Berry, Hildegard and Estes on Wildness and Shamanhood

Berry defines what he means by wildness that shamans possess calling it “something primordial, a realization that humans are not here to control but to participate in the wonders of those vast cosmic phenomena beyond all human understanding [that] evoke within us an overwhelming delight and thoughts so profound that their meaning is revealed to us only in our dreams.”

Piece entitled, “Childlike and Playful” by Richard Reich-Kuykendall who is an artist, author, and graduate of Matthew Fox’s University of Creation Spirituality.

He also invokes wildness when talking about creativity.  

I cite one of my favorite passages by Berry in my book on Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, in my chapter on “Where does creativity come from?” Spontaneity and wildness often come together.  Says Berry: “Wildness we might consider as the root of the authentic spontaneities of any being.  It is that wellspring of creativity whence comes the instinctive activities that enable all living beings to obtain their food, to find shelter, to bring forth their young: to sing and dance and fly through the air and swim through the depths of the sea.   This is the same inner tendency that evokes the insights of the poet, the skill of the artist and the power of the shaman.” 

Berry sees a tension between wildness and discipline that is necessary for creativity.  He sees this tension playing out in the earth system itself.  And among planets such that an excess of discipline suppressed the wildness of Mars and resulted in very little life there.  Jupiter too. 

Path in South African rainforest. Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash.

Says Berry: “Only Earth held a creative balance between the turbulence and the discipline that are necessary for creativity.”  We might call this the tension between order and chaos as well.  The universe itself established “a creative disequilibrium expressed in the curvature of space that was sufficiently closed to establish an abiding order in the universe and sufficiently open to enable the wild creative process to continue.”  

We find lots of “creative disequlibriums” in our world these days don’t we?  Is it all an invitation to create?  And if the very curvature of space guarantees creativity, isn’t that one more evidence of the great bias the universe holds in favor of creativity?  And with it, wildness? 

Jungian psychologist Clarissa Pinkola Estes teaches that the Wild Woman archetype is found around the world: “No matter by which culture a woman is influenced, she understands the words wild and woman, intuitively.”

10 signs you are a “wild woman”. Originally posted to YouTube by Wild Simple Joy.

Where do we find this Wild Woman?  “For some women, this vitalizing ‘taste of the wild’ comes during pregnancy, during nursing their young, during the miracle of change in oneself as one raises a child, during attending to a love relationship as one would attend to a beloved garden.” She also comes “through sights of great beauty.” And “she comes to us through sound as well; through music which vibrates the sternum, excites the heart; it comes through the drum, the whistle, the call, and the cry.” 

Do we not feel this in Hildegard’s music and in the prophetic way she confronts popes, emperors, abbots and archbishops?  A wild woman is at work. 


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, pp. 42f.  

And from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 81f.

Banner Image: Gazing upon the wilderness; contemplating the next chapter. Photo by Mark Potterton on Unsplash.

Turbulence and Discipline, Chaos and Order, do you find that a regular rhythm in your creative life?   In the times we are living through?  In “sights of great beauty” and times of birthing?  Is that Spirit at work?

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

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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2 thoughts on “Berry, Hildegard and Estes on Wildness and Shamanhood”

  1. Avatar

    Just curious about the cover art of the book about Hildegard, saint for our times. Maybe Matthew could speak to that in one of his daily meditations. Thanks. Donna

  2. Avatar

    The truth is every human being is innately equipped to be shaman, prophet, heyoka and more. As emanations of Divine LOVE we have limitless potential, but only surrender to LOVE enables us. It is all Grace. }:- a.m.

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