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




How God will be served both with body and with soul, and reward men in both; and how men shall know when all those sounds and sweetness that fall into the body in time of prayer be both good and evil


I SAY not this because I will that thou desist any time, if thou be stirred for to pray with thy mouth, or for to burst out for abundance of devotion in thy spirit for to speak unto God as unto man, and say some good word as thou feelest thee stirred: as be these, “Good JESU! Fair JESU! Sweet JESU!” and all such other. Nay, God forbid thou take it thus! For truly I mean not thus, and God forbid that I should depart that which God hath p. 225 coupled, the body and the spirit. For God will be served with body and with soul both together, as seemly is, and will reward man his meed in bliss, both in body and in soul. And in earnest of that meed, sometimes He will enflame the body of devout servants of His here in this life: not once or twice, but peradventure right oft and as Him liketh, with full wonderful sweetness and comforts. Of the which, some be not coming from without into the body by the windows of our wits, but from within; rising and springing of abundance of ghostly gladness, and of true devotion in the spirit. Such a comfort and such a sweetness shall not be had suspect: and shortly to say, I trow that he that feeleth it may not have it suspect.

But all other comforts, sounds and gladness and sweetness, that come from without suddenly and thou wottest never whence, I pray thee have them suspect. For they may be both good and evil; wrought by a good p. 226 angel if they be good, and by an evil angel if they be evil. And this may on nowise be evil, if their deceits of curiosity of wit, and of unordained straining of the fleshly heart be removed as I learn thee, or better if thou better mayest. And why is that? Surely for the cause of this comfort; that is to say, the devout stirring of love, the which dwelleth in pure spirit. It is wrought of the hand of Almighty God without means, and therefore it behoveth always be far from any fantasy, or any false opinion that may befall to man in this life.

And of the tother comforts and sounds and sweetness, how thou shouldest wit whether they be good or evil I think not to tell thee at this time: and that is because me think that it needeth not. For why, thou mayest find it written in another place of another man’s work, a thousandfold better than I can say or write: and so mayest thou this that I set here, far better than it is here. But what p. 227 thereof? Therefore shall I not let, nor it shall not noye me, to fulfil the desire and the stirring of thine heart; the which thou hast shewed thee to have unto me before this time in thy words, and now in thy deeds.

But this may I say thee of those sounds and of those sweetnesses, that come in by the windows of thy wits, the which may be both good and evil. Use thee continually in this blind and devout and this Misty stirring of love that I tell thee: and then I have no doubt, that it shall not well be able to tell thee of them. And if thou yet be in part astonished of them at the first time, and that is because that they be uncouth, yet this shall it do thee: it shall bind thine heart so fast, that thou shalt on nowise give full great credence to them, ere the time be that thou be either certified of them within wonderfully by the Spirit of God, or else without by counsel of some discreet father. p. 228

Next: Chapter 49: The substance of all perfection is nought else but a good will; and how that all sounds and comforts and sweetness that may befall in this life be to it but as it were accidents