Julian, Hildegard, and the Search for Wisdom, continued

Yesterday we meditated on how Julian and Hildegard are sisters calling us to wisdom.  Wisdom is feminine.  She is missing in a patriarchal culture.  And education.  And professions that draw on that education.

Poster on Restorative Justice in Public Schools for 2015 Facebook Compassion Research Day. Design by Peter Durand on Flickr.

One way to talk about wisdom as distinct from knowledge is proposed by the Sufi mystic Rumi who tells us: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Knowledge is clever and struts it.  While wisdom is not afraid to look inside and see what needs changing there.  Wisdom is more radical than knowledge. It dares to ask: “How do I need changing?” The two need not be mutually exclusive, however.

The late physicist David Bohm said, “something more than science is needed.” Values are needed, as well as the passion and courage to live them and put them in to practice.

Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson reads Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” Uploaded to YouTube by American Museum of Natural History

Julian and Hildegard, who performed their inner work, invite us to do ours. As leaders, they offer rounded values and a vision for a sustainable future.

Wisdom is about the whole, not the part.  The modern era was about parts; in our post-modern times we search for a sense of the whole.  Ecology is about the whole and the interconnectivity of the parts, the “web of creation” (Hildegard’s term) that is suffering and calling for our attention. 

The coronavirus is universal, not part.  It affects humankind as a whole, some countries (parts) are responding more faithfully than others.  But the threat is toward the whole.

The same is true of climate change.

Map of the COVID-19 verified number of infected per capita as of . Map by Raphaël Dunant, Gajmar, maintainer. Legend appended. From Wikimedia Commons.

As they say, we are in this together.  All of earth is saved or none is saved.  Injustice to one is injustice to all.  We are learning, maybe the hard way, that interconnectivity is real and that compassion, our response to interdependence is called for like never before. 

Values matter.  Interconnectivity matters.  Compassion matters.  Says Julian: Compassion “belongs to the motherhood,” compassion “protects, increases our sensitivity, gives life and heals….[it] keeps us in love.”

Hildegard speaks:

Glance at the sun.  See the moon and the stars.  Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greening.  Now, think.  What delight God gives to humankind with all these things.  Who gives all these shining, wonderful gifts, if not God? 

But she warns us as well:

“Syncrude Tailings Dam, Fort McMurray, Alberta. The yellow structures are the bases of pyramids made of sulphur…Behind that is the tailings pond, held in by what is recognized as the largest dam in the world.” Photo by TastyCakes. Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons.

The greening power of the virtues faded away, and all justice entered upon a period of decline.  As a result,….winter often experienced paradoxical warmth.  There occurred on earth times of drought and dampness…Now in the people who were meant to green there is no more life of any kind, there is only shriveled barrenness.  The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on….destructive and barren creatures that destroy and damage the earth, rendering it incapable of sustaining humanity….The earth must not be injured, the earth should not be destroyed.  As often as the elements of the world are violated by ill treatment, so God will cleanse them through the sufferings, through hardships of humankind. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 103. 

And from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 16, 41f.

Banner Image: Earth movers blast through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and nearby mountains. The 30-foot-tall, bollard-style barriers will block wildlife migration, damage fragile desert ecosystems, and destroy natural history and Native American sacred sites. Photo: Center for Biological Diversity.

Do you sense we are living in a time when the greening powers of virtues are fading away and the utterly awful stink of evil and selfish goings-on are afoot and the earth is becoming incapable of sustaining humanity and hardships are resulting?  How turn things around?

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century

Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.

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4 thoughts on “Julian, Hildegard, and the Search for Wisdom, continued”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you as ever Matt for these meditations, I especially found yesterday and todays very helpful.
    I am really looking forward to the Julian /Aquinas course
    Stay safe be well ?

  2. Avatar

    I think sending out showers of Light and Love to individuals and to the whole created world can start turning things around. There would have to be millions of us doing this on an ongoing basis. We were created by Love, and are kept going by a powerful unconditional Love that will never let us down . . . Yet not too many believe that Love is everywhere, in every person, in every animal (who could teach humanity a lot about Love), in all of Nature, just waiting for us to acknowledge that Love alone is Real, and that Love alone can fill us, redeem us, heal us, and bring us back to the Unity that so many of us long for.
    It may take years, centuries, but it can happen! PRAISE MOTHER-FATHER-JESUS-GOD!

  3. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew, for today’s meditation. Katherine and I found it very moving and inspiration. Hildegard is so often eloquent and deep, giving us much to drink, like a great sweet spring in the woods.

  4. Avatar

    In “An Idealist View of Life” Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan wrote:
    “Heaven is not a place where God lives but an order of being, a world of spirit where the ideas of wisdom, love and beauty exist eternally, a kingdom into which we all may enter at once in spirit, which we can realize fully in ourselves and in society though only by long and patient effort.”

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