Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing

Rebecca Hill
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Produced in England in the second half of the fourteenth century, the

Cloud of Unknowing

is a Middle English devotional manual designed to teach an novice, or someone relatively new to a life of Christian devotion, how to achieve union with God by means of negative or apophatic theology. The anonymous author’s main tenet is that if one stops contemplating God’s manifestations, one may know him by surrendering to nothingness; in other words, one must quiet the mind in order to give way to the workings of the heart. Despite relying on some positive (kataphatic) language and imagery, the most salient of which is the cloud-piercing love-dart, to assist the reader in this achievement, both image and rationality collapse. Instead, love helps the novice merge with the divine. Though…

3258 words

Citation: Hill, Rebecca. "The Cloud of Unknowing". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 26 July 2018 [, accessed 23 June 2024.]

16094 The Cloud of Unknowing 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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