Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Psychotherapy - Philosophy - Dogma


Anthropological background: 
The human composite and spiritual healing
From the Book,  "Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing, from the early Christian East", 
by Jean-Claude Larchet 
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Sophia Perennis; 1st English Ed edition (1 July 2005)
Language English
ISBN-10: 9781597310451
ISBN-13: 978-1597310451

Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet is a French Orthodox researcher who is one of the foremost Orthodox Patristics scholars writing today. Born in 1949, Dr. Larchet holds doctorates in philosophy (1987) and theology (1994) from the University of Strasbourg. He is one of the very few contemporary authors who is able seamlessly to combine rigorous scholarship with a vibrant sense of the inner life of the Church. His prolific writings on the spirituality of the Fathers of the Church have been translated into no less than 12 languages. Dr. Larchet converted to the Orthodox Church from the Roman Catholic Church at the age of 21.




Regardless of historical period or the nature of the society involved, mental illness has been always with us. And even within any given society one often finds contradictory attitudes taken towards the insane. Some view these unfortunates as messengers from above, as mediators between man and God, and hence worthy of respect and veneration, even elevating them to the function of priest or the dignity of prophet; others consider them less than human, as the associates or slaves of evil powers, as individuals to be persecuted, avoided, and even imprisoned or physically eliminated.

At the same time, the nature and cause of what we like to call 'mental illness' have always posed tremendous difficulties. They raise many issues with regard to their causes, their manifestations and their origins, and these in relation to the three dimensions of the human being—physical, psychic and spiritual—and all this in a much more pressing manner than with those illnesses primarily affecting the body.

It is rare that all three dimensions are taken into consideration by those who have attempted to explain these problems, and, in examining the history of psychiatry (as usually understood), even those doing so have had great difficulty in integrating all three and usually end up splitting them apart while favoring one or the other.1

Paradoxically modern psychiatry is afflicted with many internal conflicts that result in theories and therapies that are heterogeneous and even at times contradictory. The classical study Manuel de psychiatrie by H. Ey, P. Pernard, and C. Brisset delineates four basic theoretical positions: (1) organo-mechanistic theories which consider that mental illness has an organic origin; (2) psychodynamic theories based on unconscious pathology which hold that these illnesses are the result of unconscious forces (Freud and his disciples; Jung); (3) socio-psychogenic theories that consider environmental factors of primary importance and which see mental illness as a pathological psychological reaction to unfortunate situations or difficulties (the Anglo-Saxon school; Pavlov) or as the effect of traumas of communication, especially within the bosom of the family (Bateson, Watzlawick and the Palo Alto school); (4) organogenic dynamic theories which hold that mental illnesses are the result of the breakdown of the psychic being which is affected by organic factors (Jackson, Janet, Ey).

These different outlooks are in principle mutually exclusive: the first advocates a purely organic etiology and totally rejects psychological and sociological factors; the second considers psychological factors as primary and denies any fundamental role to organic factors, though it admits the importance of certain related factors which are held to be endogenous; the third rejects all organic etiologies and denies any role to the unconscious. Mental illness is seen as purely the result of exogenous factors. The fourth excludes all such factors including the role of the unconscious. It attributes mental illness to an organic substratum but it denies any direct or mechanical relationship between this substratum and symptoms. It does however recognize that dynamic psychic forces play an essential role in the evolution of mental illnesses.2

Even within any given position one frequently finds considerable variation in theory and practice, to say nothing of divergences and even contradictions. (This is particularly true when one considers the various psychotherapies such as Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis.)

In the practical order it is clear that many psychiatrists are in practice eclectic. Unable to show that there is any coherent manner of understanding these illnesses, it is only to be expected that such should be the case. 

All the different approaches to therapy claim success.3 The fact that such heterogeneous therapies, founded as they are on a different and even contradictory theories, can have similar results violates the logical principle of non-contradiction and leads one to think that efficacy is the result of something other than their specificity, such as the attention or direction given to the patient, and such as might well occur outside of a professional milieu.

Looking at things from a negative point of view, one could also conclude that the various therapies are equally ineffective, or when effective are so only because they encounter a nature that, in such situations and according to the ancient Hippocratic principle, is capable of finding ways to heal itself. 

Moreover, in many cases of both neurosis and psychosis these therapies are of little help. Psychotropic medications will act to alleviate symptoms, but in most cases have no effect on underlying causes. While they unquestionably act to relieve distressing symptoms, it is often only at the cost of an internal and external inhibition and blunting of affect that causes as much distress to the patient as did the original illness. Many psychiatrists recognize the fact that these medications are only adjuvants whose greatest value is to make the patient amenable to therapies based on psychological interventions, but such therapies are seldom used, while the medicinal approach is rarely crowned with success. One knows that psychoanalysis, one of the most elaborate forms of therapy currently available, rarely cures those afflicted with psychoses, and only attains to limited success with neuroses. Moreover, Freud never thought that a complete healing was possible, and the majority of psychoanalysts modestly limit their goals to assisting their patients deal with their problems and better support their afflictions.

The variety of psychiatric theories available makes the definition and classification of mental illnesses very difficult.4

Hence it follows that there are considerable differences both between the schools and from one country to another. Indeed, it has been asserted that there are 'no universally accepted models of classification.'5

The contemporary evolution of psychiatry, far from being directed towards unification or harmonization, tends rather to accentuate the divergences and to concretize the differences. Take for example "schizophrenia". In France this is a well demarcated entity while in the Anglo-Saxon countries it embraces a much wider series of conditions such that at times it includes almost all the psychoses. Again, consider the distinction between psychoses and neuroses—the classic distinction between these two large categories is often contested, especially by the anti-psychiatric schools. When it comes to etiology, autism provides us with an excellent example: there is hardly an area of livelier dispute than that which exists between those who hold to psychological verses a genetic cause.6

Even the very idea of mental illness poses difficulties. According to the anti-psychiatric movement that developed in the sixties, the very idea of mental illness is a myth (Szasz), something invented by society (Cooper), and is in fact not in any sense an illness. Psychiatrists using the Anglo-Saxon psychoanalytic method, by stressing the importance of social and environmental factors, similarly tended to dissolve the concept of mental illness (Sullivan). Michel Foucault in his Histoire de la folie à l'age classique 7 upholds the thesis that the concept of 'mental illness' was the result of an abusive and reductive appropriation of madness by physicians when medicine came out of the dark ages, while previous to that time it was also abusively identified with irrationality and as such excluded by a socially validated and dominant mindset.

The attitude of institutional psychiatry reflects all these contradictions and divergences. In the actual state of affairs as noted by Henri Ey and his collaborators 'one can only vacillate between those who were more interested in the illness than the patient, and those who were more interested in the patient than the illness,8

Hospitalization itself reflected this ambiguity. When Pinel removed the chains of the mentally ill in 1793 and began to treat the insane as medical patients, they were no longer seen as outcasts, but instead found themselves fettered by the law courts and asylums. On the one hand, the hospitalization and isolation of the mentally ill might be welcomed by those excluded from their families and society,9 but on the other hand it could also be seen as a kind of imprisonment, and indeed, in the eyes of most people the specialized hospital was a prison.

The discovery of neuroleptics seems to be a means of liberation, but as many have pointed out, this is but the substitution of a chemical straitjacket for former methods of restraint. Unquestionably great progress has been made in humanizing the conditions in mental hospitals and adjusting medications on an individual basis.10 But the overwhelming influence of organogenic attitudes and their utilization of medications often results in limiting the care of patients to only these modalities. The psychological problems of the mentally ill—seen as epiphenomena in the light of these theories and attitudes—are rarely dealt with. The patient himself rarely derives any benefit from the hospital personnel (who are often too few in numbers and not well trained, again as a result of the above mentioned influences), other than the distribution of medications und the satisfaction of their material needs. The net result of the medicalization of mental illness is that the disease rather than the patient receives treatment. Another effect is that only the medical doctor is considered competent to treat what is considered to be a physico-chemical derangement No regard is given to the patient's will and his ability to be involved in understanding and healing himself. It is partly in response to this situation that therapeutic communities were developed by anti-psychiatric critics in England (Cooper, Lang), and the movement critical of psychiatry in Italy called Psichiatria democratica (Basaglia).

The former insists upon making the mentally ill responsible for their manner of living and involves them in making the therapeutic decisions which affect them, while the latter attempts to provide a totally unrestricted environment and to integrate them as much as possible into normal society. Unfortunately both these efforts have remained marginal.

True, apart from institutionalization, relations with the mentally ill are always difficult and problematic. They always present a disturbing element to society and their families, and above all a challenge to established values, to the dominant concepts of normality, and hence are a danger to the stability of those around them, especially those whose stability may be fragile and only maintained with great difficulty. Unquestionably the anti-psychiatry movement exaggerates when it sees the conflicts between the mentally ill and society a healthy reaction. But it is nevertheless true that the incarceration of the mentally ill is a response to the will of society, family members or groups of individuals who feel their own equilibrium and sanity threatened. The mentally ill person is clearly and beyond doubt 'the other', someone who is radically different and, as such, is the 'stranger'. It is significant that in most societies he is seen as someone who is either superhuman or subhuman (as someone deprived of the use of reason, a faculty seen as specifically human, or as someone 'deranged' subject to non-human forces and unable to exercise his free will, another specifically human characteristic), but rarely as an ordinary person.

The study which follows is a part of a trilogy devoted to the Christian conception of illness as found in the writings of the Church Fathers and the lives of the eastern saints from the first to the fourteenth century.11 It will attempt to contribute to the history of mental illness and its treatment in a domain little studied up to now. 

In view of the many problems which current psychiatry faces, the difficulties in understanding, the proper treatment of mental illness,(*) and the manner in which society responds to those so afflicted, we shall try to offer some insight into the manner in which early Christians viewed, understood, and treated insanity, and to show the benefits, however modest, that the thought and experience of the early Christians can provide.

(*). We do not wish to attach any pejorative sense to the term. We are only following the practice of the Fathers which sometimes used the word 'illness' (see for example S. Gregory of Nazianzus, Carm. Theol. 11,28, pg 37,857A) but most often the word 'folly' (folie). This last concept has much broader implications than the former term and provides a better insight into their pluridimentional conceptions. The first is more familiar to the modern reader, having been imposed over the past two centuries of medicalization which has totally devaluated the second. The latter has however become more acceptable over the last 20 years as a result of the anti-psychiatric movement and its use in the work of M. Foucault, Histoire de la folie à l'age classique, Paris, 1972.


It goes without saying that the social and historic context was vastly different, and that it would be inappropriate to offer all their ideas as being relevant and all their therapeutic practices as models. Clearly some aspects of mediaeval medicine are no longer tenable. Many of the ideas of Hippocrates and Galen, especially those ideas that attempted to explain mental illness or apply therapies based on them have long since been discarded.

It should also be stressed that the Fathers were not overly preoccupied with this subject and dealt with it only indirectly and intermittently. The source material, with its many gaps and fragments, does not provide us with as coherent, systemic, precise, and complete a view into the subject of mental disorders as is the case with bodily and above all spiritual illness. Also, the synthesis that we have drawn from these sources is markedly incomplete. Despite this however, apart from removing certain prejudices and correcting certain misunderstandings, we feel the views of the early Fathers offer us a variety of resources and ideas for current practice.

While modern psychiatry by and large appears to be split up into various schools, each holding to contradictory theories and claiming exclusive value for their own point of view, it is interesting to see that Christian thought developed a complex conception which recognized three etiological categories: organic, demonic and spiritual, and that each of these were associated with different and specific forms of treatment. This allows us to state from the beginning that the widespread idea among historians, namely, that the Fathers considered all mental illness to be the result of diabolic possession, is completely false.

While all the schools of modern psychiatry can be seen as reductive, the Church Fathers have the merit of embracing the three dimensions of the human being: body, psyche, and spirit. And even though the phenomena of insanity reflects the deepest aspects and even the most profound values of the human being, as is admitted more and more today, the Fathers have unfailingly seen this in terms of man's relationship with God and as tied to the development of the entire human being. Reference to the spiritual plane constantly informs their understanding of illness, and it is this reference that assures a conceptual unity and coherence, despite the diversity of levels encompassed and despite, at first glance, the impression of having been pieced together. From this point of view the idea that Byzantine society only had confused notions about insanity and no publicly recognized12 therapeutic system of treatment also seems debatable.

First of all the Fathers were quick to recognize that some forms of mental illness had organic causes. For these they recommended such appropriate medical therapy as was available in their days. This should be stressed even though their comments in this regard are sparse and thus give the impression that their understanding was limited. And this remains true even if the theories and practices of medicine in their day seem primitive and have subsequently been abandoned. On the one hand, this demonstrates how wrong is the prejudicial view that holds that the Fathers always blamed mental illness on supernatural causes. On the other hand this corrective risks supporting the purely naturalistic concept of mental disease that the organo-mechanistic concept of psychiatry holds to, and which derives ultimately from Hippocratic medicine. Confronted with the idea that sees mental illness as purely corporeal, the Fathers insisted on the existence of a psychological factor. But, having based themselves on an anthropology in which the soul, while closely connected to the body, retains a certain independence with respect to it, they saw mental illnesses, in cases where an organic cause was at work, as disorders of the soul's corporeal expression more than the soul itself. This is not unimportant since it allowed them, in theory, to affirm and maintain the integrity of a human being, and, in practice, to justify the absolute respect which is his due.

Secondly, the Fathers believed in the possibility of demonic causes being exerted on the psychic level, either directly or through the intermediary of the body.

Such a concept would appear shocking to those aware of the evil and sinister attacks on witches during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But the beliefs and practices of the Fathers had nothing to do with such things. The Fathers, as we will show, considered the possessed not to be accomplices of the devil,13 but rather victims, and as such entitled to special attention and solicitude.

The possibility of demonic causes may appear archaic and old-fashioned. The role of devils in the modern West is, if not ignored, a( least greatly underestimated. And this is true even among Christians despite the innumerable references in the Scriptures, liturgical lexis, and Patristic writings, to say nothing of the lives of the saints.

However, disregarding a certain number of factors bound up with those times, this possibility does not seem to be without value.

In the first place, just as with previously discussed physical maladies,14 so also in mental illnesses, it should be clear from the Gospels and the writings of the Fathers that, when diabolical causes were considered) they were not ignorant of natural causes, as is often maintained, since the same illnesses were explained on either physical or diabolic grounds according to the case.

Secondly, it should be noted that such a universally recognized scholar as Marcel Sendrail, writing as a physician, did not hesitate to say in his recent Histoire culturelle de la maladie15 that "current attitudes prefer to explain symptoms that are similar in their manifestation (as for example the cases of possession reported in the Gospels) as being due to mental illness rather than as having any occult basis. It remains to be seen whether or not this hypothesis is applicable in every psychopathological situation. After two thousand years, just as the tenor of so-called clear human thinking has changed, so too the modes of its alienation and perversion. One would like to continue to be convinced that the history of our own enlightened times authorizes us to deny the possibility of evil influences playing a role in the world."16

Thirdly, we need to recognize that, in their accounts, some of the mentally ill mention the presence, at least at times, of a strange, inner influence which incites them to certain thoughts, words, or deeds against their will, and some of them present this influence as a demonic entity which suggests clearly negative behavior with respect to themselves and/or others, even murder or suicide. Some American psychiatrists, troubled by the constancy and the similarity of these recollections among individuals from vastly different socio-cultural and even a-religious backgrounds, have been led to break with the naturalist outlook that refuses to see in these situations anything other than delirium. They have been led to take these manifestations seriously and have decided as a working hypothesis to consider demonic experiences as real, or in other words to consider them as corresponding to an objective reality.17

Having recorded, examined and compared the Voices' that the patients claim to have heard, one of these psychiatrists has shown that these 'messages' are not chaotic, inconsistent or confused in nature as might be expected from a disordered psychological state, but appear to correspond to a defined intention which is logical, coherent and marked by an identifiable pattern independent of the patients.18 Despite the boldness of his hypothesis, and given its purely descriptive nature, clearly we cannot conclude from this that demonic powers as envisioned by Christian tradition actually exist. Yet the similarity between aspects of the pattern thus brought to light and those that Christianity generally attributes to demonic activity is quite striking, with an impulsive lewdness and a relentless will to do harm being the most obvious.19 And so it is that Mgr. Chrysostomos, after reviewing the new orientations and the latest psychiatric research concludes that:

"it seems to me that it would be fruitful... to reassess the Patristic cosmology of the Eastern Church and draw from it a psychological model that can encompass the reality of demons and the effects of demonic forces on human behavior, both normal or psychopathic."20

The Fathers also held to a third etiology, namely mental illness resulting from spiritual problems, generally defined as one or another of the passions developed to an extreme. This category is most important because it pertains to the majority of the nervous conditions in present-day standard nosography, as well as some of the psychoses. Thus the attitude designated by modern psychiatry the 'over-estimation' or 'hypertrophy of the self, highly accentuated in psychotic paranoia and to a lesser degree in neurotic hysteria, and to which many interpersonal problems—a symptom present in virtually all neurotic states—can be linked, clearly corresponds to the pride described by the Fathers.  

In the same category, what since Freud has been commonly called 'narcissism' likewise seems to correspond to this passion, but is even more closely tied to the primal passion of 'philautia', the passionate love of oneself which has the body as its primary object. Anxiety and anguish, present in most psychoses and in all the nervous conditions, can also be easily connected with the passions of fear and sadness as conceived by the eastern Christian ascetics. Aggression, also found in the majority of neurotic states and in certain psychoses, can be connected with the passion of 'anger' in the broader sense given to this term by the Fathers. Asthenia or lethargy, common to many mental diseases, corresponds rather exactly to one of the essential components of the passion of acedia. One can also perceive a direct connection between standard neurotic phobias, defined as 'agonizing fears', with the passion of Year'. The neurosis of anxiety can be easily classified within the framework of this same passion of fear and the passion of sadness. Psychotic depression has a connection on the one hand with acedia and on the other with 'despair,' an extreme form of the passion of sadness.

The nosology and therapy of spiritual maladies elaborated by the Fathers is of great interest today. First of all it represents the cumulative experience and fruit of many generations of ascetics who have explored the depth of the human soul and have come to a knowledge of even its innermost recesses in great detail; at the same time, they have spent their entire lives in mastering and transforming the soul and have acquired a unique and remarkably efficacious experience.

Secondly, they envisioned man in all his complexity, taking into account the many dimensions of his being, including the problems posed by his very existence (especially its meaning), his overall destiny and his relationship with God. The importance of these factors in the etiology and therapy of mental illness has recently been rediscovered by those involved in existential psychotherapies.21

We have previously devoted a lengthy study to the subject of spiritual maladies.22 As a result, we will limit ourselves in this work to merely recalling the analysis of the passions of acedia and sadness— their links with the various forms of depression are quite obvious and, in recent years, have attracted the attention of some psychiatrists who have shown themselves quite sensitive to the depth, richness and wisdom of Patristic analysis.23

These last mentioned illnesses have an exemplary value. All the more so as symptoms of anxiety and depression afflict over two hundred million individuals,24 who most often receive only chemical treatment for their illness.25 Undoubtedly some of these are organic in origin and, as such, this therapy is justified. However, most of them, as is generally admitted, are suffering from what is currently called 'mal de vivre' ('feeling lousy').26 In other words they suffer from existential problems which standard psychiatry remains totally incapable of treating. It is obvious that these problems to a great extent relate to the spiritual sphere as envisioned by the Fathers whose nosology and therapeutic techniques would appear to be most pertinent, for despite the fact that both time and social context are different, they touch upon universal dimensions of human existence, upon difficulties that afflict everyone who desires to find a meaning for existence and to harmonize their interior life; individuals who wish to conform their activities to values whose disappearance, as many psychiatrists and psychologists admit, leads to the increase of mental problems, especially anxiety and depression.

Another aim of this work is to present the attitude of the great saints toward 'fools', an attitude animated in particular by the Christian ideal of charity. This attitude seems to be of current interest in the way of viewing the relationships of the mentally ill with their welcome by a world where, as already pointed out, their 'odd-ness' remains disturbing to others and most often still incurs misunderstanding and rejection, where being confined is the only possibility open to them, and where, even in the setting of a specialty hospital, they are still, in most cases, considered to be 'patients’ consigned to the lot of a medical treatment seen as the only possible remedy, a situation which in fact objectively leads to their being considered 'chronic' and therefore abandoned.

The concern of the Fathers, such as St Theodosius, to actively engage the mentally ill in their own healing bears witness to the respect and confidence afforded them. They refused to consider them as simple patients totally subject to the therapist's control or dependent on the results of an external therapy. These concerns are similar to the most recent forms of treatment, and, in fact, several aspects of their care remind us of those previously mentioned attempts at 'therapeutic communities'.

Before examining in detail the different etiologies recognized by the Fathers, the therapeutic methods used by them, and their attitude towards those afflicted with mental illness, it is absolutely necessary to have some idea of the anthropological bases underlying their conceptions. To be precise, we must explain the manner in which they viewed the human psyche and its relationship to the body as well as the spirit.

Moreover, it seemed that we could not end this work without mentioning a very special form of folly known to Eastern Christendom, even if it is something that pertains to the ascetical rather than the psychopathological realm, namely the 'fools for Christ'. And seeing this folly simulated for spiritual ends juxtaposed with authentic forms of madness will help us better understand the nature and the purpose of an often misunderstood phenomenon.

A study of 'the fools for Christ' will also provide useful insights into the manner in which insanity and the insane were viewed in Byzantine society. As we will see, the situation was not idyllic. In this society as in many others, the fool was an object of scorn and rejection except for the great saints, who show us that, even in an officially Christian society, the acceptance, respect and welcome afforded to those who were different and weak could only be the fruit of a self-conquest and a victory over the passions which allow the love of men to triumph, a love owed first, according to God, to the most destitute.

The 'fool for Christ', a type of ascetic that has disappeared today, had an exemplary value. One of the motivations for this was to share in everything the conditions of the poor, the humiliated, the scorned and the social outcast, especially the 'fool', and, by an intimate experience of their state, to be better able to empathize with their ills, to draw so close to their condition so as to be of greater assistance, becoming imitators of the Apostle who said, 'I am made weak with the weak in order to gain over the weak. I become all things to all men, that I might save all' (1 Cor. 9:22).



 The Fathers often insist that the human being is neither body nor soul in isolation, but entirely and indissociably both.

By affirming that the body is an integral part of the very being of man, by recognizing that the body has the same dignity as the soul,27 and by refusing to attribute to the body an origin or a destiny different than that of the soul,28 the Fathers contradicted the spiritualist conceptions. These conceptions viewed the body as only an avatar of the soul, proof of its fallen nature, a source of impurity and a tomb (soma-sema)29 which accidentally imprisons the soul; as something inessential and added on to the soul. For them the essence of a person is to be found in his soul which reveals itself as one progressively negates the body and becomes detached from it.30

Correlatively, by affirming that a human being is at once soul and body,31 they opposed every form of materialism and naturalism that denied the soul or reduced it to being an epiphenomena of the body, or something derived from and determined by the body, a point of view that sees the body as the essence of the human being and the principle source of all human activity.32

St Justin writes: Ts the soul by itself man? No; but the soul of man. Would the body be called man? No, but it is called the body of man.'33 And St Irenaeus says: 'For that flesh which has been moulded is not a perfect man in itself, but the body of a man, and part of a man. Neither is the soul itself, considered apart by itself, the man; but it is the soul of a man, and part of a man.'34

The human being is then both body and soul and consists of these two at once, compounded of two substances. The Fathers never tire of repeating that the human being is by his very nature made of these two components and can never be reduced to only one or the other. His very essence consists of these two elements. Thus St Irenaeus tells us, 'men... are compound by nature, and consist of a body and a soul.'35 St Athenagoras teaches that 'man is double, being made of body and soul,'36 and ' is composed of these two.37 St Cyril of Jerusalem clearly states: 'Man is two-fold by nature, composed of a soul and a body, and it is the same God that created both the body and the soul.'38 St John Chrysostom tells us 'man is a reasoning animal who is composed of two natures, of a spiritual soul and a material body.'39 And St Gregory of Nyssa: 'What does the human being teach us? Body and soul at the same time, or one or the other alone? All the evidence points to the union of these two which is characteristic of the living person.40 And let us quote St Gregory Palamas: The title of human being is not applied to the soul or the body as separate entities, but of the two together, for they were created together in the image of God.41

The affirmation of this double constitution, the coexistence of these two components and their clear distinction, is not to be construed however as a dualist conception. As St Gregory of Nyssa stresses, 'Man is one by nature, being made of body and soul together.42

It is as a single entity with two natures especially since the soul and the body were created by the same act and at the same moment.  'The being of a person can only have one common origin/ writes St. Gregory of Nyssa.43 As St Nicetas Stethatos explains,

The divine Word, far from establishing that either one or the other of the two natures existed previously; that either one or the other was the basis, the cause or the effect of the other—either the body in connection with the soul or vice versa—to the contrary has united the two natures without any confusion into a single unique substance.44 

St Gregory of Nyssa affirms:

As far as the creation of each individual is concerned, one principle does not precede the other; neither the soul comes before the body, nor the other way around 45... It is a truth that neither the soul exists before the body, nor the body apart from the soul, but the two have a common origin. If one considers these things on a supernatural level, this origin is founded primarily on the will of God; from a less elevated point of view, this occurred at the very moment of our entrance into the world.46

St Maximus affirms just as clearly that, at the moment of creation, the body and soul were created simultaneously and human nature is composed of a single entity:

In its creation every composite nature, as far as its components are concerned, possesses its own parts simultaneously in this creation;47... its parts are contemporaneous to each other insofar as they coexist from the moment of their creation. Neither of the two parts pre-existed in time.48

St Maximus affirms that the parts are necessarily connected to something and are both simultaneously needed to form the genus (eidos) of a complete human being. 49 Even death, as St Maximus stresses, only separates body and soul in a relative manner. Neither soul nor body can exist in isolation then, but are always the body and the soul not only of a given man, but of each and every man considered as a whole of which they remain parts.50

These brief comments show us that the Fathers constantly tried to defend a state of equilibrium in their understanding of the nature of the human being. The two substances of which he is composed are distinguished without being separated, and united without any confusion. As St Symeon the New Theologian says, the soul is united to the body 'in an inexpressible and undetectable way, and blended without mixture or confusion.'51  And so it is not possible to totally envisage the one without the other, to see man through one independently of the other; each one, however, preserves its own nature and, in a certain measure, its own destiny.52

The intimate connection of soul and body implies that they act simultaneously in every human activity and partake of the same emotions. According to Nemesius of Emesa, the sympathy that exists between the two shows that they are united, for the whole animate being experiences one same feeling as a single entity.53

He further adds that] The Soul, being numbered among the things that can change, seems to have feelings in common with the body because of its close bond with it. At the same time the soul seems to be subject to the influence of the body which can impress itself on her.54

'What pain or pleasure or movement is not a common activity of both body and soul?' asks St Gregory Palamas.55 St Maximus is even more explicit:

Every composite nature normally and necessarily involves its components, one with the other. Such is the case with men as with every composite nature. The soul without wishing involves the body and is influenced by the body. It provides the body with life without having chosen to do so and is under the body's influence, partaking of its passions 56 and sorrows through that faculty capable of receiving them.57

The Fathers stress the connection between body and soul and their common activity in sin. 'In every action they are, as it were, riveted together and participate equally in the end result. How then can you separate one from the other when you admit that they are joined in all their activities. And how can you put the entire responsibility on the soul when the actions involve both parties?' asks St Gregory of Nyssa.58 The Fathers, in accord with these ideas, considered the passions59 to be shared with the body and the soul, and also held the same to be true of the virtues.60 Thus it follows that every movement of the soul is accompanied by a movement of the body and every movement of the body by that of the soul.61

Each and every act of the human being is at one and the same time an act and movement of both the soul and the body. Evagrius calls attention to this double relationship.62 St Maximus speaks very clearly to the issue:

The following four things are said to change the body's temperament and through it to produce either impassioned or dispassionate thoughts in the intellect: angels, demons, the winds and diet. It is said that the angels change it by thought, demons by touch, the winds by varying, and diet by the quality of our food and drink and by whether we eat too much or too little. There are also changes brought about by means of memory, hearing and sight—namely when the soul is affected by joyful or distressing experiences as a result of one of these three means, and then changes the body's temperament. Thus changed, this temperament in its turn induces corresponding thoughts in the intellect.63  It is in the nature of the human being that no element can act without the other being implicated. The body without the soul is helpless,64 and vice versa, but for different reasons: the body has need of the soul to live and move,65 while the soul has need of the body to manifest, express itself, and act on the external world.66 For the body is the servant, the organ and instrument of the soul.67 The body is absolutely necessary for the exercise of the soul's function in relation to the world and for it to manifest its powers under terrestrial conditions. With regard to this all of the activities of the soul, insofar as they are manifest, cannot exist without the body.68

The soul is incapable of expressing itself without the corporeal organs necessary for the realization of its activity. Such, according to Gregory of Nyssa, is the case even with an embryo where these organs are not as yet developed. 'Even if the soul does not manifest itself by certain activities, it is nevertheless present as in an embryo. In effect, the constitution of a human being which will develop, is already present, but in a hidden manner because it cannot manifest itself except by means of the necessary order of things. Thus it is present, but invisible. It will only appear thanks to the exercise of its normal activity as the body develops'; 'the activities of the soul develop along with the formation and perfection of the body that is its instrument.'69 This is also the case, as we shall see later, with adults whose disease affects the organs and impedes them from actualizing certain potentialities of the soul. But this is true during the first years of life, when the soul, that possesses from the moment of birth the totality of its possibilities, can only manifest these in proportion to the development of the organism. St Gregory of Nyssa writes thus:

The soul, even if does not manifest certain activities in broad daylight, is nevertheless present in the embryo.... It is present but invisible; it only shows itself thanks to the exercise of its natural activity which is associated with the development of the body.70 ...

The activities of the soul develop in correlation with the formation and perfection of the body which is its instrument.71

All this should not let us forget that the soul, being incorporeal, has a different nature than the body72 and is superior to it.73 It is the soul that gives life to the body: the body receives from the soul its organization while the soul directs the activity of the body and maintains its unity.74 The intimate relationship between soul and body is due to the fact that the soul penetrates each part of the body and uses its members as its organ. St Maxim us notes:

The whole soul permeates the whole body and gives it life and motion. At the same time the soul is not divided or enclosed in it, since the soul is simple and incorporeal by nature. It is wholly present to the entire body and to each of its members. The body is of such a nature that it can make place for the soul by an inherent power that is receptive to the soul's activity.75

St Makarios teaches that:

The soul, which is a subtle body, has enveloped and clothed itself in the members of our visible body, which is gross in substance. It has clothed itself in the eye, through which it sees; in the ear, through which it hears; in the hand, the nose. In short, the soul has clothed itself in the whole visible body and all its members, becoming commingled with them, and through them accomplishing everything it does in this life.76

Nemesius of Emesa brings all these aspects together:

The soul is incorporeal, and yet it has established its presence in every part of the body... on the one hand, the soul preserves its own unity of being, and on the other, it modifies whatever it indwells, in accordance with its own life, while itself suffering no reciprocal change. For, as the presence of the sun transforms the air into light, making the air luminous by uniting light with air, at once maintaining them distinct and yet melting them together, so likewise the soul is united to the body and yet remains distinct from it... the soul is incorporeal, and not circumscribed to a particular portion of space, but spreading entire throughout; like a sun that spread wherever its light reached, as well as throughout the body of the sun, not being just a part of the whole that it illuminates, as would be the case if it were not omnipresent in it. For it is not the body that masters the soul, but it is the soul that masters the body. Nor is the soul contained in the body, as if in a vessel or bag. It might rather be said that the body is in the soul.77

The fact that the soul governs the organization and function of the body only signifies to a certain degree the mastery of its body by the human subject. To define the degree of this mastery requires that one define the complex nature of the soul. This definition also allows us to be clear as to what degree the soul is independent of the body.



The Fathers usually distinguish three 'powers' in the human soul.78

The most elementary level (which is not always explicitly distinguished and is often found included in a broader concept of the second level) corresponds to the vegetative or vital power which all living beings possess, be they human, animal or vegetable.79 The function of this power is nutrition, growth and generation.80 It is this which is the source of life in the organism and assures the individual functions of the vital organs.81 The vital organs that are linked to the vegetative soul are not under the control of the human will. They function 'whether we want them to or not.'82

At the second level is found the 'animal' power and this power is common to both men and animals.83 Along with the vegetative functions, it constitutes the irrational part of the soul. It is also called 'appetitive'84 and 'passible'.85 Apart from the capacity for sensation and perception,86 it comprises two elements: 1) 'irrascibility' and 'ardor' (thumos) from which all kinds of aggressiveness proceeds, as well as the will in its combative dimension,87 and 2) concupiscability (epithymetikon),88 which encompasses desire, affectivity and other such urges.89 Also attached to it is the imagination under its elementary and non-rational aspect.90

In the human being the exercise of the faculties can be partially controlled by reason.91

At the third level we find the power of reason that pertains to man and constitutes the principle characteristic of his nature, distinguishing him from all other creatures.92 The two principle faculties are reason and, at an even higher level, the spirit (pneuma) or intellect (nous)93 which is the principle of consciousness (in the psychological as well as the moral sense) and the capacity that man has for self-determination (autexousia), and thus the superior aspect of his will 94 and the principle of his liberty.95 The nous is also the principle of all the intellective functions. In the first place, it is the intuitive intelligence (nous properly speaking), the faculty of contemplation (theoria) and the source of all knowledge. Secondly, it is reason (logos) and all that proceeds from the intelligence:96 thinking (ennoia, dianoia), reflection (dianoia), judgment (krisis), discernment (diakrisis), and interior discourse (endiathetos logos) from which comes both language and memory.97

The nous is the highest faculty in man and the faculty that gives him the power to command and to direct (for which reason this is often called egemonikon). Because of the nous man has the possibility to situate, master, and transcend himself.

The nous represents the contemplative possibilities of the human being.98 For the Fathers it is fundamentally that which links man with God, that leads him towards and unites him with God.99 By means of the nous man is objectively and in a definite manner linked to God from the moment of his creation: the nous is in effect the image of God in man.100 This image can be masked or soiled by sin, but it cannot be destroyed: it is the indelible mark of man's most profound being, of his veritable nature, the logos or constitutive principle of which cannot be altered.101

The nous is created immortal, thanks to grace.102 It is changeable by nature, but is capable of controlling and directing its own changes.103 This image of God is not by nature divine. It has the possibility by the work of divine grace, after having acquired the likeness of God, of being deified.104

Finally, it is important to point out that, according to the Fathers, the nous is that which corresponds most of all in man to his person.105 V. Lossky writes that 'it is the seat of the person, of the human hypostasis which contains in itself the whole of man's nature— spirit, soul and body.'106

It is necessary to point out that the 'elements' that can be distinguished in the soul do not constitute three different souls, nor three separate parts. As St Gregory of Nyssa points out, the soul is one and not divided into parts:

We find three distinct faculties [but] let no one suppose on this account that in the compound nature of man there are three souls welded together, contemplated each in its own limits, so that one should think man's nature to be a sort of conglomeration of several souls. The true and perfect soul is naturally one.107

The Fathers frequently used the dichotomous body-soul model, including in the single idea of soul (psykhe) all its elements, and in doing so made clear their understanding of the profound unity of the soul. On other occasions they represented it by the trichotomous spirit/intellect-soul-body model. In so doing, they wished to stress the importance of man's union with God. They wished to avoid characterizing the nous as a faculty separate from the soul and the body: the soul (psykhe) St John of Damascus teaches 'does not have the nous as something distinct from itself, but as its purest part, for, as the eye is to the body, so is the nous to the soul.'108 The nous has no prior existence apart from the soul, but is created at the same time and with the soul.109

The nous is not external to the body.110 It is united to it in the same manner as the animal and vegetative soul. It is totally one with it, not one of its parts. According to St Gregory of Nyssa 'we must... consider that the nous is equally in contact with each of the parts according to a kind of combination which is indescribable.'111 And so we find the entire soul (including the nous) is blended with the body112 and, as we have already seen, totally penetrates it.

As the nous penetrates the totality of the body, it also penetrates the totality of the animal and vegetative soul.113 

By this total union of the nous to the totality of soul and body, the entire man is made in the image of God and as a result is a hypostasis.

By this union, the body and soul receive the possibility of complete participation in the spiritual life. The nous has the power to bring all the other elements of the human composite under its control and of inducing them to conform to itself, to spiritualize them and communicate to them in their inmost being the divine energies which they, by their nature, are capable (dektikos) of receiving. It is through the medium of the nous that the totality of man is capable of being one with God and being deified.

The nous is thus the principle of the physical unity of the human composite,114 the principle of its spiritual unity,115 and ultimately the means of its union with God.

By means of his reasoning soul, man is master of his actions and behavior. At the same time the nous is the principle of his reason, it is also the principle of his will and free choice.116

He is thus, unlike the animals, master of his feelings. St Athanasius also notes:

How again, the eye being naturally constituted to see and the ear to hear, do they turn from some objects and choose others? For who is it that turns away the eye from seeing? Or who shuts off the ear from hearing, its natural function? Or who often hinders the palate, to which it is natural to taste things, from its natural impulse? Or who withholds the hand from its natural activity of touching something, or turns aside the sense of smell from its normal exercise? Who is it that thus acts against the natural instincts of the body? Or how does the body, turned from its natural course, turn to the counsels of another and suffer itself to be guided at the beck of that other? Why, these things prove simply this, that the rational soul presides over the body.

For the body is not even constituted to drive itself, but it is carried at the will of another.117

In a more general manner, St Gregory of Nyssa notes that each element of the body 'is guarded as by a sentinel, by the noetic faculty of the soul.'118

The reasonable soul is likewise capable of ruling the irrational parts of the soul:119 the irascible element, the desiring element and all that is connected with the affections and the imagination. The nous shows itself equally capable of controlling the psychic activities of the rational soul and of ruling the constant flux of ideas and thoughts as well as memories.

Even if the soul uses the body as an instrument and depends on the body to manifest its activities in the exterior world, it remains essentially independent.120 Even if the body cannot move without the soul, the soul remains itself.121 On the other hand, by means of his consciousness, man can transcend the limits of the body. 'Even when united and coupled with the body,' notes St Athanasius, '[the soul] is not shut in or commensurate with the small dimensions of the body, but often, when the body lies in bed, not moving, but in death-like sleep, the soul keeps awake by virtue of its own power, and transcends the natural power of the body.'122

This independence of the soul is clearly manifest with death, when the body decomposes while the soul continues to live. St Athanasius writes:

[If] the soul moves the body and is not moved by other things, it follows that the movement of the soul is spontaneous, and that this spontaneous movement goes on after the body is laid aside in the earth. If then the soul were moved by the body, it would follow that the severance of its motor would involve its death.

 But if the soul moves the body also, it follows all the more that it moves itself. But if moved by itself, it follows that it outlives the body. For the movement of the soul is the same thing as its life.123

St Gregory Palamas develops a similar idea in showing with great precision what distinguishes a human being from an animal:

The soul of each animal not imbued with intelligence... does not possess life as essence, but as activity, since here life is relative and not something in itself. Indeed, the soul of animals consists of nothing except that which is actuated by the body. Thus when the body dissolves, the soul inevitably dissolves as well........ The soul of each man is also the life of the body that it animates........ Yet the soul has life not only as an activity but also as its essence, since it is self-existent; for it possess a spiritual and noetic life that is evidently different from the body's and from what is actuated by the body. Hence when the body dissolves the human soul does not perish with it; and not only does it not perish but it continues to exist immortally, since it is not manifest only in relation to something else, but possesses its own life as its essence.124




1.   See H. Ey. 'Histoire de la psychiatrie' Encyclopédie médico-chirugicale, 1955, 37005A; Etudes psychiatriques, 1, Paris, 1952. Y. Pélicier, Histoire de la psychiatrie, Paris, 1971, E.G. Alexander et S. Selesnick, Histoire de la psychiatrie, Paris, 1972.
2.   Cf. H. Ey, P. Bernard, C. Brisset, Manuel de psychiatrie, Paris, 1974 (4th ed.), pp68—76.
3.   See the review of J.-Y. Nau, of a study published in The Lancet, of July |B| 1988: 'A comparative study on the treatment of mental diseases. Psychotherapy and Psychiatric drugs compared', Le Monde, August 5,1988.
4.   Cf. H. Ey, P. Bernard, C. Brisset, Manuel dc psychiatric, pp 217-218. E. Stengel, 'Classification of mental disorders', Bull. OMS, no. 21,1959, pp 600-663.
5.   H. Ey, P. Bernard, C. Brisset, Manuel de psychiatrie, p 217.
6.   See the articles of Dr Escoffier-Lambiotte, Le Monde, Feb. 2, Feb. 14, April 24, 1985 and of  J. -Y. Nau, Le Monde, July 22,1988.
7.   Paris, 1972
8.   H. Ey, P. Bernard, C. Brisset, Manuel de psychiatrie, p6i.
9.   See C. Brisset, 'Psychiatry and the exclusion of the mentally ill' Le Monde, Nov. 2,1977» P9-
10. See C. Koııpernik, 'L'Heure des 'treatements sur mesure"', Le Monde, April 16, lyHOi pis.
11. The first volume considered bodily illness (Théologie de la maladie. Ed. Du Cerf, Paris, 1991 [available in English translation as "The Theology of Illness* (Crestwood: SVS Press, 2002]), the second considered spiritual illness (Thérapeutique des maladies spirituelles, 4th éd., Ed. du Cerf, Paris, 2000).
12. Cf. M. Dols, 'Insanity in Byzantine and Islamic Medicine', in J. Scarborough (ed.),  Symposium on Byzantine Medicine, Dumbarton Oaks Papters, 38,1984, P137.
I3.  Historians are in agreement in recognizing that it was only after the fifteenth century that such confusions arose in the West See Y, Pelicier, op, cit., p26. F. Alexander and S. Selesnick, op. cit., pp 69 and 87.
14. See our Theology of Illness, pp 95-97·
15. Ed. Privat, Toulouse, 1980, P169.
16. The author recalls this passage from Baudelaire: 'More than once I was the victim of these crises and impulses which lead one to believe that malicious demons insinuate themselves in us and, without our being aware of it, accomplish in us their absurd desires' (Petits poèmes en prose, 'Le Mauvais Vitrier').
17. These researches are reported by Mgr. Chrysostomos in his article 'Demonology in the Orthodox Church: A Psychological Perspective', The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 33,1988, pp 45-61.
18. See W. Van Dusen, The Presence of Other Worlds, New York, 1974.
19. See Ibid., p.120.
20. 'Demonology. ..'p58.
21. See especially: V. Frankl, La Psychotherapie et son image de l'homme, Paris, 1970; The Unconscious God: psychotherapy and theology (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975). W. Daim, Transvaluation de la psychanalyse, Paris, 1957.1. Caruso, Existential Psychology: from analysis to synthesis, trans. E. Kraff (New York: Herder & Herder, 1964); Psychanalyse pour la personne, Paris, 1962. Also see C.G. Jung, La Guerison psychologique, Geneve, 1953.
22. Thérapeutique des maladies spirituelles, 4th éd., Ed. du Cerf, Paris, 2000.
23. See especially J. Alliez and J. P. Huber, 'L'Acédie ou le déprimé entre le péché et Ja maladie*, Annales médico-psychologiques, 145, 1987, PP393-407. B. Lecomte, L'Acédie: invention et devenir d'une psychopathologie dans le monde monastique, thèse de doctorat en medicine université de Nancy, 1,1991. This last study partly inspired our previous work.
24. Le Monde, Nov. 4,1981, pu. "All the epidemiological studies show that in the western countries, one in four individuals are afflicted with one of these forms of moral suffering during the course of their life.* (ibid.) In 1985 seven million French citizens could be considered depressed (cf. Le Monde, 1 Feb., 1985, pi4).
25. In 1981, eight million tons of tranquilizers were consumed annually in the World (Le Monde, Nov., 4, 1981, pn). In France prescriptions for antidepressants exceeded 4,300,000 in 1997 and 7,300,000 in 1982. (Le Monde, Feb. 1, 1985, pi4). With regard to 1991 statistics, one out of four consumed tranquilizers at least once a year in France.
26. Cf. Dr. Escoffier-Lambiote, 'Mal de vivre et médicalisation systématique. Sept millions de Français dépressifs*, Le Monde, Feb, 1,1985, pi4.
27. So much the more so since the Word, by becoming incarnate, assumed not only a soul, but a human body.
28. At death, the body is only separated from the soul while awaiting the resurrection which will transform it and once again unite it with the soul to partake of the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven, or the pains of Hell.
29. Cf. Plato, Gorgias, 493A; Cratylus, 400c.
30. Gnosticism cannot be summed up in a few schools. It is a vast movement with multiple roots which has developed in many different directions. But it is certain that it is to some degree linked to Platonism (see S. Petrement, Essai sur le dualisme chez Platon, les gnostiques et les manichéens, Paris, 1947), at least with the Platonism of the first centuries of Christianity. The anthropology of the early Fathers (especially Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and even Clement of Alexandria) took shape in reaction to gnosticism and the dualistic aspects of Platonism (See M. Spanneut, Le stoïcisme des Pères de l'Eglise de Clément de Rome à Clément d'Alexandrie, Paris, 1957, pp43,133,149,150). The defense of orthodox anthropology continued to be necessary during the course of the following centuries when certain Gnostic theses, related to Originist ideas in particular, became a danger even within the Church (especially in some monastic communities). Thus it was that Origin, Evagrius and Didymus were condemned at the Fifth Council in the year 553 for having, as was once again recalled in canon 1 of the Quinisext Council in 692, Reintroduced... Greek myths.' But Originism left traces beyond the sixth century; thus we see St Gregory Palamas obliged to again make clear the orthodox conception of man in the fourteenth century, and recall the Patristic teaching on the common destiny of the soul and the body in the process of deification. On the Originist crisis, see A. Guillaumont, Les 'Kephalaia gnostica' d'Êvagre le Pontique et l'histoire de l'origénisme chez les Grecs et les Syriens, Paris, 1962, and J. Meyendorff, Le Christ dans la théologie byzantine (Paris: Cerf, 1969), chap. 3, PP59-89.
31. See for example St Gregory of Nazianzus, Discourse, xlv, 8. St Maximus, Mystagogy, v, pg 91,672d.
32. St Athanasius of Alexandria, for example stated: 'Thus each human being has a soul, a reasoning soul. It is necessary for those of little understanding to demonstrate this with a few words, the more so as some heretics deny this and imagine that the human being consists of nothing other than what we visibly apprehend, namely his body.'
33. On the Resurrection, no. 7.
34. Against the Heresies, v, 6,1.
35. Against the Heresies, n, 13,3. Cf. On the Apostolic Preaching, 2.
36. On the Resurrection, 18.
37. Ibid., 25.
38. Catecheses, iv, 18.
39. Homilies on Genesis, xiv, 5.
40. Homilies on Pascha and the Resurrection, Hi.
41. Prosopopoea, pg 150,13461c. One could also cite: St Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua, 7, pg 91,1109CD. St Symeon the New Theologian, Practical and Theological Chapters, 11,23 and m, 62.
42. On the Making of Man, xxix, 1; pg 44,233D.
43. Ibid. Chapters xxviii and xxix are specifically concerned with the refutation of the Origenist doctrine regarding the pre-existence of souls. Cf. On the Soul and the Resurrection, xlvi, pg 46,113BC. St Gregory of Nyssa attacks this doctrine of metempsychosis (On the Making of Man, xxvni, 232A).
44. On the Soul, 14. Cf. 26 and Letters, iv, 9.
45. On the Making of Man, xxix, pg 44,233D.
46. Ibid., 236b.
47. Letters, xn, pg 91,488CD.
48. Ibid. Maximus develops his argument on this point in Ambigua, 42, pg 91, 1321D-1341C. He directs his comments as much against the Origenists who affirmed the pre-existence of the soul, as against those who on the basis of a literal exegesis of Exod. 21:22 affirm its postexistence. He also refutes the doctrine of metempsychosis' (Cf. Ambigua, 7, pg 91, 1100D-1100A). See M.-H. Congourdeau, 'L'Animation de l'embryon humain chez Maxime le Confesseur', Nouvelle revue théologique, m, 1989, pp 693-709 and E. Stephanou, 'La Coexistence initiale de Fame et du corps d'après saint Grégoire de Nysse et Maxime l'Homologète', Échos d'Orient, 31,1932, PP304-315.
49. See Ambigua, 7, pg 91,1100c.
50. See Ibid., noiA-c.
51. Practical and Theological Chapters, 11, 23. Also see Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, in, pg 40,597A.
52. Cf. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, III, 16. St Issac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, 3.
53. On the Nature of Man, ill, pg 40,597A.
54. Ibid., 601B.
55. Triads, II,2,12 [p51 Eng. ed.]. See also St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12.
56. Here we are speaking of the natural passions.
57. Letters, XXII, pg 91,488CD.
58. Homelies on Pascha and the Resurrection, III.
59. It is a matter of the culpable passions as opposed to the virtues.
60. See for example St Maximus, Centuries on Charity, 11, 57. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12.
61. Saint Isaac the Syrian notes on this topic, while affirming that 'the movement of one is separate from the movement of the other' and ' the will of one from the will of the other': 'through God's inscrutable wisdom, by nature the soul has been made a sharer in the body's griefs, by reason of the union of her movement with the body's movement' Ascetical Homilies, 3. On the union of the soul with the movements of the body, see also: Evagrius Ponticus, Chapters on Prayer, 63 and 68. St Maximus the Confessor, Questiones et dubia, 149; Centuries on Charity, 11,85 and 92.
62. 'Whereas others derive their reasonings and ideas and principles from the changing states of the body, yet God does the contrary. He descends upon the spirit himself and infuses his knowledge into it as he pleases. Calm peace he brings to the body's disturbed state through the spirit.' (Chapters on Prayer, 63).
63. Centuries on Charity, 11,92 {The Philokalia, vol. 2).
64. See St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 56.
65. See Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, 11. St Nicetas Stethatos, De L'äme, p56.
66. See Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, xv, pg 44,177c.
67. See St lohn Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis, xi v, 5. Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, ii. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12. St Nicetas
68. It can even be said that the state of the soul is completely inscribed in the body, and especially on the face. It is this, as St John Cassian remarks, which allows the saints 'to recognize his interior state from the look, the face, the bearing of a person" (Conferences vn, 1) The author of Ecclesiasticus as we have noted says: 'The heart of a man shows in his face, be it good or bad' (Sirach 13:25). Cf. St John Climacus, The Ladder, xxx, 17.
69. On the Making of Man, xxix, pg 44,236CD and 237B. Cf. 237c.
70. Ibid., 236C.
71. Ibid., 237b. Cf. 337c: 'For as the body proceeds from a very small original to the perfect state, so also the operation of the soul, growing in correspondence with the subject, gains and increases with it. For at its first formation there comes first of all its power of growth and nutriment alone, as though it were some root buried in the ground; for the limited nature of the recipient does not admit of more; then, as the plant comes forth to the light and shows its shoot to the sun, the gift of sensibility blossoms in addition, but when at last it is ripened and has grown up to its proper height, the power of reason begins to shine forth like a fruit, not appearing in its whole vigor all at once, but by care increasing with the perfection of the instrument, bearing always as much fruit as the powers of the subject allow/ The vocabulary utilized by Gregory clearly indicates that it is the activity of the soul which grows—not the soul itself. All the powers of the sou 1 are there but their operation (or their activity) is only progressively achieved. One should not see in this a reflection of the Aristotelian theory of progressive animation (of the vegetative, sensitive and animal soul). As for St Maximus the Confessor, he explicitly opposed this last theory and affirmed without any ambiguity the presence in man of the reasonable soul from the moment of conception, for this is the distinguishing mark of the human being, and man is such (mid not a plant or animal) from this moment of creation (ste Ambigua, 42, pg 91,1337C-1340A).
72. St Maximus the Confessor demonstrates this in detail in his Letter vi, pg 91, 424c-433A.See also Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, iii, pg 40,597A.
73. See among others: St Athanasius, Against the Heathen, 32, pg 25,64C-65A; St Maximus, Centuries on Charity, 1,7.
74. See St Maximus, Ambigua, 7, pg 91, 1100AB; 42, 13360-13378. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 24. St Gregory Palamas, Topics of Natural and Theological Sciences, 30 (The Philokalia, vol. 4).
75. Ambigua, 7, pg 91, 1100AB [On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ. Selected Writings from St Maximus the Confessor, trans. P.M. Blowers and R.L. Wilken (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003), p7i].
76St Symeon Metaphrastis Paraphrase of the Homilies of St Makarios of Egypt, 67 (The Philokalia, vol. 3). Cf. St Athanasius, Against the Heathen, 32, pg 25,64C-65A.
77On the Nature of Man, III, pg 40,597A.
78. See St Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, xxixx, pg 44,237c. Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, xv. St Maximus, Centuries on Charity, III, 32. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 31-32.
79. The souls of the last two are limited to this level.
80. See St Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, VIII, pg 44,144D-145A; C. St Maximus, Centuries on Charity, 11,32; St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12; St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 31-32
81. See St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12.
82. Ibid. St John of Damascus makes this clear: 'Now, deaf and disobedient to reason are the vital principle, which is also called pulsating, the seminal or generative principle, and the vegetable principle, which is also called nutritive and to which also belongs the principle of growth that builds up the body. For these are governed not by reason but by nature' (ibid).
83. See Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, VIII  pg 44,145A. St Maximus, Centuries on Charity, in, 32
84. See St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12; St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 32.
85. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12.
86.  See Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, VIII, pg 44,145A.
87. See St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, II, 16.
88. Platonic in origin (Republic iv, 444C-e), the threefold rational—irascible— concupiscable division of elements became standard in Eastern spirituality from the time of Evagrius (see especially his Praktikos, 86 and 89 where Evagrius follows Gregory Nazianzus). See among others: St Dorotheus of Gaza, Instructions, 176. St Maximus the Confessor, Centuries on Charity, 1, 67; ill, 3; iv, 15,80; Letters, 11, pg 91, 397A; xxxi, 625AB. St Issac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, 4. Pseudo-John of Damascus, On the Virtues and Vices (The Philokalia, vol. 2). St Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness, 126. St Philotheus of Sinai, Texts on Watchfulness,i6. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 36; Centuries, 1,15,16.
89. On these divisions see especially St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, ii, 12 and St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 32; 36-41.
90. See St Maximus, Centuries on Charity, in, 32. John of Damascus On the Orthodox Faith, ii, 17; 18. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 65,68.
91. See St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, n, 12. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 31.
92. This is why St Maximus recognized, contrary to Aristotle (who will be followed later by St Thomas Aquinas), that the rational soul is present from the very first instant of human life, that is, from conception. (See Ambigua, 42, pg 91, 133701340B).
93. The authors of the first centuries (for example St Ignatius of Antioch, To The Philadelphians, xn, 2. St Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, v, 6,1) utilized the word pneuma, following the practice of St Paul (1 Thess. 5:23). The Fathers of the fourth century and the Byzantine Fathers of the later centuries adopted and preferred the word nous (See }. Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, 2nd ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1979), P141. The present author thinks that this change was made in order to avoid the ambiguity which could exist with regard to the identity of the spirit, and also to affirm the created character of the human spirit). See also A.-J. Festugiere, L'Ideal religieux des Grecs et l'Evangile, Paris, 1932, Excursus B, 'La division corps-ame-esprit de 1 Thess.', pp 212-220.
94. St Maximus the Confessor developed a quite subtle psychology of the will (See especially Opuscules theologiques et polemiques, 1, pg 91,12C-20A) also used by St John of Damascus (On the Orthodox Faith, n, 24). See also Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, xxvii-xxxi 11. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 38.
95. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12. On liberty see the excellent synthesis of the same author (11, 24; 25; 27) which is to a great extent inspired by St Maximus the Confessor (See especially his Opuscules theologiques et polemiques, 1, pg 91,16B-20A).
96. See St Maximus, Mystagogy, a, pg 91672D-673A.
97. See Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, XII-XIV. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, II,19-20. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 65; 66,68.
98.   See St Maximus, Mystagogy, V, pg 91,672D, 673BC.
99.   See for example, St Maximus, Ibid, 673ab.
100. Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, x, 98,4. St Athanasius of Alexandria, Against the Heathen, 34. St Basil of Caesarea, Homilies on the Origin of Man, 1,6; 7. St Maximus, Mystagogy, V, pg pi, 673B. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, u, 12. See V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press 1997), pp 115-116.
101. This is a leitmotive of St Maximus the Confessor. See especially his Ambigua, 42, pg 9i> 1341D.
102. The Christian tradition is opposed on this point to the Gnostic and Platonic tradition which affirms that the intellect is uncreated and immortal by its nature. Some Christian authors such as Origin and Nemesius of Emesa, hold to this latter point of view. See J. Meyendorff, Le Christ dans la théologie Byzantine (Paris: Cerf, 1969), pp 74-75·
103. Cf. St Nicetas Stethatos, On the Soul, 48.
104. The deified man is totally deified, both body and soul. But the Fathers often affirm that the nous is the first to receive grace and to be transformed by grace; it is by means of its intermediary function that grace is communicated to the rest of the human composite.
105. See V. Lossky, op. cit., p20i. J. Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p 142.
106. hoc. cit.
107On the Making of Man  xiv, 167 a
108On the Orthodox Faith, 11,12.
109. See St Symeon the New Theologian, The Practical and Theological Chapters and the Three Theological Discourses (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1982), pl26.
110. See St Athanasius of Alexandria, Against the Heathen, 32. St Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, xv, pg 44,177B.
111On the Making of Man, XIII, pg 44,160d. Cf. xxiv, 173D; xv, 177B.
112. See. St Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, xi v, pg 44,176 b.
113. Ibid.,i76A.
114. Cf. St Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua, 7, pg 91,1100a, b.
115. Cf. J. Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, pp 141-14&*
116. Thus, for St Gregory of Nazianzus, 'the nous is the highest power in us' (Discourse, xxxix, 7, pg 36,3431B.
117Against the Heathen, 32, pg 25,64C-65a.
118On the Soul and the Resurrection, pg 46, col. 76-77.
119. See among others, Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, xxii. St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 12, pg 94,928BC.
120. See Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, III, pg 40,597a.
121. See St Athanasius, Against the Heathen, 33.
122. Against the Heathen, 33. Cf. Nemesius of Emesa, On the Nature of Man, 111,pg 40,597a.
123Against the Heathen, 33.
124. Topics of Natural and Theological Science, 31-32 (The Philokalia, vol. 4).


Article published in English on: 28-5-2011.

Last update: 28-5-2011.