Short essays written for the La Jolla Veteran's Hospital newsletter in La Jolla, California
The 19th Century British statesman Benjamin Disraeli was quoted as saying: "Moderation is the center wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet."i Certainly, in the Hebrew and Christian tradition we see moderation lauded. In the Proverbs of Solomon (25:27) we read: "As it is not good for a man to eat much honey, so he that is a searcher of majesty, shall be overwhelmed by glory." Other religious traditions also praise moderation. Buddha, for example, describes the middle way as a path of moderation between the poles of extreme indulgence and deprivation.ii To accomplish this one would also have to follow the path of wisdom.iii
Cognitive psychotherapist Albert Ellis (1962) notes that "there is something about the nature of human beings more than others . . .which makes it horribly difficult for them to take the middle ground . . .instead of having moderating behavior." The beneficent effects of moderation in the areas of health, such as eating, drinking, exercise and various psychological domains are well known. In dieting, for example, "the goal is to obtain balance, variety, and moderation. People sometimes do not realize that they can eat the foods they enjoy, but the intent is to do it in moderation."iv
St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Philippians (4:5), "Let your reasonableness be known to all men." He goes on to explain that this can be attained by discipline, or self-control. He tells the Corinthians: ". . .and everyone who contendeth exerciseth self-control in all things; indeed then, those do it that they might receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible." (1Cor. 9:25) Interestingly, St. John of the Ladder (1991), the 7th Century abbot of St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, recognized that "self-control is the mother of health." He was talking about spiritual health and the ascending of what he termed the Ladder of Divine Ascent. However, the Eastern Church does not neglect bodily healing and the discipline, moderation and self-control it takes to keep healthy or to cure illness. The healing of the body is announced as a sign of God's mercy and blessing on the person experiencing His healing, an occasion of offering thanks to God, and as an inspiration to others to do His will. Thus, in the Orthodox moral tradition, both spiritual and physical healing should be brought to God.
Sometimes the emphasis on spiritual healing is taken to mean that attempts at physical healing should be minimized. This is a grave misconception. The foundation of this misconception rests on ideas that reliance on God somehow stands in opposition to science. It doesn't. God is the source of both the natural laws to be discovered by science and of His supernatural governance of the cosmos, which He revealed to us. Thus, we may consider exercising self-discipline, that is to say applying moderation in our lives, to be a synergia or cooperation with God's healing purposes and goals: the wellness of body, mind and spirit of His creatures.
Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart
St. John Climacus (1991). The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery.