“Blissful is the one who can find this oneing wisdom”

from the Book of Privy Counselling

The School of Contemplative Life
5 min readJan 29, 2023

I’d like to share a passage I translated from The Book of Privy Counselling,[1] written by the anonymous author of the more well known Cloud of Unknowing.

Intended as guidebook for a young student, the author teaches with a wisdom that is both luminous and deeply practical. Both works are of singular importance for the practice of meditation in the Christian tradition.

The author begins the passage with the words, “Blissful in the one who can find this oneing wisdom,” which is to say, the one who comes to awareness of their essential oneness with God is filled with joy.

Is this joy intended for only a few of us? Not at all, writes Martin Laird OSA. “Communion with God in the silence of the heart is a God-given capacity, like the rhododendron’s capacity to flower, the fledgling’s for flight, and the child’s for self-forgetful abandon and joy.”[2]

As prayer deepens, it becomes less and less a matter of what we might be thinking or doing and increasingly a matter of just being. You might describe the contemplative prayer of silent meditation as simply resting in a “blind awareness of your naked being, oned to God.”


Blissful is the one who can find this oneing wisdom and flourish in their spiritual work of contemplation with loving skilfulness and prudence of spirit, offering up their own blind awareness of their own being, with all their learning through education and all they know laid aside.

The receiving of this spiritual wisdom and this wise work is better than gaining the gold and silver[3] of all other bodily or intellectual knowledge, which we get by seeking and working with our natural faculties through thinking about any of the attributes that belong to God or any created thing.

Solomon tells us that this oneing wisdom is better than this gold and silver because, “its fruits are the first and purest.” And no wonder, because the fruit of this work of contemplation is high spiritual wisdom, suddenly and freely brought up within awareness itself, unformed and far distant from our fantasies, impossible to constrain or bring under the activity of our intellect or senses.

Compared with this wisdom, our intellect and senses, however subtle or holy they are, seem like folly formed in illusion, as far from the very truth that shines in the light of contemplation as the darkness of moonlight in mist on midwinter night is from the brightness of the sun’s rays in the clearest time of midsummer day.

As Solomon says, “keep this law and this counsel,” in which all the commandments and counsels of the Old Testament and of the New are truly and perfectly fulfilled, without any special concern for any one separately.

The work of contemplation is not really a “law” but we can speak of it like this because it contains within it fully all the branches and fruits of the law. For, if truly considered, the ground and strength of this work of contemplation will be seen as nothing else but the glorious gift of love, in which, as the apostle teaches, the whole law is fulfilled: “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”[4]

If you keep this loving law and this living counsel, as Solomon says, it “shall be life to your soul” inwardly, in softness of love to your God, “and grace to your face” outwardly, which is to say that this work of contemplation will make your outward form of life and relationships with others beautiful.

In these two commandments of love, the one within and the other without, according to the teaching of Christ, “depends the whole law and the prophets.”[5] Therefore, when you are made perfect in this work of contemplation, both within and without, you will walk confidently, grounded in grace, the guide of your spiritual path, lovingly lifting up your naked blind being to the blissful being of God, with which you are one in grace, though different in nature.

“And the foot of your love shall not stumble.” That is to say, as you continue in this work of contemplation and become more seasoned, you will not be so easily hindered and distracted by the ingenious questionings of your thinking mind as you are now as a beginner. Or, to put it differently, the time will come when the foot of your love will neither trip nor stumble due to any kind of imagining caused by the curious searching of your thinking mind.

For in this work, as it has been said before, all the curious searching of your thinking mind is put far behind and completely forgotten for fear of illusion or invented falsehood that might come in this life; for these might obscure the naked awareness of your blind being and draw you away from the excellence of this work of contemplation.

For, if any kind of thought of anything should enter your mind and draw you away from the naked awareness of your blind being (which is your God and the goal of your intent), then you are drawn back to work in the strategies and curiosity of the thinking mind, and there is a scattering and departing of your mind from both yourself and your God.

Therefore, keep yourself whole and unscattered as far as you can by grace and by the wisdom that comes from spiritual perseverance.

For in this blind awareness of your naked being, oned to God as I am telling you, just keep doing all that you normally do: eat and drink, sleep and wake up, walk and sit, speak and be silent, lie down and get up, stand and kneel, run and ride, labour and rest.

In this way, each day you will making the most precious offering to God you can make. And in everything you do, it will be the most important thing you do.

[1] Translated from the Middle English edition The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counselling, edited by Phyllis Hodgson (published for The Early English Text Society by Oxford University Press), pp. 145–147.

[2] Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land: The Practice of Contemplation (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd), 2006, p. 1.

[3] See Proverbs 3:13–14 and 21–26, which the author interprets spiritually.

[4] Romans 15:10.

[5] Matthew 22:40.



The School of Contemplative Life

Chris Whittington is the Founder of the School of Contemplative Life. Visit our website: www.schoolofcontemplativelife.com