Is Margery Kempe a Mystic?

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Margery Kempe, the main topic of this essay, was in fact a controversial person. During her lifetime peoples' opinions about her were quite polarized. She was a conspicuous person and was in many conflicts with mostly clerical authorities. Some contemporaries looked up to her, while many others did not really know how to deal with her and her extraordinary behaviour. It is pretty much the same thing today. While some credit her as a mystic, others just condemn her as crazy. During the course of this essay, I will try to answer the question if she was a mystic or not. One approach could be made by looking at definitions of the terms "mystic" and "mysticism": The "Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church" defines it as "an immediate knowledge of God attained in this present life through personal religious experience." Another attempt to put these terms into words is taken from the "Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics", which describes mysticism as "the direct, secret, and incommunicable knowledge of God received in contemplation." These definitions show that it is hard to describe these two words properly. Both definitions seem to be inaccurate in a way. Therefore, I will not approach the essay question by primarily concentrating on these definitions, but by a different proceeding. Firstly, I will focus on the life and work of Margery Kempe. Her book "The Book of Margery Kempe" is the only book she ordered to be written and at the same time her autobiography. I will give a short survey of important events of her life and try to characterise her religious and spiritual perceptions. In this first step, I will also look at the problems she had to accomplish and highlight why her behaviour could be seen as extraordinary or ... ... middle of paper ... ...rld (London, 2002). James Hastings (Ed), Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume IX (Edinburgh, 1917). Walter Hilton, The Ladder of Perfection. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price with an introduction by Clifton Wolters (Harmondsworth, 1988). Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe. Translated by B.A. Windeatt (London, 1985). Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love. Translated into modern English and with an introduction by Clifton Wolters (Harmondsworth, 1966). Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love, Internet-source http://www.ccel.org/r/rolle/fire/fire.htm Unknown author, The Cloud of Unknowing, Internet-source http://www.ccel.org/a/anonymous2/ Diana Webb, "Women Pilgrims of the Middle Ages", History Today, Volume 48 (July 1998), pp.20-26

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