By Archimandrite Cyril Kostopoulos, Dr of Theology, preacher of Metropolis of Patras
From Antiquity until today, philosophers, sociologists and theologians, as well as psychoanalysts, have been concerned with the most perfect creation, the human being and especially with his inner world. They have all decided that the inner world of man is wider and more difficult to understand than the outer world. Pascal used to say: “The universe possesses us with its expression, we possess it with our thought.”
For this reason the pioneering Greek researchers, such as Thales and Democritus, turned more towards the external universe because, as they declared, it is smaller and more accessible than the human internal universe.
Aristotle, who was not only an excellent philosopher, but also a great scientist, theorist and empiricist, defined the psychological doctrine through the psychology set forth in his work On the Soul and other works.
Today, with the progress of depth psychology, although we have organized a humanistic research and a better understanding of the human deeper “being”, psychoanalysis and psychological methods, unfortunately, have not yielded substantial results. Rather, they have often caused and are still causing confusion, because they largely ignore – an oxymoron, of course – even our psychosomatic composition and existence. They have remained and remain in the artificial ascertainments of various aspects of our lives. When you investigate in this way the psychological depth of human existence, you are bound to be led to a dead end. This is why today’s man has found himself in personal, social and global dead ends.
But the same is not the case within the Orthodox “psychotherapist”, which is our Holy Orthodox Church. There, the human and the Divine, the created and the uncreated, the earthly and the heavenly, the temporal and the supra-temporal and eternal, cooperate, intertwine and separate each other. After all, it is Christianity that first revealed the chaos of the unconscious. For example, the Apostle Paul, when writing to the Romans: “I see another law in my body, contrary to the law of the mind” (7:23), he reveals the depth of our archetypes, our heredity and the deeper role that all these play in our personality. It immediately reveals the depth of man’s inner “being” and the division he suffers, as well as the guilty feeling.
The split due to guilt is something that psychoanalysts and psychologists struggle with, without getting anywhere. The Apostle Paul, however, raises this issue on an existential basis. “Wretched man that I am, I am delivered from the body of this death; but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:24). He is saved through Jesus Christ when he is united to Him. And this union takes place through the Holy Sacraments of our Orthodox Church.
Not only in the texts quoted by the Apostle Paul, but also in the whole of the Holy Scriptures, human depths are revealed in a shocking and original way. The Holy Fathers, those considered members of our Holy Church, experienced the inner psychological fluctuations and the mystical struggle for the purification of their hearts and the illumination of their minds from psychic darkness. Centuries before the science of depth psychology was presented, the Neptic Fathers of the desert and of the pastoral Church were inspired and presented the “abomination of the soul” and struggled for spiritual healing.
It is not possible for the scientific methods of psychology to cure man, who is “made in the image” of God. Modern psychology, the psychology of depth, does not have a complete understanding of the human person. Christ alone is the saving medicine, St. Gregory Palamas points out. The cure is found in the removal of sin from the image of God, which is man.
The inner universe, the infinite depth of man, our existence is illuminated and healed not by technical methods and scientific human tricks, but by the uncreated light of the Risen Christ and the spiritual medicines of His Holy Church.
It is an opportunity in the period that we have entered and are passing through of the Holy and Great Lent to deal more with our inner world and to turn to the Orthodox psychotherapeutic centre of our Holy Church, where through the spiritual Father we will be able to find the redemptive way out of the deadlocks that overwhelm our lives.