23. INVESTIGATING CHRISTIAN PSYCHOLOGY

 

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23:25-28.)

 

If, as the early saints and the Gospels said repeatedly, psyche is life, and mind, and the soul that is to be saved, so that our soul is where we actually think and feel -which is so - then it seems likely that, as the Early Fathers of the Church taught, it matters very much what we think or feel within us, for the soul may be totally changed by our thinking and feeling. This being so, there is a famous saying in Matthew that is full justification for Christians taking the inner view of human nature.

The Christian Inner Tradition, as it was in the first seven centuries of the Church, was very different from Christianity as we know it today, especially as we find it in the West. Essentially, it is based on the psychological and mystical teachings taken from the ancient form of Christianity we most often know as 'Patristic', the Christianity of the 'early fathers' - the saints formed in large numbers  in response to the teachings of saints.

Once this teaching seems to have been effective with almost anybody who was honest with themselves, but it later became effective only with those who would have been transformed even without the help of the Church. This is the reason for the difference between the original church and the changed churches of today? Small changes, made to the doctrine in the year 800 and afterwards followed by the Western churches, who had little knowledge of certain key elements in the original Tradition, made their teachings ineffective.

Since then, the same kind of change has gradually penetrated even into the original Eastern Church, but there the damage is not complete. Some communities in the monastic republic of Mount Athos maintain the original teaching, and elsewhere in that Church, certain individual teachers, known as elders, often outside the clergy, continue to prove and transmit the reality of the ancient form. Beginning with Robin Amis' first visit to Athos, in 1982, the work of Praxis Research Institute is based on the recognition that the small changes made to the original doctrine before the end of the First Millennium, have led, through processes we now understand,  to a large deterioration in the effectiveness of the Church in the West.