The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. by Evelyn Underhill, , at sacred-texts.com
That without imperfect meekness coming before, it is impossible for a sinner to come to the perfect Virtue of meekness in this life.
FOR although I call it imperfect meekness, yet I had liefer have a true knowing and a feeling of myself as I am, and sooner I trow that it should get me the perfect cause and virtue of meekness by itself, than it should an all the saints and angels in heaven, and all the men and women of Holy Church living in earth, religious or seculars in all degrees, were set at once all together to do nought else but to pray to God for me to get me perfect meekness. Yea, and yet it is impossible a sinner to get, or to keep p. 120 when it is gotten, the perfect virtue of meekness without it.
And therefore swink and sweat in all that thou canst and mayest, for to get thee a true knowing and a feeling of thyself as thou art; and then I trow that soon after that thou shalt have a true knowing and a feeling of God as He is. Not as He is in Himself, for that may no man do but Himself; nor yet as thou shalt do in bliss both body and soul together. But as it is possible, and as He vouchsafeth to be known and felt of a meek soul living in this deadly body.
And think not because I set two causes of meekness, one perfect and another imperfect, that I will therefore that thou leavest the travail about imperfect meekness, and set thee wholly to get thee perfect. Nay, surely; I trow thou shouldest never bring it so about. But herefore I do that I do: because I think to tell thee and let thee see the worthiness of this ghostly exercise before all other exercise p. 121 bodily or ghostly that man can or may do by grace. How that a privy love pressed in cleanness of spirit upon this dark cloud of unknowing betwixt thee and thy God, truly and perfectly containeth in it the perfect virtue of meekness without any special or clear beholding of any thing under God. And because I would that thou knewest which were perfect meekness, and settest it as a token before the love of thine heart, and didst it for thee and for me. And because I would by this knowing make thee more meek.
For ofttimes it befalleth that lacking of knowing is cause of much pride as me thinketh. For peradventure an thou knewest not which were perfect meekness, thou shouldest ween when thou hadst a little knowing and a feeling of this that I call imperfect meekness, that thou hadst almost gotten perfect meekness: and so shouldest thou deceive thyself, and ween that thou wert full meek when thou wert all belapped in foul stinking p. 122 pride. And therefore try for to travail about perfect meekness; for the condition of it is such, that whoso hath it, and the whiles he hath it, he shall not sin, nor yet much after. p. 123