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.

pandacca's picture

in or out

Although there is only one object, that is God, the experience will always be different from person to person. This is because each person receives God according the totality of his being. It is like saying no two persons are exactly alike; one's interpretation of any event are based on his knowledge and experiences. You can say that this is due to the imperfection of man's perception, of his senses. Because no matter how much we try at emptying ourselves, our earthbound nature still predominates, otherwise anyone could remain forever in that state of bliss, not wanting to leave it anymore.

However, I don't think God intended for man to wallow in such a state of private, solitary and individual luxuriance in His person. It would defeat the purpose of creation. Another way of looking at Meister Eckart's description of creation: God, being Love Itself, was impelled by His very nature as Love to express himself (for what use is Love unless expressed). It would be pointless to express that love among the three persons comprising the unity (assuming, of course, that everybody here believes and accepts the Trinitarian doctrine), because each and every member of that Divine Community is, by dogma, inseparably and undiferentiatedly united into one person. It would be no different from self-love, an imperfect expression of love as perfect love is selfless.

To whom, now, could God express himself? To whom else but an entity that is himself capable of receiving love and expressing love. God had to create man; because of the impulse of love he had no other course but create a "person" in his image that is capable of loving. For this reason, God had to give a part of Himself to man: His breath, his "Ruah" that He transmitted to man directly through his nostrils, something he did to no other creation. By this act man received something that was uncreated, undifferentiated, no less divine than God himself, albeit so infinitesimally small compared to the vastness of God's essence. By this act man received his free will, the freedom to think, act and feel as he chooses, because love is not love unless it is free and this God gave freely. This, now is the paradox of man: that although the Spirit (or "spark" as Meister Eckhart put it) bequeathed him is indivisible from God as being a part of His very essence, it must be assumed that there exists some kind of separation that would allow man free will and yet still bind him to his creator.

One could say that because of the indivisible nature of the Spirit given to man, it could be assumed that all of mankind is possessed of only one Spirit. And this is logical, too, because Paul described man in his epistles as being comprised of body, soul and Spirit, which may then be construed as being consistent with man's likeness to his Creator's image as being trinitarian. From this we can infer that in essence, man is also communitarian, he is bound by his trinitarian essence and being bound by his singular Spirit - the one given to him by that one, singular act of God - to live out his existence in this world in community. And finally, for this reason it would be violative of man's purpose if any person separates himself from his community, to exist independently from the rest of his community to live in isolation, even if his purpose for doing so were so noble as to devote himself in nothing else but prayer. This was the reason no hermit, the desert fathers included, ever refused anyone who came to their door, because they recognized their unity with the rest of humankind.

If there be any practical application of mysticism it would be to apply the fruits of contemplation that arrive to us in order to fulfill God's purpose as expressed in Christ: to unite all things unto Jesus, until the day when all of God's Spirit that He had given away would be returned to Him. That would be the day when all of mankind would have attained to the pure, selfless nature with which God created this person called Man that bore his Spirit and His trinitarian-communitarian image. We must bring this message of community to all the nations, for the world to realize that, indeed, we are inseparably one, and not insist anymore to divide by selfishness or self-love. And to do this we must learn God's language, the one he used to create everything, the one we lost at Babel, the language that God sent His son Jesus to teach us and which have begun to learn at Pentecost: LOVE.

(Just some of the insights that came to me during meditative excursions that sometimes follow after contemplation.)




Advertisements