Two kinds of theoria

There are two kinds of theoria: one kind is received, whereas the other is apprehended. Namely, the first kind – that is, the theoria that is received – is considered superior to the second kind, because the first kind “is engendered in the heart by God Himself hypostatically, and also transmits this energy and grace outward to the body” (Met. Hierotheos. 2010. The science of spiritual medicine, p. 174). Meanwhile, the second kind – that is, the theoria that is apprehended – is considered inferior to the first kind, because the second kind “is produced externally, and by considering how well created things are directed, ordered and arranged” (ibid.).

The first kind of theoria, therefore, consists of the unadulterated theoria of God, whereas the second kind of theoria employs imagination. Moreover, according to Isaac the Syrian, our soul has two “eyes:” with one of the eyes, we comprehend what is hidden in nature (apprehended theoria), whereas with the other of the eyes, we behold the actual Glory of God, the Divine Light (unadulterated, received theoria).

According to Basil the Great, when unadulterated theoria occurs, the prophets see “images imprinted in their governing faculty (the nous) by the Spirit.” Gregory Palamas added that “The Holy Spirit settles upon the nous of the prophets and, using this governing faculty as material, announces the future to them, and through them to us.” In the Western world, these are called intellectual visions. Meanwhile, when the divine grace enters into the heart of the soul, “it creates a perception that enables someone to distinguish between grace and impassioned fantasy” (Met. Hierotheos. 2010. The science of spiritual medicine, p. 178).

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