Contemplative Love The Universal Virtue

Curriculum Focus

Infinite Addiction
Mediated Relationship


The Cloud of Unknowing, Edited by William Johnson, Image Books Doubleday, New York, NY, 1973, ISBN 0-385-03097-5, excerpts from Chapters 23 - 25, pages 78 82. *** Original Text has been modified for contemporary clarity.

And so I say to anyone who wants to become a real contemplative..let the wonderful transcendence and goodness of the Unreduced Wholeness teach you humility rather than the thought of your own separation, suffering and alienation, for then your humility will be perfect. Attend more to the wholly otherness of the Unreduced rather than to your own misery. And remember that those who are perfectly humble will lack nothing they really need, either relationally or materially. Wholeness is theirs and this Unreduced Reality is all. Whoever possesses this Unreduced Reality needs nothing else in this life.

We have seen that perfect humility is an integral part of the contemplatives simple blind love. Wholly intent upon the Unreduced, this simple love beats unceasingly upon the dark cloud of unknowing, leaving all discursive thought beneath the cloud of forgetting.

In the contemplative work the Unreduced Creator is loved above every creature purely and simply for Its own sake.

I call it a naked intent because it is utterly disinterested. In this work the perfect artisan does not seek personal gain or exemption from suffering. He desires only the Unreduced and It alone. S/he is so fascinated by the Infinite Reality s/he loves and so concerned that Its truth become manifest s/he neither notices nor cares about his/her own ease or anxiety..For a true contemplative may share with no other creature the love s/he owes the Infinite.

Moreover, in contemplation the second and subsidiary command of charity is also completely fulfilled. The fruits of contemplation bear witness to this even though during the actual time of deep connection the skilled contemplative has no special regard for any person in particular, whether brother or stranger, friend or enemy. In reality, no human being is a stranger to him/her because s/he looks on each one as a sibling. And none is his/her enemy. All are his/her friends. Even those who hurt or offend him/her in everyday life are as dear to him/her as his/her best friends and all the good s/he desires for his/her best friends s/he desires for them.

During the time of this work a real contemplative does not dwell on the thought of any person in particular, neither friend, enemy, stranger, nor kin. For s/he who desires to become perfect in this work must forget about everything except the One.

Nevertheless, through contemplation s/he is so growing in practical goodness and love that, when s/he speaks or connects other times, the warmth of his/her love reaches out to them all, friend, enemy, stranger, and kin alike. If there is any partiality at all, it is more likely to be toward his enemy than toward his friend.

.Sometimes charity will demand that s/he descend from the heights of this work to do something for his/her fellow humans.

But in the contemplative work itself, s/he does not distinguish between friend and enemy, brother and stranger. I do not mean, however, that s/he will cease to feel a spontaneous affection toward a few others who are especially close to him/her. Of course s/he will and frequently, too. This is perfectly natural and legitimate for many reasons known only to love.

The point I am making is that during the work of contemplation everyone is equally dear to him/her since it is the One alone who stirs him/her to love. S/he loves all people plainly and nakedly for the One; and s/he loves them as s/he loves himself or herself.

So you see, contemplative love is so refined and integral that it includes in itself perfectly both humility and charity. For the same reasons and in the same way, it perfectly includes every other virtue as well.

Reflection Questions

Read the 1st paragraph sentence by sentence exploring the meaning of each statement. What does this paragraph suggest is the fundamental focus of the Contemplative What difference can this focus make

What happens to discursive thought in the 2nd paragraph and by what is it replaced

How does the author describe the disinterested naked intent in paragraph 4 What is this What examples can you share of this dynamic in real life

What is the role of friends and enemies in paragraphs 5 11 Why is this not pure naivet

How would you articulate the message of this module What is the take home message for living real life with other people

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