Outside the Box

Outside the Box Two Forms of Knowledge Information Fragments
Non-Newtonian Knowledge Recognition Knowledge Awareness



Despite the many new solutions it offers us, modern life seems to have many types of problem, some of which are far more serious than in the past.  Prolonged study suggests that this situation is a direct result of the 'one-eyed' nature of modern thought, in which it overvalues one of the two kinds of knowledge described on the previous page and entirely ignores the other.

To explain this situation we should considerthat a proper understanding of the relation of the key parts of the psyche - as described by eaarly Christian tradition - reveals the possibility of progressive and knowing integration of the whole psyche.  It was this key to the 'hesychast' spirituality of the early Church that later became a major element in the doctrine of the ancient but still devout churches now known as Orthodox. 

This doctrine, properly understood and seen as knowledge, provides a key to many aspects of human life, from religion to relationships, skill (and professionalism), to spirituality, health to happiness.  The word ‘psyche’ in classical Greek referred to both thought and life, and went even beyond both those categories.  In early Greek thought, the psyche not only included reason and emotion, but the instincts, motor capacities, imagination and it was the seat of what the early Church called ‘pathos’; the passions. 

Even more, the psyche incorporated what we call the nous, and in another sense this nous had properties which not only gave us our awareness of the activitiy of the psyche, but at the same time provided the basis, once a key concept in the psychological or 'noetic' science of those early times,which took that science beyond the modern 'physicalist' definition of psychology.  In that early thought, the nous is at one and the same time both a part of the psyche and also, in at least one sense, it is what contains that psyche.  Indeed, the only thing we cannot be sure of is that it inhabits any clearly identified location in the brain.

The hesychast saints in those early centuries taught quite specifically that this nous, under certain specific circumstances roughly defined in the gospel saying, "Blessed be the pure in heart, for they shall see God", became able to perceive itself.

"The nous operates in one way in its function of exterior  observation: (This is what the great Dionysius calls the movement of the nous 'along a straight line.')”


The better state of attention is the return of the nous, that is, of its attention, first turning back into the body, and finally ‘full circle’, to its point of origin in which the nous perceives itself.  Real growth begins at this point, when we learn to recognise that this has happened and then try to remain in this condition.  The process is that when it ceases to be dispersed:

  • It comes back to itself,

  • then it acts from itself,

  • then it becomes aware of itself.

Palamas put this by saying that:

“(The nous) has another way in which it comes back to itself, then acts from itself, then becomes aware of itself.26 

"This movement is called 'cyclic' or 'circular.'  This is the most excellent and appropriate activity by which the nous comes to transcend itself and circles back to be united to God.

"… the nous is not like the eye, which sees the different visible objects but cannot see itself. (Saint Gregory Palamas,Triads Vol. I Part 2:5)

It is this 'enlightened nous' which forms the basis of the ancient concept defining a second kind of knowledge on which Christian civilisation was originally based.  Long ago, when Christianity first took the underlying form that is now known as Orthodox, knowledge was clearly defined in the way I am now describing, which saw it as belonging to two very different classes,  experienced in two different ways. 

These ancient classes of knowledge are generally understood as ‘phenomenal’ and the ‘noumenal’.  What is not known to modern thought, but was once well understood, is that each of these classes of knowledge is entirely blind to what the other reveals.  This means that when considering what is known in one of these categories, you will not be able to describe it in terms derived from the other.  Any attempt to do so leads to uncertainty, delusion, or wrong action.