Hildegard on the Feminine and the Ground of All Being

We have been meditating lately on the “ground of being” and the feminist dimension to that divine title.  Hildegard of Bingen astounds us when, 150 years before Meister Eckhart called God “the ground of being,” she calls Mary “the ground of all being.”  This is Goddess talk, the language of the Divine Feminine. It is strong.

6th Century icon of the Theotokos, also known as the God-Bearer. Originally posted to Flickr by Ted.

To call Mary the ground of all being is Celtic. Remember that Hildegard was in a Celtic monastery because the Celts settled along the Rhine, and the Celts had a strong tradition that the earth, the ground of being, the ground of the earth, is the Goddess. In fact, when the Celtic king was crowned, he had to swear an oath of marriage to the Earth. He had to marry the earth. 

Hildegard displays at times the energy of both Kali and the Black Madonna, a kind of fierceness. In part, her resilience may have been derived from her Celtic spiritual roots, as one can find this kind of sureness and strength in Celtic women even to this day. It originates from a deep grounding in the Divine Feminine. Thus, Mary as the “ground of all being.” 

Hildegard composed a poem in which she says that “God made the form of woman to be the mirror of all his beauty, the embrace of his whole creation.”  From a vision she received, Hildegard ascribes the work of creation to a woman named Love. In doing this she is advancing the biblical teaching that Wisdom was present at creation.

“Altar to the Black Madonna” by Suzi Gablik. From Matthew Fox’s personal collection; the image was used in Gablik’s class on Altars to the Black Madonna at the University of Creation Spirituality.

It is significant that the Black Madonna calls us down to honor our lower chakras.  One of the most dangerous aspects of modern western culture is its constant flight upwards, its race to the upper chakras (Descartes: “truth is clear and distinct ideas”) and its escape from the lower chakras.  

The Black Madonna takes us down, down to the lower chakras including our relationship to the whole–the first chakra, as I have explained in my book Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society–is about picking up the vibrations for sounds from the entire cosmos.  It is about our relationship to the cosmos.  

She invites us down to our sexuality (second chakra) where we learn both to honor and direct our sexuality.  And down to our anger and moral outrage (third chakra) which we are also to honor and steer.  European culture in the modern era tried to flee from all these elements as we can see in both religion and education.  The Black Madonna will not tolerate such flights from the earth, flights from the depths. 

Because she honors the direction of down and the lower chakras that take us there, the Madonna honors the earth and represents ecology and environmental concerns.  Mother Earth is dark and fecund and busy birthing.  She calls us to wake up to the peril she finds herself in today.  Eco-cide and Matricide are everywhere.  She calls us to action, wise action.  

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times, pp. 67f., 111f. 

And from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 233f. 

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 189-284.  Include pic of that book also.

Banner Image:     Icon of the Theotokos (God-Bearer) originally posted to Flickr by Ted.

Queries for Contemplation

Are you recovering the sense of down and how sacred it is? Do animals who walk and sniff the ground as well as plants assist you in that process?

Recommended Reading

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.

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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