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The Cloud of Unknowing (Harper Collins Spiritual Classics) Paperback – August 31, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Harper Collins Spiritual Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (August 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060737751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060737757
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Written by an anonymous English monk during the late fourteenth century, The Cloud of Unknowing is a sublime expression of what separates God from humanity and is widely regarded as a hallmark of Western literature and spirituality. A work of simplicity, courage, and lucidity, it is a contemplative classic on the deep mysteries of faith.

"Lift up your heart to God with a humble impulse of love and have himself as your aim, not any of his goods ... Set yourself to rest in this darkness, always crying out after him whom you love. For if you are to experience him or to see him at all, insofar as it is possible here, it must always be in this cloud and in this darkness." –– The Cloud of Unknowing

About the Author

The HarperCollins Spiritual Classics series presents short, accessible introductions to the foundational works that shaped Western religious thought and culture. This series seeks to find new readers for these dynamic spiritual voices -- voices that have changed lives throughout the centuries and still can today.

Customer Reviews

Read if you will, and profit.
Dan Wallace
Some of the writing is a bit difficult at first to understand, you must read with a meditative reading style.
William D. Curnutt
I only bought it because of reading Caroline Myss' book which made many references to it.
Askew Dolores

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 114 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
It is perhaps perfectly appropriate that the author of 'The Cloud of Unknowing' is himself or herself unknown. This is a spiritual classic, a masterpiece in the real sense of the word. The style of writing is grand, well-versed and perfectly in concert with the subject; the ideas contained are some of the most sublime and inspired pieces of writing ever written in the English language. The book does not subscribe to any particular denominational or institutional framework, making it a piece of art and wisdom available to the whole of Christendom, and even appeals to those outside the formal bounds of Christianity.

This work has been compared to the work of C.S. Lewis, Plato, and other Christian mystics and theologians, with good reason. 'The Cloud of Unknowing' is part of a chain, influenced by and in turn influencing many other mystical writers. This is not a work of philosophy or apologetics, as the author is not concerned to prove the existence of God or set up any sort of metaphysical framework which must be accepted. The world around us is a given, and God is a given, and our task is to order our attention and love toward God so that it incorporates and includes the reality that is around without distraction. One perhaps hears echoes of this in Tillich's ultimate concern?

One of the things that makes 'The Cloud of Unknowing' a popular piece on an ongoing basis is this respect for reality. The author does not require super-human feats of contemplative power; this would be to deny the reality of the creature that we are, as God's creation. Contemplative work must be done in tandem and in cooperation with the rest of our life's needs.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By TDR on November 10, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written by an anonymous Monk in the 1300s, you will find this book to be very different than many other Catholic reads. As a Catholic, I found this book to be refreshing and thought-provoking, and yet even more proof that there are so many different sides to Catholicism, Catholic thought, and Catholic practice. At times, the book has a very Eastern feel to it- almost Buddhist-like- and yet at other times, it has much more of a classic-medieval-Christian feel...

However, please be forewarned: (1) Even though this version of the book is translated into modern English, the sentences can still be rather long, and are not very concise at times (at least when compared to most modern English writing). So you may find yourself having to re-read some sentences, and/or contemplating the meaning of what you just read- which for me was worth the effort, but may not be for everyone... We are not talking brain-surgery here, but I think you get the idea. (2) This book was written a very long time ago, in a different age with different outlooks on the world- and I think there are strong indicators in certain chapters that the author assumes his readers will (for the most part) be people who are in some religious order of some sort from his time period. Consequently, some readers may find this book interesting, but not that practical for every day use in their lives. However, I also think that there is a large set of people, (especially many Catholics), who will find this book, in addition to being a fascinating read, to also (with its different approach) be very useful in their quest for deeper spirituality.

Sample (from one of the more concise paragraphs): ...Do not hang back then, but labor in it until you experience the desire.
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By G. Recipient on February 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Cloud of Unknowing is an amazing book. And the Paulist translation, included in this HarperCollins edition, is par excellence.

However, I have come across many copies of this edition (HarperCollings Spiritual Classics) that are MISSING CHAPTERS. If you have a copy, check to make sure your copy has chapters 55-58 and 62-67.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By T. Olson on March 12, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is a fantasticexposition on how to move beyond vocal prayer and into prayer ofthe heart. i strongly recommend reading it in conjunction with "The Way of a Pilgrim".
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By matt on July 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a work of immense value, and while I am sure that it is not a book for most people, and it is written only for honestly committed Christians, I do know that for some this book will mark a milestone in their journey of life, faith and love.

Long ago, when I was 15, I began to study the Zen approach to (un)reality. A friend, who himself was knowledgeable about such things, gave me his copy of The Cloud of Unknowing and said that it would change my life if I read it seriously and prayerfully, and that I shouldn't think that Christianity lacked what I was seeking in Zen. My friend was something of a mystic, at least to my adolescent mind, and I was impressed by anything he said. Growing up Lutheran, and being a teenager, I was not at all exposed to monasticism or the concept of contemplation. I wasn't sure what reading a book prayerfully even meant, and I had no clue what contemplation meant, but I was trying to live a life of love and prayer, and I was filled with an intense longing for I did not know what, so I gave it a shot. In short, it did change my life. For the first time I began to think of God as not something to be thought about and defined, but to be loved. Later I would learn this to be what the Greek Fathers call apophaticism, or what the Latin Fathers call the via negativa; that sometimes we can say more about something by saying what it is not, to say negative things to a positive effect. Lutherans place a high value on defining everything, which certainly has its positives. But it doesn't often leave room for mystery, which means it doesn't correspond to reality. I know LCMS pastors and seminary grads will rightfully disagree with my description as too simplistic, but on the lay level this holds water. So the change and challenge was liberating.
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