Orthodox Psychotherapy. The Science of the Fathers

  1. Lemma
  2. Orthodox Psychotherapy. The Science of the Fathers
  3. English
  4. Delli, Eudoxie
  5. Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Patristic studies - Orthodox Anthropology - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Cult and spirituality - Scientific theories and disciplines > Psychology-Psychoanalysis - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Biblical interpretation - Concepts of knowledge and modes of reasoning
  6. 15-5-2017
  7. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St Vlassios [Author]. Orthodox Psychotherapy. The Science of the Fathers
  8. Orthodox Psychotherapy. The Science of the Fathers : Orthodox Psychotherapy. The Science of the Fathers - Livadeia, Greece: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery Press, 2005.
  9. Patristic theology - salvation as healing - priesthood - reasoning (logismos) - dispassion (apatheia) - noetic stillness (Hesychia) - Hesychasm - St John Climacus
    1. <p>Vlachos (Metropolitan of Nafpaktos), H. (2005).<em> Orthodox Psychotherapy.The Science of the Fathers</em>. Livadeia: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery Press.</p>
    1. Written by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos,  with the idiosyncratic title ‘’Orthodox psychotherapy’’, the present book sets out the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church and Holy Scripture on healing the soul. Since the time of its first publication, this book has provoked both interest and controversy due to the rather confusing analogy with psychiatric Knowledge and practice.

      At the first chapter of the book entitled “Orthodoxy as a Therapeutic Science”, the author claims that Orthodox theology is above all an authentic spiritual therapeutic method and treatment for the soul which leads to truth and union with God. The Church does not exist in order to serve people’s social needs, but to guide them to the healing of their souls. There is an account of the method for achieving purity of heart and it is noted that no cure is possible without God’s mercy and man’s effort.

      In the second chapter, “The Orthodox Therapist”, the author offers an analysis of the prerequisites for priest-therapists and their basic qualities. The three degrees of priesthood (deacon, priest, bishop) are very closely connected with the three basic degrees of the spiritual life (purification, illumination and deification). Special emphasis is given to the fact that a fundamental condition for the soul’s healing is the existence of a physician who can heal, in other words, a spiritual father. The difference between remission of sins and the cure of the soul is also underlined. There is a discussion of the value of spiritual priesthood and what it can offer to human society.

      In the third chapter, entitled ‘’Orthodox Psychotherapy’’, the author explains what the Fathers of the Church mean by the terms “Soul”,“Intellect'' (nous), “Heart” and ‘’Intelligence’’ (reason), and what the relationship and difference is between them. The sickness and dying of the Soul, the darkening of the Intellect, and the sickness and dying of the Heart are looked at in detail, and it is established that the Intellect is what defines man’s spiritual condition, and that it is identified with the Soul and the Heart.

      There is an examination of the ways in which the healing of the Intellect is achieved, then the results of the cure are set out. The Church with its teaching, worship, ascetic practice and sacraments liberates the Intellect and makes it a temple of the Holy Spirit. According to the Metropolitan Hierotheos, it is essential to realise that man’s therapy consists in discovering the energy of the Intellect and distinguishing it from the energy of reason, because the work of reason is different from that of Intellect. The Holy Fathers speak of the unifying power of the purified Intellect, in other words, the union of Intellect and Heart which is accomplished by the return of the former into the latter, and they emphasise that, when someone discovers his Heart, he literally becomes a person. The distinction between the bodily and spiritual Heart is discussed. There is an account of the interpretation given by the Fathers of the terms “warmth”, “contrition of heart”, “pain in the heart” and “leap of the heart”, and of the value of tears in the spiritual life.

      Particular attention is given to thoughts and reasoning (logismoi). The sin starts with thoughts and our spiritual life or spiritual death depends on the way we deal with them. There is an analysis on the nature and origins of them; the consequences of prolonged thoughts, and how a person can be cured of evil and demonic thoughts which affect seriously and destabilize man’s entire spiritual organism. Intense resistance, spiritual vigilance and constant repentance are required to suppress the tyranny of reasoning on human self. It is mainly by prayer, but also by obedience to an Orthodox spiritual father, that a person is released from reasoning.

      The fourth chapter, entitled “Orthodox Pathology” presents the teaching of the Holy Fathers about the passions, which are considered an unnatural life, and are caused by sins which lurk within us for a long time. It describes the causes and growth of passions. There is an account of the teaching of St John Climacus concerning the gradual emergence of a thought before it becomes a passion. Αfterwards, the author exposes the consequences of passions leading to the destruction of the whole existence since they deaden the Intellect and defile the Soul. It is also emphasised how indispensable repentance is for healing the passions, in conjunction with Holy confession, vigilance, prayer and keeping the commandments of God. First of all, self-knowledge with regard to our passions is essential, because ignorance of our illness makes us eternally incurable. At the end of this chapter there is a definition of serenity or dispassion (apatheia). Dispassion is precious for spiritual life, because it is a sign of Soul’s cure. The author refers to the different stages of dispassion, and to those elements which distinguish true dispassion from false.

      The fifth chapter concerns the noetic stillness (hesychia) as method of healing. The author reveals the value of hesychia inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. Hesychia is absolutely essential for the purification of the soul from the passions and by means of it, a person can receive the uncreated grace of God in his heart. The author stresses that Orthodox theology should be imbued with the Hesychastic method in order to be really Orthodox and not academic.

      The knowledge of God which leads to man’s salvation is the subject of the last chapter of the book, entitled “Orthodox Epistemology”. The necessary condition for the knowledge of God is Soul’s purification and healing. Deification, related to the vision of the uncreated Light in the purified heart, is the purpose of spiritual life and the accomplishment of the healing process.

      The author understands Church as a spiritual "hospital" for souls, recalling to our mind John Romanides’s theology of experience and his approach to Orthodox Ecclesiology. The Christian makes use of Church’s therapeutic method and attains to communion and union with God, through the three stages of the spiritual life, namely, purification, illumination and deification. According to the Metropolitan Hierotheos, only the Orthodox tradition is able to heal and liberate man from the death of the soul, and for that reason it is of great importance for our time.