Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: The Five Beasts of St. Hildegarde, by Reid Turner

Apocalyptic predictions have always been with us. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems like more and more people sense that something has gone astray in the world. To those with even a modicum of historical knowledge, civilization has been going downhill for a long time. Families are dissolving, the mass migration of Third World peoples is creating strains on the resources of the First World countries they are mass invading, and trust in political leaders and institutions is at an all time low. Author Reid Turner graciously sent me a complimentary copy of his book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, in which he examines the prophecies of the eponymous saint, elevated to the rank of Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

Hildegarde's date of birth is unknown, but she wrote one of the largest bodies of letters to survive the Middle Ages. Blessed with mystical visions since childhood, Pope Eugenius III believed they came from the Holy Spirit and gave her his blessing to record them for posterity. Turner focuses on her visions of the end times as told in Part III, Chapter 11 of her work Scivias. By their very nature, mystical visions can be difficult to explain, but Turner's sobering commentary explains how well this one matches to the last 140 years or so of Western history.

Hildegarde speaks of five "ferocious epochs of temporal rule," that presage the coming of the Anti-Christ. Each epoch was symbolized by a beast. The first is the fiery dog, corresponding roughly with the period from 1870 to 1914. This time was characterized by people with biting temperaments, that burned with passions for their personal causes but not for God's justice. The second period is that of the yellow lion, from 1914 to 1945. The countries of the West would be eager for combat but the long drawn out conflict would weaken and tire them as the color yellow began to show.

The time of the pale horse, from 1945 to 1991, was a time when the people, tired of war, began to drown themselves in lust and licentiousness. This was, of course, the era of the Sexual Revolution and all of its destructive consequences for the hardiness of the West and the health of the Church. The fourth era is that of the black pig, from 1991 to the present. It's characterized by leaders who wallow in the filth of corruption and impurity. The pale horse represented fatigue after the cultural and sexual excesses of the times, but with the black pig, the hippies of the 60's have grown up and control the Establishment now. They happily diverge from the commandments of God and the natural law in their public positions.

The final era is that of the grey wolf. We have not reached it yet, but Hildegarde describes it as a time of even greater social unrest before the coming of the error of errors: the anti-Christ. She said that the people will "rob and plunder" each other, neither black nor white but grey in their cunning, dividing and conquering the rulers of the realms. Each animal is portrayed as having a black rope in its mouth, symbolizing the people's attachments to that era's particular sin. The grey wolf is different however: it's rope has strands of black and white. The white strands symbolize that there is hope in this era; some people will still hold to the true faith and resist the evils of their time through ardent wonders.

This book, like most Catholic apocalyptic works, makes for a sobering read. When we think of the end times, we imagine it mostly in Protestant terms. Not even most Catholics know about the rich theology and mystical works concerning the end times that are part of our heritage. Turner's book whets the appetite for those who would like to know more. I recommend it.


  1. I would like to think that I will resist the Antichrist if that happens during my life. But as I understand it, the AC will be a true seducer of people. It may be easy to be caught up in his lies. As an aside, Ann Barnhardt has said that Pope Francis may be the "John the Baptist" or forerunner of the AC.

  2. Very interesting book review, I'm sold. A little off subject... growing up a Catholic school girl, we were always read passages or certain verses from the bible and taught about the saints but never really delved deeper into the book of Revelations. I tried to read it at age 14 but I learned it was not for the faint of heart. My mother prayed over me for a few months. My young mind hadn't understood what it had read. I kept replaying horrific images in my head about the castigation of mankind or the anti-Christ in the form of a beast...I didn't even make it to the end for the happy ending. All I felt at the moment was that I had opened a door to hell and it took a long time with prayer and the guidance of angels to shut it. Now, at 30, after re reading a few times, that book still trips me out but I know that John really witnessed something marvelous and mysterious.

  3. Turner's book is relatively short; although packed with information, it is easy to understand and follow his arguments and analysis. His pairing of the five beasts with the specific five historical eras that he identifies seems both logical and correct. The book gives the reader much to think about and ponder, and provides insight into the times in which we live in, and where we are going. Highly recommended.