“Knowing With My Knower” – The Nous

Years ago, I had a parishioner whose spiritual life was quite rich and occasionally astounding. She cared for a handicapped husband for years with a gentleness and love that radiated joy to people around them. One of her phrases that has stuck with me was, “I know it with my knower.” It was what she said when she was trying to express a spiritual perception of something she knew to be true. There was no syllogism or reasoned argument: some things she “just knew.” My experiences with her made me pay attention when she “knew” something.

I think there is something in her knowing that is related to what the tradition describes as “noetic” experience. “Noetic,” the adjective from the noun, “nous,” has a range of meaning that is difficult to express. For one, it refers to an aspect of human perception that has been seriously neglected in our modern experience. You cannot read anything in the spiritual writings of the ancient fathers without encountering this word over and over. They wrote with ease about something that seems to have been common knowledge. Things have changed such that it now sounds “esoteric.” I am offering a reflection in this article on the meaning of “noetic” and the reality of the “nous,” for us beginners. I am not trying to give an exhaustive study, much less a definitive treatment. Instead, I want to offer some suggestions and observations that might de-mystify something that is as natural as breathing – only you might not know it yet.

When we actually begin to ask questions about how we know what we know, it quickly becomes obvious that it is difficult to talk about. Indeed, if you turn your attention away from something and towards the attention itself, the whole process has a way of disappearing. Even the simple reality of consciousness completely baffles science as well as philosophy. It baffles them, even though every human being experiences consciousness all the time. And though we can’t quite say what consciousness is, when we use the word, everyone knows what we mean because everyone experiences consciousness.

The nous is a bit like that. The harder you “look” for it, the more likely you are not to find it – it will keep disappearing. That fact makes the whole topic quite frustrating for most people. The truth is, we use many mental/thinking/perceiving terms in a very sloppy manner. When we are driving down the road, paying attention to our position in traffic, road signs, conditions, etc., we are not doing something irrational, but neither are we engaging in active reasoning. When you first start driving and have little experience, you are quite likely to use active reasoning, and just as likely to have an accident because reasoning is too slow for the activity. When we drive, we engage in perception. We are aware of many things, but not entirely aware that we are aware. As soon as we focus on a single thing, we are quite likely to lose the perception of everything else.

There is also the strange experience of memory. It isn’t unusual to be stuck in an effort to remember something. We stop the effort and turn our attention to something else, only to have the memory suddenly pop up by itself. It is, at best, a delayed reaction rather than a “willed” action. It is the action of the will within perception that is worth thinking about.

In our efforts to experience God, we often get frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the will. We “try” to see God, hear God, sense God, etc., and come up empty. A great difficulty in the experience of God lies in the fact that He is not an object. Objects, whether living or not, are there to be observed regardless of what they might want. We can “objectify” anything and anyone…except God. The only objectification of God is the creation of a false idol. Even an icon cannot be seen objectively – at least, not as an icon. As a painting or print, it can be viewed objectively, but that is not an iconic manner of existence. It is the icon’s ability to make present what it represents that makes it iconic. An icon is only seen in the act of veneration.

This ineffectiveness of our willed perception gives rise to statements that would emphasize what noetic perception is not. We simply cannot make God be still so that we can look at Him and know Him in some sort of masterful manner. Neither is our noetic perception something that we do for our own sake. We cannot see God or know God in a manner that “makes Him mine.”

Having said all that, I would put us back into the driver’s seat and our attention on the world as our car moves along. This is a situation in which we frequently find ourselves paying attention though not mastering. We become aware and the awareness is simply there. Frequently, this larger awareness is interrupted as we give close attention to a necessary detail. We are then able to return to the road. Many times we seem to avoid this kind of awareness, finding it boring. We turn on the radio, play a podcast, or do other things that, in one manner or another, distract us. This same habit often carries over into our prayers or participation in the liturgy.

Imagine that you are driving your car through a rural scene. You are generally aware of the beauty of the countryside. Going around a turn, you begin entering a valley of Redwoods, tall, majestic, sublime. You continue in the same manner of driving, but, at a point, the beauty is simply overwhelming and you pull over to just sit quietly in the car.

This last experience is a version of a trip my wife and I had during a series of West-Coast speaking engagements. The experience of sublime beauty has a great affinity for the experience of God.

The word “apperception” was invoked in a recent comment that offered a definition of the nous. I prefer Vladimir Lossky’s definition of faith as a way of approaching an understanding of the nous. He describes faith as an “organ of sight,” thus making it somewhat synonymous with the nous. His definition of faith is a “participatory adherence.” And here, I beg the reader’s patience.

Our “objective” knowledge seeks a mastery of a thing, or even a concept outside of us. It is how we know objects. It is not participation nor is it adherence. We want to “use” the objects outside us (or gather information that is useful). Noetic perception has as its work actual participation in that which it perceives. It does not seek to make distinctions, but to know by communion. Noetic participation is more akin to love than to objective knowledge. This participatory knowledge explains how it is that such knowledge seems fleeting. When we turn away from that participation and seek to watch or examine that participation, we have passed over to an objective exercise that removes us from that communion. We may have communion with God – but we do not watch our communion with God. It is not an object.

One faculty that is quite helpful in noetic perception is music, most particularly, singing. The angels are inherently noetic in character, and could be described as noetic creatures. It is not without note that they are most commonly described as singing (ceaselessly). In my experience, singing frequently places us in the place of communion. Ideally, the Liturgy is an extended exercise in noetic perception.

It is a property of our critical consciousness (observation) to question and examine objects and ideas. This is a useful and essential gift. It can also be ruthless and destructive. It is possible, for example, to so examine and observe the love we hold for someone (or them for us), that doubts enter in and crush it. Love does not exist for examination but for loving. The same is true for noetic experience. We may know God. We can also overthink such knowledge into oblivion.

In summary, I would suggest to anyone struggling with “knowing” God, not to overthink the problem. Sing more, think less. Sing from the heart. Sing in the presence of the icons. If at all possible, join in the singing in the services of the Church (I know this is not possible everywhere). St. Paul says:

…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In prayer, work to be present where you are and don’t engage in thinking and observation during that time. Do not watch yourself praying! The Fathers speak of “nepsis,” or “watching.” It is not an active watching (observation) but a guarding against intrusive thoughts and distractions. God called to the child Samuel. The child responded, “Here I am!” That is the place of prayer and noetic awareness.

 

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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139 responses to ““Knowing With My Knower” – The Nous”

  1. sgage Avatar
    sgage

    Speaking of Orthodox music, I don’t see that anyone has mentioned Ancient Faith Radio! They have a 24/7 music channel that I have playing in the background a lot of the time (including right now – it’s the ST. ATHANASIUS ORTHODOX CHURCH CHOIR – GLADSOME LIGHT). A wide variety of types of music and performers, so if you listen to it for a while you will almost certainly find what you like/what you’re looking for.
    They play Divna fairly often 🙂

  2. Maggie Avatar
    Maggie

    Oh wow thank you sgage! I just downloaded their App. I’ve been listening to different podcasts in AFR but didn’t know about the app and music!
    🙌🏼☺️

  3. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Byron,
    According to Elder Aimilianos, in a person who lives and breathes the life of the spirit, the rationalizing faculty of reason (‘dianoia’, ‘logistiko’), often becomes inactive: his spirit (‘nous’) soars like an eagle towards God.
    This latter (spiritual/noetic) faculty of the mind, takes over, soars aloft, and therefore “forgets” ‘human rationality’ which hinders its progress in its characteristic preoccupation with its frequent captivating analyses of inconsequential details -impeding man’s spirit through such distracting self-absorption.
    This is why we so clearly distinguish between the noetic and the rational when speaking of the spiritual life, but, when speaking of the life of the passions, we needn’t (we treat the noetic and the rational as one, and merely distinguish them from the passions).
    So, when my mind noetically ascends towards God, then reason/ thought becomes free of any content, as it trails purely behind the spirit/nous in its ascension, and becomes united with it (as the nous becomes united with the heart) and with God.
    In the opposite case, (at times of prayer) reasoning becomes the most common hindrance to our ascension, leading to an internal noetic darkening, sometimes leading all the way down to full-blown garish fantasies.

  4. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Thanks Dino! Very enlightening. I have suffered from an overabundance of reasoning, mainly when I was Protestant and spent so much time “trying to figure it all out”. It left me on an island, separated from everyone else in my pride. Glory to God, this is part of what led me to Orthodoxy.

    Blagica, that is a wonderful video!

  5. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Dearest Father,
    Thank you for posting your article on Narcissism. I have been re-reading it along with the comments. It is a very difficult, agonizing subject mostly because this trait is nonetheless present within ourselves. It is a hard thing to face. But it is true. Once again, in that article, it is unbearable shame that is the root cause. It always is the root cause of our anger, frustrations, in taking offense.
    I don’t know if I am accurate here, but I think the fact that our own narcissism is so hard to face (thus detect) is reflected in the direction the comments took. We mostly spoke of seeing these narcissistic traits in others and the damage done in being subject to them. Little was spoken about our own narcissist traits. I am not criticizing here…the article and comments, especially your mediation, Father, are very helpful. But the the fact that we have a tendency to focus so much on our self, along with harboring this often unrecognized element of shame, can easily result in closing off true unity with anything or anybody else. It becomes all about me, it leads to misunderstanding, and resultant offense.
    Again, I am not sure if I’m on the right track, as I can not read your mind Father. But I wonder if this is what you had in mind by reposting that piece. Regardless…thank you. Your concern for your readers is heartening.

    Lord God have mercy on us.

  6. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    Blagica,

    Thank you for posting the link to the video of monastic life at Bigorski so much beauty. Do you know what the song is that is playing while the video is showing? I would really like to find out more about it, and maybe even learn it. Thank you for your help.

    Dana

  7. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Hi Paula,
    I think the article on narcissism came up because someone else posted on that article and Fr Stephen responded to the person who posted there in the last day or so. Click on “see older” to see the last couple of responses in the comment stream of that article.

    What I have learned from reading Fr Stephen’s articles on the subject, is that shame is a natural part of our being and is a human response (and animals too respond in shame under certain circumstances) to particular circumstances. The toxic, soul-wounding shame that contributes to syndrome of narcissism (ie not a passing self centeredness but an entrenched, bonifide psychological condition) is something else entirely.

    However what you wrote in your reflection about self-centeredness, Paula, was edifying and helpful. Passions seem to stir very easily around pride, and pride appears most readily in psychological conditions that have triggered shame. It is indeed easier to see it in others, isn’t it? I’m grateful for those circumstances that (in a gentle way) help me to see my pride and help me to be rid of it –“throw it into the fire” Samwise said to Frodo who was holding the ring of power (–an on-going process of ‘self-emptying’).

  8. Paula AZ Avatar
    Paula AZ

    Thank you Dee. You sensed that I may not have noticed the recent comments in the article on narcissism, and you were correct.
    I appreciate you bringing out the distinction between the shame that we normally encounter vs that of a pathological toxic shame involved with NPD. There is indeed a significant difference.
    Thanks again Dee. You are quite astute!

  9. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Epistemology is a seductive field of study. How do I know? Why do I know? Unfortunately in a two storey universe the answers to those questions are severely limited and often wrong because the assumptions used often exclude the possibility of answering the questions truthfully. That is before even investigatinh, it is often posited that reason is the only way to knowledge. In a two storey universe where God is distant or absent, that may be true. But in a sacramental world of personal Providential presence real knowledge is often given, i.e. revealed.
    For the rationalist or the empiricist such a possibility is impossible. Even when there is evidence such revealed knowledge is either classed as inductive reasoning or simply ignored because it does not fit the assumptions.

    Even if somehow allowed it is seen as a one time event, a “breaking in” that can not be relied upon.

    When people controlled or influenced by modern assumptions are told by someone that “I know with my knower* often the response is to think the person insane or at least wonky.

    We all face that dilemma to some degree despite the reality that revelation happens to most of us frequently. The usual.respinse however is to reconstruct such moments into the assumed matrix of human reason.

    Most ascetic practice, it seems to me is geared to helping us realize that we do not live by bread alone, but my every word from the mouth of God–even in our reasoning. We know because we are known.
    Our capacity to know is a gift of the image and likeness of God in which we are made.

  10. Margaret Avatar
    Margaret

    Beautifully said and written, Michael Bauman! Thank you for posting. Glory to God for All Things!

  11. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I will share an example: my father was a doctor and even though he hated clinical medicine was a gifted diagnostician. He had a knowledge base and experience. He would observe and listen to his patients and then, as he told it, an answer would be given.

    Most assumed this was simple inductive reasoning and perhaps some of it was, but he had a faculty about him that just knew. Even in his professional career in public health he was much the same as way.

    Perhaps the reason he could never really transfer his approach except to his closest friend. No one else could “get it”.

  12. Tikhon Avatar
    Tikhon

    @Michael Bauman. Thank you for this. I think you’ve articulated my struggle really succinctly! With both a rationalist and empiricist point of view, these things depend on a common experience (reason for rationalists and observation for empiricists). However, with all things religious, there is no universal agreement on what that looks like, or that it even IS. My question is just with that… While within rationalism and empiricism there is commonality, within religion, there is not. Not to say that either of them are flawless (hardly). However, there is enough commonality to have pushed human medical, technological innovation to where we are today. Again, not saying whether innovation is good or bad, only that the common understanding has provided significant insight into our common experience. There is no common experience in religion, and I struggle to reconcile what Orthodoxy asserts as the Truth, when I do not share that experience or worldview.

    If I accept the Orthodox assertion of the nous, it makes sense within the Orthodox perspective. However, the same could be said within other religious contexts. If one accepts the assertions, then it makes sense. I guess in short, I am struggling to understand what to trust. Do I trust my reason? Do I trust my senses? Do I trust something called the nous that is supposed to exist? At the end of the day, it seems as though they all fall short in one way or another, and for me personally, I have a hard time trusting in something that I have never experienced. Please forgive my ignorance.

  13. Maria Avatar
    Maria

    All the comments seem to connect with –

    “Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened for you.”
    ” I am the way, the truth and the light.”

    God bless!

  14. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Tikhon,
    It’s worth a mention that the commonality you observe within rationalism and empiricism, a far greater one in fact, exists in the experience of the saints who have beheld God’s glory.
    From the prophets, to the apostles, to the martyrs, to the desert anchorites, to the contemporaries, at all times and in different, unconnected places, the harmony and unanimity of the experience is astounding.

  15. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dino, Amen. The unbroken chain you reference could be the longest running experiment in all of human experience with the greatest unanimity and consistency of results.
    Sure, proper procedures have to be followed and the testing environment is usually hostile but it works. The human soul is transformed.

    The evidence is irrefutable even in such a poor resistant subject as me.

  16. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Tikhon,
    I appreciate your point on the commonality of rationalism and empiricism. However, I think it points to their weakness. They have a sort of commonality because they are so limited in their scope and focus. If we limited a piano to just 8 notes, rather than 88, it would not be surprising that the number of songs would diminish and that they would sound more alike (in many ways).

    The problem, of course, is that, though rationalism and empiricism can do amazing things, that cannot do hardly any of the things that are deeply essential to actual life. They are capable of splitting the atom but cannot actually make the judgment call on whether or not to drop an atomic bomb (or two). That sort of decision has more in common with religious questions – certainly questions of ultimacy.

    There is no way for rationalism and epiricism to treat ultimate questions. Whenever they try to (as in the case of Carl Sagan and the like), they always wind up with some sort of ersatz religion that has no more basis other than “feeling” right.

    Christianity (and Orthodoxy) has very specific historical claims that are certainly subject to empirical and rational examination, even if those claims exceed those techniques. There is, I think, a bit of blurring in your lumping all religions together – when they are all quite different in many ways.

    Oddly, it is a Christian-based culture that gave rise to rationalism and empiricism. I would submit that the further the rationalistic/empiricist culture of modernity moves from its roots in the religious-based culture from which it arose, the more bizarre and dangerous it will become. America, is a very benign culture in its own imagination, but has become a leading force in the creation of suffering and injustice, in what largely seems little more than a drive towards acquisition and control.

    Cultures, like human beings, require a heart and not mere calculation.

    My suggestion is to look more closely at Christianity. Its claims are able to be examined – not to the level of compelling rationality, but certainly to the level of rational plausibility. The questions revolve around the resurrection of Christ. If you engage in that kind of examination, I would also suggest a open-minded investigation of the Shroud of Turin. It is, in the words of some, a “Fifth Gospel.”

    Lastly, I suggest that you actually have some experience of Christianity. It has shaped many aspects of our culture and our thoughts. It has certainly shaped our understanding of what is right and wrong. Even those who attack the traditional moral positions of the faith, inevitably do so with arguments derived from the very thing they attack. Ask Jesus to assist you. I will be asking Him to do the same.

  17. Blagica Avatar
    Blagica

    Dana Ames ,
    All I know about the origin of the song is that it is written by the monk Dorotheus from Mount Athos.The monks of the Bigorski made an adaptation with the video and there is another version of another monastery,Lesnovski, where the relics of two canonised Saints are kept: St. Gavril who came from Mount Athos and built the monastery in Lesnovo-Macedonia and another Gavril canonised a Saint 1 year ago and many of us witnessed his life of a Saint as he died in the early nineties, just some time after he was proclaimed for Archbishop of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Diocese. I am sending you a link of this other version.
    https://youtu.be/LFXL9sVaNMc

    In English “In the middle of the Dessert Beauty” or simply “the Dessert Beauty” in fact the lyrics describe the everyday monastic life.
    The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the video is the possibility of having this life as an ordinary person in the world, in fact, the same thing is revealed in Father Stephen’s phrase-the one storey Universe.Just by watching the ease by which those monks perform their daily tasks I thought that this is sth that can be done everywhere only by fullfiling the First and the most important commandment given to us by Christ Himself in the New Testament:”YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”
    It takes a humble and obedient soul, for that I guess.The word is, that we can admire the monastic life but we can also strive to achieve it in this worldly conditions we live. This point is exactly what makes Orthodoxy different from other confessions.The phenomenon of “one storey universe” available to everyone who love Christ more than they love themselves.
    God Bless you!

  18. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    Thank you very much, Blagica. I had much the same response in my heart. I will investigate further.

    Dana

  19. Margaret Avatar
    Margaret

    Fr. Stephen, I really appreciate your mention of the Shroud of Turin in your comment above. I was very encouraged and impressed by the presentation of Deacon Stephen Muse concerning the Shroud and his presentation is available on Ancient Faith Radio Specials, both video with audio and transcript. I’ll be happy to share the link if it’s OK. Here is the intro paragraph from Ancient Faith: On Thursday, April 16, 2015, Dn. Stephen Muse gave a well-researched and thought-provoking presentation titled “Holy Image Holy Blood: What Forensic Studies of the Shroud Can Tell Us About the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.” The lecture was free of charge and open to the public.

  20. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Fr Stephen, I really appreciate your comment to Tikhon. It is helpful for me as well.

    I believe you have stated this with more eloquence, but I will state now my understanding of the commonality of rationality and empiricism in a few words and I ask for your patience and correction as needed:

    The commonality of rationalism and empiricism ‘resides in’ God’s manifest energies. They do not operate as a separate functionality, apart from God, unless we sin. And the coherence with ‘reality’ ie the commonality they present, arises from the ‘reality’ of God.

    Sincere adherence to the truth to the best of our abilities (in such practices of rationality and empiricism), is in the end (after successes and failures) adherence to God (whether we know it or not). Ersatz religion doesn’t help much (if at all) on this path.

    I especially appreciate your perspective that any meaning extracted through such circumscribed functionality is limited. –again I think you make a good analogy– ie the use of a small number of notes to play a melody.

    One thing that was helpful for me to see the icon of Christ in physical phenomena, was the training I had for “modeling” physical phenomena. This is a practice that goes beyond mere crunching numbers or collecting data or using equations or graphs to represent phenomenon. Modeling is a sort of functionality that seems to be more akin to art or the writing of an icon, if done with care and attention. But it still has its limitations, for one, it’s still influenced by culture.

    Father Stephen, is this an acceptable reflection, within the Orthodox faith? If not, please forgive and correct.

  21. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Dee,
    It’s a fine reflection. Thank you!

  22. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Father, Michael and Dino,

    Your comments about “rationalism and empiricism” remind me of the the words of Fr. Zacharias of Essex who says the Christian Faith is “practical and scientific”: we make an experiment at “being meek, pure in heart, mourning, poor in spirit, etc,” and see if we experience promised rewards (of purity of heart, consolation, peace from God, and all the promised blessings of the Beatitudes). But without our part and effort, we cannot expect these rewards.

    I sometime share with friends (those going through tough financial problems) the advice I received in difficult financial moments in my life.

    A friend told me to put trust in God alone, and go read Malachi 3:10:
    Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

    That verse is about tithing of course and I can confirm that once I followed that advice rigorously (even if it felt so scary and vulnerable, almost irresponsible), my situation slowly but surely started improving and changing, often way beyond my expectations.

    But we have to take that first step and leap of Faith, that “active role” described so nicely in earlier comments.

  23. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Agata
    that is a very powerful leap of faith indeed.

  24. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I can bear witness to the tithe. It is a very godly practice. My late Archbishop (Dmitri of Dallas) was very bold in his encouragement.

  25. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Father,
    I remember you sharing your own story of tithing (the “battle” that took place) in one of your talks. I really loved it! 🙂

    Another wonderful piece of advice I received related to tithing was that we shouldn’t necessarily give it ALL in one place. Of course the majority should go to our parish church which we need to support but we should also give a portion to other causes. This offers a great freedom and opportunity to give elsewhere, even to individual friends in need.
    My current job came as a gift resulting from prayers to St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. When I shared my good news with Fr. Peter, he teased me “You know, now you owe St. John your first paycheck 😉”… It was hard, but I sent St. John my first paycheck and he repaid me back many many times since then…

    In the past, we shared a book called “Crazy John” here on the blog. There were many such amazing stories in that book (of gifts returned to trustful givers, multiplied many times). But we have to make the first step, do our “active part”.
    I’m sorry for this side “theme”, but it seems relevant. Somehow I personally found trusting God with my finances a lot more difficult than trusing Him with my health, the well-being of my children, or the general direction of my life…

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Thank you Agata. One clarification: I said rationalism and empiricism. Both rational and empirical thinking are important and necessary. It is a certain mode of thinking becomes the only accepted mode of thinking that problems arise. Then you are dealing with ideology. All ideology is a form of idolatry.

  27. Esmée La Fleur Avatar
    Esmée La Fleur

    I completely concur on the Tithing.
    Wonderful testimony Agata!

    Joachim and Anna gave one-third of their income to God, one-third to the poor, and lived on the remaining one-third. Through them, God saw fit to bring us the Theotokos. That should tell us something.

    Everything comes to us through God’s will. We are simple the managers of what He chooses to give us and we will eventually be accountable for how we allocated His funds. And yes, I agree that for some reason it is more difficult to “let go and let God” in the area of finance than in most other areas of our lives. Tithing has been a very concrete way for me personally to practice my faith, trust, and love for God.

  28. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Michael,
    I think it was either Fr. Stephen or Fr. Tom Hopko who said that all the “-isms” take us further away from God. That’s why Orthodoxy doesn’t have an ism at the end. 😊
    I always liked this thought…

  29. Esmée La Fleur Avatar
    Esmée La Fleur

    Agata, on that note, I cannot resist sharing something Fr. Patrick Rearon said during a recent talk he gave on the Psalms that I just listened to yesterday, in which he explains why he doesn’t like the word “Mysticism.”

    “There was an old joke when I went to St. Vladimir’s Seminary that said, ‘Mysticism’ begins with ‘myst’ (i.e. mist) and ends in ‘cism’ (i.e. schism) so it can’t possibly be good!”

    Lol 😂 It made me laugh.

  30. Esmée La Fleur Avatar
    Esmée La Fleur

    Typo Correction: should read *Reardon*

  31. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Esmee,
    Thank you for sharing in both comments. I had no idea about Joachim and Anna (their giving habits, what an ideal to strive for. But I better not try that, Fr. Peter’s challenge was hard enough, lol!)
    I love these Saints very much and pray to them often to help with my children. After all, they are the most blessed parents (and married people!) in all of history 🙂
    Seems that the English language manages to make “isms” of everything. Mysticism probably came from the Greek “mysterion”, but it’s far from it now, much closer to how Fr. Patrick dissected it.. 🙂

  32. Maria W Avatar
    Maria W

    Christopher, Isaac and Fr. Freeman,
    I loved reading your dialogue and conversation and found my own story in all to some degree and another, knowing I could never have articulated it the way and clear manner as the three of you did. I want to thank you for reminding me where I stand . Outside looking in after many minute betrayals before finally crashing,
    All that I stood on , knew or believed I had to reexamine. It was a bitter sweet and hard pill to swallow. The nagging questions that arise, have I been lied to , what is true and what is not. An immense experience betrayal is and the recovery process as well. Thank you for your open and honest dialogue and Christopher and Issac thank you for engaging fairly without derogatory evaluations of one another. We are all born into a faith group, culture , or none at all. and have a place/ journey to discoverer learn, etc. without being judged for being in it at no choice of our own. The article and the dialogue was very sobering, tactful and insightful. THANK YOU ALL.

  33. Diana Christina Avatar
    Diana Christina

    David,

    Isn’t Antonio Carlos Jobim just wonderful?! I’ve always loved Waters of March.

  34. David Waite Avatar
    David Waite

    “ In my experience, singing frequently places us in the place of communion.”

    Indeed.

    Thank you, Father, for helping me understand what the Holy Spirit is having me do.

  35. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I was reading back through these comments and found Tikhon’s comments on commonality intriguing.

    While all religions do not produce the same answers to ultimate questions and how to live life, they do tend to ask the same questions. There are four that I have identified over my life time of investigation and contemplation:
    1. Who/what is God?
    2. Who/what is man?
    3. What is the nature of their interaction?
    4. How then shall one live?

    Such is the case with non-theistic philosophical systems as well as theistic/religious systems. A subset of question #4 is the result of living the way recommended. I have thought that such an outline would produce a fascinating class in comparative religions, especially with the exercise of having the students pick a particular faith/philosophy that is not theirs then investigate and evaluate it on its own terms with as little bias as possible.

    Christianity, especially Orthodox Christianity, has unique answers to those questions and, as Dino commented originally, a specificity and continuity of results that is equally as unique when closely examined.

  36. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I went back through this post and comments from over a year ago. I saw Father mentioned music as important in revealing the nous within. That has certainly been so for me. I first experienced the presence and energy of God in High School choir singing excerpts from The Messiah. Probably not allowed by today’s “woke” culture.
    We sang the excepts both in whole school assembly and for the public.
    ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ and ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’ especially but all that we sang. As a Senior I was designated a soloist and given the Bass Recitative: ‘Thus sayest the Lord’ which I did badly but God was gracious and I still sing it out loud in private moments.
    It ends with the proclamation: “Behold, He shall come! Saith the Lord of Hosts!”
    So He has and so He does.

  37. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    For what it’s worth:

    My 5-year old grandson, Eli, has become fascinated with BMX bicycles. He watches them do incredible stunts on Youtube, and he likes to do very simple tricks on his own bike. He’s been well-schooled, however. Whenever he sees someone doing tricks, but not wearing a helmet, he says, “He doesn’t value his life…” It cracks me up!

    Not sure where the helmet comes in with the noetic bicycle metaphor…but…there it is.

  38. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The helmet is The Church, The Holy Scriptures and the Teachings of the Fathers.

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