Reading guide for Illuminations by Mary Sharratt

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A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen

by Mary Sharratt

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  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 288 pages
    Oct 2013, 288 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In our contemporary culture, we can little fathom walling a child into a small space as a spiritual offering--a living sacrifice. How did this kind of isolation and austerity effect Hildegard's character and later life? How much of her "genius" might have had its genesis in learning to preserve her sanity in such inauspicious surroundings?

  2. Hildegard's magistra and spiritual mother, Jutta von Sponheim, embraced a spiritual path that involved extreme asceticism in the form of fasting and self-flagellation. How was Hildegard able to forge such a different spiritual path for herself, one that embraced the sacred in the natural world and a vision of overpowering divine love?

  3. From earliest childhood, Hildegard experienced radiant visions. If she were a modern child, how do you think people would view her? What kind of "diagnosis" would experts pin on her? Do you think her visions were triggered by a neurological disorder?

  4. Hildegard was deeply shaped by the relationships in her life: with Jutta, Volmar, and later Richardis. What ultimate "gift" did each of these relationships give her.

  5. After reading of Hildegard's many struggles, torments, and triumphs, what would you conclude is her greatest lesson for us today?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Mariner Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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