Monday, 6 April 2009
The Cloud of Unknowing
The Cloud of Unknowing is one of those books, like the Bible, that sits unread on a lot of bookshelves. E.g. mine. At various times in the past, I peeked into it, and retired baffled. Of course I never admitted as much. When it came up in conversation, I'd nod sagely.
"Oh yes, The Cloud of Unknowing. Great book, Fantastic. Loved every minute of it. "
A little like 12 year olds smoking:
"Hey, man, this is so cool! Cough! Hack! Retch."
The anonymous 14th Century author of this spiritual instruction tells us that the book isn't for everyone, and that apart from those called to read it he'd really rather people left it alone. I certainly followed his advice. The book sat unread on my shelf for decades, but last week all that changed. Maybe it's a call? Or maybe for people like me, some pennies just take about 30 years to drop.
I'd been thinking, recently, of how God is ultimately unknowable, and trying to think what that might mean for a spiritual practice in our tradition which makes quite a central feature of knowing God. Then I read a reference to TCOU in Laurence Freeman's Light Within, went and found it, dusted it off, and opened it. It was Eureka time. The little book spoke directly to the issue I was struggling with, laying it out in an orderly, clear, concise and immensely practical way. God's unknowability is the central point of the spirituality it espouses. I won't even begin to try and explain. If you are called to read it, you will be rushing from this blog to the long neglected section of your bookshelf - you know, the bit that contains Ulysses and A Brief History Of Time - with an odd sense of excitement. Otherwise, just nod sagely, and wait: certainly worked for me.