UFO Conjectures

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hildegard of Bingen: UFO Spotter or Neurological Hysteric?


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Hildegard of Bingen [1098-1179], A Catholic Saint and medieval genius had visions, starting when she was three years old and “by the age of five she began to understand that she was experiencing visions…

Throughout her life, she continued to have many visions…she received Papal approval to document her visions as revelations from the Holy Spirit” [Wikipedia]

Her visions were similar to UFO spotters of our era with details that mimic stories told by alleged alien abductees:

“…when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain.” [Fordham University]

From her earliest years she was favored with visions. She says of herself:

Up to my fifteenth year I saw much, and related some of the things seen to others, who would inquire with astonishment, whence such things might come. I also wondered and during my sickness I asked one of my nurses whether she also saw similar things. When she answered no, a great fear befell me.

Frequently, in my conversation, I would relate future things, which I saw as if present, but, noting the amazement of my listeners, I became more reticent.

Hildegard painted too - records of her visions, showing herself as a tiny seated figure with an open slate or book, gazing upwards at huge symbolic mandalas of cosmic processes, full of angels and demons and winds and stars…

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The paintings have simple patterned borders, naive figures, and schematic arrangements. They are reminiscent, in a different style, of the paintings of William Blake and Samuel Palmer.

(Carl Jung, in his book, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, indicates that flying saucers/UFOs may be and have been mandala projections by observers.)

Her visions were quite detailed, and she also claimed to hear words, spoken in Latin. She saw them in her soul, not with her bodily eyes, which remained open.

She often saw a brilliant light - more brilliant than a cloud over the sun. Inside this light she sometimes saw an even brighter light which she called "the living light." This made her lose all sadness and anxiety.

Her visions also seem to have been accompanied with pain and fainting fits:

"From the very day of her birth," she writes of herself, "this woman has lived with painful illnesses as if caught in a net, so that she is constantly tormented by pain in her veins, marrow and flesh. This vision has penetrated the veins of the woman is such a way that she has often collapsed out of exhaustion and has suffered fits of prostration that were at times slight and at other times most
serious." (Book of Divine Works: Epilogue)

Charles Singer and Oliver Sacks have interpreted these physical symptoms as migraine attacks. One of her visions was of falling stars turning black as they plunge into the ocean. Hildegard interpreted this as the rebel angels falling from heaven. Singer reads it as showers of phosphenes across the visual field, followed by a negative blind spot. Her concentric mandalas and her light with the light are seen as another visual symptom of migraine. [World Pantheism]

“…her major works are three books on theology: Scivias ("Know the paths!"), Liber Vitae Meritorum (on ethics), and De Operatione Dei. They deal (or at least the first and third do) with the material of her visions. The visions, as she describes them, are often enigmatic but deeply moving, and many who have studied them believe that they have learned something from the visions that is not easily put into words. On the other hand, we have the recent best-seller, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, by Oliver Sacks, Professor of Clinical Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and author of Migraine and various other books.

Professor Sacks is concerned with the relation of the brain to the mind, and ways in which the phsical state of the nervous system can affect our ways of perceiving reality. He views the pictures in Hildegard's books of what she saw in her visions, and says, ‘The style of the pictures is a clear indication that the seer suffered regularly from migraine attacks. Migraine sufferers tend to see things in this manner.’ And indeed, it is true that Hildegard suffered throughout her life from painful attacks of what may have been migraine. [Anglican.org]

On 17 September 1179, when Hildegard died, her sisters claimed they saw two streams of light appear in the skies and cross over the room where she was dying. [Wikipedia]

The questions raised are these:

Did Hildegard see UFOs or was visually processed by UFOs, much in the way that Joan of Arc experienced about three hundred years later, and in the way that some UFO abductees have reported their experience in modern times?

Or were Hildegard’s “visions” caused by a neurological disorder as Oliver Sacks surmises?

Are UFO sightings imagery created by neurotic persons as Jung intuits?

Are mystics, like Hildegard of Bingen, privy to UFO visions, that the rest of us are not? And why would this be so?

Are recent UFO spotters mystics of a common kind? Or just mentally imbalanced individuals?

Or are UFOs intrusions of a unique kind, with tangibility sometimes and evanescence other times?

Who really knows?

N.B. Much of the material above was culled from the internet as indicated by the attributions in brackets.

RR