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The Cloud of Unknowing

An English mystical treatise from the latter fourteenth century, of East Midland origin. The anonymous author was probably a solitary, possibly a Dominican. The sources of The Cloud of Unknowing may be identifiable as Dionysius the Areopagite's Theologia Mystica and the Rhineland mystics, especially Tauler, who were known in England through the Dominicans. Having written up to six other pieces, two being translations, the author addresses that specific person who seeks the solitary, contemplative life, but finally includes the Marthas as well as the Marys. The instructions remind of those given by St. John of the Cross,* and the Thomist position is apparent throughout; grace is central, bodily travail discounted. The aim is to put all created things under a cloud of forgetting, and in love press on to the cloud of unknowing, Dionysius's caligo ignorantiae, which lies forever between the prayerful soul and God.