Pat Fulmer's "Da Vinci Code" Speech at the Unitarian Society
Santa Barbara, California
Ten years ago when I became aware of new information in archeology and religion that was to lead to the Goddess Movement, I was taken back that I had not known about this sooner. It had been going on for years. Many books had been written, nearly all non-fiction and there was a significant movement in art as well, interestingly, partly on the subject of Mary Magdalene.
As a figure painter, I set out to learn as much as I could and began work on a series of paintings representing the sacred feminine. My paintings are of modern women set in a background of feminine symbols from ancient pre-Christian religions. This later discovery and subsequent work in the area led to an epiphany: this was not just about a historical finding, there were important implications: mainly, having excluded the feminine aspect in religion had caused an imbalance that has negatively impacted not just women but humankind to this day.
Because of the popularity of the Da Vinci Code, concepts of the divine feminine are recognized in wider circles. Even the eminent religious historian, Elaine Pagels, whom I had the honor to meet recently, author of The Gnostic Gospels, said that there is renewed interest in her courses at Princeton because of the Da Vinci Code. Just as fish (as the saying goes) are the last to discover water, so are we as unaware of the impact of the many forces that affect our lives. I believe that Orthodox religion has exerted as powerful an impact on our culture in general as it has on religion.
We as Unitarians can ignore the fundamentalisms of the bible, but to ignore the influence on our lives is not wise. The early church fathers who decided what went into the New Testament were not inerrant nor divinely inspired as they shaped the text and literalized the myths. These literalized myths have been used to justify oppression and sexist prejudice, which continues today. Allowing rigid and sometimes immoral Biblical concepts to run rampant without a counter voice is dangerous as history so well affirms. The author of “Born of a Woman”, Episcopal Bishop John Spong, who authored this and many other books against the dangers of Christian fundamentalism, says he can no longer pander to the religiously insecure nor the Biblically challenged for literalism is not a benign alternative. He asks the questions: “Why do people react adversely to new information that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married?” There is the suggestion of negativity toward women and that marriage is inappropriate for one who is holy. Not only was his mother, the so-called “Virgin” Mary dehumanized as nonsexual but so apparently was Jesus. And the manufactured Virgin Mary was used to replace that important woman in Jesus’ life, Mary Magdalene, a person who would have been the primary female presence in Christianity. But, her role was tainted starting with Luke’s Gospel. As a more powerful woman in the New Testament drama, Mary Magdalene could have been the point of balance in what became a male dominant religion. As the Da Vinci code asserts, the Christian Pantheon did not include a major female character as did earlier religious myths, but in fact the feminine was purposely marginalized and maligned. In doing so, society was adversely affected by the denigration of sexuality and denial of gender equality. Without a partnership model between male and female that could have been exemplified by the sacred marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the masculine aspect reigned supreme unchecked by the attributes of the feminine.
Now to talk about my two paintings: Mary and Mary Magdalene. Because of the connection I have drawn between the two women, I’m exhibiting both paintings, which counter the prevailing historical images: the withdrawn, obedient, ever youthful Mary and the sinful penitent, Mary Magdalene.
In Mary, the Mother of Jesus, I painted a woman who makes direct eye contact and who projects a happy, confident image. She has grown old and in contrast to the Catholic doctrine, Jesus supports her. In the Mary Magdalene painting, she is shown as an earthy, religious leader surrounded by her followers, who give her, her due respect as Jesus and the Goddess both shine down upon her. The black background stands for the dark power of incubation and creativity. The inverted triangle in her square cross and in the background is a primary symbol of the feminine. In the background triangle, the three aspects of the Goddess as maiden, mother and crone are represented.
In conclusion, I’m grateful to Dan Brown for bringing out this important message to more readers than those who’ve read the non-fiction versions. Although much of the book is fiction, I believe the popularity is due to the hunger people have for a more balanced religion.