Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Cloud of Unknowing: and The Book of Privy Counseling Paperback – July 1, 1996
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
"God can be loved but he cannot be thought. He can be grasped by love but never by concepts. So less thinking and more loving."
This is William Johnston's summary of the message of The Cloud of Unknowing. Nobody knows who wrote the book, or exactly where he lived, or whether he was a member of a religious order, or even, really, whether he was part of any church at all. The text first appeared in Middle English in the 14th century, and it has inspired generations of mystical searchers (from St. John of the Cross to Teilhard de Chardin). The mysterious conditions of its composition, however, focus the reader's attention squarely on the book's message--an almost Zen rendering of Christianity, which has a great deal to teach our querulous, doctrine-obsessed churches: "And so I urge you," the author writes, "go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breed conceit, but love builds. Knowledge is full of labor, but love, full of rest." --Michael Joseph Gross
From the Publisher
William Johnston--an authority on fourteenth century spirituality and specifically on the writings of this unknown author--provides a substantive and accessible introduction detailing what is known about the history of this text and its relevance throughout the ages. Also included here is the author's other principal work, The Book of Privy Counseling--a short and moving text on the way to enlightenment through a total loss of self and consciousness only of the divine.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Johnston is an Irish Jesuit priest whose vocation has done much to bridge the wisdom traditions of East and West. If you are not of a sound ecumenical mind, you may want to skip his introduction which shows the parallels of this text with the rejection of concepts that can be found in certain Buddhist schools. Perhaps the first time, I read this book I found this aspect to be of the utmost interest along with the focused counsels of not overthinking or the casting of reason to enter naked contemplation, without focusing on any aspect of one's own being. Or as the anonymous author of the text states, "do not think what you are but that you are."
Now that I am older and somewhat fatigued by the onslaught of evangelical trumpeters that surround me and crowd my everyday existence, I found myself returning to those things that inspired me when I was younger and the world seemed to be full of promise. My renewed interest in all things Arthurian led me to pick up this 14th century text written by an Englishman, who does not want us reading his book out of mere curiosity or for the sake of knowledge. And yet, even as I may have fallen somewhat in these categories, I found renewed refreshment in this book just when I thought Christianity to have lost its relevance in this topsy-turvy world.
When I was younger, i read to put myself somewhere. With university behind me and quiet evenings of reflection and study at my small desk, I have found the acceptance of the turmoils that surround me to look beyond. Now, I strive to be nowhere because "nowhere, physically, is everywhere spiritually."
Like a Grail-seeking Galahad, I draw from this book as from a refreshing and nourishing chalice "with a gentle stirring of love" without expectations, realizing my limitations without having to endlessly define them and pressing forward into that supra-conceptual and "dark cloud of unknowing."
Note: there are other editions of this medieval classic, but the Johnston translation includes "The Book of Privy Counsel" which may be read across a lifetime.
Anyone who practices contemplative prayer, or one of its many-named variants, will appreciate this classic text. Just goes to show that when you get to the heart of the matter, a fourteenth century work is as relevant today as it was back then.
While I come out of the Christian tradition, I would think that the Cloud of Unknowing would be helpful to people of other faith traditions who are seeking a spiritual awareness. It's concepts and language would be quite easily adapted. I think that most people who approach the book with an open mind will find that they are drawn closer to the divine.