Healing the Sickness of Philautia and Egocentricity through the Restoration of the Nous
“The soul of fallen man has come under the illusion of self-sufficiency. Therefore, it is not satisfied with concerning itself with temporal needs (food, clothing, and shelter), but seeks also to dominate nature and others as well as to find new sources of sensual enjoyment. In fact man, begins to view self-expansion and the self’s pleasures in their extreme forms as inalienable rights. Such a soul has become what is today called an ego. On the one hand, our spirit (or nous) in communion with God is our real self, the true seat of personhood.
On the other hand, the ego, that sum of a human being disconnected from God, is our false self, an illusory self-sufficient entity. Because the ego thinks to achieve its ends and overcome it obstacles through its own unaided powers, the ego can also be called our false “problem solver”, false because man was made to cooperate with God, not to be cut off from Him, false because the ego solves problems that are not really problems and fails to face the one problem that truly needs solving. This false sense of autonomy leads the ego to do everything in its power, consciously and unconsciously, to silence the spirit that seeks a relationship with God in humility and dependence upon His Providence.”
Egocentricity is an issue that lies at the heart of both a number of strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy as well as many spiritual counsels from ancient fathers. In Ancient Christian Wisdom, I note,
“Although everybody tends to view his life as his own private novel in which he is the hero around whom all other characters revolve, Beck notes that such a subjective egocentric take on life becomes so overwhelming in psychiatric disorders that any semblance of objectivity is lost. In fact, in psychopathology, egocentricity colors every aspect of a patient’s thought. In like manner the monastic fathers in general and Saint Maximus in particular, viewed philautia or love of self (friendship with self) as the very essence of morbidity…and the root of all passions. In bare logical terms, bad thoughts are to philautia as cognitive distortions are to egocentricity. Philautia and egocentricity seem strikingly similar in meaning and function. However, egocentricity is about a misguided perspective while philautia is a matter of misguided love. Both are deleterious to the health and welfare of the individual.