The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. by Evelyn Underhill, , at sacred-texts.com
Of some certain tokens by the which a man may prove whether he be called of God to work in this work
ALL those that read or hear the matter of this book be read or spoken, and in this reading or hearing think it a good and liking thing, be never the rather called of God to work in this work, only for this liking stirring that they feel in the time of this reading. For peradventure this stirring cometh more of a natural curiosity of wit, than of any calling of grace.
But, if they will prove whence this stirring cometh, they may prove thus, if them liketh. First let them look if they have done that in them is before, abling them thereto in cleansing of p. 312 their conscience at the doom of Holy Church, their counsel according. If it be thus, it is well inasmuch: but if they will wit more near, let them look if it be evermore pressing in their remembrance more customably than is any other of ghostly exercise. And if them think that there is no manner of thing that they do, bodily or ghostly, that is sufficiently done with witness of their conscience, unless this privy little love pressed be in manner ghostly the chief of all their work: and if they thus feel, then it is a token that they be called of God to this work, and surely else not.
I say not that it shall ever last and dwell in all their minds continually, that be called to work in this work. Nay, so is it not. For from a young ghostly prentice in this work, the actual feeling thereof is ofttimes withdrawn for divers reasons. Sometime, for he shall not take over presumptuously thereupon, and ween that it be in great part in his own power p. 313 to have it when him list, and as him list. And such a weening were pride. And evermore when the feeling of grace is withdrawn, pride is the cause: not ever pride that is, but pride that should be, were it not that this feeling of grace were withdrawn. And thus ween ofttimes some young fools, that God is their enemy; when He is their full friend.
Sometimes it is withdrawn for their carelessness; and when it is thus, they feel soon after a full bitter pain that beateth them full sore. Sometimes our Lord will delay it by an artful device, for He will by such a delaying make it grow, and be had more in dainty when it is new found and felt again that long had been lost. And this is one of the readiest and sovereignest tokens that a soul may have to wit by, whether he be called or not to work in this work, if he feel after such a delaying and a long lacking of this work, that when it cometh suddenly as it doth, unpurchased with p. 314 any means, that he hath then a greater fervour of desire and greater love longing to work in this work, than ever he had any before. Insomuch, that ofttimes I trow, he hath more joy of the finding thereof than ever he had sorrow of the losing.
And if it be thus, surely it is a very token without error, that he is called of God to work in this work, whatsoever that he be or hath been.
For not what thou art, nor what thou hast been, beholdeth God with His merciful eyes; but that thou wouldest be. And Saint Gregory to witness, that all holy desires grow by delays: and if they wane by delays, then were they never holy desires. For he that feeleth ever less joy and less, in new findings and sudden presentations of his old purposed desires, although they may be called natural desires to the good, nevertheless holy desires were they never. Of this holy desire speaketh Saint Austin and saith, that all the life of a good p. 315 Christian man is nought else but holy desire.
Farewell, ghostly friend, in God’s blessing and mine! And I beseech Almighty God, that true peace, holy counsel, and ghostly comfort in God with abundance of grace, evermore be with thee and all God’s lovers in earth. Amen.
HERE ENDETH THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING.