- TERRA PACIS by Hendrik Niclaes of the Family of Love, the original work first printed in 1575 in Amsterdam
Text of TERRA PACIS and commentary relating to ideas of the Perennial Philosophy and to paintings by Peter Bruegel and Joachim Patinir .
N.B. The writer has kept the 17th century spelling.
- The Spiritual Land of Peace of the “Holy Refugees”
It also considers the tradition of religious mysticism in Germany, the Netherlands and Flanders throughout the late Middle Ages that led up to the Reformation and points out that this movement is also an expression of the Perennial Philosophy, citing the works of Meister Eckhart, the Rhineland mystics and the schools that came out of the Devotio Moderna.
The work considers the esoteric, ‘heretical’ school called the Family of Love that claimed among its adherents a number of highly illustrious artists, thinkers and politicians. Such men as Christoffe Plantin, Abraham Ortelius and Justus Lipsius spurned the religious turmoil of the period and rejected Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists alike in favour of an inner mystical state they called the ‘invisible church’. They were close to Bruegel, bought his paintings and, it cannot be doubted, shared his thought.
It brings us to immediate and direct influences on Bruegel. These were free thinking humanists and mystics who occupied the no-man‟s-land between Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists; men like Sebastian Franck, Dirck Volckertz Coornhert and Abraham Ortelius were adherents of the „invisible church‟ where God was understood as „an event in the soul‟ which could be independent of external forms, rites and doctrines. Many of them, such as Ortelius, Christophe Plantin and perhaps Justus Lipsius belonged to the sect known as the Family of Love whose leader, Hendrik Niclaes, was the author of the mystical allegory Terra Pacis that recounts the journey from the „Land of Ignorance‟ to the „Land of Spiritual Peace‟. Bruegel was closely associated with, if not a full member, of this group.
See : PETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER AND ESOTERIC TRADITION
The Spiritual Land of Peace:
- Look and behold: there is in the world a very unpeaceable Land and it is the wildernessed land wherein the most part of all uncircumcised, impenitent and ignorant people do dwell and in which is, the first of all needful for the man; to the end that he may come to the Land of Peace and the City of Life and Rest.
The same unpeaceable land hath also a City, the name of which they that dwell therein do not know, but only those who are come out of it, and it is named Ignorance.
The people that dwell therein know not their original or first beginning; also they keep not any Genealogy or Pedigree; neither do they know from whence, or how, they came into the same. And moreover then, that they are altogether blinde, and blinde-born.
The forementioned city, named Ignorance, hath two Gates. The one standeth in the North, or Midnight, through the which men go into the city of darkness or ignorance.
This gate now, that standeth to the North, is very large and great, and hath also a great door, because there is much passage through the same; and it hath likewise his name, according to the nature of the same city.
Foreasmuch as that men do come into Ignorance through the same gate, therefore it is named Men Do Not Know How to Do. And the great door, wherethrough the multitude do run is named Unknown Error; and there is else no coming into the City named Ignorance.
The other gate standeth on the one side of the City, towards the East or Spring of the Day, and the same is the Narrow Gate, through the which, men travel out of the city and do enter into the Straight Way which leadeth to Righteousness.
Now when one travelleth out through the same Gate, then doth he immediately espie some Light, and that same reacheth to the Rising of the Sun.
Here the symbolism, taking up the theme of the ‘bread of life’, i.e. spiritual nourishment, employs the images of ‘corn’ and ‘seed’ whose esoteric meaning was discussed earlier and which will be met again in the paintings by Bruegel of the Harvest and the Ploughman (Fall of Icarus).
The importance of spiritual nourishment – or rather the lack of it – is discussed in the section dealing with the Peasant Wedding Feast (Marriage at Cana) where the lack of wine is shown to correspond, by rhetorical imitation, with famine imagery in the Old Testament where the sense is that of ‘famine for the word of God’. look also :
Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx
- In this land of Ignorance, for the food of men, there groweth neither corn nor grass. The people of this land live in confusion or disorder and are very diligent in their unprofitable work and labor. And although their work be vain or unprofitable yet hath everyone notwithstanding a delightful liking to the same.
- Forasmuch as they all have such a delight to such unprofitable work, so forget they to prepare the Ground for Corn and Seed to live thereby. And so they live not on the manly food but by their own dung, for they have no other food to live by, for their stomach and nature is accustomed and naturally inclined thereto.
- They make there diverse sorts of Puppet works for Babies for to bring up the children to vanity. There are made likewise many kinds of Balls, Tut-staves, or Kricket-staves, Rackets and Dice; for the foolish people should waste or spend their time therewith in foolishness.
- There be made also Playing Tables, Draft-boards, Chess-boards, Cards and Mummery or Masks, for to delight the idle people with such foolish vanity. There are made likewise many Rings, Chains, and Gold and Silver Tablets and etc … all unprofitable and unneedful merchandise.
- They build there likewise divers houses for common assembly, which they call Gods houses; and there use many manner of foolishness of taken on Services which they call religious or godservices whereby to wave or hold forth something in shew before the ignorant people.
- In this manner are the vain people bewitched with these things, wherethrough they think or perswade themselves that their godservices, and knowledges, which they themselves do make, or take on in their hypocrisie, that must needs be some holy or singular thing, and so honor the works of their own hands.
- They make there also many Swords, Halberds, Spears, Bows and Arrows, Ordinance or Guns, Pellets, Gunpouder, Armor or Harness, and Gorgets and etc., for that the tyrannical oppressors, and those that have a pleasure in destroying, should use war and battel, therewithal, one against the other.
This could be a description of part of Bruegel’s Adoration of the Kings (1564) or The Triumph of Death There the imagery of swords, halberds and etc., conveys the corrupt state of the world in contrast to the purity of the innocent naked Christ child.
- The people of this strange land have strange names, according to their nature. As their nature is such are their names written upon them. Whosoever can read the writing let him consider thereon. They are gross letters; whoso hath but a little sight and understanding, he may read them, whose names are there. Highmindedness, Lust of the Eyes, Stoutness, Pride, Covetousness, Lust or Desire to Contrariness, Vanity or Unprofitableness, Unnaturalness, Undecentness, Masterfulness, Mocking, Scorning, Dallying, Adultery or Fornication, Contemning, Lying, Deceiving, Variance, Strife and Contention, Vexing, Self-seeking, Oppression, Indiscreetness, etc.
Identically named people are to be seen populating any of Bruegel’s ‘crowd scenes’, in particular the Numbering at Bethlehem (1566) in Brussels which has already been discussed and the Road to Calvary (1564) in Vienna.
- Their dealings or manner of life is also variable; for now they take on something, then they leave somewhat else; now they be thus led, then they be so driven; now they praise this, then they dispraise that. So, to be short, they are always inconstant.
- Their Religions or godservice is called the Pleasure of Men. Their doctrine and ministration is called Good Thinking. Their King is called the Scum of Ignorance.
- Whosoever findeth himself in this dark land full of ignorance and desireth to go out of it, and forsake the same, and hath a good liking towards the good land of Rest and Peace; he must go through the other gate that lieth towards the East, that is named Fear of God.
“The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” by Joachim Patinir
- But in travelling forward upon the Way for to come to the good land of Peace, so do the perils first make manifest themselves. Therefore must the Traveller keep a diligent watch in the said grace of the Lord; otherwise he becometh hindered and deceived upon the Way. So we will mark out both the perils of seduction, and also the means unto preservation for that no man should err upon the Way, nor be seduced or deceived by any false ends.
Here the text describes how the traveler has to pass the first three stages of his journey:
1. Fear of God;
2. Beginning of Wisdom;
3. Grace of the Lord in the Confession of Sins. But he is still ‘young’ and needs instruction form the wise Elders of the Family of Love. There are two instructors.
One is described as outwardly having a form that is…
- … not very amiable or pleasant (according to the minds of the flesh) to behold, nor yet his sayings and counsels to be obeyed, because that he is contrary to all minds and knowledge of the flesh (notwithstanding, if the traveller have no regard for him, neither daily receive any counsel of him unto obedience, nor yet follow his counsel, then shall he not come to the Rest). And he is named the Law or Ordinance of the Lord.
- The other wise one cometh before him out of the thoughts of mans good thinking, to draw him away from the Way that directeth to the Land of the Living. And his form is sweet and friendly (according to the minds flesh) to behold, and his sayings and counsels delightful. And he is named the Wisdom of the Flesh.
- These two wise ones do give the traveller several counsels.
- The traveller who abjures the Wisdom of the Flesh and who accepts the discipline of the Law or Ordinance of the Lord receives ‘two instruments’: a compass called the Forsaking of Himself for the Good Lifes Sake. The other instrument overcomes temptation and hindrance and it is called Patience or Suffrance.
Now the text gives instructions about ‘meate and drink’ which are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The traveler accepts to find himself on the Cross from whence comes
- … the death and burial of all the lusts and desires of the sinful flesh and all the flesh’s wisdom or good thinking.
Again, this should not be understood literally but seen as the transition from the material to the spiritual, the soul’s liberation from its entanglement in the world.
Now the ‘traveller’, following the counsel of the Law of the Lord, finds himself
- …in an unpathed land where many manner of temptations and deceits do meet with him, and coming into the same there appeareth unto him immediately a star out of the East, named Belief and Hope. This great unpathed land is named Many manner of Wanderings. And there is not one plain paved way.
The names of the Travellers are:
Stricken in Heart, Cumbered in Minde, Wofulness, Sorrowfulness, Anguish, Fear, Dismaidness, Perplexitie, Uncomfortablness, Undelightfulness, Heavy-mindedness, Many Manner of Thoughts, Dead Courage.
This is reminiscent of the group consisting of Jesus’ mother and her entourage in the foreground of Bruegel’s Road to Calvary (1566) in Vienna. There we see the expressing just these emotions while the vast crowd constituting the main descriptive parts of the picture are oblivious and display all the characteristics, described by H. N., of those who live in the Land of Ignorance or, as he says elsewhere, the ‘Land of Abomination and Desolation’. But also the Flight or Refuge to Egypth:
- This land is an open and weak, or unwalled land; and is like unto a barren wilderness, wherein there is little joy to be found; but it is full of perils and deceits, because of the sundry sorts of temptations that do come to Travellers through perplexitie.
- For if they (according to the Law of the Lord) have not a sharp watch unto the compass, nor hold them fast on the Cross, and also do not still mark the leading star, then they may soon be led into a by-way. For the wisdom of the flesh doth also come forth there oftentimes very subtilly, with her self-seeking, to point the traveller aside. But the traveller that passeth through the land of Mortyfying and, abstaining from all things, in patience, and seeketh not his own selfness; but (under the obedience of the Love) hath a much more desire to do the Lords will, he obtaineth a good salvation of the peaceable life. He shall be saved and rejoyce in the Everlasting Life.
- Moreover, in this land, there is no perfect satisfying of hunger and thirst to be found, nor come by. For the herb wherewith they be sustained, and the fountain wherewith they be refreshed, do make them still the longer and more hungry and thirsty: as long as they are travelling towards the good Land of Peace.
Here the writer openly reveals the meaning of the available food.
- The Herb wherewith the travellers be sustained is named the Serviceable Word of the Lord, and the fountain waters wherewith they be refreshed are named the Promise of Salvation in the New Testament of the Blood of Jesus Christ.
- In this land there lie also fair hills that seem to be somewhat delightful of which the traveller must beware, for it is nothing but deceit, vanity and seducing. These hills are garnished with divers trees which do likewise bring forth vain and deceitful fruits [causing] travellers to leave the forsaking of themselves, taking on their self-seeking (that is, they take on their own righteousness and made holiness, or their ease in the flesh.) They do likewise leave the Patience and become negligent towards the Law of Ordinance of the Lord, wherewith they be drawn away by the deceit of the wisdom of the flesh.
- The hills are named Taken on wit, or Prudence, Riches of the Spirit, Learned knowledg, Taken on Freedom, Good-thinking Prophesy, Zeal after Chosen Holiness, Counterfeit Righteousness, New-invented Humility, Pride in Ones Own Spiritualness, Unmindful of any better, and etc.
- The trees that grow on the hills are named Colored Love, Literall Wisdom, Greedy towards Ones Own, Flattering-Alluring, Reproving of Naturalness, Promises of Vanity, Exalting of his Own Private Invention, Pleasing in Chosen Holiness, Greatly Esteeming his own Working of Private Righteousness.
- The name of their fruits is Vain-Comforts [and] the people, having left forsaking of themselves, and the Cross, with the Meate-offering and Drink-offering, make their dwelling among these deceitful hills [and] let themselves be fed. They get some satisfaction from the Vain-Comforts and are also at first somewhat glad therethrough, also singing and crying: We have it, We have it, We are illuminated, Born anew and Come to Rest.
- But (alas) when the sun riseth somewhat higher, then do the fruits wither. And when the Winter cometh, then stand the trees barren, and all is deceit and seducing.
- The whilst then that the traveller doth travel towards this good land by the leading star (named Belief and Hope) so cometh he clean through all the deceit by means of forsaking himself. For that is a good compass unto him which pointeth to the good land.
- And, with Patience, he likewise overcometh all assaults.
- For there are many molesters and destroyers to be found, which do grievously vex the travellers in this land. But they do fear and tremble before the Holy Cross. [They] are named Trying of the Belief, Doubt or Distrustfulness to Come to the Good Land, Tempting with a Chosen Appeasement to the Flesh, Proving of the Belief with a Shew of Comforting with the Worldly Beauties, Proffering of the Possession of all the Riches of the Earthly Corruptibleness.
Here the traveller is exhorted in various ways not to forsake the holy Cross. It may help him to understand the idea that on the spiritual journey he must not seek to escape from the impossible contradictions he experiences in himself. Indeed he should welcome the pain of seeing all his folly, weakness and inadequacy.
In respect of that which he longs for, only an unflinching confrontation with the impossibility of his situation will show him that, in order to understand this lesson, he has to abandon all judgment and opinion of himself.
The ‘travellers’ on the journey are told to ‘forsake [them]selves’ as Niclaes so often reminds them. The traditions have special exercises associated with the disciplines of meditation, contemplative prayer and various forms of inner and outer work to help us here. Such labour introduces us to our personal, psychological cross. It is an inner state that, if we wish to continue, we cannot forsake.
- Therefore be not afraid of your enemies, for God hath made them all dismaid through the Holy Cross of Christ.
- The Holy Cross shall be unto you an Altar of the true burnt offering, and the serviceable gracious word of the Lord a safe-keeping gift or offering of Christ upon the same altar in the holy of the true Tabernacle of God and Christ, upon which Altar your gift becometh sanctified. [It is] kindled or set on fire for a burnt offering to the consuming of all the enemies of the good life, wherethrough then, likewise, your willing Dept-offering, Sin-offering and Death offering shall be acceptable to the Lord.
- In this same throughfaring land, men also find a crafty murderer, that both high and low, wide and far, runneth all over this same land and he is named Unbelief. Of this wicked villain it behoveth us to be very wary, for by him there are many murdered. Forsake not the Holy Cross, nor the serviceable gracious word of the Lord.
- [Also in this land there runs] a dangerous river where many travellers be drowned and choaked. It is named Desire and Pleasure in the Flesh.
The traveller is warned not to catch or eat the fishes that swim in the river whose names are:
- Meate of the Temporal Delights instead of the Everlasting Good, Ease in the Flesh instead of Zeal to the Righteous, Honor of the World instead of Rest in the Spirit and Honor of God.
- It seemeth indeed to be a very pleasant water for one to refresh and recreate himself in, but it is all meer deceit: vain and nothing.
- [Also there are] thistles and thorns named Uncertain Consciences. Likewise divers natures of beasts named Envy, Wrath, Churlishness or Unfriendliness, Cruelty, Offensiveness, Resistance of Disobedience, Craftyness, Greedy Desire of Honor, Subtilty of Deceit, and Violence. And also one of the most detestable beasts (that will worst of all give way) is named Hypocrisie or Dissimulation, where under all manner of naughtiness is covered up with a colored vertue, or made holiness, and he is indeed the subtillest beast who provoketh the other beasts to devour travellers. Of which wild beasts the travellers must take heed with great foresightfulness, that they run not into the mouth of them and be swallowed up.
The story of the Tower of Babel (like that in The Suicide of Saul, Bruegel’s only other painting with an Old Testament subject) was interpreted as an example of pride punished, and that is no doubt what Bruegel intended his painting to illustrate. Moreover, the hectic activity of the engineers, masons and workmen points to a second moral: the futility of much human endeavour. Nimrod’s doomed building was used to illustrate this meaning in Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools. Pieter Bruegel’s Tower of Babel , originally displayed in the suburban villa of Antwerp entrepreneur Niclaes Jonghelinck as an image that fostered learned dinner conversation (convivium) about the well-being of the city. Looking at various sources, the author analyzes how the theme of the painting, a story of miscommunication and disorder, resonated with the challenges faced by the metropolis. Antwerp’s rapid growth resulted in the creation of a society characterized by extraordinary pluralism but with weakened social bonds. Convivium was one of the strategies developed to overcome differences among the citizens and avoid dystrophy of the community. Read more Here
- [There are] three castles [upon which] are subtile watchers which are very crafty and wily.
The traveler is advised not to fear the castles though their powers are apparently very terrible. It is necessary to negotiate carefully, but once passed them he will see that they are
- Nothing at all but deceit, vanity and bewitching. [They are named] The Power of Devils Assaulting, The Forsaking of Hope, Fear of Death.
The watchers, who try to capture people, are named ‘according to their natures’:
- Appearing like Angels of Light, Indeavoring to Stealing of the Heart, Appearance of Vertue, Subtil Invention, Confidence in Knowledg, Made Laws and Imagined Rights, Disguised or Unknown Holiness, Self-framed Righteousness, and etc.
- Now one cometh by the Good Land and approacheth neer unto the understanding of God. But many do run past the entrance thereof. For the neerer one cometh the more subtilly the deceits assault him; for beside the entrance there lieth [joyned to it] also a way that leadeth to an abominable or horrible land and the same way is a pleasant way to behold and pleasant likewise to enter into, wherewith many be deceived.
- This pleasant way is named Knowledg of Good and Evil.
- [Having] come into the pleasant way of the Knowledg of Good and Evil, and which in itself is ful of contention, ful of great and grievous incumbrances, then do appear in them an inward or spiritual pride, and they suppose they are somewhat singular and above other people because they have so much knowledg to talk of the truth, perswading themselves that the riches of knowledg is the very light of salvation.
- Therefore this land is called the Abomination of Desolation. Howbeit it is all false and meer deceit.
- In this land there is also a false light. The people do not know the true light, therefore they be all deceived and corrupted in this wilderness by the same false light, besides the which they know no other perfect good. [And so they have] nothing else but destruction and disturbance or dispensing of mindes and thoughts.
- This same land of Desolation is like unto the intangled Babylon, because the knowledges do there run one against the other and cannot understand each other.
Here the author gives extended lists of psychological and moral disorders. We are given to understand that all these result from too much attachment to ‘knowledg’ i.e. ‘made knowledg’ (man-made knowledge) as opposed to revealed knowledge. There follows this insight
- Many do chuse a way unto themselves, according to the knowledg of theirown minde, to the intent to live to themselves therein: and thus doth everyone walk there according as his knowledg imagineth him.
- Everyone is resistant against each other with the knowledg. And the false light shineth upon them all, quite over the whole land. Therefore everyone supposeth that he must needs have the right, or cannot err, in his knowledg, and that he is illuminated by the Lord. But it is all dust, which dust scattereth abroad all over the whole land, like unto a drift-sand and is named Self-Wils Chusing.
The following is one of many passages whose psychological, moral and spiritual meaning has universal application. The description of the human condition, where things go ‘wonderfully absurdly’ seems close to Bruegel’s vision of the ‘upside down’ world. See also Rene Guenon “inversion of symbols” and “carnivals”
- Behold in this land, the Abomination of Desolation, it goeth very strange and wonderfully absurdly. For every man seeth that another mans foundation is vain and meer foolishness, but there is no man there, or very few, that can marke their own vanity or foolishness. Everyone doth very gladly thrust off another from his foundation to the end to advance his own. Yet are all their foundations, notwithstanding, Self-Wils Chusing; and are everyone uncertain and unstable and all their work is very feeble or weak. They strive and contend, and with high knowledg they caste down anothers work and turn up the foundations of it.
- For whoever hath the highest mounting knowledge, or is the richest in spirit, or hath the most eloquent utterance of speech, he can there bear the sway, or get the chief praise, and can overthrow many other firm foundations and works which are also vain. And when any mans foundation or work is overthrown through any manner of knowledg, then is the same a great delight and glory unto the other that getteth the victory and an advancement of himself. So (contending or taking part, one against the other) do they likewise divide themselves into many several religions or God-services.
- But although they be partially affected, as also have severall religions, and many manner of God-services, yet do they, notwithstanding, give their Religions and God-services one manner of name. Everyones Religion or God-service is named Assured Knowledg that is Right and Good. And everyone liveth in his own God-service, thinking and perswading himself assuredly that his religion or God-service is the best or the holiest above all other.
The Four Elements by Joachim Beuckelaer
- They have a fair-spoken tongue; but commonly they are not loving, nor friendly of heart, but ful of envy and bitterness, soon stumbling and taking offence by reason that they stand captive under the knowledg and not submitted under the Love, nor under the obedience of his service.
- They are also generally covetous of the earthly riches.
- Their inclination is to speak false against others, also to blaspheme, oppress, persecute, betray and kill, and yet do know how to excuse all the same with the knowledg that they do right and well therein.
- They use not any common brotherhood.
Note: Yet there is one story more, which shows some connexion with our subject, sounding worth being reported.
It concerns the Netherlandish artist Pieter Aertsen, a religious painter. When the sacred figurative art began to be contested and destroyed by an extreme Protestant iconoclasm, he changed his residence town and converted his works into genre scene. Very strange ones, indeed, since a scrupulous spectator can discern small holy scenes dissimulated in the background.
His Butcher’s Stall with the Flight into Egypt or A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, which we have in two copies (1551; Uppsala University Art Collection and North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh) is the most ever disconcerting “Flight into Egypt”.
Here Niclaes expands this theme, pointing out how the absence of brotherhood and love extends to their various different religious sects and especially how they are ‘unmerciful’ to anyone who offers them the truth.
The next chapter further analyses man’s spiritual or psychological condition with the imagery of the inner ruler or king and his constitution.
- [They] have also a king who reigneth very cruelly over them named Wormwood or Bitterness. His sceptre is named Great Esteeming of the Vain and Unprofitable Things. His crown is named Honor and Glory in Evil Doings. His horses and chariots are named Treaders Down or Oppressors of the Simple People. His council is named Subtil Invention. His kingdom is Unfaithfulness, All his nobility, horsemen, soldiers and guards are named Disorderly Life. His decrees or commandments are Self-Wil. His dominion or Lordship is Violence.
- The kings subjects are called Craftiness, Arrogant Stoutness,
- Stubbornness, Violence, Harmfulness, Spight, Sudden Anger, Greedy of Revenge, Gluttony, Cruelty, Bloodthirstyness, Resistance against the Love and her Service, Despising of Naturalness, Disobedience to Equity, Accusation over the Righteousness, Betrayers of Innocency, Oppressors of Humility, Killers of Meekness, Enviers of the Lovers of Unity, Exalters of Chosen Holiness, Usage of Falsehood, Own-selfness, Self-Wils Desire, Self-seeking etc.
- And when one presenteth or profereth any better thing unto them, then rises up, by and by in them, their king of Bitterness, for to defend their causes, and judg him to be naught that loveth them to the best good.
- A false prophet bewitches them with many longings and so he leadeth their hearts, mindes and thoughts into captivity of the knowledg and not into the truth. This false prophet is named Presumption whereof cometh Nothing.
- Forasmuch as he hath allured the people unto him with such a presumption of boasting that they likewise in their unregenerate state, do boast them of the Light and the Word of Life; so perceive they not that they are bewitched by him.
- It seemeth sometimes indeed, as though it would be somewhat, but it is all vain and presumption and nothing else but knowledg whereof cometh nothing.
- The false prophet has a horrible beast with him named Unfaithfulness [who] maketh all the people utterly divided.
Niclaes’ psychological insights are the observations of a specialist. Here, for example, developing themes he has introduced, he describes how ‘the people’ cover their inner nakedness with ‘Garments named Fear of Being Despised’. His analysis of the spiritual condition of humanity – perhaps as relevant today as ever – brings light to the subconscious and shadowy parts of our inner landscape with the sure hand of a master.
- This horrible beast, Unfaithfulness; this false prophet, Presumption; and the cruel king, Wormwood, have a great dominion in this same desolate abominable land.
POWAQQATSI’s overall focus is on natives of the Third World — the emerging, land-based cultures of Asia, India, Africa, the Middle East and South America — and how they express themselves through work and traditions. What it has to say about these cultures is an eyeful and then some, sculpted to allow for varied interpretations.
Where KOYAANISQATSI dealt with the imbalance between nature and modern society, POWAQQATSI is a celebration of the human-scale endeavor the craftsmanship, spiritual worship, labor and creativity that defines a particular culture. It’s also a celebration of rareness — the delicate beauty in the eyes of an Indian child, the richness of a tapestry woven in Kathmandu — and yet an observation of how these societies move to a universal drumbeat.
POWAQQATSI is also about contrasting ways of life, and in part how the lure of mechanization and technology and the growth of mega-cities are having a negative effect on small-scale cultures.
The title POWAQQATSI is a Hopi Indian conjunctive — the word Powaqa, I ( Ego),which refers to a negative sorcerer who lives at the expense of others, and Qatsi –i.e., life.
Several of “POWAQQATSI’s” images point to a certain lethargy affecting its city dwellers. They could be the same faces we saw in the smaller villages but they seem numbed; their eyes reflect caution, uncertainty.
And yet POWAQQATSI, says Reggio, is not a film about what should or shouldn’t be. “It’s an impression, an examination of how life is changing”, he explains. “That’s all it is. There is good and there is bad. What we sought to capture is our unanimity as a global culture. Most of us tend to forget about this, caught up as we are in our separate trajectories. It was fascinating to blend these different existences together in one film.”
To be certain, POWAQQATSI is a record of diversity and transformation, of cultures dying and prospering, of industry for its own sake and the fruits of individual labor, presented as an integrated human symphony — and with Philip Glass’ score providing the counterpart, performed with native, classical and electronic instruments, its tribal rhythms fused by a single majesterial theme.
- NAQOYQATSI –
More important than empires, more powerful than world religions, more decisive than great battles, more impactful than cataclysmic earth changes, NAQOYQATSI chronicles the most significant event of the last five thousand years: the transition from the natural milieu, old nature, to the “new” nature, the technological milieu.
Nature has held earthly unity through the mystery of diversity. New nature achieves this unity through the awesome power of technological homogenization. NAQOYQATSI is a reflection on this singular event, where our subject is the medium itself, the wonderland of technology. The medium is our story. In this scenario human beings do not use technology as a tool (the popular point-of-view), but rather we live technology as a way of life. Technology is the big force and like oxygen it is always there, a necessity that we cannot live without. Because its appetite is seemly infinite, it is consuming the finite world of nature. It is in this sense that technology is NAQOYQATSI, a sanctioned aggression against the force of life itself – war life, a total – war beyond the wars of the battlefield.
NAQOYQATSI takes us on an epical journey into a land that is nowhere, yet everywhere; the land where the image itself is our location, where the real gives way to the virtual. As the gods of old become dethroned, a new pantheon of light appears in the integrated circuit of the computer. Its truth, becomes the truth.
Extremes of promise and spectacle, tragedy and startling hope fuse in a digital tidal wave of image and music. In a poetic nanosecond, NAQOYQATSI give utterance to a new world coming, a new world here.
- [The traveller] perceiving that these abominations of desolation do stand in the place where Gods Holy Beeing ought to stand [must] immediately flie out of the same and submit himself under the obedience of Love, and not have any regard any more to the Knowledg of Good and Evil, nor to Boasting of the Knowledge, nor to Assured Knowledg, nor to Presumption, nor yet to Unfaithfulness. [And thus he frees himself from] bondage to Bitterness, the king of that detestable land.
- [The traveller] must at the end of his journey find himself altogether turned about.
Hendrik Niclaes is making it quite clear that there can be no half measures for seekers on the spiritual path. To be ‘altogether turned about’ is nothing less than the ‘dying to oneself’ in order to be ‘reborn from above’ that is taught in all traditions. He refers here to the necessarily arduous methods of spiritual work, symbolized in the text as ‘the Compass’, ‘the Cross’ and ‘Patience’. As “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” , the “rest” place is a place where the dead people are buried. The word cemetery (from Greek κοιμητήριον, “sleeping place”. It is the place of Transformation where the “old man” is left behind and the “new man” is born.
Note: Similarity between The Family of Love and Sufism
In our daily life we come up against situations that we cannot overcome in our own strength, or with our own wisdom. We need a strength and a wisdom that comes from Above, that comes from Beyond, that comes from Another outside of us and yet rises up from within us.“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” This transformation – sometimes called rebirth – is maybe difficult to achieve and costs a man dearly because it takes place in opposition to everything he values in material life;but that is an illusory life which he mistakes for the other.The seeker of truth begins to see the contradiction between what he is at present and what he is called to become and, seeing this, he cannot avoid suffering. If he has the courage to continue and if, in spite of suffering and other difficulties, he remains on the true path, he will eventually come to what tradition refers to as ‘dying to oneself’ – in Sufism, ‘die before you die’We find the same principle in Islam and Sufism : “la ilaha illallah ” : “there is no God but God” , it is part of theShahada.The Shahada has been traditionally recited in the Sufi ceremony of dhikr (Arabic: ذِکْر, “remembrance“), a ritual that resembles mantras found in many other religious traditions.
- But we have forgotten the Traditional concept of who Man is:
Adam, Muḥammad, and the View of Man
The Islamic view of man may best be defined and exemplified in relation to these two poles, Adam and Muḥammad, the first prophet and the last, the beginning of the story and the end of it. To lay stress upon the “closing of the circle” represented by Muḥammad’s mission is to stress also the primordial nature of this mission. History had unfolded and humanity had pursued its predestined course.
There had to be—and there was—a return to the origin,insofar as such a return might be possible at so late a stage in the cycle. Islam justifies itself as the dīn al-fiṭrah, which
might be translated as “the religion of primordiality” or even as “the original religion.”The perfect Muslim is not a man of his time or indeed of any other specific historic time. He is man as he issued from the hand of God. “You are all the
children of Adam” (or “the tribe of Adam”) as Muḥammad told his people.
In relation to man as such, the word fiṭrah may be taken to refer to the human norm from which, according to the Quran, humanity has fallen away.But the word is derived from a verb meaning “he created” or “he cleft asunder” (the act of creation being described as a cleaving asunder of the heavens and the earth)—hence, its reference back to the origins. It follows that the image of human perfection (or, quite simply, of human normality) lies in the past, not in the future, and theway to its attainment lies not in an aspiration focused on a distant goal or in any miraculous redemption from inherent sinfulness but rather through the removal of accretions and distortions that have both corroded and twisted a perfection that is, in essence, natural to mankind.It is a question not of leaping over the world or of being rescued from it but of retracing, in an upward direction, the downward slope of time.
We have here a sharp contrast to the Christian view, which posits a primordial corruption of the innermost core of the human creature. But not with the view of Bruegel, the Family of Love and Hiel. Their message is : ” In our daily life we come up against situations that we cannot overcome in our own strength, or with our own wisdom. We need a strength and a wisdom that comes from Above, that comes from Beyond, that comes from Another outside of us and yet rises up from within us”.For Islam this core remains sound and cannot be otherwise. Neither time nor circumstance can totally destroy what God has made, but time and circumstance can cover it with layer upon layer of darkness.This offers a clue to the deeper meaning of the term kāfir, usually translated as “infidel,” “unbeliever,” or “denier of the truth.” The word kafara means “he covered,” in the way that the farmer covers seed he has sown.In fallen man—man at the bottom of the slope—there has taken place a covering of the Divine “spark” within and, as a direct result of this, he himself covers (and so ignores or denies) the Truth,which has been revealed with dazzling clarity and which is, at the same time, inherent in the hidden “spark.”Islam envisages this man as imprisoned in a cell the walls of which he reinforces by his own misguided efforts, the cell of the ego, which sets itself up as a little god and isolates itself from the stream of Divine Mercy which flows at its doorstep.The guidance provided by the Messenger of God offers him the opportunity, if he will take
it, to come out into the open, the sunlight, which is his natural environment.The command inherent in this message is: Be what in truth you are! From this point of view it may be said—and has often been said although seldom with full understanding—that the Islamic concept of man is “static.” All is here and now, neither distant nor in another time. His way is upwards, vertically with “Uprightness”, not downwards or horizontally, predending we can overcome in our own strength, or with our own wisdom. Read more here
- Blessed Virgin Mary – Mystical Commentary
by Sheik Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi
To advance along the ascending way, one enters solitude and seclusion – not necessarily in a literal sense, but even while remaining within the context of family and social responsibility. These communal responsibilities are the sacred temple of human existence. However, solitude alone will not be sufficiënt.
One must remain oriented toward the mystic east, the direction of prayer. One must learn to gaze at the perpetual dawn of Divine Wisdom. This implies full participation in the science of prayer, as expressed within an authentic sacred tradition.
After entering that “solitary room facing east”, which is inwardness and simplicity of mind and heart, one can contemplate Divine Beauty manifest through the transparent creation – the universe in its pristine nature, untouched by conventional conceptuality but illumined instead by prophetic revelation.
Gradually, one’s being becomes more peaceful, harmonious, integrated. Divine Light begins to manifest directly.
Within this ineffable brightness, the conventional structures of society and our own habitual forms of perception are no longer visible. Within this dimension of sheer radiance, both waking visions and mystical dreams occur.
These subtle experiences are indications of progress along the evolutionary way, the steep path spoken of by Allah Most High in His Holy Quran. They can be accurately interpreted by a sheikh, or spiritual guide, who has received empowerment from a previous guide in the unbroken lineage of the Prophet Muhammad to carry on this sacred task of dream interpretation.
The combined inspiration and intention of disciple and guide, murid and murshid, sparks the alchemical process which is called inward. Read more here
- The birth of Jesus in man
Faouzi Skali in his book Jesus and the Sufi Traditon explains in the 10 chapter,The birth of Jesus in man:
The soul of the mystic, Rûmi teaches us, is similar to Mary: “If your soul is pure enough and full of love enough, it becomes like Mary: it begets the Messiah”.
And al-Halláj also evokes this idea: “Our consciences are one Virgin where only the Spirit of Truth can penetrate”
In this context, Jesus then symbolizes the cutting edge of the Spirit present in the human soul: “Our body is like Mary: each of us has a Jesus in him, but as long as the pains of childbirth do not appear in us, our Jesus is not born” ( Rumi, The Book of the Inside, V).
This essential quest is comparable to suffering of Mary who led her under the palm tree (Koran XIX, 22-26): “ I said:” 0 my heart, seek the universal Mirror, go towards the Sea, because you will not reach your goal by the only river! ”
In this quest, Your servant finally arrived at the place of Your home as the pains of childbirth led Mary towards the palm tree “(RÛMi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)
Just as the Breath of the Holy Spirit, breathed into Mary, made him conceive the Holy Spirit, as so when the Word of God (kalám al-haqq) enters someone’s heart and the divine Inspiration purifies and fills his heart (see Matthew V, 8 or Jesus in the Sermon of the Mountain exclaims: “Blessed are pure hearts, for they will see God! “) and his soul, his nature becomes such that then is produced in him a spiritual child (walad ma’nawî) having the breath of Jesus who raises the dead.
“Human beings,” it says in Walad-Nama ( French translation, Master and disciple, of Sultan Valad and Kitab al-Ma’ârif the Skills of Soul Rapture), must be born twice: once from their mother, another from their own body and their own existence. The body is like an egg: the essence of man must become in this egg a bird, thanks to the warmth of Love; then it will escape its body and fly into the eternal world of the soul, beyond space. ”
And Sultan Walad adds: “If the bird of faith (imán) is not born in Man during its existence, this earthly life is then comparable to a miscarriage.”
The soul, in the prison of the body, is ankylosed like the embryo in the maternal womb, and it awaits its deliverance. This will happen when the “germ” has matured, thanks to a descent into oneself, to a painful awareness: “The pain will arise from this look thrown inside oneself, and this suffering makes pass to beyond the veil. As long as the mothers do not take birth pains, the child does not have the possibility of being born (. Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 2516 sq.) (…) My mother, that is to say my nature [my body], by his agony pains, gives birth to the Spirit … If the pains during the coming of the child are painful for the pregnant woman, on the other hand, for the embryo, it is the opening of his prison ”(Ibid., 3555 sq)
Union with God, explains Rûmi, manifests itself when the divine Qualities come to cover the attributes of His servant:
“God’s call, whether veiled or not, grants what he gave to Maryam. 0 you who are corrupted by death inside your body, return from nonexistence to the Voice of the Friend! In truth, this Voice comes from God, although it comes from the servant of God! God said to the saint: “I am your tongue and your eyes, I am your senses, I am your contentment and your wrath. Go, for you are the one of whom God said: ‘By Me he hears and by Me he sees!’ You are the divine Consciousness, how should it be said that you have this divine Consciousness? Since you have become, by your wondering, ‘He who belongs to God’.
I am yours because ‘God will belong to him. Sometimes, I tell you: ‘It’s you!’, Sometimes, ‘It’s me!’ Whatever I say, I am the Sun illuminating all things. “(Mathnawî, I, 1934 sq).
Once the illusion of duality has been transcended, all that remains in the soul is the divine Presence: the soul then finds in the depths of its being the divine effigy.
It has become the place of theophany. This is what Rumi calls the spiritual resurrection: “The universal Soul came into contact with the partial soul and the latter received from her a pearl and put it in her womb. Thanks to this touch of her breast, the individual soul became pregnant, like Mary, with a Messiah ravishing the heart. Not the Messiah who travels on land and at sea, but the Messiah who is beyond the limitations of space! Also, when the soul has been fertilized by the Soul of the soul, then the world is fertilized by such a soul “( Ibid., II, 1184 sq.).
This birth of the spiritual Child occurs out of time, and therefore it occurs in each man who receives him with all his being through this “Be!” that Marie receives during the Annunciation: “From your body, like Maryam, give birth to an Issa without a father! You have to be born twice, once from your mother, another time from yourself. So beget yourself again! If the outpouring of the Holy Spirit dispenses again his help, others will in turn do what Christ himself did: the Father pronounces the Word in the universal Soul, and when the Son is born, each soul becomes Mary (Ibid., III, 3773.)
So Jesus can declare: “O son of Israel, I tell you the truth, no one enters the Kingdom of Heaven and earth unless he is born twice! By the Will of God, I am of those who were born twice: my first birth was according to nature, and the second according to the Spirit in the Sky of Knowledge! » (Sha’ranî, Tabaqat, II, 26; Sohrawardî, ‘Awarif, I, 1)
The second birth corresponds to what we also gain in Sufism as the “opening (fath) of the eye of the heart“: “When Your Eye became an eye for my heart, my blind heart drowned in vision ; I saw that You were the universal Mirror for all eternity and I saw in Your Eyes my own image. I said, “Finally, I found myself in His Eyes, I found the Way of Light!” (Rumi, Mathnawî, II, 93 sq.)
This opening is the promise made by God to all those who conclude a pact with the spiritual master, pole of his time, like the apostles with Jesus or the Companions when they pledged allegiance to Muhammad: “God was satisfied with believers when they swore an oath to you under the Tree, He knew perfectly the content of their hearts, He brought down on them deep peace (sakina), He rewarded them with a prompt opening ( fath) and by an abundant booty which they seized ”(Coran XLVIII, 18-19).(The abundant loot indicates Divine Knowledge (mari’fa)
With the help of these, having come thus far he now
- cometh before the city gate of the Holy Land and stands in submission like unto a good willing one to the Lords will. [This] is called the Burying of the Affections and Desires. He findeth, through the same submission, the key for to enter therewithal through the gate into the City where the Everlasting Life, Peace and Rest is. This key is called Equity.
In the City of Peace he is lovingly received:
- Even thus one becometh as they, incorporated to the body of the same true king, Gods True Beeing, with all the people of the same good land.
- The names of the saints [there] are Meekness, Courtesie, Friendliness, Longsuffrance, Mercifulness, etc.
The city, we are told, has strong fortress-like walls and a watchman who ‘keeps a diligent watch’, who never sleeps and who
- Overlooketh all things, namely, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness. His trumpet, wherethrough he playeth his song is named After this Time no More.
There follow several chapters consisting almost entirely of quotations from both Old and New Testaments in the celebratory style reserved for praising God, his creation and all his works. The author then returns to describing details of the city’s layout and structure. We learn, for example, that situated on the walls is an ordinance called Power of God.., and from the city
- floweth an unsearchable or infinitely deep river with also a very tempestuous winde [that] devours all the enemies of the same good City. [The river and the winde] are called Righteous Judgment of God and the Spirit of the Almighty God. [Protected by these] the children of the City learn Understanding and Knowledg, which wisdom (that they learn thereout) is also an holy wisdom and that Understanding is Godly knowledg.
In the painting of Joachim patinir Rest on the Flight into Egypt
- Landscape of the soul, as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life
- Spiritual exercise for the “Refugee” of our Times
- To Become a “Refugee”: Emigration to Sincerity or “uprightness” of Love
Note: We are not the first generation to know that we are destroying the world. But we could be the last that can do anything about it, not with the vanity of earthly knowledge and so called democratic solidarity and wisdom here on earth as this commercial of WWF wants to convince us, but with asking humbly the help of Divine Wisdom so realising in us the image of the man who painfully transcends his material ego: The birth of his soul. It is a test. It’s time to decide!
- For without this City there is no understanding, wisdom or knowledg of God, or of Godly things; no not at all. All else is foolishness and hypocrisie.
Niclaes emphasizes the absolute newness of everything in this place. He tells us that we have to be ‘new-born in the spirit’ and that this new birth takes place only through ‘Love and the service of Love’. For Niclaes and the Familists the definition of love is that given in the New Testament: ‘God is Love’.
– ‘steady manifestation of love…nobody has ever expressed in equal perfection and beauty the fervor and enthusiasm of the initiated mystic, inspired by union with God, as Paul has expressed them in his two hymns of love ― the hymn on the love of God (Rom. viii. 31 ff), and the hymn on the love of men (1 Cor. xiii. 13- 15. Love is the Kingdom of God.
His remarks here remind us that what he describes in an entirely inner experience.
- The City is a spiritual City of Life
- The nature and minde [of the inhabitants] is nothing else but love, like those that are risen from the death with the Resurrection of the Righteousness in the Everlasting Life.
- The God whom we serve is a secret God. He is the substance of all substances, the true life of all lives, the true light of all lights, the true mind of all minds.
- Whosoever now forsaketh all the desolate lands and people [and] also hath his respect diligently bent upon the leading star in the East, and walketh on rightly according to the compasse, as likewise, forsaketh not the Crosse, and so cometh to the Submission, by him shall be found the equity, with the which he entereth into Gods nature. And so he cometh into the good Citie, full of riches and joy.
The traveler, having reached his goal, is free to go anywhere he wants. He may even wish to return to his previous abode in order to help those still there to make their escape.
- He now therefore, that is, in this manner come thereunto, may, as then, in the love and in the unity of peace, go out and in without any harme, and may walk through all Lands, Places and Cities; bring unto all lovers of the good land, that are seeking the same, good tydings, give them good incouragement, as to respect all enemies like chaffe, and as nothing, show them the next way into the life, and so lead them with him into the good land.
- Whosoever now is under the obedience of the love doth flow out of and into the same secret kingdome, even like unto a living breath of God. And [he] can very well walk in freedome, among all people, and also remaine still free.
- For the knowledg separateth nor hurteth not him
The serpents deceit nor her poison cannot kill him
The foolishness allureth not him
The chosen righteousness snareth not him
The deceitfull hills seduceth not him
The ignorance blindeth not him
Nor the leaders of the blind doe not lead him
And even thus is God with him and he with God
- We praise thee O Father for thou hast hidden these things from the proud-boasting wise, and the prudent understanding ones, and revealed them to the little humble ones. The rich in spirit, nor the great, wise or industrious scripture-learned ones, have not understood the same; but to the poor in spirit, and to the simple of understanding, has thou given it.
There follow here several chapters in the form of hymns of praise and rejoicing, very much in the style of – if not actually quoting from – the Psalms and the Old Testament prophets.
Hendrik Niclaes.now lays out his justification for speaking so openly ‘because of the great need of the times’. Yet he regrets that he is so little heard. Again and again he emphasizes the fact that a man cannot come to God through his ordinary mind, however well educated and well developed.
- But oh, Alas! We have now in this rebellious time, very speciall cause to sigh and mourn grievously, over the blindness of many people and to bewaile the same with great dolour of our hearts. And that chiefly, because there is now in the same day of love and of the mercy of God, so little knowledg of the good life of peace and of Love to be found among them. And also, for that the same knowledg is desired of so few, and yet much lesse loved. But they do almost everyone delight to walk in strange waies that stretch to contention and destruction, by which occasion they live in molestations and deadly afflictions everywhere.
- Therefore may we, with wofulness and sighing hearts, very justly say, that it is now a perilous time to be saved, and to escape or to remain over to preservation. Oh, what venomous windes do there blow to the desolation and destruction of men! Yea, it seemeth almost unpossible for the man to come to his salvation, or preservation in Christ, or the lovely life of peace.
- Yet have some, notwithstanding, according to the imagination of their knowledg, run on, or labored for the spiritual things, for that they would understand them; also many have, according to their understanding of the flesh, testified of them.
- But seeing they have not sought their knowledg of spiritual things in the obedience of the Christian doctrine of the service of love, but in their knowledg of the flesh, and so have taken on their understanding of the knowledg of spiritual things out of the imagination of their own knowledge; therefore they have likewise understood those same spiritual things according to the mind of their flesh, and witnessed of them in the same manner also. For that cause likewise the right knowledge of spiritual things and heavenly understanding hath not in the cleernesse of the true light shined unto them.
- Wherefore it is in like manner found true, that the fleshly-minded ones, which sow upon the flesh or which build upon the foreskin of their uncircumcised hearts, doe mow the corruption and inherit the destruction. But those that are circumcised in their hearts, in the laying away of the fore-skin of the sinfull flesh, and in the obeying of the requiring of our most holy service of Love, are become spiritually minded and so then do sow upon the spirit, or build upon the spirituall, which is the true being itselfe.
- For all flesh, although it does speak of spirituall and heavenly things, through knowledg, yet it is doubtlesse nothing else but like the grasse of the field, and all his garnishing of beauty and holiness is like the unto the flowers of the field; behold the grasse drieth away, and the beauty of the field withereth and decayeth.
- But the spirituall good, the power of God and his living being (whereof all what is good standeth firm, and floweth thereout) remaineth stedfast, unchangeable for ever and in the same, or through, the manifestation of the same being, the Kingdome of God of heavens, cometh inwardly in us, and that is the true light of everlasting life.
- Whose naked cleernesse, although the same be nothing else but light and life, is hidden, shut and covered from all understandings and wisdomes of the flesh, or that build thereon.
- But it is manifest and shineth bright to the circumcised heart, and to the upright spirituall minded ones, in a spirituall heavenly understanding. And the same cleerness is the beeing of God from heaven, the upright righteousness and holinesse, and the life of God in eternity.
- Wherefore the doore of life is now opened unto us, the Kingdome of the God of heavens and the Heavenly Jerusalem, or the City of Peace, descended downe to us and come neerby.
- But not according to the thinking-good, or imagination, of our own hearts, nor according to the mind of the earthly wisdome, wherethrough many have estranged them from the truth of life.
- Therefore can no man see the kingdom of God except that he becometh born anew in the spirit and is become plain, and just, and simple like unto a new-born babe.
- We have signified or shewed in writing all of what the lover of the kingdom must forsake; if he will come to the good land of Peace, or enter into the rest of all the holy ones of God.
- But not that the lover of the good land shall therefore think that he must first come to everyone of the forementioned horrible places, or that must pass through them all, before he can come to the good city of Peace. O no, ye dearly beloved, but the cause why we have marked out all the abominations and desolation is, for to make knowne every place of deceit and all the seducing or leading away from the good land of life.
The choice of the “Refugee”:
- Meaning of Jesus Infancy
Note: COMMENTARY ON THE JOHANNINE PROLOGUE by Hildegard of Bingen
“ In the beginning was the Word( Logos) , and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1-1
“For we are the image of God, Hildegard tells us, and if we wish to see God we need look no further than our souls and bodies, ourselves and our neighbors.”
Few of us have been blinded by the reverberating light of Christ or seen the shimmering form of Lady Wisdom spinning her cosmic wheel. But then, we do not need to: For we are the image of God, Hildegard tells us, and if we wish to see God we need look no further than our souls and bodies, ourselves and our neighbors. “God willed that his Word should create all things, as he had foreordained before the ages. And why is it called a Word? Because with a resounding voice it awakened all creatures and called them to itself.” In the same way, human beings, formed in the Creator’s likeness, are inescapably creative, for we work with our hands and command with our voices. “What was made in the Word was life”: Like our Creator, we too live by the works that we create. By our making, we reveal ourselves to ourselves, and, what is more, we reveal God to one another. God’s rational word echoes in our speech, his praise resounds in our songs, and his creativity is declared in our creations.
“The living Light that made us is the singing Word that took our flesh; he made us because we were eternally his and he wished to be revealed as ours. We are his mirrors, his marvels, his fellow workers, and the work of his hands.” Read HILDEGARD’S COMMENTARY ON THE JOHANNINE PROLOGUE
- Jesus – The Paradigm of a Pilgrim in God
Jesus, the physical embodiment of the divine Breath
For Ibn ʿArabī, Jesus is an exceptional being. As the Andalusian author relates, Jesus was his first master and was decisive in his entry into the way of Sufism. This personal relationship, similar to a first love, encouraged him to hope that he would be a witness to the day of Jesus’s coming, and perhaps this motivated him to live his final years in Damascus, the place of his descent.
Jesus follows a path from God, and returns to God, without ever having been away from God; his descent into this world is followed by his ascent to the second Heaven (the one of Mercury), waiting to descend again to the great mosque of Damascus, before making the final ascent to Paradise. His vertical movement combines with a horizontal movement – that is, he travels ceaselessly [his ceaseless travelling] across the world as a wanderer with no place to rest his head. This constant travel is a manifestation of the constant activity of God and reveals the nature of all reality. Every creature is a word that comes from God and is destined to return to Him. In addition, Jesus, by means of his preaching centred on asceticism and the reminder of death, and through his alchemical spiritual and health-giving activity, he helps human beings on their path of return to the Creator.Read more…
Viriditas is one of the most recognizable contributions of Hildegard of Bingen.
For Hildegard, viriditas encapsulated the divine force of nature, the depth and breadth of which is reflected in the various translations. These words within the word are laden with meaning; with lively, powerful connotations that capture the essence Hildegard had conceptualized so long ago.
The origin of Viriditas,” Viridity” may be the union of two Latin words: Green and Truth. (Latin viridis (source of Spanish, Italian verde), related to virere “be green, and Old English triewð (West Saxon), treowð (Mercian) “faith, faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant,” from Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho, from Proto-Germanic treuwaz “having or characterized by good faith,” from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast.also *dreu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast,
But like most Latin words, Viriditas does not easily translate into convenient, straightforward English. While being difficult to translate may be frustrating to some, there is beauty in this complexity.
The Basic Definition and Origin
The definition is both literal, as in “green”, “greenness”, and “growth”, yet also metaphorical, as in “vigor”, “verdure”, “freshness” and “vitality.” For Hildegard, the spiritual aspects were just as essential as the physical meaning. In much of her work, viriditas was “the greening power of God.” It was in everything, including humans.
This “greenness” was an expression of heaven, the creative power of life, which can be witnessed in the gardens, forests, and farmland all around us. And like those lands, she saw viriditas as something to be cultivated in both our bodies and our souls.
What is it? Hildegard says it is God’s freshness that we receive as spiritual and physical life‐forces. This is vivid imagery that probably came to her simply as she looked around the countryside. The Rhine valley is lush and green and as we know today, a wonderful place, flourishing in fruit and vineyards. This greening power mysteriously is inherent in animals and fishes and birds, in all plants and flowers and trees, in all the beautiful things of this world.
Human flesh is green she says and our blood possesses this special greening power. The “life force of the body” (the soul) was green. Whenever sex was involved—she said there was a particular brightness in the green. This greening power was at the heart of salvation and the reality of the Word was verdant life. This greenness connects us all together as humanity and shines forth giving us common purpose. It is the strength within us that manifests as a strong and healthy life. This greenness originates in the four elements: earth and fire, water and air. It is sustained by the four qualities: by dry and moist, by cold and hot; not only the body—but greenness of soul as well.
Hildegard contrasts greening power or wetness with the sin of drying up (one of her visions.) A dried‐up person or a dried‐up culture loses the ability to create. Hildegard saw this as a grave sin and a tragedy. It also describes how she felt about herself during those years when she was refusing to write down her visions and voices. Her awakening did not occur until she embraced her own viriditas. From then on Hildegard was constantly creating.
This is in contrast to greening— dry straw, hay or chaff representing dried up Christians who are scattered and cut down by the just Divinity of the Trinity.
‘O most honored Greening Force, You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.
You are enfolded
in the weaving of divine mysteries.
You redden like the dawn
and you burn: flame of the Sun.”
– Hildegard von Bingen, Causae et Curae
Hildegard gives an interesting image about greenness stating that it drenches all things in this world and then gives the tree as an example. The function of the tree’s sap [its life blood that we know as its essential oil] falls to the soul in the human body. Its powers or abilities enable us to unfold or develop form just as it does in the tree. In other words, the tree’s essential oil gives life and nourishment— moistness to humans. She goes on to make comparisons between the tree’s branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruit with various stages within human life. For Hildegard, viriditas is that natural driving force, the life force that is always directed toward healing and wholeness. Love, too, is the breath of the same vital green power that sustains all life’s greenness. She sees the Holy Spirit as that power that gives human beings the green and open space where they are capable of responding to the Word and joining in all of creation. The Spirit purifies the world, scours away all guilt, and heals all wounds and sadness. So, green is not a mere color for Hildegard—it is an attitude and purposeful intent. It is the permanent inflowing and outflowing of viriditas. Ultimately—we are talking about physical health from the inexhaustible fountain of life’s living light. It is the very joy of being alive.