I was reading the book, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (MM), by Jean-Yves LeLoupe and came across some interesting exchanges involving the concept of Nous. The “Nous” is a concept of Greek philosophical and religious thought. What was said in the Gospel of MM there brought to my mind some sections from the Gospel of John. Let me give you these sections, below.
Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her “Women, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned to him and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab bo’ni!”
Gos. Of Mary Magdalene 10:7
“…I said to him:
Lord, I see you now
in this vision.”
And he answered:
“You are blessed, for the sight of me does not disturb you.
There where is the Nous lies the treasure.”
Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” And she told them that he had said these things to her,”
Gos. Of Mary Magdalene 10:17
Then I said to him:
Lord, when someone meets you
In a Moment of vision,
Is it through the soul (psyche) that they see,
or is it through the Spirit (Pneuma)?’
The Teacher answered:
“It is neither through the soul nor the Spirit,
but the nous in between the two
which sees the vision…”
In the Greek religious tradition Nous, also known as the eye of the soul, is the purest part of the soul, the highest attention. It is the source of Noetic (Intellectual) energy and is not associated with the faculty of reason.
Philosophically, it is a term used from Plato and Aristotle through the neo-platonic philosophers, including Philo and Plotinus and is an activity of mind by which we grasp the universal in the particular and the essence of the universal in the particular.
I am not saying that these texts were necessarily written this way or that the individuals involved actually had these experiences in this order (I am not saying they did not.) My point is to illustrate the nature of understanding (Nous) in a lived setting. Further, the Nous or understanding should be considered as a process of living or being in the world. It is not primarily a process of imagination, even though some time after the experience, we may think about it and further deepen or modify our understanding of the experience.
The activity of Nous takes place in time and space. MM saw Jesus at a distance and at first thought the individual might be the gardener. When Jesus speaks, MM grasps who he is. When Mary demonstrates her understanding, Jesus says: “You are blessed, for the sight of me does not disturb you. There where is the Nous lies the treasure.”
Acting in time and through space, the activity of Nous brings our emotions (the Heart) into play. Thus the true understanding of what we perceive is a “Treasure.”
MM went to the source to perceive and understand, and so we can do the same. Certainly, we cannot see Jesus as Mary did. But to understand, we must use our Nous –we must go to the source. Maybe we will find the treasure and maybe we won't. It is the risk we can take in our lives.
“Strive to bring back the god in yourselves to the God in the All.” - Plotinus