Almost one year ago I attended the most excellent retreat…the retreat was a teaching /silent prayer time — during which time we examined “The Cloud of Unknowing” in some detail. Cynthia Bourgeault, our spiritual guide & illustrious sensei, began our time together by eluding to the author’s understanding of ‘ways of knowing’ (i.e. dualistic vs. Unitive consciousness). Cynthia implied the Cloud of Unknowing is a ‘template’ for the gradual development of the “unitive mind”. She tended to rely on Iva Progoff’s translation as it seemed to center around the work of transformation of consciousness. The Cloud’s author uses terminology that isn’t quite familiar to me — Cynthia helped us to identify the unknown author’s idiosyncratic vocabulary, including terms like: “thought’; “Love”; “the Cloud”; “meekness”; “stirring”; “the Will”; “darkness”; “spiritual eye”; “forgetting”; “the naked being”; etc. She also began by adding that the crux of the Contemplative life is further developing “non-dual awareness”. Cynthia says we can’t even begin to entertain questions like “Who is God?” and “Who am I?” whilst using dualistic frames of reference. To her, an undifferentiated perceptual field is necessary; in which the “subject/object” field is collapsed, allowing one to shift into a perceptual oneness; perceiving no separation by withholding our attentions from objects (thoughts, ideas, imagination, psychological and spiritual ‘objects’).
The deepest way of knowing, according to the unknown author of The Cloud, seems to be “Love” — which, not surprisingly, seems beyond the capacity of the ‘mental/Egoic operating system’ — requiring one to live in “the Cloud” process to really discover what “Love” truly means. The purpose of ‘the Cloud’, near as I can figure, is that it seems to act as a ‘vehicle’ (or a portal) allowing one to: (a) separate from the Egoic O/S and (b) join to ‘the Infinite’. This deeper sense of knowing sounds like that which I’ve been seeking for decades. But now I’m left wondering…all this “juicy knowledge” I’ve managed to sequester over the past 22 years of study — it is what ‘defined’ me for many years. It’s what I assumed life was about. Learning was my way of ‘seeing the world with new eyes’. So was preparation of the Egoic O/S necessary — in order to prepare one for the “letting go” of all the unnecessary-ness (doubt this is a real word) of it all? If C.P. aides one to slowly divest of this ‘way of seeing’, and helps to re-programme the O/S more towards the non-dual perception, what happens to all the “mental knowing” we accrued? Does it fall by the wayside? Thomas Merton words resonate in my ears as I consider this: “… The way we have structured our lives, we spend our whole life climbing up the ladder of supposed success, and when we get to the top of the ladder we realize it is leaning against the wrong wall—and there is nothing at the top. To get back to the place of inherent abundance, you have to let go of all of the false agendas, unreal goals, and passing self-images. It is all about letting go. The spiritual life is more about unlearning than learning, because the deepest you already knows (1 John 2:21).”
I also can’t help but wonder if once we move our identity to that level of deep inner knowing, only then can we realize we’re drawing upon a Life that is much larger than our own and from a deeper abundance. Once learnt, why would anyone ever again want to settle for scarcity (the Egoic way) in life? “I’m not enough! This is not enough! I do not have enough!” Yet again I’m beginning to see that the way our Egoic O/S is trained from day dot to think (respond) seems like a kind of ‘learned helplessness’. And that ‘helpless feeling’ is not the sum total of life’s experience.
Contemplation helps us to “let go’ of that which prevents the veil from being parted – preventing us from seeing the Christ with “new eyes” – a new way of seeing. Furthermore, the self-emptying of Philippians 2 is accomplished by focussing our attentions within.