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The Cloud of Unknowing

Written around the year 1375, The Cloud of Unknowing was written as a letter of advice to a young novice just setting out on the path of contemplation.  The author, believed to have been a country parson, writes in a personal, direct style, hoping to share his knowledge of contemplation with the young would-be monk.

  The theme of the Cloud of Unknowing is of turning one’s attention within, away from the mind and its objects. The attention is turned inward upon itself, and since it is now focused on nothing the mind can understand, sees only a ‘cloud of unknowing’, a seeming nothingness. For most seekers, this can be frustrating, if not impossible, for it gives no immediate reward, or even an object or image for their mind to grasp. To simply aim one’s attention at its own source is to look back up the ray of one’s awareness, where the mind and ego cannot go. This also takes the attention off of the body and its desires and fears, along with the senses and outer environment.

Cloud
Cloud

For when you first begin to undertake it, all that you find is a darkness, a sort of cloud of unknowing; you cannot tell what it is, except that you experience in your will a simple reaching out to God [a naked intent unto God]. This darkness and cloud is always between you and your God, no matter what you do, and it prevents you from seeing him clearly by the light of understanding in your reason, and from experiencing him in sweetness of love in your affection.

 – You are to smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love. -… no man can think of God himself. Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think. Because he can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought. – Cloud of Unknowing
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The gift of The Cloud is its simple message of going beyond the mind. We cannot find our Source, or “God”, by thinking, or through worded thought, but only through what it calls love or longing. This may be called a vector, a direction we follow through our intuition, even after we have gone beyond our mind. It leads us into an uncharted realm, a cloud of unknowing in the back of beyond, where we lose our ‘self’. If we continue into this Great Unknown, guided by this longing, perhaps we will meet our Self,  and find we have been there all along.
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For whoever hears or reads about all this, and thinks that it is fundamentally an activity of the mind, and proceeds then to work it all out along these lines, is on quite the wrong track. He manufactures an experience that is neither spiritual or physical. He is dangerously misled and in real peril. – Cloud of Unknowing

 

http://www.mysticmissal.org/archive4_cloud_of_unknowing.htm