NOTE: This article is based on the writings of Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist who worked for the USAF in the 1950s. Biderman showed how Chinese and Korean interrogators used techniques including sleep deprivation, darkness or bright light, insults, threats, and exposure far more than physical force to break prisoners. A link to the entire pdf can be found at the end of the article.
“Most people who brainwash…use methods similar to those of prison guards who recognize that physical control is never easily accomplished without the cooperation of the prisoner. The most effective way to gain that cooperation is through subversive manipulation of the mind and feelings of the victim, who then becomes a psychological, as well as a physical, prisoner.” from an Amnesty International publication, “Report on Torture“, which depicts the brainwashing of prisoners of war.
Deprives individual of social support, effectively rendering him unable to resist
Makes individual dependent upon interrogator
Develops an intense concern with self.
Once a person is away from longstanding emotional support and thus reality checks, it is fairly easy to set a stage for brainwashing. Spiritually abusive groups work to isolate individuals from friends and family, whether directly, by requiring the individuals to forsake friends and family for the sake of the “Kingdom” (group membership), or indirectly, by preaching the necessity to demonstrate one’s love for God by “hating” one’s father, mother, family, friends.
Abusive groups are not outward-looking, but inward-looking, insisting that members find all comfort and support and a replacement family within the group. Cut off from friends, relatives, previous relationships, abusive groups surround the recruits and hammer rigid ideologies into their consciousnesses, saturating their senses with specific doctrines and requirements of the group.
Isolated from everyone but those within the group, recruits become dependent upon group members and leaders and find it difficult if not impossible to offer resistance to group teachings. They become self-interested and hyper-vigilant, very fearful should they incur the disapproval of the group, which now offers the only support available to them which has group approval.
The seed of extremism exists wherever a group demands all the free time of a member, insisting he be in church every time the doors are open and calling him to account if he isn’t, is critical or disapproving of involvements with friends and family outside the group, encourages secrecy by asking that members not share what they have seen or heard in meetings or about church affairs with outsiders, is openly, publicly, and repeatedly critical of other churches or groups (especially if the group claims to be the only one which speaks for God), is critical when members attend conferences, workshops or services at other churches, checks up on members in any way, i.e., to determine that the reason they gave for missing a meeting was valid, or makes attendance at all church functions mandatory for participating in church ministry or enjoying other benefits of church fellowship.
Once a member stops interacting openly with others, the group’s influence is all that matters. He is bombarded with group values and information and there is no one outside the group with whom to share thoughts or who will offer reinforcement or affirmation if the member disagrees with or doubts the values of the group. The process of isolation and the self-doubt it creates allow the group and its leaders to gain power over the members. Leaders may criticize major and minor flaws of members, sometimes publically, or remind them of present or past sins. They may call members names, insult them or ignore them, or practice a combination of ignoring members at some times and receiving them warmly at others, thus maintaining a position of power (i.e., the leaders call the shots.)
The sense of humiliation makes members feel they deserve the poor treatment they are receiving and may cause them to allow themselves to be subjected to any and all indignities out of gratefulness that one as unworthy as they feel is allowed to participate in the group at all. When leaders treat the member well occasionally, they accept any and all crumbs gratefully. Eventually, awareness of how dependent they are on the group and gratitude for the smallest attention contributes to an increasing sense of shame and degradation on the part of the members, who begin to abuse themselves with “litanies of self-blame,” i.e., “No matter what they do to me, I deserve it, as sinful and wretched as I am. I deserve no better. I have no rights but to go to hell. I should be grateful for everything I receive, even punishment.”
Monopolization of Perception
Fixes attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection
Eliminates stimuli competing with those controlled by captor
Frustrates all actions not consistent with compliance
Abusive groups insist on compliance with trival demands related to all facets of life: food, clothing, money, household arrangements, children, conversation. They monitor members’ appearances, criticize language and childcare practices. They insist on precise schedules and routines, which may change and be contradictory from day to day or moment to moment, depending on the whims of group leaders.
At first, new members may think these expectations are unreasonable and may dispute them, but later, either because they want to be at peace or because they are afraid, or because everyone else is complying, they attempt to comply. After all, what real difference does it make if a member is not allowed to wear a certain color, or to wear his hair in a certain way, to eat certain foods, or say certain words, to go certain places, watch certain things, or associate with certain individuals. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter? In fact, in the long run, the member begins to reason, it is probably good to learn these disciplines, and after all, as they have frequently been reminded, they are to submit to spiritual authority as unto the Lord.. Soon it becomes apparent that the demands will be unending, and increasing time and energy are focused on avoiding group disapproval by doing something “wrong.” There is a feeling of walking on eggs. Everything becomes important in terms of how the group or its leaders will respond, and members’ desires, feelings and ideas become insignificant. Eventually, members may no longer even know what they want, feel or think. The group has so monopolized all of the members’ perceptions with trivial demands that members lose their perspective as to the enormity of the situation they are in.
The leaders may also persuade the members that they have the inside track with God and therefore know how everything should be done. When their behavior results in disastrous consequences, as it often does, the members are blamed. Sometimes the leaders may have moments, especially after abusive episodes, when they appear to humble themselves and confess their faults, and the contrast of these moments of vulnerability with their usual pose of being all-powerful endears them to members and gives hope for some open communication.
Threats sometimes accompany all of these methods. Members are told they will be under God’s judgment, under a curse, punished, chastised, chastened if they leave the group or disobey group leaders. Sometimes the leaders, themselves, punish the members, and so members can never be sure when leaders will make good on the threats which they say are God’s idea. The members begin to focus on what they can do to meet any and all group demands and how to preserve peace in the short run. Abusive groups may remove children from their parents, control all the money in the group, arrange marriages, destroy personal items of members or hide personal items.
Preoccupation with trivial demands of daily life, demanding strict compliance with standards of appearance, dress codes, what foods are or are not to be eaten and when, schedules, threats of God’s wrath if group rules are not obeyed, a feeling of being monitored, watched constantly by those in the group or by leaders. In other words, what the church wants, believes and thinks its members should do becomes everything, and you feel preoccupied with making sure you are meeting the standards. It no longer matters whether you agree that the standards are correct, only that you follow them and thus keep the peace and in the good graces of leaders.
Induced Debility and Exhaustion
People subjected to this type of spiritual abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet group standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid ministry demands and requirements that members attend unreasonable numbers of meetings and events makes the exhaustion and ability to resist group pressure even worse.
Feelings of being overwhelmed by demands, close to tears, guilty if one says no to a request or goes against a church standards. Being intimidated or pressured into volunteering for church duties and subjected to scorn or ridicule when one does not “volunteer.” Being rebuked or reproved when family or work responsibilities intrude on church responsibilities.
Provides motivation for compliance
Leaders of abusive groups often sense when members are making plans to leave and may suddenly offer some kind of indulgence, perhaps just love or affection, attention where there was none before, a note or a gesture of concern. Hope that the situation in the church will change or self doubt (“Maybe I’m just imagining it’s this bad,”) then replace fear or despair and the members decide to stay a while longer. Other groups practice sporadic demonstrations of compassion or affection right in the middle of desperate conflict or abusive episodes. This keeps members off guard and doubting their own perceptions of what is happening.
Some of the brainwashing techniques described are extreme, some groups may use them in a disciplined, regular manner while others use them more sporadically. But even mild, occasional use of these techniques is effective in gaining power.
Be concerned if you have had an ongoing desire to leave a church or group you believe may be abusive, but find yourself repeatedly drawn back in just at the moment you are ready to leave, by a call, a comment or moment of compassion. These moments, infrequent as they may be, are enough to keep hope in change alive and thus you sacrifice years and years to an abusive group.
Devaluing the Individual
Creates fear of freedom and dependence upon captors
Creates feelings of helplessness
Develops lack of faith in individual capabilities
Abusive leaders are frequently uncannily able to pick out traits church members are proud of and to use those very traits against the members. Those with natural gifts in the areas of music may be told they are proud or puffed up or “anxious to be up front” if they want to use their talents and denied that opportunity. Those with discernment are called judgmental or critical, the merciful are lacking in holiness or good judgment, the peacemakers are reminded the Lord came to bring a sword, not peace. Sometimes efforts are made to convince members that they really are not gifted teachers or musically talented or prophetically inclined as they believed they were. When members begin to doubt the one or two special gifts they possess which they have always been sure were God-given, they begin to doubt everything else they have ever believed about themselves, to feel dependent upon church leaders and afraid to leave the group. (“If I’ve been wrong about even *that*, how can I ever trust myself to make right decisions ever again?”).
Unwillingness to allow members to use their gifts. Establishing rigid boot camp-like requirements for the sake of proving commitment to the group before gifts may be exercised. Repeatedly criticizing natural giftedness by reminding members they must die to their natural gifts, that Paul, after all, said, “When I’m weak, I’m strong,” and that they should expect God to use them in areas other than their areas of giftedness. Emphasizing helps or service to the group as a prerequisite to church ministry. This might take the form of requiring that anyone wanting to serve in any way first have the responsibility of cleaning toilets or cleaning the church for a specified time, that anyone wanting to sing in the worship band must first sing to the children in Sunday School, or that before exercising any gifts at all, members must demonstrate loyalty to the group by faithful attendance at all functions and such things as tithing. No consideration is given to the length of time a new member has been a Christian or to his age or station in life or his unique talents or abilities. The rules apply to everyone alike. This has the effect of reducing everyone to some kind of lowest common denominator where no one’s gifts or natural abilities are valued or appreciated, where the individual is not cherished for the unique blessing he or she is to the body of Christ, where what is most highly valued is service, obedience, submission to authority, and performance without regard to gifts or abilities or, for that matter, individual limitations.
NOTE: This article is taken from the PsychCentral Blog. The 2007 study referenced is included at the end of the article.
In a 2007 study, researchers found that often people who feel guilty will self-punish by depriving themselves of pleasure or inflicting harm on themselves. They call this The Dobby Effect. For those who have never read the Harry Potter series, Dobby is a magical creature, a house-elf, that is bound by magic to obey his master’s every command. If a house-elf does not obey, they are forced to punish themselves. For example, at various points through the books, Dobby is known to do everything from hit himself in the face to ironing his hands or shutting his ears in the oven door [NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, if the house-elves (i.e. monastic disciples) disobey a command, they are forced to punish themselves with various forms of hardship. Once, a nun would not stop talking and Geronda Ephraim told her to go sew her mouth shut. She went to her cell, took her sewing kit and sewed her mouth shut. It is unknown if she sterilized the needle first. She came back, showed Geronda Ephraim her mouth sewn shut and he marveled at her precision in obedience. Interestingly, sewing one’s mouth shut is popular among the BDSM community, much like Fr. George Passias’ foot and cake crush fetish].
At first glance, these actions seem comical. It seems ridiculous that someone would go to such extreme measures as self-mutilation simply because they disobeyed a command. Well, about 1 in 6 people purposefully injure themselves every year, and for reasons much less than disobeying an enchantment. For most, the reason is exaggerated, if there is a reason at all. [NOTE: The Orthodox Church has various saints that have performed extreme measures of self-harm in an attempt to hinder themselves from falling into sin. These acts are lauded as heroic feats pleasing to God. In their hagiographies it is usually noted that after performing such acts of self harm or self-mutilation, God’s grace alleviated the warfare they were experiencing, or removed it altogether. Examples of such extreme measures are (1) St. Benedict, who cast himself into a thorn bush while naked to escape the wily temptation of a woman; (2) St. Martinian of Caesaria who placed his hand in fire in order not to fornicate with a woman. It is interesting to note that many of the holy acts of self-harm found in the Synaxarion are also prevalent in BDSM, and body modification communities].
That’s the problem with depression and guilt. It goes too far. When you feel trapped in your guilt, self-punishment may feel like the only way out. If you can deprive yourself of something for longer, or if you can cause yourself enough pain, then maybe the feeling will go away. [NOTE: In the monasteries, sometimes one’s misdemeanors become like a caste mark on their forehead. Though one is absolved of their misdemeanors, they become their defining characteristic. These disobediences often become the topic of conversation among monastics (this especially occurs when monastics visit other monasteries and gossip/idle talk about such incidents). Like an invisible mark of Cain, a monastic’s misdemeanors can follow them for the rest of their monastic life. This happens via gossip, mockery, forced public confession in front of the group, private shaming, public shaming and/or repeated rebukes incorporating these things. That is of course, if they aren’t driven from the monastery].
Many people scoff at self-mutilators, saying they are only seeking attention. I’ve even heard this from physicians. The truth is, physical pain can dissuade feelings of guilt. This is not a new idea. The Catholic church has been condoning the practice of self-flagellation for over 1,000 years. Pope John Paul II was even known to practice it in order to absolve his sins. So if the Pope can do it and be praised for his devotion, why can a teenage girl not be pitied for doing the same for guilt that shouldn’t exist? Even if it is a call for attention, that person needs attention, and your attention could end up saving a life. [NOTE: The practice of self-flagellation seems to have been unknown in Europe until it was adopted by the hermits in the monastic communities of Camoaldoli and Fonte Avellana early in the 11th century. Once invented, the new form of penance spread rapidly until it had become not only a normal feature of monastic life throughout Latin Christendom but the commonest of all penitential techniques. In the 20th century, Elder Joseph the Hesychast incorporated it as a necessary part of daily monastic life in his synodia and claimed, “The cane is the remedy for every passion.” Flagellation was incorporated as a disciplinary measure in the earliest monastic communities, but later fell out of use. Both flagellation and self-flagellation are quite popular in the BDSM community–sadists love to hit and masochists love to be hit]
If you or someone you know is suffering from self-punishment due to extreme or unnecessary guilt, this is a serious sign of depression, and you should get help. Now is the time to make changes and begin to free yourself from the nagging in your head. [NOTE: In Orthodox Monasticism–also called voluntary imprisonment and slavery by the Church Fathers–the only help offered to a disciple, is frequent frank confession (which in many of the busier monasteries does not happen too often. Confession is supplemented with writing sins/thoughts down on paper, then slipping it under the superior’s door, or placing it in a common box. This box is accessible to other monastics, some who have the private pleasure of reading other peoples’–i.e. lay people or monastics‘–confessions). Confession to a priest, battling one’s thoughts, and the frequent, rapid yelling of the Jesus Prayer in an attempt not to allow any thoughts or images to form in one’s mind, are considered the only true psychotherapy. The belief is that “Orthodox Psychotherapy” is the only practice capable of healing one from guilt, depression and any other mental illness in existence. In some severe cases of mental illness, exorcism prayers will be read over the individual].
The Dobby effect
The authors suggest that people subconsciously seek out pain to relieve their guilt. Rob Nelissen at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, who wasn’t involved in the study, has previously described a guilt-induced tendency to seek punishment as the “Dobby effect” – named after Harry Potter’s self-punishing house-elf.
He says that self-punishment might relieve guilt by functioning as “a signal by which a transgressor shows remorse to his or her victim when there are no other less painful means available, such as giving a bunch of flowers”.
“In line with this view, excessive forms of self-punishment could be perceived as a consequence of unresolved guilt,” Nelissen adds.
It should be noted that between the end of data-collection (May 2014) and time of release of final report (October 2014), at least two new monastic communities appeared on the “Orthodox Church map” of the United States. However, because they did not participate in the survey, information about these monasteries is not included.
Introduction: Background of the Study and How It Was Conducted.
More than 70 Orthodox monastic communities representing various Orthodox jurisdictions operate today in the United States. There exists significant diversity among these communities in terms of their size, liturgical practices, openness to outside visitors, educational programs, ʺeconomicʺ activities, etc.
The study ʺOrthodox Monastic Communities in the United Statesʺ was initiated by and conducted under auspices of the Committee for Monastic Communities of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States (His Grace, Bishop George (Schaefer), Chairman). Principal researcher and author of the study report was Alexei Krindatch, research coordinator for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.
The Committee for Monastic Communities of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops is tasked with cataloging, studying and comparing the different monastic communities and practices in the United States. Accordingly, the study ʺOrthodox Monastic Communities in the United Statesʺ was designed in order to take a first step towards this goal.
The major source of information presented in this report was a survey of US Orthodox monasteries conducted in the fall 2013 ‐ spring 2014. A two‐page questionnaire was sent to all US Orthodox monastic communities and completed by their superiors. The questionnaire used in this survey is provided in Appendix A. All 71 monastic communities existing in the United States at the time of the study participated in the study.
In addition to completed questionnaires many monasteries provided various additional materials such as monasteryʹs brochure, bylaw, typicon, etc. Most of these materials were scanned, saved in digital format and provided in an addendum to this report.
1. Most of the monasteries in the USA belong to the GOA (27%), followed by the OCA (25%) and the Russian Orthodox (24%).
2. Most of the monasteries are female (37 monasteries, 52% of all monasteries), though almost evenly divided with male (34 monasteries, 48% of all monasteries).
3. 23 of the 50 states have monasteries, half of which are in just 5 states.
4. New York has the most monastic communities (13 monasteries, 18% of all monasteries), followed by California (8 monasteries, 11% of all monasteries).
5. 39 of the 71 monasteries in the US were founded after 1990. Only 4 were founded prior to World War II.
6. There are 512 monastics in all US monasteries. The average number of monastics per community is slightly above 7. 39 monasteries have less than 5 monastics. Only 8 monasteries have more than 20 monastics.
7. The largest Orthodox monastery in the US is Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona (GOA) with 49. Out of the 8 largest monasteries, 6 belong to the GOA.
8. 53% of all the monasteries use English as the primary language in worship, 16% equally English and another language, and 31% primarily another language. OCA monasteries mostly use English (83%), while GOA monasteries primarily use Greek (84%).
9. 52% of all monasteries use email. 51% have websites.
10. 37% of all monasteries receive a significant number of visitors.
NOTE: The following account is a testimony from a young man who lived as a sub-novice in Arizona for six months. It was written on November 21, 2008 and is found on a forum called Ex-Christian.net. Nikos writes a little bit about Scott Nevins near the end. This blog has elucidated on some of Nikos’ words with “[Ed. Note].”
For anybody that has read my posts, I now have documented evidence of the mind bending that went on with my life, all after doing a simple Google search.
It seems that I was involved with a cult that has not only gained National attention but Global, extending especially back to Greece itself, Mt Athos in particular.
I was 6 months in residence at the monastery when I left, I decided not to become a novice despite the attempts of my Hieromonk and elder monks to convince me to leave the world, not because I didn’t believe their doctrine, I was about as convinced as anyone there of the beliefs, but because I wanted to marry, I wasn’t being healed of my depression or physical pain and because I think some deep part of me knew to run.
This is a video I found of St Anthony’s as they were being investigated, I knew Fr Nikos from seeing him around a lot but I was friends with and worked side by side with Fr Paul (Pavlos) who was conveniently re-named, while I was there, apparently the same time as a lot of inquiries were taking place, I did not know of the controversy nor the inquiries at the time, I believed we called him Father although he was not yet tonsured since he was so in step with the monastery, like an honorary title, when he was tonsured he was given a different name, as is custom, but I know it is to further the disassociation with the self in hindsight…On to the video, it is cut into two parts and i included the link to a webpage because it also exposes the monastery as a cult and was my initial source for the video…… http://pseudo-prophet.tripod.com/[Dead link; there is a back up site here: http://gerondaephraim.tripod.com/backup1.html%5D
Fr Paul, I decline to state his new name out of respect for his adult decision to become a Monk at St Anthony’s, became a quick friend to me due to his sincerity, his friendliness and the fact that before I became involved in the Eastern Orthodox Church I was training to become a Navy SEAL, and Fr Paul had asked for a discharge from the Navy while preparing to do the same thing, he had been a medal winning Swimmer in his high school and I think joined the Navy right afterwards….so we had common ground and that sparked many discussions as we labored in the blazing Arizona sun, planting trees for Jesus, intermittently reciting the Unceasing Prayer, Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me (Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy On Me).
The other monk I do not know by face as its not fully bearded nor partly covered with a cassock in the picture shown, nor by name as that would have been changed (maybe I missed something)….I have my assumptions though, yet another close friend during my stay.
This is just an insight into my definition of cult mentality when I refer to myself on the forum here, I WAS THERE!!!!!! I lived the life.
I am going to continue to post as I find new information, as for know I would like to get the ball rolling.
This is tragic, truly tragic to learn, although the truth is what I want, and need.
For the record,
I was told the Elder Ephraim was taught this by his spiritual Fr on Mt Athos, Father Joseph (Papou Josef) and that one time Fr Ephraim had been plagued with pride and was found beating himself mercilessly with “the cane” in his cell, or a small church on the mountain. The story goes that he was heard to be confessing his sinful pride, beating the shit out of himself while at the same time screaming at himself to “Stop…STOP”, he continued on and was purged of pride and it has never returned to him to this day.
I began to use this practice of caning myself while at the monastery, I continued with it a short while after returning home.
I was also told that martyrdom would be my only salvation unless I was a baptized Orthodox Christian following the standards perfectly, even then I was told martyrdom most likely awaited all of us Orthodox….and that the monks and nuns would be the first to be eradicated by the government and so on. And even then, after death I would be taken to 20 toll booths where I could still fall and be dragged to hell by demons. St John Climacus created an icon depicting the saints ascending the ladder to heaven, while being surrounded by flying demonic presences, being pulled down at different points by failing.
One story that haunted me mercilessly was that of a monk who had died, passed 19 of the tolls and when he had done this looked at Satan and exclaimed “I beat you, you were defeated by me” which resulted in his being cast into the lake of fire for failing the test of the 20th toll, the test of “Pride”.
A MONK!!!!!! Who had devoted his life to Christ and left the world, living a damned near sinless life and working out his salvation to the extreme, wasn’t even safe after death…which by the way, isn’t pretty either, at death your soul is ripped and cut from your body by angels or demons, a myth is that it is so horrible the virgin Mary prayed to her son that she be spared this torment and so was granted to be taken to heaven by Jesus himself as he fended off the harvesting angels (demons).
These are the thoughts I deal with daily, to remove them from their etched position in my mind and heart……years and years of this stuff and i am about 5 weeks out of the box, 5 weeks into de-conversion.
I wonder if any of you had gone this far into your cult? If so please leave a testimony on this thread. Someone asked Nikos: I watched one of the news videos, and they said there were “improper teachings” in the monastery, but I didn’t really get what they were referring to. Do you know what they meant with it?
There are so many…let me add a few I was taught off the top of my head:
• You’re abbot has become Christ for you, if you follow the abbot to the letter you fulfill your requirements as a Christian, if you have done anything wrong under the abbot’s guidance you will not be judged, he will [Ed.Note: In essence, the only way a monk can err in obedience is by doing disobedience. Things that would be considered sins, even ‘minor’ things like lying, white-collar crimes, etc. are not wrong if done under obedience. The elder is responsible for the order given; the monk is responsible and will be judged on whether he did it or not]
• If you disobey the abbot it is the same as disobeying god.
• The more you dedicate your life to Christ, the more accountable you are for your sins, thereby raising the bar hourly of whether you will make it into heaven
• Married couples should live as brother and sister, only engaging in sexual intercourse for the purpose of conception, and having to confess the sexual act nevertheless as a “weakness of the flesh”
• The Aerial Toll Houses, after death you are ripped from your body to the astral plane and are questioned by demons for 2 days each at 20 levels, although this is a conceptual image of a spiritual teaching, it is basically 40 days worth of judgement, the 20 levels being the 7 deadly sins plus 13 extra variations. At anytime you may fail and be cast into the lake of fire. You DO NOT WANT TO GO TO THE ORTHODOX LAKE OF FIRE….it’s the revelation of St peter but worse. Therefore the Orthodox pray for 40-42 days after the death of a baptized Orthodox Christian to assist them in their ascent through the aerial toll houses. Many monks even are said to fail these judgements and be thrown to perdition.
• The Elder can levitate [Ed.Note: Many stories are in circulation of children seeing the Elder walking in the air. As well, there is the story about the woman who went to stab him in the confessional and he was levitating so she couldn’t reach him].
• The Elder can read your thoughts [Ed.Note: This is one of the main things that make new monks and nuns tremble around the Elder; especially if they’re having sinful thoughts].
• The Elder has reached Theoria and already been perfected, he walks as Christ on the earth (this is gleaned but not actually said) [Ed.Note: This is not gleaned, it is outright said. The writer was only a sub-novice and would not have been privy to inner circle knowledge, unless an older monk blabbed things he shouldn’t have].
• The Elder can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world [Ed. note: In 2006, Geronda Ephraim was giving a homily to lay people in the Trapeza at St. Anthony’s Monastery. While his explaining this ability to them, he stated, “I’ve already left twice to check on my monasteries while I was talking, and you didn’t even notice.” One Geronda stated, “Geronda isn’t omnipresent like God, but he’s almost like God. He sees and knows everything that happens in his monasteries. He’s watching us and protecting us.”]
• The Elder’s prayers can pretty much guarantee you entrance into heaven [Ed.Note: Furthermore, for the monks, Geronda Ephraim talks about a vision where it was revealed that the monks and nuns who stay with him until the end will be saved. Of course, there is still the clause of doing blind obedience and the other monastic duties, but if a monk and nun remains in the monastery until death, he/she are pretty much guaranteed salvation].
• You must confess your thoughts. Whereas most Xtian teachings condemn behavior and make mention of lustful thoughts and prideful thoughts….at the monastery you are to confess your every thought, good or bad. [Ed.Note: Elder Ephraim has repeatedly told the story from Agapios’ Salvation of Sinners about the nun who was virtuous and seemed holy. After she died she appeared to her Gerondissa and told her she was in hell because she didn’t confess a thought out of embarrassment].
• I was taught that the day the Roman Catholic Church was allowed to hold mass in Constantinople, the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) who had been protecting the city from the Turkish invasion, left and that is why Constantinople fell.
• I was also taught that within the walls of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, where this occurred, there was a secret Liturgy going on hidden inside the walls, Turkish soldiers stormed in and as the sword was about to pierce the presiding Priest time was frozen in such a manner that special Orthodox who are completely gifted with the holy spirit have spiritually visited this room and seen over the centuries that there is a slight movement of the sword towards the priest, we were taught that when the sword strikes the priest time will unfreeze, this will be like the last martyr and this announces the reign of the Antichrist. [Ed.Note: The marble king myth is not a teaching accepted or taught by the Orthodox Fathers. It originates in gnostic and apocryphal texts, and was taught to Geronda Ephraim by the bishop who ordained him. However, in some homilies, the Elder mentions he has seen it, or he gives updates on how far the sword is out of the sheath].
• Demons are everywhere, especially at the monasteries, since the world is already run by the devil.
• I was told of a 3 month exorcism that took place and met the man who this was done to. I do not know if he was severely mentally disturbed during this time and brought back to sanity or what the hell happened because everybody backs up what they saw and heard, I am at a loss with this one, this was a biggie when I was there.
• I was taught that during this exorcism, many saints including Paul and Michael the Archangel joined in the exorcism fighting the demons within this man, but that the Elder’s Elder, from Mt Athos wielded the most power (no shit hah?)
• Priests were “worldy” if they trimmed their beards
• Women should be avoided as they caused the fall
• Women are blessed by the theotokos as she brought the Savior into the world
• Mirrors are forbidden [Ed.Note: This stems from the teachings of St. Nikodemos On Guarding the Sense of Vision: “I beseech you, dear friend, have nothing to do with such vanity and condemnable pleasure. Have nothing to do with such mirrors. And if you happen to have them, please have them taken away as altogether improper for the Christian way of life.” This is why all the mirrors are covered in the monastery bathrooms. Also, monks or nuns who remove corners of this covering get huge canonas when they confess this sin-or if it is discovered first through the random cell searches the Abbot and Abbesses perform]
• Orthodox chanting and Classical music are only allowed (thank the lord I brought my Bach and Wagner)
• Wake up is at 12 AM, you are to pray and meditate performing prostrations and.or work until the morning service begins at 3AM, Liturgy follows immediately lasting until 7-8 AM then there is breakfast and work, lunch (trapeza) is around noon, then work, there is church again at 3 or 4 until dinner around 630 then compline service until approx 730, 8PM-12AM is quiet time.
• That’s about all I care to remember for now, I have to watch the video again, I thought it and the website offered more info.
TBH, there is so much in Orthodoxy that most ExCs here wouldn’t even know due to lack of exposure that I am probably passing over what are considered to be small scale erroneous teachings to them but outrageous to a protestant or Catholic in the first place…..let me find some links and I will post them as I can, believe me when I say the followers of Elder Ephraim do a lot within the church to stop members of the Orthodox Church from speaking against him, and not many non-orthodox know anything about him or the monasteries.
I believe I am moving forward and facing the past. I know my first few weeks of de-conversion, right when I started here on ExC I was very bitter and enraged, confused, frightened full of hatred and blame. I took a few days off from even talking about it, I think almost a week, which for me these days is a long time. I tried to find some peace, make some sense and decided to look towards solutions more than looking at the problems, I think I am doing well in widening the gap between the two. I also am finding moments where I feel a peace, just for a moment and I remember what life was like before Xtianity. And at other times I feel a sense of “now” that I can live with, it is my hope I can experience these moments for a longer duration. When I am in them I feel a distance from what I can only describe as living in a nightmare, and in those moments I feel the nightmare may be ending. I’m only a handful of weeks into the deprogramming state and its been a rough battle finding the proper information out there to help me as a guide, when you’ve thought one way about everything for so long, there’s nothing really to revert to, so I need a lot of outside stimuli.
So as far as leaving it all behind, I cannot learn from what I have been through and undo the thinking patterns I was taught, nor get out of it if I don’t know what I am getting “out of”, thus the search, the questions, the confusion.
I don’t hate the people at the monastery, in fact I have more love in my heaRt for the monks than anything, I don’t believe they know what is happening to them at all, and the ones that do realize or see what is going on are the ones stepping forward. I don’t want to blame them I want to see them for who they really are and the things they teach for what they really are.
They are of the nicest, caring, loveable humans I have ever met, and there is definitely a “presence” of some sort there at the monastery, it’s a very peaceful feeling, a loving feeling, it’s quite tangible, I don’t know how to describe it other than to say when I got there, I believed that to be “God”, and now that I don’t believe the same things I am hard pressed to define it, but whatever it is it is beautiful and they are a part of it.
Perhaps by a power or just the workings of nature they are rewarded for being such kind and loving people in spite of what they believe I do not know.
They have a leader and this leader was raised in Greece in a strong Orthodox home, I believe he went to live on the mountain of Monks at 19 and came to America in the early ’90s, he’s like 78 or so now, so he probably spent 40 years as an Athonite Monk, and they really have no outside influence except the select few daily visitors (all male) which are restrained by regulations not to discuss certain things anyway…so the man knows only this life, its like he’s in spiritual Flatland. He probably believes and practices what he preaches to the bone, but i am giving him the benefit of the doubt. The Orthodox Church has a pretty rigid hierarchy and he has people to answer to.
The abbot of the monastery is a different story, I felt he was very political rather than spiritual to be honest and he is one sharp tack so I wasn’t impressed by his evasive answers or his snobbery when I was in confession, but he did me no harm personally ever….that I know of.
I guess what I am working through here is that I believe you are correct in that they are just as lost as I was, except the possibility of a couple of the elders, they are mostly all True Believers IMHO. So that is why these things need to be discussed and talked about, the controversies surrounding the monastery are also vehicles to bring these matters to the attention of the spiritual leaders of the Monastery and thus the “innocence” begins to wane and they become more and more accountable for their actions, so far there has been no change in the workings of the place, the last I heard while I was there was that when the Elder hears of people who denounce him or accuse him he claims that Christ will “Give me more crowns”….perhaps he is absolutely convinced and yet another pawn of this Religious structure……
Sorry for being so “long winded”, I have to really work through these things when I write of them and I want to be as accurate and open minded as possible because I want the truth and I share a responsibility to others reading this that I will not deceive them as well concerning these matters.
As for the positive things I took from the Monastery, the Byzantine Chanting is friggin’ awesome…the head Cantor was handpicked by the Elder and he is a master of sound, I used to refer to his singing as being “Not of this world” and I meant it, I would love to be able to find my St Anthony’s Vigil CD that they sell at the bookstore, it’s all in Ancient Greek, the words are written in English and Greek inside the jacket and if you don’t know Greek, it won’t indoctrinate you =)
Mind you this man is speaking for the entire Orthodox Church and he is not of the cloth, this isn’t Protestantism, this is the Orthodox Church, they go by the book, not going before the unbelievers, they try to keep everything “In-house”….I just found this youtube series and will be watching it and posting according to what I know, I know it will be a healthy way to separate the wheat from the chaff =) in my head
This may give you some insight into the “Don’t think, just follow” mindset of Orthodoxy, as far as I know they are the strongest proponents in Christianity concerning blind obedience to the Clergy, I’ve never seen anything like it in Christianity.
… Women have very strict dress codes in many of the churches, depending on the Priest or the Abbott if it’s a Monastery and I’ve kinda seen them treated as “necessary functions” in the human race, instead of well…women.
I was told by the Abbot of St Anthony’s Monastery that marriage was only necessary in order to create a way for me not to sin, absolutely bewildered by what I was hearing I said “If nobody had sex, the human race would end, in fact it would have ended before Christ could be born..IN FACT Christ’s mother wouldn’t have been born in order to bear Jesus, so I don’t understand”…I was told that the necessity for sexual relations occurred at the fall, when I asked “Then how could Adam and Eve be fruitful and multiply?” I was told that it would have been done without sexual intercourse. I said “How?” and I was kinda scoffed at and told “God is God, He can make a way for life to be reproduced without sexual relations, don’t ask me how, I don’t know how because we never made it that far so we have no way of knowing”……
I was like ….UHHHHHHH????
The Orthodox, like the Catholic Church allow no women to be clergy, only the exception of female monastics in higher ranks than the common nun, in any other case they are forbidden to teach.
Im sure there are exceptions as this is a worldwide organization but this is the general rule.
Men are over women, as Paul stated, they go by the book on that one.
And they are treated with respect, mind you, but there is a lot of unspoken rules and regulations concerning this, but here in America it pretty much remains unspoken, but the general answer you will get when asking about a woman’s status is that she is less than the man and that Woman brought sin upon the man.
Now the reason I put the statement about the Theotokos in Juxta-position to that is going to be something unknown to you unless you had been in these circles, so I apologize again for not being clear, like I said, I was in this so long I sometimes forget what is and isn’t “normal’ in mainline Xtianity.
Besides God, the Theotokos is THE MOST VENERATED SAINT, but they claim so much more knowledge and revelation about her…to be honest, this is the one part of discussing this that makes me uneasy, I always have and still do have love for the idea of Mary, and my daughter who passed away was named after her because of the love I was given for her while Catholic (Never confirmed, only went through Catechism partially), and then more so in Orthodoxy, she is probably the most overwhelming Archetype for me due to personal reasons.
In Orthodox Iconostasis you will always find Jesus, the Saint the building or site is named after and an icon of the Theotokos. And the emphasis about her is due, considering the belief that God brought salvation into the world through a human mother…they go into great detail about her life and how she was THE ONLY WOMAN who could have bore the Christ child, so in that sense you would get the impression that they see women as equals or even as greater like we see in some cultures and religious practices, but you don’t get that, you get the dirty, sinful, necessity of the woman in order to produce children.
I have never seen women treated cruelly though, it’s just an underlying atmosphere of women being less than men, and some off the wall shit from certain people that make them look like they almost shouldn’t exist….I’m guessing the Abbott had something in mind like that movie where Arnold was pregnant….CREEPY.
Hope that clears that up…yes it is a contradiction.
I also saw in many cases where women were respected very much so it’s all about who’s doing the teaching and what church you are in…it’s not written in stone exactly, it’s one of those things you pick up when you’re amongst them.
…In Orthodoxy you don’t get personal opinions on the true gospel, you join the Orthodox Church only if you swear to adhere to the teachings of the church, if you don’t believe their version of it then you don’t become a member, so I am guessing that you can have two improper views this way
An improper view within Orthodoxy being contradicted by the Monastery and Improper according to a personal belief of anybody that doesn’t believe the gospel according to the Monastery, but what is in question amongst the Orthodox who are saying this is former, the monastery is deviating from what the Orthodox church teaches, therefore if the Lady is orthodox, she has it within her stance as a baptized member of the Church to cite Canon law against the teachings of anybody within the church, in this case the Monastery.
… the Eyewitness news reporter “For the past 8 months, the Eyewitness News 4 investigators have been documenting several families claims of brainwashing and inappropriate teachings at St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery…..” … she’s reporting on THE DOCUMENTATION OF SEVERAL FAMILIES CLAIMS OF BRAINWASHING AND INAPROPRIATE TEACHINGS AT ST ANTHONY’S GREEK ORTHODOX MONASTERY.
She’s reporting on the claims of the 3 families. She later stated that 3 families had come to them, 2 of which are Greek Orthodox, this would be the families of Nikos Pantanizopoulos and Paul Aleck.
The Orthodox families are part of the Church proper, so they can state that the teachings of the Monastery are inappropriate in both ways, any way that is dehumanizing to their child, and in the realest sense, inappropriate as determined by Orthodox Canon Law. The reporter never spoke for her own opinions, she is speaking on their behalf, and speaking OF THEM.
The other father, the non-Orthodox can certainly find out what Orthodox proper teaches and ascertain that his son is being taught inappropriate teachings according to the Orthodox church simply by speaking with clergy on the matter, and again, his son is beating the shit out of his thigh with a wooden stick for having imperfect thoughts, believing in the aerial toll houses where the demons are judging the souls of baptized Orthodox Xtians, being taught that the Elders of Sion are plotting against the Monastery and the Orthodox Church etc., etc.
Again, she isn’t taking a stance, she’s speaking on behalf of the families….Also, inappropriate isn’t judged by 30,000 denominations, the Orthodox Church doesn’t even consider Protestants to be Xtians, they consider them heretics, schismatics, a Protestant must go through Catechism and baptism, including an exorcism before becoming Orthodox, they believe that only the Orthodox Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ due to their sole claim of Apostolic Succession and their belief that the Holy Spirit doesn’t bless the Communion of the schismatic Roman Church, in their eyes the Protestants are completely lost and know nothing of the Gospel and need to find true salvation though the Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholics were a Patriarchate until 1054 AD when the final blow, the Filioque clause was added to the Nicene Creed and the Patriarch of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople Ex-communicated each other, later the land of Rus was brought in to create the missing 5th Patriarchate and in their eyes Rome is worse than being a Protestant.
They don’t care about any gospel but the Orthodox gospel, anything they deem as inappropriate is deemed so by looking into their own Tradition and Teachings collected over the past 2000 years and if it is out of whack then it is labeled heresy and is worthy of ex-communication.
They are so strict and rigid for a reason, they are in no way like the Protestants who have now come up with 30,000 sects in 450 years. They don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they believe in the inerrancy of the Orthodox Church, in their eyes, the Xtians wrote the gospels and epistles, passed them through Apostolic succession until the council of Nicea and the Orthodox Church voted on the Canon of scripture, the Orthodox Church preserved it through the ages by copying manuscripts, spreading the gospel and by shedding the blood of the martyrs to preserve the faith, right on through the Great Schism with Rome in 1054, through the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, right up to this very day….There is no Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide, there is Ortodoxon Xristianon. BTW I just realized who Scott Nevins is, the non-Orthodox convert.
I was at the Monastery when he came back from Mt Athos, that’s when I met him. He was made a novice while I was there…holy shit..we sat for hours on end telling stories about the Xtian life and about becoming monks, he lost so much weight it was frightening during the 49 days of fasting in Lent, thats why they make special mention of his photographs. He took on this real brooding appearance, began to walk in a hunched posturing for humility or something, barely ate, shit he cut out tomatoes, potatoes and peppers because the man that was supposedly exorcised there for 3 months said that since those food belong to the nightshade family they are neuro-toxins, which they are, AT TRACE LEVELS, so he had to eat even less of the little food allowed for thos entering the novitiate or the rest of the monks AND it was during Great Lent with all the food regulations, he got real pale and gaunt, he was dragging his boots as he walked, none of us knew he was entering the novitiate, he kept that to himself, out of humility I guess….I never understood why he thought that. Then one day he was a Man In Black.
Feel free to visit anytime, just call ahead to reserve a cell, ask for Pater Markellos, he’ll do you right up
Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me
Eper Ayia Theotoke Soson Emas.
Click on the little doo wah ditty button on the left for a sample of their chanting, the best thing to come out of that place……. http://www.stanthony…y.org/index.php
Tais tov tha criov sou roes….
I was just checking this thread to find the Youtube link to my Home Church priest, see I had a home Church cult and then the Monastery, so I actually left 2 cults at the same time, one is Antiochian Orthodox and the other was the Greek Orthodox, they are both in communion so there was no qualms about me having the Ant. as my home base church and also become a Greek Orth. monk.
Back when things were real bad, while I was a catechumen the priest-monk told me not to seek medical care in certain instances, I was pushed away from seeing a psychiatrist or even any counselling. I was told that the Nous, the eye of the soul which is the power, the I in Greek understanding was energetically destroyed and fragmented, that Satan had 100% rights over me and that I COULD NOT become psychologically well until baptism, they dangled baptism over my head for more than 3 years, I was forced to confess many sins that were committed due to my physical and psychological imbalances then had the cure withheld from me, by telling me not to seek secular help as well as not baptizing me.
So I was basically being broken down on purpose.
It was officially confirmed that I needed an exorcism of my house, and my home priest never even got around to doing it, a priest in a neighboring city came by to perform the rituals. I was told by my priest-monk that the Elder of the monastery wanted me to be so spiritually strong that I could be sitting in my house with things flying around the room like in the movie Poltergeist, and sit without being affected and be able to repeat the Jesus prayer non-stop, I was told by my priest-monk that this was my spiritual goal. Therefore the exorcism was done by my request in secret at my home base.
So I was being told that on the one hand I was to become a spiritual warrior and NOT have the proper Orthodox exorcisms and cleansings and be immediately baptised to protect me…….then I was being told that I had absolutely no power to do so because of the condition of the Nous before baptism.
I was told all psychological problems were to be spiritually healed, yet I was denied the healing which is Exorcism of the Catechumen, denouncing Satan, having hands laid on, being baptized and born of the spirit immediately aligning the Nous, then receiving the “True Eucharist”, the body and blood of Christ which would absolve me of every single sin committed, all this on the day of baptism.
In fact talking about it now, my mind is saying “You are deceived, you are now in the dark, you were so close and you blew it….” That’s how powerful they made my becoming Orthodox seem to me.
For years I was enticed with what would happen at that event, how i would become alive from the dead.
I was told so many stories of miraculous baptisms, the Orthodox pride themselves concerning their spiritual powers…I was told numerous miracle stories about first communion, that the neophyte would experience total catharsis as well as euphoria, I was told that at baptism I would be absolutely in touch with god until the first sin committed after baptism, which would begin the cycle of sin/confession/absolution/communion. The stories of baptism are so amazing that many plan ahead to go and be alone somewhere for days and weeks after baptism in order to retain the full blown connection with God, pray for all their needs at this time and they would be answered, read books and know their meaning, read scripture and be instantly enlightened. I was to be baptized at the Monastery when the time came and was to spend weeks alone in my cell with pre picked books, audio tapes, CDs and food brought to me.
As I have found out how much psychological damage was done to me now that I have learned what it was they were doing and teaching and how it affected me, I am trying to find a specialist in de-programming….to be honest, I am going to post this but I am sure i will have to EDIT a lot of it later today, I can actually feel my mind fighting itself and becoming confused.
I am willing to bet this entire post is fragmented and hard to follow…I can’t get my thoughts straight, the words aren’t coming out the way I would normally be able to.
I am going to post it as a testimony to the power of the brain washing and finish it up later, hopefully it made I have sent numerous emails to the monastery and have received no replies
As far as I know, they know nothing of my de-conversion, these attempts to contact them were made over the last year, I think that they somehow got wind of me telling my home priest to shine on and have labeled me a paraya (sp?).
I think I am going to get a professional involved as well as contact the media who have already looked into the problems there, I want some closure and I want my voice heard.
I want to be able to put this behind me and I can’t do that without making my story heard, they need to know and I need to know that they know. enough sense for you to understand how much control they had over me. http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/27554-st-anthonys-greek-orthodox-monastery-now-im-on-psych-meds/#.VHkCCmfp-Sp
In 2011, a lay disciple of Geronda Ephraim, using the name zealot777, posted the following: “Saint Anthony’s Monastery is in perfectly good standing with the Greek Archdiocese and World Orthodoxy as a whole. There is nothing cultic about them. If they were operating in an independent fashion outside their jurisdiction, yet claiming to belong to it, then I might have some concerns. But everything they do is Orthodox. The author of this thread is probably just unfamiliar with the Orthodox ascetical lifestyle. I have visited the monastery twice. They’re wonderful people. That the author is now on psych meds, does not prove the monastery is to blame.”
Chikirin responded, “We are ex christians therefore we believe all of Christendom is a cult (at least I do any way)”
And a moderator reiterated the forum rules: “Christians are not allowed to evangelize or debate their beliefs in the Testimonies Forum. The Lions Den forum on this site is open for that. Please carefully read and respect the rules of this forum before posting in here”
The forum is now locked.