Saturday, May 05, 2007

Margery Kemp and Salvific Sex

Mysticism seems to lead to creativity and social action. In "The Book of Margery Kemp", an autobiography, Margery refers to herself in the third-person. The Middle-Aged mind needed to seek a spiritual explanation for everything. When Margery first hears Jesus' message, she had just experienced a madness up to the birth of her first child. She had a vision of an apparition of Jesus and was relieved of her post-partem stress.

We can explain things medically in this age. So there's an urge to explain her vision psychologically or medically. Most interpreters like to keep the interpretation spiritual, but how can we resist? Perhaps reading it spiritually evokes faith in the reader.

At one point in her life she decided to cut her hair, give up sex, and stop eating meat. She would rather have eaten the muck in the gutter than consent to intercourse. She spoke constantly of heaven, and wept copiously. Everywhere she went people saw her weeping as divinely-inspired. She sat and wept in the Church where she lived, and went on pilgrimages to weep in historic Christian places.

In Canterbury she wept so loudly that people threatened to burn her as a heretic. She spoke with Julian of Norwich, the anchorite, about her visions. She then joined a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land, who told her that she could no longer be in her party if she would not eat meat and speak so much about holiness.

A "heretic" and social rebel, she was arrested a number of times for urging other women to escape their husbands. Women came running out of their houses in one place and shouted that they burn her. Other women were more receptive. She nearly escaped a rape from an interrogator who arrested her once.

She was a kind lustful mystic. She wanted to have sex once in a chapel, and the man denied her. She became part of the virginal genre of literature which women wrote of their brideship with Christ. It's often very sexual-sounding. But it is apparently not, say the experts. However, I suspect that the expert readers are simply denying a sexual interpretation which would undermine her writing--in their eyes.

But I think the sexual spirituality is interesting in and of itself and does not need to be denied or defended in anyway. Perhaps this is because I have a secular interpretation of Margery, and in my view it's even more interesting that Margery would literally like to have sex with Christ. Whereas the experts tend to be Christian and would rather overlook, or spiritualize, Margery's very sexual mysticism. They would have her glorifying the manhood of Christ, but in metaphorical terms that are in no way explicitly sexual.

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