Two troubling teachings reported (Archbishop Lazar Puhalo)

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo.

April 1, 2000

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

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

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

“Aerial toll houses”?

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

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

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

The Bogomils in Macedonia.
The Bogomils in Macedonia.

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

Surely this is a dangerous form of cultism.

Our press has produced three books refuting this tale:

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

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

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

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

Marriage is “dirty”?

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

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

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

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

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

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