On Noetic Nuance

I’m a word geek. I love how words sound and how interrelational they can be, replete with layers of meaning and internal reference. Noetic is an adjective that comes from the Greek noetikos, intellectual, which comes from noein, to think, which comes from nous, mind. So noetic means of, relating to, or based in the intellect.

Here’s further information taken from a HuffPo blog post about the word noetic and the burgeoning branch of science calling itself noetic science:

no•et•ic: From the Greek noēsis/ noētikos, meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, or subjective understanding. As defined by the philosopher William James in 1902, noetic refers to “states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority…”

sci•ence: Systems of acquiring knowledge that use observation, experimentation, and replication to describe and explain natural phenomena

no•et•ic sci•ences: A multidisciplinary field that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the full range of human experience.

In other words, there are several ways we can know the world around us. Science focuses on external observation and is grounded in objective evaluation, measurement, and experimentation. This is useful in increasing objectivity and reducing bias and inaccuracy as we interpret what we observe.

But another way of knowing is subjective — or internal — including gut feelings, intuition, hunches — the way you know you love your children, for example, or experiences you have that cannot be explained or proven, but feel absolutely real nonetheless. This way of knowing is what we call noetic.

From a purely materialist, mechanistic perspective, all subjective — noetic — experience arises from physical matter, and consciousness is simply a byproduct of brain and body processes. The noetic sciences focus on bringing a scientific lens to the study of subjective experience, and to ways that consciousness may influence the physical world.

Consciousness has been defined in many ways, but in this context, consciousness is awareness — how people perceive, interpret, and direct their attention and intention toward their environment. Collective consciousness is how a group (an institution, a society, a species) perceives, attends to, and makes meaning of the world. In its largest, most universal sense, consciousness has been referred to as a “milieu of potential,” the shared ground of being from which all experiences and phenomena arise and eventually return.

The essential hypothesis underlying the noetic sciences is, put simply, that consciousness matters.



On a personal level, because ‘noetic’ rhymes with ‘poetic’, it references the poetic for me when it look at it. And the inverse is somewhat true, as well. When I look at ‘poetic’, I see mind and consciousness intertwined with heart and spirit.

I find it curious that the dictionary definitions focus on the intellect but the word has its roots in the mind. When someone thinks of their mind, it’s not just brain. There’s extra there. Mind is a tricky word to define because it’s not just the thinky part.

Adding layers to the idea that thinky = brain, we can look and notice that there are neural clusters in both the heart and the gut. So what does that do to our idea of the intellect being based solely on the brain? Turns it on its head, is what it does. 😉

Noetikos is a full body experience. So is poetry. There are nuances and layers of meaning within the concept of ‘mind’, within the concept of ‘intellect’, within the lines that we write on the page, within the impromptu and practiced lines we speak to each other. Unconscious foreshadowing, personal and universal symbolism, it all follows us around and is woven through the fibres of our synaptic sequencing and the constellations of clusters we call friends and family, bodies of texts, bodies of knowledge, embodied spirit, embodiment of love and all the information that state of being holds. The subtleties of consciousness embedded within a physical framework.

Noetic Nuance.