Yet as the Secret Book envisages it, epinoia (and related modes of awareness) remains an ambiguous, limited – but indispensable – gift. When John asks whether everyone receives the luminous epinoia, the saviour answers yes – “The power will descend upon every person, for without it, no one can stand” – and adds that epinoia strengthens those who love her by enabling them to discriminate between good and evil, so that moral understanding and ethical power are inseparable from spiritual understanding : “When the spirit of life increases, and the power comes and strengthens the soul, no one can any longer deceive it with works of evil.”
The Author of the Secret Book stresses that the insights this spiritual intuition conveys are neither complete nor certain; instead, epinoia conveys hints and glimpses, images and stories, that imperfectly point beyond themselves toward what we cannot now fully understand. Thus the author knows that very stories – those told in the Secret Book – are to be taken neither literally nor too seriously; for these too are merely glimpses that, as Paul says, we now know only “in a mirror, darkly”. Yet, however incomplete, these glimpses suffice to reveal the presence of the divine, for the Secret Book says that, apart from spiritual intuition, “people grow old without joy…and die…without knowing God.”
– Elaine Pagels. 2003. Beyond Belief. Random House.