The Confidence Game: What Con Artists Reveal About the Psychology of Trust and Why Even the Most Rational of Us Are Susceptible to Deception

NOTE: The following article was written by Maria Popova and was taken from https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/12/the-confidence-game-maria-konnikova/

“It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief — of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it.”

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“Reality is what we take to be true,” physicist David Bohm observed in a 1977 lecture. “What we take to be true is what we believe… What we believe determines what we take to be true.” That’s why nothing is more reality-warping than the shock of having come to believe something untrue — an experience so disorienting yet so universal that it doesn’t spare even the most intelligent and self-aware of us, for it springs from the most elemental tendencies of human psychology. “The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence,” Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman asserted in examining how our minds mislead us, “but of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct.”

The machinery of that construction is what New Yorker columnist and science writer extraordinaire Maria Konnikova explores in The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time (public library) — a thrilling psychological detective story investigating how con artists, the supreme masterminds of malevolent reality-manipulation, prey on our propensity for believing what we wish were true and how this illuminates the inner workings of trust and deception in our everyday lives.

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Art by Edward Gorey for a special edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

“Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours,” Carl Sagan urged in his excellent Baloney Detection Kit — and yet our tendency is to do just that, becoming increasingly attached to what we’ve come to believe because the belief has sprung from our own glorious, brilliant, fool-proof minds. Through a tapestry of riveting real-life con artist profiles interwoven with decades of psychology experiments, Konnikova demonstrates that a con artist simply takes advantage of this hubris by finding the beliefs in which we are most confident — those we’re least likely to question — and enlisting them in advancing his or her agenda.

To be sure, we all perform micro-cons on a daily basis. White lies are the ink of the social contract — the insincere compliment to a friend who needs a confidence boost, the unaddressed email that “somehow went to spam,” the affinity fib that gives you common ground with a stranger at a party even though you aren’t really a “huge Leonard Cohen fan too.”

We even con ourselves. Every act of falling in love requires a necessary self-con — as Adam Phillips has written in his terrific piece on the paradox of romance, “the person you fall in love with really is the man or woman of your dreams”; we dream the lover up, we construct a fantasy of who she is based on the paltry morsels of information seeded by early impressions, we fall for that fantasy and then, as we immerse ourselves in a real relationship with a real person, we must convince ourselves that the reality corresponds to enough of the fantasy to feel satisfying.

But what sets the con artist apart from the mundane white-liar is the nefarious intent and the deliberate deftness with which he or she goes about executing that reality-manipulation.

Konnikova begins with the story of a lifelong impostor named Ferdinand Waldo Demara, who successfully passed himself off as a psychologist, a professor, a monk, a surgeon, a prison warden, the founder of a religious college, and even his own biographer.

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Ferdinand Waldo Demara (Photograph: Corbis)

Considering the perplexity of his astonishing ability to deceive, Konnikova — whose previous book examined the positive counterpart to the con, the psychology of thinking like Sherlock Holmes — writes:

“How was he so effective? Was it that he preyed on particularly soft, credulous targets? I’m not sure the Texas prison system, one of the toughest in the United States, could be described as such. Was it that he presented an especially compelling, trustworthy figure? Not likely, at six foot one and over 250 pounds, square linebacker’s jaw framed by small eyes that seemed to sit on the border between amusement and chicanery, an expression that made [his] four-year-old daughter Sarah cry and shrink in fear the first time she ever saw it. Or was it something else, something deeper and more fundamental — something that says more about ourselves and how we see the world?

It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief — of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it… For our minds are built for stories. We crave them, and, when there aren’t ready ones available, we create them. Stories about our origins. Our purpose. The reasons the world is the way it is. Human beings don’t like to exist in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity. When something doesn’t make sense, we want to supply the missing link. When we don’t understand what or why or how something happened, we want to find the explanation. A confidence artist is only too happy to comply — and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte.”

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Art by Lisbeth Zwerger for a special edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Konnikova describes the basic elements of the con and the psychological susceptibility into which each of them plays:

“The confidence game starts with basic human psychology. From the artist’s perspective, it’s a question of identifying the victim (the put-up): who is he, what does he want, and how can I play on that desire to achieve what I want? It requires the creation of empathy and rapport (the play): an emotional foundation must be laid before any scheme is proposed, any game set in motion. Only then does it move to logic and persuasion (the rope): the scheme (the tale), the evidence and the way it will work to your benefit (the convincer), the show of actual profits. And like a fly caught in a spider’s web, the more we struggle, the less able to extricate ourselves we become (the breakdown). By the time things begin to look dicey, we tend to be so invested, emotionally and often physically, that we do most of the persuasion ourselves. We may even choose to up our involvement ourselves, even as things turn south (the send), so that by the time we’re completely fleeced (the touch), we don’t quite know what hit us. The con artist may not even need to convince us to stay quiet (the blow-off and fix); we are more likely than not to do so ourselves. We are, after all, the best deceivers of our own minds. At each step of the game, con artists draw from a seemingly endless toolbox of ways to manipulate our belief. And as we become more committed, with every step we give them more psychological material to work with.”

What makes the book especially pleasurable is that Konnikova’s intellectual rigor comes with a side of warm wit. She writes:

“Religion,” Voltaire is said to have remarked, “began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.” It certainly sounds like something he would have said. Voltaire was no fan of the religious establishment. But versions of the exact same words have been attributed to Mark Twain, to Carl Sagan, to Geoffrey Chaucer. It seems so accurate that someone, somewhere, sometime, must certainly have said it.

The invocation of Mark Twain is especially apt — one of America’s first great national celebrities, he was the recipient of some outrageous con attempts. That, in fact, is one of Konnikova’s most disquieting yet strangely assuring points — that although our technologies of deception have changed, the technologies of thought undergirding the art of the con are perennially bound to our basic humanity. She writes:

“The con is the oldest game there is. But it’s also one that is remarkably well suited to the modern age. If anything, the whirlwind advance of technology heralds a new golden age of the grift. Cons thrive in times of transition and fast change, when new things are happening and old ways of looking at the world no longer suffice. That’s why they flourished during the gold rush and spread with manic fury in the days of westward expansion. That’s why they thrive during revolutions, wars, and political upheavals. Transition is the confidence game’s great ally, because transition breeds uncertainty. There’s nothing a con artist likes better than exploiting the sense of unease we feel when it appears that the world as we know it is about to change. We may cling cautiously to the past, but we also find ourselves open to things that are new and not quite expected.

[…]

No amount of technological sophistication or growing scientific knowledge or other markers we like to point to as signs of societal progress will — or can — make cons any less likely. The same schemes that were playing out in the big stores of the Wild West are now being run via your in-box; the same demands that were being made over the wire are hitting your cell phone. A text from a family member. A frantic call from the hospital. A Facebook message from a cousin who seems to have been stranded in a foreign country.

[…]

Technology doesn’t make us more worldly or knowledgeable. It doesn’t protect us. It’s just a change of venue for the same old principles of confidence. What are you confident in? The con artist will find those things where your belief is unshakeable and will build on that foundation to subtly change the world around you. But you will be so confident in the starting point that you won’t even notice what’s happened.”

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Art by Maurice Sendak for The Green Book by Robert Graves.

In a sense, the con is a more extreme and elaborate version of the principles of persuasion that Blaise Pascal outlined half a millennium ago — it is ultimately an art not of coercion but of complicity. Konnikova writes:

“The confidence game — the con — is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, persuasion. The true con artist doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing. He doesn’t steal. We give. He doesn’t have to threaten us. We supply the story ourselves. We believe because we want to, not because anyone made us. And so we offer up whatever they want — money, reputation, trust, fame, legitimacy, support — and we don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. Our need to believe, to embrace things that explain our world, is as pervasive as it is strong. Given the right cues, we’re willing to go along with just about anything and put our confidence in just about anyone.”

So what makes you more susceptible to the confidence game? Not necessarily what you might expect:

“When it comes to predicting who will fall, personality generalities tend to go out the window. Instead, one of the factors that emerges is circumstance: it’s not who you are, but where you happen to be at this particular moment in your life.”

People whose willpower and emotional resilience resources are strained — the lonely, the financially downtrodden, those dealing with the trauma of divorce, injury, or job loss, those undergoing major life changes — are particularly vulnerable. But these, Konnikova reminds us, are states rather than character qualities, circumstances that might and likely will befall each one of us at different points in life for reasons largely outside our control. (One is reminded of philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s excellent work on agency and victimhood: “The victim shows us something about our own lives: we see that we too are vulnerable to misfortune, that we are not any different from the people whose fate we are watching…”) Konnikova writes:

“The more you look, the more you realize that, even with certain markers, like life changes, and certain tendencies in tow, a reliably stable overarching victim profile is simply not there. Marks vary as much as, and perhaps even more than, the grifters who fool them.”

Therein lies the book’s most sobering point — Konnikova demonstrates over and over again, through historical anecdotes and decades of studies, that no one is immune to the art of the con. And yet there is something wonderfully optimistic in this. Konnikova writes:

“The simple truth is that most people aren’t out to get you. We are so bad at spotting deception because it’s better for us to be more trusting. Trust, and not adeptness at spotting deception, is the more evolutionarily beneficial path. People are trusting by nature. We have to be. As infants, we need to trust that the big person holding us will take care of our needs and desires until we’re old enough to do it ourselves. And we never quite let go of that expectation.”

Trust, it turns out, is advantageous in the grand scheme of things. Konnikova cites a number of studies indicating that people who score higher on generalized trust tend to be healthier physically, more psychoemotionally content, likelier to be entrepreneurs, and likelier to volunteer. (The most generous woman I know, who is also a tremendously successful self-made entrepreneur, once reflected: “I’ve never once regretted being generous, I’ve only ever regretted holding back generosity.”) But the greater risk-tolerance necessary for reaping greater rewards also comes with the inevitable downside of greater potential for exploitation — the most trusting among us are also the perfect marks for the player of the confidence game.

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Art by Maurice Sendak for The Green Book by Robert Graves.

But the paradox of trust, Konnikova argues, is only part of our susceptibility to being conned. Another major factor is our sheer human solipsism. She explains:

“We are our own prototype of being, of motivation, of behavior. People, however, are far from being a homogeneous mass. And so, when we depart from our own perspective, as we inevitably must, we often make errors, sometimes significant ones. [Psychologists call this] “egocentric anchoring”: we are our own point of departure. We assume that others know what we know, believe what we believe, and like what we like.”

She cites an extensive study, the results of which were published in a paper cleverly titled “How to Seem Telepathic.” (One ought to appreciate the scientists’ wry sarcasm in poking fun at our clickbait culture.) Konnikova writes:

“Many of our errors, the researchers found, stem from a basic mismatch between how we analyze ourselves and how we analyze others. When it comes to ourselves, we employ a fine-grained, highly contextualized level of detail. When we think about others, however, we operate at a much higher, more generalized and abstract level. For instance, when answering the same question about ourselves or others — how attractive are you? — we use very different cues. For our own appearance, we think about how our hair is looking that morning, whether we got enough sleep, how well that shirt matches our complexion. For that of others, we form a surface judgment based on overall gist. So, there are two mismatches: we aren’t quite sure how others are seeing us, and we are incorrectly judging how they see themselves.”

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Art by Maurice Sendak for a special edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

The skilled con artist, Konnikova points out, mediates for this mismatch by making an active effort to discern which cues the other person is using to form judgments and which don’t register at all. The result is a practical, non-paranormal exercise in mind-reading, which creates an illusion of greater affinity, which in turn becomes the foundation of greater trust — we tend to trust those similar to us more than the dissimilar, for we intuit that the habits and preferences we have in common stem from shared values.

And yet, once again, we are reminded that the tricks of the con artist’s exploitive game are different only by degree rather than kind from the everyday micro-deceptions of which our social fabric is woven. Konnikova writes:

“Both similarity and familiarity can be faked, as the con artist can easily tell you — and the more you can fake it, the more real information will be forthcoming. Similarity is easy enough. When we like someone or feel an affinity for them, we tend to mimic their behavior, facial expressions, and gestures, a phenomenon known as the chameleon effect. But the effect works the other way, too. If we mimic someone else, they will feel closer and more similar to us; we can fake the natural liking process quite well. We perpetuate minor cons every day, often without realizing it, and sometimes knowing what we do all too well, when we mirror back someone’s words or interests, feign a shared affinity for a sports team or a mutual hatred of a brand. The signs that usually serve us reliably can easily be massaged, especially in the short term — all a good con artist needs.”

In the remainder of the thoroughly fascinating The Confidence Game, Konnikova goes on to explore the role of storytelling in reality-manipulation, what various psychological models reveal about the art of persuasion, and how the two dramatically different systems that govern our perception of reality — emotion and the intellect — conspire in the machinery of trust. Complement it with Adrienne Rich on lying and what “truth” really means, David deSteno on the psychology of trust in work and love, and Alice Walker on what her father taught her about the love-expanding capacity of truth-telling.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Similarities between Guruism and Gerontolatry Part III

The third part of this study is based on a chapter in Dionysios Farasiotis’ book, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Greek Edition). This chapter is called The Influence of Yoga on the Body and the Mind. It is only found in the Greek edition on pages 381-393. 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 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.

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 […]:

Geronda Joseph, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY.
Geronda Joseph, Abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY.

*In the beginning, one truly feels a healthiness, well-being and revival. However, it is suggested to attribute this improvement to certain ‘hidden powers’ and a certain ‘secret wisdom’ that exist hidden within the Yoga exercises (stances). [In Monasticism here, most beginners experience a grace and this is always attributed to their Geronda Ephraim’s prayers and their blind obedience. Many novices have been told that once they make the prostration to Geronda Ephraim signifying their submission to him, then invisibly they receive an innumerable amount of crowns free from his immeasurable and overflowing resource of graces and crowns. Any breach in this peace and euphoria is either the demons—which are allowed by God to tempt the beginner so he can be trained and learn the art of warfare—or it’s the disciple’s fault through his disobedience or accepting thoughts against his elder].

Many novices have been told that once they make the prostration to Geronda Ephraim signifying their submission to him, then invisibly they receive an innumerable amount of crowns free
Many novices have been told that once they make the prostration to Geronda Ephraim signifying their submission to him, then invisibly they receive an innumerable amount of crowns free.

*Every metaphysical explanation of this well-being (i.e. via endorphins due to change of life-style and healthier living) is superfluous. Persistence in such an explanation simply becomes personal preference or curiosity that hides other goals. Only beginners have this feeling of well-being. The more advanced start to have problems; pains in the waist, knees, back and joints. [All monks start having health issues not too long after starting out in the life. As time goes on, the longer one is following the monastic typikon, one generally starts to develop back and knee problems. Illness is said to go hand in hand with the monastic life as everyone needs a cross to bear. The back and knee problems are pretty much a guarantee. Novices are encouraged to stand as much as possible during the all-night vigil as they tend to fall asleep easier during services when sitting. Combine that with a day of hard labor, only 6-6 ½ hours of sleep broken up into a 4 hour (4 ½ if one wants to sacrifice the only free time they have to themselves during the 24 hour period) and a 2-2 ½ hour period after an all night vigil followed by breakfast. Not to mention all monks generally have 150 daily prostrations as a rule (300 prostrations during Great Lent), except for Sundays. However, one can also rack up multiple prostrations during the day due to mistakes or disobediences they make. These are all expected to be fulfilled so the demons don’t have anything to hold against them during the soul’s ascent through the toll-houses. These things take a toll on the body after awhile].

Monks of St. Nektarios Monastery chanting.
Monks of St. Nektarios Monastery chanting.

*The main aim of Yoga gymnastics and postures is neither the development of muscles nor the acquisition of blessings. Their aims are the alteration of the organism’s biochemical equilibrium. Someone seated in these postures puts pressure on the internal organs of the body: the heart, intestines, liver and lungs. Certain postures particularly press and act upon the endocrine glands (they are called chakras in their terminology). The pressure incites the glands (most times) when we have an over-functioning and effusion of great quantities of hormones inside the body. Other times, the exact opposite occurs. Every group of postures (asanas) exerts pressure on the various glands. [During the prayer of the heart portion of a vigil—the times differ for each individual monastic—one sits on a very small stool, which props their knees above their waist, and head is bent, body somewhat crouched. One wonders if similar things occur in the body with the pressure this posture puts on the internal organs of the body. There are some monastics who will do their daily kanona before they go to sleep so they can spend the entire duration of their nightly vigil (up to 3 or more hours) in such positions doing prayer of the heart. Though the bodily position and breathing exercises for this method of the prayer are not the be all and all of the prayer, they are used as aids to assist in acquiring the prayer. When one of the monks in Arizona was asked about similarities between the Jesus Prayer and Hindu mantras, the response was that many Indians and Brahmans travelled back and forth from Egypt during the height of monasticism, they were so impressed by the spirituality of the Desert Fathers that they stole some of their techniques for themselves trying to imitate them].

“Outwardly curling himself – so far as is possible – into the form of a circle, in conformity with the mode of action that he tries to establish in his nous, he also, through this same position of his body, sends into his heart the power of the nous that is dispersed outwardly when his gaze is turned outward.” – St. Gregory Palamas

*Once, Elder Paisios told me, “The devil cannot hide completely. God doesn’t allow it. If the devil hid in some sack, a certain horn would protrude. But what does the devil one do? What’s this, he says, it isn’t a horn, it’s an eggplant”. The gurus also follow this tactic. They explain these clearly bodily phenomena as spiritual experiences and as spiritual progress. They interpret the condition (which doctors consider sickness) as ‘draining up energy from higher centers’. Egoism will flatter these people into thinking that they are more advanced; they aren’t like the others. The purpose of this tactic is to make these people more attached to the gurus with the hope that they will also reveal other deeper secrets to them; higher techniques that will make them superman, gods or whatever else they desire. Thus, the maypole of deception is weaved. [In monasticism, everything is very black and white, there are not too many gray areas. A monastic’s experiences are either from God or the Devil, Grace or the demonic imitation of Grace. Only the Geronda or Gerondissa can properly discern if the source of an experience is the uncreated energy of God, or the created energy of the devil. The monastic is heavily encouraged not to believe or trust anything he feels or thinks before first confessing it to his/her superior; the superior will give them the proper interpretation. And even if the superior is wrong, it is still better to do obedience and be safeguarded from delusion as Geronda Ephraim teaches using examples from the Desert Fathers].

There is an oral tradition on Mount Athos that the only time a monk is allowed to physically hit someone is if they insult their Geronda.
There is an oral tradition on Mount Athos that the only time a monk is allowed to physically hit someone is if they insult their Geronda.

*The Yogic exercises and other similar techniques act upon the endocrine glands and bring about hormonal changes to the body. You will hear that they act upon certain centers – ‘chakras’ (which give them mystical extensions) from where you derive energy. This is a ‘spiritual origin’. Is this change without danger? Is it safe for someone to experiment and play with his body’s hormones? God (nature if you prefer) has regulated and fixed our body in a certain way. We have a very strong, intricate equilibrium, so why do we want to change it? The smallest hormonal disorder causes serious illnesses (sterility, high blood pressure, goiter*, diabetes, cancer). It is very dangerous. It is opposite of what they advertise. It has a deep influence upon the body. Someone can become gravely ill; suffer a galloping form of cancer; he can go mad, ending up in a psychiatric clinic. [Monasticism doesn’t put as much emphasis on the bodily postures as the yoga asanas. The prayer of the heart bodily aids are just that, means to an end, not the end itself. However, the combination of drastic diet change which is also food deprivation, forced sleep deprivation—which also interferes with the circadian rhythm—hard labor to fatigue the body does have an effect on an individual. Combine that with doing psychosomatic exercises on 4 hours of sleep after a full day of work and starvation and depending on the blessing, after chugging a mug of cold coffee to wake up. Over a period of time, this will start affecting the natural equilibrium God designed for the human body. There is also research that shows caffeine can cause auditory hallucinations:

http://www.livescience.com/3230-caffeine-hallucinations.html ].

Too Much Coffee Can Make You Hear Things That Are Not There.
Too Much Coffee Can Make You Hear Things That Are Not There.

*Nobody knew these things. Nobody talked about these things in the 70’s. Ten years had to pass for many cases of illness to appear in order for something to start being whispered. Again, the gurus threw the burden and error on their disciples. They didn’t do the exercise well. They didn’t make good preparations, etc. The first cowardly questions started to occur. Afterwards, suicides compelled the gurus to start speaking about the dangers. Many people fell from the clouds, so dangers also exist. [In monasticism, the burden is always thrown on the disciple. Geronda Ephraim has stated a disciple can enter hell with a blessing and not be burned or harmed. Thus, almost 100% of the time, if something happens to a disciple—nervous breakdown, developing psychological problems, becoming “possessed” or deluded, leaving the monastery, severe depression, self-harm, suicide, etc.—it’s almost always deduced as the disciple did not have clean confession, is negligent in their spiritual duties or didn’t do their obedience properly (i.e. with a good disposition, unquestioning, without judging, etc.). There are the few rare instances where these things are blamed on the devil’s envy and demonic warfare, though again allowed by God’s Providence for any given reason. A Geronda or Gerondissa almost never take on the responsibility for themselves. For instance, in one monastery, the Abbot admitted that the monk in charge of construction was going to lose his soul if he remained in that diakonima because it was not helping him and he was becoming more problematic, argumentative, egotistical, and was challenging Geronda at every step. Though as the Abbot reflected, he then stated, “But we save so much money with Kassianos, we need him to remain where he is, he is the only monk who can do it. He has saved the monastery millions.” On a later occasion, after a brief argument between this Abbot and the monk, with the monk rebutting and challenging everything that was being said, the Abbot turned to a couple of his monks afterwards and lamented Kassianos’ end, stating what a difficult end he would have, and he was concerned because he didn’t know how he would fare in the afterlife. But, in the end analysis, it would seem saving millions of dollars on construction projects is more valuable than saving one individual soul (which Christ has stated is more valuable than the entire universe). Again, all the fault is cast on the monk because he doesn’t do obedience or have clean confession].

Fr. Kassianos Titonis of St. Nektarios Monastery. Originally from Toronto, he is one of the monks responsible for the construction projects.
Fr. Kassianos Titonis of St. Nektarios Monastery. Originally from Toronto, he is one of the monks responsible for the construction projects.

*What did Satyanenta say when speaking about the techniques? “Together with this redemption from restrictions and misfortunes, from the other side, you can go mad and pass your remaining years in a psychiatric ward. Unfortunately, this has happened to some people who followed practical Yoga without guidance or, otherwise, they didn’t obey their teacher’s instructions.” That is, he throws the blame on the disciples. He puts ‘oil’ on himself. [In Geronda’s teachings, he doesn’t hide the fact that monks can go mad and be possessed. He frequently tells such stories from his experiences on Mount Athos—even a story where he prayed to be possessed so he could understand and empathize more with the possessed, which he states God allowed briefly. As well, a large portion of the literature read describes monks possessed, who went insane and had to be chained for periods of time or committed suicide. But again, all these things happen because a monastic hides their thoughts or follows their own will. Also, as the Athonite Fathers explained to younger monks and novices, “Geronda will only ask once, twice, maybe three times. However, if he sees one doesn’t listen, he washes his hands of this disciple. He shouldn’t have to stand there with a gun to the disciple’s head; it’s up to the disciple to either obey or disobey. There are monks at Philotheou and they don’t even exist for Geronda Ephraim, he gave up on them long ago due to their disobedience. And some don’t even realize it. One of the worse delusions is for a monk to think they are in obedience when in reality they are doing their own will.”]

Hieromonk Michael Santos of St. Nektarios Monastery.  Originally from Toronto, Canada.
Hieromonk Michael Santos of St. Nektarios Monastery. Originally from Toronto, Canada.

The remainder of the article can be read here:

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 (Greek Edition). This chapter is called Karma Yoga: A Method of Enslaving People. It is only found in the Greek edition. 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.

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 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.

[In the monasteries here, the monks are encouraged to read Geronda Ephraim’s books and listen to his homilies during their free time. As well, the monastics hear the readings in the trapeza twice a day, during lunch and supper. Furthermore, there are the constant admonitions by the abbots and abbesses to their monastics. Also, the monks themselves are attempt to persuade themselves via various forms of rewiring their minds: beating oneself with a stick when they have thoughts against Geronda Ephraim, thoughts of self-justification, 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. However, the teaching of blind obedience to an elder is what converts many monks into workers receiving no pay. 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

http://www.yorku.ca/ddoorey/lawblog/?p=4399
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1105109–nun-took-a-vow-of-poverty-but-is-suing-for-pay
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1105701–nun-suing-monastery-says-sisters-harrassed-her-killed-her-cats
• Ivantchenko, et al. v. The Sisters of Saint Kosmas http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2011/2011onsc6481/2011onsc6481.pdf

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

*It 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].

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; or rather transform them into the corresponding virtues; including the Abbot and Abbesses].

*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].

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 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].

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. 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].

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. 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. They 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].

...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. 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.
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.].

*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). [A 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.]

*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].

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 known recorded 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)

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: Oi Gourou, o neos, kai o Gerontas Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis. The book made a deep impression on many a spiritual Father and it was highly recommended in orthodox bookstores, especially for people confused or mixed up with New Age and Hindu religions.

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.

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.

Father Paul Blighton, Founder of the Holy Order of MANS
Father Paul Blighton, Founder of the Holy Order of MANS

The first English edition was published in 2008 by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood; a monastery which ironically was in schism for many years and united with a neo-Gnostic sect called the Order of M.A.N.S., until they rejoined the canonical Orthodox Church via the Serbian Patriarchate in 2000 (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Orthodoxia/conversations/topics/1914). However, the translation is credited to Hieromonk Alexis Trader of Karakallou Monastery; not the original Athonite monk or monastery which initiated the English translation.

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, there appears to be large portions of the book missing from the English edition. Interestingly, many of these portions are Dionysios’ criticism, opinions and analyses of cults, brainwashing techniques, and how gurus manipulate their victims. One could surmise that since many of these missing portions are very similar to Geronda Ephraim’s teachings and expectations on blind obedience and submission, as well as, resemble many aspects of contemporary Greek-American monasticism, they were eliminated in order not to confuse the “simple” lay people. After all, Karakallou is one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, and by extension, Fr. Alexis Trader is a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim via his obedience to the abbot, Geronda Philotheos.

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 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.

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, converts succumb to a Greek influence. They decorate their house with Byzantine icons and pictures of Geronda Ephraim, they start cooking Greek and Lenten foods (many times Athonite or monastery recipes), they start listening to Byzantine music (many times eliminating ‘worldy music’ from their lives)].

A young monk

*They ‘think’ Indian, and talk about reincarnation, past lives, the hidden powers of man, and the ‘feats’ of the Yogis. [Converts will think ‘Greek’ or ‘Athonite’, they talk about the Resurrection, Lives of the Saints, the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to man, and the feats of the Gerondas and Gerondissas].

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, some become sub-novices some don’t. Some families spend their vacations at the monasteries].

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 converts will start wearing all black and let their hair and beards grow like the monastics].

Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote about
Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote about “convert pitfalls” http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/fsr_88.aspx

*They change their name to an Indian one. [Many converts change their name to a Greek one; Ephraim and Joseph are two of the more popular names for American converts].

*Usually, they absolutely obey the guru and his local representative-disciple. [Geronda Ephraim is the leader of all the monasteries; the abbesses and abbots are his local representative-disciples. As one abbot said; “Your obedience to me goes to Geronda Ephraim and through him to Jesus Christ. I am just an ambassador for Geronda Ephraim, whatever you do or don’t do to me is the same as if you did or didn’t do it to Geronda Ephraim].

*They participate in a ceremony to receive the title of Swami. [A sub-novice is dressed by Geronda Ephraim and he recites two small prayers, thus making him a novice. The novice is tonsured by Geronda Ephraim, his hair is cut, two prayers are read over him, and he is given a koukouli, thus making him a rassaphore; canonically still a novice].

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. Many times the sub-novice will donate the remainder of their bank account, their vehicle, and any assets they have to the monastery, unless they are instructed to give them all away as alms. The rest of their life is no longer their own, their entire existence will now be dictated by the elder or eldress; even down to the minutest details of hygiene].

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

“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)
The full translation can be found here:

http://www.oodegr.co/english/anatolikes/boudismos/yoga1.htm

The Errors of Blind Obedience or Neo-Gerondism Part 4

Let’s look at a typical story from the Gerontikon:

“A brother asked Abba Poemen: ‘I am suffering the loss of my soul by being with my abba. What do you order me? Should I continue to stay with him?’ And Abba Poemen knew that his soul was being harmed by his abba, and was astonished that he asked whether he ought to stay with him. And he said to him: ‘If you want to stay, do so.’ And the brother went away and stayed with his abba.
“But he came a second time to Abba Poemen, and said: ‘I am burdening my soul.’ And Abba Poemen did not say to him: ‘Leave the abba.’ He came a third time, and said: ‘Believe me, henceforth I shall no longer stay with him.’ And the Geronda said: ‘Now you are saved; come, and stay with him no longer.’ And he went on: ‘A man who sees his soul being harmed, has no need to ask. A man ought to ask about his secret thoughts, to get them tested by the elders. But there is no need to ask about obvious sins: they must at once be cut off.”1

"A man who sees his soul being harmed, has no need to ask." - Abba Poemen
“A man who sees his soul being harmed, has no need to ask.” – Abba Poemen

It is obvious that the teachings of guruistic Gerondism, which is largely a Greek “patent” of the last decades and have become sold out by today’s technological means, have nothing to do with the Gospel and have nothing to do with the traditional monasticism which has been expressed with absolute precision through books such as the Ladder of St. John the Sinaite, the Gerontikon, and the Philokalia. In ecclesiastical writings, one frequently finds the limits of obedience indicated. The examination here of only the Ladder and Gerontikon is for brevity.

In Orthodox monastic obedience, the body is dead and the mind alive. In New-Age obedience, the body is alive (alive for accuracy, especially sexually) and the mind is dead (i.e., man-made robots, zombies, subjects of guru mind-control). This is the Hindu type of “dispassion” or “death” (usually attributed to the term “detachment”; “decoupling”) taught in numerous occult books.

Icon given to monks & nuns for their cells. In some monasteries, monastics have a blessing to prostrate before it and pray to Geronda Ephraim for help during difficult warfares.
Icon given to monks & nuns for their cells. In some monasteries, monastics have a blessing to prostrate before it and pray to Geronda Ephraim for help during difficult warfares.

Also, the Orthodox monastic obedience has the meaning of ascesis, of self-denial and love, and has the Gospel as a criterion. Whereas the other obedience, which is why it is more “trendy”, has the meaning of irresponsibility, of indulgence, selfishness, sexual perversion—which is sometimes obvious and sometimes not (many times is latent and hiding behind the mask of “divine love” or “devotion to the Elder”)—and the avoidance of one acquiring a correct relationship with God and neighbor. The New Age subordinate is trained in such a way as to silence and kill his conscience, so as not to care about anything and anyone, beyond the adulation and various other abomination “privileges” which he finds near the “Elder.” This kind of “monk” is willing to trample all the commandments of God (e.g. honor towards mother and father, which is something very basic in the eyes of God, and, as is widely known, the prohibition of prostitution, greed, fraud, utilitarian approach and treat others etc.) for the sake of “Elder”, but also of himself. In other words, he becomes totally insensitive. Often, indeed, he convinces himself that he is “the Chosen One of God.” While the role of the monk, according to Christian tradition, is praying for the world, today it is thought he is the one to offer worship to the “Elder” or behave like an infatuated teenage girl who wants to “steal” with the “Elder” or even with Christ, who in the minds of many is confused with the “Elder”. A modern “monk” is trained, among other things, to face him with a perverse and wicked love, for which reason eternal hell awaits him if he doesn’t change course.

While the role of the monk, according to Christian tradition, is praying for the world, today it is thought he is the one to offer worship to the "Elder"
While the role of the monk, according to Christian tradition, is praying for the world, today it is thought he is the one to offer worship to the “Elder”

Let’s look at the issue of honor towards father and mother in the following Gospel passage from the Gospel:

“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” (Matthew 15:1-20)

"... ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers" - Luke 11:46
“… ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers” – Luke 11:46

The characteristic of occultism is the flattening of the person and the fragmentation of interpersonal relationships (both with God and with neighbor, e.g. family). Even love is taught as a Hindu type egotistic “state” in which simply “includes” the others, and not as an essential interpersonal relationship and society. In occultic love, almost every “other” is replaceable. In the minds of those people, namely, the leader is “not (or almost not) irreplaceable”. Occultic love is essentially impersonal love. And it is not love, but hedonism, i.e., exploitation, which is not infrequently mutual. The Neo-Orthodox “love” is known not out by duty, but by pleasure. In true love the opposite occurs. There is nothing more cheap, fake and phony than Neo-Orthodox occultic, supposedly in Christ, love. Thus, in the so-called “theology of love”, the sexual partner replaces all others. In Neo-Gerondism, the “Geronda” replaces all others. Are all these things not the basis of sick religiosity? Christianity is neither man replaces God, nor God replaces humans. Both these things are from the devil, and are essentially the same thing. Our Lord does not tell us to love Him and not others, He does not tell us to love others less than you love Him. He simply says not to love Him less than we love others, and to have His own will as a guidepost even if this seems unpleasant to some! He says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37). He does not say, he who does not love them less. “Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8). These are all things that everyone needs to understand all.

However, we should be remember that everyone must respect the rassa. We must not forget that we should honor the priesthood in the person of every cleric as required by the order of our Church, whatever he may be. This applies to every clergyman until he is deposed by the competent ecclesiastical authority. If someone is not as he should, then we are not obligated to agree or cooperate with him. Essentially, we must oppose whatever evil he does, in the manner which dictates our position in every case.

"The ear of God is at the mouth of the priest. The stole has great power." - Geronda Ephraim of Katounakia
“The ear of God is at the mouth of the priest. The stole has great power.” – Geronda Ephraim of Katounakia

Let’s not forget the example of the apostle Paul, who showed the due respect to the Jewish high priest Ananias, who persecuted him because of his faith in Jesus Christ, without, of course, ceasing to oppose his requirements:

“And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people” Acts of the Apostles 23: 1-5).

Other references are in subsections II Peter 2:10; Jude 8-9 and elsewhere. We strongly recommend their thorough examination.

While it may sound strange, anyone found in guruistic circles knows that clergy accusation is a favorite “sport” of these people. At every opportunity, they insult, gossip about and laugh at various clergymen of the Church—as long as it is not about the “Elder”, of course, or someone who belongs to that network—or at best, speak disparagingly about them, and the latter commit this either with words or grimaces, winks, smiles, ironies, etc. (e.g., .: “heh, those worldly (i.e. non-monastic) priests…”).2 In any case, they teach their followers usually with subtleties, how to despise the priests and bishops, that is, except him, they’re trained to criticize their fellow man, they also learn not to have a high idea of the priesthood, on the grounds that the worth of course depends on the “Elder “and not God. They constantly boast how much better the elder is compared to the non-“charismatic” priests. Moreover, the challenge for them is that people belong to their sect, and not in the Church, which is, as we say in the Creed, “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” Basically, they want to break up the flock of Christ and sit upon His throne instead of Him, just as Satan wanted.3

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On the other hand, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (I Corinthians 1: 10-17).

Still, though, there are genuine monks and people. They simply do not want to be worshiped as gods.

“Trust not in princes, nor in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146: 3).

“Thus saith the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and will lean his arm of flesh upon him, while his heart departs from the Lord. And he shall be as the wild tamarisk in the desert: he shall not see when good comes; but he shall dwell in barren [places], and in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.” (Jeremiah 17: 5-6).

“Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10).
NOTES:
1) From the Gerontikon: Sayings of Abba Poemen #189.
2) Both within the monasteries and without, there is much gossip about the “ecumenist-minded clergy,” the “worldly clerics,” and “the enemies of Geronda or the monasteries.”

One could write a book about all the secrets, faults, and sins that the monasteries know about Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Iakovos, Metropolitan Sotirios, etc. Though many of the rumors start from without (Bishops, priests, lay people reveal things going on in confession or private conversations. This is turn can be transmitted to one or two monastics, or the whole monastery if the Geronda/Gerondissa give a homily. Then, this slowly disseminates to the lay people, many times without a blessing, via monks who idle talk.

The monasteries know which clergymen are Freemasons or AHEPA. Which ones have spoken out against the monasteries. Which ones aren’t traditional. Which ones have joint prayers with non-Orthodox, etc.

Moreover, unless the clergyman is a trusted spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim, the monasteries are always suspect of visiting clergymen, even if they are “monastic-friendly.” The general mindset is, if they’re not with the monasteries, they’re either against the monasteries or potentially against the monasteries.

Overall, the clergymen who aren’t with Geronda and pro-monastic are sort of endured with a semblance of respect for the priesthood, but that is only for the sake of appearances, especially if the clergymen is an Ecumenist.

3. More than one hieromonk of Geronda Ephraim’s has mentioned liturgizing with him is a mystical experience. At times, they have felt as if wings were extending from him, and wrapped around them. It has been said that the more holy one is, the more powerful their liturgies are and this is why people always tangibly experience heaven being brought down to earth during Geronda Ephraim’s liturgies. It has also been said that the angels rejoice when such a saint like Geronda Ephraim liturgizes because he is truly worthy of the priesthood. They anticipate co-liturgizing with him. It has also been said that the names read in proskimidi during Geronda Ephraim’s liturgies receive more benefit than those read in other liturgies. Many of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics (including abbots) have said Geronda Ephraim is of more benefit to the earth alive because his komboschoini can pull souls out of hell and his liturgies can do the same.

“Meletti” – On the Question of “Gerontas” or Spiritual Elders and the Problem of Guru Cultism (Archbishop Lazar Puhalo)

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo. http://orthodoxwiki.org/Lazar_(Puhalo)_of_Ottawa
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo. http://orthodoxwiki.org/Lazar_(Puhalo)_of_Ottawa

Oct 18, 1998

Brothers and sisters, before we begin our usual question and answer time, I want to say something, first, about the meaning of “geronta” [elder; starets]. Sadly, in our day, perhaps more in North America than in Greece, but even in Greece, there has developed a new guru cult concept of “gerontes.” Alas, this cultish idea is actually cultivated by many self-styled and even acknowledged “elders.” Gerontes or elders, many of them self-appointed and self advertised, others acknowledged by monastic establishments, have begun to act and be looked upon like the Hindu gurus, and this may be linked in part to the all-encompassing New Age Movement. In English, we call this a “cult.” It means that people have begun to have a “proskynisis” [worship] for the “geronta,” that comes parlously close to idolatry, but often even passes over the border into real idolatry. This is a great danger for us in our time. One frequently encounters people who say with complete conviction, “my salvation depends on Father so and so, my geronta.” Such people often even forget about Jesus Christ, because they place their hope only in some human being, and begin to make excessive and emotional claims for that person – and some of these “gerontas” make some astonishing claims for themselves, cultivating the emotional insecurities and fears, as well as the superstitions and delusions, of some of their more emotional followers. Those among them who should be easily recognized as charlatans or deluded and in plani (prelest), attempt to control and manipulate their followers and victims by interjecting into the sanctified and privileged realm of marital relations. They use confession as a tool for control, as a means of crippling people and making them dependent followers. They sometimes even ruin marriages and cause divorces by placing unscriptural and Gnostic restraints upon marital relations. Instead of counselling moderation and warning against “exotic” practices which lead to addictions, they seek to place guilt on married people for their normal and healthy heterosexual relations. This is not done in the interest of purity or salvation, but in the interest of control, in the interest of crippling people and undermining their ability to function as whole and rational Christians. This is part, and perhaps the worst part, of the violations and corruptions of the eldership which are so much a part of the general corruption and decay in the Orthodox Church today.

Nevertheless, the office of geronta or elder is an important and firmly established aspect of our Orthodox Christian life. It is very good to have somebody who has experience and knowledge that we can talk to and seek guidance from. The true “geronta,” the true elder, like a trained physician, helps lead us to the healing grace of the Holy Spirit, comforting us, correcting us and strengthening us in our struggle. On the other hand, some people develop not only a superstition about the “geronta,” but a crippling dependency on him, which a true and divinely inspired elder would never, ever permit. The truth is, a true geronta will teach us and impart knowledge to us but, then, he expects us to have knowledge and attain understanding. When a parent, whether father or mother, is raising a child, they try to educate the child and hope that, in the end, he or she will know more than the parent does, will be wiser and better educated and perhaps even more pious than they. We always hope that our children will surpass us in anything that is good and positive. The same thing has to apply to a true geronta: he will want you to know as much as he knows and, if possible, to excel him. The idea is to guide you toward knowledge and understanding, not to cripple you and make you dependent upon him, as some neurotic parents do with their children. Your salvation will never, ever depend on some human elder or guru. It will always depend only on our Lord Jesus Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit. A true geronta does not focus your faith on him, but focuses our faith on our Lord Jesus Christ, encouraging us to learn and to know, to understand and to grow. Blind faith is no faith, especially when it is faith in a human being.

When we serve the Divine Liturgy, before we pronounce the epiklisis, in which we call upon the Holy Spirit to change the bread to the Body of Christ, we pray that God will send down the Holy Spirit upon all of us. If we pray that the Holy Spirit comes upon all of us at this most sacred and holy moment, it means that the fullness of the “Ekklisia,” [the Church] is the whole synaxis of the people of God and not only those who are standing inside the altar. It means that we are all worshipping and praying together and we all receive the Holy Spirit together.

Why and how have we become so cripple and feeble over the years that the people have forgotten that everybody, the “laos,” as well as the clergy and hierarchy, are responsible for the faith, and we have left everything pertaining to faith and worship to the clergy, and surrendered so much of our personal our personal responsibilities to both gerontas and would be gerontas. To be sure, many people will go to war with the clergy and hierarchs over money and real estate and privileges, but few will take them to task over matters of the faith itself, and those things which pertains to our salvation and the integrity of the gospel. People either became so indifference or so dependent, or so “comfortable” and desensitized that when the clergy went off the path, the people forgot that, they are supposed to push them back onto the path. Sometimes, as with our old calendarist brethren, people, saw that hierarchs and clergy went off the path, but they themselves are also ignorant about the faith that instead of pushing the clergy back onto the path, they pushed others off the path, in a different direction and became a scandal themselves.

My point in all this is that we are never called upon to surrender our role and responsibilities – neither to the hierarchy nor to the gerontas. Our obligation is not to become emotional and spiritual cripples, but knowledgable and rational sheep in the flock of Jesus Christ, able to defend the faith and able to ascend to true understanding. We are all called upon to move to purification through the struggle for a clear and pure conscience, one that can stand without reproach before the judgment of the Son of God.

We have here a quandary in that we must never think that we know more than we do know but neither should we be satisfied with knowing only what we now know, nor should we think that we are incapable of knowing all that we should know, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The “job,” the duty of the true geronta is not to know more than the people know and consider the people to be ignorant dependents but to make sure that the people learn and know all that is necessary for them, land even more than he knows, if possible. Even if we know all of the holy fathers so that we could quote every word by memory, if we have the knowledge only in our head, it means nothing. We have to have knowledge and understanding in our hearts. People become very arrogant because they know Orthodoxy in their mind, but they do not have Orthodoxy of the heart. This is absolutely necessary for us. If we have Orthodoxy in the heart, then we hold the faith in peace and with love; we do not become fanatical, and we do not become hard and arrogant. On the other hand, neither do we participate in any betrayal of Orthodoxy, because we truly and clearly realize that any betrayal of Orthodoxy is a betrayal of Jesus Christ.

Thus, we have to be very careful that we examine whoever is supposed to be a “geronta” and make sure that we do not trust somebody who tries to emotionally cripple us and make us dependent on him. But, I have to say the same thing about hierarchs. It is also not a good hierarch who tries to cripple you and make you dependent upon him. It is one thing to be a leader, it’s quite another thing to be a dictator. The bishop is called upon to be the shepherd of sheep, but the shepherd sometimes, leads the sheep for slaughter. So first of all, the bishop is supposed to be the shepherd and not a dictator, but he not supposed to be leading us to the slaughter, but leading us into the pasture so that we can be nourished by the food of God’s Word. The pasture is not just the words written in the Holy Bible, and not just the words of the holy fathers, but the spirit of the Scripture and of the holy fathers. We must, therefore, be diligent in our time, first of all, that we do not become arrogant and think we know everything, and, on the other hand, that we do not become crippled and dependent upon our teachers and would be teachers. We must seek some reasonable balance.

Now I will ask for questions, and in particular questions about the matters we have touched upon this evening.

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