The Modes of Faith, Reason and the Role of the Nous in Coping with Thoughts

In our last blog post, we spoke about faith and hesychasm as means of coping with the thoughts. In the West, the mode of reason has been championed as the sine qua non concerning all knowledge claims about the human person and the world in which we live.  This is a radical departure from the ancient Christian world view where, as I note in chapter five of my book, “In addition to a primitive mode of passion and a metacognitive mode of reason, the man of faith knows a third state in which he experiences diving grace through the spiritual heart that is also called the nous.  Saint Mark the … [Read more...]

Reason, Faith, and Hesychasm as Means of Coping with Thoughts

Now that we’ve spent some time reflecting upon the role of suffering in human life and its impact on the spiritual life, it is time to take a step back and describe the proper yet distinct roles the modes of reason and faith play in our journey from this age to the age to come. In our present epoch, reason has become like a tyrant that disdains any collaborative relationship with faith.  The ancient fathers understood that reason has its proper role but only in the hands of faith.  Further along in chapter five I turn to St. Isaac to bolster this point, “’Knowledge everywhere sings the … [Read more...]

More on Suffering

In reflecting further upon the nature of alcoholism and recovery, there are certain parallels one may make between those conditions and the plight of the sinner turning towards repentance.  In both instances, the alcoholic and the sinner are encouraged to make self-referential statements that, on the surface, appear to be negative.  In AA, once one acknowledges one’s alcoholism, that person always introduces himself to the group by stating his name and his alcoholism: “I’m Bob and I’m an alcoholic”.  The sinner, in turn, is encouraged to pray the Jesus Prayer in which he introduces himself to … [Read more...]

Suffering and Alcohol Addiction

In the last blog post, I mentioned maladaptive means of coping with alienation from God.  This so-called “second level” of human suffering is integral to any hopeful analysis of suffering, because it’s precisely the level at which we have the responsibility and capability to effect change in our personal situation.   In terms of the suffering that comes as a result of alcohol or drug addiction, the actual use of alcohol or mind-altering substance is the symptom of a more deeply rooted problem.  This problem is rooted in a mindless captivity to dysfunctional thought patterns, which lead to … [Read more...]

Suffering and Human Relations

My last post on suffering drew a great deal of attention which leads me to believe it might be beneficial to spend some more time on the subject. While part of man’s uniqueness is his ability to make intelligent inquiries about suffering, this knowledge does not provide him any relief.  In fact, a great deal of human history has been engrossed with the avoidance of human suffering.  All too often this quest to avoid the unavoidable only leads to further suffering. According to a Christian understanding of suffering, this state of being is intimately related to our alienation from God.  As … [Read more...]

Ancient Christian Wisdom to be Published in Paperback

For Immediate Release Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy: A Meeting of Minds September 15, 2012 Launch of Paperback Edition Book Description:  Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy details a colorful journey deep into two seemingly disparate worlds united by a common insight into the way our thinking influences our emotions, behaviors, and ultimately our lives. In this innovative study about mental and spiritual health, readers are not only provided with a thorough introduction to the elegant theory and practical techniques of cognitive therapy, … [Read more...]

Suffering and Thoughts-Counsel from the Ancient Fathers

Suffering is such a major component of human history that many philosophies, religions, and social theories have been absorbed with the construction of theodicies that attempt to respond to this phenomenon as if it were a problem to be solved or a defect to be eradicated.  Some have gone so far as to claim that life is absurd and devoid of meaning because of such suffering.  These proponents would claim that a world afflicted with human suffering negates belief in the existence of a good and loving God.  Some Christians, especially in the West, have developed theories of suffering founded upon … [Read more...]

Spiritual Warfare, the Passions and the Commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist

In addition to Holy Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, the liturgical texts of the Church offer the faithful a feast of wise teachings about the need to watch over one’s thoughts and the consequences of failing to do so. For example, yesterday we commemorated the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.   In the odes of the canon in honor of the forerunner and chanted during Matins, the faithful discover precious truths about spiritual warfare, the passions, the virtues, and the constant need for spiritual vigilance. Before delving into the topic of this blog post, it may be … [Read more...]

How We Got Here

Since we’ve spent such a great deal of effort and so much time describing the various remedies and strategies for the maladaptive thoughts and behavior with which we are afflicted, it may be helpful to pause for a moment and reflect upon the broader context within which mental and spiritual illnesses manifest themselves.   Such remedies and strategies can only be fully effective if we understand the origins and the characteristics of the illness from which we suffer.  This methodology is employed in my book Ancient Christian Wisdom and is the starting point for later discussions and … [Read more...]

Philautia versus Agape

In my last post I shared some thoughts about the patristic notion of philautia and the psychological concept of self-esteem.  In this post, I would like to offer a reflection upon the difference between philautia and agape.  As I described it, philautia is characterized by an obsession with the self.  It is always directed inward and if perchance it finds itself concerned with others on the outside, it is only because of their importance for the preservation of the self’s inner world, the center of all possible universes.  This tends toward a narcissistic myopia that holds up an illusion of … [Read more...]