Hand and Eyes and Grace in Alex Grey’s Homage to Viriditas

Alex tells us that “the Green Hand is my homage to Viriditas!” Which indeed it is. Green hands bespeak the reality of human work that can bring eco-justice and eco-balance alive again. Whatever our work, it can be a grace that heals our ailing souls and communities and planet.

“The Green Hand,” a painting by Alex Grey in homage to Hildegard’s concept of Viriditas. Published with permission.

In her celebrated painting of the “Man in Sapphire Blue,” reproduced  on the IIlluminations book cover below, Hildegard names the healing Christ in all people. And what is this blue Christ doing? He is putting his heart energy into his hands, this being an archetype of the very meaning of compassion. Compassion is not just a feeling for the suffering of others, it is also an action to do something to relieve that suffering, thus the primacy of hands in Hildegard’s work.

“The Man in Sapphire Blue” by Hildegard of Bingen, from Scivias

The same is true of Alex Grey’s painting of Viriditas—greening power, creative power, is meant to serve and to fill our hands with that creative energy that we invest in our work. All of it can bless and heal others whether we be artists or musicians, lawyers or nurses, educators or clergy, farmers or parents, mechanics or journalists. All our creativity is meant to be imbedded, indeed incarnated, as a blessing and conduit of grace to one another.

Alex pictures that wonderfully and alluringly in his fine painting.

What about the many eyes within the hands? Hildegard frequently paints beings with many eyes.  In her painting that I call “Original Blessing: The Golden Tent,” she paints a folded-up tent in the fetus inside a mother’s womb and she depicts our life’s journey as setting up that tent. 

“Original Blessing: The Golden Tent.” Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias.

The tent has many eyes in it which she describes this way: “I saw the greatest and most serene brightness like a flame with very many eyes, and having four corners turned to the four parts of the world.”

The “countless eyes” signify God’s seeing and knowing and God’s eyes see the pain of the world and the joy of the world. The Book of Zechariah talks of the seven eyes of God that “run to and fro through the whole earth.”  (Zech. 4:10)

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, pp. 32-37, 76-82.

Banner image: The power and grace of green growing things. Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Contrast Hildegard’s painting of many eyes to that of Alex Grey. What are the eyes telling you and us?  What are the hands pictured by both Hildegard and Alex telling us as well?

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.

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4 thoughts on “Hand and Eyes and Grace in Alex Grey’s Homage to Viriditas”

  1. Avatar

    Prayer to Viriditas

    Verdant green vibrations, life giving fertile energy
    take us deeply into the nurturing blessings of
    Mother Earth, where mysteries abound.

    Reveal to us, how to thrive in the abundance
    of every living thing that seeks its highest expression
    teaching us to reach for the promise found in the moment.

    Through your subtle touches that beckon us
    lead us through the unknown intuitive aspects of existence
    opening the eye of our heart, to how precious life is.

    Guide us, that we may enter into the realms of mystery
    the world’s of dreams and hidden pathways,
    through the portals of self-discovery and understanding.

    Bridge the depths of our fragmented psyche
    that we may sense the profound within our innermost
    thoughts, fears, desires and latent potential.

    Show us how to embrace Your inherent gifts given of
    intuition, imagination and creativity; to delve deep within
    redefining perceptions of reality, harmoniously balanced.

    Lead us to deeper spiritual truths that govern all existence,
    and artistic practices, that we may honor the sacredness
    of Your wisdom ways of love, compassion and justice.


  2. Avatar

    GOD’S SPIRIT of Heart, Eyes, Hands… works through our human hearts, eyes, hands to COMPASSIONATELY live and serve one another in our Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth, with all Her creatures and graceful abundance, in LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  3. Avatar

    I think these paintings show the design of life, that God is both impersonal and yet completely intimate. That the tent of wisdom which includes the eyes of the infinite heart is created and nurtured inside your body, your womb…in the dark of your most intimate physical and interior space, birthing to an outside world, with outside spectators who seem foreign and as Hildegard said “strangers”…and yet Love, as intimate as a person who steps forward to you with healing hands and healing eyes, unfolds the very technology within you, the tent of wisdom, which came with God at the very beginning, before the “fireball” of creation. I like the idea of Viriditas as homeostasis or Balance. Or the Great Angel of Temperance who ever expands and ever contains and ever balances all, forevermore. And that I can have great hope in this design, in the impersonal and yet completely intimate, that I can see how nothing in my life had been or has been random or unseen by Benevolent Eyes, and that even in the darkest of times, or at the greatest confusion, that I can see that I was and still am part of a Holy Design, and therefore, I am found on any cosmic map, oriented and set on a good destination — even when I feel on this planet or this life, I feel like I am lost. From these paintings, I can also see how healing is inevitable.

  4. Avatar

    Eyes are for us to pay attention and to see all the glory of creation as interbeing, and hands are to reach out to all of creation in loving service in our own small part in our own small ways.

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