i first ran into the term noesis, or noetic, in a philosophy of religion course. and, it's been part of my thinking and vocabulary ever since. however, i've noticed that noesis sounds like a mispronunciation and it's clear when i've said the word that i've been sometimes misunderstood to be saying 'gnosis', and so perhaps also for noetic and gnostic. so, i wanted to talk about why and how noesis and gnosis are different, and the way that i use the term.

Noesis vs Gnosis

Noesis is an experience. Gnosis is an object of experience.

The word noesis comes from the Greek noetikus, understanding and noein, to think and nous, mind. It means the cognitive process. Adjectively, noetic means originating in or apprehended through the intellect. [<a href=“”>see</a>,<a href=“”>et</a>,<a href=“”>et</a>]

the relationship between human and divine <a href=“”>see</a>

William James: Religious experience is always mystical and is characterized as ineffable, noetic, transient and passive.

“the noetic quality: subjects claim that they have experienced revelations, insights into vital truths” it is sufficient for an experience to be noetic and ineffiable to be a mystical one. the ineffability of a mystical experience is where one cannot find words to describe it. because the experience is beyond human understanding, it cannot be communicated. this is like Zen, where the master can point a finger toward to goal; but the goal cannot be explained only attained; and, it's important to not mistake the finger for the goal. the words used to describe the content of a noetic experience are always insufficient. the experience cannot be communicated. words are a limitation of the human mind and consciousness. i realize that i conflate ineffiability into noesis when I use the term, so i tend to assume that noesis is beyond human ability to communicate. i should probably more properly speak of the mystical experience, being both noetic and ineffiable; but, i tend to use noesis as a synechdoche for the whole mystic experience.

The word gnosis comes from the Greek intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths, [<a href=“”>via</a>,<a href=“”></a>,<a href=“”>also</a>,<a href=“”>et</a>]

So one is a faculty of mind, and the other a faculty of intuition.

The Mystical Experience

for me, noesis is the breaking through the veil that is experienced by the mystics of all religious manifestations.

the metaphors abound. crossing the abyss, jesus, crossing the veil of maya. these all structurally are related to breaking through a threshold through some mechanism which is more than human. this is the union of the human with the divine, like the actual meaning of the word religion or the word yoga.

Beyond the Threshold

liminality, borderlands

yog-sothoth, but also ganesha as opener of the way

the forest in folktales.

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