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on 18 July 2017
Very interesting and uplifting book for those who have a desire in their heart to be united with God in unconditional love.
The concepts of the cloud of unknowing and the sea of forgetfulness are very practical and useful ways of guiding the seeker towards God.
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on 14 April 2000
The man who wrote this was a genius. He tells you how to avoid introspection and self-pity and how to proceed up the spiritual path.It is a book which should be read slowly and really enjoyed.A true classic.
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on 13 June 2017
There are a number of different translations of this, surprisingly perhaps, very English Medieval text, on the market. What it shares with Julian of Norwich, is in fact a kind of Englishness of spirit that is rarely acknowledged; you have to perhaps go back through the beautiful ‘Piers Ploughman’ to the Anglo Saxon ‘Dream of the Rood’, to recover that flavor. In fact it was Denys Turner’s brilliant book on Julian that prompted me to try it: and part of the power is in the language. Language in fact forms a key issue in the very readable and illuminating introduction, but it raises a perennial question: to what extent can a modern translator both access and replicate, the ‘sound’ of the original, and the language of Chaucer’s time is neither strange nor incomprehensible, it is just that it is unfamiliar.

So what have we got? It opens a translation from Dionys the Aperogite, or ‘The Mystical Theology of St. Dennis,’ which establishes the basic conceptual foundation stone for the ‘Cloud.’ There are two approaches to understanding God: one is to take the kataphatic approach that the knowledge of God is revealed by what he has created, an approach adopted beautifully by many of the Psalms; the other approach, the apophatic approach, is that God is so totally unknowable that we cannot say anything about him; the former is affirmative, the latter, reductive. The approach of the latter is also found in Plotinus, and is perhaps exemplified in the approach of St. John of the Cross, with the Via Negato, which is not to suggest that they are mutually exclusive, and in fact the contrast has been likened to the Mary or Martha debate. ‘The Cloud’ which to describe over-simply, is a manual for the practice of contemplation, is followed by a text on perhaps more general advice. One has to bear in mind that what the religious - the author is believed to have been a Carthusian Priest, writing in English – and that raises questions, who remained anon, is that for the Medieval religious, the boundary between what we would call prayer and what we might call contemplation, did not exist; and they were only the guidelines established by the earlier Desert Fathers.

One of the interesting things about ‘The Cloud’ is that in a way, it continues with a Platonic thread: from Plato, to Plotinus, to Proclus, to Denys – a Christian student of Proclus. Aquinas, concerned as he was about the purity of doctrine, was concerned about the Greek element he discerned in the writings of Denys, but that concern is no different from the concern of the early Islamic Theologians, as to the influence coming from outside of the prophetic tradition, which in their view really began with Adam. That is in a way, a by the way. This is a lovely translation that is as illuminating as it is perhaps practical, and its in a Penguin!
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on 22 June 2013
This is a Christian spiritual classic, written in the fourteenth century, which sets out to capture in language the nature of God and the longed-for relationship of the contemplative soul with God. The author is unknown but thought to be a priest who was probably also a monk. He argues that essentially God is unknowable and indescribable and that therefore all words are inadequate and sometimes quite misleading, as in when He (for want of a better pronoun) is described as 'out there' or 'up there' or 'within'. This sort of language is not to be understood in a bodily or physically spatial sense but spiritually. We have to use words because we inhabit the physical world and have only those terms to describe what is essentially of the spirit and not describable in words at all. However, if we don't use words we have only silence which doesn't enable us to share wisdom and experience. Fortunately, the book is written in short chapters which enables the reader to digest and absorb (to use more physical terms) what is being put forward.
I have found the book really helpful at this particular stage of my own journey. It helps me to make sense of some of my own experiences because it deals with questions I have had and which had not been addressed to my satisfaction before. As there is a lot within the writing to take in it is the sort of guide to come back to from time to time, and specific chapters might be of particular help in particular life situations.
I would recommend this to anyone seeking, through setting aside a time of quiet, a closer relationship with God.
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on 6 November 2013
While I think this is an indispensable companion book, I strongly suggest you also download the freely available copy written in old English. Although it is not as easy to read, in some ways the old-english version transmits the concepts, which are truly not easy to transmit in words, better than the modern English version. Because the concepts in the cloude of unknowing are really so alien to modern life and properly a new language should be invented to discuss them, the use of old english in some way achieves this by using slightly unfamiliar versions of words that if written in the common language lose meaning simply because of how we are used to treating the word and the automatic sensations it brings up in us.
My practice is to read the old english first and then if a word stumps me use this book to "translate" it for myself.
I need to add that I have no religion whatsoever, however the concepts described by the 14th century anonymous mystic who wrote it are truly universal and I wonder if he didn't keep his name out of it to avoid being burned at the stake!

One last point, I don't know if others will relate to this, but this book might have been utterly incomprehensible to me had it not been for an event that completely re-wired my outlook on life. I had a sudden experience that flung me into what i can only describe an alternate reality based in love, and in it, all the common rules of the material world no longer apply, in fact, many of the normal ways we go about our lives could even be seen as wrong and liable to only bring misery to our lives instead of love and joy. This book, so far, is the only thing I have found that actually describes this alternate reality well. It has been helpful to me to understand when my faith has been weak. I say faith, but please not I have no religion, yet there is a love, a indeed...Cloude of Unknowyinge as it were, and to be in it in faith is the only way to really have that sense that you are fulfilling your purpose here on Earth by just being yourself, your true self. It is difficult to describe and will always sound cliched, and never in a million years did I think i would find myself finding guidance, and comfort, even joy and laughter in a book written more than 500 years ago by a mystic who had also discovered this alternate reality, and captured its essence in the form of a guidebook so beautifully.
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on 9 October 2011
This modern version of "The Cloud of Unknowing" has made the work more intelligible to todays readers by replacing the archaic language of older versions whilst retaining the original sense. This has always been a challenging book to read and understand but I feel that this version has gone a long way towards providing the practical guidance that the original author intended for his readers. It is not an easy book, as instructional treatises go, but at least with this edition you are not confused by the mysteries of language.
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on 10 April 2014
Very challenging to read but sublime writing. Not for those who are out for an easy way into Christian spirituality but for a more seasoned spiritual travellers.
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on 3 February 2010
This is probably the best translation of this book into modern English. It reads well and is still very true to the original. Underhill's earlier translation is even closer to the original, but sounds awkward in modern English, while Johnston's translation is further away from the original.
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on 10 May 2016
Worth reading
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VINE VOICEon 7 October 2011
This is a most intresting book. It's definatley not for everyone and even starts off with a warning from the unknown 1370's writer to not read, speak of or quote the book to anyone who is not ready to follow through with what this book is offering.
With that in mind, I will just explain the title.
There are 2 ways to think of God:
1- Positive. God is Good, Great, Wonderful etc. All based on characteristics we are familiar with because we see them as human attributes as well.
2- Negative. God is not Good, Great, Wonderful etc, because these are all human words and attributes and can never describe God the unmade Spirit. So when we come to face God our mind cannot comprehend Him and instead comes to a blank, or, Cloud of Unknowing.

This book will shed light on what could be misunderstood by anyone who is not already in a place of seeking Him and not what He can offer.

This version is translated by Colin Wolfer and has some great notes before each book.
Recommended, but bear in mind the Authors warning. if you are not ready you will be wasting your time completley.
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