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Letter to Women

Saints and Sybils: Hildegard of Bingen to Teresa of Avila

by Benedicta Ward
First published as Ch. 7 in After Eve,
edited by Janet Martin Soskice.
Collins Marshall Pickering, 1990
Reproduced on our website with the necessary permissions

How could I presume to teach or advise you who are favoured with hidden knowledge and in whom the influence of Christ's anointing still lives so that you have no need of teaching, for you are said to be able to search the secrets of heaven and to discern by the light of the Holy Spirit things that are beyond the knowledge of man. It is rather for me to beg that you may not forget me before God or those who are united to me in spiritual fellowship.(1)

That is a remarkably humble letter from the greatest theologian of the twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux. It is his reply to a letter he had received from the Abbess of Mount St Rupert, Hildegard, who describes herself as 'paupercula femina forma ['a poor little womanly figure']. Bernard, the theologian of prayer, is filled with admiration for one who prays but does not analyse; there are two spheres, separate and distinct, and it is the woman who prays who is admired by the man who analyses and not vice versa. Four hundred years later in the relationship between John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila there has been a change in which both mystics also apply their minds to the analysis of experience. The change is in the women visionaries rather than in the men theologians and it seems worth comparing Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Avila in some detail in order to see where the differences lie. Much of the contrast they present may be attributed to differences of literary genre, of culture or simply of temperament but it may be of deeper significance to explore the exalted position of women in the medieval Church as true 'theologians', that is, as seers and sybils, visionaries and intercessors, and to see why they were so respected and if this position was changed then they turned their minds also to the analysis of the life of prayer. With Hildegard and Teresa who wrote so much and in such variety it is only possible to indicate here where some of the differences lie and to offer a tentative suggestion about the reasons behind them.

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote about the journey of the soul to God with such insight that he influenced deeply and permanently the way in which prayer was both experienced and discussed in his own day as well as later. It is at first sight remarkable that he should have been so impressed by the prophetic and mystical experiences of a woman, but he makes it clear that Hildegard was everything he admired and, he thought, failed himself to become. Above all she was taught by God, the clear structures of learning which Bernard deplored had never closed her mind to divine truth; she saw by what she called the divine light and she saw truly. Like the unlettered lay brothers at Clairvaux, she heard and saw the world of the spirit directly. The parallel Bernard saw between them was in part, of course, a fantasy; Hildegard constantly claims to be 'simple' and 'unlearned' but this modest phrase is deceptive. Unlike the lay brothers of the Cistercian Order, many of whom really were unable to read and write, Hildegard knew Latin and dictated books of considerable complexity. She was a woman of renown in her times, and her writings comprise almost the greatest range of literature of any medieval author. What Bernard meant and what Hildegard claimed, was, rather, a lack of formal academic training. What they agreed upon in a positive sense was that just because of this 'ignorance' she could receive direct inspiration from God which could not be argued with. Moreover, it was an authority that even the most rational minds of the twelfth century accepted as final: what Hildegard wanted done, was done, not on account of her undoubted ability either as a writer or as a monastic superior, but because she was held to enjoy a knowledge far superior to any merely rational method of inquiry.

Hildegard was admired by many besides Bernard. He recommended her to Eugenius, the Cistercian Pope, and arranged for him to meet Hildegard at Trier on his way to Rheims for the trial of Gilbert de la Poree since Bingen is on the Rhine only thirty miles from Trier. Eugenius became one of Hildegard's fervent admirers and they wrote letters to one another; she corresponded with successive popes, Anastasius IV, Adrian IV and Alexander III; she wrote to churchmen, to religious, and also to secular rulers such as Conrad III and his son Frederick Barbarossa, Henry II of England and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Empress Irene and Philip, Count of Flanders. She undertook journeys, preached to monks in their monasteries and clergy in their synods, and laymen in towns; she gave spiritual counsel, she exorcised, she argued and she prophesied. She was clearly a woman of very great force of character, but all she did was in the name of the light which was not her own, a claim that was recognised and accepted.

Hildegard was respected not in spite of her tendency to strange and emotional ecstasies but because of them: they marked her out as a prophetess. It seems that she was not suddenly visited by heavenly inspiration as a nun and abbess but had been accustomed to such visions from early childhood. In 1141 when she was forty-two she felt herself commissioned to reveal the visions, which she did by dictating them to two close friends, the monk Volmar and the nun Richarda:

A fiery light of the greatest brilliancy coming from the opened heavens poured into all my brain and kindled in my heart and breast, a flame that warms but does not consume as the sun heats everything over which he casts his rays ... I said and wrote . . . not according to the curious invention of my heart but as I saw, heard and perceived them in a heavenly way through the secret mysteries of God. And again I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, 'Cry aloud therefore and write thus,'(2)

This description, couched in the personal and emotional language of the twelfth century, is nevertheless replete with traditional imagery. The 'prayer of fire' associated with the descent of the Holy Spirit is a main theme of Eastern theology and the final quotation links her ecstasy with the Book of Revelation and the vision of St John (cf. Rev. 1.19). Moreover, her revelations belong to the tradition of compunction, that piercing of the heart by fear and love for a further inner knowledge of the divine which Gregory the Great articulated for the West and which formed the basis of such popular meditations as those of Anselm of Canterbury.(3) At times it is the theme of wonder and glory that seizes her:

I saw as it were the mystery of God in the southern sky, a wonderful and beautiful image in the form of a man whose face was so beautiful and brilliant that I could more easily have looked into the sun ... 'I am the high and the fiery power that kindled all living sparks ... I burn in the fiery life of the substance of divinity above the beauty of the fields, and I shine in the waters and I burn in the stars . . . '(4)

At other times, it is the terror of distance from God and the burden of sinful mortality that oppresses her:

Whither am I, a pilgrim, going? Into the valley of death. In what way do I go? The way of error. What consolation do I have? That of a pilgrim. Others deride me, saying, 'Where is your honour now?' Oh, where am I? Whence did I come? What consolation do I seek in this captivity? How can I break my chains? What eye can see my wounds? What hands will anoint them with oil? Who will show pity on my grief? Therefore He will hear my cry.(5)

Such deeply emotional and self-revealing experiences by no means removed Hildegard into a realm of mysterious ineptitude. What she wrote about was not only or even especially religious. She was interested in botany, in medicine, in minerals, she composed music and her visions inspired pictures of a wild and impressive kind. Her advice was very practical, and her administration of her abbey so effective that the small and rather undistinguished little group which she met at Disiboden (when she arrived there as a child of eight to be educated by the hermitess Jutta) had, when she died as abbess in 1179 at the age of eighty-two, become a large and flourishing abbey on excellent land at Bingen. This move was an example of the force of a visionary woman upon very practical men. The monks closest to her convent as confessors viewed her proposal to move from Disiboden with alarm and hostility. They were unwilling to lose both nuns, who were without exception and by a deliberate policy of the abbess, high-born ladies, and their endowments. Hildegard wrote to the monks in these terms when she heard of their opposition to the move:

In accordance with what I had seen in my true vision I said to the father abbot, 'The serene light says, you shall be father to our provost (the monk Volmar) and father of the salvation of the souls of the daughters of my mystic garden. But their alms do not belong to you or to your brothers - your cloister should be a refuge for these women and if you are determined to go on with your perverse proposals, raging against us, you will be like the Amalekites . . . justice will destroy you. And when I, poor little creature, had with these words petitioned the abbot and his confreres for the freehold of the site and domains of my daughters they all granted it to me, entering the transfer in a codex.(6)

Hildegard was listened to and respected as a sybil, as a prophet, one through whom the Spirit of God spoke most clearly but at the same time her influence and practical activity were undoubted. In this she was a highly significant figure for her times. There is no doubt that the twelfth century saw a change in the kind of activities open to women. The political and economic power they wielded with ease and confidence earlier was drastically limited. They were excluded from Latin education by the rise of the universities as never before. The disaster of the cult of courtly love isolated them by glorifying them. But in certain spheres the women prospered. One was the emergence of vernacular literature and another was the prophetic and mystical role which opened increasingly to them.

From Hildegard of Bingen in the twelfth century to Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth there was an increasing number of prophetesses, many of them women of discernment and influence. The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in particular saw an explosion of women visionaries: the great ladies of Helfta, Gertrude and Mechtild, and particularly their younger contemporary Mechtild of Hackborn; Elizabeth of Schonau; Hadewijch, Beatrice of Nazareth, Margeret of Oignt, Catherine of Sienna, Catherine of Genoa, Bridget of Sweden, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, to name only the most obvious. Like Hildegard, these were women visionaries, highly respected and attended to: dreams, visions, prophecies, trances, locutions, suspension of the faculties, all were there. With the more able and controlled visionaries, they committed their revelations to writings which exercised influence and commanded respect. Of course, men were also equally open to the influence of mystical experience but it seems that this mostly took the form of analysis of the life of prayer in writing, exhortation to it in preaching, or counsel about it. Many of the revelations of the women mystics were written about by men by whom they were highly, even hysterically respected, as having a specially direct and mysterious contact with divinity which was its own justification. Though deeply immersed in the central activity of prayer with all its demands for solitude, silence and detachment, the women visionaries were also active, busy women, aware of the world and its needs, and prepared to involve themselves and their experiences of prayer in the affairs of their day. Catherine of Sienna, for instance, was at the centre of ecclesiastical politics for most of her adult life yet was pre-eminently renowned for her visions and ecstatic experiences. One can only conclude that unlike ourselves, the Middle Ages regarded the exterior phenomena of the mystic as a passport to credibility, not the reverse. This link between paranormal phenomena, sound theology and practical common sense presents certain problems for those in a very different psychological and theological atmosphere. There are perhaps at least two preliminary differences in the understanding of reality to bear in mind when approaching this question, which were true for the sixteenth as well as the twelfth century.

The first major difference to notice is the extent to which medieval theology was linked to ancient concepts of anthropology. The human biology of the ancient world depended on the theory of the elements and the humours. Man was the microcosm of the universe, and both were made up of the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Man and woman together formed the perfect human being and the elements were divided between them: men were predominantly air and fire, women earth and water. Air and fire made for the critical intellect, earth signified fruitfulness and water was a spiritual principal which opened women to visions and dreams. The twelfth century pushed many things to logical conclusions, it was a great age for categorising and making lists and they did it with this world view also. Man issued from the hand of God, male/female. The airy and fiery elements opened him to reason, the earthy, watery elements to divinity unalloyed. Hildegard put it like this:

Oh humans, look at the human being! for it contains heaven and earth and all other creatures within itself and is one form and all other creatures hide in it.(7)

The part of this whole which was directly open to heaven was, therefore, feminine; woman was man's love, his heart, and his direct route to the powers of the air. She was therefore seen as being by her very nature the dreamer, the prophet, the visionary.

Secondly, there was a different understanding throughout the Middle Ages of the significance of the flesh. On the one hand, extreme illness was not regarded as merely unfortunate; it could be a gift, opening the mind to heaven: Hildegard, Teresa and many, perhaps all, other women mystics began their inner, mystical life through this liberating breaking of the external senses in severe illnesses. On the other hand, interior vision was naturally accompanied by external phenomena: the visionaries saw, heard, smelled, touched, even tasted the celestial visions, reacting visibly to inner experience with their senses. These physical phenomena were recorded vividly and with reverence, a fact which is often forgotten by those who concentrate on the very strong and theologically sensible content of the visions. For the Middle Ages, the reactions of the body were not seen as improper but as authenticating. Where people were peculiarly open to God it was expected that the effect would show in their bodies. This is not perhaps completely alien to our experience. After all, human beings only have five senses to register whatever happens to them; the spirit does not invent new and spiritual matter for itself. Even now, it is a common experience that serious illness can become the gateway to deeper apprehensions of reality. On the other hand, great personal grief or complete desolation does not make one pale and romantic but is so disorientating that it will be as likely as not to cause vomiting and a blinding headache. So the coming of the Spirit of God on a human being was thought to use the normal make-up of that person. Thus, the eyes closed, the breathing changed, those so visited seemed to speak automatically, to rise from the ground, become rigid and immovable or even impassible for hours on end; they heard sounds inaudible and saw sights invisible to others -all these things earlier ages took for granted and even required in their mystics.

Such physical reactions might alert people to the presence of something unusual but in spite of this it would still seem to us that such personal revelation was in itself uncheckable. If I say I have a vision, you cannot say I have not. The problem of authentication of visionaries has always exercised serious-minded people, but in earlier ages the external symptoms had greater weight. There were women visionaries whose ecstasies seem to us pointless, neither significant nor helpful to others. Perhaps Christina the Astonishing falls into this category as someone we regard as simply neurotic. She is said to have been frequently in trances so deep that they were mistaken for death; on one occasion her body had been carried into church for burial when she revived. At once, her corpse flew up to the roof where she perched like a bird until the people were cleared out, for it was known that Christina could not stand the smell of human flesh. Among her more pointless escapades was her habit of getting into ovens where she sat down, presumably under the impression that she was a bun. She would climb on to the mill wheel and go round with it, and once she sat down in the font when it was full of water.(8)This tomboy athletic style of sainthood seems to us unedifying since totally devoid of theological or moral content but her contemporaries were prepared to accept what they did not understand; there was sufficient respect for her trances for her to be included in the calendar of the saints. The reactions of the body were regarded as the work of the Spirit upon flesh and that was sufficient for wonder and awe; they were signs of the hidden approval of God, beyond human judgments and opinions.

While these two ideas about the human person and about the significance of the flesh are unfamiliar to the twentieth century, they continued long past the sixteenth century to shape European notions of reality. It is not, therefore, that a change occurred in the sixteenth century. Rather, a new caution began to be felt about the significance of bodily phenomena in prayer. There was a new stress on what was intellectually orthodox, accompanied by more caution about the possibility of demonic deception especially for the untutored mind. In a united Europe, where Christian teaching was mostly clearly articulated and heretics were few, visionaries had been easily accepted and indeed cherished, their orthodoxy unquestioned. In the sixteenth century under the pressure of heresy, the evidence of the experiences of the ecstatic visionaries was received with a new caution. Those faced with a visionary who might well be a heretic and perhaps, like Elizabeth Barton, the Fair Maid of Kent, used in secular political matters, could no longer be impressed solely by her states of trance; they might suspect quite other spirits of speaking through her. A vision itself was no longer authenticating. Visionaries had to be examined for uprightness of life and their visions had to be checked by their content; was what they said in ecstasy worth saying? Was it in accordance with Scripture? With church doctrine as agreed by the consensus of Christian people? Did it lead to the virtues of charity, faith, hope, peace? Was it edifying to others?

Such analysis did increasingly take place and one of the foremost in offering such criteria for authenticity was a woman who was herself subject to extreme and alarming mystical states. Teresa of Avila was within this tradition of women visionaries. Like them, she was a woman of great influence and continual activity; like her predecessors, she claimed ignorance of both Latin and scholastic methods, the traditional deprecatio which nevertheless was intended to show that the writer's mind was not confined along particular and defined ways. She writes, she says, about what she understands from within, not from exterior information. Like most of the women mystics after Hiidegard, Teresa wrote in the vernacular. Subject to trances, visions, ecstasies, she, like the rest, was widely consulted and was most highly regarded for her prayer; so highly regarded that people would act upon what she said. But there was a change; for one thing, the Inquisition was demanding examination of those who experienced paranormal states; and for another, Teresa herself offered detailed analysis of such experiences as part of a whole structure of the life of prayer.

In the last books of the Life and in the Interior Castle, Teresa set down a great deal about the different kinds of visions experienced by those who pray.(9) They were, perhaps, merely sensory, perhaps imaginary, perhaps intellectual; if accompanied by physical phenomena, that was a sign of a weak integration of body and spirit and should be disregarded. And always the central check for the one praying was perseverance in the way of charity which is the following of Christ. Teresa did not refuse to give attention to the subject of visions and saw them as a valid part of the life of prayer, but it is clear that her approach was more subtle than that of Hildegard.

Teresa herself was seized by ecstasy of one kind or another for most of her life, and in order to communicate anything about these moments of vision, she used new images rather than old arguments or descriptions. Like all the mystics, she used language of a poetic, mysterious nature, but here joined to an analytic intellect, which combined both the experiential and the expository sides of mystical writing in a new way. Her use of images in describing the way of prayer is very like the explicitly visionary language of Hildegard. For instance, the central image of the Interior Castle is a crystal ball shaped like a castle; it is described with intense imaginative beauty, matching anything in the visions of Hildegard or Mechtild, and it was revealed to her first of all, it seems, in a vision:

On the eve of the festival of the Most Holy Trinity, she (Teresa) was thinking what subject she should choose for this treatise, when God who disposes all things in due form and order granted this desire of hers and gave her a subject. He showed her a most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle, and containing seven mansions, in the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory, illuminating and beautifying them all.(10)

It sounds very like a vision of Hildegard, but there is a distinct difference. Teresa did not simply experience a vision, but saw the way in which she was to analyse prayer in the form of a vision. Like the men who wrote about prayer, she provided an interpretation. Given this vision, she asked herself questions about its precise significance for others. She saw the crystal ball as the soul, the castle is within, and every visionary detail was clearly interpreted according to her understanding of prayer. The image in the vision was linked to the Scriptures and she had good precedent for seeing the 'many mansions' of the Father's house (John 14.2) as the person, the temple of God which is within. Other writers had used the image, though not in quite the same way; the Proslogion of Anselm, for instance, begins with an invitation into the 'inner chamber' where one seeks God who is within, the ground of being, while Hugh of St Victor used a particular house, Noah's ark, for his discussion of the life of the soul in prayer.(11) The difference is that Teresa presented the image as a result of a direct vision from God, and with this she combined a strict analysis of the life of prayer. The interior castle was not with Teresa simply an amazing celestial building whose every piece might be replete with changing, shifting images of wonder; it provided, rather, a structure for articulating rational thoughts about prayer.

For Teresa such images were not an end in themselves. She considered prayer, and particularly any visionary experience, to be linked indissolubly with asceticism; not as a way into prayer but a result of it. From the other end, so to speak, the body had its place in prayer also for Teresa, not as the vehicle of divinity so much as the place where love planted in the heart would then overflow into all the senses and all of life. In this sense it is interesting to note that for herself, 'betrothal to the Lord' meant acute desolation and the inner rooms of the crystal castle were full of darkness.

It is necessary to distinguish between Teresa's deliberate and conscious use of imagery and her accounts of experiences of a paranormal nature, but in a way they come from the same apprehension of life. Through both she says prayer is not either emotional or intellectual; mind and emotion are linked to the flesh for her as much as for Hildegard, and she was well aware that the impact of the divine upon the human body could take extraordinary forms. There are what Teresa calls 'lesions', that is, gaps between vision and experience. For example, absorption in prayer can so dislocate the normal unity of the self that the one who prays may begin to drop things, forget things, not react on a natural level very quickly, become clumsy, not quite functioning, something that was reverenced in earlier mystics but with Teresa is treated with a brisk compassion. Though Teresa never denied her own experiences of trance and vision, such manifestations were to be hidden and disregarded. She saw them as 'the least of the gifts' - not things to be afraid of, but not to be regarded or sought. They might be of God or they might not; if they were, then there would be an increase of charity in daily life: charity towards men, love towards God, a humility which thinks itself unworthy of notice. For herself, she used to test such revelations by asking others whose opinion she respected about them. There had been enough false mystics and some of them close at hand for her to have learned not to trust the externals even for herself with the simplicity of the earlier mystics.

No doubt Teresa would have classed most of Hildegard's visions as 'corporal', a kind of vision with which Teresa says she was not personally acquainted. Her own visions she called either 'imaginary' or 'intellectual', and she discussed them for their content and meaning alone. What was external in visionary states was for her at best peripheral, at worst a temptation to pride; they were to be examined with care and related to the whole of Christian life. The most famous of her own experiences, when she felt that her heart was being pierced by the fiery spear of a seraph, is an example both of the similarity of language about mystical experience and the difference between its apprehension in the early Middle Ages and the sixteenth century.(12) Hildegard described a vision of seraphs in terms remarkably similar to those of Teresa:

These signify the Seraphim because they are burning with the love of God, having a very great desire for the vision of Him . . . the secrets of God appear in them wonderfully as they do also in those loving souls who seek eternal life in the sincerity of a pure heart. These love God ardently and embrace him with a pure desire. (13)

In her Life Teresa also speaks of a seraph and of love, and this is one of the very rare passages where she describes a 'corporal' vision of her own:

It pleased the Lord that I should sometimes see the following vision. I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in bodily form - a type of vision which I am not in the habit of seeing except very rarely . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful, his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angels who seem to be all afire ... In his hand I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart ... he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans . . .'(14)

It is clear that Hildegard and Teresa write within the same tradition of angelic visions but there are significant differences. Both connect the seraphim with light and with the inner mysteries of the vision of God and with desire for him. The metaphor of fire has been used for centuries about prayer connected both with the heart, the most central part of the person and with the Holy Spirit. While Hildegard records what she 'sees' with amazement and delight and regards her vision as something to be communicated to all, Teresa writes about the 'fire' as a personal and inner experience of immense pain, and of something so intimate that she was distressed when others connected such things with her. It is significant that the transverberation happened at the end of her quiet life as a simple Carmelite nun; it overflowed into the next years of active service of others until her death. The famous statue by Bernini of Teresa with her heart being pierced by a seraph says nothing else - love in the centre of the soul, so that it affects every action and thought. To refer that baroque expression of devotion to Teresa is perhaps hardly to our taste or in line with our view of her; nor is the equally well-known poem upon the book and the picture of the 'Seraphical Teresa':

O thou undaunted daughter of desires
by all thy dower of lights and fires
by all the eagle in thee, all the dove
by all thy lives and deaths of love
by thy large draughts of intellectual day
and by thy thirsts of love more large than they
by all thy brim-filled bowls of fierce desire
by thy last morning draught of liquid fire
by the full kingdom of that final kiss
that seized thy parting soul and sealed thee His
by all the heaven thou hadst in Him
fair sister of the seraphim
by all of him we have in thee
leave nothing of myself in me;
let me so read thy life that I
unto all life of mine may die.(15)

It sounds much more like Hildegard than Teresa, and the reality which completed that 'final kiss' did not seern to Teresa like anything of the kind. A few days before her death, Teresa was carried reluctantly in extreme sickness to the house of a friend who wanted her there while she, Donna Anna, bore a child, a sentimental desire to treat Teresa as a saint which she disliked and mocked. There on 9th October, 1571, she died; she was repeating over and over again Psalm 51: 'the sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.'

The writings of or about the medieval mystics reveal some shifts in the way revelation was understood and received from the twelfth century to the sixteenth. With Hildegard, the fact of her ecstatic states was authenticating for her other activities; their place in the whole tradition of Christian life was taken for granted; both she and others were simply impressed by the actual experiences themselves which were seen as authentication given by God himself. The visionary states themselves created awe and were left open for interpretation; the activity and actual influence of the visionaries were simply the results of the impact of mysterious divinity and it was rare to find any of the early visionaries exploring and analysing their visions as a scheme of prayer or of life in detail. Teresa was as much a visionary as any of them, and exceeded even Hildegard in the activities of her work for the Carmelite Reform and in the force of her influence on others. But there is a most significant difference between them, for where Hildegard merely saw, Teresa analysed and classified. She applied her mind to the analysis of any visionary experiences, her own or others, and made them a part of a whole structure for understanding and pursuing the life of prayer and charity. In the case of all the visionary women, there is a unifying theme of direct and intimate receptivity in prayer towards divinity which was seen as their 'theology', even when it was eventually combined with the analytic presentation of prayer. At least with Teresa, the analysis of visions did not diminish their value as a direct participation in divine life, however this may have been later. With her, the rational intellect was seen as balancing and not negating - though at times as subsidiary to - intuitive understanding, a balance which seems to have swung in the opposite direction for far too long a period.


1. Letters of St Bernard of Clairvaux, trans. Bruno Scott James (London, 1953), Letter 390, p. 460.

2. Hildegardis Scivias, ed. A. Fuhrkotter, A. Carlevaris, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, xlii-xliii A (Turnhout, 1978), Preface, pp. 3-4 (hereinafter referred to as Scivias). Hildegard's other works are found in PL 197. Of the recent English versions of Hildegard's works, I have either used the translations provided in Peter Dronke's excellent chapter, 'Hildegard of Bingen' in Women Writers in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1984) (hereinafter referred to as Dronke) or attempted my own translation of Hildegard's unusual Latin.

3. Cf. Prayers and Meditations of St Anselm of Canterbury with the Proslogion, trans. with introduction, Benedicta Ward (Penguin Books, 1979/87).

4. Hildegard, Liber Divinorum Operum Simplicis Hominis, Vision 1, PL 197, col. 74.

5. Hildegard, Scivias, 4th Vision, p. 62.

6. Hildegard, Letters, PL 197, col. 1065 (Dronke, p. 153).

7. Hildegard, Causae et Curae, Dronke p. 172; Latin Text, Dronke p. 241.

8. Thomas de Cantimpre, Vita Baetae Christinae Mirabilis Trundonopoli in Hasbania, Acta Sanctorum Jul.1,5 (Paris, 1868) pp. 637-60; English translation by M. King in Medieval Women's Visionary Literature, ed. E.A. Petroff (Oxford, 1986) pp. 184-9.

9. (The Works of St Teresa will be referred to in the translations of E. Allison Peers (London, 194-6) by their English titles with references to chapters only.) Teresa, The Interior Castle, VI.ix,4ff. Cf. Revelation IV,14. Teresa's discussion of visions is analysed and compared with the teaching of St John of the Cross by E.W. Trueman Dicken, The Crucible of'Love: a Study in the Mysticism of St Teresa and St John of the Cross (London, 1936), pp. 374-406.

10. Teresa, Interior Castle, Introduction, p. 10.

11. Hugh of St Victor, De Arce Noe Morali PL 176.

12. Teresa, Interior Castle, cap. v; Life, xviii. Teresa's teaching on union is discussed by E. Truman Dicken (op. cit. note 9), pp. 407-30.

13. Hildegard, Scivias, vi, pp. 106-7. 14-. Teresa, Life, xxix.

15. Richard Crashaw, 'The Flaming Heart: Upon the Book and Picture of the Seraphical Teresa'.

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