Gnosticism is a variant of Christianity. The popular view is that Gnosticism was either repressed or has failed to survive. This conclusion is easy to reach for the movement was not organised in the traditional sense of the word.

Another view holds that for hundreds of years, Gnostics have practised their beliefs and rituals alongside other Christians. This occurred principally in Egypt, but also in other regions in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Some scholars have even argued that Gnosticism is the original form of Christianity.

Gnosticism is a belief that people have within them a divine capacity. Gnosis is Greek for knowledge or self-knowledge. It is through this knowledge that human nature and destiny can be known. At its deepest level, it is knowing God. At the centre of this belief is that the world is an illusion and the goal is enlightenment.

Until the discovery of the gnostic gospels, little was known of the gnostics except from the writings of their opponents who had labelled them as heretics.

The Gnostics saw themselves as children of Sophia: a feminine divinity known by many names. She was the All-Mother, the Celestial Eve and the Holy Spirit. In the Gnostic Gospels, the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene takes on a different dimension to traditional church doctrine. In it, Mary Magdalene is Jesus’ feminine aspect.

So who is Mary Magdalene in the gnostic beliefs and how does it measure up to the Mary Magdalene of the canonical gospels?

Scholars are divided as are clergymen.

The Goddess Isis

Isis was the sister-wife of murdered Osiris. She brought him back to life long enough to get pregnant and she is often–but not always–depicted as nursing the infant Horus in her arms.

In Egyptian tradition, Isis is the goddess of resurrection and new beginnings.

A temple of Isis stood at the base of the Pharos–the great lighthouse at Alexandria–which was one of the seven wonders of the world. As Isis Pelagia–Isis of the Sea–she was the protectress of sailors as well as the Goddess of the Sea and lighthouses. Isis’ worship was on the ascendant during the lifetime of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

The fishermen who ventured upon the waters were thankful for the towering beacons of Isis for it was the lighthouse that guided them safely back to their harbours in the hours before dawn.

Sailors left inscriptions calling upon her to ensure the safety and good fortune of their voyages. This form of Isis, which emerged in Hellenistic times, may have been inspired by Egyptian images of Isis in a barque: a sailing ship with three masts.

Statuette of Isis and Horus

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