The spiritual Unconscious

  1. Lemma
  2. L’Inconscient spirituel
  3. French
  4. Delli, Eudoxie
  5. Orthodox critique of science - Scientific theories and disciplines > Psychology-Psychoanalysis - Key thinkers - Orthodox Anthropology - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Cult and spirituality - Concepts of knowledge and modes of reasoning > Mysticism and Orthodox spiritual experience - Orthodox theological tradition and practice
  6. 30-1-2017
  7. Larchet, Jean-Claude [Author]. The spiritual Unconscious
  8. The spiritual Unconscious - Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2005.
  9. Christian Psychotherapy - salvation as healing - mental/psychic - spiritual - Freud - Jung, Carl - Maximus the Confessor - Evagrius Ponticus - St John Climacus - asceticism
    1. <p>Larchet, J.-C. (2005). <em>L’Inconscient spirituel.</em> Paris: Editions du Cerf.</p>
    1. This book, which extends Jean-Claude Larchet's previous research, emphasizes the dependence of the psychic life on the spiritual life and shows how certain mental disorders depend on spiritual ills and can therefore be treated and cured by way of a spiritual therapy. It is a well-documented book that can fuel intellectual reflection and spiritual quest

      According to the author, behind every form of psychotherapy there is an implicit anthropology, a specific understanding of man, and often modern “psychotherapies” are constructed outside Christianity and they are different precisely in terms of their anthropology. In this perspective, Psychoanalysis is incompatible with Christianity. Christian anthropology insists on man’s freedom, on his capacity for self-determination in cooperation with God’s Grace in order to evolve.

      By contrast, in the framework of Freud’s atheist and materialistic intellectual construction Man is already conditioned – in terms of his psychic structure, his psychological life – from the first years of his life and therefore is subject to drives that have been instilled in his subconscious, so that he is in a sense confined and unable to free himself on his own. Jung has a vision, slightly different from Freud’s, more spiritual, but without being a Christian spirituality. At the end of a close examination of Jungian anthropology and its extensions in the therapeutic and spiritual spheres, Jean-Claude Larchet writes: "The Jungian idea that man meets God and fulfills himself by becoming aware of the Self (individuation) is an illusion that risks definitively removing man from the true God, true spiritual health, and true self-fulfillment”. He adds that Jungian psychotherapy is nowadays often closely linked to various mystic or esoteric movements in connection with para-religious beliefs that are alien to Christianity, deprived of any solid scientific foundation.

      J.-C. Larchet proposes a conceptual distinction between two elements in the human soul; the mental and the spiritual. For this purpose, he introduces the idea of a twofold Unconscious: the impulsive one  (called “inconscient déifuge”) and the spiritual (called “inconscient théophile”). The later includes the natural desire of God, Christ and divine Grace, while the former is related to passions, pulsions etc. turning Man away from God. “Psychotherapies” can provide some relief only in the order of mental illnesses. But there is no “psychotherapy” that can truly heal the soul in its spiritual dimension.

      Focusing mainly on the patristic literature, J.-C. Larchet highlights the existence in Man of the second Unconscious, of spiritual character, and specifies its nature and function in relation to pathology and therapeutics. Putting forward the problem of the respective place and role of spiritual therapeutics and psychotherapy, it proposes the development of a therapy in the case of mental-psychological illness, in full respect of Christian anthropology and taking advantage of the rich experience in the care of souls acquired over the centuries by the Christian East.

      J.-C. Larchet argues that within the patristic and ascetic heritage of the Orthodox Church, somewhat forgotten, there is a considerable body of teachings that can be used in order to understand the disorders of the human psyche, tend to them and heal them, contrary to the analyses suggested by modern psychotherapies. Texts as “The Ladder” by St John Climacus, or the books of Evagrius Ponticus, provide us with elegant, subtle and exceedingly profound analysis of the operations and deviations of the human psyche entirely consistent with Christian anthropology.

      The author shares in several aspects the notion of “Orthodox psychotherapy” which has gained considerable currency in the English-speaking Orthodox world over the past two decades. The inspiration for these works came largely from the thought of Protopresbyter John Romanides who did frequently speak of the Church as a spiritual hospital functioning to cure spiritual illness. Nevertheless, the idea of  an “Orthodox psychotherapy” is rather problematic and could create a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding given that it is not considered as a technique or a method and it does not imply a clinical process in the way secular Psychotherapy does. Larchet’s approach, centred in spirituality, seems  to overlook the role of human conditions and relations which constitutively shape the structure of Subject, its understanding of God as well as the quality of its spiritual experience.