Orthodox Madness


In order to survive in this world one must choose, in some way, to “be mad.” Orthodoxy, at least from the perspective of the Orthodox, is the way that succeeds best. To truly live an Orthodox life one must be willing to be perceived as mad in the eyes of the world.

For some, the beliefs of the Orthodox may appear to be pure madness, even delusional, especially from the perspective of modern western medical science. However, the DSM-5 contains a loophole in the definition of delusion that would technically prevent any professionals adhering to that manual from making such judgments:

delusion:  A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly held despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture (i.e., it is not an article of religious faith). When a false belief involves a value judgment, it is regarded as a delusion only when the judgment is so extreme as to defy credibility. Delusional conviction can sometimes be inferred from an overvalued idea (in which case the individual has an unreasonable belief or idea but does not hold it as firmly as is the case with a delusion).

The Orthodox know that some of their beliefs may appear to some as “so extreme as to defy credibility,” however, they are “article[s] of religious faith.” Thus, the DSM-5 would technically prevent all healthcare professionals bound by that book (and others like it) from making any diagnoses based on such beliefs. Likewise, international law — and often national law — protecting freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief would prevent governments conforming to such laws (and professions regulated by those governments) from imposing beliefs that deny these freedoms. Anyone in the private sector is free to disagree with Orthodoxy, even in the strongest of terms, but those in the public sector can only do so as private citizens and not in any official capacity.

Orthodox clergy, such as the author of this blog, are free to publicly express themselves on matters pertaining to the Orthodox Faith, and this freedom is legally protected by secular governments that uphold freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. This may appear to give them an unfair advantage in debating any conflict that may arise with the beliefs imposed by such governments or government-regulated professions, since those they would be debating would be legally unable to present any rebuttal. If this were to hypothetically happen, however, the question would be: how can such governments or government-regulated professions legally impose such beliefs on their citizens in the first place?

An Orthodox clergyman or monk is called to be a physician of souls, which in Greek is ιατρού των ψυχών (iatrou ton psychon). If one were to coin a single English word based on that Greek, it would be: psychiatrist. This is no mere coincidence because the main concern of a true psychiatrist is the care and health of his psyche (i.e., his soul) and all the souls for whom he is a spiritual father. (This is why the honorific “Father” appears before the name of the author of this article.) Presumably, there may be some overlap, possibly even conflict, between the psychiatric beliefs of the 2000-year-old Orthodox Faith and government-regulated medical professionals falling under a similar term coined by the German physician Johann Christian Reil in 1808: psychiatry. (Copy and paste the abovementioned Greek roots of the word psychiatrist into Google and see what images are presented.)

Below is a description of Orthodoxy followed by a summary of modern western psychiatry from an Orthodox perspective. The intent is not to argue for or against any particular religious belief or lack thereof since Mad in America is not an appropriate venue for such debates. Orthodox belief regarding the human psyche is simply presented with a description of how this belief would see modern western psychiatric theory and practice. There will be no actual argument for or defence of these Orthodox beliefs because this is not the place for such discussions.


Since the following section will briefly describe modern western psychiatry from an Orthodox perspective, we will first consider Orthodoxy from a non-Orthodox perspective. The Orthodox firmly hold that everything bad that is taking place in the world is due to evil. They go to Church services, often more than once a week, pray, buy icons, and study Church literature. They fast on Wednesdays and Fridays because they believe Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver on Wednesday and on Friday the council of Jewish priests had Christ crucified. When they pray, they may appear to talk to themselves in a low voice. They believe in the existence of heavenly essence, God and angels, etc. They are unable to criticize their beliefs and some have been known to hallucinate (e.g. “vision of ghostly evil spirit with horns on the head”) even at a young age, such as 12 years old.

A person as described above could potentially be diagnosed with schizophrenia or some other mental illness involving psychosis if the DSM didn’t exclude such “article[s] of religious faith” from being used in making such diagnoses. The above description is actually based on an English translation of a 1966 hospital chart from the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic Tbilisi Healthcare City Psycho-Neurological Hospital. While the translation may benefit from some improvements, this person was diagnosed as: “psychopathic person, inclined to schizophrenia-like psychosis blanks.” “He was treated with the aminazinophrazia and syptomicine therapy, after which he passed commission.”

As such diagnoses are known to do, this person, an Orthodox monk named Gabriel, was ostracized by society, even being suspended from priestly ministry. Due to the way he was treated by authorities and society, he decided to embrace the ascetic discipline known as foolishness for Christ’s sake. A fool-for-Christ takes on the appearances of insanity to bring upon himself the ridicule of others in order to battle within himself the root of all sin, the passion of pride. (Please note that the word passion has a more specific usage in Orthodox theology than in Aristotelian philosophy.)

While the root of all sin is the passion of pride, the remedy for all of the passions is humility. In this lifestyle of appearing insane for the sake of humility, Monk Gabriel grew in holiness and within a few years began to gain the respect and reverence of both secular and church figures. Seven years after his repose on November 2, 1995, the Georgian Orthodox Church officially recognized him as a saint: Saint Gabriel (Urgebadze) of Mtskheta, Georgia, Confessor and Fool-for-Christ.

Our venerable Mother, the Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, Fool-for-Christ, commemorated on her feast day, February 6 (January 24 in the Julian calendar) | CC BY-ND 2.0

The Orthodox believe that we are all mentally ill due to sin and that the Orthodox Church is the hospital for the soul, the psychiatric hospital with God being our Psychiatrist, the Physician of our souls:

“O Physician of our souls, who knowest the mind of man, in Thy compassion heal our infirmities, for we are weak and broken by sin.” (Troparion of the Prophecy for the Sixth Hour of the Monday of the Third Week of Great Lent)

This psychic healing comes from acquiring an “inner stillness,” which is called hesychia, through ascetic discipline and contemplative prayer. The stages of acquiring this “inner stillness” or hesychia are often described as: katharsis, the purification of the soul from egotistical passions; photisis, the enlightenment of the soul, a gift of the Holy Spirit once the soul has undergone purification; and finally theosis, union with God. Theosis is partaking of the Divine nature and escaping the corruption of this world, which the Orthodox believe is salvation.

From a worldly perspective, this hesychastic practice of the Orthodox may resemblance the mysticism of Eastern religions (e.g., Buddhism and Hinduism), but any similarities are merely superficial. To use the Jesus Prayer as a mantra, for example, would violate its purpose and be considered as spiritually harmful in the hesychast tradition. Nonetheless, hesychasm is quite different from the modern western understanding of Christianity.

The Orthodox Church began 2000 years ago in the Land of Israel, which was part of the Roman Empire at that time, and spread throughout the known world within a few centuries. They described their faith using the intellectual language and philosophy of that time and place, which followed in the tradition of the ancient Greek philosophers. While they used this language and philosophy, the Orthodox Faith itself came from Divine revelation and did not develop from Greek or any other philosophy. Thus, the Orthodox Faith must be understood from the perspective of the Orthodox Faith and not from ancient Greek philosophy or any other modern or ancient philosophies.

Although there are many books concerning Orthodox belief regarding the psyche and its healing (one by the Greek metropolitan and theologian Metropolitan Hierotheos even having the title Orthodox Psychotherapy), for simplicity’s sake, only two modern books will be recommended as representing this important aspect of Orthodoxy. The first is God’s Path to Sanity: Lessons From Ancient Holy Counselors on How to Have a Sound Mind by Dee Pennock, which provides a clear and orderly summary of the writings of Orthodox physicians of souls. The other is Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Saint Porphyrios, which is a compilation of more than three decades of notes kept by a couple of women who knew Elder Porphyrios. While this latter book is a good summary of the Orthodox Faith in general, it also contains a great deal specific to Orthodox psychiatric belief.

Modern Western Psychiatry

The ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates theorized that mental illness may be rooted in physiological abnormalities. Hippocrates even wrote that he praised Democritus for cutting open animals in his garden in an attempt to discover the cause of madness and melancholy. Nonetheless, a central idea found in ancient Greek philosophy is the concept of the psyche (i.e., the soul), which is immortal and distinct from that which pertains to the body (i.e., the somatic). This is why the Orthodox adopted this same language in describing the human person as a psychosomatic being with the destruction of this psychosomatic unity resulting in physical death.

Since that time, many physical illnesses and injuries have been identified as having a profound affect on the psyche and the psychosomatic relationship. However, the exact nature of how these physical illnesses and injuries cause these problems has eluded secular medical science. The Orthodox, on the other hand, would explain this as Fr. Theophanes (Constantine) did in Volume 1 of The Psychological Basis of Mental Prayer in the Heart:

“The soul functions through the body, and if the body is damaged, say in its higher brain centres, then the soul cannot express itself, without for all that having been lost.”

The field of psychology can be open to either psychic or somatic causes for various psychic problems; however, medical science is focused solely on the somatic, on the biology. While medicine can be combined with psychology, somatic medicine itself is incapable of healing a psychic problem that has no somatic cause. The Orthodox will admit that some psychological methods can be useful to a certain point, but somatic medicine is incapable of actually healing illnesses that are truly psychiatric.

The wide-scale acceptance of the 17th century theory of materialism, which developed in reaction to Cartesian dualism, creates further confusion for somatic medicine. The belief that matter is the fundamental substance in nature subsequently requires believing that all mental aspects are the result of material interactions, with the conclusion that mental illnesses must be material (i.e., chemical) imbalances.

By incorrectly placing psychiatric illnesses within the domain of physical illnesses, somatic medicine is expected to do something it cannot do. This is not only unfair to those who seek treatment from professionals in the wrong field, it is unfair to place such expectations upon those professionals. It must be maddening for such professionals to know that less than 5% of their patients will recover, but to have no clue as to why that less than 5% is able to recover. It would be even more maddening for these professionals to know that between 40% to 50% of patients who terminate treatment will recover without any of their professional expertise. It is doubtful that a person would go into such a field knowing this, but once committed to that field, they are trapped within a culture holding false beliefs about external reality, and continue to firmly hold these beliefs despite all incontrovertible and obvious proof and evidence to the contrary.

The theory of materialism, for which there is no empirical evidence and must be accepted merely on blind faith, is not only in direct conflict with the Orthodox Faith, the use of the terms “psychiatry” and “psychiatrist” make no etymological sense within the context of materialism. Since the Greek concept of the psyche is distinct from anything somatic, which is why the Orthodox adopted these words, the medical field of “psychiatry” is wrongly called so because it does not deal with anything specifically psychic, but only the somatic. While the term psyche could possibly be used as a metaphor for something somatic, this would make the word psychosomatic rather meaningless.

While the modern western medical field of so-called “psychiatry” deals only with the somatic, their somatic treatments do have a profound affect on the psyche and the psychosomatic relationship. Although it was the observed lessening of the psychic troubles of epileptics after having seizures that led to the development of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other shock treatments, followed by the development of neuroleptics and newer classes of psychotropic drugs, this same response can be observed in survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Some TBI survivors who have also had major interpersonal and social traumas, often caused by becoming disabled, can objectively look at their situation and conclude that they should feel depressed, but can’t because of their acquired TBI. In like manner, the neuromodulating techniques of somatic medicine could potentially quiet or mute psychic troubles, but they are unable to do so with much accuracy or consistency. More importantly: they are not actually treating the true problem.

Dee Pennock sums this up well in the above-mentioned book:

Many mental afflictions are caused by passions disturbing or temporarily taking possession of the soul. The medical art can sedate symptoms, but cannot remove passions from the soul. One time when it’s important to understand this, and to make the right choice between a medical doctor and a physician of the soul, is in the treatment of prolonged or recurring depression. Is the cause physical or spiritual? Is it in the brain, or in the soul? Can it be healed medically, or must it be healed spiritually? (Healing isn’t proved just by having the symptoms disappear, as they could through incapacitation or death. It’s shown by such a recovery of health that the underlying cause of the symptoms is itself removed.)

Pain often alerts us to something wrong inside the body. And depression serves a similar purpose, say holy counselors. It’s frequently given or allowed by God, they say, to draw our attention to something threatening the health of our soul. Most depression, in persons not suffering severe loss or injury or other trauma, comes from specific spiritual disorder… So the medical art, though it may be used to give temporary physical relief, is not the primary need here. Rather, the spiritual treatment prescribed by physicians of the soul is the one called for.

Applying medications to suppress symptoms caused by a spiritual infection in the soul, say holy physicians, will leave the soul blocked off, with no relief from what is producing the symptoms. Attempting to treat a spiritual disorder by material means like this wrote one ancient counselor, is like covering a festering wound with a plaster, preventing it from draining, and leaving the poison to spread beneath the surface.

A person may have lived many years with suicidal and even homicidal ideation without ever being in any danger of acting upon these symptoms of psychic distress. While there is a chance that some form of neuromodulation prescribed by a somatic physician may completely mute these symptoms, there is also the chance that the rational part of the soul that has prevented the person from acting on these symptoms is muted, resulting in suicide or homicide, or both. Nonetheless, even if the neuromodulation is successful in muting the symptoms alerting the person of the need to address serious psychic problems, they will then feel no need to address those problem, leaving them just as ill, but with no symptoms.

Regardless of how a materialistic approach attempts to treat psychiatric problems, according to the Orthodox, it cannot succeed. However, the suffering and humiliation caused by the so-called “psychiatry” of modern western medicine can be spiritually beneficial. As Saint Porphyrios said in the other above-mentioned book: “A person who is accustomed to humiliation attracts the grace of God.”

Elder Porphyrios also explains why humiliation is beneficial in healing psychiatric illnesses: “The cause of psychological instability and disorder is egotism. This is something that psychiatrists themselves, if they explore the matter, will discover, namely, that the egotist is sick.”

A spirit of humbleness, full of peace and love, is not only beneficial to the person being harmed, it can also be beneficial to those who are doing the harm. The example for the Orthodox is set by Christ, who prayed as He suffered: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen, and many others, followed this example by praying just before falling asleep in this life: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

This is much easier to say than to do, but for those who have acquired hesychia (“inner stillness”), it is even possible to follow Christ’s command: “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

To the world, this may seem like madness, but to the Orthodox, it is the only path to sanity.


Feel free to agree or disagree with the Orthodox beliefs presented above and any possible future articles on Mad in America regarding the Orthodox Faith, but please voice this agreement or disagreement elsewhere. It is quite gracious of Mad in America to post this Orthodox perspective on psychiatry and hopefully no offence will be taken by others with different beliefs as none is intended. Those with different beliefs would, presumably, also believe that their beliefs are correct and those beliefs are protected by international and national law. Perhaps you should ask yourself: are your beliefs regarding psychiatry being protected by law?

Of course, expressing an opinion that the Orthodox perspective presented here is madness and the author himself is mad would not really offend anyone. After all, Our venerable and God-bearing Father Anthony of the Desert (251–356 CE) said: A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.


  1. Thank you for sharing this illuminating perspective. Healing the mind/body/spirit system of our humanity for the purpose of clarity, grounding, and personal growth is universal. It is so fascinating to me to repeatedly see and learn how different perspectives create different realities, based on the resonance of our beliefs. In expanded awareness, life can be mystical, and, most importantly, on a completely practical and humanitarian level.

    Report comment

    • This is especially powerful and absolutely transformative, come to think about it:

      “As Saint Porphyrios said in the other above-mentioned book: ‘A person who is accustomed to humiliation attracts the grace of God.’”

      Kabbalah teachings say the same thing.

      So transmuting the trauma of public humiliation and marginalization (what I call social and systemic abuse) would require recognizing and ascending ego response to achieve a higher spiritual resonance, i.e., a deeper capacity to love, starting with ourselves and radiating it outward, uncondtionally.

      That is indeed a challenging path in today’s abuser-victim reality of widespread family and community dysfunction, although it seems like a worthy goal which has the potential to transform the world, if there is no bypassing in the healing. That is quite the emotional journey, step by step. So interesting. Just thinking in the moment about this…

      Report comment

  2. Thank you Father John. I’m a Church of Christ Christian myself.

    What you said echos my existential conflict with psychiatry. When I believed it was a proven fact I wondered how my faith could be true, since the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not sufficient to save me from my sinfulness without the pills. Now I realize it was all a lie.

    The pills numbed my empathy, conscience, and impulse control while amplifying the voices of my inner demons. Off the stuff at last. Thank God I can pray again! I can feel love for those around me.

    Report comment

  3. Thank you Fr John,

    This is a really beautiful offering. It makes a lot of sense to me and its where I’m at right now.

    (I recognise the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in London, he walks around all the time, and the last time I saw him he was drinking a cup of coffee in McDonalds).

    Report comment

    • OK if you insist: There is NOTHING anti-psychiatry here. The term is being used improperly. To wit:

      The Orthodox believe that we are all mentally ill due to sin and that the Orthodox Church is the hospital for the soul, the psychiatric hospital with God being our Psychiatrist, the Physician of our souls

      This is essentially the medical model in metaphysical/religious trappings. So we get the best of religion and psychiatry all at once — a diagnosis of “mental illness” and some original sin to boot. Very educational.

      Calling Dragonslayer!!!

      Report comment

      • Psychiatrists believe only some biologically defective evolutionary throwbacks are “mentally ill.” These deserve whatever torments the shrinks throw at them. Total depravity of all humanity versus biological depravity of a select few. And the shrinks are all 100% sane–of course.

        Report comment

  4. I found this a wile back. The Clinical Textbook of Biblical Psychiatry http://www.bible.ca/psychiatry/welcome.htm

    On the other end of the spectrum you have clowns like Rick Warren, psychiatry killed his son but his church is affiliated with NAMI (National alliance on Mental Illness) that pharma front group and even after his son committed suicide after seeing all the “best” doctors he still pushes psychiatry.

    “There is not enough support for families of mentally ill because the pendulum swung the other way to care for the individual rights of privacy.”

    “the pendulum has swung the other way to human rights so much that many parents and family members cannot get a conservatorship, cannot get a control over somebody.” – Rick Warren

    RICK: If love could keep a mentally ill kid alive, Matthew would be alive. He was in a stable family, church system, friends. I’ve got a doctorate. I’ve done a lot of counseling. Kay’s done counseling. I’m used to doing cognitive therapy, helping people talk through problems. None of that helps if you’re mentally ill. It’s like saying to a bird with a broken wing, “Just believe you can fly.”

    Anyway I was just watching the news like any other day I see that Clown Rick warren on CNN with all the NAMI talking points. I just wanted to yell at the TV, no Rick you stupid clown psychiatry killed your kid like they almost killed me !!

    Report comment

    • Not calling Rick unloving, but I believe Matt had the “wrong” personality type. An introvert in a family of hyper extroverts. Very stressful.

      Rick often said in sermons that all Christians should be 100% extroverted since Jesus was. (Jesus needed down time too. RW skipped over the parts where he went away to pray.)

      Publicly embarrassing his son by calling him “mentally ill” in front of everyone may have played a role too. Loving after a fashion but devoid of gentleness, patience or empathy (trying to understand someone.) Being considered “MI” causes people to quit trying to understand your pain since it’s no longer supposed to make sense. Your tears just show your “meds” aren’t working and your “broken brain” is honking people off again.

      Shut up and take your prozac! No one cares about you, nut job! See how NICE we are to crazies at Saddleback? 😀

      Report comment

  5. Can somebody from church tell god to read” Re-visioning psychology”? It was written by James Hillman. It is about human psychology, not about spiritual escape from death/psyche reality.
    There are too many differences between spirituality and the psychological reality. We cannot talk about psychological reality while sitting on the cloud, far beyond the underworld, like spiritualists or apollonian people do. They are beyond reality they are talking about.

    Jesus rised from the death, ok? Only Jesus, no one else.

    Tell GOD that Sylvia Plath and many other’s can’t. And that Jesus story destroyed our psychological reality.

    God should know what theology has done with psychology.
    Spirituality is not psyche.


    Report comment

    • And I just want to say that word GENIUS and TALENT in proper meaning, means something else..

      ““Genius” is a prostituted word by capitalism.”

      Apollonian ego has destroyed psychological reality, and that reality starts in the death/hades reality and ends on the apollonian shallow level. Spirituality is beyond apollonian ego level. Many people, many christians confuse apollonian ego with christian spirit. They also confuse psyche with spirit.

      I love Russian Orthodox church, because I am a great fan of their music. I listen to the –


      It is one of the greatest Choral Masterpieces.

      Report comment

  6. omg….my psychiatrist trys to find out
    what is actually CAUSING the suffering that we
    experience….what is it that is causing
    a certain person to be unhappy/sad/mad…
    I don’t think using the term soul helps here..
    I would rather use mind or psyche…

    Report comment

    • I don’t know what’s behind your emotional pain LT. Mine stems from chronic loneliness, poverty, barrenness and the realization that nothing good will happen to me in this life. The idea that I need a disease to excuse my sorrows seems insulting to me.

      I’m unhappy because my life sucks! No psych “diagnosis” necessary. And psychiatry is largely responsible for my failed life.

      Report comment

  7. each person is different….what is the
    cause of their suffering….it may even
    have to do with gut bacteria [ please see SCIENCE
    news 2-4-19]…whatever works for YOU…
    whatever actually works for you…this soul
    thing may work for certain persons….

    Report comment

  8. All of the comments are greatly appreciated. As stated, the objective was not to argue for or against any particular beliefs regrading the human psyche (which is just the Greek word ψυχή, commonly translated into English by a word of Germanic origins: soul), but to point out that these beliefs are protected by international and often national law. Perhaps all governments and government regulated professions bound by these laws should be held accountable to these law and not be allowed to promote and enforce only one particular belief regarding the human psyche, especially one that is statistically shown to be ineffective and harmful in the long run.

    Report comment

  9. There are a few ideas for future articles like this one. These are three such ideas:
    * the reason there is so much overlap in terminology between Orthodoxy and modern western psychiatry and an explanation of what these words meant before modern western psychiatry began using them
    * a summary of how the Orthodox understand the human psyche, how to heal the broken psyche, and how modern western psychiatry frustrates this healing
    * an explanation of how ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) actually works from both the perspective of electrical theory and an Orthodox understanding of the psyche

    Is there some aspect of Orthodoxy (or electrical theory) that you would like to read about on Mad in America?

    Report comment

    • I’m troubled by your implied endorsement of electro shocks Fr. John. They “work” by damaging the brain and (sometimes) destroying painful memories–along with things the victim wanted to remember.

      I’m sure you don’t realize this though. I know psych nurses who don’t. (Got all their education from promotional videos of the ECT machine manufacturing company.)

      Report comment

      • Your explanation of how ECT works is a rather good summary and basically the same explanation that modern western psychiatrists used to acknowledge before 1970. Since that time, their stock answer has become: “We don’t know how it works, it just works.”

        A simple explanation of how ECT works was also implied in the above blog post:
        “Although it was the observed lessening of the psychic troubles of epileptics after having seizures that led to the development of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other shock treatments, followed by the development of neuroleptics and newer classes of psychotropic drugs, this same response can be observed in survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Some TBI survivors who have also had major interpersonal and social traumas, often caused by becoming disabled, can objectively look at their situation and conclude that they should feel depressed, but can’t because of their acquired TBI.”

        This is not an endorsement of purposely giving a person a traumatic brain injuries via an electric current large enough to cause an injury so serious that a seizure is triggered with the intention of leaving the person too disabled to care about his or her psychic traumas.

        The most common description of ECT that I have personally heard from people who have had it is: “It’s like my soul being raped.” It is interesting that the word “soul,” rather than “psyche,” is always used in this description.

        Report comment

  10. So-called “mental illness” is either something that NONE of us have, or else it’s something that ALL of us have…. People hurt people, and people can heal people. Of course, the people doing the hurting are rarely if ever doing any of the healing. Some of the best healers are those who’ve been hurt themselves….
    And so-called “ECT”, or Electro-Cution Torture “works” exactly the same way any torture works. Look how effective torture was, when the Roman Catholic Church used torture to root out heretics during the Inquisition.
    While yes, I can appreciate Fr. John’s take on Eastern Orthodoxy, I still prefer Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhism was 1/2 a millenium old when Jesus was born! Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, so it’s not as popular in the West, because there’s no God for the King to pretend to be….
    First we had some philosophers deconstruct the pseudoscience lies of the drug racket known as “psychiatry”, and now we have an Eastern Orthodox priest! Curiouser & curiouser!….

    Report comment

  11. Thank you for sharing this! I hope you write regularly on this blog. I’m very relieved that someone with theology is not afraid to point to the rich heritage of healing within the Christian teachings. The leaders in my Protestant -Episcopalian Church have outsourced the care of those of us with broken hearts, disturbances of the mind, existential despair, trauma, etc. to secular psychiatry only to have nearly all of our suffering medicalized and secularized. Who is teaching the next generation of spiritual guides how to discern the spiritual aspects of what I am experiencing? Who can I and my family members turn to? I know my church has a rich heritage of ministering to people in psychological distress, using the healing power of prayer, ritual, and touch (laying on of hands). But I know of this generally from reading about it. It is not widely practiced in my church. If religious leaders don’t reclaim this rich heritage, and use it to meet the huge demand, the only practitioners of spiritual healing will be those with very limited education, superstitious, pious, dogmatic, ideological, cult-like, and harmful.

    Report comment

    • madmom

      Thank you for stating this. Being a former chaplain who became a chaplain to approach the work in the manner that you talk about here I totally support your views. Even though I no longer function as a chaplain this is very much part of what I try to bring to the people on the units where I work. As a former Roman Catholic/Episcopalian I can support what you say about how so much of the ministry of presence is outsourced to psychiatry, rather than ministers and others taking back their rightful ministry from the pseudo doctors. When it comes to “mental illness” they wash their hands of most everyone with issues and refer them to those who have no business dealing with people who are in the existential despair and pain that you referenced here.

      Report comment

      • Stephen:

        Thanks for validating my despair of generally not finding solace for despair within the institution I belong to! I like your term: ministry of presence. Being present is not something only priests should be trained in. Lay people can and should be trained to be spiritually present and help individuals with spiritual discernment. I am suggesting is that they be trained by people with training in theology or sacred texts and not be associated with cults and ideologically rigid institutions known for their human rights abuses

        Priests, rabbis, guru’s, shaman’s etc. are all human and have bad days. I remember when I was in my twenties, I made an hour long appointment with the priest of a large, urban church. I conveyed my litany of troubles to him as he sat directly across from me. At the end of a particularly long and weepy confession, I looked up and to my chagrin, I observed that his head was bent over, touching his chest, and he was snoring, in a deep sleep.

        Report comment

    • “The leaders in my Protestant -Episcopalian Church have outsourced the care of those of us with broken hearts, disturbances of the mind, existential despair, trauma, etc. to secular psychiatry only to have nearly all of our suffering medicalized and secularized.”

      Good point, madmom, and this seems to be a problem with many of the Protestant religions. I tried to point out the impropriety of my childhood religion sending people with spiritual queries off to atheistic, material world only believing “mental health professionals,” who hypocritically pretend to believe in God, to no avail. It’s a shame the religious leaders have chosen to stop functioning as spiritual guides, and are sending their innocent and God fearing off to be slaughtered by the “mental health professionals,” for belief in God.

      But this is for financial reasons, avoidance of liability reasons, just business, don’t you know? But this also renders the religions worthless.

      Report comment

  12. Great discussion and article. As an ex-psychiatric patient in my teens and twenties, currently working as a therapist in a Christian counseling center of a large protestant church, I find this article and discussion very uplifting. Uplifting because, it’s good to see my faith represented in the mix of religious ideas expressed in MIA. Also uplifting because, it re-energizes my desire to offer my clients (as well as graduate interns I supervise) something better than the DSM answers to struggles that are by-and-large struggles of the soul. Few things have helped me more than Robert Whitaker’s ( and his colleagues/contributors) dedicated work to bring hope and healing to those who have found psychiatry to be inadequate for healing of the soul.

    Report comment

  13. 2 1/2 years ago, I was introduced to anti-psychiatry and criticism of psychiatry through MIA and http://www.recoveringfrompsychiatry. Nothing is above criticism, including religion. Ten years ago, I was introduced to criticism of religion. Previously, I was brainwashed by religionists and psychiatrists. Thanks to criticism, I am freer. Thanks to criticism, I am no longer under the “spell” of “religion” or “psychiatry.” The “biochemical, medical model about genetic defects and chemical imbalances” is a form of narrow minded, slow minded and closed minded, speculative, unproven bullshit dogma. “Religious” or “psychiatric” dogma have no place in my life.
    I appreciate some of the comments about this article. I am currently tapering off my psychiatric neurotoxins. I am also phasing out people and institutions that try to impose their beliefs on me. Domineering, control freaks are abusive and therefore problematic. Just because someone or a group believes something, doesn’t make it the truth…

    Report comment

    • William Dowling, thank you. I concur and embarked on my rejection of religion and psychiatry the year prior to when I began weaning myself off of the antidepressant I had been on for two decades. That was five years ago and I’ve been off that medication and religion and psychiatry for four years now. I’ve never felt better or more lucid or free.

      Report comment

  14. Over the years I’ve read widely about orthodox religions and psychiatry because I’ve suffered abuse from both. Though I find this article interesting as a former student of Russian language and literature and history what I find most disturbing about orthodoxy and psychiatry is that they’re both based on belief but are always seeking to be proven by science. I found my freedom from orthodox religion and psychiatry once I began to explore atheist thought. Atheism has liberated me from the false restraints that both religion and psychiatry attempt to impose on intellectual thought. I find the union of the two to be quite disturbing.

    Report comment

    • GGGreen: Thank you for your comment. I relate and agree. I feel you express your self well. I wish we could correspond some how. Maybe you already know this, that argumentativeness can be a form of abuse when its motive is to overpower, dominate and control the lives or minds of another or group of people. All abuse is motivated by the desire to exert power and control over another or group of people. Just because people “exert” power and control doesn’t mean they get away with it. Neither “religion” nor “psychiatry” are above the law. I, also, find the “union” of “psychiatry” and “religion” to be quite disturbing, especially in light of oppression. Thanks again. I appreciate some of the comments.

      Report comment

  15. I am glad this article inspired comments from people on both sides of the spectrum. Father John’s article resonated with me. If psychiatry were to disappear tomorrow as a result of track record of harming millions by falsely framing all people’s problems as biological in origin and coming up with deadly and addictive ‘treatments’ then what would fill the place of psychiatry? Cognitive behavioral practitioners belief that everyone who receives talk therapy can talk and ‘think’ their way through their problems. Integrative medical practitioners think that we could all benefit from a colon cleanse and remove the environmental toxins from our organs. Practitioners of mindfulness, think that we become more at peace with our problems through meditation and yoga. Art therapists think we can dance, paint, sing, or act our way to sanity if we can express our emotions and receive validation. Spiritual solutions work best for me but I realize that they don’t work for everyone. But training in spiritual discernment and pastoral counseling is one possible pathway to healing and resolution for trauma, grief, and other things that usually get pathologized. It is one of many things that could fill the void if psychiatry is rightfully abolished or is given a buzz cut. As long as religious leaders are respectful and not ideological, ,abusive, or cult like, their views are very welcome here as far as I am concerned. I am just very grateful that some religious leaders/practitioners are willing to have a different perspective as it concerns their fellow ‘mad’ human beings. Most religious practitioners walk past mad people like the person on the road who was robbed and was finally assisted by the Good Samaritan. Most religious absolutely wash their hands of mad people, so great is their fear of liability. When mad people show up to the free breakfast at a typical inner city church, what should be a sanctuary for lost souls turns out to be very unsafe for mad folk. For example, if a person started shouting to him/herself, most parishioners wouldn’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 and have the police come and pick up someone for disruptive behavior. Learning to calm others, and learning to distinguish between violent and disturbing behavior, and learning how to de-escalate distressed people is a skill that can be learned but church leaders don’t seem to interested in modeling and training parishioner in the power of being present in this way. So much easier to use threats, wield authority, ultimatums, etc. So much easier to be influenced by all the media hype about those violent ‘psychotic’ people who need to be locked up.

    Report comment

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. It does appear to be a major materialist assumption in mental health that consciousness is a product of the brain or neurons. I see this assumption at least starting with Freud’s investigation of neurons in the late 1800’s. As late as October 1844 Amariah Brigham a founder of the American Psychiatric Association and editor in 1844 of the American Journal of Insanity of which discussed on p. 99 how the immaterial and immortal mind is, of itself, incapable of disease and decay. To say otherwise, is to advocate the doctrine of the materialists….the truth appears to be, that the brain is the instrument which the mind uses in this life…

    Another older 1809 book by John Haslam discussed enlarged ventricles in people with madness on p. 158, and later on p. 238 showed clear understanding that appears to have been lost by modern mental health researchers when he wrote It may be a matter, affording much diversity of opinion, whether these morbid appearances of the brain be the cause or the effect of madness.

    I appreciate you sharing a Christian perspective on madness of which I know very little and some resources to find more information. I would like to read more on the topic.

    I also would like to hear more on the topic from the perspectives of other traditions as well. I am working on one from a Yoga and Vedanta perspective. Maybe someday A good book will come out with different sections written by different authors to touch on some common alternative explanations to madness such as you give here, from yoga, from a shamanistic perspective, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, and clear scientific explanation from someone outside of the materialistic perspective and viewing consciousness as primary to leave some breadcrumbs out of the forest.

    Again, thank you for sharing your perspective. To have informed consent we really need to have information about the different choices one can use understand and navigate their extreme states.

    Report comment

    • The Orthodox believe that the seat of the soul (i.e., the psyche) is the heart while the head (i.e., the brain) is the eye of the soul (i.e., the source of all sense knowledge). The objective of hesychasm is to bring the nous, the heart of the soul, down from the head back into the heart where it belongs. Those who live only in their head can only have sense knowledge and rely only on fallen human intellect. Those with a purified heart can be in communion with the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in the heart of men, and be guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which allows correct interpretation of the sense knowledge received via the head (i.e. the eye of the soul).

      I very much appreciate and like your last sentence: “To have informed consent we really need to have information about the different choices one can use understand and navigate their extreme states.” Thank you.

      Report comment