Namaste Publishing, 2012, 158pp
Reviewed by Stephen Wollaston (Santoshan)
The release of Matthew Fox’s third book on the remarkable mediaeval Rhineland mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, coincided with her canonisation and being officially recognized as a Doctor of the Catholic Church. Matthew’s enthusiasm about her importance for her own and our current age flows into numerous fascinating areas, such as Hildegard meets contemporary American poet Mary Oliver, Hildegard meets Albert Einstein, whether Hildegard is a Trojan horse entering the gates of the Vatican and Hildegard as eco warrior.
Written with an economy of pages, Hildegard of Bingen covers a lot of ground – some familiar as well as new – and supplies revealing snapshots about her life and teachings. Though Matthew’s broad understanding of Hildegard may not appeal to everyone, I found the book a lively and informative read, which demonstrated he hadn’t lost any of his controversial edge, his genius for bringing a wide range of perspectives and practices together and for thinking beyond the boundaries of any limiting parameters – echoing to some degree how Hildegard herself went beyond scripture, church hierarchy and saw God in all creation.
Matthew aims his arrow straight at central points about Hildegard’s significance, such as her important place within green wisdom, “her fierce commitment to the reality of the Divine Feminine” and being a key figure in “the powerful lineage of the creation spirituality tradition”. If this gives the impression that the book might be an unsubstantiated romanticised sweep about Hildegard it would be a wrong one, as Matthew takes pains to reference his sources to back up factual and revealing insights about her. Of particular interest I found were passages that focused on the true meaning of church and religion, how her medicines had been tried in recent decades at a centre in Southern Germany and were discovered to work, and how she wasn’t afraid to speak out and write bluntly about corruption in the church and greed in society.
In many ways Hildegard is a kindred spirit for Matthew – and for us all in GreenSpirit – who believes she can be looked upon as an exemplary leader for our times, whose profound wisdom and abundant creativity can help address distorted views of the masculine (what is ultimately the Sacred Masculine). Overall I found this new book to be both inspiring and thought-provoking. It will obviously appeal to all seeking an accessible, vibrant and sometimes challenging summary not only about Hildegard but also cosmological and Earth focused sciences, mystical experience, past and present church schisms and crucial issues concerning us all. It is rounded off with 35 suggested exercises. Highly recommended.