Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Cloud of Unknowing

Written by an Anonymous English monk during the late fourteenth century. The book counsels a student to seek God not through knowledge, but through intense contemplation, motivated by love, what involves spiritual union with God through the heart.

"[In the work of contemplation] take care that nothing is active in your mind or in your will but only God. Try to strike down all your knowing and feeling of everything less than God, and tread everything down far beneath the cloud of forgetting. Then you will understand that in this work you are not only to forget all creatures besides yourself, along with their deeds (and your own deeds as well); but in this work you are also to forget both yourself and even the things you have done for the sake of God. For it is the way of those who have perfect love that they not only love the things they love more than they love themselves, but also, in some sense, that they hate themselves for the sake of what they love.

This is what you are to do with yourself. You shall loathe and be impatient with everything that is active in your mind and in your will unless it is God. Anything else, whatever it may be, will come between you and your God. It is no wonder, then, that you should loathe and hate to think of yourself, for you always feel sin as a foul stinking lump of some kind, intruding between you and your God. And this lump is nothing else than yourself. For you must realise that sin is identified with yourself: it is inseparable from you..

Destroy therefore all your knowing and feeling of every kind of creature, and especially of yourself. Your thinking and feeling of all other creatures depends on your awareness of yourself, for when you have overcome that, all other creatures can easily be forgotten. If you will take the trouble to test it, you will find that when all other things and activities have been forgotten (even your own) there still remains between you and God the stark awareness of your own existence. And this awareness, too, must go, before you experience contemplation in its perfection."

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