Customer Reviews: Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias (Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback))
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on November 15, 2006
Hildegard was one of the most famoust mystics of the medieval period. A rarity amoung women of that time, she conversed with learned theologians and even the pope, was given considerable autonomy to learn and teach, and was a very gifted writer, poet, theologian, mystic, and scientist.

Hildegard's visions, which are included in this collection, form a larger set of works of hers which include poems, songs and music, and various encyclopedias. Hildegard was a very learned woman for her time.

Her visions are very complex and involve many elements and themes. Some deal with classic theological motifs from the medieval period, such as the Church, Christ, heaven and hell, the last judgement and the fall. Others deal with the relationship between man (the microcosm) and the universe, while others deal with the mysteries of the Triune God and God's prescence in nature.

Most striking in Hildegard's visions is the intimate connection between man, God, and the creation. Mathew Fox rightly said Hildegard is a creation mystic; for her, the divine spirit fills and energises the universe, and the Earth itself is seen in terms as our mother and as sacred. Hurting creation is in fact a way we hurt ourselves, an ecological ethic which can certainly say a lot to us in this time, where our greedy carelessness towards the world and its resources threatens to imperil our very survival as a species. Hildegard also quite rightly and perceptively understands the goodness of creation in terms of the goodness of God, whose abundance is given to us freely out of love. Our sin in Hildegard's system very much boils down to our selfish tendency to only see ourselves and our wants, rather than our relationship with the creation and the creator. In this way, Hildegard speaks to us today as the prophet, who warns us of the spiritual and material destruction and doom that will come to us if we continue to live in our wicked ways; demythologized and interpreted in our context, this can be read as a prophecy to our own destruction if we do not turn from our sinful selfishness which manifests itself in the reckless way we hurt and exploit other people and the environment merely to sate our own desire.

Hildegard's work is filled with beauty and colour and is greatly enjoyable also as fine art, and indeed, Hildegard is as much a great artist as she is a prophet and mystic.

This collection of her works is quite good and takes us through the main cycles of prophetic visions.
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on September 13, 2002
Hildegard von Bingen, one of the prominent German mystics in the Middle Ages, stands as an anomaly amidst the whole host of Christian mystics. One reason to account for this is the fact that instead of advocating reform of the church in a confrontational manner, she often deflects it by recourse to God's voice. The voice that speaks in Scivias is more often than not the 1st person voice of God, and the persona of Hildegard the receptor of the visions occupies technically the position of a third person glossator and observer. On top of that, the chief focus of her 'reform' is of 'ordo virtutuum', a reform that works from within as opposed to the outright opposition(or confrontational gestures) offered by English Lollards in their translation of the Latin Vulgate into the vernacular Middle English tongue, or the Beguines' usurpation of the Catholic church's monopoly to Biblical interpretation.
Another reason to account for her special status as a medieval mystic is the absence of any so-called phenomenon of stigmata, trance-like swoonings, fleshly ecstasies like those of Margery Kempe or Teresa D'Avila. Hildegard received these purported visions without the influence of drugs and she transcribed them in a state of clarity unlike any other female mystics of her time.
What I appreciated about this edition was that they placed the pictorial depiction of her visions side by side with her writings and expositions of their meanings. The pity however is that these pictures(illustrated plates in the original medieval manuscripts) are not coloured, and one suffers from disappointment since he is not able to re-construct exactly the details(right down to the colour and shade Hildegard mentions) as in the original. Barbara Newman's introduction was extremely helpful, owing to her academic expertise in the field of medieval mysticism. Personally speaking, I bought this for the sake of an academic paper, but anyone else who is interested in the background of medieval mysticism and esoteric wisdom will find Newman's introduction enlightening and useful to set the whole work in the right context.
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on February 21, 2013
This book is everything I had hoped for and all that I truly expected it to be. I will be honest, in as much as I have on read a small portion of the book. I found to my suprise one of the most amazing pieces of written prose that I have ever read. I hope I am not infringing in any copyrights because I am going to post a portion right here: (from vision 4)

1 Lament of the soul returning by God's grace from the path of error to Zion

"A pilgrim, where am I? In the shadow of death. And in what path am I journeying? In the path of terror. And what consolidation do I have? That which pilgrims have. For I should have had a tabernacle adorned with five square gems more brilliant than the Sun and the stars, for the Sun and the stars that set would not have shone upon it, but the glory of the angels; the topaz would have been its foundation and all the gems its structure, its staircases made of crystal and its courtyards paved in gold. For I would have been a companion of the angels, for I am a living breath, which God placed in dry mud; thus I should have known and felt God. But alas! When my tabernacle saw that it could turn its eyes in all the ways, it turned its attention toward the North; ach, ach! and there I was robbed of my sight and the joy of knowledge, and my garments all torn. And so, driven from my inheritance, I was led into a strange place without beauty or honor, and there subjected to the worst slavery. Those who had taken me, struck me and made me eat with swine and sending me into a desert place gave me bitter herbs dipped in honey to eat. Then, placing me on a rack, they afflicted me with many tortures. And stripping me of my garments and dealing me many wounds, they sent me out to be hunted, and got the worst poisonous creatures, scorpions, asps and other vermin, to hunt and capture me; and these spewed out their poison all over me so that I was made helpless. Therefore they mocked me, saying: `Where is your honor now?' Ach, and I trembled all over and with a great groan of woe, said silently to myself, `Oh, where am I? Ach, from whence did I come here? And what comforter shall I seek in this captivity? How shall I break these chains? Oh, what eye can look on my wounds? and what nose can bear their noisome stench? and what hands will anoint them with oil? ach, who will have mercy on my affliction.

The story continues on........

I cannot explain how this one piece of work has touched me so, perhaps I too have journeyed such a perilis time away from God in some previous life. Who can say? Perhaps I too have heard her wonderful songs and music fill ancient towering cathedrals, one would certainly think so as I truly feel that I have found a long lost dear friend.

Sorry for my little rant. This is simply an amazing book, worth every cent; even though it was second hand, it was in excellent condition. The paper is old school and there are no color prints as previously mentioned; however, I purchased the book for the content and it delivers. I am sure that I am not the only person who feels as I do about St. Hildegard. Purchase the book, you will be glad you did.
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on March 1, 2013
This is one of the seminal works of Saint Hildegard, and one of the only ones available in a serious edition in English. The book is a series of visions Hildegard received, including reproductions of the illustrations she had her sisters create. After describing each vision, Hildegard provides the interpretation which she was given along with the vision. This is a complete walk-through of Christian doctrine, from creation and the Fall to the end of the world, and the judgement to come after. A wild ride, well worth reading.
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on August 28, 2006
Rather astonishig how it pulls old testament and new together making excellent sense of items that formerly seemed to make little sense. It told me things I was not even aware of dealing with my own Catholic faith.
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on May 15, 2000
Scivias is a book that unfortunately is not very well known. This is a work a Christian should not ignore, as well as all the work of St. Hildegard von Bingen. The whole book shows that this is really heavenly inspiration, no doubt that Saint Hildegard had the gifts of the Holy Spirit, since she had the gifts of prophecy, healing, etc. She is one of the most amazing persons born in the world.
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on November 19, 2004
This book is very deep. I have found it to be an inspiration to live a better and more holy life. To love others increasingly.

God shows his control of the world, yet, we believe we have control, we do to an extent. A profound book ready to get you on track with faith in HIM.

Highly Recommended !
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Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a German nun, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, and Benedictine abbess. The 'Scivias' ("Know the Way") contains 26 visions which are recorded, then interpreted by Hildegard.

Addressing the question of why stunted and deformed infants are born, she records, "Often also I (i.e., God) let these strange births take place among people for My glory and that of My saints, so that when those who are thus deformed are restored to health by the help of My elect, My name may be more ardently glorified among people." (Pg. 119)

She suggests that "as food without salt is tasteless, the other powers of the soul without intellect are insipid and undiscerning. But the intellect is also to the soul as the shoulder is to the body, the very core of the other powers of the soul..." (Pg. 121) She later advises, "Let none of the faithful ... hesitate to submit to human institutions of government. For through the Holy Spirit the authority of the Church has been ordained for the use of the people while they live..." (Pg. 392)

She asserts that the Word of God has three divisions: Law, Grace and exposition of scripture... which is to say that the strength of the Word of God as prefigured in the Old Testament and declared in the New, circling and turning in grace, showed in the Holy Spirit three points of division. These were the old Law, the new Grace, and the exposition of the faithful doctors." (Pg. 359)

Hildegard has been "recovered" nowadays through the women's movement, and many of her writings (and musical works!) republished. This volume is an attractive edition of one of her most important works.
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on October 7, 2014
What an amazing visionary. I read this book for a class on various mystics of the Catholic Church. Some time earlier I had read a secular novel on Hildegard which left me with some bias that Hildegard was anti-magisterium, anti-clerical, anti-male, and a radical feminist of the modern ilk. She was not any of these, but rather an extremely intelligent, self-educated holy woman who worked for reform of the church of her day and her Benedictine order out of love. Now that Hildegard has been named a Doctor of the the Church, she should become better known and understood.
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on November 15, 2014
Even though Hildegard lived in the 1100's, the topics that God speaks about through her are still relevant today. About the Eucharist transforming to Christ's body and blood , even though we can't see that transformation through our human eyes. Much talk about our choices and how Satan tries to tempt us into sin. Yes, he's real. Some end times prophecy. God tells Hildegard that He wants her to write down what she hears and sees in her visions so her writings can help others choose the right way. Not light reading. but well worth is for the spirit.
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