Thurman & Hildegard on being Green Men and Women, continued

Yesterday we saw how Thurman underscores our inherent need for cosmology — the “curiosity of our race” includes curiosity about our origins, our beginnings, where we come from and where we find ourselves in the universe.  All this is cosmology. 

In her Cosmic Egg mandala, Hildegard of Bingen equates the torch that is the sun with Christ, “the sun of justice having the lightning of burning love.” – Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen

We ought to be concerned “with beginnings;” these questions fuel our growth.  We are also learning how our ancestors all came from Africa.  Adam and Eve were Africans we might say.  A rebirth of wonder follows those who keep their curiosity about origins alive. 

Hildegard shared this same curiosity about the universe.  Indeed, she painted her visions of the universe– sometimes as an egg; and later as a sphere as she followed the scientists of her day.  In her first painting of the universe she pictures five planets–Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury plus the sun, the moon and stars.  She writes: “O humans, when the stars and the creatures were being made, where were you?  Did you ever give counsel to God concerning the making of those things?” 

Cosmology is functional ecology.  Thurman warns us about the price we pay for eco-destruction and what today we call Climate Change –“we” being all those not in denial.  Like an entire political party is committed to in America today even as temperatures soar, seas rise, storms increase, fires multiply, animals go extinct, energy grids collapse, islanders living on islands abandon them and politicians say, “What, me worry?”  

Excerpt taken from a sermon by Howard Thurman entitled “The Inner Life #2: Charting the Inward Sea,” recorded live at Boston University on January 25, 1952. Originally posted to YouTube by Matt Marble

This we see all around us in the modern world. Our atmosphere is polluted, our streams are poisoned, our hills are denuded, wildlife is increasingly exterminated, while more and more man becomes an alien on the earth and fouler of his own nest. We pay an immense price for this ignoring of the world around us, warns Thurman.

The price that is being exacted for this is a deep sense of isolation, of being rootless and a vagabond. Often I have surmised that this condition is more responsible for what seems to be the phenomenal increase in mental and emotional disturbances in modern life than the pressures — economic, social and political — that abound on every hand. The collective psyche shrieks with the agony that it feels as a part of the death cry of a pillaged nature.   

Human as a Microcosm of the Macrocosm, from Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias. For more, please see Matthew Fox‘s Illuminations book.

Thurman makes clear that even if humans feel alienated from nature, they nevertheless suffer along with it. As with hate, this is another form of “suicide,” as humans become “part of the death cry of a pillaged nature.” For Thurman, the ecological collapse is directly responsible for our modern spiritual crisis—“a deep sense of isolation, of being rootless and a vagabond.” This, he believes, has more to do with the rise in mental and emotional illness in our society than all other causes — “economic, social, and political” — put together.  

For a man born in segregation and poverty, raised by his ex-slave grandmother, this is a powerful statement indeed—that eco-destruction is more oppressive than even economic, social and political oppression.  Is anyone listening?

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, pp. 50f., plates 4 and 6.  And from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 215.

Banner Image: The mind-boggling biodiversity of the Ecuadoran Amazon, seen from the Sacha Warmi Center for Culture, Nature, and Health, dedicated to “support(ing) indigenous peoples and organizations in the Ecuadorian Amazon with the revitalization and strengthening of their cultural systems, particularly the education and health systems, for the improvement of their current life situation.” Photo by Phila Hoopes.

What price do you feel we are paying for pillaging nature? Do you agree this is a spiritual crisis, and that can we heal our spirituality by renewing our kinship with the atmosphere, the land, and wildlife? How do we move from isolation and rootlessness to community and being at home?

Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen

An introduction to the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, Illuminations reveals the life and teachings of one of the greatest female artists and intellectuals of the Western Mystical Tradition.  At the age of 42, she began to have visions; these were captured as 36 illuminations–24 of which are recorded in this book along with her commentaries on them.
“If one person deserves credit for the great Hildegard renaissance in our time, it is Matthew Fox.”  – Dr Mary Ford-Grabowsky, author of Sacred Voices.

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6 thoughts on “Thurman & Hildegard on being Green Men and Women, continued”

  1. Avatar

    Julian of Norwich called Nature God, and God Nature, and in our complete disregard of this Truth in separating Nature from God through the millenniums, we are now witnessing the almost complete devastation of Mother Earth and of her beautiful creations.
    Can we stop the pillaging and the nefarious destruction going on in so many places on the planet? I know a lot of people in many nations are working very hard to reverse the direction we’ve been going in for years now, and so I like to believe that there’s hope for us yet. That Mother Nature will respond to every effort we make, on the physical as well as on the spiritual level, to break out of our lethargy, and fill our hearts and our God-minds with all the courage and steadfastness and love we will need to bring healing and joy and wholeness to our beloved world again.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Besides all he has written on the subject of the earth, two years ago Matthew founded; along with Skylar Wilson and Jennifer Berit Listug the “Order of the Sacred Earth”–and the subtitle to the book of the same name is “An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action.” You ask the question, “Can we stop the pillaging and the nefarious destruction going on in so many places on the planet?” The bottom line is that whether of not we can reverse things, we have to do whatever we can…

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