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St. Thérèse's First Communion
8th May 1884
September 30th, 2012:
Here are excerpts from Dr. Ronda’s Course in Spiritual Classics about St. Frances de Sales and about Brother Lawrence.
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES (1567-1622) (taken from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia)
Born in Savoy to an aristocratic family his father wanted him to become a magistrate. He he was suddenly freed as he knelt before a miraculous image of Our
Lady; he made a vow of chastity and consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. After his studies he was about to become a senator. His father had selected
for a wife for him one of the noblest heiresses of Savoy, but Francis declared his intention of embracing the ecclesiastical life. A sharp struggle ensued. His father
would not consent to see his expectations thwarted. Francis received Holy Orders (1593).
From the time of the Reformation the seat of the Bishopric of Geneva had been fixed at Annecy. There with apostolic zeal, the new provost devoted himself to
preaching, hearing confessions, and the other work of his ministry. Risking his life, he journeyed through the entire district, preaching constantly; by dint of zeal,
learning, kindness and holiness he at last obtained a hearing. He confuted the Calvinist preachers sent by Geneva to oppose him and converted some prominent
Calvinists. A large part of the inhabitants of Le Chablais returned to the true fold.
The king made him preach the Lent at Court, and wished to keep him in France. He urged him to continue, by his sermons and writings, to teach those souls that
had to live in the world how to have confidence in God, and how to be genuinely and truly pious - graces of which he saw the great necessity.
Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva in 1602. His first step was to institute catechetical instructions for the faithful, both young and old. He carefully visited
the parishes scattered through the rugged mountains of his diocese. He reformed the religious communities. His goodness, patience and mildness became
proverbial. He had an intense love for the poor. His food was plain, his dress and his household simple. He completely dispensed with superfluities and lived with
the greatest economy, in order to be able to provide more abundantly for the wants of the needy.(RONDA RELATE THIS TO PEOPLE USING HIM TO JUSTIFY
LUXURY) He heard confessions, gave advice, and preached incessantly. He wrote innumerable letters and books. Together with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, he
founded (1607) the Institute of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, for young girls and widows who, feeling themselves called to the religious life, have not sufficient
strength, or lack inclination, for the corporal austerities of the great orders. During his last stay in he had to go into the pulpit each day to satisfy the pious wishes of
those who thronged to hear him. "Never", said they, "have such holy, such apostolic sermons been preached."
Preface by the Author to Intro. to a Devout Life
DEAR reader, I request you to read this Preface for your own satisfaction as well as mine.
The flower-girl Glycera was so skilled in varying the arrangement and combination of her flowers, that out of the same kinds she produced a great variety of
bouquets; so that the painter Pausias, 1 who sought to rival the diversity of her art, was brought to a standstill, for he could not vary his painting so endlessly as
Glycera varied her bouquets. Even so the Holy Spirit of God disposes and arranges the devout teaching which He imparts through the lips and pen of His servants
with such endless variety, that, although the doctrine is ever one and the same, their treatment of it is different, according to the varying minds whence that
treatment flows. Assuredly I neither desire, nor ought to write in this book anything but what has been already said by others before me. I offer you the same flowers,
dear reader, but the bouquet will be somewhat different from theirs, because it is differently made up.
Almost all those who have written concerning the devout life have had chiefly in view persons who have altogether quitted the world; or at any rate they have taught a
manner of devotion which would lead to such total retirement. But my object is to teach those who are living in towns, at court, in their own households, and whose
calling obliges them to a social life, so far as externals are concerned. Such persons are apt to reject all attempt to lead a devout life under the plea of impossibility;
imagining that like as no animal presumes to eat of the plant commonly called Palma Christi, so no one who is immersed in the tide of temporal affairs ought to
presume to seek the palm of Christian piety.
And so I have shown them that, like as the mother-of-pearl lives in the sea without ever absorbing one drop of salt water; and as near the Chelidonian Isles springs
of sweet water start forth in the midst of the ocean and as the firemoth hovers in the flames without burning her wings; even so a true stedfast soul may live in the
world untainted by worldly breath, finding a well-spring of holy piety amid the bitter waves of society, and hovering amid the flames of earthly lusts without singeing
the wings of its devout life. Of a truth this is not easy, and for that very reason I would have Christians bestow more care and energy than heretofore on the attempt,
and thus it is that, while conscious of my own weakness, I endeavour by this book to afford some help to those who are undertaking this noble work with a generous
It is not however, my own choice or wish which brings this Introduction before the public. A certain soul, abounding in uprightness and virtue, some time since
conceived a great desire, through God’s Grace, to aspire more earnestly after a devout life, and craved my private help with this view. I was bound to her by various
ties, and had long observed her remarkable capacity for this attainment, so I took great pains to teach her, and having led her through the various exercises
suitable to her circumstances and her aim, I let her keep written records thereof, to which she might have recourse when necessary. These she communicated to a
learned and devout Religious, who, believing that they might be profitable to others, urged me to publish them, in which he succeeded the more readily that his
friendship exercised great influence upon my will, and his judgment great authority over my judgment.
So, in order to make the work more useful and acceptable, I have reviewed the papers and put them together, adding several matters carrying out my intentions;
but all this has been done with scarce a moment’s leisure. Consequently you will find very little precision in the work, but rather a collection of well-intentioned
instructions, explained in clear intelligible words, at least that is what I have sought to give. But as to a polished style, I have not given that a thought, having so much
else to do.
I have addressed my instructions to Philothea, as adapting what was originally written for an individual to the common good of souls. I have made use of a name
suitable to all who seek after the devout life, Philothea meaning one who loves God. Setting then before me a soul, who through the devout life seeks after the love
of God, I have arranged this Introduction in five parts, in the first of which I seek by suggestions and exercises to turn Philothea’s mere desire into a hearty
resolution; which she makes after her general confession, by a deliberate protest, followed by Holy Communion, in which, giving herself to her Saviour and
receiving Him, she is happily received into His Holy Love. After this, I lead her on by showing her two great means of closer union with His Divine Majesty; the
Sacraments, by which that Gracious Lord comes to us, and mental prayer, by which He draws us to Him. This is the Second Part.
In the Third Part I set forth how she should practise certain virtues most suitable to her advancement, only dwelling on such special points as she might not find
elsewhere, or be able to make out for herself. In the Fourth Part I bring to light the snares of some of her enemies, and show her how to pass through them safely
and come forth unhurt. And finally, in the Fifth Part, I lead her apart to refresh herself and take breath, and renew her strength, so that she may go on more bravely
afterwards, and make good progress in the devout life.
This is a cavilling age, and I foresee that many will say that only Religious and persons living apart are fit to undertake the guidance of souls in such special devout
ways; that it requires more time than a Bishop of so important a diocese as mine can spare, and that it must take too much thought from the important duties with
which I am charged.
But, dear reader, I reply with S. Denis that the task of leading souls towards perfection appertains above all others to Bishops, and that because their Order is
supreme among men, as the Seraphim among Angels, and therefore their leisure cannot be better spent. The ancient Bishops and Fathers of the Primitive Church
were, to say the least, as devoted to their duties as we are, yet they did not refuse to undertake the individual guidance of souls which sought their help, as we see
by their epistles; thereby imitating the Apostles, who, while reaping the universal world-harvest, yet found time to gather up certain individual sheaves with special
and personal affection. Who can fail to remember that Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Onesimus, Phekla, Appia, were the beloved spiritual children of S. Paul, as S. Mark
and S. Petronilla were of S. Peter (for Baronius and Galonius have given learned and absolute proof that S. Petronilla was not his carnal but spiritual daughter).
And is not one of S. John’s Canonical Epistles addressed to the “elect lady” whom he loved in the faith?
I grant that the guidance of individual souls is a labour, but it is a labour full of consolation, even as that of harvesters and grape-gatherers, who are never so well
pleased as when most heavily laden. It is a labour which refreshes and invigorates the heart by the comfort which it brings to those who bear it; as is said to be the
case with those who carry bundles of cinnamon in Arabia Felix. It is said that when the tigress finds one of her young left behind by the hunter in order to delay her
while he carries off the rest of her cubs, she takes it up, however big, without seeming over-weighted, and speeds only the more swiftly to her lair, maternal love
lightening the load. How much more readily will the heart of a spiritual father bear the burden of a soul he finds craving after perfection carrying it in his bosom as a
mother her babe, without feeling weary of the precious burden?
But unquestionably it must be a really paternal heart that can do this, and therefore it is that the Apostles and their apostolic followers are wont to call their disciples
not merely their children, but, even more tenderly still, their “little children.”
One thing more, dear reader. It is too true that I who write about the devout life am not myself devout, but most certainly I am not without the wish to become so, and
it is this wish which encourages me to teach you. A notable literary man has said that a good way to learn is to study, a better to listen, and the best to teach. And S.
Augustine, writing to the devout Flora, 5 says, that giving is a claim to receive, and teaching a way to learn.
Alexander caused the lovely Campaspe, 6 who was so dear to him, to be painted by the great Apelles, who, by dint of contemplating her as he drew, so graved her
features in his heart and conceived so great a passion for her, that Alexander discovered it, and, pitying the artist, gave him her to wife, depriving himself for love of
Apelles of the dearest thing he had in the world, in which, says Pliny, he displayed the greatness of his soul as much as in the mightiest victory. And so, friendly
reader, it seems to me that as a Bishop, God wills me to frame in the hearts of His children not merely ordinary goodness, but yet more His own most precious
devotion; and on my part I undertake willingly to do so, as much out of obedience to the call of duty as in the hope that, while fixing the image in others’ hearts, my
own may haply conceive a holy love; and that if His Divine Majesty sees me deeply in love, He may give her to me in an eternal marriage. The beautiful and chaste
Rebecca, as she watered Isaac’s camels, was destined to be his bride, and received his golden earrings and bracelets, and so I rely on the boundless Goodness
of my God, that while I lead His beloved lambs to the wholesome fountain of devotion, He will take my soul to be His bride, giving me earrings of the golden words
of love, and strengthening my arms to carry out its works, wherein lies the essence of all true devotion, the which I pray His Heavenly Majesty to grant to me and to
all the children of His Church that Church to which I would ever submit all my writings, actions, words, will and thoughts.
ANNECY, S. Magdalene’s Day, 1608.
Brother Lawrence - Carmelite lay brother
Excerpted from Source: Wikipedia
Brother Lawrence in France. He received a revelation of the providence and power of God at the age of 18, but it would be another six years before he joined the
Discalced Carmelite Prior in Paris. In this intervening period he fought in the Thirty Years' War and later served as a valet.
Nicholas entered the priory in Paris as a lay brother, not having the education necessary to become a cleric, and took the religious name, "Lawrence of the
Resurrection". He spent almost all of the rest of his life within the walls of the priory, working in the kitchen for most of his life and as a repairer of sandals in his later
Yet despite, or perhaps because of, his somewhat lowly position, his character attracted many to him. He was known for his profound peace and many came to
seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom that he passed on to them, in conversations and in letters, would later become the basis for the book, The Practice
of the Presence of God. This work was compiled after Brother Lawrence died by one of those whom he inspired, Father Joseph de Beaufort, later vicar general to
the Archbishop of Paris. It became popular among Catholics and Protestants alike.
More from intro to The Practice of the Presence of God:
As a young man, Herman's poverty forced him into joining the army, and thus he was guaranteed meals and a small stipend. During this period, Herman had an
experience that set him on a unique spiritual journey; it wasn't, characteristically, a supernatural vision, but a supernatural clarity into a common sight.
In the deep of winter, Herman looked at a barren tree, stripped of leaves and fruit, waiting silently and patiently for the sure hope of summer abundance. Gazing at
the tree, Herman grasped for the first time the extravagance of God's grace and the unfailing sovereignty of divine providence. Like the tree, he himself was
seemingly dead, but God had life waiting for him, and the turn of seasons would bring fullness. At that moment, he said, that leafless tree "first flashed in upon my
soul the fact of God," and a love for God that never after ceased to burn.
In his Maxims, Lawrence writes, "Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it
seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our
common business wholly for the love of him?"
For Brother Lawrence, "common business," no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God's love. The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status
of the task but the motivation behind it. "Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the
pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise
happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God."
Brother Lawrence retreated to a place in his heart where the love of God made every detail of his life of surpassing value. "I began to live as if there were no one
save God and me in the world." Together, God and Brother Lawrence cooked meals, ran errands, scrubbed pots, and endured the scorn of the world.
He admitted that the path to this perfect union was not easy. He spent years disciplining his heart and mind to yield to God's presence. "As often as I could, I placed
myself as a worshiper before him, fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him. This proved to be an exercise frequently
painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties."
Only when he reconciled himself to the thought that this struggle and longing was his destiny did he find a new peace: his soul "had come to its own home and
place of rest." There he spent the rest of his 80 years, dying in relative obscurity and pain and perfect joy.
Introduction: At the time of de Beaufort’s interviews, Brother Lawrence was in his late fifties. Joseph de Beaufort later commented that the crippled brother, who
was then in charge of the upkeep of over one hundred pairs of sandals, was “rough in appearance but gentle in grace.”
First Conversation: … Brother Lawrence received a high view of the Providence and Power of God (in his experience with the tree) which has never since been
effaced from his soul. This view had perfectly set him loose from the world and kindled in him such a love for God, that he could not tell whether it had increased in
the forty years that he had lived since.
Brother Lawrence said he had been footman to M. Fieubert, the treasurer, and that he was a great awkward fellow who broke everything. He finally decided to enter
a monastery thinking that he would there be made to smart for his awkwardness and the faults he would commit, and so he would sacrifice his life with its pleasures
to God. But Brother Lawrence said that God had surprised him because he met with nothing but satisfaction in that state.
Brother Lawrence related that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s Presence by continually conversing with Him. It was a shameful thing to quit His
conversation to think of trifles and fooleries. We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him.
He said we ought to quicken and enliven our faith. It was lamentable we had so little. Instead of taking faith for the rule of their conduct, men amused themselves
with trivial devotions which changed daily. He said that faith was sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection. We ought to give ourselves up to God with
regard both to things temporal and spiritual and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will. Whether God led us by suffering or by consolation all would be
equal to a soul truly resigned.
He said we need fidelity in those disruptions in the ebb and flow of prayer when God tries our love to Him. This was the time for a complete act of resignation,
whereof one act alone could greatly promote our spiritual advancement.
He said that as far as the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world, he was so far from wondering at them, that, on the contrary, he was surprised there were
not more considering the malice sinners were capable of. For his part, he prayed for them. But knowing that God could remedy the mischief they did when He
pleased, he gave himself no further trouble…
Second Conversation: … He said he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned. All the men in the world could not have
persuaded him to the contrary. This trouble of mind had lasted four years during which time he had suffered much.
Finally he reasoned: I did not engage in a religious life but for the love of God. I have endeavored to act only for Him. Whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or
saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. I shall have this good at least that till death I shall have done all that is in me to love Him. From that time
on Brother Lawrence lived his life in perfect liberty and continual joy. He placed his sins between himself and God to tell Him that he did not deserve His favors yet
God still continued to bestow them in abundance.
Brother Lawrence said that in order to form a habit of conversing with
God continually and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply
to Him with some diligence. Then, after a little care, we would find
His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.
He expected after the pleasant days God had given him, he would have his turn of pain and suffering. Yet he was not uneasy about it. Knowing that, since he could
do nothing of himself, God would not fail to give him the strength to bear them.
When an occasion of practicing some virtue was offered, he addressed himself to God saying, “Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enablest me”. And then he
received strength more than sufficient. When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to
myself. It is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.” Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.
Brother Lawrence said we ought to act with God in the greatest simplicity, speaking to Him frankly and plainly, and imploring His assistance in our affairs just as
they happen. God never failed to grant it, as Brother Lawrence had often experienced.
He said he had been lately sent into Burgundy to buy the provision of wine for the community. This was a very unwelcome task for him because he had no turn for
business and because he was lame and could not go about the boat but by rolling himself over the casks. Yet he gave himself no uneasiness about it, nor about the
purchase of the wine. He said to God, it was His business he was about, and that he afterwards found it very well performed…
So, likewise, in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion), having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God and
asking for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything easy during the fifteen years that he had been employed there. He was very pleased with the post
he was now in. Yet he was as ready to quit that as the former, since he tried to please God by doing little things for the love of Him in any work he did. With him the
set times of prayer were not different from other times. He retired to pray according to the directions of his superior, but he did not need such retirement nor ask for
it because his greatest business did not divert him from God.
Since he knew his obligation to love God in all things, and as he endeavored to do so, he had no need of a director to advise him, but he greatly needed a
confessor to absolve him. He said he was very sensible of his faults but not discouraged by them. He confessed them to God and made no excuses. Then, he
peaceably resumed his usual practice of love and adoration.
In his trouble of mind, Brother Lawrence had consulted no one. Knowing only by the light of faith that God was present, he contented himself with directing all his
actions to Him. He did everything with a desire to please Him and let what would come of it.
He said that useless thoughts spoil all – that the mischief began there. We ought to reject them as soon as we perceived their impertinence and return to our
communion with God. In the beginning he had often passed his time appointed for prayer in rejecting wandering thoughts and falling right back into them. He could
never regulate his devotion by certain methods as some do. Nevertheless, at first he had meditated for some time, but afterwards that went off in a manner that he
could give no account of. Brother Lawrence emphasized that all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless unless they serve to arrive at the union with
God by love. He had well considered this. He found that the shortest way to go straight to God was by a continual exercise of love and doing all things for His sake.
He noted that there was a great difference between the acts of the intellect and those of the will. Acts of the intellect were comparatively of little value. Acts of the will
were all important. Our only business was to love and delight ourselves in God. All possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of God, could not
efface a single sin. Instead, we ought, without anxiety, to expect the pardon of our sins from the blood of Jesus Christ only endeavoring to love Him with all our
hearts. And he noted that God seemed to have granted the greatest favors to the greatest sinners as more signal monuments of His mercy.
Brother Lawrence said the greatest pains or pleasures of this world were not to be compared with what he had experienced of both kinds in a spiritual state. As a
result he feared nothing, desiring only one thing of God – that he might not offend Him. He said he carried no guilt…
July 30th, 2012:
Excerpts from Dr. Ronda’s course material from the spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing.
THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING INTRODUCTION
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.
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 work had already become
known to English Catholics in middle 17th century.
From the INTRODUCTION by Evelyn Underhill (Dr. Ronda has paraphrased expressions that are archaic)
“ What, then, were his special characteristics? Whence came the fresh colour which he gave to the old Platonic theory of mystical experience?
First, I think, from the combination of high spiritual gifts with a vivid sense of humor, keen powers of observation, a robust common-sense: a balance of qualities
not indeed rare amongst the mystics, but here presented to us in an extreme form. In his eager gazing on divinity this contemplative never loses touch with
humanity, never forgets the sovereign purpose of his writings; which is not a declaration of the spiritual favours he has received, but a helping of his fellowmen to
Next, he has a great simplicity of outlook, which enables him to present the result of his highest
experiences and intuitions in the most direct language. So concrete, and so much a part of his normal existence, are his apprehensions of spiritual reality, that he
can give them to us in the plain words of daily life: and thus he is one of the most realistic of mystical writers. He abounds in vivid little phrases--"Call sin a lump":
"Short prayer pierceth heaven": "Who that will not go the narrow way to heaven, . . . shall go the soft way to hell."
His range of experience is a wide one. His writings, though they touch on many subjects, are chiefly concerned with the art of contemplative prayer; that "blind
intent stretching to God" which, if it be wholly set on Him, cannot fail to reach its goal.
A peculiar talent for the description and discrimination of spiritual states has enabled him to discern and set before us, with astonishing precision and vividness,
not only the strange sensations, the confusionand bewilderment of the beginner in the early stages of contemplation--the struggle with distracting thoughts, the
silence, the dark…
A great simplicity characterises his doctrine of the soul's attainment of the Absolute. For him there is but one central necessity: the perfect and passionate setting
of the will upon the Divine, so that it is "thy love and thy meaning, the choice and point of thine heart." Not by deliberate ascetic practices, not by refusal of the world,
not by intellectual striving, but by actively loving and choosing, by that which a modern psychologist has called "the synthesis of love and will does the spirit of man
achieve its goal
"For silence is not God," he says in the Epistle of Discretion, “ speaking is not God; fasting is not God, eating is not God; loneliness is not God, company is not
God; nor yet any of all the other two such contraries. He is hid between them, and may not be found by any work of thy soul, but all only by love of thine heart. He
may not be known by reason, He may not be gotten by thought, nor concluded by understanding; but He may be loved and chosen with the true lovely will of thine
heart. . . . Such a blind shot with the sharp dart of longing love may never fail to reach God.”
There is in this doctrine something which should be peculiarly congenial to the activistic tendencies of modern thought. Here is no taint of quietism, no invitation to a
spiritual limpness. From first to last glad and deliberate work is demanded of the initiate: an all-round wholeness of experience is insisted on…
Over and over again, the emphasis is laid on this active aspect of all true spirituality—always a favourite theme of the great English mystics. "Love cannot be lazy,"
said Richard Rolle. So too for the author of the Cloud energy is the mark of true affection….
True, the will alone, however ardent and industrious, cannot of itself set up communion with the supernal world: this is "the work of only God, specially wrought in a
soul…” But man can and must do his part. First, there are the virtues to be acquired: those "ornaments of the Spiritual Marriage" … his character must be set in
order, his mind and heart made beautiful and pure, before he can look on the triple star of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, which is God.
Every great spiritual teacher has spoken in the same sense: of the need for that which Rolle calls the "mending of life"--regeneration, the rebuilding of character--as
the preparation of the contemplative act.
As all man's feeling and thought of himself and his relation to God is founded in humility, so all his feeling and thought of God in Himself is comprehended in charity;
the self-giving love of Divine perfection "in Himself and for Himself" which Hilton calls "the sovereign and the essential joy."
Charity and Humility, then, together with the ardent and industrious will, are the necessary possessions of each soul set upon this adventure. Their presence it is
which marks out the true from the false mystic: and it would seem, from the detailed, vivid, and often amusing descriptions of the sanctimonious, the hypocritical,
the self-sufficient, and the self-deceived in their "diverse and wonderful variations," that such a test was as greatly needed in the "Ages of Faith" as it is at the
present day. Sham spirituality flourished in the mediaeval cloister… Affectations of sanctity, pretense to rare mystical experiences, were a favourite means of self-
The primal need of the purified soul, then, is the power of concentration. His whole being must be set towards the object of his craving if he is to attain to it: "Look
that nothing live in thy working mind, but a naked intent stretching into God." Any thought of Him is inadequate, and for that reason defeats its own end…
Further, there is to be no willful choosing of method: no fussy activity of the surface-intelligence. The mystic who seeks the divine Cloud of Unknowing is to be
surrendered to the direction of his deeper mind, his transcendental consciousness: that "spark of the soul" which is in touch with eternal realities.
"When you come by yourself," he says, "think not before what you will do after, but forsake as well good thoughts as evil thoughts, and pray not with thy mouth and
look that nothing live in thy working mind but a naked intent stretching into God, not clothed in any special thought of God in Himself. . . . Say thus unto God, … “That
what I am, Lord, I offer unto Thee, without any looking to any quality of Your Being, but only that You are as you are. …Think no further of thyself than I bid you do of
your God, so that you be one with Him in spirit, as thus without departing and scattering, for … in Him you are what you are…”
"Lovers," said Patmore, "put out the candles and draw the curtains, when they wish to see the god and the goddess; and, in the higher communion, the night of
thought is the light of perception." These statements cannot be explained: they can only be proved in the experience of the individual soul...
"Then," says the writer of the Cloud--whispering as it were to the bewildered neophyte the dearest secret of his love--"then will He sometimes perchance send out
a beam of spiritual light, piercing this cloud of unknowing that is betwixt you and Him; and show you some of His secrets, the which man may not, nor cannot
(Note: This is the Evelyn Underhill translation excerpted and paraphrased by Dr. Ronda to be more easily understood.)
Here begins a book of contemplation, which is called the CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, in which a soul is made one with GOD.
Here Begins the Prayer on the Prologue
GOD, unto whom all hearts be open…unto whom no private secret thing is hidden, I beg You to cleanse the intent of my heart with an unutterable gift of Your grace,
that I may perfectly love You, and worthily praise You, Amen.
Here Begins the Prologue:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! I command you and beg you, in the name of charity that whatever be your state in life who have this
book … (for whatever reason) not to read it, nor copy it, nor speak of it, nor have it read, written or spoken of, or let it be read, written or spoken, except you be, or
the one you give it to be, one who is totally intent on becoming a perfect follower of Christ not only in active living but in the apex of contemplative living, which is
possible by grace to become in this present life while yet abiding in a mortal body; coming into contemplative living after a long time of virtue in active living.
Otherwise it will bring nothing to him.
If any such followers shall read it, copy it, or speak it aloud, they must read it over twice. For it may be that there is something in the beginning or in the middle,
which is incomplete but will be explained later in the book. Reading it only once someone could be led into error; and to eschew this error in yourself or in others, I
pray you out of charity to do as I say.
Worldly loud mouths, open praisers and blamers of themselves or of any other, tellers of trifles … and tattlers of tales, I wish would never see this book. For my
intent was never to write such a book for them, and therefore I wish they would not meddle with it; neither they, nor any of these curious, educated, or unlearned
Yea, although they be very good men of the active life, yet these truths will not help them. But even if they be in the active life outwardly, if they experience in inward
stirring of the Spirit of God, whose judgments are hidden, and they be graciously disposed, not continually as it is proper to those in the contemplative life, but now
and then to be caught up in the highest point of this contemplative act; if such men see this book, by the grace of God they would be greatly comforted by it.
This book is divided in seventy five chapters. Of which chapters, the last chapter of all teaches some certain tokens by which a soul may truly discern whether he
be called of God to be a worker in this work or not.
HERE BEGINS THE FIRST CHAPTER
Of four degrees of Christian men's living…:
Spiritual friend in God, …in my view there are four degrees and forms of Christian men's living: and they be these, Common, Special, Singular, and Perfect. Three
of these may be begun and ended in this life; and the fourth may by grace be begun here, but it shall only last without end in the bliss of Heaven.
Here is how I think you have been called to these degrees by the great mercy of Our Lord leading you to Him by the desire of your heart.
First, observe that when you were living in the common degree of Christian living, in company of your worldly friends, it seems to me that the everlasting love of His
Godhead, through which He made and formed you when you were nothing, and since bought you with the price of His precious blood when you were lost in Adam,
did not want you to be so far from Him in form and degree of living.
And, therefore, He graciously kindled your desire, fastening it by a leash of longing, and led you by it into a more special state and form of living, to be a servant
among the special servants of His; where thou might learn to live more specially and more spiritually in His service than you did, or might have done in the common
degree of living before.
Yet it seems that He did not want to leave you in this more special degree. By the love of His heart, there for you since you were created He led you further. Do you
see how spiritually and graciously He secretly pulled you to the third degree and manner of living, which is called Singular? In this solitary form and manner of living,
you may learn to lift up the foot of your love; and step towards that state and degree of living that is perfect, and the last state of all.
HERE BEGINS THE SECOND CHAPTER
A short stirring to meekness, and to the work of this book.
LOOK up now, weak wretch, and see what you are. What are you, and what have you merited, to thus be called by our Lord? What weary wretched heart, and
sleeping in sloth, is that, which is not wakened by the winds of this love and the voice of this calling?
Beware, wretch, and hold yourself never the holier nor the better, for the worthiness of this calling and for the singular form of living that you are in. But the more
wretched and cursed, unless you do that which is good, by grace and by counsel, to live after your calling. And insomuch you should be more meek and loving to
your spiritual spouse, that He that is the Almighty God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, would be so meek Himself to condescend so low unto you, and among all
the flock of His sheep so graciously would choose you to be one of His specials, and then set thee in the place of pasture, where you may be fed with the
sweetness of His love, as a pledge of your heritage in the Kingdom of Heaven.
… But one thing I tell you. He is a jealous lover and allows no fellowship, and He will not work in your will unless you be alone with Him. He asks no help, but only
yourself. He wills, that you but look on Him and shut the windows and the door, to keep out assailing “flies and enemies.” And if you be willing to do this, you need
thee but meekly press upon Him with prayer, and soon He will help you. Press on then… He is full ready, and abides in you.
But what shall you do, and how shall you press?
HERE BEGINS THE THIRD CHAPTER
How the work of this book shall be done, and of the worthiness of it above all other works.
LIFT up your heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean Himself, and none of His goods. And thereto, be loath to think on anything but Himself. So that
nothing work in thy wit, nor in thy will, but only Himself. And to do that is to forget all the creatures that ever God made and their ways, so that your thought and your
desire be not directed nor stretched to any of them, neither in general nor in particular, but let them be, and take no heed to them. This is the work of the soul that
most pleases God. All saints and angels have joy of this work, and hasten to help it in all their might. All fiends be furious when you do it, and try for to defeat it in
every way that they can. All men living in earth be wonderfully helped by this work, you do not know how. Yea, the souls in purgatory be eased of their pain by virtue
of this work. You are cleansed and made virtuous by no work as much. And yet it is the lightest work of all, when a soul is helped with … and soonest done. But
without grace it is hard, and difficult for you to do.
Travail in it as long as you can. For the first time when you do it, you find only darkness; and as it were a cloud of unknowing, you know not what, save that you feel in
your will a naked intent unto God. This darkness and this cloud is between you and your God, and is allowed that you may neither see Him clearly by the light of
understanding in your reason, nor feel Him in sweetness of love in your heart.
And therefore make up your mind to bide in this darkness as long as you may, evermore crying after Him that you love. For if ever you shall feel Him or see Him it
if fitting always to be in this cloud in this darkness. And if you wilt busily travail as I bid you, I trust in His mercy that you shall come thereto.
HERE BEGINS THE FOURTH CHAPTER
Of the shortness of this work, and how it may not be come to by curiosity of wit, nor by imagination.
That you shall not err in this work and wish that it be otherwise than it is, I shall tell you a little more about it as I understand it.
This work requires no long time to be truly done, as some men think; for it is the shortest work of all that man may imagine. It is never longer, nor shorter, than is an
atom: which atom, by the
definition of true philosophers in the science of astronomy, is the least part of time. And it is so little that for the littleness of it, it is indivisible and nearly
incomprehensible. This is that time about which it is written: All time that is given to thee, it shall be asked of thee, how thou hast disposed of it. …and no more nor
no fewer, may be and are in one hour in thy will, as are atoms in one hour. And if you were reformed by grace to the first state of man's soul, as it was before sin,
then you should evermore by help of that grace be lord of that stirring or of those stirrings….And He by Himself without more, and none but He, is sufficient to the full
and much more to fulfill the will and the desire of our soul. And our soul by virtue of this reforming grace is made sufficient to the full to comprehend all Him by love…
But yet all reasonable creatures, angel and man, have in them one principal working power, which is called a knowledgeable power, and another principal working
power, which is called a loving power….to the knowledgeable power, God that is the maker of them is forever incomprehensible; and to the second, the loving
power, in each one diversely He is all comprehensible to the full. Insomuch that a loving soul alone in itself, by virtue of love should comprehend in itself Him that is
sufficient to the full--…And this is the endless, marvelous, miracle of love; the working of which shall never have an end, forever shall He do it, and never shall He
cease doing it…. for the feeling of this is endless bliss, and the contrary is endless pain.
And therefore those who were reformed by grace should never be in this life--as he may not be without these stirrings in nature--without some taste of the endless
sweetness, and in the bliss of heaven… And therefore be not surprised that I stir thee to this work. For this is the work, as thou shalt hear afterward, in the which
man should have continued if he never had sinned: and by the working a man shall be repaired again. And for the default of this working, a man falls evermore
deeper and deeper in sin, and further and further from God. And by keeping and continual working in this work only without more, a man evermore rises higher and
higher from sin, and nearer and nearer unto God….
But sorrowfully you say now, "How shall I do it?…Help me now for the love of JESUS!" Quite rightly you have said, for the love of JESUS. For in the love of JESUS;
there shall be your help. Love is such a power, that it makes all things to be in common. Love therefore JESUS; and all thing that He has, will be yours….Knit
yourself therefore to Him, by love and by belief, and then by virtue of that knot you shall be common knower with Him, and with all that by love so be knitted unto Him:
that is to say, with our Lady Saint Mary that full was of all grace in keeping of time, with all the angels of heaven that never may lose time, and with all the saints in
heaven and in earth, that by the grace of JESUS use time fully justly in virtue of love…
And therefore take heed of this work, and of the marvelous manner of it within your soul. For if it be truly conceived, it is but a sudden stirring… speedily springing
unto God as a sparkle from the coal. And it is marvelous to number the stirrings that may be in one hour wrought in a soul that is disposed to this work. And yet in
one stirring of all these, he may have suddenly and perfectly forgotten all created things. But after each stirring, because of the corruption of the flesh, it falls down
again to some thought or to some done or undone deed. But what of it? For fast after, it rises again as suddenly as it did before.
And here may men quickly conceive the manner of this working, and clearly know that it is far from any fantasy, or any false imagination or quaint opinion: which is
brought in, not by such a devout and a meek blind stirring of love, but by a proud, curious, and an imaginative mind. Such a proud, curious wit needs always be
borne down and stiffly trodden down under foot, if this work shall truly be conceived in purity of spirit. For whoso hears about this work and think that it may, or
should, be come to by travail in their minds, and therefore they sit and seek in their mind how that it may be, and in this curiosity they exhaust their imagination…
and they feign a manner of working which is neither bodily nor spiritual; truly this man, no matter who he be, is perilously deceived. Insomuch, that unless God of His
great goodness show His merciful miracle, and make him soon leave the work, and bring him to take counsel of proved workers, he shall fall either into frenzies, or
else into other great mischiefs of spiritual sins and devils' deceits; through the which he may easily be lost, both life and soul, without any end.
And therefore for God's love be wary in this work, and travail not in your minds or in your imagination…
And think not, that because I call it a darkness or a cloud, that it be any cloud congealed of the humours that flee in the air, nor yet any darkness such as is in your
house on nights when the candle is out... For when I say darkness, I mean a lacking of knowing: as all those things that you know not, or else that you have forgotten,
it is dark to you; for you see it not with your mental eye. And for this reason it is not called a cloud of the air, but a cloud of unknowing, that is between you and your
HERE BEGINS THE FIFTH CHAPTER
That in the time of this work all the creatures that ever have been, are now, or ever shall be, and all the works of those same creatures, should be hid under the
cloud of forgetting.
AND if ever thou shalt come to this cloud and dwell and work therein as I bid you, as this cloud of unknowing is above thee, between you and your God, thee and
thy God, it is necessary to put a cloud of forgetting beneath you; between you and all the creatures that ever be made…
For although it be very profitable sometimes to think of certain conditions and deeds of some certain special creatures, nevertheless yet in this work it profits little
or nothing. Why? Memory or thinking of any creature that ever God made, or of any of their deed either, it is a manner of spiritual light: for the eye of your soul is
opened on it and even fixed thereupon, as the eye of a shooter is upon the target that he shoots to. And one thing I tell you, that all things that you think upon, it is
above you for the time, and between you and your God: and insomuch you are the further from God, that anything is in your mind instead of God alone.
Yea! …, in this work it profits little or nothing to think of the kindness or the worthiness of God, nor of Our Lady, nor of the saints or angels in heaven, nor yet of the
joys in heaven: that is to say, with a special intent as if that would increase the purpose (of your desire to be closer to God.) …
For even though it be good to think about the kindness of God, and to love Him and praise Him for it, yet it is far better to think upon the naked being of Him, and to
love Him and praise Him for Himself.
HERE BEGINS THE SIXTH CHAPTER
A short summary of the work of this book, treated by question
BUT now you ask me, "How shall I think about Himself, and what He is?" and to this I cannot answer you except to say “I don’t know.”
For you have brought me with your question into that same darkness, and into that same cloud of unknowing, that I wish you were in in yourself.
For of all other creatures and their works, yea, and of the works of God's self, may a man through grace have fullness of knowing, and well he can think of them: but
of God Himself can no man think. And therefore I would leave all that I can think, and choose for my love that thing that I cannot think. Because He may well be loved,
but not thought. By love may He be seized and held; but by thought never. And therefore, although it be good sometimes to think of the kindness and the worthiness
of God specifically, and although it be a light and a part of contemplation: nevertheless yet in this work it shall be cast down and covered with a cloud of forgetting.
And you shall step above it bravely, with a devout and a pleasing stirring of love, and try to pierce that darkness above you. And hit upon that thick cloud of
unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love; and go not leave because of anything that happens.
HERE BEGINS THE SEVENTH CHAPTER
… AND if any thought rise and will press continually above thee between you and that darkness, and ask you saying, "What do you seek and what would you have?”
say that it is God that you would have. "Him I covet, Him I seek, and nothing but Him."
And if he (the thought that is distracting you) ask you, "What is that God?" say that it is God that made you and redeemed you, and that graciously has called
you…And therefore say (to such questions), "Go you down again," and tread him fast down with a stirring of love, although he seem to you right holy, and seem to
you as if he would help you to seek Him. For perchance he will bring to your mind diverse beautiful and wonderful points about His kindness, and say that He is full
sweet, and full loving, full gracious, and full merciful. And if you will hear him, he seeks nothing better; for at the last he will thus jangle ever more and more till he
bring you lower, to think about His Passion.
And there will he let you see the wonderful kindness of God, and if you hear him, he cares for nothing better. For soon after he will let you see your old wretched
living, and perchance in seeing and thinking thereof he will bring to your mind some place that you have dwelt in before this time.(So that by the end of this
sequence of thoughts and images you will be scattered all over the place. So you should cut off these thoughts, however, good at the inception and just stay with
your intent to reach God alone in the Cloud.)…
And if you are so inclined, you may have this intent folded into one word to have a hold on it but a little word of one syllable: for so it is better than of two…And such
a word is this word GOD or this word LOVE. Choose whichever you wish and like best of one syllable and fasten this word to your heart, so that it be ever there no
matter what else is happening.
This word shall be your shield and your spear, whether you be in peace or at war. With this word, you shalt beat on this cloud and this darkness above thee. With
this word, you shall smite down all manner of thought under the cloud of forgetting. Insomuch, that if any thought press upon you to ask you what you really want,
answer them with no more words but with this one word. And if he (the thought) want you to expound upon that word, say to him that you will have it all whole, and not
broken or cut up.
HERE BEGINS THE EIGHTH CHAPTER
A consideration of certain doubts that may come up about this work and distinctions between the degrees and the parts of active living and contemplative.
…when you ask me what is he, this that presses so hard upon you offering to help thee in this work; I say that it is a sharp and a clear beholding of your natural
intelligence, printed in your reason within your soul. And where you ask me whether it be good or evil, I say that it is always be good in its nature, since it is a beam
of the likeness of God. But the use thereof may be both good and evil. Good, when it is opened by grace for to see your wretchedness, the passion, the kindness,
and the wonderful works of God in His creatures bodily and spiritually. And then is the use evil, when it is swollen with pride and with curiosity of much clergy making
them wish to be known not as meek scholars and masters of divinity or of devotion, but proud scholars, really of the devil, and masters of vanity and of falsehood.
Or in others … when used for vain pleasure and enjoying being flattered by others…
(In this regard you need to consider) that in the Church there are two types of life: the one is active life, and the other is contemplative life. Active is the lower, and
contemplative is the higher. Active life has two degrees, a higher and a lower: and also contemplative life has two degrees, a lower and a higher. Also, these two
lives be so coupled together that although they be different in some part, yet neither of them may be had fully without some part of the other. For why? That part that
is the higher part of active life, that same part is the lower part of contemplative life. So that a man may not be fully active, but if he be in part contemplative; nor yet
fully contemplative, as it may be here, but if he be in part active. The condition of active life is such, that it is both begun and ended in this life; but not so of
contemplative life. For it is begun in this life, and shall last without end. For why? That part that Mary chose shall never be taken away. Active life is troubled and
travailed about many things; but contemplative sits in peace with one thing.
The lower part of active life consists in good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity. The higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life
lies in good spiritual meditations… But the higher part of contemplation, as it may be had here, consists totally all in this darkness and in this cloud of unknowing;
with a loving stirring and a blind beholding unto the naked being of God Himself only.
In the lower part of active life a man is without himself and beneath himself. In the higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life, a man is within
himself and even with himself. Butin the higher part of contemplative life, a man is above himself and under his God. Above himself he is: for why, he strives to win
to be there by grace, whither he may not come by nature. That is to say, tobe knit to God in spirit, and in oneness of love and accordance of will. And right as it is
impossible, to man's understanding, for a man to come to the higher part of active life unless (in his prayer) he detach from outward bodily works, the which he had
done, or else should do, although they were never so holy works in themselves: surely as unlikely a thing that a man who is working in this darkness and in this cloud
of unknowing with an affectionate stirring of love to God for Himself, for to let any thought or any meditation of God's wonderful gifts, kindness, and works in any of
His creatures bodily or spiritual, rise upon him to press between him and his God; although they be ever so holy thoughts, or so profound, or so comforting.
… And all the while that the soul dwells in this mortal body, evermore is the sharpness of our understanding in beholding of all spiritual things, but most specially of
God, mingled with some manner of fantasy which brings in an impure element and often error.
HERE BEGINS THE NINTH CHAPTER
… If you might once see (God) as clearly, as you may by grace come to for to grope it and feel it in this life, you would think as I say. But be sure that clear sight shall
never man have here in this life: but the feeling may men have through grace when God so allows. And therefore lift up your love to that cloud: rather, let God draw
your love up to that cloud and strive you through help of His grace to forget all other thing.
For since a remembrance of anything under God pressing against Your will and your thinking puts you farther from God than you would be if it were not, and
makes you more unable to feel in experience the fruit of His love, can’t you see that when you purposely think of something other than God in this prayer it will hinder
your purpose? …
I do not say that thinking of something spiritual is… evil. Nay! God forbid that you take it so. But I say,although it be good and holy, yet in this work it takes away
more than it profits. I mean for the time. Why? Surely he that seeks God perfectly, he will not rest finally in the remembrance of any angel or saint that is in heaven.
HERE BEGINS 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.
BUT it is not thus of the remembrance of any man or woman living in this life, or of any bodily or worldly thing whatsoever that it be. A sudden thought of any of them,
pressing against your will and your thinking, although it be no sin imputed unto you--for it is the pain of the original sin pressing against your power, of the which sin
you are cleansed in your baptism--nevertheless yet if this sudden stirring or thought be not smitten soon down, quickly the weakness of your worldly heart will be
distracted with some manner of liking, if it be a thing that pleases you or has pleased you before, or else with some manner of grumbling, if it be a thing that you
think grieves you or has grieved you before. (And even though in concrete reality following such a stirring may be a deadly sin, in those who are fastened to God it
will be a venial sin to dwell on it in a particular fashion described below) …
And this happens when you will to think of a man or woman or something material, and your dislike of what they did leads to an angry passion and a desire for
vengeance, the which is called Wrath. Or else an evil disdain and a manner of loathsomeness of their person, with despiteful and condemningthoughts, the which is
called Envy. Or else a weariness and an unwillingness to undertak any good occupation bodily or spiritual, which is called Sloth.
And if it be a thing that pleases you, or has pleased you before, there rises in you a passing delight in thinking about that thing, in so much as you rest in that
thought, and finally fasten your heart and your will on it, and feed your worldly heart on it, so that you begin coveting no treasure more than it, and wish to live ever in
peace and rest with that thing,… then it is Pride.
And if it be any manner of worldly good, riches or properties, or what that man may have or be lord of, then it is Covetuousness. If it be dainty meats and drinks, or
any manner of delights that man may taste, then it is Gluttony. And if it be love or pleasure, or any manner of fleshly dalliance, or flattering of any man or woman
living in this life, or of thyself either: then it is Lechery.
HERE BEGINS THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER
That a man should weigh each thought and each stirring after that it is, and always avoid recklessness in venial sin.
I SAY not this for that I believe that you, or any other such as I speak of, be guilty and cumbered with any such sins; but so that you would weigh each thought and
each stirring as it really is, and strive busily to destroy the first stirring and thought of these things that you may thus sin in relation to. For one thing I tell thee; that
who weighs not, the first thought--yea, although it be no sin unto him--that he, whosoever that he be, shall not eschew recklessness in venial sin. Venial sin shall no
man utterly avoid in this mortal life. But recklessness in venial sin should always be avoided of all the true disciples of perfection; and else I be not surprised if they
soon sin in a deadly way.
HERE BEGINS THE TWELFTH CHAPTER
That by Virtue of this work sin is not only destroyed, but also Virtues born.
AND, therefore, if you will stand and not fall, cease never in your intent: but beat evermore on this cloud of unknowing that is between you and your God with a
sharp dart of longing love, and loathe for to think on anything under God, and leave not this practice because of anything that happens.
For this is only by itself that work that destroys the ground and the root of sin. Fast thou ever so much, stay awake ever so long, rise never so early, lie ever on a
hard pace, wear ever so sharp (penitential garments); yea, and if it were lawful to do--as it is not--put out hour eyes, cut out your tongue of your mouth, stop your
ears and your nose, though shear away your members, and do all the pain to your body that you may or can think: all this would not help you at all. Yet will stirring
and rising of sin be in you.
Yea, and what more? Weep ever so much for sorrow of your sins, or of the Passion of Christ, or think of the joys of heaven, what may all this do for you? Surely
much good, much help, much profit, and much grace will it get you. But in comparison to this blind stirring of love, it is but a little that it does, or may do, without this.
This by itself is the best part of Mary without these others. They without it profit but little or nothing. (The work of the Cloud of Unknowing) destroys not only the
ground and the root of sin as it may be here, but also begets virtues. For all virtues shall truly be, and perfectly conceived, and warmly understood, in it, without any
(explicit) mingling of the intent. And have a man ever so many virtues without it, all they be mingled with some crooked intent, for which reason they be imperfect.
For virtue is nothing else but a purposeful and a measured affection, plainly directed unto God for Himself. Why? He in Himself is the pure cause of all virtues:
insomuch, that if any man be stirred to any one virtue by any other cause mingled with Him, yea, although that He be the chief, yet that virtue is then imperfect…. If
he has these two virtues be meekness and charity he needs no more: because he has all.
[HERE ENDS THE CHAPTERS REQUIRED FOR THE COURSE. MORE CAN BE FOUND IN THE LARGE FILE OF READINGS OF THE CLOUD].
HERE BEGINS THE THIRTEENTH CHAPTER
What meekness is in itself, and when it is perfect and when it is imperfect.
NOW let see first about the virtue of meekness; how it is imperfect when it is caused of any other thing mingled with God although He be the chief; and how it is
perfect when it is caused of God by Himself…
Meekness in itself is nothing else, but a true knowing and feeling of a man's self as he is. For surely whoever truly sees and feels himself as he would truly be meek.
Two things there are which cause this meekness: one is the the filth, the wretchedness, and the frailty of man, into the which he is fallen by sin; and which it
behooves him always to feel to some degree while he lives on this earth no matter how holy he is. Another is the super-abundant love and the worthiness of God in
Himself; in beholding of which all nature quaketh, all writers be fools, and all saints and angels be blind….
This second cause is perfect; because it shall last without end. And the first one is imperfect; because it shall not only fail at the end of this life, but because often
(by praying in the manner of the Cloud of Unknowing,) it will often happen that such an abundance of graces will come that the soul shall suddenly and perfectly lose
and forget all knowledge and feeling of his being, not even thinking about whether he has been holy or wretched. But whether this happen often or seldom to a soul
that is thus disposed, I believe that even if it be a short while during this time the soul is made perfectly meek, for it knows and feels nothing but God…
HERE BEGINS 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.
FOR although I call it imperfect meekness, yet I had rather have a true knowing and a feeling of myself as I am…than shoud all the saints and angels in heaven, and
all the men and women of Holy Church living in earth, religious or seculars in all degrees, set at once all together to do nothing else but to pray to God for me to get
And therefore strive and sweat in all that you can to get a true knowing and a feeling of yourself as you are, and then I believe that soon after that you shall have a
true knowing and a feeling of God as He is. Not as He is in Himself, for that may no man do but Himself; nor yet as you shall do in bliss (in heaven) both body and
soul together. But as it is possible, and as He choose to be known and felt by a meek soul living in this mortal body…
For often times it happens that lacking of knowing is cause of much pride…and you can deceive yourself and think that you are fully meek when you are all enfolded
in foul stinking pride. And therefore try to travail for perfect meekness; for the condition of it is such, that whoever has it, and while he has ithe shall not sin, nor yet
HERE BEGINS THE SIXTEENTH CHAPTER
That by Virtue of this work a sinner truly turned and called to contemplation comes sooner to perfection than by any other work; and by it soon may get of God
forgiveness of sins.
LOOK that no man think it presumption, that he that is the wretchedest sinner on this earth dare take upon himself after the time passes where he has amended his
life (through Confession, etc.), and after the has felt himself stirred to that life that is called contemplative, by the assent of his counsel (spiritual mentor) and his
conscience to offer a meek stirring of love to his God, hiddenly pressing upon the cloud of unknowing between himself and his God. When our Lord said to Mary, in
person of all sinners that be called to contemplative life, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," it was not for her great sorrow, nor for the remembering of her sins, nor yet for
her meekness that she had in the beholding of her wretchedness only. But, why then? Surely because she loved much.
Lo! here may men see what a hidden pressing of love may purchase of our Lord, more than all other works that man may think of. And yet I grant surely, that she
had plenty of sorrow, and wept grievously for her sins, and felt greatly meekness in remembrance of her wretchedness. And so should we do, that have been
wretches and habitual sinners; all our lifetime making terrible sorrow for our sins…
But how? Surely as Mary did… all her lifetime she had them with her wherever she went, as it were in a bundle bounde together and laid up hiddenly in the hole of
her heart, in a manner never to be forgotten--nevertheless yet, it may be said and affirmed by Scripture, that she had a more hearty sorrow, a more doleful desire,
and a more deep sighing, and more she languished, yea! almost to the death, for lacking of love, although she had so much love (and have no wonder about this,
for it is the condition of a true lover that the more he loves, the more he longs to love), than she had for any remembrance of her sins…
Came she therefore down from the height of desire into the deepness of her sinful life, and searched in the foul stinking fen and dunghill of her sins; searching them
up, one by one, with all the circumstances of them, and sorrowed and wept so upon them each one by itself? Nay, surely she did not so. And why? Because God
(by means of grace) made her know that none of that could bring about forgiveness of her sins which came not from her but from Him.
And therefore she hung up her love and her longing desire in this cloud of unknowing, and learned to love a thing which she might not see clearly in this life, by light
of understanding in her reason, nor yet actually feel in sweetness of love in her affection. Insomuch, that she had often times little special remembrance, whether
that ever she had been a sinner or none. Yea, and full often times I hope that she was so deeply disposed to the love of His Godhead that she had but little special
beholding of the beauty of His precious and His blessed body, in the which He sat full lovely speaking and preaching before her; nor yet to anything else, bodily or
HERE BEGINS THE SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER
That a true contemplative must not meddle in the active life, nor into anything that is done or spoken about him, nor yet to answer to his blamers in excusing of
IN the gospel of Saint Luke it is written, that when our Lord was in the house of Martha her sister, all the time that Martha made her busy about the details of
hospitality, Mary her sister sat at His feet. And in hearing of His word she paid no attention to the busyness of her sister, although her busyness was truly good and
holy, for truly it is the first part of active life…
But to the sovereignest wisdom of His Godhead enfolded in the dark words of His manhood, to that she paid attention with all the love of her heart. For that she
would not leave for anything she saw or heard around her, but sat totally still in her body, with many a sweet hidden love pressed upon that high cloud of unknowing
between her and her God. For one thing I tell thee, that there was never yet pure creature in this life, nor never yet shall be, so high ravished in contemplation and
love of the Godhead, that there is not just the same a high and a wonderful cloud of unknowing between him and his God… to such an extent that when her sister
Martha complained to our Lord of her, and bade Him bid her sister rise and help her and let her not so work and travail by herself, she sat full still and answered not
with one word, nor showed as much as a grumbling gesture against her sister for any complaint that she could make. And no wonder: because she had another
work to do that Martha knew not of. And therefore she had no leisure to listen to her, nor to answer her about her complaint.
Lo! friend, all these works, these words, and these gestures, that were told about between our Lord and these two sisters, were described as an example for all
actives and all contemplatives that have been since in Holy Church, and shall be to the day of judgment. For by Mary is understood all contemplatives; that they
should conform their living after hers. And by Martha, actives in the same manner.
HERE BEGINS THE EIGHTEENTH CHAPTER
How that yet unto this day all actives complain of contemplatives as Martha did of Mary. Of which complaining, ignorance is the cause.
AND just as Martha complained then about Mary her sister, just so yet unto this day all actives complain of contemplatives. For whenever there be a man or a
woman in any place of this world, who feels stirred through grace and by counsel to forsake all outward business, and for to set himself totally to live a
contemplative life; … as fast, their own brethren and their sisters, and all their close friends, with many others that know not their stirrings nor that manner of living
that they set them to, with a great complaining spirit shall rise upon them, and say sharply unto them that it is nothing that they do. And as fast they will remember up
many false tales, and many true also, of the downfall of men and women that have given them to such life before: and never a good tale of them that stood.
I grant that many fall and have fallen of them that have in this manner forsaken the world. And where they should have become God's servants and His
contemplatives, because they would not let themselves be ruled by true spiritual counsel they have become the devil's servants and his contemplatives; and
become either hypocrites or heretics, or fallen into frenzies and many other mischiefs, in slander of Holy Church.
HERE BEGINS THE NINETEENTH CHAPTER
… SOME might think that I do little justice to Martha, that special saint, for I liken her words of complaining of her sister unto these worldly men's words, or theirs
unto hers: and truly I mean no demeaning of her nor to them. And God forbid that I should in this work say anything that might be taken in condemnation of any of the
servants of God in any degree, or of His special saint. For I think that she should be excused for her complaint, taking into consideration the time and the manner
that she said it in. For her ignorance was the cause of what she said. And no wonder though she knew not at that time how Mary was occupied; for I believe that
before this time she had little heard of such perfection. And also what she said, was said courteously and in few words: and therefore she should always be
And so I think that these worldly living men and women of active life should also be excused of their complaining words even if they say rudely that they say;
because of their ignorance. Why? For they also nowadays know nothing about what these young disciples of God mean to do, when they set aside the business of
this world, and wish draw to be God's special servants in holiness and righteousness of spirit. And if they understood I daresay that these complainers would
neither do nor say as they say… knowing no better way of life than that which they live themselves. And also when I think on my innumerable faults, before this
time, in words and deeds coming from default of knowing, I think then that since I was excused by God for my ignorant defects, that I should always charitably and
compassionately excuse other men's ignorant words deeds always excused. And surely else, do I not to others as I would they did to me.
HERE BEGINS THE TWENTIETH CHAPTER
…AND therefore I think, that they that set them to be contemplatives should not only excuse active men for their complaining words, but that they should be so
occupied in spirit that they should take little heed or none about what men did or said about them. Thus did Mary, our example of all, when Martha her sister
complained to our Lord: and if we will truly do thus our Lord will do now for us as Hedid then for Mary.
And how was that? Surely thus. Our lovely Lord Jesus Christ, unto whom no private thing is hid, although He was required of Martha as judge to bid Mary rise and
help her to serve Him; nevertheless yet, sinceHe perceived that Mary was fervently occupied in spirit with the love of His Godhead, therefore courteously and as it
was seemly for Him to do by way of excuse, He answered for her, that for the excusing of herself she would not have not leave off her loving absorption in Him. And
how answered He? … “Martha, Martha!... You are busy," He said, "and troubled about many things." For they that be actives need always to be busied and
stressed about many diverse things that fall to them to do, first for their own needs, and then in deeds of mercy for their neighbor-Christian, as charity requires. He
let her know that her busyness was good and profitable to the health of her soul. But , just the same, that she should not think that it were the best work of all that
man might do, therefore He added and said: But one thing is necessary.'
And what is that one thing? Surely that God be loved and praised Himself, above all other business bodily or spiritual that man may do. And for this, that she might
see that what she was doing was good but not perfect--He added and said, that Mary had chosen the best part; which should never be taken from her. Because
that perfect stirring of love that begins here is of the same kind as that which shall last without end in the bliss of heaven, for all it is but one.
HERE BEGINS THE TWO AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER
Of the wonderful love that Christ had for man; for all sinners truly turned and called to the grace of contemplation.
SWEET was that love betwixt our Lord and Mary. Much love had she for Him. Much more had He for her… she was so heartily set to love Him, that nothing beneath
Him might comfort her, nor yet hold her heart from Him. This is she, that same Mary, that when she sought Him at the sepulchre with weeping would not be
comforted of angels. For when they spoke unto her so sweetly and so lovely and said, "Weep not, Mary; because our Lord whom you seek is risen, and you shall
have Him, and see Him live among His disciples in Galilee, she would not be comforted because she thought that seeking the King of Angels she would not cease
grieving because of seeing angels.
And what more? Surely whoever will look right at the story in the gospel, he shall find many wonderful points of perfect love written of her for our example, as match
this writing. And if a man wishes to see in the gospel the wonderful and the special love that our Lord had for her, an example for all sinners truly repentant and
called to the grace of contemplation, he shall find that our Lord might not allow any man or woman--yea, not her own sister--speak a word against her, or Simon in
his house who upbraided her.
HERE BEGINS THE THREE AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER
How God will answer (also for true contemplatives now)…
And as He will answer for us thus in spirit, so will He stir other men in spirit to give us our needful things that belong to this life, as meat and clothes with all these
other; if He see that we will not leave the work of His love for busyness about them. It is an error to say that men should not help contemplatives unless these first
secure their own bodily necessities….one of these two God shall send thee, without your effort, either abundance of necessaries, or strength in body and patience
in spirit to bear need…
HERE BEGINS THE FOUR AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER
What charity is in itself, and how it is truly and perfectly contained in the work of this book.
AND as it is said of meekness, how that it is truly and perfectly comprehended in this little blind love pressed, when it is beating upon this dark cloud of unknowing,
all other things put down and forgotten: so it is to be understood of all other virtues, and specially of charity.
For charity is nothing else but love of God for Himself above all creatures, and of man for God even as thyself…the substance of this work is nothing else but a
naked intent directed unto God for Himself.
A naked intent I call it. Because in this work is asked for nothing but God without care about being in pain or bliss but only that His will be fulfilled…. With no care
about whether others be kin or stranger, friend or foe. For all men him thinks equally kin unto him, and no man stranger. All men him thinks be his friends, and none
his foes. He thinks that all that bring him pain in this life are his special friends, and he will them as much good as he would to his closest friend.
HERE BEGINS THE FIVE AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER
That in the time of this work a perfect soul hath no special beholding (dependence?) on any one man in this life…
When, in this work of prayer all things under God are to be totally forgotten, a man should have no special love for anyone in this life, friend or foe, kin or stranger.
During the work it would be a sin to be thinking of anyone but God. But I say that he shall be made so virtuous and so charitable by virtue of this work, that,
afterwards, when he goes to be with his neighbor Christian, his will shall be eager to speedily help those in need as charity requires, especially to do for his foe
what he would do for his friend; to a stranger as to a kinsman.
I do not mean that he shall not feel closer to some, which is lawful, for Christ felt such close affection for John, Mary and Peter more than to others. But I say, that in
the time of this work all shall be equally close, for he shall only feel God so that all shall be loved for God as well as himself…
As the Lord suffered for the salvation of all, so one praying in this way (in the Cloud) shall be bonded to all in their need for salvation and will wish all to experience
the graces he is experiencing…
HERE BEGINS THE SIX AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER
That without special grace, or long use in common grace, the work of this book is a great travail.
… AND therefore struggle a while, and beat upon this high cloud of unknowing, and rest afterward. …
But I pray thee, wherein shall that travail be? Surely not in that devout stirring of love that is continually wrought in his will, not by himself, but by the hand of Almighty
God: which is always ready to work this work in each soul that is disposed to it…
But wherein then is this travail, I pray thee? Surely, this travail is all in treading down of the remembrance of all the creatures that ever God made, and in holding of
them under the cloud of forgetting named before. In this is all the travail, for this is man's travail, with help of grace. And the other above--that is to say, the stirring of
love--that is the work of only God. And therefore keep on with your work, and surely I promise you He shall not fail in His.
So keep going. Let’s see how you do? See how God is there and abides. For shame! Don’t give up. Struggle but a while, and you will soon be reliefs of the
greatness and hardness of this travail. For although it be hard in the beginning, when you have no devotion; after a while when you have devotion, it will be very
restful and light where before it was so hard. And you will have little travail or God will work sometimes all by Himself. And as He wishes you will think it a joy to let
God work alone on you.
Then will He sometimes perchance send out a beam of spiritual light, piercing this cloud of unknowing that is between you and Him; and show you some of His
secrets about which man may not or cannot speak. Then you will feel your heart inflamed with the fire of His love, far more than I can tell you, or may or will at this
time. For of that work, that falls to only God, dare I not take upon me to speak with my blabbering fleshly tongue: and shortly to say, although I could, I would not.
HERE BEGINS THE SEVEN AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER
Who should work in the gracious work of this book.
FIRST and foremost, I will tell thee who should work in this work, and when, and by what means… If you ask me who shall work thus, I answer thee--all that have
forsaken the world with a true will, and therefore give themselves no longer to the active life, but to that life that is called contemplative life. All those should work in
this grace and in this work, whether they have been accustomed sinners or not.
HERE BEGINS 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.
BUT if you ask me when they should work in this work, then I answer you that not until they have cleansed their conscience of all their special deeds of sin done
before, after the common ordinance of Holy Church…
And, therefore, whoso will travail in this work, let him first cleanse his conscience; and afterward let him dispose him boldly but meekly thereto. And let him think,
that he has been a long time in coming to this. For this is that work in the which a soul should travail all his lifetime, though he had never sinned mortally. And while a
soul is dwelling in this mortal flesh, it shall always see and feel this cumbrous cloud of unknowing between him and God. And not only that, but in pain of original sin
it shall always see and feel that some of all the creatures that ever God made, or some of their works, will always press in remembrance between it and God. And
this is the right wisdom of God, that man, when he had sovereignty and lordship of all other creatures, because that he willfully made himself subordinate to the
stirring of his subjects, leaving the bidding of God and his Maker; that it is just that afterwards, when he would fulfill the bidding of God, he saw and felt all the
creatures that should be beneath him, proudly press above him, between him and his God.
HERE BEGINS THE NINE AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER
That a man should abide in the travail in this work, and suffer the pain of it, and judge no man.
AND therefore, whoever wishes to come to the cleanness that he lost for sin, and to win to that well-being where all woe is lacking, needs to keep on in this work,
and suffer the pain of it, whether he have been a habitual sinner or not…
But far greater struggle have those that have been sinners than they that have not been… Nevertheless, often it happens that some that have been horrible and
habitual sinners come sooner to the perfection of this work than those that have not been. And this is the merciful miracle of our Lord, who gives His grace in ways
that cause the world to wonder.
Now truly I hope that on Judgment Day it shall be delightful, when God shall be seen clearly and all His gifts. Then shall some that now be despised and set at little
or nothing as common sinners, and perchance some that now be horrible sinners, sit happily with saints in His sight: when some of those that seem now really holy
and be worshipped of men as angels, and some of those yet perchance, that never yet sinned mortally, shall sit sorrowfully in hell caves.
In this way you see why no man should be judged by another in this life for the good or evil that they do. Nevertheless deeds may lawfully be judged as good or evil,
but not the man.
HERE BEGINS THE THIRTIETH CHAPTER
Who should blame and condemn other men's sins.
Who shall rightly judge? Surely those in charge of souls and their healing, either given openly by the statute and the ordinance of Holy Church, or else secretly in
spirit at the special stirring of the Holy Spirit in perfect charity.
Each man beware, that he presume not to take upon him to blame and condemn other men's defaults, unless he feel truly that he be stirred by the Holy Spirit within
in his work; for else may he may very easily err in his judgments. And therefore beware: judge yourself as you wish between yourself and your God, and let other
men alone. _________________________________________
HERE BEGINS THE ONE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
How a man, as he begins this work, should come against all thoughts and stirrings of sin.
...try to cover your former sins with a thick cloud of forgetting, as if they had never been done in your life or in that of any other man. And if they oft rise, oft put them
down: and no matter how much you have to struggle…
HERE BEGINS THE TWO AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
Of two spiritual strategies that are helpful to a spiritual beginner in this work.
…when sinful thoughts and stirrings come try to look, as it were, over their shoulders seeking another thing…that is, seeking God enclosed in a cloud of
Another is to cower under the thoughts and beg God to fight for you amidst these enemies…to take you up and lovingly dry your spiritual eyes, as the father does
with a child that was on the point of perishing under the attach of wild swine or biting bears in the forest.
HERE BEGINS THE THREE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
That in this work a soul is cleansed both of his specific sins and of the pain of them, and yet how there is no perfect rest in this life.
… For truly it is thy purgatory, and then when thy pain is all passed and thy ways be given by God, and graciously become habitual; then there is no doubt in my
mind that you are cleansed not only of sin, but also of the pain of sin. I mean, of the pain of thy special previous sins, and not of the pain of original sin. For that pain
shall always last to the day of your death, no matter how much you fight it. Nevertheless, it shall but little provoke you, in comparison of this pain of your specific
sins; and yet you will still be in great struggle. For out of this original sin will all day spring new and fresh stirrings of sin: which you have to smite down, and shear
away them constantly with a sharp double-edged dreadful sword of discretion. And hereby you will see and learn that there is no steadfast security nor true rest in
Nevertheless, because of this struggle you will notnot go back, nor yet be overly fearful of falling. For whatever the reason, you will not be easily provoked into sin.
HERE BEGINS THE FOUR AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
That God gives this grace freely without any methods, and that it may not be come to with methods.
Only God can teach you how to pursue the work of the Clouds…for it is the work of God in souls that He chooses without any merit on our own part. For without His
grace no saint nor angel can think to desire it. And I think Our Lord especially and often will give this work to them who have been habitual sinners more than in
those who never grieved Him greatly, for He wants His mercy to be known.
And yet He gives this grace to all, whether we be innocent or sinful in the past…
Beware of pride, for it blasphemes God in His gifts, and makes sinners bold. If you were truly meek you would see that this work is given without any merit… It is
given in such a way that whoever is drawn to it is able to do it and nothing else. As much as you will it and desire it, so much have you of it…
Let this work of the Cloud do with you and lead you as it wills. Let it be the worker, and you but the sufferer: do but look upon it, and let it alone. Do not meddle
yourself into it as to help it, for you might spill all of it. … You be the house and let the cloud dwell in you… Be blind in this time, and shear away the craving to know.
It is sufficient that you feel stirred by you know not what, having no special thought of anything under God, and that your attention be nakedly directed unto God,
without any means on your part or on God’s…
And do not be afraid that the devil will take over, for he cannot do so without something to work with and there is none such here…
HERE BEGINS THE SIX AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
Of the meditations of them that continually travail in the work of this book.
BUT it is not so with them that continually work in the work of this book. For their meditations be but as it were sudden thoughts and blind feelings of their own
wretchedness, or of the goodness of God; without any means of reading or hearing coming before, and without any special paying attention to anything under God.
These sudden thoughts and these blind feelings are sooner learned of God than of man. There is no need for more….just single words such as Sin or God of
whatever you wish. But you need avoid analyzing these words as if that would increase your devotion…. For instance mean by sin, a lump which is yourself, without
any change of countenance or bodily indication of what is impinging on you. You should appear simply to be at rest.
HERE BEGINS THE SEVEN AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
Of the special prayers of them that be continual workers in the word of
Other than the prayers ordained by the Church, your prayers should be simple and spontaneous.
And if they be in words, as they be but seldom, then be they but in full few words: yea, ever the fewer the better. Yea, and if it be but a little word of one syllable, me
think it better than of two…
(Here is an analogy) A man or a woman, afraid of a fire disaster or of someone dying, will cry out for help with very few words...surely, not in many words…And why
is that?...for he doesn’t want to delay help by his many words and yells out simply “fire!” or “help!”
So in prayer (of the Cloud) one word meant to be from the depth of the spirit, which is also height, length, and breadth pierces the ears of Almighty God quicker
than any long psalm mumbled thoughtlessly from the teeth! And therefore it is written, that short prayer pierces heaven.
HERE BEGINS THE EIGHT AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
How and why that short prayer pierces heaven
…In this time it is that a soul comprehends after the lesson of Saint Paul with all saints--not fully, but in manner and in part, as it is according unto this work--what is
the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of everlasting and all, lovely, almighty, and all-knowing God. The everlastingness of God is His length. His love
is His breadth. His might is His height. And His wisdom is His deepness.
No wonder that a soul that is thus so conformed by grace to the image and the likeness of God his maker, be soon heard of God! Yea, though it be a truly sinful
soul, which is to God as it were an enemy; if he might through grace come cry such a little syllable in the height and the deepness, the length and the breadth of his
spirit, yet he should for the hideous noise of his cry be always heard and helped of God.
See by the example. He that is your deadly enemy, if you hear him cry out “fire” you would forget he is your enemy and be stirred by pity even in the midst of a wintry
night to help him but out the fire!...
Oh, Lord! since a man may be made so merciful in grace, to have so much mercy and so much pity of his enemy, notwithstanding his enmity, what pity and what
mercy shall God have then of a spiritual cry in soul?...
HERE BEGINS THE NINE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER
How a perfect worker shall pray, and what prayer is in itself …
AND therefore it is, to pray in the height and the depth, the length and the breadth of our spirit. And that not in many words, but in a little word of one syllable. And
what shall this word be?...
Prayer in itself properly is nothing else, but a devout intent direct toward God, for getting good and removing of evil. And then, since…all evil is included in sin, let
us intently pray for removing of evil eithersay, or think, or mean, nothing else nor any more words, but this little word "sin." And if we will intently pray for getting of
good, let us cry, either with word or with thought or with desire, nothing else nor any more words, but this word "God." For in God be all good, both by cause and by
Study not for any other words, for by so doing you shall never come to your purpose in this work, for it is never got by study, but all only by grace. And therefore use
no other works unless you are stirred by God to use them…
But although the shortness of prayer be greatly commended here, nevertheless the oftenness of prayer is never to be refrained from. For you should never cease,
until the time that you have fully gotten what you long for… just as in the example someone would never cease crying “fire” until they have gotten the help they
HERE BEGINS THE FORTIETH CHAPTER
That in the time of this work a soul pays no attention to any vice in itself nor to any virtue in itself.
DO you, on the same manner, fill your spirit with the spiritual meaning of the word “sin,”…without thinking of specific venial or mortal sins…since for contemplatives
the least sin makes us depart from God and lose our peace… And feel sin a lump, and none other thing than yourself. And cry then spiritually over any one of them
“Sin, sin, sin! Out, out, out!" …
IN the same manner shall you proceed with this little word "God." Fill your spirit with the spiritual meaning of it without any special attention to any of His works--
whether they be good, better, or best of all--physical or spiritual, or paying attention to any virtues… for all virtues you should find and feel in God… for in having God
we have all good and therefore covet nothing but only the good God.
And because however long you live in this wretched life, you will always feel yourself in some part to be a foul stinking lump of sin, as it were united and congealed
with sin in the substance of your being, therefore you can always know that if you had God you would lack sin and as much as you lack sin, you should have God.
HERE BEGINS THE ONE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
That in all other works beneath this, men should keep discretion; but in this none.
AND furthermore, if you ask me what moderation you shall have in this work, then I answer you and say, absolutely none! For in all your other doings you shall have
moderation, as in eating and in drinking, and in sleeping and in keeping of your body from outrageous cold or heat, and in long praying or reading, or in communing
in speech with your neighbor Christian. In all these you should be moderate, neither too much nor too little. But in this work there is no measure: for I hope that you
will never cease this work as long as you live.
Sometimes by reason of sickness or other indispositions… may keep you from the height of such work, of course… Much as you need to pray for good health… I
tell you truly, that often patience in sickness and in other diverse tribulations pleases God much more than any pleasant devotion that you may have when in health.
HERE BEGINS THE TWO AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
That by immoderateness in this, men shall keep moderation in all other things…
BUT perhaps you are wondering how it is possible to be moderate in eating and sleeping and in all other things?... I reply, the more you are busy paying attention to
this spiritual work within your soul, the more you wouldn’t bother to think so much about eating and drinking and sleeping and speaking…
Say what men say will, and let them witness the truth of this. And therefore lift up your heart with a blind stirring of love; and think now sin, and now God. God you
want and sin you want to be free of. God wants you and you can be sure God wants to help you in your need to get rid of sin….
HERE BEGINS THE THREE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
That all knowing and feeling of a man's own self will be lost if the perfection of this work shall truly be felt in any soul in this life…
By treading all else down under the cloud of forgetting you will forget all else. For it is the condition of a perfect lover, not only to love that thing that he loves more
than himself; but also in a sense to even hate himself for that thing that he loves.
Thus you shall come to loathe and be weary of everything except only God. And no wonder you hate to think about yourself when you will always feel sin, yourself, a
foul stinking lump, between you and God.
For on the knowing and feeling of yourself hangs your knowing and feeling of all other creatures, for compared to self all other creatures are easily forgotten. So
even if you forget all other creatures and their works and your own weeks, still between you and God is the naked feeling of your own being, and this will gradually
be destroyed as you become more perfect in this work.
HERE BEGINS THE FOUR AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
How a soul shall destroy all knowing and feeling of its own being…
…to this I answer thee and I say,that without a truly special grace full freely given of God, and then a true ability to receive this grace from your own side, this naked
knowing and feeling of your being may in no way be destroyed. And this ability is nothing else but a strong and a deep spiritual sorrow.
But in this sorrow you need to have moderation, so as not to strain your body or spirit, but to sit still as it were in sleep, all tearful and sunken in sorrow…This is true
sorrow; this is perfect sorrow; and happy will you be to win it. All men have reasons for sorrow: but most specially he feels sorrow, that knows and feels that he
exists. And whoever never felt this sorrow, he may feel sorry because he has never felt perfect sorrow. This sorrow, when it is had, cleanses the soul, not only of sin,
but also of pain that it hath deserved for sin; and therefore it makes it a soul able to receive that joy, that comes from been separated from all knowing and feeling of
This sorrow, if it be truly conceived, is full of holy desire: otherwise man might never in this life abide it or bear it. For if he did not feel the comfort of the experience
of God, he would be nearly mad with sorrow: weeping, wailing, striving, cursing and thinking that the burden he bears in his soul is so heavy he cares what happens
to him as long as God was pleased. And yet in all this sorrow he desires not to unbe: for that were devil's madness and a spiting of God. But he wishes truly to be,
and intends to thank God heartily for the worth and gift of his being, even though he unceasingly desires to lose the knowing and feeling of his being!
(If God wishes He can give us a sense even on this earth of being united to God in such as way as to no longer feel the self to be separate.)
HERE BEGINS THE FIVE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
A good statement of some deceiving experiences that may happen during this work.
BUT one thing I tell you, that in this work a young disciple not yet proven in spirituality, may easily be deceived and needs to accept the grace to desist and meekly
seek counsel, for otherwise perhaps he will be physically destroyed and fall into spiritual fantasies. All this comes from pride, worldliness and curiosity of mind.
This is how such a deceit can happen. A young man or a woman new in the school of devotion, hearing of this work of lifting the heart unto God and desiring to feel
this love of God always, may conceive of it not in a spiritual sense but in a worldly physical sense and struggle to strain for this result by rudely trying to make
themselves feel this union, falling either into frenzies, weariness or feebleness in body and soul, trying to escape from themselves into comforts for the body and
spirit. They might seek to be enflamed by some kind of heat, and fall into letting the fiend, their spiritual enemy. In this way their pride could lead them into feeling a
heat from the devil. And yet perhaps they think it to be the fire of love, gotten and kindled by the grace and the goodness of the Holy Spirit. Truly, from this deceit,
and of the branches of it, springs many mischiefs: much hypocrisy, much heresy, and much error. For quickly after such a false feeling comes a false knowing in the
Fiend's school, just as after a true feeling comes a true knowing in God's school. For I tell thee truly, that the devil has his contemplatives as God has His.
This deceit of false feeling, and of false knowing following thereon, has diverse and wonderful variations, after the diversity of states and the subtle conditions of
them that be deceived: as has the true feeling and knowing of them that be saved. But I set down here no more deceits except those I believe you will experience if
you decide to do this work. For what should it profit you to know how these great clerics and men and women of other degrees are deceived? Surely nothing…
HERE BEGINS THE SIX AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
A good teaching how a man shall flee these deceits, and work more with a willingness of spirit, than with any bodily exertions….
learn to love willingly, with a soft and a demure behaviour as well in body as in soul; and abide courteously and meekly the will of our Lord, and snatch not
overhastily, as if you were a greedy greyhound…hunger thee never so sore. And, playfully, if you will, pretend that you do not let Him know how eager you are
to...see Him, and have Him or feel Him…
HERE BEGINS THE SEVEN AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
(Note from Dr. Ronda, here he describes how the soul should wish to be bonded with God is a very spiritual way rather than cherish feelings of God in the body.)…
Our desire for Good needs to be sober in purity and in deepness of spirit… because your desire is more like unto Him, when it is in purity of spirit, for He is a
HERE BEGINS 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.
I SAY not this because I will that you desist any time, if you be stirred to pray with your mouth, or to burst out for abundance of devotion in your spirit for to speak
unto God as unto man, and say some good word as you feel yourself stirred, such as: "Good JESU! Fair JESU! Sweet JESU!" and all such words. Nay, God
forbid you take it thus! For truly I mean not thus, and God forbid that I should part that which God hath coupled, the body and the spirit. For God will be served with
body and with soul both together, as is right, and will reward man his merit in bliss, both in body and in soul. And in token of that reward, sometimes He will enflame
the body of devout servants of His here in this life: not once or twice, but perhaps very often as He wishes, with full wonderful sweetness and comforts. Of which,
some be not coming from without into the body by the windows of our minds, but from within; rising and springing of abundance of spiritual gladness, and of true
devotion in the spirit. Such a comfort and such a sweetness shall not be suspect…
But all other comforts, sounds and gladness and sweetness, that come from without suddenly and you know not from where, I pray you to be wary of. For they may
be both good and evil; wrought by a goodangel if they be good, and by an evil angel if they be evil. But the devout stirring of love dwelling in pure spirit comes from
the hand of Almighty God without any sensible signs, and therefore it is always far from any fantasy, or any false opinion that may befall to man in this life.
And of the other comforts and sounds and sweetness, how you should be able to know whether they be good or evil I think not to tell you at this time: and that is
because I think it is not necessary. You can find out from writings of other men a thousand fold better than what I can say or write…
If you continue in this way (of the Cloud) you will be able to discern these things…for this way of prayer will bind your heart so closely that you will not give great
credence to these other types of experience until they are wonderfully proven to you by the Spirit of God, or else by counsel of some discreet father.
HERE BEGINS THE NINE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER
The substance of all perfection is nothing else but a good will; and how all sounds and comfort sweetness that may befall in this life are to the having a good will
AND therefore I pray you, lean willingly choose this meek stirring of love in your heart, and follow after it: for it will be your guide in this life and bring you to bliss in
the other. It is the substance of all virtuous living, and without it no good work may be begun nor ended. It consists in having a good will toward God, being pleased
and glad about all that He does…everything else is suspended on this good will. You may lack or have such other graces but they don’t make or break it… in the
bliss of heaven, however, all graces will be united in the body and soul. And once in heaven I believe no one will feel badly or well for having had one or another
grace on this earth outside of this good will.
HERE BEGINS THE FIFTIETH CHAPTER
Which is chaste love; and how in some creatures such sensible comforts are but seldom, and in some very often….
If such sensible comforts come,…welcome them: but lean not too much on them…for it will take a lot of energy to try to stay long in such sweet feelings and
weepings. And, perhaps, you may be stirred to love God for them, and that could lead you to grumble too much when they are not given.
And if that is the case, your love is not yet either chaste or perfect. For a love that is chaste and perfect, if God willed not to give such feelings. And it is common
that in some creatures there are many such comforts and in others but seldom…
For some creatures be so weak and so tender in spirit, that unless they were somewhat comforted by feeling of such sweetness, they might never be able to abide
or bear the diversity of temptations and tribulations that they suffer and struggle with in this life from their physical and spiritual enemies.
And some there be that they be so weak in body that they may not do much penance to be cleansed. And these creatures will our Lord cleanse full graciously in
spirit by such sweet feelings and weepings. And also on the other side, there be some creatures so strong in spirit, that they can find comfort enough within in their
souls, in offering up of this reverent and this meek stirring of love and accordance of will, that they need not much to be fed with such sweet comforts in bodily
feelings. Which of these be holier or more dear to God, one than another, God knows and I not.
HERE BEGINS THE ONE AND FIFTIETH CHAPTER
… it is good to be wary in understanding this word "in," and this word "up."…
For in misconceiving of these two words hangs much error…
A young disciple in God's school new turned from the world…and hearing men speak or read about (the Cloud) "how a man shall draw all his mind within himself,"
or "how he shall
climb above himself"… and sometimes out of ignorance or out of a natural desire to hide things that they are called by grace to this spiritual work. And if
counseled not to do so, they will grumble against their advisor and claim that they can find no one who truly understands them…
And, therefore, they leave meek prayer and penance overly quickly and set themselves for this spiritual way… and go against nature and let the devil work on them.
And this can lead even to death and madness.
HERE BEGINS THE TWO AND FIFTIETH CHAPTER
How these young presumptuous disciples misunderstand this word "in," and of the deceits that follow from this.
They read and hear well said that they should leave outward working with their minds, and work inwardly…they strain themselves to see inwardly with their bodily
eyes and hear inwards with their ears, tasting, and feeling inwards. And thus they reverse them against the course of nature, and with this curiosity they strain their
imagination so indiscreetly, that at the last they turn their brain in their heads, and then the devil hath power to feign some false light or sounds, sweet smells in their
noses, wonderful tastes in their mouths; and many quaint heats and burnings in their bodily breasts or in their bowels, in their backs and … in their members.
And yet in this fantasy they think that they have a restful experience of their God without any allowing of vain thoughts; and surely so have they in a certain manner,
for they be so filled with falsehood. And why? Because he, that same fiend is working in them even as they think everything is from God, for the fiend will let them
think they are in God so that he should not be suspected of his work…
HERE BEGINNETH THE FOUR AND FIFTIETH CHAPTER
How by virtue of this word a man is governed truly wisely, and made good as well in body as in soul.
Each man or woman who looks at a person in the work (of the Cloud) will find him attractive, so much show that if the least attractive man or woman that lives
comes into the grace of this work, they will be change so that others would be happy to have them in their company and feel graced by God in their presence…
giving good counsel to all, so that all who see him will wonder at the changes in those who come to him.
His demeanor and his words should be full of spiritual wisdom, full of fire, and of fruit in all sobriety, without any falsehood, pretence or vain show of devotion…from
trying to look holy in the sight of men rather than being truly holy in the sight of God and His angels.
Such folk will be more sorry about some unseemly or unfitting work spoken before men than they will for a thousand vain thoughts and stinking stirrings of sin
chosen by themselves in the sight of God and the saints and the angels in heaven…
Where there is true meekness rather than pride then it is good to manifest meek and seemly words and gestures. But this should not be manifest in high-pitched
voices but in a natural tone…And if he that has a plain and an open boisterous voice by nature speak words closely and high-pitched – unless if he be sick in his
body, or else that it be between him and his God or his confessor--then it is a very token of hypocrisy…
HERE BEGINS THE FIVE AND FIFTIETH CHAPTER
How they be deceived that follow the fervor of spirit in condemning of some (harshly) without discretion.
SOME men the fiend will deceive in this manner. He will enflame their minds to maintain God's law, and to destroy sin in all other men. He will never tempt them with
a thing that is openly evil; he makes them like busy prelates watching over all the degrees of Christian men's living, as an abbot over his monks. ALL men they
reprove of their defaults, as if they had cure of their souls: and they think that this is for God…they say that the fire of charity stirs them to reprove others, but truly
they lie, for it is with the fire of hell, welling in their brains and in their imagination…
HERE BEGINS THE SIX AND FIFTIETH CHAPTER
Some…who are not deceived into harsh judgment yet out of pride and study leave the common doctrine and the counsel of Holy Church. And…end up
blaspheming all the saints, sacraments, statutes, and ordinances of Holy Church. And worldly men thinking that it is too hard to follow the Church lean toward these
heretics so that they can live in a softer manner…Now I believe that whoever doesn’t take the straight way to leaven, will go the soft way to hell…even if their sins
HERE BEGINS THE SEVEN AND FIFTIETH CHAPTER
How these young presumptuous disciples misunderstand this other word
"up"; and of the deceits that follow thereon….
Reading or hearing that we should “lift up our hearts to God” they stare in the stars as if they would be above the moon, and hearken when they shall hear any angel
sing out of heaven. These men will sometimes with the curiosity of their imagination pierce the planets, and “make a hole in the firmament to look through.” These
men will make a God as they wish Him to be and clothe Him full richly in clothes, and set Him in a throne far more curiously than ever was He depicted in this earth.
These men will make angels in bodily likeness, and set them about each one with diverse instruments, far more curious than ever was any seen or heard in this life.
Some of these men the devil will deceive very wonderfully. For he will send a manner of dew, angels' food they think it be, as it were coming out of the air, and softly
and sweetly falling in their mouths; and therefore they have it in custom to sit gaping as they would catch flies. Now truly all this is but deceit, seem it never so holy;
for they have in this time souls empty of any true devotion.
Much vanity and falsehood is in their hearts, caused of their curious working. Insomuch, that often the devil concocts quaint sounds in their ears, quaint lights and
shining in their eyes, and wonderful smells in their noses: and all is but falsehood. And yet they believe it is all true, using examples such as that of Saint Martin of
this upward looking and working, that saw by revelation God clad in his mantle amongst His angels, and of Saint Stephen that saw our Lord stand in heaven, and of
many other; and of Christ, that ascended bodily to heaven, seen of His disciples. And therefore they say that we should have our eyes upward.
I grant that in our bodily observance we should lift up our eyes and our hands if we be stirred in spirit. But I say that the work of our spirit shall not be directed either
upwards or downwards, nor on one side nor on other, nor forward nor backward since our work should be spiritual not bodily.
HERE BEGINS THE EIGHT AND FIFTIETH CHAPTER
That a man shall not take example of Saint Martin and of Saint Stephen, as a reason to strain his imagination bodily upwards in the time of his prayer.
FOR what they say of Saint Martin and of Saint Stephen, although they saw such things with their bodily eyes, it was shown in miracle and in certifying of things that
were spiritual. For they realize that St. Martin’s mantle never came over Christ’s own body in a physical way since He had no need to be warmed. And whosoever
clothes a poor man and does any other good deed for God's love bodily or spiritually to any that has need, sure be they they do it unto Christ spiritually speaking:
and they shall be rewarded as substantially therefore as they had done it to Christ's own body. Thus says Himself in the gospel.
...All the revelations that ever saw any man here in bodily likeness in this life, they have spiritual meanings. And if those who were shown such revelations could
have understood them without a physical manifestation they would have been given only a spiritual understanding. And therefore let us pick off the rough bark, and
feed us off the sweet kernel…
Now it is true that our Lord when He ascended to heaven bodily took His way upwards into the clouds, and was seen of His mother and His disciples with their
bodily eyes? Should we therefore in our spiritual work ever stare upwards with our bodily eyes, to look after Him so that we may see Him sit bodily in heaven, or
else stand, as Saint Stephen did?...
For in heaven what is important is that He is united His body and soul…See by example what words like standing mean (analogically) even about human life. By
standing is understood a readiness of helping. An therefore it is said commonly of one friend to another, when he is in physical battle: "Bear you well, fellow, and
fight fast, and give not up the battle overly quickly; for I shall stand by you." He means not only bodily standing; for perhaps this battle is on horse and not on foot,
and perhaps it is in going and not standing. But he means when he says that he shall stand by him, that he shall be ready to help him. For this reason it was that our
Lord showed Him bodily in heaven to Saint Stephen, when he was in his martyrdom: and not to give us example to look up to heaven. As He had said thus to Saint
Stephen the person of all those that suffer persecution for His love: "Lo, Stephen! as verily as I open this bodily firmament, which is called heaven, and let you see
My bodily standing, trust fast that as truly stand I beside you spiritually by the might of My Godhead. And I am ready to help you, and therefore stand you unwavering
in the faith and suffer boldly the fell buffets of those hard stones: for I shall crown thee in bliss for thy merit, and not only you, but all those that suffer persecution for
Me in any manner." And thus may you see that these physically showings were done for spiritual purposes.
DEAR READERS, AT THIS TIME SOMEONE GAVE ME THE BANGLEY TRANSLATION. I decided, as a result, to stop paraphrasing the Underhill text. But, since
you may be reading this free and not have money to get the Bangley translation, I will just include here the lines in the rest of the Cloud that are not repetitious:
… HERE BEGINS THE FOUR AND SIXTIETH CHAPTER
Of the other two principal powers Reason and Will; and of the work of
them before sin and after.
REASON is a power through which we distinguish evil from good, the evil from the worse, the good from the better, the worse from the worst, the better from the
best. Before man sinned, it was possible for Reason to have done all this by nature. But now it is so blinded with original sin, that it may not do this work unless it be
illumined by grace.
Will is a power through which we choose good, after it is determined with Reason; and through which we love good, we desire good, and rest ourselves endlessly
in God. Before man sinned, will was not deceived ever in choosing, loving, or works. For before original sin, we would savor each thing as it was; but now we do
not do so unless we be anointed with grace. For often because of the infection of the original sin, the will savors a thing as good that is full evil, and that has but the
likeness of good…
HERE BEGINNETH THE FIVE AND SIXTIETH CHAPTER
Of the first secondary power, Imagination by name; and of the works and
the obedience of it to Reason, before sin and after.
IMAGINATION is a power through which we portray all images of absent and present things… Before man sinned, Imagination was so obedient to the Reason, to
which it is as it were servant, that it never indulged in fantasies about physical or spiritual things. But now, unless the light of grace comes into the mind, the
imagination runs wild, sleeping or waking, to portray disordered images…
HERE BEGINS THE SIX AND SIXTIETH CHAPTER
SENSUALITY is a power of our soul, relating to pleasure or displeasure in physical matters.
There are two parts to sensuality: the desire for what we need and, on the other hand, lust. For this same power is it, that grumbles when the body lacks what it
needs, but also to want more than we need…
Before man sinned Sensuality was obedient to the Will, so that it never grumbled. But now it is difficult to suffer meekly, feeling the absence of comforts, or the
presence of discomforts, or…to indulge like a swine in the mire, in the wealth of this world, so as to become beastly and fleshy more than human or spiritual.
HERE BEGINS THE SEVEN AND SIXTIETH CHAPTER
…We should wish to be above ourselves immersed in God, not so concerned with our own ideas and thoughts…grace can bring us higher than our nature…
HERE BEGINS THE NINE AND SIXTIETH CHAPTER
…Doing the prayer of the Cloud leads to a greater sense of the evil of ones sins, but if, as a result one goes back to worldliness, then one doesn’t deserve the
spiritual joys that God will give if you persevere…and the joy of realizing that many of ones temptation of the past are much less…he will think that the sufferings are
a purgatory and that the joys seem like paradise or heaven, and may feel truly himself to be experiencing God…Yet there will still be the Cloud of Unknowing
between him and God.
HERE BEGINNETH THE SEVENTIETH CHAPTER
… By your eyes you cannot conceive of anything, except concerning the length and the breadth, the smallness and the greatness, the roundness and the
squareness, the farness and the nearness, and the colour of it. And by your ears, nought nothing but noise or some manner of sound. By your nose, nothing but
either stench or savour. And by your taste, nothing but either sour or sweet, salt or fresh, bitter or pleasant. And by your touch, nothing but either hot or cold, hard or
tender, soft or sharp. And truly, neither God or spiritual things have any of those qualities nor quantities.
And by our understanding we can never know uncreated spiritual things…And therefore it was that Saint Denis said, the best knowing of God is that which is known
by unknowing. And truly, whoever willlook in Denis' books, he shall find that his words will clearly affirm all that I have said or shall say, from the beginning of this
treatise to the end.
HERE BEGINS THE ONE AND SEVENTIETH CHAPTER
That some may not come to feel the perfection of this work except in time of ravishing, and some may have it when they will, in the common state of man's soul.
SOME think this matter so hard and so fearful, that they say it may not be understood except in times of rapture…And to these men will I say, that it is all at the
ordinance and the disposition of God… for some have the joy of it in ordinary life as in sitting, going, standing, or kneeling with the mind’s alert, with some effort, but
not a great deal. As an example of special raptures we have Moses, but of this second type we have Aaron always with a Ark as the priest…
HERE BEGINS THE TWO AND SEVENTIETH CHAPTER
That a worker in this work should not deem nor think of another worker as he feels in himself.
…one to whom the joy of this work comes seldom should not deem that other spiritual workers must have the same experience and have to struggle greatly to
receive it. Nor should one who has it regularly imagine that others do also….
HERE BEGINS THE FOUR AND SEVENTIETH CHAPTER
… AND if you think that this manner of working be not according to your disposition in body and in soul, you may leave it and take another, safely with good spiritual
counsel without blame…But those that pursue this spiritual work should read this book twice or three times, the oftener the better, for perhaps some sentence that
was hard for you to grasp at the first or second reading may become very clear at another time…
Critical types I would prefer never to see this book for my intent was not to write for them even if they could be truly good men in the active life…
The conviction that this is a good work for a person to undertake does not depend on them always having the thought of it in their minds. No. Often times such a
thought is withdrawn for different reasons. It could be pride to think that one could simply call it up of one’s own power… even if it is not pride to want to experience
it, it could be the grace is withdrawn because in the future one might become proud. The withdrawing should not make one feel that God is one’s enemy. He is our
true friend….sometime it is our fault because of carelessness and then one feels true bitter pain at the loss, but sometimes our Lord delays it to make it grow…so
that by yearning for it, it may be shown that now one has even more desire and greater longing and love than before…more joy in finding it again than sorrow in
losing it before….
For not what you are, or what you have been, does God behold with His merciful eyes, but what you will be… Of this holy desire speaks St. Augustine saying that all
the life of a good Christian man is nothing else but holy desire.
Farewell, spiritual friend, in God's blessing and mine! And I beseech Almighty God, that true peace, holy counsel, and spiritual comfort in God with abundance of
grace, evermore be with you and all God's lovers on earth. Amen.
HERE ENDS THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING.
July 15th, 2012:
The following are more excerpts from Dr. Ronda’s course in the Spiritual Classics:
From The Imitation of Christ
(From the Catholic Encyclopedia) Thomas a Kempis, was the author of the "Imitation of Christ", (1379 or 1380; died 14,71. … Thomas was only thirteen when he
set out for the schools of Deventer, in Holland. He learned that his brother had joined a new community called The Brothers of the Common Life. The "new
devotion", of which Deventer was then the focus and center, was a revival in the Low Countries in the fourteenth century of the fervour of the primitive Christians at
Jerusalem and Antioch in the first. Its associates were called the "Devout Brothers and Sisters. They took no vows, but lived a life of poverty, chastity, and
obedience, as far as was compatible with their state, some in their own homes and others, especially clerics, in community. They were forbidden to beg, but all
were expected to earn their living by the labour of their hands; for the clerics this meant chiefly the transcribing of books and the instruction of the young. All earnings
were placed in a common fund, at the disposal of the superior; the one ambition of all was to emulate the life and virtues of the first Christians, especially in the love
of God and the neighbour, in simplicity, humility, and devotion. These details are given as helpful to a better understanding of the life and character of à Kempis, a
typical and exemplary Brother, and for seventy-two years he was one of the most distinguished of the Canons Regular.
We also know from early biographers that Thomas frequently preached in the church attached to the priory. In person Thomas is described as a man of middle
height, dark complexion and vivid colouring, with a broad forehead and piercing eyes; kind and affable towards all, especially the sorrowful and the afflicted;
constantly engaged in his favourite occupations of reading, writing, or prayer; in time of recreation for the most part silent and recollected, finding it difficult even to
express an opinion on matters of mundane interest, but pouring out a ready torrent of eloquence when the conversation turned on God or the concerns of the soul. A
possibly authentic portrait, preserved at Gertruidenberg, bears as his motto the words: "In omnibus requiem quaesivi et nusquam inveni nisi in een Hoecken met
een Böcken" (Everywhere I have sought rest and found it nowhere, save in little nooks with little books).
With the exception of the Bible, no Christian writing has had
so wide a vogue or so sustained a popularity as this.
THE FIRST BOOK
ADMONITIONS PROFITABLE FOR THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Of the imitation of Christ, and of contempt of the world and all
He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,(1) saith the Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate His life and character, if
we seek true
illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let
it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life
of Jesus Christ.
2. His teaching surpasseth all teaching of holy men, and such as
have His Spirit find therein the hidden manna.(2) But there are
many who, though they frequently hear the Gospel, yet feel but
little longing after it, because they have not the mind of
Christ. He, therefore, that will fully and with true wisdom
understand the words of Christ, let him strive to conform his
whole life to that mind of Christ.
3. What doth it profit thee to enter into deep discussion
concerning the Holy Trinity, if thou lack humility, and be thus
displeasing to the Trinity? For verily it is not deep words that
make a man holy and upright; it is a good life which maketh a man
dear to God. I had rather feel contrition than be skilful in the
definition thereof. If thou knewest the whole Bible, and the
sayings of all the philosophers, what should all this profit thee
without the love and grace of God? Vanity of vanities, all is
vanity, save to love God, and Him only to serve. That is the
highest wisdom, to cast the world behind us, and to reach forward
to the heavenly kingdom.
4. It is vanity then to seek after, and to trust in, the riches
that shall perish. It is vanity, too, to covet honours, and to
lift up ourselves on high. It is vanity to follow the desires of
the flesh and be led by them, for this shall bring misery at the
last. It is vanity to desire a long life, and to have little
care for a good life. It is vanity to take thought only for the
life which now is, and not to look forward to the things which
shall be hereafter. It is vanity to love that which quickly
passeth away, and not to hasten where eternal joy abideth….
(1) John viii. 12. (2) Revelations ii. 17.
Of thinking humbly of oneself
There is naturally in every man a desire to know, but what
profiteth knowledge without the fear of God? Better of a surety
is a lowly peasant who serveth God, than a proud philosopher… If I knew all the things that
are in the world, and were not in charity, what should it help me
before God, who is to judge me according to my deeds?
2. Rest from inordinate desire of knowledge, for therein is found
much distraction and deceit. Those who have knowledge desire to
appear learned, and to be called wise. Many things there are to
know which profiteth little or nothing to the soul. And foolish
out of measure is he who attendeth upon other things rather than
those which serve to his soul’s health. Many words satisfy not
the soul, but a good life refresheth the mind, and a pure
conscience giveth great confidence towards God…
4. That is the highest and most profitable lesson, when a man
truly knoweth and judgeth lowly of himself. To account nothing
of one’s self, and to think always kindly and highly of others,
this is great and perfect wisdom. Even shouldest thou see thy
neighbor sin openly or grievously, yet thou oughtest not to
reckon thyself better than he, for thou knowest not how long
thou shalt keep thine integrity. All of us are weak and frail;
hold thou no man more frail than thyself.
…3. The more a man hath unity and simplicity in himself, the more
things and the deeper things he understandeth; and that without
labour, because he receiveth the light of understanding from
above. The spirit which is pure, sincere, and steadfast, is not
distracted though it hath many works to do, because it doth all
things to the honour of God, and striveth to be free from all
thoughts of self-seeking. Who is so full of hindrance and
annoyance to thee as thine own undisciplined heart? A man who is
good and devout arrangeth beforehand within his own heart the
works which he hath to do abroad; and so is not drawn away by the
desires of his evil will, but subjecteth everything to the
judgment of right reason. Who hath a harder battle to fight
than he who striveth for self-mastery? And this should be our
endeavour, even to master self, and thus daily to grow stronger
than self, and go on unto perfection...
Of prudence in action…
This is great wisdom, not to be hasty in action, or stubborn
in our own opinions. A part of this wisdom also is not to
believe every word we hear, nor to tell others all that we hear,
even though we believe it. …
Of inordinate affections
Whensoever a man desireth aught above measure, immediately he
becometh restless. The proud and the avaricious man are never
at rest; while the poor and lowly of heart abide in the
multitude of peace. The man who is not yet wholly dead to self,
is soon tempted, and is overcome in small and trifling matters.
It is hard for him who is weak in spirit, and still in part
carnal and inclined to the pleasures of sense, to withdraw
himself altogether from earthly desires. And therefore, when he
withdraweth himself from these, he is often sad, and easily
angered too if any oppose his will.
The SPIRITUAL EXERCISES OF ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA
Here is more from Dr. Ronda’s Course on Spiritual Classics: St. Bonaventure and St. Gertrude
This reading on mystical (contemplative) prayer, taken from St. Bonaventure's Journey of the Mind to God (Cap. 7,1 2.4.6: Opera Omnia, 5, 312-313), is used in
the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast (liturgical memorial) of St. Bonaventure on July 15.
Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the
ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder
and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the
cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he
were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you
will be with me in paradise.
For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This
is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it;
nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical
wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in
research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to
God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion. Only he understood this
who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me
Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ
from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for
you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for
ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!
The Revelations of Saint Gertrude.
Written by the Saint Herself.
Let the Abyss of Uncreated Wisdom invoke the Abyss of Omnipotent Power to praise and extol the amazing charity which, by an excess of Thine infinite mercy, O
most sweet God of my life and only Love of my soul, hast led Thee through a desert, pathless, and dry land - that is, through the many obstacles I have placed to Thy
mercy - to descend into the valley of my miseries.
I was in the twenty - sixth year of my age when, on the Monday before the Feast of the Purification of Thy most chaste Mother, in a happy hour, after Compline, at the
close of day, Thou the true Light, Who art clearer than any light, and yet deeper than any recess, having resolved to dissipate the obscurity of my darkness, didst
sweetly and gently commence my conversion by appeasing the trouble which Thou hadst excited my soul for more than a month, which Thou didst deign to use, as I
believe, to destroy the fortress of vainglory and curiosity which my pride had raised up within me,(she is referring to her love of secular learning) although I bore the
name and habit of a religious to no purpose. But Thou didst will to use this means, that Thou mightest thereby show me Thy salvation.
Being, then, in the middle of our dormitory, … on raising my head I beheld Thee, my most loving Love and my Redeemer, surpassing in beauty the children of men,
under the form of a youth of sixteen years, beautiful and amiable, and attracting my heart and my eyes by the infinite light of Thy glory, which Thou hast the goodness
to proportion to the weakness of my nature; and standing before me, Thou didst utter these words, full of tenderness and sweetness: Thy salvation is at hand; why
art thou so changed by sadness? … I will save thee, I will deliver thee; fear not; and after I had heard them, I saw Thee place Thy right hand in mine, as if to ratify Thy
Then I heard Thee speak thus: You have licked the dust with My enemies, and you have sucked honey amidst thorns; but return now to Me - I will receive you,, and
inebriate you with the torrent of My celestial delights. When Thou hadst said these words, my soul melted within me, and as I desired to approach Thee, I beheld
between Thee and me (I mean, from Thy right hand to my left hand) a hedge of such prodigious length that I could see no end to it either before or behind, and the
top of it appeared so set with thorns that I could find no way to return to Thee, Thou only consolation of my soul. Then I paused to weep over my faults and crimes,
which were doubtless figured by this hedge which divided us. In the ardor of the desires with which I desired Thee, and in my weakness, O charitable Father of the
poor, "whose mercies are over all Thy works", Thou didst take me by the hand, and placed me near Thee instantly without difficulty, so that casting my eyes upon
the precious Hand which Thou hadst extended to me as a pledge of Thy promises, I recognized, O sweet Jesus, Thy radiant wounds …
By these and other illuminations Thou didst enlighten and soften my mind, detaching me powerfully, by an interior unction, from an inordinate love of literature and
from all my vanities … And I praise, bless, adore and thank from my inmost, as far as I am able, but not as far as I ought, Thy wise mercy and Thy merciful wisdom,
that Thou, my Creator and Redeemer, didst endeavor in so loving a manner to submit my unconquerable self -opinionatedness to the sweetness of Thy yoke,
composing a beverage suitable to my temperament, which has infused new light into my soul, so that I began to run after the odor of Thy ointments, and Thy yoke
became sweet and Thy burden light, though a little while before they had appeared hard and almost unbearable.
Hail, Salvation and Light of my soul! May all that is in Heaven, in earth, and in the abyss return thanks to Thee for the extraordinary grace which has led my soul to
know and consider what passes within my heart, of which I had no more care formerly than (if I may speak) of what passes within my hands or feet. But after the
infusion of Thy most sweet light, I saw many things in my heart which offended Thy purity, and I even perceived that all within me was in such disorder and confusion
that Thou couldst not abide therein.
Nevertheless, my most loving Jesus, neither all these defects, nor all my unworthiness, prevented Thee from honoring me with Thy visible presence nearly every day
that I receive the life giving nourishment of Thy Body and Thy Blood, although I only beheld Thee indistinctly, as one who sees at dawn: Thou didst endeavor by this
sweet compliance to attract my soul, so that it might be entirely united to Thee, and that I might know Thee better and enjoy Thee more fully. …
Thou didst give me from henceforward a more clear knowledge of Thyself which was such that the sweetness of Thy love led me to correct my faults far more than
the fear of the punishments with which Thy just anger threatened me. But I do not remember ever to have enjoyed so great happiness at any other time as during
these days I speak, in which Thou didst invite me to the delights of Thy royal table …
… it happened on a certain day, between the Festival of the Resurrection and Ascension, that I went into the court before Prime and seated myself near the
fountain; and I began to consider the beauty of the place, which charmed me on account of the clear and flowing stream, the verdure of the trees which surrounded
it, and the flight of the birds, and particularly of the doves - above all, the sweet calm - apart from all, and considering within myself what would make this place most
useful to me, I thought that it would be the friendship of a wise and intimate companion, who would sweeten my solitude or render it useful to others: When Thou, my
Lord and my God, who art a torrent of inestimable pleasure, after having inspired me with the first impulse of this desire, Thou didst will to be also the end of it,
inspiring me with the thought that if by continual gratitude I return Thy graces to Thee as a stream returns to its source; if, increasing in the love of virtue, I put forth,
like the trees, the flowers of good works; furthermore, if despising the things of the earth, I fly upward, freely, like the birds, and thus free my senses from the
distraction of exterior things, my soul would then be empty and my heart would be an agreeable abode for Thee.
As I was occupied with the recollection of these things, during the same day, having knelt after Vespers for my evening prayer before retiring to rest, this passage of
the Gospel came suddenly to my mind: If any man love Me, he will keep My word and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him. (John 14:23)….
The excess of Thy goodness obliges me to believe that the sight of my faults rather moves Thee to fear Thou wilt see me perish than to excite Thine anger, making
me know that Thy patience in supporting my defects until now, with so much goodness, is greater than the sweetness with Thou didst bear with the perfidious Judas
during Thy mortal life; and although my mind takes pleasure in wandering after and in distracting itself with perishable things, yet, after some hours, after some
days, and, alas, I must add, after whole weeks, when I return into my heart, I find Thee there, so that I cannot complain that Thou hast left me even for a moment,
from that time until this year, which is the ninth since I received this grace, except once, when I perceived that Thou didst leave me for the space of eleven days,
before the Feast of St. John Baptist - and it appeared to me that this happened on account of a worldly conversation the Thursday preceding, and Thy absence
lasted until the Vigil of St. John. …
I cannot now be sufficiently amazed at the mania which possessed my soul, unless, indeed, it was that Thou didst desire me to know by my own experience what
St. Bernard said: "When we fly from Thee, Thou pursuest us; when we turn our backs, Thou dost present Thyself before us; when we despise Thee, Thou dost
entreat us; and there is neither insult nor contempt which hinders Thee from laboring unweariedly to bring us to the attainment of that which eye hath not seen, nor
ear heard, and which the heart of man cannot comprehend."
As Thou didst bestow on me Thy first graces without any merit on my part, so now that I have had a second relapse … Thou hast deigned to give me the joy of Thy
presence without interruption, until this very hour …. draw and unite me entirely to Thyself, that I may remain inseparably attached to Thee, even when I am obliged
to attend to exterior duties for the good of my neighbor, and that afterwards I may return again to seek Thee within me, when I have accomplished them for Thy glory
in the most perfect manner possible, even as the wind, when agitated by a tempest, return again to their former calm when it has ceased; that Thou mayest find me
as zealous in laboring for Thee as Thou hast been assiduous in helping me: and that, by this means, Thou mayest elevate me to the highest degree of perfection to
which Thy justice can permit Thy mercy to raise so carnal and rebellious a creature, so that Thou mayest receive my soul into Thy hands when I breathe my last
sigh, and conduct it with a kiss of peace where Thou dwellest, who reignest indivisibly and eternally with the Father and the Holy Spirit for endless ages Amen.
… But my unworthiness had not yet exhausted the abyss of Thy mercy, for I received from Thine overflowing liberality this remarkable gift - that each time during the
day in which I endeavored to apply myself in spirit to those adorable wounds saying five verses of the Psalm Benedice, anima mea, Domino (Ps. 102), I never
failed to receive some new favor. At the first verse, "Bless the Lord O my soul," I deposited all the rust of my sins and my voluptuousness at the Wounds of Thy
blessed Feet; at the second verse, "Bless the Lord, and never forget all He hath done for thee". I washed away all the stains of carnal and perishable pleasures in
the sweet bath of Blood and Water which Thou didst pour forth for me; at the third verse, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities," I reposed my spirit in the Wound of Thy
Left Hand, even as the dove makes its nest in the crevice of the rock; at the fourth verse, "Who redeemeth thy life from destruction," I approached Thy Right Hand,
and took from thence all that I needed for my perfection in virtue; and being thus magnificently adorned, I passed to the fifth verse, "Who satisfieth thy desire with
good things", that I might be purified from all the defilement of sin, and have the indigence of my wants supplied, so that I might become worthy of Thy presence -
though of myself I am utterly unworthy - and might merit the joy of Thy chaste embraces…
You might find helpful Dr. Ronda’s notes on the Five Ways to Prove God’s existence by St. Thomas Aquinas:
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Five Ways of Proving God’s Existence
(From the Summa Theologica Question 2, Article 3)
(Note to Students: For the Context of these Proofs, you can go into Question 1 and Question 2 Articles 1 and 2. I want you first to read the proofs without any
commentary. Understanding the arguments is greatly helped by having taken a course in metaphysics. For those with a minimal or non-existent background in
metaphysics, my short comments about each one will be useful. To facilitate your reading of these comments I am copying out the proofs a second time with
insertions in 20 font.)
“…The existence of God can be proven in five ways.
The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in
motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it
is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by
something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it.
Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot
cannot simultaneously be hot; but it is simultaneously cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and
moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then
this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and,
consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is
put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it,
indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not
possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient cause following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the
ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause
among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient
cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient
cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.
The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be
generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be
at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there
would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in
existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all
beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary… Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being
having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.
The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and
"less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter
according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently,
something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is
the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the
cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.
The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from
their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end.
Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot
to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.”
THE PROOFS AGAIN
WITH COMMENTARY IN 20 FONT BY DR. RONDA
“…The existence of God can be proved in five ways.
[WHEN I TEACH THESE SUBJECT IN REGULAR CLASSES I HAVE VISUALS FOR EACH ARGUMENT. FOR THE ARGUMENT FROM MOTION I HAVE A
LINE UP OF 6 STUDENTS, LIKE A CONGA LINE. THE FIRST IN THE LINE PUSHES THE SECOND AND THE SECOND THE THIRD, ETC. UNTIL THEY ALL
HAVE MOVED. THEN THEY STAND UP AGAIN AND THE FIRST STUDENT DOESN’T PUSH AND SO THERE IS NO MOTION.]
The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. [NOTICE THE
WORD ‘THING’ – HE MEANS A MATERIAL THING, NOT, SAY, SELF-MOVING IMMATERIAL SPIRITUAL ENTITIES] the Now whatever is in motion is put in motion
by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. [IN THIS
CONTEXT, THE WORD POTENTIALITY AND ACT MEAN THAT WHEN SOMETHING MOVES FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER IT HAS TO BE POTENTIALLY
WHERE IT WILL END UP. FOR EXAMPLE, A ROCK IS NOT POTENTIALLY BY ITSELF ABLE TO RISE INTO THE AIR BUT A BALLOON ON THE GROUND
POTENTIALLY CAN BE FLYING IN THE AIR] For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced
from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. [THE BALLOON WILL NOT RISE OUT OF ITS SHRUNKEN ORIGINAL STATE WITHOUT
THE BREATH OF THE ONE WHO BLOWS IT UP AND THE BREEZE WHICH LIFTS IT] Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially
hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in and potentiality in the same respect, but
only in different respects. [THE BALLOON CANNOT BE SIMULTANEOUSLY ON THE GROUND AND UP IN THE AIR] For what is actually hot cannot
simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be
both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself
put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. [SO EACH OF THE STANDING STUDENTS NEEDS TO BE PUT
IN MOTION BY THE PERSON PUSHING ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE FIRST PUSHING STUDENT] But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be
no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff
moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to
be God. [AN ILLUSTRATION GIVEN BY PETER KREEFT IN THE SUMMA OF THE SUMMAS IS THAT OF A TRAIN. WITHOUT AN ENGINE YOU CAN’T JUST
HAVE CAR AFTER CAR PUSHING EACH OTHER IN AN INFINITE SERIES BECAUSE THERE WOULD BE NO FORCE TO START THE PROCESS INTO
MOTION. THE CAR WITH THE ENGINE HAS TO BE OUTSIDE THE SERIES OF BOX CARS]
The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. [THE TERM EFFICIENT CAUSE COMES FROM ARISTOTLE’S 4 CAUSES. IN THE CASE OF A
SCULPTOR MAKING A STATUE, THE HAND OF THE ARTIST AND THE INSTRUMENT SUCH AS A HAMMER ARE THE EFFICIENT CAUSES] In the world of
sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. [IN THE CLASSROOM I HAVE A STUDENT MAKE A DIAGRAM ON THE BOARD WITH THE LINEAR FAMILY
TREE GOING BACK FROM HIMSELF, HIS PARENTS, HIS GRANDPARENTS, AS FAR BACK AS HE CAN] There is no case known (neither is it, indeed,
possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; [YOU DO NOT CAUSE YOURSELF AND NEITHER DOES A ROCK DECIDE TO EXIST OUT
OF NOTHING] [ for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible.[YOU CANNOT EXIST BEFORE YOU EXIST TO MAKE YOURSELF EXIST] Now in efficient
causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, [ADAM AND EVE
CAUSE CAIN AND ABEL, ETC.] and the intermediate [CAIN IS THE CAUSE OF A CHAIN] is the cause of the ultimate cause, [ULTIMATE IS THE ONE WE ARE
LOOKING AT THE STUDENT AT THE BOARD WHO CANNOT EXIST UNLESS THE WHOLE CHAIN OF EFFECTIVE CAUSES EXISTED] whether the
intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. [I HAVE THE STUDENT ERASE FIRST ADAM AND EVE AND
THEN CAIN AND ABEL….AND THEN HIS GRANDPARENTS, THEN HIS PARENTS, AND THEN HIM/HERSELF. Therefore, if there be no first cause among
efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause,
[AN EFFICIENT CAUSE IS NOT A POWERLESS DOT ON THE BLACKBOARD GOING BACK TO AN INFINITY OF DOTS BUT HAS TO BE A REAL
POWERFUL ENTITY. THE WORD INFINITY IS NOT AN ENTITY BUT A DESCRIPTION OF AN IMAGINARY SERIES. AS SUCH INFINITY HAS NO POWER TO
CREATE ADAM AND EVE. GOD IS THE FIRST CAUSE BECAUSE GOD A POWERFUL REAL EXISTENT NOT JUST A WORD] neither will there be an ultimate
effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. [SINCE THE STUDENT AND HIS ANCESTORS EXIST THEY MUST HAVE BEEN
CAUSED. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.
The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus.[THIS ARGUMENT IS CALLED THE ARGUMENT FROM CONTINGENCY – THAT WORD
MEANS SIMPLY BEING DEPENDENT VS. ABSOLUTE.] We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and
to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. [WHEN I TEACH THIS PROOF I REMIND THE STUDENTS OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE TV
PROGRAM. IN ONE EPISODE YOU HAVE A SCENARIO WHERE YOU SEE A TOWN AND ONE MINUTE ALL THE BIRDS DISAPPEAR, THEN ALL THE
GRASS, THEN ALL THE HOUSES. FINALLY ALL THAT IS LEFT IS THE HERO STANDING AT A PHONE BOOTH GETTING A CANNED MESSAGE.
OBVIOUSLY THE NEXT SCREEN COULD BE BLANK. WE ALL KNOW THAT EVEN THE MOST STURDY SEEMING THINGS LIKE ROCKS COULD
DISINTEGRATE SLOWLY. IN OTHER WORDS EVERYTHING WE SEE COULD HAVE NOT BEEN. IT IS POSSIBLE BUT NOT NECESSARY.] But it is
impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there
could have been nothing in existence. [IN AN INFINITE AMOUNT TO TIME EACH THING AT ONE TIME WOULDN’T EXIST SINCE IT DOES NOT HAVE
ABSOLUTE NECESSITY IN IT.] Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by
something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now
nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is
necessary… Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing
in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.
The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and
"less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter
according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently,
something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is
the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the
cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.
The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end [THAT IS THAT THEY
EXHIBIT PURPOSE OR CONSISTENCY], and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. [USUALLY
A SEED BECOMES A PLANT] Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move
towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some
intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.” [A MORE POPULAR VERSION OF THIS ARGUMENT IS
CALLED THE ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN. If you were a traveler in the past saw a watch in the desert and you had never seen a watch, if someone explained to
you what it was, you would never think it came to be out of chance. You would think it had an intelligent creator. By analogy the universe, so intricate in its design
could not have come about by chance, but from an Intelligent Mind. I like to add to this argument that “chance” is not an entity full of power to create, but merely a
word to describe things happening without a human aim behind it.]
NOTICE: This year Dr. Ronda wrote a whole series of Blogs which now are assembled under the title
The Way of Love: Step by Step – a 100 Day Spiritual Marathon. You can find it with wonderful graphics by going to www.ccwatershed.org/100Steps.
From the Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi:
The Spiritual Life in the Classics
Ties That Bind - a novel
Note, the novel by Ronda Chervin, Ties that Bind, is a spiritual book but we have it under audio gems since it has been put on audio by Kathleen Brouillette.
|Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 17:34|