by Rev. Fr. Vasileios Thermos, M.D., Ph.D.
The desirable encounter and dialogue between Orthodox Theology and the psychological sciences require a crossing and mutual understanding of their vocabularies which have been isolated for centuries.
This article attempts to correlate the traditional theological terminology of “soul” and “spirit” with what modern psychotherapies call “psyche”, “mental”, “disorder”, and “therapy”. For this purpose, it reviews biblical and patristic sources about the high human energies (intellect, emotion, will etc.) which prove to be products of our common nature, namely of the inseparable complex “soulbody”. Besides, it proceeds to make distinctions between soul and spirit, and to express them in terms of contemporary psychophysiology. Furthermore, it indicates that mental disorders make a distortion of human energies which, because of various etiological factors, become autonomous from the desired unity. At the end, it tries to legitimize the psychological sciences by claiming that modifications of disturbed human psychosomatic energies are not exclusively under the control of the hypostasis as some conservative Christians suggest in order to keep the Church away from psychology and psychiatry. Inner freedom is highlighted as a common aim of spiritual guidance and psychotherapy.
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Rev. Fr. Vasileios Thermos, M.D., Ph.D. is a priest of the Church of Greece. Together with his priestly ministry in Athens, he is a practicing psychiatrist, and is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Psychology at the University Ecclesiastical Academy in Athens. The author of many books and articles, he has offers spiritually provocative and clinically informed programs and retreats in Greece, the United States, Albania, and Cyprus. His insights into the fields of theology and psychology are combined with a strong undercurrent in psychoanalytic thought