Nous (νοῦς) – “…the highest faculty in man” 6

“In Illumination, a vision of God is granted to the now-healed “nous”.”

When the “nous” is healed and restored, it is no longer dissipated among all the various senses and distractions of this world but is able instead to retire within itself to attain to a vision of God (theoria). A purified “nous” can be illuminated by grace, seeing the glory of Christ reflected in itself and seeing spiritual things clearly. In Illumination, a vision of God is granted to the now-healed “nous”. This vision of God is of His manifested energy (energeía), not His essence (oúsia), which remains beyond human conception and unknowable.

This is the spiritual development process of the early church: purification (katharsis), followed by illumination (theoria), culminating in deification (theosis). These three stages are the purpose of the mystical life of the church.

The manner of healing the “nous” is outlined by Hierotheos (Vlachos) in “Orthodox Psychotherapy“: First, the guarding of the “nous”; second, the purifying of the “nous”; and third, the returning of the “nous” to the heart through the practice (ascesis) of repentance and noetic contemplative prayer so that the “nous” might finally be illuminated by the “divine light” of God’s grace.

This noetic contemplative prayer is the Primitive Christian Prayer tradition of Jesus, Paul and the early church. This, Hierotheos assures us, is the common experience and teaching of the Church Fathers. They may have sometimes differed from one another as they sought to describe this common experience, but the variations in how they expressed themselves should be seen as just that. The true problem may not even be in their expression but in our interpretation; fragmented, locked into a rational modern worldview, and lacking in spiritual understanding as we are in comparison with them.

In closing this discussion of the “nous”, I return us to the point I made at the beginning of this series. Modern Western culture has virtually deified the rational, reasoning mind and intellect over the past 500 years. So thorough is our fixation and obsession with the rational mind, that any other conception of mind or intellect, such as “nous”, is virtually unknown, even within the church.

It is no wonder that we operate at such a low level of spiritual consciousness. But, now you know about your “nous”, the ‘eye of your soul’.   You also now know about the 2,000 year Christian tradition of the healing of the “nous” and “attaining to the likeness of God”. So, what will you do now that you’ve discovered your “nous”?

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  1. #1 by Mark Downham on August 21, 2016 - 8:44 AM

    Hierotheos (Vlachos) in “Orthodox Psychotherapy“: …….third, the returning of the “nous” to the heart through the practice (ascesis) of repentance and noetic contemplative prayer…..

    This is incorrect. You are not “returning” the Nous as the “Eyes of the Heart” to the Heart but “the Eye” as the Lens of our (Communicative) Consciousness from the Mind (the rational abstract discursive mind) to the Heart as stated in Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light”.

    Again, this is an aspect of bringing the mind back into the heart.

    • #2 by Dallas Wolf on August 21, 2016 - 6:02 PM

      I am coming from a place that sees “mind” as “nous”; the abstract discursive mind more as “dianoia”, a subset of “nous”. This gets tricky, because even the Greek Fathers were inconsistent in how they referred to mind, intellect, and heart. My simplified understanding goes like this; The “Nous” is the eye of the Heart (kardia) and the Heart is the essence of the soul (psyche). I am excited, though, as you are the first Protestant I have ever met who knew what the nous is. That says something, doesn’t it!

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