Barlaamism, Empirical Dogmatics, Hesychasm, hesychasts, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Noetic Faculty, Protopresbyter John Romanides, Rational Faculty, Rationalism, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Symeon the New Theologian, The River of Fire, Theoria, western captivity, western influence, western theology
Just as fire, if it is hidden by opaque material, may give heat without light, so the nous likewise may get knowledge but not light, as long as it is covered by the veil of evil passions. Nous is not only beheld by nous as a light, the last light seen in this way, but at the same time it is beholds itself, like an eye in the inmost centre of the psyche. The nous is not only seen as a light when viewed in theoria, and is so the fulfilment of seeing, it is also envisions itself since the nous was created in order for the psyche to see.
In fact, it is said that the nous is the eye of the psyche. Just as the eye of the senses cannot become active unless it is illumined by an exterior light, so the nous cannot act as an instrument of spiritual perception, nor activate itself, unless the divine light illumines it. Just as the eye, when active, itself becomes light, confuses itself with the light, and first sees this same light flooding onto the objects which it sees, in the same way the nous, when its perception is activated, is itself entirely like light. Then it is in the light, and with the aid of the light it sees the light clearly, in a way that is not only superior to the bodily senses, but also to everything we know, and, simply, superior to all created things.
For those who have purified their hearts see God, as stated in the beatitude of the Lord, who makes no mistake. God is light according to the most theological words of John, the son of thunder. He makes His home in them, and shows Himself to those who love Him and are loved by Him, according to the promise that He gave them. He shows Himself to the purified nous as in a mirror, while all the while He Himself remains invisible. This is how an image appears in a mirror, it appears in reflection while the object remains invisible in itself. It is almost impossible to see at the same time both the image reflected in the mirror and the object that the mirror reflects.
This is how God now appears to those who have been purified in love, but one day, it is said, He will appear to them ‘face to face.’ Those who do not believe that God appears as a light beyond light, because they have no experience of divine things and do not see them, and those who believe that reason (dianoia) alone can contemplate the divine, are like blind people who only receive the warmth of the sun and do not believe those who also see its rays. And if these blind people undertake to give lessons to those who see, saying to them that the sun, the most luminous of the objects of the senses, is not a light, then those who possess receptive eyes can only laugh. Those of whom you speak are in rather the same situation in relation to the Sun of righteousness, which is above the cosmos. Not only those who truly possess noetic vision, but even those who have confidence in these visionaries will bemoan the fate of such people.
Whereas God, who transcends all things, who is incomprehensible and indescribable, nevertheless consents, in a surfeit of goodness towards us, to become accessible to our nous and so become invisibly visible in his indivisible power beyond being. But those of whom you speak remain without love in regard to this purely spiritual love seen within. Moreover, they do not wish to follow the saints who, in their love towards men, lead them with words towards that light. Instead, they bring themselves to the edge of the abyss and drag down with them those they persuade to accompany them, and according to Gregory the Theologian, they will see as fire, He who they did not recognise as light, and in whom they had no faith. But this fire is full of darkness, it is the same as the darkness which threatens us; it is that which is prepared for the devil and his angels, in the words of the Lord. This darkness is not simply sensory, since it was made for evil angels who are deprived of sense. It is not just ignorance, for those who today allow themselves to be convinced by the heirs of this darkness will then be no more able to ignore God than they can now. They will know him even better, for it is said that: All flesh confesses that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Therefore, this light is not, properly speaking, sensory, nor is it knowledge, since the darkness that opposes it is not ignorance. So this light, although it is not knowledge, nevertheless brings with it the mystical and hidden knowledge of the mysteries of God, His pledge to us. So this pledge, visible even now to those who have purified their hearts, is not simply the same as knowledge, but brings with it corresponding knowledge and is itself an intelligible and noetic light, or rather it is spiritual – spiritually” present, and spiritually visible. It effectively transcends all knowledge and all virtue, and it alone will bring to Christians the perfection accessible to them here below. This does not come from imitation, nor from reasoning activity. It is the effect of revelation, and the grace of the [Holy] Spirit.
—St. Gregory Palamas: In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts. Book One. 3.9 and 3.10