I have been re-reading St. Hildegard of Bingen: Doctor of the Church. The Sybil of the Rhine is one of several figures in history that I feel a sense of spiritual kinship with. In reading her works, especially Scivias, I find myself struck by the similarity between her experiences and mine. Her luminous vision of Deity and her firm faith in the goodness of Deity and the love that Deity has for all of existence resonates powerfully with what I have experienced in my own visions.
The work of the Beguines, especially the poetry of Hadewijch and the writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg, also feel quite familiar to me. As I have explored their work, I continually find aspects that ring true to what I have experienced. Like Hildegard’s work, their writings convey a presence that is benevolent and loving towards all that is. Even when these women spoke of the qualities of sin and divine retribution for all who engaged in this vice, the sense of goodness continued to resonate through out much of their work.
I find myself additionally drawn to St. John of the Cross and his contemporary, St. Teresa of Avila. It may seem odd that I find such comfort and a sense of familiarity in the works of people who, if I had lived during their time, would have been horrified by my ways and declared me to be an enemy of the Church. It sometimes leaves me a touch agog at the concept, myself.
One thing that these enlightened minds of the Catholic Church of old and I agree on is that the Divine is immanent in all of existence. The experiential knowledge that all that is proclaims the Divine is ground shaking. To find it reflected in the writings of others in history is breath taking. As I read the words of these Catholic saints for the first time in a religion class at college, I was rendered speechless because it was as though someone had taken the words that I would have used to describe my experience of Dea’s presence and put them to paper.
Indeed, the panentheism of their writings may be a case of a modern mind applying modern sensibilities to medieval thought, but I find myself inclined to argue that there was a version of this applied in this era. That, however, is a debate for another time. When faced with persons with whom I feel a sense of kinship, despite the differences between themselves and I, I do not blithely ignore the details about them that do not fit into my happy mold of existence. Instead, I treat them as I would a living kinsman who holds views and positions that I do not agree with. I acknowledge the differences and then respectfully disagree with them.
Just because I am a polytheist and many of my spiritual kinfolk are monotheists, it does not change that their experience of the Divine and mine resonate. Where others find themselves drawn to Buddhist or Hindu thought, I am drawn to medieval Christian thought, amongst others. I have contemplated making a little space on my ancestor shrine for these folk who I find so much comfort and guidance. The only reason why I have not done it is because I suspect that they would be displeased to have someone whom they would regard as heathen (in the pejorative sense of the term) offering prayers to them.
I will, however, acquire their works and include them in my spiritual library. Because as someone from our contemporary era said in her book: All knowledge is worth having.