Knowing God

This is a topic that in many ways I know very little about. I can claim no great spiritual heights nor theosis. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasing apparent to me what it means to know God and how this is achieved.

Knowing God is not an intellectual exercise nor even intellectual knowledge as such, although this is not excluded from participating in knowing God. This type of knowledge only grasps images and concepts about God but it cannot know God; this is something different. God is not a concept or image but a reality that it not containable in one’s mind. However, we do get to know God in a manner in what the Fathers call the nous. This is said but most to reside in the heart rather than the head. Thus, it is not a reasoning, intellectual knowledge such as mathematics but rather it is an experiential, intuative knowledge that is impossible to describe or compare to normal human experiences but has a little to do with wisdom.

God is known in the heart in the way that we participate in His life and this life becomes ours. We learn this initially through obedience to the commandments and then as we grow in virtue and purity through the participation in the Spirit. Eventually, we love as God loves, we think as God thinks and so thus we know Him because we realise that the way we live is how He lives. We share the same motivation, the same understanding and the same will; we want what He wants. This knowledge is in a sense active but it transcends physical activity and acts in a spiritual manner with far greater reach than of which physical human actions are capable. This knowledge is what is said to participate in God’s energies or operations. These are not something that happens to us from outside but come from within and become our own, yet remaining God’s and coming from Him. This is theosis or union with Him.

The above knowledge though is not that of the essence. We cannot attain to this that is because you have to be something to experience or know its essence. We can neither know the essence of a tree nor a dog because we are neither trees nor dogs. Thus, even though we are united to God in His life we will still know that He is somehow other to us and His essence is not ours. He is God and we are man. This cannot be changed. Nevertheless, by living His life we become gods because all of His life is ours, if we are willing to accept it as it really is.

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2 Responses to Knowing God

  1. Mark Downham says:

    Monk Patrick,

    Getting to know God has always been an Energetic Progression – so, if you understand the Noetic and if what you have written could be considered to be an ‘energetic burst ‘ of Noesis – what would you do if it meant you had to be turned into LIGHT to fully engage and understand the implicate Communion of LOVE that is already reaching out for your location? Will you be changed? Are you being changed? Yes. What will you become? Whart are you becoming? Something, someone utterly beautiful – that is what the philokalia really is ,, what it has always been -a manual, a Pneuamtological Roadmap for LIGHT BEARERS.

  2. Mark Downham says:

    “if only all men would imitate me the Churches would have no troubles; nor would the faith, which every one uses as a weapon in his private quarrels, be pulled in pieces.” – Gregory Nazianzus

    To achieve this we must understand the observation of Isaac the Syrian that we give attention first to “purification of the consciousness and concentration of thoughts.”

    “By such phrases he refers primarily to the daily regimen of what we read and how we pray (as well as fasting and repentance) towards the goal of overcoming the passions. Only someone who is not himself ruled by the passions is ready to safely guide someone else beyond those same rocks. Anger and condemnation, pride and superiority are marks of the passions and cannot read the Scriptures and the Traditions rightly, nor offer them to others without doing harm. The same can be said about most argumentation.” -Father Stephen Freeman

    No. This is missing the point of HOW the HOLY Spirit works with us as we read Scripture. We need to be clear about this, Isaac the Syrian and Gregory Nazianzus were exactly like us….and incidentaly, so was Elijah, very like us.

    James 5:17a Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are…

    God was not in the passions of Earthquake, Wind and Fire but in that Still Small Voice, that quiet Whisper:

    “the purification of the consciousness and the concentration of the thoughts”- the purification of our noetic consciousness or our ‘noesis’ [understanding] and the concentration of your thoughts or our ‘nepsis’, that watchful vigilance, that act of focus, is in an act of discernment or ‘diakrisis’ – it is the ability to hear – both – the Earthquake, Wind and Fire and that Still Small Voice and THEN to discern the difference.
    1 Kings 19:11-12

    11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

    “Only someone who himself confesses to daily struggling with the very same the passions is ready to safely guide someone else beyond those same rocks and imitate Gregory Nazianzus,the Cappadocian in dying daily to himself.”

    1 Corinthians 15:13 I die every day [I die daily] –I mean that, brothers– just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    So do you have Discernment, Monk Patrick?

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