Orthodox Christian Psychotherapy

Orthodox Christian psychotherapy is a term that refers to the cure of the whole human being, body and soul. With its methods man can cope successfully with his thoughts and thus solve his problems. It does not refer to specific cases of people suffering from psychological problems or neuroses but it rather refers to all people.

 History and Origin

 The term Orthodox Psychotherapy has gained considerable currency in the English-speaking Orthodox Christian world over the course of the past fifteen years. It was coined by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos, who introduced it in his works The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition (English translation, 1993) and Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers (English translation, 1994). (The former work is intended as a supplement to the latter.) The inspiration for these works came largely from the thought of Protopresbyter John Romanides who, though not employing the term “Orthodox psychotherapy,” did frequently speak of the Church as a spiritual hospital functioning to cure spiritual illness. However the concept of spiritual medicine was known to Eastern Orthodox literature from the beginning of its existence,[1] and is mentioned not only by Metropolitan Hierotheos but also by many contemporary elders such as Elder Porfyrios.[2]After the initial introduction of the term by Metropolitan Hierotheos, many more books were written on this subject.[3] It is even suggested that if Christianity were to appear for the first time in our era, it would have taken the form of a therapeutic institution … to reinstate and restore the function of man as a psychosomatic being. [4]

Orthodox Psychotherapy according to Eastern Orthodox Tradition

 According to Orthodox tradition after Adam’s Fall, Man became ill; his intellect (called “nous”, the `eye of the heart‘) was darkened and lost communion with God.

In Eastern Christianity consciousness as the center, heart or spirit of the person is often referred to as the Nous.[5][6] Therefore Orthodox Christianity is healing or therapeutic and works in each individual to overcome their passions (i.e. evil thoughts, pasts, addictions). Nous or personal consciousness can also be loosely translated as the whole experience of conscious reality both internal (dianoia and intuitive) and external (sensory perception). Nous as the eye of the whole person (called soul). It is the nous that is both logical and intuitive understanding. [7]Consciousness or the human spirit (noetic) as energy of the soul, therefore the nous is called the “eye of the heart or soul“.[8] [9]
Along with the darkening of the Nous, Death entered into the person’s being and caused many problems – anthropological, social, and even ecological.

In the tragedy of his fall man maintained the image of God within him but lost completely the likeness of Him, since his communion with God was disrupted. However the Incarnation of Christ and the work of the Church both aim at enabling the person to attain the likeness of God, that is, to re-establish communion with God. By adhering to Orthodox therapeutic treatment as conceived by the Holy Fathers of the Church, Man can cope successfully with his thoughts and thus solve his problems completely and comprehensively. All this therapeutic treatment or psychotherapy is closely connected with the neptic tradition of the Church and its hesychastic life, as it is preserved in the texts of the Philokalia, in the works of the Fathers of the Church and notably in the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. In Eastern Orthodox tradition it is considered that the neptic and hesychastic life is the same life that one sees in the life of the Prophets and the Apostles, as described precisely in the texts of the Holy Scriptures. Eastern Christianity seeks to restore mankind to his pre-separation from God or Paradise condition of full communion with the Creator and Trinity. Since in the East, it was man’s nous that was damaged by Adam’s sin and fall and it was this damaged consciousness that each human by birth now receives. Spiritual medicine is also mentioned in the Canon CII of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council.[10]

 

References

  1. “There is only one Physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord.”St. Ignatius of Antioch, The Apostolic Fathers, ed. by Jack N. Sparks, “Letter to the Ephesians,” par. 7 (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1978), 79-80.
  2. “In fact, the [Orthodox] Christian religion transforms people and heals them.” Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, trans. by John Raffin (Limni, Evia, GRE: Denise Harvey, 2005/Originally published in Greek by the Holy Convent of the Life-giving Spring: Chrysopigi, GRE, 2003), 94
  3. Some of them are: Mental Disorders & Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian EastA Guide to Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science, Theology, and Spiritual Practice Behind It and Its Clinical ApplicationsBreaking the Chains of Addiction: How to Use Ancient Eastern Orthodox Spirituality to Free Our Minds and Bodies From All Addictions and many more.
  4. Faith And Science In Orthodox Gnosiology and Methodology by Professor George Metallinos “It has been correctly stated that if Christianity were to appear for the first time in our era, it would have taken the form of a therapeutic institution, a hospital to reinstate and restore the function of man as a psychosomatic being. That is why Saint John Chrysostom calls the Church a spiritual hospital.”[1]
  5. [2]
  6. Orthodox Psychotherapy CHAPTER III by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos published by Birth of Theotokos Monastery, Greece (January 1, 2005) ISBN 978-960-7070-27-2 [3]
  7. Man has a malfunctioning or non-functioning noetic faculty in the heart, and it is the task especially of the clergy to apply the cure of unceasing memory of God, otherwise called unceasing prayer or illumination. “Those who have selfless love and are friends of God see God in light – divine light, while the selfish and impure see God the judge as fire – darkness”. [4]
  8. What is the Human Nous? by John Romanides [5]
  9. “Before embarking on this study, the reader is asked to absorb a few Greek terms for which there is no English word that would not be imprecise or misleading. Chief among these is NOUS, which refers to the `eye of the heart’ and is often translated as mind or intellect. Here we keep the Greek word NOUS throughout. The adjective related to it is NOETIC (noeros).” Orthodox Psychotherapy Section The Knowledge of God according to  Gregory Palamas by Metropolitan Metropolitan Hierotheos published by Birth of Theotokos Monastery, Greece (January 1, 2005) ISBN 978-960-7070-27-2 [6]
  10. “Wherefore he who professes the science of spiritual medicine ought first of all (…) and to see whether he tends to health or (on the contrary) provokes to himself disease by his own behaviour, and to look how he can care for his manner of life during the interval. And if he does not resist the physician, and if the ulcer of the soul is increased by the application of the imposed medicaments, then let him mete out mercy to him according as he is worthy of it.”

 

 

Source:  Cognopedia