UFO Conjectures

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hildegard of Bingen: UFO Spotter or Neurological Hysteric?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions raised are these:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who really knows?

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



  • As far as I can tell the physical systems of the body like the brain inform the mind and vice versa. Take one away and we don't have much to discuss.
    I recently discussed the distortion of space time in dream states and suggested that perhaps a vision can occur in milliseconds or seconds, yet be perceived as a more expansive space. One reader related having epilepsy and being prone to experiences somewhat similar to this.

    To me what you bring out is the modality or path of such experiences as a conductive carrier that appears to use the experiencer's database as driver of anticipated recombinations of these visions as a template for making the inside appear to be outside, like a vivid dream, recombinant and yet all this seems more like a description of a transcribed "download" made coherent by the recipient. I think also of an entire spectrum of remote viewing, telepathy, synchronicity..etc etc.

    What is truly outside the medium both the person and the means that is interconnected to both mind and body? Sensate and non sensate energetic environments that do share exchanges. Sunlight being a simple example.
    I suspect we are dealing with a local planetary field that reads like a physics of information akin to Borges Library. It also reminds me that if this is so, we have a sort of genetic information at work that corresponds to the material human genetics. Here comes Plato as Mr Natural..Cest La Vie.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Monday, October 15, 2012  

  • ..a bit of historical, non-UFO trivia:

    the definitive bio of Joan of Arc was written by..... Mark Twain (??!) ...he had worked on it for decades, since when as an early teen river-rat, he found a few pages of an article about Joan, and the simple idea of a teen leading a national army was stunning to him... (this may have inspired his drive to start writing, etc.)

    In 1908, he wrote "I like 'Joan of Arc' best of all my books, and it IS the best."

    By Blogger Kurt Peters, at Monday, October 15, 2012  

  • Sachs has nailed it. It's migraine. I have diagnosed visual migraine and headaches. Something very, very similar to the drawing is what I see in my visual field at the beginning of a migraine attack.

    Once this flashing circle of light appears in the visual field, migraine medication needs to be taken immediately so the crushing headache is prevented. Wait too long to take meds and a dizzy, nauseating headache inevitably follows, and there's nothing to do then but lie down in a dark room and sleep.

    Sometimes rather than the circle there will be flashes of light in the peripheral vision instead, but the circle of light is most common. Anyway, this is all taking place in the visual cortex of my brain, not actually happening externally.

    Having the benefit of modern medical science (and not being a religious in the 18th century), I understand what's happening; it's purely physical.

    My neurologist noted that migraine is somewhat more common in women than men, although mine was inherited from a father who suffered from the same form of migraine.

    It can be a real bitch when it hits, but fortunately, it doesn't happen very often and I have medication. Otherwise, I guess I'd be a visionary and sanctified, too.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Monday, October 15, 2012  

  • Purrigurrl
    While I would think that the halo effect from the onset of migraines is a strong candidate for a neurological explanation for "anomalous" visual experiences, the metaphysical portion ( content) of Hildegard's creative output still remain unanswered inasmuch there are thousands of migraine sufferers who have no comparable result. I am not suggesting that these were either a product of her imagination or something more significantly anomalous in the classic sense or perhaps a psychologically needy personality was compelled to draw attention to itself.
    Then there is the sort of individuation process Jung proposed, which has more far reaching implications. I still wonder about precursors to epileptic episodes. It's all unanswerable whose only use is to serve as a platform for our speculations.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • BTW..Photosensitive epilepsy is another candidate as well as the loss of short term memory after an episode and so in the case of close purportedly close encounters, were the observers exposed to pulsations that triggered an episode and then were concurrently backfilled by their initial encounter with this source as to create a narrative to explain it?

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

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