The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. by Evelyn Underhill, , at sacred-texts.com
That God giveth this grace freely without any means, and that it may not be come to with means.
AND if thou askest me by what means thou shalt come to this work, I beseech Almighty God of His great grace and His great courtesy to teach thee Himself. For truly I do thee well to wit that I cannot tell thee, and that is no wonder. For why, that is the work of only God, specially wrought in what soul that Him liketh without any desert of the same soul. For without it no saint nor no angel can think to desire it. And I trow that our Lord as specially and as oft—yea! and more specially and more oft—will vouchsafe to work this work p. 181 in them that have been accustomed sinners, than in some other, that never grieved Him greatly in comparison of them. And this will He do, for He will be seen all‑merciful and almighty; and for He will be seen to work as Him list, where Him list, and when Him list.
And yet He giveth not this grace, nor worketh not this work, in any soul that is unable thereto. And yet, there is no soul without this grace, able to have this grace: none, whether it be a sinner’s soul or an innocent soul. For neither it is given for innocence, nor withholden for sin. Take good heed, that I say withholden, and not withdrawn. Beware of error here, I pray thee; for ever, the nearer men touch the truth, more wary men behoveth to be of error. I mean but well: if thou canst not conceive it, lay it by thy side till God come and teach thee. Do then so, and hurt thee not.
Beware of pride, for it blasphemeth God in His gifts, and boldeneth sinners. p. 182 Wert thou verily meek, thou shouldest feel of this work as I say: that God giveth it freely without any desert. The condition of this work is such, that the presence thereof enableth a soul for to have it and for to feel it. And that ableness may no soul have without it. The ableness to this work is oned to the work’s self without departing; so that whoso feeleth this work is able thereto, and none else. Insomuch, that without this work a soul is as it were dead, and cannot covet it nor desire it. Forasmuch as thou willest it and desirest it, so much hast thou of it, and no more nor no less: and yet is it no will, nor no desire, but a thing thou wottest never what, that stirreth thee to will and desire thou wottest never what. Reck thee never if thou wittest no more, I pray thee: but do forth ever more and more, so that thou be ever doing.
And if I shall shortlier say, let that thing do with thee and lead thee whereso it list. Let it be the worker, p. 183 and you but the sufferer: do but look upon it, and let it alone. Meddle thee not therewith as thou wouldest help it, for dread lest thou spill all. Be thou but the tree, and let it be the wright: be thou but the house, and let it be the husbandman dwelling therein. Be blind in this time, and shear away covetise of knowing, for it will more let thee than help thee. It sufficeth enough unto thee, that thou feelest thee stirred likingly with a thing thou wottest never what, else that in this stirring thou hast no special thought of any thing under God; and that thine intent be nakedly directed unto God.
And if it be thus, trust then steadfastly that it is only God that stirreth thy will and thy desire plainly by Himself, without means either on His part or on thine. And be not feared, for the devil may not come so near. He may never come to stir a man’s will, but occasionally and by means from afar, be he never so subtle a devil. p. 184 For sufficiently and without means may no good angel stir thy will: nor, shortly to say, nothing but only God. So that thou mayest conceive here by these words somewhat (but much more clearly by the proof), that in this work men shall use no means: nor yet men may not come thereto with means. All good means hang upon it, and it on no means; nor no means may lead thereto. p. 185