Nous and the Secret of the Heart

Poimandres then said, ‘The truth is: light and life is God and Father, whence Man is begotten. If, therefore, you realise yourself as being from life and light and that you have been made out of them, you will return to life.’
‘But tell me further, how I shall return to life, my Nous? For God declares: Let the man endowed with Nous remember himself.’

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate I.21

Divine Nous is the secret through which your soul subsists, just as your body only subsists through your soul. Life (soul) and Light (nous) are the essence of man’s being. God, in fact, does not consider your exterior form but only your heart – which is the “divine link” proper to each of us, and it is this “divine link” which, in us, needs to be remembered to return to life.

If you observe it clearly and reflect upon it with the eyes of the heart, believe me, my son, you will find the way to higher things. In fact the image itself will guide you. For sight of the image has a special quality of its own. It dwells in those who have already seen it and draws them upward, just as they say a magnet draws up iron.

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate IV.11

When God commands that we remember ourselves, He intends that we turn to Him by reflecting on Him with the eyes of the heart. It is our heart that connects to Him. Only through it do we truly hear and see.

He who turns toward Him with his body alone, without also connecting through this link, has not truly turned. He who looks only with his eyes of flesh, without being connected through this link also, does not truly look.

The sight of the body is the eye; but that of soul is Nous. Just as a body which has (got) no eyes sees nothing, likewise a soul which has (got) no Nous is blind.

Definitions 7.3

Hermes has said:

Pray that through grace you will be able to perceive God as so great that even just one ray of Him may shine in your mind. For pure perception perceives the unmanifest, as it is itself also unmanifest. If you are strong enough, He will appear to the eye of Nous, O Tat. For the Lord appears in His bounty throughout the whole universe. Can you see pure perception and take hold of it with these hands and contemplate the image of God? But if you cannot see what is within, how can God who is Himself within you appear to you through your eyes?

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate V.2

God cannot appear to you when you look only with your bodily eyes and not with the “eye of Nous“. Through this secret connection with Nous can we gain pure perception so that we can contemplate divine realities. Similarly, one who listens only with his bodily hearing without having pure perception does not really hear. That is why Hermes said:

The exterior (things) are understood by the external (organs): the eye sees the exterior (things), and Nous the interior.

Definitions 9.2

He who looks with finite eye only sees finite things, bodies, colors or surfaces, but he who looks with the eyes of his heart, that is to say, through his secret link with Nous, sees the connection that God has in each thing; for, in truth, only God sees God, only God knows God.

Let us give praise to Him, above the heavens, the founder of all nature. He is the eye of Nous, may He receive the praise of every power within me.

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate XIII.17

The bodily eyes and the “eyes of the heart” are distinguished by the difference in their objects of perception. He who looks cannot himself make the distinction between the look of his bodily eyes, that of his soul, and that of his heart – that is to say of his particular connection with the divine – except by the nature of that which he perceives. It is this perception that the hermetic masters refer to when they say:

Stop, be sober. Look up with the eyes of the heart; and if all of you cannot, at least those who can.

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate VII.1

It is our secret connection with the divine that is referred to in the saying below of “looking with the heart”. This connection can not be established through physical hearing, speech, or sight, but only through the noetic heart.

Let those of you who can find the safe harbour bring your ship in, and seek one who will lead you by the hand to the gates of the knowledge in your heart. There is the bright light, clear of darkness, where no one gets drunk, but all are sober, looking with the heart to Him who wills to be seen. He cannot be heard, He cannot be uttered, nor seen by the eyes, but by Nous and the heart.

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate VII.2

The consideration of this secret link that connects us to the divine reality is necessary in every act, religious or not. When the follower of Hermes turns toward the sun to accomplish the daily prayer, he sees that he who turns is God and that that toward which he turns is also God. When he gives thanks, he sees that he who is thankful is God and that he who receives the thanks is also God.

When he prays, he sees that he who prays is God and that he to whom is prayed to is God also. When he hears the prayer, he sees that the speech is God and that the hearer is God. When he looks at anything whatever, he sees that he who looks is God and that which is looked at is God. For he sees God through God – but be careful not to believe that this is a matter of incarnation, union, infusion, or generation.

For the sleep of the body became the sobriety of the soul, the closing of the eyes became true vision, my silence became pregnant with the Supreme Good, and the utterance of the Word became the generation of riches.

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate I.30

The “closing of the eyes” mentioned above is the act of the prostration of the heart. Our heart can pray and when it does it will never arise from this prayer. But a heart that has not disengaged itself from the sphere of the body cannot become pregnant with the Supreme Good and cannot generate spiritual “riches”.

But as yet we are too weak in sight and are not strong enough to open the eyes of the mind and to behold the beauty of that Supreme Good, incorruptible and incomprehensible. When you have nothing to say about it, then you will see it; for the experience of it is the silence of God and the withdrawal of all the senses.

Corpus Hermeticum Tractate X.5

Wherever you are, in the accomplishment of works of worship or in the ordinary acts of life, contemplate Him – in what you eat, in what you drink, in him or her whom you love, always knowing that there is a secret link in your heart that connects you to Him, and by which you can truly see and behold the beauty of the Supreme Good. It is this remembrance that facilitates our return to life.

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