Land der Hildegard - Hildegard von Bingen

Historisches Museum am Strom Hildegard von Bingen

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The Living Light

Her Life › Visionary and theologian › The Living Light

Navigationsbaum: Her Life › Visionary and theologian › The Living Light

„I am the Living Light illuminating the darkness. The person whom I have chosen and whom I have miraculously stricken as I willed, I have placed among great wonders, beyond the measure of the ancient people who saw in Me many secrets.“

The above quotation comes from the preface of her first visionary work Scivias and shows the sophistication contained in these visions. The Triune God, the Living Light, spoke through her and revealed more to her than to the prophets of the Old and New Testament. Sometimes she described herself in this role as the „Trombone of God“ or compared herself with a feather, like in a letter to Guibert of Gembloux:

„But I reach out my hands to God to be carried along by Him, like a feather which lacks all solidity of strength and flies with the wind.”

How she experienced her visions and what was revealed to her, had already been explained by Hildegard in the preface of Scivias:

„Heaven was opened and a fiery light of exceeding brilliance came and permeated my whole brain, and inflamed my whole heart and my whole breast, not like a burning but like a warming flame, as the sun warms anything its rays touch. And immediately I knew the meaning of the exposition of the Scriptures, namely the Psalter, the Gospel and the other Catholic volumes of both the Old and the New Testament, though I did not have the interpretation of the words of their texts or the division of the syllables or the knowledge of cases or tenses.“

In her letter to Guibert she described this light in more detail:

„The light that I see is not spatial, but far brighter than a cloud that bears the sun and nor can I regard in it height, length nor width. And I call it the shadow of the Living Light and just as the sun, moon, and stars appeared reflected in water, so the Scriptures, words, virtues, and some works formed by humans shine in it for me.“ This light would always be present inside her and in it she would see the answers to the questions asked of her by the people: „And in the same light I perceive, sometimes and not frequently, another light that I call the Living Light, which I am surely much less capable of revealing as I see than the former light. And in the meantime, while I am contemplating it, all my sadness and all pain are taken from my memory so that then I act like an unaffected girl and not an old woman.“

Hildegard always described herself as uneducated, indocta that can be seen as a gesture of humbleness on the one hand, but on the other hand should also clarify any doubts about the origin of her knowledge:

„And I did not speak and write my own experiences or those of any person, but as I saw and heard them on high in the heavenly places and received them through the secrets of His mysteries.“

In fact, she never studied the septem artes liberals – the Seven Liberal Arts – and so could not present a traditional school education, but her teachers, Jutta of Sponheim and the monk Volmar as well as the correspondence with educated dialogue partners gave her a broad knowledge that she surely supplemented by her own studies of the Bible, the Church Fathers and other works.

Another point that Hildegard repeatedly emphasized was the way she experienced the visions:

„But the visions I saw I did not perceive in dreams, or sleep, or delirium, or by the eyes of the body, or by the ears of the outer self, or in hidden places; but I received them while awake and seeing with a pure mind and the eyes and ears of the inner self, in open places, as God willed it.“

Her visions came from God. Nobody should think she became a victim of delusions of the devil that – as the people believed – came over people with weak minds while they were sleeping or secluded. At the end of Scivias, the prophet emphasized the meaning of her visions again with utmost determination:

„But whoever rashly conceals these words written by the finger of God, madly abridging them, or for any human reason taking them to a strange place and scoffing at them, let him be reprobate; and the finger of God shall crush him.“