The Harvard Professor, H. Benson
, has proposed a more scientific method for relaxation. His book,
“The Relaxation Response”
broke record sales in America when was first published.It describes a very simple technique without metaphysical elements. This technique involves a quietenvironment, repetition of a word (neutral or even prayer) and a passive attitude. He describes it as
quietly in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax your muscles, breathe through thenose and repeat a word with each breath. Continue for 15-20 minutes and then sit quietly for a fewminutes. It is a medical method that has no religious presuppositions. It was found through systematicstudies that when this relaxation is applied twice a day for a number of days, it can reduce muscle tension,blood pressure, oxygen consumption, and improve the
resistance to stress.Here we should point out that the hesychastic method
from which Benson borrowed some elements
can also have the same beneficial psycho-physiological results. However, the difference rests on the fact
that the hesychast method doesn’t remain a simple psycho
-physiological relaxation technique, but
constitutes an element of man’s general attempt to approach God and be united with Him.
I mentionedthis in response
to Benson’s relaxation because
s there is a tendency both in the rational West and in theEast to interpret all experiences, even those of the Saints, based on rational and pseudo-scientific criteria.
It’s the modern temptation of Barlaamism; i.e. imitationg Barlaam and Akindynos’ rationalistic stance
against the hesychast experience.
This was St. Gregory Palamas’ great contribution: he stressed that while God’s nature is inaccessible,
God can be known to men through His energies. These energies
divine revelations and presences
arefree acts of the living God and are not controlled by human logic. These energies neither obey nor areconstrained by any physical law. In the ascetic life man acts but there is divine energy in the mystical life.Palamas also emphasized the uncreated light is a phenomena that transcends natural laws and is beyondany rational, scientific or experimental experience.
The hesychastic method includes four basicelements
The move towards a state of complete peace and tranquility which does not include reading orpsalmody.b)
Ascesis in concentration of the nous, physical immobilization, breathe control, fixing the eyes inthe heart or stomach.c)
Feeling of an inner warmth or vision of the uncreated light. This vision is neither an illusion, noran atmospheric phenomenon. This vision is neither controlled nor determined by physical laws.d)
The eyes of man are transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit and in this way theyexperience the uncreated light.
The hesychast starts from tranquility and proceeds to ecstatic union. It becomes a circular motion thatbrings the soul back to God. Noetic prayer is used both as a starting point and an ongoing support in thismystical journey.One is impressed studying Palamas and seeing the ideas he described 6-7 centuries ago coincide withcurrent Psychology data.He referred to child sexuality centuries before any mention was made on this subject in psychoanalysis.