Cloud of Unknowing e-Course with Cynthia Bourgeault at Spirituality and Practice
September 6 - October 1
The Cloud of Unknowing is on nearly everyone’s “Top Ten” list of Western Spiritual classics. It is the principal source of the popular meditation practice Centering Prayer. Aspiring contemplatives are often encouraged to approach this text as an example of Christian monastic love mysticism which preaches a simple humility and a gentle willingness to let God act within you by turning off your mind and opening your heart.
Cynthia Bourgeault sees this medieval text in a very different way. After nearly five decades of working with The Cloud — first as a medieval scholar, then as a student of Centering Prayer, and now as teacher of the Christian nondual tradition — she says that rather than being an exemplar of love mysticism, it is actually a pioneering exploration of the phenomenology of consciousness, probably the earliest such attempt in the Christian West. Its principal concern is with what constitute the stages of consciousness and how we move through them.
The fourteenth century mystic who wrote The Cloud described under the rubric of “contemplation” a whole new level of consciousness, characterized by an entirely different operating system of perception, and accessed through an intentional reconfiguration of our attention. His focus was on “objectless awareness,” what these days is called “nondual awareness.”
In this one-month e-course, Bourgeault opens these new windows on The Cloud of Unknowing, showing how a medieval text can be profoundly relevant to our own times. Of the anonymous author, she writes: “His heart is nested in God, his feet are solidly planted in this world, and he is not about to let aspiring contemplatives get lost in either sentimentality or wishful thinking. They are needed on deck for a much more clear-headed form of service.”
The e-course consists of 12 emailed lessons, each with an essay by Bourgeault using a short passage from The Cloud of Unknowing as a stepping stone on what she describes as “a practical path of transformation in the service of the continuing evolution of human consciousness.” Bourgeault also offers questions for your reflection and practices designed to help you assimilate and embody the teachings. You are then invited to share your experiences with this work in the online Practice Circle, where Cynthia will actively respond and encourage you.
Midway through the e-course on September 17 at 1 pm PT, 2 pm MT, 3 pm CT, 4 pm ET, 9 pm GMT, e-course participants will gather on Zoom to hear Cynthia answer their questions and then talk amongst themselves in small groups.
The entire program — emails, Practice Circle, and Zoom gathering — will reframe the intention of The Cloud of Unknowing — instead of “removing us” from the world, it sends us forth into everyday life with unshakable inner steadiness and skillful means. Whether you consider yourself a contemplative, a mystic, or have never claimed any such title, you are sure to take away both wisdom and practices from this unusual e-course.
Join us in welcoming back Cynthia Bourgeault, one of S&P most popular teachers with 10 previous e-courses, for more fresh perspectives on this classic text. To register, click on the “Subscribe” button below. (4 CEHs for chaplains available.)