Soteria is what we would today call the self-actualizing principle, a beneficent force that guides our development, helping us to reach the desired end of psychological salvation, integration and happiness.
The principle of soteria is found throughout Greek philosophy. The name Socrates itself is said to derive from soter , which means savior. The fullest explanation of the soteric principle is found in the works of the Middle Platonist, Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – 50 CE), who formed a synthesis of Greek philosophy and Judaism.
Philo also explains a second principle that opposes soteria, namely the destructive or anti-integrative force, phthorá (fthor-ah'; Liddell-Scott; Strong G5356). It is characteristic of phthorá to constantly try to unsettle, disturb and confuse. Understanding the nature of this destructive principle is essential for our progress.
Our true enemy, i.e., what opposes our spiritual development, is not, as is sometimes thought, passions, appetites, desires, or sensual pleasure. Rather, it is when these things become disordered -- i.e., when they reach the point of displacing the pursuit of wisdom, virtue, truth, and genuine happiness -- that they become problematic. It is phthorá that causes this disharmonization of virtue and passions.
In Christianity, the figure of Christ personifies soteria. As Christ is understood as teacher, healer, redeemer, Good Shepherd, helmsman etc. of the soul, so all these attributes apply to the soteric principle.
(know your adversary)
The opposing forces of soteria and phthorá are mythologically expressed in the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Typhon. Osiris symbolizes the integrated psyche, and Typhon (the storm god, from whose name get the word typhoon) symbolizes phthorá.
© John S. Uebersax 2014