Shanti Sadan and Self-Knowledge name
Vol.62 No.3 Summer 2011

Light Above the Cloud of Unknowing

The Cloud of Unknowing is a classic text from the Christian mystical tradition. The narrator, addressing his pupil, suggests that there are four stages in the spiritual path, which he calls ordinary, special, solitary and perfect. By ordinary he means a life in the world lived according to ethical principles. Special means those who have entered a spiritual community or vocation. A solitary is one of those few within such a community who dedicate themselves entirely to the inner spiritual enquiry. Perfection is the culmination of the solitary life, conceived as the bliss of union with God. Evidently the author considers his pupil to have reached the stage of a solitary, and he assumes that the pupil wishes to know what is necessary for him to proceed towards perfection. This is the main subject of the book. He says:

Your whole life now must be one of longing, if you are to achieve perfection. And this longing must be in the depths of your will, put there by God, with your consent. But a word of warning: He is a jealous lover... He does not ask for help, He asks for you. His will is that you should look to Him, and let Him have His way... If you are willing to do this, you need only to lay hold upon God humbly, and He will soon help you. God is ready and is waiting for you. But what am I to do, you say, and how am I to lay hold?

The value of this book is how fully and practically it answers this question.

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