Are psychological wellbeing and salvation antithetical concepts? If one stops at the investigations of some Orthodox authors, one might easily gather the impression that the Orthodox faith is not compatible with practices like psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. The aims of psychotherapy seem at times to conflict with the aims of Orthodox asceticism. Notably, however, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy do not take the same aim, and it may surprise some to hear that one of the most Freudian analysts of the 20th century proposed a vision of psychoanalysis quite compatible with the Orthodox Faith: Jacques Lacan.
Lacan, a French psychoanalyst active in the 1930s through 1970s, reformulated psychoanalysis, stepping away from Freud’s biological determinism and toward the philosophical shifts occurring in postwar Europe, such as existentialism, structuralism, and later, poststructuralism. While many practicing analysts in the US may find Lacan difficult to understand, his works have had notable influence in other disciplines and other parts of the world, such as the noticeable influence he has had on Orthodox authors such as Christos Yannaras. In considering the relationship between Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis and Orthodox theology, a helpful starting point may be the end—that is, the aims of the Orthodox faith and of psychoanalysis.Continue reading