Nous (νοῦς) – “…the highest faculty in man” 4

” As a consequence of the “Fall”, the “nous” became dissipated and diseased…”

The “nous” in all of humankind was severely injured, diseased, and damaged in the “Adamic Fall” (The “Fall” in the Garden of Eden).  The “Fall” is seen as the misuse of free will; of focusing on oneself rather than on God for guidance, wisdom and worship. Free will gave man the right to choose.  And choose he did.  In the “Fall”, humans shifted their focus from God to themselves (and any number of other idols).  As a consequence of the “Fall”, the “nous” became dissipated and diseased, overwhelmed with increasing concerns for individual survival and the needs and desires of the body in the physical, material world.  The “nous” became estranged from God’s grace and humankind’s whole nature became sick. This sickness was handed on to later descendants as the inheritance of ancestral sin.

The Orthodox do not understand the “Fall” in legal terms, as Western Christianity does, but rather in medical terms.  When Paul says in Romans 5:19, “as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,” it is understood in a medical sense, not a legal one. In other words, as a result of one man’s sin, human nature became sick.

The Incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ is seen as a therapeutic (Greek therapeuo) mission of love from God to humankind in order to heal and restore our fallen sick souls.  The key to this is the healing and restoration of the “nous”, the “eye of the heart”.  Jesus possessed a complete human nature, not only on the lower side (body) but also on the higher spiritual side, the “nous”.   His perfect human nature broke the grip of sin on fallen human nature, opening the possibility of restoring the diseased “nous” of every human being to its spiritual pre-Fall state.

In his book, Orthodox Psychotherapy: the Science of the Fathers, Archimandrite Hierotheos Vlachos (now Metropolitan Hierotheos) quotes Saint Maximus the Confessor (7th century) as saying “The nous functions in accordance with nature when it keeps the passions under control, contemplates the inner essences of created beings, and abides with God.”  The “nous” is changed by every conceptual image that it accepts. When the “nous” is in a fallen state, confusion is created in the whole of the spiritual organism of man. In this “fallen” state, the “nous” needs therapy/purification.

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