In 2001, a book was published in Greece which sold like wildfire: Oi Gourou, o neos, kai o Gerontas Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis. The book made a deep impression on many a spiritual Father and it was highly recommended in orthodox bookstores, especially for people confused or mixed up with New Age and Hindu religions.
Due to the strong influence of New Age and Hindu religious culture in the Western Hemisphere, there was a hope that it would one day be translated into the English language. Anyone who made pilgrimages to the Holy Mountain in the mid-2000s heard about the pending translation into English being delayed due to the devil’s huge warfare against the monk translating it.
The first English edition was published in 2008 by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood; a monastery which ironically was in schism for many years and united with a neo-Gnostic sect called the Order of M.A.N.S., until they rejoined the canonical Orthodox Church via the Serbian Patriarchate in 2000 (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Orthodoxia/conversations/topics/1914). However, the translation is credited to Hieromonk Alexis Trader of Karakallou Monastery; not the original Athonite monk or monastery which initiated the English translation.
Furthermore, there appears to be large portions of the book missing from the English edition. Interestingly, many of these portions are Dionysios’ criticism, opinions and analyses of cults, brainwashing techniques, and how gurus manipulate their victims. One could surmise that since many of these missing portions are very similar to Geronda Ephraim’s teachings and expectations on blind obedience and submission, as well as, resemble many aspects of contemporary Greek-American monasticism, they were eliminated in order not to confuse the “simple” lay people. After all, Karakallou is one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, and by extension, Fr. Alexis Trader is a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim via his obedience to the abbot, Geronda Philotheos.
One does not only find these similarities in Dionysios Farasiotis’ books. They can be found in all the Orthodox writings in Greek that deal with gurus, destructive cults, etc. One wonders if preachers like Monk Arsenios Vliangoftis or Protopresbyter Antonios Alevizopoulos actually hear and understand the words that come out of their mouths because what they criticize when describing the dangers of destructive cults is almost word for word the same methodologies that occur in the Greek-American monasteries. The only difference is the theology and belief system—Hinduism is anthropocentric and the guru is the god, Orthodox monasticism is Theanthropocentric and the Elder is suppose to be the icon of Christ on earth. In some cases, though, one wonders if Geronda Ephraim has replaced Christ as the center of his followers’ worship.
Yoga: Science or Religion?
Before the book was translated into English, St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, was handing out photocopies of translated chapters which were also distributed on various orthodox websites and forums. The following are excerpts from those photocopies which don’t appear to be in the St. Herman’s Brotherhood edition. The similarities are interpolated within the text in brackets […]:
*In Greece, the people that do yoga succumb to a greater or lesser extent, to an Indian cultural influence. They start to decorate their house with Indian trinkets, cook Indian food, and listen to Indian ceremonial music (Kirtan). [In America, converts succumb to a Greek influence. They decorate their house with Byzantine icons and pictures of Geronda Ephraim, they start cooking Greek and Lenten foods (many times Athonite or monastery recipes), they start listening to Byzantine music (many times eliminating ‘worldy music’ from their lives)].
*They ‘think’ Indian, and talk about reincarnation, past lives, the hidden powers of man, and the ‘feats’ of the Yogis. [Converts will think ‘Greek’ or ‘Athonite’, they talk about the Resurrection, Lives of the Saints, the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to man, and the feats of the Gerondas and Gerondissas].
*At length, some become permanent patrons of the ashrams. [Many pilgrims will stay extended periods at the monastery to help out with work, some become sub-novices some don’t. Some families spend their vacations at the monasteries].
*They wear the orange cassock of the yogi. They cut their hair and dedicate themselves to a guru. [Many converts will start wearing all black and let their hair and beards grow like the monastics].
*They change their name to an Indian one. [Many converts change their name to a Greek one; Ephraim and Joseph are two of the more popular names for American converts].
*Usually, they absolutely obey the guru and his local representative-disciple. [Geronda Ephraim is the leader of all the monasteries; the abbesses and abbots are his local representative-disciples. As one abbot said; “Your obedience to me goes to Geronda Ephraim and through him to Jesus Christ. I am just an ambassador for Geronda Ephraim, whatever you do or don’t do to me is the same as if you did or didn’t do it to Geronda Ephraim].
*They participate in a ceremony to receive the title of Swami. [A sub-novice is dressed by Geronda Ephraim and he recites two small prayers, thus making him a novice. The novice is tonsured by Geronda Ephraim, his hair is cut, two prayers are read over him, and he is given a koukouli, thus making him a rassaphore; canonically still a novice].
*Their wealth and property is donated to the movement and they dedicate all of their self, all their life, all their time to the growth and development of the movement that will save the world. [A person renouncing the world is to be debt free and without possessions. Many times the sub-novice will donate the remainder of their bank account, their vehicle, and any assets they have to the monastery, unless they are instructed to give them all away as alms. The rest of their life is no longer their own, their entire existence will now be dictated by the elder or eldress; even down to the minutest details of hygiene].
So, if they can persuade us that all these things are religion, then a little down the road, they will convince us that we are not free thinking people but spiritually controlled robots.
“ I believe in freedom of religious conscience. The thing that annoys and disturbs me, is the deceiving effort; someone appears with a beautiful mask, fearing that perhaps he won’t become acceptable showing his true face. This is hypocritical and devious. They stole a piece of my life. I wasted time, energy, money and opportunities. For years I grappled with one kudostymevo lie. I hope that I help certain brothers to quickly disentangle themselves, with these writings; much easier and with fewer casualties.” [Essentially, when one enters the monastery, they are informed, “Now you get to see Geronda Ephraim as he really is; he’s much different with his monks than with the lay people.” And this is true. The individual is privy to more knowledge and more secrets as they advance. Sub-novices are not privy to most of the monastery going-ons and are not included when the Abbot or Abbess calls the monastics for a talk or reprimand. A novice will be included somewhat, but is never privy to the inner workings and structure of the monastery. Many times the novice will be excluded from the knowledge of big scandals, or problematic monastics being reprimanded. Furthermore, questioning by the novice is frowned upon and they are instructed about the sin of idle curiosity and told to mind their own business, or to ask the Geronda/Gerondissa (many times the monastic will have already informed the superior about the novice’s queries). The rassaphores are privy to more information and see more things, however, individual diakonimas such as the office or business/financial aspects of the monasteries are insulated to the individual responsible for them, who also has a strict obedience not to talk about what he or she may do. Many years could pass and a monastic will remain clueless about the inner details of the monastery].
(The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, Greek Edition, pp. 369-70)
The full translation can be found here: