The Cloud of Unknowing

My notes from book The Cloud of Unknowing

  • p5 And in the name of love, I ask, whoever you are, however this book came into your hands - maybe you own it, have borrowed it, are delivering it to someone else, or are safekeeping it for other - regardless, I beg you in the powerful name of love, it at all possible don't read it to anyone or copy it or quote from it, and don't let anyone else read it, copy it, or quote from it, unless, in your opinion, that person is sincere in their intention to follow Christ.
  • p9 You're human, so watch out for that enemy, pride. Never think you're holier or better than anyone else. Never confuse the worthiness of your calling with who you are. Don't think that, just because you're at the third, or singular level, you're more important than others. In fact, if you don't live out your calling, empowered by grace and good advice, the opposite will be true. You'll be worse off, more miserable and cut off from community than you can imagine. So let grade and wise instruction lead you to the good in your soul and then act on that good.
  • p10 I especially want you to remember this: God is a jealous lover. He will not share you, so don't give yourself to anyone but him. He's unwilling to work in your will unless you're willing to be entirely his, and his alone. He's not asking for your help. He's asking for you.
  • p12 They will always keep you from seeing him clearly by the light of understanding in your intellect and will block you from feeling him fully in the sweetness of love in your emotions. So, be sure you make your home in this darkness.
  • p13 Every moment of time is a gift to you, and one day you'll be asked how you spent each one.
  • p17 I do not want people sitting around analyzing, racking their brains, their curiosity forcing their imagination to go entirely the wrong way. It's not wise for the mind, and it's not healthy for the body. These people are dangerous deluded, and it would take a miracle to save them.
  • p28 So let go of every clever, persuasive thought. Put it down and cover it with a thick cloud of forgetting. No matter how sacred, no thought can ever promise to help you in the work of contemplative prayer, because only love - not knowledge - can help us reach God. As long as you are a soul living in a mortal body, your intellect, no matter how sharp and spiritually discerning, never sees God perfectly. The mind is always distorted in some way, warping our work; and at its worst, our intellect can lead us to great error.
  • p33 For example, if you find yourself obsessing on someone, on some physical injury, or on some painful conversation, you risk becoming a bitter person obsessed with revenge, which is the sin of anger. If you let your soul feel total contempt and loathing for someone, and it you're always insulting and censuring them in your mind, you're living with envy. If you give in to a feeling of malaise and exhaustion, that's laziness. On the other hand, if you find yourself entertaining ideas so pleasant that you could rest in them forever, only yo realize that these thoughts are all about your own natural goodness, accomplishments, intelligence, talents, position, or beauty, this is pride. And if you dwell on your wealth and what you own (or want to own), then that's greed. If you're preoccupied with lots and lots of food and drink and only the best will do, you know gluttony. And if you're seduced by an inordinate love of giving or receiving flattery and by a deep-seated need to be liked, or by sexual pleasures, this is lust.
  • p39 Get to know yourself. Yes, it is backbreaking labor. Embrace it. Through it, you'll experience God as he is. I don't mean you'll know God completely. That's not possible for anyone on earth. Nor do I mean you'll know him as you will in the absolute joy of eternity, when body and soul are truly on. But when you get to know yourself better as the mortal human you are, your soul grows in humility, and you'll know God as fully as possible on earth.
  • p42 For both of us, the best way to grow in humility is not through reflecting on our weaknesses but by remembering God's goodness and love.
  • p63 In the work of contemplation, however, there's no time for analyzing people into the categories of friends or enemy, relative or stranger. Yes, of course you'll continue to feel closer to some than to others. It's only natural, and there's nothing wrong with that. Love has its reasons. Look at Christ. He felt a deeper affection for John, Mary, and Peter than for others. That's fine, but what I'm saying is that during the work of contemplation, you should feel the same intimate love for everyone, because your only reason to love is God. Plain and simple, all people must be loved for God, and they must be loved just as well as you love yourself.
  • p70 However, don't be surprised if sometimes those we consider the "worst" sinners - I mean people who've done horrible things - advance more quickly in this work than those we regard as relatively "innocent." These are merciful miracles of out Lord. God is generous with his grace, and the world looks on, astonished.
  • p71 My point is - don't judge. No person on earth should be judged by another. Nobody can say whether what someone else does is "good" or "evil." That said, yes, you can scrutinize a person's actions, weigh them in your mind, and determine whether the deeds themselves are good or evil, but you cannot judge the person.
  • p72 Judge yourself as you want - that's between you and God or your spiritual director - but leave others alone.
  • p77 Still, accept that you will always have to work hard, because every day you will encounter fresh temptations springing up from original sin, and you are responsible for beating them back with the awesome, sharp, double-edged sword or discernment. Through such experiences, you learn that this life offers no real security and no lasting rest.
  • p79 In short, let God's grace do with you what it wants. Let it lead you wherever it wishes. Let it work and you receive. Look on it, watch it, and leave it alone. Don't meddle with it, trying to help, as if you could assist grace. Fear that your interference could wreck everything. Instead, be the tree, and let it e the carpenter. Be the house, and let it be the homeowner living there. Become blind during contemplative prayer and cut yourself off from needing to know things.
  • p80 No routine leads to love.
  • p83 Your ability to reason is never helpful in contemplation.
  • p97 Watch how a true lover acts. When you are perfect in love, you always love your beloved more than yourself. In fact, in many ways you'll neglect yourself to serve the one you love. That's how you should handle yourself.
  • p100 To be aware you're alive is genuinely painful, but if you're fortunate enough to feel not merely who you are but that you are, you understand more than others do why sorrow is universal and inescapable.
  • p116 Be careful not to interpret literally what I mean spiritually.
  • p124 However, some people are so insecure that they focus all of their energy on their reputations, so they deliberately inject their conversations with humble-sounding words and fake loving gestures.
  • p125 The devil won't tempt them with anything obviously evil; instead, he makes them act like zealous church leaders keeping watch over every aspect of our Christian life or like an abbot overseeing his monks. These people criticize all people for their faults, as if they were really pastors, legally responsible for the care of others' souls. They believe God requires this from them and that they dare not stop. Then they say that God's love and a desire to help others moves them to point out others' imperfections, but they lie. The fire of hell has ignited their brains and their imaginations.
  • p126 People with this strength learn to distinguish good from evil, bad from worse, and good from better, before passing judgment on anything they've heard or seen.
  • p147 Like reason, will, and imagination, sensuality and its objects are contained in the mind.
  • p155 So, work diligently in this nothing, which is nowhere.
  • p156 When we reach the end of what we know, that's where we find God.
  • p173 When you consider God, think only that he is as he is, and when you focus on yourself, be simply aware that you are as you are.
  • p175 Learning to focus, not on what you are, but that you are.
  • p192 But where can we find someone so completely rooted in faith, so totally humble in the awareness of their nothingness, and so happily led and nurtured by our Lord's love, that they fully experience God's omnipotence, unknowable wisdom, and awesome goodness?
  • p203 The burden of self is larger even than all the misery of the world. Nothing compares. You become your own cross. Bearing this burden is the way of contemplation, and it leads us to our Lord, as he says: First "let a person take up his or her own cross" (in the agony of self-awareness) and then "follow me," as he promises, "into the joy and onto the summit of spiritual maturity, where you'll taste the sweet gentleness of my love in the sublime experience of my divine person."
  • p204 When I say "my self," I don't mean my activities, for I'm not what I do, and I'm not what I've done. Some people confuse the two. They so identify with their accomplishments that they assume these are who they are, but the doer and the deed are two separate entities. The same is true of God. He is not his works. God is God.
  • p209 Don't evaluate or discuss God's decisions, or anyone else's, for that matter. You can only know for yourself whether God is moving in your soul and calling you to perfection or not. Everyone has a unique calling, and it's none of your business what God calls others to do.
  • p218 You're in a little ship crossing a vast spiritual ocean, leaving behind your focus on physical and heading toward the life of the spirit. Along the way you'll meet countless overwhelming storms and endless temptations. You'll feel alone and depressed, with nowhere to tun for help. You'll think you've lost God.
  • p202 Here's how God works. When these comforting emotions, or signs of his grace, are absent, you learn patience. When they're present, your spirit is nourished by joy, and grow. Together, these twin experiences teach you much. You learn to bow to every situation, happy to obey the demands or spiritual maturity and your union with God's will. This is perfect love. You will eventually reach a point where you no longer care whether you experience the absence of these pleasant feelings or their presence. Always accepting God's will, even when these graceful emotions are absent, you will be just as happy and just as joyful then as you would be if they were with you every moment of every day of your entire life.

comments powered by Disqus