For the next several weeks, I will post a reflection on portions of
The Cloud of Unknowing, a masterful guide to the contemplative life.
The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 1 Reflection
March 29, 2017
It is through the great love and mercy of God, says The Cloud that you are given the opportunity to advance in spiritual wholeness, and to grow closer to mystical union. The seeker progresses through four degrees of spiritual growth, which our anonymous monk calls the common, special, singular, and perfect manner of living.
The first three degrees of spiritual growth—the common, special, and singular—are part of your mortal existence and begin and end in this life, while the perfect life begins here but goes on for all eternity.
The common life refers to your day-to-day activities, material wellbeing, and concern for social realities. You are caught up in the demands of making a living, tending to family needs, and seeking entertainment or pleasure. This common life, while it has many benefits, can distract you from your deeper feelings and spiritual needs.
But I think that the eternal love of God . . . could not bear to let you go on living so common a life far from him. And so with exquisite kindness, he awakened a desire within you, and binding it fast with the leash of love’s longing, drew you closer to himself in what I have called the more Special manner of living.
An important element of the Special manner of living is the realization that God has called you first. This passive aspect functions as a spiritual koan of receptive contemplation, designed to dissuade you from your own will and to foster surrender to the divine will, dwelling in your own deepest center.
Note that The Cloud presents an image of God that is infinitely loving and benevolent. Out of God’s infinite kindness you are being drawn by love into a desire for mystical union, and all of your life is but a thinly veiled attempt to achieve this level of friendship and intimacy.
Is there more? Yes, from the beginning I think God’s love for you was so great that his heart could not rest satisfied with this.
Thus, the third, or singular manner of living is an advanced stage of spiritual development that centers your whole life on an inner solitude—a holy hermitage—in which you and God alone share in intimate communion. To sustain this deep solitary core of your being in the midst of life’s busy demands requires commitment to the practice of self-emptying.
In the solitude of your communion with God, you find what you have been seeking—to rest eternally in the divine nature. Here, then, you come to the final and most Perfect manner of living. Never separate from God, you always share in Divine Love, which goes on forever.
BEVERLY LANZETTA © 2016. All rights reserved.