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The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. by Evelyn Underhill, [1922], at




That in the time of this work the remembrance of the holiest Creature that ever God made letteth more than it profiteth.


AND therefore the sharp stirring of thine understanding, that will always press upon thee when thou settest thee to this work, behoveth always be borne down; and but thou bear him down, he will bear thee down. Insomuch, that when thou weenest best to abide in this darkness, and that nought is in thy mind but only God; an thou look truly thou shalt find thy mind not occupied in this darkness, but in a clear beholding of some thing beneath God. And if it thus be, surely then is that thing above thee for the time, and betwixt thee and thy God. And therefore purpose thee to put p. 104 down such clear beholdings, be they never so holy nor so likely. For one thing I tell thee, it is more profitable to the health of thy soul, more worthy in itself, and more pleasing to God and to all the saints and angels in heaven—yea, and more helpful to all thy friends, bodily and ghostly, quick and dead—such a blind stirring of love unto God for Himself, and such a privy pressing upon this cloud of unknowing, and better thee were for to have it and for to feel it in thine affection ghostly, than it is for to have the eyes of thy soul opened in contemplation or beholding of all the angels or saints in heaven, or in hearing of all the mirth and the melody that is amongst them in bliss.

And look thou have no wonder of this: for mightest thou once see it as clearly, as thou mayest by grace come to for to grope it and feel it in this life, thou wouldest think as I say. But be thou sure that clear sight shall never man have here in this life: but the p. 105 feeling may men have through grace when God vouchsafeth. And therefore lift up thy love to that cloud: rather, if I shall say thee sooth, let God draw thy love up to that cloud and strive thou through help of His grace to forget all other thing.

For since a naked remembrance of any thing under God pressing against thy will and thy witting putteth thee farther from God than thou shouldest be if it were not, and letteth thee, and maketh thee inasmuch more unable to feel in experience the fruit of His love, what trowest thou then that a remembrance wittingly and wilfully drawn upon thee will hinder thee in thy purpose? And since a remembrance of any special saint or of any clean ghostly thing will hinder thee so much, what trowest thou then that the remembrance of any man living in this wretched life, or of any manner of bodily or worldly thing, will hinder thee and let thee in this work?

I say not that such a naked sudden p. 106 thought of any good and clean ghostly thing under God pressing against thy will or thy witting, or else wilfully drawn upon thee with advisement in increasing of thy devotion, although it be letting to this manner of work—that it is therefore evil. Nay! God forbid that thou take it so. But I say, although it be good and holy, yet in this work it letteth more than it profiteth. I mean for the time. For why? Surely he that seeketh God perfectly, he will not rest him finally in the remembrance of any angel or saint that is in heaven. p. 107

Next: Chapter 10: How a man shall know when his thought is no sin; and if it be sin, when it is deadly and when it is venial.