Epiphanies of Unknowing

  • James KellenbergerEmail author


In the Christian contemplative tradition, there is the theme of approaching and encountering God with unknowing. In this tradition of unknowing, the intellectual and perceptual faculties are abandoned and not exercised. Writers who have counseled or described the way of unknowing from their own experience include the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing and St. John of the Cross. In the Bible itself there are references to clouds and darkness surrounding God.Those who have an unconscious epiphany are unaware of encountering God or the divine. In an epiphany of unknowing, by contrast, one is aware of the encounter, but the cognitive and perceptual faculties are not engaged. In this chapter, we present the reflections of Dionysius (or Pseudo-Dionysius) on Moses’ encounter with God in “the darkness of unknowing” and consider the spiritual exercise recommended by the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, and we consider how St. John of the Cross understood the darkness of infused contemplation and wisdom in relation to the dark night of the soul, as well as an epiphanic vision that St. Teresa of Ávila experienced in which all ratiocinative and perceptual experience was eclipsed.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, NorthridgeNorthridgeUSA

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