The Cloud of Unknowing

Translated by Evelyn Underhill (1875 - 1941)

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

Genre(s): Christianity - Other

Language: English

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