Some Psychological Labeling in the works of St. Gregory Palamas (Dr. Paul Kymissis)

NOTE: Dr. Paul Kymissis is a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim. He studied Medicine at the University of Athens. He was trained as a Neurologist and Psychiatrist in Greece. Then he was trained in Adult and Child Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He is Board certified in Adult and Child Psychiatry by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. He is past President of the World Hellenic Biomedical Association and honorary President of the Cyprus Psychiatric Association. He is currently the Chief Psychiatry of Children’s Village in New York. He is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College. He is a Professor at the University of Nicosia and Dean for the St. George’s University of London Medical Programme delivered in Cyprus by the University of Nicosia. He is author of about 60 publications.

Dr. Paul Kymissis, spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim.
Dr. Paul Kymissis, spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim.

At first, I would like to say that I have mixed feelings as a speaker in this congress: feelings of fear, awe, and gratitude. I feel fear because I’m attempting to describe themes exceeding academic and scientific thought, and are only understood as personal spiritual experiences. I personally do not participate in such experiences. I look with awe at the giants of the Spirit, such as St. Gregory Palamas, who not only spoke and wrote about God, but also had direct personal experience of the divine presence.2 It is characteristic that St. Gregory emphasized the distinction between theology which refers to the study of God, and the vision of God that is linked to the experience of God.

But I also feel gratitude towards the Organizing Committee, and especially towards the respected and beloved Father Ephraim, because they gave me the opportunity to attend and speak on the subject of: “Some Psychological Labeling in the work of St. Gregory Palamas.”

So I am here doing obedience to Elder Ephraim, but I am also encouraged by St. Gregory’s exhortation: that noetic prayer and the experience of God is not only the task of monks but also possible for the laity in the world.

The great Russian Orthodox theologian, Fr. Georges Florovsky, wrote that there is a “hunger for theology” in our time both among clergy and laity. This hunger comes to satisfy this conference, which is an important link in the chain of Vatopaidi’s offerings to our church.

In supporting the hesychasts and interpreting the Church’s tradition Palamas rejected the philosopher Barlaam, who was tied to the chariot of Western anthropocentric humanism.3 Barlaam was influenced by the philosophy of the West, which had been strongly colored by Platonic thought. He tried to ridicule the hesychasts, claiming their experiences were the result of fantasies or simple displays of natural created phenomena. We should point out that Barlaamism also comprises a modern phenomenon, this is why the presentation of St. Gregory’s work today is timely, useful and instructive.

In our time, there is a vigorous attempt for dialogue and cooperation between religion and the science of psychology. The thoughts and work of St. Gregory can become instructions so that such a dialogue won’t create more confusion, misunderstanding and problems.

του γρηγοριου παλαμας του γρηγοριου παλαμας 2

The entire speech can be read here: