, a place he clearly taps into.”
Aside from its dismissal of Judaic law and its challenge to Papal Writ, one of the things that undoubtedly drove the suppression of Gnostic scripture was its depiction of “the prostitute,” Mary Magdalene, as holding equal status with the 12 disciples and special rank with the Son of God himself. Like Eve, M.M. “gets it” before the guys do, not infrequently prompting grumblings of “What’s up with her?”This brings us to the zingers breathlessly reported by Dan Brown in the widely read pages of The Da Vinci Code.
Since Bishop Hoeller is a bona fide scholar of the lore alluded to by the now stupendously rich Mr. Brown, the question must be posed: Was it some sort of tantric sex thing between J.C. and M.M.?
“Although I’m delighted by the interest in Gnosticism it’s stirred up,” Hoeller says, “and by its part in restoring Mary Magdalene to her place at the side of Jesus, I must confess that my regard for The Da Vinci Codeis considerably less than for The Matrix.For one thing, Mr. Brown seems to have an agenda. He appears to be deliberately courting certain ‘interest groups,’ among them conspiracy buffs, enthusiastic but badly informed Goddess worshippers and almost anyone who harbors a grudge against the Christian faith. And though the Gnostic Gospels do identify the Magdalene as having a unique spiritual kinship with Jesus, there’s no suggestion that the relationship was sexual, much less that it produced offspring. This is a canard derived almost wholly from an earlier piece of sensationalistic pseudo-history called Holy Blood, Holy Grail.”
“According to which,” I interject, “the bloodline of Jesus produced the French monarchy . . .”
“Yes, well . . . the Merovingian dynasty.”
“And your opinion of the Holy Bloodtheory?”
Nookie or no, the stupendous popularity of The Da Vinci Codehas let certain cats out of the bag, and Hoeller is the first to admit that it could not have found such a ready audience if intimations of the Divine Feminine were not already percolating through the collective unconscious?. The psychic tremors from a discovery like the Nag Hammadi texts aren’t felt immediately. By analogy, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity was published in 1905, and most of us are still struggling with the notion of space-time. But at Nag Hammadi, the dike of orthodoxy, built by the Fathers in part to keep sexuality and subversive “feminine” elements at bay, sprung a major leak, and the amniotic waters have been trickling through ever since. Gnosticism’s most formidable and vociferous foe, Tertullian (155–225 A.D.), may yet have to eat his words on Woman: “You are the devil’s gateway . . . The sentence of God on your sex lives on in this age; the guilt, necessarily, lives on, too.” Contrast this misogyny with the gender-bending of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas: “When you make the male and the female one and the same . . . then you will enter the Kingdom.”
In spite of Hoeller’s somewhat bristly relationship with feminist theory, the fact that two of his order’s priests, one deacon and two acolytes are female seems testament enough to his rejection of ecclessiastical misogyny.
Today, the Gnostic Revival is abetted by a sea change in popular culture that began in the pre-millennial ’90s: The “alternative” now becomes mainstream in a heartbeat, chaos theory and quantum uncertainty rule the scientific roost, and no less a scholastic Brahmin than Harold Bloom calls Gnosticism “America’s native religion.” I ask Hoeller whether he thought that 2,000 years of persecution had come to an end. His reply is that of one who, in the words of a friend, has “lived out the myth of the exile” and learned how hard it is to come home.
“We’ve been persecuted because we assert that genuine salvation comes only through an essential change in consciousness which has nothing to do with obeying rules. This makes fundamentalists of all stripes crazy, because they’re all about adherence to ‘the Law.’ As long as this remains true, I suspect we’ll remain outsiders. Gnostics obey the traffic laws like everyone else . . . we just don’t happen to believe you can get to Heaven that way.”
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