The Cloud of Unknowing

The Cloud of Unknowing

by Anonymous

As the unknown author assures us, if you are to experience Him or to see Him at all, insofar as it is possible here, it must always be in this cloud.

The Cloud of Unknowing.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Spirituality
  • Rating: 4.19
  • Pages: 176
  • Publish Date: September 1st 2004 by HarperCollins
  • Isbn10: 0060737751
  • Isbn13: 9780060737757

What People Think about "The Cloud of Unknowing"

The reason that I rate the book so low is because I find good Christian writers are able to actively engage in the world around them, and while I do not necessarily agree with what a lot of them write, I do know that the good ones live in the world and interact with real people, as opposed to the monks of the medieval world who shut themselves away to spend their lives contemplating the nature of God. It reminds me of the story of this guy back in Roman times who built himself a column and sat on top of it so that he could escape sin, yet it did not matter how high the column was he could not escape the world.

The author writes to the true contemplatives of the church, and advises that the best way to God, for those who are able, is to direct their full attention, love, and effort to addressing themselves, in all meekness, to the cloud of unknowing that permanently stands between them and their God. To do so effectively, one must give no more thought or concern to this earth, the people in it, the past, sin, or even oneself or the goodness of God. Thats right, even Gods good works, the lessons of the scripture, miracles and Gods goodness are distractions that stand in the way of addressing ourselves to the naked God himself. Im a little lazy at the moment, and Im sure the anonymous author of this work would not want me to be excessively curious or deceived by a devil-inspired wit. True active service, as good works, is the first part of active life. Contemplation of the mysteries, Gods work, scripture, and such, is ghostly active, but not bodily active. But loving God in himself, and thus becoming meek, while pushing down all concerns of the world below the cloud of forgetting is the second part of contemplative life, the third of all the parts, the only part of life that has a chance to persist eternally, and is surely the best. I could probably make an infinity of additional observations (the relationship between ghostly and bodily resembles method acting, achieving results by not caring about results is like good poker play, and the bodily workings of the contemplative are like the jnani whose outer self carries out its tasks mindlessly while the true self is realized...), but instead I will do a work that is part Godly and part devilish or who knows. Whoso heareth this work either be read or spoken of, and weeneth that it may, or should, be come to by travail in their wits, shall fall either into frenzies, or else into other great mischiefs of ghostly sins and devils' deceits; through the which he may lightly be lost, both life and soul, without any end. Love may reach to God in this life, but not knowing. All the whiles that the soul dwelleth in this deadly body, evermore is the sharpness of our understanding in beholding of all ghostly things, but most specially of God, mingled with some manner of fantasy; for the which our work should be unclean. And therefore swink and sweat in all that thou canst and mayest, for to get thee a true knowing and a feeling of thyself as thou art. Man shall have none excusation against God in the Doom, and at the giving of account of dispending of time, saying, "Thou givest two times at once, and I have but one stirring at once." In one little time, as little as it is, may heaven be won and lost. And no wonder though thou loathe and hate for to think on thyself, when thou shalt always feel sin, a foul stinking lump thou wittest never what, betwixt thee and thy God: the which lump is none other thing than thyself. Yet in all this sorrow he desireth not to unbe: for that were devils madness and despite unto God. I tell thee truly, that the devil hath his contemplatives as God hath his. And they say that they be stirred thereto by the fire of charity, and of Gods love in their hearts: and truly they lie, for it is with the fire of hell, welling in their brains and in their imagination. That perfect stirring of love that beginneth here is even in number with that that shall last without end in the bliss of heaven, for all it is but one. Then shalt though feel thine affection inflamed with the fire of His love, far more than I can tell thee, or may or will at this time. For of that work, that falleth to only God, dare I not take upon me to speak with my blabbering fleshly tongue: and shortly to say, although I durst I would do not.

Reading any medieval Christian mystic is difficult, but this made Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross look easy. "For at the first time when thou dost it, thou findest but a darkness; and as it were a cloud of unknowing, thou knowest not what, saving that thou feelest in thy will a naked intent unto God. This darkness and this cloud is, howsoever thou dost, betwixt thee and thy God, and letteth thee that thou mayest neither see Him clearly by light of understanding in thy reason, nor feel Him in sweetness of love in thine affection. With this word, thou shalt beat on this cloud and this darkness above thee." Anonymous (2010-10-07). And all the whiles that the soul dwelleth in this deadly body, evermore is the sharpness of our understanding in beholding of all ghostly things, but most specially of God, mingled with some manner of fantasy; for the which our work should be unclean . "if thou wilt stand and not fall, cease never in thine intent: but beat evermore on this cloud of unknowing that is betwixt thee and thy God with a sharp dart of longing love, and loathe for to think on aught under God, and go not thence for anything that befalleth." Anonymous (2010-10-07).

In The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th-century monk, a master of the practice of Christian contemplation, explores both the philosophy/theology behind the practice and the method of practice itself. The true contemplative must, he says, when he practices contemplation, shut out the external world and all thoughts of that world and turn his mind entirely on the God of pure love.

As I described under "The Way of The Pilgrim", The Jesus Prayer or "The Prayer" is a short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated within the Eastern Orthodox church: , , . It is similar to the repetitive recital of the rosary, the use of prayer beads, chanting, or a mantra.

The one being directed would be called a "ghostly friend." A "ghostly" reader such as myself never actually finishes such books because they have no plotthe "ghostly" realm is timeless.