'Nous' and the Sacred Heart
#1
Lately, I've been caught up in the Eastern concept of nous and how it fits into Catholic theology and mysticism. The reason this came about is due to a video I watched by Jay Dyer (who I typically watch for his psy-ops and movie analyses), where he touches on this concept of nous within the Fathers, such as St. Maximus the Confessor, and then erroneously tries to claim that the "reason" Catholicism "cannot come to direct knowledge of God" is because we supposedly reject nous.



Now, I am not a trained philosopher or theologian (as is apparent with my many erroneous posts on here), but after a little digging, my own understanding of this so-called “eye of the soul” is compatible with the heart of the individual, and, by extension, further illustrated in devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. This has been affirmed, personally, after a short investigation into the Orthodox conception of how nous fits into the human hypostasis:

Quote:“The nous as the eye of the soul, which some Fathers also call the heart, is the center of man and is where true (spiritual) knowledge is validated. This is seen as true knowledge which is "implanted in the nous as always co-existing with it.”

This is very, very interesting to me, as it also corresponds with my own conceptions of the tri-une form of the human person: body-soul-spirit, whereas, in this case, spirit would correspond with nous as the point in which the Divine essence touches the soul. It is, as I understand it now, the center of being or the “divine ground” which Meister Eckhart so often preached. This nous is the center of knowledge in rational creatures, and is wholly lacking in the irrational animals. From a pseudo-platonic view, I see it as the apex where man is able to draw down the immaterial forms to his own intellect, these forms being housed in the Mind of God. It is not, as I misconceived of it, the assertion of a “spark” or “fragment” of God’s essence in man, which would be pantheistic, but rather, is a sort of foundation wherein man draws all knowledge and being from the Divine essence. 

Now, relating this to the Sacred Heart, it becomes apparent that Christ, by giving this revelation to St. Margaret Mary, was not only proving the inconceivable love He had for creatures, but also, was proving that the heart, or nous, was the point where all men connect with God. In Scripture, we so often hear of those vassals of God’s wrath being ‘hard of heart’ or having their ‘heart hardened.’ This denotes the closing off of the human soul to the nous, the direct portal to Divine knowledge and Wisdom, leading men to iniquity. Furthermore, St. Bonaventure implicitly expounds on this same concept when he teaches that all Christian perception must be contextualized within God and Jesus Christ. That no act of a Christian can be performed separate from this Divine life without turning from God entirely. He further teaches the innate connection of the soul to God when drawing knowledge of God from within, rather than from without. St. Bonaventure expresses this concept with his “innatist” conception of the realized insufficiency of the soul, and its recourse inward to God as its ultimate origin. And it is this inner divine life that is the nous spoken of by Jay Dyer, which he erroneously claims is absent, or ignored, in Catholic teaching. It isn’t absent, we simply have taken the core concept of the indwelling of Divine knowledge and illustrated it by different means. Provided my understanding of nous is not wrong, it is clear to me that the Sacred Heart devotion is a testament to the continuation of nous in Catholicism, and may even be seen as a Divinely-revealed expansion of that same concept.

Furthermore, I found a further affirmation of this same connection between the heart and the “eye of the soul” or nous:

Quote:“The chief concern of the Orthodox Church is the healing of the human soul. The Church has always considered the soul as the part of the human being that needs healing because She has seen from Hebrew tradition, from Christ Himself, and from the Apostles that in the region of the physical heart there functions something that the Fathers called the nous. In other words, the Fathers took the traditional term nous, which means both intellect (dianoia) and speech or reason (logos), and gave it a different meaning. They used nous to refer to this noetic energy that functions in the heart of every spiritually healthy person. We do not know when this change in meaning took place, because we know that some Fathers used the same word nous to refer to reason as well as to this noetic energy that descends and functions in the region of the heart.

So from this perspective, noetic activity is an activity essential to the soul. It functions in the brain as the reason; it simultaneously functions in the heart as the nous. In other words, the same organ, the nous, prays ceaselessly in the heart and simultaneously thinks about mathematical problems, for example, or anything else in the brain.”

As we see, this falls right in line with not only the symbolism of the Sacred Heart devotion, but proves that the Sacred Heart adds depths to a concept which seemed to have been buried through the Protestant Revolt, with the rise of Jansenism, which essentially de-emphasized the noetic activity of the human soul, i.e. the heart, and therefore “made men cold.” 


The Sacred Heart, therefore, is about igniting men’s souls with pure love of God, and this love can only come forth from the realization that all things in this world have total and complete dependence upon God as their end. It takes profound humility of heart to accept this reality, and true charity to love this truth as our ultimate end. And as we know charity is the highest virtue, and the one that will persist beyond death in beatitude, it is clear to me that Catholicism not only has an understanding of nous, but a profound expression of this concept in the devotion to the Sacred Heart. And I could be talking out of my rear right now, so please correct me, but I suspect I may be onto something.
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
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#2
I look forward to replies. Great post.
Qui me amat, amet et Deum meum.
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#3
Great post. In my opinion, what most corresponds to the concept of "nous" in Catholic spirituality, is what St. Francis de Sales called "highest point of the spirit".

From "Treatise on the love of God": 

CHAPTER XII.

THAT IN THESE TWO PORTIONS OF THE SOUL THERE ARE FOUR DIFFERENT DEGREES OF REASON.

 THERE were three courts in Solomon's temple. One was for the Gentiles and strangers who, wishing to have recourse to God, went to adore in Jerusalem; the second for the Israelites, men and women (the separation of men from women not being made by Solomon); the third for the priests and Levites; and in fine, besides all this, there was the sanctuary or sacred house, which was open to the high priest only, and that but once a year. Our reason, or, to speak better, our soul in so far as it is reasonable, is the true temple of the great God, who there takes up his chief residence. "I sought thee," says S. Augustine, "outside myself, but I found thee not, because thou art within me." 

In this 49 mystical temple there are also three courts, which are three different degrees of reason; in the first we reason according to the experience of sense, in the second according to human sciences, in the third according to faith: and in fine, beyond this, there is a certain eminence or supreme point of the reason and spiritual faculty, which is not guided by the light of argument or reasoning, but by a simple view of the understanding and a simple movement of the will, by which the spirit bends and submits to the truth and the will of God. Now this extremity and summit of our soul, this highest point of our spirit, is very naturally represented by the sanctuary or holy place. 

For, first, in the sanctuary there were no windows to give light: in this degree of the soul there is no reasoning which illuminates. Secondly, all the light entered by the door; in this degree of the soul nothing enters but by faith, which produces, like rays, the sight and the sentiment of the beauty and goodness of the good pleasure of God. Thirdly, none entered the sanctuary save the high priest; in this apex of the soul reasoning enters not, but only the high, universal and sovereign feeling that the divine will ought sovereignly to be loved, approved and embraced, not only in some particular things but in general for all things, nor generally in all things only, but also particularly in each thing. Fourthly, the high priest entering into the sanctuary obscured even that light which came by the door, putting many perfumes into his thurible, the smoke whereof drove back the rays of light to which the open door gave entrance: and all the light which is in the supreme part of the soul is in some sort obscured and veiled by the renunciations and resignations which the soul makes, not desiring so much to behold and see the goodness of the truth and the truth of the goodness presented to her, as to embrace and adore the same, so that the soul would almost wish to shut her eyes as soon as she begins to see the dignity of God's will, to the end that not occupying herself further in considering it, she may more powerfully and perfectly accept it, and by an absolute complacency perfectly unite and submit herself thereto. 

Fifthly, to conclude, in the sanctuary was kept the ark of alliance, and in that, or at least adjoining to it, the 50 tables of the law, manna in a golden vessel, and Aaron's rod which in one night bore flowers and fruit: and in this highest point of the soul are found: 1. The light of faith, figured by the manna hidden in its vessel, by which we acquiesce in the truths of the mysteries which we do not understand. 2. The utility of hope, represented by Aaron's flowering and fruitful rod, by which we acquiesce in the promises of the goods which we see not. 3. The sweetness of holy charity, represented by God's commandments which charity contains, by which we acquiesce in the union of our spirit with God's, which we scarcely perceive. 

For although faith, hope and charity spread out their divine movements into almost all the faculties of the soul, as well reasonable as sensitive, reducing and holily subjecting them to their just authority, yet their special residence, their true and natural dwelling, is in this supreme regionof the soul, from whence as from a happy source of living water, they run out by divers conduits and brooks upon the inferior parts and faculties. So that, Theotimus, in the superior part of reason there are two degrees of reason. In the one those discourses are made which depend on faith and supernatural light, in the other the simple acquiescings of faith, hope and charity. Saint Paul's soul found itself pressed by two different desires, the one to be delivered from his body, so as to go to heaven with Jesus Christ, the other to remain in this world to labour in the conversion of souls; both these desires were without doubt in the superior part, for they both proceeded from charity, but his resolution to follow the latter proceeded not from reasoning but from a simple sight, seeing and loving his master's will, in which the superior point alone of the spirit acquiesced, putting on one side all that reasoning might conclude. 

But if faith, hope and charity be formed by this holy acquiescence in the point of the spirit, how can reasonings which depend on the light of faith be made in the inferior part of the soul? As, Theotimus, we see that barristers dispute with many arguments on the acts and rights of parties to a suit, and that the high parliament or senate settles all the strife by a positive sentence, though even after this is pronounced the advocates and auditors do not give up discoursing among themselves 51 the motives parliament may have had:—even so, after reasoning, and above all the grace of God have persuaded the point and highest part of the spirit to acquiesce, and make the act of faith after the manner of a sentence or judgment, the understanding does not at once cease discoursing upon that same act of faith already conceived, to consider the motives and reasons thereof. But always the arguments of theology are stated at the pleading place and bar of the superior portion of the soul, but the acquiescence is given above, on the bench and tribunal of the point of the spirit. Now, because the knowledge of these four degrees of the reason is much required for understanding all treatises on spiritual things, I have thought well to explain it rather fully. 
"Cor Jesu Rex Et Centrum Omnium Cordium, miserére nobis "

“To pray is to shed blood.” - Silouan the Athonite
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#4
I welcome a discussion on this Augustinian. I think you lay out your position nicely even if I cannot accept the Sacred Heart devotion.  

One thing that I still think RC's have never officially come to grips with is the Essence/Energies distinction and Absolute Divine Simplicity and how a rejection of E/E has profound consequences for HOW we know God at all as Palamas masterfully points out in his "An Orthodox Dialogue with A Barlaamite". As Orthodox we reject that we can EVER know the Essence of God, but that we can know Him through His Energies.  Those Energies are NOT created. The Nous is that part of the soul whereby we can see, feel and sense the Light of Tabor, which is the manifold Energies of God. 

Barlaam and his followers do not believe ANY of the OT Theophanies or even the Light of the Transfiguration is actually the Logos but some sort of created phantasm or, in the case of the OT theophanies, angel messengers.  God is forever out of reach to us, and we only ever grasp in the dark at the created phantasms he gives us. Even grace in the soul is just something created.  There's no faculty of the soul in Catholicism by which to actually touch the light of God that isn't a created light as I understand it. 

All in all it's an interesting topic.  I'd like to see Jay discuss what you bring up with a knowledgeable Catholic without leading to name calling or being shouted down.  It could be fruitful.

One thing I might add is that while the theology between Orthodoxy and the RCC is incompatible, the lived experience of both its saints might be the same on some level, or at least the inner experience of God.
Walk before God in simplicity, and not in subtleties of the mind. Simplicity brings faith; but subtle and intricate speculations bring conceit; and conceit brings withdrawal from God. -Saint Isaac of Syria, Directions on Spiritual Training


"It is impossible in human terms to exaggerate the importance of being in a church or chapel before the Blessed Sacrament as often and for as long as our duties and state of life allow. I very seldom repeat what I say. Let me repeat this sentence. It is impossible in human language to exaggerate the importance of being in a chapel or church before the Blessed Sacrament as often and for as long as our duties and state of life allow. That sentence is the talisman of the highest sanctity. "Father John Hardon
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#5
(04-24-2020, 09:48 AM)formerbuddhist Wrote: One thing that I still think RC's have never officially come to grips with is the Essence/Energies distinction and Absolute Divine Simplicity and how a rejection of E/E has profound consequences for HOW we know God at all as Palamas masterfully points out in his "An Orthodox Dialogue with A Barlaamite". As Orthodox we reject that we can EVER know the Essence of God, but that we can know Him through His Energies.  Those Energies are NOT created. The Nous is that part of the soul whereby we can see, feel and sense the Light of Tabor, which is the manifold Energies of God. 

And I agree about that function of the Nous when apprehending God, but the Essence/Energies distinction has not been sufficiently explained to me.

I guess this is the thing that really hangs me up about the Essence/Energies distinction, and why I still cannot wrap my head around it. If the energies, or actions, of God can be known, but the essence cannot; yet these energies are uncreated, and since everything that is not God is a creature, then therefore these energies can be nothing more than God? So, we can know God directly through His energies, but not His essence, but then, how is there a distinction here? If both are uncreated, then both are God, and there is only one God, therefore there cannot be a distinction? Because if we are insisting that there is a distinct division in God between these two uncreated "parts" of God, then we've effectively made God contingent. And since He is contingent, then He cannot be omnipotent, omniscient, omni-anything really.

I mean, St. Bonaventure has a similar line of reasoning when he speaks of the vestiges of God, but I guess I don't quite get how there can be a distinction here with both remaining uncreated?
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
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#6
Ugh gosh Jay "ex-Baptist Presuppositional Apologist" Dyer. I don't know why anyone gives that joker the time of day. A self-inflated nutcase who sees himself as some sort of saint because he joined Orthodoxy while never leaving Protestantism.

I absolutely cannot stand that man.  If that was the face of Christianity, I'd be a muslim, or an atheist.
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#7
(04-24-2020, 05:56 PM)Augustinian Wrote:
(04-24-2020, 09:48 AM)formerbuddhist Wrote: One thing that I still think RC's have never officially come to grips with is the Essence/Energies distinction and Absolute Divine Simplicity and how a rejection of E/E has profound consequences for HOW we know God at all as Palamas masterfully points out in his "An Orthodox Dialogue with A Barlaamite". As Orthodox we reject that we can EVER know the Essence of God, but that we can know Him through His Energies.  Those Energies are NOT created. The Nous is that part of the soul whereby we can see, feel and sense the Light of Tabor, which is the manifold Energies of God. 

And I agree about that function of the Nous when apprehending God, but the Essence/Energies distinction has not been sufficiently explained to me.

I guess this is the thing that really hangs me up about the Essence/Energies distinction, and why I still cannot wrap my head around it. If the energies, or actions, of God can be known, but the essence cannot; yet these energies are uncreated, and since everything that is not God is a creature, then therefore these energies can be nothing more than God? So, we can know God directly through His energies, but not His essence, but then, how is there a distinction here? If both are uncreated, then both are God, and there is only one God, therefore there cannot be a distinction? Because if we are insisting that there is a distinct division in God between these two uncreated "parts" of God, then we've effectively made God contingent. And since He is contingent, then He cannot be omnipotent, omniscient, omni-anything really.

I mean, St. Bonaventure has a similar line of reasoning when he speaks of the vestiges of God, but I guess I don't quite get how there can be a distinction here with both remaining uncreated?


St. John of the Cross doesn't use the words "essence/energy" distinction, but He has a very similiar concept - which is much easier to grasp.
According to him, God's "working" or "effecting" (obrar) is fully Divine and uncreated. But the "effected" ("obrado")  - that is, the effect of God's working on us - is created.  

Some more thoughts: St. John of the Cross on Theosis and Uncreated Grace
"Cor Jesu Rex Et Centrum Omnium Cordium, miserére nobis "

“To pray is to shed blood.” - Silouan the Athonite
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#8
(04-25-2020, 04:39 AM)JosefSilouan Wrote: Some more thoughts: St. John of the Cross on Theosis and Uncreated Grace
 
Okay, so this actually helps quite a bit then. I actually had a similar concept as the following in mind when I made this thread:

Quote:A ray of sunlight is striking a window. If the window is in any way stained or misty, the sun’s ray will be unable to illumine it and transform it into its own light, totally, as it would if it were clean of all these things, and pure; but it will illumine it to a lesser degree, in proportion as it is less free from those mists and stains; and will do so to a greater degree, in proportion as it is cleaner from them, and this will not be because of the sun’s ray, but because of itself; so much so that, if it be wholly pure and clean, the ray of sunlight will transform it and illumine it in such wise that it will itself seem to be a ray and will give the same light as the rayAlthough in reality the window has a nature distinct from that of the ray itself, however much it may resemble it, yet we may say that that window is a ray of the sun or is light by participation. And the soul is like this window, whereupon is ever beating (or, to express it better, wherein is ever dwelling) this Divine light of the Being of God according to nature, which we have described.


So, I guess my ignorance stemmed from a wrong conception of just what is meant with the distinction. Where the "energies" of God are like a hand moving under a membrane; where the hand itself is not directly touching that on the other side of the membrane, but the act is still perceived through the movement in a membrane. If that makes sense?
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
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#9
(04-25-2020, 10:52 AM)Augustinian Wrote:
(04-25-2020, 04:39 AM)JosefSilouan Wrote: Some more thoughts: St. John of the Cross on Theosis and Uncreated Grace
 
Okay, so this actually helps quite a bit then. I actually had a similar concept as the following in mind when I made this thread:

Quote:A ray of sunlight is striking a window. If the window is in any way stained or misty, the sun’s ray will be unable to illumine it and transform it into its own light, totally, as it would if it were clean of all these things, and pure; but it will illumine it to a lesser degree, in proportion as it is less free from those mists and stains; and will do so to a greater degree, in proportion as it is cleaner from them, and this will not be because of the sun’s ray, but because of itself; so much so that, if it be wholly pure and clean, the ray of sunlight will transform it and illumine it in such wise that it will itself seem to be a ray and will give the same light as the rayAlthough in reality the window has a nature distinct from that of the ray itself, however much it may resemble it, yet we may say that that window is a ray of the sun or is light by participation. And the soul is like this window, whereupon is ever beating (or, to express it better, wherein is ever dwelling) this Divine light of the Being of God according to nature, which we have described.


So, I guess my ignorance stemmed from a wrong conception of just what is meant with the distinction. Where the "energies" of God are like a hand moving under a membrane; where the hand itself is not directly touching that on the other side of the membrane, but the act is still perceived through the movement in a membrane. If that makes sense?

In his distinction between "obrar" (working) and "obrado" (worked), St. John went even farther. Unfortunately, I don't have the original quotes here, as I found this interpretation in a very old German book about mystical theology.

According to this book about St. John's theology, even the act of "touching" is God Himself. But whatever is "touched", and every effect caused by the Divine "touching", belongs to the created realm. You can perceive God's uncreated Energies (His "obrar"/"working"), but only through your (created) perception of the (created) changes effected by His working (that is: the "obrado"/"worked").
"Cor Jesu Rex Et Centrum Omnium Cordium, miserére nobis "

“To pray is to shed blood.” - Silouan the Athonite
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#10
PD: I think the Eastern Orthodox approach leads to focus more on God's sensible consolations (because God's energies are God), while the Western approach makes you more skeptical toward sensible consolations (because the perception of God's energies is not God Himself).

To make the point, I would like to quote two archetypical passages for the Eastern Approach (by Theophan the Recluse) and for the Western approach (by Brother Lawrence)

Quote: Wrote:"The gift of feeling"
Guard this gift of feeling, given to you by the mercy of God. How? First and foremost by humility, ascribing everything to grace and nothing to yourself. As soon as you trust to yourself, grace will diminish in you; and if you do not come to your senses, it will cease to work completely. Then there will be much weeping and lamentation. Secondly, regarding yourself as dust and ashes, dwell in grace and do not turn your heart or thought to anything else except from necessity. Be all the time with the Lord. If the inner flame begins to die down a little, immediately hasten to restore its strength. The Lord is near. Turning to Him with contrition and fear, you will immediately receive his gifts.
Theophan the Recluse, in: "The Art of Prayer, An Orthodox Anthology"

Western hardliners might say to him: "Don't you know it isn't actually God himself, but a grace created by him that makes your heart burn ! You have to ignore it!"

And here the passage by Brother Lawrence:
Quote: Wrote:I am always content if I may pick a straw from the soil out of love for God, so that I only seek God and nothing else, not even God's gifts.
This attitude of the soul obliges God - as it were - to give her innumerable graces. But if you receive the fruit, which results from these graces, and which is Love, you have to reject the savor and tell yourself: All that isn't God himself! We know through faith that god is infinitely greater and different than that which we can feel and perceive from him. If a man behaves this way, a strange struggle is happening between God and the man; God gives his graces continuously. Yet the man keeps saying: Everything I am receiving isn't God, isn't himself. In this struggle the man, through faith, is equally strong than God, and even stronger, because God never can give so much that the man couldn't say anymore: What God gives to me is not himself!

Ecstasis and rapture only occur when a man enjoys a gift instead of rejecting it and going to God himself, beyond all his gifts. You also shouldn't be carried away be pleasant feelings, unless you are unexpectedly overwhelmed by them; but God is Lord and Master of everything.

In: "Practice of the Presence of God", Brother Lawrence, Second Conversation (own translation from German edition)



An Eastern Hardliner would probably accuse him: "Why are you rejecting God and his energies? Didn't you read St. Gregory Palamas who said that God and his gifts are the same?"

I personally believe that both Theophan and Lawrence are right in their approach. Even if they seem to be direct opposites.
"Cor Jesu Rex Et Centrum Omnium Cordium, miserére nobis "

“To pray is to shed blood.” - Silouan the Athonite
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