ON “Gabriel’s Message”, you will frequently meet the term “the eye of the heart”.
This is a translation of the untranslatable Greek word ὁ νοῦς (nous, with its related adjectives νοερός, νοητός).
In the words of Esther Williams, translator of the works of Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos,
BEFORE embarking on this study, the reader is asked to absorb a few Greek terms for which there is no English word that would not be imprecise or misleading. Chief among these is NOUS, which refers to the ‘eye of the heart’ and is often translated as mind or intellect. Here we keep the Greek word NOUS throughout. The adjective related to it is NOETIC (noeros).
Orthodox Psychotherapy, Translator’s note.
In the glossary at the close of “Monastic Wisdom”, a collection of letters by Elder Joseph the Heychast, the editor explains:
THE Church Fathers employ the term “nous” with several meanings.
They mainly refer to the nous as the soul (the “spiritual nature” of a man – St. Isaac the Syrian) and the heart (or “the essence of the soul” – vid. Philokalia vol. II, p. 109, 73).
More specifically, it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St. Diadochos §§ 79, 88).
However, they also refer to it as the “eye of the soul” (The Orthodox Faith, St. John of Damascus, FC vol. 37, p. 236) or “the organ of theoria” (Makarian Homilies) which “is engaged in pure prayer” (St. Isaac the Syrian).
When referring to the energy of the nous, they call it “a power of the soul” (On the Holy Spirit, St. Gregory Palamas, 2, 9) “consisting of thoughts and conceptual images” (On the Hesychasts, St. Gregory Palamas, p. 410, 3).
However, it is more commonly known as the energy of the soul, whereas the heart is known as the essence of the soul.
On this blog, “eye of the heart” has been used, as being the most evocative phrase.
The “nous” is a word from the philosophy of Plato (?428-?347 BC), indicating the capacity of human beings to descry the invisible, immaterial realities lying behind the shadow-world which we see.
As such, it is quite different from, and far superior to, the human mind, full of earthly images and endless chatter. It is more than rationality, more than intellect, more than thought. It is far more than the bodily sight of this world. It is nothing less than that with which we will one day see God as he is.
BELOVED, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2)