chapter  3
24 Pages

The mystical theology of Margery Kempe

Writing the inner life
ByCorinne Saunders

Six hundred years ago, Margery Kempe made the journey from King's Lynn to Norwich, to visit the celebrated anchorite Dame Julian: the sole manuscript of The Book of Margery Kempe marks the visit in red in the margin. Margery's theology can be seen as mystical in that her book recounts her experiences of mystical phenomena across her life, experiences of a more or less paranormal kind in which she directly and personally gains immediate knowledge of God. Accounts of the spiritual experience and lives of holy women presented crucial paradigms for Margery, in particular that of St Bridget of Sweden. Margery's book presents a remarkably liberal view of chastity; it questions the absolute status of virginity by implying that a married woman's chastity is as valuable to the Lord in heaven, and the ideal of virginity is a spiritual one. Margery's behaviours and unusual experiences have attracted a variety of medical diagnoses, from hysteria to psychosis to temporal lobe epilepsy.