We are meditating on the likenesses between Howard Thurman’s theology and that of Hildegard of Bingen.  Yesterday we focused on their common teachings about the sacredness of existence and of life.

Eastern Mohave Buckwheat in Joshua Tree National Park – one of more than 700 species of plants, 50 species of mammals, and 40 species of reptiles identified in the park’s fragile desert ecosystem. Photo in Wikimedia Commons.

Thurman continues his teaching:

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.

Yesterday we saw how Hildegard connects Life to the Holy Spirit.  She elaborates on that relationship when she declares that The Holy Spirit is Life-giving-life, all movement.  The Holy Spirit is also: 

“Resurrection: The Power Point, Findhorn.” Photo by Phila Hoopes.

Root of all being/ Purifier of all impurity/ Absolver of all faults/ Balm of all wounds.  Radiant life, worthy of all praise/ The Holy Spirit resurrects and awakens everything that is.

I have frequently lamented how so much of Western theology ignores the Holy Spirit.  That is not true with Hildegard, nor with any of the creation mystics who emphasize creativity as the work of the Holy Spirit (something that the late Catholic monk Thomas Merton also celebrated). 

I develop in some depth the role of the Holy Spirit in my book, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.  If Hildegard is correct, that the Holy Spirit “resurrects and awakens everything that is,” there is a lot of work the Holy Spirit is engaged in, for a lot of resurrection and awakening is in order.

One of more than a dozen illegal COVID-era murals by beloved Melbourne eco-art activist Amanda Newman. Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

For Hildegard, “God is life.” Indeed, “God lives in every created thing.”  Fifty years following her, Thomas Aquinas would call God “Life” and “per se Life.” 

In his book on the Negro spirituals from slave times, Deep River, Thurman comments that “the goal and the source of the river are the same: the sea.” So it is with life and God.

Life is like that! The goal of life is God! The source of life is God! That out of which life comes is that into which life goes. He out of whom life comes is He into whom life goes. God is the goal of man’s life, the end of all his seeking, the meaning of all his striving. God is the guarantor of all his values, the ultimate meaning—the timeless frame of reference.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performs the spiritual “Wade In the Water.” Uploaded to YouTube by World Dance for Humanity

Thurman waxes ecstatic over naming God in the way he does. He continues:

That which sustains the flower of the field, the circling series of stars in the heavens, the structure of dependability in the world of nature everywhere, the stirring of the will of man to action, the dream of humanity, developed and free, for which myriad men, sometimes in solitariness in lonely places or in great throngs milling in crowded squares—all this and infinitely more in richness and variety and value is God. 

Notice how thoroughly creation-centered is his grasp of the meaning and presence of God.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “The God of Life and Light—or the God of Religion?” in Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century, pp. 25-32.

See also: Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.

Banner Image: “Without Wings I Fly Free.” Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Do Thurman’s teachings on God being the source and goal of life and the guarantor of values and ultimate meaning resonate with you?  And Hildegard’s teaching that God is Life who lives “in every created thing?”

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.

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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2 thoughts on “Howard Thurman and Hildegard, continued”

  1. Avatar

    I have recently read somewhere that seeing the “interiority” of anything is to love it. I have been visited by a couple of bugs that I’ve never seen before, and was immediately drawn to make their acquaintance. The first one appeared a few weeks ago. I started talking to it, wishing it well, and let it roam in every room it wanted to go. It seemed to know that I wouldn’t kill it. I got my magnifying glass and studied it: it had beautiful tan and dark brown designs on the back, 6 legs, two long feelers from its head, walked quite swiftly up and down doors, tables, and walls. Then last week, I came across it in the basement, on a piece of cloth, and not moving. I knew it was dead, but didn’t touch it for a while. After a while I turned it over and saw its little legs crossed over each other cradling a very white tummy. It was beautiful in its deep repose! And I marveled at the infinite Love that was the Source of its being in my world!
    The second little bug appeared yesterday all of a sudden on my table. I welcomed it and let it roam. This one has already departed. How amazing is the Father- Mother’s care, compassion and consideration for all of creation! What a lesson here: if God shows so much love for even the tiniest creature, how can He/She not hold us with unending infinite all-embracing Love at all times forever and forever, from now to eternity? No way will He/She ever let anyone of us go! Praise God forever!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      When you are with your insect friends, you are walking the Via Positiva and living out what Meister Eckhart once said: “Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature–even a caterpillar–I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.”

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