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.

Elder Ephraim escorted

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.

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

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

Some persuasion techniques used by cults (Margaret Singer)

NOTE: This selected list is adapted from Cults in Our Midst, by Dr. Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich (Jossey-Bass Publishers, April 1995)

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PHYSICAL TECHNIQUES

HYPERVENTILATION

Continuous over-breathing causes a drop in the carbon dioxide level in the bloodstream, producing respiratory alkalosis. In its milder stages it produces dizziness or light-headedness. More prolonged over-breathing can cause panic, muscle cramps, and convulsions. Cults often have people do continuous loud shouting, chanting or singing to produce this state, which they reframe as having a spiritual experience.

[Note: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, this technique is applied in the form of ceaselessly yelling the Jesus Prayer throughout the day. There is also a 1 hour period during the nightly personal vigil/prayer rule, where the monastics go outside and yell the Jesus Prayer].

REPETITIVE MOTION

Constant swaying motions, clapping or almost any repeated motion helps to alter a person’s general state of awareness. Dizziess can be produced by simple spinning or spin dancing, prolonged swaying and dancing. Group leaders re-label the effects of these motions as ecstasy or new levels of awareness.

[Note: The only repetitive motion of “swaying motions” is the daily 150 prostrations–300 during Great Lent–of the daily prayer rule. And any additional prostrations due to punishments. As well, during Great Lent, there are specific points of the Service where the monastics have to do repeated prostrations (the recital of St. Ephraim’s prayer, certain chants, etc). The repeated prostrations do give a “head rush” and endorphin boost].

BODY MANIPULATIONS

Former members report that a leader of one cult would pass among the followers pressing on their eyes until the optic nerve caused them to see flashes of light. This is called “bestowing divine light.” Some group members were instructed to push on their ears until they heard a buzzing sound, which was interpreted as hearing the “divine harmony.”

[Note: The only real body manipulations would be if one postured themself a certain way for Prayer of the Heart and beating oneself (NSSI-Non-Suicidal Self Injury) when various thoughts, emotions, etc. become too overwhelming].

PSYCHOLOGICAL TECHNIQUES

TRANCE AND HYPNOSIS

A number of cults use hypnosis and trance to put people into altered states of consciousness, making them more compliant. Examples of techniques that induce trance include prolonged chanting, meditation, singing and phrase repetition.

[Note: In the monasteries, the chanting would be the daily church services, some of which can last quite a few hours. The “meditation”–though not considered as such by Orthodox monastics–would be the time allotted for Prayer of the Heart which entails breathing techniques. Singing and phrase repetition would be the ceaseless recital of the Jesus Prayer–either noetically or verbally].

GUIDED IMAGERY

Cult leaders use a number of different guided-imagery techniques to remove followers from their normal frames of reference. For example, long detailed visual stories can absorb the listeners in a trance-like state where they become more susceptible to suggestion. Another effective method popular with therapy cults uses guided imagery to regress members back to the pain and loneliness of their childhood.

[Note: Though images, fantasies and day dreaming are discouraged for monastics, Geronda Ephraim often gives homilies containing many stories, not to mention lunch and dinner have readings in the Trapeza. As well, the monastics have a few hundred mp3 homilies of Geronda Ephraim on their iPods (each homily lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to 2+ hours). Also, in each monastery, the Geronda or Gerondissa will frequently give homilies with storytelling and cautionary tales].

Geronda Ephraim

25 Years in an Eastern Orthodox Cult – How I Left the Cult – Where to Find Help Part 1 (Elizabeth Ann)

NOTE: This is a woman’s account of growing up in the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. For those unfamiliar with the background of this organization, Fr. Jonah Paffhausen wrote an article about the “Journey of the Holy Order of MANS / Christ the Saviour Brotherhood and the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood into the Canonical Orthodox Church”:

Welcome. Please take a few moments to read a personal account of one family’s life after entering an Eastern Orthodox cult in America. This is a brief memoir about the serious consequences of blindly following a “spiritual father”, and what happened to a loving, normal family because of this. I also relate how it feels to be disowned by one’s own family for not being part of the cult. My hope is that this site will be of help to at least one other person coping with similar circumstances. I also hope it will serve as a warning to families: NEVER disown, abandon, or shun a person simply for believing differently.
Elizabeth Ann

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

I am a former “Russian Orthodox Abroad” member; my “identity” was Xenia of St. Petersburg, a woman whose life I was told mine own should resemble, according to God’s will. A frightening thought, if you know how this woman lived. I was forced into the church by my parents, kept in complete control throughout my teenage and young adult years, and finally escaped: first, in my mind and soul, and then physically. I still suffer some PTSD symptoms, common with cult withdrawal; however, I am finding the faith of my childhood, something simple and bright, which is the first light I have seen in a long, long time. My wish is that this blog will help ONE person, somewhere, to have the courage to speak out and perhaps even say all alone, “The Emperor has no clothes!” (Hans Christian Andersen).
View my complete profile

CONVERSION AND MIND CONTROL TECHNIQUES
As you read the personal story of my family and how we came to be part of this cult, please refer to two excellent resources: The Watchtower Expositor: Cult or Cultic (by Craig Branch); and Combatting Mind Control (by psychologist and cult expert Steve Hassan.)

Craig Branch, Watchman Fellowship,  Apologetics Resource Center.
Craig Branch, Watchman Fellowship, Apologetics Resource Center.

CONVERSION TECHNIQUES (Craig Branch)

Below are ten techniques of unethical thought reform and mind control (I quote), with some examples of how these were used by the Orthodox cult.
1) Focus on felt needs & defects, with exaggerated promises of fulfillment.
It was drilled into us over and over that we were spiritually “sick”, that our whole “mind-set” and way of life were evil, and that we were damned if we didn’t accept the new baptism and join the church. We were promised unending love from the church, help in any crisis, and spiritual fathers who would get us past the “toll-houses” and save our souls after we died. We were promised to always be the “right believers” who were the “elite and the elect of God”, and who would play a large role in the conversion of others before the final Tribulation.

[NOTE: The general teaching of the Orthodox Church is that all humans are spiritually sick. The Church or Monastery is the hospital where the sick faithful go to be treated. The sacraments are the medicines that the Physician uses to cure the souls of the sick. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the general consensus is, “You can be saved in the world, but it’s better to go to confession in the monasteries and have Geronda Ephraim–or one of his priest(monk)s as a confessor. In the last days, all the orthodox churches in the world will have apostasized and joined the ecumenist World Church/Religion. True orthodoxy will only be found in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries.

Some spiritual children of Elder Ephraim have read Elizabeth Ann’s story and callously stated that these things only happened because she didn’t have a holy elder nor was she part of the canonical church (In monastery double speak, this is code for “you’re hopeless without Geronda Ephraim or one of his priest-monks”). With an air of self satisfaction, they would state with all certainty that such things could never and would never happen in Elder Ephraim’s monasteries or parishes.

It is an odd phenomena but laymen who visit the Elder’s monasteries and decide to become dedicated disciples, often become Geronda Ephraim experts almost overnight. After a handful of visits and hours of absorbing stories concerning “miracles”, “visions”, and “prophecies”(minus the multitude that never came to pass), this lay person is now an “expert” and can tell you everything that doesn’t happen in the monasteries despite never having been invited into the monks’ quarters, nor a monks’ only homily, etc. It’s amazing.

St Herman of Alaska Monastery Entrance
St Herman of Alaska Monastery Entrance

2) Rigid Control of Time and Activities
Required to attend more and more services; demanded to read lengthy prayer books at home throughout the day; pushed to do the “Hours”; taught by book “Way of the Pilgrim” to constantly chant the “Jesus Prayer” at all times, even in school.

The Way of a Pilgrim, A highly recommended book in the monasteries
The Way of a Pilgrim, A highly recommended book in the monasteries

[NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, monastics are required to recite the Jesus Prayer ceaselessly; either mentally or out loud. This is expected no matter what they are doing: listening to someone speak to them, eating, going to sleep, working, attending church services, etc. In theory, his monastics aren’t suppose to idle talk or be too chit chatty with other monks or laymen. Everyday of the monastic’s life is ruled by someone else, and their time and activities are rigidly filled controlled. 

3) Information Control
Not allowed to read newspapers, magazines, or non-religious books, especially during the time as “catechumens.” Told that all new movies and T.V. programs and T.V. news were “of the devil.” Given more and more Orthodox “patrisitic” ( holy fathers’) writings to read and re-read. Told to cut off family, which my mother did by way of letters.

Those who control the information control the person. In a mind control cult any information from outside the cult is considered evil, especially if it is opposing the cult. Members are told not to read it or believe it. Only information supplied by the cult is true.

[NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the monastics aren’t allowed to read worldy publications (many do though when they’re afforded the opportunity), let alone information critical of Geronda Ephraim or his monasteries. If they are allowed, this will be curated by the Superior and many times it will turn into a mocking fest of the writer or commentator (many times, the monastics don’t actually get to see the article or news clip to make an informed decision. The Superior gives them only the “necessary” details and makes the informed decision of interpretation for the disciple. With big events like 9/11, some monastics were allowed to watch the news clips and footage of the planes. In some monasteries, Greece winning the World Cup in soccer is also a big enough event, so big that many of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics had a blessing to watch the highlights and in one case, the entire game (nationalist and patriotic sentiment for Greece is very high in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries)].

4) Language Manipulation
Besides being taught to laugh at certain words such as “the Latins” or “the West”, we were taught an exclusive new vocabulary for “insiders”, some of which is put in bold print in the posts at right. Our new names were to replace our real names, forever. The lovely name “JESUS” was seldom used.

1984 Cartoon

[NOTE: The monasteries also have their own vocabulary and special knocks which many laymen also adopt for their everyday use at home and among like-minded Christians–“Na Einai Evlogemeno” (“Let it be blessed”), response to be asked to do something. “Evlogeson” (“Bless”), asking forgiveness, usually a response to making an error or offending someone.

One of Geronda’s elders once observed, “Sorry lost all meaning when the word ‘Evlogeson’ was invented.” He was referring to the fact that no matter how greatly a monastic errs or offends, they have a reflex response to say ‘Evlogeson’ without thinking, with no heartfelt meaning.

Though “Latins” and “the West” are words and concepts looked down upon and sometimes laughed at in the monasteries, this is also the same spirit of almost all the Orthodox patristic writings and encyclicals since the Great Schism of 1054. Other words that receive similar attention are: “Oi Ebraioi” “The Jews” (lit. “The Hebrews”); “Oi Zionistes” (“The Zionists”); “Ta Protokolla” (“The Protocols of Zion”); “Tektonismos” (“Freemasonry”); “O Patriarches” (“The Patriarch”)].

5) Discouraging Critical, Rational Thought and Questions

Obvious contradictions and questions were greeted with either long, convoluted, and evasive explanations, or we were told that “you will understand later when you have become an adult in the faith. Just become like little children.” I was laughed at when I pointed out specific verses in the Bible, which I knew very well. I was even called “that Baptist girl” in a derogatory way. We were told during the second liturgy that clergy and priests must ALWAYS be obeyed, EVEN IF THEIR PERSONAL LIVES WERE NOT HOLY (i.e. they had murdered a person!) I quote Br. B. Now I add (“even if they have sodomized your child.”)

Human Understanding Process
Human Understanding Process

[NOTE: In orthodoxy there is an “answer” for every question, even those with no answers. Most things that are in conflict with orthodoxy or don’t fit in with the vague and contradictory theology around creation and the fall are usually dismissed as “unimportant” or “unnecessary”… “Dinosaurs aren’t important to salvation, don’t waste your time with those things” (common monastery advice to youth)… “Don’t read the Old Testament, the New Testament is what’s important. Anything of real worth in the Old Testament can be found in our church services, it’s better to read those” (advice to those who start getting ‘demonic warfare’–monastic code word for critical thinking and rational thought–after reading about God commanding His people, the Hebrews, to commit infanticide, genocide, and other atrocities)…”God allowed it in His mercy to rescue the children being abused and to punish the sinners; i.e. human traffickers, pedophiles,  polytheists, etc. See, you judge God as merciless and cruel but He has a wisdom and reason we can’t always see right away” (a Hieromonk’s explanation for the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami)… to the question of “Why does God allow some children to get raped and others not?” this hieromonk replied with the who can know the Lord’s mind response that is supposed to stop the questions there.

6) Instruction in Trance Induction Techniques

One of the first things taught to us: how to stand completely still, stare at the icons, and say “Lord Have Mercy” in five different languages, sometimes amounting to 120 phrases at a time. Again, “The Way of a Pilgrim” was to be memorized and internalized, to learn how to breathe properly and chant simultaneously. Continuous repetitions during Complines, Matins, and then Liturgy, while staring at the icons, made me go into a kind of half-sleep–still able to listen intently and remember things.

Covert Hypnosis Cult Induction
Covert Hypnosis Cult Induction

[NOTE: When the monasteries first started, Geronda Ephraim only allowed the Jesus Prayer to be said in Greek. This did result in a bit of protestations from non-Greek monastics (mainly converts) who wanted to say the Prayer in their native language. One novice spoke to Geronda Ephraim personally, who responded, “The Prayer is better in and more powerful in the Greek language. It’s the language of the Holy Spirit, it’s the language the New Testament was written. Also, we’re a Greek monastery mainly for the Greeks so it’s better if they hear the Greek language.” In some monasteries, as years went by, some individuals were blessed to say the Prayer in their native tongues (English or Russian or Romanian, etc.).

Geronda Ephraim’s monastics are also required to focus mainly on the Jesus Prayer during all the church services, in order not to be distracted by the words of the services.].

7) Confession Sessions (a powerful tool to manipulate, blackmail, and emotionally bond you to the priest; a depersonalization or stripping of yourself–submission to the group.)

As explained at left. Confessions would be labeled “good” or “bad”, depending on how much we could come up with and whether we started “weeping”. The priests put each person under an intense “grilling” session, delving into EVERY thought and action.

Cult_3

[NOTE: Confession is a very powerful tool in the monasteries, especially to keep the monastics in line. If one is sinning in a specific way, the Superior many times exposes this action in front of all the other monastics in an attempt to humble and crush the disciple’s ego. Other times, a monastic can be put in the Lity, near the entrance of the Church, where they go on their knees and repeatedly beg everyone for forgiveness, stating their sin or passion, until the last person exits the church. Often, a lay person’s confession will be revealed to the monastics for their spiritual “edification” and also to see how “it’s hell” in the outside world. Though the superior or senior monastic revealing these private, personal stories usually don’t reveal the name, most monastics can figure out who they are talking about. Some monastics will then take this information and speak cryptically to this lay person trying to pass themselves off as some kind of clairvoyant. They won’t say anything outright and feign humility about this “gift” but in the process, this awestruck layperson will also reveal more personal information about his friends and family. This cycle continues until the superior finally catches on, one way or another. It’s embarrassing to witness.

8) Guilt and Fear (Weapons used to maintain group/church loyalty, suppress questions and defections.)

As I have already said, FEAR was the most powerful tool which made us listen to and believe every lie we were told. The Antichrist was ALIVE and about to begin his prophesied ministry; “it was later than we thought”, and unseen demons were constantly around us. The realization of our immense sinfulness (which was never relieved) caused terrible guilt. Some of us were made to feel guilty about going to the bathroom, because our pure guardian angels would have to watch this. Thoughts of going to another church, or none at all, caused immense spontaneous guilt.

Guilt and Fear

[NOTE: Geronda Ephraim would never confirm if the Antichrist was born but he would talk cryptically in ways that would make people think that he was or was soon to be born. He often gives homilies to his monks telling them they’re the monastics of the last days, the last generation, and will be martyred under the Antichrist. When Geronda use to visit Saxonburg in the early 90s, he’d point to children and say, “They’re going to see the Antichrist.”

A monastic, and layperson if possible, is instructed to always find some reason to reproach themselves. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the monastics constantly listen to and read homilies by their Elder. In all his talks, Geronda Ephraim criticizes, insults and reproaches himself. All his monastics believe he is the holiest man in the world, the last great saint of the Orthodox Church. Geronda Ephraim says he sees himself as nothing more than an useless, pathetic, beast not worthy of anything in this world. The monastics are constantly trying to acquire this mindset; not to believe only in lip service but rather to the depths of their entire being.

The Orthodox Patristic texts, as well as Geronda Ephraim, encourage their followers to cultivate an anxiety and fear that they call “Holy”.]

9) Control of Sexuality and Intimacy

In this cult, all sexual desires, normal sex in marriage, and physical love in marriage was “impure” and part of the “fallen flesh.” So it was severely restricted to only certain times during the week and the year. All was to be confessed.

Guru Cover 1/99

[NOTE: Geronda Ephraim and his priests generally teach their spiritual children to abstain from carnal relations the night before Holy Communion, on Feast Days of the Virgin Mary, during the fasts ordained by the Church (Wednesdays, Fridays, Great Lent, Dormition, Christmas, etc). Essentially, there are over 200 days of the 365 day year where an Orthodox Christian couple must abstain from sex. These numbers don’t factor in the abstinence days when a woman is on her menstrual cycle or pregnant. 

On days where sex is allowed, Geronda’s spiritual children are encouraged only to do basic missionary sex, try not to enjoy the carnal passion too much so it doesn’t lead to dirtier things, and avoid contraceptives or the pull-out method. Any act related to oral (felatio, cunnilingus, etc.) or anal (penetration, analingus, etc.) is to be avoided as they are sins that carry heavy penances (i.e. years without communion, etc.). These admonitions are only for married spiritual children as any sexual act outside of marriage (including solo acts such as masturbation) are considered serious sins and punishable under the canons.

Abstaining from sex when a couple stops having children is also encouraged. The monasteries call it “Living like brother and sister.”

10) Excessive Financial Obligations (a form of complete submission to God.)

The only place for tithes and donations was cultic Orthodox churches or monasteries (the one in Dog Canyon never was built.) Later on, in a Russian Abroad Church in Sunnyvale, CA, I was pushed to give my monthly wages to dubious causes, such as the “compound” which was to be built, with greenhouses and all.

The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Eng)_

[NOTE: Most of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries don’t pass around collection plates during the Liturgy, nor do they have fixed prices for Sacraments (i.e. baptism, marriage, etc.). Everything is run on donations and there are various things each monastery does to raise funds on top of whatever art, craft, food, they sell.

Rich benefactors, or potential benefactors, can sometimes be groomed and cultivated into a lifetime helper. It helps if the individual has a sick husband or wife and is desperate for a cure or miracle. If the individual goes into remission or the medication treats whatever (though more emphasis is placed on the blessing with relics than western medicine) one could be looking at a lifetime benefactor who will also bring other rich people to the monasteries. This kind of cultivation isn’t viewed as unethical because the monastery is repaying these individuals spiritually with prayer and offering them the means of salvation which “is worth more than all the money in the world combined.”

RECRUITMENT AND MIND CONTROL (Steve Hassan)

“…’mind control’ may be understood as a SYSTEM of influences that disrupts an individual’s identity (beliefs, behavior, thinking, and emotions) and replaces it with a new identity.” (p. 7, Combatting…)

“If deception, hypnosis, and other mind control techniques are used to recruit and control followers, then people’s rights are being infringed upon.” (p.37.)

Note: Steve Hassan’s FOUR COMPONENTS OF MIND CONTROL are best described and  connected with the Orthodox cults in the PSEUDO-PROPHET.org webpage. Personal family experiences are briefly recounted below:

Steve Hassan
Steve Hassan

1) BEHAVIOR CONTROL (includes control of environment: location, clothing, diet, sleep patterns, jobs, rituals..)

We learned to act like Br. B. and the other cult members. We learned how to fast, to celebrate feasts (on the proper old-Calendar days), how to cut off the outside world and even American holidays. (I LOVE AMERICA!!!–Elizabeth Ann.) We learned how to do all the prayer services; how to cross ourselves with three fingers, properly, at specific times during the day; how to venerate icons. We learned how to speak, dress, etc.

Sociological Definition of a Cult
Sociological Definition of a Cult

2) THOUGHT CONTROL

Besides the new language, we learned “stop” wicked thoughts, or “blocking” techniques like chanting “Lord Have Mercy,” or the “Jesus Prayer” over and over, louder and louder. My parents and brothers still start to chant and talk “over a conversation”, which is VERY RUDE, if the person they are talking with questions their beliefs. We learned to feel the “unseen battle” and consider ourselves the “Church Militant”, as opposed to the “fallen outside world.”

thought-police-2 Constrict-Words-1984

3) EMOTIONAL CONTROL

Fear reigned supreme. Fear of other people not in the cult (almost the whole world! ), fear of imminent death, fear of the Apocalypse, fear of the living Antichrist, fear of PERSECUTION, fear of demons, fear of the consequences of leaving the cult–or questioning things like the “Holy Fire”. Oh, did I mention that ALL psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists were trained in satanic methods? Fear of the world conspiracies. At one point, my parents were certain that our phones were always “bugged” by the government, because of our foreign friends!!
GUILT. About supposed “bad thoughts” and made-up sins. Confessions.

Behavior Control

4) INFORMATION CONTROL

As I describe at right: no worldly newspapers, TV news, non-religious books or magazines; even old friends and family were shunned in case they would “draw us away from the faith.” We never again saw a movie in a theater together as a family (except for ‘Pinocchio’, once). The “Orthodox America” paper gave modern movie reviews, which almost always were negative and  demonic. All questions had to be through the “spiritual fathers” or clergy. Rational, critical thinking was abandoned.

Key_Point_8

THREE STEPS TO GAIN MIND CONTROL

b-combatting_cult

(These are explained on pp. 67 -72 of Steve Hassan’s book, Combatting Mind Control. Here I briefly connect them with my own experience.)

1) UNFREEZING

As my family “died” to our “old selves” and old lives, we were broken down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Fasting, sleep deprivation, rigorous prayer schedules, confessions, lectures, and lack of contact with old friends and family did this. We believed our former lives had been ALL evil, wrong, and deluded. We were the most pitiable creatures on earth–spiritually fallen.

mind-control2

2) CHANGING

We were given our new baptisms, new names, and new identities, with life instructions. More reading material, more lectures, and complete compliance with the behaviors of the cult members were required. We were “re-taught”.

2000px-Ingsoc_logo_from_1984.svg

3) REFREEZING

After being completely divested of our old selves and old lives, then “taught” how to live the “truth”, we BECAME the new people. We were now part of the family! Immediately, we were told to form a “mission” church, to bring in more converts (and their checkbooks.)

Well, that is a brief overview of the initial cult experience as it related to our involvement with the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. It didn’t end there.

1984_EXPERIENCE01

Similarities between Guruism and Gerontolatry Part II

The second part of this study is based on a chapter in Dionysios Farasiotis’ book, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Οι Γκουρού ο νέος και ο Γέροντας Παΐσιος,  Greek Edition). This chapter is called Karma Yoga: A Method of Enslaving People. It is only found in the Greek edition, pp. 438-444. For some reason, the translator Fr. Alexis Trader (who is also a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim and is a monk at one of his Athonite monasteries, Karakallou) decided to omit this chapter from the English edition. The Greek original is 512 pages, the English translation is 247 pages and the last portion of Appendixes isn’t even in the Greek book. So, 512 pages essentially became 200 pages and this translation was carefully curated for the English-speaking audience. Most of the negative references concerning blind obedience, brainwashing and mind manipulation–material that in essence could be used against Elder Ephraim–was omitted. (Table of contents from both books are listed at the end of this article). John Sanidopoulos mentions he will translate 22 of the 172 pages that were omitted by Fr. Alexis.

Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.
Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.

As soon as the Greek edition was published in 2001, there was a lot of hype that an Athonite monk was translating it into English because it was “such an important and crucial book” that the English-speaking world needed. After a few years, the hype died down and no one was talking about the translation anymore. So, when pilgrims travelled to Mt. Athos, they started to inquire at the monastery and they were told, “The devil is really warring against the monk translating it.” On this side of the world, some lay people interpreted it as the monk must’ve fallen ill, some monastics understood it as the monk was probably going to leave the monastery or had left and the translation stopped. Whatever the case may have been, it took over seven years to translate and publish and a large portion of the book was omitted from the English edition. Primarily the chapters that explain gurus, ashrams, blind obedience, manipulation, brain washing , etc. These are the same chapters that if you essentially replaced the word guru with Elder Ephraim and ashram with monastery it would sound like an orthodox monastic text (of course, you’d have to replace the Hindu spiritual terms with orthodox ones but the reader should get the point). 

One should ask why an English translation from one of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries has omitted all the information that would validate peoples’ concerns about the destructive cult-like nature of his monasteries in America.

The omitted chapters  essentially say that the regime used by Elder Ephraim in his monasteries (primarily the obligation of blind obedience and everything that results from that foundation of handing over total control to another individual) are manipulative and seriously dangerous to the mental and physical well-being of individuals. These cultic techniques and methods have led individuals into serious mental illness, sometimes resulting in suicides at the ashrams, etc.

The only “defence” the monasteries could use is, “Well Orthodoxy is the only truth and this is the God-inspired path laid out by the Fathers. The other religions have no grace so when they practice these things they give the devil more control whereas an orthodox monk will receive more grace; i.e. all the rest are energized by the devil, orthodox is energized by the Holy Spirit”. 

As in the first part, the following are excerpts from the photocopies that were distributed by St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. The similarities are interpolated within the text in brackets […].

The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.
The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.

Karma Yoga: A Method of Enslaving People

*After they first persuade people about the correctness of their views, they then can guide and command them more easily.

[This is the first stage of recruitment. The pilgrim will have lots of questions about orthodoxy, the spiritual life, Elder Ephraim, etc. The monastics relay this info back to their abbot/abbess and now this individual may have landed on their “watch list” which usually includes special treatment, encouragement to think about becoming a monk or nun and the revealing of “secret” knowledge; generally miracle stories of the elder, the uniqueness of their monasteries and spirituality as compared to monasteries in other jurisdictions and parishes in the world, personal stories of the monastics, etc. In cases where the individual is not interested in the monastic life but might be useful either in doing work around the monastery or donating large sums of money–or at least giving alms consistently–the same treatment is shown but the language isn’t as heavily loaded with criticism of the worldly life, marriage, etc. 

Fr. Stefanos at St. Nektarios Monastery reading to the dining hall. Monks hear readings at both lunch and supper and have no blessing to talk during meals.
Fr. Stefanos at St. Nektarios Monastery reading to the dining hall. Monks hear readings at both lunch and supper and have no blessing to talk during meals.

*But what is the theory that is propounded by nearly all the New Ager organizations in order to subdue their followers and convert them to workers receiving no pay? It’s an ancient theory of Hinduism, the theory of Karma Yoga.

[Karma is a concept totally foreign to Orthodox theology and is not taught in the monasteries.

Most of Elder Ephraim’s spiritual children will do work without compensation when they visit his monasteries. The “pay” is usually their name read during the Liturgy (i.e. Proskomede) or, if they are really self-less and slavishly devoted, they may earn a spot on the Elder’s koboskini prayers.

Sometimes, pilgrims may not be in the mood for work but they can be easily guilt-tripped about their “selfishness and ungratefulness” so that they finally submit and do “their” diakonima. Thus, technically they aren’t forced to “obey the suggestion” of their Elder, they just needed their conscience tweaked in a certain way; usually talk about God’s abandonment and loss of grace suffice. Elders know all the psychological and emotional weaknesses of their devotees since they expose their entire secret inner world during confession.

Blind obedience to an elder is what converts many monks into workers receiving no pay. The work conditions would make a labour inspector cringe: monastics generally have inadequate training in the work they perform, inadequate protective gear, monastics are constantly put into extremely dangerous work environments in an effort to cut costs for the monastery, the lack of sleep and food also can contribute to being less alert which has led to numerous accidents at all of the Elder’s monasteries, including some amputations (the injured are usually accused of not saying the Jesus Prayer and “reassured” that if they had been saying it, they wouldn’t have hurt themselves). There are no “workers’ rights”. There is no physical compensation in this life except for “consolation food” and the latest technological gadgets to listen to spiritual mp3s about renunciation of the world and blind obedience (i.e. generally items that monastics aren’t suppose to eat: soy burgers, Tofurky, Oreo cookies, Pink Snowballs, Häagen-Dazs® Ice Cream Bars, BK Fish Sandwich, Red Lobster, Olive GardenDairy Queen, etc. When a monastic ascends through the ranks to the inner circle of their superior, then sometimes they can go on trips to see various tourist attractions like Sea World, or movie theaters to watch The Passion of Christ, etc.) All rewards are expected in the next life as long as the work is not done begrudgingly and instructions followed to the minutest detail; any minor disobedience will rob the monastic of their afterlife payment. Interestingly, one of Geronda Ephraim’s former nuns attempted to sue her monastery for 14 years of back pay. She lost her case].

Ivantchenko, et al. v. The Sisters of Saint Kosmas

Can a Nun Sue to Recover Damages for Unpaid Work Performed in a Monastery?
Nun took a vow of poverty – but is suing for pay
• Nun suing monastery says sisters harrassed her, killed her cats
Ivantchenko, et al. v. The Sisters of Saint Kosmas 

Bells & Nuns at St. Kosmas Monastery, Bolton, Canada.
Bells & Nuns at St. Kosmas Monastery, Bolton, Canada.

*The theory of Karma is used with success in India and today they’re undertaking to impose it throughout the world in order to acquire power and money by means of it. Listen how. Karma Yoga is considered one of the most basic forms of Yoga. It is the Yoga of the selfless servants. Every person has their ‘karma’; that is the total of all the good and evil acts of all their ‘previous lives’. This determines the circumstance of their present-day life. A good karma means that the person will be born rich, comfortable, with many opportunities for spiritual progress. On the contrary, a bad karma can mean poverty, want, affliction, pain and ignorance. If your karma is really bad, this means that you could be born as an animal in the next life.

[So far, there is not much similarity other than the selfless servant aspect other than the pilgrims who work for hours, sometimes in harsh conditions, as a form of alms and the monastics’ blind obedience to their superiors.

The closest thing to karma theory in Elder Ephraim’s monasteries is the disciple’s fear and belief that they will be punished in some way if they do the minutest disobedience. Elder Ephraim cultivates and fosters this fear during his sermons with stories such as the nun who became demon-possessed because she ate a vegetable from the garden while a demon was sitting on it; the perfectly obedient and virtuous nun who lost her soul because of one secret thought she was too ashamed to tell her Gerondissa, etc. So, when bad things happen to a monastic, they accept it as a just punishment God has allowed because of their sins and disobedience. This is not exactly karma in the Hindu sense but has a similar basis of thought because these “just desserts” will also help erase sins so that they have a better judgement after death.].

Elderly Novice Monk Gardening at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY
Elderly Novice Monk Gardening at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY

*Generally, the Yogis try to be liberated from the iron law of karma which even oppresses their ‘gods’. Still, they try to completely destroy their karma in order to escape from the cycle of reincarnation.

[All Christians struggle to be liberated from the passions which can take on the form of second nature; or rather transform them into the corresponding virtues; including the Abbot and Abbesses. Also, all Christians struggle to be liberated from the “iron law” of death. i.e. the second death after physical death, which is the loss of their soul].

*The way for someone to destroy his karma, or at least to lighten its heavy load, is by selfless services to his fellow suffering man, to humanity and to God. Up to this point, we’re dealing with a polite, ideal display of love towards suffering neighbors. Rather yet, this is beautiful bait that will help us to catch the death-bearing fish hook.

[Selfless service to their fellow man, humanity and God is a basic expectation for an Orthodox Christian. This expectation extends to monastery pilgrims because they should show their gratefulness for all the spiritual struggle and prayers that are done on their behalf.

Selfless service and putting oneself below every other human being is also the monastic way. Blind obedience to an elder is a form of selfless service as the aim of the monastic is to no longer have a will of their own but to completely acquire the elder’s will. This in turn, will enable them to fulfill all of God’s commandments, so they believe.].

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).
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).

*So, after we accept the theory of Karma (Karma-yoga) as something beneficial for our spiritual progress – and after we have ‘elevated to a higher spiritual level’ (that is when they ascertain that we are ready), then they tell us, “the most ideal way for someone to practice Karma-yoga is to serve the guru”. These services that we offer have great ‘spiritual returns’, since the guru, as the almighty and all compassionate ‘god’ that he is, is able to reciprocate and destroy all our previous karma, and thus, he liberates us spiritually after our death.

[In some cases, this would be the point where a pilgrim yearning for the monastic life is informed they have a blessing to become a monk. In other cases, it might be when a lay person receives a blessing to practice prayer of the heart with the breathing techniques. Prayer of the Heart techniques are usually only allowed for monastics but sometimes blessings are given to laymen whether they’re planning to be monastics or not. This shouldn’t be confused with the prayer rope that is given out during confession with obediences to say a set number of  the Jesus Prayer and prayers to the Thetokos everyday. These are the breathing and sitting techniques described in the Philokalia. There has been debates over the years about the possible Indian origins of these techniques that resemble meditation with mantras.

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). Blind obedience has great spiritual returns for the unquestioning subordinate: illumination, dispassion and theosis. The Geronda is an “icon of Christ” and whatever you do to him you do to God Himself: i.e. your respect, veneration, and obedience is as though doing it to God Himself, just as the opposite actions. If one has obedience, he has his Geronda’s prayers after death to make it through the toll-houses. If he doesn’t have obedience, he doesn’t have his Geronda’s prayers after death and loses his salvation].

ΚΑΛΟΓΕΡΟΣ.,.,
*Of course, as an exchange, our present-day life is demanded to be dedicated to work without pay. In order for this reasoning to work, the person must have faith in two basic metaphysical and religious deceptions and delusions:

i) In the theory of reincarnation from which arises the theory of ‘the law of karma’
ii) That his guru is a superman with formidable spiritual powers; a living ‘god’

[In the monastery, the rest of the monk’s life will be work without pay—at least in this life. They are taught they are exchanging monetary pay for spiritual pay in the next life. The monks do not believe in reincarnation but rather the Resurrection of the Dead. The monks and nuns do believe Geronda Ephraim is a sort of superman with formidable spiritual powers: “He is the holiest saint in the history of our church;” “His gifts are immeasurable, after he dies there will be no other like him;” “He’s not omnipresent like God, but he’s almost. He sees and knows everything that goes on in his monasteries. He’s always watching us;” “He’s the closest thing to Christ on earth! If you want to imagine what Christ would be like when he was on earth, just look at Geronda Ephraim;” “He talks to the Father during his vigil;” “One rarely surpasses their teacher, he surpassed Pappou Joseph.” These are some of the numerous things Geronda Ephraim’s monks and nuns (including Abbots and Abbesses) have said over the years.

An obvious clue that anthropocentric Geronda worship in American monasteries has replaced the Christ-centric worship of Orthodoxy is the fact that every monastic’s cell, as well as all of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries, have more photos and icons of both Geronda Joseph and Ephraim than Christ and the Panagia. Elder Ephraim has a higher place in his monastics’ hearts than God and Christ and the way his monastics talk, it’s sometimes hard to discern if they’ve conflated Christ and Ephraim into one. An orthodox Christian is commanded to love God even above parents. A monastic is commanded to love their Elder even above parents. Is it healthy for a disciple to love their Elder more than Christ and see their Elder as Christ Himself (not just an icon of Christ?)].

That his guru is a superman with formidable spiritual powers; a living ‘god’.
That his guru is a superman with formidable spiritual powers; a living ‘god’.

*Only after a person has accepted those two terrible deceptions deep inside, will they start to put him in deeper and they will slowly start to tell him about Karma-Yoga. For this reason, all of the Hindu and New Age organizations insist and project their leader or guru as a superhuman ‘god’ and they legislate his worship while he is still alive. A person more easily submits to a ‘god’ than to a human being.

[Once an Orthodox Christian accepts the Resurrection of the Dead and begins to accept that Geronda Ephraim is the holiest man alive on earth and the greatest saint in the history of the Church, then Geronda’s disciples start accepting them more and revealing more to them about the gift of blind obedience and the miracles it works.

All of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries in North America and Greece work in the same manner: from the superiors down to the last monk, they all vouchsafe and validate Geronda Ephraim as a super saint, beyond all other saints in the history of orthodoxy. They all vouchsafe that Geronda’s monasteries are the most authentic centres of orthodox spirituality in the world. At times, they borderline promising salvation if one is a spiritual child of the Elder. 

Apparently, it is very important, even if only once in a lifetime, for someone to meet him and get his blessing. Thus, many times before one even meets Geronda Ephraim, he or she has been exposed to the love bombing of the monastery, and all the hype about his miracle working powers. After this elevation to “celebrity” status, an individual is often “starstruck” upon meeting the Elder.].

All of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries in America and Greece work in the same manner: they all vouchsafe and validate Geronda Ephraim as a super saint, beyond all other saints in the history of orthodoxy.
All of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries in America and Greece work in the same manner: they all vouchsafe and validate Geronda Ephraim as a super saint, beyond all other saints in the history of orthodoxy.

*Thus, the practical indifference and carelessness at the first level and religious deceptions are converted into persuasive instruments of spiritual compulsion or necessity and submission of individuals with daily catastrophic consequences. Many followers of gurus work hard at their ashrams without having any demands for recompense, insurance, pharmaceuticals, nursing or even the least bit of pocket money. Indeed, they are made to feel that the guru makes them spiritual reprieves which they will receive if they serve him.

[People are led to believe that it’s a huge gift from God just to be able to take Geronda Ephraim’s blessing, and an even greater gift if he accepts you as a spiritual child. Thus, a feeling of elitism of belonging to the “elect” is created and cultivated. Of course, all orthodox believe they are the elect of God, but this is supposed to be something more special.

Many of Geronda Ephraim’s followers—monastics and laymen—work hard at his monasteries doing whatever task they are asked or ordered to do. They do this believing they are offering it as alms to the saint of the monastery, alms to Geronda Ephraim as well as receiving a recompense of invisible golden crowns that they will be able to offer to the aerial demons when their soul has to pass through the toll-houses. Also, because they are taught that he is the icon of Christ on earth (all spiritual fathers have this title, but Ephraim’s role takes on more of an infallible pope-like status).

The monasteries do have access to medical means when necessary because Geronda Ephraim wants his monastics to be healthy and strong so they can work (a sick and weak monastic who can’t help out tends to be a burden on the monastery, not to mention they take other able-bodied monastics away from their work when they need to be taken care of). Most of the monasteries have pilgrims who are doctors who agree to see the monastics pro bono and in some cases the monastics are doctors. St. Anthony’s, St. Kosmas and St. Nektarios all have monastics who are Dentists, etc.].

...They do this believing they are receiving a recompense of invisible golden crowns that they will be able to offer to the aerial demons when their soul has to pass through the toll-houses.
…They do this believing they are receiving a recompense of invisible golden crowns that they will be able to offer to the aerial demons when their soul has to pass through the toll-houses.

*The Karma-Yogis are usually young people that go to some ashram in a foreign country in order to cut themselves off from friends and relatives that could help them at some crucial moment.

[Many of the monks are young when they join. Geronda Ephraim says it’s better to become a monk when you’re young because the passions haven’t had the years in the world to become rooted as second nature and the mind is easier to mould. Think of the “cradle to grave” aspect of marketing.

Mount Athos is forbidden to women and thus no mothers or sisters can go there to “disturb” their relatives that become monks, though a number of fathers and brothers have gone through there over the centuries looking for missing relatives. It’s a large peninsula and when can easily make themselves disappear there and the monasteries generally have a code of silence, especially when angry relatives are exploring and asking questions. 

American monasteries have similar codes of conduct. Monastics don’t reveal anything to nosy parents asking questions. A superior will have the monastic working far from the main buildings or sent out for errands in the world on the days relatives are coming to visit. Monastics are forbidden to reveal any problems or negativity that occur in the monastery. Every response as to resemble, “It’s the most beautiful life.” Letters are opened and screened by the superior before given to a monastic and in some cases, if there is bad news or blasphemous content, the superior will throw the letter in the garbage. If somehow the disciple learns about the mail they never received and ask their superior the response will either be a honest explanation of why it was thrown out or a lie stating they never received any mail. Disciples are generally not allowed to write or call their relatives, especially as a novice, because they’re suppose to be dead to the world. However, after the increase of cult accusations and negative public media exposure there is a little more economia in the monasteries but overall, it’s still very limited.

Ironically, some abbesses and abbots have obediences to call one of their parents every forty days. Elder Ephraim’s brother was a frequent visitor of St. Anthony’s Monastery. Abbot Paisios’ mother is a frequent visitor of St. Anthony’s Monastery. Geronda Dositheos’ parents are frequent visitors of Holy Archangel’s Monastery. The higher up in ranks one becomes in Elder Ephraim’s monasteries, the less obligated they are to monastic traditions and canons out of “economia”, of course.]

Geronda Ephraim says it’s better to become a monk when you’re young because the passions haven’t had the years in the world to become rooted as second nature and the mind is easier to mould.
Geronda Ephraim says it’s better to become a monk when you’re young because the passions haven’t had the years in the world to become rooted as second nature and the mind is easier to mould.

*Of course, there are enough aged Karma-Yogis that have indeed given all their wealth to the guru and ashram in order to make quicker spiritual progress.

[Most people joining the monasteries give the remainder of their possessions and money to the monastery as alms. This is part of the “sell everything you own and give it to the poor” clause in the New Testament. The things that are useful – money, vehicles, etc. – are given to the monastery. Useless things can be distributed as seen fit unless a specific obedience is given. Rich laymen, i.e. those who have no desire to become monastics, are encouraged to regularly give alms to the monasteries and are constantly counselled about greed and selfishness. In some cases, Elder Ephraim may give the spiritual child an obedience of how much to give and how frequently. This often occurs when an individual goes to more than one monastery, say the male and female monasteries in Texas, and they feel conflicted of where to send their money. The Elder may say, “The nuns need more money, give them $5,000 a month”. And that’s that. There have been cases where parents have left more money to the monasteries than to their children because they believed this was a more beneficial gift to their offspring; i.e. alms on their behalf so that their names will remain on the prayer lists].

*I know a few people like this. Thus, they are reduced to unsalaried workers, usually in foreign countries without friends, family, money or information (except the news censured by the ashram).

[An orthodox monk is to become dead to the world, thus no relatives, friends, etc. Though in some cases, when relatives offer useful services to the monastery and are needed, there is some leeway given to interpersonal dynamics. In other cases, if the relatives prove to be annoyances and interfering with the monastic’s life at the monastery, they’ll be relocated to another monastery either within America or abroad in Greece (out of obedience, of course). They are unsalaried workers in a monetary sense, but believe they will be recompensed in the afterlife (only if they do perfect and complete obedience; all other works are rendered vain if they don’t do obedience). All news is censured by the monastery superior. There is no news of the outside world unless one is exposed during an excursion out of the monastery, or the superior decides to tell them. All information is disseminated exactly how the superior wants, and the disciples are expected to accept it the way it is delivered. In some cases, conspiracy theory publications and other fake news is permitted so that the disciples understand that these truly are the last times and that the Antichrist will be here soon, i.e. the One World Leader of the One World Government; N.W.O.]

*They are immediately dependent upon the ashram for food, shelter and clothes.

[The monastics are dependent upon the monastery for everything (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) And the superior can decide to refuse any of these things and in many cases does out of the spirit of discipline, ascesis or self-denial].

Archimandrite Panteleimon  Metropoulos who was a member of Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s synodia. Geronda Ephraim calls him a spiritual brother in a homily.
Archimandrite Panteleimon Metropoulos who was a member of Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s synodia. Geronda Ephraim calls him a spiritual brother in a homily.

*I ask myself, ‘when a person is found in such a powerless position, is he not an easy victim of sexual (or whatever other kind of) exploitation?

[Though there is no documented instances of a superior sexually abusing a subordinate in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, it is interesting to note that Fr. Panteleimon (who was a member of Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s synodia and whom Geronda Ephraim calls his spiritual brother in a homily) has been involved in numerous homosexual sex scandals with his subordinates over the years at his Brookline, MA monastery. As well, a few years back, allegations against Geronda Joseph of Vatopaidi, another spiritual brother of Geronda Ephraim, also surfaced but seem to have been repudiated].

Thus, don’t you think that it would be more correct to speak about ‘karma-slaves’ instead of karma-yogis?. Monasticism is recognized as voluntary slavery in the Patristic writings: “you who are hastening to sign a pledge that you are voluntarily surrendering yourself to slavery, and in return want freedom written to your account.” (Ladder 4:5).

CHAPTER LAYOUT OF THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION

FOREWORD by Monk Arsenios (Vliangoftis)
PREFACE
To the Reader
A Biographical Note about Elder Paisios


CHAPTER ONE—Pushed towards Evil: Experiences in the World of Hypnotism, Witchcraft, and the Occult


Roots
Ares the Hypnotist
The Signs
Alexandra
Demetrios
Struck by an Invisible Entity
A Bizarre Dream

CHAPTER TWO—Divine Help: Elder Paisios Enters My Life

A Visit to the Holy Mountain
An Encounter with Elder Paisios
“You Don’t Have Any Right to Interfere with My Life”
The Fragrance of the Cross
First Trials in the Spiritual Life
The Elder’s Lesser Gifts
Accounts Given by Acquaintances
The Elder’s Teaching Method
A Great Blessing
The Guardian Angel
The Elder’s Generosity
Unconditional Love

CHAPTER THREE—On the Brink: Between Two Spiritual Traditions

My Meeting with Swami Yogamougananda
Silva Mind Control
A Visit to the Holy Mountain by the Scruff of My Neck
The Theotokos Who Keeps the Gate: Portaitissa
A Spiritual Helmet
A Decision

CHAPTER FOUR—Inside the Ashrams of India

Some Introductory Remarks about India
A Meeting at Benares
Our Trip to Babaji, “God in the Flesh”
In the Himalayas at the Ashram of the Teacher of Teachers
At the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo in New Delhi
At the Ashram of Guru Satyananda in Munger
Some of the People in the Ashram
My Second Encounter with Babaji, at Allahabad
The Worship of Idols
Demon Possession
The Temptation of Power
Mystical Experiences and Revelations at the Ashram of Satyananda
The Seizure
The Light
Ida, Pingala, Sushumna
The Spiritual Atmosphere
Being Seized and Being Visited
The Library
Satsang
A Final Attack
The Testimony of Eldress Gavrilia
Back at the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo

CHAPTER FIVE—Home at Last

A Visit to the Holy Mountain after My Escapades in India
A Demon, an Angel, and the Most Pure Virgin
The Healing of a Brain Injury
A Shaking Tree on a Breezeless Day
The Choice between Light and Darkness
A Spiritual Operation
Uncle Elijah
The Radiance of Uncle Elijah
“Thou Shalt Not Tempt the Lord Thy God”
Consolation from Elder Porphyrios
Elder Paisios in the Light of the Transfiguration
Spiritual Warfare in the Army
A Blessing from Elder Porphyrios
Another Encounter with Demetrios
The Jesus Prayer and the Hindu Mantra
Spiritual War
Holy Communion and the Centrality of Christ
The Christian Mysteries and Magic
An Experience of God, “Who is Everywhere Present and Fills All Things”

EPILOGUE

A Final Word

APPENDIX ONE—Testimonies from Greek Orthodox Spiritual Fathers

From Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Cyprus
From Archimandrite Theoklitos of the Holy Monastery of Saint Arsenios, Northern Greece
From Hieromonk Euthymios of Mount Athos

APPENDIX TWO—Suggestions for Further Reading

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain
Orthodoxy and Orthodox Spirituality
The Holy Mountain of Athos
Footnotes
Back cover text and photo

CHAPTER LAYOUT OF THE GREEK ORIGINAL

These are the chapters in the Greek original. Notice that the pamphlets St. Nektarios Monastery use to hand out to pilgrims have not been translated into English. The entire last section, Part 6 – “I think…therefore I am”, severely criticizes the ethics and morality of the techniques used by these destructive cults as well as shows the severe emotional, psychological and physical harm they cause to their practitioners. Many of the techniques mentioned are utilized in Elder Ephraim’s monasteries.

Περιεχόμενα

Προς τον αναγνώστη
Βιογραφική αναφορά 13

ΜΕΡΟΣ 1ο. ΠΡΙΝ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΑΓΙΟΝ ΟΡΟΣ
Οι ρίζες μου 18, Άρης ο υπνωτιστής 21, Αλεξάνδρα 31, Κάτι αόρατο με δέρνει 35, Ένα περίεργο όνειρο 36, Δημοσθένης ο μασόνος 40

ΜΕΡΟΣ 2ο. Η ΘΕΙΑ ΒΟΗΘΕΙΑ. Ο ΓΕΡΟΝΤΑΣ ΠΑΪΣΙΟΣ ΜΠΑΙΝΕΙ ΣΤΗ ΖΩΗ ΜΟΥ
Η πρώτη επίσκεψη στο Άγιον Όρος 46, Η συνάντησή μου με το Γέροντα Παΐσιο 51, Με ποιο δικαίωμα επεμβαίνεις στη ζωή μου; 57, Ο Σταυρός ευωδιάζει 58, Το όραμα 61, Οι πρώτες μου «πνευματικές» δοκιμές 64, Τα «μικρά» χαρίσματα του Γέροντα 73, Η «μέθοδος» διδασκαλίας του Γέροντα – Άγιο Πνεύμα 80, Η μεγάλη ευλογία 85, Ο φύλακας άγγελος 88, Η αγάπη του 89

ΜΕΡΟΣ 3ο. ΜΕΤΑΞΥ ΔΥΟ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΩΝ ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΕΩΝ
Η συνάντηση με τη Σουάμι Γιογκαμουγκανάντα 98, Η μέθοδος Σίλβα – MindControl 107, Από τα «μαλλιά» στο Άγιον Όρος 118, Η Πορταΐτισσα 119, «Το πνευματικό κράνος» 127, Επεξήγηση 132

ΜΕΡΟΣ 4ο. Η ΖΩΗ ΜΟΥ ΣΤΗΝ ΙΝΔΙΑ
Ινδία 136, Η συνάντηση στο Μπεναρές (Varanassi) 140, Το ταξίδι προς τον Babaji το σαρκωμένο «θεό» 149, Ιμαλάια: Στο άσραμ του δασκάλου των δασκάλων 157, Στο Νέο Δελχί στο άσραμ του Σρι Αουρομπίντο 172, Μουνγκυρ: Το άσραμ του Σατυανάντα 174, Αλαχαμπάντ: Η δεύτερη συνάντηση με τον Babaji 194, Τα πνευματικά γεγονότα 210, Η μαρτυρία της Γερόντισσας Γαβριηλίας 228, Τι ανακάλυψα στη βιβλιοθήκη τους 232, Ξανά στο άσραμ του Σρι Αουρομπίντο 237

ΜΕΡΟΣ 5ο. ΠΙΣΩ ΣΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΑΔΑ ΜΕΤΑ ΤΗΝ ΙΝΔΙΑ
Στο Άγιον Όρος μετά την Ινδία 242, Φως ή Σκοτάδι 247, Το δαιμόνιο, ο άγγελος και η Παναγία 254, Η «εγχείρηση» 265, Ο μπαρμπα Ηλίας – ο διά Χριστόν σαλός 272, «Ουκ εκπειράσεις Κύριον τον Θεόν σου» 276, Ο θάμνος 280, Ο Γέροντας αστράφτει 282, Η θεραπεία του εγκεφάλου 288, Στρατός 291, Ο Γέροντας Πορφύριος 299, Η ευχή και το μαντρά 309, Η θεία ευχαριστία 323, Διαφορά χριστιανικού Μυστηρίου και μαγικής πράξης 328, Εμπειρία Θεού 328, Μία διευκρίνιση 337

ΜΕΡΟΣ 6ο. ΣΚΕΦΤΟΜΑΙ… ΑΡΑ ΥΠΑΡΧΩ
Η βασική άγνοια 340, Κοινωνικές αντιλήψεις και πρακτικές των Ινδουϊστών 345, Γιόγκα: Θρησκεία ή επιστήμη; 364, «Αρμονική ζωή» ή η τέχνη της παραπλάνησης; 371, Μετεμψύχωση ή Ανάσταση; 376, Η επίδραση της Γιόγκα στο σώμα και στο νου 381, Οι «θεοί» του ινδουϊσμού 394, «Τα είδωλα των εθνών δαιμόνια» 416, Από την Παλαιά Διαθήκη 436, Το ψάρεμα 438, Κάρμα Γιόγκα. Μία μέθοδος δουλοποίησης ανθρώπων 445, Διαλογισμός και αυτοΰπνωση 453, Η στάση της προσευχής και η στάση του διαλογισμού 482, Το ψήφισμα του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου 486, Η πίστη 492, Επίλογος 506

The remainder of the article can be read here:

Similarities between Guruism and Gerontolatry Part I

In 2001, a book was published in Greece which sold like wildfire: The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Οι Γκουρού ο νέος και ο Γέροντας Παΐσιος,  Greek Edition) by Dionysios Farasiotis. The book made a deep impression on many a spiritual Father and it was highly recommended in orthodox bookstores, especially for people confused or mixed up with New Age and Hindu religions.

The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.

Due to the strong influence of New Age and Hindu religious culture in the Western Hemisphere, there was a hope that it would one day be translated into the English language. Anyone who made pilgrimages to the Holy Mountain in the mid-2000s heard about the pending translation into English being delayed due to the devil’s huge warfare against the monk translating it.

The first English edition was published in 2008 by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood; a monastery which ironically was in schism for many years and united with a neo-Gnostic sect called the Order of M.A.N.S., until they rejoined the canonical Orthodox Church via the Serbian Patriarchate in 2000.

However, the translation is credited to Hieromonk Alexis Trader of Karakallou Monastery; not the original Athonite monk or monastery which initiated the English translation. There are mixed rumors about what happened to the original monk that was translating. Initially, inquiries about the delay in translation were answered with, “The devil is really fighting this monk because he doesn’t want the English world to know this information.” Then there was “radio silence”. No more news or information about the book. Some say the devil gave this monk an illness and he either died or he’s so sick that he’s bedridden and can’t leave his cell anymore. Others say the monk threw off his rasso and went back to the world. It’s always hard to tell what the truth is as monasteries don’t like to admit when one of their own has abandoned them, it’s negative press and pilgrims have too many questions.

Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.
Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.

Furthermore, large portions of the book are missing from the English translation. The Greek original is 512 pages, the English translation is 247 pages and the last portion of Appendixes isn’t even in the Greek book. So, 512 pages essentially became 200 pages and this translation was carefully curated for the English-speaking audience. (Table of contents from both books are listed at the end of this article). John Sanidopoulos mentions he will translate 22 of the 172 pages that were omitted by Fr. Alexis.

Interestingly, many of these portions are Dionysios’ criticism, opinions and analyses of cults, brainwashing techniques, and how gurus manipulate their victims. Many of these missing portions contain Guru teachings and techniques which are very similar to Geronda Ephraim’s teachings and expectations on blind obedience and submission. They also resemble many aspects of contemporary Greek-American monasticism. Of course, Hindu ashrams and Orthodox monasteries have drastically different theological roots, practices and teachings, however, the essence of the techniques that their spiritual leaders use for recruitment, indoctrination, manipulation and control of their disciples is the same).

Were these chapters omitted in order not to confuse the “simple” lay people or trip up monastics who may start seeing their own predicament in a different light? After all, Karakallou is one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, and by extension, Fr. Alexis Trader is a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim via his obedience to the abbot, Geronda Philotheos.

Geronda Philotheos, Abbot of Karakallou Monastery. He's been a subordinate of Geronda Ephraim since the early 70s.
Geronda Philotheos, Abbot of Karakallou Monastery. He’s been a subordinate of Geronda Ephraim since the early 70s.

One does not only find these similarities in Dionysios Farasiotis’ books. They can be found in all the Orthodox writings in Greek that deal with gurus, destructive cults, etc. One wonders if preachers like Monk Arsenios Vliangoftis or Protopresbyter Antonios Alevizopoulos actually hear and understand the words that come out of their mouths because what they criticize when describing the dangers of destructive cults is almost word for word the same methodologies that occur in the Greek-American monasteries. The only difference is the theology and belief system—Hinduism is anthropocentric and the guru is the god, Orthodox monasticism is Theanthropocentric and the Elder is suppose to only be the icon of Christ on earth. In some cases, though, one wonders if Geronda Ephraim has replaced Christ as the center of his followers’ worship. In Elder Ephraim’s monasteries, the ratio of Elder Ephraim and Joseph pictures to icons of Christ and the Panagia in any of the guest quarters or monastic cells is generally 2:1 though in some areas it can be much higher (especially if you include personal items such as buttons, bookmarks, photo albums, etc.)

Large portions of the book are missing from the English edition (criticism, opinions & analyses of cults, brainwashing techniques, & how gurus manipulate their victims)
Large portions of the book are missing from the English edition (criticism, opinions & analyses of cults, brainwashing techniques, & how gurus manipulate their victims)

Yoga: Science or Religion?

Before the book was translated into English, St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, was handing out photocopies of translated chapters which were also distributed on various orthodox websites and forums. The following are excerpts from those photocopies which don’t appear to be in the St. Herman’s Brotherhood edition. The similarities are interpolated within the text in brackets […]:

In the mid-2000s, St. Nektarios Monastery distributed photocopies of translated chapters from Farasiotis' book. These chapters are missing in the published English edition.
In the mid-2000s, St. Nektarios Monastery distributed photocopies of translated chapters from Farasiotis’ book. These chapters are missing in the published English edition.

*In Greece, the people that do yoga succumb to a greater or lesser extent, to an Indian cultural influence. They start to decorate their house with Indian trinkets, cook Indian food, and listen to Indian ceremonial music (Kirtan).

[In America, those who convert to Orthodoxy through Elder Ephraim’s monasteries usually succumb to a Greek influence. This is a general rule for monasteries in other dioceses, too, a convert will usually succumb to the ethnicity of the diocese that receives them, whether Russian, Serbian, Romanian, etc. 

In the case of converts through Ephraim’s monasteries, they usually decorate their house with Byzantine icons and pictures of Geronda Ephraim, Elder Joseph the Hesychast and, if they’re “special enough” to get a blessing, a photo of the Abbot or Abbess who is facilitating their conversion, catechism, instructions on the spiritual life, etc. If it is someone who is leaning towards the monastic life calling, they usually have more leeway and privileges than other pilgrims and a monk or nun will be assigned to them, both to monitor interactions and behavior as well as to give encouraging homilies they start cooking Greek and Lenten foods (many times Athonite or monastery recipes), they start listening to Byzantine music (many times eliminating ‘worldy music’ from their lives)].

A young monk

*They ‘think’ Indian, and talk about reincarnation, past lives, the hidden powers of man, and the ‘feats’ of the Yogis.

[These behavioral changes occur in both the Greek and non-Greek populations that visit Elder Ephraim’s monasteries.

Converts through Elder Ephraim’s monasteries as well as Orthodox laymen will think ‘Greek’ or ‘Athonite’. This could be something as simple as saying “Evlogeson” or “Na einai evlogemeno” at the appropriate times to learning Classical or Byzantine Greek to understand the church services. Some will try to adapt the monastic lifestyle and practices into their daily life in the world (whether they are single, married or have children). Others will take Byzantine music courses, learn how to make prayer ropes or prosphera or whatever. Some assimilate quickly into the Hellenic fronima, others do not.  Of course, all who join the monasteries are required to assimilate (i.e., some monasteries have a strict “Greek language only” obedience so that not only are the Church services are in Greek but the monastics are only allowed to speak Greek among themselves and, in some cases, only read books or listen to mp3s in Greek).

However, no matter how “Greek” a non-Greek becomes, they soon learn that they will always remain a “xenos” in the eyes of the Greek monastics; those who join the monastery see this more as there’s not as much care or curation of external behavior once one steps behind closed doors. Though patriotism, nationalism, and other “isms” are taught to be “un-monastic”, such sentiments are very much alive in the monasteries behind closed doors among the monastics with pure Greek blood, especially those who were born in Greece.

Devotees do not speak about reincarnation unless it’s being criticized as a heresy or demonic delusion. They do talk about the Resurrection, Lives of the Saints, the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to man, and the feats of the Gerondas and Gerondissas. Even a casual visit to any of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries on a weekend will expose the pilgrim to at least one other visitor who is all about promoting and advertising the holiness of Elder Ephraim and the spirituality in the monasteries].

Geronda Ephraim's followers talk more about his 'feats' than about Christ or the saints. They have even made icons of him to which they pray in times of need.
Geronda Ephraim’s followers talk more about his ‘feats’ than about Christ or the saints. They have even made icons of him to which they pray in times of need.

*At length, some become permanent patrons of the ashrams.

[Many pilgrims will stay extended periods at the monastery to help out with work. Depending on the blessing, this could be anywhere from a few weeks, to an entire summer, or even a year.

In some cases, like Hieromonk Chrysostomos, his sister moved into the monastery (1996-1997) for awhile, was given her own room which she filled with her own furniture, was secretly baptized, stayed a bit longer and then left back to the world. In other cases, those with warrants were harboured until they decided what they wanted to do with their life (there’s no better way to hide than going off the grid where you don’t need ID or credit cards and what better place than a monastery where you can change your appearance by growing your hair and beard long and no one suspects a thing. Novices aren’t allowed to speak or reveal personal information about themselves to other monastics or laypeople. There’s no governing body overseeing who is coming and going from the monasteries and the hierarchs in the Greek diocese are pushovers who are too afraid to question Geronda Ephraim…it’s the perfect cover.

Some families spend their vacations at the monasteries. Generally, the parents will take off anywhere from a week or even a whole summer off and bring their children as well. The entire family will generally offer to help anywhere help is needed. In some cases, parents will drop off their child or children at a monastery for the summer to help out and become more rooted in orthodox spirituality. This has also lead to some of the nunneries offering summer camp for kids–why not make some money off the extra help as well, it’s a win win–free labor and the parents pay for their kids to do payless work.].

Hard labor + blind obedience are said to help free one from the enslavement to passions.
Hard labor + blind obedience are said to help free one from the enslavement to passions.

*They wear the orange cassock of the yogi. They cut their hair and dedicate themselves to a guru.

[Many pilgrims to the monastery start wearing all black both at the monastery as well as in the world. This sort of excessiveness is usually seen among the newly converted, especially those who have been secretly baptized at one of the monasteries or an off-site which one of the hieromonks may use. This behavioral change is also adopted by those pilgrims who are either interested in the monastic lifestyle or are preparing to leave the world but this is not the rule. Sometimes the Geronda or Gerondissa will tell the individual to act and dress more casually, even worldly, so no one else suspects they’re becoming a monastic.

In the case of men, they usually start growing their hair long and allow some sort of facial hair from a moustache to a goatee or even a full blown beard. In the case of women, they usually start wearing head coverings and more modest clothing both at the monastery and in their daily life. Depending on the individual’s history, these behavioral changes tend to coincide with separation from friends and relatives who are deemed “too worldy” or a “temptation”. These are replaced with new friends, usually monastery pilgrims. As well, men and women also get new “parents” to “replace” their biological (or adoptive) parents–the priests they confess to become their “spiritual fathers” and in the case of women, the gerondisses become “spiritual mothers”. Similar to how Christ commanded humans to love God more than their mothers and fathers, the monasteries teach pilgrims they should love their spiritual father more than their own parents.

Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote about
Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote about “convert pitfalls” 

*They change their name to an Indian one.

[Many converts change their name to a Greek one when they are baptized at the monasteries. Ephraim and Joseph are two of the more popular names for American converts that entered the faith through the monasteries.

When Elder Ephraim tonsures a novice into the rassaphore, he picks a name from a list he has and that becomes their new name. It is said that he sees the name lit up and thus, God has chosen that name for the individual and not the Elder. In some cases, a rassaphore who is tonsured into the Great Schema is also given a new name.].

*Usually, they absolutely obey the guru and his local representative-disciple.

[Geronda Ephraim is the leader of all the monasteries he built; the abbesses and abbots are his local representative-disciples. As one abbot said; “Your obedience to me goes to Geronda Ephraim and through him to Jesus Christ. I am just an ambassador for Geronda Ephraim, whatever you do or don’t do to me is the same as if you did or didn’t do it to Geronda Ephraim”–and by extension, to Jesus Christ. Though the Abbots and Abbesses have leeway in their own monasteries, everything major thing they do needs a blessing from Elder Ephraim, whether that’s building a new structure, buying a new vehicle, accepting a new novice, etc. (Gabriel doesn’t give as many Ford blessings as he use to, especially after his brother’s accident). In cases where a hieromonk spills some of the communion, the first call would be to Elder Ephraim not a bishop, and the hieromonk would follow the Elder’s instructions on how to proceed over what the canons dictate. So, in all things, Elder Ephraim has the final word. Much like the Pope of Rome, Geronda has the “power” to over ride Scripture, Canons, local Synodal decrees, orders from his diocese and any monastic tradition he sees fit. These decisions are usually made after some rounds on the prayer rope and “information received” from the Virgin Mary.].

*They participate in a ceremony to receive the title of Swami.

[A sub-novice is dressed by Geronda Ephraim and he recites two small prayers, thus making him a novice. The novice is tonsured by Geronda Ephraim, his hair is cut, two prayers are read over him, and he is given a koukouli, thus making him a rassaphore; canonically still a novice. Elder Ephraim will rarely tonsure a monastic to the Great Schema because the monastic makes very serious vows during the Liturgy and it is apparently a very intense life of pain, suffering and spiritual warfare. He usually waits until they’re terminally ill.

It should be noted that many of the monastics are taught that the rassaphore rank is essentially the same as making vows in the church, despite the monastic not making any verbal declarations during the tonsure, and if they decide to leave the monastery after that, salvation is next to impossible. However, the “rassaphore” rank is a modern invention much like the “little schema”. A rassaphore is essentially just a novice, they have made no vows or anything and only need the blessing of the bishop to leave. 

In some cases, he’ll allow his monastics to wear the schema without having the tonsure to prevent meddling bishops from interfering and doing the tonsure themselves and thus disrupt the order of obedience. This happened with the nun from Greece who were sent to Canada].

article_6593_11439

*Their wealth and property is donated to the movement and they dedicate all of their self, all their life, all their time to the growth and development of the movement that will save the world.

[A person renouncing the world is to be debt free and without possessions. This means all debt to worldly establishments have to be paid before entering a monastery so nothing is tying the individual to the world. Many times the sub-novice will donate the remainder of their bank account, their vehicle, and any assets they have to the monastery, unless they are instructed to give them all away as alms. Or, in some cases, they will sell all that they own but instead of giving the money to the poor as dictated by Christ, they give all that money to the monastery. The rest of their life is no longer their own, their entire existence will now be dictated by the elder or eldress; even down to the minutest details of hygiene].

So, if they can persuade us that all these things are religion, then a little down the road, they will convince us that we are not free thinking people but spiritually controlled robots.

“Now you get to see Geronda Ephraim as he really is; he’s much different with his monks than with the lay people.”

“ I believe in freedom of religious conscience. The thing that annoys and disturbs me, is the deceiving effort; someone appears with a beautiful mask, fearing that perhaps he won’t become acceptable showing his true face. This is hypocritical and devious. They stole a piece of my life. I wasted time, energy, money and opportunities. For years I grappled with one kudostymevo lie. I hope that I help certain brothers to quickly disentangle themselves, with these writings; much easier and with fewer casualties.”

[Essentially, when one enters the monastery, they are informed, “Now you get to see Geronda Ephraim as he really is; he’s much different with his monks than with the lay people.” And this is true. The individual is privy to more knowledge and more secrets as they advance.

Sub-novices are not privy to most of the monastery going-ons and are not included when the Abbot or Abbess calls the monastics for a talk or reprimand.

A novice will be included somewhat, but is never privy to the inner workings and structure of the monastery. Many times the novice will be excluded from the knowledge of big scandals, or problematic monastics being reprimanded. Furthermore, questioning by the novice is frowned upon and they are instructed about the sin of idle curiosity and told to mind their own business, or to ask the Geronda/Gerondissa (many times the monastic will have already informed the superior about the novice’s queries).

The rassaphores are privy to more information and see more things, however, individual diakonimas such as the office or business/financial aspects of the monasteries are insulated to the individual responsible for them, who also has a strict obedience not to talk about what he or she may do. Many years could pass and a monastic will remain clueless about the inner details of the monastery.].
(The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, Greek Edition, pp. 369-70)

One should ask why an English translation from one of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries has omitted all the information that would validate peoples’ concerns about the destructive cult-like nature of his monasteries in America.

The omitted chapters  essentially say that the regime used by Elder Ephraim in his monasteries (primarily the obligation of blind obedience and everything that results from that foundation of handing over total control to another individual) are manipulative and seriously dangerous to the mental and physical well-being of individuals. These cultic techniques and methods have led individuals into serious mental illness, sometimes resulting in suicides at the ashrams, etc.

The only “defence” the monasteries could use is, “Well Orthodoxy is the only truth and this is the God-inspired path laid out by the Fathers. The other religions have no grace so when they practice these things they give the devil more control whereas an orthodox monk will receive more grace; i.e. all the rest are energized by the devil, orthodox is energized by the Holy Spirit”. 

CHAPTER LAYOUT OF THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION

FOREWORD by Monk Arsenios (Vliangoftis)
PREFACE
To the Reader
A Biographical Note about Elder Paisios


CHAPTER ONE—Pushed towards Evil: Experiences in the World of Hypnotism, Witchcraft, and the Occult


Roots
Ares the Hypnotist
The Signs
Alexandra
Demetrios
Struck by an Invisible Entity
A Bizarre Dream

CHAPTER TWO—Divine Help: Elder Paisios Enters My Life

A Visit to the Holy Mountain
An Encounter with Elder Paisios
“You Don’t Have Any Right to Interfere with My Life”
The Fragrance of the Cross
First Trials in the Spiritual Life
The Elder’s Lesser Gifts
Accounts Given by Acquaintances
The Elder’s Teaching Method
A Great Blessing
The Guardian Angel
The Elder’s Generosity
Unconditional Love

CHAPTER THREE—On the Brink: Between Two Spiritual Traditions

My Meeting with Swami Yogamougananda
Silva Mind Control
A Visit to the Holy Mountain by the Scruff of My Neck
The Theotokos Who Keeps the Gate: Portaitissa
A Spiritual Helmet
A Decision

CHAPTER FOUR—Inside the Ashrams of India

Some Introductory Remarks about India
A Meeting at Benares
Our Trip to Babaji, “God in the Flesh”
In the Himalayas at the Ashram of the Teacher of Teachers
At the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo in New Delhi
At the Ashram of Guru Satyananda in Munger
Some of the People in the Ashram
My Second Encounter with Babaji, at Allahabad
The Worship of Idols
Demon Possession
The Temptation of Power
Mystical Experiences and Revelations at the Ashram of Satyananda
The Seizure
The Light
Ida, Pingala, Sushumna
The Spiritual Atmosphere
Being Seized and Being Visited
The Library
Satsang
A Final Attack
The Testimony of Eldress Gavrilia
Back at the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo

CHAPTER FIVE—Home at Last

A Visit to the Holy Mountain after My Escapades in India
A Demon, an Angel, and the Most Pure Virgin
The Healing of a Brain Injury
A Shaking Tree on a Breezeless Day
The Choice between Light and Darkness
A Spiritual Operation
Uncle Elijah
The Radiance of Uncle Elijah
“Thou Shalt Not Tempt the Lord Thy God”
Consolation from Elder Porphyrios
Elder Paisios in the Light of the Transfiguration
Spiritual Warfare in the Army
A Blessing from Elder Porphyrios
Another Encounter with Demetrios
The Jesus Prayer and the Hindu Mantra
Spiritual War
Holy Communion and the Centrality of Christ
The Christian Mysteries and Magic
An Experience of God, “Who is Everywhere Present and Fills All Things”

EPILOGUE

A Final Word

APPENDIX ONE—Testimonies from Greek Orthodox Spiritual Fathers

From Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Cyprus
From Archimandrite Theoklitos of the Holy Monastery of Saint Arsenios, Northern Greece
From Hieromonk Euthymios of Mount Athos

APPENDIX TWO—Suggestions for Further Reading

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain
Orthodoxy and Orthodox Spirituality
The Holy Mountain of Athos
Footnotes
Back cover text and photo

CHAPTER LAYOUT OF THE GREEK ORIGINAL

These are the chapters in the Greek original. Notice that the pamphlets St. Nektarios Monastery use to hand out to pilgrims have not been translated into English. The entire last section, Part 6 – “I think…therefore I am”, severely criticizes the ethics and morality of the techniques used by these destructive cults as well as shows the severe emotional, psychological and physical harm they cause to their practitioners. Many of the techniques mentioned are utilized in Elder Ephraim’s monasteries.

Περιεχόμενα

Προς τον αναγνώστη
Βιογραφική αναφορά 13

ΜΕΡΟΣ 1ο. ΠΡΙΝ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΑΓΙΟΝ ΟΡΟΣ
Οι ρίζες μου 18, Άρης ο υπνωτιστής 21, Αλεξάνδρα 31, Κάτι αόρατο με δέρνει 35, Ένα περίεργο όνειρο 36, Δημοσθένης ο μασόνος 40

ΜΕΡΟΣ 2ο. Η ΘΕΙΑ ΒΟΗΘΕΙΑ. Ο ΓΕΡΟΝΤΑΣ ΠΑΪΣΙΟΣ ΜΠΑΙΝΕΙ ΣΤΗ ΖΩΗ ΜΟΥ
Η πρώτη επίσκεψη στο Άγιον Όρος 46, Η συνάντησή μου με το Γέροντα Παΐσιο 51, Με ποιο δικαίωμα επεμβαίνεις στη ζωή μου; 57, Ο Σταυρός ευωδιάζει 58, Το όραμα 61, Οι πρώτες μου «πνευματικές» δοκιμές 64, Τα «μικρά» χαρίσματα του Γέροντα 73, Η «μέθοδος» διδασκαλίας του Γέροντα – Άγιο Πνεύμα 80, Η μεγάλη ευλογία 85, Ο φύλακας άγγελος 88, Η αγάπη του 89

ΜΕΡΟΣ 3ο. ΜΕΤΑΞΥ ΔΥΟ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΩΝ ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΕΩΝ
Η συνάντηση με τη Σουάμι Γιογκαμουγκανάντα 98, Η μέθοδος Σίλβα – MindControl 107, Από τα «μαλλιά» στο Άγιον Όρος 118, Η Πορταΐτισσα 119, «Το πνευματικό κράνος» 127, Επεξήγηση 132

ΜΕΡΟΣ 4ο. Η ΖΩΗ ΜΟΥ ΣΤΗΝ ΙΝΔΙΑ
Ινδία 136, Η συνάντηση στο Μπεναρές (Varanassi) 140, Το ταξίδι προς τον Babaji το σαρκωμένο «θεό» 149, Ιμαλάια: Στο άσραμ του δασκάλου των δασκάλων 157, Στο Νέο Δελχί στο άσραμ του Σρι Αουρομπίντο 172, Μουνγκυρ: Το άσραμ του Σατυανάντα 174, Αλαχαμπάντ: Η δεύτερη συνάντηση με τον Babaji 194, Τα πνευματικά γεγονότα 210, Η μαρτυρία της Γερόντισσας Γαβριηλίας 228, Τι ανακάλυψα στη βιβλιοθήκη τους 232, Ξανά στο άσραμ του Σρι Αουρομπίντο 237

ΜΕΡΟΣ 5ο. ΠΙΣΩ ΣΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΑΔΑ ΜΕΤΑ ΤΗΝ ΙΝΔΙΑ
Στο Άγιον Όρος μετά την Ινδία 242, Φως ή Σκοτάδι 247, Το δαιμόνιο, ο άγγελος και η Παναγία 254, Η «εγχείρηση» 265, Ο μπαρμπα Ηλίας – ο διά Χριστόν σαλός 272, «Ουκ εκπειράσεις Κύριον τον Θεόν σου» 276, Ο θάμνος 280, Ο Γέροντας αστράφτει 282, Η θεραπεία του εγκεφάλου 288, Στρατός 291, Ο Γέροντας Πορφύριος 299, Η ευχή και το μαντρά 309, Η θεία ευχαριστία 323, Διαφορά χριστιανικού Μυστηρίου και μαγικής πράξης 328, Εμπειρία Θεού 328, Μία διευκρίνιση 337

ΜΕΡΟΣ 6ο. ΣΚΕΦΤΟΜΑΙ… ΑΡΑ ΥΠΑΡΧΩ
Η βασική άγνοια 340, Κοινωνικές αντιλήψεις και πρακτικές των Ινδουϊστών 345, Γιόγκα: Θρησκεία ή επιστήμη; 364, «Αρμονική ζωή» ή η τέχνη της παραπλάνησης; 371, Μετεμψύχωση ή Ανάσταση; 376, Η επίδραση της Γιόγκα στο σώμα και στο νου 381, Οι «θεοί» του ινδουϊσμού 394, «Τα είδωλα των εθνών δαιμόνια» 416, Από την Παλαιά Διαθήκη 436, Το ψάρεμα 438, Κάρμα Γιόγκα. Μία μέθοδος δουλοποίησης ανθρώπων 445, Διαλογισμός και αυτοΰπνωση 453, Η στάση της προσευχής και η στάση του διαλογισμού 482, Το ψήφισμα του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου 486, Η πίστη 492, Επίλογος 506
The full translation can be found here.

Love Bombing in the Monasteries

Love bombing is an attempt to influence a person by lavish demonstrations of attention and affection. The phrase can be used in different ways. In the monasteries, love bombing takes on its own unique meaning as will be shown below.

Psychology professor Margaret Singer popularized the concept, becoming closely identified with the love-bombing-as-brainwashing point of view.[1] In her 1996 book, Cults in Our Midst, she described the technique:

As soon as any interest is shown by the recruits, they may be love bombed by the recruiter or other cult members. This process of feigning friendship and interest in the recruit was originally associated with one of the early youth cults, but soon it was taken up by a number of groups as part of their program for luring people in. Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members’ flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark. Love bombing – or the offer of instant companionship – is a deceptive ploy accounting for many successful recruitment drives.[2]

Dr. Geri-Ann Galanti (in a sympathetic article) writes: “A basic human need is for self-esteem…. Basically [love bombing] consists of giving someone a lot of positive attention.”38]

Geronda Ephraim of Arizona.
Geronda Ephraim of Arizona.

Love Bombing in the Monasteries

Although each monastery has different methodologies of application, there is a common form of love bombing that exists within the monasteries if one is potentially interested in monasticism.

There is a whole systematic methodology, applied differently in each case depending on a person’s disposition, when one shows interest or confesses to a hieromonk or Gerondissa an interest in monasticism.

Behind-the-Scenes Scenario in a Monastery:

An abbot or abbess calls all the monastics for a talk. “So and so is showing signs of interest in monasticism. Show them love. And above all, do not scandalize them. Give them a good witness of monasticism.” The superior may also give the monastics—even ones who usually are not allowed to talk with visitors—a blessing to talk with these potential recruits. Again, an obedience is given on the content of the conversations: “How beautiful the monastic life is; it’s difficult but there is so much grace, how holy Geronda Ephraim is, etc.” The irony is, sometimes the individual monastic speaking is suffering depression, or is struggling with remaining in the monastery, or may be having a brief warfare with regretting the monastic life, etc. Either way, rain or shine, happy or sad, the monastic will be admonishing the young aspirant about “how amazing the monastic life is; it’s like nothing else in the world.”

So, essentially, the monastics are instructed to give more attention to this individual, be extra nice, show love–to give a particularly extra special treatment not normally given to the average pilgrim, making them feel more special and important–even down to hugging the potential recruit when they leave the monastery after a visit (monks and nuns normally do not have this kind of affectionate contact with lay people). As well, this creates a bond, albeit superficial, between the monastery and the individual. The monastics have a “holy anxiety” not to scandalize this individual, and thus upset their Elder, causing them to be hyper vigilant in all aspects of their external behavior.

Fr. Kosmas, Novice Anthony, and Fr. Kassianos chatting at St. Nektarios Monastery.
Fr. Kosmas, Novice Anthony, and Fr. Kassianos chatting at St. Nektarios Monastery.

This person will then be set up to work with the monks or nuns at various diakonima. If a problematic monk or nun does something to scandalize this person (idle talking, yelling at another monastic, speaking in a judgemental manner of others, acting worldly, being argumentative with other monastics, etc.) this is reported to the superior. Then, all the monastics will be called together again. The monastic in question will be centered out, humbled and shamed in front of the other monastics for his or her behavior. A kanona will be given which is tailored to the individual monastic.[4] An obedience may be given to the monastics that if they see similar behavior it is to be reported immediately. Further disobedience could result a time period in the Lity, extra prostrations, elimination of privileges, no sweets for a period of time, a rusk and apple for each meal until the superior decides the monastic can have a real meal, etc.

The Monk Who Was Given a Lifelong Ban from Eating Oranges

Fr. Antonios of St. Anthony's Monastery
Fr. Antonios

In one monastery, a monk reversed a truck into an orange tree, destroyed it, and the Geronda told him he had no blessing to eat another orange for the rest of his life (this monk loved oranges). For someone who hasn’t been a monastic, and has access to all the pleasures that the world offers, this may seem like something insignificant. However, in a life of “voluntary imprisonment” which is full of deprivations of even the simplest things in life, this kind of penance is very severe.

However, the mindset of the monastic should be on the one hand, begging God to forgive them, while shedding copious tears, for grieving his/her Elder (because grieving the Elder severs a subordinate’s connection with God), as well as, thanking God for enlightening his/her elder for punishing them. At no time should a monastic have feelings of protest, whether internal or external, as the “mouth of the elder is the mouth of Christ,” and what the elder says is God’s will for the monastic.

monk-in-prayer-orthodox
Experiences Tailor-made for the Individual

Essentially, behind the scenes, a whole experience is being tailor-made for the individual with an interest in monasticism. When this individual finally joins the monastery, as a sub-novice—and, in some cases, even as a novice—the individual is still not privy to the inner scandals and problems of the monastery, they are “shielded” and “protected” from them so as not to be “scandalized” and have their resolve weaken. This is much easier to do in the larger monasteries as higher numbers equals better ways to insulate and hide incidents. In smaller numbers, in smaller settings, it’s harder to hide things, though not impossible.

Procession Led by 2 Novices at St. Nektarios Monastery

As a novice, the individual may slowly be exposed to the “dirty laundry” of the monastery, or in some cases, if their resolve isn’t steadfast, they may be excluded from the gatherings when all the rassaphores get called for disciplinary action. It really depends on the individual and the “incidents’ that are being disciplined or scrutinized.
Of course, when a novice has to be disciplined, this many times happens in front of the entire brother/sisterhood. Also, if a novice is sent to the Lity, then the entire monastery and all the pilgrims witness his/her shame.

“Pep Talks” Before Dignitaries or Benefactors Visit the Monastery

013
As an aside, experiences are also tailor-made for dignitaries, benefactors of the monastery, and special guests. Many times, before a dignitary visits the monastery, the monastcis will be called for a “pep talk.” Geronda Ephraim did this at Filotheou all the years he was an abbot there, and this strategy has been adopted here in the monasteries. So, the superior will say something along the lines of, “Today this priest, or this bishop, is coming to the monastery. I want everyone on their best behavior. No idle talking, yelling, horsing around, etc. just say the prayer. Take their blessing and give a good example (or witness) of monasticism, etc.” If certain individual monastics have shortcomings that scandalize people, they will be centered out with an “especially you, don’t do…” Now, if the individual coming is against the monasteries or has spoken against Geronda Ephraim, etc., that will be emphasized as well as an extra warning, “We don’t know what their purpose is coming here, so be extra careful, etc.” Of course, when it comes to dignitaries, the monastics are threatened with the severest punishments and warnings.

Geronda Paisios, Geronda Ephraim & Bishop Panteleimon of Verroia (2014).
Geronda Paisios, Geronda Ephraim & Bishop Panteleimon of Verroia (2014).

NOTES
1. Richardson, James T. (2004). Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe. Springer. ISBN 0-306-47887-0. p. 479
2. Singer, Margaret (1996; 2003) Cults in Our Midst. Revised edition, 2003. Wiley. ISBN 0-7879-6741-6 .
3. Langone, Michael, Recovery from Cults, Chapter 3 – Reflections on “Brainwashing”, Geri-Ann Galanti.
4. When giving a kanona to a monk or nun, the superior takes into consideration their individual weaknesses. For instance, if a monastic does not want to partake of deserts every day and fast more, banning them from sweets is not a punishment. If a monastic loves ascesis and prostrations, giving them 500 extra is not always a punishment. Thus, a monastic with a sweet tooth will be deprived of sweets. A monastic with a big appetite will be given bread and water, or a rusk and a fruit—even on a dairy day. A monastic who is uncomfortable with public humiliation will be put in the Lity. Furthermore, the monastic may be given a diakonima he/she does not like as punishment (sewing, making beds, cleaning toilets, cleaning the feces from animal pens, etc.) All punishments are corrective and meant to humble and teach the individual.

Nativity of the Theotokos Sisterhood in Saxonburg, PA (Kursk Root Icon Visit)
Nativity of the Theotokos Sisterhood in Saxonburg, PA (Kursk Root Icon Visit)

Conversion Techniques: Changing Minds & Persuasion (Part 7 – Exhaustion)

EXHAUSTION

 

A method used during extreme conversion may be to exhaust the person, both physically and emotionally. During initial conversion this weakens their resolve and ability to make rational decisions. When they are converted, it keeps them pliant and removes opportunities to think about leaving.

Physical exhaustion

When the body is physically tired beyond a certain point, the mind is weakened, laying a person open to suggestion and limiting their rational cognitive abilities.

Geronda Epraim in his cell

Hard work

A simple way of wearing a person out is to give them physical things to do. This may involve heavy lifting, but it is not necessary. Just being on your feet all day is enough to seriously tire most people.

In fact this low level of exercise can be sustained for longer but is ultimately more tiring. After a short burst of energy, our bodies make us rest. When you sit down after a long period of even gentle activity, it can be very difficult to get up again.

Long hours

Long hours, working from dawn to dusk, both keeps people’s minds off other things and also serves to create a deep and very wearisome tiredness. If the person is active from dawn to dusk, they will sleep very soundly.

AZ Fr. Menas

Irregular hours

The level of exhaustion can be increased significantly by varying the hours of rest. When you are woken in the middle of the night, especially if you are in the middle of a period of deep sleep, then it can be as if you had no sleep at all.
Irregularity in work and sleep also adds to mental confusion as the mind seeks to create a circadian pattern and is unable to do so.

Shocks and stress

External shocks trigger the Fight-or-Flight reaction, with its attendant adrenaline arousal that builds us up, which is followed by the subsequent counter-reaction downwards.

The shocks may be created by unexpected events, from outbursts of a leader to sudden noises.

This constant up and down serves to accelerate physical exhaustion.

Mental exhaustion

As well as physical exercise, mental exhaustion can be created by deliberate cognitive exercises. The brain uses a very large part of the oxygen in the blood stream, and additional thinking depletes this, leading to exhaustion as real as having done physical exercise.

Studies

When people are asked to learn new material or study great works, then the brain is engaged in understanding and committing to memory this new information. In particular if it is complex and uses new words and concepts, then further effort is required to integrate it into the existing models and modes of thought.

Lectures

A variant on this is to be required to attend lectures during which an expert expounds on topics in which the person struggles to keep up. Like a straggler in a race, they force themselves onwards in the vain hope of keeping up with the athletes in front of them.

Discussions

A further method is to engage the person in deep and meaningful discussions. Now they are being questioned and have to attend carefully, listening to what is said and responding to a degree that is to the satisfaction of the discussion leader.

Israel in Egypt (Sir Edward John Poynter)