The Contemplative Relationship to Time - The Power of Love and Will

Curriculum Focus



The Cloud of Unknowing, Edited by William Johnson, Image Books Doubleday, New York, NY, 1973: Chapter 4, pages 49 53. ***Original Text has been slightly amended for contemporary clarity.

This work is not time-consuming even though some people believe otherwise. Actually it is the shortest you can imagine; as brief as an atom..Your principal relational faculty, the will, needs only this brief fraction of a moment to move toward the object of its desire..

It is the Infinite Object alone that can fully satisfy the hunger and longing of our being which, transformed by Its own permission, enables us to embrace It by love. This Reality cannot be grasped by humans or any being by knowledge but can be embraced by love. For the intellect of all beings is too small to comprehend Infinite Reality as it is in Itself.

Try to understand this point. Rational creatures.possess two principal faculties, a knowing power and a loving power. No one can fully comprehend the uncreated Infinite Reality with ones knowledge; but each one, in a different way, can grasp this Reality fully through love. Truly this is the unending miracle of love: that one loving person, through his or her love, can embrace Ultimate Reality, whose being fills and transcends the entire creation. And this marvelous work of love goes on forever, for the One we love is timeless. Whoever has the gifted insight to appreciate the truth of what I am saying, let them take my words to heart, for to experience this love is the joy of endless life while to lose it is endless torment.

The one who with the help of the Infinite permission becomes aware of the wills constant movements and learns to direct them toward the Infinite Object will never fail to taste something of the joy of timelessness in the present and always. Now do you see why I rouse you to this interior relational work You would have taken to it naturally had you and humanity not chosen a relationship of separateness and dis-unity. For humanity was created to love and everything else was created to make love possible. Nevertheless, by the work of contemplative love humanity will be healed. Failing in this work one sinks deeper into separation and further from the unity of Reality. But by persevering in this work one moves beyond separation and grows in intimacy with the Infinite Wholeness.

Therefore, be attentive to time and the way you spend it. Nothing is more precious. This is evident when you recall that in one tiny moment the Infinite connection may be gained or lost. Reality, the master of time, never gives the future. It gives only the present, moment by moment, for this is the law of the created order, and Unmanifest Reality will not contradict itself in the manifest creation. Time is for humanity, not humanity for time. Reality, the master of time and space, will never anticipate humanitys choices which follow one after another in time. A person will not be able to excuse him/herself at the final moment saying to Reality: You overwhelmed me with the future when I was only capable of living in the present.

And so do not neglect this contemplative work. Try also to appreciate its wonderful effects in your own being. When it is genuine it is simply a spontaneous desire springing suddenly toward the Wholeness of Being like spark from fire. It is amazing how many loving desires arise from the being of a person who is accustomed to this work. And yet, perhaps only one of these will be completely free from attachment to some created thing. Or again, no sooner has a man turned toward Wholeness in love when through human frailty he finds himself distracted by the remembrance of some created thing or some daily care. But no matter. No harm is done; for such a person quickly returns to deep recollection.

And now we come to the difference between the contemplative work and its counterfeits such as daydreaming, fantasizing, or subtle reasoning. These originate in a conceited, curious, or romantic mind whereas the blind stirring of love springs from a sincere and humble heart. Pride, curiosity, and daydreaming must be sternly checked if the contemplative work is to be authentically conceived in singleness of heart

Reflection Questions

What is our principle relational faculty the author acknowledges in paragraph 1 Why is this significant

What is the relationship of knowledge and love as outlined in paragraph 3 What are three everyday situations that you have encountered recently How could each situation be considered differently by choosing a relationship of knowledge versus a relationship of love

What does the author prescribe in paragraph 4 as the path for healing humanity What examples can you give as to how this might be understood practically

What clues does the author give us for managing our wills in relationship to time and timelessness particularly when we are distracted by the events of everyday life How do you practice deep recollection

In the last paragraph, what warnings does the author share What examples can you share of daydreaming, fantasizing, subtle reasoning, conceit, curiosity or the romantic mind that are not the authentic contemplative work

What physical reactions did you have to the material as a whole or any part of it (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, holding your breath, loss of consciousness falling asleep, spacing out, tightness of the muscles in your chest or shoulders or neck, indigestion, light headedness, cold sweats, hot sweats, nausea, or dizziness)

What clues do any of these reactions possibly provide to us about a relationship we have chosen to something in life to which the material is pointing

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