Scott’s Experience at St. Anthony’s
Milieu Control: St. Anthony’s is located in a remote Arizona desert. Scott was physically isolated from the world during the years he spent at the monastery. His forays into the outside world appear to have been limited to doctor and emergency room visits. Letters and phone calls required permission, and permission was granted infrequently and stingily. Personal mail was screened. Phone conversations were monitored. A visit from his parents, who had traveled a great distance to see Scott, was strictly limited: two hours only. Even contact with other Orthodox was discouraged if that person was not an Ephraimite, as was any involvement with non-Ephraimite parishes. Scott’s contact with his family was further limited after the KVOA report, and after his father developed his website. When their control appeared to be slipping, the monastery began advancing personalized and bizarre conspiracies, such as the “murder plot,” to show Scott that the outside world was not safe.
Mystical Manipulation: Scott’s communications with his family, infrequent as they were during his monastery years, were filled with “examples” of Archimandrite Ephraim’s supposed spiritual gifts.
• “The Elder” performs successful exorcisms, including that of Michael Fowler, even when other clergy are unsuccessful;
• “The Elder” can levitate;
• When “The Elder” meditates he glows so brightly that you will be temporarily blinded if you walk into the same room;
• “The Elder” can’ t visit a zoo because the animals will go wild;
• People who reject “The Elder’ s” teachings will drop dead;
• “The Elder” can ascend to heaven and talk to God;
• “The Elder” knows people’s thoughts;
• “The Elder’ s” breath smells like myrrh;
• “The Elder” “divined” to find water for the Arizona monastery; and
• When “The Elder” first came to America he was confronted by the devil and stabbed with Satan’s big pitchfork tail. Although he was wounded, the archimandrite defeated the devil. “The Elder” has a scar where the devil stabbed him with his tail.
Demand for Purity: The quest for perfection had Scott eating and sleeping less and less to curb him his “passions.” The Nevins’ son was 6’3″ tall and weighed approximately 220 pounds when he entered the monastery. A year later his weight had dropped to 150 pounds and he was sleeping only 4 to 5 hours a night. During the 4 months after Scott returned from Greece, it is doubtful whether he managed to get any meaningful sleep at all, given the size and location of his assigned cell. Malnutrition and exhaustion clouded this young man’s formidable intellectual gifts.
Confession: Confession was a regular part of Scott’s experience at St. Anthony’s. He wrote daily in a “Confession book.” However, this was not just ordinary confession, rather it was used to insure that Scott was thinking and acting in accord with the group. The fact that Scott believed that “The Elder” knew all of his thoughts insured that absolutely nothing would be withheld, and absolute control could be maintained.
Sacred Science: The ultimate “Truth” preached at St. Anthony’s was that there was no salvation outside of absolute obedience to its leaders. To reinforce this, the monastery taught a heretical and Gnostic doctrine concerning life after death called the “Toll Houses.” Scott, along with many others, believed that absolute obedience to “The Elder” in this life was his only protection from the demons who would judge him in the hereafter.
Loading the Language: In his infrequent communications with his family, Scott used certain catch phrases. While some are common to Orthodoxy, according to another former monastery insider, the phrases acquired a different meaning as taught by the leadership of St. Anthony’ s.
• “Obedience is a shield” which protects you from “demonic assaults.” (Ironically. Archimandrite Ephraim was not obedient to his own superiors, as when Scott was received into the Greek Church by baptism rather than Chrismation.);
• “The Elder” is a “doctor” for troubled souls, and the monastery a “spiritual hospital;”
• “Daily martyrdom;”
• “Love and chastisement always go hand in hand;”
• “If a man is not willing to give up his father and mother for My sake then he is not worthy of Me;” and
• “Sometimes it is better to suffer.”
Doctrine over person: Scott was proud of his emaciated appearance and his new-found ability to survive with very little sleep. Common sense should have told him that lack of rest and malnourishment were not healthy, but he instead he accepted the group’s insistence that this was a positive and healing experience for him, despite the frequent emergency room visits which resulted.
The Dispensing of Existence: Scott insisted that his parents speak with “The Elder” because “he can help.” When his parents instead opposed the Archimandrite, they become unworthy of interaction. Local Greek Orthodox churches, religious schools, and even Orthodox believers (such as Dr. Bradley Nassif) who did not accept the Ephraimite teachings also weren’t ” pure” enough and thus could be ignored.
Scott was clearly under the influence of thought reform during his years at St. Anthony’s Monastery. While still believing that he was making his own decisions, he had unwittingly adopted the criteria for making those decisions given to him by the monastery’s leadership.
The side-effects of leaving a group which engages in thought reform are severe. Their altered thought patterns need to be undone before they can be truly free to function normally in the outside world. Simply leaving the group, as Scott did, does not erase the marks that thought reform has left on the person. The rational structure of adult thinking and how he dealt with the world outside of the monastery as an adult had been damaged by thought reform that had undermined his emotional development during the critical adult emotional development time of his 20’s.
The leadership at St. Anthony’s spent a great deal of time telling Scott that it was the end of the world, leading him to expect imminent death. “Daily martyrdom” was exalted and expected. Everyone outside of the monastery was viewed as an evil heretic. Irrational conspiracy theories abounded at the monastery. When Scott left the monastery, he rejected the depiction of the outside world as evil and began to regard the monastery as a threat to himself and others. Scott, a working college student and teenager before entering the monastery, was not suicidal. The man that St. Anthony’s unethically had thought reformed was quite capable of suicide. This person was very different from the Scott that his parents, hi s siblings, his relatives and his friends knew. The thought reform that Scott endured led directly to his decision to end his own life. Had Scott not been subjected to this methodology, or had it been addressed in time. he would still be alive today. Scott’s death was not an ” unfortunate circumstance.” It was entirely predictable and preventable.
The predictable aspects of the emotional trauma’s Scott Nevins experienced were told to Metropolitan Gerasiamos by the Nevins’ and they spoke directly to him about preventing it. Their concerns were both rejected and ignored and they were told they could not be believed as parents, were questioned about Scott’s potentially being a homosexual as a reason why he wanted to become a monk, that forgiveness and a book on monasticism was what they needed to be focused on as the Metropolitans remedy. None of these ideas or remedies stopped the emotional trauma Scott Nevins experienced or the psychological damage done to him at St. Anthony’s Monastery.
The Greek Orthodox Church of America discusses some of the problems associated with these kinds of thought reform groups as warning to not become involved in them. That information can be found at the Archdiocese website: