Moses and the Cloud

DISCOURSE FOURTEEN

Some people only experience the perfection of Contemplation during rapture,
While others can experience it always at a time of their choosing, during the
Ordinary moments of one’s day.

Some consider the Contemplative endeavor to be so heavy and awesome that it cannot be undertaken without heavy toil, and then only seldom, when one enters into states of ecstasy. I will respond to these people to the best of my ability, though my best before the Unborn will always be a feeble blip.

All such matters depend upon one’s spiritual dispositions in light of the Unborn. Each adept carries within them particular talents and abilities. Hence, the spiritual gift of Contemplation can only be dispensed according to each one’s capacity. It’s true that some will never reach Contemplation without first engaging in that very lengthy and arduous spiritual journey, and then only tasting brief interludes of spiritual ecstasy. On the other hand, there are others who are so spiritually refined with a great intuition in the Unborn that they can always turn to this Contemplative work whenever they so desire, during the ordinary routine of one’s day, whether sitting, walking, standing, or kneeling. They always seem to gain a sure footing in a healthy balance between both their physical and spiritual faculties. Most of the time they can do so with little or no difficulty.

For instance, in the example of Moses we find the first and the example of Aaron, the priest of the temple, we find the second. The renowned Ark of the Covenant is a representation of the grace of contemplation, and those whose lives were connected with the Ark itself fully reveals those who were fervently directed in the Contemplative path. This analogy of the Ark and Contemplation is most appropriate since the Ark itself contained all the jewels and relics of the holy temple, just as, in similar fashion, the heart which is focused on the Unborn Lord in the cloud of unknowing contains all the virtues of the spirit which is hidden in the temple of the Unborn.

Before Moses could see the ark itself and learn how it was to be constructed, he had to make the steep climb, along with a burdensome effort to reach the mountain’s peak. Once upon the plateau he had to remain there and work within the cloud for six days, after which on the seventh day the Lord descended to give him the instruction’s on how the Ark was to be erected. Hence, Moses’s difficult and strenuous labors and his hindered vision symbolize those who cannot reach the full height of this spiritual work without such initial efforts and strenuous toil; even then the full revelation is seldom seen and is totally dependent upon consent of the Unborn Spirit.

But what Moses found exhausting and seldom received, Aaron already possessed IT. As a temple priest, Aaron had the power and the permission to enter into the Holy of Holies and contemplate upon the Ark whenever he so desired. Hence, Aaron symbolizes those I described earlier, who by their spiritual acumen and the assistance from divine agencies, can make the perfection of this Contemplative work their own whenever they so desired.

Moses and the Ark: This surely is a very peculiar exegesis of the story of Moses on Mount Sinai. Elsewhere it is universally understood that the purpose for Moses’s extended time on Mount Sinai was to receive the Ten Commandments, but here the author suggests that Moses was going through a strenuous struggle on the mountain in order to convince God to give him instructions on how to build the Ark. The author warps the story a bit to make his metaphorical point.

Julian, Fr. John. The Complete Cloud of Unknowing: with The Letter of Privy of Counsel . Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

This is the actual story from Exodus 24:

“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abbioud, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel…And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you…And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the LORD abode upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount… And Moses went into the midst of the cloud…and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.”

The author of the Cloud’s metaphorical point is that Moses was the messenger, while Aaron the priest had special privy knowledge of the Ark due to his office.

It is telling that our author has a broad enough experience with the contemplative way that he would know of people who had struggled with the experience as well as those for whom it came quickly and easily. Having done spiritual direction with contemplatives for over thirty years, I can testify to the accuracy of this distinction. It is also of some interest that the author sees Aaron’s contemplative facility as related to his priestly office in the Temple—possibly a subtle extension of the metaphor to suggest that the ordained have an easier time of it.

Julian, Fr. John. The Complete Cloud of Unknowing: with The Letter of Privy of Counsel . Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

The basic sense of all this is that the Cloud’s author found the latter (the effortless way) as being superior. One should not judge between the two. It may take a novice a long while—yea, sometimes even years—to reach Contemplative maturity. But this doesn’t make one any less-than the seasoned contemplative. After all, Moses is indeed more renowned in the bible than Aaron, even though Aaron had priestly privileges. The work of Spiritual Cultivation, as Tsung-Mi would agree, is worth its weight in gold over initial sudden awakening.

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