A lot of media attention is being given to the novel “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown because of its radical claims purporting to be historical truth. The book may be riding the popular crest of another recent religious story about Jesus called “The Passion.” Since the book was released, a primetime television special was broadcast about the book. Hollywood director Ron Howard is said to be planning to make a movie about it. Cable programs have been airing debates about the book and the controversy surrounding it. The following is an article about the Gnostic “Gospel of Mary.”
1. Historical Concepts About Mary Magdalene
Before I heard about the book, The Da Vinci Code, I was already familiar with the historical concepts the book is based on:
(1) Jesus was not believed to be God by his followers, but was viewed to be a man who was very close to God.
(3) That Mary Magdalene played a larger role in early Christian history than previously thought. She was considered an apostle of Christ and was the author of the Gospel of John. (She was also the author of the Gospel of Mary which was discovered in 1945 and describes the soul’s journey after death which resembles a near-death experience. It also has concepts similar to those found in Tibetan Buddhism‘s “Book of the Dead.” More about this later.
(4) There was a covered-up, either intentionally or ignorantly, by the Church centuries after Jesus’ death which attempted to hide these controversies.
These controversial claims may be the only thing about The Da Vinci Code which are actually true. The leading authority on the women of ancient Christianity is the Harvard professor Karen L. King who has commented on the entire book by saying it is “good fiction.”
In the 60s and 70s, there were controversial books and movies about Jesus such as “Jesus Christ Superstar” which assumed that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a sexual relationship. Of recent date, Martin Scorsese’s 1988 movie “The Last Temptation of Christ” included a sex scene between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The idea of a married Jesus is a controversy thousands of years old.
Concerning “The Da Vinci Code,” I only want to mention the importance of Leonardo Da Vinci‘s painting entitled “The Last Supper” which you can see on the right. If you look at the painting you will notice that the disciple seated to Jesus’ right appears to be either a woman or a very, very effeminate man. Historically, the orthodox Church has assumed the identity of the “disciple whom Jesus loved” to be the Apostle John. The disciple whom Jesus loved is the disciple described in the Bible as resting his head on the bosom of Jesus during the Last Supper. If this “beloved disciple” really is John, this raises an interesting question: What kind of relationship did this “disciple whom Jesus loved” actually have with Jesus?
If we assume that Jesus loved everyone, then what made this special disciple become more favored by Jesus? Such questions have led some scholars (and movie producers) to speculate that Jesus may have been a homosexual. This theory is even more controversial. Besides Jesus having a special male disciple to love, Jesus is described in the Bible as kissing men, living and sleeping with men, washing their bodies, and teaching them to love other men. The Bible also records Jesus “giving his body” to his disciples to “eat.” Jesus also preached tolerance for so-called “sinners” such as adulterers, prostitutes, and even homosexuals (Matthew 10:14-15). He rejected the social norms of his day which considered such outcasts as worthy of death. In those days, women had the same status as cattle, slavery was sanctioned, and so-called sexually immoral people were stoned to death. Not only did Jesus not follow the social norms of his day, he hung out with the sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and even made some of them apostles. He even told the religious bigots that the prostitutes were entering heaven before they were.
2. Evidence Revealing Jesus was Married to Mary Magdalene
Despite all these things, I am convinced that the evidence shows that Jesus was not a homosexual (although I would not think less of Jesus if he was) but that the “special disciple” whom Jesus loved was none other than Mary Magdalene. There are some very good reasons to believe that Jesus was married. Here are the major ones:
(1) Jesus was culturally obligated to be married. In those days, Jewish law required every Rabbi to be married. Unmarried men were considered a curse to Jewish society. Jesus said he fulfilled the law and the prophets. The first positive commandment found in the Bible deals with the propagation of the human race (Genesis 1:28). It was therefore considered the duty of every male in Israel to marry – usually at the age of eighteen. Anyone who remained unmarried after age twenty was considered cursed by God (source: Kid. 29b). So important was marriage to the Jews of ancient Israel that men were frequently compelled by the courts to take a wife (source: M. Zvi Udley, Ph.D.). Given the cultural conditions in which Jesus lived, the burden of proof lies with those who do not believe Jesus was married. They must show why Jesus and his parents would have been derelict in their civic responsibilities and not contracted a marriage for Jesus.
(2) According to Josephus, the great Jewish historian, the descendants of David felt a moral obligation to perpetuate their royal heritage because they never knew which one of their descendants would be the chosen Messiah. The Bible shows that Jesus was a direct descendant of David and this made him morally obligated to be married.
(4) While the Bible “appears” to be silent on the subject of Jesus’ marital status, it was not until late in the second century that any Christian leader denied that Jesus was married. Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria believed that a married Jesus was inconsistent with his role as the Savior of the world. Other Church fathers denied that Jesus was married based upon the supposed silence in the Bible about his marital status. They also believed it conflicted with the Church’s doctrine of a celibate priesthood and the Church’s general view of sex as sinful. The evidence shows that the Church eventually denied the very humanity of Jesus when the council declared him God.
(5) Irenaeus, a major second century Christian leader, wrote about the so-called “Doctrine of Recapitulation” which supports the idea of a married Jesus. Irenaeus taught that Jesus symbolically entered every critical stage of human existence and sanctified it. This included a person’s family and sexual life.
(6) There was a second century tradition among certain early Christian sects which held that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. There is also Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence of their special relationship as man and wife.
3. Who was Mary Magdalene?
Throughout history, Mary Magdalene has been a mysterious figure for many Christians. She is the most prominent woman in the Gospels and is mentioned first in seven of the eight lists of women who walked with Jesus. An orthodox tradition exists which claims that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute – even though there is no Biblical evidence suggesting she was a prostitute. She is mentioned in the Bible as being among the women of Galilee who followed Jesus and his disciples. She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. She was one of the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. She was the first to see the risen Christ. By definition, this meant she was the “first apostle.” She was the one who announced Jesus’ resurrection to the apostles. Because she was the first to announce his resurrection, the Catholic Church honored her with the title “apostola apostolorum” which means “the apostle to the apostles.”
The Bible never claims that Mary Magdalene was the repentant prostitute who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair in Luke 7:36-50. But this incident of a woman anointing the feet of Jesus is cited by some scholars as the most direct witness to Jesus being married. This incident is recorded in all four Gospels and was a story in which Jesus himself gave express command that it be preserved. This feet anointing ceremony was an ancient ritual among royalty in the ancient world. It was a ritual which sealed the marital union between a king and his spouse. The ritual is even mentioned briefly in the Song of Solomon.
The Bible never claims that Mary Magdalene was the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and saved from being stoned to death by Jesus in John 8:1-11. However, she is identified as having once been possessed by seven demons in Luke 8:2. This may be the source of the orthodox tradition that Mary was a prostitute before she met Jesus.
The Bible records that Mary met Jesus after his resurrection. The Bible records a degree of intimacy between them during this incident which one would expect between lovers, not friends. When Mary is referred to as “woman” by Jesus, it can just as easily be translated as “wife”. The Greek word for “woman” and “wife” is the same and translators have to rely on the context in determining how to translate it. Sometimes, the translation between “woman” and “wife” is completely arbitrary.
4. The Orthodox Mary Magdalene Versus the Gnostic Mary Magdalene
In 1945, ancient texts which yielded more information about Mary Magdalene and the early Christians were discovered in Upper Egypt. Many early Christian texts were found which included several previously unknown gospels. These gospels reveal teachings and events surrounding Jesus and the disciples which had never been known before. For example, one gospel mentions that Jesus kissed Mary Magdalene frequently and “on the mouth.” Another text shows that Jesus called Mary Magdalene the “woman who knows all.” These early writings affirm that Mary was the “companion,” even the consort, of Jesus. Mary is even the author of her own gospel called the Gospel of Mary.
All these facts begs the question: Why would there be two different traditions of Mary Magdalene? The most plausible explanation can be found in the historical schism which developed very early in the Christian community. It is apparent that the early Christian community was split by doctrinal disagreements. The majority of the community were Christians who leaned toward so-called “heretical doctrines” such as Docetism, Montanism, and Gnosticism. The rest of the community were incorporated into the emerging institutional Church. They became known as “orthodox” believers who conformed to the political and spiritual authority of the Church. These orthodox believers labeled those outside of their organization as “heretics” because they did not conform to the authority of the priests.
While the Christian Gnostics preserved the tradition of Mary Magdalene as the beloved disciple and a leader in the Christian community, the orthodox Christians, on the other hand, removed all references to Mary Magdalene as being the founder of the Johannine Community. They did this by turning the references to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” into an anonymous male disciple. Grammatical flaws found by Bible scholars within various Bible passages in the Gospel of John support this transformation. It is theorized that the emerging Church did this because they could not accept the authenticity of a gospel written by a woman. And not only did the Church suppress the prominent role of Mary Magdalene, it suppressed the role of women in general within the Church. It did this by denying the historical role that women had in Judaism.
5. Jesus’ Elevation of the Role of Women
Despite the historical treatment of women as having the same status of cattle, the Bible records that a woman once ruled ancient Israel: “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4). The Bible even declares Rahab the prostitute to be “righteous” for giving lodging to the spies and sending them off in a different direction (James 2:25). Besides Deborah, the Bible recognizes other female prophetesses such as the four daughters of Philip, Mary (the sister of Aaron), and Mary (the mother of God) whom the Bible states: “Henceforth all women and all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). The Bible also reports that many women became missionaries and even martyrs for the Christian cause. While women in general held a low status in society in those days, Jesus is seen ignoring these social norms concerning women. In one incident, the disciples marvel that they find Jesus talking to a woman – and not just any woman – a Samaritan woman. Jews were forbidden to associate with Samaritans. Men were also forbidden to even touch a woman because they never knew if they would be breaking their tradition of not touching a woman while she is in her menstrual phase (Leviticus 15:19-24). Compared to the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Luke, and Mark) the Gospel of John shows women playing a bigger role. In the Gospel of Mark, there are only 5 instances where women are recorded as speaking. In the Gospel of Matthew, there are 9 instances. In the Gospel of Luke, there are 11 instances. But the Gospel of John records 22 instances of women speaking. Of course, the Christian Gnostics maintained a tradition which started with Jesus of having women perform equal functions with men in the community. This suggests the author of this gospel, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” viewed women more favorably. And there is evidence that the identity of the author of the Gospel of John and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is Mary Magdalene.
6. The Fall of the Role of Women by Orthodox Christianity
As the orthodox Church gained increasing political power, the role of women in the Church decreased. This can be directly attributed to the influence of the letters and teachings of Paul. Paul frequently takes an anti-women stance in his letters. While the so-called “heretical” believers allowed women to serve as priests and gave them equal status, the orthodox Church adopted Pauline Christianity which rejected the role of women. Paul taught that women are too poor of judgment to teach; that they must remain silent in Church; that they are forbidden to have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12-14). In essence, Paul was saying that because women were created second and sinned first, they should shut up. Paul also demanded that women be submissive to men (Ephesians 5:22-23); that women are inferior to men (1 Corinthians 11:7); that women are “saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15); and although God declares the institution of marriage to be “good” (Genesis 2:18), Paul declares marriage to be “not good” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Paul demanded that women should wear veils to indicate their secondary status in the order of creation (1 Corinthians 11:4-16). Paul’s anti-women stance may have come from the fact that he himself was not married (although unmarried Jewish men were considered cursed) or it may be because his anti-Gnostic crusade caused him to reject the Christian Gnostic idea of equality among the sexes. Paul has been accused as being the source of misogyny, antisemitism, and the support of slavery in western civilization.
The Gospel of John was written by someone who was an eyewitness to the events (John 21:24). This is a claim which the Synoptic gospels cannot make. But for some reason, the writer of the Gospel of John wanted to remain anonymous. The writer was obviously an extremely important figure. It is clear that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” was highly favored by Jesus over the other disciples. Most Biblical scholars today do not believe the Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John. The author is assumed to be the anonymous disciple of Jesus referred to as “the beloved disciple” and “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” As mentioned earlier, there is compelling evidence suggesting that the identity of this beloved disciple was Mary Magdalene. In fact, some scholars believe she may have been the true founder of what has come to be known as the Johannine Community. But at some point after the death of Jesus, the emerging male leadership of that community simply became embarrassed about having a female founder. The theory goes that in the Gospel of John, the “beloved disciple” was transformed into a male disciple in the text because this beloved disciple was clearly the founder and champion of the community that produced this gospel. That disciple was Mary Magdalene.
The Gospel of John was initially not accepted by orthodox authorities. The oldest known commentary on the Gospel of John is that of the Gnostic Heracleon (AD 180). Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 202) refuted the Gnostic exegesis of it. There is an abundant amount of correlation between the ideas found in the Gospel of John and the early Christian Gnostic writings discovered in 1945 which strongly suggests that the Gospel of John was a Gnostic gospel. It is the Gospel of John which shows Jesus teaching doctrines considered to be heresies to the Orthodox Church such as: (1) pre-existence (John 1:2; John 8:58; John 9:1-2; John 9:34); (2) reincarnation (John 3:3-8; Revelation 3:12); (3) the Jewish leaders believing in reincarnation (John 1:19-25); (4) the mystery of God within human beings (John 10:30-38; John 14:20; John 17:20-23); and (5) Jesus paying the karmic debt for the sins of humanity (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 4:10). In the Secret Revelation of John, a Gnostic gospel written by 185 A.D. at the latest, reincarnation is placed at the center of the discussion concerning the salvation of souls. John’s perspective of reincarnation in his secret teachings is that everyone is born into this world having drunk from the water of forgetfulness and lives in a state of spiritual ignorance. People are able to overcome this ignorance by having the life-giving Spirit descend upon them. These souls “will be saved and will become perfect,” that is, escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. John asks Jesus what will happen to those who do not attain salvation. Jesus answers that they are hurled down “into forgetfulness” and thrown into “prison” – the Christian Gnostic symbol for a new body. The secret teachings of Jesus reveal that the only way for souls to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth is to acquire knowledge (“gnosis“) after coming from forgetfulness by finding a teacher who can lead the soul in the right direction:
“This soul needs to follow another soul in whom the Spirit of life dwells, because she is saved through the Spirit. Then she will never be thrust into flesh again.” (Secret Book of John 14:20)
As the Church gained political power, it not only denied women their rightful place in the Church, it also denied the humanity of Jesus by declaring him to be God. This made it even more impossible to assert that Jesus was ever married. Deifying Jesus also elevated him beyond humanity’s ability to become like him in attaining one-ness and son-ship with God as he did. Salvation through the example of Jesus was replaced with salvation through Jesus-worship.
7. Mary Magdalene – The Beloved Disciple
The orthodox view is that Peter was the leader of the twelve disciples and head of the Church. But the early Christian writings discovered in 1945 tell a different story – that Mary Magdalene was the beloved disciple who had more authority than Peter. This is also supported by Biblical facts. In John 13:23-26, the beloved disciple is “resting on bosom of Jesus” while Peter must petition the beloved disciple to ask Jesus a question for him. In John 18:15-16, the beloved disciple has access to the high priest’s palace while Peter does not. In John 20:2-10, the beloved disciple immediately believes in Jesus’ resurrection while Peter and the rest of the disciples do not understand what’s going on. In John 21:7, the beloved disciple is the only one who recognizes the risen Christ while he speaks from the shore to the disciples on their fishing boat. In John 21:20-23, Peter jealously asks Jesus about the fate of the beloved disciple. Even more struggles between Peter and Mary are recorded in the newly discovered writings.
These writings portray Peter as being jealous of the revelations that Mary received from the risen Christ. For example, the Gospel of Thomas describes Peter as saying: “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” In the Gospel of Philip, the favorable relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is contrasted with Jesus’ relationship with the rest of the disciples. Similar examples of Mary Magdalene being favored by Jesus over Peter can be found in the Gospel of the Egyptians and Pistis Sophia. These texts also describe Peter rejecting the authority of women to teach.
The Gospel of Mary describes Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ beloved disciple who possessed and taught superior knowledge than the public orthodox tradition had.
The Gospel of Thomas records a very interesting promise made to Peter by Jesus. He is promised that Jesus will lead Mary Magdalene in order to:
“…make her male so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Gospel of Thomas)
This seemingly strange comment can only be understood in the context of Jesus teaching the one-ness of all things which can be found throughout these writings.
In the Acts of Philip, Jesus praises Mary Magdalene for her manly character. Because of this he gives her the task of joining the weaker Philip on his mission journey – but not as a woman:
“As for you, Mary,” Jesus says, “change your clothing and your outward appearance: reject everything which from the outside suggests a woman.” (Acts of Philip)
This shows how society in those days generally rejected the authority of women.
In the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Pistis Sophia, Peter is described as denying Mary Magdalene’s closeness to Jesus. These writings give Mary Magdalene a special position. In the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary, she is the only person to whom the other disciples refer to as the one loved by Jesus more than the others and as the one who has a greater insight.
The Gospel of Philip states:
“And the companion of the [Savior is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth]. The rest of [the disciples were offended] by it [and expressed disapproval]. They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.” (Gospel of Philip)
The Gospel of Philip states:
“There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary his mother and her sister and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion.” (Gospel of Philip)
His sister and his mother and his companion were each named Mary.
These passages establish the fact that Christian Gnostics believed Mary Magdalene to be the “beloved disciple” and the companion of the Lord. She is repeatedly singled out as the disciple whom Jesus loved the most.
8. Mary Magdalene’s Near-Death Experience
Mary Magdalene is seen in the Gospel of Mary as a disciple who is singled out by Jesus for special teachings. This gospel also shows Mary describing her vision of the soul’s journey after death and the challenges it must overcome. These passages from the Gospel of Mary contain concepts similar to concepts found in near-death experiences and Tibetan Buddhism‘s Book of the Dead.
The Gospel of Mary describes how, after the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were gathered together and weeping. At Peter’s request, Mary tells the disciples about revelations given to her that were hidden from them. The basis for her knowledge is the vision of the Lord she had and a private dialogue with him. What is incredibly unfortunately is that four pages of the Gospel of Mary are missing and only the beginning and end of Mary’s revelation exist. Nevertheless, judging by what does exist of this gospel, Mary’s vision certainly resembles an NDE.
The revelation is in the form of a dialogue. The first question Mary asks the risen Christ is how one sees a vision. Jesus replies that the soul sees through the mind which is between the soul and the spirit. At this point the text breaks off. When the text resumes at the end of the gospel, Mary is in the midst of describing her revelation concerning the rise of the soul past the four afterlife “powers.” The four powers represent the four of the multi-dimensional levels of the afterlife hierarchy. According to Mary’s vision, the enlightened soul becomes free of their bonds, rises past the four powers, conquering them with “gnosis” (spiritual knowledge), and finally attain eternal life.
9. The Gospel of Mary
The following is the Gospel of Mary which describes this vision further:
The Gospel of Mary
…They wept greatly, saying, “How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the kingdom of the Son of Man? If they did not spare him, how will they spare us?” Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren, “Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for his grace will be entirely with you and will protect you. But rather let us praise his greatness, for he has prepared us and made us into men.” When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the [Savior]. Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember – which you know (but) we do not, nor have we heard them.” Mary answered and said, “What is hidden from you will proclaim to you.” And she began to speak to them these words: “I,” she said, ” I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, “Lord, I saw you today in a vision.” He answered and said to me, “Blessed are you, that you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is the treasure.” I said to him, “Lord, now does he who sees the vision see it (through) the soul (or) through the spirit?” The Savior answered and said, “He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind which (is) between the two – that is (what) sees the vision and it is ….’ (Missing pages here) “I did not see you descending, but now I see you ascending. Why do you lie, since you belong to me?” The soul answered and said, “I saw you. You did not see me nor recognize me. I served you as a garment, and you did not know me.” When it had said this, it went away rejoicing greatly. Again it came to the third power, which is called ignorance. It (the power) questioned the soul saying, “Where are you going? In wickedness are you bound. But you are bound; do not judge!” And the soul said, “Why do you judge me although I have not judged? I was bound though I have not bound. I was not recognized. But I have recognized that the All is being dissolved, both the earthly (things) and the heavenly.” When the soul had overcome the third power, it went upwards and saw the fourth power, (which) took seven forms. The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth is the excitement of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom of flesh, the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven (powers) of wrath. They ask the soul, “Whence do you come, slayer of men, or where are you going, conqueror of space?” The soul answered and said, “What binds me has been slain, and what surrounds me has been overcome, and my desire has been ended, and ignorance has died. In a (world) I was released from a world, (and) in a type from a heavenly type, and (from) the fetter of oblivion which is transient. From this time on will I attain to the rest of the time, of the season, of the aeon, in silence.” When Mary had said this, she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her. But Andrew answered and said to the brethren, “Say what you (wish to) say I about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas.” Peter answered and spoke concerning these same things. He questioned them about the Savior: “Did he really speak with a woman without our knowledge (and) not openly? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?” Then Mary wept and said to Peter, “My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?” Levi answered and said to Peter, “Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect man and acquire him for ourselves as he commanded us, and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said. When [ …] and they began to go forth (to) proclaim and to preach.
10. An Analysis of Mary Magdalene’s NDE
Mary’s description of her experience with “seven powers of wrath” causes me to wonder if this incident is somehow related to Luke’s mentioning of Mary Magdalene having seven demons cast out of her. Luke was the companion of Paul who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. If this vision by Mary is the cause of her being smeared with the accusation of being demon possessed, it may be merely a reflection of the orthodox rejection of Christian Gnosticism and the rejection of Mary Magdalene‘s traditional authority among the disciples.
According to her vision, the first afterlife state or “power” she describes is said to be “darkness”. This may correspond to the so-called “void” experienced by NDErs immediately after death. The second afterlife state that Mary describes is referred to as “desire”. This may correspond to the earthbound realm that people with strong physical desires are attracted to after death. The third afterlife state that Mary describes is referred to as “ignorance” where judgment occurs. This may correspond to the life review and the self-judgment which NDErs often describe. The fourth afterlife level that Mary describes is referred to as “the excitement of death”. This may correspond to the feeling of joy that NDErs describe when they realize they have escaped from these darker, lower realms and the joy of entering the realm of light. The fifth afterlife state that Mary describes is referred to as “the kingdom of the flesh”. This may be a reference to how heaven has a similar appearance and environment as Earth with mountains, cities, lakes, etc… The sixth afterlife state that Mary describes is referred to as “the foolish wisdom of the flesh”. This may be a reference to how living in the higher realms is completely different to living in the environment on Earth. The seventh afterlife state that Mary describes is called the “wrathful wisdom”. Surprisingly, this is a good description of one of the afterlife phases in the Tibetan Buddhist afterlife cosmology. Wisdom is also another correlation to the NDE which frequently involves tremendous knowledge.
According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, on the seventh “day” after death there appears the “knowledge-holding” deities, who appear fierce and demonic-looking to the unenlightened. To the enlightened, however, they appear as “peaceful deities.” But because of ignorance, the unenlightened soul cannot face these knowledge-holding deities who appear to them as “wrathful“. According to Buddhism, this confusion causes the soul to descend back to Earth to be reincarnated. On the other hand, the enlightened soul recognizes that these deities are really “peaceful” and only appear wrathful to ignorant people. It is the soul’s own negative karma which perceives these deities as they perceive them. But liberation from reincarnation is attained when the soul recognizes their one-ness with the deities. Those who do not recognize their one-ness with them will ignorantly flee out of fear to lower afterlife states.
Although this may seems very unusual to some people, a perfect example of this concept can be found in the NDE of Pastor Howard Pittman. During his NDE, Pittman is brought before God but perceives God to be the jealous and angry God of wrath he preached about for 35 years and is often incorrectly portrayed to be God in the Bible. Pittman is chased away from God’s “angry” presence because of judgment he feels before God (which is really self-judgment). But, amazingly, Pittman is allowed a second chance to go before God. This second time he is astonished to perceive God as a “God of love.” Pittman doesn’t realize it but his perception of God as a “God of wrath” was a figment of his own religious mind-set and an illusion created by his own ignorance. Pittman’s NDE is the epitome of how we create our own reality on Earth, but infinitely more so in heaven. The kingdom of heaven (or hell) is within us. Death is merely a body problem. What lives within us will become our environment after death. This is why it is critically important what a person has living within them. Is it love, joy and peace? Or do you see the devil everywhere?