THE TWO METHODS
"It is there that the nous is found, with all the thoughts of the psyche." [Reference]
"The nous then starts to discriminate between the body and the psyche." [Saint Anthony the Great]
In fact, when remaining true to its Christian origins, the traditional doctrine developed by the Apostles, Saint Paul, and developed further by'the early fathers of the original Church,' must combine two different elements, so that in the eastern churches the psychological method and traditional monasticism can both contain both methods, but used in different proportions. The different proportions are determined by different ways of combining the psychological techniques with obedient work, prayer, and the Sacrament.
Fundamentally, 'Psychological asceticism' is an ancient Christian method of self-therapy in which the psyche works 'psychically' against itself to change the way it acts. P.D Ouspensky says it is for householders, but I think it is also used as a secondary technique for monks who are having difficulty in their prayers and need something to silence the mind. It is a slow process, because even the most serious student must penetrate deep in his or her psyche in order to understand what is necessary. Only those who can recognise the original truths from their own direct experience can understand the original meanings despite the changes of the words that represent them. Where that meaning is forgotten the true doctrine is lost.
One use of this form of asceticism is for people whose situation in life makes them unable to use the classical monastic method. At other times, the monastic rule is sometimes assisted by a developed form of this psychological self-therapy. Psychological ascesis does not only concern the psyche, but also the nous. The relation between these two is strange. The nous is the organ of attention and awareness of the psyche, so that it seems to contain the psyche and it is this which makes it possible for us to integrate the psyche and attain coherent thought and activity. Thus we can say that the nous contains the psyche.
1. In a different sense, the nous is 'a part' of the psyche, since when psyche sleeps nous sleeps, and when psyche ceases to act at the time of death, the nous in some way becomes inactive. Thus we can also say in a different way that the psyche contains the nous.
2. Psychological and spiritual development both depend on this paradoxical relationship. It is this which makes possible the integration or 'individuation' or the human organism. When psyche dominates the inner life, the mind is fragmented. When the 'field of view' of the nous contains more than just the activity of the psyche, nous controls psyche. This is the means of integration.
3. The state of Integration can only become stable by the Grace of God through the Holy Spirit.
The psychological asceticism which can be used to eliminate these harmful contents of the psyche can be used by 'householders' living a normal life in the world, and anyone whose worldly responsibilities prevent normal forms of 'enclosure'; but in this situation, special knowledge may be needed. In this way this method supplants simpler methods developed in historical periods when few people had been sufficiently educated to understand the psychological method. At such times the possibility for lay people seemed to be available only to those rich enough who could avoid working for months at a time. There are medieval books that talk about this, but some of them are quite strange. In fact, clearly defined variations of this principle of psychological asceticism have been documented going back almost 3000 years, (See Ref.) but there is little evidence of their being available in Europe before the 20th century except in the hard to understand form of Alchemy or groups like the Cathars.