Kundalini Splendor

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hildegard of Bingen and Heavenly Love 

Recently, we have been considering the union of the divine with the human, through the intercourse of the mortal with the god. Sometimes the god is male, sometimes female. This motif is indeed one of the persistent archetypes, expressing as it does not only a yearning but a deep realization in human experience. The union does not, of course, take place on the earthly plane--rather it stems from other dimensions, those secret realms which surround human existence and interact with mortals from time to time as divine encounters, revelations of the higher realms.

Perhaps the most famous of such encounters is that of Mary with the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent birth of Jesus. Here is Hildegard's description of that pivotal event: (again, I am taking the text and critique from www. poetry-chaikhana.com by Ivan Granger)

Hildegard of Bingen

Timeline (1098 - 1179)

English version by Barbara Newman

O virga mediatrix / Alleluia-verse for the Virgin

Alleluia! light
burst from your untouched
womb like a flower
on the farther side
of death. The world-tree
is blossoming. Two
realms become one.

-- from "Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celstium revelation" by Hildegard of Bingen / Translated by Barbara Newman

And here is Ivan Granger's illumninating commentary on the poem:

Hildegard was born in Bermersheim, not far from Mainz, to a noble family. She was the tenth and last child to be born to the family. At the age of eight, Hildegard was "given to God as a tithe" by placing her in the care of Jutta, a woman who had chosen a life of solitary seclusion. Jutta, along with Hildegard and other disciples, later joined the Benedictine order. When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard was elected to lead the monastic community.

Hildegard had visions since early childhood. She describes one vision she had at the age of three of witnessing "a brightness so great that [her] soul trembled." This was a light that remained a part of her perception throughout her life. Even in her seventies, Hildegard described it as a light that seemed to permeate everything without hindering her ability to see normally, as well.

Hildegard's fame quickly spread, bringing pilgrims and the curious, eventually overwhelming the capacity of the small community. A new, larger monastery was built between 1148 and 1150 in Rupertsberg near Bingen.

Illness was intimately linked with Hildegard's mystical life. Bouts of illness seemed to be brought on by the tensions that existed between her divine promptings and the limitations of the roles allowed to her as a woman and a nun.

Although Hildegard had received blessings from Church authorities through most of her work, toward the end of her life she ran into conflicts for, among other things, allowing an excommunicated man who had died to be buried in consecrated ground. She refused to have the body dug up and, as a result, she was not allowed to take the eucharist -- a deep wound for a devout Catholic. This ban was eventually lifted, but she died only a few months later.


This small verse is rich with meaning within the esoteric Christian tradition.

For genuine mystics, this light is not a mere concept; it is directly experienced. This sense of light is more than a brightness one might experience on a sunny afternoon. This light is perceived as being a living radiance that permeates everything, everywhere, always.

Christian mystics often identify this foundational light with Christ. This is the light Hildegard says has burst from the Virgin's "untouched womb."

The light is seen to be ever expanding, radiating out from a central point, "like a flower." It is immediately understood to be the true source of all things, the foundation on which the physicality of the material world is built. This is why the Gospel of John declares that "all things were made through him and without him was not anything made."

This light of the mystic is eternal and whole. Its sum is always complete with no loss and no end. And, when the mystic truly bathes in the outpouring of this light, the sense of death itself seems to be washed away. There seems to be no small sense of self apart from that light, there is nothing left that is vulnerable to death. The light is "on the farther side / of death."

And this living light is the medium that bridges the heavenly and the earthly levels of reality, "Two / realms become one." Speaking as this bridge, Christ in the Gospels states simply, "I am the way." -- a statement sadly misconstrued by literalist Christians for millennia as an assertion that Christianity is the one and only way to reach God. This light is a reality for deep mystics of all world traditions. Christians name it Christ. Hindus may name it Shiva or Ishwara or another face of the Divine. A Muslim may recognize it as the smile of the Beloved, a glimmering angel that leads one nearer to Allah. Or why name it at all? Better to witness it, be carried in its current to a place beyond names, a place where the world-tree is blossoming...

(above copyright Ivan Granger)

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