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The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition

The fourth book in the series “Orthodox Psychotherapy” publishes the basic points of discussions which the author had with a group of Christians, members of a Parish. The introduction to the book records a few details about those taking part in the discussions and characteristic features of their personalities.


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The discussion leads to a shared realisation that many people today, although they believe in God and want to follow the genuine way of life offered by the Church, nevertheless remain uncured in their souls because they do not know how to be healed.

Let us refer to some typical questions for the benefit of our readers:-

Does Orthodoxy today accept the views of contemporary psychology?

What is the teaching of the Fathers about the illness of the soul?

What is therapy and how is it to be understood?

Can the spiritual father become an idol?

What is the difference between simple thoughts and logismoi (thoughts with images)?

What are the passions and how can we distinguish them?

What exactly is noetic prayer and how does it differ from prayer of the intellect?

Does the spiritual father bear any relation to, or depend on, the psychologist?

How can someone have ceaseless remembrance of God?

Are all priests appropriate for curing people?

When replying to the questions of those conversing with him, the leader of the discussion and author of the book always relies on the teaching of the holy Fathers of the Church, who set out in their writings the Orthodox method of healing the soul. This method is summed up in the three stages of the spiritual life, which are purification of the heart, illumination of the nous and deification. The fundamental problem lies in the darkness of the nous, whereas the illumination of the nous is man’s cure. Basic prerequisites for being healed are awareness of the illness, and the search for a cure and a priest-therapist. Within the Church we can distinguish three categories of Christians: the uncured, those being cured and those already cured.

The author asserts that contemporary psychology is unable to deal with the illness of the soul because it merely attempts to restore man’s inner psychological balance, whereas Orthodox theology, as a therapeutic treatment, has man’s healing and deification as its goal. The spiritual father, by the therapeutic method which he uses but also through the sacraments, offers healing to the sick person’s heart.

Through reading this original discussion, which examines basic issues of the spiritual life, the reader perceives that the Orthodox Church is a spiritual hospital where God’s grace is abundantly present, and which offers people spiritual health and salvation. Orthodox theology has closer links with medical science than with philosophy. The spiritual life is continuous motion and man will never be able to attain to the perfection of Christ.

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