“Cuckoo’s Nest”: Grigoriou Monastery on the Holy Mountain (Vasos Vasileiou, 2010)

NOTE: The following article is taken from the Cypriot newspaper “Phileleftheros” (Ό Φιλελεύθερος), December 18, 2010, p. 23. The article contains the accusations of a hieromonk who was ousted after 22 years of control methods via the administration of psychiatric drugs. http://www.zougla.gr/page.ashx?pid=80&aid=227195&cid=122

Monk Christodoulos
Fr. Christodoulos

The monk, who “was expelled” from the Grigoriou monastery1 on Mount Athos 22 years after his admittance, denounces methods reminiscent of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.2 According to his allegations, methods of controlling the monks were applied with the administration of psychiatric drugs. The complaints come from Father Christodoulos3 who also produced a movie clip which shows him tied with leg padlocks to a bed, in a room of the Thessaloniki Hospital, where he was brought for “treatment.”

Fr. Christodoulos maintains he was of sound mind. He cites the opinion of Cypriot psychiatrist, Yiangou Mikelidis,4 who states that he examined Father Christodoulos and “he is not suffering from any serious mental illness and has no need of treatment.”

“The monk’s so-called mental illness reacheded,” as he says, “up to the Prefect of Thessaloniki whose testimony was invoked to register a complaint against the Abbot of Gregoriou5 Monastery for slanderous libel. Furthermore, he accuses the monastery’s administration of not returning money that he secured from the sale of his own real estate. Father Christodoulos was not the “typical” type of monk since he sought the Abbot’s resignation, he went on a hunger strike twice and while he was not as obedient, he remained an administrator of the monastery.

00(2)
Yiangos passed away in August 2014 at the age of 68.

When they gave him a certificate of discharge and he refused to leave the monastery, the Monastery’s administration called up policemen from Karyes who accompanied him off the Holy Mountain. They transferred the monk’s belongings to Karyes; these numbered 47 boxes with various personal items and were not delivered to him upon his expulsion.

“They tried to make me crazy”

Fr. Christodoulos (Nicholas Diamantopoulos in the world) spoke to “Φ” about everything he claims happened in Grigoriou Monastery:6

“I joined the Grigoriou Monastery in 1987 at age 30. In 2003 I did a hunger strike demanding the resignation of the Abbot because he could not exercise his duties completely. The Abbot gave me a handwritten letter in which he resigned and asked me to pass it to the elderly congregation (a copy was given to the “Φ”).

Archimandrite George Kapsanis
Geronda George Kapsanis, former Abbot of Grigoriou Monastery (d. June 2014)

“I raised the issue of resignation before the elderly assembly (composed of seven monks) but I was told they did not accept it. I returned to the Abbot and asked to be heard by the whole fraternity consisting of about 70 monks. I developed my position before them and they thereupon prepared a document calling the Public Prosecutor of Thessaloniki to lock me in a mental hospital. With the mobilization of the police, they lead me the mental hospital. The psychiatrist chanced to be a fellow student of the Monastery’s doctor; the one who sent me to the psychiatric hospital. I mentioned to the psychiatrist that I have differences with the Monastery’s administration. I explained that this administration wants to use him to make me out as crazy.

“I called my brother from a phone booth and explained that they wanted to declare me insane. So until he came, they tied me to a bed with the help of security guard. They used straps and padlock. When my two brothers came to ask me what happened, they were paid no attention to. When they saw me tied up, they made a clip with a camera and warned those responsible at the hospital they would be given to the public if they continued to have me bound. My brothers said they would take me to another psychiatrist who is not influenced by the monastery. It took three days of contacts and interventions to allow me to leave.

1
Monk Christodoulos strapped with padlocks to a bed in Thessaloniki Hospital.

καλογερς

“I went to another psychiatrist who, after a month of visits, advised that I am suffering from mixed personality disorder which has nothing to do with mental illness or any other serious illness. The doctor told me that I can go to the monastery with no problem. I returned to the monastery where they accepted me. (Last May I went to a psychiatrist, Giagkos Mikellides, who after examining me, opined in writing that I do not suffer from any serious mental illness and have no need of treatment. A copy of the advice was made available to “Φ”).

“In 2004 a priest-monk threatened me, saying they would expel me from the monastery. I started a hunger strike and sought the Abbot’s resignation. An assembly occurred, minus the Abbot who was then outside Mount Athos and I was told that either they would deport me from Mount Athos or I would go to a psychiatrist in Patras.

“I told them that I accept going to a psychiatrist. I went off to my hometown in Peloponnese without seeing a psychiatrist. When I returned a week later, the Abbot didn’t say anything to me nor ask me what happened with the psychiatrist. This means that two powers co-exist in the monastery. On the one hand, the Abbot and on the other an elderly congregation that insists on making me a mental patient.

“The elderly congregation has a problem because when I go out with permission, I travel abroad instead of only in Greece. With the “indiscipline” I require small chastisements for my “indiscipline” such as refraining from chanting, etc.

“In 2006 they changed the exit certificate and restricted my travels to only in Greece. On one occasion the Abbot obliged me to give him 500 prayer ropes, which I made, to enable me to go on a pilgrimage to the Patriarchate. Since then, when I go out with permission, I travel abroad without the blessing of the Abbot.

Apolytirion

“This year in March I went to the abbot and asked him to convene the fraternity and invite anyone who has something against me to say it before all. He threatened me with a curse (that he would curse me) because I ask things beyond obedience. When he threatened me with a curse, I wrote a curse. I noted that if I am right then the curse is to fall upon the head of the Abbot; if not, then the curse would fall to mine.7 After that, I came to Cyprus where I spent Pascha and when I returned I was called to the synaxis and they asked me for an explanation about my behavior.

“I told them that I cannot respect them to the depth they want; when in 2003 they tried to make me crazy.

“Afterwards, they gave me a certificate for insult and contempt towards the Abbot, but I returned it because it did not have his signature.

“They insisted that I leave. I didn’t leave and they brought the police in and they escorted me to Karyes.

“The Abbot told the Prefect of Thessaloniki, Mr. Psomiadi, that I’m a mental patient. Then I registered a lawsuit against the Abbot for slander which is pending before the Court.8

Fr. Christodoulos on Mount Athos
Fr. Christodoulos

POST SCRIPT:

To this day, Fr. Christodoulos still speaks out and references the injustices he suffered while living as a monk at Grigoriou Monastery. Here is a recent example, dated January 15, 2016:

“Many who know the details of my monastic life urge me to write an autobiography. If I decide to do such a “crazy thing”, the dead will roll in their graves, as well as the bones of those who are alive—the guileful, treacherous rassaphore monks of Grigoriou Monastery, Mt. Athos who through plots and intrigues that even the Italian Kamora would envy, continually tried to shut my mouth, slander me, humiliate me, ridicule me with processes that reach beyond the limits of a murder attempt at my expense.”

“I have evidence and documents stored electronically that would overturn the thrones of Churches (and not just sovereigns) if I were to publish them!!!”

kapsanis
Fr. George Kapsanis died on Pentecost, June 2014.

NOTES

  1. Grigoriou Monastery (Greek: Γρηγορίου) is situated on the southwest side of the Athos Peninsula in northern Greece, between the monasteries of Dionysiou and Simonopetra. Grigoriou originally was dedicated to the St. Nicholas but later was renamed in honor of its founder, Gregory. It is ranked seventeenth in the hierarchical order of the twenty monasteries located on the Mount Athos peninsula. Grigoriou is reputed to be one of the most well-organized and strict coenobitic monasteries on the Mount Athos peninsula.
  2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a 1975 American drama film directed by Miloš Forman, based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Now considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is No. 33 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list. In 1993, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
  3. A blog exists under the name of Χριστόδουλος Μοναχός Γρηγοριάτης—though there is no validation that the Monk Christodoulos actually wrote the posts contained therein (especially since he continues to make comments about the monastery to this day). Notably, to this day, he still speaks out about his experiences at Grigoriou Monastery. A month after Abbot George’s resignation, the following retraction was posted on this blog, “My esteemed Geronda, beloved fathers and brothers, please consider everything I posted on this blog as invalid. I recall all of my posts and have deleted them! I seek forgiveness from all of you, hoping that I will obtain favorable treatment. Pray for my salvation as I too! My Metanoia [repentance or prostration] to all of you! Monk Christodoulos. http://monaxoschristodoulos.blogspot.com/2014/03/blog-post.html
  4. Yiangos passed away in August 2014 at the age of 68. http://www.attacktv.gr/news/Pages/view.aspx?nID=28222
  5. Archimandrite George Kapsanis resigned from his abbacy in February 2014 for reasons unknown. He died on the day of Pentecost later that year (June 8, 2014).
  6. In April 2014, a blog existing under the name of “Monk Christodoulos Grigoriatis”, posted “My Second Sorry to Grigoriou Monastery.” This “Epistle of Repentance to Geronda George Kapsanis and the Holy Monastery of Grigoriou, Mount Athos” sounds more like a PR campaign contrived by the monastery. To this day, when talking about his experiences at Grigoriou Monastery,  Christodoulos speaks quite differently than the content found in this epistle. Here is the epistle in its entirety:

 

My esteemed Geronda,

 

Since April 2010, I have written and published on the internet or notifications by means of mass media (television, radio, newspapers) that gave me step of speech, ungrounded, obscene and other charges against you and against the brothers of the Monastery.

I recognize fully that both you and the brothers of the monastery are persons above reproach in every respect and that my accusations were untrue. But now I am fully aware of the truth and repent for what they did. I confess that I caused you great grief and psychic pain, but also scandalized many people who did not know the ethos of Grigoriou Monastery. I publicly apologize for this, both to you and the brothers of the monastery and the people I scandalized.

As a minimum indication of my practical repentance, I’ve already deleted my website that I maintained with the unjust and false accusations which I address to you and the brothers of the monastery, and I have posted two letters of apology online (this and the preceding that I have sent).

I hope that in this way I can restore, albeit slightly, the harm I caused you.

Because I am monk and I look forward to my salvation, I put my metanoia [repentance or prostration] and ask for your blessing.

I wish you a good and blessed Pascha in love of the Lord!

My repentance towards my former monastery Fr. George Kapsanis, Elder Fr. Christopher, the Fathers of the Holy Assembly and all the fathers of the monastery. Evlogeite your blessing!!

The signing that follows is genuinely mine.

Monk Christodoulos

http://monaxoschristodoulos.blogspot.com/2014/04/blog-post_1.html

  1. Geronda Ephraim teaches that cursing clergymen never works and it always falls back on the curser seven-fold. However, a curse by a clergyman always sticks due to the grace of ordination. In this case, both participants are ordained priests; thus, the curse by whichever hieromonk is in the right would have stuck.
  2. There does not seem to be any information about these proceedings available on the web.

 

 

Biderman’s Chart of Coercion

NOTE: This article is based on the writings of Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist who worked for the USAF in the 1950s. Biderman showed how Chinese and Korean interrogators used techniques including sleep deprivation, darkness or bright light, insults, threats, and exposure far more than physical force to break prisoners. A link to the entire pdf can be found at the end of the article.

Biderman book

“Most people who brainwash…use methods similar to those of prison guards who recognize that physical control is never easily accomplished without the cooperation of the prisoner. The most effective way to gain that cooperation is through subversive manipulation of the mind and feelings of the victim, who then becomes a psychological, as well as a physical, prisoner.” from an Amnesty International publication, “Report on Torture“, which depicts the brainwashing of prisoners of war.

 

Isolation

  • Deprives individual of social support, effectively rendering him unable to resist
  • Makes individual dependent upon interrogator
  • Develops an intense concern with self.

Once a person is away from longstanding emotional support and thus reality checks, it is fairly easy to set a stage for brainwashing. Spiritually abusive groups work to isolate individuals from friends and family, whether directly, by requiring the individuals to forsake friends and family for the sake of the “Kingdom” (group membership), or indirectly, by preaching the necessity to demonstrate one’s love for God by “hating” one’s father, mother, family, friends.

Abusive groups are not outward-looking, but inward-looking, insisting that members find all comfort and support and a replacement family within the group. Cut off from friends, relatives, previous relationships, abusive groups surround the recruits and hammer rigid ideologies into their consciousnesses, saturating their senses with specific doctrines and requirements of the group.

Isolated from everyone but those within the group, recruits become dependent upon group members and leaders and find it difficult if not impossible to offer resistance to group teachings. They become self-interested and hyper-vigilant, very fearful should they incur the disapproval of the group, which now offers the only support available to them which has group approval.

AZa
Monks and nuns from the various monasteries under Geronda Ephraim during St. Anthony Monastery’s Feast Day (ca. 2006)

Warning signs
The seed of extremism exists wherever a group demands all the free time of a member, insisting he be in church every time the doors are open and calling him to account if he isn’t, is critical or disapproving of involvements with friends and family outside the group, encourages secrecy by asking that members not share what they have seen or heard in meetings or about church affairs with outsiders, is openly, publicly, and repeatedly critical of other churches or groups (especially if the group claims to be the only one which speaks for God), is critical when members attend conferences, workshops or services at other churches, checks up on members in any way, i.e., to determine that the reason they gave for missing a meeting was valid, or makes attendance at all church functions mandatory for participating in church ministry or enjoying other benefits of church fellowship.

Once a member stops interacting openly with others, the group’s influence is all that matters. He is bombarded with group values and information and there is no one outside the group with whom to share thoughts or who will offer reinforcement or affirmation if the member disagrees with or doubts the values of the group. The process of isolation and the self-doubt it creates allow the group and its leaders to gain power over the members. Leaders may criticize major and minor flaws of members, sometimes publically, or remind them of present or past sins. They may call members names, insult them or ignore them, or practice a combination of ignoring members at some times and receiving them warmly at others, thus maintaining a position of power (i.e., the leaders call the shots.)

The sense of humiliation makes members feel they deserve the poor treatment they are receiving and may cause them to allow themselves to be subjected to any and all indignities out of gratefulness that one as unworthy as they feel is allowed to participate in the group at all. When leaders treat the member well occasionally, they accept any and all crumbs gratefully. Eventually, awareness of how dependent they are on the group and gratitude for the smallest attention contributes to an increasing sense of shame and degradation on the part of the members, who begin to abuse themselves with “litanies of self-blame,” i.e., “No matter what they do to me, I deserve it, as sinful and wretched as I am. I deserve no better. I have no rights but to go to hell. I should be grateful for everything I receive, even punishment.”

St. Anthony's Monastery Feast Day (early - mid-2000s)
In the monasteries it is taught that the most ideal way for someone to practice Orthodoxy is through blind obedience to a Geronda (or Gerondissa).

Monopolization of Perception

  • Fixes attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection
  • Eliminates stimuli competing with those controlled by captor
  • Frustrates all actions not consistent with compliance

Abusive groups insist on compliance with trival demands related to all facets of life: food, clothing, money, household arrangements, children, conversation. They monitor members’ appearances, criticize language and childcare practices. They insist on precise schedules and routines, which may change and be contradictory from day to day or moment to moment, depending on the whims of group leaders.

At first, new members may think these expectations are unreasonable and may dispute them, but later, either because they want to be at peace or because they are afraid, or because everyone else is complying, they attempt to comply. After all, what real difference does it make if a member is not allowed to wear a certain color, or to wear his hair in a certain way, to eat certain foods, or say certain words, to go certain places, watch certain things, or associate with certain individuals. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter? In fact, in the long run, the member begins to reason, it is probably good to learn these disciplines, and after all, as they have frequently been reminded, they are to submit to spiritual authority as unto the Lord.. Soon it becomes apparent that the demands will be unending, and increasing time and energy are focused on avoiding group disapproval by doing something “wrong.” There is a feeling of walking on eggs. Everything becomes important in terms of how the group or its leaders will respond, and members’ desires, feelings and ideas become insignificant. Eventually, members may no longer even know what they want, feel or think. The group has so monopolized all of the members’ perceptions with trivial demands that members lose their perspective as to the enormity of the situation they are in.

The leaders may also persuade the members that they have the inside track with God and therefore know how everything should be done. When their behavior results in disastrous consequences, as it often does, the members are blamed. Sometimes the leaders may have moments, especially after abusive episodes, when they appear to humble themselves and confess their faults, and the contrast of these moments of vulnerability with their usual pose of being all-powerful endears them to members and gives hope for some open communication.

Threats sometimes accompany all of these methods. Members are told they will be under God’s judgment, under a curse, punished, chastised, chastened if they leave the group or disobey group leaders. Sometimes the leaders, themselves, punish the members, and so members can never be sure when leaders will make good on the threats which they say are God’s idea. The members begin to focus on what they can do to meet any and all group demands and how to preserve peace in the short run. Abusive groups may remove children from their parents, control all the money in the group, arrange marriages, destroy personal items of members or hide personal items.

cropped-11.jpg

Warning signs:
Preoccupation with trivial demands of daily life, demanding strict compliance with standards of appearance, dress codes, what foods are or are not to be eaten and when, schedules, threats of God’s wrath if group rules are not obeyed, a feeling of being monitored, watched constantly by those in the group or by leaders. In other words, what the church wants, believes and thinks its members should do becomes everything, and you feel preoccupied with making sure you are meeting the standards. It no longer matters whether you agree that the standards are correct, only that you follow them and thus keep the peace and in the good graces of leaders.

TX Synodia
The monks of Holy Archangels Monastery (TX).

Induced Debility and Exhaustion

People subjected to this type of spiritual abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet group standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid ministry demands and requirements that members attend unreasonable numbers of meetings and events makes the exhaustion and ability to resist group pressure even worse.

The Gerondia (Head) Table at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY)

Warning Signs:
Feelings of being overwhelmed by demands, close to tears, guilty if one says no to a request or goes against a church standards. Being intimidated or pressured into volunteering for church duties and subjected to scorn or ridicule when one does not “volunteer.” Being rebuked or reproved when family or work responsibilities intrude on church responsibilities.

St. Nektarios Brotherhood at The Russian Synodal Building, NY 2010

Occasional Indulgences

  • Provides motivation for compliance

Leaders of abusive groups often sense when members are making plans to leave and may suddenly offer some kind of indulgence, perhaps just love or affection, attention where there was none before, a note or a gesture of concern. Hope that the situation in the church will change or self doubt (“Maybe I’m just imagining it’s this bad,”) then replace fear or despair and the members decide to stay a while longer. Other groups practice sporadic demonstrations of compassion or affection right in the middle of desperate conflict or abusive episodes. This keeps members off guard and doubting their own perceptions of what is happening.

Some of the brainwashing techniques described are extreme, some groups may use them in a disciplined, regular manner while others use them more sporadically. But even mild, occasional use of these techniques is effective in gaining power.

CA nuns procession 5

Warning Signs:
Be concerned if you have had an ongoing desire to leave a church or group you believe may be abusive, but find yourself repeatedly drawn back in just at the moment you are ready to leave, by a call, a comment or moment of compassion. These moments, infrequent as they may be, are enough to keep hope in change alive and thus you sacrifice years and years to an abusive group.

Feast-of-St.-Thekla-2013
Feast Day of St. Thekla, 2013, Canada.

Devaluing the Individual

  • Creates fear of freedom and dependence upon captors
  • Creates feelings of helplessness
  • Develops lack of faith in individual capabilities

Abusive leaders are frequently uncannily able to pick out traits church members are proud of and to use those very traits against the members. Those with natural gifts in the areas of music may be told they are proud or puffed up or “anxious to be up front” if they want to use their talents and denied that opportunity. Those with discernment are called judgmental or critical, the merciful are lacking in holiness or good judgment, the peacemakers are reminded the Lord came to bring a sword, not peace. Sometimes efforts are made to convince members that they really are not gifted teachers or musically talented or prophetically inclined as they believed they were. When members begin to doubt the one or two special gifts they possess which they have always been sure were God-given, they begin to doubt everything else they have ever believed about themselves, to feel dependent upon church leaders and afraid to leave the group. (“If I’ve been wrong about even *that*, how can I ever trust myself to make right decisions ever again?”).

CA Nuns choir 3
There are 21 nuns residing at Life-Giving Spring Monastery.

Warning Signs:
Unwillingness to allow members to use their gifts. Establishing rigid boot camp-like requirements for the sake of proving commitment to the group before gifts may be exercised. Repeatedly criticizing natural giftedness by reminding members they must die to their natural gifts, that Paul, after all, said, “When I’m weak, I’m strong,” and that they should expect God to use them in areas other than their areas of giftedness. Emphasizing helps or service to the group as a prerequisite to church ministry. This might take the form of requiring that anyone wanting to serve in any way first have the responsibility of cleaning toilets or cleaning the church for a specified time, that anyone wanting to sing in the worship band must first sing to the children in Sunday School, or that before exercising any gifts at all, members must demonstrate loyalty to the group by faithful attendance at all functions and such things as tithing. No consideration is given to the length of time a new member has been a Christian or to his age or station in life or his unique talents or abilities. The rules apply to everyone alike. This has the effect of reducing everyone to some kind of lowest common denominator where no one’s gifts or natural abilities are valued or appreciated, where the individual is not cherished for the unique blessing he or she is to the body of Christ, where what is most highly valued is service, obedience, submission to authority, and performance without regard to gifts or abilities or, for that matter, individual limitations.

Bishop Joseph at St. John the Forerunner Monastery
Bishop Joseph at St. John the Forerunner Monastery

Biderman Chart

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups (Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., 2006)

NOTE: This article is taken from the book, Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships. It was adapted from a checklist originally developed by Michael Langone.

cults

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list of social-structural,
social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioural patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

St. Anthony's Monastery Feast Day (early - mid-2000s)

[x]  The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. [Blind obedience to Geronda Ephraim and his teachings is the foundation and essence of his “family.” Many times, he is equated with Christ, and more emphasis is placed on his books and cassette homilies than the Bible].

Disciples are taught that blind obedience to Geronda Ephraim and his teachings are a prerequisite for salvation.
Disciples are taught that blind obedience to Geronda Ephraim and his teachings are a prerequisite for salvation.

[x]   Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. [Questioning or talking negatively about Geronda is equated with Luciferian egoism. Both acts are punished with prostrations, the Lity and in some cases, the other monastics will be instructed they have no blessing to talk to the dissenter].

[x]  Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). A monastic, and lay person if possible, must ceaselessly recite the Jesus Prayer 24/7, either mentally or vocally. Within the monasteries, there is also the daily 1/2 hour-3 hour breathing/meditative exercise of Prayer of the Heart. Work hours are long and excessive with the purpose to “exhaust the flesh and carnal desires.”

[x]   The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth). Though the dictation of one’s life, thoughts and feelings is much stricter for monastic disciples, lay spiritual children under Geronda Ephraim still need blessings for minute details of their lives–dating, getting a job, how to discipline children, etc. The spiritual Father has the last say–he can order one to break up with someone, not take a job, buy a car, house, etc., all for “the spiritual benefit of their spiritual child.”

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[x]  The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity). [Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries are the “last bastion of authentic, traditional monasticism in the world.” It is generally taught and believed that “Geronda Ephraim is the holiest man in the world, and the last great saint of the Orthodox Church.” Spiritual children are taught that after the “False Union” that is coming, and especially in the days of the Antichrist, one will only be able to find true Orthodoxy in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries; “everywhere else will be apostate, unionist, pseudo-Orthodox churches.”

[x]   The group has a polarised us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. “Those who aren’t with us are against us.” Essentially, the ecumenist and mainstream hierarchs, priests, Archons, AHEPA, freemasons, Zionists, CIA, etc. are inspired by demons to stop the salvific work of the monasteries and end Geronda Ephraim’s Apostolic work here.

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[x]  The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations). Though technically accountable to his Hierarch, it is generally accepted in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries that because he is a saint, he is not really bound by Canons, obedience to worldly hierarchs or jurisdictions. Anytime he overrides a hierarch or synodal canon/decree, it is generally accepted that he either received an obedience or a blessing from the Panagia, or Christ Himself.

[x]   The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviours or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities). A book can be written about all the white collar crime, falsified  documents, lies, cover-ups, lawsuits, etc. A monastic can average lying once to a dozen times a day, all blessed via obedience. This is even more so for the monastic who answers phones. The Gerondissa or Geronda many times will instruct them, “If anyone calls, tell them you don’t know where I am or I am out of the monastery for the day, and take a message.” Meanwhile, they’re in their cell all day. The one answering the phone knows this, but lies, or rather does obedience, and says whatever they are told.

TX 1998

[x]   The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. The superior “rebukes in and out of season,” namely, one gets humbled, insulted and yelled at when they’ve erred, but also when they’ve done nothing wrong, as a test. Private confessions are revealed to other monastics at the “discernment” of the Elder, whether in a group setting to humble the individual, or without the individual’s presence and more as gossip.

[x]   Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. This is a requirement of all monastic novices. Though certain monastics have special privileges and can keep close familial communications and connections.

[x]   The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. More with pilgrims–monastery tourism. In the first years, there was a drive for monastic recruitment but that has dwindled due to all the problems and issues that have occurred in the various monasteries. “In the beginning it was about quantity, now it is about quality.”

Fundraising Event held on January 13, 2013 by Friends of the Monastery from St-Mary's Antiochian Orthodox church in Montreal.

[x]   The group is preoccupied with making money. The monasteries are all incorporated and they function like corporations. Besides the dependency on donations, the monasteries have all ventured into various business endeavors and projects to help earn more profits to help build bigger and better buildings and chapels.

[x]  Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. This is non-negotiable for the monastics. With lay people, if they want to remain in the monasteries good books, they should comply to any favor asked of them. Noncompliance brings about passive aggressive guilt tripping. Continual noncompliance or making excuses when help is needed can result in the monastery distancing themselves from the individual.

[x]   Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialise only with other group members. “Bad company corrupts good habits.”

[x]  The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. Geroinda Ephraim has stated that those who stay with him until the end will be saved; this is based on a vision. Monastics are taught and believe that if they leave the monastic life, there is no hope for salvation for them. Lay people are taught that Geronda Ephraim and his father confessors are the only ones in America with the spiritual experience to help guide them to salvation and theosis.

05

 https://www.scribd.com/doc/260450299/Cults-102-Commonly-Used-Thought-Reform-Tactics

Coercive Mind Control Tactics (Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D)

Terminology note:
Today Mind control or brainwashing in academia is commonly referred to as coercive persuasion, coercive psychological systems or coercive influence. The short description below comes from Dr. Margaret Singer professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley the acknowledged leading authority in the world on mind control and cults.

quote-the-public-takes-care-of-their-fear-by-thinking-only-crazies-and-stupid-people-wind-up-in-cults-margaret-singer-267253

a short overview

Coercion is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as:

1. To force to act or think in a certain manner
2. To dominate, restrain, or control by force
3. To bring about by force.

Coercive psychological systems are behavioral change programs which use psychological force in a coercive way to cause the learning and adoption of an ideology or designated set of beliefs, ideas, attitudes, or behaviors. The essential strategy used by the operators of these programs is to systematically select, sequence and coordinate many different types of coercive influence, anxiety and stress-producing tactics over continuous periods of time. In such a program the subject is forced to adapt in a series of tiny “invisible” steps. Each tiny step is designed to be sufficiently small so the subjects will not notice the changes in themselves or identify the coercive nature of the processes being used. The subjects of these tactics do not become aware of the hidden organizational purpose of the coercive psychological program until much later, if ever. These tactics are usually applied in a group setting by well intentioned but deceived “friends and allies” of the victim. This keeps the victim from putting up the ego defenses we normally maintain in known adversarial situations. The coercive psychological influence of these programs aim to overcome the individual’s critical thinking abilities and free will – apart from any appeal to informed judgment. Victims gradually lose their ability to make independent decisions and exercise informed consent. Their critical thinking, defenses, cognitive processes, values, ideas, attitudes, conduct and ability to reason are undermined by a technological process rather than by meaningful free choice, rationality, or the inherent merit or value of the ideas or propositions being presented. How Do They Work?

The tactics used to create undue psychological and social influence, often by means involving anxiety and stress, fall into seven main categories.

mind-control-1

TACTIC 1

Increase suggestibility and “soften up” the individual through specific hypnotic or other suggestibility-increasing techniques such as: Extended audio, visual, verbal, or tactile fixation drills, Excessive exact repetition of routine activities, Sleep restriction and/or Nutritional restriction.

TACTIC 2

Establish control over the person’s social environment, time and sources of social support by a system of often-excessive rewards and punishments. Social isolation is promoted. Contact with family and friends is abridged, as is contact with persons who do not share group-approved attitudes. Economic and other dependence on the group is fostered.

TACTIC 3

Prohibit disconfirming information and non supporting opinions in group communication. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss with outsiders. Communication is highly controlled. An “in-group” language is usually constructed.

TACTIC 4

Make the person re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject’s basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control and defense mechanisms. The subject is guided to reinterpret his or her life’s history and adopt a new version of causality.

TACTIC 5

Create a sense of powerlessness by subjecting the person to intense and frequent actions and situations which undermine the person’s confidence in himself and his judgment.

TACTIC 6

Create strong aversive emotional arousals in the subject by use of nonphysical punishments such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques.

TACTIC 7

Intimidate the person with the force of group-sanctioned secular psychological threats. For example, it may be suggested or implied that failure to adopt the approved attitude, belief or consequent behavior will lead to severe punishment or dire consequences such as physical or mental illness, the reappearance of a prior physical illness, drug dependence, economic collapse, social failure, divorce, disintegration, failure to find a mate, etc.

lovebombing

These tactics of psychological force are applied to such a severe degree that the individual’s capacity to make informed or free choices becomes inhibited. The victims become unable to make the normal, wise or balanced decisions which they most likely or normally would have made, had they not been unknowingly manipulated by these coordinated technical processes. The cumulative effect of these processes can be an even more effective form of undue influence than pain, torture, drugs or the use of physical force and physical and legal threats.

How does Coercive Psychological Persuasion Differ from Other Kinds of Influence? Coercive psychological systems are distinguished from benign social learning or peaceful persuasion by the specific conditions under which they are conducted. These conditions include the type and number of coercive psychological tactics used, the severity of environmental and interpersonal manipulation, and the amount of psychological force employed to suppress particular unwanted behaviors and to train desired behaviors.

Coercive force is traditionally visualized in physical terms. In this form it is easily definable, clear-cut and unambiguous. Coercive psychological force unfortunately has not been so easy to see and define. The law has been ahead of the physical sciences in that it has allowed that coercion need not involve physical force. It has recognized that an individual can be threatened and coerced psychologically by what he or she perceives to be dangerous, not necessarily by that which is dangerous.

Law has recognized that even the threatened action need not be physical. Threats of economic loss, social ostracism and ridicule, among other things, are all recognized by law, in varying contexts, as coercive psychological forces.

Why are Coercive Psychological Systems Harmful? Coercive psychological systems violate our most fundamental concepts of basic human rights. They violate rights of individuals that are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and affirmed by many declarations of principle worldwide.

By confusing, intimidating and silencing their victims, those who profit from these systems evade exposure and prosecution for actions recognized as harmful and which are illegal in most countries such as: fraud, false imprisonment, undue influence, involuntary servitude, intentional infliction of emotional distress, outrageous conduct and other tortuous acts.

fate_of_puppets

http://www.psychologicalharassment.org/coercive-mind-control-tactics

One Way to Manipulate Someone’s Beliefs (Joseph Giovannoli, 2000)

NOTE: This article is taken from The Biology of Belief: How Our Biology Biases Our Beliefs and Perceptions,  pp. 47-51.

Biology of belief

One of the problems with the way our brains function has to do with the ease with which others can influence it. I am not referring to someone convincing us of something using reason; quite the contrary. This problem exists because the way our brains function makes it possible for us to be influenced by circumventing our ability to reason. In its simplest form we can be persuaded to accept someone’s suggestion about what is true. In its most severe form we can be brainwashed. In essence, the different ways in which our left and brain hemispheres deal with context, the nature of our different brain activity states, the ways in which our brains can be caused to malfunction, and other factors have made it possible for people to develop methods to manipulate what we believe without our realizing that it is happening. The degree to which this is possible varies from person to person, but, that fact notwithstanding, our control over our beliefs is not as secure as you might think. Most of us have seen demonstrations of hypnosis. Understanding what it is and how it works is essential to understanding neurolinguistic programming, persuasion techniques, and brainwashing.

hypnosis-forms

The Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) found that dogs can be retrained easily after they have been stressed, physically exhausted, or deprived of sleep. One theory suggests that shared stressful activity has been a unifying force for our ancestors. For example, group activities like rhythmic chanting and clapping, drumming and music making, dancing, and rituals, such as those used in Voodoo ceremonies, when practiced to the point of exhaustion may have established common group beliefs using Pavlov’s conversion process.1

Although it is likely that we humans have experienced hypnotic trances throughout our history, it is relatively recently that hypnotic trances have been used by medical professionals for treating mental conditions, controlling pain and nausea, relaxing anxious patients, relieving post-surgical depression, and counteracting some sexual dysfunctions. Hypnotizeability is thought to peak between the ages of 10 and 12 years. People who achieve high scores on hypnotic susceptibility tests, such as the Stamford Scales of Hypnotic Susceptibility [ http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/PDFfiles/Hypnotizability/SHSSC%20Script.pdf ], tend to have a history of imaginative involvement. Hypnotic trances begin with an “induction” and are “deepened” to increase the likelihood that hypnotic “suggestions” will be acted upon. Induction can involve relaxation, monotonous stimulation, involvement in fantasy, activation of unconscious motives, and initiation of aggressive behavior. Once a trance is induced, a rhythm at the approximate rate of the human heart-beat will increase its depth. Thereafter, suggestions can be “planted” with a command from an authority figure.2

brainmachine002_schem1

What is happening in the brain to make hypnosis possible? Sensors sensitive to weak electric fields, when placed on the scalp, register overall activity resulting from neuronal activity in the brain. Charts of brain electrical activity are shown in Appendix C. As neuronal activity changes with our mental state, electrodes on the scalp surface can detect electromagnetic wave patterns of different frequencies. The patterns range from ½ to well over 13 cycles per second (Hertz or Hz), and have been grouped and labeled with Greek letters. Brains oscillating at frequencies of 3 Hz and lower are in a delta state, at 4 to 7 Hz are in theta, at 8 to 12 Hz are in alpha, at 13 to 19 Hz are in beta, and at 20 to 100 Hz are in gamma. When we are in the waking state we usually have a high degree of beta activity. Passing from being awake to being asleep involves passing through a series of brain states. Although the states overlap and involve some complexities, the process begins with alpha immediately preceding sleep and ends with delta in the deepest sleep state. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, associated with dreaming, demonstrates a wave pattern similar to the post-alpha or beginning sleep state.3 Gamma wave activity at about 40 Hz has been associated with perception and learning arising from synchronized activity of clusters of neurons. Experiments suggest that the electrical peaks of large numbers of neurons may synchronize to unify recorded neural information into a coherent perception and recollection. According to Wolf Singer of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, gamma activity “could well be the mechanism that binds neurons into functionally coherent assemblies.”4

Brain States 1

Of the various brain states, one in particular is significant regarding our beliefs. A trance is an altered state of consciousness, like sleepwalking, which involves the alpha state. Typical signs of being in an alpha trance are body relaxation, dilated pupils, and a high degree of suggestibility. A relaxed feeling results from an alpha-related release of opiate-like molecules such as enkephalins and beta-endorphins, introducing an addictive element to the alpha trance. We are much more likely to accept suggestions from an authority figure while we are in a deep alpha trance than in a fully conscious beta state. To varying degrees, when in this condition, our beliefs can be altered through commands or suggestions given by the person controlling the trance. And experiences during a deep trance might not be remembered unless you are instructed to remember.

presentation-on-endorphin-hormone-6-638

How is an eyes-open alpha trance induced? Recall that hypnotizeability varies from person to person, but a substantial part of the population is susceptible to an eyes-open alpha trance. Electrical measurements have shown that during a trance state the right brain hemisphere is much more active than the left brain hemisphere. In a simplified view the right hemisphere deals with emotions and imagination, and functions without the capacity to relate present experiences to the past or the future. This is quite unlike the left hemisphere, which is analytical and rational, and constantly strives to find meaning in experiences and to place them into an overall context. The left hemisphere, in attempting to ascribe meaning to events, often incorrectly links cause and effect, thereby creating a false memory of events and their meanings.5

ideal brain waves for hypnosis

Imperfect as it is, given the left hemisphere’s context evaluation of information, it is better able to detect charlatans and thereby protect the context-deficient, gullible right hemisphere. That electrical activity in the left hemisphere is low during alpha trances while the right hemisphere is active suggests that during alpha trances our connection with reality and the source of our skepticism is diminished and that we are much more likely to believe what we are told.

Regular meditation for at least an hour every day, for at least a few weeks, is very likely to cause a prolonged state of alpha with little strong beta. Excessive and continual meditation is part of some spiritual rituals, and the resultant stifling of virtually all left hemisphere rational thought and the resulting feeling of detachment from reality is perceived by some as disinterested wisdom and freedom from desire—or a higher state of consciousness. It appears to fit the description of Buddhist Nirvana. [Note: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the monastics are required to do at least 1/2 hour of Prayer of the Heart daily. Monastics who do their prayer rule before bed, have their entire vigil (3+ hours) to do the meditative breathing exercises of Prayer of the Heart. As well, many monastics do rhythmic breathing while mentally reciting the prayer during the long church services. The excessive daily meditative breathing exercises, combined with long hours of labor and minimal hours of sleep broken up into two portions makes the average monastic a perfect candidate to be induced into an eyes-open alpha trance].

Meditation and self-hypnosis are voluntary activities. However, when alpha trances are induced involuntarily and a manipulator alters our beliefs, we call it brainwashing. Then again, if we agree with the manipulator, we may call it conversion, motivation inducement, or being born again. In other words, even though the induced alpha state subject is aware that his or her beliefs are being manipulated, others may agree that it is a good thing—if they believe in the purpose. Ordinary citizens are converted into single-minded military units by experiencing boot camp training. Criminals are rehabilitated when they experience religious “rebirth.” People are “healed” at revival meetings. Human-potential organizations use this kind of belief manipulation to help some to deal with their counterproductive and self-destructive beliefs. [Note: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, “conversion” is “voluntary” as the monastics struggle to renounce their own way of thinking in order to acquire the Elder’s way of thinking. As Geronda Ephraim teaches: One should say, “Whatever the elder believes, thinks, and decides, I also believe, think, and decide in exactly the same way”. monastics struggle, insult and reproach themselves, beat themselves with wooden sticks, and do various forms of mental and physical exercises to “acquire the fronima of Geronda.”]

NOTES

  1. Bower, Bruce, “Bridging the Brain Gap,” in Science News, November 2, 1996, Vol. 150, No. 18, p. 280.
  2. Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1994, Vol. 2, pp. 197-9.
  3. Encyclopedia of Psychology, 1994, Vol. 1, pp. 183-4.
  4. “Neural ties that bind perception,” in Science News, February 20, 1999, Vol. 155, p. 122. More in Bower, Bruce, “Brain cells work together to pay attention,” in Science News, march 11, 2000, Vol. 157, p. 167.
  5. Gazzinga, Michael S., “The Split Brain Revisited,” in Scientific American, July, 1998, pp. 51-5.

To understand how belief manipulation and alpha-trance states work in zealotry and fundamentalism, as well as one of the more thorough descriptions that can be applied to the mechanisms of life in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, see:

manipulation puppet on a string marionette manipulated by bossy

A key concept in the above writing, as it pertains to monastic life in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, is:

A brainwasher’s objective is to change what you believe to what he or she wants you to believe. It can be accomplished in four steps—alertness reduction, confusion, thought stopping, and maintenance.

Alertness reduction: With the exception of Arizona–Geronda Paisios does not like his monks to eat sugar because it upsets normal brain chemistry–most of the Geronda Ephraim’s monastics eat desserts on a daily basis, sometimes in excessive amounts. This is allowed out of “economia.” The diets fluctuate from high carbs and high proteins depending on time period. A typical day of desserts for a monastic can be: Breakfast has a Nutella type snack. At 10 am, a monk brings honey buns to everyone. Lunch has a piece of baklava. At 2:30 pm, a monk brings around Oreo cookies. Dinner may or may not have a snack. After Apodeipno, the monastics gather for a large piece of cheesecake, or a bowl of 3 scoops of ice cream, etc. Many dairy desserts have been converted into fasting recipes with the help of Coffemate and other non-dairy products.

Fatigue associated with strenuous activity and sleep deprivation can impair your ability to reason as well: If a monastic is able to fall asleep on time, he/she can average 6 1/2 – 7 hours+ of sleep a day, which is broken up into two portions. This broken sleep, and lack of normal sleep, affects the circadian rhythm. Combine this with long work hours and strenuous labor, and it produces a monastic in a constant state of fatigue.

After your alertness has been reduced, programmed confusion can be achieved by overloading you with information, questions, guilt, self-doubt, or humiliation, perhaps in combination. Monastics are constantly bombarded with information: readings at lunch and dinner, requirements of spiritual reading, frequent homilies by the superior. This is also combined with frequent “tests” of insults and being humiliated. When in trouble, with rapid fire questions, accusations, and insults, etc.

Thought stopping involves placing you in a trance-like alpha state. It is achieved in stages. Focusing on a simple mental task such as meditation, chanting, or rhythmic marching or dancing at first calms you; if that focusing is prolonged, you will hallucinate. You will focus solely on your brainwasher’s agenda and will ignore everything else. And it will all be done within the context of the movement, cause, organization, or whatever wants to control your thinking. When you are under your brainwasher’s control, you will be taught the cult’s beliefs while any of your unacceptable pre-existing beliefs will be “washed” away. This, in essence, explains life in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries to a tee. “Besides the prayer, the only two phrases a monk should speak are ‘Na einai evlogemeno’ and ‘Evlogeson.’ Nothing else,'” as Geronda Ephraim teaches. All thoughts, feelings, emotions, ego, self-identity, etc., are eradicated through ceaseless recitation of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” and blind obedience. Anything other than Geronda Ephraim’s “fronima” (or mindset) is either demonic or worldly and has no place in the mind or heart of his monastics.

Control will be maintained through reinforcement at regular meetings or by your living with other converts, and you may be kept away from your family and others who are likely to interfere with the brainwasher’s agenda. Maintenance is intended to reinforce your new beliefs and to create a sense of belonging. These are the regular homilies, readings during meals, etc., as well as living in the monastery, constantly monitored and under the watchful eye of the Elder.

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The Group Psychological Abuse Scale

The Group Psychological Abuse (GPA) scale was developed from a factor analysis of 308 former cult members’ characterizations of their groups. Four subscales were derived: Compliance, Exploitation, Mind Control, and Anxious Dependency. Reliability and validity findings suggest the GPA should be useful in characterizing the varieties of abuse and in differentiating cults from innocuous groups.

GPA Scale and Geronda Ephraim’s Monasteries

This inventory is designed to evaluate certain aspects of religious, psycho-therapeutic, political, commercial, and other groups. Please rate, as best you can, the degree to which the following statements characterize the group under consideration. Rate each item according to your experience and observations (in retrospect) of how the group actually functioned. If your group had different levels of membership (within which the group’s dominant features differed), please apply the ratings to the level with which you have greatest familiarity. Circle the best answer, using the following ratings:

 1 = not at all characteristic

        2 = not characteristic

        3 = can’t say/not sure

        4 = characteristic

        5 = very characteristic

The correct numbers are in bold on the scale.

 1.[R] The group does not tell members how to conduct their sex lives.

  1        2        3        4        5

Not at all characteristic. The group, via the ecclesiastical canons of the Orthodox Church, dictate how members should conduct their sex lives. Only carnal unions between heterosexual couples who have been married in a canonical Orthodox Church are permitted. Carnal unions are not allowed on fast days or before Holy Communion. Carnal unions are limited to basic heterosexual intercourse; masturbation, oral sex, homosexual/lesbian sex, sex during menstruation cycles, pre-marital sex, etc. are forbidden and punishable by penance of no Communion for long periods of time. For the monastics, penances of no Communion are extended to accepting carnal fantasies (i.e. the stage after dialogue before the actual act). As well, spiritual children have to ask blessings for who they can or cannot date. Usually, the spiritual Father will want to meet this person first, but in some cases, after looking at a photograph, a spiritual child has been forbidden to date the individual.

2. Women are directed to use their bodies for the purpose of recruiting or of manipulation.

                1        2        3        4        5

Not at all characteristic. Sexual promiscuity is discouraged. Women at the monasteries have to be well-covered from head to toe. The men also are forbidden to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts, etc. Monastics live a celibate life and couples are expected to try and live like brother and sister after they stop having children so they can develop into more spiritual people (i.e. less carnal and worldly).

3. The group advocates or implies that breaking the law is okay if it serves the interests of the group.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Though this would be more characteristic of white-collar crime and simple frauds, forgeries, etc., not so much in violence or burglaries. In some cases, individuals with warrants out for their arrest in Canada were kept hidden at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. A common justification for breaking the law if it’ll help an individual is from the life of St. Dionysios who hid his brother’s murderer from an angry mob, which in turn brought him to repentance and a Christian lifestyle. A common justification for the white collar crimes is that the laws in America are the laws of men and not God’s laws, thus irrelevant. Geronda Ephraim is a saint. the monasteries are God’s work, so it’s blessed to bend rules to further the advancement of his work.

4. Members are expected to postpone or give up their personal, vocational, and educational goals in order to work for the group.

                1        2        3        4        5

Characteristic. This really depends on the individual. When one joins a monastery, they give up, or rather renounce, everything of their former life (all debts are paid so as not to have anything tying them to the world, bank accounts are closed, jobs are quit, and any other plans are cancelled). Before joining a monastery, some monastics have been told to get their degree first and then come to the monastery. Others, have been told it’s not necessary. One former monastic who originally wanted to get a degree first was told, “You can choose the university of the world or the university of the desert, but you have to make your decision now. If you choose the world, you can’t become a monk.” Again, each case is different. The one common factor is that though the individual has “free will” and can choose to listen to or ignore the advice of the spiritual Father, the advice is in essence an obedience, the individual has usually cultivated the mindset that this advice is God’s will for him/her and not heeding (i.e. disobeying) this advice can lead to drastic consequences for the individual.

5.[R] The group encourages ill members to get medical assistance.

1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Medical issues are taken seriously in the monasteries. A sick monastic tends to burden the monastery: it’s one less body available to work, and in some cases, it takes other monastics away from potential important work that needs to be done, if they’re tending to a sick monastic. Of course, if one is sick but lacks a fever, they can still work. If one is injured, then less labor intensive work is found for the individual. Overall, there really is no excuse for a monastic not to work. There is always some form of work that has to be done in the monastery. Unless a monastic is in excruciating pain or bed-ridden with valley fever or something of the sort, then they’re capable of work. And this is why medical issues are taken seriously, so things do not progress to the point where a monastic becomes an useless burden to the monastery.

6. Gaining political power is a major goal of the group.

                1        2        3        4        5

Can’t say/Not sure. Although gaining political power does not seem to be a goal of the monasteries–not to mention antithetical and anti-canonical for monastics–some of Geronda Ephraim’s spiritual children are getting involved in low-level politics across the country. As well, Geronda Ephraim as spiritual children in all levels of government, finance, law enforcement, etc. Interestingly, after Fr. Silouanos left St. Anthony’s Monastery (after 20+ years of being a monk) he immediately became a Loan Administrator at Flushing Savings Bank. After 3 years, he moved on to the I.R.S., where he has been a Tax Examining Technician for the last 5 years. In short, for the last 10 years, this man has had access to large amounts of sensitive personal information that could be very useful for the monasteries.

 7. Members believe that to leave the group would be death or eternal damnation for themselves or their families.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Once a monastic is tonsured into the Rassaphore degree, they are taught that it is now for life. A Rassaphore is taught that if they leave the monastery, they will lose their soul. It will no longer be possible to find salvation. Interestingly, though this is the theological precepts for a Great Schema Monk/Nun–as they make vocal vows to God during the Liturgy before the Angels–there are no real concrete canons and teachings for the Rassaphore degree who, in essence, are still considered novices by the Church Fathers. The Rassaphore rank is a later innovation that wasn’t originally recognized or accepted by the early Church Fathers. Thus, many rassaphore monastics are misled, being given the burden of the Great Schema, without actually having put on the Great Schema.

 8. The group discourages members from displaying negative emotions.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. There are very high penances for monastics who display negative emotions (yelling, anger, back talk, jealousy, etc.), especially if this is done in front of lay people. The image of angelic perfection to lay people is expected. Amongst the monastics, there is expected to be love, respect, courteousness, tact, etc. The only monastics exempt from this are the superiors (and sometimes designated monastics who have a blessing to yell at and humble younger monastics “for their spiritual benefit”). Though, in some monasteries, there are monastics who refuse to talk to or look at one another, not to mention monastics who “play Geronda” and bully and humble the other monastics.

 9. Members feel they are part of a special elite.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Geronda Ephraim teaches the monastics (via personal homilies, recorded homilies, and fax letters) that “we are the monks of the last days”. The monastics feel that they are part of a special elite as they believe that Geronda Ephraim is the holiest saint in the history of the Orthodox Church and now God has counted them worthy to be one of his monastics. Also, in his homilies,  Geronda Ephraim has related a vision in which it was revealed that those who stay under his obedience until the end (i.e. do not throw away their rassa and abandon the monastic life) will be saved.

10. The group teaches that persons who are critical of the group are in the power of evil, satanic forces.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. As the monasteries are taught to be God’s will and work, those who oppose them are considered under the influence of demonic energy. In 1998, Geronda Ephraim gave a brief homily to the monks about the new monasteries being built that year. He related a story about Gerondissa Markella traveling on an airplane. She and another nun encountered a Greek man who started questioning them about where Geronda Ephraim got all his money and he suggested criminality or demonic means. Gerondissa Markella reacted strongly, defending her Elder’s honor, and told the man he had to go to Geronda Ephraim, repent and ask his forgiveness. The old adage is true for the monasteries, “Those who are not with us are against us!”

11. The group uses coercive persuasion and mind control.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. This is such an integrated part of the monastic life. The levels and layers of manipulation run very deep as they have had a couple thousand years to perfect them. The teachings are expounded around the clock via readings during meals, personal readings (only monastic literature allowed), and services. Technically, the stance of a superior will be, “You’re not a prisoner, no one can force you to do something you don’t want” giving the illusion of free will, however, monastic teaching is every form of self-will is demonic, every protest has a danger of demon possession, disobedience is the death of the soul and leads to eternal damnation. Life within the monasteries is based on fear, guilt-tripping, psychological manipulation, ego-smashing, and bullying. Essentially, it is a struggle of wills and the monastic’s ego. The Elder has to orchestrate a radical form of therapy to humble the monastic and smash their ego. In modern terms, the Elder has to break the individual–this can result in a complete mental breakdown or a series of mini-breaks until the monastic has no more resistance and is totally pliable. The result is the Elder can now take this broken individual and rebuild–or rather remold–him/her into a “new man in Christ.”

12. The group approves of violence against outsiders (e.g., ?satanic communists,? etc.).

                1        2        3        4        5

Not characteristic. In essence, Orthodox monasticism is non-violent. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, it is taught that on Mount Athos, the only time a monastic can resort to violence is if someone insults his Geronda (thus one can blaspheme Christ or the Panagia and not be physically harmed, but not an individual’s Geronda). However, the Elders can orchestrate a group shunning of individuals if they step out of line. Though an Elder may not instruct violence to an outsider, his sadness at an event can initiate his spiritual children to take matters into their own hand. Such as when Geronda Ephraim was banned from Canada temporarily, and his spiritual children started making threatening phone calls, etc., to Bishop Sotirios.

13. Members are expected to live with other members.

                1        2        3        4        5

Can’t Say/Not sure. In the monasteries, that is a given. For lay people, it is encouraged for Orthodox to stick with Orthodox, even room mates, but it’s not always a mandate.

14. Members must abide by the group’s guidelines regarding dating and intimate relationships.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. The father Confessors at the monastery follow the Rudder and mainly the Canons of St. John the Faster which are very strict on dating, marriage and carnal unions within marriage. Deviation from these rules results in penances which for carnal sins is usually no Communion for a period of time (even up to 10+ years). For dating, it’s encouraged to get a blessing first. If a spiritual Father forbids the dating, one is expected to obey so that no negative consequences result.

15. People who stay in the group do so because they are deceived and manipulated.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Fear and guilt-tripping are utilized when one wants to defect. Geronda Ephraim is promoted as the holiest man alive, the safest guide to get to Paradise, and really the only option in America if one wants to find salvation. When monastics want to leave they are mainly told that there is no hope for them outside the monastery. They could possibly be saved but it’s almost impossible that they will be saved, etc. Some monastics have been given extreme dispensations (or condescension) in order to make them stay–though this is essentially letting the monastics do their own will which is also detrimental to their soul.

16. The group teaches special exercises (e.g., meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues) to push doubts or negative thoughts out of consciousness.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. A monastic is expected to yell the Jesus Prayer or recite it mentally ceaselessly, 24/7, until he/she acquires prayer of the heart. Daily in their nightly vigil, a monastic does prayer of the heart, which is a breathing exercise to help concentrate the nous and lower it into the heart. This could be anywhere from 1/2 hour to the entire 3+ hour vigil (if the monastic does their prayer rule before bed). All thoughts, images, fantasies, negative emotions, etc., are to be pushed with the Jesus Prayer and the cane.

17. Medical attention is discouraged, even though there may be a medical problem.

                1        2        3        4        5

Not characteristic. If medical attention is needed, it is usually taken care of. The monasteries also have pilgrims who are doctors and if they’re close spiritual children of the individual monastery, they usually are asked to do what they can, to save a trip to the outside world. It’s better for the monastics to be as healthy as possible so they can work and be useful.

18. Members are expected to serve the group’s leaders.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. That is the concept of blind obedience and submission. Most monastic superiors have a cell attendant who clean their cell, do their laundry, bring them coffee/drinks/snacks when beckoned, etc. These attendants are expected to drop everything they are doing when summoned and carry out the expected task. Actually, all monastics have this expectation. The superior is seen as an icon of Christ and whatever they do or don’t do to the elder is the same as doing it to Jesus Christ Himself. In turn, younger monastics are expected to have complete obedience to the older monastics (except in cases where older monastics are problematic or self-willed and the other monastics have been instructed not to pay attention to them).

19. Raising money is a major goal of the group.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Everything functions on donations so it is a very high priority. Thus all the dinners, feast day celebrations, arts and crafts, bake sales, etc. The monasteries have monthly bills (mortgages, hydro, phone bills, clothing, food, etc.). Multiply individual needs by 3-40 and it starts to get pricy.

20. The group does not hesitate to threaten outside critics.

                1        2        3        4        5

Not sure/Can’t say. Outside critics are usually dismissed, ignored, or ridiculed. Usually, something they said that was erroneous is capitalized on and becomes the buzzword of mockery. If the critic is a former monastic, they are discredited as deluded with mental issues (or even possessed). Though, in some cases outside critics of the monasteries have been threatened, there is no evidence to suggest that the Superior of the monastery instructed for this to happen.

21.[R] Members are expected to make decisions without consulting the group’s leader(s).

                1        2        3        4        5

Not at all characteristic. Monastics almost always have to get a blessing from their superior before doing something. Though in some cases, the Superior may give a general blessing for certain things, or an individual monastic may be told they do not have to ask in the future. However, in general, everything needs the approval of the superior.

22.[R] Members are just as capable of independent critical thinking as they were before they joined the group.

1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Critical thinking is regarded as an act that can drive a monastic out of the monastery. Faith opposes Reason. Geronda Ephraim teaches that the disciple should acquire the mindset of their Elder and think, feel, believe exactly as they do; even if it is wrong or they do not agree. Opposing or questioning the elder can result in the Elder publicly shaming the monastic, humbling them in front of the other monastics, or giving the other monastics an obedience to ignore and act as if this individual does not exist (until they toe the line, repent and ask forgiveness for their egotism and pride).

23. The group believes or implies its leader is divine.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Geronda Ephraim is taught to be the holiest man alive on earth right now, and the holiest and greatest saint in the history of the orthodox church. “He’s the closest thing to Jesus Christ Himself.” He’s taught to be clairvoyant, can read hearts, can bi-locate to other places (physically and noetically), he can levitate, he is constantly rapt in divine vision, he’s seen God, etc.

24. Mind control is used without conscious consent of members.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Though there is a control that has been given conscious consent, i.e. via submission to the elder and setting out to do blind obedience, no novice really knows what they’re getting into. Geronda Ephraim characteristically tells his older monastics, “It’s not until 15 years or so, before a monk starts to get an idea, a taste of what he’s really gotten himself into.” There are so many layers of manipulation, which are not considered manipulation by the Elder, employed to make a monastic submit and toe the line.

25.[R] Members feel little psychological pressure from leaders.

                1        2        3        4        5

Not at all characteristic. The biggest fear of the monastic, which is daily reinforced via homilies and readings, is not to sadden the Elder, thus cutting themselves off from God. There is immense psychological pressure from the leaders, especially when a monastic starts straying via self-will and idiorythmia.

26.[R] The group’s leader(s) rarely criticize members.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. The leaders continually criticize members for their spiritual benefit. This is how they acquire the virtue of humility–by being humbled–and also it acts as a mirror so they can see their true inner state and what passions they have to work on. A member can hear things such as, “You’re useless,” “You have no brain,” etc. This could be in private, though many times it’s in the presence of other or all the monastics to have a sharper prick and be more effectual.

27. Recruiting members is a major goal of the group.

                1        2        3        4        5

Not sure/Can’t say. “In the beginning it was about quantity, now it is about quality,” an abbot once said. In the beginning, it was better to have lots of black to make a more serious statement, and to show that the monasteries were wanted, needed and served a purpose. Now that a large majority of those early monastics have returned to the world, the reins have been tightened somewhat. “Geronda Ephraim is not too eager now to make monks quickly.”

28. Members are expected to consult with leaders about most decisions, including those concerning work, child rearing, whether or not to visit relatives, etc.

                1        2        3        4        5

Very characteristic. Monastics don’t have children. they do have to consult with the leaders before talking to, writing, or visiting relatives. Incoming mail is read by the Elder, though if they don”t have time, they may get a trusted monk to read and relay the most important points afterwards (this happens with almost all mail from lay people unless they are close spiritual children). Outgoing mail is sometimes intercepted and opened. In some cases, both incoming and outgoing mail will be disposed of without reaching their destination “for the benefit of the monastic.” Phone calls are monitored either by the elder or a trusted monastic, either directly on another phone listening in, or standing beside the individual. Also, a monastic must obtain a blessing before making out going calls). Visitations are not always encouraged, especially if the relatives are problematic. Many times, the monastic only has a blessing to visit in the trapeza or an enclosed area where there are other monastics who can monitor the conversations and report back to the elder. This is also done to “strengthen” the monastic who will gain courage by being in the presence of other monastics (or intimidate them into not saying anything that will get them into trouble later).

Note: [R] items are reversed in scoring by finding the absolute difference between the rating and the number 6. Do not include the [R] designations when administering the test.

At this time the GPA Scale should be used only as a research instrument. We request that researchers wishing to use the GPA Scale contact Dr. Langone (AFF, P.O. Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 33959).

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For more information, see:

978-613-6-26402-8-full

Cycle_of_Abuse

Cults in America (Fr. George C. Papademetriou)

NOTE: This article is found on the official Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s webpage: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7075

Fr. George C. Papademetriou
Fr. George C. Papademetriou

Preface by Jack N. Sparks

In and around the fringes of Christendom today, there is a bewildering array of heretical cults attempting to seduce people away from the Orthodox faith.

Most vulnerable of all to these allures are young people. Why is that? Because, for good or ill, the older we get, the more set we become in our ways and in our thoughts. The target group, then, both for the Church and for the cults, is youth; the issue, at once both simple and complex, is worship of the true God.

The growing numbers of religious cults which surround us utilize a variety of means to draw people into their devious systems, their “doctrines of demons.” Fr. Papademetriou has shown that their methods of attraction center upon certain areas of human weakness. They dwell among peoples’ emotions and insecurities, particularly upon the spiritually sensitive person’s gnawing doubt that he is truly serving God with his whole heart. Then, dwelling upon religious emphasis, they utilize highly-touted accounts of deep religious experience to draw in the net.

My own experience in encountering people in these cults has demonstrated that they are most successful in capturing a specific group of people. It is those whom the Church has made aware of their need for God without teaching them and drawing them into the practice of truly Orthodox worship and spirituality.

The effective protection of our youth revolves around that very issue of their worship of the true god. From infancy we must ingrain theological truth, the concept of the Holy Trinity and the incarnate Lord, in their hearts. The ancient, the eternal worship and spirituality brings both protection from errant cults and sure salvation.

Fr. Papademetriou says, “Parents often make the mistake of not giving the proper instruction to their children and not strongly imparting to them the experience of our Christian Orthodox faith.” Sunday School and occasional participation in the Divine Liturgy are not enough. We must teach our children the stories of the heroes and heroines of the Church: the men and women whose spirituality has shone brightly in the darkness; the holy martyrs whose desire to be forever with the Lord made all earthly joys dry and tasteless; the venerable bishops whose commitment to the true faith preserved Orthodox theology whole and entire. The holy story which is the life of the Orthodox Church must be made ours and our children’s, so that some new story, some novel doctrine and way of life may have no appeal.

These are crucial days for the Church, and her youth are her future. Let us pay careful heed to the wise words of this experienced, dedicated priest and educator.

On this day of the commemoration of the beheading of the forerunner John the Baptist.  – Jack N. Sparks

http://www.contendingforthefaith.org/libel-litigations/mindbenders/index.html
http://www.contendingforthefaith.org/libel-litigations/mindbenders/index.html

Fr. George’s article is 20 pages long. Fr. George gives brief descriptions of the Moonies, David Berg’s Children of God, Hare Krishna, Scientology, the Divine Light Mission, Drugs, etc., and gives a Orthodox theological explanation refuting them. However, it does not reference any of the Eastern Orthodox cults (primarily in the Russian, Greek, and Romanian Orthodox Churches that have sprouted over the past century). Interestingly, many of Fr. George’s observations of cults are similar to the experiences reported by ex-members of monasteries here in America (i.e. Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston, and the ROCOR/Order of M.A.N.S. monasteries/parishes).

Below are some key points of his article, and a link to the entire article in pdf. format:

“A cult is a religious perversion. It is a belief and practice in the world of religion which calls for devotion to a religious view or leader centered in false doctrine. It is an organized heresy.”

Several of these cults offer “special welfare” services to promote good will and enable them to further their propaganda…Through these philanthropic activities they appear to be harmless to people in order to promote their religious propaganda.

The success of the present plethora of cults is due to the attention given to them by the media. The tenets are formulated by a ‘founder-prophet’ on whom the members greatly depend. The cults “demand obedience rather than belief or understanding.” The strong belief of the members in the supernatural character of their leader transforms the leader into an object of worship. There is, “the reverence and worship that the disciples have invested in their leader”[8] that changes the perception of reality.

In the turmoil of social upheaval, many cults have emerged to fill the vacuum.

The advancement of technology and our expanded knowledge of the universe leaves man ignorant of himself. All these events and transformations make modern man vulnerable to the cults.

The price one pays to be in the cult is to become a slave to Moon, who manipulates the person for his own personal gain and power. The ultimate goal of this cult is the ‘unification’ of all humanity under the control of Moon. To attain this purpose many means are used, including deceptive methods.

The Unification Church teaches that sex by nature is evil. Only Moon selects the mates and blesses the marriages in order to restore ‘sinless children’ to God.

Though there are many similarities between Krishna and Christianity, the fundamental difference remains very deep.

Several mystical religions make use of drugs to attain mystical experiences. It is said that G.K. Chesterton remarked that religious syncretism is “religion gone to pot.” This can literally be said of contemporary cults.

Orthodoxy denies these visions as evil and self-deceptions. In the Christian tradition, the vision of the divine uncreated light is attained through prayer, fasting and spiritual vigilance, that is, by waging war against the devil.

It is evident that the cults are syncretistic in character and doctrine. They are an admixture of oriental religions with some Judaeo-Christian flavor.

The crucial questions are what attracts young people to enter the strange and fanatical life of the cults? Why are young people joining these far-out, extreme religions? There are several reasons. The most obvious are loneliness and boredom. People join the cults “to escape self-dissatisfaction, loneliness, and boredom.” When people run out of strength and personal endurance to accept life’s hardships, they climb the band wagon of the cults to carry them through. When people experience uncertainty and hopelessness, they are the most susceptible to religious cults or occults.

One must realize that those who worship a cult leader have been exposed to some “personal trauma” that has set them back and out of balance emotionally. “They have sublimated their instinctual feelings.”

The frightening thing about the cults is that the victims would not question the actions and life of their leader. “It makes no difference what the facts are. The need to believe is so great for the cultist that he will ignore what tends to discredit the founder prophet.

How are these young people attracted to the cults and how are they recruited? The recruiters are told to watch for those who are lonely.

Young people do not decide to become members of the particular cult; they become involved in them. They are showered with love and affection; they share dinner, followed with music, a lecture, and the painting of a beautiful world in an atmosphere of peace. At the end of the evening they are invited to a weekend workshop and to spend time with the new friends.

The new recruit at the weekend retreat receives so much attention that there is no time to think about what is happening to him or her. The young person is kept busy with lectures, calisthenics, they participate in sharing at confessional sessions, and a lot of singing.

These recruits are young in their early twenties and for the most part are college educated.

It is not so much religiosity that the young cultists are seeking, as it is a better and more fulfilling way to live their lives. Cult leaders know this well and take advantage of the young people.

it is not so much religiosity that the young cultists are seeking, as it is a better and more fulfilling way to live their lives. Cult leaders know this well”[69] and take advantage of the young people.

The recruiters and those soliciting money to further the cause of the cult use every means including deception to attain their goal. They call it, ‘heavenly deception.’

It is evident from what we are told by those who have fallen prey to the cults that “religious cults do exploit youth and ought to be held accountable for the techniques they use to convert and control their members.”

Characteristically, cult recruiters are trained to flatter, to give false confidence to those without confidence

The potential recruit is administered a heavy dose of love, peer approval, and “contact high” atmosphere.

Visitors to the cult centers will observe that people receive no more than five hours of sleep which is much less than they were used to. The diet is “high-carbohydrate, low protein” and frequently vegetarian. This unfamiliar habit of sleep, and diet “contributes to a sense of distance or removal of ordinary life.” The familiar musical tunes are used and the lyrics are changed to hypnotize the victim. The constant condemnation of the world as satanic and the guilt of the sinfulness of the world makes it easier to convince young people of the safe surroundings. The dancing, chanting, incense, etc. alter the state of consciousness, and suggestibility of the mind is increased.

Dr. Virginia Jolly, a psychiatrist, states that “dancing, chanting, praying, singing and meditating can alter the state of consciousness just as surely as hypnosis or drugs. When the cults get a recruit to chant or meditate, or do any other thing that changes his state of mind, they can then easily implant new ideas, new realities, and begin to control thought process.”