This work, the third panel of a triptych dedicated by the author to the notion of illness derived from the patristic and hagiographic texts of the Christian East from the first to the fourteenth centuries, makes an essential contribution to the history of mental illnesses and their therapies in a domain very little studied until now. After indicating how the Fathers understood the psyche and its relationship with body and spirit, the author gives a detailed analysis of the different causes they attribute to mental illness and the various treatments recommended. At the same time he shows how, relying on fundamental Christian values, they manifest a constant solicitude and respect for the sick, and how they are at pains to integrate them into community life and have them participate in their own healing, foreshadowing in this way the needs and aspirations of our own time. The last part discloses the deep significance of one of the strangest and most fascinating forms of asceticism the Christian East has known: ‘Folly for the sake of Christ’, a madness feigned with the goal of attaining a high degree of humility, but also a way well-suited, through a close experience of their condition, to help those who are often among, today as in the past, the most destitute.
Table of Contents
Introduction—Anthropological Background: The Human Composite—Insanity Due to Somatic Problems—Insanity of Demonic Origin—Insanity of Spiritual Origin—A Most Singular Kind of Folly—the Fool for Christ—Conclusion
Praise for Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing
Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing clearly reveals dimensions of patristic psychology that are not what most of us would have expected. It is a book that should be of interest to people in many fields, laymen as well as professionals. Its unique insights will be of benefit to anyone sincerely seeking a greater self-knowledge—the sort of knowledge that is based on the true, but now largely forgotten, stature of humanity. —Jennifer Doane Upton, author of Dark Way to Paradise: Dante’s Inferno in Light of the Spiritual Path