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How to convert the intellect


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#41 Brian McDonald

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 01:26 PM

Fr. Raphael wrote

However according to Patristic understanding in order to attain to what is godly we must turn the intellect upside down as it were and teach it to listen obediently. In other words we must, when we read (and this should also apply to everything else we do in the Church) put our intellect into an ascetic position. We must place it 'under' what we read instead of 'over' it


I’ve always had a tendency to try and “solve” intellectual conundrums by a kind of independent exercise of my mind. This changed a bit when it was pointed out to me (ironically by an atheist philosophical colleague at the university where I teach) that Blessed Augustine’s Confessions was written in the form of a prayer. Augustine, quite literally takes all the problems his massive intellect considers to the Lord in prayer. I think “converting the intellect” in part simply means that we don’t exercise our intellect independently, but in the presence of God. And we take our intellectual difficulties to Him the way we would any of our other difficulties. This doesn’t mean we expect some divine revelation of the answers, but it alters the atmosphere in which we do our thinking. When the attitude of “How do I figure this out myself” gives way to a prayer in which we say “O Lord, you’ve created me as reason-endowed creature of Thine and so I ask Thee to help me use it to glorify and serve Thee” then things change.

Paul Guest wrote

I didn't realize that even within the Orthodox Church there seems to be so much uncertainty about what the Church does actually believe. . . . I just thought somehow I could just rest in the practices of the Church, participate in the Divine Liturgy, observe the fasts and feasts, pray, go to confession, etc. and that would move me, through God's grace, to a closer, pleasing walk with Him.


Paul you express a very clear understanding but then preface it with unnecessary tentativeness. I’ve been Orthodox for twenty years, and to the extent that I have had a closer and (hopefully) more pleasing walk with God, it’s been precisely through “resting in the practices of the Church.” I suspect that the “uncertainty” you see has two sources: the first may be disagreements over somewhat peripheral issues. But the second to quote the inimitable Herman (Pooh) Blaydoe, is the desire of many to pit “fashionable understanding” against the perennial teachings of the Church (what St. Paul in Ephesians calls being “blown about by every wind of doctrine.”) A lot of unclarity and confusion, over certain current moral issues for instance, is self-generated. One of the easiest ways not to see a thing clearly is a devout wish not to see it clearly because to do so would put us out of joint with the times. Unfortunately, this desire for blindness can find a real ally in the intellect. (“The serpent was more subtle than all the other beasts . . . “) A person of “little brain” may not be able to cleverly think up excuses for denying the obvious. Enter the clever intellectual or theologian to solve the problem and find a way to accommodate the truth to our passions while still claiming to uphold the truth.

That’s why Anna Stickles, as so often puts her finger right on it when she points out the real issue is commitment to walking the path of truth.

As you note if we are out there trying to pick and choose between various of other peoples ideas., we will find nothing but confusion. Instead we must make the commitment to clean ourselves up and remove the glasses of passion that are distorting our vision.


If we get serious about that, a lot of confusion clears itself up.

#42 Rick H.

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 02:09 PM

That’s why Anna Stickles, as so often puts her finger right on it when she points out the real issue is commitment to walking the path of truth.



Yes, commitment and the path of truth. I think Anna is right on target too, as she wrote:

As you note if we are out there trying to pick and choose between various of other peoples ideas., we will find nothing but confusion. Instead we must make the commitment to clean ourselves up and remove the glasses of passion that are distorting our vision.


And, I love Brian's follow-up to this:

If we get serious about that, a lot of confusion clears itself up.


If anything is true, this is true as it relates to converting the intellect for the one who desires the mind of Christ. Once we remove the lenses of passion there is a kind of transcending way of being that emerges that allows us to see more clearly. Characteristically, we see differently and feel differently and think differently. Not 100% of the time, but I think characteristically is a good word.

When we consider different points of view in Eastern Orthodoxy, or when we start straining our brains until we are exhausted trying to figure out what doctrines we believe in and what councils we accept and reject, and for that matter which modifiers for certain terms we must use . . . then all is lost and we are in a sea being tossed and turned around going under, coming up for air and going under again. And, for we converts, when this happens we wonder what in the world did we just do? We do think, well I could have got this action where I was . . . we think this isn't what the brochure said, this isn't what I signed up for.

And, then when we question some of these things during the early stages of our "conversion," initially and with great speed we start to hear about the sin of individualism. And, this makes sense and sounds good based on where some of us came from, and we think, yes this does make sense that independent thinking and the sin of individualism are contrary to fellowship and community and ultimately the fellowship of the Spirit. And, things progress differently for different "converts" from this point.

Some converts realize that there needs to be a degree of independent thinking in terms of discernment along the way. Some realize that they need to allow some room for personal responsibility and a growing a maturing process based on a Trust in God. In one's direct and responsible relationship with God there will always be a personal responsibility, this cannot be otherwise. Even if we wish to submit to another to the point where we have no will of our own, we still are involved in a direct and responsible relationship with God and in this there is a degree of independent thinking and discernment that is required even early on in the conversion process.

The same faculty that we use as we feel called to go into the Orthodox Church is the same faculty that we trust and abide by once inside the doors . . . if this is ever stripped from the convert then all is lost and only a raging sea awaits for the baby Orthodox Christian. Only a dysfunctional childhood awaits, it is a perpetual dysfunctional childhood. Even as the one's who have been stripped of this faculty (immature as it is) will grow older physically they will never mature spiritually. There may be a new way of expressing oneself, and one may become proficient at handling cliche's and practicing the art of finely honed answers, but this is the outside of the cup.

It is the same way for our children. If we want to help our children in our families to grow up as happy-healthy-functional children we will train them up in such a way that when they are older they can think for themselves and be strong boys and girls and make 'good' decisions for themselves. There comes a point when they will leave the nest, and if we did a good job as parents they will not need to come to us for every little thing. Our children will be out there in the real world on their own discerning between a wise course of action and an unwise course of action on a daily basis, on a moment-by-moment basis. If we have done a good job training them up we will have taught them both a degree of independent thought and a sense of responsibility for their actions from an early age.

If we have done a poor job, when our children move out of the house they will be influenced by others and not able to think for themselves. They will become victims of the whims of others and will experience life as immature fickle and dysfunctional adults. They will have problems in their vocation and with their personal relationships. If we tried to break their will and make perfect little children out of them from a young age, we will end up with adolescent robots at best until they move out and start experiencing problems as adults.

It is good to teach a baby Christian about the sin of individualism, it very wise to teach a new "convert" about such things as turning the intellect upside down and sacramental reading; however, we need to be very careful when we talk to a new "convert" about exercising her intellect independently. We need to allow room for this in order to avoid producing (or reproducing) immature adolescent adult Christians.

And, I am building from the work of Brian above, but I am not disagreeing with what he wrote at all. He worded things very well in a very balanced way. I am not taking issue with his post, I like his post just as it is worded in his first paragraph. I might take issue with the Boogeyman he sets up in his post, and point out that what is peripheral issue for one is not a peripheral issue for another. There definitely needs to be a healthy amount of room for transcending all divisions is Christ, but this is for a separate post.

But, there needs to be some room allowed for independent thinking from an early stage in the life of a new convert and during the entire growing and maturing process. Otherwise, just as parents who do not allow room for this end up with a house full of screwed up kids . . . if there is not some room allowed for this, to different degrees for different individuals, then we join a side of Orthodoxy that promotes control freakery and we train up others in a way that is stupid, foolish, and sinful.

We need to be clear about what we are saying in this area. When we talk about independent thinking and present it in a negative light to "converts" this is something that is easy to be confused about, and this is something that is very important to understand clearly.


If you are still here Paul (Guest), here is a little thread that you might possibly appreciate:

Finding truth in the teachings of the non-Orthodox#post115273

There are some good quotes by St. Basil in this thread (and a link to his work that speaks in a fuller way) to what he calls young men." You might read this and think something like, what in the world is he recommending this thread to me for? But, then again, you might just read it and smile.

Edited by Rick H., 12 October 2011 - 02:44 PM.


#43 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 04:05 PM

I think that we have to carefully consider what we mean by growing up in Christ. Independent thought is not what we are heading for, but neither is becoming a victim that is defenseless to the thoughts of others. Neither of these two unredeemed states are what Christ is offering us. We are called, we are created, to be free and interdependent both in our relationship to God and to each other.

No one who is united to God will be at the mercy of either the thoughts fed to us by the demons, or the unredeemed thoughts of their fellow man. This truth is repeated over and over by the ascetics of the church whether in the ancient fathers of the desert or modern elders like Elders Paisios and Thaddeus.

But as a child, yes we cannot avoid being to some extent blown about by winds of confusion and tossed by various internal storms because our will is not yet always secure in Christ.

Our discussion about St Maximos and the sinlessness of Jesus thread and what gnomic will is can be helpful. Our fallen will “gets lost” in its reaching for God, and losing God we end up in darkness and confusion. But it is a mistake to blame this on the influence of others and then try to protect ourselves against this influence as a way to solve the problem. The problem is solved when we regain our balance in our relationship with God.

The former type of solution is what I often see people heading toward when they start talking about needing to be independent thinkers. The move toward independent thought is basically a move toward protecting oneself in a way that actually leads to a false stability based in our own will, rather than a true reunion of our will with God. These people seek to stabilize the ship through their own efforts rather than praying to Christ and waiting on and depending on Him to calm the storm.

It is only the fully mature Christian who has sufficient grace and sufficient practice at inner vigilance such that their will and their intellect are not influenced by these external forces, which because of previous habits and unredeemed desires cause the convert to be to a greater or lesser extent pulled away from God. I'll try to pull up some quotes on this. I recall this being mentioned in almost every Orthodox spiritual writer so I ought to be able to find a few.

One thing I can think of right off the bat is from St Theophan's Path to Salvation. When talking about the new convert he talks about how the will and the intellect are free, but that all the other powers of the soul are still in bondage. These powers then still have the ability to pull the will and the intellect away from God and for these powers to be purified and for the will and intellect to become stable in God is the heart of the struggle the saint then goes on to describe in the 3rd part of the book.

#44 Rick H.

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 04:15 PM

These people seek to stabilize the ship through their own efforts rather than praying to Christ and waiting on and depending on Him to calm the storm.


About that ship, I would be praying while I was trying to get the sails tied up--both/and. And there is that old Syrian saying:

"Trust in God, but tie your camel at night." :)

#45 Rob Bergen

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 04:29 PM

It seems to me that our intellects are sometimes headed in the wrong direction, in the sense that they require more and more explanations to justify our own belief. But, what then is faith? Is faith something that we need to will into tangible proof? This does not mean that we should not ask questions, but it does mean that there is a limit to what we can know. Adam ate from the tree of knowledge, and he was kicked out of the Garden. Perhaps we should be wary of doing the same thing? I am not saying that we must suspend our intellect, but perhaps it would be prudent to advocate a synergy of faith and intellect. Clearly, we have not defined what intellect is, but that should not be the issue. The issue is, in fact, that our intellect exists because it was created in us by God. We have faith in God because we cannot use a created intellect to fathom the uncreated and eternal.

I think I may be straying from the problem at hand, but what I am saying is, essentially, that our intellects must be used to arrive in conclusion of faith. That is, faith in the Fathers, the Saints, the Apostles, and in the most Holy and thrice Blessed Trinity. With faith, we approach the divine mysteries, which, because of our faith and for the life of the world, bestow grace upon us. The mysteries unite us with God, and this is where our intellect must lead, if we are using it correctly.

#46 Rick H.

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 04:38 PM

Good post Rob. I have always liked the expression, "the intellect is not necessarily the enemy of faith."

Although, when it comes right down to it, I'm not so sure there can be a synergy in the end as much as an abandonment of one for the other. This can work both ways.

One example that comes to mind is that we do not have any of the original autographs of the books of the bible. We only have copies of copies of copies. So there is no tangible proof in the sense of the original documents to justify your belief that you are reading the largely uncorrupted writings of the apostles (upon which probably many of your beliefs are held.)

I think that when it comes right down to it, in the end all spirituality is a faith based business. There is not going to be any tangible proof that will convert our intellect today . . . is there?

But, then as you say I'm not sure that we have defined what this intellect is that we are talking about in a way that is understandable to mostl!

I think it's break time now . . .

#47 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 05:56 PM

About that ship, I would be praying while I was trying to get the sails tied up--both/and. And there is that old Syrian saying:

"Trust in God, but tie your camel at night." :)


Well I guess we can ask then what our effort should be, and I think you and Rob have nailed it. When the storms are blowing and the winds of confusion are high, quit asking questions and hold on in faith. When the storm dies down then there is more room for questions and in times of peace room for our understanding to grow.

How about this for some definitions. From Christ the Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene

"Potentially the spirit (nous or yuan-shen) is pure formless, imageless awareness... Its aim and designation is to draw ever closer and unite itself to its Creator. ... The lower soul on the other hand is shaped by personal and cultural conditioning. It reacts to its environment based on this conditioning, just as an animal does. Its concerns rest in man's temporal, earthly needs. Since man's departure from the Way, it has become a mass of emotions, memories and compounded thoughts, and seeks to know things through imagination and abstract deduction. ... "

He goes on to say that the distinction between spirit and lower soul is just an analogy. We don't really have two souls. My own thought is that part of what he is describing as the lower soul, like the gnomic will, can be said to be a fallen mode of action of our soul, rather then a distinct faculty in itself. He also says that the spirit can be said to be the highest part of the soul, as opposed to what might be called the lower or animal part of the soul. Then he goes on:

St. Theophan the Recluse... states, 'According to natural purpose, man must live in the spirit, subordinate everything to the spirit, be penetrated by the spirit in all that is of the soul, and even more so in all that is physical and beyond these, in the outward things, too, that is family and social life. This is the norm!' "

When this hierarchy is maintained, we will no longer trust our thoughts, fantasies and reasoning powers. Even amidst our daily activities, conditioned by our culture and environment, our soul will continually return to the direct intuitive knowing of our spirit. ..."


Maybe Rick what we can say when talking about intellect and faith not being mutually exclusive is that there needs to be an abandonment of fallen modes of action, but that this is not after all an abandonment of the intellect -- certainly not in it's spiritual aspect, (which is the seat of faith) but not in it's "animal" aspect either. Hieromonk Damascene continues the discussion here speaking about the fact that we do not abandon our lower soul (I think this would be a false kind of spirituality - gnostic) and but that as we see from St Thephan's quote it must be kept in submission and itself ultimately redeemed and transformed along with everything else in our life.

Ultimately the goal is not to escape our culture altogether, living in some gnostic spirituality, but to be transformed and in this way be a transforming force in that culture rather then in slavery to it.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 12 October 2011 - 06:11 PM.


#48 Anna Stickles

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 01:16 PM

Just to be clear. A definition of faith that fits in with what we are talking about here has nothing to do with relying on God instead of acting. It's been said often enough that our relationship with God is a synergy. :-) We do what we can and put the rest in God's hands.

But our definition rather has to do with being at peace at the beginning, throughout the process, and also with the outcome in a given trial or temptation, even if things have not come out the way we wanted or hoped, or if the trial goes on longer then we would like and help is "slow" in coming. It means that the emotions and will are in subjection to the intellect throughout the entire process of our acting. This really is where the rubber meets the road and is only accomplished through prayer and with God's help strengthening in our inner man.

Although, subjection here I think is not in the absolute sense, as in not experiencing contrary emotions at all, but rather in a relative sense of suffering from them but nevertheless our faith is not dimmed, our heart not turned away from God.

Although it seems that one sees that for those who are much more full of grace there is a charismatic and supernatural peace in which contrary emotions are completely gone. At least this is the impression one gets from the biographies. They accept death or suffering with equanimity and thankfulness, sickness or insults, lack of provision and basic needs don't cause any grief, fear, anxiety or other negative thoughts or emotions. This is faith deified.

#49 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 02:58 AM

Greetings Andreas!

I would say that by intellect we are talking about the apprehending faculty in man.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael


Are we talking about converting the apprehending faculty in man? This is confusing to me. One either apprehends or doesn't, no? If one apprehends 'incorrectly' then one does not apprehend, and no amount of purely intellectual agreeing or disagreeing will really help one apprehend, I think.

I have been following this thread, because I have many questions regarding this area. Faith, to me at least, is not the same as belief. It just cannot be. I think one can believe every single dogma of the Church, in the sense of 'mentally' believing that it is all 100% true, and that the accounts in the Old and New Testaments are 100% true, yet lack Faith, and vice versa, I think one can even not be a Christian, at least not 'consciously' so and have more Faith in God than an 'average' Christian.

Not sure what I am trying to say here, and I don't think I have anything to contribute... I do think that the intellect has to learn to be obedient, perhaps first to the teachings of the Church and to one's spiritual elder, but the stubborn part of me wants to believe that ultimately the intellect needs to be obedient to the awakened nous, and perhaps then, all the dogma will somehow find its rightful place.

#50 Rick H.

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 12:24 PM

Posted Image Originally Posted by Jan Sunqvist Posted Image

How does Orthodoxy understand intellect?







Posted Image Originally Posted by Rick H. Posted Image

What does Orthodoxy mean when it speaks of the intellect?







Posted Image Originally Posted by Owen Jones Posted Image

I think it is important to begin with some sense of what Intellect is


Are we talking about converting the apprehending faculty in man? This is confusing to me.



I have read different writings where different authors use the words "intellect, nous, and spirit" interchangeably.

. . . the necessity before engaging in the debate in making sure that everyone involved in the conversation is using the same definition at that time and place.



It would be nice if we could articulate what we mean when we say "intellect." Otherwise, also as Father David said yesterday, we have "an undefined word and therefore has no meaning."


Good post Jan, you show the difference between parroting something like a certain doctrine and truly believing something, and you show the difference between giving mental ascent to something and having a having a genuine faith. The "protestant" type of churches place a great importance on right belief in terms of agreeing with certain doctrines. I have attended one bible college and three seminaries in my life, I had to sign statements of belief at each of these in order to attend. Some of these were Calvinistic and some were not . . . there was some variety of beliefs in all these schools of thought. I didn't agree with every jot and tittle on these statements, I don't even think the teachers agreed with every doctrine . . . sometimes, in the real world, we just have to transcend the nonsense and Realpolitik as well as all divisions in Christ . . . this, to me, is *exactly* how we convert our "intellect," and then can learn and grow as true disciples of Christ.

But, other times we need to be clear about what we believe and what we are saying.

Are you around Father Irenaeus? Is it possible to articulate what we mean when we say "intellect" in Orthodox thought?

Or, knowing this word is used differently by different Orthodox authors, for our purposes here in this theme of the month thread, is it possible to define what we mean when we say "intellect".

Seriously, how can we have a discussion when we don't understand the topic or the question?

I think this is a good question.

#51 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 03:26 PM

From back in 2009: Intelligence vs. intellect - or should it be complements?

I had found some definitions from the Philokalia for intellect/intelligence and reason ... it was very clear (back then) that the three are different and unique and in exploring them the answers on how to convert the "intellect" could be found ... I dont know why I never continued with the discussion back then because I really had a good study guide I was referring to.


As I have been looking into these posts lately, I did peruse the short Intelligence vs. intellect thread this morning. In relation to this particular Thread on Converting the Intellect, I am wondering if a word in Alice's post#9 would be pertinent to the topic in question. This word is "cerebral".

Perhaps we are looking at the "conversion of the intellect" in a too cerebral way.

In my reading since this Thread has begun, I have been reading a lot of the Philokalia and trying to understand the various meanings given to the "INTELLECT" by the Fathers. As far as I can understand, I think that the intellect is the "spiritual organ of perception". I don't believe that the NOUS needs to be converted, but discovered/enlightened/illumined/made holy!

Thoughts, emotions, sensations, feelings, intuitions can be changed/altered/brought into perspective through more Light on the Matter; but I do wonder profoundly about the word "convert" in relation to the "intellect".

Does the intellect need to be converted, since it is the organ of contemplation?

#52 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 05:11 PM

As far as I can understand, I think that the intellect is the "spiritual organ of perception". I don't believe that the NOUS needs to be converted, but discovered/enlightened/illumined/made holy!


Yes the nous is described as the organ of perception. But it also is taught that it needs to be converted. The title of the chapter I quoted from above is "Changing the Eye of the Soul"

I probably should have quoted more then I did, but just prior to what I quoted Hieromonk Damascene says,

"In the life of fallen, unregenerate man, the spirit (nous) is hidden behind the lower consciousness of thoughts, fantasies and emotions. ...In the inner life of man, the spirit is meant to be the master, and the lower soul is to be the servant, while the body is to be the servant of both. ... With mankind's departure from the Way, the natural hierarchy has been reversed. The body and lower aspect of the soul are now the masters. They have taken over the human being who is now carried about by thoughts, imagination, emotions and bodily concerns.

As we have shown in the previous part, the soul of fallen man has come under the illusion of its self-sufficiency. Therefore it is not satisfied with concerning itself with a man's temporal needs (food, clothing, shelter) but seeks also means toward a man's ascendency and sensual pleasure. Such a soul has become (or better to say, has attached itself to) what is today called an 'ego'. While the spirit (nous) is our true self- the true seat of our personhood - the ego is our false self, an illusory self-sufficient entity. Because it thinks to achieve its ends and overcome its obstacles through its own unaided powers, the ego can also be called our false "problem-solver".

... Since the spirit is now held captive by the ego in the realm of the senses, it has also become sick. The only cure for this sickness is to give the spirit its rightful mastery by stripping the soul of the form of this ego. When the lower soul is refined in this way, says St. Theophan, "the soul grows into the spirit and blends with it. "

When the soul takes the position of servant and aligns itself with the spirit, then the spirit returns to itself and naturally fulfills its ture purpose, rising to the Crator. St Basil the Great describes this spiritual process as follows: "When the spirit (nous) is not engaged by external affairs nor diffused through the senses over the whole world, it retires within itself. Then it ascends spontaneously to the consideration of God."

St Theodore says,

"The first man could indeed without any hindrance, apprehend and enjoy sensory things by means of the senses and intelligible (noetic)things with the nous. But he should have given his attention to the higher rather than the lower, for he was able to commune with sensible things through the nous, as he was with sensory thing through the senses. I do not say that Adam ought not to have used the sense, for it was not for nothing that he was invested with a body. But he should not have indulged in sensory things... He should not have attached himself as he did, to sensory things and have lost himself in wonder at them, neglecting the Creator of intelligible beauty." Philokalia vol 2, p.44


Hopefully then we can start to see that our organ of apprehension is stuck in being attracted to looking at the wrong things. Whether it is sensual attachment to the creation, or the egotistical attachment either to the workings of its own lower self or (as has been mentioned elsewhere) to looking at itself and its own created light - these all keep it from apprehending God. And the driving force which keeps the nous in this state is the ego.

Hieromonk Damascene continues

"At the moment of man's first act of disobedience to the Way, there suddenly appeared in him a sense that he had become wrong. This fundamental sense of wrongness... marked the birth of his ego and thus of his self-consciousness. ... Since man's ego was born through his trying to become a god unto himself, it is in the very nature of the ego to try to become autonomous. Hence the ego shirks from admitting that it is wrong... This fear of admission was first seen in the ego's attempt to "hide from the presence of God..."

But the ego not only attempts to hide from God; as we have seen it also attempts to hide from the spirit, for the spirit too convicts the ego of its wrongness. ... How can the human ego, immersed in its own gratification, hide from the ever-present reality of God and the spirit? How else than by a constant state of distraction into sensual pleasure, thoughts, memories and fantasies" Thus man's fall into disobedience was at once a fall into distraction, and that was how his consciousness started to become as compounded and fragmented as it is today.

To distract himself from facing his wrongness, man seeks out the very things that made him wrong in the first place: self-love and sensual pleasure. Gratifying himself in this way, he feels "right" again -- but only temporarily. ... Our ego seeks any reassurance that, in fact, we are all right, that we did not amke a mistake, and that we are God after all. Our conscious selves may not admit that this is happening, but this is the actual underlying aim of our ego-life: to find anything that will enable us to forget our true selves and our hideous condition, and will make us feel, if only for a brief moment of ecstasy, that we are God, we are in control, on top of things, and sufficient unto ourselves...."


He follows this up with a section on Metanoia, describing the need for repentance and how God brings us to this. How God brings things into our lives that help our spirit, which is longing for Him, come to a place where it is apprehending reality rather then the illusion fed to it by the ego, and thus is enabled to start shedding itself of this ego and eventually unite with God.

the above quotes are from Christ the Eternal Tao


#53 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 05:25 PM

Converted is one word, perhaps "regenerated" or "stimulated" are other words that might prove useful? Part of us has atrophied due to sin, and it needs to be purified/strengthened/stimulated" so that it becomes stronger, more developed, that is, changed or converted, metamorphosed.

Little thoughts from a little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#54 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 05:35 PM

I think it important to note that there is a very popular trend today that is a false mysticism where people will talk about finding their "true self" and that seeks "enlightenment" but when one reads the books, there is a noticeable lack of any mention of the need for repentance, nor is there any realization that we are indeed sick.

The ego is very much alive and at work in this whole movement, still hiding itself behind a seeking of validation in various semi-mystical experiences. In looking over these books one can see that these experiences may truly have a basis in the spirit escaping from the senses, but the people who experience this and are writing these books, never get beyond the basic problem of self-love and the sickness caused by the ego.

#55 Marie+Duquette

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 06:03 PM

Yes the nous is described as the organ of perception. But it also is taught that it needs to be converted. The title of the chapter I quoted from above is "Changing the Eye of the Soul"

I probably should have quoted more then I did, but just prior to what I quoted Hieromonk Damascene says,
St Theodore says,

Hopefully then we can start to see that our organ of apprehension is stuck in being attracted to looking at the wrong things. Whether it is sensual attachment to the creation, or the egotistical attachment either to the workings of its own lower self or (as has been mentioned elsewhere) to looking at itself and its own created light - these all keep it from apprehending God. And the driving force which keeps the nous in this state is the ego.

Hieromonk Damascene continues


He follows this up with a section on Metanoia, describing the need for repentance and how God brings us to this. How God brings things into our lives that help our spirit, which is longing for Him, come to a place where it is apprehending reality rather then the illusion fed to it by the ego, and thus is enabled to start shedding itself of this ego and eventually unite with God.

the above quotes are from Christ the Eternal Tao


The quotes are very pertinent, Anne. Hieromonk Damascene speaks of "Changing the Eye of the Soul" In your estimation do you think that the "eye of the soul" is the same as the "eye of the heart"/NOUS?

I find a distinction in that the eye of the hman soul needs to continuously re-focus itself upon the Light of Christ which dwell within the NOUS, at the Eye of the Heart.

If an Orthodox Christian is in truth focusing on Christ within, on the indwelling God, through prayer, sacraments, Metanoia, and Sacred Reading, it seems that the little human eye seeks to see not through it's own eyes, but through the Eye of God, in the Light of Christ. I can see that my "SOUL" and my "NOUS" seems to be two, working and attempting with the Grace of God, personal prayer and ascetical works, to enter into the Presence of God, where as Saint John states that a Oneness is made manifest.

Perhaps this is the reason for the Jesus Prayer, where gradually through a lifetime of repentance, humility and prayer, a true transformation takes place, and there is "only God""

#56 Rick H.

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 06:25 PM

Anna, thanks very much for your work here. I feel like we are getting some traction here with both what the "intellect" is and how the word conversion/transformation applies to the "intellect." Hi Marie, good to see you posting, thanks for helping to get us on the starting blocks with this thread!

I wonder Anna, have you or do you and Mike now have access to some "protestant" theological dictionaries like Kittle's TDOTNT or Robertson's works or Lexicons such as BAGD?

With the way you are presenting this, it is jarring my memory of classic "protestant/evangelical" seminary teachings looking at the way such words as nous and pneumatikos and sarkikos and psuchikos are used in ancient (Hellenistic) and bibiblical literature. Do you have memory or exposure to this? Your presentation in your posts is looking very much like what I think I learned in the past.

I have tried to bring this up in other threads before, in different ways as my memory was jarred, but between my lapse in memory and a seeming non interest in what I am pointing to I normally get the crickets.

I have lost most of my walking around knowledge that I might have had at one point on this, but you are really jarring my memory with what you are presenting. I don't have the energy to start pulling down books and laying them out now . . . but, I wondered about this enough to ask.

Thanks Anna, very good work. :0)

Whatever you are drinkin' make mine a double.

Edited by Rick H., 14 October 2011 - 06:48 PM.


#57 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 07:22 PM

Jan Sunqvist wrote:

Are we talking about converting the apprehending faculty in man? This is confusing to me. One either apprehends or doesn't, no? If one apprehends 'incorrectly' then one does not apprehend, and no amount of purely intellectual agreeing or disagreeing will really help one apprehend, I think.


Yes- that is what I was referring to. One always apprehends. It's just that we apprehend or misapprehend to a greater or lesser degree. And this is dependent on whether we live in a divine and godly reality or not.

So it is then that our overall Orthodox effort is to purify the apprehending faculty through our lives in Christ. And then this apprehending faculty can be employed in the proper fashion and understands properly in whatever activity that we are employed in- whether this be prayer, or outward charity, or work, or reading, or whatever.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#58 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 10:48 PM

Jan Sunqvist wrote:



So it is then that our overall Orthodox effort is to purify the apprehending faculty through our lives in Christ.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael


The word purify seems to me more appropriate than convert.

I wonder, if intellect is equated with nous then how does one label the faculty of many that just 'computes' vs, the faculty which apprehends.

#59 Brian McDonald

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 01:24 PM

Whether we speak of “converting” or “purifying” the intellect, it seems to me this thread has shown real agreement over the place of the intellect. To use a homey phrase, it’s a matter of “getting our priorities straight.” The place to begin is not the intellect but the heart. We begin by recognizing that our souls (and thus our intellects) are darkened, that our first task is to seek the grace and healing of God to bring us into the light. The intellect must be the servant and not the master in this process since the disease doesn’t lie in the intellect itself but in the soul and the “gnomic will” that leads it to pervert all its capacities including that of the intellect.

It occurs to me that in a laudable desire to keep the intellect in its proper place, it is possible to confuse two things that should always be kept distinct: the autonomous intellect and the critical intellect. The autonomous intellect makes man’s reason and science the measure of everything and refuses to believe anything that isn’t an immediate datum in the senses or observations that can be subject to quantitative measurements. It is marked by the spirit of pride and conquest. The critical intellect, on the other hand, is simply the capacity to notice real difficulties, ask honest questions and humbly to seek, to the best of one’s ability how to harmonize conflicting data without doing violence to truth.

The critical intellect MAY be appropriated by the autonomous intellect, but it may (and I think should) be something that belongs to the humble and God-loving soul as well. For instance, it is quite possible to believe in the consensus patrum and yet be quite aware of errors or possible errors in individual fathers. Blessed Augustine particular understanding of predestination is wrong; St. Gregory of Nyssa is wrong if he taught (as most scholars believe) the doctrine of universal salvation, and many of St. Basil’s views in The Hexameron seem to be out of accord with the findings of modern science. It is not impious to disbelieve the geocentric view of the universe universally held by the fathers, etc. To exercise the critical intellect in noticing and pondering these things is not necessarily the same thing as asserting the intellect in a proud and autonomous manner. It’s a matter of the spirit in which things are approached.

Of course there’s a problem in discerning at any given moment whether one (or others) is exercising the autonomous or humbly critical intellect. How does one cultivate the spirit of discernment?

#60 Rick H.

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 01:41 PM

. . . the autonomous intellect and the critical intellect.



Thanks for the great post Brian. I just have to ask, as it relates the above distinction, is this your model or someone else's that you are borrowing? I appreciate this and am wondering because I would like to read more about this if it is coming from somewhere else.




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