Monday, 13 November 2006

The 14th century charlatan

I've read an article in the Journal of Dementia Care today about communicating with people in late stage dementia. It was a good article but not what I want to talk about right now. The author of the article wrote very well, and was obviously a committed Christian, for which she is forgiven :-). In the article she referenced a very old religious text called The Cloud of Unknowing which;

"is a practical spiritual guidebook thought to have been written in the 14th century by an anonymous English monk who counsels a young student to seek God not through knowledge but through love. "Our intense need to understand will always be a powerful stumbling block to our attempts to reach God in simple love [...] and must always be overcome", he writes. "For if you do not overcome this need to understand, it will undermine your quest. It will replace the darkness which you have pierced to reach God with clear images of something which, however good, however beautiful, however Godlike, is not God." (Source: Wikipedia)

I found a full version of the text here.

It's very, very long. To be honest I didn't get past the introduction. This intro was written by Evelyn Underhill and is quite interesting, considered and profound in its own right. Maybe one day I'll get round to reading it all.

I'm attracted to the notion that spiritual awareness is not something that can be studied and found but something that should be developed through 'love, charity and humility'. This makes sense to me, which is why I'm posting simple, things and ideas that I think spiritually uplift me (and hopefully others). I know this is overly simplistic, but we've got to start somewhere, why not here?

Anyway, to my point. I was amused by this quote from the introduction;

"Charity and Humility, then, together with the ardent and industrious will, are the necessary possessions of each soul set upon this adventure. Their presence it is which marks out the true from the false mystic: and it would seem, from the detailed, vivid, and often amusing descriptions of the sanctimonious, the hypocritical, the self‑sufficient, and the self deceived in their “diverse and wonderful variations,” that such a test was as greatly needed in the “Ages of Faith” as it is at the present day. Sham spirituality flourished in the mediaeval cloister, and offered a constant opportunity of error to those young enthusiasts who were not yet aware that the true freedom of eternity “cometh not with observation.” Affectations of sanctity, pretense to rare mystical experiences..."

Wow, even in the 14th Century we had "daft spirituality". So the New Age may not be as new as we think. This lifts my spirits no end!

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