FORMATION OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL METHOD
Saint Paul and the first Fathers, right down to Saint Gregory Palamas 1200 years later, form a single pattern of development in language - at its centre a coherent Christian culture - linking together all that can describe everything psychological which the Church could handle up until around 800 AD, probably around the point when the formation of this language began to crystallize. And if that's what we want to talk to, that is a phase in a language which would deal with the whole question which concerns us, of the psychology of inner transformation in Christianity and similar things. It was and still is a language which is practically functional for the formation and healing of the psyche, and which is broader in its range, possessing an ability to extend its work into the spiritual. It also allows the formation of intelligent connections to scientific data.
And the language also has an interior structure. The first part is purely intellectual and sensory, and it then moves on to the point where it begins to discuss what you can and can't do with that language, and it discovers a second language, which is a language for noetic experience, the psychological method. This is a language based on the two kinds of knowledge and used to describe the inner life. You need the outer language to describe what the senses discover, and the inner language which discovers what goes on in us, and you have a difficulty in describing that, because a Newtonian language describes things in terms of sensations and measurements against the ordinary human descriptive process, and thus measures against a backdrop of space and time, while inner experience may measure in time but never in space.
Sometimes these two forms of imbalance alternate in a single individual. Excessive suppression leads to explosions of suppressed energy. The history of Western man in general, until now, has alternated these responses more slowly over the centuries in a kind of 'drunkard's walk', weaving between one and another of these extremes ... a wobble that each time becomes more extreme. When we fall hard enough, the result is war. (Tears form when I consider this.)
The underlying question is: how may we correctly form this artificial element in man so that the demands of the inner forces may be reconciled to the external reality?
One answer is that one studies psyche in both its forms; as the life in us, and as the life in which we live, and then, eventually, one begins to study how they influence each other. To best explain that, I will turn, on the next page, to a brief description of one of my experiences of life that falls closer to what it must have been like at the time which saw the appearance of the first of the books I am using for the basis of this study, the 'Triads' of Saint Gregory Palamas.'
Amongst other reasons for this choice, this is one way to glimpse the thinking of the hesychast community where Saint Gregory Palamas lived when he began to write the book; but this alone is not enough. The main reason for using this example is that in the most important ways, that community is surprisingly little changed from how it was when Palamas lived before he became a senior monk there, soon to move out and become an Archbishop. This is not only important for 'setting the scene' for these studies. It is also significant simply because the change in the way of life there has been so little compared with the rapid rate of change that has occurred anywhere else in Europe. It is this which seems to confirm the idea that there is a real link between the life within us and the life within which we live.