Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: "The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard"


I was recently contacted by Mr. Reid Turner, author of the book The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard, who graciously send me an advance copy of this excellent little work to review. Like Heralds of the Second Coming by Stephen Walford, Mr. Turner attempts to break fee of the standard eschatological tropes common in Catholic apocalyptic literature by restricting himself to a much narrower field of study. Rather than seeking to present the Church's whole teaching on the end times or exegete the Book of Revelation, he focuses in on a very specific study of the eschatological visions of St. Hildegard of Bingen.

St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), blessed with visionary experiences since childhood, was encouraged by Pope Eugenius III to record them. After ten years she produced Scivias, Latin for "Know the Ways", which includes her famous vision of five beasts. The five beasts are symbolic animals that represent five historical periods of time that Hildegard said would precede the Antichrist. Each era experiences a unique spiritual crisis intended to inflict damage on the Church in preparation for the coming of the son of perdition. 

Mr. Turner argues convincingly that the symbolism described in the vision reflects today’s world, with the first of the five eras having begun in the 1870s. He identifies the loss of the Papal States in 1870 as the eschatological key that begins the clock that ticks down to the end. Mr. Turner presents each of Hildegard's beasts and correlates them with the spiritual crises and mores of particular historical epochs, coming to the conclusion that we are currently in the middle of the fourth of five beasts. Hildegard's description of the fifth beast thus serves as a guide for what to expect in the decades ahead.

The book is very cautious; when it makes connections and inferences, it does so in a very qualified manner, respecting the limits posed by the nature of eschatological speculation. That being said, the inferences it does make are very strong and convincing. I have never investigated the beasts of Hildegard before reading Mr. Turner's book, but I found his historical interpretation of the beasts to be both historically and exegetically sound - in some cases, it was quite extraordinary how the visions of Hildegard lined up with Mr. Turner's proposed chronology.

Any student of Catholic eschatology, especially that branch which studies the private revelations of the saints, will want to check our Mr. Turner's book. It is brief - 91 pages. I read it in a single weekend. Reid Turner is no amateur, either; he has a BA in Biblical Studies from Bethel University in St. Paul and pursued graudate studies in the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, where he converted to Catholicism and was received into the Church in 1987.

I highly recommend this little book to your collection of eschatological works. And the price is right, too; at only $11.05, who can complain? You can obtain the book from Amazon

25 comments:

Marcel Ghost said...

I was reading your review of Heralds of the Second Coming, and was wondering if you've ever encountered the Marian Movement for Priests. This group seems to believe in some "era of peace" and it never jived with my understanding of the Second Coming.

Boniface said...

Yes I have. The Marian Movement of Priests is based on the interior locutions of Fr. Stefano Gobbi. It is bunk. Unlike Medjogorje and Garabandal, however, this movement has never been formally condemned, as far as I know. Thus the designation "bunk" is merely my opinion.

Those I have read who have been in the movement describe it as cultic and rife with heresies, although you will not find this in their official materials.

I personally do not believe in an era of peace, but there is a strong current in Church history - mainly since the Baroque era - who believe in an era of peace.

Dr. Mabuse said...

Based on your recommendation, I ordered the Kindle version and read it in one afternoon. Very interesting. The interpretation of the first 4 beasts was the easiest to follow, as there's an historical record to connect to. The last one, being a future prophecy, was a little harder to understand; I'll read the book again in a day or two, to see if reflection adds to the interpretation.

I found his proposed interpretation of "those who should love [the Church] will violently persecute her" as referring to *radical Muslims* as a bit of a reach. Hildegard surely knew of Islam in her time, and could never have considered Muslims as anything but enemies. I would think that "those who should love her" would be her own "sons", starting with the self-declared "son of the Church" who's mangling her from the throne of St. Peter.

Boniface said...

Dr. Mabuse-

I agree. It seems evident that this passage was referring to unfaithful clergy. I contacted the author about that and asked for him to explain his thinking there.

Antitwat said...

" Unlike Medjogorje and Garabandal, however, this movement has never been formally condemned"

Can you tell us oh smug one, when the Roman Catholic Church condemned Garabandal?

Tina said...

I purchased the Kindle version of the book and finished reading it in quick order. It was a good read and although I have no knowledge of St. Hildergard's writings, I found Mr. Turner's analysis plausible and cautious. I agree with Dr. Mabuse that the eras suggested by the beasts that can be linked to past historical facts seem to fall in line. I did, however, have some reservations about the dating associated with the fourth and fifth beasts. The book was published December 4, 2014. This was after the Pope Emeritus resigned. Mr. Turner does not mention this in his analysis of the fourth beast. I would posit that this important historical and Church related incident should (possibly) play a role in determining the end or beginning of an era. That's just my two cents. I would recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in eschatology. It will be interesting to see what people who are knowledgeable in history and Church eschatology have to say about Mr. Turner's interpretation of St. Hildegard's writings.

Boniface said...

Antitwat-

Four bishops of Santander have all declared the phenomenon at Garabandal to not be supernatural; is, not from God. Per the Church's legislation, the local bishop has jurisdiction. An apparition is condemned if it is condemned by the local bishop. Four bishops of that diocese have all done so. No bishop of Santander has ever approved the apparition, and the Holy See has confirmed their judgment.

Mark said...

"I personally do not believe in an era of peace, but there is a strong current in Church history"

Why not though (just out of curiosity)? Didn't Our Lady of Fatima promise that her Immaculate Heart would triumph and an period of peace would be given to the world?

Boniface said...

Mark,

The triumph of the Immaulate Heart is said to be "in the end", which I take to be as after the period of Tribulation and Antichrist. The "era of peace" that many propose - such as the followers of Luisa Piccaretta - place this era of peace in the historical age before the tribulation. I guess I should be more specific and say I don't believe in a pre-tribulation historical era of peace.

Boniface said...

FYI-

Regarding those of you who question Mr. Turner's identification of "those who should love the Church" with radical Islam, I posed the question to him as to why he came up with this interpretation and he told me the following, which he gave me permission to share:

I did consider the possibility that "those who should love her (the Church)" was a reference to those within the Church itself; it makes sense. There were two reasons why I decided against it: (1) Hildegard states that the persecution is violent, and I take that as physical violence, otherwise I don't think she would have used that word. The damage to the Church by bad clergy is spiritual, not physical. (2) The persecution is also referred to as a "harsh reproach", hence, a punishment. I think that the bad Catholics you mention will be the recipients of the punishment, perhaps more so than faithful Catholics.

I saw the "Arab Spring" as the model. When social order broke down in those countries, violent persecution of Christians began, the police would not intervene. The large cities in Western Europe are sitting on time bombs with their unending immigration from Muslim countries, as well as their ghettoization. If Hildegard's right and social order breaks down, those with violent intentions toward Christians will take the opportunity to express themselves. I explore this in a number of posts on the book's blog, particularly in light of a recent increase in violent acts by ISIS sympathizers in Europe. I suppose that the persecution could even take different forms in different places, like in the U.S.

Again, it's only conjecture. Hildegard's vision of the Grey Wolf could play out in a number of different scenarios. I'm interested in anyone's thoughts and love to see discussion generated on the subject.

Anonymous said...

off topic

http://denzingerbergoglio-en.com/

Vladimir

Boniface said...

Wow thank you! I am going to link that up.

Dr. Mabuse said...

Thank you for contacting the author for that clarification, Boniface. His argument for the persecutors NOT being unfaithful clergy makes sense, but I still am not convinced by his argument FOR it being Muslims. But Tina's suggestion that the abdication of Benedict XVI might be the moment that ends the era of the 4th beast and begins the era of the fifth is a good one. If so, we won't have to wait long to discover the meaning of this cryptic phrase.

Anonymous said...

Boniface - I am not familiar with this movement although I have seen some of their material, so I will not comment expect to say to use caution and throw away anything that contradicts the Deposit of the Fatih. As for an era of peace the logical explanation would be the period of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima. It would seem however we will endure a chastisement before this era, as God will not be mocked and the Church needs to be purified. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have emphasized this in relation to Fatima. IMHO the time between Oct 2015 and Oct 2017 8s likely to be very painful for the faithful but Our Lady did promise protection for those who obey her and her divine son.

Boniface said...

I had Fr. Stefano Gobbi's book and read through most of it. I would not say I am an expert on it by any means, but I know enough about it.

David said...

Wont those that should love her be the people of the former cristian nations? West europe and anglos mainly.

K said...

Boniface, how come you don't have LMS Chairman listed among the other blogs? You must know about it; so many excellent articles.

Also, have you set up international shipping yet?

T-C- said...

With respect to the era of peace, what about the prophecies of St. John Don Bosco?

http://www.franciscan-archive.org/bosco/opera/boscofr.html

They seem to suggest a great era of peace, no?

Boniface said...

I don't have time to read all that right now.

I do not deny that some saints seem to have believed in an era of peace. I just think the preponderance of evidence is against it.

T-C- said...

I understand. But the issue I see is that St. John Don Bosco and his prophecies were held as credible by the Popes during his time (at least from what I have read). Then we have the prophecies of St. Hildegard which seem to have had Papal respect as well.

So it feels like either both should fall (i.e. all these prophecies are just the imagination of the saints, none more credible than the other) or both stand (i.e. there will be a time of peace and a correct interpretation of St. Hildegard must necessarily take that into account).

I am not sure it saves the credibility of private revelations as a whole, if try to see which prophecy has the consensus among saints. The entire idea that a private revelation prophecy is more likely to be true if there is a consensus seems like a supernatural claim in itself.

Boniface said...

Yeah, I don't know. Given that not even the Pope can bind a Catholic to believe in the fact of a specific private revelation, it seems even less likely that there can be any authoritative interpretation of such revelations over and above what can be deduced from honest exegesis and common sense.

I just personally don't believe in an era of peace and think that the Scriptures and many of the saints are in support of this notion. I have also found that belief in an era of peace is almost (not entirely) but almost entirely confined to the post-Tridentine era - or rather I should say that it is much less pronounced prior to Trent.

T-C- said...

I see what you mean. Not to disagree with you but honestly wondering, how do you consider the words of Fatima "In the end my immaculate heart will triumph"? Is it as referring to the triumph at the end of the world? Because that feels a bit underwhelming considering we knew about the triumph at the end of the world.

I do personally hope Church will one day be on display [at least for a short time] in all her splendor and might before the end of the world. True, the Church seemed to have been in that state before the renaissance. But that wasn't really global [more like European] and she was still under attack from the Muslims. Its like looking at Church history, there was never an era of peace, even for a moment....

Boniface said...

Well, yes, I had always taken the phrase "in the end" to mean, literally , as in, ultimately the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Reign of Jesus will triumph at the coming of the Kingdom. I personally never can see anything anticlimactic about the Second Coming and end of the world, lol.

And yes, you are right, the Church has never had an era of peace. But I do not believe it ever will have one. "ndeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12); I think this applies to every time and place. There is no peace in the Vale of Tears.

But. I am not dogmatic on this point. It's just my opinion.

T-C- said...

So the Fatima quote with some context reads as follows (according to EWTN)

The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.

This peace cannot be referring to the one at the end of the world, no? Because that would mean eternal life is not going to be peaceful for eternity but for only for a period.

I also meant to say that "at the end" as referring to the "end of the world" would be underwhelming because its something that was already well known. Every Christian since Christ knew that the second coming would be the complete and final victory over the world. So in that sense the Fatima prophecy seemed more redundant than foretelling anything new.

Boniface said...

Eh...good point. Still, I don't believe this corresponds to the "Age of Peace" or "Era of Peace" spoken of by some, which is said to go on for hundreds of years. If this does happen, I believe it will be more of a momentary respite, a calm before the storm. Like I said, I am not totally set against the idea; what I reject is some of the more outlandish theories about the age of peace that I read in the works of Fr. Joseph Ianuzzi, for example. I do believe firmly that as we go, things get worse, and worse, and worse and eventually end in chaos, destruction, warfare and apocalypse. If there is a period of peace, it will be momentary - a breath before the plunge; how long is momentary? I don't know.