THE FALL OF THE PSYCHE
The 'fall of man' is in one sense a fall into delusion. Every human psyche seems to undergo this fall, because when we are still young outside influences are too strong for us to free ourselves from them. The fathers of the Church understood the 'fall' in the first chapters of Genesis as being a parable, a very precise analogy for the imperfect state of the human inner life. Few people learn to rise above them again and become true individuals.
Referring to their teachings, Palamas tells us that "we were driven out of the 'place of delights', the 'earthly paradise'. This happened when we "formed a desire for the taste of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge."
(This is the inner fruit whose pursuit is curiosity! So Palamas adds: "Because we did not want to watch over our nous and cultivate it according to the commandment, (Genesis 2:15.) we gave ourselves up to the evil advisor, who got in there by fraud, and seduced us with the beauty of the knowledge of good and evil."
This is the temptation to be proud of what we know. When we assimilated or 'assented to' this fruit of the 'Tree of Knowledge', we 'fell' into a world in which our psyche was dominated by delusion (the Greek word 'plani', Russian 'prelest'). This delusion takes the form of an understanding of the world according to a certain way of understanding life - a way which sees things in terms of the dualisms or antinomies which were one of the contents of classical Greek philosophy which was retained by the early fathers. (This was an important study for scholars of the Russian church in earlier centuries than the 20th.)
This sounds terribly complex, but in fact we can perceive its reality from our experience of life much earlier that we can define it fully in a theoretical way! This inner or interior version of the path of Christian renunciation has been called a psychological method. It forms the basis of certain Orthodox methods of psychotherapy.
What is it that 'falls'? What we call the nous! To avoid or overcome the fall, the nous has to be freed from these delusions. Until they are overcome, it will not function correctly. But many people, wishing to avoid this difficult necessity, choose to follow alternatives suggested by the pleasure-seeking dualistic mind, and instead chase after the knowledge of good and evil, the knowledge which exists in antinomies, that is, knowledge in which it appears that everything has pairs of opposites. Rather than work on ourselves to overcome our delusions, we make value-judgements instead. One result of this is that too many of our conclusions are biased in our own favour.
Early Christian 'knowledge' differed from modern knowledge in its two most important conclusions about life. Modern thought generally concludes that the world 'happens' according to certain laws which it regards in an authoritarian way, laws whose origin is generally regarded as unknown. But the early Christians believed that the world was created, and that it therefore had a cause and a purpose. The truth about this situation is that only by penetrating into our own psyche to a specific point, where the action of the Holy Spirit is frequent and clearly recognisable, can one be sure of the existence of this 'intelligent cause'.
This experience is the root of faith in the Christian Inner Tradition; from this comes the 'Fear of God,' at which point faith becomes a reality in our hearts, and begins to direct our lives.
Most important in practical terms are the moral implications of this. Modern thought, after several decades of progress in localization largely of sensory functions in the brain, continues to believe the main assumption from the ideas made fashionable so long ago by Freud, currently claiming that consciousness is a mere 'epiphenomenon', that the human psyche is the product of a brain which contains neither some kind of an integrating centre nor means of integrating itself. In practice this belief supports the contemporary fashionable belief that claims that a human being is essentially fallible: that we are fated by our nature to be imperfect. Observation of those who support this current dogma shows their states of mind when they argue in this way to be little different from the Christians who imprisoned Galileo and burned Giordano Bruno. Fortunately, they do not have power of life and death over us today!
Prolonged study of the 'Triads' by Saint Gregory Palamas has convinced myself and a number of friends that this modern rationalist and materialist beliefs are contrary to the inner doctrine of Christianity and are even beginning to appear probable that they are a major element in the decay of our modern society.
But even today Christian thought sometimes still believes that this is not necessarily true. Many Christians still believe, and the best of the earliest form of European Christianity have been able to demonstrate, that a form of self-control can be established in the human psyche through Christian belief and practice. But although this still quite frequently happens among Christians, the underlying view of reality on which it is based was long-ago supplanted by the anthropocentric (human-centred) view of the 13th-14th Century which cut the anchor-lines of European man, so shaping the Renaissance to shape our modern world in the image of our own ignorance.
Years of research have now proved to us that the original inner strength of the Christian religion was an esoteric core-teaching that was created by Saint Paul in response to the Gospel, and was then further developed - during the first Christian Millennium - by the early saints of the Orthodox Church.