Silence as a spiritual practice is something that I have always been drawn to. It has inspired my investigations of Buddhism, my various spiritual retreats all over the world and my brief flirtation with Quakerism.
And so I have signed up for a course at the Aquinas Academy in Sydney called The Way of Silent Presence. We will be examining the 14th century spiritual classic The Cloud of Unknowing.
It is a book I have been meaning to read for decades now, and this is the perfect excuse to actually sit down and study it.
In some ways The Cloud... is the quintessential mystical text, affirming the necessity of love in one's relationship with the eternal, for, as Clifton Walters explains in his introduction to the Penguin version:
"Once love has sprung the soul can "press" lovingly upon God. Love holds the key to contemplation. Through love God is known, not through the intellect."
It is also said that the book lies at the heart of the modern trend of spiritual formation.
This will be a short course (only three weeks), but it looks very interesting. The course description explains:
"In this course we will use The Cloud of Unknowing as a window on a form of prayer being rediscovered in our own times. In conjunction with this exploration we will also consider the much older tradition of the via negativa (“the way of negation”) or the apophatic way that is essential to our tradition but largely overlooked in the last millennium in favour of the via positiva (“the way of affirmation”) or kataphatic way."