THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING - CHAPTER 59

willbulow's picture

"That a man shall not take ensample at the bodily ascension of Christ, for to strain his imagination upwards bodily in the time of prayer: and that time, place, and body, these three should be forgotten in all ghostly working."

This is the third chapter whose "title" warns us not to think in terms of physical direction in the performance of this work. As in the previous chapters, so here, we can find other things that could as well be taken as the topic. One I find in this case is, he mentions that there is more like a change than a local movement in this work. There seems to be a certain change of consciousness that's almost automatic, almost by definition the result of forgetting time, place, and body. Maybe here again, though, we should guard against thinking that this is the purpose. There should be no other purpose than drawing closer to God as we work in this exercise.

willbulow's picture

In or Out?

This might be a good juncture for a discussion of the immenent and yet transcendental nature of God. He's everywhere, and we're invited to come to Him frequently in prayer, so he's "easy to reach." My suggestion is to discuss whether God is "out there," beyond the farthest star, or "in here," in the most intimate spot in out "heart." We're back to the irrelevance of time and place in terms of mysticism, again, and I'm pretty sure we'll agree that He's both, and it's a question of which way of thinking about Him is right for us, individually, to experience His presence. When our author speaks of trying to pierce the cloud of unknowing, it seems like he's talking about God being "out there," but he's also made references to Jesus' dwelling in our hearts, as mentioned in John's gospel. I imagine that where we have something to contribute to the discussion of this is, what our exeriences have been when we've thought of God as being "out there" or "in here."

My personal experience has been that if I direct my attention "inwards," God is "more real" to me than if I direct my attention "upwards." And I'm wondering if this isn't what our author is warning us about in telling us not to think of "up" in this context. On the other hand, I think of Heaven as being intimately connected with the physical realm, so "out there" could be just a step away in a dimension we don't recognize in the physical universe. I don't mean that to sound so like something from science fiction, but we experience these things in our minds, so how we "visualize" them - unfortunate term, but I can think of no other at the moment - makes a difference in how "real" or vivid our experience is. Our author's cloud seems to me to be part of this "out there" image.

Things don't have to have a physical existence to be real. The fact that we experience something only in our minds doesn't make it unreal, just not subject to physical verification. That's what makes it a matter of faith, and what makes faith a virtue.

Bill B.




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