Hildegard & Aquinas: Ancestors Speak Out on Folly & January 6

We have spoken of the “3 A’s” associated with a healthy seventh chakra:  Allies, Ancestors, Angels.  In the context of the January 6 commission hearing, I want to call in two ancestors, Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas. 

“Strengthening the Soul for the Journey.” Illumination by Hildegard of Bingen, in Scivias.

Hildegard named her first book Scivias which is Latin for “Know the Ways.”  What ways?  The two ways, the two choices, humans have: The Way of Folly; or the Way of Wisdom.  She is telling us how we must choose which way we will follow as individuals and as communities and societies.

One way to deepen one’s instinct for choosing wisdom over folly is to listen to ancestors like Hildegard who have proven to be wise over the centuries.  Of course I include Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Nicolas of Cusa and many others in this lineage of wisdom that is called “creation spirituality.”  In a course I am currently teaching with Shift Network, I include most of the above plus 20th century wisdom figures like Thomas Merton, Thomas Berry and Mary Oliver.

Hildegard spent ten years writing her first book, Scivias.  And it was not just a book of sentences and paragraphs—it also included 27 paintings of her visions and an opera!  The oldest opera in the West by 300 years.  (It has been my privilege to see it performed at several venues and it is available online.)

Protestor at the San Francisco Vigil for Democracy marking the anniversary of the 1/6/2021 insurrection. Photo by Peg Hunter on Flickr.

I hear her voice when I listen to the narrative about what happened at the nation’s capitol on January 6 and how it was planned for months previously and of all that has happened in its wake including hundreds of voting laws in states around the country making it far harder for communities of color to vote; the effort to politicize the counting of votes; and the spreading of the Big Lie that the last presidential election was stolen that had everything to do with the violence of January 6. 

Our hearts are hurting.  Thomas Aquinas explains why: “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice,” he teaches.  There is no wisdom without truth and justice.  When lies and injustice reign, the heart is hurting.

January 6 and its continued aftermath is neither truth, justice, or wisdom.  It is folly.  And it sells.  Folly being promulgated vigorously on networks make media moguls ever richer in their mad and dangerous dash to make money by spreading folly.

See Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen.  

And Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 101-108.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Thomas Aquinas in Stained Glass, CC image by Thomas Gun on Flickr via Wikipedia Commons; Hildegard of Bingen Selestat ( Alsace ). Saint Faith church: Stained glass window (Wolfgang Sauber, 1892) on Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you find yourself meditating these days on the folly of the human race?  And on the wisdom as well?  How can wisdom prevail? Do you sense hearts are hurting?

Recommended Reading

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.

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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10 thoughts on “Hildegard & Aquinas: Ancestors Speak Out on Folly & January 6”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Our Queries for Contemplation for today are: “Do you find yourself meditating these days on the folly of the human race?” Yes. Matthew points out how Hildegard named her first book Scivias which is Latin for “Know the Ways.” Then he asks the question: What ways? The two ways, or the two choices, humans have: The Way of Folly; or the Way of Wisdom. She is telling us how we must choose the way of wisdom as individuals and as communities and societies. One way to deepen one’s wisdom is to listen to ancestors like Hildegard, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Nicolas of Cusa, Thomas Merton, Thomas Berry and Mary Oliver and others in this lineage of wisdom that is called “creation spirituality”–Including myself–I have just had a book published on all of the wisdom literature attributed to Solomon titled, THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON, and so I have been meditating on wisdom as well, and I hope it will prevail rather than folly !!!
    “Do you sense hearts are hurting?” Our hearts are hurting. Thomas Aquinas explains why: “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice,” he teaches. There is no wisdom without truth and justice. When lies and injustice reign, the heart is hurting.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Hiding underground
    Sheltered behind
    Walls of red clay
    Watching from
    A distance
    The folly of
    The human race

    Secluded in solitude
    Silent observation
    Seeking understanding
    Amidst the many
    Shades of grey
    Inwardly reflecting
    Upon wisdom’s way

  3. Avatar

    Yes Matthew, there are much evidence of the folly and destructiveness of the human race presently in persons and modern society. It’s very sad because it continues to cause a lot of suffering around the world — wars, poverty, social inequities, racism, violence, the destruction of Mother Earth and her environment and creatures, … The historical roots of this ongoing evil and destructive behavior has been acknowledged as the toxic values of patriarchy/masculinity in individuals, our institutions, and societies— individualism, egocentricity, greed, materialism, power, suppression of the feminine and feminine/spiritual values… Fortunately, there have been many good people in history, our ancestors, spiritual beings , Angels, and presently in ‘lightworkers’ who have maintained God’s Loving Wisdom Living Spirit of Truth, Peace, Justice, Compassion alive, and guided/strengthened in their faithful/trusting hearts, daily actions and prayers. Our human~Divine souls are still co-Creating and co-Evolving eternally with-in God’s Diverse Loving Oneness~Creation~Evolution on earth, and in our spiritual multidimensions and multiverse Universe~Cosmos….

  4. Avatar
    Barbara McGurran

    The road of folly is wide, smooth and headed downward. The road of wisdom is narrow, rugged and on an upward trajectory. Which one?

    1. Phila Hoopes

      Hi Eric,
      Good question – thank you for the catch! Yes, that should have been “January 6” – it’s been corrected on the website.
      Phila Hoopes
      Blog Coordinator

  5. Avatar

    A distinction must be drawn between cumulative and non-cumulative truth; we find the first kind in history and science where information snowballs, and the second part in metaphysics, religion and art where it does not. 2500 years later, what do we know about good, evil, wisdom and folly that Job didn’t know, or Solomon, or for that matter the mystics? Of the first kind (cumulative), says Scripture, folk “ever learn but never come to the knowledge of the truth,” and “of the making of many books there is no end.” Perennial truth (non-cumulative) is simple, enduring, and never changes. And one might add, excluded in what folk value in politics, society, and higher education.

  6. Avatar
    martina nicholson

    Dear Fr. Matthew,
    Today after reading your post, I read a chapter in John O’Donahue’s book WALKING IN WONDER, which is a posthumous collection. I found this, which I think is quite meaningful and important, and the chapter which follows is called The Gift of Memory.
    “Old people have great wisdom and great light, and when they are not governed by fear, there is incredible permission in them. You often get more encouragement in relation to your own wildness and sense of danger and carelessness from an old person than from anyone who is stuck in the middle of a system or a role, or the kind of atrophied complacency that often passes for acheivement and respectability.” (p.150). The following paragraphs are very illuminating, also.
    This may go along with the Ancestors, and certainly goes with allies! Thank you for bringing this wisdom and strength to us, in this difficult time with such short memories!

  7. Avatar

    I equate folly with evil and death and wisdom (Sophia) with love and life. The book of Proverbs, which according to my study Bible has echoes of and parallels with Mesopotamian and Egyptian thinking, personifies Folly and Wisdom. Clearly, this is not a new problem. I have found the CAC podcasts with Brian McClaren, ” Learning How to See” helpful in trying to understand. One of the points he makes about our biases is that it is much easier to accept a simple lie than a complex truth. And, of course, dictators have always relied on the Big Lie, repeated often and loudly. https://cac.org/podcast/learning-how-to-see/
    Democracy is messy and complicated and requires patience and tolerance of others’ views. But dictators appeal to the human need for order and security. People so often think only of their own needs and comfort. Elie Wiesel points out the cost of silence and passivity, and there is the famous quote of not standing up for other groups but then they came for me and there was no one to stand up for me. https://www.romper.com/p/this-one-quote-from-elie-wiesel-is-all-about-standing-up-13624
    I hope and pray that people choose the way of wisdom and not folly. The signs are not good right now, and maybe they never have been. Now we have within our capacity to destroy everything. Someone once said that it is not surprising that there is so much evil but rather it is surprising that there is so much good. I am grateful for Matthew Fox, Richard Rohr, Brother David, and so many others who are teaching the right way, if only enough people listen and learn.

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