Visions of the Suprarational: A study of the concept of Nous in the Works of Plato and St. Augustine of Hippo

My recently completed master’s thesis, which one could say is the culmination of more than ten years of research into the nature of Platonism and Christianity, mysticism and religion, as well as of a very long personal, spiritual journey, is now available for download as an e-book/PDF-file.

This is the longest and most significant literary work I have published since the completion of my first collection of poems, On the Mystical Road of Longing (my second book), back in 2008.

I have called it A Study of the Concept of Nous, since this is an academic paper, and since the nature of Nous or «Intellect» (as it is often translated) is its primary focus, but it could also have been styled The Platonic Heritage of Traditional Christianity, or Why Christians Should Acknowledge That They Are Platonists, or Why We Need To Recover A Direct Connection To The Divine. For in this study, I describe some rather startling discoveries, such as the existence of a Platonic theology resembling the theology hinted at by Christ himself, in his sayings in the Gospels, and later expressed in the Nicene Creed. When one calls to mind that Plato lived some 400 years before the emergence of Christianity, and some 700 years before the council was convened at Nicea, this cannot but be viewed as staggering.

Another discovery I elaborate on is the distinction which may be made, on the basis of Plato’s own words, between the Good (Itself) and the Idea of the Good (or the «Form» of the Good, as it is sometimes called), and that this distinction could be seen as referring to the same metaphysical realities (or divine entities) as those Christianity calls Father and Son, or Father and Eternal Word. In fact, Plato himself uses the metaphors of Father and Child (or Offspring), and it seems highly probable that St. Augustine of Hippo was aware of this when he spoke of the Idea of Face of God, as I show the chapter on St. Augustine.

This distinction is closely related to yet another realization I have arrived at, namely that the two different «roads» to or «modes of apprehending» the Supreme God, the «Via Positiva» and «Via Negativa», usually seen as originating with late Platonism (so-called «Neoplatonism») or early medieval Christianity (St. Denis or «Pseudo-Dionysius») are in fact present in the works of Plato himself.

The Acropolis in Athens. Painting by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1883. This image expresses the sense of ancient and departed glory, now lost, which many feel when encountering the literature of the Classical World, but also the intimation of hope provided by early morning light.

I also touch on the multiple levels of meaning built into the Republic, which is arguably Plato’s most important dialogue, and why this means that the Republic, whose main title in Greek is Politeia, should actually be called Government, since this term preserves the several levels of meaning alluded to by the original one.

But the most important part of my thesis has to do with Nous (or Noos), and is about the recovery, in both a linguistic, educational and psychological sense, of a complete anthropology, as one might call it, meaning a view of the human being (the individual Soul) which takes into account and aims to reawaken the ability to connect with the Above, i.e. with the metaphysical realities beyond this world of nature and of matter, and, ultimately, with the Supreme Deity, the source of Wisdom and Objective Knowledge.

I find it difficult to believe that I am almost alone, at least in the present day and age, in having seen the astonishing aspects of Platonism (and the momentous implications) I have here mentioned or alluded to, but it does indeed look that way to me at present. One possible way to interpret the near absence of academic works dealing with these subjects is avoidance, meaning that a number of people have found what I have found, but that almost all of them have chosen not to commit their discoveries to writing. Another possibility is that the vast majority of readers of Plato and St. Augustine are so mentally dominated by the zeitgeist (which is that of Materialism and Reductionism, Nominalism and Anti-Essentialism), and by certain schools of interpretation, that they are quite incapable of seeing what the ancient texts actually state and imply. Both are probably contributing to the strange status quo.

One of the remarkable stained glass windows or «rose windows» of Notre-Dame Cathedral. These could be seen as visual representations of the metaphysics and theology of both the Platonic and the contemplative Christian tradition.

I should mention, however, that I am greatly indebted to a modern-day Platonist who, back in the 1990s, gave and published a long series of lectures on Platonic philosophy, namely Dr. Pierre Grimes – as I have in the introduction to my thesis. That long series of absolutely fantastic lectures contributed significantly to the first kindling in me of an interest in the Platonic worldview, back in 2009 and 2010. I did not fully understand everything that was said, but many of the surprising messages and the fascinating perspectives remained with me, and when I began the systematic research for my master’s thesis, in September 2019, I was able to draw on and take advantage of what I had learned around a decade earlier.

Well, without further ado, as they say, I present to you my thesis, and invite you to download it and read it, free of charge. Please see link below.

P.S.: I welcome polite and Truth-oriented discussion, so if you have questions or comments you believe to be well-founded, or you are a researcher with a similar or different perspective, I would love to hear from you.

This paper may also be viewed on and downloaded from Academia. edu

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