Fr Nikolaos Loydovikos

Concluding Summary From the Book ''TOWARDS A THEOLOGY OF PSYCHOTHERAPY''

I believe the time has come to consider as an utmost priority the crucial need for a spiritual grounding of psy­chotherapy. Psychotherapy, in its contemporary form, con­stitutes an anthropological enterprise which intentions, in the West, have, for some time now, transcended the confines of a mere therapeutic intervention into behaviour and ­through its many «Schools» - beacons expectantly for participation in a quest which deals with the very being of Man and the Cosmos. It even purports to present a practically holistic interpretation of Man, his destiny and civilization (culture) (for people like Karl Gustav Jung or Karen Homey have shown us, for example, that neuroses have to do with the very foundations of the identity of a civilization). Thus, it is important to point out that in this holistic approach, which also aims at an absolutely practical, empirical intervention into the Being of Man, psychotherapy becomes once again precisely «theo­logical». To wit, this reminds us of what was always un­consciously present in this quest, aside from incidental «metaphysical» fabrications attributed to psychotherapy from time to time: the archetypal Christian Theology itself as a direct attempt to assume the suffering and fragmented human being as his «salvation».
Of course, such a parallelism with theology must be limited only to some of the intentions of psychotherapy and only to its spiritual content - here ambiguity and arbitrari­ness (aside from the openly admitted atheism or beliefs of their creators) often prevail. It would also be very naIve for one to affirm that the various psychotherapies once had or have now the same credibility with religion regarding their accomplishments, - especially due to the disproportionate broadening of their promises: «self-realization», «self­fulfillment», «self-knowledge», or «self-liberation», and other such, which accompany the promise for psycho­logical health in our days, transforming analogously the orientation and techniques of psychotherapy. Despite this, few guarantees or proofs are offered by these various psychotherapeutic «schools» for a genuine (and universal) therapy (especially given the 2/3 automatic healing of most neuroses after about one or two years). Thus, it is quite difficult for one to maintain for the «scientificity» of these torrentially multiplying «schools» and techniques - it is not by chance that even the classical psychotherapeutic text­books attribute only a 10% scientificity to these techniques, in contrast to a 20% for the hypotheses used. Such being the case, it is more than easy for the theo­logian (especially one who tends towards fundamentalism) to simply reject wholesale (as «unscientific») these various psychotherapies, beginning right from the start with Freudian psychoanalysis. In the present book we shall maintain, nevertheless, that another stance is much more efficacious: the attempt towards a theological, ontological uncovering of a possible common spiritual identity amongst schools of the psychotherapeutic phenomenon which could somehow correlate with fundamental theological notions. Such a venture possibly involves, as we have said, a dis­cretionary critical theological engagement of certain psy­chotherapeutic theories in order to enrich them spiritually; this of course does not mean that theology also has nothing to benefit from the gleaning of acute empirical psycho­logical observations and conclusions often provided by psychotherapy. On the pages of this book three fundamental theological notions are proposed tentatively which could (as they comprise the content of the proposals presented on the part of the other side also) constitute bridges between theology and psychoanalysis especially - although, as we shall see below, these bridges could be valid for other forms of psychotherapy also. These three notions presented here are: Desire, Catholicity and Eschatology. These three notions are not the only ones which could play this «bridg­ing» role; they belong, however, to the very nucleus of (indeed, quite patristic) theology and for this reason we may commence with them. Let us, however, review our con­clusions in brief.

In our first text we saw that the notion of Desire as it described in its subjective functioning according to Lacan, correlates with the theological notion of «natural will» asthis is presented by St. Maximus the Confessor. Naturally, there are many who see in this «correlation» an anachronism or, much worse, egregious apologetics; but nothing is farther from the truth, at least as far as the intentions of the author are concerned. It simply happens to be a fact that major spiritual movements manifest a remarkable resilience throughout time; their subsequent resonations continue to travel through strong subliminal or subterranean currents over a period of centuries. Therefore, this is not so much a matter of scrutinizing literary sources (although, doing so, especially for Lacan, could easily expose him to certain «mystical» spiritual currents), rather here we must build up a solid, universal spiritual framework which endures the passage of time and bears fruit over and over again, regard­less of the various names and forms it may take on. Isn't it precisely in this key that Whitehead claimed that all of western theology is a series of afterthoughts on Plato?

Be that as it may, the notion of WilllVolition/Desire continues for centuries now to be a permanent feature within the backdrop of Christianity. This is what was attempted to be shown by the author of these lines in an older book (Closed Spirituality and the Meaning of Self). This means that WilllDesire constitutes a foundation for ontology and especially anthropology, albeit in a different way, in the Christian West as well as in the Christian East. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that Maximus the Confessor and J. Lacan meet exactly at this juncture; indeed, such a situation is well nigh spiritually fateful... Having made these comments, however, we perhaps must legitimately return to our subject: In Maximus, then, as well as in Lacan, the subjective being - through - Desire, exists by embodying the Desire of the Other as his own; it exists, we could state boldly, interpenetrating (a la homoousion) the Other as an indefinite cause for the Desire and its infinite goal. Thus Lacan, can be placed at the pinnacle of the Western quest for an ontological foundation of the subject and for its communion simultaneously - a quest indeed most biblical in its ,(unconscious) roots. However, in Lacan the «symbolic castration», that is to say, the process of humanizing the
subject, has had its torturous existential side-effects, for the subject can never return to its imagined lost fullness, for its Desire confronts Structure, Language and the Other within the dreamy imaginary remnant of the lost maternal bond. The fact that the subject comes to being, in the game of Desire, in the place of the Other, comprises, on the one hand, a unique opening, from the point of view of Western inter-subjectivity, but this, however, is not the most successful solution to its plight. Despite the absolute ontological necessity of the Other for the making of the human subject, the relation with the Other does not cease being traumatic, difficult and dangerous for me. The trajectory of Will/Desire towards communion (or, accord­ing to theological terminology, the Homoousion) is, on the one hand, given, but characteristically difficult to attain to. The result of this is, in ontological terminology, that even in Lacan absolute communion is not placed completely in his «primary ontology», except perhaps as its trauma, as its unattainable horizon. This is because Lacan, as often is the case for every «typical» Western intellectual, tends to al­ways see Desire also in relation to Power and quite rarely in relation to the weakness of the Cross. According to this typical Western stance, then, Desire must serve the in­dividual goal, i.e. personal self-realization ultimately (and due to this the Other always will revolt at some point or another). Here DesirelWill is not conceived of in its natural connection with genuine and ontologically primal com­munality which exists as an end in itself and thus as a fundamental element of «primary ontology», a structural element for the individual Being. If we accept this second perspective, which is that of Maximus, a wholeasceticism (the Cross) comes into play in order to attain to that love which does not merely incorporate by force the Other, but interpenetrates within the Other freely and according to the type of the homoousion. Accordingly, the theological «correction» of Lacan on this point (if we, by chance desire the passage from psychoanalysis towards theology, not in order to produce a Christian psychoanalysis but in order to give psychoanalysis a wider anthropological horizon) could perhaps be worked out by placing Christ in the place of the Other, and in this way natural Will/Desire emerges as pure, i.e. objectless. The Desiring faculty, as the yeaming for the Whole within me (i.e. a yeaming for the Father or for other people) is here actuated in crucifixic love. Christ, as the Other, desiring the Desire of the Father [«so that they may be one as we are one» (John 17:22)], is He in the name through which Man acquires a pure desiring, without a specific name, which can hold all things together, and thus Man perceives all people and things as if they were his very existence and body.

This is further explained in the second text of this book where the notion of Catholicity is dealt with to an even greater extent, thus correcting and expanding the psycho­analytic experience on this subject. Specifically, the notion of «intra-inter-co-being» is developed as a theological commentary on the psychoanalytic experience of inter­subjectivity. Directly before this, though, we deal with the psychosomatic dimension of Man as an «incorporated brain» based on contemporary cognitive science and neuro­psychology, this in spite of philosophical and theological idealism; and then the parallel experience of the Eastern mystics such as that of Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas are presented. In this way the experience of God involves the body and is communal as a transferal of the Trinitarian Homoousion by grace to the Cosmos, to human experience but also simultaneously into history, as actuated and active Catholicity: this allows us to posit a theological definition of the individual subject, for which psychoanalysis would certainly not be uninterested. The ontological foundations of psychoanalysis as an eschato­logy of a biblical type are studied in the last part of this book with the aid of a critical understanding of the psycho­analysis of Wittgenstein, Ricoeur and Kastoriades. The phenomenon of the unconscious is seen to constitute the field for an inter-subjective quest for meaning, which leads to this eschatological capability of self-re-creating and giving content and meaning to the human self within an ascesis of communion which allows him to isolate the fundamental «relational structure» which makes him up as a being. The unconscious thus is no longer a sort of mythical being at the very periphery of the subject, but rather a real given, an alive entity actively meeting with the conscious of the other in the light of which it is «inter­preted». Psychoanalysis is thus raised to the point of being «theological», precisely through this eschatological open­ing in relation to the subject, an eschatological stance which incorporates a series of fundamental biblical anthropo­logical givens.

The existence of an eschatological «terminus» or purposefulness is also perceived in Adler's system in the form of the constant struggle of the subject to attain certain social goals, as well as that of Jung, as expressed in the fundamental human need for meaning, ultimately for spiritual meaning, or, even more to the point, the need for religiosity and for transcending as the primal collective archetype of the subconscious. It is also obvious in the psychotherapy of Rank, well known as «will therapy» which allows for the overcoming of the primordial angst or de­pression caused by being separated from the womb, as well as in the thought of Homey, where she adopts a sort of revelatory character as being intrinsic to psychoanalysis, in that it aims towards, on the one hand, the demonstration of distortions caused by a false idealized image of oneself, and, on the other hand, an emergence of the true self, which is usually totally paralyzed by the overbearing system of a blind ego-centrism.

Of course, where this «theological» eschatological version of psychotherapy excels is (despite the sometimes openly admitted atheism of its adherents) in the so-called existential psychotherapy from R. May to I. Yalom today, where the desperate quest for a personal goal in life constitutes a clinical discovery and reason for fundamental angst. Of course, it is not by chance that, for a psycho­analyst of the caliber and influence of Karl Rogers, the only inherent instinct in Man, besides the satisfaction of his biological needs, is the charge towards self-realization. Here an unmitigated, unrestricted self satisfaction is isolat­ed as allowing for such a self realization in opposition to the so-called «value conditions», that is to say the condition within which individual appreciates himself only under certain conditions, i.e. only when he responds to certain objective value criteria which have been internalized - and also in opposition to the stress that this condition causes.

Thus, every psychotherapy (here we may place the vast majority of most known psychotherapies) which searches for an ultimate meaning or the conditions for a genuine, true and full self, over against, to remember the also vastly significant D. Winnicott, the various masquerades of the «false self», marked by various neuroses, is, summarily, in the long run, an echatological type of therapy, with obvious theological underpinnings. So much more for the reason that within such an «eschatology» the vision of an exist­ential Catholicity is often annexed together with the liberat­ing experience of the restoration of the full human exist­ential «Desire».

Thus, in these terms, certain theological ontological presuppositions are presented allowing for a critical, spiritual exposition of psychotherapy on the part of theology. This, of course, is not done for the sake of creating an «Orthodox psychoanalysis» for this could not occur for the reasons explained in the prologue of this book and, furthermore, because we cannot reduce our relation to God to a mere therapeutical «method» or «technique», thus glorifying modem utilitarian individualism. However, this reception can occur as a spiritual and anthropological enriching of psychotherapy by people who are capable of accomplishing this with discretion. An enrichment which, besides, could be in part mutual, due to the experiential accuracy of some of the aforementioned theoretical and clinical observations. A Theology of Psychotherapy could be initialized in this way, aiming towards enlightening more precisely psychotherapy's darker ontological recesses; in order to free it from arbitrary metaphysical judgments, in order to lead it to an ever deepening discovery of the limitless horizons of Man, who in his freedom and his creativity «images», as biblical language reminds us, God himself. This is expressed as the eschatological reality which in its turn manifests the Christological «anthropo­logical apophaticism» of eastern patristic theology. And this is exceedingly valuable now when, in every possible way, it reminds us that we do not yet know what Man is in his fullness. Man is a being which (in Christ) is in a process of becoming (regarding his manner of being) and not merely «is»; in the eschaton, when we shall see the source of Being «face to face» (I Cor. 13: 12), then «we shall understand completely»; not only will we know God but Man also. The Church, in its grace-centeredness, apophatic and sacro­centric hypostasis, along with the neptic and philokalic self­consciousness which this brings about, constitutes a deep source of «information» for the coming «full human being» (according to Maximus the Confessor). Psychotherapy, at another level, is a small part (together with Philosophy, Art and Science) of this long-term «building up» of the Man of the eschaton which is now in process. This is the mystery which is revealed in its limitless apophatic richness especially in the great mystery of the Incarnation, that is to say, in the living Person of Christ himself. This theological engagement of psychotherapy will enrich it and «humanize» it but also: it will manifest the deep unconscious «theo­logical» character of every fundamental psychotherapeutic enterprise as they all aim, in the final analysis, for the liberation of Man, to the elevation, on the level of the deep freedom which is, at least according to the Greek Fathers, the characteristic of the very divine image within Man, the «image of God» in Man's nature. Indeed, the attempt to safeguard and raise the freedom of Man ultimately constitutes the deepest theological trait intrinsic to psychoanalysis, but also to every psychotherapy, and is precisely this very freedom (now seen in absolute ontological terms, which relate ultimately to the eternal Being or Non-being of Man), which is the sole content of the spiritual struggle of theology. .. Thus, in the light of this theological stance, the psychotherapeutic way may be justified and find its true goal.

Regarding the actual form this theological justification of psychotherapy could take on and the kind of spiritual reformation this latter would undergo, certain texts of Gregory Palamas could very well serve as guidelines, such as his work «Hyper ton Jeros Hesychazonton» (<<On Those Who Practice Hesychasm in Holiness») (1: 1 :9), a text which deals with the transfiguration of natural human know­ledge connected with the proper «secular knowledge». Just as in the case of these two, psychotherapy, in the same way, «can never become spiritual per se, except if it is combined with faith and love of God; rather except if it is reborn through love and the grace coming through love. Thus it is transformed from what it was, it becomes new and divine, pure, peaceful, forbearing, obedient, full of words which build up those who hear and it produces good fruits which can be identified with the very wisdom from above, God's wisdom. And being spiritual in this way because it is obedient to the wisdom of the Spirit, it recognizes and accepts the graces of the Spirit».

«Spiritual», therefore, in the end,. is that psychotherapy which knows and accepts, as the ultimate «natural» content of the human being, the graces of the Spirit of God.