The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. by Evelyn Underhill, , at sacred-texts.com
A slight teaching of this work in purity of spirit; declaring how that on one manner a soul should shed his desire unto God, and on ye contrary unto man.
LOOK thou have no wonder why that I speak thus childishly, and as it were follily and lacking natural discretion; for I do it for certain reasons, and as me thinketh that I have been stirred many days, both to feel thus and think thus and say thus, as well to some other of my special friends in God, as I am now unto thee.
And one reason is this, why that I bid thee hide from God the desire of thine heart. For I hope it should more clearly come to His knowing, for thy profit and in fulfilling of thy p. 221 desire, by such an hiding, than it should by any other manner of shewing that I trow thou couldest yet shew. And another reason is, for I would by such a hid shewing bring thee out of the boisterousness of bodily feeling into the purity and deepness of ghostly feeling; and so furthermore at the last to help thee to knit the ghostly knot of burning love betwixt thee and thy God, in ghostly onehead and according of will.
Thou wottest well this, that God is a Spirit; and whoso should be oned unto Him, it behoveth to be in soothfastness and deepness of spirit, full far from any feigned bodily thing. Sooth it is that all thing is known of God, and nothing may be hid from His witting, neither bodily thing nor ghostly. But more openly is that thing known and shewed unto Him, the which is hid in deepness of spirit, sith it so is that He is a Spirit, than is anything that is mingled with any manner of bodilyness. For all bodily thing is farther p. 222 from God by the course of nature than any ghostly thing. By this reason it seemeth, that the whiles our desire is mingled with any matter of bodilyness, as it is when we stress and strain us in spirit and in body together, so long it is farther from God than it should be, an it were done more devoutly and more listily in soberness and in purity and in deepness of spirit.
And here mayest thou see somewhat and in part the reason why that I bid thee so childishly cover and hide the stirring of thy desire from God. And yet I bid thee not plainly hide it; for that were the bidding of a fool, for to bid thee plainly do that which on nowise may be done. But I bid thee do that in thee is to hide it. And why bid I thus? Surely because I would that thou cast it into deepness of spirit, far from any rude mingling of any bodilyness, the which would make it less ghostly and farther from God inasmuch: and because I wot well that ever the more that thy spirit hath of p. 223 ghostliness, the less it hath of bodilyness and the nearer it is to God, and the better it pleaseth Him and the more clearly it may be seen of Him. Not that His sight may be any time or in any thing more clear than in another, for it is evermore unchangeable: but because it is more like unto Him, when it is in purity of spirit, for He is a Spirit.
Another reason there is, why that I bid thee do that in thee is to let Him not wit: for thou and I and many such as we be, we be so able to conceive a thing bodily the which is said ghostly, that peradventure an I had bidden thee shew unto God the stirring of thine heart, thou shouldest have made a bodily shewing unto Him, either in gesture or in voice, or in word, or in some other rude bodily straining, as it is when thou shalt shew a thing that is hid in thine heart to a bodily man: and insomuch thy work should have been impure. For on one manner shall a thing be shewed to man, and on another manner unto God. p. 224