Saturday, March 30, 2019

Psychic connections are neither here nor there: on Susan Howatch and spiritual direction

From Eastern Catholic Person-

I first got the idea that I should receive spiritual direction around the time I was fifteen. I don’t think I really have ever publicly revealed this until last week, but I had read about it in Susan Howatch’s Church of England series, which had been recommended to my father in a conservative Baptist seminary’s Doctor of Ministry course on pastoral spirituality. Curious about what was advertised as a trashy exploration of the sex lives of Anglican clergy, I dove into the texts and got more than what I bargained for. I did not only get vividly described sex scenes, but also a Jungian understanding of the ‘big tent’ of Anglicanism among its ‘evangelical,’ ‘Anglo-Catholic,’ and ‘broad church’ camps.

I did not think when I was a high school sophomore that I’d actually become Anglican. I have indeed been rather ashamed till recently to reveal the truth of my first exposure to the Communion, which was, as I said a few days ago, through ‘Jung and jugs’ because it was literally through the Howatch books that I first got to know this world. Men in ‘Starbridge,’ as Howatch’s fictional parish is called, are oddly patterned only to enjoy sex with women with large breasts and remark on their disappointment with a kind of ‘iciness’ when they are small, a pattern that I do not know whether to attribute to Anglican male clergy, deep-rooted British fantasies more generally, or Howatch’s projection of what men like. I do know, and perhaps this has to do with my unexorcised Hong Kong imaginaries of how to be properly British, that Sean Connery had a ‘boob test’ for the women acting opposite him in the earliest of the Bond films. It’s probably why they all ended up looking the same after a while.

More here-

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