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Orthodox Psychotherapy, The Science of the Fathers

By Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos

St. Gregory Palamas, citing passages from Scripture, such as the Apostle Paul’s words: “…even when we were dead in trespasses He made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2,5), the words of John the Evangelist: “There is sin leading to death” (1 John 5,16), and Christ’s words to his disciple: “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8,22), says that althought the soul is immortal by grace, nevertheless when “dissipated, abandoned to pleasures and self-indulgent, it is dead even while it lives”. This is the way he interprets the Apostle Paul’s words: “She (the widow) who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5,6). Although the soul is alive, it is dead, since it has not the true life which is the grace of God. When our ancestors withdrew from the remembrance and theoria of God and disregarded His command and took the side of the deathly spirit of Satan, they were stripped of “the luminous and living raiment of the supernal radiance and they too, alas, became dead in spirit like Satan”. This is how it always goes. When someone joins with Satan and does his own will, his soul dies, because Satan is not only a deathly spirit but he also brings death upon those who draw near to him.

When the soul is not working according to nature it is dead. “…when it is not healthy, though it retains a semblance of life, it is dead… When, for instance, it has no care for virtue, but is rapacious and transgresses the law, whence can I tell you that you have a soul? Because you walk? But this belongs to the irrational creatures as well.

In the teaching of the Apostle Paul the ‘dead’ man is called ‘carnal’ or ‘unspiritual’. In his letter to the Corinthians he writes: “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2,14). He also writes: “While there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not carnal, and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3,3) According to Prof. John Romanides the words used for ‘unspiritual’ (psychikos) and ‘carnal’ (sarkikos) and ‘behaving like mere men’ have the same meaning. (The Ancestral Sin, [in Greek]) In another place in his book he writes: “The carnal and unspiritual man is the whole man, soul and body, who lacks that energy of the Holy Spirit which renders one incorruptible. “When a man does not follow the Spirit, he is deprived of God’s life-giving energy and is rendered unspiritual” [… hence, carnal.]