The fourteenth-century contemplative manual The Cloud of Unknowing and the shorter texts attributed to its author explore an extreme form of apophatic spiritual encounter. In order to guide his disciples in this kind of practice, the anonymous Cloud-author adopts a classical theory for pedagogy and adapts it to suit his specifically contemplative ends. He transforms the traditional rhetorical schoolroom triad of natura, doctrina, and usus into a new Middle English version, tailored for teaching contemplation: “disposicoun, techying, and profe.” This article examines the technical, theoretical, and theological implications of the three terms in the Cloud-author's reconceptualized triad. It argues that the nuances and subtleties of each term reveal the author to be a self-conscious and self-theorizing pedagogue who uses the triad to offer new descriptions of the contemplative's pursuit of the divine.

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