The Wisdom that Connects | April 25, 2021 Message from Dr. Benton
O Virtus Sapientiae
O Moving Force of Wisdom
O moving force of Wisdom,
encircling the wheel of the cosmos,
encompassing all that is, all that has life, in one vast circle.
You have three wings: The first unfurls aloft in the highest heights.
The second dips its way dripping sweat on the Earth.
Over, under, and through all things whirls the third.
Praise to you, O Wisdom, worthy of praise!
The opening music was written by St. Hildegard of Bingen in the twelfth century. Those who know me have encountered her before…and hopefully others have too. Hildegard was an author, poet, musician, gardener, scientist…and so much more. She spoke truth to power in a time that this was unimaginable for a woman. Hildegard is for me a kindred spirit…one who had a deep affinity for nature…no! more than that…she felt the deep connection to the earth that I feel…the deep connection that I witness each day in my grandchildren and also in my dogs.
The lyrics to Hildegard’s opening music speak of wisdom…wisdom with three wings, which was one of her visions. She describes the unity of life…connecting the heavens to the earth and enlivening all with the spirit of life…the spirit of the living God.
It is this spirit that reminds us of our interconnectivity with all life…it is the spirit of the wisdom that encircles the wheel of the cosmos, encompassing all that is! Hildegard knew of this unifying spirit and of the need for wisdom. This is how she described her own times:
Now in the people that were meant to be green, there is no more life of any kind.
There is only shriveled barrenness.
The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on.
The air belches out the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples.
There pours forth an unnatural, a loathsome darkness, that withers the green,
and wizens the fruit that was to serve as food for the people.
Sometimes this layer of air is full, full of a fog that is the source of many destructive and barren creatures, that destroy and damage the earth,
rendering it incapable of sustaining humanity.
We know of this “shriveled barrenness”…the “awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on”. This devastation of the natural world is especially heart-breaking when we consider our innermost natures…we were meant to be green…we are born green, but we have created a culture that has so alienated us from our source that we have destroyed so many of our relatives…our brothers and sisters, the animals…and we continue to poison the air, the water and our relatives, the trees. And we are also experiencing the pandemic of COVID-19…another sign that things are out of balance. As a species, we have not developed the wisdom that is needed to face our current situation…we have not learned from Hildegard and others like her, who nurtured that wisdom so that it was able to bloom in their time.
Another such woman was Julian of Norwich. She is perhaps best known for her saying, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian lived during a time of a pandemic during which almost half of the population of Europe was wiped out. Julian was well-known for her wisdom. People came from all over to seek her advice and teachings. Julian saw God as “All that is good” and also stated, “God feels great delight to be our mother.” In the tradition of “I am” poems describing God, Julian wrote this one:
This I am,
This I am.
I am what you love.
I am what you enjoy.
I am what you serve.
I am what you long for.
I am what you desire.
I am what you intend.
I am all that is.
Julian also said “God is the same thing as nature” and “Between God and our soul…there is no between.” This is the tradition of Panentheism, which means everything is in God and God is in everything. Even before Julian, Mechtild of Magdeburg said, “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw all things in God and God in all things.”
Like Hildegard before her, Julian saw divinity reflected in every piece of creation…even the smallest hazelnut. In one of her visions or “Showings” she wrote:
And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.
Being an anchoress during the time of the Bubonic plague, Julian had plenty of time to contemplate issues of life and death…of suffering and despair, but also of hope. She certainly had to counsel others on how to sustain hope amid such a difficult time. Julian had sturdy hope…she had developed the wisdom to know that all things are connected and that life was so much more than what she saw in her tiny cell. Julian, like Hildegard before her, felt the love of God that was present in every living thing…the spark of creation was indeed what connected us. It is this wisdom that we can draw upon in these difficult times…it is the elemental wisdom. Matthew Fox wrote recently in his Daily Meditations about this spark that “ignites wisdom within the soul”. He wrote:
There, the sparks touch and even ignite Wisdom herself who accompanies creation and plays a role in the unfolding of creation itself. They play in the elements of the universe—fire, air, water, and earth, “from which evolved the states of mineral, vegetable, animal, and human,” as Zohar scholar Daniel Matt comments.
Sparks precede the cosmic forces and feed them.
They are “sparks of holiness” found in all things and “intermingle with everything in the world, even inanimate objects.” They are within all we eat and drink and in all the energy by which we work.
It is this Wisdom that we must reconnect with at this pivotal time in history...the Wisdom nestled deep inside our DNA…an evolutionary spark. This is the same spark evident in the teachings of Hildegard, of Mechtild and of Julian. We need to heed the word of these woman and so many others. Author and teacher Dhyani Ywahoo was another such woman. Of our responsibility to connecting with the spark and healing the sickness and devastation of the Earth, she wrote:
As long as you are walking upon the Earth you are like a child in the womb, being fed by this Earth. And respect for the Earth and for one another is being called for right now. We each have a duty to the earth and to each other. Each race, each nation, has its different purpose in maintaining the whole. The wisdom of our ancestors, wherever they came from, basically points to one truth: everything is in relation to you. So to listen to the elements of nature is to listen to the voice of yourself: to look at the fire, the water, the wind, the Earth, all of the creatures that you meet upon this planet and within it. We see some places that are not as sparkling as they can be and that is because people are being untrue to themselves, to one another, to the planet. People are not keeping tradition in their hearts; they are digging too far and using without consideration of returning.
Ywahoo knew of our kinship with Earth and with all beings. She knew that we had to heed the wisdom of the ancestors. Respect for the Earth and for each other…imagine that!