Strike the Cloud – Understanding and practising the teaching of The Cloud of Unknowingby Graeme Watson (SPCK) 2011; 82 Pages.
I was thrilled to be able to meet the author of this book, Rev. Graeme Watson, at church on Sunday, and to spend time with him last night (photo above). Fellow blogger, Fr Ron Smith, and his wife Diana invited us to dinner with Graeme and his wife, Liz.
Graeme is an experienced Anglican priest who has worked in Edinburgh, Nottingham, Tanzania (with USPG) Taunton and Truro in pastoral posts and in training for ordained and lay ministries.
I have had a passion for the Cloud of Unknowing for about forty years. The Cloud is a fourteenth century English anonymous text teaching a simple form of one-word prayer. It has been a doorway for my own prayer life, integral to helping me understand St John of the Cross, and a key to dialogue, particularly with Buddhists. I believe that the apophatic tradition within which it stands is sorely lacking in our Western understanding, and that is an important part of the reason why we have got ourselves into such a tangle in relation to science and anti-theism. And I am convinced that unless we are contemplative communities, the church has little future; and without a contemplative dimension, individuals will struggle to maintain Christian commitment for a lifetime.
Strike the Cloud is a wonderfully accesible introduction and commentary on the Cloud. It is quite brief and written very accessibly. It will lead to reading the actual Cloud of Unknowing, and the hope is that this leads to practice.
Graeme stands in the John Main tradition of the World Community for Christian Meditation, a daily practice usually twenty minutes twice a day using a word, normally “Maranatha”. He explains that connection to the Cloud, and also introduces the other strong Christian teaching, Centering Prayer. The former is strongly about attention, the latter about intention. Both are part of the Christian contemplative tradition.
Only once did I hesitate while reading Graeme’s book, when he suggested the author was a Cistercian. I think the author was more probably a Carthusian.
I cannot recommend Strike the Cloud too highly. This is the best short, practical, accesible introduction to the Cloud of Unknowing and its prayer tradition that I know of. Graeme is working on a book about the Song of Solomon. One of my most favourite books of the Bible, I really look forward to Graeme’s next work.
Last night was a delightful evening with wonderful company, great food and drink, witty and serious conversation. The author of the Cloud, I am certain, would have felt very much at home.