The Science Of Spiritual Medicine

Orthodox Psychotherapy in Action

Whereas “Orthodox Psychotherapy” sets out the teachings of the Fathers of the Church as a spiritual hospital where man is healed of his spiritual sickness, The science of spiritual medicine deals with the practical aspect. It is about Orthodox psychotherapy in action

It should be stressed that man is healed of his spiritual illness within the Church, which is the body of Christ, a community of deification and “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Mark1:14) This healing is not some sort of theoretical system, but the action of the Church’s ascetic and neptic tradition.

The three basis Sacraments are Baptism, which is the introductory Sacrament; Christmation, through which we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the Divine Eucharist, by which we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. As well as all the other Sacraments , the whole of the Church’s life belongs in this perspective.

The three basis Sacraments are Baptism, which is the introductory Sacrament; Christmation, through which we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the Divine Eucharist, by which we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. As well as all the other Sacraments , the whole of the Church’s life belongs in this perspective.

When we speak of the Church’s ascetic and neptic tradition we are referring to our effort to practice Christ’s commandments in our everyday life and to follow in its entirety the method analyzed by the Fathers of the Church. Through this method, by the grace of God and our own endeavor, we cleanse our nous from thoughts and fantasies, transform our passions (in other words, the powers of the soul) and acquire communion with God.

If every branch of knowledge inevitable includes both theory and practice, the same is true of our Orthodox Tradition. Man is made up of soul and body, and there is mutual interaction between them, particularly in his fallen state. The passions of the soul also act upon the body, and the bodily passions influence the soul and every aspect of human behavior. In addition, various biochemical processes take place within the body and the brain which affect man’s psychological world.

A human being is not an autonomous entity, but a person who relates to God, other people, society and the environment. When these relationships are disturbed, this has consequences for the person on the spiritual, psychological and physical level. The devil also influences human beings in various ways and this demonic activity is resisted by means of man’s free will, which is strengthened by the grace of Christ.

Some so-called psychological problems are due to biological or neurological causes, others to spiritual causes (the loss of a person’s relationship with God), and others to demonic activity; these factors also influence one another. It is important for someone to be able to discern these causes, to see the mutual action between them, and to take steps to heal people. When Father Paisios encountered such cases, he would sometimes say, “What is needed is prayer and spiritual life within the Church.” At other times he would recommend, “Go to the doctor”, and sometimes he used to state categorically, “The child needs help from a saint”, in other words, he urged them to visit places where the relics of saints are keep, so that the demons would go away.

There is a scriptural basis for this distinction, as is clear from the occasion when people who were “moonstruck” were healed. Those referred to as “moonstruck” were people with epilepsy, whose illness was due to organic damage to the brain and who acted in a particular way. In those day’s this was regarded as due to the influence of the moon, so such people were called “moonstruck”. Sometimes those possessed by evil spirits were also referred to as “moonstruck”. According to St. John Chrystom the moon has no affect in these cases, but the devil in his wickedness this impress by attacking people “according to the phase of the moon”. St. Mathew the evangelist uses the word “moonstruck” in both of these senses.

In one passage, recording the healing of someone possessed by the devil, he writes, “They came to Him a certain man, Kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic [“moonstruck”], and sore vexed.”Because Christ knew that this was the work of demons. He “Rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour ” (Matt, 17:14-18). Here someone regarded as “Moonstruck” was possessed by an evil spirit.

Elsewhere the same Evangelist gives another meaning to the word “Moonstruck”. He writes, “And they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers disease and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic [“Moonstruck”],and those that had the pals; and He healed them” (Matt. 4:24), A very clear distinction is made here between those possessed by evil spirits the “moonstruck”, and the paralyzed, which is why the word “and” is inserted between each category of people. In this case the “moonstruck” are not possessed by demons but suffer from what we nowadays refer to as epilepsy: they are epileptics with disorder of the nervous system. Those possessed by evil spirits have been overpowered by the devil. And “those who had the palsy” are suffering from physical illness. The difference is very clear.

These clarifications are essential to enable us to distinguish between what is spiritual and what is physical, and to prevent us attributing to the devil something that is a physical illness, or ascribing something demonic to those who are physically sick. Thus we neither reject medical science and its work, and the biological functions of the human organism, or do we overlook spiritual illnesses and their causes, which subsequently create physical disorders as well.

What is written here refers mainly to spiritual problems that concern human beings in connection with their communion with God, and not to neurotic or psychotic conditions. I pray that those who read this may benefit from it, so that God may be glorified.”

Written in Nafpaktos on the 30th June 2008, the Feast of the Holy Apostles – The Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos, copyright- 9789607070661

Chap. Dr. Richard Ward, J.C.D., Ph.D
Practicing Medical Hypnoanalyst

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