Workshop | Psychoanalysis and Orthodox Theology | Abstracts

Psychoanalysis and Orthodox Theology


Dr Athanasios Alexandridis

The genealogy of the “religious” into psychic space
The author aims at presenting the main vicissitudes of the “religious” into psychic space through the process of subjectivation. In analogy with “in the beginning was the Word” the author supposes that in the beginning a radical double splitting is happening into the emerging psyche between a) the body and the mind, b) the mind and the Other. As a consequence the mind is supposed to be bodiless and autonomous. That mind-space is omnipotent, believing in the autogenesis of itself and of the world as being the “word” or, psychoanalytically speaking, because it is the matrix of the hallucination. Soon the hallucinating omnipotence turns into terrifying chaos because of the absence of the “principle of the reality”, the only capable to give to the drives the quality of “desire”. This first period of omnipotence corresponds to the type of animism and is the protype in the long genealogy of the “religious” into the psyche. Object seeking process will give the other “positions” in the formation of the psychic “religious” as the phallic mother, the phallic divine child of the parthenogenetic mother-nature, the divine triangulation “father-mother-infant” as the projection of the human family and finally the Christian triangulation of “father-son-spirit”. The latter, according to the presenter, is an attempt to resolve the initial radical splitting and to (re)instore the embodied mind. Clinical fragments of this “terminable and interminable” process will be given.



Dr Konstantinos Emmanouilidis

Clinical and pastoral similarities and differences between clergy - spirituals and psychiatrists - psychoanalysts
Pastoral action of the Orthodox Church presupposes the relationship of the believer with a spiritual father. In the last forty years in Greece and less in the other Orthodox countries the psychoanalysts have appeared as a new kind of counselor and supporter of the suffering human being. Either the ignorance or the theoretical distance between the conditions of Orthodoxy and Psychoanalysis results in misunderstandings and controversies but the increase in the number of psychoanalysts who accept the importance of faith in human and a better understanding of psychoanalysis by the priests create a hope for something better in cooperation between them.
In this essay, the author will initially make a distinction between the role of clergy/ theologian/ spiritual on the one hand and the role of the psychiatrist/ psychologist/ psychoanalyst on the other, in order to lay the foundations for the particular approach and therefore reference to similar issues problems with which they may be confronted.
The aims and expectations at personal and theoretical level if clarified will help to distinguish the roles of specialists. It will then focus on the particular relationship that the spiritual father and the psychoanalyst have with the suffering person, as he understands it as psychoanalyst, as well as what can be mental growth and spiritual. He will make a parallel description of the peculiarities and characteristics of psychoanalytic and spiritual relationship in order to be able to point out the contribution and the limitations it has the psychoanalyst and the spiritual in his work. Through this description there is the intention to present practical issues for the help that man can get from psychoanalysis and spiritual life, respectively, and to highlight the limits and constraints that exist. Issues such as indications, contraindications, prospects and bans will be approached through short clinical examples. The purpose of this work is to show the limits and objectives of each worker in line with the expectation of the humanitarian aid applicant so as to lay the foundations to avoid misunderstandings, disputes and inappropriate conflicts and to highlight the ways and the fields that help can reach the maximum depth.
The author's conclusion is that if the ideological, emotional and empirical resistances and contradictions of the two fields are sufficiently discussed in depth and in many respects, then this meeting of experts may leave stockpile, and he hopes that this workshop will contribute in this direction.



Dr Steven-John M. Harris

Truth is a Double-Edged Sword: A Brief History of the Dialogue Between Psychoanalysis and Christianity
This discussion will address some key features of Christianity's reaction since the arrival of psychoanalysis in the early 20th Century. The initial reception was complex, due in part to Sigmund Freud’s packaging together his metapsychology with atheism. I will trace Freud’s early religious roots and experiences that likely led to his atheism, a product of his own apparently unresolved trauma. Further, I will briefly outline varieties of responses to psychoanalysis from the Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox faiths. Some important barriers to dialogue between psychoanalysis and religion will be briefly outlined. A rather seismic shift in psychoanalytic theory, with its emphasis on relational instincts has injected a new focus that opens up potentially new paths for the dialogue between psychoanalysis and Orthodox Theology. Some of the implications of this emphasis will be briefly described. This ongoing dialogue seems to be both assisted and thwarted by overly unconscious subjective factors, as it was for Freud. It will be argued that maintaining a dialogue with psychoanalysis holds significant potential for authentic participation in one’s faith, while on the other hand, psychoanalysis can be enriched by acknowledging the ontological foundations of the human psyche.



Prof. Petar Jevremovic

Modern Psychoanalysis and Orthodox Theology
Human personality is a paradoxical outcome of the (ontogenetic) process of colonization of emptiness. This emptiness is proto-human and non-yet-personal. Being personality implies becoming the colony of the Other. There is no personality per se. There is no personality in isolation. Every personality is personality for the Other and with the Other. This being-colonialized is at the bottom of ontologically grounding structures such as being catholic or being social. Proto-human-emptiness is being colonialized with words and images, with phantasies and desires. This act of the progressive colonialization functions as a formative (or mal-formative) way of incorporating otherness of the Other. This (colonializing-incorporated) Other is, topologically speaking, a place of subject's becoming being in the world. Of his becoming a person. There is no (axiologically) innocent colonization. Every colonization presupposes the act of radical appropriation of subject's inner emptiness done by the Other. Otherness of the analyst is analogous to the otherness of priest. Both are addresing subject from the topos of the Other. Both are located at the edge of emptiness. Analythical drama of desire finds its (possible dialectical) counterpart in the (theological) drama of salvation. The principal question of any therapeutic doctrine is the question of death.



Dr Dimitrios Kyriazis

Influences of Christian Thought on Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice
Christian Theology has influenced psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice in an apparent or latent way. This can be partly explained by the fact that both paradigms drew, to a certain extent, from common sources, namely the Bible and Greek thought. Nevertheless, major differences remain between the two systems of thought. On the one hand, psychoanalytic thought, in its classical and post-Freudian formulations, is based primarily on modern scientific norms, focusing on the study of the unconscious realm detached from any transcendental principles. On the other hand, Christian discourse (patristic and ascetical) is rooted in a pre-modern, God-centered gnoseological paradigm concentrated on the relationship between humans with God and the other.
Within this general framework my contribution shall be structured on three main axes. First, certain indicative cases of the potential impact of theology on psychoanalysis will be presented, found in Fairbairn's theory of the schizoid dilemma and the management of guilt, Lacan's formulation of The-Name-of-the-Father, the concept of the use of an object developed by Winnicott, and, finally, the main case study of this paper, Bion’s concepts of O (of ultimate reality, and absolute truth) and of the container-contained relation.
Second, emphasis will be given on the relational dimension shared and elaborated, in different terms, by psychoanalysis and theology. Psychoanalysis provides the clinical study of the unconscious aspect of mind and human relationships through the study of the transference and countertransference phenomena between analyst and patient. Theology, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship of Humans with God and the other man, emphasizes truth, morality and the overcoming of "psychic death" through love and forgiveness. In the field of practice (clinical psychoanalysis and pastoral care), both can mutually support the suffering Christian believer. For a fruitful dialogue between them a multi- and transdisciplinary approach is needed.
Finally, I shall underline two core issues which also seem to be crucial for the dialogue between psychoanalysis and theology; the shaping of the perception of God by human character, as Heraclitus points out ("Man's character is his demon"), and the significance of God’s perception, positive to negative, as an organizing principle for the conscious and unconscious human psychic reality, both for believers and not.



Rev. Prof. Nikolaos Loudovikos

Philosophical and Biblical Theology and the Discovery of the Unconscious: Preliminary Remarks
Contrary to what is usually believed, the Unconscious is, fundamentally, a theological concept. Discovered by some Ancient Greek philosophical-theological minds and being described in different ways, it took its decisive shape through some Christian Patristic schools of thought. The different way of theologically describing human subjectivity produces different understandings of the Unconscious, which thus, becomes also an exceptionally meaningful cultural phenomenon.



Rev. Stephen Muse

Shame and Overcoming the Mechanisms of Defense in response to sin and trauma: Reflections on psychoanalytic parallels with the Patristic idea of vainglory [kenodoxia], repentance, confession and healing
This paper will draw upon Biblical and clinical case examples to reflect on the relationship between psychoanalytic understanding of defense mechanisms and the Patristic understanding of vainglory [keno-doxia] as attempts at self-repair in the face of alienation and fragmentation due to sin and trauma. Healing and redemption occur through establishing communion sufficient to allow for the vulnerability of repentance and confession which are accompanied by admitting to consciousness what vainglory and the mechanisms of defense prevented as unconscious means of stabilizing the wounded self. Both Orthodox path to redemption and the practice of psychoanalysis are arguably “cures of love” enabling increased capacity for witnessing and living the truth in relationship. In both instances, the litmus test of transformation is a return to healthy interactional patterns in contrast to the distorted patterns of relationality stemming from unconscious reactivity that prevents or limits full communion.



Rev. Vasileios Thermos

Tracing Judeo-Christian elements in Psychoanalysis: a path for renewing Western Civilization
The Christian roots of Western civilization are an indisputable reality; however secular, or even antichristian, it can become it is unable to deny that is has been permeated by Christian elements of both worldview and morality. This presentation attempts to trace three indicative (and definitely not exhaustive) fields of psychoanalytic theory that present similarities, analogues, and inspiration from respective Christian notions. First, the conception of the unconscious as Fall (Kohut) implies the existence of Tragic Man who is fragmented and has to be integral again. Second, the idea of freedom as associated with the subject’s psychosomatic vitality (Winnicott) resounds Saint Maximus’s affirmation of nature and its logoi which make the substratum for theosis. Third, desire and object-a (Lacan) possess the capacity of warranting the necessary apophatic perspective in Psychoanalysis, which is quite valuable for faith and virtue. As latent as these similarities and analogues can be, nonetheless they pave the road for a serious encounter between Psychoanalysis and Christian Theology, which, in addition to contributing to mental health, is expected to enrich the intellectual future of Western civilization.




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