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The film Vision is a German made production chronicling the life of the 12th century Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen beginning with her early childhood, and addressing all of the major events of her adult life.  It closed, in my opinion, at just the right moment providing a great ending (often not the case in biographical films).

I found Vision to be compelling and well acted with a beautiful sound track.  It is a great testament to the character of this inspiring woman - though I  might have liked it better if it had been less biographical and more spiritual in nature.

While I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Hildegard von Bingen (and is not put off by subtitles), it left some of my own questions unanswered and  prompted me to do a bit of independent research on Hildegard's visions and beliefs.

According to multiple sources, including Barbara Newman, author of Voice of the Living Light: Hildegard of Bingen and Her World, Hildegard von Bingen recorded  numerous mystical visions which had occurred to her since childhood.  These writings describe a brilliant light pouring down from heaven, which Hildegard referred to as "the living light."  Taking a stance that was somewhat at odds with the viewpoint of her contemporaries, she maintained that divinity was not confined to a distant heaven but omnipresent in all of creation.

Hildegard went on to identify the soul as the life force, explaining that it could rise to God or delight in the body, addressed the relationship between angels and man, and imagined an apocalyptic future giving way to a new heaven and a new earth.  These beliefs and others are coherently and succinctly covered by Newman.  Her book would seem to be an excellent starting point for further research on the mystic and her visions.  Direct translations of Hildegard's visions may be found in Hildegard von Bingen's Mystical Visions (The Scivias) and while I have not read this work I am sure that it would be a wonderful resource as well.

Instead of seeing an opposition between the holy and the profane, Hildegard believed in an interconnection between body and soul and regarded physical disturbance as a sign of a deeper soul imbalance and this greatly influenced her enlightened and holistic ideas about healing.  Scientific as well as spiritual in her approach, her pharmacopoeia, The Physica (Hildegard von Bingen's Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing), discusses the specific medicinal qualities of plants, elements, living creatures and metals at length.  These writings include her own beliefs about the properties of individual crystals which I found especially interesting.

The Physica mentions a number of stones by name and I was surprised at the wide variety of crystals and precious stones available to Hildegard in rural 12th century Germany.  Some of the healing properties discussed in The Physica include onyx as a remedy for melancholy,  beryl and chalcedony as a method of increasing tranquility, and topaz as an antidote to poison.  The text also recommends amethyst as effective against tumors and cites the use of diamonds to dispel malice.  It considers sapphire and jasper protective against evil spirits.

Hildegard's methods for utilizing stones often required that the patient touch the stones.  The Physica frequently calls for the placement of stones in the patient's mouth or gives instruction for infusions created by submerging the stone in water or vinegar.  These applications show, in my estimation, that Hildegard believed that crystals and gemstones exerted a real physical (as opposed to supernatural) influence on the well-being of the patient.

Hildegard assumed a leadership position throughout her life, first as magistra of the sisterhood at Disibodenberg and later in founding her own convent at Rupertberg which was accomplished in the face of great opposition.  She was the author of several books, including The Physica and three books of visions, as well as numerous musical works and what many consider to be the first morality play.

Canonized after her death, her progressive and holistic approach to the treatment of illness was far ahead of its time and her many visions of light are thought provoking and inspiring.  Her delicate and haunting liturgical melodies speak directly to the heart.

The full version of Canticles Of Ecstasy is available for digital download through Amazon.

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  1. thanks for the movie review! I didn´t knew about Hildegard.

  2. You're very welcome Venus! I knew a bit about Hildegard and had heard some of her compositions prior to watching the film, but was amazed by the range of her life work.


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