Essay

The Paradox in the Creature’s Salvation; A Commentary on The Book of Margery Kempe

In her autobiography, Margery Kempe describes herself as a creature who undertakes a redemptive quest, at first, to be forgiven for her sins and pride. The struggle she endures while giving birth to her first child makes her afraid of her sins, and subsequently, she decides to confess her sins to a priest who makes her more inauspicious than ever by his antagonistic attitude. This leads to her “spiritual” (psychological, in modern terms) problems which makes her to experience many different visions of Devils and Christ. After the long travails of her atonement, she finally meets with the God in her visions and has her religious life, but she persists to ascend so much so that she joins a wedlock with the Godhead; becomes his wife, his mother, and his daughter. In medieval world, everything was divided into a hierarchical structure (as seen in the Great Chain of Being) and every human was categorized by three main estates (clergy, nobility, and commoners) according to what his/her profession was; thus, it was expected of a man or a woman to aspire to be one of the upper classes since Christianity, as well, argues that men are born with an original sin, that is to say, an inclination towards overreaching. By contextualizing this background information with Kempe’s (or the creature’s) marriage with the God (and with the Holy Soul, Jesus and so forth,) we can observe the paradox in the creature’s acts since she tries to get rid of her pride and sins while trying to separate herself from the people by marginalizing herself and from her husband to be able to marry the God; hence to be the supreme.

In Book 1.35, we can observe that God is declaring that he is to take the creature as his wife and show his secrets to her for she has been pleasing him by believing in all his sacraments, and loving his son’s manhood. Jesus is like the material body of God with his manhood and the part of the God which is set to physically unite with the creature in bed. The act of marriage describes the scene in which the creature ascends to be one of the divines, and exceeds all the apostles and saints by becoming the wife of the God. The marriage gives her a great comfort both spiritually and bodily as if she experiences an orgasm. Then her sensual perceptions are bombarded with sublime tastes that she finds inconceivable to describe them with worldly definitions. The token that the God bestows upon her is very much similar to a wedding ring which confirms that she is now protected by the God against all evils. Being a supernatural creature, her bodily order now changes; she carries a fire in her chest which is to keep her warm and away from sins. Furthermore, she is no more a subject to the order of the universe for all her deeds are legitimized by the God. If we put all these back into the relation with our context, the creature we see in Kempe’s autobiography undertakes a spiritually cleansing journey into holiness to be rid of her vanity and sexual sins; nonetheless, she ends up placing herself into a position almost high as the God’s, and sharing her bed with Jesus Christ.

To put it briefly, there is a paradox in The Book of Margery Kempe because her desires, in a way, do not disappear; they rather change into a religious form. Correspondingly, her ascension towards being a holy creature, a family member of the God does seem excessive, as we can observe through the marriage act, considering the aspirations of medieval people.

Categories: Essay, Writing

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