Willigis Jäger's newly founded contemplative line The Cloud of Unknowing was publicly presented on a celebration at Benediktushof on 24 June 2012.
The Line belongs to the tradition of Christian mystics, and its sources date back to the first centuries of Christianity, when it had developed in two directions:
- The contemplative school started by the scholars and mystics in Alexandria (Origen and Clement in the 3rd century) and Cappadocia (Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century).
- 2. The contemplative practice initiated by the early Christian hermits, monks and ascetics – Fathers (abba) and Mothers (amma) – in the Egyptian deserts (Evagrius Ponticus, Basil of Caesarea, John Cassian, Macarius of Egypt, Syncletica of Alexandria). It continued in the tradition of hesychasm (seeking divine quietness) alive today in the Eastern Church (Hesychius of Alexandria, Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, Seraphim of Sarov).
In the Western Church, the golden age of contemplation was from the 12th to the 15th century (Bernard of Clairvaux, Marguerite Porete, Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, Jan van Ruusbroec, Bonaventure). The renewal followed in the 17th century in Spain (Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross) and in the 18th century in France (François Fénelon, Madame Guyon, Jean-Pierre de Cuassade).
The contemplative line belongs to the tradition of a negative, apophatic (mystical) theology that stems from the insight that the mystery cannot be spoken about because it goes beyond all the concepts and notions – hence it is mystical. It cannot be understood or conceived, only experienced and "observed" in direct knowledge – hence it is contemplative.
The contemplative line teaches, interprets and promotes non-discursive contemplative prayer, as well as all the other techniques and methods that open one's consciousness and heart to the boundless space of timeless Ultimate Reality, God.
Let images and objects pass, and keep your temple empty.
The Cloud of Unknowing is a book by an unknown author who lived in Yorkshire in England at the end of the 14th century. This anonymous monk describes how he introduces one of his disciples to the practice of contemplation. He uses the symbolism of a cloud, a motif that is common in Christian mysticism, with its source in Moses' encounter with God on the Mount Sinai (Ex 16:10). The author distinguishes the Cloud of Forgetting from the Cloud of Unknowing. In the first, it is about the original abandonment of all thoughts, images and concepts (which are placed in the Cloud of Forgetting). In the second, one enters into the knowledge of oneself and God (the Cloud of Unknowing; knowing by not-knowing). The student is so carefully and gradually introduced to experiences that are transpersonal, non-dual, and in the realm of the ineffable. This makes contemplation a path that leads us outward via religion, and introduces us to the experience of unity with all creation.
Willigis Jäger often expressed his desire to re-introduce contemplation in everyday Church life. While keeping its full meaning in order to accomplish its purpose, religion should address the necessity to go beyond what is nowadays its common mission. This means that people should be led to a more mature, trans-confessional spirituality that goes beyond all boundaries and divisions, and works from a direct connection to spaceless and timeless Source. With this in view, the path of contemplation is in no way exclusive – it is open to all, even to people who do not belong to any religion. It is, actually, about bringing people into an experience from which they will understand themselves, God and the world they live in.
Willigis Jäger gained this experience in Japan while practicing Zen (under the guidance of the great master Yamada Koun Roshi), and realized that this possibility also exists in the Christian tradition – in mysticism and related spiritual practices. That is why Western and Eastern Wisdom Foundation (West-Östliche Weisheit) has two conjoined pillars – the contemplative line "The Cloud of Unknowing" and the Zen line "The Empty Cloud" – that stand witness to Willigis' legacy.
Structure of the Contemplative Line:
The line includes hundred and two teachers appointed by Willigis.
The members of the Council are Willigis, Fernand Braun, Beatrice Grimm, Sven-Joachim Haack, Anne Höfler, Harald Homberger, Fran Nikolaus Müller, Margitte Niederstücke, Ursula Pöppinghaus, Jan Sedivy, Johannes Sell, Petra Wagner and Alexander Poraj who currently represents Benediktushof.
Four members, together with Willigis, spiritually lead and shape the line of contemplation in the direction set by Willigis: Beatrice Grimm, Petra Wagner, Fernand Braun and Franz Nikolaus Müller.
Many teachers in the contemplative line "The Cloud of Unknowing" are still members of their original school – Würzburg Forum of Contemplation (WFdK) (that originated from the Würzburg School of Contemplation ⁄WSdK⁄).