Therapeutic and therapeia within Orthodox Christianity
Significant scholarship has illustrated that the modern self-help and therapeutic ethos originates in Protestant Christianity (Illouz, 2008; Woodstock, 2005; Nehring, et al. 2016).1 For instance, the prolific American self-help genre with its positive thinking can be traced back to late 19th century religious manuals, in which readers were encouraged to control and direct their thoughts so that they ‘mirrored' the intentions of God (Woodstock, 2005: 157). In the 1950s, the self-help genre's God was ‘generous’ and ‘full of sweetness’ only to disappear from 1990s self-help books altogether (Woodstock, 2005: 165, 175). Referring to the US context of the 1970s, Lasch famously noted that the American cultural climate was no longer religious but deeply therapeutic, producing selfcentered and self-absorbed individuals unmindful of salvation (Lasch, 1991: 7). Some research on the Nordic context shows that self-help may also form a kind of alliance with Protestant religion to meet the needs of modern individuals (Madsen, 2012; Ratinen, 2017). Madsen argues that the therapeutic turn has altered Western Christianity, in which God is increasingly ascribed a supportive role of therapist and as a remedy for promoting people’s well-being (Madsen, 2012,2014).
Yet there has been little research on other branches of Christianity with different historical and cultural trajectories and where therapy as a cure of soul and body has also been a vital component for centuries. What kind of therapeutic do we find there? Do we observe similar taming of religion by the therapeutic ethos or perhaps more complex interplay between traditional religious cure and the modern therapeutic (see also Lerner in this book). In this chapter, I explore this important yet under-researched theme by focusing on therapeutic knowledge and practices within Finnish Orthodoxy. Has Finnish Orthodoxy transformed in the face of the therapeutic turn, and if so, how?
I approach both religion and therapeutic knowledge and practices through the lens of glocalization that addresses ‘the ways in which homogenizing and heterogenizing tendencies are mutually implicative’ and historically constituted (Robertson, 1995: 27). Self-help worlds are shaped through the multidirectional processes, in which global and local cultural forms merge, interact and transform (Nehring et al., 2016). Similarly, Finnish Orthodoxy can be seen as a glocal religion that developed as a result of concrete historical processes involving a fusion between religious universalism and local particularism (Roudometof, 2014). On the one hand, in its structure, rituals, and theology it is linked to global Orthodox space and histories, on the other hand, it evolved as a particular glo-cal version of Orthodox Christianity, which combines Finnish, Karelian, Russian, and Byzantine elements (Tiaynen-Qadir, 2017). It is a national church in Finland with a strong national identity, but it also generates a transnational space that incorporates migrants from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
I suggest that therapeutic knowledge and practices within Finnish Orthodoxy are best understood through the concept of glocalized therapeutic assemblage. This captures the glocal process whereby a diverse set of therapeutic and self-help discursive practices -irreducible to a singular logic -is assembled and entwined (Tiaynen-Qadir and Sahnenniemi, 2017). This concept combines the glocaliza-tion perspective (as discussed above) with sociological theorizing on assemblages (Collier and Ong, 2005; Zigon. 2010, 2011). However, the sociological lens does not preclude the possibility, indeed the need, of understanding the importance of embodied practices of religion and material religion: sensations, feelings, rhythms, the unspoken, something that lies beyond the realm of cognition (Morgan, 2005; Meyer and Verrips, 2008; Opas and Haapalainen, 2017). Glocal therapeutic assemblage is produced and embedded in complex and historically situated interaction of human and non-human actors, in which the body emerges as the matrix of human experiences.
This chapter is an anthropological investigation of such an assemblage within Finnish Orthodoxy. It draws on my long-term ethnographic fieldwork in one of the parishes of the Orthodox Church of Finland (OCF), which serves as a dynamic site of multicultural and multilinguistic interaction. The main argument presented here is that people’s experiences and narratives paint a picture of the therapeutic as a glocalized assemblage that merges various elements together, but in which age-old Orthodox cure of soul and body, therapeia, continues to serve as a grounding and constitutive frame. Some practitioners activate psychologizing narratives to articulate some benefits of Orthodox practices for mental health. However, these are minor compared with the varieties of narration techniques, and poetic, spiritual, and religious terms used by individuals to talk about their lived and embodied experiences of religion. In these narratives, the therapeutic does not necessarily figure as the telos of religious practices, but rather, as one of my interlocutors puts it, as their ‘by-product’. For Orthodox, therapeutic is more than merely psychologizing well-being discourse, and is closely intertwined with therapeia, which has long roots in this religious tradition.
Finnish Orthodoxy and therapeutic turn
Orthodoxy in Finland dates back to the eleventh century: it was indigenized in the region of Karelia under the influence of Novgorodians, who adopted this religion from the Byzantines through Kiev at the end of the 10th century (Martikainen and Laitila, 2014: 153). Throughout history, Orthodox Christianity remained a minority religion in Finland with culturally and historically dominant Lutheranism.
The histories of Finnish Orthodoxy embraced numerous people’s dislocations, resettlements, enforced and voluntary moves, as well as alleged tensions between Karelian and Russian Orthodox identities (for detailed historical accounts of these histories see Martikainen and Laitila, 2014). After Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917, OCF became an autonomous Finnish Orthodox archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1923.
As I have illustrated elsewhere, Finnish Orthodoxy can be seen as a glo-cal religion that incorporates national and transnational histories and elements (Tiaynen-Qadir, 2017). On the one hand, OCF went through intense nationalization in the 20th century, and has become a national church of a religious minority, amounting to approximately 1.1 per cent of the total population in Finland. On the other hand, starting from the 1990s it has gone through a dynamic process of transnationalization, incorporating migrants from the Eastern European heartlands of Orthodoxy, especially Russian-speakers. Although Finnish is the main liturgical language, church services are also held in Church Slavonic, Ancient Greek, Romanian, Serbian, and English. In its aesthetics - church architecture and interior, icons, and music -OCF variably integrates Byzantine, Russian, and Karelian features (Hanka, 2008; Husso, 2011; Seppala, 2013; Virolainen, 2013). The Finnish liturgy continues to follow the Russian Orthodox tradition of multivocal choir singing, rather than the Byzantine single-voice. Hymns and chants sung during liturgy include old Valaam, Byzantine, and Slavic chants, as well as compositions by Finnish and Russian composers. In its glocal manifestation, OCF is rather unique in contrast to other Orthodox churches in the world, which are either organized as national or diasporic churches.
In many ways, the aesthetic side of Orthodox rites and materiality also stood for its growing popularity in the ‘Romantic movement’ starting in the 1970s that appreciated the Byzantine art of icons. The archaic beauty of Orthodoxy was acclaimed among some Finnish intellectuals and artists. At the same time, the church became more liberal in incorporating its members, and more active in ecumenical activity and cooperation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. OCF also started to emphasize more pronouncedly therapeutic sides of Orthodoxy, offering ‘silence retreats’, open to anyone whether a member of the church or not. The New Valaam Monastery in Heinavesi and the Sofia Cultural Center in Helsinki organize a variety of courses, ranging from ‘icon clinics’ to those that combine Orthodox mysticism, psychical exercises in nature, and ‘personal spiritual guidance’ (Ortodoksiviesti, 2016: 45). Some Finnish theologians emphasize the ‘healing’ qualities of the church (parantava kirkko) and church service (parantava liturgia), metaphorically equating the church with a ‘spiritual clinic’ (Hakkarainen, 2016). Others underline the therapeutic effect of divine beauty as the ‘language of God' (Seppala, 2010).
Such an articulated emphasis on the therapeutic within official church rhetoric and theology in Finland can doubtless be seen as a response to the therapeutic turn. It emerges as a reaction to the growing industry of happiness and self-help in Finland (Salmenniemi, 2016). Yet the glocal nature of this reaction is also evident in the frequent references of the Finnish theologians of the Orthodox
Therapeia within Orthodox Christianity 61 psychotherapy - Jarmo Hakkarainen and Pentti Hakkarainen - to the Greek Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, known for his formulation of Orthodox Christianity as ‘therapeutic method’ and ‘therapeutic science’ (Hierotheos, 1993; Hierotheos, 1994; see also Stanley and Kortelainen in this book).
However, this reaction is not so much about the integration of psychology into the modern Orthodox theology, but more about reviving therapeia (from Greek Gspartsia, healing and service to God), based on patristic tradition and texts. In Eastern Christianity, there is an age-old tradition of writing spiritual guidance texts. Many of them are still in use and read by contemporary practitioners, for instance Abba Dorotheos’s ‘Direction of Spiritual Teaching’. The healing powers and attributes of Jesus, ‘physician of our souls and bodies’, Mary, and many saints also figure in liturgical texts and daily prayers, which again originate in ancient texts. In fact, the very formulation of the Orthodox psychotherapeutic method can be interpreted as a reaction to the global legitimizing of professional psychology and the spread of popular psychology, and the emphasis on therapeia is an attempt to strengthen the Orthodox vision of the self, different from a ‘psychology without a soul' (Hierotheos, 1993: 46). In this sense, Orthodox therapeia resonates with some self-help, esoteric, and New Age strands that challenge secular psychologies (Hanegraaf, 1999; Heelas, 2009; Stanley and Kortelainen in this book).
The metaphysics of the ontological architecture of the cosmos, and the symbolic architecture of the self in Orthodoxy are complex and theosophical in their nature. Unavoidably resorting to simplification, one can say that the triadic dimension of the self, which includes mind, body, and soul, lies at the core of the Orthodox understanding of the self. In Orthodox theology, the soul is created in the image of God, and the nous is ‘the eye of the soul’, its ‘essence’ and ‘heart’ (Hierotheos, 1994: 119-120). According to Orthodox psychotherapy, the illness of the soul is in the darkening of the nous, which was caused by the rebellion of reason against the nous, signifying the Fall of Man. This darkness can ultimately be cured by the reconnection with God or the attainment of theosis, identified with theoria, the vision of God (Hierotheos, 1993: 46). Noetic hesychia, translated as stillness and silence from Ancient Greek, is a ceaseless and contemplative prayer, a certain state of being and perceiving the world, and a practice that enables entering into theoria. Following 14th century Gregory Palamas, Mary is portrayed as an epitome of hesychia, who is in his words: ‘finds holy hesychia her guide: silencing the mind, the world standing still, things below forgotten, sharing of the secrets above, laying aside conceptual images for what is better’ (Hierotheos, 1994: 317).