Full of light

I have an acquaintance from a progressive Protestant tradition. She’s not very concerned with doctrine or history; more interested in moralism and a faith that feels right.

In a conversation about inner monologues, I mentioned that in our tradition we try not to have one. She asked if I meant *no* thinking allowed or what? I tried to break it down in a way a minimally-religious person might be able to hear. Once I’d said “nous” I tried not to use any more foreign words 🙂


The idea is that what the Bible calls the nous – the inner faculty that perceives spiritual realities – is darkened by shame, compulsions and delusions, so that people are *broken* and isolated from experiencing one another and Christ. In the absence of experiential union with God, people struggle to create a conception of God using only their brain and feelings. That’s why most religion amounts to speculation, arbitrary logic, emotion, and moralism. Even worse, the forebrain hasn’t got an off-switch; it generates a constant stream of ideations in the form of images and memories and verbalizations – as if a web page were scrolling 24/7.

When the nous is whole and filled with light, it perceives God firsthand, and attention isn’t fractured or occupied by images, rationalizations, and memories. So we practice a discipline of stillness where we intentionally keep watch over the thoughts we permit to live in us, and cut off uninvited conceptualizing by intentionally turning attention to the Person of Christ. With practice, this becomes the ground state of our thoughts so that instead of speculation, logic, and fantasy, when we’re not intentionally rationalizing, we fall back to practicing the presence of Christ.

I detest the word “spirituality” but that’s a key understanding to “Eastern Christian spirituality” — what we just think of as having an intentional inner life. Takes a lot of words words to express outside its context; among ourselves we just think of it as struggling for stillness.