25 Years in an Eastern Orthodox Cult Part 4: Pulling Away (Elizabeth Ann)

NOTE: This is a woman’s account of growing up in the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s, factions of this sect have been joining the canonical Orthodox Church under the Serbian Patriarchate, the OCA, and the Bulgarian Diocese.

A lot of time will be compressed here into a few paragraphs, mainly to accentuate the continued decline of family life because of the influences of this cult.

My family returned to New Mexico, and to Br. B. (now a priest.) I had a “breather” for a while, just under a year, actually; I used my savings to attend a local community college which was full of happy memories for me. Again, I maintained “crimson scholar” status, and I earned a scholarship and the first of my internships. There was much to look forward to.

My parents immediately became “established” as a “mission church” in Las Cruces, because there were no Russian Orthodox churches there, and they were still under the jurisdiction of Br. B. My little brother, now more fanatical than ever, built a kind of “chapel” in the GARAGE, which was a 2-car garage–he built it on one side. He made a flimsy wall, a thin iconostasis/curtain, and added a red rug remnant on the concrete. He kept priest’s robes, incense, and other items necessary for a full liturgy, for any traveling priest. Many, many strange priests and clergy came to stay at our house, and they even performed services in the tiny half of the garage.

Incense

My parents and brother would go there to pray at designated times, and during the weekends. The choking smell of too much incense would mix with the odors of gasoline, exhaust, and cleaning chemicals, making it an uncomfortable experience.

My precious little nephew, who was then about 2 or 3, began to be dropped off at our house in the afternoons so that his folks could work out their job schedules. (They had managed just fine before we came back.) But the main reason for this was #1) to get them to join the cult, and #2) to “expose” my nephew to as much church as possible. He would often be out in the backyard, playing with his toys or blowing bubbles, and my mom or brother, now a “deacon”, would grab his little arms and pull him into the “Chapel” for prayers and chanting.

It was dark and gloomy in that room, which didn’t even have a proper roof–there was a gap between the top of the shabby “wall” and the roof of the garage. The little boy would have to stand there (no sitting allowed) and have prayer books forced into his hands as he learned to read, being told what to chant.

Shortly thereafter, my family began to attend an Orthodox church in El Paso, which was kind of normal, and nicely ethnic. They had singing and celebrations and lunches after church. There my parents met a man who was ten years my senior, and they “picked” him for me, to marry. He was invited to our “chapel” and to “secret services”, which were Russian Abroad, or “old calendar”, held either at our home or at a house on the AFB.

To make a long, sad, story very short: I was convinced by my parents and Br. B. that this man was “my only chance”, and “God’s will”, because he was Orthodox. Besides, my mother told me, “no one would ever want someone like me.” Without getting to know this person well, I was married to him shortly after I turned 20.

Fr. Seraphim Rose
Fr. Seraphim Rose

After less than a year out in the Bay Area, attending over a dozen different Orthodox churches, most of them part of the Fr. Seraphim Rose/Russian Abroad/ St. Herman of Alaska bunch, I became very ill from overwork, fasting, and neglect. I was TERRIFIED of the man I was “married” to; he had lied to me about being a “virgin”, about his “past”, about EVERYTHING. He would sometimes grab my neck in a stranglehold, and laugh, watching me try to escape. I will say no more. He refused to eat, to talk to me, or even to touch me, within less than a month! I didn’t know any better, having been so isolated and starved for affection; and my health failed completely.

On another note, some of the young folks I knew who were part of the “St. Herman of Alaska” church in Sunnyvale, began to look into the idea that it was a CULT. I know I shared this idea with my parents on the phone. http://www.sainthermanmission.org/default.aspx

Saint Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church sign, Sunnyvale, CA
Saint Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church sign, Sunnyvale, CA

One day, completely unexpectedly, my parents and brother showed up at my doorstep, saying they had each had a “dream” in which “God had told them to come and get me.” I remember little of what went on, but I found out years later that my parents had lied to me. They told their friends I had been “poisoned with arsenic”, and I found out that this was not true.

Some of my clothes were loaded in my dad’s van, and I was taken “home” to see our family doctor, a hematologist–who found out I had a very severe form of mono, with other complications.

Soon, as I lay in a hospital bed, the “marriage” was annuled, legally– but not by the “Church”. I had lost my health, my friends, my home, my savings, and even the clothes off my back. I had given up a scholarship and an exclusive internship with a senator in Washington, D.C., as well, to please my parents and marry. I was completely penniless and very confused. I was 21 years old. My mom forced me to sign legal papers, as I lay in a hospital bed; papers which gave them complete authority over and access to my medical and financial affairs.

I was ill for the next four years, back in the nightmare house which I had survived in my teens. My parents took me to various doctors, two surgeries, and then from natural remedy to natural remedy. I was forced to be “exorcised”, while laying in my bed, by a weird priest who always “saw his guardian angel in a mirror, sometimes dressed in a business suit.” Oh, and he sometimes saw this “angel” reflected in a television set (not turned on.) But he was a Russian Orthodox priest, and these men could do no wrong.

Guardian Angel

During my one year absence, my older brother and his new wife had been forced to be “re-baptized” at Dog Canyon, and had gone through all the other things as well: “re-marriage”, “exorcism”, and “chrismation.” They were given new names and identities, also. They had joined the rest of the family in donating time and energy to the building of the new “seminary” and “Hagia Sophia” church with Br. B., out in Dog Canyon. Their marriage ended. My precious nephew was taken out of that unhealthy atmosphere by his terrific mother, but it was a close call, as my parents looked into KIDNAPPING him for the “sake of his soul”!

And nothing came of the “new buildings” and donations, because everything was abandoned when Br. B. left for Phoenix, to begin another church, now under the “old-calendar Greek” jurisdiction. (Note: many of these cultic clergy, often former leaders in the Holy Order of MANS/Christ the Savior Brotherhood, would switch jurisdictions over and over again. )Almost all his “spiritual children” were left without their “spiritual father” quite suddenly; and in most cases, they just tried to go on with their shattered lives.

During the Gulf War, my little brother was so frightened of becoming 18 and maybe being called upon for military service to his country, that Br. B. had the abandoned building at Dog Canyon made an “official seminary”, with “real monks from Greece to be arriving soon.” (That never happened.) My little brother had a letter written to the proper government officials, stating that he was one of the “seminarians”, and therefore must be excused from any duty to his country. There NEVER WAS A SEMINARY. It was a LIE. I think that is the beginning of the lies which my parents and brothers began to tell regularly, with no conscience. If the church and the “holy fathers” and their “spiritual” guru said something was O.K., then it was O.K., even if it was by normal standards considered illegal or immoral. This cult stripped its followers of normal consciences, as well as any independent, critical, and rational thinking. In fact, my parents never would commit to anything thereafter, without asking a priest whether it was all right. The common phrase was , “We will see.” In Steve Hassan’s book, he observed: “Family members are frequently told by cult members that they ‘will see’ if they can come home for important family events like marriages, deaths, and even birthdays. What this means is that they will ask their leader.” (P. 103, Combatting Mind Control.)

During the next few years, my parents were able to convince my dad’s very best friend to “join” the church and he did so—even though he had given his life to Jesus Christ many years before, at an altar call (I was there!) He was a devout Christian. He remained faithful to this group, even after moving to Santa Fe. He even refused to be called by his old name, for the rest of his life.

Two tragedies struck this man, who was also a decorated American war veteran. First, he married a woman he loved dearly. But my parents were involved. She did NOT convert. Of marriages broken up: this was #3. Several more followed.

St. Juliana of Lazarevo Orthodox Church, Santa Fe, NM
St. Juliana of Lazarevo Orthodox Church, Santa Fe, NM

After several years, he was completely abandoned and shunned by my parents. He was not “good” enough to be part of the “true church.” When he lay dying, without enough money to even pay for his apartment, he asked both my dad and the Russian Church in Santa Fe for help. He was ignored by my dad. He died on the FlOOR of an overcrowded V.A. hospital, lying on a dirty blanket. My parents did not even acknowledge his death. You see, his parents had come from Mexico. This cult is as close to “white supremecist” in its teachings as you can get, and all “non-whites” are looked down upon. Hence, the reason that His Royal Highness Haile Selassie was not regarded as the “last Orthodox Christian emperor”–his church was considered “heretical”, as well as other African Orthodox or Egyptian Coptic or even some Syrian Orthodox churches are.

(I want to tell you something here, something I wish every person on earth would realize, because it is SCIENTIFIC FACT. There are no “colors” among people. Do you know why? We ALL have the same skin pigmentation–a chemical called MELANIN. Some people, some groups of people–families if you will–simply have more of this skin chemical than others, usually those who live in southern climes. What is the big deal?)

When I got back up on my feet, I found relief by going to a local Episcopalian church and singing in the choir. I celebrated Easter with them, apart from my family, because of the calendar issue. Really, there is no calendar in Heaven, as there is no time in Heaven.

But as I tried to pull away–and let me tell you here it took many years before I could even read the Bible again with a clear head–my family became more and more fanatical. They began to isolate themselves from even their old friends. Services went on constantly in the garage. More and more “conspiracies” were studied, which were “anti-Orthodox” or “pro-Western.”

Black Helicopters

At one time, the rage was the “black helicopters.” These were sent to circle houses of “believers” and they had some kind of special equipment whereby they could “listen in” on conversations in the houses below. They also could “put” electronic ideas into people’s heads at the same time. At the time my little brother was attending the local university, he was also studying these things heavily, as well as the “lost books of the Bible.” One morning, he woke up terrifed, and told us all that a black helicopter had told his mind to “get up and kill, kill.” My parents believed him. I was totally freaked out about him.

In the next few years, several more marriages were broken up in our family, mostly because my parents would not accept a non-white and a “non-Christian” (or “Latin.”) Such unhappiness. I began to dream about what life would have been like if they had just stayed German Lutheran, like the rest of my dad’s big family. For there were no family gatherings, no more Christmas trees, no more Thanksgivings or Fourth of July celebrations. The fights and screaming and yelling continued. More and more people were cut out of our lives, and I was not even allowed to invite a friend in to see me.

And when I was able to work a little, I took that money and used it on FOOD; I was not allowed to cook at home, nor make a meal for the family, nor go to a doctor of my choice. I was forced to eat whatever my mom had prepared, with meager portions and no seconds–so late at night I would go out to a wonderful Kentucky Fried Chicken and order a full meal, and that is how I began to gain strength.

I will end this blog in my last post. Till next time.

25 Years in an Eastern Orthodox Cult Part 4: Prisoner (Elizabeth Ann)

NOTE: This is a woman’s account of growing up in the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s, factions of this sect have been joining the canonical Orthodox Church under the Serbian Patriarchate, the OCA, and the Bulgarian Diocese.

Unlock-Mental-Prison

When I was a little girl during the normal, happy times, my parents made life delightful, with nice promises about the future. I remember birthday parties, lots of friends, and people constantly in and out of our house, over for holidays or just dinner parties. There was music playing always in our home, either on the radio or record players and tapes. I dreamed of the  day when I was celebrate my “sweet sixteen”, because my parents promised me a pretty vanity table, with an oval mirror and a lacy white cloth–you, know, like you see in old movies. I anticipated my first prom, my first date, and my first formal dress. I couldn’t wait to shop and wear makeup, like most girls. And I was told many, many times that if I graduated one day with good grades, that they would give me a trip to Europe! The days ahead seemed happier even than the ones in which I was living.
Just the opposite was what I ended up with.

Mind Prison

I was put in three different high schools; first the little Catholic one, then a public school up in the mountains, then right back to the local public high school. After being told that the “Latin church” was going straight to hell, I was never allowed to even sing in the choir with my friends on Sundays. My mother arranged a carpool with two other families to drive up and down the mountain every day to the small public school there; this was to avoid the wicked and wordly influences of the local Alamogordo middle school. It became a very lonely year, as my best friend dropped out of the carpool, and the other family rented a cabin and stayed there the whole semester.

Going to hell

My parents picked fights with the school board, the principals, and the teachers over several different things, such as any phrase in a book which slightly resembled “humanism”, “Anti-Christianity”, or “liberalism”. They had the whole town in an uproar when the elementary schoolshowed a “sex-ed” film; just a regular, scientific, kid-friendly film. Mom proudly told everyone at home that the school board “shook in their boots” when they saw her coming.
I had to wear dresses a lot, eat only the lunches which she packed (often very meager, especially if there was fasting going on), and be on the “lookout” for evil and “anti-Christian” textbooks or teachers. I carried icons in my purse and wore a big cross.

Anti-Christian Textbooks

As Br. B. and the other clergy invaded our lives, home became less of a refuge and more of the “new mission church”, where my parents constantly fought, my little brother locked himself in his room with incense and rage, and I experienced depression and isolation for the first time in my life.

The 11th Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Council forbids Christians from seeing Jewish doctors.
The 11th Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Council forbids Christians from seeing Jewish doctors.

I was not told by ANYONE that there was such as thing as a school counselor or even that I could talk to a school nurse about what on earth was happening to me with periods. (I had asked for help three years earlier from my mother, when I had difficulties and questions. Well, after three years, I was forced to see a VETERINARIAN in my dad’s hometown, because he had once in a blue moon treated the local farmers in special circumstances. Instead of going to a good, female gynecologist, I remember shamefully sitting on the same examination table which had held dogs, cats, and other animals, being stared at by an ugly little man.) You see, along with the fasting, this particular cult emphasized “natural rememdies”, which in and of themselves are great, except when one avoids ALL medical doctors as “Jewish” or “un-Christian.” I actually found a stern warning in a 100-year old Russian Orthodox prayer book, forbidding any member to see a Jewish doctor!!! That was absolutely nuts, but this cult keeps these beliefs going.

"The first and most important task of the 'new' person is to denigrate his previous self..."
“The first and most important task of the ‘new’ person is to denigrate his previous self…”

I had always been a very social kid, always a leader, always with friends; but when you are a young teen and suddenly told that all of your former life, YOUR FORMER SELF, was evil and that it was all worth nothing, you FEEL WORTHLESS. That is good; it encourages “humility”. I would like to quote a paragraph here from Steve Hassan’s “Combatting Mind Control”, under
“refreezing :”The first and most important task of the “new” person is to denigrate his previous self…….An individual’s memory becomes distorted, minimizing the good things in the past and maximizing the sins, the failings, the hurts, the guilt. Special talents, interests, hobbies, friends, and family must be abandoned…..” (p.71) Elizabeth Ann was evil; “Xenia” must be holy.

1054

The next year at the local high school– down from the mountain–was a nightmare. All the other kids I had gone to school with had adjusted years ago, and my other friends were either home-schooled or sent to the private Protestant school. I longed to shop for some decent clothes which had not been picked out for me; I remember actually drooling with hunger as I watched the other kids eat big lunches, with milkshakes, for only $1.00, every day in the big lunchroom. I was not allowed to drive, even though I had passed a driver’s ed class. At one point, a Catholic friend offered me a job after school in her shop; I was thrilled. When I turned up for work the first day, she told me that unfortunately she had to hire someone else…that was my mother’s doing, as I should not be around the “Latins”. I therefore had no money to even buy a used car. Since I was pulled in and out so much from schools, I could not apply for scholarships, or talk to guidance counselors. I didn’t even bother trying for cheerleading or other school activities. I longed to be a part of normal, teenage life!! It was hard to be a “holy pilgrim on earth” with so much normalcy and fun going on, but I was not to be part of it.

Prison-for-the-Mind

I cried on prom night. I never actually had a graduation, because my parents had quietly gone to the principal and “made a deal” with him, that if I brought back straight A’s from a college, then I would get my diploma by mail. This was to “save” me from further EVIL public schools. I had no idea they had done this, until it was time for us to move again.
Dad took a transfer. I have to be very brief here, because even recounting these years causes me nightmares.

Hell

I was sent to a large university at age 16; made to “feel special” because of it, but was violently ill on the first day I went to sign up for classes. My older brother came with us initially to look over the university, but said, “I would NEVER go to a place like that, ” so he went back to his friends and sunshine.
My parents bought a house that was so far back from the street, that it almost looked hidden. There was a long, long driveway and great separations from the two neighbors. I was not allowed to go places alone for the next three years, except for a bike ride; I was to be driven everywhere, and every minute was to be accounted for. Once, at 17, I begged to take the bus downtown, because the bus stop was on the corner of the street. There was a huge fight, and I was “protected” another three years from “rapists” and “accidents.” Unable to shop for myself, I attended the university without a bra, without feminine napkins or cramp medicine, and without a friend. (I was once invited to a few parties, even with Campus Crusade, but those were evil and “ecumenical”, and since I had no freedom, I just never even tried.)

Metropolitan Gerasimos praying with Cardinals

I took a heavy class load and brought home straight A’s, and was the youngest person to be admitted to the nursing program. The night I graduated was a cold and dark, and my diploma dropped onto the floor through the mailslot. That was it. No congratulations, no trip to Europe, no gift or card. Just “now put that away somewhere safe.” I still can’t believe it when I see a young person graduate, have invitations sent out, and be celebrated by their folks. This was never done for either me or my brothers. I was given the highest standards to follow, but with no reward.

Monasticism vs. Marriage

From the moment we moved to this isolated house, with my dad working aver 60 miles away at the AFB, home life was nothing but violence and fighting about the cult and the fasting and the services. My dad was moved into the basement right away, and has slept in a separate bedroom from my mom since then –25 years plus! (Actually since the lecture by Br. B. about marriage vs. monasticism.) He would spend three to four days sometimes at the base, unable (or unwilling) to come home. Because every day, beginning at breakfast but especially at night, there would be violent fights, usually lasting until way past midnight. It was all about how to “run the Mission,” which priest to have for a visit, which days were for fasting, how to “keep the old calendar holidays,” and other things.

"He that spares the rod hates his son: but he that loves, carefully chastens" [Prov. 13:24].
“He that spares the rod hates his son: but he that loves, carefully chastens” [Prov. 13:24].

My brother and I were physically abused; sometimes he was beaten for hours. I would sometimes put my thin body in between his and the blows from my parents; when I saw my mom start on his head, I felt hopeless, not knowing where to turn. I was often grabbed on my arms and when my mom saw the black and purple bruises and hand-marks, she told me to “pull down your sleeves before we leave for school”, and I obeyed, terrified. My brother was not growing properly, refusing to eat; and being refused good, solid food. He was bathed by my mom until he was almost 15 years old, often after stripping for a beating, and then waiting in the bathroom. (I am about to throw up here.) This “discipline” and “obedience to parents” was encouraged by every priest and every strictly cultic publication which entered the house.

Prison bars

I would often escape down to the basement when my efforts to stop the violence were ended with more violence and the doors were locked. I would pace and pace and put my fingers in my ears, or go out into the snow. Babysitting next door was a wonderful relief, but these neighbors heard my brother’s screams from outside his window (which faced their house.) I didn’t know whom to tell; I was afraid. I was told if I tried to “take the bus” that my parents “would go to the police and tell them I was a runaway” (I quote.) The kind neighbors invited me to be their live-in nanny once, for a long ski-trip and beyond, but I had to decline to finish my studies at the university. Looking back, I know this was their way to get me out of the obvious hell in which I was living.
Why didn’t anyone ask about my brother? He was sent to a small, fanatical Bible-based school, and my mom immediately made friends with the concerned principal, whom she convinced that my brother needed “a dad”, because my dad was not involved in our lives. Then she tried to make friends with the neighbors for whom I babysat. She could be very two-faced.

2 faced

My parents kept the fasting so rigid, that I would come back from the college (being driven by my mom), starving in the cold winter, only to find an electric skillet full of boullion with “greens” floating in it and some rice. Meat was rationed to me. I tried to fill my empty stomach with sugar and peanut butter, always readily available. In consequence, my brother and I lost weight and were subject to constant colds and flus. I had no money to buy lunch for awhile, and when I did, I ate ravenously at lunch time–anything I could get my hands on, especially junk food.
Even though there was a great little (normal) Greek Orthodox church downtown, with a wonderful (divorced) priest who became a family friend, it was deemed to be “not a TRUE CHURCH”–it did not teach the cultic teachings of the Russian Abroad/St. Herman of Alaska church; it did not follow the Old Calendar; the men and women “wore fancy clothes and jewelry and makeup”; and they often had big potlucks and parties. So services were either held in our  living room, and every night, or in another home of a former Russian “priest”. It was disgusting; this family was in constant turmoil, as well, with the two parents about to break up.

Fr. Herman Podmoshensky
Fr. Herman Podmoshensky

So weird priest after weird priest came to stay at our house; where they all came from , I will never know. Br. B. himself was driven up once, with a young guy who was being completely taken in by the cult. (According to Br. B., who was now a priest himself, with dubious ordination under Fr. Herman Podmoshensky –defrocked, please see POKROV.org for articles–a priest could NEVER drive anywhere in case he got in an accident and killed a person.) Some of these men were filthy, just because of their personal hygiene. Some made passes at me.
My brother once had a crisis of pain and rectal bleeding. He was taken (for once) to a doctor, at a local “walk-in” clinic, where they did a quick exam but found no answer. It was dismissed. Life continued as before. He was not taken to any more doctors.

Jack Benny
Jack Benny

We were allowed to watch some TV, mostly old movies and sitcoms like “Jack Benny.” I was not allowed to drive myself to a movie theater. I learned to withdraw into myself. Once night, about midnight, when the violence in my brother’s room was terrible, and my dad was home, I was hit and ran into the TV room and fell on the floor. I started to shake in the dark, uncontrollably. I heard my mom yell to my dad, “Better get her an ambulance and get her to the hospital.” It was sarcasm. Nevertheless, I saw my dad creep into the hallway, look at me, and leave. He is still a coward to this day. I continued to shake in classes after that, and tried to hide in the library until I finally had to quit my studies.
I began to experience panic attacks, both on the street and in classes. One day I fainted. It was after a noon-day violent prayer service and meager lunch. It was after I had been accepted into the nursing school, and had to get up before 5 AM for clinical, and then classes, and then studies till 11:00 p.m. With the home life and lack of food, I had to quit the program. My dean asked if anything was wrong at home, and I didn’t know I could tell someone like that. I was too ashamed. So I left. I knew there was no way that I could have started a more agreeable and less demanding study; I loved art, but the galleries were full of “evil, satanic” pictures. Mostly those at the university. I was diagnosed with PAT, heart pains and paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, as well as stress-induced thyroiditis. I developed claustrophobia at this time, only being allowed out in the yard or to babysit, with nowhere to run from the nightmare of home. Icons were everywhere, prayer books, incense, and Russian Abroad publications. I could not escape, I didn’t know where to turn.

Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia ( PAT)
Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia ( PAT)

When my older brother came for a visit with his new wife and baby, my parents arranged to have the baby (my nephew) baptized “secretly” in the “proper church” by some guy they had met somewhere, who was supposedly a priest “escaping” persecution in Czechoslovakia. This 60 + year old man came over often with his young “daughter”, who turned out not to be his daughter at all. My brother and sister-in-law went out somewhere, and while they were gone, the baby was dunked underwater in a baby bathtub on the kitchen table: candles, oils, incense, and all. I don’t know if they ever knew; I didn’t know they had no idea what was happening until years later, when I recalled the event.

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My health declined. My father was pushed, either by my mom or the cult, to retire at the age of 51. He did, and his hair turned white overnight. He never worked again, and for the past 25 years, has talked about “how old” he is, and how death (which is to be anticipated, because it is “freedom of the soul from the foul body”) was around the corner. It was absolutely pitiful to watch.
Under the guise of “helping” my brother raise his son (he and his wife were fine), we returned to NM. It was really for Br. B. and his gang, to help them build a new church and a “seminary”.

Brainwashing techniques

These were the darkest days of my entire life. I am angry that no teacher, doctor, neighbor, or friend who even SUSPECTED child abuse, EVER, EVER (to my knowledge) tried to stop it, and at least get me out of there and to a relative or in a foster home. I thank God for those who are conscientious enough to do so today, even if a child or teen does not say anything; because from personal experience, kids like us are afraid of the consequences, and we are so isolated and controlled, even by physical illness, that we have no idea where to turn, to anyone outside the cult.
In the last two posts I will finish this memoir.
Til next time.

25 Years in an Eastern Orthodox Cult Part 3: Many Miracles (Elizabeth Ann)

NOTE: This is a woman’s account of growing up in the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s, factions of this sect have been joining the canonical Orthodox Church under the Serbian Patriarchate, the OCA, and the Bulgarian Diocese.

Needless to say, my old family life was turned upside-down within a year. Completely. My older brother was not part of the church yet; he had moved out and was supporting himself. He was later convinced to join, along with his new young wife.

Schemahegumen Anthony Agioantonides, St. Anthony's Monastery, Alamogordo, NM
Schemahegumen Anthony Agioantonides, St. Anthony’s Monastery, Alamogordo, NM

This is how we were allowed to finally enter God’s “true church”: after the chrismation and exorcism service at the Boy Scout Hut, we were taken out to the Dog Canyon church for our re-baptisms. A lot of things happened quickly, and we were pushed this way and that, and told what to do and what to chant. It was in the kitchen of the little building where big oil drums had been filled with warm water, up to the very top. This happened as we got into our bathing suits. I believe there was another man from the base who was also baptized that day, maybe one or two more. It really was embarrassing for me as a 15-year old to do this in front of these people, not to mention seeing my smart and noble dad (the military officer) walk around in his bathing suit with arms folded and shoulders hunched–he looked like a small child.

We were greased from head to toe with olive oil by Br. B. and our strange new godparents. This was to represent the race we were about to run (taken from the words of St. Paul); the ancient Greeks did this before their games and races. I felt sadness thinking that my old godmom, my aunt (dad’s sister) was to no longer be part of my life. We had stayed connected since I was very little, and I loved her. All former family and friends were cut out of our lives.

Oil drums were used as baptismal founts.
Oil drums were used as baptismal founts.

Then we got into the oil drums, one at a time, and were dunked under three times. We were immediately brought out, dried off, and clothed with some old sheets which my mom had sewn into robes the week before. these sheets were later kept in a box at Dog Canyon for us to be buried in. Since the “Hagia Sophia” and the monastery never materialized, I have no idea what happened to these, nor to all that money which was donated.

Then my parents had to get “married.” My mother wore something like a small tablecloth on her head, and it was absolutely crazy. That is how we got “in”. We were so ELITE! So CHOSEN! So deluded.

Dog Canyon, NM
Dog Canyon, NM

Besides the round-the-clock prayer rituals, the chanting, and the new way of eating, many “miracles” began to happen in our home and at the monastery. We were constantly being warned about falling into prelest, and even though angels were mentioned now and then, the fallen angels were the ones which were constantly present. I remember being too frightened to even open the Bible anymore, or even fall asleep, because of the unseen world around me.

Here are a couple of things which happened. There were many more, and new reports came to us often, as Br. B. and other monastics began to appear in our house.

We were constantly being warned about falling into prelest.
We were constantly being warned about falling into prelest.

My little brother began hearing “bells” around the house, especially in his room at night. My mom heard them also. They were “signs” from God. “Miracles” occurred weekly at the chapel. One time, a “knocking” was heard coming from an icon in the main chapel; Br. B. heard it from outside, and then he came in to see one of the oil lamps had caught something on fire. The saint in the icon had “knocked” to warn him! A dog came into the chapel one time, also, and warned him of another disaster!!!

Demonic_Possession

An expectant woman from the base had her breech baby “turn over” when Br. B. prayed over her and touched her. Other minor illnesses were “healed.” Mostly, people would say things like, “It got a little better!” or: “I could feel the lump shrink a little!” Then the maladies would return, and that meant that more prayers and eventually exorcisms had to be done to be healed. If a person was not healed, it was because the best thing in life for each of us was to suffer, or to experience “podvig.” Br. B. was fond of yelling, “Suffer the little children..”, taking it out of context and finding that the funniest joke in the world.

Archangels spearing demons

The weirdest “miracle” of all was recounted to me one day after I came home from school in town. Br. B. and my parents had run into a former English teacher of mine, a kindly family man who taught at the high school in Cloudcroft, NM. They met him at a restaurant, and exchanged pleasantries. But when they left, Br. B. said he had hear the man say “without knowing it” that his name was called “Legion”, and that he was possessed with the same devils as the man in the Bible whom the Lord Jesus had healed permanently.

My parents and brothers believed this. I felt like I wanted to vomit. More people we knew began to “need exorcisms”, if only they would come to know “the truth”.

Christ Healing the Gadarene Demoniacs

One night a few years later, when I was trying to “be good” by prostrating myself before some icon or other in my room, about 11:30 at night, I was putting myself in as much of a trance as I could, because then I would finally “weep for my sins” and feel a chill go up my spine, which was “the Holy Spirit.” I heard someone “screaming” these unearthly screams right outside my window, where there was nothing but a long, long driveway and a tree. I called my mom, who said she had heard this also. We knew it was something evil. Well, you know what! That is the spot where the neighborhood cats would fight violently. We later heard them frequently screaming, and they can sure sound like humans or little kids. But because I was deep in prayer that one night, it was something “trying to draw me away from the faith.” Good grief.

We began to watch all the icons carefully in the house and in the churches or chapels, to see which ones would start to “weep” or stream “myrrh” or even “blood.” Sometimes one member of my family or even myself would “smell” the myrrh starting to come out of them. Or we would splash water on them by accident, and then be thrilled to find “tears” coming out of the eyes.

Joe Nickell writes about some of the icons that have been exposed as hoaxes (mostly in Old Calendarist schismatic factions)
Joe Nickell writes about some of the icons that have been exposed as hoaxes (mostly in Old Calendarist schismatic factions)

EVERYTHING became extremely mystical or extremely evil. Sure, we were told about guardian angels; but the prayers we had to say to them were all about protecting us from the “evil ones.” There was no light, no sweetness, and no love in this new religion. My dad, whose faith and personality had always been funny and light, began to fear God with a real “fear”! My little brother would go through fits of severe depression, where he would shut himself up in his room with the incense and the books, and then lay in bed, curled up, saying over and over, “I can’t make it to Heaven! I have done things I cannot even tell anyone about!” He would beat himself on the chest violently.

Everyone whom we met who were connected to anything Eastern Orthodox or who were clergy, were “brought to us by God.” One of these guys was studying the Kabbalah, which he wanted us to begin to study as well, to know the “inner secrets” of the “true” Eastern Orthodox church.

My mom and brother began to have dreams in which “God spoke” to them, or told them things that would happen in the future. Clairvoyance was a gift coveted by many ascetics. My brother later sought out many clairvoyant monks and nuns during his travels in Russia and Eastern Europe.

St. Marina

We would sometimes “open up the Bible” after asking it a question, and put our finger on a verse with our eyes closed, thus finding often “miraculous” answers to our specific questions! And if that didn’t work the first time, we did it over again, with more earnestness, sometimes on our hand and knees, faces to the floor.

Yep, miracles abounded. And we were all afraid of the God we used to call Father.

I will end this post here. The next post will tell you a little bit about the extreme hell I lived in for the next few years, after my dad was transferred to another state, away from the security of Br. B. and his cronies. We had to struggle as a “mission” church, and believed we were “persectued”: my parents believed they were all alone with the secrets of eternal life, and that everything and everyone else were declining to enter the “Ark” before the flood of fire at the end of the world!

Til next time.

Kolasis

25 Years in an Eastern Orthodox Cult Part 2: Introduction to the “True Church” (Elizabeth Ann)

NOTE: This is a woman’s account of growing up in the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s, factions of this sect have been joining the canonical Orthodox Church under the Serbian Patriarchate, the OCA, and the Bulgarian Diocese.

One day, while eating at a new Greek cafe in the local mall, mom saw two men with long beards and long robes sitting at the next table. She had read something in the paper about a new church in town, so she went over and asked questions. If I could go back and freeze time to change it, this is the very moment I would stop: that one second before we walked in there. It changed the lives of not only my immediate family, but many others as well.

We were urged to attend their “Liturgy” and “Reader’s services” at the little Boy Scout Hut downtown. And here is what happened in only a few short months.

The two men in the Greek restaurant turned out to be a priest from northern New Mexico, and a monk or “brother”. The priest had a long gray beard and ponytail, and he wore a long gray robe. The “brother”, who was later ordained a priest as well, wore a filthy black robe and had his long, unwashed hair pulled back into a knot at the back of his neck. He also had on a traditional Eastern Orthodox monk’s hat.

Schemahegumen Anthony Agioantonides of Saint Anthony The Great Orthodox Monastery, Inc., Alamogordo, NM
Schemahegumen Anthony Agioantonides of Saint Anthony The Great Orthodox Monastery, Inc., Alamogordo, NM

The priest, Father N., was retired from military service. The monk, Brother Benedict, later told us that he had been “discharged recently from the Army”; whether it was honorable or not, I never found out. He told us that he purposely disobeyed rules and did things like march while reading from his prayer book or chanting. He also told us, on the first meeting at the Boy Scout Hut, that because he was a monk, he was NEVER allowed to bathe again, or cut his hair, as long as he lived. I still gag at the familiar smell of sweaty monastic clothing, which I was later to come across in many churches and monasteries. I guess these people had never heard of the old saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Well, we were invited to attend our very first service, which happened to be a Liturgy, because the priest was there. Without his presence, the service was called a “reader’s service”, and it could be performed anywhere at all, even in a living room or a garage at someone’s private house. The services began in the local Boy Scout Hut, but soon moved to the new buildings out at Dog Canyon, a remote desert area between Alamogordo and El Paso.

Alamogordo

We were inundated with information during the first meeting, and the lectures began right afterwards, and lasted about an hour or two. We were taught about world history, church history, secret history, world conspiracies, and the unseen world of angels and devils, and the coming Apocalypse. I did not want to go at all, but I was forced to go by my parents. First impressions are usually right, if they begin deep in your gut. Mine was, “This is weird. Why is no one else here, and why has God kept us from His ultimate “true church” for over 2000 years??”

a-94

I would like to add here that during the first two to three weeks of attending the increasingly frequent services, my mom started to wake up from nightmares. I am just telling you here what she said herself. She dreamed she was taken to a dark, gray building, and was surrounded by monks in brown robes with hoods. When she got closer, they had blood in their holy water bowls. This dream repeated itself for some reason, and she would wake up screaming sometimes. Now, I don’t know what she was reading at the time, and people are really impressionable; she began to go to the public library to research about groups of monks and the names they told her in her dreams. But when she told Brother B., he assured her right away that these monks were “obviously LATINS (Roman Catholics), because of the robes; and that God was “warning” us to come out of that church, as well as all others, and He was “leading” us to the one and only church of “apostolic succession”: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, otherwise known as the “St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Church.” From that point on, everything that happened in our lives had some mystical meaning, and we were compelled to tell “everything” to our new “spiritual fathers”, so as to gain salvation. This included nightmares which were the obvious result of too much cold pizza before bed!

Fr. Seraphim Rose

The services we were “required” to attend, as new catechumens, became more and more frequent, as I mentioned above. That is because we were slowly being “let into” the elite and the elect of God, and told about the ancient ways and secrets only known to the “true Orthodox.” (By the way, from the start the word “Orthodox” began to replace the word “Christian”, and the lovely name of JESUS was seldom used or spoken. A whole new vocabulary was instilled in us, and we had to use it daily.) We learned quickly how to “do” the Hours, the Matins, the Complines, and the Vespers, as well as the Reader’s services. We had to be ready for the imminent reign of the Antichrist, and learn how to keep the monastic services at home, secretly, for fear of persecution in America, which had already begun! Keep reading, it gets more thrilling!!

Both clergymen began to appear at our house, mostly late at night, or at dinnertime. Brother B. became the main “teacher”, and he would sit at the kitchen table with my family, keeping my dad up till 2:00 AM in the morning. I would often go to bed, then get up hours later to find him still sitting there, with his head about to fall on his crossed arms, listening intently to the loud voice of Brother B., under the dim light of the overhead lamp. My dad had to get up before 5:00 in the mornings to go to work, and he was slowly being run down to the point that he was accepting whatever was taught to him.

holloman

Looking back, I believe these two men were specially selected to establish their new “monastery” in the desert outside of Holloman Air Force Base, because they were both ex-military. Not only did they know the right lingo to use when converting people, who came mostly from the nearby base, but they carried that extra advantage of being trustworthy, because they had served in the military themselves. Several lonely or divorced GIs were drawn from the base: fresh meat for the cult, who fed on the earnest young minds as well as their pocketbooks. You see, we were told that the main purpose for the Dog Canyon Monastery of St. Anthony, was to eventually build an “exact replica” of the famous Hagia Sophia church in Turkey, which is now a beautiful mosque. Of course, on a bit smaller scale. Nevertheless, a lot of moolah was needed as soon as possible, as well as volunteers and donations from construction companies. So, as soon as my parents were “hooked”, they began to give large amounts of money to these men, and have continued to do so for the past 25 years.

St. Xenia Skete.
St. Xenia Skete.

I have not, to this day, seen any true “fruit” come from these places (I have gone to several of these monasteries): no orphans were helped, no soup kitchens were established, no shelters for abused women or homeless, etc. Because “monasticism” is the “highest” calling one can have in life. I remember feeling despair when I was told that the only path for women in God’s eyes was either to be married and have children, or to become an Orthodox monastic. Now, I have yet to meet a truly happy Orthodox nun (at least in America); the Catholic teachers I had had in school, for the most part, absolutely loved their lives, their vocations, and their students. Many had degrees and pursued continuing education. They spent more time actually doing things than praying that things be done, cloisters aside. This is just my own observation.

St. Herman of Alaska Calendar.
St. Herman of Alaska Calendar.

Next, mountains of books and religious reading material were presented to us, and we had to read through it all to even be allowed to be part of the true church. The writings and personal interpretations of the “holy fathers”, their lives and fights with demons and human passions, and the writings of a certain Fr. Seraphim (Eugene) Rose took precedence over the Bible. My parents began to follow the “St. Herman of Alaska” calendar, which gave specific little verses to read for each day of the week, for the whole year. They were not allowed to read the Bible alone, for danger of “prelest”, or being led into lies and “deception”. Since that time, my parents have not picked up a Bible just to read the dear old stories like Daniel in the lion’s den; they have not read a letter of Paul or Peter or John straight through, which is how they were meant to be read. The verses were taken out of context, and usually had nothing to do with each other. The more confused my parents became, the more they were told to just “trust the elders”; after all, we were told that all the Russian priests in this church could trace their ordinations back to the Apostles themselves; however, we were never shown any proof of this, of course!

Archbishop Hilarion holds an icon of Seraphim Rose.
Archbishop Hilarion holds an icon of Seraphim Rose.

Fr. Seraphim Rose was held up to us as a “modern-day saint”, whose books were held in authority comparable to the Bible. Now, this man was a bit of a scholarly genius, who had studied Eastern religions and faiths in CA universities, and when he was introduced to the Russian Church in San Francisco by his male lover, he brought many of these beliefs over into his new-found religion. This can be seen in his book, “The Soul After Death”, which details the human soul’s journey after death as it passes through the “toll-houses”, being constantly tormented by demons. That book alone would scare the living daylights out of a child or pure-hearted Christian, but his other books dealt with topics such as New Age philosophies and even UFO phenomena. His main topic was the end of the world, and we learned his most famous quote by heart: “It is later than you think”. Suffice it to say here that his teachings are widespread over the whole world now, even in Russia; however, they are NOT the official dogma of all Orthodox churches. There is even a pamphlet printed by a Greek church which is called, “The Soul After Death: The Neo-Gnosticism of Father Seraphim Rose”, which refutes this (in my opinion) crazy and dangerous book.

Fr. Micahel Azkoul http://nftu.net/hocna-departure-letter-fr-michael-azkoul/
Fr. Micahel Azkoul http://nftu.net/hocna-departure-letter-fr-michael-azkoul/
St. John Maximovitch said it had been revealed to him that the "man of perdition" had been born in 1962.
St. John Maximovitch said it had been revealed to him that the “man of perdition” had been born in 1962.

Which brings us to the biggest “selling point” for those of us who joined this cult. The end of the world. We were inundated with eschatological teachings from many different “holy fathers”, which often contradicted one another, but no one paid attention to those “small ” glitches or misquotes. I was extremely frightened when we were “taught” with authority that the Antichrist was ALIVE and ALREADY BORN, and we had to prepare for his imminent reign of terror! A certain Russian Archbishop in San Francisco (famous for levitating and glowing during services, as well as for “never sleeping” and “severe fasting”) said it had been revealed to him that the “man of perdition” had been born in 1962, and according to prophecy, would begin his reign at age 30– like the Lord’s. Some people in the church refuted this, but we didn’t know that. We were given weekly “reports” of mysterious young men who were seen being driven around in limos in Jerusalem. What more proof did we want???

Kolasis

We were recruited with the best tool of all: FEAR.

Then, one by one, every other Christian denomination was torn apart and condemned by our new “teachers”; my dad’s familiar old hero, Martin Luther was an “apostate”; ALL Protestants were going to hell; and the worst of all were the Catholics, or the “LATINS.” There is even a liturgy done annually which brands other people, churches, organizations, and ideas as “ANATHEMA”, or “cursed”. It was a cursing service, let’s just call a spade a spade.

St Peter the Aleut

We were each told to carry an icon of a young Aleut boy name Peter, who had been “hacked slowly to death in front of a California Catholic mission church a few hundred years ago.” And whenever Brother B. would read the “saints and martyrs” for the day, at the end of the long services, he would purposely yell out which ones had been murdered by the “LATINS”, and he would laugh, and everyone in the church would laugh. There was absolutely NO SALVATION outside of this church, which was called the modern-day “ARK” (like Noah’s ark.) Get on board fast or be damned.

Next, we were taught how to chant. Not just a few mantras. Long, long chanting while standing upright (sitting was for “old ladies” and “spiritually weak”.) 40 “Lord Have Mercy” phrases were multiplied into 120 by switching languages, even into Chinese. This was to be done several times during church, while staring at nothing but the icons (to look elsewhere was evil); and it was to be done before each meal, before getting up in the morning, and before bed. I watched my dad, mom, and brother become weary and glassy-eyed. They soon got it down so good that nothing could disturb them, they were in a trance-like state. This was the work of “the Holy Spirit”. We were also given “prayer ropes” to take with us everywhere, and pray with. A quote from Steve Hassan’s excellent book is needed here: “People indoctrinated to perform excessive (hours long) meditation or chanting techniques daily can become psychologically addicted to the mind control technique. [This]…generates strong releases of brain chemicals which cause not only a dissociated mental state, but also a ‘high’ similar to that created by illegal drugs.” (p. 44, Combatting Mind Control).

"People indoctrinated to perform excessive (hours long) meditation or chanting techniques daily can become psychologically addicted to the mind control  technique. [This]...generates strong releases of brain chemicals which cause not only a dissociated mental state, but also a 'high' similar to that created by illegal drugs."
“People indoctrinated to perform excessive (hours long) meditation or chanting techniques daily can become psychologically addicted to the mind control
technique. [This]…generates strong releases of brain chemicals which cause not only a dissociated mental state, but also a ‘high’ similar to that created by illegal drugs.”
I would often challenge Brother B. or the other clergy, asking clear questions such as “how can this be required when the Lord stated “do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do…” I was either laughed at or told I was too stupid to understand these things–Orthodoxy was only for the “intellectually superior”. I quote. Also, because we were told that no one could be a Christian without venerating icons, or carrying them everywhere–I wondered whether a blind person could then be saved (??) I was told to be quiet. Then we learned about the wicked Iconoclasts in another history lesson.

Another book we were require to read over and over was the translated “Way of A Pilgrim”, which basically was an instruction book on how to chant while controlling the breathing, so that the chanting and meditation became internal and continuous; you were supposed to be able to work, eat, sleep, and even carry on conversations while chanting in your head. Now, what other religions does that remind you of? It was a simple way to learn how to put yourself in a trance-like state, and in such a state you were able to accept whatever garbage was thrust down your throat. A common tool used by all kinds of cults.

The Way of a Pilgrim
The Way of a Pilgrim

Then came the diet change: the fasting. Following the “ancient Julian calendar” and “ancient Christian life”, we were to fast according to the “elders’ ” instructions. Wednesdays and Fridays were ALWAYS fast days. Several long periods during the year, some lasting a whole 40 days, were fast days. The time before any Liturgy with communion, was fasting time. The new rules excluded all meat, dairy, fish, eggs, and even cooking oil, as well as alcohol (not many people followed that last one.) Sugar, peanut butter, vegetables, and white breads were eaten in small amounts. This was to “sharpen the mind for prayer”, “purify the soul”, and “put the evil flesh (body) into subjection”. For the body was evil. Period. (Gosh, women and girls were not even allowed to take communion or go certain areas in the church while they had their periods!)

Icon of the woman with an issue of blood
Icon of the woman with an issue of blood

This low-protein, high sugar diet will wear down a person very quickly, physically and mentally. Then they become more open to suggestions and acceptance of “holy teachings”. Bodily neglect was holy, it was the way to Heaven. It is also another commonly used method of cult mind-control. I watched my dad and brother loose weight rapidly, and become extremely tired and open to all sorts of infections and flus and colds. My little brother hung on to this fasting so rigidly, that in high school he was the “runt” of the class, causing great concern among the teachers and especially his principal. (My mom made sure to make friends with all our teachers and principals wherever we moved thereafter, so as not to be suspected of child abuse.)

Speaking of the “evil flesh”, fasting included abstinence between married people during the fast times, and before and after church services. Marriage was held in disdain. We were told that to be truly holy, a married man and woman should enter separate monasteries as soon as their children had been raised. Sex was only for procreation. It was also very evil, because it was a human “passion”, not a beautiful expression of love invented by God Himself. A few years later, I actually met a young Russian priest and his wife out in the Bay Area, who were firmly committed to separating when their kids were grown to go to pre-selected monastic communities.

Uriah Heep and his mother.
Uriah Heep and his mother.

The “passions” were talked about a lot, and they had to be controlled. Humility was taken to the extreme, until the constant repetition of this word reminded me of Dicken’s “Uriah Heep”, from his great “David Copperfield”! This is when confession was introduced to us. Not like in the Catholic church we had gone to. These were deep, soul-wrenching, tell-all, lengthy sessions, from which we would emerge in tears and terrible confusion. First, there was the “life confession”, which consisted of all we could remember before coming to the “truth”. Wow. Then they became weekly. I remember getting down on my hands and knees in front of an ugly icon, trying to think of something evil inside of me to write down to confess. The more I had written down, the “better” I was at confessing. It was an art. I met several people who said when they were in this cult, they would try to do or say at least one “bad” thing during the week, so that they would have something to say, and be allowed to take communion! I did that.

We were not allowed to say prayers from our own hearts. We had to use the prescribed prayers only from the Russian Orthodox prayer books. One of these had some long pre-confession prayer which I will never forget, because it said, “I am sorry for the sins of sight, hearing, speech, touch, and smell…” Now THAT one really confused me– how on earth can you sin by SMELLING something? I think that was where I dropped that book for good. It was just too ridiculous.

St Nikodemos Describes the Sins of the 5 Senses
St Nikodemos Describes the Sins of the 5 Senses

Confessions were to include EVERY single thought, natural desire, or pleasure one had experienced during the week. That meant “lust” of a man or woman for a spouse, “lust” for a piece of pie; “lust” for television or even a great new song on the radio! The whole “outside world” (the West, especially) was evil, and soon our house was devoid of the music and singing which had previously filled it. Nothing except pre-recorded liturgies and chanting tapes were played, both at home and in my dad’s automobiles. On a more personal note, I missed my dad’s singing, which we could hear all over the house (and in the shower), anytime he was home. Oh, how I have missed that! I believe he himself has forgotten the songs he used to sing. Or the “fractured fairy tales” he used to tell us at bedtime, until we laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. All the joy was gone.

Fr. Seraphim Rose and Piano
Fr. Seraphim Rose and Piano

Confusion reigned. Questions were answered in an indirect manner, “you will understand later.” It was total chaos, but it was completely controlled by those men who knew EXACTLY what they were doing to us, step by practiced step!

Then came a few weeks where my parents were arguing between themselves, sometimes heatedly, about the required “re-baptism”. Dad had already been baptized Lutheran, mom had as well; we all had. They finally gave in to Brother B.’s demands and convoluted explanations; however, they balked at his insistence that we all be baptized together NAKED, as the “ancient” Christians were. I will relate how we were re-baptized below.

Finally, the last stage. Our “new names and identities”. We were “given” names by Brother B., which he decided upon himself with the help of God.

They were names of Christian saints and martyrs, most we had never heard of, like “Kyriaki” and “Xenia of St. Petersburg, fool for Christ.” Mom became “Maria, joy of all who sorrow” (wow, was that the antithesis of her personality!), and dad became what he intensely disliked, “Lazarus”. Not the person, just the name. I was dubbed that Xenia gal, whose icon scared me with her dead husband’s army coat and her stringy gray hair. Her life, also, was one of a severely disturbed woman who needed help, or at least “some protein and a dose of lithium”, as quoted in one Greek Orthodox article. I was told that my own life should begin to mimic hers, especially in her suffering, so that I could become like her. (She lived in a graveyard, for Heaven’s sake!!) I NEVER let a person call me that after I left there, although my family still prays for “Xenia.” I told God to His Face, “If I die and you call out that name, I will not answer. My real, “pagan” name was given to me by my mom, because it was from an old song she liked. (Note: Elizabeth Ann is my pen name.)

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, Fool-for-Christ
St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, Fool-for-Christ

We were then instructed to keep our “name-days” instead of birthdays. Talk about losing your identity!

Xenia also was a “fool for Christ”, which was a way the Russian church had of explaining away the religious fanatics who acted crazy. Didn’t Paul say, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and power, and of a SOUND MIND”? Oh, but we were forbidden to read St. Paul (without the St. Herman calendar). Sorry. (Note: there are other “St. Xenias”, one of whom was an early Christian martyr.)

Finally, we were instructed in the proper way to dress and how to talk. Women had to wear long skirts, thick socks, long-sleeved shirts, and complete head coverings while attending any services. No makeup, no jewelry, etc. My very, very pretty mother, who always used to smell of perfume, and who wore pantyhose and nice clothes, as well as jewelry now and then—who had her hair colored and permed every two weeks or so– began to neglect her appearance. She wore shabby clothing, and refused all womanly things except for a heavy Orthodox cross which hung on a piece of dental floss. Men were encouraged to grow beards, or at least cover up all skin. My dad began to be ashamed of his military job and his uniform, and even his country. He wanted to be Russian. And lastly, my family began to talk like robots, using Br. B’s phrases and even his so-called humor.

Mind Control

We were pretty well ready for our “chrismation” and “denunciation of the devil”. This was done quickly in one service, and we didn’t know what was really happening. We were handed things to chant, told to bow to this icon or that, told to prostrate ourselves, and told to spit on the floor to the west. Then we were going to be baptized out at the Dog Canyon building.

We were taught how to bow and prostrate ourselves before all kinds of unknown icons; we were taught how to go into a chapel or church and make our way around, kissing all the faces of these cold paintings. It was repulsive to me and my dad, but we did it anyway. Um, didn’t it say somewhere in the Ten Commandments not to “bow down thyself before the images of anything in heaven or on earth”? I asked these questions. I got the usual answer. The Bible is not the sole authority on everything. There is “holy tradition” and the “holy fathers”, which often supersede the very words of God. “Become like little children and trust us,” we were repeatedly ordered. As Steve Hassan wrote: “It is not accidental that many destructive cults tell their members to ‘become like little children’. Adults can easily be age-regressed to a time when they had little or no critical faculties…dependent on our parents as the ultimate authority figures.” (p. 47, Combatting Mind Control.)

Next, we needed “real” godparents. Godparents were to be present at our baptisms, and throughout all of our lives. They were to guide us to Heaven, along with the “spiritual fathers.” And godparents had authority over anything mothers and fathers taught. That was a strange new idea. But we were assured it was “ancient Christianity.” So we were assigned strangers we had never met. Only my little brother, who was 11 years old at the time, was chosen to be one of the many godsons of the illustrious Brother B.

As I will write later, this fast-talking man gained complete control over my brother’s life, his thinking, and his will. This man became his “father” where my own dad was absent, and often would not return my brother’s phone calls after we moved. This “love-bombing”, which made my brother feel special, followed by long spells of silence from his godfather, to whom he had become severely attached, caused him to be on an emotional roller-coaster, well into his 20s.

I must add here that lots of strange things began to happen in the family, which I will recount below. These included not only “miracles” and “exorcisms”, but health problems. Some of them were quite subtle, but some of them were LOUD RED FLAGS, which should have been heeded by my deluded parents. Such as the rectal bleeding which my little brother began to experience after our involvement with the cult and its clergy. And the crying, and the violent outbursts, followed by intense periods of guilt.

He may have been molested. I know we all were spiritually abused. You can read about these things on the links listed at the left.

Finally, we were made to be a “mission” ourselves. Our next job was to “make converts”, teaching them what we had been taught, and to bring in more, uh, money. Actually, this was kind of a joke, because my parents were more concerned with “hiding from persecution” and “separating themselves from the world.” They only “made” one convert in 25 years: my dad’s very best friend, who was completely ignored when he became ill and then died a lonely death.

We were in a cult.