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11. – 13. 9. 2020 otevíráme další sebezkušenostní seminář akreditovaný MPSV (16 hodin), tentokrát v Brně

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    Jaromíra Odrobiňáka
    Rok na psychiatrii


Rozhovory o hagioterapii

Four Stories from Genesis


The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

(Gen 3:1–24)

In today’s group, the question of God’s existence arouses. I quote Msgr. Tomáš Halík who points out an interesting moment expressed by Bertold Brecht: A young man asks a wise man if God exists. The wise man responds: First, ask yourself whether the answer to this question changes your life. If not, your question is useless. If yes, I can help you by saying that you have already decided. You need a god.

“She took of its fruit and ate…” (Gen 3:6)


This arouses a question in the group about why man needs a god. Is it because religiousness is genetically encoded in us? But then it looks like a lie and illusion from the very beginning. A participating rabbi states that the essence of the query is wrong: The deal is not that humans need to believe but that humans need to realize the existence of God in order to avoid satisfying his religious need through a substitute object. For instance, the very widespread illusion today is that man himself is God. Many analysts of contemporary culture agree that we live in a narcissist civilisation. Narcissism is the main cause of today’s atheism compared to the development of science (although atheism in the past greatly contributed to the creation of the narcissist mentality). From Nietzsche’s “superhuman” to the “new human” of totalitarian regimes and supermen of the current pop culture it is clear that God does not get along well with man’s godhood.

The group is confused and returns to the main theme of the story, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It turns out that even from the symbolic point of view it is a story of human pride in the words of scholastics, or human narcissism in the words of current psychology. In ancient thinking knowledge was a form of dominance. Recognition of good and evil entitled one to decide about the correctness and erroneousness of one’s own behaviour. On both the symbolic and content levels, the story brings about the principal question: What rules are to be observed in life? Who sets the rules of the game? Man or God? Today’s man says it is him who is the measure of everything but it is also him who collapses under the awes of totalitarianisms and excessive demands that he puts on himself. On the other hand, traditional Judaism and Christianity claim that God, not man, is the measure of everything. The opinions of the group slowly shape up: Isn’t the whole story about the principal existential lie, which resonates in our ears and without which it is so difficult for us to live – “you will be as gods”?

In connection with the creation and fall of Eve, an interesting view of God casting a curse on the serpent, the woman, and Adam (Gen 3:14-19) emerges. God’s curse may be a challenge to “rectify the test”, in which Adam and Eve failed the first time. But what is the test? It is the answer to the question whether the world is controlled by our will. However, facing misfortunes opens our eyes in this sense. Economist Tomáš Sedláček views Adam and Eve as the first people of the consumerist era – they have everything, they do not need anything but they still “have to” consume despite risking their lives. And it is exactly this desire “to have to consume” that expels them from paradise in the end. Similarly, consumerist humans never achieve happiness primarily because of their consumerism.


The Deluge

(Gen 6:9–22; 7:11–8,5)

Anxiety is the emotion that occurs most often when participants of our groups discuss the Deluge. Anxiety is correlated to images of roaring water, muddy streams, darkness, and underground areas. Thus the narrative of the story frequently symbolizes the psychosis and destructive powers engulfing the human spirit. One of our clients, a psychologist who went through a state of psychosis, used this symbolism to introduce us into the “map” of the human soul afflicted by the most difficult psychic disintegrations:bosch18

* The earth appears on the highest level. It is the world of full and clear conscience where man exists in the concrete here-and-now. Although man of this world sometimes sinks in the blue waters of his inner world, such as dreaming and light trances, he is in permanent contact with the earth. When his spirit excessively absorbs him, he does not find it difficult to ascend from the depth of his soul and pain to the world of reality.

* A deeper ocean of green waters lies below the blue waters of common human dreams. It is the world full of anxieties and emotions that distance man from a view of strong conscience and veil it in a glass wall. Deep in his soul, man is so strongly bound to his feelings that, although he can see the surrounding reality, he is no longer able to hear people; he no longer understands the world and does not know what is expected from him. He cannot rise up from his spirit and the ritualised world of neurosis is his only protection from being overwhelmed by emotions. He is afraid of other people looking at him and therefore “solves” his situation by withdrawing from others, which he justifies due to his phobia of open spaces; he has experienced unbearable trauma and therefore has no memory; he has a fear of freedom and protects himself by compulsive behaviour.

* An ocean of blood-red waters lies even deeper. In these waters, the unceasing pain of man causes him to lose track of the world above. The individual is no longer able to emerge in or contact the world of reality, the neurotic rituals are no longer helpful, and psychosis remains his only rescue. He experiences an unexplainable feeling of menace to such extent that suddenly he “knows” that he is a significant personality who is pursued by foreign intelligence or enemies who go after him and his life. Thus he experiences a devastating fear of death; all of a sudden he “knows” that a total trance of his body in catatonia is the only way of rescue.

* Is there another level even deeper? Can one descend in their spirits to the very centre of a black hole? The client answers hesitantly that there is only a dark deepness of death which tears man apart and there is only one way to “rescue” oneself – commit suicide! But what does the ark from the story of Noah mean to a psychotic individual? In the author’s words it is clear and simple – surprisingly, the ark represents the psycholeptics, and medications that hold an individual on the surface although the waters of his unconscious soul swirl around.


Abraham and Isaac

(Gen 21:1-21; 22:1-19)

Exposure: The group does not doubt the fact that Abraham is certain that God challenges him to sacrifice his son. Psychologically, a self-destructive life pattern materializes. Self-destruction that is perceived as a just sacrifice is very frightening, especially when experienced as a sacrifice for one’s wrongdoing. Even Jiří, who calls himself a sceptic, agrees that Abraham is convinced that God does not want him to rejoice with his son Isaac. And the reasons may not have to be hard to find…his devastating feelings of guilt for the death of his first-born son Ismael. Which normal father would not have the same feelings? What Abraham feels proves his normal rather than pathological behaviour.

Collision: I asked the question of how the participants would react if they were priests and a man came to confession and asked for their blessing because he was not sure if he would be strong enough to kill his son which God asks him to do. Co-therapist Ivana says that she would ask a man like this whether God, in Abraham’s story, really desired Isaac’s death or not. “No? Then act accordingly. That would be my answer.”

Crisis: But the group protests. They say that the Bible clearly appreciates Abraham’s willingness to kill his own son. I quote a Jewish commentary, which I previously read and which remains in my memory. This is the answer to the question of why such a dreadful story is in the Bible: “To clarify that it is false whenever someone says I killed in the name of God”.

Punch line: The group is quiet and thinking deeply. After a while Jiří says: “If this story really happened, Abraham must have gone through a difficult inner struggle, which he experienced in his dialogue with God while discovering his will. If he finally reached the certainty that God did not wish for such a sacrifice, I feel it as his great personal transformation. In my view, he stood the test not because he wanted to sacrifice Isaac but because he did not do it after all and came to the conclusion that it was only a test of his faith.” Ultimately, I add that the main importance of this story, as also confirmed by Tomáš Halík, is that although human sacrifices were common at that time, in this case God said: Do not do it.


Dinah and Shechem

(Gen 33:18 – 34, 31)

The story deals with the issues of good, evil, and guilt. A consensus appears that they are interweaving layers empirically confirmed by psychology:

Oidipus Rex (Karel Jerie)a) Ontological layer, where PAIN is the principal emotion. Here pain is a perception of evil, which in fact is biologically valid to people worldwide. Pain is experienced during persistent, repetitive and uniform situations – when attacking physical integrity (physical pain), and when attacking psychical integrity (mental pain). Generally speaking, this is valid when attacking the integrated being as such (of man…beast…etc. ??? …). Therefore, European philosophical tradition always identified objective evil with destruction, disintegration, death, and non-being.

b) Moral layer, where the FEELINGS OF GUILT are the principal emotions. The feelings of guilt are the elementary emotions of ethical feelings. They are the “perception” of the situation that can be described as “I am the source of some evil”. In this sense, the feelings of guilt are a wider perception than what is today understood in the word “sin” by religion and morality. They also include unwanted situations (a person who accidentally caused some misfortune may suffer from enormous feelings of guilt). However, the differentiation between guilt and sin is the result of Christian development. In the Old Testament and Greek


Repro Archive of the author (foto PrR, 2009) and internet: