Theosis, or deification, is the mysterious process whereby human beings become God, or at least participate as fully as is humanly possible in His divine nature. In the Christian tradition, this is made possible by the incarnation: “God became man that we might be gods”.
So how do we become God? First, we must empty ourselves of our ego. This is called kenosis, or “self-emptying” in Christian mysticism. Easier said than done of course, but with practice it becomes second nature. You must abandon all memories, thoughts and feeling in a “cloud of forgetting” and enter a “cloud of unknowing”. A Zen Buddhist will know what I mean. It is a state of mu-shin, or no-mind.
This state is one of stillness and quiet. However, it is not a complete nothingness, since nature abhors a vacuum. Sooner or later, something will enter your field of awareness, whether that be a sensation, a thought or a feeling. The difference is that it will manifest itself with a certain pristine purity, with a mysterious force of truth and beauty, a revelation or epiphany out of the infinite blue. This is called gnosis, which is a direct apprehension of pure truth.
What do we do with this gift from beyond? Whether an intellectual insight or a physical rush of energy, where do we put it? We all receive these transcendental gifts all the time, though we rarely notice or value them enough to prevent them from evaporating as fast as they materialise. Easy come, easy go. However, in the attentive state of kenosis and gnosis, we can consciously absorb and integrate it so that it doesn’t just disappear. We do this be adjusting our existing Umwelt, or worldview, to accommodate the new piece of information, either mentally or somatically. In other words we learn something.
This process of integration and synthesis is called pistis, usually translated as “faith”. We don’t perfectly model reality, but rather approximate it as far as possible by continuously refining our understanding. This proceeds along with a deepening faith that we are moving ever closer to the truth of Being itself. However, this is not a purely abstract or theoretical matter. It’s not just a map of the territory. It involves countless cycles of kenosis, gnosis and pistis, of “purification”, “perception” and “dalliance”, and transforms us little by little and piece by piece, as though we were alchemically changing the constitution of a lump of lead one atom at a time into gold.
Faith is the substance of what we are. It is the accumulated substance of our ultimate deification. When atheists asks for proof for the existence of God, what they don’t understand is that faith is itself the proof. As we grow in faith to the point where pistis, kenosis and gnosis are one act of pure Being, Consciousness and Bliss, we find that we no longer need signs or wonders outside ourselves as evidence for God, because we ourselves are gods, or better said, children of God, partakers of the divine fullness of reality in all its wonder and glory.
For more on this process and its possible basis in neuroscience, see chapter 5 of the second part of my book, The Confessions of a Psychedelic Christian, The Hermeneutics of Faith.