Current Study: Orthodox Psychotherapy: The science of the Fathers by Metropolitan Hierotheos
I am undertaking a new book and discussing it here as I read it.
“Theology is both a fruit and a method of therapy. “
St. Gregory the Theologian, “it is not for everyone to theologise, to speak about God, because the subject is not so cheap and low… but for those who have been examined and are past masters in theoria and who have previously been purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified.”
In our modern world there are many who claim to be teachers. Walk into any bookstore and you will find a variety of books all claiming some dorm of knowledge.
Many of these same authors are later found out to be worse than those who they try to help.
For me St Gregory’s message serves as a great warning. Our teachers need to be cleansed before they can cleanse others, otherwise they just continue to spread dirt and disease.
We can not know God or speak truly of him if we have not been purified.
St Maximus the Confessor, “when someone lives by practical philosophy, which is repentance and cleansing from passions, he advances in moral understanding. When he experiences theoria he advances in spiritual knowledge. Moral understanding allows for discrimination between vices and virtues, theoria leads the participant to the inner qualities of incorporeal and corporeal things.”
Talking of theology at first seemed to be a great distance away from therapy, especially therapy of the mind. Why would theology matter when I’m depressed?
I realized that there was a problem with my thinking. First I had always subconsciously thought of theology as facts about God. I wrongly assumed that if I knew enough about God then I would know God.
Realizing this I felt like Job when God responds to him.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? “Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Job 38:1-3 NASB
How quick was I to talk in facts about God who had never sat and talked with him!
And if I have never conversed with him in a personal way, how can my darkened nous be illuminated? (Nous roughly translated means the mind of the soul.) And if my soul is not healed neither will my mind or body.
So theology, right theology, is important in regards to mental health. I had disseminated God into neat little facts I could chew without truly feeding myself on his body and blood. And if I was so ready to do that with God how often had I already done so with people?
I have personally struggled with wanting to be known by others. I want to be understood, accepted, forgiven by those in my social circles. Yet I haven’t tried to do the same. I have also turned people into facts to be studied rather than a living being to relate with. And my problem is a theological one.
My God was no more to me than facts. And if this is how I treated my creator, why would I do anything more for others?
Theology is important not only in how we treat the object of our worship, but each other as well.
I know I have a long road ahead to restore a personal relationship with God that is more than fact checking. I know I have a long way to go with people as well. But we start with the first step, and for me that step is prayer and learning from my spiritual father.