Current Study: Orthodox Psychotherapy: The science of the Fathers by Metropolitan Hierotheos. I am undertaking a personal study of his book and discussing it here as I read it.
What is the sickness of our nous? Hierotheos attempts to explain the sickness in the following way. Our nous was blackened, darkened, and sickened by the Fall of Adam. This blackening, darkening, and sickening happens to each one of us every time we sin.
Hierotheos discusses one of the causes of this sickness. Demons fight with us to enslave our nous so that we will sin. When they defeat our nous, they move in and attract sinful thoughts. A reference that could be made to this enslavement is Matthew 12:29, “Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered.” These demons then leave us, but only after first setting up an idol of sin behind.
What is the idol of sin? This is our love for our sin. Its a love of doing what we want and not what God wants. The idol of sin continues to injure our souls and bring in new sins. All that we do and say shows either the sickness or well being of our nous. When our nous is enslaved to sin, we follow after our senses (taste, touch, sight, ect.) because this brings bodily pleasure. In turning away from God and towards our own desires, we enslave ourselves to our senses.
Hierotheos also outlines some of the characteristics and conditions of a sickened nous:
Verses taken from the New Revised Standard Version
- 1 Timothy 6:5 “wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth”
- 2 Timothy 3:8 “of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth.”
- Colossians 2:18 “Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking”
- Romans 1:28 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done.”
- “To have an insensitive heart is to have dulled the nous.” ~ St. John of the Ladder
Hierotheos explains that Orthodox living presupposes above all that the noetic faculty of the soul should be healed. This healing of the nous brings about healing of the whole body. This does not mean that we will never be ill, but that we will be healed from the passions of the flesh (gluttony, adultery, jealousy, etc.)
In order to keep the discussion concise, Hierotheos limits this section to two basic points. First he discusses how this healing is achieved, and secondly, what are the results?
To heal our nous, Christians need to keep constant watch over their nous, what Orthodoxy refers to as “nepsis”. We cannot prevent an evil thought from entering our minds, but when they do enter our minds, we should immediately expel them. One method of doing so is by reciting the Jesus Prayer.
Christians should also keep the virtues that counteract the vices; temperance, chastity, generosity, mildness, happiness, diligence, and humility. Self-control is also important. Courage keeps us going when we feel like giving up. We are also to keep Christ’s commands.
We cannot purify ourselves, this act can only be done by the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit. We repent, we mourn deeply over our sin, and confess it.
- Dispassion – through curing our nous, we will have conquered the passions and transcend grief and joy.
- Purification – through curing our nous, we will begin to acquire knowledge of God.
- Freedom – through curing our nous, we will be free from passions, and whatever we do will be counted as a pure offering to God.
I know that I am constantly needing to be healed. It seems even after I receive the Sacraments I walk away and almost immediately forget. For myself, I know that I need to practice nepsis and develop a stronger sense of self-control. By the grace of God, I pray that one day I will achieve it.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.