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HERE BEGINNETH THE EIGHTH CHAPTER


A good declaring of certain doubts that may fall in this word treated
by question, in destroying of a man's own curiosity, of cunning, and of
natural wit, and in distinguishing of the degrees and the parts of
active living and contemplative.


BUT now thou askest me, "What is he, this that thus presseth upon me in
this work; and whether it is a good thing or an evil? ....if he be good, and with
his sweet tales doth me so much good withal, then I have great marvel
why that thou biddest me put him down and away so far under the cloud
of forgetting?"

Now surely me thinketh that this is a well moved question, and
therefore I think to answer thereto so feebly as I can. First when thou
askest me what is he, this that presseth so fast upon thee in this
work, proffering to help thee in this work; I say that it is a sharp
and a clear beholding of thy natural wit, printed in thy reason within
in thy soul. And where thou askest me thereof whether it be good or
evil, I say that it behoveth always be good in its nature. For why, 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..... But then is the use
evil, when it is swollen with pride and with curiosity...
and letterly cunning...; and maketh them press for to be
holden not meek scholars .., but proud.....

And where that thou askest me, why that thou shalt put it down under
the cloud of forgetting, since it is so, that it is good in its nature,
and thereto when it is well used it doth thee so much good and
increaseth thy devotion so much. To this I answer and say--That thou
shalt well understand that there be two manner of lives in Holy Church.
The one is active life, and the other is contemplative life. Active is
the lower, and contemplative is the higher. Active life hath two
degrees, a higher and a lower: and also contemplative life hath two
degrees, a lower and a higher. Also, these two lives be so coupled
together that although they be divers 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 sitteth in peace with one thing.

The lower part of active life standeth in good and honest bodily works
of mercy and of charity. The higher part of active life and the lower
part of contemplative life lieth in goodly ghostly meditations, and
busy beholding unto a man's own wretchedness with sorrow and
contrition, unto the Passion of Christ and of His servants with pity
and compassion, and unto the wonderful gifts, kindness, and works of
God in all His creatures bodily and ghostly with thanking and praising.
But the higher part of contemplation, as it may be had here, hangeth
all wholly 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. But
in the higher part of contemplative life, a man is above himself and
under his God. Above himself he is: for why, he purposeth him to win
thither by grace, whither he may not come by nature. That is to say, to
be knit to God in spirit, and in onehead 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, but if he cease for a time
of the lower part; so it is that a man shall not come to the higher
part of contemplative life, but if he cease for a time of the lower
part. And as unlawful a thing as it is, and as much as it would let a
man that sat in his meditations, to have regard then to his 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 it
is, and as much would it let a man that should work in this darkness
and in this cloud of unknowing with an affectuous 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
ghostly, rise upon him to press betwixt him and his God; although they
be never so holy thoughts, nor so profound, nor so comfortable.

And for this reason it is that I bid thee put down such a sharp subtle
thought, and cover him with a thick cloud of forgetting, be he never so
holy nor promise he thee never so well for to help thee in thy purpose.
For why, love may reach to God in this life, but not knowing. And all
the whiles that the soul dwelleth in this deadly body, evermore is the
sharpness of our understanding in beholding of all ghostly things, but
most specially of God, mingled with some manner of fantasy; for the
which our work should be unclean. And unless more wonder were, it
should lead us into much error.
__________________________________________________________________

There is so much in this chapter that i might have transcribed every word.  Here i found the references to Christian theology not one bit distracting and remember Johnston's comment that reading Cloud can be a spiritual experience in and of itself.

Here i am given the true meaning of "dark night of soul."  Did John of the Cross read Cloud??

Here also is a brilliant discussion of what is now called "transformational psycholoigy," the three step process in which we become first, socialized, then individualized, then transformed in our understanding that we are connected to all creation through its creator and the part i though was me disappears into the Whole.  I love Sue Monk KIdd's metaphor of Caterpillar, Cocoon, and Butterfly, but i now like the monk's
more.

Parenthetically, i do continue to struggle with what eternity can mean for a person who fails to understand the notions of reincarntion or resurrection.  I know it means something since the mystics all talk about it.  I know that some Jews and Taoists do not consider either idea important enough to concern them, yet their mystics speak of eternity as freely as do mystics from other traditions.

I have read The Cloud of Unknowin before.  I read it knowing that a friend is using as a part of  his spiritual direction.  It is revealing so much to me the second time; perhaps it is because i am ten years "farther" on my "journey."  I see so few signs of progress and even more signs of regress.  It is wonderful to think that i am getting so much more from it this time around, though i loved it the first time.

Although i've read it before, i am thinking:  This is chapter 8; there are 67 chapters more (then twenty-five more in Privy Counsel).  What wonders are in store?!

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