The Processes of Death and Decomposition (h2g2, 2014)

Death is a grim topic for us all. The images many of us associate with it – the Grim Reaper, creaking coffins, skeletal limbs, willow trees and tombstones – are often unnerving, if not terrifying. As children we have been taught to connect grinning skulls and white bones with death and malevolent ghosts – something that remains with us for the rest of our lives.

And yet death is simply an integral part of life and nature. Trees shrivel up and die. Animals are slaughtered to feed those higher up on the food chain. Cells in our body die every day, to be replaced by new ones.

The purpose of this article is to inform, and not to horrify, the general public. If you are faint-hearted and are unable to endure highly graphic descriptions, it is highly advised that you do not proceed.

What is Death?

Death is the irreversible loss of the properties of living matter – that is to say, death is the cessation of life. It is when the body shuts down its machineries of life, never to start up again.

There are basically two phases of death: (1) somatic death, which is the cessation of the vital process, and (2) molecular death, which is the progressive disintegration of the body.

post-mortem-changes-5-638

Somatic Death

Our body consists of billions of cells, all of which require two major components to live: oxygen and energy. The oxygen circulated to these cells by our blood is used in complex biochemical processes involving glucose or fatty acids to synthesise adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which, when broken down, releases a tremendous amount of energy.

Because oxygen is crucial to the cell system, oxygen loss is critical and, unless rapidly restored, will ultimately lead to cell death and disintegration.

The first thing to occur when a person dies is that their heart ceases to function1. Because the function of the heart is to maintain blood flow in the circulatory system, when the heart stops beating, circulation of blood ceases as well. Simultaneously, the person ceases to respire, putting a stop to the input of fresh oxygen into the system. Without a supply of oxygen, the cells begin to die one by one.

The first cells to perish are those that are most sensitive to oxygen levels – the ganglionic cells in the central nervous system, responsible for transmission of information in the body. Brain death – the death of parts of the brain-stem, also known as the vital centres, involved in the maintenance of the respiratory and circulatory systems – occurs within minutes of anoxia2. Death of less sensitive cells follow3. Aerobic metabolic processes within these cells cease, although certain anaerobic chemical processes may continue for several hours after death. Ultimately, however, when the body temperature falls and waste products accumulate, these processes too will fail.

Concomitant signs of death

  1. Immediate signs
  2. Pallor and loss of skin elasticity
  3. Changes in the eyes (ocular signs)
  • Segmentation of retinal blood columns– Within one hour of death. In the eyes, the streams in the blood vessels become irregular and lumpy as red blood cells clump together, moving towards the optic disc and dropping over the edge of the cup. This becomes more prominent as the motion of blood decreases, and when blood movement ceases altogether, the columns remain unchanged. This sign may not always be present.
  • Loss of pressure within the eyes (intra-ocular tension)– Within 24 hours of death.
  • Tache noire de la sclérotique– Up to 2 days after death. This sign is only seen when the eyelids remain open after death. Spots – usually triangular, but sometimes round or oval – appear on the cornea, usually developing on the outer side before progressing to the inner side. They are usually initially yellow, but then turn brown and later black.

iii. Primary muscle flaccidity

As the muscles lose shape and contour, the body flattens over areas that are in contact with the surface on which it lies – usually the shoulder blades, buttocks and calves. This is known as ‘contact flattening’. At this point, it is still possible for the muscles to respond to electrical stimuli.

  1. Changes that occur within the first 12 hours
  2. Algor mortis (Cooling of the body)

The body temperature of a normal human being is approximately 37°C. Because the human body constantly loses heat by radiation, convection and vaporisation, heat must constantly be produced by the body through metabolic processes to maintain it at this temperature, so that vital enzymatic functions may continue. Thus when death occurs, heat production will gradually cease4, and the body will cool until it reaches the same temperature as the environment.

Many factors govern the cooling of the dead body. It is a common misconception that the cooling of a body follows Newton’s law of cooling5. Furthermore, it is an equally common mistake to assume that body temperature is normal at the time of death.

The cooling of a body is affected by:

  • The environment– A body will cool faster in a cool, humid environment with moving air than a warm, dry one.
  • Body posture, physique and surface area– The greater the surface area exposed, the more quickly the body will cool. It has been reported that muscular activity seems to help determine the cooling rate as well – a body whose muscles have exhausted their supply of glycogen will produce minimal heat by the splitting of glycogen, and therefore cool more rapidly. Thin bodies and bodies of children and infants will also cool faster than that of an obese adult because of the surface area to body mass ratio. Furthermore, an obese corpse will take longer to cool because of the insulation provided by subcutaneous fat.
  • Clothing– Clothing and covers will generally insulate the body against cooling.
  • Body temperature at death– A person’s body temperature may be normal or sub-normal at the time of death, depending on the cause of death. Damage to the heat- regulating centres of the body caused by pontine haemorrhage6 and similar lesions as well as severe infections may cause the body to be above 40°C at death. Indeed, fulminating infections may even cause the temperature of the body to rise for several hours after death.
  1. Livor mortis/Post-mortem hypostasis (Lividity)

When circulation of blood ceases, any subsequent movement of this liquid will be gravitational – that is to say, the blood will tend to flow downward. Consequently they will accumulate in capillaries and small veins in dependent parts of the body, and this is manifest as a purple or reddish-purple colour7 on the skin. This is known as lividity, and it is usually apparent within half an hour to two hours after death, fully developing within 12 hours8. It may be observed on the back of the torso and limbs, earlobes and tissue under fingernails of a corpse that has been laid on its back, initially appearing as a patchy mottling of the skin which subsequently spreads and produces extensive discolouration. If the corpse is autopsied, engorgement of the posterior portions of the brain, and parts of the lungs, stomach, liver, kidneys and intestines closest to the ground9 will also be observed. Sometimes the distended blood vessels within intense areas of lividity may rupture to produce a scatter of purple-black haemorrhages.

The extent of lividity depends on the volume of blood in circulation and how much blood has coagulated – for within 30-60 minutes after death, blood in most corpses become permanently incoagulable10. However, any pressure exerted upon areas of ‘contact flattening’ – even light pressure – will prevent gravitation of blood to these areas, and thus will manifest as patches of pale, bloodless skin. Once completely developed, movement of the body will no longer displace the blood.

iii. Rigor mortis (Stiffening of the body)

After initial flaccidity, the voluntary and involuntary muscles of the body will become stiff – a phenomenon we know as rigor mortis; dead bodies are usually called ‘stiffs’ because of this phenomenon. In life, the contraction and relaxation of muscles are caused by the sliding of the two muscle proteins actin and myosin within a given muscle unit11 over one another. A muscle contracts when these two components slide into one another; muscle relaxation happens when they slide apart again. All of this is made possible by the splitting of the ATP molecule, which generates a stream of energy. When death occurs, oxygen is no longer being supplied to the cells, and the level of ATP is maintained solely by anaerobic splitting of glycogen. When this energy source becomes depleted, the myosin stays locked onto actin; when the body has completely run out of ATP, rigor mortis sets in.

Rigor mortis has been reported to commence, under average conditions, within three to four hours after death, and will disappear at 36-48 hours after death; however, the exact period and duration is highly variable. The onset of rigor mortis does not follow a constant or symmetrical order; however, it will typically develop in smaller muscles first – in the eyelids, face, lower jaw and neck, before moving on to the trunk and limbs12. There is no measurable shortening of muscles unless the muscles have been subjected to tension prior to onset. When rigor mortis is fully developed, the joints of the body become fixed, and repositioning of the limbs is only possible by brute force – once broken, the rigor will not return, provided it is fully developed. It is traditionally accepted that rigor mortis passes off in the same sequence it developed, to secondary muscle flaccidity.

The period of development is influenced by factors such as:

  • Temperature of the environment– High temperatures both accelerates the onset of rigor mortis and shortens its duration; if the temperature is below 10°C, development of rigor mortis is considered rare.
  • Muscular activity prior to death– It has been observed that rigor mortis develops and passes quickly in an individual who died after prolonged muscular activity.
  • Disease and unnatural death– Septicaemia and wasting diseases hasten the onset of rigor mortis; death by asphyxia tends to delay it. Similarly, death that is preceded by severe haemorrhaging causes rigor mortis to develop late.

A rare form of muscle stiffening, called cadaveric spasms, occurs at the moment of death. It is most commonly observed when the person has died violently – one who has committed suicide with an implement such as a knife or firearm, or been murdered. This may occur in death by drowning and poisoning as well. In many such cases, it involves only a certain group of muscles such as those of the forearm and hand, and usually involves an object tightly clutched in the hand of the victim – the suicide weapon, material from the assailant, or whatever might have been close to the victim at the time of death.

  1. Spontaneous movement

This is probably the most chilling manifestation of somatic death. The feet and legs of a corpse are seen to twitch or move hours after death has occurred. This is no doubt the kind of stuff that fuelled horror stories about the dead arising and wreaking havoc upon the living.

However, movement in the dead is caused by biochemical reactions and not vengeful spirits. Bardonnel et al (1936) reported such movements in a corpse that had been dead for 13 hours. The same phenomenon has been observed in corpses of people who died from cholera and yellow fever. The Frenchmen postulated that these spontaneous movements were caused by accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood and muscles; however, this phenomenon only occurs in special circumstances such as high temperatures, extreme positions of the body when death occurred and increased tonus13 induced by certain poisons (the poison parathion was shown by Forster in 1964 to augment rigor mortis). On the odd occasion, when these gases reverberate against the vocal cords, noises may even be produced.

post-mortem-changes-6-638

Molecular Death

Putrefaction

Putrefaction is the final marker for death, the final confirmation that life has departed. It is the gradual disintegration of the body into gases, liquids and salts by both bacterial activity and enzymes from our bodies. This process begins even as the cells in the body begin to die, but is usually not visible for at least several hours after death. The onset of putrefaction is determined by a variety of factors including atmospheric temperature, moisture and humidity (all of which affect microbial growth), age and pre-existing infection.

The mortal fear of hordes of worms descending upon one’s body after burial is vivid and perhaps traumatic – but completely unfounded. In no way do worms enter the death scene at all, unless the corpse is buried directly in the soil, or the coffin falls apart in time. In fact, the final handlers of the body are those that have been with the person all his life – micro-organisms. It is perhaps by an ironic twist of nature that the first things to welcome a person into the world are also the last to see him go.

In life, humans cohabit with micro-organisms – those within the body and without. When blood circulation in the body ceases, the immune system slowly breaks down, as its components stagnate and die off one by one. Without the immune system to keep them in check, bacteria14 within the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract leave their habitats, penetrate the mucosal layers and rapidly invade the tissues. They are joined by other micro-organisms from the environment. There they will release enzymes that will break up the tissue into smaller, simpler components. Ruptured cells in the corpse release their own battery of enzymes, which collaborate with the microbes to slowly disintegrate the dead matter.

Sometimes flies and occasionally beetles will lay eggs on the corpse before interment. These eggs will hatch into maggots and larvae, which will subsequently feed upon the dead flesh. However, unlike the bacteria, these insect young require oxygen, and are buried alive with the corpse.

Tissue changes during putrefaction follows the following sequence:

  1. Changes in tissue colour

The first visible sign of putrefaction is a green or greenish-red discolouration of the skin. As red blood cells burst, they release their haemoglobin15 load, which will diffuse through the walls of the blood vessels and stain the surrounding tissues red or reddish-brown. There they will undergo chemical changes to form various derivatives, including sulph-haemoglobin which discolours the tissue to a greenish-yellow, greenish-blue or greenish-black colour.

The discolouration starts at the skin of the anterior abdominal wall and spreads to the flank, chest, limbs and face in a marble vein-like pattern. By this time, about a week has elapsed since death. The skin will now be glistening and dusky reddish-green to purple-black in colour. Large sheets of epidermis – the top layer of the skin – will come lose with any light contact, revealing a moist, shiny pink base which, if it dries, becomes like yellow parchment.

  1. Production of gases

Because the body will by now be anoxic, all metabolic activity taking place within it will be fermentative and will thus form various gases including methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen, as well as organic compounds such as butyric acid and mercaptans, which in combination gives the corpse a foul stench.

Blisters first form on the skin. These are of varying sizes, from less than 1 cm to about 20 cm, and are filled with dark fluids and putrid gases. These will burst upon the slightest touch, exposing the same moist pink base as described before.

Gas production begins to bloat the body, particularly in regions where the skin is loose16. It is the most rapid in the intestines, where the bulk of bacteria within the body are to be found. The gases formed cause the abdomen to distend and the pressure within to rise, sometimes forcing faeces out of the rectum and stomach contents through the nose and mouth. On the face, gas distension causes the eyelids to become swollen and tightly closed; the lips, swollen and pouting; the cheeks, puffed out, and the distended tongue, protruding between the lips. Bloodstained froth may also appear at the mouth and nostrils. Hair on the head and other parts of the body become loose at the roots, and may be easily pulled out.

By this time, fingernails and toenails readily detach along with large sheets of epidermis, usually forming complete ‘gloves’ and ‘socks’, and the body is incredibly swollen. Eventually, gas pressure within the body reaches its maximum and the abdominal cavity bursts open. It is now weeks after death.

  1. Liquefaction of tissues

Elsewhere in the body, putrefaction continues. It begins with discolouration of the organs, and progresses to the liquefaction of the tissues. Body fats are converted to oleic, palmitic and stearic acids; proteins are ultimately broken down to amino acids, the building blocks of protein molecules. Little by little, the body is taken apart.

As a rule, body parts containing less muscle will liquefy faster than muscular organs. The eyeballs, stomach and intestines are the first to go. Small white granules called ‘miliary plaques’ will sometimes form on the outer surface of the heart. The heart itself becomes flabby and thin-walled. The spleen and lungs become mushy and friable, and gas formation causes the liver and brain to develop honey-comb patterns. The brain subsequently turns to mush. Generally the capsules of the liver, spleen and kidney will endure longer, turning into squashy bags filled with thick, turbid liquid. These will rupture in time as well.

Eventually, after all the soft parts are destroyed, the connective tissue and cartilage will disintegrate. All that will be left is the skeleton.

Saponification (Adipocere formation)

Sometimes putrefaction of a corpse does not lead to skeletonisation. Sometimes, during the breakdown of fat by hydrolysis and hydrogenation, conditions become too acidic for bacterial activity to continue. When this happens, the body fat remains as adipocere, a yellowish-white, greasy, waxy substance which smells of cheese, earth and ammonia. This substance floats on water, dissolves in hot alcohol and ether, and when burned produces a faint yellow flame.

Saponification
Saponification: Some humans turn in to soap after they die.

Formation of adipocere, a natural form of preservation, is rare and requires a warm, moist environment as well as the participation of putrefactive bacteria including Clostridium welchii. It usually develops in subcutaneous tissues, especially in the cheeks, breasts and buttocks; on extremely rare occasions, the subcutaneous tissues of the entire body may be converted to adipocere. Viscera are very seldom involved. The adipocere will combine with mummified remains of muscles, fibrous tissues and nerves to form a naturally preserved corpse whose features are preserved. This takes upwards of 5 to 6 months17 after death, and the body may endure for years in this condition.

Mummification

Another modification of putrefaction is mummification, the desiccation of tissues and viscera after death. In conditions of dry heat and air currents – especially when saponification occurs – the body shrivels up into a dark leathery, parchment-like mass of skin and tendons surrounding the bone. The skin around the groin, neck and armpits will sometimes split due to shrinkage. Internal organs do not normally survive, but in special circumstances may be preserved. Anatomical features will be preserved in this condition.

The time required for complete mummification is highly variable, but in countries like Egypt where the climate is favourable, mummification may be advanced or complete within several weeks.

Shindon-monk-self-mummification
Sokushinbutsu: A Shindon monk who achieved self-mummification.

Aided disintegration: Cremation

Because of limited space in burial grounds, many people today have chosen cremation over interment. The changes that occur to these bodies differ greatly from those that are buried, and these changes occur over a period of several hours instead of months or years.

A body that is cremated – usually at about 926° Celcius (1,700°F) – is burned right down to the bones, first by charring, and then by complete combustion. Fat bodies ignite and burn more readily than muscular ones. As the skeleton emerges, the flames turn all sorts of brilliant colours as various salts and chemicals within the body are volatilised – sparks of blue-green from copper and purple from potassium amidst warm yellow and orange tongues of flame. The exposed bones will then turn black as the organic material is carbonised; later, these bones will fade from black to grey and finally to white. When this happens, the bones are said to be calcined and are very brittle. The skull may crack under the heat, and other bones may warp, twist and form tiny checkerboard or crescent patterns; however, for the most part the skeleton will remain intact.

These skeletal remains are then removed from the ‘retort’ or oven, and are then crushed to small fragments in a container by a heavy magnetic iron, and subsequently ground through a sieve about five millimetres in diameter before being placed in their final resting place.

The Tollund Man
Bog bodies: The Tollund Man.

In the end…

…Even if it means oblivion, friends, I’ll welcome it, because it won’t be nothing, we’ll be alive again in a thousand blades of grass, and a million leaves… out there in the physical world which is our true home and always was.
– From ‘The Amber Spyglass’ by Philip Pullman.

It is a well-known joke that the only certain things in life are death and taxes. Unlike taxes, death really is inevitable – no matter how long-lived we are, death will claim us all one day. Perhaps it is the fear of disappearing forever that drives us to be edgy about death. Thus fear of death has become widespread in our society, has become ingrained in cultural taboos and superstitions. The media – especially the movie industry – on the other hand garners billions each year from books and films that frighten the living daylights out of the horrified but morbidly fascinated audience.

And yet death does not spell complete oblivion, for it completes the circuit for the circle of life. In the same manner that a tree falls to have many others rise in its place, so we take our turn in the self-preserving ecosystem that gave life to us. So much as we dread passing into the valley of the shadow, we may also take comfort in the knowledge that even as we perish and fade, we give the means for others to grow and live in our place.

References

  • Freedman, AD. 1996. Death and Dying. The 1996 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopaedia.
  • Gordon, I and HA Shapiro. 1975. Forensic medicine: A guide to the principles. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.
  • Knight, B. 1997. Simpson’s forensic medicine (11th ed). Edward Arnold, London.
  • Maples, WR and M Browning. 1994. Dead men do tell tales. Doubleday, New York.
  • Polson, CJ, DJ Gee and B Knight. 1985. The essentials of forensic medicine (4th edition). Pergamon Press.

Further Reading

  • Badonnel, M, E Fortineau and P Neveu. 1936. Ann. Med. Lég. 16:491-6.
  • Forster, B. 1964. J Forens. Med. 11: 148.
  • Spitz and Fisher. 1980. Medicolegal Investigation of Death (2nd ed). Thomas, Springfield, Illinois.

Other Resources on the Internet

Death Erection
Death Erection

NOTES

1The heart of a person pronounced clinically dead may be started up again by artificial means; however, this does not indicate the person is still alive. Under these circumstances, the beating heart may be removed for organ transplantation.

2The law requires for brain death to be certified by two doctors who have been qualified for more than 5 years, and who have administered two sets of tests, with an interval in between. Even though brain-dead persons may be kept artificially alive on a ventilator, their bodies will nevertheless begin to decompose.

3Among the least sensitive cells are those of the connective tissues, which may survive the anoxia for several hours.

4Heat production does not stop right away at death as certain anaerobic metabolic processes will continue for some time until the cells become too choked up in waste.

5Newton’s law of cooling dictates that the rate of cooling of a body – and we don’t necessarily mean the flesh of mortals – is determined by the difference between the temperature of the object and that of its environment. Thus a hot body would cool more rapidly than a cold one – initially the rate of cooling would be rapid, but then as it lost heat, it would slow down progressively. When plotted on a graph, this relationship is depicted by a downward curve. Understand of course that Newton’s law only applies to small inorganic objects and not to incredibly complex irregular-shaped masses like the human body.

6Haemorrhage occurring at the pons – the slender tissue joining two parts of an organ, or the band of nerve fibres that join the medulla oblongata and cerebellum with upper portions of the brain.

7It has been reported that the colour of this lividity may be influenced by certain chemicals present in the body at the time of death. Cherry-red hypostasis might indicate acute carbon monoxide poisoning; a person who has died by potassium chlorate poisoning might exhibit a chocolate-brown appearance.

8This is how, in forensic investigations, medical examiners can determine if a corpse has been moved after being killed.

9That is to say, the dorsal portion of the lungs, liver and kidneys; posterior wall of the stomach, and the lowermost coils of the intestine.

10This is due to the release of fibrinolysin – which breaks down clots – from capillaries and serous surfaces.

11This is known as a sarcomere.

12Shapiro has suggested that although rigor mortis begins to develop simultaneously in all muscles, smaller masses tend to stiffen faster than larger ones.

13Body or muscular tone.

14Because the body rapidly becomes anoxic after death, the majority of bacteria acting upon the body are anaerobic ones – those that do not require, or cannot withstand, oxygen.

15Haemoglobin is the red-pigmented protein which gives our red blood cells their colour. They are responsible for carrying oxygen to our cells and carbon dioxide from them.

16Areas such as the scrotum, penis, labia majora, breasts, and face.

17Although there have been reports of it being observable in 3-4 weeks, under ideal conditions (Spitz and Fisher, 1980).

SOURCE: http://h2g2.com/approved_entry/A2451683 

St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Now Im On Psych Meds (Nikos from California)

NOTE: The following account is a testimony from a young man who lived as a sub-novice in Arizona for six months. It was written on November 21, 2008 and is found on a forum called Ex-Christian.net. Nikos writes a little bit about Scott Nevins near the end. This blog has elucidated on some of Nikos’ words with “[Ed. Note].”

For anybody that has read my posts, I now have documented evidence of the mind bending that went on with my life, all after doing a simple Google search.

It seems that I was involved with a cult that has not only gained National attention but Global, extending especially back to Greece itself, Mt Athos in particular.

I was 6 months in residence at the monastery when I left, I decided not to become a novice despite the attempts of my Hieromonk and elder monks to convince me to leave the world, not because I didn’t believe their doctrine, I was about as convinced as anyone there of the beliefs, but because I wanted to marry, I wasn’t being healed of my depression or physical pain and because I think some deep part of me knew to run.

This is a video I found of St Anthony’s as they were being investigated, I knew Fr Nikos from seeing him around a lot but I was friends with and worked side by side with Fr Paul (Pavlos) who was conveniently re-named, while I was there, apparently the same time as a lot of inquiries were taking place, I did not know of the controversy nor the inquiries at the time, I believed we called him Father although he was not yet tonsured since he was so in step with the monastery, like an honorary title, when he was tonsured he was given a different name, as is custom, but I know it is to further the disassociation with the self in hindsight…On to the video, it is cut into two parts and i included the link to a webpage because it also exposes the monastery as a cult and was my initial source for the video…… http://pseudo-prophet.tripod.com/ [Dead link; there is a back up site here: http://gerondaephraim.tripod.com/backup1.html%5D

Fr Paul, I decline to state his new name out of respect for his adult decision to become a Monk at St Anthony’s, became a quick friend to me due to his sincerity, his friendliness and the fact that before I became involved in the Eastern Orthodox Church I was training to become a Navy SEAL, and Fr Paul had asked for a discharge from the Navy while preparing to do the same thing, he had been a medal winning Swimmer in his high school and I think joined the Navy right afterwards….so we had common ground and that sparked many discussions as we labored in the blazing Arizona sun, planting trees for Jesus, intermittently reciting the Unceasing Prayer, Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me (Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy On Me).

The other monk I do not know by face as its not fully bearded nor partly covered with a cassock in the picture shown, nor by name as that would have been changed (maybe I missed something)….I have my assumptions though, yet another close friend during my stay.

This is just an insight into my definition of cult mentality when I refer to myself on the forum here, I WAS THERE!!!!!! I lived the life.

I am going to continue to post as I find new information, as for know I would like to get the ball rolling.

This is tragic, truly tragic to learn, although the truth is what I want, and need.
For the record,

I too had face to face with Fr Paisios and was instructed by him and numerous others to use
I too had face to face with Fr Paisios and was instructed by him and numerous others to use “The cane” as it became known, beating the inner thigh with a cane or heavy wooden stick when Pirasmoi (Sinful thoughts) would not relent,

I was told the Elder Ephraim was taught this by his spiritual Fr on Mt Athos, Father Joseph (Papou Josef) and that one time Fr Ephraim had been plagued with pride and was found beating himself mercilessly with “the cane” in his cell, or a small church on the mountain. The story goes that he was heard to be confessing his sinful pride, beating the shit out of himself while at the same time screaming at himself to “Stop…STOP”, he continued on and was purged of pride and it has never returned to him to this day.

I began to use this practice of caning myself while at the monastery, I continued with it a short while after returning home.

I was also told that martyrdom would be my only salvation unless I was a baptized Orthodox Christian following the standards perfectly, even then I was told martyrdom most likely awaited all of us Orthodox….and that the monks and nuns would be the first to be eradicated by the government and so on. And even then, after death I would be taken to 20 toll booths where I could still fall and be dragged to hell by demons. St John Climacus created an icon depicting the saints ascending the ladder to heaven, while being surrounded by flying demonic presences, being pulled down at different points by failing.

One story that haunted me mercilessly was that of a monk who had died, passed 19 of the tolls and when he had done this looked at Satan and exclaimed “I beat you, you were defeated by me” which resulted in his being cast into the lake of fire for failing the test of the 20th toll, the test of “Pride”.

One story that haunted me mercilessly was that of a monk who had died, passed 19 of the tolls and when he had done this looked at Satan and exclaimed
One story that haunted me mercilessly was that of a monk who had died, passed 19 of the tolls and when he had done this looked at Satan and exclaimed “I beat you, you were defeated by me” which resulted in his being cast into the lake of fire for failing the test of the 20th toll, the test of “Pride”.

A MONK!!!!!! Who had devoted his life to Christ and left the world, living a damned near sinless life and working out his salvation to the extreme, wasn’t even safe after death…which by the way, isn’t pretty either, at death your soul is ripped and cut from your body by angels or demons, a myth is that it is so horrible the virgin Mary prayed to her son that she be spared this torment and so was granted to be taken to heaven by Jesus himself as he fended off the harvesting angels (demons).

These are the thoughts I deal with daily, to remove them from their etched position in my mind and heart……years and years of this stuff and i am about 5 weeks out of the box, 5 weeks into de-conversion.

I wonder if any of you had gone this far into your cult? If so please leave a testimony on this thread.
Someone asked Nikos:
I watched one of the news videos, and they said there were “improper teachings” in the monastery, but I didn’t really get what they were referring to. Do you know what they meant with it?
There are so many…let me add a few I was taught off the top of my head:
• You’re abbot has become Christ for you, if you follow the abbot to the letter you fulfill your requirements as a Christian, if you have done anything wrong under the abbot’s guidance you will not be judged, he will [Ed.Note: In essence, the only way a monk can err in obedience is by doing disobedience. Things that would be considered sins, even ‘minor’ things like lying, white-collar crimes, etc. are not wrong if done under obedience. The elder is responsible for the order given; the monk is responsible and will be judged on whether he did it or not]
• If you disobey the abbot it is the same as disobeying god.
• The more you dedicate your life to Christ, the more accountable you are for your sins, thereby raising the bar hourly of whether you will make it into heaven
• Married couples should live as brother and sister, only engaging in sexual intercourse for the purpose of conception, and having to confess the sexual act nevertheless as a “weakness of the flesh”
• The Aerial Toll Houses, after death you are ripped from your body to the astral plane and are questioned by demons for 2 days each at 20 levels, although this is a conceptual image of a spiritual teaching, it is basically 40 days worth of judgement, the 20 levels being the 7 deadly sins plus 13 extra variations. At anytime you may fail and be cast into the lake of fire. You DO NOT WANT TO GO TO THE ORTHODOX LAKE OF FIRE….it’s the revelation of St peter but worse. Therefore the Orthodox pray for 40-42 days after the death of a baptized Orthodox Christian to assist them in their ascent through the aerial toll houses. Many monks even are said to fail these judgements and be thrown to perdition.
• The Elder can levitate [Ed.Note: Many stories are in circulation of children seeing the Elder walking in the air. As well, there is the story about the woman who went to stab him in the confessional and he was levitating so she couldn’t reach him].

The Elder can levitate; the Elder can read your thoughts.
The Elder can levitate; the Elder can read your thoughts.

• The Elder can read your thoughts [Ed.Note: This is one of the main things that make new monks and nuns tremble around the Elder; especially if they’re having sinful thoughts].
• The Elder has reached Theoria and already been perfected, he walks as Christ on the earth (this is gleaned but not actually said) [Ed.Note: This is not gleaned, it is outright said. The writer was only a sub-novice and would not have been privy to inner circle knowledge, unless an older monk blabbed things he shouldn’t have].
• The Elder can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world [Ed. note: In 2006, Geronda Ephraim was giving a homily to lay people in the Trapeza at St. Anthony’s Monastery. While his explaining this ability to them, he stated, “I’ve already left twice to check on my monasteries while I was talking, and you didn’t even notice.” One Geronda stated, “Geronda isn’t omnipresent like God, but he’s almost like God. He sees and knows everything that happens in his monasteries. He’s watching us and protecting us.”]

The Elder can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world
The Elder can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world

• The Elder’s prayers can pretty much guarantee you entrance into heaven [Ed.Note: Furthermore, for the monks, Geronda Ephraim talks about a vision where it was revealed that the monks and nuns who stay with him until the end will be saved. Of course, there is still the clause of doing blind obedience and the other monastic duties, but if a monk and nun remains in the monastery until death, he/she are pretty much guaranteed salvation].
• You must confess your thoughts. Whereas most Xtian teachings condemn behavior and make mention of lustful thoughts and prideful thoughts….at the monastery you are to confess your every thought, good or bad. [Ed.Note: Elder Ephraim has repeatedly told the story from Agapios’ Salvation of Sinners about the nun who was virtuous and seemed holy. After she died she appeared to her Gerondissa and told her she was in hell because she didn’t confess a thought out of embarrassment].
• I was taught that the day the Roman Catholic Church was allowed to hold mass in Constantinople, the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) who had been protecting the city from the Turkish invasion, left and that is why Constantinople fell.
• I was also taught that within the walls of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, where this occurred, there was a secret Liturgy going on hidden inside the walls, Turkish soldiers stormed in and as the sword was about to pierce the presiding Priest time was frozen in such a manner that special Orthodox who are completely gifted with the holy spirit have spiritually visited this room and seen over the centuries that there is a slight movement of the sword towards the priest, we were taught that when the sword strikes the priest time will unfreeze, this will be like the last martyr and this announces the reign of the Antichrist. [Ed.Note: The marble king myth is not a teaching accepted or taught by the Orthodox Fathers. It originates in gnostic and apocryphal texts, and was taught to Geronda Ephraim by the bishop who ordained him. However, in some homilies, the Elder mentions he has seen it, or he gives updates on how far the sword is out of the sheath].

obey
• Demons are everywhere, especially at the monasteries, since the world is already run by the devil.
• I was told of a 3 month exorcism that took place and met the man who this was done to. I do not know if he was severely mentally disturbed during this time and brought back to sanity or what the hell happened because everybody backs up what they saw and heard, I am at a loss with this one, this was a biggie when I was there.
• I was taught that during this exorcism, many saints including Paul and Michael the Archangel joined in the exorcism fighting the demons within this man, but that the Elder’s Elder, from Mt Athos wielded the most power (no shit hah?)
• Priests were “worldy” if they trimmed their beards
• Women should be avoided as they caused the fall
• Women are blessed by the theotokos as she brought the Savior into the world
• Mirrors are forbidden [Ed.Note: This stems from the teachings of St. Nikodemos On Guarding the Sense of Vision: “I beseech you, dear friend, have nothing to do with such vanity and condemnable pleasure. Have nothing to do with such mirrors. And if you happen to have them, please have them taken away as altogether improper for the Christian way of life.” This is why all the mirrors are covered in the monastery bathrooms. Also, monks or nuns who remove corners of this covering get huge canonas when they confess this sin-or if it is discovered first through the random cell searches the Abbot and Abbesses perform]
• Orthodox chanting and Classical music are only allowed (thank the lord I brought my Bach and Wagner)
• Wake up is at 12 AM, you are to pray and meditate performing prostrations and.or work until the morning service begins at 3AM, Liturgy follows immediately lasting until 7-8 AM then there is breakfast and work, lunch (trapeza) is around noon, then work, there is church again at 3 or 4 until dinner around 630 then compline service until approx 730, 8PM-12AM is quiet time.
• That’s about all I care to remember for now, I have to watch the video again, I thought it and the website offered more info.
TBH, there is so much in Orthodoxy that most ExCs here wouldn’t even know due to lack of exposure that I am probably passing over what are considered to be small scale erroneous teachings to them but outrageous to a protestant or Catholic in the first place…..let me find some links and I will post them as I can, believe me when I say the followers of Elder Ephraim do a lot within the church to stop members of the Orthodox Church from speaking against him, and not many non-orthodox know anything about him or the monasteries.
I believe I am moving forward and facing the past. I know my first few weeks of de-conversion, right when I started here on ExC I was very bitter and enraged, confused, frightened full of hatred and blame. I took a few days off from even talking about it, I think almost a week, which for me these days is a long time. I tried to find some peace, make some sense and decided to look towards solutions more than looking at the problems, I think I am doing well in widening the gap between the two. I also am finding moments where I feel a peace, just for a moment and I remember what life was like before Xtianity. And at other times I feel a sense of “now” that I can live with, it is my hope I can experience these moments for a longer duration. When I am in them I feel a distance from what I can only describe as living in a nightmare, and in those moments I feel the nightmare may be ending. I’m only a handful of weeks into the deprogramming state and its been a rough battle finding the proper information out there to help me as a guide, when you’ve thought one way about everything for so long, there’s nothing really to revert to, so I need a lot of outside stimuli.

So as far as leaving it all behind, I cannot learn from what I have been through and undo the thinking patterns I was taught, nor get out of it if I don’t know what I am getting “out of”, thus the search, the questions, the confusion.

I don’t hate the people at the monastery, in fact I have more love in my heaRt for the monks than anything, I don’t believe they know what is happening to them at all, and the ones that do realize or see what is going on are the ones stepping forward. I don’t want to blame them I want to see them for who they really are and the things they teach for what they really are.

They are of the nicest, caring, loveable humans I have ever met, and there is definitely a “presence” of some sort there at the monastery, it’s a very peaceful feeling, a loving feeling, it’s quite tangible, I don’t know how to describe it other than to say when I got there, I believed that to be “God”, and now that I don’t believe the same things I am hard pressed to define it, but whatever it is it is beautiful and they are a part of it.

Perhaps by a power or just the workings of nature they are rewarded for being such kind and loving people in spite of what they believe I do not know.

They have a leader and this leader was raised in Greece in a strong Orthodox home, I believe he went to live on the mountain of Monks at 19 and came to America in the early '90s, he's like 78 or so now, so he probably spent 40 years as an Athonite Monk,
They have a leader and this leader was raised in Greece in a strong Orthodox home, I believe he went to live on the mountain of Monks at 19 and came to America in the early ’90s, he’s like 78 or so now, so he probably spent 40 years as an Athonite Monk,

They have a leader and this leader was raised in Greece in a strong Orthodox home, I believe he went to live on the mountain of Monks at 19 and came to America in the early ’90s, he’s like 78 or so now, so he probably spent 40 years as an Athonite Monk, and they really have no outside influence except the select few daily visitors (all male) which are restrained by regulations not to discuss certain things anyway…so the man knows only this life, its like he’s in spiritual Flatland. He probably believes and practices what he preaches to the bone, but i am giving him the benefit of the doubt. The Orthodox Church has a pretty rigid hierarchy and he has people to answer to.

The abbot of the monastery is a different story, I felt he was very political rather than spiritual to be honest and he is one sharp tack so I wasn’t impressed by his evasive answers or his snobbery when I was in confession, but he did me no harm personally ever….that I know of.

I guess what I am working through here is that I believe you are correct in that they are just as lost as I was, except the possibility of a couple of the elders, they are mostly all True Believers IMHO. So that is why these things need to be discussed and talked about, the controversies surrounding the monastery are also vehicles to bring these matters to the attention of the spiritual leaders of the Monastery and thus the “innocence” begins to wane and they become more and more accountable for their actions, so far there has been no change in the workings of the place, the last I heard while I was there was that when the Elder hears of people who denounce him or accuse him he claims that Christ will “Give me more crowns”….perhaps he is absolutely convinced and yet another pawn of this Religious structure……

Sorry for being so “long winded”, I have to really work through these things when I write of them and I want to be as accurate and open minded as possible because I want the truth and I share a responsibility to others reading this that I will not deceive them as well concerning these matters.

As for the positive things I took from the Monastery, the Byzantine Chanting is friggin’ awesome…the head Cantor was handpicked by the Elder and he is a master of sound, I used to refer to his singing as being “Not of this world” and I meant it, I would love to be able to find my St Anthony’s Vigil CD that they sell at the bookstore, it’s all in Ancient Greek, the words are written in English and Greek inside the jacket and if you don’t know Greek, it won’t indoctrinate you =)

BTW, here is what you get when you try to leave, or if you don’t believe the whole kit and kaboodle. http://www.youtube.c…feature=related [dead link now]

Mind you this man is speaking for the entire Orthodox Church and he is not of the cloth, this isn’t Protestantism, this is the Orthodox Church, they go by the book, not going before the unbelievers, they try to keep everything “In-house”….I just found this youtube series and will be watching it and posting according to what I know, I know it will be a healthy way to separate the wheat from the chaff =) in my head

They Live Obey

This may give you some insight into the “Don’t think, just follow” mindset of Orthodoxy, as far as I know they are the strongest proponents in Christianity concerning blind obedience to the Clergy, I’ve never seen anything like it in Christianity.

3504965275_3ac5984a06
… Women have very strict dress codes in many of the churches, depending on the Priest or the Abbott if it’s a Monastery and I’ve kinda seen them treated as “necessary functions” in the human race, instead of well…women.

I was told by the Abbot of St Anthony’s Monastery that marriage was only necessary in order to create a way for me not to sin, absolutely bewildered by what I was hearing I said “If nobody had sex, the human race would end, in fact it would have ended before Christ could be born..IN FACT Christ’s mother wouldn’t have been born in order to bear Jesus, so I don’t understand”…I was told that the necessity for sexual relations occurred at the fall, when I asked “Then how could Adam and Eve be fruitful and multiply?” I was told that it would have been done without sexual intercourse. I said “How?” and I was kinda scoffed at and told “God is God, He can make a way for life to be reproduced without sexual relations, don’t ask me how, I don’t know how because we never made it that far so we have no way of knowing”……

I was like ….UHHHHHHH????

The Orthodox, like the Catholic Church allow no women to be clergy, only the exception of female monastics in higher ranks than the common nun, in any other case they are forbidden to teach.

Im sure there are exceptions as this is a worldwide organization but this is the general rule.

Men are over women, as Paul stated, they go by the book on that one.

And they are treated with respect, mind you, but there is a lot of unspoken rules and regulations concerning this, but here in America it pretty much remains unspoken, but the general answer you will get when asking about a woman’s status is that she is less than the man and that Woman brought sin upon the man.

Now the reason I put the statement about the Theotokos in Juxta-position to that is going to be something unknown to you unless you had been in these circles, so I apologize again for not being clear, like I said, I was in this so long I sometimes forget what is and isn’t “normal’ in mainline Xtianity.

Besides God, the Theotokos is THE MOST VENERATED SAINT, but they claim so much more knowledge and revelation about her…to be honest, this is the one part of discussing this that makes me uneasy, I always have and still do have love for the idea of Mary, and my daughter who passed away was named after her because of the love I was given for her while Catholic (Never confirmed, only went through Catechism partially), and then more so in Orthodoxy, she is probably the most overwhelming Archetype for me due to personal reasons.

In Orthodox Iconostasis you will always find Jesus, the Saint the building or site is named after and an icon of the Theotokos. And the emphasis about her is due, considering the belief that God brought salvation into the world through a human mother…they go into great detail about her life and how she was THE ONLY WOMAN who could have bore the Christ child, so in that sense you would get the impression that they see women as equals or even as greater like we see in some cultures and religious practices, but you don’t get that, you get the dirty, sinful, necessity of the woman in order to produce children.

I have never seen women treated cruelly though, it’s just an underlying atmosphere of women being less than men, and some off the wall shit from certain people that make them look like they almost shouldn’t exist….I’m guessing the Abbott had something in mind like that movie where Arnold was pregnant….CREEPY.

Hope that clears that up…yes it is a contradiction.

I also saw in many cases where women were respected very much so it’s all about who’s doing the teaching and what church you are in…it’s not written in stone exactly, it’s one of those things you pick up when you’re amongst them.
…In Orthodoxy you don’t get personal opinions on the true gospel, you join the Orthodox Church only if you swear to adhere to the teachings of the church, if you don’t believe their version of it then you don’t become a member, so I am guessing that you can have two improper views this way

An improper view within Orthodoxy being contradicted by the Monastery and Improper according to a personal belief of anybody that doesn’t believe the gospel according to the Monastery, but what is in question amongst the Orthodox who are saying this is former, the monastery is deviating from what the Orthodox church teaches, therefore if the Lady is orthodox, she has it within her stance as a baptized member of the Church to cite Canon law against the teachings of anybody within the church, in this case the Monastery.

0
… the Eyewitness news reporter “For the past 8 months, the Eyewitness News 4 investigators have been documenting several families claims of brainwashing and inappropriate teachings at St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery…..” … she’s reporting on THE DOCUMENTATION OF SEVERAL FAMILIES CLAIMS OF BRAINWASHING AND INAPROPRIATE TEACHINGS AT ST ANTHONY’S GREEK ORTHODOX MONASTERY.

She’s reporting on the claims of the 3 families. She later stated that 3 families had come to them, 2 of which are Greek Orthodox, this would be the families of Nikos Pantanizopoulos and Paul Aleck.

The Orthodox families are part of the Church proper, so they can state that the teachings of the Monastery are inappropriate in both ways, any way that is dehumanizing to their child, and in the realest sense, inappropriate as determined by Orthodox Canon Law. The reporter never spoke for her own opinions, she is speaking on their behalf, and speaking OF THEM.

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The other father, the non-Orthodox can certainly find out what Orthodox proper teaches and ascertain that his son is being taught inappropriate teachings according to the Orthodox church simply by speaking with clergy on the matter, and again, his son is beating the shit out of his thigh with a wooden stick for having imperfect thoughts, believing in the aerial toll houses where the demons are judging the souls of baptized Orthodox Xtians, being taught that the Elders of Sion are plotting against the Monastery and the Orthodox Church etc., etc.

Again, she isn’t taking a stance, she’s speaking on behalf of the families….Also, inappropriate isn’t judged by 30,000 denominations, the Orthodox Church doesn’t even consider Protestants to be Xtians, they consider them heretics, schismatics, a Protestant must go through Catechism and baptism, including an exorcism before becoming Orthodox, they believe that only the Orthodox Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ due to their sole claim of Apostolic Succession and their belief that the Holy Spirit doesn’t bless the Communion of the schismatic Roman Church, in their eyes the Protestants are completely lost and know nothing of the Gospel and need to find true salvation though the Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholics were a Patriarchate until 1054 AD when the final blow, the Filioque clause was added to the Nicene Creed and the Patriarch of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople Ex-communicated each other, later the land of Rus was brought in to create the missing 5th Patriarchate and in their eyes Rome is worse than being a Protestant.

They don’t care about any gospel but the Orthodox gospel, anything they deem as inappropriate is deemed so by looking into their own Tradition and Teachings collected over the past 2000 years and if it is out of whack then it is labeled heresy and is worthy of ex-communication.

They are so strict and rigid for a reason, they are in no way like the Protestants who have now come up with 30,000 sects in 450 years. They don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they believe in the inerrancy of the Orthodox Church, in their eyes, the Xtians wrote the gospels and epistles, passed them through Apostolic succession until the council of Nicea and the Orthodox Church voted on the Canon of scripture, the Orthodox Church preserved it through the ages by copying manuscripts, spreading the gospel and by shedding the blood of the martyrs to preserve the faith, right on through the Great Schism with Rome in 1054, through the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, right up to this very day….There is no Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide, there is Ortodoxon Xristianon.
BTW I just realized who Scott Nevins is, the non-Orthodox convert.

I was at the Monastery when he came back from Mt Athos, that’s when I met him. He was made a novice while I was there…holy shit..we sat for hours on end telling stories about the Xtian life and about becoming monks, he lost so much weight it was frightening during the 49 days of fasting in Lent, thats why they make special mention of his photographs. He took on this real brooding appearance, began to walk in a hunched posturing for humility or something, barely ate, shit he cut out tomatoes, potatoes and peppers because the man that was supposedly exorcised there for 3 months said that since those food belong to the nightshade family they are neuro-toxins, which they are, AT TRACE LEVELS, so he had to eat even less of the little food allowed for thos entering the novitiate or the rest of the monks AND it was during Great Lent with all the food regulations, he got real pale and gaunt, he was dragging his boots as he walked, none of us knew he was entering the novitiate, he kept that to himself, out of humility I guess….I never understood why he thought that. Then one day he was a Man In Black.
Feel free to visit anytime, just call ahead to reserve a cell, ask for Pater Markellos, he’ll do you right up

Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me
Eper Ayia Theotoke Soson Emas.

Click on the little doo wah ditty button on the left for a sample of their chanting, the best thing to come out of that place…….
http://www.stanthony…y.org/index.php
Tais tov tha criov sou roes….

Evloyisov,
Nikos
I was just checking this thread to find the Youtube link to my Home Church priest, see I had a home Church cult and then the Monastery, so I actually left 2 cults at the same time, one is Antiochian Orthodox and the other was the Greek Orthodox, they are both in communion so there was no qualms about me having the Ant. as my home base church and also become a Greek Orth. monk.

Back when things were real bad, while I was a catechumen the priest-monk told me not to seek medical care in certain instances, I was pushed away from seeing a psychiatrist or even any counselling. I was told that the Nous, the eye of the soul which is the power, the I in Greek understanding was energetically destroyed and fragmented, that Satan had 100% rights over me and that I COULD NOT become psychologically well until baptism, they dangled baptism over my head for more than 3 years, I was forced to confess many sins that were committed due to my physical and psychological imbalances then had the cure withheld from me, by telling me not to seek secular help as well as not baptizing me.

So I was basically being broken down on purpose.

It was officially confirmed that I needed an exorcism of my house, and my home priest never even got around to doing it, a priest in a neighboring city came by to perform the rituals. I was told by my priest-monk that the Elder of the monastery wanted me to be so spiritually strong that I could be sitting in my house with things flying around the room like in the movie Poltergeist, and sit without being affected and be able to repeat the Jesus prayer non-stop, I was told by my priest-monk that this was my spiritual goal. Therefore the exorcism was done by my request in secret at my home base.

So I was being told that on the one hand I was to become a spiritual warrior and NOT have the proper Orthodox exorcisms and cleansings and be immediately baptised to protect me…….then I was being told that I had absolutely no power to do so because of the condition of the Nous before baptism.

I was told all psychological problems were to be spiritually healed, yet I was denied the healing which is Exorcism of the Catechumen, denouncing Satan, having hands laid on, being baptized and born of the spirit immediately aligning the Nous, then receiving the “True Eucharist”, the body and blood of Christ which would absolve me of every single sin committed, all this on the day of baptism.

In fact talking about it now, my mind is saying “You are deceived, you are now in the dark, you were so close and you blew it….” That’s how powerful they made my becoming Orthodox seem to me.

For years I was enticed with what would happen at that event, how i would become alive from the dead.

I was told so many stories of miraculous baptisms, the Orthodox pride themselves concerning their spiritual powers…I was told numerous miracle stories about first communion, that the neophyte would experience total catharsis as well as euphoria, I was told that at baptism I would be absolutely in touch with god until the first sin committed after baptism, which would begin the cycle of sin/confession/absolution/communion. The stories of baptism are so amazing that many plan ahead to go and be alone somewhere for days and weeks after baptism in order to retain the full blown connection with God, pray for all their needs at this time and they would be answered, read books and know their meaning, read scripture and be instantly enlightened. I was to be baptized at the Monastery when the time came and was to spend weeks alone in my cell with pre picked books, audio tapes, CDs and food brought to me.
As I have found out how much psychological damage was done to me now that I have learned what it was they were doing and teaching and how it affected me, I am trying to find a specialist in de-programming….to be honest, I am going to post this but I am sure i will have to EDIT a lot of it later today, I can actually feel my mind fighting itself and becoming confused.

I am willing to bet this entire post is fragmented and hard to follow…I can’t get my thoughts straight, the words aren’t coming out the way I would normally be able to.

I am going to post it as a testimony to the power of the brain washing and finish it up later, hopefully it made I have sent numerous emails to the monastery and have received no replies

As far as I know, they know nothing of my de-conversion, these attempts to contact them were made over the last year, I think that they somehow got wind of me telling my home priest to shine on and have labeled me a paraya (sp?).

I think I am going to get a professional involved as well as contact the media who have already looked into the problems there, I want some closure and I want my voice heard.

I want to be able to put this behind me and I can’t do that without making my story heard, they need to know and I need to know that they know. enough sense for you to understand how much control they had over me.
http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/27554-st-anthonys-greek-orthodox-monastery-now-im-on-psych-meds/#.VHkCCmfp-Sp
In 2011, a lay disciple of Geronda Ephraim, using the name zealot777, posted the following: “Saint Anthony’s Monastery is in perfectly good standing with the Greek Archdiocese and World Orthodoxy as a whole. There is nothing cultic about them. If they were operating in an independent fashion outside their jurisdiction, yet claiming to belong to it, then I might have some concerns. But everything they do is Orthodox. The author of this thread is probably just unfamiliar with the Orthodox ascetical lifestyle. I have visited the monastery twice. They’re wonderful people. That the author is now on psych meds, does not prove the monastery is to blame.”
Chikirin responded, “We are ex christians therefore we believe all of Christendom is a cult (at least I do any way)”
And a moderator reiterated the forum rules: “Christians are not allowed to evangelize or debate their beliefs in the Testimonies Forum. The Lions Den forum on this site is open for that. Please carefully read and respect the rules of this forum before posting in here”
The forum is now locked.

Two troubling teachings reported (Archbishop Lazar Puhalo)

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo.

April 1, 2000

Recently I have had conversations with people who have been to the monasteries of Father Ephraim. I also have received one novice here who departed from one of his monasteries.

Geronda Ephraim in his early years.
Geronda Ephraim in his early years.

There are two teachings reported, which trouble me the most–one is about marriage and the other about the so-called “Aerial toll houses.”

“Aerial toll houses”?

Supposedly upon death, the souls of believers must pass through demonic tollhouses. According to this doctrine souls are tried and judged by demons. If the demons find more bad works than good works, or find some sin that has not been confessed to the Geronda and received his prayer of forgiveness–they are taken immediately to hell. This includes even the souls of the faithful who had acquired the Holy Spirit in this life and lived truly Christian lives.

Death of Saint Theodora and visions of spiritual trials. Russian hand-made lubok (late 1800's)
Death of Saint Theodora and visions of spiritual trials. Russian hand-made lubok (late 1800’s)

This fable is based on an old Bogomil (Gnostic) tale, which teaches that the Geronda has excess merits with which he can pay the toll of his faithful disciples as they pass through the “Aerial toll-houses.” It seems that, based upon this Gnostic fable, some monastic leaders have taken to twisting and re-interpreting words of actual fathers of the Church and prayers of the Church–so that they appear to support this audacious claim of special spiritual power (i.e. an unscriptural and gross tale as the Gnostic “Aerial toll-house” fable).

The Bogomils in Macedonia.
The Bogomils in Macedonia.

The “Aerial toll-house” myth gives the Gerondas the power of supererogatory merits and leaves people guilty of sins–“which they did not know were sins or, which they forgot to confess to the Geronda and receive his forgiveness for.” Such sins, we are told, will cause the demons of the “Aerial toll houses” to seize a soul on its way to heaven and take it screaming to hell.

Surely this is a dangerous form of cultism.

Our press has produced three books refuting this tale:

  • “The Soul, The Body and Death”
  • “The Tale of Basil the New: Study of a Gnostic Document”
  • “The Aerial Toll-Houses: The Neo-Gnosticism of Seraphim Rose”

Synaxis Press, P.O. Box 689, Lynden, WA. 98264

[Note: Father Seraphim Rose’s monastery was instrumental in bringing the Holy Order of MANS, a purported “cult,” into the Greek Orthodox Church under the name of “Christ the Savior Brotherhood.”]

Father Paul (Dr. Earl W. Blighton), founder of the Order of MANS.
Father Paul (Dr. Earl W. Blighton), founder of the Order of MANS.

Marriage is “dirty”?

Men tell me that they went to a Father Ephraim monastery expecting to hear about the love and compassion of Jesus Christ, but instead heard that marriage is “dirty.”

It might be meaningful to know exactly what the Ephraimites are teaching about normal heterosexual relationships in marriage. By every report I have received, they are claiming that sexual relations within marriage is sinful and dirty and that even a newly wed couple should sleep in separate bedrooms–unless they are planning to procreate. Also, that even under such an arrangement a married couple must be careful not to take any pleasure in their sexual encounter.

We also know of at least one Geronda who insists that husbands telephone him and ask for a blessing to have sexual relations with their wives. I understand that Father Ephraim insists that a married couple must abstain from Holy Communion for a forty-day “purification” period after they have had sexual relations.

Marriage is difficult enough to sustain in our current times without such condemnation of heterosexuality and lawful relations within marriage. This matter is of great concern to us.

https://web.archive.org/web/20091113093352/http://www.rickross.com/reference/ephraim/ephraim11.html

Fr. Seraphim Rose
Fr. Seraphim Rose
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, censing an icon of Fr. Seraphim (Rose)
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, censing an icon of Fr. Seraphim (Rose)