SAINT PAUL'S PSYCHOTHERAPY
"Who has known the mind of the Lord so that he can advise him? But we have the mind of Christ."
[I Corinthians 2:16]
"And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"
Scattered through Saint Paul's teaching, as we find it in the New Testament, and in the writings of many saints beginning from Saint Paul's time and continuing until the Turkish conquest of Byzantium and after, are constant references - details rather than general theory, about techniques for investigating and healing the psyche. This early European use of the Greek language as the cultural basis of the Roman Empire made possible the development of a spiritual terminology for the inner meaning of traditional Christian teaching. It was this which ran through Saint Paul's teaching and enabled the spiritual ascesis - to be passed on to the early Christians, resulting in the formation of the early Church, with its thousand years of massive growth in sainthood.
In this, Saint Paul taught the basics of a way of changing the behavior of the psyche in order to fulfill the teachings of the Gospel. In addition, from his experience on the road to Damascus and after, he taught additional psychological data and techniques by which individuals who have neither the opportunity or natural facility can establish control over their psyches - this 'psychological method' forming the basis of the lay method sometimes called the Fourth Way.
Parts of this method were and still are first used by students of the method in order to reveal the nature and state of their psyche. From this point, the 'inner work' can be taken progressively deeper until it opens the way into more and more spiritual realities.
This Christian 'psychological method', which was brought into being in the 'time of saints' in the early centuries of Constantine's Church, still survives in certain areas in the Eastern Mediterranean, and in particular continues almost unchanged in the Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos, whose Christianity remains almost unchanged from the first centuries of the Church. It can be found in the work of the great theologians of the Orthodox Church, although it is difficult to find good translations of this kind of doctrine. The difficulty exist in the fact that even in translation the real meaning is only transmitted to the reader to the degree that the translator has personal experience of the reality the teaching represents.
This happened before the original Church, taught by the Apostles and with the additional adaptation into the Greek language of the original Gospel from Palestine, became fragmented into different denominations and different communities of Christians. During this period of fragmentation each denomination formed its own conclusions, usually as a result of small changes of intellectual belief that arose as the text went through successive stages of thought and translation.
Nous and psyche are both notable for the fact that these words are both translated into English not with one word but with several alternatives. The word 'psychology' is obviously derived from psyche, and today we tend to think of mind and soul as being in some way different - although even as short a time ago as when Jung wrote, they were still seen as more or less the same. But study of the writings of the fathers and of Saint Paul makes it clear that both words, nous and psyche, were interpreted more broadly in earlier times. In the Bible, psyche is often used in phrases referring to the immortality or salvation of the soul. In the writings of Palamas, too, the word psyche generally has a psychological meaning but in some places has been translated soul and has been treated with the imprecision normal to discussion of the soul in our time. But in fact the way the word is used makes it clear that this rendering is actually misleading. If we extract just a few statements from Palamas' text, and from the quotation he gives from the most important of the early fathers, the reason for this statement will become clear.