More Wisdom from Howard Thurman and Hildegard of Bingen

Having meditated on evil for two weeks, we are now invoking gifts that the mystics give us to combat evil.  Yesterday we considered the primal question posed by Howard Thurman about what it means to be a human being.  He elaborates on the answer from yesterday when he says: A human being “has to feel that he belongs to his total environment.”  Notice his sense of cosmology here, the “total environment” is that to which we belong—not a particular tribe or party. 

A man of the Mentawai tribe of hunter-gatherers, Mentawai Islands, about 100 miles from West Sumatra province, Indonesia. Photo by Carsten ten Brink on Flickr.

To be human one needs

a sense of being an essential part of the structural relationship that exists between him and all other [humans] and between [her], all other [humans] and the total external environment. As a human being, then, she belongs to life and the whole kingdom of life that includes all that lives and perhaps, also, all that has ever lived. In other words, he sees himself as a part of a continuing breathing, living existence. To be a human being, then, is to be essentially alive in a living world.

To be alive and in touch with all our relations, past, present and future, our ancestors and those yet to come—not just our human ancestors but “the whole kingdom of life.”  Clearly this cosmic sense gives one perspective when human strife cut off from the whole can render our lives so small and narrow.  Thurman calls us to be part of a “continuing breathing, living existence…alive in a living world.”

Regrowth following the disastrous bushfires of Livingstone, Staurt Highway, Northern Territory, Australia, 2019. Photo by Geoff Whalan

He develops this theme further for it was a cherished refrain for him.  He urges us to recognize the great mystery–That life is alive!  He urges us not to take life for granted.  He says:

Life is alive; this is its abiding quality as long as it prevails at all. The word ‘life’ is synonymous with vitality.

Because we can so easily take life and living for granted, we need a bigger perspective. 

We are so conscious of the fact of each individual expression of life about us that the simplest and most wonderful fact of all is passed by. And what is that? The fact that life itself is alive, has the persistent trait of living — that any and all living things continue to survive as long as that essential vitality is available to them.

A Galapagos giant tortoise. A ~100 year-old female of a related species of tortoise, previously thought to be extinct, has been discovered. Photo by Lieutenant Elizabeth Crapo, NOAA Photo Library, on Wikimedia Commons

How deeply Thurman’s teachings resonate with those of the twelfth century mystic Hildegard of Bingen who says the Holy Spirit is the “Life of the life of all creatures.”  And furthermore,

Holy Spirit is
all movement.
Root of all being….
Radiant life, worthy of all praise,
The Holy Spirit resurrects and awakens everything that is.

See Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 210, 215.

See Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 26f.

Banner Image: “Crocuses in Snow” Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

Queries for Contemplation

Do you, along with Howard Thurman and Hildegard of Bingen, recognize the Holy Spirit as the “Life of the life of all creatures”? 

What follows from that?  What difference does it make to you and to the world we live in and the way you live in this world at this time in its unfolding?

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1 thought on “More Wisdom from Howard Thurman and Hildegard of Bingen”

  1. Avatar

    I am so happy to have rediscovered Cosmology! I am 88 years old and read something of yours many years ago, but was not ready for this wonderful way of living at the time. I’d been a nun for 30 years, left when I was 50, became a massage therapist, using the gift of healing I’d received in the Charismatic movement, all the while being gifted with small and BIG mystical experiences, while struggling off and on with all the difficult questions of right or wrong, etc. that I’d grown up with. A friend gave me the book of Meditations with Hildegard a couple of weeks ago, and now I know why God is keeping me on this earth: My eyes were opened!! I am thrilled beyond belief! Cosmology is the answer for me! Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear Matthew!

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