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Learning How to Read for the Health of the Mind and the Health of the Soul

June 13, 2012

The intersection of modern bibliotherapy and the ancient rumination on the Law, the Psalter, and the Gospels is found most sharply in one of the main purposes behind both approaches, namely increasing awareness to principles that can be used to navigate one’s way through the many difficulties we encounter in life and that hinder us in our attempt to reach important goals, be they normal functioning in one’s environment (psychology) or union with God (in Holy Orthodoxy). Of course, sacred books can act as conveyors of grace that affect the soul at a qualitatively different level than clinical works about various disorders, but on the plane of psychological functioning there is some overlap. Furthermore, there are similarities in the way both the fathers and modern psychologists suggest that one should read. Outside of the patristic admonition to read with prayer, humility, the fear of God, and piety (which are all extremely important), they also suggest reading carefully and attentively. These last two suggestions are also a point of overlap. From these brief comments, I think you can see that the overlap is on a very basic human level, but that human level directly affects our life. The way we use our volition at that level can have an important impact on those matters of ultimate significance.”

What’s really striking about bibliotherapy is that it is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Saint John Chrysostom’s thoughts about the importance of frequently reading the psalter immediately comes to mind. Of course, precisely what is read makes all the difference.

From → Spiritual Life

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