☁️🌀🤲 The Cloud of Unknowing

participatory reading night with live music
at The Round Church, Cambridge

📅 14.03.2024 (March the 14th, Thursday) - 19.00-22.30
🚪 doors open: 18.30
📍 The Round Church - Round Church Vestry, Bridge St, Cambridge
🎟️ entry: free with registration

+++ register here! +++
Read a medieval contemplative classic as it has (probably!) never been read before. The Cloud of Unknowing is a fourteenth-century mystical teaching text which guides its pupil through a distinctive process of ‘apophatic’ or ‘negative’ meditation. Through an exploration of sound, space, and collective participation, you are invited to encounter this famously mysterious text in a new way: we will speak it and hear it spoken, and maybe even try a little unknowing ourselves.

+++ scroll down for longer description +++

📖 presented by: Rebecca Field (University of Cambridge)
📯 live music and reading night concept by: Áron Birtalan

🕊️ how to attend
- fill in the registration form
- arrive before 19.00

🏵️ suggestions 1
- Bring something recline on from home, or take a chair from the church
- Turn off or put away your phone
- Remove shoes and uncomfortable clothing
- Join the reading if you want to
- Come and go as you like
- Relax, sleep if you wish

💜 accessibility
The event will feature dim lighting and immersive sound.
There is no on-road parking close to the building.
Level access to the front door from the pavement.
There is one step down to the church floor and multiple steps to the bathrooms.

🌀 EXTRA event
Mysticism and Touch - artistic workshop hosted by Áron Birtalan
Open-level workshop for playfully exploring choreography, somatics and mediaeval mystical theology.
📅 16.03.2024 (March 16th, Saturday) - 14.00-16.30
📍 Trinity College, Cambridge
🎟️ suggested donations for the workshop: £10
CLICK HERE ] to learn more and sign up!


☁️ About the Cloud:

The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous contemplative text, written in Middle English towards the end of the fourteenth-century. It is a ‘how to’ manual for a particular variety of contemplative prayer, which its author calls ‘unknowing’. This mysterious and often-paradoxical process asks the practitioner to completely forget the body, the mind, the self, all creation, all knowledge, and even any affirmative understanding of God. The text is thus a part of the via negativa tradition, a ‘negative’ or ‘apophatic’ approach to devotion pioneered by the Cloud-author’s primary influence, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

The Cloud is notoriously difficult to get one’s head around. But its obscurity is deliberate. The work of ‘unknowing’ is not an intellectual project, but rather an experimental and exploratory process. The aim of this event, then, is to allow for a particular kind of encounter with the text of the Cloud. In this context, we will not be subjecting the text to academic analysis; rather, we will experience the text in a meditative, sonic, praxis-focused way. Together we will read the text and hear it read. The aim here is to ‘feel’ (one of the Cloud-author’s favourite words) without unpacking. The experience can be at once individual and collective, and you can participate in any way, and to any degree, that you would like. We do not know for sure the kind(s) of contexts in which this text would have been read, and we are not therefore trying to re-create its ‘authentic’ reading conditions. We are, however, hoping to explore the text’s original intention, that is, as a jumping-off point for a kind of contemplative experience.

This is a text that invites re-reading, dipping in and out, and intentional focus on isolated passages. Consequently, we invite you to read from any part of the text that you choose, in the original Middle English or a modern translation (both will be provided). We hope you will join us in this somewhat experimental collective exploration in an indisputably magical setting!


1 wording adapted from Lumen Project Stockholm
support from the Judith E Wilson Fund
(c) Áron Birtalan, Rebecca Field - 2024