History of religion

Prophetissa Teutonica

(Published in GralsWelt 8/1998)

The German prophetess

It was the Staufer Frederick I - Emperor Barbarossa - who Hildegard of Bingen (1098 - 1179) so called. But as famous as the visionary was during her lifetime, after her death her visions, her work fell into oblivion. In the century after her (13th century), the monastic and cathedral schools began to lose influence, and the future belonged to a new kind of learned cooperative, from which the universities were to develop. In these circles, Aristotle was studied, and the system of thought of "logic" replaced "mysticism". Medieval religiosity, too, was soon shaped less by visionaries than by scholars like Albertus Magnus or Thomas Aquinas.

In the religious writings of Hildegard of Bingen, visions of an eschatological event occupy a significant space. They are dramatic images, which are conveyed by Hildegard, and she describes her visions from the medieval understanding of the world. Her work can be considered close to Dante's "Divine Comedy" in terms of scope and significance. An interpretation of her visions is not easier than an understanding of the "Great Apocalypse", the Revelation of John. One can only try with all caution to sense what the great seer of the Middle Ages still has to say to us today. However, what is seen, which carries truth in itself, has validity for all times.

In Hildegard's world view, a sublime concept of God is the center and the height. She sees God as greater than the usually conveyed church teachings portray him. The Creator announced to her in the visions is more than a powerful king in the heavenly realm who intervenes in human life with arbitrary decisions:

"But God, who created everything previously mentioned, is the only life from which all life breathes, just as the ray of the sun comes from the sun, and He is the fire from which every fire directed toward blessedness is kindled, just as the sparks go out from the fire. (...) God is one and only and through Himself and in Himself. From no other He received the being. Rather, every creature has existence from Him."

In Hildegard's visions, the "Last Judgment" is a consequence of the Fall. After manifold catastrophes, it ends with the final purification of creation from all evil as well as the destruction of Satan. Before it comes to this end, Hildegard sees five periods of time marked by a progressive descent of human behavior:

"You look to the north and behold, there stand five wild beasts. They symbolize the wild course, raging against itself, of five temporal realms."

These wild animals - a fiery glowing dog, a yellow lion, a pale horse, a black pig and a gray wolf - are assigned certain human badnesses, such as: Aggressiveness, lusts of all kinds, fornication, hypocritical holiness, power play, robbery, murder, manslaughter, craftiness, lukewarmness. One has tried to recognize certain historical epochs in the "five temporal realms". But Hildegard's visions suggest higher insights, world-spanning visions, which can hardly be pressed into the narrow circle of a few centuries of earthly history.

A picture of the events of the "last days" could be drawn up on the basis of Hildegard's apocalyptic stories, which have been handed down in detail, because they vividly describe how this unprecedented event will affect our earth. The path of will and thinking turned away from God, which has been taken for thousands of years, will reach its climax at the "end of times". A corresponding attitude of consciousness would then more or less seize the whole mankind. In this mistaken spiritual attitude one may assume a crass materialism and parallel to it a constantly growing reduction of ethical values. This thought is confirmed by a surprisingly precise description of Hildegard:

"With bowed body and spirit, those will worship the beast of wickedness who have the tent of their heart firmly attached to earthly things, ..."

But mankind will (have to) recognize where the constricted thinking and acting, considering only the earthly, leads. Hildegard "looks" (in the "Book of the Meritorious Life") how the elements turn to a God-sent, the "man of God":

"And I heard the elements of the world turn to the man of God with a wild cry. And they cried out: 'We can no longer run and complete our course according to our Master's destiny. For men, with their evil deeds, sweep us from the bottom to the top as in a mill. We already stink like the plague and perish with hunger for full justice.' To them the man answered: 'With my broom I will cleanse you and afflict the people until they turn back to Me....
But now all winds are full of the mold of the foliage, and the air spews out dirt, so that people do not even dare to open their mouths. Also the green life force wilted by the godless delusion of the blinded human souls. They only follow their lust and clamor: Where is their God, whom we never get to see?
I answer them: Do you not see Me day and night? Do you not see Me when you sow and when the seed rises, wetted by My rain? Every creature strives towards its Creator and clearly recognizes that only One has brought it forth. Only man is a rebel' ..."

People themselves have corrupted their world, but Hildegard also sees how it will be after the great purification:

"... the elements [will] shine with the greatest clarity and beauty, for all hindering dirt and darkness has fallen from them. Then the fire shines without brilliance like the dawn. The air is without density and shines all pure. The water stands clear and calm because it is not moved to and fro, and the earth appears strong and level without impermanence and inequality. Greatest peace and beauty then prevail. The sun, moon and stars are like precious stones of gold and shimmer in the firmament with great clarity and light. The night of darkness then gives way to the eternally young day."

This could be the indication of a time, a grace period as a spiritual school for all people who want to learn to go the right way, i.e. to live in observance of the laws of God. Because the last decision about being or not being in the spiritual is still to come, and Hildegard says about it:

"But when after the fall of the wicked, with the dissolution of the world, the Last Day will dawn, mortal man shall not inquire. He cannot know that day, for the Father keeps it hidden in the mystery of His counsel. Prepare yourselves, you people, for judgment."

John, the great prophet of the New Testament, with his "Revelation" and Hildegard, the great "Prophetissa teutonica", the great German prophetess, who is 1000 years closer to us, exhort with the same voice to insight and conversion.