The Psychotherapy of the Desert

In recent decades there has been a growing interest in what might be called “The Psychotherapy of the Desert” – the profound insights offered by the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and by Orthodox ascetical theology and spirituality more generally, into the human condition and its potential for transformation.
desert psych
Some of the early writing (in English) in this field came from His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios: “Hesychia and Theology: The Context for Man’s Healing in the Orthodox Church” (2007); “The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition” (1993); and “Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers” (1994).
orthodox psych hiero
Amongst many other influential works has been Stephen Muse (ed): “Raising Lazarus: Integral Healing in Orthodox Christianity” (2004):
raising lazarus
“”Raising Lazarus” takes an adventuresome approach to the fundamental practical issue raised by the Christian faith: How are we to live the union of divine and human life that is off ered to us by Christ? The book’s clear reply is: Certainly not by a ‘spiritual’ manner of living, if that means ignoring the psychological and bodily aspects of our being. In their different ways the contributors invite us to use the insights of the Fathers as well as those of contemporary depth psychology in our search for wholeness in Christ, thereby confirming that the Tradition of the Church is quite capable of facing the challenges of the new century in a lively and constructive manner.” Bishop Basil of Sergievo

And Andrew Vujisic: “Orthodox Interventions: Orthodox Neptic Psychotherapy in Response to Existential and Transpersonal Psychology” ( 2011):
orthodox interventions
“The publication of this volume by the Right Reverend Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić) is a benchmark in the scientific examination of the Orthodox psychotherapeutic paradigm, a pioneering step into a new area and integrated model of existential and transpersonal psychotherapy, and an important proposal for the empirical investigation of the relationship of spirituality and neuroscience. Dr. Vujisić’s work is significant in that it presents a clear understanding of human psychology from an Orthodox perspective, i.e., it presents a psychology (and potentially a psychiatry), consistent with the cosmology and soteriology of Orthodoxy. This is an indispensable dimension in the development of a global notion of research in science and religion, and is especially important as attempts at rapprochement are made on the ecclesiastical, cultural, and international levels. With increased attention by scholars to the relationship between spirituality and science, religion and physical/mental health, and holistic views of the human being that connect the body and the mind, or spirit, this volume provides a framework in the establishment of cross-cultural dimensions to the study of science and spirituality and the holistic concept of humans and their environment. Ultimately, it bridges the divide between mystical, neptic, and hesychastic teachings and the methods and goals of modern Western psychotherapy. It is the potential meeting of the transcendent and the secular, of spirituality and psychotherapy, and of neptic treatment and mind biochemistry as they impact all those in need of inner healing from spiritual, behavioral, and/or psychological disorders and pathologies.”
One further very significant work – or, rather, collection of works – has been:
Themes Cover.indd
“Themes in Orthodox Patristic Psychology: Humility, Obedience, Repentance, and Love”
by Archbishop Chrysostomos; With Contributions From Mother Theadelphi, Bishop Ambrose, Hieromonk Ambrose, Archpriest Vladimir Derugin, and Protopresbyter James Thornton And Introductory Notes By Hieromonk Patapios, Abbess Alexandra, and Father Gregory Telepneff [1st edition, Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1983; revised edition Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2010]

“The present omnibus edition of Themes in Orthodox Patristic Psychology, containing expanded and emended texts of the four original titles in the series (Humility, Obedience, Repentance, and Love), represents the rich fruit of Archbishop Chrysostomos’ many years of careful study and reflection, drawn both from his academic research and personal, spiritual, and pastoral experience, on the most central concept, as put forth by Saints Paul and Nicodemos, in the theory and practice of Orthodox Christian theology; namely, the transformation and enlightenment of our minds by the four virtues covered in each volume. This new edition of Archbishop Chrysostomos’ series, the constituent books of which have been highly praised over the last quarter of a century by such superb scholars as Professor Constantine Cavarnos and Professor John E. Rexine (1929–1993) and lauded by the well-known Roman Catholic theologian Father Henri Nouwen (1932–1996), and which have helped innumerable Christian believers, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, come to a more profound understanding of Eastern Christian life and thought, is of especial relevance in the disturbing welter of confusion which is so characteristic of Orthodoxy in the modern world.”
—“Preface to the Collected Texts

About the Author and Contributors
Dedication and a Note of Gratitude
Preface to the Collected Texts
Hieromonk Patapios
Book One: Humility
Abbess Alexandra
Archbishop Chrysostomos
Humility and the Spiritual World of Dostoyevsky
Mother Theadelphi
The Desert Fathers on Humility
Translated by Archbishop Chrysostomos
Book Two: Obedience
Obedience and the Psychology of the Fathers
Archbishop Chrysostomos
Obedience in Monastic Practice
Bishop Ambrose
Obedience and the Layman
Hieromonk Ambrose
Obedience and the Orthodox Christian in the Secular Realm
Archpriest Vladimir Derugin
The Desert Fathers on Obedience
Translated by Archbishop Chrysostomos
Book Three: Repentance
Father Gregory Telepneff
Initial Repentance
The Repentant Way of Life
Book Four: Love
With Father James Thornton
Love as ΦΙΛΙΑ
Love as ΑΓΑΠΗ
Love as ΕΡΩΣ
Index of Names
Selected Books by the Author

“Archimandrite Chrysostomos, a psychologist trained in the West, reminds us of a different tradition of thought which finds unities where most of us find dichotomies. He demonstrates how, within the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, these dichotomies are connected-how acceptance of Orthodox belief arises from the unity of an Orthodox way of thinking and way of living. To see this argument in all its strength and to understand how humility arises from this unity, one must read with care and with a mind free of western psychological preoccupations this challenging and provocative volume.”
John M. Darley,, Dorman R. Warren Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University, and former President of the American Psychological Association (on the book Humility)

“As I have written elsewhere, Bishop Chrysostomos is one of the most significant Orthodox scholars to appear in America in recent years. This view was shared by the famous Russian Orthodox theologian Father Georges Florovsky, who characterized the Bishop’s writings as ‘important contributions to the body of Orthodox literature.’ The book Repentance, a third volume in the series Orthodox Patristic Psychology, confirms these positive evaluations. The essays on repentance contained in this book, written by the author and one other Orthodox thinker, are accompanied by Greek Patristic texts on the subject. A masterful translator, Bishop Chrysostomos excellently renders these texts in clear and understandable English.”
Constantine, Cavarnos, President, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies (on the book Repentance)

“Bishop Chrysostomos, working with Father James Thornton, has produced an outstanding study on the subject of love, the fourth and last volume of Themes in Orthodox Patristic Psychology. His Grace is a Princeton-educated scholar who brings to this and the previous volumes in his series extensive learning and a remarkable amount of reading in science, psychology, Byzantine history, and Orthodox Patristic studies. The extent of his Renaissance education and his professorial skills are evident in every page of this latest volume. …Bishop Chrysostomos’s skillfully translated apophthegms from the monks of the Egyptian desert complement the wisdom that he and Father Thornton show in their discussion of the theological and spiritual significance of love in the Orthodox tradition.”
John E. Rexine, Charles A. Dana Professor of Classics and Dean of the Division of Humanities,
Colgate University (on the book Love)

See also Rt. Rev. Dr. Bishop Chrysostomos “Towards a spiritual psychology: The synthesis of the desert fathers” in “Pastoral Psychology”, Summer, 1989, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 255-273

“The author presents a model of spiritual enlightenment based on an analysis of the aphorisms and experiences of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th century monastics of the deserts of Egypt contained in the standard 18th century Greek Orthodox compilation of their writings.
It is argued that the attainment of a hierarchy of four basic virtues, humility, obedience, repentance, and love, incorporated into the religious system of these early Christian contemplatives exemplifies a sophisticated knowledge of contemporary dynamic and social psychological phenomena. The author identifies three steps in the process of enlightenment proffered by this system, beginning with the practical spiritual life, in which the specific control and understanding of dynamic and social psychological principles come into play; moving on to an intermediate level of action based on “natural knowledge,” as it is derived from psychological self-understanding; and culminating in a level of personal self-integration and self-realization that is mystical in nature. The novus homo as understood in the Christian West is contrasted with the enlightened person as he emerges from this interactive hierarchy of virtues and levels of self-knowledge in the system of the desert Fathers. The paper is written with a heuristic tone and suggests that further attention be directed toward the interaction between psychological principles and mystical notions in traditional Eastern Christian literature.”
This paper was originally presented by the author at the invitation of the Theological Institute of Lund University, Lund, Sweden, in the autumn of 1987.
chrysostomos etna
“His Eminence, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna was born in California, U.S.A., in 1943.
Archbishop Chrysostomos holds undergraduate degrees in history and psychology from the University of California (B.A.) and the California State University (B.A., honors) and graduate degrees in Orthodox Studies, Byzantine history, and psychology from the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies (Lic. Theol.), the University of California (M.A.), and Princeton University (M.A., Ph.D.), where, as a Preceptor in the department of psychology, he taught psychology and advised in statistics, while completing his doctorate. He held a professorial post, prior to becoming a monk, at the University of California and, after entering the monastic life, was a professor at Ashland University, a visiting lecturer at the Ashland Theological Seminary, and a visiting professor at the Theological Institute of the University of Uppsala (Sweden).

A former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, His Eminence has been awarded, over the last several decades, visiting research appointments at the Harvard Divinity School, at Oxford University (as a Marsden Fellow), at the University of Washington, and at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. He was also a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor in Romania, where he taught Byzantine history, business administration and consumer psychology, and the theology of Orthodox Church art and architecture at the University of Bucharest, the Al. I. Cuza University in Iași, and the Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism in Bucharest. From 2002-2003, he was Executive Director of the U.S. Fulbright Commission in Romania for the U.S. Department of State.

Archbishop Chrysostomos’ most recent appointment, in the Spring of 2006, was as the David B. Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality at the John W. Kluge Center of the U.S. Library of Congress, in Washington, DC. He is at present Senior Scholar at the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies and was, until 2005, an adjunct professor in the graduate program in church architecture at the Ion Mincu University in Bucharest. He is the author of some twenty books (under the imprint of Nordland Publishers, Peter Lang Publishing, the University Press of America, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Hellenic College Press, the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, Editura Vremea, Editura Bunavestire, the Al. I. Cuza University Press, and the Ion Mincu University Press), as well as more than fifty articles in history, psychology, and Orthodox theology for refereed American and international scholarly and academic journals. He is also editor and chief translator of the first complete English text of the Evergetinos, the standard Greek collection of the sayings of the desert Fathers (Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1988-2008). His newest books are A Guide to Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science, Theology, and Spiritual Practice Behind It and Its Clinical Applications (Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, and Plymouth, UK: University Press of America, 2006), (with Hieromonk Patapios) Manna From Athos: The Issue of Frequent Communion on the Holy Mountain in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, Volume 2 in the Byzantine and Neohellenic Studies series, edited by Andrew Louth and David Ricks (Oxford: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006), Studiile Transdisciplinare şi Intellectualul Ortodox (Transdisciplinary Studies and the Orthodox Intellectual) [in Romanian] (Bucharest, Romania: Curtea Veche, 2009), A Tribute to the Erudition of Constantine Cavarnos, Vol. 5 in the series New Library (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 2009), and God Made Man and Man Made God: Collected Essays on the Unique View of Man, the Cosmos, Grace, and Deification That Distinguishes Eastern Orthodoxy from Western Christianity (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 2010).”
orthodox and psych
Archbishop Chrysostomos is also the author of:
“A Guide to Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science, Theology, and Spiritual Practice Behind It and Its Clinical Applications” (2006); “Flowers from the Desert: Sayings on Humility, Obedience, Repentance, and Love from the Christian Hermits of Ancient Times” (2003); “Orthodoxy And Psychology: A Collection Of Reflections On Orthodox Theological And Pastoral Issues From A Psychological Perspective” (2004); “God Made Man and Man Made God” (2010)

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