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 Orthodox psychotherapy
 The peril of occult practices and sectarianism
 The malady of alcoholism

Orthodox psychotherapy

Psychotherapy became a science several decades ago, when it became evident to physicians that the spiritual state of an individual to a great extent determines his health. It was said in ancient times that the art of healing rests upon three pillars: the knife, the curative plant, and the word. The knife represented surgery, curative plants are the basis of all medications, while the word represents the physician’s concern for and active participation in the fate of the sick person.

Psychotherapy has been called upon to comfort ill and sorrowing individuals, to help them achieve an emotional balance. The goals are benevolent. However, a totally different situation exists in practice. If the physician’s soul is not cleansed through repentance, if he says one thing but practices another, how will he be able to help anyone? It is impossible to help a person without possessing one’s own spiritual values. For “can the blind lead the blind? Will not both fall into a pit” (Luke 6:39)? The spiritual paucity of a psychotherapy without spiritual values has made it vulnerable to an attack by a great multitude of occult psychiatric techniques (Western, Eastern, all kinds), which are impossible to count. But they do have a name. Their name is – legion.

The tragedy of modern psychotherapy also lies in the fact that it encourages man’s sins and passions, and tries in all ways to elevate his self-pride. It urges the patient to disentangle himself from a mass of problems mainly with the aid of occult methods. What kind of help is that? The psychotherapist’s main instrument is the word. However, psychotherapy is primarily called upon to exert not a verbal, but a spiritual influence upon the individual. Because if it is falsehood which stands behind the words, there will be no benefit from them whatsoever. Without the life-giving power of the Spirit, the word will only be an empty sound.

At present there are three leading schools of thought which dominate non-Christian psychology, namely: behaviorism, psychoanalysis, and humanistic psychology. The basis of behaviorism is the concept that man is an animal who is distinguished by verbal behavior. Such was the assertion of one of the founders of this branch of psychology, John Watson. It is quite understandable that behaviorism is logical materialism. Its therapeutic technique is behavioral psycho- therapy.

Psychoanalysis also looks upon man as a highly-organized individual who is dominated by sexuality and aggressiveness. Sigmund Freud, the author of psychoanalysis, was a militant atheist who asserted that “religion is mass madness.” The psychoanalytical process vaguely reminds us of confession, only without God and without repentance

Humanistic psychology has pronounced its main idea to be an appeal to man’s personality. The basic postulates of this group of psychologists are a striving for a self-revelation of the persona. In the final analysis these strivings have led them to the idea that man is the beginning and the end of creation, that his ego is of absolute importance.

Currently a fourth “wave” is gaining strength in the field of psychology. It is so-called transpersonal psychology – a destructive and vile demonic novelty. Its proponents offer the use of hyperventilation, hypnosis, specially selected music and various psychotropic medications to effect a “cleansing of the soul.”

The task of physicians who have dedicated themselves to an Orthodox care for the soul is the renewal of spiritual traditions in medicine and psychology. Such physicians should hold fast to the Orthodox faith and share this treasure of salvation with their patients, love them and bear their burdens. There can be various forms of Orthodox soul-care: earnest talks, meetings with the clergy, family consultations, catechism, a psychological preparation for the sacrament of confession, the rehabilitation of individuals who have become victims of totalitarian sects and occult practices, pilgrimages, etc.

Patients should primarily be given love and heartfelt warmth, while knowledge is needed to better apply this love. The physician’s task is to ensure that the patient finds peace within himself, and subsequently makes peace with God.

Opponents declare that Orthodox psychotherapy cannot exist; the physician who is a believer cannot impose his religious convictions upon other people. This is quite a difficult question of course. However, if the psychotherapist is an Orthodox believer, his soul-caring practice will be based upon Christian values. And his curative arsenal will not contain meditative techniques, hypnotic trances and other methods that bring destruction to the patient’s soul. It is also obvious that the Orthodox physician will speak of faith and spiritual values only with those people who want to hear about them. Being convinced that there is only one Truth, and that it is to be found only in holy Orthodoxy, the religious physician will not treat his patients to the dogmas of other religions and confessions. Thus, the Orthodox physician will exclusively offer an Orthodox psychotherapy.

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The peril of occult practices and sectarianism

Today we are experiencing hard times – the spiritual vacuum in people is being filled with false teachings, heresies, all sorts of sects, and a passion for occultism. With the help of these surrogate means some people try to attain salvation, others search for help in curing illnesses, still others become the victims of deceit, psychological brainwashing or their own religious ignorance.

The people who are entrapped into sects or have become the victims of occult influences often experience psychological breakdowns and great spiritual discomfort, and sometimes even become psychologically ill. Sects do not possess the grace of God, and the fact that many people (especially those baptized in Orthodoxy) become subject to misfortunes, can signify God’s punishment or reproval for rejection of the true faith.

In his book “The Number of the Beast,” Father Anatoliy (Berestov) – a priest and neuropathologist – describes in detail the symptoms of the so-called “occult illness,” among which are: phobias (manifestations of persistent fears); hallucinations and psychoses; psychosomatic syndromes; and also immunological disruptions, which make the body of a person who has become the victim of occult influences vulnerable to many illnesses. Especially notable is a tendency towards the inception and progression of oncological illnesses.

If psychiatric deviations were already present, they become much more pronounced. And how many sorrows do the deluded individuals cause their family members! Families fall apart, possessions earned by dint of hard work are ruined – such are the real fruits of many occult and sectarian influences. Here are several examples.

I*, a 32-year-old serviceman, came to the doctor’s office. His wife, who was baptized in Orthodoxy, has joined the sect of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” She devotes all her free time to the sect. She avoids contact with family members and friends, is constantly rude to her husband and irritated by everything around her. Lately she has become totally withdrawn, refuses to speak with family members for days on end. Many times she has insisted on her husband joining the sect, has tried to preach its teachings to her child. On the basis of this I* has become subject to neurosis and alcoholism.

M*, a 25-year-old female, baptized. Belonged to the sect “The White Brotherhood.” Was aggressive, pushy, irritated at the least pretext. Gave all her possessions to the sect. M*’s mother appealed for help to one of the convents, asking the nuns to pray for her deluded daughter. M* describes how during one of her trips to Moscow for a sect convention, she suddenly felt as though the scales fell from her eyes and her head cleared up. She returned home immediately and ceased her sectarian activities. She is convinced that the abbess and nuns of the convent have saved her by their prayers.

K*, a middle-aged female, who fortunately repented her occult practices, described how over the course of many years she intensely studied occult mani-festations and extended her passion in the subject to her family members. She studied magic, went through courses for extrasensorists, summoned spirits, saw UFOs, used “charged” water for healing, participated in Zoroastrian sorcery, and many other things. As a result, her husband and son fell prey to severe psychotic states. K* herself asserts that the connection between the bane of occultism and family calamities was quite obvious.

From a letter written by 30-year-old V*: “… My participation in the sect of scientology reflected in an extremely negative manner on my relations with those around me, and primarily on my family members. My existence became a chaotic nightmare. All those who were in contact with me began to suffer from high blood pressure, became subject to all kinds of negative manifestations and derangement…”

The 49-year-old T* told the following tale: Over 15 years ago, one of their acquaintances told her husband that he was the victim of an “evil eye,” and that he should go for help to an extrasensorist, which her husband proceeded to do. After various manipulations and whisperings, the extrasensorist (who was a woman) said that the curse was lifted. She then gave him some kind of potions and forced him to sprinkle them all over the apartment. According to the wife, after his visit to the extrasensorist the husband appeared confused, indifferent to family affairs, and increasingly drawn to make another “curative” visit. He soon went to see the extrasensorist again. The second time, says T*, he came back completely changed, with a blank look in his eyes and behaving more like a robot than a man. Some time later he disappeared and nothing was heard of him for several years (up until then he had been a good family man and a loving father). After searching for a long time, the wife finally found him. He was working as an assistant to that same extrasensorist. As T* asserts, he was totally changed psychologically and was like a controlled robot. From the moment of his “cure,” he left his family and job, and cut off all contact with his parents.

Extrasensorists and other occult “healers” use special states of consciousness in their practice. After studying the working of the brains of people who were in a state of meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis, Father Anatoliy (Berestov) and the academician and neurophysiologist S.I.Krapivkin came to the following conclusion: “It is assumed that the state of meditation has a beneficial effect on a person’s health, since it causes a decrease in the rate of breathing, the frequency of heart contractions, the level of blood plasma lactate, and produces a general state of relaxation. It is also assumed that such an extraordinary condition is the best possible state of rest. However, after examining the EKGs in greater detail, it becomes clear that this is not a state of rest at all, but an entirely different and strange condition of the brain – a dangerous mobilization of all the brain’s resources, of all the brain’s physiological powers.”

Thus by means of this special state of consciousness, when the “gates” of the soul are open, the hypnotist or the occultist becomes the conductor of the evil forces and serves Satan. For this reason the Orthodox Church defines meditation and hypnosis as “a conscious service to the powers of evil,” calls them “manifes-tations that destroy the human spirit,” and stresses the fact that meditation and hypnosis make use of the dark forces of the spiritual world.

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The malady of alcoholism

The high tempo of life, family conflicts and differences, solitude and other problems are often “restrained” by vodka, wine or an injection of a perfidious potion. Alcohol becomes a narcotic that relieves a person of irritation, anger, hurt. These circumstances provoke many people to engage in drinking. However, sooner or later problems arise, which grow into serious life-threatening calamities.

Abuse of alcohol has disastrous consequences for an individual’s health. Most sensitive to alcohol is the central nervous system. Alcoholism leads at first to an impairment in the coordinated functioning of the cerebrum, and several years later – to irreversible changes in the psyche, to degradation. Internal organs suffer severely. Cirrhosis of the liver, gastritis, myocarditis, alcoholic psychosis and dementia, atrophy of the sex glands – all of this awaits the alcoholic. In the presence of alcoholism, all other illnesses are experienced considerably more severely, and their end result is not always favorable.

Psychologists have defined several traits that are characteristic of “alcoholic” personalities. Thus, some of them are easily wounded, poorly adapted to practical life, weak-willed; others are excessively self-assured, vain, react painfully to the slightest misfortune in life, insistently seek recognition. If a psychological trauma is superimposed upon these character traits, then the proba- bility of a nervous breakdown and bouts of heavy drinking is very great.

Alcoholism is an illness. But it is primarily a spiritual illness. At the root of alcoholism and use of drugs lies spiritual desolation, dissatisfaction with life, loss of the meaning of existence. The holy Orthodox Church considers alcoholism to be a great sin. One can thus understand that it is impossible to help the sufferer solely through medical means (meaning classical medicine and not the occult practice which nowadays has attached itself to narcology, and which, in view of its grave danger and spiritual destruction, should be categorically avoided). Persuasion and medications are not omnipotent. In order to overcome the illness, one needs to repent sincerely before God in the sacrament of penitence, and earnestly pray to the Holy Mother of God and the saints.

Severe alcoholism can also be the result of the influence of evil spirits over a person. In coming down to earth our Saviour did not completely destroy the power of the devil, but only weakened his influence over people and gave us the means to repel demonic attacks. These soul-saving means are faith, pronouncement of the name of Christ the Saviour, prayer, fasting and, naturally, the holy sacraments of confession and communion. “Stand fast against the devil and he will run away from you,” – says Apostle James. By the way, while being in a state of alcoholic delirium, people see horrifying images (vivid visual hallucinations, as psychiatry terms these manifestations). Moreover, everyone sees the same thing – demons.

If in a drunkard’s heart there is place for faith in Christ, he should be reminded that he is bound by the fetters of sin. He should be introduced to the beginnings of the Orthodox faith, given examples of miraculous healings which the Lord grants to repentant sinners. While speaking of all these things, the Orthodox physician should humbly appeal to the Lord for help in healing the sufferer.

If the sick person’s relatives are religious people, they should earnestly pray for him both at home and in church, and make sure to have his domicile blessed. The deluded person should be persuaded to wear a cross, to read prayers, to drink holy water in the morning. Only through faith and patience, only through repentance and God’s mercy can one truly be healed. There is no other way.

And remember: brainwashing and other similar influences on a person’s soul and body are diabolical manifestations. Stay away from such “healings” and try to prevent others from applying to it. In the final analysis, the enemy of our salvation does not really care whether a person drinks or not (this partially explains the various instances of “recovery”). The important thing for him is: to whom does the person appeal for help - to God or to Satan?

And how do these brainwashed people suffer? Their sins remain unrepen-tant in their hearts. These sins only change their shape. This accounts for the frequent depressions, terrible irritation and anxiety that affect such people. Quite frequently they become the victims of severe somatic illnesses.

By God’s mercy many people recover from the malady of alcoholism. There are known cases of miraculous cures. A certain person, being aware that he was on the brink of destruction, fervently appealed to the Queen of Heaven. He entreated Her from the bottom of his heart, and he received instantaneous deliverance from alcoholism. He then began to organize his life in a Christian manner, became a churchgoer. It was as if he were reborn.

Not far from Moscow, in the city of Serpukhovo, stands the Vysotsky monastery. One of its major treasures is the miraculous icon of the Mother of God “The Unquenchable Chalice.” What a multitude of people have found inner peace here and have parted ways with the perfidious potion! Fervent prayers to the Lord and His Most-holy Mother do not remain unheeded.

Excerpted from “The spiritual essense of psychological derangements.
Thoughts of a Christian physician.”

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