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Psychoterapie a Bible
Tematické příspěvky
Z Areopágu



is a psychotherapeutic method; the term is derived from two Greek words “therapeia” – care, treatment, and “hagios” – holy, pure, sacred. It is a type of group existential psychotherapy, which focuses on purifying one’s life from dysfunctional behaviour patterns. Projective work with religious texts, specifically biblical texts, is one of the main instruments of hagiotherapy. In the Czech Republic, hagiotherapy has been used since 1992, especially for the treatment of addicted individuals, both believers and non-believers. The same term is being used for a relatively new method of spiritual treatment, which was inspired by the charismatic movement and implemented in Croatia in 1994 by Professor Tomislav Ivančic. The term hagiotherapy was also used to describe the medieval practice of using prayers, relics, and pilgrimages to treat diseases.


Ad the mistakes in „Hagiotherapy“ et the wikipedia: The style of hagiotherapy used by Prokop Remeš isn´t founded on the „Salvifici doloris“ encyclical,  it isn´t conected to method of T. Ivancic and isn´t a „pseudo-therapeutic method of healing a man’s „spiritual soul“ on the premise of „religious experience“.  It is a type of group existential psychotherapy (Yalom, Frankl), which focuses on eliminating dysfunctional behaviour patterns from one´s life. Hagiotherapy of Prokop Remeš uses biblical text as background to project one´s own experinces against to active a greater understanding of text: one of the main instruments of hagiotherapy is projective work with biblical texts. 


History of Origin
In the Czech Republic, the term hagiotherapy is used to identify the form of existential psychotherapy that developed from methods of pastoral therapy and spiritual assistance, as they had been practised during the normalization regime in the underground structures of the Czech Catholic Church. After the 1989 revolution, Dr. Prokop Remeš began developing this method within the groups of patients in the Psychiatric Clinic in Prague – Bohnice. Later, a comprehensive theoretical system was conceived.

The immediate goal of hagiotherapy is the strengthening of mature algorithms of the human psyche in the areas of existential and value structures. The transformation of life patterns specified by the emotion of the unsatisfied desire for what an individual does not have (“homo economicus”) into the life pattern specified by the emotion of the joyful gratefulness for what an individual does have (“homo religiosus”) is another goal along the path of hagiotherapy. The terms homo economicus and homo religiosus are close to what Erich Fromm identifies as the life modes of “having” and “being”, where the transformation of the individual’s character from the mode of “having” into the mode of “being” is analogous to terms such as conversion, awakening, re-birth, or enlightenment in the spiritual area. In addition to Erich Fromm, hagiotherapy refers to the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea, the current philosophical and psychological teaching of M. Heidegger (oblivion of being vs. recognition of being), M. Buber (me-it vs. me-you), A. Maslow (D-love vs. B-love), or the founder of transaction analysis T. Harris (OK theory) and current Czech economist T. Sedláček, who is the first to implement the term “homo economicus”. Unlike pastoral therapy, hagiotherapy is not grounded on the premise of God’s existence but rather on the premise of the universal presence of religious structures in the human mind. Compared to pastoral therapy and life coaching, hagiotherapy uses psychotherapeutic methods to help the addicts reach their life goals.

Basic therapeutic Principles

Methodological a/theism
On the empirical level, hagiotherapy is based on the principle of methodological atheism – spirituality is considered to be a genetically inherited, evolutionally expedient, and exceptionally powerful intervening strength of the human spirit. Hagiotherapy does not work with beliefs and teachings but uses psychic structures that are related to religiousness – existential structures (e.g. issues of the meaning of life, values, death, responsibility, etc.), numinous structures (e.g. attitudes of admiration, gratefulness, love, and self-sacrifice), and moral structures (good and evil, guilt, punishment, and forgiveness). The projective work with these structures helps to unearth new, beneficial, and less destructive ways of behaviour, self-experience, and relating to the world. The existential level, however, places the postulate of principal meaningfulness and hope above the postulate of the principal meaninglessness and grievousness of life as presumed by the traditional existential psychotherapy. The postulate of methodological theism, i.e. the presumption of living and making decisions that lead to the meaning and hope of life, as if life was a dialogue and God existed, is considered to be the only presumption consistent with the genetically given structure of the human mind.

Existential Model
The basic model of the human psyche, as specified by hagiotherapy, comes from a recognition that man is made up of three basic existential factors that interlace:
Awareness of Mortality – our fundamental knowledge about ourselves is based on the awareness of our insignificance; the realization that we are the dust that may be refused, humiliated, abandoned, or destroyed for its pettiness, weakness, or sinfulness. In the last instance, this recognition shows the most obvious inevitability of our being – the awareness of our own death.
Anxiety of Non-Existence – anxiety is the primary reaction of humans to their death. We know that we are going to die one day. Within our brain we realize the facts, and our mind (especially our subconscious which protects us from over-anxiety) dissociates, i.e. separates the fear of death from our mind. However, there are several types of anxieties and fears that we experience that are not just the fear of being refused by people, the world, or God, but also the fear of our own death and our non-existence at the deepest level.
Defences – to escape from the anxiety which prevents us from having spontaneous feelings towards the world, God, and other people, we search for ways that help us deal with our feelings. We hide our authenticity and play “roles” – at times we incline towards an affectionate devotion, trying to adhere to the strongest persons around us (we rate the value of “being loved” as essential). Another time we pursue revolt and struggle (the value of “being highly regarded” is essential). And other times we may try to displace others from our inner life and distance ourselves from them (the value of “being free”). In healthy relationships the steps “towards” others, “against” them, and “from” them do not contradict. But if these actions grow extreme, clinging, and stiff, they become a powerful source of pain, suffering, and even mental disorder wit in the human psyche.

Homo Economicus and Homo Religiosus
The goal of individuals is to reach a positive emotional balance in their lives. There are two principal ways to do so on a universal existential level, the “economic” and the “spiritual”. In hagiotherapy the differentiation between these two ways is essential. They can be best distinguished through the patterns of their basic emotional harmony (emotional tonality), the modes of “having” and “being”: the having mode (Homo Economicus) is expressed by the basic emotions of the constantly unsatisfied desire for material and spiritual goods that the individual does not yet have. This mode is usually characteristic for the first half of life when the positive emotional balance is going to be fulfilled by meeting the yet unsatisfied desires. It exists in three principal life approaches (here hagiotherapy uses the basic scheme of the transaction analysis), which appear in three basic strategies to fulfil the constantly unsatisfied desires – the strategies “from”, “towards”, and “against” (Karen Horney). The being mode (Homo Religiosus) is expressed through the basic emotions of joyful gratefulness for the material and spiritual goods that are currently given to the human. It surfaces in the second half of life and strives for a positive emotional balance through the contemplation of the given facts. It represents the basic life approach “I am OK – You are OK. “Being” (= i.e. not being “something”) is the basic life value and doing good (outgoing), based on gratefulness for the received good (incoming), is the main strategy of life.

Ontogenesis of Human Spirituality
Hagiotherapy is based on the dynamic conception of human spirituality and is grounded on the modified four-levelled model of its ontogenesis conceived by M. Scott Peck. This model does not describe the content of moral imperatives, i.e. “what” is right but rather their structure, i.e. “how” the right should be found. Hagiotherapeutic practice is not a content indoctrination of a man; instead, it provides assistance in the structural development of his or her personality. The therapeutic process is conducted to help the person realize that their existing condition cannot relevantly structure the inner experience. It also brings about suggestions for the structure of the higher order. As a result, any possible help in solving one’s problems has a different nature. Integration in an organization with strong rules such as an anti-alcohol community, a church, or sports club will be a lot more helpful to an asocial individual than to a scientist with a rational and pragmatic way of thinking, etc. Peck describes the individual development stages as follows:
1. Egoistic Asocial Stage (“correct = I want”): Similar to young children who demand everything.
2. Dogmatic Normative Stage (“correct = higher order”): In this stage, an individual accepts a written or unwritten set of rules for a religious or social institution. It is similar to a child acknowledging his parents as clear and unchanging authorities, whom, in essence, he likes to listen to.
3. Individually Pragmatic Stage (“correct = meaningful”): The rational approach to the world and morality is typical for this stage. The bigger good or at least smaller evil is the criterion of decision-making. In personal development this stage is characteristic for adultery.
Note: With respect to hagiotherapeutic practice, the following finding of Lawrence Kohlberg is truly important: There is a developmentally blind regression stage No. 2.5, a value relativist stage („correct = you are not right”), between the stages No. 2 and No. 3. It is parallel to the adolescent age.
4. “Mystical” Stage (“correct = non-self-defensive”): The emphasis is put on the bracketing of predispositions received through genetics and early childhood experience. Thus, the desire to contribute to the good is stronger than the need to avoid pain and hurt. The ideal is motivation without any self-defence, repudiation, rationalisation, and covering. It is parallel to the period of life of maturity and wisdom.

 Basic therapeutic Methods

The Bible as a Mirror Reflection of the Human Spirit
Today psychotherapy uses the Bible in two different strategies; the second one is inspiring hagiotherapy. The first strategy regards the Bible as a “textbook” about humans, which (along with other topics), deals with the same themes as psychology: human distress, joy, loneliness, death, and also with uncontrollable aggression or sexuality. Furthermore, the text includes hidden clues on how to therapeutically work with these themes. The second strategy regards the Bible as a “mirror” of the human spirit, i.e. the material for subjective projection processing. This therapeutic approach assumes that every man has his or her specific pre-understanding given by their personal experience and attitude to themselves and the world. Hagiotherapy focuses on this pre-understanding, using the methods of analytical work – depth analysis and existential analysis.

Depth Analysis
The depth analytical approach towards the Bible was first developed by German psychologist and theologian Eugen Drewermann in his work Depth Psychology and Exegesis. Drewerman hypothesizes that the authors of the Bible projected archetypal images of their unconscious in biblical stories and these images have the power to resonate with images and symbols in the souls of the readers. Attentive listening to their tones enables them to get to know themselves better. Drewerman believes that it makes no sense to argue about what historical events actually happened in the Bible and what is just symbolic. It is more substantial that the Bible tells us what happened in a way that has restorative meaning to us. The process of the exegesis should be analogous to the interpretation of dreams that focuses on two levels. In the first one, the story is a metaphor of a life situation in which an individual currently appears (objective view), while in the second one, the story is a metaphor of an intrapsychic condition of an individual (subjective view), in which what seems to be the “report” of an outside world events is projected as a story made from the complexity of inner processes.

Existential Analysis
The existentially analytical approach has stemmed from the logotherapeutic school of Viktor Frankl and his adherent Alfried Lägle. In their view, each situation represents a challenge for the human conscience to fulfil some meaning. This has an important psychotherapeutic meaning because the meaning is a strong power which man may use to search analogies between the “there-and-then” biblical story and “here-and-now” life of each reader. Biblical stories comprise the eternal motifs of death, guilt, values, and meaning, presenting them in images or symbols of lives of people from long ago. This may be an inspiration, suggestion, and possibility for further self-realization. It may also provide an inspiration for the goal with which one may associate, hold onto, and follow.

Bible and the Psychotherapy (practical Examples): http://www.hagioterapie.cz/?p=7588

.Naked Women on the Roof

The provocative title of this book (P. Remeš, A. Halamová, Nahá žena na střeše, Portál, Praha 2004), evokes a number of questions. No matter how varied they are, they all relate to the elementary issue: Who is the woman in question? Is the woman beautiful? And if so, why is she naked? And what is she doing naked on the roof? And above all, what does she have in common with the Bible and psychotherapy?

The woman in question is Bathsheba, the beautiful wife of Uriah the Hittite, who is mentioned in 2 Samuel, Chapters 11 and 12 in the Bible. King David fell in love with her after he had seen her bathing on the roof of her house. The story ended up in the murder of her husband and the death of Bathsheba’s and David’s child. We are not going to reveal and analyse the entire story but as one can read in the Bible, Bathsheba’s life was touched by an event that may be identified as the earliest psychotherapy in human history. Nathan, the Prophet, visited her new husband David and told him a story, which led to a major change of the king’s heart. And because our book not only aspires to be a book about the Bible but about psychotherapy as well, the story about Bathsheba is the starting point that inspired the title of the narration.

The book Naked on the Roof comprises seventeen biblical stories and describes their spiritual, existential, and psychological contents, which were the themes that were expressed during our work with these texts in our therapeutic groups. It is not the intention of this book to evoke a discussion about correctness or erroneousness of the particular exegeses of the Bible. Our intentions are more straightforward – to extract the elements, which are sometimes dramatic and sometimes comic but always therapeutic, from the hard to comprehend mixture of words, verses, myths, advice, orders, bans, and threats included in the Bible, and to stimulate the thinking of individuals, not necessarily only the biblical ones, but also individuals who are non-biblical and even anti-biblical.

The Syndrom of Cain (sample of the book): http://www.hagioterapie.cz/?p=7575


Association for Hagiotherapy and Pastoral Medicine
The Czech Association for Hagiotherapy and Pastoral Medicine was founded on January 1, 2000 in the Psychiatric Clinic of Bohnice as an informal association of non-professional and professional therapists who balance existential psychotherapy and religion. MUDr. Mgr. Prokop Remeš was elected the chairman of the association at the constituent meeting, and has been running the Association in the form of a club since that time. Some members of the Association are currently members of other professional boards engaged in similar issues (e.g. Department of Religious Psychology by the Czech Psychological Association) and offer their experience, possibly also instructional hagiotherapeutic programs and workshops in both religious and psychotherapeutic milieus.

We welcome your ideas and responses on the following e-mail addresses (click to activate): hagioterapie@centrum.cz

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Technical Editor: Pavla Státníková


Repro: Archive of author (foto PrR, 2008, 2010, 2011)

Internet: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vel%C3%A1zquez_Venus.jpg