Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is a captivating character who eludes easy categorization. A self-described "poor little womanly creature" (paupercula mulier), this German Benedictine endeavored as a poet, abbess, musician, itinerant preacher, ecclesial reformer, playwright, spiritual counselor, and physician. Yet it was her mystical nature that empowered these aspects of her life. The voice of "the shadow of the living light" (her descriptive for what she understood as the source of her visions) was sanctioned by Pope Eugenius III as divinely inspired. Hildegard's connection to the voice enabled her to overcome prohibitions on women's activities, and to assert herself in political, theological, spiritual, and ecclesial realms. Indeed, Hildegard's ability to hear and transmit the voice made her a charismatic, and at times contentious, figure of the twelfth century.

This paper considers the roles of faith and reason in Hildegard's thought. Given the volume of Hildegard's work and the restraints of this paper, we will give primary attention to her book Scivias and other selected primary works.

After placing Hildegard within a historical context in relation to a discussion of faith and reason, we will consider Hildegard's mystical relationship to the shadow of the living light. Then, turning to the Scivias, we will survey Hildegard's discussion of faith and reason and her description of rationality in the soul. As exploration of Hildegard's understanding of the soul as the locus of revelation and rationality will show, Hildegard perceives faith and reason not as opposing ideas but as connected aspects of God's grace.


The first annual Humanities Symposium was held Feb. 28-March 1, 1994. The Humanities Symposium was part of "Viva Humanitas," a yearlong series of programs celebrating the opening of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center in August 1993.



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