The unnamed author of The Cloud of Unknowing was an English mystic of the fourteenth century. In this lyrical meditation on passages from this extraordinary text, John Kirvan opens up the spiritual practice of mystery, which is perhaps even more difficult in our era than it was seven centuries ago. To journey on this path is to abandon mind games and to put away all logical constructs and imaginative forays. Kirvan wants us to rest in grace: "Our relationship with God is always a gift that we consent to. Nothing more, nothing less, and never anything else." It should be so easy to take our hands off our lives and to surrender. But it isn't.
Listen to the words from The Cloud of Unknowing:
"God as he must is doing his work within you.
Let him lead you, as he will.
He needs only your consent.
And that you will stay out of his way.
Do not try to help him along.
Lest you spoil what he is attempting to do
in and for you.
You be the wood. He is the carpenter."
How do we consent to this transformation? Kirvan believes we must unclutter our hearts and then offer them up in silence. What a simple and profound description of the way that lies beyond our yearning.
Our Unknown Teacher, as Kirvan calls the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, writes: "It is not what you are / nor what you have been / that God looks at with his merciful eyes, / but what you desire to be." With these mystical words, we cross over into the yearning of Rumi, the thirteenth century Sufi poet. How wonderful to see the connection between these two from different traditions, evidence that the same mystical stream flows through both of them. There is nothing more important than loving God and letting God do his work in us.
Residing in the valley of desire, we suddenly discover that our view of others is forever altered. The Unknown Teacher tells us: "All of humanity / is part of our family. / All are our friends / No one is a stranger." Wonders abound in this small but sturdy mystical vessel. Kirvan has reclaimed this spiritual classic and made it our own.