The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. by Evelyn Underhill, , at sacred-texts.com
How a soul shall dispose it on its own part, for to destroy all witting and feeling of its own being.
BUT now thou askest me, how thou mayest destroy this naked witting and feeling of thine own being. For peradventure thou thinkest that an it were destroyed, all other lettings were destroyed: and if thou thinkest thus, thou thinkest right truly. But to this I answer thee and I say, that without a full special grace full freely given of God, and thereto a full according ableness to receive this grace on thy part, this naked witting and feeling of thy being may on nowise be destroyed. And this ableness is p. 211 nought else but a strong and a deep ghostly sorrow.
But in this sorrow needeth thee to have discretion, on this manner: thou shalt be wary in the time of this sorrow, that thou neither too rudely strain thy body nor thy spirit, but sit full still, as it were in a sleeping device, all forsobbed and forsunken in sorrow. This is true sorrow; this is perfect sorrow; and well were him that might win to this sorrow. All men have matter of sorrow: but most specially he feeleth matter of sorrow, that wotteth and feeleth that he is. All other sorrows be unto this in comparison but as it were game to earnest. For he may make sorrow earnestly, that wotteth and feeleth not only what he is, but that he is. And whoso felt never this sorrow, he may make sorrow: for why, he felt yet never perfect sorrow. This sorrow, when it is had, cleanseth the soul, not only of sin, but also of pain that it hath deserved for sin; and thereto it p. 212 maketh a soul able to receive that joy, the which reeveth from a man all witting and feeling of his being.
This sorrow, if it be truly conceived, is full of holy desire: and else might never man in this life abide it nor bear it. For were it not that a soul were somewhat fed with a manner of comfort of his right working, else should he not be able to bear the pain that he hath of the witting and feeling of his being. For as oft as he would have a true witting and a feeling of his God in purity of spirit, as it may be here, and sithen feeleth that he may not—for he findeth evermore his witting and his feeling as it were occupied and filled with a foul stinking lump of himself, the which behoveth always be hated and be despised and forsaken, if he shall be God’s perfect disciple learned of Himself in the mount of perfection—so oft, he goeth nigh mad for sorrow. Insomuch, that he weepeth and waileth, striveth, curseth, and banneth; and shortly to p. 213 say, him thinketh that he beareth so heavy a burthen of himself that he careth never what betides him, so that God were pleased. And yet in all this sorrow he desireth not to unbe: for that were devil’s madness and despite unto God. But him listeth right well to be; and he intendeth full heartily thanking to God, for the worthiness and the gift of his being, for all that he desire unceasingly for to lack the witting and the feeling of his being.
This sorrow and this desire behoveth every soul have and feel in itself, either in this manner or in another; as God vouchsafeth for to learn to His ghostly disciples after His well willing and their according ableness in body and in soul, in degree and disposition, ere the time be that they may perfectly be oned unto God in perfect charity—such as may be had here—if God vouchsafeth. p. 214