The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. by Evelyn Underhill, , at sacred-texts.com
Of divers unseemly practices that follow them that lack the work of this book.
MANY wonderful practices follow them that be deceived in this false work, or in any species thereof, beyond that doth them that be God’s true disciples: for they be evermore full seemly in all their practices, bodily or ghostly. But it is not so of these other. For whoso would or might behold unto them where they sit in this time, an it so were that their eyelids were open, he should see them stare as they were mad, and leeringly look as if they saw the devil. Surely it is good they be wary, for truly the fiend is not far. Some set their eyes in their heads as they were sturdy p. 240 sheep beaten in the head, and as they should die anon. Some hang their heads on one side as if a worm were in their ears. Some pipe when they should speak, as if there were no spirit in their bodies: and this is the proper condition of an hypocrite. Some cry and whine in their throats, so be they greedy and hasty to say that they think: and this is the condition of heretics, and of them that with presumption and with curiosity of wit will always maintain error.
Many unordained and unseemly practices follow on this error, whoso might perceive all. Nevertheless some there be that be so curious that they can refrain them in great part when they come before men. But might these men be seen in place where they be homely, then I trow they should not be hid. And nevertheless yet I trow that whoso would straitly gainsay their opinion, that they should soon see them burst out in some point; and yet them think that all that ever they p. 241 do, it is for the love of God and for to maintain the truth. Now truly I hope that unless God shew His merciful miracle to make them soon leave off, they shall love God so long on this manner, that they shall go staring mad to the devil. I say not that the devil hath so perfect a servant in this life, that is deceived and infect with all these fantasies that I set here: and nevertheless yet it may be that one, yea, and many one, be infect with them all. But I say that he hath no perfect hypocrite nor heretic in earth that he is not guilty in some that I have said, or peradventure shall say if God vouchsafeth.
For some men are so cumbered in nice curious customs in bodily bearing, that when they shall ought hear, they writhe their heads on one side quaintly, and up with the chin: they gape with their mouths as they should hear with their mouth and not with their ears. Some when they should speak point with their fingers, either on their p. 242 fingers, or on their own breasts, or on theirs that they speak to. Some can neither sit still, stand still, nor lie still, unless they be either wagging with their feet or else somewhat doing with their hands. Some row with their arms in time of their speaking, as them needed for to swim over a great water. Some be evermore smiling and laughing at every other word that they speak, as they were giggling girls and nice japing jugglers lacking behaviour. Seemly cheer were full fair, with sober and demure bearing of body and mirth in manner.
I say not that all these unseemly practices be great sins in themselves, nor yet all those that do them be great sinners themselves. But I say if that these unseemly and unordained practices be governors of that man that doth them, insomuch that he may not leave them when he will, then I say that they be tokens of pride and curiosity of wit, and of unordained shewing and covetyse of knowing. p. 243 And specially they be very tokens of unstableness of heart and unrestfulness of mind, and specially of the lacking of the work of this book. And this is the only reason why that I set so many of these deceits here in this writing; for why, that a ghostly worker shall prove his work by them. p. 244