The Catholic University of America

Celeste D. Sanchez 

Final Examination of Celeste Sanchez

For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

December 14th, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. in Caldwell Hall Room 113


Raymond Studzinski, Ph.D.


"A Study of The Cloud of Unknowing from the Perspective of the Psychology of Consciousness"

     This dissertation analyzes the teachings on contemplative prayer of the anonymous fourteenth century author of The Cloud of Unknowing by utilizing recent studies on the psychology of conscious awareness and states of consciousness. The specific source for the psychological side of the comparison is the work of three psychologists, Arthur Deikman, Robert Ornstein and Charles Tart, authors who have written extensively on mystical traditions in relation to the phenomenon of human consciousness. The medieval author’s grasp of the working of the human psyche is remarkably consistent with modern psychological theories of our day. Because of this complementarity psychological theories generally serve as particularly useful lenses through which the teachings of The Cloud can be accessed by modern sensibilities. When analyzed through the specific lens of the scientific study of the nature of human consciousness, new insights emerge. The author’s strong apophaticism and unrelenting insistence upon “unknowing” is particularly elucidated when brought into conversation with these psychological studies of the nature of human consciousness.

     This study proceeds as follows. Following a brief introductory chapter chapters 2, 3 and 4 will be presented in three parts. In part 1 and 2 of each chapter presents material representative of the teachings of The Cloud author followed by related topics from the perspective of our psychology authors. Part 3 of each chapter turns to the task of analysis and integration of the two parties’ perspectives, utilizing the criteria for analysis consistent with the constructive-relational model for interdisciplinary study set forth by William R. Rogers.