In the multiplicity of beings there is diversity, dissimilarity and difference.
But in God, who is in an absolute sense one and alone, there is only identity, simplicity and similarity.
It is therefore not safe to devote oneself to the contemplation of God before one has advanced beyond the multiplicity of beings.
Moses showed this when he pitched the tent of his mind outside the camp (cf. Exod. 33:7) and then conversed with God.
For it is dangerous to attempt to utter the inexpressible by means of the spoken word, for the spoken word involves duality or more than duality.
The surest way is to contemplate pure being silently in the soul alone, because pure being is established in undivided unity and not among the multiplicity of things.
The high priest, who was commanded to go into the holy of holies within the veil only once every year (cf. Lev. 16; Heb. 9:7), shows us that only he who has passed through what is immaterial and holy and has entered the holy of holies – that is, who has transcended the whole natural world of sensible and intelligible realities, and is free from all that is specific to creatures and whose mind is unclad and naked – is able to attain the vision of God.
When Moses pitches his tent outside the camp (cf. Exod. 33:7) – that is, when he establishes his will and mind outside the world of visible things – he begins to worship God.
Then, entering into the darkness (cf. Exod. 20:21) – that is, into the formless and immaterial realm of spiritual knowledge – he there celebrates the most sacred rites.
The darkness is that formless, immaterial and bodiless state which embraces the knowledge of the prototypes of all created things.
He who like another Moses enters into it, although mortal by nature, understands things that are immortal.
Through this knowledge he depicts in himself the beauty of divine excellence, as if painting a picture which is a faithful copy of archetypal beauty.
Then he comes down from the mountain and offers himself as an example to those who wish to imitate that excellence. In this way he manifests the love and generosity of the grace he has received.
Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God written for Thalassios, First Century, 83-85, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 132-133.
**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Maximus and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).