Monthly Archives: April 2013

Psellos on the dogma of tongues in the original Greek

Eleventh Century Michael Psellos work on the pentecostal tongues in the original Greek.

As taken from: Michaelis Pselli Theologica, Volume 1. Paul Gautier ed. Leipsig: BSB B.G. Tuebner, 1989. Pg. 293-297

Εἰς τὸ ῾ἐπλήσθησαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις, καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἀποφθέγγεσθαι᾽

Πολλοὶ τὸ ἐναντίον, οὗ περὶ τῶν πυρίνων γλωσσῶν ἡ θεολόγος φωνὴ διηρμήνευκε, θαυμάσιον· καὶ πῶς γάρ, φασίν, οὐ παράδοξον, εἰ ἀπὸ μιᾶς καὶ τῆς αὐτῆς φωνῆς πολλαὶ διάλεκτοι ἀνεβλάστανον; ὥσπερ γὰρ ἀπὸ μιὰς καλάμης τοῦ στάχυος ἀνθέρικές τε καὶ ἀκιδες καὶ θῆκαι καὶ λέμματα. τὸ δὲ μεταλλάττειν τὰς διαλέκτους πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀκουόντων οἰκείαν φωνήν, τοῦτο καὶ ἀνὴρ πολλαῖς ἐπιπλανηθεὶς πόλεσι καὶ πλείσταις γλώσσαις ἐνωμιληκὼς ποιήσειε. καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ τεθεάμεθα πολλοὺς τῶν καθ᾽ἡμᾶς νῦν μὲν Ἀράβιον ἀφιέντας φωνήν, νῦν δὲ κατὰ Φοίνικας ἤ Αἰγυπτίους διαλεγομένους, οἱ δ᾽ αὐτοὶ καὶ Πέρσαις καὶ Ἴβηρσι καὶ Γαλάταις, καὶ Ἀσσυρίοις τὴν γλῶτταν διαμερίζουσιν, οὕς δὴ τῆς μὲν εὐγλωττίας, ὡς ἄν τις εἴπη, θαυμάζομεν, οὐ μὴν δὲ τὴν πολλὴν ταύτην φωνὴν σημεῖον θεοφανείας ποιούμεθα. εἰ δέ τις τὴν μίαν διάλεκτον πολλαῖς γλώσσαις διαμερίζοι, ὡς καὶ τὸν Φοίνικα ταύτης συνιέναι καὶ τὸν Ἀσσύριον καὶ τὸν Σκύθην καὶ τὸν Αἰθίοπα, τοῦτον ἄν εἰκότως ἐν μετουσιᾳ λογισώμεθα.

Ἀλλ᾽ ὁ μέγας πατὴρ τὸ ἐναντίον τούτου τεθαύμακε, καὶ πάσας ὁμοῦ τὰς διαλέκτους αὐτομάτως τοῖς ἀποστόλοις ἐπιμαρτυρήσας ἄριστα καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν προσθείς. εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι μιᾷ διελέγοντο γλώττῃ, πολυμερῶς δὲ ταύτης οἱ παρόντες ἀντελαμβάνοντο, ἐκείνων ἅν εἰκότως τὸ θαῦμα τῆς ἀντιλήψεως δόξειε, περσπώντων εἰς ἑαυτοὺς τὴν μίαν διάλεκτον κατὰ τὴν οἰκείαν γλῶτταν· εἰ δ᾽ὁ πρὸ μικροῦ Ἰουδαῖος μόνον καὶ τὴν Ἰουδαἰων μεμαθηκὼς μόνην φωνὴν αὖθις Ἀσσυρίοις τε ὁμιλεῖ κατὰ τὴν ἐκείνων γλῶτταν καὶ καὶ πάλιν Μήδοις καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα Βαβυλωνίοις, ὦν οὐδὲ τὰ ὀνόματα πάνυ σαφῶς ἠπίστατο, τούτῳ ἄν εἰκότως μόνῳ ἡ θεία προσμαρτυρηθείη ἐπιπνοια, ὡς πολυειδεῖ ἀθρόον ἀναφανέντι καὶ ἀπὸ μιᾶς πηγῆς πολλοὺς διαμεριζομένῳ τοὺς ὀχετούς. διὰ ταῦτα ὁ μέγάς οὗτος ἀνὴρ τοῦτο μᾶλλον ἤ ἐκεῖνο θεοφανείας ἠξίωσε.

Πῶς δὲ καὶ ἦν μίαν μὲν αὐτοὺς ἀφιέναι φωνήν, πολυειδῶς δὲ ἠκροᾶσθαι τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας; εἰ μὲν γὰρ ὕλη τις ἦν αὕτη τοῦ λεκτικοῦ εἴδους, ψοφώδης τις ἦν καὶ μόνον ἐκφύσησις, ἀπὸ μὲν τοῦ πνεύμονος πηγάζουσα κάτωθεν, διὰ δὲ τῆς ἀρτηρίας ἐπὶ τὴν γλῶτταν ἀναπεμπομένη, ὥστε οὐδὲ κατὰ διάλεκτον ἠ φωνὴ τοῖς ἀποστόλοις ἐπέμπετο, ἀλλ᾽ ἔδει μόνον ὑπανοίγειν τὰ χείλη καὶ περιχαίνειν τὸ στόμα, ὥσπερ δὴ πολλάκις ἐγὼ τεθέαμαι τὰς ὀμφαλοτόμους περὶ τὰ τῶν βρεφῶν ποιούσας ἀρτίκοκα ἤ καὶ περὶ αὐτὴν τὴν λεχώ. ἐκεῖναι γάρ, ἐπειδὰν ἡ γεννησαμένη ἤ καὶ τὰ ἄρτι τῆς μήτερας διολισθήσαντα λειποθυμίαις περισχεθῶσιν, ἁπλῶς οὕτω τὰς χεῖρας περὶ τοὺς κροτάφους τιθέασιν, εἴτα δὴ ἐμφυσῶσαι πνευματίῳ βραχεῖ οἴονται τὰς δυνάμεις ἀνακαλεῖσθαι.

Εἰ μὲν οὖν κατὰ τὴν τοιαύτην τῆς φωνῆς ὕλην ἐφθέγγοντο οἱ άπόστολοι, οὐδέν τι διέφερον τῶν φληναφῶν τούτων γραῶν· εἰ δὲ μετὰ τοῦ εἴδους τοῦ λεκτικοῦ ἐπιοιοῦντο τὴν ὁμιλιαν, ὁποῖον τοῦτο ἦν; εἰ μὲν ὅπερ ἐξ άρχῆς ἀπὸ τῆς πυργοποιίας είλήφασιν ἤ, εἰ δεῖ πιστεύειν τοῖς λέγουςιν, ὅ δὴ καὶ ὁ Ἀδὰμ ἐν παραδείσῳ πρῶτος παρὰ θεοῦ εἴληφε, τἰ καινὸν τὸν Ἰουδαῖον κατὰ τὴν οἰκείαν διάλεκτον φθέγγεσθαι, ἤ πλέον αὐτοῖς ἡ τοῦ πυρὸς γλῶσσα πεποίηκεν; εἰ δὲ πρὸς ἑτέραν μετεποιήθη ἠ γλῶσσα τούτων φωνήν, Ἰβηρικὴν ἤ Ἀσσύριον, διὰ τί τὸ ἐφ᾽ ἑνὶ θαυμαζόμενον οὐκ ἄν μᾶλλον κρεῖττον φανείη καὶ ὑψηλότερον ἐπὶ πολλὰς γλώσσας διαμερισθέν; καὶ ἡμεῖς μέν, εἴ τις ἐπὶ βραχεῖ χρόνῳ Αίγυπτίαν ἐκμάθοι φωνὴν καὶ ἐθισθείη ἐπ᾽ ἐνίοις τῶν ἐν ἐκείνοις γραμμάτων ἄνευ γλώττης τῷ πνεύματι μόνῳ προσομιλεῖν, τῆς εὐγλωττιάς θαυμάζομεν καὶ τὴς πρὸς τὴν ἄσκησιν ἐπιτηδειότητος· καίτοι τί καινὸν τὸν μαθήσει μέσῃ χρησάμενον εἰδέναι πρὸς ὅ αὕτη φέρει; ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἡμεῖς ἀγάμεθά τε τὸν τῆς ἀλλοτρίας γλώττης ἐπήβολον καὶ μετὰ τῶν κρειττόνων ἄγομεν, ὅτι ταχέως μεμάθηκεν.

Εἰ δὲ τοῦτο καινόν, ὁ μίαν γλῶτταν εἰδώς, εἶτ᾽ἀθρόον ταῖς πάσαις πᾶσι προσφθέγγοιτο, οὔτε προμαθὼν οὔτ᾽ ἐπιμαθών, οὐ ζηλωτὸς οὖτος ἀνὴρ καὶ μακάριος καὶ κρατὴρ ὄντως ἀκήρατος τῶν μετεώρων ἐπιπνοιῶν; οὐ ῾κάλαμος᾽οὗτος ῾γραμματέως ὀξυγράφου᾽, πρὸς ὅπερ ὁ γραμματεὺς βοὺλοιτο καὶ τῇ ἐκείνου μόνῃ ῥοπῇ ἀγόμενος καὶ φερόμενος; εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἡ γλῶττα ἐρρύθμισται πρὸς πᾶσαν διάλεκτον, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἄν οὐδε κατὰ μίαν φθέγξοιτο ἄνευ ἀσκήσεως; τοῖς δ᾽ἀποστόλοις αὐθωρὸν αἱ πᾶσαι διάλεκτοι ποταμοῦ δίκην διὰ τὴς ψυχῆς ἐπεισρεύσασαι, κρουνηδὸν τῇ γλώττῃ ἀνεστομῶθησαν. τίς οὖν ὁ τὴν γλῶσσαν τούτων κινῶν, τίς ὁ μεταβάλλων πρὸς τὴν ἑκάστου διάλεκτον; ἡ τῶν φωνῶν ἐπιστήμη; ἀλλ᾽ οὐδαμοῦ ταύτην μεμαθήκασιν. ἀλλ᾽ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς φύσις; καὶ ἔδει γε κατὰ ταύτην πάντας ἀθρόον τὰ πάντων προσομιλεῖν. ἀλλ᾽ ὁ νοῦς; ἀλλὰ τούτῳ ἡ φύσις νοερῶς ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν εἰδῶν, ἀλλ᾽οὐχὶ καὶ πρὸς ὁμιλίαν τὰς γλώττας κινεῖν. οὐ τοίνυν δῆλον ὅτι θεία τις ἐνέπνευσε τοῖς περὶ τὸν Πέτρον ἐπιπνοια, ἥ δὴ ἐν τῇ τῆς ψυχῆς ἀκροπόλει προκαθημένη, ὥσπερ δή τις βασιλίς, πρὸς τὸ ἑαυτῆς βουλητὸν τὴν ὑποκειμένην γλῶτταν μετῆγε καὶ μετερρύθμιζε;

Τοῦτο μὲν οὖν καὶ διηπορήθη καλῶς τῷ πατρὶ καὶ τῆς πρεπούσης τετύχηκε λύσεως. ἐγὼ δὲ ἐκεῖνο προσαπορήσαιμι· ἆρά γε ταῖς τῶν ἐντυγχανόντων διαλέκτοις τὴν γλώσσαν καταλλήλως μετάγοντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι ἤδεσαν ὅ τι καὶ φθέγγοιντο, ἤ τὴν μὲν τοιάνδε φωνὴν ἔπεμπον, ἀνεπαίσθητοι δὲ ποίου τῶν ἐθνῶν εἴη ἐτύγχανον; ἐπεὶ καὶ ῾ἡ᾽τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ῾προφῆτις, τῷ στομίῳ᾽ ὡς ὁ λόγος ῾περικαθίσασα᾽ περὶ τὸν ῾τριποδικὸν λέβητα᾽, ἔχρα μὲν καὶ Πέρσαις, ἔχρα δὲ καὶ Ἀσσυρίοις καὶ Φοίνιξι, καὶ πάντα ἐς μέτρα τε καὶ ῥυθμούς, οὕς οὐκ ἤδει, μετὰ καλλιεπείας, ἥν οὐ μέμαθηκεν. ἆρ᾽οὖν ἀνεπιστήμονες ετύγχανον καὶ οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ μαθηταὶ ὧν δὴ προσωμίλουν καὶ διελέγοντο; οὐδαμῶς· τοῦτο γὰρ ἄντικρυς μαινομένων ἐστὶ τῆς οἰκείας διανοίας ὑποστάντων παράλλαξιν, ὥσπερ δὴ καὶ οἱ μεμηνότες, οὕς δὴ φοιβολήπτους οἱ πάλαι ὠνόμαζον, οὔθ᾽ ὧν ἐθεώρουν οὔτε μὴν ὧν διελέγοντο ἐτύγχανον ἐπιστήμονες, αλλ᾽ἡ κατ᾽ἐκείνους θεοληψία αὐτομάτως αὐτοῖς καὶ τὰς φωνὰς ἀνεδίδου καὶ τὰ ὁρώμενα ἔπλαττεν. οἱ δέ γε περὶ τὸν Πέτρον οὔτε τοῦ οἰκείόυ ἐξισταντο λογισμοῦ καὶ μετεῖχον τοῦ κρείττονος, παρ᾽οὗ δὴ καὶ ἐπεστομοῦντο πρὸς τὴν νοερὰν ταύτην ἐνέργειαν. ἤδει τοιγαροῦν ὁ καθ᾽ ἕνα τῶν μαθητῶν ὅτι Πέρσης ὁ προσιὼν αύτῷ καὶ ὅτι δεῖ τὴν Περσίδα τούτῳ ἀφεῖναι φωνήν, ὅτι τε Μῆδος καὶ ὅτι δεῖ κατὰ Μήδους φθέγγεσθαι. τὸ μὲν οὖν ἀπὸ τῶν σχημάτων διαγινώσκειν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας τῆς οἰκείάς στολαῖς ἦν γνώμης τε και συνέσεως, τὸ δὲ καὶ τοὺς μεταμπισχομένους ἀλλοτρίαις στολαῖς ἐπιστασθαι καὶ φθέγγεσθαι, ἥν εἰδεῖεν ἐκεῖνοι φωνήν, τῆς ὑψηλοτέρας καὶ κρείττονος καὶ ἦς δὴ τὸ τηνικαῦτα κατηξιώθησαν.

Ἀπορῶ δὲ καὶ περὶ τῶν γλωσσῶν, ὅπως δὴ καὶ τεθέανται· καὶ ἵνα πρὸς τὸ καθόλου τὸν λόγον ἀναβιβάσω, φιλοπονώτερον τῇ θεωρίᾳ πρόσειμι, καὶ διαποροῦμαι ὅπως δήποτε σωματικῶς ὁρᾶται τὰ θεῖα, καὶ τίνες αἱ τούτων προβολαί, καὶ τί τὸ ὑπεστρωμένον αὐτοῖς φῶς. ἐπεὶ δὲ δόξαι διτταὶ περὶ ταῦτα, αἱ μὲν ἡμέτεραι, αἱ δὲ τῶν ἄκρων Ἑλληνικῶν, δεῖ με ἀμφοτέρας εἰπεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. αἱ μὲν οὖν ἡμέτεραι αὗται. τὸ θεῖον, ὅ τι ποτέ ἐστιν, ἀσώματον ὄν, πρὸς τὰς τῶν ὑποδεχομένων δυνάμεις τὰς οἰκείας φαίνεται, θεοφανείας ἀδρανεστέρας ἥ τρανεστέρας ποιεῖ, καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἐν αἰσθήσει φαίνεται, τοῖς δὲ ὑπὲρ τὴν αἴσθησιν ἐμφανίζεται· μᾶλλον δέ, ἵνα τὸ ἀκριβέστερον εἴπω, ἐκεῖνο μὲν ἀμετάβλητον μένει καὶ ἀναλλοίωτον, ἡμεῖς δὲ περὶ ἐκεῖνο μεταποιούμεθα καὶ μεταβαλλόμεθα. ὥσπερ γὰρ μιᾶς ἀπηχηθείσης ἐν ὑπαίθρῳ φωνῆς ὁ μέν τις ἡμῶν ἤκουσεν, ὁ δὲ ἀδρανέστερον ἀντελάβετο κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς διαστάσεως καὶ τῆς εἰλικρινοῦς ἀκοῆς, τῶν δὲ μὴ ἀκουσάντων ὁ μὲν διὰ τὸ πολὺ διεστάναι οὐκ ἀντελάβετο, ὁ δὲ διὰ τὸ ἐμπεφράχθαι αὐτῷ τὸν τῆς ἀκοῆς πόρον, ἐμψυγέντος κατ᾽ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος τοῦ φλέγματος, ὁ δὲ διὰ τὸ πρὸς ἑτέροις εἶναι, καὶ ἡ πολυμερὴς αὕτη ἀλλοίωσις οὐ κατὰ τὴν ἀπηχηθεῖσαν φωνὴν ἐγένετο, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν ἐνηχηθεῖσαν ἀκοήν, οὕτω δὴ καὶ τοῦ θείου μὴ μεταβαλλομένου ἡμεῖς περὶ ἐκεῖνο μεταβεβλήμεθα καῖ τοιοίδε γινόμεθα· ὥσπερ δὴ και τοῦ ἡλίου ἑστῶτος ἐν μεσημβρίᾳ πάρνοπες καὶ νυκτάλωπες ἀμυδρόν τι τοῦ φέγγους εἰσδέχονται, ἄνθρωποι δὲ καὶ ἐλέφαντες κατᾶ τὴν προσοῦσαν ἑκάστῳ διάθεσιν μᾶλλον ἤ ἧττον ἐνοπτρίζονται. διὰ ταῦτα τοιγαροῦν καὶ οἱ περὶ τὸν Πέτρον καὶ οἱ τότε παρατυχόντες τὰς πυρίνους γλώσσας ἐκείνας ἐθεάσαντο, οὐχ ὅτι κατα γλῶσσαν τὸ θεῖον διεσχημάτισται, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι περὶ τὴν γλῶσσαν ἔμελλεν ἡ τοῦ πνεύματος ἐνέργεια γίνεσθαι. οἱ δ᾽ἄλλοι, ἵνα δὴ μάρτυρες εἶεν τοῦ μεγάλου θεαματος.

Ταῦτα δὴ τὰ τῆς ἡμετέρας αὐλῆς. Ἑλλήνων δὲ παῖδες, ὧν δὴ τελευταῖος δᾳδοῦχος καὶ ἱεροφάντης ὁ Πρόκλος ἐγἐνετο, εἰς τρία δὴ ταῦτα τὴν θεαγωγίαν καταμερίζουσι, καὶ τὸ μὲν αὐτῆς αὐτοπτικόν φασι, τὸ δὲ ἐποπτικὀν, τὸ δὲ ἐνθεαστικόν, ὡς εἶναι καὶ τοὺς ὁρῶντας αὐτόπτας καὶ ἐπόπτας καὶ ἐνθεαστάς. εἰ μὲν οὖν τις τῷ νοερῷ τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ αὐγοειδεῖ καὶ αἰθριὠδει ὡς ἔχει φύσεως τὸ θεῖον ὁρᾷ αὐτος ὤν καὶ κλήτωρ καὶ θεατής, αὐτόπτης οὗτός ἐστιν· ὅστις δὲ τῷ φανταστικῷ τῆς ψυχῆς ὀχήματι τὰ θεῖα φαντάζοιτο, ὑφ᾽ἑτέρου θεολόγου κατ᾽ ἐκείνους πρὸς τοῦτο ἀνακινούμενος, ἐπόπτης ἄν οὗτός καλοῖτο· εἰ δὲ μήτε κατὰ νοῦν θεωροίη μήτε κατὰ φαντασίαν, αὐτοῖς δὲ μόνοις τοῖς ὄμμασι θείας τινὰς ὁράσεις τῷ ἀέρι ἐμφερομένας, ἐνθεάζει τε οὗτος περὶ αὐτάς, καὶ ἐνθεαστης ὀνομάζοιτο. φασὶ γᾶρ καὶ φῶς σωματικὸν ὑπεστρῶσθαι τοῖς θείοις, οὖ δὴ ἀντιλαμβάνονται, οἱ μὲν ἀπραγματεύτως τοιαύτης τυχόντες ὀμμάτων φύσεως, οἷος δὴ καὶ Σωκράτης καὶ Πλωτῖνος ἐγένοντο, οἱ δὲ`κατά τινας περιόδους τῷ σεληναίῳ ἴσως φωτὶ τρεπόμενοι τὴν διάνοιαν· Αἰγύπτιοι δὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς, ὥς φασι, χρίοντες ἤ τῷ καλουμένῳ τάρρῳ ἤ τῷ τῆς λιβάνου ὀπῷ ἤ τῷ βδελλίῳ, αὐθωρὸν πρὸς τὰς ὀπτασίας ἀνέβλεψαν· Ἀσσύριοι δὲ χαίρειν εἰπόντες πόαις τε καὶ ὀποῖς καὶ ἐγχρίσμασι, συνθήκαις τισὶ καὶ ὀνόμασιν ἀῤρήτοις καὶ γράμμασιν ἀπορρήτοις ἐν ἱερατικοῖς πετάλοις ἑαυτοὺς καθαγιάζοντες, τὸ ὑπεστρωμένον φῶς ταῖς ἀσωμάτοις δυνάμεσιν ἐθεάσαντο.

Ταῦτα δὴ Πορφύριος καὶ ἸάμΒλιχος καὶ ὁ τερατολόγος Πρόκλος ἐλήρησαν· ἐμοὶ γὰρ ἀποπεφάνθω μηδὲν τοὺτων τυγχάνειν ἀληθές. ἀλλ᾽ἡμεῖς γε οὐ τὰς θεραπευούσας μόνον βοτάνας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς φαρμακώδεις εἰδέναι όφείλομεν, ὡς ἄν ταύταις μὲν ὑγιαζοίμεθα, ἐκείνων δὲ πόρρω γιγνοίμεθα καὶ μὴ ὡς οἰκείοις τοῖς ἀλλοτρίοις περιπίπτοιμεν.

Book Review: Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East by Jean-Claude Larchet is an examination of mental illness from an Eastern Christian perspective.

It is very well done work on the topic at hand, but it is not intended to prescribe therapeutic solutions for those who are suffering, or dealing with a person struggling with some form of mental illness. One has to read it for the historical value. It is a detailed history on the perceptions and practices by various Eastern Church leaders on the subject.

The author’s knowledge of both modern psychological conventions and Eastern Church practices regarding this subject is finely interwoven. There is some very well documented work here.

It is partly an apologetic of the Eastern Church writers in light of modern psychiatry. Larchet strives to promote that these Church leaders were very thoughtful and insightful in relation to those who had mental illness. He clearly demonstrates that these leaders were not foolish and neither quick to attach a demonic definition to everyone who had mental health issues.

He does go into significant detail showing that many of the Eastern Church leaders discerned that it was a multifaceted problem — a physical disease or injury, a persons temperament, demonic influences, and a number of other variables could be valid sources of a persons mental suffering. Some of the solutions to this problem were a patient long-time intervention, one-on-one intense relationships, a specialized prayer, holy oil, singing or reciting scripture, seclusion, fasting, and encouraging sufferers to participate in their own healing as much as possible. Larchet does not demonstrate any serious negative viewpoints on the treatment offered by these Eastern Church leaders.

It outlines a general idea on how to deal with mental illness within a Christian context, but fails to build a clear doctrine. A large number of Church leaders are introduced on the subject but there is no perceivable pattern or evolution of thought around this issue.

This book hardly addresses the theological basis of mental illness and spirituality. It assumes that readers know what demons are, and that they do exist. He hardly addresses these axioms. Neither does it address the question of why there was so much emphasis on expelling demons in Jesus’ ministry while other Jewish literature was less inclined to do the same during this period. Nor did he express what the influences were that led to the informal structure Eastern Christians used in response to this malady.

Jennifer Doane Upton would disagree with the assessment of this book so far, she takes an altogether different perspective in her book review found at the publisher’s website, Sophia Perennis:

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing presents the viewpoint on mental disorders held by the early Church Fathers, and in so doing provides a fresh “new” look at psychotherapy, as seen from the standpoint of a tradition which knows the human being as composed of body, soul and Spirit, and gives precedence to the Spirit. The author, Jean-Claude Larchet, is a practicing psychiatrist as well as an Eastern Orthodox Christian.

One wonders if he is choosing the best writers on the subject and ignoring the poorer ones, such as the writings of Pachomius, who believed that anyone who has a demon had a sign of a physical entry point. It was Pachomius duty to find the entry point and expel the demon, whether it was in the finger, foot or whatever. Although the many writers he lists are prominent, one questions whether their opinion was the popular one, or did the masses follow something similar to Pachomius.

This is definitely not a how-to guide on distinguishing between mental illness and demonism. If anything Larchet promotes that the eastern fathers treated whatever state the person was in with respect, though some of their practices seem barbaric to our standards — like placing a violent-to-self or -other type person in a secured sack until the anger abates.

The real strength of this book is in two observations. The first one is the Eastern Church perception of a psychological condition they called acedia — a type of sadness equivalent to what we call depression. The book itself does not make this correlation but it seems close. It goes on to list various remedies that do not deal with the sadness directly but with addressing or limiting the various expressions of sadness to cure it. It also demonstrates that ancient authors have identified a human condition whose appearance has not changed even to this day.

The second is found in the last chapter, entitled, A Most Singular Kind of Folly: The Fool For Christ. It has little to do with defining mental disorders at all, but is about a stratum of Christians who purposely pretended to be mentally ill for various reasons; whether for attaining humility through abuse or rejection, or it was a representation for detachment from this world, or it was for charity purposes. For if one feigned madness, this gave entrance to world of the low and downtrodden. This association became a source of ministry.

It is not a difficult book to read. The author does use some technical vocabulary but never quotes esoteric texts in the original Greek or Latin to prove his point. Everything can be understood by the English reader.

The whole subject of the relationship between mental illness and spiritual influences is severely under-represented in Christian literature, The author is one of the few, and maybe the only one, that has attempted such a rigorous examination. It is a good start. Hopefully more researchers will use this to build a more complete framework.

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East by Jean-Claude Larchet, Translated by Rama P. Coomaraswamy and G. John Champoux, can be found at Amazon. It is only available in print format.

See also the previous article on this subject A Religious Look at Miracles and Mental Illness.