The Ethics of Sharing Mystical Knowledge: Meister Eckhart and the Cloud Author

Pick up any edition of The Cloud of Unknowing, and you are likely to find the following language a bit intimidating:Whoever you are possessing this book, know that I charge you with a serious responsibility, to which I attach the sternest sanctions that the bonds of love can bear. It does not matter whether this book belongs to you, whether you are keeping it for someone else, whether you are  taking it to someone, or borrowing it; you are not to read it, write or speak of it, nor allow … [Read more...]

Before the Cloud of Unknowing…

Before the Cloud of Unknowing, Richard of St. Victor (who lived in the twelfth century, a contemporary of Hildegard of Bingen and Bernard of Clairvaux) wrote this lovely passage in his work called The Mystical Ark: When birds want to fly they spread out their wings. So, we surely ought to spread the wings of our heart by longing and wait for the time of divine showing at every house — nay, rather at every moment, so that at whatever hour the breath of divine inspiration drives away the clouds o … [Read more...]

Before We Face the Monkey Mind

A reader has written to me with the following question:I make my living as a psychotherapist & most of my work is spiritually oriented counseling with Christians.  I have long been trying to introduce clients to contemplation through encouraging brief periods of silence, solitude and openness  (15-20 min).  I also taught an introductory  course through my church.  Finally, I am preparing to lecture other therapists on using contemplation in therapy.As I have tried to introduce others we … [Read more...]

On the Perils of Translation

A friend of mine (who prefers to remain anonymous) who blogs about Middle-English word studies related to The Cloud of Unknowing has posted a wonderful and thought-provoking meditation On Translation. He considers the challenge of living in a society where the market pretty much decides what does and doesn't get published, which means that some pretty dicey translations (and paraphrases) of literary and sacred texts end up getting disseminated.He uses Rumi as a case study, and his attack on … [Read more...]

Julian and the Cloud, unplugged

Following Maggie Ross's challenge to read the mystics in their original, untranslated texts, I thought I'd highlight some of the editions of both Julian of Norwich's text and The Cloud of Unknowing that can be acquired in the original (or slightly modernized) form. Yesterday I posted a query to Maggie's blog to get a sense of which of these texts she would recommend, and the ones she endorses I've set in bold type. So, check these books out...The options are greater with Julian's text. First … [Read more...]

Maggie Ross’s Response

Here's what Maggie Ross posted on her blog, in response to the questions I posed to her yesterday.First, for those just joining the conversation, here is what I wrote to her: Dear Maggie Ross,First of all, I'm honored even to be mentioned in your blog. I read Pillars of Flame years ago and was impressed by its eloquence, the force of its argument, and its spiritual depth. I still consult both appendices regularly.Now, as to my unlikely appearance in your blog: I'm humbled by your … [Read more...]

Maggie Ross on Scholarship and the Contemplative Life

I am honored, although also humbled, to have been mentioned in the blog of Anglican solitary Maggie Ross, author of a truly wonderful book on the spirituality of priesthood, Pillars of Flame. Ross is taking me to task for recommending Carmen Butcher's translation of The Cloud of Unknowing. Although she is gracious in the tone of her criticism, her overall message is that anyone who seeks to learn from the great contemplatives of the past must be careful in his or her scholarship, or else the … [Read more...]


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