I wrote this essay as one of the course assignments for my Master's degree in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred at Canterbury Christ Church University in Canterbury, England. The assignment was to 'Analyse one or two examples of symbolic or sacred texts or images using the four senses hermeneutic'. It touches briefly on the healing and visionary power of dance. Here is an excerpt:
For this essay I have chosen to analyse an image from Hildegard von Bingen’s 12th- Century masterwork ‘Liber Scivias’, ‘Know the Ways’. Saint Hildegard was a Benedictine abbess, visionary, healer, philosopher, teacher, writer and composer, seen as the founder of scientific natural history in Germany (Newman 1997, Schipperges 1997, Throop 1998). It seems appropriate to apply the four senses hermeneutic to one of Hildegard’s images, since she would have been familiar with this exegetical method through her daily practice of lectio divina in the Benedictine tradition (Hildegard, Feiss, McNamara, and Benedict, 2005: 16).
I would like to begin with a brief overview of the four senses hermeneutic, and also to address some of the challenges of employing it in an academic context. I will then explore Hildegard’s image ‘The Trinity’ via the four senses, sharing my own subjective experience when we reach the tropological and anagogic levels, and in the spirit of uniting mind and body in the gnostic pursuit of wisdom, also making a slight detour to the realms of music and dance…
Further down in the essay I write about a personal experience I had while dancing in connection to the themes I address in the essay:
… The third part of my personal experience began with the translation of these nighttime dreams or visions into my waking life and my work as a teacher of traditional dances. Not long after my visit to Bingen, as I was leading a dance circle of about 45 women, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the transcendent white light and extreme heat I had been experiencing in my dreams. My body began to pour with sweat. I felt a deep inner sense that this light was intended to reach the whole circle of women, and through them to touch others in their lives. Four of the women present later reported that at that moment they had felt an extraordinary and tangible heat flowing from me to them around the circle.
You can read the whole essay at