On Intelligence and Knowledge


    While the holy and divine prophets were seeking out and investigating all that is connected with the salvation of souls, the movement of their intellects towards God was spurred on by their longing and kept fervent with cognitive insight and spiritual knowledge; and the discriminative power of their intelligence, in its active discernment of divine realities, was full of understanding and wisdom. Those who imitate them will also seek the salvation of souls with cognitive insight and spiritual knowledge; and by investigating with understanding and wisdom they will be able to discern the works of God.

    The intelligence recognizes two kinds of knowledge of divine realities. The first is relative, because it is confined to the intelligence and its intellections, and does not entail any real perception, through actual experience, of what is known. In our present life we are governed by this kind of knowledge. The second is true and authentic knowledge. Through experience alone and through grace it brings about, by means of participation and without the help of the intelligence and its intellections, a total and active perception of what is known. It is through this second kind of knowledge that, when we come into our inheritance, we receive supranatural and ever-activated deification. The relative knowledge that resides in the intelligence and its intellections is said to stimulate our longing for the real knowledge attained by participation. This real knowledge, which through experience and participation brings about a perception of what is known, supersedes the knowledge that resides in the intelligence and the intellections.
    Knowledge, that is to say, is of two kinds. The first resides in the intelligence and its divine intellections, and does not include, in terms of actual vision, a perception of what is known. The second consists solely in the actual enjoyment of divine realities through direct vision, without the help of the intelligence and its intellections. But the intelligence is capable of giving us an intimation of what can be known through true knowledge and so of arousing in us a longing for such knowledge.
    According to the wise, we cannot use our intelligence to think about God at the same time as we experience Him, or have an intellection of Him while we are perceiving Him directly. By 'think about God' I mean speculate about Him on the basis of an analogy between Him and created beings. By 'perceiving Him directly' I mean experiencing divine or supranatural realities through participation. By 'an intellection of Him' I mean the simple and unitary knowledge of God which is derived from created beings. What we have said is confirmed by the fact that, in general, our experience of a thing puts a stop to our thinking about it, and our direct perception of it supersedes our intellection of it. By 'experience' I mean spiritual knowledge actualized on a level that transcends all thought; and by 'direct perception' I mean a supra-intellective participation in what is known. Perhaps this is what St. Paul mystically teaches when he says, 'As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for speaking in tongues, this will cease; as for knowledge, it too will vanish' (I Cor. 13:8); for he is clearly referring here to the knowledge gained by the intelligence through thought and intellection.

The Philokalia, Volume 2 Saint Maximos the Confessor Fourth Century of Various Texts, pp. 241-243

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