I recently received an e-mail from someone who had just finished reading my book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, stating that it “…sent chills down my spine”. The reason it can have that effect on readers is due to the compelling case the book presents which demonstrates that four of the five symbolic beasts, representing a succession of historical eras preceding the Antichrist, may have already occurred. If readers agree with the book’s assessment of recent history in light of St. Hildegard’s vision, then they will conclude that the events marking the fifth era are likely to be experienced by them, which also includes you and me, our children and grandchildren. An era, as described by Hildegard, that would indeed send chills down your spine.
Each of the five eras also reflect a particular social evil as symbolized by its respective beast. For example, the second era, the Yellow Lion, is an epoch engulfed in militarism and malice (1914-1945); the third, that of the Pale Horse, is identified with licentiousness and hedonism (1948-1991). The fourth is the current historical era that began after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The fifth one, the era of the Grey Wolf, the only era left before the arrival of the Antichrist, is described as a time of extreme civil violence and economic disparity. Today, certain “signs of the times” suggest that this era may not be too far off. Hildegard portrays it as a period of class warfare and revolution (in another chapter she adds that it will include persecution of Christians):
“And the last is like a grey wolf; for those times will have people who plunder each other, robbing the powerful and the fortunate. …And they will divide and conquer the rulers of those realms” (Book 3, Vision 11, chapter 6) [Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, translated by Columba Hart and Jane Bishop. The Abby of Regina Laudis: Benedictine Congregation Regina Laudis of the Strict Observance, Inc. Paulist Press, 1990.]
Today we often hear concerns about income inequality and a growing “wealth gap” in America. 20% of the total income earned in the U.S. goes to the top 1% of income earners, which is double what it was a few decades ago. The distribution of wealth, however, is 10 times more unequal, with the top .01% of the population (160,000 people) owning the same amount of wealth as the bottom 145,000,000. Historically, these are recurring economic realities and there are numerous studies that demonstrate what effects they can have on a nation. One is an increase in violent crime, particularly murder. We’ve seen this in a number of American cities today like Baltimore and St. Louis. British researcher Richard Wilkinson argued that it wasn’t a nation’s overall wealth or lack thereof that determined its level of social diseases like crime, violence, mental health etc., but its level of income disparity. If he’s correct, and should this inequality continue to worsen, so also will American society. This may explain why wealthy people in New York City are building safe rooms in their apartments and adding 1400 lb. doors.
A recent historical study concluded that income inequality can also lead to civil war, adding, however, that there are always other factors involved, like extreme distrust in government or a high unemployment rate. One doesn’t need to be an historian to recall some famous examples of this: the French Revolution, Russian Revolution, American Revolution, and more recently, the “Arab Spring”. Is America today headed toward a similar end? The answer is probably no, at least not for the moment. Those other factors that historically can lead to civil war, like high unemployment, extreme distrust of the government, repressive laws, etc., are not at a level that would suggest a potential revolt. The unemployment rate is currently 5.5% (though, unlike Europe, the U.S. conveniently refuses to count as unemployed those who have given up looking for work, in which case it would be about 11%).
On the other hand, looking at Europe, the unemployment rate in Spain is 23%, it’s over 12% in Italy and France, and 26% in Greece. Youth unemployment is a staggering 51% in Spain, 43% in Italy, and 24% in France. There is also a high level of distrust of the government in Spain, Portugal, and an alarming level of mistrust in Italy.
The upshot of all these studies is that parts of Europe and America may be ticking social time-bombs. In a previous post I discussed the consequences of rising interest rates in America. Countries that are deep in debt like the U.S., U.K., Italy, Spain etc. are only able to service their debt because of extraordinary interventions by central banks to force interest rates down to the lowest level they’ve been since usury laws were enforced in the Middle Ages. Should the banks lose control of rates and they start to rise, triggering a rise in inflation, many governments would quickly find themselves insolvent. In my view, this is mathematically unavoidable. In Tunisia, inflation and rising food prices were the straws that broke the camel’s back, setting in motion the events that led to the “Arab Spring”. The era of the Grey Wolf, particularly in Europe, strikes me as only a crisis away from its own “Spring”. Changes are coming.
Keep an eye on interest rates.
In her book, Scivias, St. Hildegard writes in far more detail about the world during the era of the Grey Wolf.