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The Cloud of Unknowing (1957)

av Cloud of Unknowing author, Justin McCann (Redaktör)

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Widely considered a hallmark of Western literature and spirituality,The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous English monk's sublime expression of what separates God from humanity. Originally written in the 14thcentury, now part of the HarperCollins Spiritual classics series, this beautiful contemplative resource, has been embraced for hundreds of years for its simple, engaging style and spiritual truths. As the unknown author assures us, "if you are to experience Him or to see Him at all, insofar as it is possible here, it must always be in this cloud." --The Cloud of Unknowing.… (mer)
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This is actually a pretty readable book—which is a little funny, given its quaint language, how much more readable it is than many superficially modern Christian books, right. And although I don’t always agree with the stance, or even the exact vibe, sometimes, basically it’s okay. And it’s funny, because I don’t read many specifically religious Christian historical books—from before around the 20th century, basically, give or take a few decades, is what it ends up being, you know—aside from a few people like Hildegard von Bingen and a few people like her; maybe I’ll read Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross eventually: although even the relatively un-mentally ill Christians still are often on that borderline of “Jesus saves I suck” delusion, and especially those gendered like Teresa, right. “Well I know that no glorious male will ever read my book, but since Mother Church has ordered me to write to support the girl-children….” And that was actually how they got one of their better books. Scary, no? But yeah, all the most-supported and most-classic and most-historic authors of the most Christian centuries: Augustine and Aquinas and Luther and Calvin, all the brainiac oppressors, right: gotta figure out all things above heaven and under the earth, so I can figure out who needs to get roasted and served to the children of God for dinner, right…. I don’t even like Saint Francis, for the sheer pleasurelessness of it all, you know. Like he’s gotta punish ~himself~, so he doesn’t end up roasting somebody ~else~ for dinner, right….

Yeah, but the “Cloud of Unknowing” is readable; it presents respectable opinions. It’s a different stance than I take sometimes, but it’s quite like, say your classic spiritual calm/hard-ass Asian man, and that’s something I can deal with, right. I respect that sort of stance, and sometimes I even agree.

…. I do agree that there are things you shouldn’t do, and things you REALLY shouldn’t do. (Venial and mortal sin.) And specific vices—gluttony, etc.

But Christianity does almost always seem ~resentful~ (I mean, if it’s not resentful, it’s almost not Christianity), about the human condition and the possibility of sin, even when it’s not resentful about women, sex, and the dangerous races, right. And I wouldn’t include this “ghostly” book in the latter category, right. (Correct quaint-English usage?…. It would be wild to speculate what non-meditation/contemplation, but rather historical-loyalty/old books Christians made of this, you know…. It must have been really, really wild….)

But yeah, I wonder if it would be correct to say, “Not having what you want—that’s Christianity”, you know.

And then, that your confessor might not know how much you’re supposed to eat. (“You miserable glutton!!”). Your phone might not know either.

There’s also the sense in which nothing is really good or bad whatever, just like Aleister said in the Thoth guidebook, you know. There are just results. You drive around in circles for an hour, more or less lost: those are your results. Maybe that’s the experience you need, right. A Christian would probably assume he was being punished. (“I know everything…. And yet I’m bad!”) You create an earthly hell for yourself, (and who knows if there IS another kind? Isn’t the earthly kingdom of heaven and the pit of hell dug around it deep in the mud, magical enough?), those are your results. Valuable information, valuable feedback. If only you knew.

And, yes, there’s also a sense in which things can be missteps, of either the greater or the lesser variety, as Crowley himself discerns various involved errors of various kinds in his books, you know. (I can’t follow half of them.) And yet the mind is poetic, part of it. Tell it not to judge fuckers, although there are exceptions, and it will ALWAYS be that fucking exception, 100% of the time. Tell it there are no exceptions—ever—and it will pause and throw 7% fewer followers of the Way to the lions in the arena, right. Yeah: pretty much….

Which is actually kinda a fun example, because the Roman militarists, were, tolerant, sometimes: but the Christians were an exception. (Druids were another.)

…. But yeah: perhaps they understood, and perhaps they didn’t, right. I realize that Cloudy here isn’t considered “Just Another Neurotic Christian (TM)”, but it’s like…. You know, there’s always some brainiac wizard Christian, maybe named Brian, right: and he’ll usher you into his office and use the logic, or invite you to his Bible study and like, do the book explanation, right—but it’s like, Yeah, here you go: he analyzed the weak point, the pressure points, almost of Christianity, where you’re gonna get karate chopped and lose the fight, basically, (show me…. Angry and confused!), and here’s what to do about it, right…. And it’s like…. And how’s that working out? —I mean, that can happen to anyone, right: any intellectual can identify their problems and then be stumped, and I’m not saying you were better off not knowing, right…. I’ve been like that in the past, when I used the “Intellectual” (TM) brand, right…. I can be like that now; it can happen to anyone…. But with the Christians, it’s like, My doctrine is TRUE; I used the reasons; I established the Facts, and so fuck yourself, okay, because this is the objective god damn truth…. And look, here’s a book; I know all about the things I know nothing about: look! The answer is in this same Bible verse I’ve heard a million fucking times: well, if that doesn’t prove I’m a goddamn genius, now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go complain about my rental car and harass my husband and his family and get you damn people to do the work of the LORD!

~It’s like, Christian doctrine can be true…. But how’s it working out for you? Society needs a much bigger change, than the museum curators and the relatives would have you think, right…. There’s just so little point in trying to have this negotiation and join this conversation, when the other 99.8% has an underwater mortgage on the idea that there’s no fucking thing going on that we need to talk about, ok: things aren’t working out, and that’s ~exactly~ the way it ought to be; ok; ok, we’re Americans….

…. I mean, I realize this could be cynical, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that if a Christian says something true, merciful, and loving, then that’s not really what they mean, whereas if they say something petty, damning, and accusatory, that is what they mean, right.

(talking to a child) Now if the Bible says something that’s true, merciful, and loving: that’s not really what we mean. But if it says something petty, damning, and accusatory: then that IS that it means. (kisses top of hair) Because that’s the gospel, which Jesus preached in the old day—morality; just go where people say ‘gospel’, ‘Jesus’, and ‘morality’…. (wanders over to adults) I really hope that the Superior Untermenschen can grind the Hamas nation into the dust, don’t you? They’ve got another 20 countries to go before Jesus can come back. We’ve got to undo Arab Colonialism….

…. But yeah: the Mary and Martha story is great, and some of the things he says about it are ok, but what does it say about the male Christians of the Middle Ages that the thought never occurs to him, that this story about two women, one a religious student and one a common drudge, has something to do with gender, right?…. I mean, they ~still~ thought women were basically still just meant to be common drudges, and that’s it, even all those years later; they weren’t supposed to write books about contemplation, right…. And so the thought that that’s their interpretation never occurs to him, because that’s how set in it they were, you know….

But yeah: I do have this Christian personal history I want to reconcile, and sometimes the Christians can be right about things, and I want to kinda give the delusional fuckers my plant milk you know, by nurturing them, even the white male Christians, the kind that it’s so easy to get pissy at, right…. But yeah: one still doesn’t want to be taken in by the museum curators and the loyalists, you know…. That was what they called the pro-government terrorists in Northern Ireland, incidentally: “loyalist paramilitaries”, lol…. I don’t know WHAT, ~that~ has to do with the study of Christian history, though….

…. But it is a nice story. It’s even true, if you tell it right.

…. It can be a very cute book: “this little word X and this little word Y”—but it can be naive. You can meditate too much. You can miss the point.

You also don’t have to meditate in the Buddhist/Christian way—for enlightenment, for salvation, for the ultimate; you can meditate for magical clearing, for secular mindfulness, or just because it helps your mind work better for almost any task…. But yeah: there’s no wrong or limit from wanting the ultimate good that is “only good” or whatever, but I feel like there’s the risk of missing the point, and trying to experience what could be unavailable for you still in your body, or at least in your ordinary life…. It’s strange because in a sense the mystics are right that there’s a “best and highest”, but also, among goods, there are many kinds, and there really is no right or wrong, among goods…. You have to ask yourself if something is the “highest good” for you, basically.

…. Some of it is merely curiously worded and ambiguous—I got the near-free translation from Pedantic Times—and sometimes it is sound. It’s hard to think of something really wonderful or worth repeating, since it’s nothing you couldn’t also get from a non-Christian type of meditation book, or even say Thomas Keating the Christian meditation monk, but yeah: sometimes it’s sound.

But then also, sometimes it’s not. It does kinda open itself to the charge of Christian moralism/Christian suspicion, you know. Even if you were to try to ascend the Tree of Life using only the middle Sephiroth, the middle path, you would still have to ascend past the post of psychism, you know. (Yesod.) How can anyone get to Tiphereth where Jesus in his body was, without touching another point? (Except Malkuth, of course!) And, even aside from the issue of the Holy Spirit, how did Jesus NOT have psychic powers, you know?…. It’s like Christians are super-careful to avoid imitating anyone so dodgy as Jesus, you know.

…. I realize that any book like this rests upon more theoretical theory, and I don’t mind that it tries to classify the aspects of the personality or whatever, but it is kinda disappointing how Aquinian (I refuse to say Tomist) it feels, you know. Especially immediately before the ‘parts of the personality’ tangents, it felt like it was ‘five things I hate about you, village witch/psychic b—*cough*, ah, NUN….’

Right? It’s disappointing. I wouldn’t read Aquinas again, especially his theology. (As a philosopher he was safer, sleepier.) Although it’s certainly explicable, since that’s how the world was then…. Explicable: but disappointing….

…. But yeah, ok: even in semi-untranslated form, the Cloud is more readable than Aquinas, fully translated, both in the linguistic sense, and in the sense of content, right.

…. Also, yes: I would not agree that the “ghostly”—ie, the “spiritual”, if you don’t shop Curiosity Word Shoppe, right: curiositywordshoppe.com—is the ~~only thing that matters~~, right…. Which indeed I might in a shew of cunning render unto the speech of olden time, such that I say, I do not give my troth, that the ghostly availeth, ~only~, little children: rather would I say, Render unto Caesar…. Oh no, wait~ now I’m just bullshitting…. Although I would be happy to concede, and quite willingly, that the “ghostly” matters, ~also~….

Although, yeah: instead of only and only contrasting them, “ghostly” and “fleshly” or bodily, or whatever, so we can be good little ghosts, you know: not like your bad naughty little ancestors who danced in the forest that people still sorta remembered then, the way people today sorta remember Dickens and Jane Austen and whoever the hell wrote Gulliver’s Travels…. Yeah: but I would say that ~~ghosts have bodies~~, you know: unless they are in a rather bad state indeed: at least from the point of view of the bodies, right….

…. And yeah: historically Christianity has been dominated by conservatism, by customs-people: crush everything not according to custom, right.

“I want to go out into the forest and dance.”
—Paganism! Rowdiness! That is not the custom! 🗡️
“Okay. I’ll stay in and read a book.”
—Gnosticism! Getting ideas into your head! That is not the custom! 🔪
“What should I do?”
—Go over there, (points), and be very, very quiet.
“When do I get to stop?”
—(pulls up newspaper, maybe the “Medieval Times”, lol). Just go. I’ll let you know when.

That’s not what it ~can~ be, not all its possibilities, and probably not even what its author intended…. But that is kinda what it can become, you know. That, or mere, shew of strange speech, right.

…. Yeah, the Middle Ages were different. The knights could show up and torch your village if your priest wasn’t teaching “correctly”, but many of the useful teachings, even within Christianity, were secret, right. I suppose it’s a sort of modesty, which religious teachers often lack, but….

But yeah, it’s not a bad book, especially for a Christian book—maybe for just, any book, right. The hoomis have the skills of an artist when it comes to doing the book, far above that of their friends the geese, right…. And yet, a hoomi is a very, very strange sort of duck, at the end of the day….
  goosecap | Mar 9, 2024 |
For a mystical book written in 14th century England, it was surprisingly modern in outlook. And despite being written by a Catholic monk, it was surprisingly non-denominational and inter-faith. ( )
  wahoo8895 | Nov 20, 2022 |
The Cloud of Unknowing draws on the mystical tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Christian Neoplatonism, which focuses on the via negativa road to discovering God as a pure entity, beyond any capacity of mental conception and so without any definitive image or form. This tradition has reputedly inspired generations of mystical searchers from John Scotus Erigena, through Book of Taliesin, Nicholas of Cusa and St. John of the Cross to Teilhard de Chardin.
1 rösta WandsworthFriends | Jun 13, 2018 |
It feels like cheating reading this book in contemporary English when it is not a work in translation. But the older edition was opaque to me and this was easier to rap my head around. This is a simple and influential description of mysticism from thirteenth Century England. It is anonymous. The author is orthodox but his Bible reading is a little shoddy in places. His understanding of mysticism and contemplation is more significant (he was likely a monk).

I liked the humble and practical tone of this book. Some helpful stuff on managing distractions in prayer. I also found a more positive place for scripture and Jesus than I thought it would have before reading it. Of course there is a cloud of unknowing, and a neo-platonic cloud of forgetfulness which necessitates our pressing past the world of sense to a pristine encounter with the God that is beyond description, but the author also commends dwelling on the words and life of Jesus and the Bible's description of God as love. That being said, this is not my favorite treatment of mysticism. ( )
4 rösta Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
This is a spiritual experience for people completely devoted to Christ.
  lschmitt | Aug 8, 2011 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Cloud of Unknowing authorprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Justin McCannRedaktörhuvudförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Acevedo Butcher, CarmenÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Ba, HalcyonRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Backhouse, Halcyon C.Redaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Baker, AugustineCommentarymedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Baldick, RobertRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Bangley, BernardRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Benson, RobertFörordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Bose, MishtooniRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Brinton, Howard H.Förordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Butcher, Carmen AcevedoFörfattaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Denaker, SusanBerättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Farrington, TimFörordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Freeman, LaurenceInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Gallacher, Patrick J.Redaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Garrett, Constancemedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Griffin, EmilieRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Griffith, TomRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Hilton, Waltermedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Ira, Progoffmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Jones, Alanmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Lane, A. N. S.Förordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Lynch, Kevin A.President and Publishermedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
McCann, JustinRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Milic, JelenaRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Nikolić, DraganRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Payne, R. J.Editor-In-Chiefmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Progoff, Ira, ed. and trmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Radice, BettyRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Rieu, E.V.Redaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Underhill, EvelynEditor & Introductionmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Underhill, EvelynRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Walsh, JamesRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Wolters, CliftonÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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This is a book of contemplation called THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING in which a soul is united with God.
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SPIRITUAL FRIEND IN GOD, understand well that I find by general observation four degrees and forms of Christian living.
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This is the single and unabridged work The cloud of unknowing. Please do not combine with abridgments or editions that include other works.
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Widely considered a hallmark of Western literature and spirituality,The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous English monk's sublime expression of what separates God from humanity. Originally written in the 14thcentury, now part of the HarperCollins Spiritual classics series, this beautiful contemplative resource, has been embraced for hundreds of years for its simple, engaging style and spiritual truths. As the unknown author assures us, "if you are to experience Him or to see Him at all, insofar as it is possible here, it must always be in this cloud." --The Cloud of Unknowing.

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