CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION
Practical theology is "the empirically oriented theological theory of the mediation of the Christian faith in the praxis of modern society" (Heitink, 1999, p. 6). Praxis is action, and Heitink differentiates 2 praxes, (a) the praxis that is the mediation of the Christian faith, and (b) the praxis that is the context in which the mediation of the Christian faith is realized. Although these 2 praxes are differentiated, they remain indivisible. They are correlated and dialogical, and require that practical theology be hermeneutical, empirical, and strategic. Practical theology is therefore a theory of communicative action. In turn, this communicative action involves (a) facts, (b) norms, and (c) affect, to which correspond validity claims in the spheres of (a) theoretical discourse, (b) practical discourse, and (c) affective-expressive discourse.
Heitink (1999) also differentiates between the 3 domains in which practical theology functions (a) humanity, (b) the Church, and (c) society. He proffers that wo/man was created to (a) encounter God and (b) respond to God's love. He insists that wo/man is capable of responding, and is therefore endowed with a high degree of responsibility. Consequently, Heitink proposes a normative ecclesiology of koinonia, i.e., according to Heitink, partnership, in which the Church is engaged in the world.
This study on the impact of Orthodox neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions on self-reported depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety responds to Heitink's (1999) ecclesiology of engagement. It bridges the divide between praxes. It is the meeting of theology and the world, and moreover of spirituality and secular psychotherapy, as they impact all those in need of inner healing from spiritual, behavioral, and / or psychological disorders and pathologies.
1.1 Orthodox Psychotherapy
In reaction to the ever-increasing compartmentalization and fragmentation of Western civilization, interest abounds regarding methods of holistic healing. Contemporary worldviews, which are entrenched in individualism and which are mysticalogically pathological, in that they deny, or fail to perceive the mystical connection or relationship between the spiritual and / or psychic and the physical world (including events, actions, or behavior), separate the individual from both community and ontic reality (Vlachos, 1993). This spawns an alienating and distressing social order, bereft of communal character, which offers little opportunity for intercommunion and / or connectivity, resulting in general dissociation, i.e., the internal / mental process that severs the connection between an individual's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, and / or sense of identity and responsibility, and erodes the possibilities for attaining full personhood and true self-consciousness in terms of spiritual, psychological, emotional, and social achievement (Chrysostomos, 2007). The results are devastating and lead to cognitive dissonance and / or distortions, including: (a) selective abstraction, i.e., the focus on one event or situation at the exclusion of all others; (b) arbitrary inference, i.e., drawing conclusions that are not supported by facts; (c) personalization, i.e., attributing personal intent to an event and / or situation; (d) polarization, i.e., perceiving and / or interpreting events or situations in 'all' or 'nothing' terms; (e) generalization, i.e., the tendency to see things in 'always' or 'never' categories; (f) demanding expectations, i.e., personal opinions or preferences that are transformed into rules that must be obeyed; (g) catastrophizing, i.e., the perception that something is utterly terrible or awful; and (h) emotional reasoning, i.e., the perception that feelings are facts. These distortions are often accompanied by reduced self-capacities, including (a) characterologic difficulties associated with identity, emotional, and attachment / relational schemata, etc. and (b) inadequately developed affect and / or tolerance regulation skills. In turn, these are a fertile breeding ground for depression and anxiety. Ultimately, humanity is sick and in desperate need of a Divine remedy (Vlahos, 1997). However, this sickness is not solely neurological or psychological, but ontological, (i.e., it touches the very being), and eschatological, (i.e., it points to the genuine need to move beyond 'ordinary' reality to epistemic reality through energetic union with the Divine).
In the face of the reality of this ontological and eschatological 'now', and using the terms of psychological normality, homeostasis, and / or adaptive behavior (Chrysostomos, 2007), Orthodox Psychotherapy (Vlahos, 1997) proposes a balance, in which there is a synergy between the Divine and the earthly, i.e., between the discursive intellect and the heart, as a direct result of an interactive cooperation between the human mind and the human transcendent apperceptional power or spiritual faculty referred to as the nous. This is over and above the normal, homeostatic, and / or adaptive condition that emerges from the therapeutic resolution of tension between destructive and constructive elements, (i.e., between pathology and health, and / or maladaptive or adaptive aspects of the psyche, or soul), the personality, and the restoration of emotional, psychological, and psychic equilibrium (Chrysostomos, 2007). Orthodox Psychotherapy is therefore the holistic method established in the apophthegms, or maxims, of the Holy Fathers, i.e., Orthodox saints and teachers of the first millennium, for the (a) healing of the psyche, of spiritual, behavioral, and / or psychological disorders and pathologies; (b) restoration of spiritual and mental health; and (c) achievement of true 'self-consciousness' and full personhood through contemplative prayer and neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions (Vlachos, 1997).
Orthodox Psychotherapy is phenomenological in nature, i.e., it is based upon existential experience. Through repentance and purification, it leads to theoria, or the vision of the uncreated Light that shines forth from the Lord Jesus Christ (Chrysostomos, 2007; Gillet, 1987; Nahum, 2002). This 'Tabor Light' is both the sign and result of theosis, i.e., the process of becoming one with God (Bray, 1988; Nahum, 2005), or the working out of salvation with fear and trembling [see Philippians 2:12]. It is the path to, (and indeed the process of), being conformed and transformed to the likeness of the Heavenly Father (Grube, 2001; Maloney, 2003; Ware, 1973; Whelton, 1999).
Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos (1997) contends that this process, if viewed in the modern era, would be considered a school of psychotherapy. The Orthodox Church sees itself as a hospice for sick souls. The physicians of the psyche, or spiritual fathers, diagnose its sicknesses and prescribe the therapy for the healing and elimination, or diminishment, of spiritual, behavioral, and psychological disorders and pathologies (DiLeo, 2007). Given the reportedly high incidence of depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety in society today (Seligman, 1998), this study scientifically examined and documented whether treatment of mental illness, and moreover depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety, can be effectuated through contemplative prayer and neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions.
A growing body of scientific research suggests a strong and consistent positive relationship between religion, spirituality, and mental health (Chrysostomos, 2007). The last two decades have especially stood at the interface of psychology and spiritual experience (DiLeo, 2007; Richards & Bergin, 1997). Support has grown for a more holistic approach in understanding mental health and indeed for treating mental illness. This has inspired and encouraged researchers to explore spirituality as one of the dimensions of the cognitive, emotional, behavioral, interpersonal and psychological facets that make-up the individual (McCullough, Larson, & Worthington, 1998; Richards & Bergin, 2000). Although correlations between spirituality and mental health have been recognized in many ancient and modern cultures throughout the world, the historical schism between religion and science in the West, has not fostered a favorable atmosphere for the examination, development, and / or proposal of multidisciplinary integration paradigms in psychology and spirituality, or of paradigms that include integration competencies in the areas of diagnosis and treatment of mental illness (Chrysostomos, 2007).
The scientific exploration and study of the relationship between expressions of spirituality and mental health outcomes, and more specifically, the impact of neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions prescribed in the hesychastic tradition of the Orthodox Church on self-reported depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety, may assist in demystifying the metapsychological discourse that envelops the discussion on the relationship between religion, spirituality, and mental health. This, in turn, may lead the way to the identification and / or development of a broader integrated paradigm, based upon empirically supported treatments and interventions, resulting in a wider recognition and acceptance of an ancient alternative and compliment to conventional psychotherapy.
1.3 Framework and Literature Review
There is growing evidence that Western psychotherapists may have significantly underestimated the psychologies and therapies of other cultures (Chrysostomos, 2007; Walsh, 2000). In Current Psychotherapies, Corsini and Wedding (2000), report that there are over 400 different existing systems of psychotherapy. These systems were developed primarily in modern Western societies and often have limited application among people from diverse ethnic, cultural, and / or religious worldviews or backgrounds (Sue & Sue, 2003).
Notwithstanding, in recent decades, many mental health professionals have begun to look to other cultures to enhance their understanding of mental health treatment. For example, many therapists are now interested in, and practice, Asian therapies (Sue & Sue, 2003), and indeed, preliminary experimental studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these therapies. The theoretical benefits of Asian therapies include new perspectives on human nature, health, potential, and pathology. Asian therapies also recognize that capacities, such as insight, concentration, and compassion can be developed to remarkable degrees, and that this development can proceed beyond conventional levels. On the practical side, Asian therapies are effective, simple, inexpensive, and often pleasurable. They can reduce stress, ameliorate multiple psychological and psychosomatic disorders, offer profound insights into the mind, accelerate mental and emotional development, and foster latent capacities and potentials. Studying Asian and other psychotherapeutic systems rooted in cultural diversity, has opened up a window of opportunity for Western psychotherapists into alternative perspectives on diagnosis and treatment, and also has the healthy side-effect of unveiling and undermining ethnocentrism in therapy (Chrysostomos, 2007; Richards & Bergin, 2000; Sue & Sue, 2003; Walsh, 2000).
Hergenhahn (2005), in An Introduction to the History of Psychology, states that psychology has been described as a preparadigmic discipline because it does not have one widely accepted archetype or model but instead consists of several competing schools or camps that coexist concomitantly. Hergenhahn meticulously traces the history of psychology from the early Greek philosophers through contemporary psychological systems. However, there is no reference to Byzantine or Christian Orthodox theology, philosophy, or Orthodox Psychotherapy. The Byzantine East is completely ignored, as are the contributions that Orthodox Psychotherapy could afford to the therapeutic sciences via patristic pastoral theology (Chrysostomos, 2007). Archbishop Chrysostomos (1994), in Themes in Orthodox Patristic Psychology, Vol. 1, proffers that Orthodox Psychotherapy, is more complex and expansive than the psychological systems of contemporary Western social scientists, and that it therefore challenges the paradigms of the modern intellect (Chrysostomos, 2007). The Orthodox perception related to the recurring failure to include and / or acknowledge Orthodoxy or Orthodox Psychotherapy in Western 'histories' is that these omissions are not completely coincidental (Chrysostomos, 2007; Kalomiros, 1978).
Orthodox Psychotherapy refers to the healing of the total person (Vlachos, 1993). In contrast to Western psychological systems, which are called primarily, (with the recent exception of Seligman's Positive Psychology), to cure pathological anomalies (Seligman, 1998), the neptic and practical theology of the Orthodox Church addresses the causes that engender these pathologies (Nahum, 2001). Pathologies have an ontological origin and Orthodoxy treats these existentially (Chrysostomos, 2007).
Orthodox Psychotherapy transcends Western psychological therapies because it is derived from the living experience of the Divine Energies, i.e., of God, who in His essence is totally beyond human ken and knowledge. It involves a transcendent a priori avowal of all that 'is' and that which 'is not' (Chrysostomos, 2007). It is content beyond content, reality beyond existence or non-existence, ontology beyond ontology, and cognition beyond cognition (Chrysostomos, 2007). Consequently, Orthodox Psychotherapy does not explicitly refer to clinical practice and to specific cases of pathology, but rather to the general state of humanity after the fall, in which the human nous was darkened, and death and corruption entered the world (Chrysostomos, 2007; Vlachos, 1997). Through this darkening, wo/man, by his / her own free will, violates his / her true nature to the point that s/he is alienated from hope, and falls into immortal death, indissoluble dissolution, and endless end of pathologies, including depression and anxiety, which are in reality existential maladies (Chrysostomos, 2007). S/he sinks into an ontological and eschatological nadir in the perversion of his / her immortality, the disruption of his / her union with God, and Divine potential (Chrysostomos, 2007; Vlachos, 1997). Through neptic-therapeutic treatment, wo/man is able to deal successfully with the darkened nous and to solve all existential problems completely and comprehensively (Romanides, 2004).
Orthodox Psychotherapy is therefore primarily directed to solving problems of ontological origin (Chrysostomos, 2007). However, having stated this, the vast numbers of people that have received inner healing throughout the centuries through the practice of this therapeutic science would suggest that there are indeed, diagnostic and clinical, as well as existential, applications. This proposition, of course, contravenes both scientific and religious trends in the West. Although neptic theology previously existed in Western Christendom, it was supplanted by Scholasticism, which erroneously identified nous with logiki, existential knowledge with intellectual knowledge, and theology with metaphysics. This ultimately created the chasm between science and religion in the West (Chrysostomos, Auxentios & Akakios, 1986).
However, the neptic-psychotherapeutic method of the Orthodox Church, while spiritual, is also indeed scientific, i.e., it is based on two thousand years of observable, empirical, and measurable evidence. All those who have been transformed are the evidence that the Orthodox Church intervenes in society in a salvific way, and it is with this purpose that the Orthodox Church serves mankind through her neptic and hesychastic theological tradition (Vlachos, 1997).
Orthodox Psychotherapy is intrinsically bound to the neptic tradition of the Orthodox Church and the hesychastic life (Romanides, 2004; Vlachos, 1997). The literature review, the backdrop of this study, will provide a synopsis of the following:
the foundational presuppositions of Orthodox Psychotherapeutic theory and practice; the etiology of spiritual, behavioral, and psychological disorders and pathologies, as identified in the neptic tradition of the Holy Fathers; (c) the 'cycle of temptation'; (d) neptic-psychotherapeutic treatment; and (e) depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety from the perspectives of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV-TR) and the Holy Fathers.
1.4 Research Problem and Hypotheses
This study examined and measured the intensity of depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety, before and after a twelve-week treatment plan using neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions. The relationship between the following variables was examined during the research. The independent variable in this study is the intensity of depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety among the study's participants. The dependent variable in this study is the twelve-week treatment plan with neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions.
The formulation of the hypotheses is based upon the following definition of the conditions of the experiment:
The null hypothesis, i.e., that there is no statistically significant relationship between neptic-psychotherapeutic treatment and the intensity of self-reported depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety.
The non-directional hypothesis, i.e., that there is a statistically significant relationship between neptic-psychotherapeutic treatment and the intensity of self-reported depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety.
In order to explore this relationship, it was necessary to measure the levels of depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety in the study's participants before neptic-psychotherapeutic treatment and to compare those findings with the levels of depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety after neptic-psychotherapeutic intervention.
1.5 Thesis Statement
In this study, it was theorized that the techniques, i.e., fasting, prayer, physical postures, etc., used in the neptic-psychotherapeutic method of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church would reduce the intensity of self-reported depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety among the participants of the study, regardless of their religious affiliation, thereby signifying the universal and intrinsic efficacy of those techniques. However, it was also theorized that optimal benefits from these techniques could not be obtained outside of the life of the Orthodox Church and her Holy Mysteries, and therefore it was expected, that the findings would show that, while all who participated in the neptic-psychotherapeutic treatment plan would benefit from the same to some degree, only those Orthodox Christians, who were actively in the process of theosis, would obtain the most favorable of benefits from participation in the twelve-week treatment program. The Research Problem and Hypotheses [see section 1.4] and Research Objectives [see section 1.6] were developed in response to this thesis statement.
1.6 Aims of Research
The purpose of this study was to (a) determine the impact of neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions on the intensity of the sample population's depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety; (b) present a concrete treatment methodology for spiritual, behavioral, and / or psychological disorders and pathologies, especially depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety that includes neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions; and (c) present proposals for the practical application of neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions at the clinical level.
1.7 Delimitation of the Study
To outline the boundaries for this study, the following delimitations were established.
Only residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico were eligible for participation.
Only volunteers were eligible for participation.
Only those who stated that they were suffering from 'depression' and comorbid anxiety, at the time of the administration of Part I and Part II of the research instrument, were eligible for participation.
The following assumptions apply.
Participants responded honestly to the questionnaires of the research instrument with no intent to misrepresent their religious affiliation, symptoms, and / or any other viewpoint.
Participants followed instructions and complied with 'homework' over a twelve-week period.
Participants had no ulterior or concealed motive(s) when volunteering to participate in the research.
1.8 Research Design and Methodology
Rigorous quantitative research surveys do not necessarily provide all of the data needed when studying human behavior. Consequently, qualitative methods, (e.g., indepth interviews, etc.), have emerged as an important part of the research paradigm. The present study was primarily quantitative in nature but used qualitative results to support and help interpret and explain the quantitative findings.
The participants for this keynote study were selected using purposive sampling of volunteers and included five Orthodox Christians, five Christians from other Confessions or denominations, and five agnostics. The volunteers were residents of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The volunteers, at the time of consenting to participate in the study, reported depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety for a period of 6 months or more, prior to their inscription. They had not received treatment from mental health professionals and did not report suicidality. Participants had the permission of a physician to participate in the Fasting Module.
To gather information, a seven-part research instrument was administered to the participants. Part I included the 'Informed Consent Statement'. Part II of the research instrument was used to collect the qualifying personal and demographic data of each participant. Part III of the instrument included a pre-treatment administration of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Beck Anxiety Inventory ® (BAI®) to determine levels of depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety. Part IV included a twelve-week treatment plan using Orthodox neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions and homework, including a Fasting Module, 'Jesus Prayer' Curriculum, and a Religious / Spiritual Activities Register. The latter was used in juxtaposition with the information gathered in the individual interviews in Part VII. Part V included weekly monitoring of 'Treatment Homework' to ensure and encourage compliance. Part VI included a second administration of the BDI and BAI® to determine if changes had occurred in the levels of the participants' depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety. Part VII consisted of individual interviews to discuss participant perception(s) of the role / effects of treatment using neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions / homework, if any, on depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety. The findings of these interviews served to elaborate on that which was learned through the quantitative research. The combination of qualitative with quantitative research assisted in explaining and vividly illustrating, by the personal experience that came from the interviews, the findings based upon the statistically valid sample of the target population (Patton, 1990).
The information from both quantitative and qualitative techniques was gathered, analyzed, and interpreted in terms of the aims of the research detailed in section 1.6. Pursuant to the collection and analysis of the data, recommendations are proffered regarding the incorporation of Orthodox neptic-psychotherapeutic interventions / techniques into mainstream psychotherapy.
1.9 Definition of Terms and Concepts
In view of the fact that this research takes place in the context of Orthodoxy, and recognizing that there are significant differences both in terminology and concepts between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy, in terms of worldview, practice, and theology, it is appropriate to define some of the terms and concepts that are used in this dissertation. The incompatible axioms of the cognitive paradigms of East and West rule out compatible senses with respect to many points of doctrine (Kalomiros, 1978). Generally, the juridical terms of Western theology are irreconcilable with the energy / ontological terminology of the East.
1.9.1 Definition of Terms
Acedia. The spiritual paralysis of the powers of the psyche in which there is an absolute indifference to prayer, fasting, and the keeping of the commandments of the Gospel. It is often translated as 'listlessness' or 'slothfulness' (Crislip, 2005; Sorsky, 2003).
Apathia. Often translated as 'dispassion' or 'passionlessness', this is the uprooting of the passions, or alternatively, a state in which the passions are exercised in accordance with their original purity, i.e., without committing sin. When the three powers of the psyche turn to God and are directed to Him, there is dispassion (Peters, 1970; Sorsky, 2003).
Ascesis. This is human effort, struggle, and the method of spiritual exercise used, to pass through the three stages of the spiritual life, i.e., purification of heart, illumination of the nous, and theosis. The ascetic endeavor consists in purifying the nous from the energy of phantasia and is the struggle to keep the commandments of Christ (Baikalov-Latyshev, 1977; Popovic, 1978; Vlachos, 1993).
Diakrisis. This is translated as 'discernment' and refers to the spiritual gift to discern inner states. It is the ability to distinguish between uncreated and created things, e.g., between the Energy of God and the energy of the devil, the Energies of God and the human psychophysical energies, emotional states and spiritual experiences (St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983; Vorpatrny, 2001).
Dianoia. This is often translated as 'mind' or 'reason' and is the discursive, conceptualizing and logical faculty of conscious thinking and cognition. Dianoia draws conclusions and / or formulates concepts deriving from data provided either by revelation, spiritual knowledge, or sense-observation. This knowledge is consequently of a lower order than spiritual knowledge and does not imply perception of the principles or energies of created beings, and still less, of Divine truth and / or Energies. Such perception, which is the function of the nous, is beyond the scope of dianoia (Nahum, 2001).
Doxa. Translated 'glory', this often refers to the manifestation of the uncreated Energies of the Divine Being (Sergius, 1998).
Dynamis. This signifies potential. From the time of Aristotle, users of Hellenistic Greek distinguished dynamis, or capacity, from energeia, energy, i.e., what actualizes or makes real a dynamis (Romanides, 1964).
Dynameis. These are the powers, faculties, capacities, and results of energizations (Peters, 1970; Vlachos, 1993).
Ekstasis. Often translated 'ecstasy', this is the detachment of the nous from the reason and the surrounding world and its return to the heart (St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
Energeia. This is a causal activity or an activity that activates some dynamis or potential (Peters, 1970).
Gnosis. This 'knowledge' is neither the intellectual engagement with God nor the knowledge of the reason about God, but rather the personal experience of God, which is closely connected with theoria (Merkur, 1993; St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
Hamartia. Translated, 'sin', this is more precisely a sin-prone state or condition. Hamartia is the deprivation of God's uncreated Energies, and therefore of enosis. This depravation leads tophthora or physical decay. Hamartia is reflected in the darkening of the nous. When the nous departs from the heart, it ceases to have remembrance of God, and is distracted to creation through the senses, and lives in sin. This distraction is manifested in actions that are called 'willed' sin (George, 2006; St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
Hamartema. This refers to a 'willed' distraction, sin, moral corruption, or wickedness. Hamartema is the result of / and at the same time leads to hamartia, but only the former has guilt. The non-volitional character of hamartia is evident in the way Sophocles used the word to refer to Oedipous' 'tragic flaw' (Thayer, 1963; Vlachos, 1993).
Hesychasm. This is the practice of hesychia, or 'stillness'. Hesychasm is a mystical tradition of experiential prayer in the Orthodox Church. It may involve specific body postures and be accompanied by very deliberate breathing patterns, although these are not considered essential or indispensable. It involves acquiring inner stillness and ignoring the physical senses. Hesychasm interprets Christ's directive "go into your closet to pray" (Matthew 6:6 KJV) to mean that one should ignore sensory input and withdraw inwards to pray. It presumes the repetition of the 'Jesus Prayer'. Hesychasm differs from Quietism in that the latter proffers that wo/man's highest perfection consists of a self-annihilation, and subsequent absorption, of the soul into the Divine during the present life. Hesychasm presupposes ongoing synergy (Behr-Sigel, 1992; Chrysostomos, 2007; Vlachos, 1997).
Hesychia. Often translated as 'silence' or 'stillness' [see I Thessalonians 4:1-2; I Thessalonians 3:12; and I Timothy 2:2; I Peter 3:4 KJV], this involves the stilling of the thoughts, whereby the nous descends into the heart through the 'Jesus Prayer' (Elder Macarius, 1995; Vlachos, 1997).
Homilia. Translated as 'communion', and often referred to as syndyasmos, or 'coupling', homilia is the third developmental stage in the 'cycle of temptation' in which a person begins to entertain, or enter into a dialog with, a demonic provocation (DiLeo,2007).
Logiki. This is 'reason', or the power of the psyche through which the surrounding world is perceived and through which the psyche relates to the world. Experience of God is acquired by means of the nous and this experience is formulated apophatically, when necessary, by means of reason, in so far as it is attainable (Florensky, 1997; St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983; Vlachos, 1993).
Logismoi. These are thoughts, rational suggestions, excogitations, mental images, and fancies associated with stimulations brought on by sight, hearing, or the other senses (Misiarczyk, 2007; Romanides, 2007).
Logoi. These are the inner principles or thoughts of God and are very strongly connected with Logos. The human mind is capable to 'view' these logoi through hesychia. Ascetical life refines the nous and enables it to pass from natural contemplation to mystical contemplation, which is the assurance that logoi are quantum entities and have a real existence. This establishes a logical realism to the ascetical experience. Logoi exist in God's mind and are co-existent with Him. They are not simply eternal but evolve outside of time and space. A composite logos controls its logoi and is the cause of their evolution, but when it is expressed at space-time, the composite entity that it controls, appears in time, after its components. Causality is independent from time. It is these logoi, contained principally in the Logos and manifest in the forms of the created universe that constitute the first or lower stage of contemplation (George, 2006; Nahum, 2001; St. Maximus the Confessor, 1985).
Logos. This refers to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, i.e., to the Intellect, Wisdom, and Providence of God in whom and through whom all things are created. As the unitary cosmic principle, the Logos contains in Himself the multiple logoi (inner principles or inner thoughts of God) in accordance with which all things come into existence at the times, places, and forms, appointed to them, each single thing thereby containing in itself the principle of its own development. Logos is the hidden pattern that controls being and reality. The logoi [see above] are not concepts, but real information with self-existence, inner structure, and organization at hierarchical levels. These levels comprise the tree of logoi, the ontological tree of the universe, which has an inverted construction, i.e., from bottom to top. The God-Logos, the basis, the beginning and the end of everything, supports the whole tree, in a reversed manner. This property has important physical consequences. Logos, which is constituted by other beings, controls the logos of these beings and causes these to constitute it. Every being is attached with its logos. It is more accurate to say that a being, is a composite being, it is logos -information expressed as a material being in space-time. Every entity has its own logos, and as every entity is constituted by other entities, every logos is a synthesis of other logoi. The life of logoi gives to beings special properties that are revealed to the human nous under the conditions of theoria. A human nous that is properly exercised, can perceive all of these things (George, 2006; Nahum, 2001; St. Maximus the Confessor, 1985; St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
Metanoia. This is translated as 'repentance' and refers to radical change of heart and mind, accompanied by meekness and humility. This term is associated with prostrations, and is often understood as a virtual prostration, kneeling, or submission 'in one's heart' (George, 2006; St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
Nepsis. Often translated as 'watchfulness' or 'sobriety', this vigilance of the nous and watchfulness at the gates of the heart, is spiritual alertness, constant attentiveness and readiness that prevents logismoi from entering into the heart (Vlachos, 1993; Ware, 1979).
Neptic. This is an adjective that refers to the method used in nepsis.
Noetic. This adjective refers to the transrational understanding that comes from direct spiritual experience.
Noetic Prayer. The prayer that is done with the nous when it is liberated from its enslavement to reason, the passions, and the surrounding world and returns from its distraction within the heart. 'Noetic Prayer' is done with the nous within the heart.
Nous. Sometimes translated as 'intellect', 'mind', or the 'eye of the heart', this is the intuitive insight or perception of mysteries beyond and higher than reason, through which, upon purification, wo/man can see the inner essences of created things and, the uncreated Light, by means of direct spiritual perception. The nous therefore, is the energy of transcendent insight or transcendent apperception, which is the common mode of reasoning among angelic beings. Unlike the dianoia, from which the nous must be carefully distinguished, the nous does not function through the formulation of abstract concepts or theories and does not arrive at conclusions through deductive reasoning, but rather understands Divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition, or simple cognition. The nous dwells in the depths of the psyche. It constitues the innermost aspect of the heart and is the organ of contemplation and the 'eye of the heart' (George, 2006). The term is often used by the Holy Fathers with several meanings. The nous is referred to as the 'spiritual nature' of a wo/man and the heart or 'the essence of the soul' (St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983). More specifically, it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart. The nous is also referred to as the 'eye of the soul' (St. John of Damascus, 1979) or 'the organ of theoria', which 'is engaged in pure prayer' (Meyendorff, 1979). The energy of the nous is often called 'a power of the psyche' (St. Gregory of Sinai, 1995). However, it is more commonly known as the energy of the psyche, and the heart is known as the essence of the psyche (George, 2006; Vlachos, 1993; 1997).
Pararripismos. This, the second of the developmental stages in the 'cycle of temptation', is a momentary disturbance of the nous and occurs without any movement or working of bodily passion (DiLeo, 2007). It is cognition by the intellect of a provocation (Chryssavgis, 2004; Vlachos, 1993; 1997).
Pathos. This, the sixth developmental stage in the 'cycle of temptation', is an appetite or impulse, such as anger, desire, or jealousy that violently dominates the psyche (Sts. Nikodimos and Makarios, 1983). Pathos is an external energy acting upon a nature that is at variance with it (Palmer, Sherrard, & Ware, 1983; Peters, 1970).
Penthos. This 'mourning' or 'deep sorrow' of the psyche is an energy of Divine grace and is closely linked with repentance, weeping, and tears (Chrysostomos, 2000a; Nahum, 2001).
Phantasia. This is a noetic energy of the psyche that covers the nous and darkens it (Eastmond, James, & Cormack, 2003; St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
Phronema. This is an apperception, outlook, or the unchangeable consciousness that unifies experience. An Orthodox phronema can therefore be described as an Orthodox worldview (Florovsky, 1987a; Orthodoxwiki, 2008).
Praxis. This is often translated as 'action' or 'practice' and in Orthodoxy, refers to the struggle to purify the heart, which is the first stage of spiritual life. Praxis consists in the purification of the heart from passions, with the help of prayer, obedience, fasting, vigil, silence, the chanting of Psalms, and patience in tribulations. This corresponds to the first degree of the spiritual life. The journey towards theosis involves many forms of praxis. Praxis includes living in the community of the Church, partaking regularly of the Holy Mysteries, and cultivating the 'Jesus Prayer', i.e., the prayer that never ceases. This unceasing prayer of the heart is a dominant theme in the writings of the Holy Fathers. Praxis is the way to theoria (Cownie & Cownie, 1996; Popovic, 1978).
Prolipsis. This fifth developmental stage in the 'cycle of temptation' is a state of prejudice that results from repeated acts of sin that predispose a wo/man to yield to a particular temptation, and is often referred to as captivity (Amis, 1995; Bouton, 2004; DiLeo, 2007).
Prosvoli. This is a provocation or suggestion, and is the initial incitement to evil and the first developmental stage in the 'cycle of temptation' (DiLeo, 2007). It is an 'image-free stimulation of the heart' that comes from outside the person's free will (Maloney, 2003).
Psyche. This is the life-principle, or soul (George, 2006; Romanides, 2004). Synergy. This is the required cooperation of two unequal, but equally necessary forces, i.e., Divine grace and human will in the incorporation of wo/man into Christ and union with God. Concerning synergy, St. Paul, after having commented in II Corinthians 6:1 on becoming the righteousness of God in Christ, speaks of his own 'energizing together' [with Christ], beseeching his readers not to receive the Grace of God in vain. In Romans 8:28, the verb in question is used causatively, with the force of all things 'energizing together' for good in those loving God. James 2:22, states: "You see that faith was 'energizing together' with [Abraham's] works" when that patriarch offered his son Isaac on the Altar (Lacoste, 2005; Vlachos, 1993; 1997).
Synkatathesis. This is often translated as 'assent' and goes beyond homilia or syndyasmos. Synkatathesis involves entertainment, consent, and resolve to action (Maloney, 2003). It is the fourth developmental stage in the 'cycle of temptation' (Johansen & Rosenmeier, 1998; Palmer et al., 1983).
Theoria. This is often referred to as the vision of the uncreated Light. It is the perception or vision of the nous, through which spiritual knowledge is attained. Theoria has two stages. The first is related to the inner essences or principles of created beings. The second, and higher stage, the vision of the uncreated Light, is achieved through a noetic vision of the Divine Being beyond being in the form of His uncreated Energies. Theoria is the illumination of the nous (Cyprian, 1995; Vlachos, 1993; 1997).
Theoritikos. An individual who has attained theoria (Greek Orthodox Church, 2007; Voegelin, Moulakis & Walsh, 1999).
Theosis. This is the ontological divinization of wo/man, and the final phase of the three phases of salvation, i.e., catharsis or purification, illumination, and enosis (i.e., union) or theosis. Theosis should not be confused with the pagan concept of apotheosis, or deification (George, 2006; Nahum, 2001).
1.9.2 Definition of Concepts
Concepts do not begin in a vacuum but with presuppositions, premises, or assumptions. As stated, the axiomatic building blocks of the East-West paradigm divide are energy and ontology versus volition and juridicality. Juridicality is related to the power of will over reality. The juridical framework emphasizes the primacy of will and allows it to create a virtual reality that is, for all practical purposes, more real than ontological reality. The ontological framework emphasizes being and reason over will, without falling into a rationalist approach to the Holy Mysteries. Paradigms, or cognitive frameworks, i.e., ideologies, worldviews, orientations, etc., are constituted of combinations of axioms or assumptions about reality (Kalomiros, 1978). A paradigm is like a lens that filters in some light and excludes other light waves. Words can have different meanings and / or implications in different paradigms. Therefore the following Orthodox concepts must be explained in order to avoid the superimposition of alien theological paradigms that could lead to misunderstanding the presuppositions underlying this study.
184.108.40.206 Dynamis and Energeia
The key to understanding the New Testament and Orthodox thought world or paradigm is to be found in the Greek concepts of dynamis and energeia (Armstrong, 1970; Vlachos, 1993; 1994). In the Septuagint, the New Testament, and writings of the Holy Fathers, there are numerous uses of energeia, i.e., energy, or operative and actualizing power; energema, i.e., effect, effectiveness, or operation; energes, i.e., energetic or efficacious; and energein, i.e., energize, actuate, or actualize. These words are cognate with the Greek organon, i.e., instrument or product. Those who thought and wrote in Hellenistic Greek, including the authors of the New Testament Epistles, thought of energeia as that which actualizes or makes real dynamis, i.e., capacity or potential. Energeia is a basic aspect of being, whether created or uncreated.
In the Greek New Testament, we find 26 instances of energy terminology in St. Paul's letters. For example, I Corinthians 12 uses 'energy' three times and charisma or 'free gift of grace' six times. Speaking of the Body of Christ, I Corinthians 12:6 states: "And there are differences of 'energizations', but God is the identical One Who 'energizes' everything in all things". Continuing in verses 10-11, St. Paul says that "to another [is given] the 'energizations' of potential(itie)s [the word is dynameis],...; but one and the same Spirit 'energizes' all of these, allotting to each individual according as He wills". II Corinthians 1:6 and Galatians 5:6 describe "faith" [i.e.,pistis, an energizing formation in Greek], "energizing through [or 'because of] love". Galatians 3:5 and Philemon 6 refer to 'energy' as related to miracles. Galatians chapter 2 speaks of Sts. Peter and Paul's 'energizing' or effectuating / actuating in verse 8, and in verse 9 refers to this as the grounds for the recognition by St. James, St. Peter, and St. John of the grace, i.e., charis, in St. Paul. In addition to the prime uses of 'energy' in the Epistles, e.g., Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc., note should be taken of I Thessalonians 2:13 which refers to the Logos or 'rational principle' as 'energizing' in believers, which is contrasted with the 'energizing' of iniquity in II Thessalonians chapter 2. Other examples can be found in Hebrews 4:12, James 5:16, etc. The Apostolic ethos is permeated with 'energy', as still is the Orthodox phronema.
Orthodox writers have thought of light, and particularly the uncreated Light, which the Johannine literature in the New Testament combines with Life in reference to Christ, the 'Life and Light of the world', as 'energy', and particularly as the uncreated Energies of God. This may surprise the modern mind, whose theological outlook is likely to have been formed by the static categories of Western Scholasticism. However, a similar relationship is given in current scientific theory.
If light and matter, and even life, are seen by modern science to be wholly entropic forms of energy, Orthodox theology accepts Mysteries in which corporeal or material entities, e.g., bread, wine, water, oil, etc., have the capacity of channeling the Divine Energies to human beings, in reflection of Christ's Incarnation, which has been traditionally regarded as the 'First Mystery'. All of this is a totally different world from the Western juridical / volitional framework.
Although the concepts of energy in science and early Christian thinking have emerged in very different conceptual frameworks, have different connotations, and indeed are differently defined, such parallelisms as have been noted are worth reflecting on in the debates over science and religion and in comparing Eastern and Western theological thinking. The 'energies' have an intimate and vital connection with talk about God and salvation in Orthodoxy. It is probable that the parallelisms of these concepts in such separate disciplines as theology and science, one ancient, one modern, reflect a glimmer of ontological truth (Kalomiros, 1978). The basic concepts of Eastern theology are not in fundamental conflict with those of science.
220.127.116.11 Human Nature
Wo/man was created for fellowship with God. This is the first principle of the Orthodox Christian doctrine concerning humanity (Vlachos, 1993; 1997; Ware, 1973). However, wo/man, created for fellowship with God, continually rejects that fellowship. Adam fell, and his fall affects all of humankind. Through grace, the Holy Spirit restores wo/man's nature to its true, uncorrupted state, so that s/he may grow into enosis with God [see Genesis 1:26, 31; II Corinthians 3:18; 5:17 KJV]. Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky (1994) states that wo/man has a unique creation distinct from all other creatures. Wo/man is the highest and most perfect order on earth, and therefore has a higher purpose. S/he is the pinnacle of God's creation, for only s/he among all creatures was made in the image and likeness of God [see Genesis 1:26, 27; Luke 4:4]. "The presence of God's image in man reflects the attributes of God in man's spiritual nature" (p. 122).
18.104.22.168 The Human Psyche
The human soul, or psyche, is not immortal by nature but by grace. According to St. Nektarios of Aegina (n.d.) wo/man is a composite being, made up of an earthly body and heavenly psyche. The psyche is closely united with the body, yet wholly independent of it. The rational psyche of wo/man has supernatural and infinite aspirations. If the rational psyche were dependent upon the body and died together with the body, it would necessarily submit to the body and its appetites (Zacharias, 2006). However, to the contrary, the psyche masters the body, and imposes its will upon the body. The psyche subjugates and curbs the appetites and passions of the body, and directs them as it, i.e., the psyche, wills. This phenomenon comes to the attention of every rational wo/man, and whoever is conscious of his / her own rational psyche is conscious of the psyche's mastery over the body. The mastery of the psyche over the body is proved by the obedience of the body when it is being led with self-denial to sacrifice for the sake of the abstract ideas of the psyche. The domination by the psyche for prevalence of its principles, ideas, and views would have been entirely incomprehensible if the psyche died together with the body. But a mortal psyche would never have risen to such a height, would never have condemned itself to death along with the body for the prevalence of abstract ideas that lacked meaning, since no noble idea, no noble and courageous thought has any meaning for a mortal psyche. A psyche, therefore, which is capable of such things, must be immortal.
St. John of Damascus states:
The soul, accordingly, is a living essence, simple, incorporeal, invisible in its proper nature to bodily eyes, immortal, reasoning and intelligent, formless, making use of an organized body, and being the source of its powers of life, and growth, and sensation, and generation, mind being but its purest part and not in any wise alien to it; (for as the eye to the body, so is the mind to the soul); further it enjoys freedom and volition and energy, and is mutable, that is, it is given to change, because it is created. All these qualities according to nature it has received of the grace of the Creator, of which grace it has received both its being and this particular kind of nature. (St. John of Damascus in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 1979, p. 31)
The psyche has three powers. As God is three persons, Nous, Logos, and Spirit, so the psyche of wo/man has three powers nous, soul, and spirit (Cavarnos, 1987; Nahum, 2001; Vlachos, 1997). However, in the context of the psyche of wo/man, nous does not refer to the Father, but to the eye or heart of the psyche, which is both a part of the psyche and, at the same time, a power of the psyche (Bouton, 2004; Cavarnos, 1987; Palmer et al., 1983).
In The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, St. John of Damascus states, "the body and the soul were formed at one and the same time, not first the one and then the other..." (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 1979, p. 705). God created mankind, from the existing elements of the earth, and unlike the rest of creation, which came about by the word or command of God, mankind was created by the direct action of the Holy Trinity (Bouton, 2004). "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7, KJV). Having received the breath of life, "man was a living organic union of the earthly and heavenly, the material and the spiritual" (Pomazansky, 1994, p. 123).
Contrary to the intimations of the West, the body is a companion and vehicle of the psyche, and not its prison. The body and psyche are inimitably bound until death, but are not superimposed one upon another. They are inseparable until death separates them, and even then, the separation is not permanent, as the psyche and the resurrected body will be reunited upon the Lord's return. Therefore, the action of one affects the other (Bouton, 2004; Cavarnos, 1985; Vlachos, 1993; 1997).
The psyche is separate from the body, not having its origin in either earthly or other created things, but in the heavenly action of the breath of God (Pomazansky, 1994; Ware, 1979). The Holy Scriptures bear witness to the primacy of the psyche, and state: "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26, KJV), and "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Matthew 10:28, KJV). St. Gregory the Theologian, states: "The soul is the breath of God, and while being heavenly, it endures being mixed with what is dust. It is a light enclosed in a cave, but still it is divine and inextinguishable" (St. Gregory as cited in Pomazansky, 1994, p. 124).
22.214.171.124 The Human Spirit
The Holy Scriptures describe the spirit of wo/man in two ways. First of all, the word 'spirit' is often used as a synonym for the psyche. "Glorify God in your body and in your soul, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:20, KJV); and "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (II Corinthians 7:1, KJV). Secondly, St. Paul views the 'spirit' as the inner and most hidden part of the psyche. Therefore, in Hebrews, he states: "The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12, KJV). Again, in Thessalonians, St. Paul uses 'spirit' as referring to a special higher harmony of the hidden part of the psyche that is formed through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the Christian: "Your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23, KJV). In Orthodox doctrine, 'spirit' then refers to the inner hidden part of a wo/man's psyche. In the specific case of Christians, it refers to a special hidden higher harmony of the psyche formed through grace (Pomazansky, 1994; St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, 1983; Vlachos, 1993; 1997).
126.96.36.199 The Image and Likeness
The Orthodox Church teaches that wo/man was created in the 'image of God'. The Holy Fathers have seen this image, or 'icon', in various ways, including the reason, free will, and the immortality of the psyche (Bouton, 2004; Lossky, 1985). According to Orthodox tradition, the image of God is reflected only in the psyche of wo/man and not in his / her body (Bouton, 2004; Gavin, 1962). "God is a spirit" (John 4:24, KJV) and except through the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has no physical body. God in His nature does not have any sort of body, nor any kind of materiality. Therefore, the image of God in wo/man refers to the psyche, which is immaterial (Popovic, 1978).
The Holy Fathers hold that wo/man bears the image of God in the higher qualities of his / her psyche (Bouton, 2004; Pomazansky, 1994). God is immortal and bestowed immortality upon the psyche of wo/man. However, God is immortal in the essence of His nature, while wo/man does not possess immortality, but only acquires it by the will and grace of God (Pomazansky, 1994; Ware, 1973).
God has given wo/man a 'free will'. This is so that wo/man might love, as "God is love" (I John 4:8, KJV). One cannot truly love if forced to do so. Love must be a free choice. In order for wo/man to love, s/he must have the ability to choose. Endowing the nature of wo/man with the ability to love, God gave wo/man a free will. The Orthodox Church understands free will as the ability to choose to love God, or the ability to choose not to love God (Bouton, 2004). The choice not to love God is to love something else in place of God (Barnes, 1999; Bouton, 2004). Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15, KJV), and ".. .if a man love me, he will keep my words" (John 14:23, KJV). Because of free will, wo/man has the choice between following God, or choosing not to follow God. The full image of God in wo/man is visible in wo/man's ability to love (Bouton, 2004; Hoekma, 1994; Nahum, 2001).
Pomazansky (1994) explains: Man, having received his soul from the breathing of God, strives towards his first Principle, God, as towards something akin to himself, seeking and thirsting for union with Him... Thus, this striving towards and love for God, expresses the image of God in man. (p. 137)
The Orthodox Church sees a distinction between the 'image' and the 'likeness', or omoiosis, of God in wo/man (Bouton, 2004; Popovic, 1978). The nature of man's psyche reveals the image of God. The likeness of God, or 'assimilation to God', which energizes the potentials of reason and free will to obey and serve God, is seen in acquiring the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in the moral perfecting of wo/man's virtue, and in sanctity. Wo/man receives the image of God from God, but the likeness of God must be acquired. Wo/man received from God the potential to be 'in His likeness'. Many misinterpret the Scriptures as saying that wo/man was created 'in' God's image and likeness, but in fact, it states that wo/man was created in God's image and 'after' his likeness (Genesis 1:26, KJV). This is again emphasized in the following text: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27, KJV).
To recap, a gradient of more and less grace, must be conceptualized, or rather omoiosis must be conceptualized as a vectorial form of theosis, a vector of being energized with more and more uncreated grace that eventuates in complete theosis. Adam lacked theosis or he would not have sinned; but before sinning he remained as he had been created, according to the 'assimilation' to God [see Genesis 1:26]. The uncreated grace of omoiosis in Christians, received in Baptism and partaking of Christ's Body and Blood in the Holy Communion, confronts those setbacks that every cognizant adult experiences through sinning prior to the ultimate theosis of those in Christ. Our first ancestors were, unlike us, not subject to death and decay prior to their sinning because they had the 'assimilation' to God'. This was lost at the Fall. The icon of God was not lost, for the loss of its powers of reasoning and free choice would have reduced the first ancestors to animals. The Orthodox believe that the Old Testament Saints also received temporary theosis through a vision of the uncreated Light. While they were freed and divinized in Christ's Descent to Hades during the time He was dead, permanent theosis comes after death for Christians. Until then, the 'assimilation' to God can be set back through an unwillingness to let the all-holy Spirit energize one of Christ's members to do works pleasing to Him. It can even be lost entirely when those works are lacking. On the other hand, when the Spirit is energizing believers to do Christ's will, they reap grace for grace [see Philippians 2:13 and John 1:16]. Orthodox faithful undergo a constant cycle of lapses and restorations, each cycle becoming smaller and farther apart as the faithful proceed along the vector of omoiosis toward theosis, or a difference of degree (Nahum, 2001).
188.8.131.52 The Nature of Sin
In Orthodox theology 'sin', in Greek, harmartia, which refers more precisely to a sin-prone state, means to miss the mark (St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983; Ware, 1993). This word in Greek could be used to describe the inability of an archer to hit the target. The target is the correct path to God, i.e., the choice to love God. Therefore, any thought or action by a wo/man which results in his / her choice, in any given instance, to love something more than God or instead of God, or which leads wo/man to follow any path other than the true path to God, is a willful distraction, i.e., sin or hamartema (Bouton, 2004: Nahum, 2002; Wians, 1996).
In the West, Augustine proffers that original sin and guilt are transmitted, from parents to their children (Bouton, 2004). In Orthodoxy, the theology of the Holy Fathers, especially their doctrine on salvation, teaches that it is not a question of inherited sin or guilt transmitted to the rest of the human race through the sin of Adam, but rather slavery to death and corruption (Kalomiros, 1978; Ware, 1993). Guilt can only be produced by hamartema. Instead of the Augustinian idea of the inherited guilt, the Holy Fathers spoke of the personal power of death and corruption (Meyendorff, 1983), and the Divine response, 'trampling down death by death'. It is important to note that Orthodox theology teaches that the image of God in wo/man was not destroyed by sin, but was corrupted (Bouton, 2004). "And because he still retains the image of God, man still retains free will, although sin restricts his scope" (Ware, 1973, p. 229).
184.108.40.206 The Passions
The 'passions' play a major role in the Orthodox teaching related to sin, wo/man, and the struggle towards God. The word passion, in Greek pathos, refers to an appetite or impulse (Bouton, 2004; Telepneff & Chrysostomos, 1990). Anger, desire, jealousy, etc., which can violently dominate the psyche, are called passions. Many of the Holy Fathers regard the passions as something intrinsically evil, a disease that infects the psyche (Bouton, 2004). St. John Climacus maintained that: ".. .passion is not originally planted in nature, for God is not the creator of passions" (St. John Climacus, 1979, p. 171). This implies that God was not the creator of the passions, and that these are actually something foreign to the original incorrupt nature of mankind. Other Fathers maintained that the passions are impulses originally put in wo/man by God for good, but became corrupted when wo/man fell. Hate, for example, was given to wo/man that s/he might hate sin; desire, that s/he might desire God; anger, that s/he might have righteous anger, etc. (Andreyev, 1995; Bouton, 2004; Nahum, 2001; Vlachos, 1993). In the latter case, the goal is to educate or control the passions, in the former, the goal is to eradicate them (St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
When wo/man fell, and could no longer perceive God clearly through the darkened nous of the psyche, s/he began to attempt to know God through the corrupt reason of his / her mind (Nahum, 2001; Vlachos, 1993; Ware, 1993). The healthy nous is not subject to the passions, but the nous after the fall is sickened. As wo/man tries to come to know God through his / her corrupt reason, the passions serve to misdirect and confuse him / her, to lead him / her to seek self and pleasures rather than to seek God. Obtaining dispassion, apathia, either eradicating the passions or controlling them, is essential to obtaining purity of heart, the first step to theosis (Florovsky, 1987a; St. Nikodemos & St. Makarios, 1983).
220.127.116.11 The Nature of Salvation
Soteriological terminology in Orthodoxy reflects a phronema that is at odds with that of the West. In contrast to the Orthodox worshiper's ontic enosis in Christ with the uncreated Energies of God's Being (in which believers share Christ's goodness and all that He has done for humanity) as the basis for the understanding of soteriology, the West emphasizes an array of juridical terms and concepts, e.g., satisfaction, atonement, reconciliation, ransoming, redemption, justification, adoption, sanctification, substitution, etc. These are interpreted by Roman Catholics in terms of legal or forensic categories and in the intentional / conceptual, i.e., virtual unity with God's imparticipable Being / Essence or apotheosis, and by Protestants in terms of forensic, juridical, and legal will-based unity with that Being / Essence. Protestants emphasize the substitutionary aspect of the Cross and treat justice or righteousness as 'forensic', i.e., imputed and virtual, or divinely imputed virtual righteousness to a real sinner. Ultimately Protestants treat unity with God as covenantal.
In Orthodoxy, salvation is the fulfillment of humanity in Christ. It is deliverance from the curse of sin and death, to enosis with God (Bouton, 2004; Farrell, 1987; Florovsky, 1987b). Salvation includes a process of growth of the whole person whereby the sinner is changed, or transformed, into the likeness of God. One is saved by faith through grace. However, saving faith is more than mere belief. It must be a living faith manifested by works of righteousness, whereby we cooperate with God to do His will. The grace of God for salvation is received through participation in the life of the Church. The three phases of salvation are: (a) purification, (b) illumination, and (c) theosis. The latter is achieved through a noetic vision of the Divine Being. This vision is not on the level of ordinary knowledge, or 'intentional' vision, but rather is apprehended by the nous. Theosis is the ontological divinization of wo/man in Christ and the ultimate goal of all Christians (George, 2006; Vlachos, 1993). Theosis begins in the present life and prompts continued repentance. Theosis requires submission to God's commandments. It requires a life of prayer, fasting, reception of the Holy Mysteries, study of the Holy Scriptures, and reading the writings of the Holy Fathers. Theosis is a social process that embraces the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself (Bouton, 2004). It demands both prayer and love in action. Theosis presupposes a common life in the Church and is the foundational concept of the Orthodox teaching on salvation (Bouton, 2004). Grube (2001) defines theosis as the "union with Almighty God by acquiring the Holy Spirit" (p. 102). In the New Dictionary of Theology, Bray (1998) states:
[The] Christian life is best conceived as the restoration of the lost likeness to those who have been redeemed in Christ. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, who communicates to us the energies of God himself, so that we may become partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). The energies of God radiate from his essence and share its nature; but it must be understood that the divinized person retains his personal identity and is not absorbed into the essence of God, which remains for ever [sic] hidden from his eyes. (p. 189)
Theosis, then, is a perfect communion with God obtained by an action of the Holy Spirit (Bouton, 2004; Farrell, 1987; Vlachos, 1991; 1992). Obtaining God-likeness is what wo/man struggles for and, in so doing, uses three methods: nepsis (watchfulness), ascesis (practice), and hesychia (stillness). 'Salvation' to the Orthodox Christian is not a momentary experience but a life long journey (Bouton, 2004; Chrysostomos & Auxentios, 1994; Farrell, 1987; Vlachos, 1993). Grube (2001) indicates that the process of theosis is the path and the end result of salvation:
One is saved by grace through faith, and this faith is the belief that Jesus Christ gained our redemption from the powers of evil. When one has faith he or she is loyal to Christ by acting on that faith and becoming what each of us is called to be. We become virtuous and seek perfection by living a righteous life motivated by a love for Christ and His teachings. Salvation is a free gift of God and those who are called by Baptism are justified by faith and empowered by God to do good works in His name. This then, is the work of the Kingdom of God. (pp. 297-298)
The practice of the 'Jesus Prayer' was handed down from the Apostles and was formalized with the rise of monasticism in fourth century Egypt (St. Neilos the Ascetic, 1979). In the sixth century, Abba Philemon, an Egyptian hermit, described the practice in detail (Chariton, 1966). The body of oral and written tradition that developed around the practice of the 'Jesus Prayer' was designated as Hesychasm.
The word hesychia refers to the state of calm, peace, rest, or silence, resulting from the obstruction of exterior causes of disturbance and the absence of the inner agitations of the psyche (Chrysostomos, 2007). Hesychia, or the union of the psyche with God, is termed the 'science of sciences' and the 'art of arts'. Inner hesychia is understood as a 'departure from the world' of the senses. Exterior hesychia must be accompanied by amerimnia, i.e., the lack of worries, nepsis, and unceasing prayer. Hesychia creates a condition that leads to the practice of virtues, among which the most important are (a) purity of heart, i.e., apatheia, (b) repentance, i.e., metanoia, and especially (c) sobriety or the watchfulness of the heart, i.e., nepsis (Chariton, 1966).
The method / techniques used in hesychasm to fight against logoismoi, are given the classical name of nepsis. The teaching regarding nepsis, which is profoundly evangelical, is also the foundation of monastic spirituality, and the essential condition for pure prayer. The Holy Fathers teach that there is a 'battle of thoughts' and that only through the discipline of nepsis is the heart and nous guarded and granted freedom from the attacks of demons. Any attempt at struggle without nepsis is in vain. The Holy Fathers categorize the psychological processes of temptation on three basic levels: (a) suggestions, (b) inner dialogue, and (c) consent that leads to passion and captivity (Chariton, 1966). This rigorous discipline imposed on the heart and nous, accompanied by bodily ascesis form the praxis or the initial stage of the spiritual life. This does not only include the avoidance of sin, but also creates the conditions for pure prayer that alone unites with God (Nahum, 2002).
Pure prayer is difficult because sin has destroyed the harmony of the psychology of wo/man and weakened the power of concentration of attention in the nous (Mother Michaela, 1983). Subsequent to the ancestral sin, and likely damage through a lifetime of choices motivated by self-love rather than compassion, the inner unity of wo/man, and moreover of the heart as the center and source of active faculties of the nous and will, was damaged. Consequently, the nous, deprived of its center is scattered or dispersed. This is the reason for the diversity of logismoi, and lack of continual remembrance of God. The remedy for the liberation of the nous from the captivity of logismoi is the 'return to the original simplicity' through the persistent and ceaseless invocation of God through the 'Jesus Prayer' (Bouton, 2004; Cavarnos, 1985; Vlachos, 1993; 1994). Therefore, the primary task is to engage in mental ascesis. This mental ascesis is the rejection of the tempting logismoi, or 'thieves'. Much of the literature of hesychasm is occupied with the psychological analysis and treatment of tempting thoughts (Chrysostomos, 2007; Vlachos, 1992; 1993; 1997).
In hesychasm, the nous is to be fixed in God, and anything, which distracts or detaches it from God, is evil. As a result of the fall, wo/man is captured by self-love, which engenders logismoi, a depreciatory term implying attention to sensible things and distraction from God. These logismoi, acting upon the psyche, lead to pathoi. The pathoi form a very apparent hierarchy, beginning with the casual attachment to the most inevitable of all human sensible needs, e.g., food, and ultimately ending with self-love and demonic possession. Therefore, the first goal is to subdue thepathoi and reach the state of apathia, i.e., a detachment from the five senses and logismoi, which makes a restoration of the original relationship between the nous and God possible. This union becomes possible through the 'Prayer of the Heart' (Nahum, 2001; Vlachos, 1992; 1993; 1997; Ware, 1993).
Wo/man's ultimate destiny does not entail absorption into God's essence, but in a 'natural activity', which is made possible through a God-given active love. The total transcendence and inaccessibility of the essence of God becomes a matter of Christian faith that is fundamental for spiritual life. If love, and not knowledge of essence, is the highest goal of spiritual life, wo/man, while united to God, remains totally him/herself in his / her nature and activity; but s/he also enjoys communion with the activity / Energy of God, which alone can guarantee his / her total liberation from pathos, and transform his / her eros, i.e., desire, into agape, i.e., love (St. Maximus the Confessor, 1985).
Accordingly, this signifies that the Christian faith is a personal experience (St. Simeon the New Theologian, 1980; 1995) and the 'Prayer of the Heart' becomes the center of wo/man's psychosomatic life. The human heart becomes the battlefield between God and Satan, and between life and death (Chariton, 1966). The Christian life itself is then identified with a conscious-experience of God (St. Simeon the New Theologian, 1980; 1995). St. Symeon also proffers that Christianity is a personal communion with, and vision of, God, a position that he shares with hesychasm and with the entire Patristic tradition (Bouton, 2004). His writings are centered on the reality of a conscious encounter with Christ. According to St. Symeon, the Kingdom of God has become an attainable reality. It does not belong only to the 'future life' but also to this life. It is not restricted to the 'spiritual' or 'intellectual' part of wo/man alone, but involves wo/man's entire being (St. Simeon the New Theologian, 1980).
Hesychasm is one of the most basic medicines for gaining inner health. The lack of silence, or anti-hesychasm, a by-product of mysticalogical pathology, is consequently the cause of anxiety, insecurity, depression and innumerable spiritual, psychological, and physical illnesses. "The anti-hesychastic lifestyle is prevalent everywhere and is the dominant cause of the abnormal situation in terms of spiritual and psychological pathologies. Therefore, hesychia is a method of healing the psyche, while anti-hesychasm, is a cause of psychic and physical illness" (Vlachos, 1993, p. 311).
Orthodoxy makes use of philosophic clarity in relating the condition of the existential angst that is often so troublesome for modern philosophers. Existential therapy is a process of personal introspection and change, interpersonal communal solidarity, culminating in theanthropic communion. Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos (1997) employs Patristic terms describing this programmatic continuum of care and treatment outlined in hesychasm, i.e., purification, illumination, divinization.
The salvific and healing hesychastic process is the fundamental purpose of the Church. Hesychasm is the embodiment of sacred tradition. The hesychastic method consists primarily in obtainingprosoche, or 'attention'. This is the first condition of authentic prayer and is reached by concentrating the nous in the 'heart', retaining each breath, and reciting mentally the 'Jesus Prayer'. The psychosomatic method is not an end in itself, but only a useful tool for placing a wo/man literally 'in attention' ready to receive the grace of God, provided that s/he is proved worthy through 'observing the commandments' (Meyendorff, 1979). Through hesychastic treatment, prayer restores the faculty of nous, which rests in the heart. The words of Christ are thus fulfilled, that it is the pure in heart who will see Him.
18.104.22.168 Neptic Psychology
Neptic psychology and Orthodox Psychotherapy are terms used by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, and others, to refer to the hesychastic method traditionally employed in the Orthodox Church for the curing, or healing, of the sick psyche. Metropolitan Vlachos uses these terms interchangeably. Neptic psychotherapeutic treatment consists of a wide range of interventions, including psychological counseling, spiritual direction, and 'soul care' (Bouton, 2004; Nahum, 2001; Varvatsoulias, 1996; Vlachos, 1993). In the neptic psychology of the Holy Fathers, to the extent that the psyche is freed from the passions and purity of heart is reached, the mind is also healed. Once the focus of the whole person is again on God, then true mental and spiritual health can be attained (Bouton, 2004; Vlachos, 1992; 1993).
In neptic psychology, the therapist is traditionally referred to as a gerontas or 'spiritual father' and, in almost all cases, is a priest, or monk, who himself is 'more advanced' along the path of theosis than the person seeking the counsel (Chrysostomos, 2000b; Bouton, 2004; Farrell, 1987; Vlachos, 1997). Ideally, the 'spiritual father' is one who has at least reached the stage of purity of heart. However, in this modern era, access to such 'spiritual fathers' is limited due to their limited number. A 'spiritual father' is one to whom one opens all thoughts, and bares the psyche, and from whom one receives direction to advance on the path towards theosis. While the mystery of confession is often a part of this counseling process, disciples do not always utilize their gerontas as their confessor, especially if their spiritual father is a monk, but not a priest. The 'spiritual father' often assists the disciple in preparing his / her confession, which later will be read before a priest. In this context, the practice of spiritual direction is more attuned to 'soul care' (Bouton, 2004; Farrell, 1987; Gillet, 1987; Vlachos, 1991).
1.10 Researcher's Background and Interests
Although this research was primarily quantitative in character, the researcher was the principal data collection instrument for the qualitative component of the study, which involved individual follow-up interviews. It is therefore necessary to provide some basic information about me, the researcher, my previous experiences in the field, and the biases that I may have brought to this research. No doubt, this information constitutes the lens through which I have viewed the treatment experiences as manifested by the participants in this component.
First of all, I have a B.A. in Humanities from Thomas Edison University in Trenton, New Jersey, and a Licentiate in Orthodox Theology from St. Sophia Orthodox Seminary in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. I later received an M.A. Ed., with a specialization in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), from the University of Phoenix, Puerto Rico campus, a D. Min. in Family Therapy from Southern Christian University in Montgomery, Alabama, and a Ph. D. in English and Applied Linguistics from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, for research related to factors affecting interlanguage fossilization in second language acquisition. The latter accentuated the important role of achievement motivation in the SLA process and broke new ground by demonstrating that interlanguage fossilization is not necessarily permanent.
I have worked for over twenty-six years in the Orthodox community as a pastor, and during that time have worked as a counselor and therapist, in both Church and secular institutions. I have also worked as an English language professor at the University of Turabo, Puerto Rico and am Director of the Language Research Center.
It was through my contact with the Athonite Elder Chrysostomos of St. Anne's Skete on Mount Athos, who later became my spiritual father, that I became interested in hesychasm and Orthodox Psychotherapy. His Eminence, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, the author of Orthodox Psychotherapy, has been my beloved, albeit distant guiding example. Experience, and not academic learning, is the foundational pre-requisite of hesychasm.
As a monastic, who has some understanding, albeit inadequate and meager, of the intrinsic mystical relationship between struggle, purity, and inner healing, and as a family therapist, who understands the needs of men and women living in the world, I am interested in finding ways to develop a hesychastic and Orthodox neptic-psychotherapeutic methodology that can be applied at the Orthodox parish level. Making the principles of the Holy Fathers applicable to men and women is a matter of making spiritual and mental health available to the laity, and not only monastics.
The following is a brief reference to the assumptions that I have brought to this study: (a) hesychasm is a therapeutic science; (b) neptic-psychotherapeutic methodology can cure the sickness of the psyche and lead to spiritual, emotional, and psychological health; and (c) Orthodox Psychotherapy is available to all who wish to afford themselves of its benefits provided that they repent and embrace the Orthodox life.
1.11 Chapter Outline
Chapter II presents a review of the related literature and provides an overview of the teachings of the Holy Fathers on neptic-psychotherapy and other issues, as well as information on depressive symptomatology and comorbid anxiety.
Chapter III describes the methodology of the study. It includes information on the sample population, instruments, and methods utilized.
Chapter IV elaborates on statistical data, results and analysis.
Chapter V discusses implications of the results, draws conclusions, and makes recommendations.
1.12 Dissemination of Research
The findings will be disseminated through traditional research venues, e.g., conferences, seminars, academic journals, etc. However, to ensure speedy and broad dissemination and to promote discussion, debate, and dialogue, the findings will be published through the electronic media, which will provide a cost-free discussion arena for scholars, theologians, mental health professionals, and the general public. This will facilitate multi-disciplinary live discussion. Additionally, facts and opinions will be recorded online for future reference. The print versions will be supplemental instead of primary.
Page created: 11-2-2011.
Last update: 11-2-2011.