Another thread, which I think deserves its own chapter in my life story, began with the publishing of Dan Brown’s Da Vince Code. Literarily this book does not deserve to see the light of day. It is an abominable example of writing. It is so bad I almost couldn’t get through the first chapter. I don’t know if I have ever seen a popular book so poorly written.
It was only, and I emphasize only, my fascination with what I had heard about the subject matter, that kept me going until the end. As an aside, the movie was much better than the book, a rare occurrence.
But the whole idea of Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married fascinated me. I was, by this time, exposed to enough heretical ideas that the concept of Jesus being a married man did not throw me. I was able to consider the idea and its implications with an open mind.
Reading Brown’s book launched me on a path of reading as many books as I could find on this topic, both fiction and non-fiction. Some of them were quite well done, some more fanciful. But the best of the bunch by far–wait for it–was Kathleen McGowan’s The Expected One.
McGowan originally set out to write a non-fiction account of her research into Mary Magdalene. This was part of a larger study to understand the role of key women throughout history. At some point she became convinced that she would have a much wider audience if she presented this work as fiction. And I agree. But the fact that this novel is based on extensive research gives it an air of authenticity.
Throughout the book, I kept thinking how much I wished the things I was reading were true. I wanted to believe that events had unfurled very close to the way Kathleen presented them. When I discovered that her initial research was fact based, and that her book was not just fanciful flights of imagination, the story gained credibility; it is easy to believe that the story occurred much the way Kathleen has written it.
A brief synopsis of the story is that Mary Magdalene was married first to John the Baptist, and had one son with him. After John’s death, Jesus took her as wife, out of his compassion for one of his dearest companions. They had two more children. After Jesus’ death, and after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Mary went to France. She and her children by Jesus lived out their lives in southern France, in the area now known as the Languedoc.
In her later years, Mary wrote an account of her life. This document becomes a central part of the novel, The Expected One. A modern day character goes on a search for Mary’s chronicle, or for information on the life of Mary, especially her life in the Languedoc. The book jumps back and forth between today and the first century.
Although I do not know church history very well at all, I understand that the Cathars of southern France were the people who carried on the legacy of Mary Magdalene. By the Middle Ages they had become a huge threat to the established Church. In the only officially sanctioned crusade against Christians–against its own–the Church massacred around a million Cathars, slaughtering infants, old and young, men and women. Just the very fact that the Church saw them as that huge a threat tells me there must have been some truth to the beliefs of the Cathars.
The Expected One is very well written. It is a gripping story, and carries an air of authority; it seems entirely feasible. Years after reading it, I read an interview with Kathleen McGowan. She revealed that the visions, which appear to the main character in the modern-day part of the book, are word-for-word her own visions of Mary Magdalene. When I heard this, I realized why the book had seemed so genuine. It is based on the experience of the author.
Kathleen has written two subsequent books, The Book of Love, and The Poet Prince. In The Book of Love, the focal point of the story becomes a document supposedly written by Jesus himself while he was on earth. In this narrative he outlines his message, the way of love. The Church has suppressed this writing all through history, because it is inimical to its own agenda, which is control of populations.
I know from my seminary studies that such a document as the Book of Love has long been suggested by history; it is referred to in other writings. This document is thought to have been written by either Jesus himself, as McGowan presents in her book, or written down during or shortly after his life time on earth by his closest followers. So for Kathleen to posit that such a document exists is entirely feasible. Once again, I found myself wishing urgently that such a document would be found, that it actually exists somewhere, waiting to be discovered. Given the circumstances surrounding the Nag Hammadi and other recent finds, my wish may not be at all far-fetched. Fascinating stuff!!