Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hildegard von Bingen's Life of Service

Molly Sullens, Grade 8

Hildegard of Bingen was the most significant woman in science in the 11th century. She was centuries ahead of her time. She excelled in science, medicine, Christian theology and music. She is sometimes called the “Sibyl of the Rhine.”

She was born in Germany in 1098 and died in 1179. She was born during the first crusade, the youngest of 10 children. In noble families it was the custom for the tenth child to be given to the church, so she was given as a tithe to God. She went to live with the anchoress Jutta, a woman who withdrew from the word, living alone in a small enclosed area adjoining a church. The noble woman Jutta spent every day learning about God and praying.

Hildegard served as Jutta’s maid and apprentice from age 8 to 18. Jutta taught Hildegard about Christ and how to serve him. When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously elected the abbess in charge of the monastery that was over 400 years old. She was a Benedictine nun, which means that she lived in obedience to the Rule of Benedict. This rule meant a daily life of prayer, work, study, and offering hospitality.

In 1148 Hildegard decided to move the convent to Rupertsberg, separating the women’s ministry from that of the men. This decision was opposed by her abbot, but in 1150 the new convent was founded and Hildegard was in control. The Rupertsberg convent grew to as many as 50 women, most of whom came from wealthy backgrounds. Hildegard allowed the women to keep some of their jewelry, which gave them a sense of their family background.

As abbess, Hildegard’s duties included nursing, illuminating manuscripts, supervising the nuns, and travel in Germany and France. She also was in demand for her skills in helping the sick.

Hildegard was perhaps the most prolific writer of her time. She wrote hymns, treatises, plays, and over 300 letters. Most of her hymns have been performed and recorded by the ensemble Sequentia. The ensemble continued to record all of Hildegard’s music, ending their “music of the saints” project in 1998, the year celebrating Hildegard's 900th birthday.

In her letters Hildegard gave spiritual advice to people of both high and low estate. She wrote to chastise Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the Archbishop of Main. She also wrote to St Bernard, King Henry II of England and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Abbess Hildegard was a strong woman, though she regarded herself as a paupercula feminea forma, or poor weak woman. She held her ground when church authorities tried to force her to exhume the body of an excommunicated nobleman she had permitted to be buried on the convent grounds. This happened when she was in her eighties. Hildegard defied the authorities by hiding the grave, and the authorities excommunicated her entire convent community. Hildegard appealed the decision to higher church authorities and the sanction was finally lifted.

Hildegard suffered from extreme migraines, but luckily, she discovered the power of herbs that can calm nerves and relax muscles. Lemon balm, passion flower, catnip, and valerian are some of the herbs that she studied to discover some of their medical properties. She used plants from her own garden to do experiments and kept very detailed journals of all her experiments.

Hildegard wrote her two treatises between 1151 and 1161. These are often referred to by their Latin titles, Physica and Causae et Curae. Physica describes the characteristics of elements, mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, trees, metals, precious stones, and medicinal uses of over 200 plants. In Causae et Curae Hildegard describes forty-seven diseases according to causes, symptoms, and treatments and lists over 300 plants used to treat diseases.

Her book Scivias (Know the Ways of the Lord) is based on the visions that she received from God since age three. Hildegard had shared her visions with only two people: Jutta and another monk, named Volmar. Volmar served as Hildegard’s secretary until her death. The process of writing this book was drawn out over 10 years. In 1147 Pope Eugenius encouraged Hildegard to finish Scivias and eventually it was published with papal imprimatur. The book drew the attention of many throughout Europe.

She also wrote the Book of the Merits of Life. The sections of the book concern the “Man Looking to the East and to the South” (Part 1); the “Man Looking to the North and the West” (Part 2), and the “Man Looking Over the Whole Earth” (Part 5).

The Book of Divine Works (Liber divinorum operum) was published in 1163. In this book she wrote, “Whoever has submitted to God with humble devotion and been set alight by the aid of the Holy Spirit overcomes both what is corrupted within themselves and the devil; the angels rejoice because of the good works of the just and praise God’s omnipotence.”

She also wrote, “The Son of God’s love crushed the devil with its Cross, and its imitation treads now under foot discord among God’s faithful, other vices, and that ancient deceiver of the human race, and reduces them to nothing.”

Hildegard died in 1179 and was buried in her convent church. The convent was destroyed by the Swedes in 1632 and her relics were moved to Eibingen. She was a brilliant Christian woman who served others and left a great legacy. That legacy is being promoted by The International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies, established in 1983 by Professor Bruce Hozeski of Ball State University.

Hildegard accomplished great things in a time when women were not encouraged to excel outside of the family and home. She resisted pressure from her male superiors to do things their way and she pioneered a unique path as a Christian woman of science.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The 2018 ASA Annual Meeting

ASA 2018, our 73rd Annual Meeting at Gordon College, will be here in less than three months. There is a buzz of activity here in the home office with the many preparations!

I'd like to bring you a couple of updates regarding this special conference taking place here in Boston.

$50 Night Owl Discount Now Available through May 31

We are delighted that we had 215 early birds register for ASA 2018, which is an outstanding response. We are excitedly expecting another terrific attendance.

For the rest of you procrastinators, don't worry because we are pleased to announce the night owl discount of $50 through May 31. Register before then and receive a $375 member rate for only $325 (or a $425 non-member rate for $375). You can find all details and registration link here.

Our goal is an attendance of 350, so we would appreciate your help with spreading the word. Please let your family, friends, colleagues, and students know that this top-notch conference is not to be missed.

Public Lecture with Francis Collins

We are delighted that Francis Collins has accepted our invitation to speak at ASA 2018 on Saturday evening, July 28, 7:30 pm, as part of our Annual Meeting. This lecture is open to the public and we would love to fill the seats of the Gordon College chapel. If you live in the Boston area and/or have friends, colleagues, or members of your church who are NOT attending our meeting but would be interested in attending the lecture, tickets can be purchased in advance for $10/person ($15/person at the door). Contact the ASA office for group discounts. Click here for more.

Promotional Opportunities

We have a number of promotional opportunities for organizations and/or individuals to enrich their professional life, promote their cause and network with a broad group of scientists. Would you or someone you know benefit from hosting an exhibit table, advertising in the program book, or sponsoring an event at ASA 2018? Click here for more information.

Student Scholarship Fund

Student members are the future leaders of the ASA, and we welcome them to the Annual Meeting. Would you help replenish the scholarship fund to make attendance possible for more student members? To date, we have provided 22 scholarships, with new applications arriving daily. Please consider donating to provide more opportunity for students to engage in the ASA! Click here to donate.

I hope you are able to join us for ASA 2018!

Sincerely in Christ,

Vicki L. Best
Director of Operations and Development
American Scientific Affiliation
218 Boston Street
Topsfield, MA 01983
(978) 807-5189

Friday, May 4, 2018

How Humans Are Different

It is evident to anthropologists that humans are unique among the other living creatures on Earth. Our uniqueness is expressed in many ways. Here are a few examples.

The Conscience

Charles Darwin said that "blushing is the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions." No other mammal has this trait.

We blush when we are ashamed or embarrassed. But what makes us feel ashamed? We humans have something called a conscience. The conscience acts as a moral compass. It tells us when we are morally right and when we are morally wrong. Some consider this to be a mark of being in the image and likeness of the Creator (Genesis 2).

The Spoken Word

Humans use spoken language to inform each other about what is on our minds. We have the ability to describe things in great detail. We are able to articulate our feelings, to argue, and to discuss matters of importance. No other animal has this gift.

We make sense of the world by talking about it. We give names to things, just as Adam was told to name the living creatures in Eden.

The Imagination

Humans are imaginative creatures. This is expressed in many ways: art, symbolic communication, and story telling. We speak of events past, present, and future and we elaborate, adding details that make the story more interesting or funny. 

Jesus used stories, called "parables" to teach people about God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Philosophers use moralistic stories to teach ethics and moral behavior.  They hope that such instruction will help students to be productive citizens who contribute to the common good of their society.

Awareness of our Mortality

Humans are conscious of death. We know that humans die and that each of us will experience this reality. This recognition influences how we live each day. Some regard life as a gift and take care of themselves and others. Some regard human life a cheap, because, after all is said and done, we must die. 

Humans react differently to the reality of death. Some seek consolation in pleasures like food, alcohol, sex (hedonism). Others seek to be less interested in these in order to dedicate their time and effects to things that they believe are pleasing to God: humility, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, etc. These are people who look for "the life of the world to come." They believe that in that life, there will no longer be death and every tear will be wiped away. 

Homo Ludens (Playful Creature)

Humans are the only living creatures that have the ability to mentally stand apart from themselves to see the humor of our condition. We are able to crack jokes about our flaws and behaviors.

We are able to play games. We invent games to entertain ourselves. We laugh, dance, chase each other around, and strategize about how to gain an advantage over the other players.