The Cloud of Unknowing cover

The Cloud of Unknowing

Anonymous

1. 00 - Introduction
2. 01 - Prologue and the First Chapter - Of four degrees of Christian men's living; and of the course of his calling that this book was made unto.
3. 02 - The Second Chapter - A short stirring to meekness, and to the work of this book.
4. 03 - The Third Chapter - How the work of this book shall be wrought, and of the worthiness of it before all other works.
5. 04 - The Fourth Chapter - Of the shortness of this word, and how it may not be come to by curiosity of wit, nor by imagination.
6. 05 - The Fifth Chapter - That in the time of this word all the creatures that ever have been, be now, or ever shall be, and all the works of those same creatures, should be hid under the cloud of forgetting.
7. 06 - The Sixth Chapter - A short conceit of the work of this book, treated by question.
8. 07 - The Seventh Chapter - How a man shall have him in this work against all thoughts, and specially against all those that arise of his own curiosity, of cunning, and of natural wit.
9. 08 - The Eighth Chapter - A good declaring of certain doubts that may fall in this word treated by question, in destroying of a man's own curiosity, of cunning, and of natural wit, and in distinguishing of the degrees and the parts of active living and contemplative.
10. 09 - The Ninth Chapter - That in the time of this work the remembrance of the holiest Creature that ever God made letteth more than it profiteth.
11. 10 - The Tenth Chapter - How a man shall know when his thought is no sin; and if it be sin, when it is deadly and when it is venial.
12. 11 - The Eleventh Chapter - That a man should weigh each thought and each stirring after that it is, and always eschew recklessness in venial sin.
13. 12 - The Twelfth Chapter - That by Virtue of this word sin is not only destroyed, but also Virtues begotten.
14. 13 - The Thirteenth Chapter - What meekness is in itself, and when it is perfect and when it is imperfect.
15. 14 - The Fourteenth Chapter - That without imperfect meekness coming before, it is impossible for a sinner to come to the perfect Virtue of meekness in this life.
16. 15 - The Fifteenth Chapter - A short proof against their error that say, that there is no perfecter cause to be meeked under, than is the knowledge of a man's own wretchedness.
17. 16 - The Sixteenth Chapter - That by Virtue of this work a sinner truly turned and called to contemplation cometh sooner to perfection than by any other work; and by it soonest may get of God forgiveness of sins.
18. 17 - The Seventeenth Chapter - That a Very contemplative list not meddle him with active life, nor of anything that is done or spoken about him, nor yet to answer to his blamers in excusing of himself.
19. 18 - The Eighteenth Chapter - How that yet unto this day all actives complain of contemplatives as Martha did of Mary. Of the which complaining ignorance is the cause.
20. 19 - The Nineteenth Chapter - A short excusation of him that made this book teaching how all contemplatives should have all actives fully excused of their complaining words and deeds.
21. 20 - The Twentieth Chapter - How Almighty God will goodly answer for all those that for the excusing of themselves list not leave their business about the love of Him.
22. 21 - The One and Twentieth Chapter - The true exposition of this gospel word, 'Mary hath chosen the best part.'
23. 22 - The Two and Twentieth Chapter - Of the wonderful love that Christ had to man in person of all sinners truly turned and called to the grace of contemplation.
24. 23 - The Three and Twentieth Chapter - How God will answer and purvey for them in spirit, that for business about His love list not answer nor purvey for themselves.
25. 24 - The Four and Twentieth Chapter - What charity is in itself, and how it is truly and perfectly contained in the work of this book.
26. 25 - The Five and Twentieth Chapter - That in the time of this work a perfect soul hath no special beholding to any one man in this life.
27. 26 - The Six and Twentieth Chapter - That without full special grace, or long use in common grace, the work of this book is right travailous; and in this work, which is the work of the soul helped by grace, and which is the work of only God.
28. 27 - The Seven and Twentieth Chapter - Who should work in the gracious work of this book.
29. 28 - The Eight and Twentieth Chapter - That a man should not presume to work in this work before the time that he be lawfully cleansed in conscience of all his special deeds of sin.
30. 29 - The Nine and Twentieth Chapter - That a man should bidingly travail in this work, and suffer the pain thereof, and judge no man.
31. 30 - The Thirtieth Chapter - Who should blame and condemn other men's defaults.
32. 31 - The One and Thirtieth Chapter - How a man should have him in beginning of this work against all thoughts and stirrings of sin.
33. 32 - The Two and Thirtieth Chapter - Of two ghostly devices that be helpful to a ghostly beginner in the work of this book.
34. 33 - The Three and Thirtieth Chapter - That in this work a soul is cleansed both of his special sins and of the pain of them, and yet how there is no perfect rest in this life.
35. 34 - The Four and Thirtieth Chapter - That God giveth this grace freely without any means, and that it may not be come to with means.
36. 35 - The Five and Thirtieth Chapter - Of three means in the which a contemplative Prentice should be occupied, in reading, thinking, and praying.
37. 36 - The Six and Thirtieth Chapter - Of the meditations of them that continually travail in the work of this book.
38. 37 - The Seven and Thirtieth Chapter - Of the special prayers of them that be continual workers in the word of this book.
39. 38 - The Eight and Thirtieth Chapter - How and why that short prayer pierceth heaven.
40. 39 - The Nine and Thirtieth Chapter - How a perfect worker shall pray, and what prayer is in itself; and if a man shall pray in words, which words accord them most to the property of prayer.
41. 40 - The Fortieth Chapter - That in the time of this work a soul hath no special beholding to any vice in itself nor to any virtue in itself.
42. 41 - The One and Fortieth Chapter - That in all other works beneath this, men should keep discretion; but in this none.
43. 42 - The Two and Fortieth Chapter - That by indiscretion in this, men shall keep discretion in all other things; and surely else never.
44. 43 - The Three and Fortieth Chapter - That all witting and feeling of a man's own being must needs be lost if the perfection of this word shall verily be felt in any soul in this life.
45. 44 - The Four and Fortieth Chapter - How a soul shall dispose it on its own part, for to destroy all witting and feeling of its own being.
46. 45 - The Five and Fortieth Chapter - A good declaring of some certain deceits that may befall in this work.
47. 46 - The Six and Fortieth Chapter - A good teaching how a man shall flee these deceits, and work more with a listiness of spirit, than with any boisterousness of body.
48. 47 - The Seven and Fortieth Chapter - A slight teaching of this work in purity of spirit; declaring how that on one manner a soul should shew his desire unto God, and on ye contrary unto man.
49. 48 - The Eight and Fortieth Chapter - 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.
50. 49 - The Nine and Fortieth Chapter - The substance of all perfection is nought else but a good will; and how that all sounds and comfort and sweetness that may befall in this life be to it but as it were accidents.
51. 50 - The Fiftieth Chapter - Which is chaste love; and how in some creatures such sensible comforts be but seldom, and in some right oft.
52. 51 - The One and Fiftieth Chapter - That men should have great wariness so that they understand not bodily a thing that is meant ghostly; and specially it is good to be wary in understanding of this word 'in,' and of this word 'up.'
53. 52 - The Two and Fiftieth Chapter - How these young presumptuous disciples misunderstand this word 'in,' and of the deceits that follow thereon.
54. 53 - The Three and Fiftieth Chapter - Of divers unseemly practices that follow them that lack the work of this book.
55. 54 - The Four and Fiftieth Chapter - How that by Virtue of this word a man is governed full wisely, and made full seemly as well in body as in soul.
56. 55 - The Five and Fiftieth Chapter - How they be deceived that follow the fervour of spirit in condemning of some without discretion.
57. 56 - The Six and Fiftieth Chapter
58. 57 - The Seven and Fiftieth Chapter - How these young presumptuous disciples misunderstand this other word 'up;' and of the deceits that follow thereon.
59. 58 - The Eight and Fiftieth Chapter - That a man shall not take ensample of Saint Martin and of Saint Stephen, for to strain his imagination bodily upwards in the time of his prayer.
60. 59 - The Nine and Fiftieth Chapter - 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.
61. 60 - The Sixtieth Chapter - That the high and the next way to heaven is run by desires, and not by paces of feet.
62. 61 - The One and Sixtieth Chapter - That all bodily thing is subject unto ghostly thing, and is ruled thereafter by the course of nature and not contrariwise.
63. 62 - The Two and Sixtieth Chapter - How a man may wit when his ghostly work is beneath him or without him, and when it is even with him or within him, and when it is above him and under his God.
64. 63 - The Three and Sixtieth Chapter - Of the powers of a soul in general, and how Memory in special is a principal power, comprehending in it all the other powers and all those things in the which they work.
65. 64 - The Four and Sixtieth Chapter - Of the other two principal powers Reason and Will; and of the work of them before sin and after.
66. 65 - The Five and Sixtieth Chapter - Of the first secondary power, Imagination by name; and of the works and the obedience of it unto Reason, before Sin and after.
67. 66 - The Six and Sixtieth Chapter
68. 67 - The Seven and Sixtieth Chapter - That whoso knoweth not the powers of a soul and the manner of her working, may lightly be deceived in understanding of ghostly words and of ghostly working; and how a soul is made a God in grace.
69. 68 - The Eight and Sixtieth Chapter - That nowhere bodily, is everywhere ghostly; and how our outer man calleth the word of this book nought.
70. 69 - The Nine and Sixtieth Chapter - How that a man's affection is marvelously changed in ghostly feeling of this nought, when it is nowhere wrought.
71. 70 - The Seventieth Chapter - That right as by the defailing of our bodily wits we begin more readily to come to knowing of ghostly things, so by the defailing of our ghostly wits we begin most readily to come to the knowledge of God, such as is possible by grace to be had here.
72. 71 - The One and Seventieth Chapter - That some may not come to feel the perfection of this work but in time of ravishing, and some may have it when they will, in the common state of man's soul.
73. 72 - The Two and Seventieth Chapter - That a worker in this work should not deem nor think of another worker as he feeleth in himself.
74. 73 - The Three and Seventieth Chapter - How that after the likeness of Moses, of Bezaleel, and of Aaron meddling them about the Ark of the Testament, we profit on three manners in this grace of contemplation, for this grace is figured in that Ark.
75. 74 - The Four and Seventieth Chapter - How that the matter of this book is never more read or spoken, nor heard read or spoken, of a soul disposed thereto without feeling of a very accordance to the effect of the same work: and of rehearsing of the same charge that is written in the prologue.
76. 75 - The Five and Seventieth Chapter - Of some certain tokens by the which a man may prove whether he be called of God to work in this work.

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Summary

The Cloud of Unknowing (Middle English: The Cloude of Unknowyng) is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the latter half of the 14th century. The text is a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer in the late Middle Ages. The book counsels a young student to seek God, not through knowledge and intellection (faculty of the human mind), but through intense contemplation, motivated by love, and stripped of all thought. This is brought about by putting all thoughts and desires under a "cloud of forgetting", and thereby piercing God's cloud of unknowing with a "dart of longing love" from the heart. This form of contemplation is not directed by the intellect, but involves spiritual union with God through the heart.