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Mystic, Medic, and Musician: Hildegard of Bingen’s Embodied Spirituality

May 31st, 2006 by Jason · 4 Comments

For it is the soul’s joy to become effective in the body. She strives forever to perfect the work of the body that was created by God
—Hildegard of Bingen, De Operatione Dei IV, 19

If you’ve been reading the blip for a while now you might remember a post I did a while back on the remaking of Hiledgard of Bingen’s medieval songs by Swedish folk-rock group Garmarna. Well, I finally got a chance to do some more research on this fascinating woman in my Spiritual Disciplines class this semester.
On a list of things the church has historically ignored or shunned women and bodies are right near the top. However, despite the repression women and bodies have undergone throughout church history there have always been moments of proclamation by those brave individuals who challenged Christians to remember that it was the incarnate Jesus that saved the world and that it is with our bodies that we worship, serve, and love God. Hildegard of Bingen was just such a prophetic voice to the church. As a Benedictine nun Hildegard was a remarkable woman who embodied a spirituality that deeply integrated the body and soul, particularly in her vivid visions, medical writings, and musical compositions.

Continue reading the paper [PDF]...

Tags: mysticism · papers · spirituality · theology

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 isaac // May 31, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Jason, I tried to follow the link to your pdf, but I couldn’t get it to work. Is it your link, or is it my parent’s slow-ass dial-up internet connection?

  • 2 Jason // May 31, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    Isaac, thanks for catching that. I’ve updated the link.

  • 3 isaac // Jun 3, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    Jason, I read your paper on the airplane ride from Tucson to Ft. Collins the other day. Great invitation to the life and work of Hildegard. I can’t say that I am too familiar with what she was about.

    I think this was your best line: “It only takes a little imagination to picture the interplay of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and spirit as Hildegard and her sisters sang her songs at matins in the stone abbey where the chill of the morning was offset by the smell of the beeswax candles that lit the church. Certainly this would have been a deeply felt experience that integrated mind, body, and spirit.” Wonderful imagery.

    One thing you mentioned really got my curiosity going. In Hildegard’s visions, what does she say she sees when catches a glimpse of God? One of your quotes talks of the intense “light of the divine,” or something like that. Does she always see light when she says she sees God? Does she ever describe a face?

  • 4 Jason // Jun 28, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Isaac, great question, and sorry so long on the response. Hildegard had two types of visions. The first were very concrete, didactic visions that she experienced and which she would then “translate” in one of the books she might work on. For example, check out this picture (Hildegard drew many of her visions) which depicts Hildegard receiving a vision of the world being encompassed by a firery orb (the Holy Spirit or womb of God).

    Additionally, Hildegard received more “general” visions that she described as something like the “light of the divine.” This appears to be more of a sensing and seeing God permeating all of creation. Something akin to experiencing the Holy Spirit in worship, except she actually saw the Holy Spirit!