Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Cloud of Unknowing

"Our intense need to understand will always be a powerful stumbling block to our attempts to reach God in simple love..." --14th century English mystic

The modern reader of spiritual texts may surely have come upon this 14th century text. Its roots go even farther and deeper to the days of Plato and before. Some may deduce that they have come into an esoteric knowledge after reading excerpts of The Cloud of Unknowing when called by another name.

Indeed this ancient text again finds currency in 20th century spiritual thought. Yet the simplicity and the point which its author sought to bring forth was one that expressed the vitality of love as the central authority and force of all created beings; that, when at the 'end of words,' one must turn to the "cloud of unknowing" to further enter into the mystery of love.

For its writer expounds, there is no other way to knowing the All [god, god-head] save through love in its expanded form, a form that is not intellectual. Today's thinker is familiar with the term 'mysticism' which the Cloud's writer was not. He thought of it, simply, as hid [middle English-- hide, hidden] divinity. In this mind, he delves into the secrets of divine love. The heart of his revelation is disarmingly simple: love. We are all creations of love, he says.

He seeks to lead the practitioner of his method of meditation to the very being of god, which he says is being itself. Employing the simplest of methods, this mystic teaches a "here-there" or a "from-to" way of meditating a person between the everyday world into a world of light, of humility, of charity. The Cloud states, "for in this [everyday] life, no man can see God."

With simple confidence the Cloud says, 'The one who perseveres, who walks with courage, with faith, hope, and most of all, love, guides his soul through all manner of difficulty, which if faithfully followed leads the seeker to loving, in union with the One, the God.'

Throughout the ages and into modernity, many have loved and been moved by the writing, The Cloud of Unknowing. They would include thinkers such as St. Bernard, St. John of the Cross, French theologian, Teilhard de Chardin, and Pope John Paul II.

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