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Cloud of Unknowing
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HERE BEGINNETH 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.”

 

AND therefore lean meekly to this blind stirring of love in thine heart. I mean not in thy bodily heart, but in thy ghostly heart, the which is thy will. And be well wary that thou conceive not bodily that that is said ghostly. For truly I tell thee, that bodily and fleshly conceits of them that have curious and imaginative wits be cause of much error.

Ensample of this mayest thou see, by that that I bid thee hide thy desire from God in that that in thee is. For peradventure an I had bidden thee shew thy desire unto God, thou shouldest have conceived it more bodily than thou dost now, when I bid thee hide it. For thou wottest well, that all that thing that is wilfully hidden, it is cast into the deepness of spirit. And thus me thinketh that it needeth greatly to have much wariness in understanding of words that be spoken to ghostly intent, so that thou conceive them not bodily but ghostly, as they be meant: and specially it is good to be wary with this word in, and this word up. For in misconceiving of these two words hangeth much error, and much deceit in them that purpose them to be ghostly workers, as me thinketh. Somewhat wot I by the proof, and somewhat by hearsay; and of these deceits list me tell thee a little as me thinketh.

A young disciple in God’s school new turned from the world, the same weeneth that for a little time that he hath given him to penance and to prayer, taken by counsel in confession, that he be therefore able to take upon him ghostly working of the which he heareth men speak or read about him, or peradventure readeth himself. And therefore when they read or hear spoken of ghostly working—and specially of this word, “how a man shall draw all his wit within himself,” or “how he shall climb above himself”—as fast for blindness in soul, and for fleshliness and curiosity of natural wit, they misunderstand these words, and ween, because they find in them a natural covetyse to hid things, that they be therefore called to that work by grace. Insomuch, that if counsel will not accord that they shall work in this work, as soon they feel a manner of grumbling against their counsel, and think—yea and peradventure say to such other as they be—that they can find no man that can wit what they mean fully. And therefore as fast, for boldness and presumption of their curious wit, they leave meek prayer and penance over soon; and set them, they ween, to a full ghostly work within in their soul. The which work, an it be truly conceived, is neither bodily working nor ghostly working; and shortly to say, it is a working against nature, and the devil is the chief worker thereof. And it is the readiest way to death of body and of soul, for it is madness and no wisdom, and leadeth a man even to madness. And yet they ween not thus: for they purpose them in this work to think on nought but on God.

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