Tuesday, June 16, 2009



What then is the nature of this mind that distributes itself into faculties of sensation, and duly receives, by means of each, the knowledge of things? That it is something else besides the senses, I suppose no reasonable man doubts; for if it were identical with sense, it would reduce the proper character of the operations carried on by sense to one, on the ground that it is itself simple, and that in what is simple no diversity is to be found. Now however, as all agree that touch is one thing and smell another, and as the rest of the senses are in like manner so situated with regard to each other as to exclude intercommunion or mixture, we must surely suppose, since the mind is duly present in each case, that it is something else besides the sensitive nature, so that no variation may attach to a thing intelligible. (The nature of mind, Gregory of Nyssa, ca. 335 – 394 AD)


St Gregory’s treatment of the mind appears to be totally foreign and disconnected from our understanding of the matter. St. Gregory seems to be asserting that the senses are somehow central to the mind; how strange this sounds. Well, it is only strange because in Western European languages we have not come up with a proper term for the Greek word Nous which is presently translated mind. However, this Nous is in fact another faculty. The nous is the place in the human where all of the faculties physical, intellectual, and emotional come together in order to enable true understanding. In all of the Eastern societies, be they Semitic or Greek, there existed three places where understanding dwelt. The first place is the feelings or emotions, and that was addressed by the term “the gut,” also called the bowels or kidneys. The second place is the intellect, it is addressed by the term “heart”; it is with the heart that we sort out every fact and truth. The third however is the Nous, it is the place where all of the physical senses that inform the rest our understanding come together and enable us to know something experientially. The Nous is the place were all the full understanding takes place, it is the faculty by which we sense danger, rain, fear, warmth, etc… The Nous is then according to Gregory is invisible and mysterious, especially to us westerners who stand in desperate need of its recovery. Without an understanding of the Nous, the bible and the traditions of the church: the liturgies, creeds, canons, and pious practices, will remain a closed book.


  1. Thank you Father Carlos, for introducing the concept of Nous.
    The word Nous is translated, as far as I know, only to the word "mind" in the Pauline Epistles.
    Other forms of the word appear, with nous as the root, but are too many and varied to go over in this forum.
    Nous, or Mind, is indivisible. Like human beings, who have physical, psychological, and spiritual natures rolled into one, Nous too, is spoken of in all three types.
    Suffice to say this.
    Nous, or Mind, when put in the service of the Soul and Spirit ( psuche and pneuma in NT Greek), can be spoken of as physical. (The Brain?)
    Nous, or Mind, when put in the service of the sarx (Greek for flesh) and the psuche is shown to be pneumatikos, or spiritual. (The imagination?)
    Nous or Mind, when placed in the service of the Spiritual and Physical (sarkikos in NT Greek) is shown to be psychological (psukikos in Greek, translated into English as Natural). (The Will?)
    I cannot speak of Nous, Mind, without also considering the NT concept of Heart. Theologically called the center of conscious will and striving, Heart in the English comes from the Greek kardis, from which we get the modern cardio.
    Important to point out that to the Greek Stoic philosophers, Nous WAS Logos.
    Whatever it is, I need to become very, very familiar with the theory, concept and reality of Nous.
    I am in fact, called to have my Nous/Mind renewed day upon day.
    I am also told that I have the Nous/Mind of Christ.
    A famous scientist, when confronted with a theory cancelling out his own, was heard to remark, “If we can’t prove the new theory’s truth, we must then, Ignore it.
    I cannot afford to ignore Father Carlos’ call to understand once again, and rediscover, Nous.

  2. I have begun only to study this topic, and already it has begun to yield huge benefits.