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St. Seraphim of Sarov

Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

John Romanides

History of the Church

Orthodox Monasticism


On Union1 With God and Life of Theoria

By Kallistos Katafygiotis (identified with Kallistos Angelikoudis)

*Explanations of terms can be found in the Glossary, at the end of the text.

Translator's Note:
Kallistos Katafygiotis's masterpiece (14th Century?), which was included in the 5th volume of the Philokalia, has not yet been published in English translation. This is my humble attempt to bring to the English speaking world an important work in the Orthodox Tradition: union with God (theosis, deification, becoming god by Grace, self-realization, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, experience of the uncreated light; "glorification" being the term in the Old and New Testaments), which is a purpose of man's life, as presented to us by a saint who experienced it.

Comments, suggestions and corrections are welcome. |FEEDBACK|

This American English version is based on Antonios G. Galitis's (+) modern Greek translation, published by Perivoli Tis Panagias publishers, Thessaloniki, Greece, 4th edition, 1998. It will be incomplete while I am in the process of translation. I post each segment as I finish it, subject to revision. The complete work consists of 92 numbered chapters. You may wish to visit again.

I have added summary-like headings, in brackets above each chapter, to help the reader navigate this complex text. These are not part of the original text.

1. [Man experiences great delight when he has his nous in God]

Every living being, by its nature, and by means of its higher natural energy, partakes of both rest and commensurate pleasure. And from this energy it tastes joy and becomes attached to them [i.e., the rest and the pleasure]. Man, then, because he possesses a nous, and because by nature he has a life of intellect, tastes great delight, and really takes part in rest when he contemplates the higher and the good or beautiful - one can call these as one wishes - for himself. This happens truly when he has his nous in God, and contemplates His virtues, Who is actually the apex and above the contemplating nous, and loves man extremely and beyond the nous, and Who prepares extreme awards and goods beyond the nous for His people, and indeed in the ages of ages.

2. [Born of God, spiritual man is also a god]

Every birth makes what is born resemble that which gave it birth, as the Lord said that "what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit". If, then, the one who is born of the Spirit is spirit, it is apparent that he will also be god, like the Spirit who gave him birth, because the Spirit, from whom the partaker of the Spirit was born by grace, is a true God. And if that man is god, quite obviously he will also be theoritikos. Because God was named God (gr. "Theos") since He engages in theoria. Therefore, the one who is not theoritikos, either has not yet accomplished the spiritual birth and participation, or he has accomplished it, but from ignorance he shuts off his seeing power and, as if untaught, turns away the divine rays of the noetic sun of righteousness. And while he became a participant in the force of theoria, he is unfortunately deprived of its energy, even if he is elevated toward sanctity.

3. [The infinite movement of the nous needs to be towards God]

All beings received their movement and their natural characteristic from Him who created them by the Logos; therefore, the nous, as well. But the movement of the nous has as its characteristic the "for ever" (gr. aei), in other words it is uninterruptible; and the "for ever" is infinite and unlimited. Therefore, it would have been beneath the value and the nature of the nous if it moved in a finite or limited way. And this would have happened to it if it had its movement in finite and limited things. Because it is not possible that, while something is finite and limited, the movement of the nous for, or concerning it, would advance towards the Infinite. The perpetual motion of the nous then also has the need for something eternal and unlimited, towards which to move by the logos and by its own nature. Nevertheless, nothing is really infinite and unlimited but God, Who by nature and above all is One. The nous then must fly to, gaze at and move towards the -above all- infinite One: God.

4. [For the nous to rejoice completely, it has to reach God]

Whatever we think in relation to God is infinite and unlimited. Indeed, even in these the nous cannot taste perfect joy, as it seeks the One from whom it originated. Because, by nature, everything rejoices with its like. Because the nous is one by nature, but many in relation to contemplations, when it tends or moves towards God -- who is One by nature but many in energy -- it is impossible to rejoice completely before it reaches the naturally unlimited One through Spirit, after it passes in some way through the many. Therefore, by its nature, the nous rejoices completely only in God. But also among the beings each rejoices above all for its own quality; and the natural quality of the nous is to move towards, to reach for, and to rejoice completely only inside God, who is the simply and unlimitedly One.

5. [The nous cannot rest while moving inside created things]

The whole movement of any creature, and especially of the nous itself, tends to and aims towards stopping and serenity, and to stop from its movement and calm down is a goal, and at the same time rest, for the creature. But the nous, being one of the creatures, when it moves inside created things, it is unable to gain its stoppage and serenity. Because a created thing, appropriately for its nature, has accepted its termination having received a beginning, the perpetual motion of the nous will justly fall behind and will subsequently ask where will it move. And thus, the nous will do anything but calm down, nor will it succeed in its purpose, nor will perpetual motion stop accompanying it, as it will have been enclosed inside the limited and finite, something that differs greatly from the Nature-wise state of the nous, which is quite obviously in perpetual motion. Therefore, it is not reasonable for the nous to find serenity, or to stop, when it finds itself in created things.  Where then will the nous utilize its characteristic, in other words to stay still inside motion, and to thus calm down, and to pacify, and to receive the certain feeling of relaxation, if it does not find itself inside something uncreated and unlimited? And that is God, who is the true and supermundane One. So, in that One, the Unlimited, the nous must arrive with its movement, so that it finds, as it should, its natural serenity inside noetic rest. Because it is there that spiritual stoping is found, the atypical rest and the eternal beyond all; and movement is not missing at all from any nous found in that One, after it becomes indeterminate, and infinite and unlimited and formless and shapeless and absolutely simple. Because that is how the One we speak of is, in other words God.

6. [A participant in the Holy Spirit contemplates the face of God]

If God, according to David, makes His Angels spirits, and if all the people to whom Spirit gives birth are made spirits, as the Lord said, then the man who is born of Spirit by means of actual participation of the Spirit becomes an angel. But surely the work of Angels is to continuously see the face of our Father in the heavens, as the Lord also said. So, the one who is quite apparently a participant of the Holy Spirit, when he is elevated as he should, will necessarily also contemplate (gr. theoria) the face of God. This is why David teaches: "Seek the Lord and gain strength; continuously seek his face". So, the one who became a participant of the Holy and life-giving and illuminating and eros-inducing Spirit, who received experience of the ineffable birth from Spirit, and who climbed to the worth of an Angel and then, from fruitless devotion, caused his noetic sense to God to close, and to not want to be elevated towards God and divine things, does not maintain the rational and appropriate course. And this, while the Lord commands us to stay inside Him, as he stays inside us, and David says: "Approach Him and be illuminated". And indeed, if we have the intention of performing the appropriate actions, and with accountability towards them, inside the light of God the Father, I mean the Holy Spirit, we will see the light that surrounds God, in other words, the divine truth. Unless, due to ignorance, we prefer not to turn towards the divine rays.

7. [The nous ascends to the theoria of God in three ways]

Only in three ways does the nous ascend to the theoria of God; with the self-moving way, other-caused and mixed. The first way is performed with the nous, with the use of its will accompanied by imagination; its conclusion is the theoria of things related to God, which the ancient Greeks had somehow imagined. The second way is supernatural, and it is performed only with the will and illumination of God; and then the entire nous is found under divine possession, and it is caught in divine revelations, and it tastes ineffable mysteries of God, and it sees the outcome of future events. The mixed way consists partly of both ways. As long as he works with his own will and imagination, he is in agreement with the self-moving way; and he takes part in the other-caused as long as he unites with his self by means of the divine illumination, and he sees God ineffably beyond the noetic union with his self. Because at that hour he goes out of all that we consider and say in relation to God, as he does not see either the Reign of Goodness or theosis, nor the wisdom or the strengthening force or the providence, nor any of the other divine things, but he is entirely full of noetic light and gladness, which is activated by the divine fire mixed with love.

8. [Faith - Hope - Love]

A nous which uses its imagination to contemplate (gr. theoria) the ineffable is guided by faith (gr. pistis). When it receives the illumination of the Grace, it is assured with hope. And when the divine light takes hold of it, it becomes a treasury of love towards the people, and much more so towards God. Thus, the triple alignment and movement of the nous with faith, hope and love, becomes perfect and deifying, certain and immutable. And when it arrives at that spaciousness of the summit (gr. acropolis), as one could say, it has insurred itself in the fortress of love. And then that which Paul said happens: "Love embraces all and endures all" for the sake of the virtue of faith and hope; "love never fails", on account of its fervent union and its indescribable binding to God.

9. [To achieve god-realization, the nous must escape from the passions and partitives]

No created thing is distinguished as being one. That one is different from the other, by some difference of attribute, that we know. But, as created things, they are not dissimilar from one another, because each one has beginning and end, and they carry on under nature, and they are not simply one in the proper meaning of the word. Because only the Uncreated is actually One, as simple, without beginning, without end and unlimited, and for this reason infinite, which is God. If the nous gazes towards It with the participation and help of the life-giving Spirit, it receives the necessary growth day by day, just as it became one and simple within a deifying state. It knows well that without the One, and the Gazing towards It with the grace of Spirit, it is impossible to acquire a more perfect nous. And this, because the nous was scattered towards the composite world and the passions, and therefore it has the need for a supermundane power -- and consequently from the supernatural One, towards whom it gazes -- so that, once it is taken from the world of the partitives (the created things), to escape from the passions and separation, and to achieve god-realization. And this is why the Lord asks the Father for us the faithful to be one with the Father and the Son with the grace of the Spirit, and indeed the way They are one (not the way that Sabellius maliciously means the one), so that we are perfect, and with the grace of the unifying Spirit and with the unifying theoria, in the one God. For us this is quite obviously the real perfecting, and it is our purpose and our true and only rest. And this is why the envious and misanthropic demonic gang, by sowing delusion in the nous, scattered its unity, as it should not have, towards the worship of many gods, and it did not permit it to retain the thought of the supermundane One, so that with the worship, with the aim and the division into many, to tempt the nous into moving outside of its nature, and to cause it to desire all kinds of passions and falsehoods, instead of truth and virtue. This is why the Holy Spirit advises through the Prophet: "Approach Him -- in other words the One -- and be illuminated". And elsewhere he says: "I am the first God and the one after these; there is no god but me". And also: "Listen Israel; your Lord God is one Lord". Because the tri-hypostatic nature of the one Divinity does not divide the one Lordship, but also exactly three are the Persons, and then again it is not at all less One in essence, in power, in will, in energy and other essential properties. Therefore, to worship the unity of God, and to look towards it and to gather ourselves from the many with all our strength, is the will of God and the perfection of the nous, because it is the discovery of truth and of the divine eros, and consequently it is the offspring of deification (gr. theosis).

10. [The Spirit grants spiritual adoption to the nous]

If falsehood is multifarious, while the Truth is one, then the nous which is elevated, with the grace of the Spirit, to the One, the supermundane, the above all, from which the many originated, it [the nous] is elevated to the Truth itself. But the nous cannot be freed from the passions, unless the truth frees it. Consequently, the nous is freed by extending itself in a cohesive manner towards the supermundane One. And it is the truth that befits the nous very much for the purpose of acquiring dispassion (gr. apathia), a deiform state and spiritual adoption, and not at all servitude. Because the servant, as the Scripture says, does not know what his master does. And if ignorance is an attribute of the servant, it is obvious that the freeman knows the mysteries of the Father, and that he succeeded in rising well and beautifully to the post of adoption. Because, as ignorance is clearly the opposite of knowledge (gr. gnosis), so the category of servant is obviously opposite of the category of son. And if whoever is ignorant is a servant, then whoever has knowledge (gr. gnosis) is free or, may I say, son; because the Spirit of Truth, by really liberating those to whom it comes, makes them sons of God, as the Apostle says: "All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God". If then the gazing towards the supersubstantial One is the truth, and the truth grands freedom to the nous, and freedom is an explicit sign of divine adoption, and there is neither greater gift than adoption nor other which suits more to common-sense nature, then it is very logical and very much necessary that the nous be elevated, and that it gaze at and be concentrated with all its strength towards the supermundane One, in other words God.

11. [It is absurd for the nous not to turn towards God]

"The Lord your God, says the Holy Spirit, is one Lord". Thus, it is by all means our concern to elevate the nous towards the supermundane One with the help of the divine Spirit. And surely it is not legitimate for one to proclaim the One, but to avoid the turning and lifting up of the nous towards It. Because what the Holy Spirit says, is also what [It] wants us to comprehend; and whatever is comprehended, is also that towards which the nous wants to be turned. Because when there is no turn of the nous towards that which is comprehended, whatever the nous comprehends is absent, and so, necessarily, instruction about the One, and thus also faith (gr. pistis), would be in vain. And if this is absurd, it is therefore absurd for the nous not to be meditating on the One by means of turning and being elevated towards It.

12. [It is natural for the nous to rise and gaze towards God]

If it is natural for those that originated from some cause, and indeed the sensible beings, to rise and to aim towards their cause with the tendency to return, and since all have God as the cause of their creation, and among them also the nous, and since God is the top and simple One, it is therefore natural for the nous to rise and gaze at, with the intention of returning, the supermundane One. Therefore, the nous owes to gaze at the top and simple One, its cause.

13. [The nous was created in the image of God]

If all things exist from Him (God), and they aim through Him and towards Him, and the nous is also one of the all, therefore the nous was also created by Him and through Him, and this indeed holds true especially for the nous, because it is an image of God. So, for this reason the nous is obliged, more than everything else, to gaze towards Him. The expression "towards Him" means that it must gaze with an intention to return to the supermundane One. Therefore the nous is obliged to gaze towards the One.

14. [Creation proceeds from the One to the many]

The many come from the One, and not the One from the many. The creation is the many, so, obviously the creation came from the One. And that One is above the creation, as Builder and Creator. So, whoever considers the creation as he should, will necessarily end up with his consideration towards the Supermundane One. Because in the caused, the created, there are scores of  traces oh the Cause, by which is recognized the One who with craft, wisdom, power and goodness foresightfully produced everything as he wished. And for this reason Isaiah, inspired by the Spirit, says: "Raise your eyes and see who showed all these". The "all these" he says for the many caused, whereas he says the "who" in order to raise our nous towards the One from whom all these came, who is by His nature the simple One.

15. [Composites are subject to change. God is not]

Creation can also be aggregated into one, but this is composite and complex and not without a beginning. Whereas that which creates is One; and not only is it one as a cause of the  arrangement of the many and different into an amalgamation of everything and one goal, but, as well, it is uncreated as the primary Cause. Rising in gradually, the nous needs to reach something that is the beginning and the order for the apparent layout and birth of the beings, their harmony and their coalescence into one; otherwise it will keep proceeding endlessly, something that is absurd. Because everything that moves and becomes at some point in time did not exist; and while it did not exist, it received a beginning. If it received a beginning and it moved, we must look into what it is that moved it and brought it into existence, which will also be immobile, and so unchangeable as well, therefore it will also be simple, because the composite is subject to change, where as we proved that This is unchangeable. Composition is the beginning of stoppage and stoppage of disintegration, which is the ultimate phase of movement. So, there is no composition there, so that there will be no stoppage; nor stoppage, so that there will be no decomposition; nor decomposition, so that change and movement will not appear around that which is unchanging and immobile, because it moves and it does not move itself, it drives toward existence and it did not become, nor becomes. So if it is unchangeable and immobile, then necessarily it is not-compound, and therefore the simplest and absolute supermundane One. Rising towards It, the nous exits in all manner outside everything, because it aims for the Awesome, and desires the above all, or rather That from which everything originated and towards which they all tend by their nature. And when this is done in the appropriate manner, then surely the nous is freed from the passions. Because he who overextends and arrives higher than even the awesome, with great difficulty he would be able to remain in the disgrace of the passions. And it is for this reason that the holly Law states: "Only This you will worship", in other words the One. Consequently, we must rise towards the apical One, if we wish on the one hand to fulfill God's law and on the other to be free from the passions.

16. [Follow God]

"The Lord alone showed them the way, and no foreign god was with them". You see the power of the Undivided and Unique, how there was no other god with them, since only the Lord showed them the way? But the Lord guides those who follow, not those who are turned towards the back. Whomever someone follows, towards him he is also turned. So, if we are interested in not having with us another god, in other words a demon or passion, let's follow the One and Unique, with a noetic turn towards Him, so that it can be justly said about us that "The Lord alone showed them the way, and so no foreign god was with them".

17. [Observe created things only as reflections of God]

Even though the many originate from the One, they nevertheless originate each in a different manner, because also in a different manner the beings originated from the first Unit. Some of them have a beginning and are created, and others are uncreated and without a beginning in time. Of course, the cause of all, in every manner, is the supersubstantial One, but in the former in a creative manner, and the others in a natural manner. And for this reason we must not approach them and be bound to them in the same manner and to the same degree. But all that received a beginning and were created, we must approach them not for themselves; as, for example we approach the mirror not for the mirror, but for the form and image that it shows. Because we cannot be approaching the creation for the purpose of our perfection for any other reason, but only for the extreme One who is projected in it. Then for those that are without a beginning and originated from the One by natural means, we approach not for something else, but for themselves and for That from which they originate. These are the ones which is indeed worthwile to approach for themselves, and theirs is in a direct and natural manner the top One; or rather they belong to the extreme and top One in a direct and, as we said, natural way. So, these we must not only approach, but also attach ourselves to them, and through them to rush to imitate and to imprint the first and one Good, so that this way, with the cooperation and help of the grace, to acquire the rank of the by image and likeness glory of God. For this reason, when we observe correctly the beings that originated from the Cause by the creation, it happens that we raise our nous to the view of the One, and to unite it [the nous] with the comprehensive meaning of the supermundane One absolutely and simply, if of course the nous gazes towards them [the beings] in the manner that it should. Now in the case of those that originated from the Cause by a natural way, when the nous acts in agreement with them or takes a form that is in agreement with them, it is possible through them to be united with the absolute One. For this reason, from the sum of all that originated from the Cause, either by natural or creative way, the nous tends to be led towards the different-from-these One, naturally or practically or, of course, "theoretically" [Gr. θεωρητικώς, theoritikos, "in a God-seeing manner"]. And whatever the nous uses, whether one or many, natural or created, it does not use them for the One, nor with the holy participation and help of the enlightening Spirit by a simple way, unitary and singular, this is credited to it as a sin, even if this use appears to it as something good. because everything that was created by the One lead to the One when we use them as we should, as the great Dionysios says: "Every apparition that is given to us from the Father with goodness, raises us like a unifying power, and fills us, and reinstates us to the unity and deifying simplicity of the concluding Father; because everything came from Him and they have Him as their purpose". But if they do not lead to the One, then they are against their nature; and if their use is not made as we mentioned, they it is made outside of logic.

18. [When the nous sees beings that are separated and compound, it is divided and becomes diverse]

There is action that precedes the theoria, and there is action that follows the theoria. The first is taken by the body for the purpose of curbing the impulses of the body, and to train it little by little to behave properly, so that it will give to the nous the strength to pass freely to its own things, which are the noetic ones, and so that what is beneficial to it will work successfully there. The second starts from the nous and the spiritual comprehension and concludes towards the above-the-nous, which is God. When the nous approaches Him, it reaches the one, because God is One. And so the nous is united with itself into one and becomes indivisible. Because the One, when we see it through the theoria, becomes the cause of unity and deiform simplicity, as it is incompatible for the nous to see the One through theoria and to not be itself also a simple one. But when the nous sees separated and compound beings, it is necessarily divided and becomes diverse. Simple One I called that which exists as simple in itself. Given that whatever the nous is, is subjected to change by energy, whereas in substance it is simple, it is necessary for the nous to also be one in its energy when it sees the One. But if the nous sees the One, while itself has been divided into at least two, what will the other branch do which is separated from the one that sees the One? In other words it either sees something else or it does not see at all; and if it does not see, then that happens either because it does not want to, or because it has become dull, or because it is made for some other activity, not for seeing. If someone supposes that it sees something else, then it is obvious that it does not see the simply One, but irrationally sees two -- and since it sees two, it cannot itself be one, because, as we have shown, it is divided into those that it sees through theoria. Now let's look at the case where one of the branches of the nous does not see, either because it does not want to or because it has become dull, or because it is turned towards a different kind of energy. The first is impossible, because it is not possible for the rational nous to be found in a state of immobility, not even for an abrupt, shortest instant; the second is absurd, because if one branch was dull and the other sharp, then the nous would be compound and not simple, as it would be composed of dissimilar parts; the same will happen also when one branch sees, while the other is turned towards some other energy, because this is also observed in compound things, but is utterly inadmissible to say about the nous, the nous being simple. For this reason if the undivided and simple nous observes the simply One, it is also itself one by energy; and if it is simply one, then it sees the simple One. So, in any action the theoria necessarily has to be directed towards the over the nous One. Otherwise, it will not achieve anything, but the action and the theoria of the nous will be proven pointless. In other words the nous will appear as cause of passions, as it will find itself in a state of division and will not be moving noetically , with a sense of the soul, towards the union with the above-the-nous One. That union knows how to clarify and clean the power of the nous to do theoria, which is elevated and aspires to the One and fixated to That, from which and by which everything originated and in which everything is found and in which it is done and is.

19. [For union with God, the divine likeness of the nous is necessary]

The extreme of all desirables is the beyond-reason union of the soul with God. For this divine union the divine likeness is necessary; for the divine likeness it is necessary for one to act noetically, in other words to do theoria. Because also this is how the divine is, and it's name God [gr. 'Θεός', Theos] was given it from the act of theoria. But theoria rises directly to the meaning of God. Because God inserts everywhere and in everything some sort of rays for the theoria of the nous, and the nous that practises theoria has God as its objective. And God is the supermundane One. And on the other hand the nature of the nous is to become, by energy, like those that it sees. This is declared by the theological tongue of the all-divine Gregory, who says "let's see and suffer God's brightness". Because whatever the nous has seen, that it has suffered, or rather such it has become. Because, as Peter of Damascus says, the nous is painted according to those towards which it gazes. And just like when it sees the divided and diverse, itself is also divided and diversified, by the same token, when it ascends to the gazing of the supermundane and simple One, it subsequently also itself becomes one, as I previously said. Now when it enters into the One, then it sees the without-beginning and infinite and shapeless and simple, because that's what the One is; and for this reason, the nours itself also becomes, by energy, without-beginning and infinite and shapeless and simple, and when it "suffers" this transformation, it becomes like the Divine, to the extent possible. And from there it is extended towards the top of all desirables, the divine and beyond-reason and irrational union, which is the ultimate purpose by God. So the nous must hurry to ascend and look towards the theoria and the gazing of the supermundane One, with the help of the Holly Spirit.

20. [The nous becomes deified only in energy, not in essence]

When the nous is inside many or even just two, it is obvious that it does not see the simply One. This is why it is also limited and finite and hazy, because such are the things that are not absolutely simple. But when it comes into untouched contact with the actually One, by grace of the Spirit, noetically, and without the eyes of the senses, it then becomes without beginning, infinite, indefinite, shapeless and formless, it becomes surrounded by the voicelessness, and practises silence inside a surprise; it is filled with pleasure and it "suffers" [experiences, becomes subjected to] the unspeakable. But don't say that I am saying that the nous becomes without beginning, infinite, indefinite in its essence; no, but it becomes so by energy, because that which changes in the nous is not the essence but the energy. Because if it was changed in its essence by seeing and "suffering" [experiencing, becoming subjected to] theosis [deification] from the theoria of God, it would be God in essence, but to be God in essence not even any of the Angels has this, except for the only and highest and one God. So if it is absurd for us to say that the nous becomes deified in its essence, it remains for us to say that it is subjected to it through the action itself. Therefore what the nous has in its nature is to be altered not in its essence but in its energy. Besides, if the nous is changed, by its nature, as we said, according to the things to which it directs it's theoria, and since it directs it not to the divine essence but to the divine energy, therefore itself is also not altered in essence but in energy.

21. [God charms the nous, through all beings]

All things, after their luminous burst (let's call it so) from the supermundane One, were not utterly distanced from That from which they obtained birth, but as inside that from where they came about, thus they are also restrained and perfected. And there is not a single one from all the beings in which there is not a residue and something like a scent of that creative and absolute One. And all things that participate in being practically cry out indicating not the supermundane One (because that is seated above any theoria and comprehension), but a certain ray of the supermundane One. So, because all things declare loudly the One, and everything leans towards the One, and that supermundane One projects itself through all beings to the nous, for this reason it is necessary for the nous to restrain it's hands and feet and to be directed towards the supermundane One. On the one hand, the many beings compel it, with their convincing voice; on the other hand, because the creative One, about we already spoke, wants, from an abundance of goodness, for the nous to see it, so that it receives life inside It, as the inexpressible One Itself says: "I am life", and "This is eternal life, to know you, the only true God". And as the scripture says elsewhere: "Seek God with passion and your soul will live"; because from seeking comes vision, and from it life. Additionally, for the nous to be pleased and enlightened and delighted, as David says: "All who are delighted have their residence in You", and "with your light we will see light". Otherwise, why did He create the nous to contemplate (theoria) Him and He dispersed the things about Himself to all the beings, through which, like through cracks, He projects with noetic brightness to the nous, and charms it with the shine, moving it towards Itself?

22. [God wants the nous to contemplate Him]

God, who is the triune good One, whatever He created He created by His will. And of course whatever God wills is extremely good, because goodness is God's nature. So He created the nous to be a contemplator [theoria] of Himself and His qualities, something that gathers into one the one who contemplates [theoria]. God then wanted the nous to be His contemplator [theoria], and that's why this is extremely good. God is the absolute and simple One and is extremely good, as proven, for the nous to contemplate and be directed noetically towards Him.

23. [The nous must desire to rise towards the supermundane One]

If the complete eros is one and concentrated, according to the teachings of those who are wise in divine matters, it is obvious that the object of eros is also one. Because if the objects of eros were at least two there would be either two eroses or the one eros would be divided into two and it could not be called one and concentrated. Now since the complete eros is said to be one and concentrated, it is evident that the object of eros is also one. But of course the object of the eros pre-exists it's eros, and there is no way for one to test his eros before contemplating its object. And eros is intense love, which both the natural and written law of God demand that we have towards God. In other words, the natural law completely convinces the nous, which curates the good, to aim for the Highest, which is God, while the written law of God says: "Love the Lord, your God with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your mind. The Lord your God is one Lord". So therefore the object of eros is also one, in other words the triune Unit; additionally, It ought to exists for the nous prior to its eros towards It. Therefore, the nous must desire to rise towards the supermundane One, so that by the finding and theoria of It, it's eros towards It will also sparkle, and the man will become executor of both the natural law and the commandment, loving, as we said, the Lord his God.

24. [The ascending nous cannot help but fall in love with God]

When the nous ascends to the above-the-nous One, it is impossible for it not to become Its lover. Because it meets unspeakable and incomprehensible beauty that springs from It, as from an omnipotent source. Whereupon the nous, as a result of the divine rays, resembles a net that is in danger of being torn due to the abundance of fish that it caught, and is surprised contemplating the above-the-nous beauty, and gets drunk as from wine, and like crazy it is entranced and is overtaken by admiration that overtakes every thought, being unable to look directly at the stunning sight of the exquisite beauty. And for this reason it is bound with the bonds of love and burns from thirst. Because the above-the-nous One is unique and is declared by all as the primordial cause of everything, as the beginning, the end, the connective force of all. It is This that from overabundance of a beauty- and goodness-creating force produced the beauty and goodness of all the beautiful and the good, while itself stands infinite times infinitely above any beauty and goodness, because It is the supermundane and incomparable One. It is the only object of eros by Its nature, above any object of eros, because It is the only absolutely Beautiful and Good, which is above everything beautiful and good, and the only thing by nature and order truly beloved, as the cause of everything. It is as great as it has exceeded all the beloved and the objects of eros because of extreme beauty and goodness. And it is truly supermundane One, as the only one that truly exists and grants existence to all beings. So, with the help of the Holly Spirit, let's turn, God willing, as they say, to the discovery and knowledge of the unique One, from which spring the beginnings of all and to which all end. And then surely, by the grace of Christ, the gate of divine love will be opened for us and we will enter the Lord's site of rest with joy and great jubilation and we will gain deep knowledge of the delight of the One and we will taste the divine abundance, having ourselves also become one without being separated or divided into many, in accordance with the entreaty of the Saviour to the Father: "That they will be one, as we are one". Then we will also be precise followers of the commandment that says: "Love the Lord your God with all soul and your soul your neighbor as yourself", and we will arrive at perfection in human measure, to the extent that this is possible. Because love is the end of the law, from which (love) hang not only the entire law and the prophets, but also all who have become perfected according to God by the power of Christ.

25. [A divided nous is outside of the state of grace]

For each thing that has in its nature to become one by the Spirit, division constitutes depletion. For this reason if the nous becomes subjected to some division by energy, it is found outside the state of grace which befits it. It suffers this because it sees a few diverse things, and when it sees different things it cannot remain undivided. Because if one supposed that this were true, he would not be able to very easily explain by virtue of what the nous of silence is different from the nous of confusion, and he will consider the nous of the enlightened similar to the nous of those who are disturbed by the passions, which is absurd. In other words, since the nous becomes, by its energy, similar to the things that it contemplates, then necessarily when it contemplates compound things it also becomes varried, and when it diverges from being simple it cannot be undivided. And the divided is everything but clean from sin, and therefore the division itself, is considered a sin in itself by those who can delve deeply into such matters. So, since it is necessary for the noetic power of the nous, by its gazing towards the highest and supermundane One, to have tasted, in an undivided way, by the noetic sense, the supernatural good, then the condition of division is completely outside of grace. So, it is necessary for us to hold on to the supermundane One, and to only and exclusively gaze at It with all our soul, if we wish to avoid division and differentiation. Nevertheless, the nous will not be able to remain undivided even if it turns towards something that is one but created. Because the created cannot be literally called simple, as it is limited and compound and finite, and for this reason it neither has the right to be called simple one, neither is the nous's energy simple and unitary when it gazes at it. Because the contemplation of the nous will be limited and finite and composite, as is the object of its theoria, and consequently it will be degraded from the deiform grace that makes it simple and without beginning, unlimited and infinite, and it will find itself outside of the secrets of the above-the-nous One. This way it is deprived of its glory, which is the noetically accomplished delight of the uniqueness and the non-beginning of the primordial One, the limitlessness, the simplicity and the beauty. And this way it does not manage to "suffer" the vision of the supernatural and unspeakable beauty. So, the nous must gaze at and tend upwards towards the without-beginning, the simple and unlimited and trylly One. And from This to desire much to be illuminated and be united with the primordial Unit, and with this union to also be united with itself. And this way, not only will it gain the love of the Higher because it will liken itself to It, to the extent possible, in indeterminateness and simplicity and the lack of form and shape, but also it will itself be able to love the stunning and supernatural divine beauty, because it was raised, as we said, to the likeness of It. In other words, since it is customary for a mutual loving disposition to arise between the similar, it is obvious that the nous will be loved and in turn love God. Because the similar is similar to the similar; and as similarity can be reversed, it will for sure have as counterbalance of its love the love of the other. There is no greater event than this between God and the soul.

26. [The nous can exceed its natural state and become supernatural]

The nous surpasses its nature when it reaches completely the above-the-nous, and after having become formless and shapeless and generally entirely unconditioned in a divine way, without beginning, and infinite, and having exceeded its own union itself, so to speak. As long as it has with it its intelectual power, even if it is preoccupied with divine and noetic matters, we say that it moves and acts naturally, and that it is within the limts of its nature. But the supernatural is much superior to the natural and is found much higher. So, it must desire and rush to reach the supernatural, which is also much better, according to the commandment that says that we must pursue with zeal the higher gifts. But it is also obvious that if the nous is found in the supernatural, it is found in God. Because, of course, God is truly outside of the entire nature, because it is the primordial and simple One. So the nous must be elevated towars the premordial and simple One and to rush to contemplate and rise towards It, so that having risen to the supernatural One, exceeding its natural energy, to become more perfect than its natural state.


Each one of the beings rejoices and rests naturally with its special natural elements, which all pre-exist in the primordial causative agent in accordance with an undivided cause. So then the nous will sample naturally real deep pleasures and will have much delight and will rest completely when it surpasses and abandons everything and assigns itself to the singular, initial and that foremost Cause and, by a noetic turn, reach It, from which were made all things, and the properties of everything, and their beginnings and middles and ends, and inside which all exist and are held, and through which each one of those that receive perfection is lead to its purpose, and thanks to which those that are blissful experience bliss. And the nous itself, such as it is, has been created by It. Because, in a certain way, the nous returns towards itself when it returns towards this, the Chief and Cause of all things, which is its true prototype. And because each one naturally loved itself, and this happens more so with the nous, as a stunning image of the inconceivable beauty of the above-the-nous One, it extremely desires to gaze as it returns to its Cause. Besides, there is in each one a natural loving affection towards this from which it originated and, inversely as well, eros towards them possesses the parents that gave birth to them. For this reason, a certain unspeakable pleasure springs abundantly from the return towards the One, the cause of all things. Since the seeds of all pre-exist there, because it is their cause, consequently the nous as well, which itself is one of the many, exists in the above it One, because It is its archetypal cause.


"Holly" or "Saint". Also written as "hagios"; fem. "hagia".
Etimology: Either from the Sanscrit cognate yajati (from Protoindoeuropean yaj = "to sacrifice") or yajyah = "worthy of reverence".

Dispassion. Passionlessness. The unrooting of the passions. Alternatively, a state in which the passions are exercised in accordance with their original purity and without committing a sin.

The effort or spiritual training waged by Christians to keep the commandments, to purify the heart from passions and to practise the virtues, together with prayer and related activities, so as to bring harmony between the body, soul and God.

The prohibition of women in Agion Oros. A mandated aspect of its autonomous status, which is enshrined in the constitution of Greece.

Diakonia, diakonima, diakonimata (pl.):
Service or ministration, in other words the assigned work tasks of a monk. [Anal. sanscr. "seva".]


A collection of texts, primarily short stanzas and anecdotes from monastic life, illustrating the struggles and rewards of monastic life.

See pistis

Gerontas, gerontes (pl.):
Also called Elder, or Staretz, an honorific appellation of a spiritually developed monk or a senior monk in a monastery, such as the abbot.


Hagios (fem. Hagia): see agios

Hesychia, hesychast, hesychastic:
Silence, stillness. Stilling of the thoughts, but not emptiness, whereby the nous may descend into the heart through the Jesus prayer. It is the inner attentiveness in prayer which brings the remembrance of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Kelli, kellia (pl.):
A monk's cell in a monastery. Also, in Agion Oros, a dwelling, something like a farmhouse with a small chapel, where the monks pray and work out their salvation.

Koenovion, Cenobitic:
A monastery where all monks follow the same rules.

A monastery.

The Greek word for both "word" and "reason" is variably nuanced with several meanings in context. In many cases, I tend to include that of the "Final Cause" (pl.: "final causes") in the Aristotelian sense** (in a pulling manner, rather than pushing, such as "Ice cream is the reason (cause) that I left the house [to go buy it]"), rather than the sense of "reason" (as in reasoning and logic), in my own understanding of it [but then, I am neither a theologian nor a philologist]. Hense, και ο Λόγος ήν προς τον Θεόν ("and the Logos was towards God").***
Saint Maximos the Confessor and other fathers of the Church saw in all creation the spiritual "logoi" (pl. of logos) that God placed in them. These logoi make up images of the divine attributes, through which the nous rises to God. There are two kings of logoi of the beings. There are the united, pre-existing, equally eternal with God logoi, and the apparent logoi in creation. (see Maximos in the 2nd volume of the Philokalia).

Often translated as repentance. Radical change of heart and mind, accompanied by meekness/humility.

Nepsis, neptic:
Nepsis is vigilance of the nous and watchfulness at the gates of the heart, so that every thought that moves in it can be controlled. Neptic is an adjective pertaining to the method used for nepsis.

Nous, noetic:
Often translated as "mind" or "mind in the heart". The highest faculty of man, through which, upon purification, he can contemplate God, and the inner essences of created things, by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Noetic understanding is not intellectual, but it comes from immediate spiritual experience.

Faith. The modern idea of faith, based on Aquinas's differentiation of knowledge from blind belief, is not what is meant in the Orthodox tradition. Although it can be a component of what the fathers of the Church, such as Saint Maximos the Confessor, referred to as "introductory faith", it can only be considered an initial stage in our ascent towards knowledge and the Logos, which is true faith based on experience, a gift of God. At a higher stage, faith (gr. pistis) leads to noetic knowledge (gr. gnosis) that is founded on experience and completed by inspiration and, therefore, cannot be overthrown by reasoned argument. It changes the heart, it leads to substantial changes in being, it can move mountains, and it leads to salvation.

See also agios:

Typically similar in appearance to a small village, where kellia are built around a central Church. Each kelli performs its daily prayers independently except on Sundays and on feastdays, where theygather together in the main Church to worship.

Pertaining to theanthropos, man-god.

(gr. "Theos" = God, "oro" = to view) The perception or vision of the nous, through which one attains spiritual knowledge. Depending on the level of spiritual growth, theoria has two main stages: it may be either of the inner essences or principles of created beings or, at a higher stage, of God Himself. Some times translated as "contemplation": 'Contemplation is a matter, not of verbal statements but of living experience. In pure prayer the Father, Son and Spirit are seen in their consubstantial unity' [from Archimandrite Sophrony: His Life is Mine translated by Rosemary Edmonds, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Oxford, 1977]

An individual who has accomplished theoria.

The deification of man. According to the Orthodox tradition, man's purpose in life is to achieve union with God, and to become god by grace. Self-realization. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit.


1 Analog. Sanscr. yoga (eng. "tying", "binding").

** The Philosophy of Aristotle (Signet Classics) by Renford Bambrough (Author), J. L. Creed (Author), A. E. Wardman (Translator) "For an understanding of Aristotle's metaphysical doctrine, it is necessary to consider further the nature and influence of his presupposition in favor of the subject-predicate...".

*** John 1.1

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