Visionary Fiction: New Views of an Old Religion
I think that Dan Brown, Kathleen McGowan, and Kate Mosse all write visionary fiction. They have taken Christianity and given the world a new view of it. They’ve explored something we all thought we knew and made it mysterious, something that needs to be investigated and re-experienced, not just accepted at face value. Many were offended by the books, others curious, but these writers have breathed new life into something we thought was already settled.
I was raised in a small Protestant group, the Moravians, who started off as revolutionaries in the fifteenth century, but who by the mid-twentieth century had settled down to an ordinary, garden-variety church.
As a child I loved our Advent Star and the Candlelight Lovefeast on Christmas Eve, and the brass band that would wake the neighborhood for Easter Sunrise Service, but by the time I was in college, I was looking elsewhere for spiritual growth. I didn’t feel a lot of “juice” in the church’s teachings or services. No living experience of the divine. My childhood friend who was raised a Baptist in a church just down the street, but who now studies Druid nature spirituality, said her childhood church was as real and nurturing to her as plastic grass in an Easter basket.
I did find a living spirituality through Vedanta. I began to meditate, became a TM teacher, and taught meditation for a long time. Besides Vedanta, I’ve studied and practiced shamanism, Wicca, and Western metaphysics. All these provided me with an experiential connection to the divine (sometimes less, sometimes more) that I hadn’t experienced in my childhood religion.
Until Brown, Mosse, and McGowan reanimated Christianity for me. They pointed me to the mystical side, the Gnostics. They showed me the Divine Feminine in a tradition that had taught me to feel shame about being female. I saw my ancestral tradition in a whole new light.
Dan Brown popularized the bloodline theory in his best-selling The Da Vinci Code, creating a big stir, even moving the mammoth Catholic Church to make a comment about it. Author and tour leader Stephen Mehler (The Land of Osiris) first introduced me to the idea that Christ had been married to Mary Magdalene, that they’d had children, and had moved to the south of France where their ancestors had continued to teach. I wrote about it, too, in Under the Stone Paw, but Brown beat me to the punch. Others had done novels about it before.
That kind of thing happens more than you might imagine. It’s as if our Collective Unconscious urges several artists to tell a certain story. Perhaps the universe thinks it’s time for some things to come to light. Why did thousands of people suddenly notice this idea when they did? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted in 1979 that over the next forty years, the hidden teachings of religions would come to light and mass consciousness would move back through layers of spiritual teachings until the original, pure form would be revealed. Perhaps a less grandiose version of this has occurred, but it’s not 2019 yet. We shall see.
Brown’s novel led many people to reconsider their childhood faith. They studied church history and understood how human power struggles had shaped the simple stories they’d learned in Sunday school. They understood there were several versions of Christian teachings, each with their special gifts. Some embraced a more nuanced, informed faith. Others enjoyed studying Gnostic Christianity. Many saw parallels across the mystic traditions. I loved that my own tradition was as spiritually alive as any other.
Kathleen McGowan (The Expected One, The Book of Love, and The Poet Prince) takes the bloodline theory and connects it to the Cathar movement. For McGowan the Cathar teachings are the original Christianity, brought to Europe by Mary Magdalene, labeled as heresy by the Catholic Church, and then subjected to persecution. McGowan suggests the inquisition began as an attempt to root out the Cathar teachings. She doesn’t just write fiction. McGowan includes spiritual teachings and even Gnostic prayers. She talks about how to walk a labyrinth in a meditative way. Her books cast a broad net. She sweeps through historical figures and movements, showing us new ways to consider them.
Kate Mosse (Labyrinth and Sepulchre) also writes about the Cathars, focusing less on the bloodline. She takes us into the Cathar towns. We live through the Montségur massacre. Mosse doesn’t do as much outright spiritual teaching as McGowan, but her books offer us new ways to view the past.
Both McGowan and Mosse use the idea of reincarnation in their novels. Certain spiritual tasks have been left unfinished, and those whose job it is to accomplish these tasks take a body again to complete their work. McGowan uses a legend that Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s side with a spear, was cursed with immortality after the act. McGowan allows him to find redemption and thus release, but teaches a strong lesson in forgiveness and compassion through this character.
Sometimes they tell very different stories about it. For instance, McGowan sees the Chartres Cathedral as a monument to Cathar teachings and Mary Magdalene in particular. Not only was Mary Magdalene an important priestess in her novels, Mary the Mother is as well, and she makes a strong case that the Cathars and others had a female image of God equal to God the Father. In Mosse’s novel, Chartres has been built by a group of dark magicians dedicated to keeping the teachings of Mary Magdalene’s sect hidden. In her novel, the labyrinth is not correctly drawn, emanating a negative energy. You can decide for yourself. That’s what a living spirituality is all about.
A few years back, I discovered an esoteric, mystical tradition within my own bland Protestant church, much to my surprise, involving poet and painter William Blake even. I wrote a novel about it because I was so delighted to find my own ancestors taught equality between the genders, practiced mysticism, and even sacred sexuality. That story is The Star Family.
Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. For news and updates, please visit her site