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February 3rd, 2015


Of the powers of a soul in general, and how Memory in special is a principal power, comprehending in it all the other powers and all those things in the which they work.

MEMORY is such a power in itself, that properly to speak and in manner, it worketh not itself. But Reason and Will, they be two working powers, and so is Imagination and Sensuality also. And all these four powers and their works, Memory containeth and comprehendeth in itself. And otherwise it is not said that the Memory worketh, unless such a comprehension be a work.
And therefore it is that I call the powers of a soul, some principal, and some secondary. Not because a soul is divisible, for that may not be: but because all those things in the which they work be divisible, and some principal, as be all ghostly things, and some secondary, as be all bodily things. The two principal working powers, Reason and Will, work purely in themselves in all ghostly things, without help of the other two secondary powers. Imagination and Sensuality work beastly in all bodily things, whether they be present or absent, in the body and with the bodily wits. But by them, without help of Reason and of Will, may a soul never come to for to know the virtue and the conditions of bodily creatures, nor the cause of their beings and their makings.
And for this cause is Reason and Will called principal powers, for they work in pure spirit without any manner of bodilyness: and Imagination and Sensuality secondary, for they work in the body with bodily instruments, the which be our five wits. Memory is called a principal power, for it containeth in it ghostly not only all the other powers, but thereto all those things in the which they work. See by the proof.
Cloud of Unknowing - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Of the other two principal powers Reason and Will; and of the work of them before sin and after.

REASON is a power through the which we depart the evil from the good, the evil from the worse, the good from the better, the worse from the worst, the better from the best. Before ere man sinned, might Reason have done all this by nature. But now it is so blinded with the original sin, that it may not con work this work, unless it be illumined by grace. And both the self Reason, and the thing that it worketh in, be comprehended and contained in the Memory.
Will is a power through the which we choose good, after that it be determined with Reason; and through the which we love good, we desire good, and rest us with full liking and consent endlessly in God. Before ere man sinned, might not Will be deceived in his choosing, in his loving, nor in none of his works. For why, it had then by nature to savour each thing as it was; but now it may not do so, unless it be anointed with grace. For ofttimes because of infection of the original sin, it savoureth a thing for good that is full evil, and that hath but the likeness of good. And both the Will and the thing that is willed, the Memory containeth and comprehendeth in it.

Cloud of Unknowing - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Of the first secondary power, Imagination by name; and of the works and the obedience of it unto Reason, before Sin and after.

IMAGINATION is a power through the which we portray all images of absent and present things, and both it and the thing that it worketh in be contained in the Memory. Before ere man sinned, was Imagination so obedient unto the Reason, to the which it is as it were servant, that it ministered never to it any unordained image of any bodily creature, or any fantasy of any ghostly creature: but now it is not so. For unless it be refrained by the light of grace in the Reason, else it will never cease, sleeping or waking, for to portray diverse unordained images of bodily creatures; or else some fantasy, the which is nought else but a bodily conceit of a ghostly thing, or else a ghostly conceit of a bodily thing. And this is evermore feigned and false, and next unto error.
This inobedience of the Imagination may clearly be conceived in them that be newlings turned from the world unto devotion, in the time of their prayer. For before the time be, that the Imagination be in great part refrained by the light of grace in the Reason, as it is in continual meditation of ghostly things—as be their own wretchedness, the passion and the kindness of our Lord God, with many such other—they may in nowise put away the wonderful and the diverse thoughts, fantasies, and images, the which be ministered and printed in their mind by the light of the curiosity of Imagination. And all this inobedience is the pain of the original sin.
Cloud of Unknowing - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

(Of the other secondary power, Feeling, how it functions and how original sin has harmed it. -WJ)

SENSUALITY is a power of our soul, recking and reigning in the bodily wits, through the which we have bodily knowing and feeling of all bodily creatures, whether they be pleasing or unpleasing. And it hath two parts: one through the which it beholdeth to the needfulness of our body, another through the which it serveth to the lusts of the bodily wits. For this same power is it, that grumbleth when the body lacketh the needful things unto it, and that in the taking of the need stirreth us to take more than needeth in feeding and furthering of our lusts: that grumbleth in lacking of pleasing creatures, and lustily is delighted in their presence: that grumbleth in presence of misliking creatures, and is lustily pleased in their absence. Both this power and the thing that it worketh in be contained in the Memory.
Before ere man sinned was the Sensuality so obedient unto the Will, unto the which it is as it were servant, that it ministered never unto it any unordained liking or grumbling in any bodily creature, or any ghostly feigning of liking or misliking made by any ghostly enemy in the bodily wits. But now it is not so: for unless it be ruled by grace in the Will, for to suffer meekly and in measure the pain of the original sin, the which it feeleth in absence of needful comforts and in presence of speedful discomforts, and thereto also for to restrain it from lust in presence of needful comforts, and from lusty plesaunce in the absence of speedful discomforts: else will it wretchedly and wantonly welter, as a swine in the mire, in the wealths of this world and the foul flesh so much that all our living shall be more beastly and fleshly, than either manly or ghostly.

Cloud of Unknowing - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

That whoso knoweth not the powers of a soul and the manner of her working, may lightly be deceived in understanding of ghostly words and of ghostly working; and how a soul is made a God in grace.

LO, ghostly friend! to such wretchedness as thou here mayest see be we fallen for sin: and therefore what wonder is it, though we be blindly and lightly deceived in understanding of ghostly words and of ghostly working, and specially those the which know not yet the powers of their souls and the manners of their working?
For ever when the Memory is occupied with any bodily thing be it taken to never so good an end, yet thou art beneath thyself in this working, and without any soul. And ever when thou feelest thy Memory occupied with the subtle conditions of the powers of thy soul and their workings in ghostly things, as be vices or virtues, of thyself, or of any creature that is ghostly and even with thee in nature, to that end that thou mightest by this work learn to know thyself in furthering of perfection: then thou art within thyself, and even with thyself. But ever when thou feelest thy Memory occupied with no manner of thing that is bodily or ghostly, but only with the self substance of God, as it is and may be, in the proof of the work of this book: then thou art above thyself and beneath thy God.
Above thyself thou art: for why, thou attainest to come thither by grace, whither thou mayest not come by nature. That is to say, to be oned to God, in spirit, and in love, and in accordance of will. Beneath thy God thou art: for why, although it may be said in manner, that in this time God and thou be not two but one in spirit—insomuch that thou or another, for such onehead that feeleth the perfection of this work, may soothfastly by witness of Scripture be called a God—nevertheless yet thou art beneath Him. For why, He is God by nature without beginning; and thou, that sometime wert nought in substance, and thereto after when thou wert by His might and His love made ought, wilfully with sin madest thyself worse than nought, only by His mercy without thy desert are made a God in grace, oned with Him in spirit without departing, both here and in bliss of heaven without any end. So that, although thou be all one with Him in grace, yet thou art full far beneath Him in nature.
Lo, ghostly friend! hereby mayest thou see somewhat in part, that whoso knoweth not the powers of their own soul, and the manner of their working, may full lightly be deceived in understanding of words that be written to ghostly intent. And therefore mayest thou see somewhat the cause why that I durst not plainly bid thee shew thy desire unto God, but I bade thee childishly do that in thee is to hide it and cover it. And this I do for fear lest thou shouldest conceive bodily that that is meant ghostly.

Cloud of Unknowing - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Original sin....Read more...Collapse )

That nowhere bodily, is everywhere ghostly; and how our outer man calleth the word of this book nought.

AND on the same manner, where another man would bid thee gather thy powers and thy wits wholly within thyself, and worship God there—although he say full well and full truly, yea! and no man trulier, an he be well conceived—yet for fear of deceit and bodily conceiving of his words, me list not bid thee do so. But thus will I bid thee. Look on nowise that thou be within thyself. And shortly, without thyself will I not that thou be, nor yet above, nor behind, nor on one side, nor on other.
“Where then,” sayest thou, “shall I be? Nowhere, by thy tale!” Now truly thou sayest well; for there would I have thee. For why, nowhere bodily, is everywhere ghostly. Look then busily that thy ghostly work be nowhere bodily; and then wheresoever that that thing is, on the which thou wilfully workest in thy mind in substance, surely there art thou in spirit, as verily as thy body is in that place that thou art bodily. And although thy bodily wits can find there nothing to feed them on, for them think it nought that thou dost, yea! do on then this nought, and do it for God’s love. And let not therefore, but travail busily in that nought with a waking desire to will to have God that no man may know. For I tell thee truly, that I had rather be so nowhere bodily, wrestling with that blind nought, than to be so great a lord that I might when I would be everywhere bodily, merrily playing with all this ought as a lord with his own.
Let be this everywhere and this ought, in comparison or this nowhere and this nought. Reck thee never if thy wits cannot reason of this nought; for surely, I love it much the better. It is so worthy a thing in itself, that they cannot reason thereupon. This nought may better be felt than seen: for it is full blind and full dark to them that have but little while looked thereupon. Nevertheless, if I shall soothlier say, a soul is more blinded in feeling of it for abundance of ghostly light, than for any darkness or wanting of bodily light. What is he that calleth it nought? Surely it is our outer man, and not our inner. Our inner man calleth it All; for of it he is well learned to know the reason of all things bodily or ghostly, without any special beholding to any one thing by itself.

Cloud of Unknowing - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Nowhere materially is everywhere spiritually. Read more...Collapse )



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