Eastern Orthodox Saints Who Committed Suicide (Synaxarion & Church Fathers)

In the first few centuries of Orthodox Christianity, the Orthodox Church and the Church Fathers accepted the act of suicide if it was to preserve one’s virginity; i.e. an individual could commit suicide to prevent being raped and it was not considered a mortal sin and one was even eligible to be ranked as a virgin-martyr. Also, some of the martyrs commemorated in the Church were not actually killed by their tormentors but rather they leapt to their own deaths after a period of torture or with the threat of martyrdom. Thus, in the Lives of the Saints of the first few centuries, one can find many saints who committed suicide. After the 4th-5th century, suicide was no longer an acceptable practise to preserve chastity which creates a little confusion. Those before this time period are saints in the ranks of heaven, whereas those who commit suicide after this time period have committed mortal sin and lost their souls.

The majority of the early Church Fathers evidently not only justified but commended suicide in such an extremity. The first Father distinctly to condemn the practice was Augustine (De civ. Dei. I. 22–27). He takes strong ground on the subject, and while admiring the bravery and chastity of the many famous women that had rescued themselves by taking their own lives, he denounces their act as sinful under all circumstances, maintaining that suicide is never anything else than a crime against the law of God. The view of Augustine has very generally prevailed since his time. In the 9th century, St. Theodore of Studite clearly states in his epistle: “It is not permitted in any situation whatsoever for a service or liturgy to be performed for him (namely, the one who commits suicide)” [PG 99, 1477B].

Church Councils Suicide cropped

Interestingly, though homosexual rape and pedophilia were quite predominant in the early days of the Church (both within and without of Christianity), the Fathers seem to only accept women virgin-martyrs. There is no mention of “economia” when it comes to male on male rape. It should be noted that in some medieval non-Christian cultures, a common practise of male victors in a raid or war was to rape (sometimes gang-rape) the male captors to shame and humiliate them. This practise continues today throughout the world both in war and prison systems.

Also, the early Fathers don’t talk much about clergymen hiding behind their rank to sexually abuse others (whether heterosexual, homosexual or pedophilia). This trend which existed in the early Orthodox Church is today quite predominant worldwide. Perhaps this silence is because St. Constantine the Great set the precedent of protecting them when he stated at the First Ecumenical Council: “If I would see with my own eyes a bishop, a priest or a monk in a sinful act, I would cover him with my cloak, so that no one would ever see his sin.”

ORTHODOX CHURCH FATHERS WHO SUPPORTED SUICIDE TO PRESERVE CHASTITY

AmbroseOfMilan

St. Ambrose of Milan (4th c.): Though St. Ambrose disapproved of suicide in general, he embraced the idea that women who committed suicide to protect their virginity received the martyr’s crown. St. Ambrose ends his ascetical treatise On Virgins by explaining to his sister that suicide is preferable to losing one’s virginity. He tells his sister that she can be confident suicide is permissible when protecting chastity because the Church has examples of martyrs who did that very thing. He then proceeds to tell the story of a teenager named Pelagia who lived in Antioch. She threw herself off a building to avoid lecherous pursuers. St. Ambrose even has her rationalizing her plans in his retelling. Ambrose’s Pelagia says, “God is not offended by the remedy [avoiding rape], and faith mitigates the misdeed [of suicide].” Though still a “misdeed,” St. Ambrose clearly views it as the lesser of two evils when a woman’s virginity is at stake.

Eusebius

Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, Church Historian (4th c.): In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius writes about the abominable treatment of female Christians formed a feature of the persecutions both of Maximian and Maximin, who were alike monsters of licentiousness. Eusebius wrote about the suicides of St. Domnina and Her Two Daughters and evidently approved of these women’s suicide. [Book VIII, Chapter 12]

 

St John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom (4th-5th c.): St. John Chrysostom’s stance regarding suicide and martyrdom is relatively close to St. Ambrose’s. John condemns suicide, believing it to be against God’s will, and claims that real martyrs do not commit suicide. Even though they do not kill themselves, John believed they must face death willingly. However, like St. Ambrose, Chrysostom accepts suicide for women who are attempting to protect their purity.

St. John Chrysostom, like many of his contemporaries, highly prized virginity, and when he considered the importance of sexual purity, St. John rationalized behaviors that would otherwise be condemnable. Specifically, John advocated suicide for women when necessary to protect their chastity. In his sermon on Julian, suicide is a defeat, though John probably had men in mind while preaching that sermon. In his sermon on the Virgin-Martyr Pelagia, suicide is victory over the enemies of God and over the Devil himself.

SaintJerome

St. Jerome (4th-5th c.): The early Church Father St Jerome categorically stated that Christ would not receive the soul of one who commits suicide. [Saint Jerome, Letters 39:3]. However, St Jerome makes an interesting exception to their otherwise absolute and inclusive condemnation: those who commit suicide in order to preserve their chastity.

 

ORTHODOX CHURCH FATHERS WHO OPPOSED SUICIDE TO PRESERVE CHASTITY

St. Augustine of Hippo (5th c.): This, then, is our position, and it seems sufficiently lucid.  We maintain that when a woman is violated while her soul admits no consent to the iniquity, but remains inviolably chaste, the sin is not hers, but his who violates her. (Of Lucretia, Who Put an End to Her Life Because of the Outrage Done Her, City of God Chapter 19).

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ORTHODOX SAINTS IN THE SYNAXARION WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE

This list is just a brief sample and by no means complete. One can find numerous examples from the first few centuries of the Orthodox Church in the Synaxarion.

St. Agathonike (165 or 251 AD): St. Agathonike did not commit suicide to preserve her virginity, but is in the ranks of “voluntary martyr.” During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Agathonike became so excited while watching Carpus and Papylus die martyrs’ deaths that she believed she should join them on the pyre. The crowd tried to dissuade her after she announced her intentions, reminding her that her son needed her. She replied that God would take care of him, at which point she disrobed and threw herself on the fire. In the Latin recension of the text, however, Agathonike is arrested with the other two martyrs, which leads Musurillo to suggest, “The Latin redactor was attempting to colour the facts for a later age.” [See: Martyrdom of Carpus, Papylus, and Agothonike 44].

She is celebrated in the Greek Church on October 13th

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St. Apollonia (2nd century): St. Apollonia also did not commit suicide to preserve her virginity but did so after being tortured. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (247–265), relates the sufferings of his people in a letter addressed to Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, of which long extracts have been preserved in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: “At that time Apollonia, parthénos presbytis (mostly likely meaning a deaconess) was held in high esteem. These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of fagots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words (either a blasphemy against Christ, or an invocation of the heathen gods). Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death.” [6.41 (PG 20:605–607)]

She is celebrated in the Greek Church on February 9th.

St Apollonia

St. Pelagia of Antioch (late 3rd century): St. Pelagia was a Christian saint, virgin, and martyr who committed suicide during the Diocletian Persecution rather than be forced by Roman soldiers to offer a public sacrifice to the pagan gods. She was 15 years old.

She was home alone during the Diocletian Persecution when Roman soldiers arrived. She came out to meet them and, discovering they intended to compel her to participate in a pagan sacrifice, she received permission to change her clothes. She went to the roof of her house and threw herself into the sea. The patristic sources treat this as a sacred martyrdom rather than an ignoble suicide, usually with reference to the potential that she would have been dishonored by the soldiers.

She is celebrated in the Greek Church on October 8th.

Saint Pelagia of Antioch
Saint Pelagia of Antioch

Saints Domnina, Berenice, and Prosdoce (c. 310)

Saint Domnina and her daughters Berenice (Bernice, Veronica, Verine, Vernike) and Prosdoce are venerated as Christian martyrs by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Domnina was arrested by soldiers for her adherence to the Christian religion. Fearing that the soldiers would rape her and her daughters, they threw themselves into a river after they asked their guards for a chance to rest for a while or after the soldiers had become drunk with wine. All three women drowned.

The account of St. John Chrysostom tells a slightly different story: according to Chrysostom, Domnina, after jumping into the river, pulled her daughters in with her to prevent them from being raped. Chrysostom praised Domnina for her courage and Domnina’s daughters for their obedience.

She is celebrated in the Greek Church on October 4th.

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PATRISTIC SERMONS LAUDING SUICIDE TO PRESERVE CHASTITY

Saint John Chrysostom delivered the following sermon about St. Pelagia, the Virgin Martyr:

“Even women now poke fun at death and girls mock passing away and quite young, unmarried virgins skip into the very stings of Hades and suffer no ill effects. All of these blessings we experience because of Christ, born of a virgin. For after those blessed contraction pains and utterly awe-inspiring birth the sinews of death were unstrung, the devil’s power was disabled and from then on became contemptible to not just men but also women, and not just women, but also girls….

“It’s for this reason that blessed Pelagia too ran to meet death with such great delight that she didn’t wait for the executioners’ hands nor did she go to court, but escaped their cruelty through the excess of her own enthusiasm. For while she was prepared for tortures and punishments and every kind of penalty, even so she was afraid that she would destroy the crown of her virginity. Indeed, that you might learn that she was afraid of the sexual predation of the unholy men, she got in first and snatched herself away in advance from the shameful violence. None of the [Christian] men ever attempted any such act at all. Instead they all filed into court and displayed their courage there. Yet women, by nature vulnerable to harm, conceived for themselves this manner of death. My point is that, were it possible both to preserve one’s virginity and attain martyrdom’s crown, she wouldn’t have refused to go to court. But since it was utterly inevitable that one of the two would be lost, she thought it a sign of extreme stupidity, when it was possible for her to attain each victory, to depart half crowned. For this reason she wasn’t willing to go to court or to become a spectacle for lecherous eyes, or to give opportunity for predatory eyes to revel in the sight of her own appearance and crudely insult that holy body. Instead she went from her chamber and the women’s quarters to a second chamber – heaven….

“Don’t simply pass over what happened, but consider how it’s likely that she was raised as a gentle girl, knowing nothing beyond her chamber, while soldiers were posted against her en masse, standing in front of the door, summoning her to court, dragging her into the marketplace on weighty sorts of grounds. There was no father inside, no mother present, no nurse, no female attendant, no neighbor, no female friend. Instead, she was left alone in the midst of those executioners. I mean, how isn’t it right that we be astonished and amazed that she had the strength to come out and answer those executioner soldiers, to open her mouth and utter a sound, just to look, stand, and breathe? Those actions weren’t attributable to human nature. For God’s influence introduced the majority. Most assuredly, at the time she didn’t just idly stand around, but displayed all her personal qualities – her enthusiasm, her resolve, her nobility, her willingness, her purpose, her eagerness, her bustling energy. But it was as a result of God’s help and heavenly good goodwill that all these qualities reached maturity….

“In addition to what’s been said, I marvel as well at how the soldiers granted her the favor, how the woman deceived the men, how they didn’t work out the deception. After all, one can’t say that no one effected anything of the sort. For many women, it seems, gave themselves up to a cliff or hurled themselves into the sea or drove a sword through their breast or fastened a noose. That time was full of numerous dramas of that kind. But God blinded the soldier’s hearts so that they wouldn’t openly see the deception. That’s why she flew up out of the middle of their nets….

“Lot’s of people who’ve tumbled from a high roof haven’t suffered any ill effect. Others, in turn, despite suffering permanent disability to some part of their body, have lived for a long time after the fall. But in the case of that blessed virgin God didn’t allow any of these options to happen. Instead, he ordered the body to release the soul immediately and received it on the grounds that it had struggled sufficiently and completed everything. For death wasn’t caused by the nature of the fall, but by God’s command. From that point the body wasn’t lying on a bed, but on the pavement. yet it wasn’t without honor as it lay on the pavement…For this reason, then, that virginal body purer than any gold lay on the pavement, on the street.” [St. John ChrysostomA homily on Pelagia, Virgin and Martyr, translated into English by Wendy Mayer, from the book Let Us Die That We May Live (pp. 148-161)]

Let Us Die

Saint John Chrysostom delivered a sermon about St. Domnina and her two daughters:

In St. John’s sermon probably preached in the 390s in Antioch, the story takes an interesting turn. The women do not just kill themselves; John suggests that the mother actually drowns her daughters. He preaches, “And so, the mother entered in the middle [of the river], restraining her daughters on either side.” Once in the river, John says, “That blessed woman [Domnina] … lowered them down into the waters, and in this way they drowned.” Domnina then drowns herself to claim her martyr’s crown. Astonishingly, in this sermon, the protection of virginity not only justifies self-murder, but also John uses it justify murdering one’s children. He actually esteems Domnina because he claims that drowning her own daughters was an exceedingly painful form of martyrdom. Domnina could have suffered at the court, but then she would not have been able to ensure her daughters’ purity.

She endured far greater tortures in the river [than she would have at court]. My point, as I started saying, is that it was truly far more cruel and painful than to see flesh scourged, to drown her own innards, I mean her daughters, by her own hand, and to see them suffocating, and it required far greater philosophy than to endure tortures for her to have the capacity to restrain her children’s right hands and to drag them along with her into the river’s currents. For it was not the same in terms of pain to see [her daughters] suffering badly at the hands of others and to herself act as death’s servant, to herself promote their end, to herself stand against her daughters in place of an executioner.

John imputes extraordinary suffering to a mother who kills her young daughters, and he not only excuses the killing but also lauds it because she did it to preserve virginity. John commends these martyrs as prime examples for mothers and daughters in his congregation. No doubt, this sermon worried not a few daughters whose reputations were at risk. [see, The Cult of the Saints: St. John Chrysostom, http://www.svspress.com/the-cult-of-the-saints-st-john-chrysostom/ ]

Cult of saints

Saint Ambrose replies to Marcellina, who had asked what should be thought of those who to escape violence killed themselves, by narrating the history of Pelagia, a virgin, with her mother and sister…

  1. As I am drawing near the close of my address, you make a good suggestion, holy sister, that I should touch upon what we ought to think of the merits of those who have cast themselves down from a height, or have drowned themselves in a river, lest they should fall into the hands of persecutors, seeing that holy Scripture forbids a Christian to lay hands on himself. And indeed as regards virgins placed in the necessity of preserving their purity, we have a plain answer, seeing that there exists an instance of martyrdom.
  2. Saint Pelagia lived formerly at Antioch, being about fifteen years old, a sister of virgins, and a virgin herself. She shut herself up at home at the first sound of persecution, seeing herself surrounded by those who would rob her of her faith and purity, in the absence of her mother and sisters, without any defence, but all the more filled with God. What are we to do, unless, says she to herself, you, a captive of virginity, takest thought? I both wish and fear to die, for I meet not death but seek it. Let us die if we are allowed, or if they will not allow it, still let us die. God is not offended by a remedy against evil, and faith permits the act. In truth, if we think of the real meaning of the word, how can what is voluntary be violence? It is rather violence to wish to die and not to be able. And we do not fear any difficulty. For who is there who wishes to die and is not able to do so, when there are so many easy ways to death? For I can now rush upon the sacrilegious altars and overthrow them, and quench with my blood the kindled fires. I am not afraid that my right hand may fail to deliver the blow, or that my breast may shrink from the pain. I shall leave no sin to my flesh. I fear not that a sword will be wanting. I can die by my own weapons, I can die without the help of an executioner, in my mother’s bosom.
  3. She is said to have adorned her head, and to have put on a bridal dress, so that one would say that she was going to a bridegroom, not to death. But when the hateful persecutors saw that they had lost the prey of her chastity, they began to seek her mother and sisters. But they, by a spiritual flight, already held the field of chastity, when, as on the one side, persecutors suddenly threatened them, and on the other, escape was shut off by an impetuous river, they said, what do we fear? See the water, what hinders us from being baptized? And this is the baptism whereby sins are forgiven, and kingdoms are sought. This is a baptism after which no one sins. Let the water receive us, which is wont to regenerate. Let the water receive us, which makes virgins. Let the water receive us, which opens heaven, protects the weak, hides death, makes martyrs. We pray You, God, Creator of all things, let not the water scatter our bodies, deprived of the breath of life; let not death separate our obsequies, whose lives affection has always conjoined; but let our constancy be one, our death one, and our burial also be one.
  4. Having said these words, and having slightly girded up the bosom of their dress, to veil their modesty without impeding their steps, joining hands as though to lead a dance, they went forward to the middle of the river bed, directing their steps to where the stream was more violent, and the depth more abrupt. No one drew back, no one ceased to go on, no one tried where to place her steps, they were anxious only when they felt the ground, grieved when the water was shallow, and glad when it was deep. One could see the pious mother tightening her grasp, rejoicing in her pledges, afraid of a fall lest even the stream should carry off her daughters from her. These victims, O Christ, said she, do I offer as leaders of chastity, guides on my journey, and companions of my sufferings. [On Virgins, Book III, Chapter 7:32-35]

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SERMONS OF CHURCH FATHERS CONDEMNING SUICIDE TO PRESERVE CHASTITY

St. Augustine of Hippo, That Christians Have No Authority for Committing Suicide in Any Circumstances Whatever, City of God Chapter 20.

It is not without significance, that in no passage of the holy canonical books there can be found either divine precept or permission to take away our own life, whether for the sake of entering on the enjoyment of immortality, or of shunning, or ridding ourselves of anything whatever.  Nay, the law, rightly interpreted, even prohibits suicide, where it says, “Thou shalt not kill.”  This is proved especially by the omission of the words “thy neighbor,” which are inserted when false witness is forbidden:  “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”  Nor yet should any one on this account suppose he has not broken this commandment if he has borne false witness only against himself.  For the love of our neighbor is regulated by the love of ourselves, as it is written, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  If, then, he who makes false statements about himself is not less guilty of bearing false witness than if he had made them to the injury of his neighbor; although in the commandment prohibiting false witness only his neighbor is mentioned, and persons taking no pains to understand it might suppose that a man was allowed to be a false witness to his own hurt; how much greater reason have we to understand that a man may not kill himself, since in the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” there is no limitation added nor any exception made in favor of any one, and least of all in favor of him on whom the command is laid!  And so some attempt to extend this command even to beasts and cattle, as if it forbade us to take life from any creature.  But if so, why not extend it also to the plants, and all that is rooted in and nourished by the earth?  For though this class of creatures have no sensation, yet they also are said to live, and consequently they can die; and therefore, if violence be done them, can be killed.  So, too, the apostle, when speaking of the seeds of such things as these, says, “That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die;” and in the Psalm it is said, “He killed their vines with hail.”  Must we therefore reckon it a breaking of this commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” to pull a flower?  Are we thus insanely to countenance the foolish error of the Manichæans?  Putting aside, then, these ravings, if, when we say, Thou shalt not kill, we do not understand this of the plants, since they have no sensation, nor of the irrational animals that fly, swim, walk, or creep, since they are dissociated from us by their want of reason, and are therefore by the just appointment of the Creator subjected to us to kill or keep alive for our own uses; if so, then it remains that we understand that commandment simply of man.  The commandment is, “Thou shall not kill man;” therefore neither another nor yourself, for he who kills himself still kills nothing else than man.

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St. Augustine of Hippo, Of Suicide Committed Through Fear of Punishment or Dishonor, City of God Chapter, Book I, Chapter 17.

And consequently, even if some of these virgins killed themselves to avoid such disgrace, who that has any human feeling would refuse to forgive them?  And as for those who would not put an end to their lives, lest they might seem to escape the crime of another by a sin of their own, he who lays this to their charge as a great wickedness is himself not guiltless of the fault of folly.  For if it is not lawful to take the law into our own hands, and slay even a guilty person, whose death no public sentence has warranted, then certainly he who kills himself is a homicide, and so much the guiltier of his own death, as he was more innocent of that offence for which he doomed himself to die.  Do we justly execrate the deed of Judas, and does truth itself pronounce that by hanging himself he rather aggravated than expiated the guilt of that most iniquitous betrayal, since, by despairing of God’s mercy in his sorrow that wrought death, he left to himself no place for a healing penitence?  How much more ought he to abstain from laying violent hands on himself who has done nothing worthy of such a punishment!  For Judas, when he killed himself, killed a wicked man; but he passed from this life chargeable not only with the death of Christ, but with his own:  for though he killed himself on account of his crime, his killing himself was another crime.  Why, then, should a man who has done no ill do ill to himself, and by killing himself kill the innocent to escape another’s guilty act, and perpetrate upon himself a sin of his own, that the sin of another may not be perpetrated on him?

The suicide of judas
The Suicide of Judas, ca. 1492. Fresco at Chapel of Notre Dame des Fontaine, France.

 

 

Self-Flagellation (George Ryley Scott, 1968)

NOTE: This article is taken from The History of Corporal Punishment, pp. 98-108:

GRS

One of the most remarkable features of the life in the ancient monasteries and convents was the widespread practice of self-flagellation, and many people living today find it difficult to believe that there ever existed persons who would inflict pain upon themselves; just as they greet with scornful unbelief any statement that, either now, or in any other age, there are, or ever were, individuals who will or would willingly allow others to use the whip upon their bodies. In both cases, however, they are wrong. There were in the past both men and women by the thousands who flogged themselves; just as today there are men and women who not only allow themselves to be flogged, but who pay someone to wield the whip.

Reproduction of the crops used in the Middle Ages
Reproduction of the crops used in the Middle Ages

Now, in the case of religious self-flagellation there were many factors which had a share in promulgating the practice. In the first place it was, in many religious orders, a custom which new recruits seeking atonement were advised to observe; and, for the most part, they would no more have thought of rebelling against the practice than they would no more have thought of rebelling against any other of the numerous disciplinary measures they were expected to undertake, or the self-abasing observances to which they promised, all in humility, to submit. Also, there were stern days, when men and women, as I have already observed, were made of harder stuff than they are today, and rebellion against the rules of the order would have led to flogging anyway, and would most certainly have involved far more severe chastisement than anything they would administer to themselves. And although I am not going quite so far as to say, in regard to this self-flagellation, that it was exactly a case of force majeure, I do think, in many cases, the hint that most inmates would wish to expiate their sins and transgressions by self-flagellation may have been interpreted as something smelling suspiciously like a command.

There are, however, the strongest grounds for thinking that this explanation by no means suffices in all cases. It certainly does not, for instance, explain the self-flagellation, or the voluntary submission to whipping at other hands, in the so numerous cases of members of the royal houses, and of other exalted personages. It just as certainly does not explain the self-flagellation of the leaders of the various religious bodies, to wit, the saints, the bishops, and so on. For any convincing explanation, in all such instances, we must probe deeper.

In some cases, without doubt, we need look no further than the universal belief in the reputed medicinal and other virtues of flagellation. But here we have to grant the existence of some form of suffering, of some distemper, and a pretty severe attack of it at that—an explanation, therefore which is obviously restricted considerably in its application, and which in any case would not account, except in relatively few cases, for the continuance of the practice over long periods of time.

Finally, and most importantly, we are compelled to fall back upon the need which so often occurs in the case of religious fanatics—and it must be conceded that all who become monks and nuns are inclined to religious fanaticism, if not actually afflicted with religious mania—of finding some means of repressing the worldy cravings which arise irresistibly in their minds; hence the popularity of self-torturing in many and devious ways, of which, in ancient times, flagellation was one of the most widespread. The belief in the efficacy of the voluntary submission to pain or suffering or humiliation, as a means of expiation for a sin or transgression committed against God or the Church, was firmly established; and, indeed, to this day, is an integral part of many varieties of religion. Penance looms largely in the Catholic faith; it ranks as the fourth of the seven sacraments. It was this firm belief which let the leaders of the Churches, in those ancient days, go so far as to whip themselves, or to suffer whipping at the hands of their disciples, to wear sackcloth next to their skin, to martyrise their own flesh, to fast for long periods, to parade about in rags and filth, to humiliate themselves in a hundred different ways. It was, too, this self-same firm belief which caused them, whenever they happened to be beset with temptations, which was a frequent occurrence, to try to dispel such longings by self-punishment and self-humiliation.

self-flagellation

One must not overlook the fact that in many cases the priests genuinely believed that self-punishment, being a form of sacrifice, would propitiate the god they worshipped. This provides one of the explanations of all forms of asceticism—from the chastity of Roman Catholic priests to the extreme self-tortures practiced by the yogis of Tibet and the fakirs of India. Also, and often coincident with this propitiation of their god, the arousing of the sympathy or compassion of the public, which, inevitably, is connected with any form of martyrdom, was no doubt in the minds of those indulging in self-flagellation.

It was undoubtedly by these and other (true or apocryphal) analogous practices that the saints of old established and retained their reputations. There are for the finding many revealing instances. Thus in Lives of the Saints Canonized in 1839, in a reference to Saint Liguori, it is stated that he flagellated himself so severely that “one day his secretary had to burst open the door, and snatch the discipline out of his hands, fearing lest the violence with which he scourged himself might cause his death.” And, according to the same authority Saint Pacificus was accustomed to scourge himself to such an extent “as to fill all those with horror who heard the whistlings of the lash, or saw the abundance of blood which he had shed during the flagellation.” Then, too, there was the example set by the Biblical heroes. Saint Paul, revered of all associated with the Christian religion, was staunchly held up as a believer in and a practitioner of self-flagellation. “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection” (I Cor. 9:27). Here, if ever man did, he stands self-confessed. And we read in Psalms: “For all day long have I been plagued and chastened every morning.”

With all these ideas firmly embedded in the minds of the leaders of the sects, it is a matter for no wonder at all that, in the sincerely professed belief that they were upholding sound apostolic tradition, they prescribed these self-same forms of penance for their followers. Those who failed to mortify themselves, and to practice the discipline necessary to please the Church and placate their God would be denied entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. In these modern days of widespread agnosticism and atheism it is difficult, almost to the extent of bordering on the impossible, for the mind to realize just how powerful were these arguments of the Church, backed up, as they so effectually were, by the practises of the priests, the bishops, and the saints themselves. To be denied the benefits of the Church, and the expectation of a future existence in Heaven, would be far worse than a denial of a long life on this earth. It was mainly for these reasons that kings and nobles performed their humiliating and painful penances with all the ardor of their subjects.

The cunning priests, too, preying upon the ignorance, the superstition, and the credulity of the day, were not slow to call to their aid apocryphal accounts of benefits resulting to those who flagellated themselves, and of the ill-effects following upon failure to do so. In their own way, and allowing for the limitations of the age in which they lived, these early propagandists of religion could bring to their aid species of ballyhoo which were every whit as effective as the modern methods of publicity agents. There were the stories told of the power of severe and regular whipping to change the soul’s destination from Hell to Heaven; there was at least one account given currency respecting the self-flagellation indulged in by a gathering of priests around a dead monk’s bed causing him to come back to life; there was the tale, whispered into credulous ears, that those who refused to whip themselves, or to be whipped while upon this earthly sphere, were scourged good and plenty by every spirit inhabiting Purgatory.

Self-flagellation 1

Sex entered largely into the matter, fornication being one of the major sins against the dictates of the Churches. Self-punishment of various kinds were favorite methods adopted by the early saints to subdue sexual thoughts and cravings. There is a story that Peter the Hermit was compelled to lock himself up in his room and take the whip to his own flesh, in order to prevent himself seducing a pretty girl whom he had rescued from the clutches of a satyr. And although this particular story may be dubious of authenticity, there can be no manner of doubt that such-like self-punishments were very often thought to be necessary to subdue licentious thoughts and libidinous cravings. [In his excellent book, The Cruel and the Meek, Dr. Walter Braun brings out well the complete inability of the ancients to recognize that this so-called “mortification of the flesh” was likely to have precisely the opposite effects to those intended]. It was because of the urgency of these repressive measures that the saints, judging every other individual by their own standards, prescribed similar fustigations, tortures and humiliations in every case and circumstance. It is in just the same way that the modern theologian, moralist, or Puritan, finding certain measures essential for the subduing of his own libido, endeavors to make similar taboos or repressive measures universal in their application.

There are indications that self- or voluntary flagellation existed long before the establishment of monasteries and convents, though in most of the recorded cases there are grounds for surmising that they were of a sexual rather than a religious origin. Thus Herodotus, in referring to the custom among the Egyptians, at certain festivals, after feasting, and the offering of sacrifices to their god, of men and women, to the tune of some thousands, whipping each other to their hearts’ content, said he was “not allowed to mention the reason why these beatings were performed.” Apuleius speaks of priests who whipped themselves with scourges which they carried about with them for that express purpose.

Although the rules of the early monastic orders preserve discreet silence respecting any self-flagellating practices, this, says the author of The History of the Flagellants,

“has been amply compensated in  subsequent rules. Thus, the Carmes are to discipline themselves twice a week; the Monks of Monte Cassino, once a week; the Ursuline Nuns, every Friday; the Nuns of the Visitation, when they please; the English Benedictines, a greater or less number of times in the week, according to the season of the year; the Celestines, on the eve of every great festival; the Capuchin Friars, every day in the week, etc.” (p. 113).

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But if in the rules of the orders this reticence was observable, biographers and historians were governed by no such principles.

Chroniclers of the lives of the early Christian theologians refer to various devotees of the cult of self-flagellation. There was Saint Pardulph, who removed every atom of clothes during Lent, and was thrashed daily, in accordance with his own orders, by a disciple. Others wielded the whip themselves. There was Saint William; there was an abbot of Pontaoise, by name Gualbertus; there was Abbot Guy of Pomposa; there was Saint Romnald; and there was various personages of lesser importance. The usual practice was to flagellate daily, continuing the process as long as it took to sing or recite selected psalms or other Biblical passages.

All this flagellation among the saints and the monks, however, appears to have been sporadic up to, at any rate, the end of the first thousand years of the Christian era. Propaganda for flagellation, such as it was, remained restricted more or less to the somewhat crude accounts of benefits received by flagellants, conveyed by word of mouth from one worshipper to another. It was not until the year 1056 that a certain newly created Cardinal, by name Peter Damian de Honestis, initiated a campaign to popularize flagellation. The result of this campaign was to set the whole of Christendom using the whip. Kings and commoners theologians and criminals, nobles and peasants vied with each other in the avidity with which they whipped themselves and one another.

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It is mainly to the writings of this same Damian that we are indebted for much of the information available respecting the practice of self-flagellation among the theological leaders of his time. As an instance, Saint Dominic Loricatus was accustomed to divest himself of every stitch of clothing, and, wielding a birch in each hand, flog every part of his body within his reach, continuing the fustigation as long as it took him to recite the psalter—not once—but three separate times from beginning to end. On special occasions, it appears this same saint whipped himself while singing through the entire psalter “twelve times over,” a procedure which filled even the grim, sadistic and fanatical Cardinal “with terror when he heard of it.” Another notable self-flagellating monk was Saint Rodolph, who shut himself up in his cell, and sang through the whole psalter to the accompaniment of vigorous whipping.

Now, all modern scepticism notwithstanding, and allowing for the exaggeration which is one of the major sins with which propagandists are so often afflicted, it may be set down as a solid fact that many of these accounts of the self-flagellatory practices of the saints and their disciples are perfectly true accounts. Anyone who has dug deeply into religious origins and practices, pagan and civilized, and who is thoroughly acquainted with the genesis of the various faiths which at one time or another have swept the world, is well aware of the lengths to which, in their fanaticism, men and women will go. And these accounts of self-flagellation of the ancients in a considerable number of instances, are supported by evidence of a nature sufficient to establish, beyond any reasonable doubt, the existence of the phenomenon. At the same time, one must not close one’s eyes to the fact that many of the stories which have been made much of by credulous writers, have gathered, in travelling down the ages, a good deal of fictitious trimming; and that, apart from the carefully suppressed motives which no doubt prompted many religious leaders to stage their exhibitions, there were undoubtedly many instances in which hallucinations entered into the matter. It is highly probable that, in numerous cases, vivid imaginations transformed a soft whip into a terrible knout; a few slight weals on the buttocks into a blood-striped body.

The use of other and more agreeable disciplinary methods is mentioned by the author of The History of the Flagellants in a notable passage which reads:

“Indeed, an infinite variety of instruments have been used for that purpose, whether they were contrived at leisure by the ingenious persons who were to use them, or were suddenly found out, from the spur of some urgent occasion. Thus, incensed Pedants, who could not quickly enough find their usual instrument of discipline, have frequently used their hat, their towel, or, in general, the first things that fell under their hands. A certain gentleman, as I have been credibly informed, once flagellated a saucy young fish-woman with all the flounders in her basket. Among saints, some, like Dominic the Cuirassed, have used besoms; others, like St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order, have used iron chains; others, have employed knotted leather thongs; others have used nettles, and others, thistles. A certain saint, as I have read in the Golden Legend, had no discipline of his own, but constantly took, to discipline himself with, the very first thing that came under his hand, such as the tongs for the fire, or the like. St. Bridget, as I have read in the same book, disciplined herself with a bunch of keys; a certain lady, as hath been mentioned in a former place, used a bunch of feathers for the same purpose; and lastly, Sancho did things with much more simplicity, and flagellated himself with the palms of his hands.”

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It is highly probable, too, that many flagellations of which sanguinary accounts were given, never actually took place at all. We see indications of this in numerous stories of the saints being flogged by the devil—stories which are either due to hallucinations, or are plain fabrications. Saint Anthony describes one such incident. Saint Hilarion was repeatedly belabored by Satan, who, says Saint Jerome, “bestrides him, beating his sides with his heels, and his head with a scourge.” And there is the remarkable account given by the famous Saint Francis of Assisi concerning his struggle with and terrible flagellation at the hands of the devil, which rendered essential his hurried departure from Rome, a tale which is bound to arouse suspicion in any logical mind when it is coupled with the fact that the inhabitants of that city gave the saint plainly to understand that he was not wanted, and that his stay might involve danger to himself.

The necessity for absolution caused many a royal personage to submit to the discipline of the whip, and there can be small enough doubt that the knowledge that flagellation, voluntary or otherwise, would atone for sins of pretty nearly every description had a good deal to do with the popularity of the practice among the rich and the powerful. I have an idea that there are today men by the hundred who would gleefully submit to the pain and humiliation of birching if this represented the utmost penalty they would be called upon to pay as punishment for the commission of a major crime.

In English history, we have the well authenticated case of King Henry II. His resentment against Thomas  Becket, his Archbishop of Canterbury, had led him, in a fit of passion, to say “what sluggard wretches, what cowards, have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their master: not one will deliver me from this low-born priest.” It was a most unfortunate speech, even for the King, in view of the subsequent assassination of the Archbishop, and there were those who were not slow to accuse Henry of complicity in the murder. As an act of atonement he allowed himself to be flogged in Canterbury Cathedral. Nor was this an isolated example. Prince Raymond VI was whipped in Valencia, at the Church of Saint Giles; the Emperor Henry submitted regularly to flagellation; Foulques, Count of Anjou; William, Duke of Aquitaine; Raymond, Count of Toulouse, all allowed themselves to be whipped. And, in the 11th century, one of Italy’s leading aristocrats, the Marquis of Tuscany, was flogged by an abbot in the church.

Early 14th-century representation of Henry and Thomas Becket
Early 14th-century representation of Henry and Thomas Becket

Henry IV of France was more wily. When, after excommunication, he was ordered to submit to flagellation for the securance of absolution, he instituted the system of vicarious punishment, whereby the guilty and atoning party could hire someone to take his place. Two of his ambassadors, by name Du Perron and D’Ossat, at his request, submitted their bodies to the strokes of the rod in his stead. Shortly afterwards they blossomed into cardinals, which fact seems to indicate the nature of the reward promised them for their services. This was in 1595, and the practice thereafter seems to have been expanded even to the lengths of self-flagellation, men being willing to flog themselves as a measure of atonement for the sins of anyone prepared to pay their fees.

The fair sex, too, adopted flagellation as a means of securing absolution. Maria Magdalena, a Carmelite nun, flogged herself nearly every day, as well as submitting to flagellation by others. So, too, did Catherina of Cordona, another nun belonging to the Carmelite order: she ended her career as a raving lunatic. Saint Hardwigge, Saint Hildegarde and Saint Maria, are all examples of women who attained notoriety through self-flagellation. Queen Anne of Austria allowed the discipline to be administered to her by one of the Benedictine confessors.

But, if we are to accept the testimony of Damian, the earliest authority on flagellation, there was one woman, known as the widow Cechald, who easily capped the lot. A lady of gentle birth and of no little dignity, she lashed herself no fewer than 300 times. It certainly seems a tall story, and we may be excused for doubting the reverend historian’s accuracy, or, alternatively, marvelling at his credulity.

Church Councils frequently ordered penitents to submit to the discipline. They had no recourse but to obey, and the punishments they submitted their bodies to, cheerfully or otherwise, were terrible, and to modern ears, incredible. Apropos of this, Lea says:

“Stripped as much as decency and the inclemency of the weather would permit, the penitent [resented himself every Sunday, between the Epistle and the Gospel, with a rod in his hand, to the priest engaged in celebrating mass, who soundly scourged him in the presence of the congregation, as a fitting interlude in the mysteries of the divine service. On the first Sunday in every month, after mass, he was to visit, similarly equipped, every home in which he had seen heretics, and receive the same infliction; and on the occasion of every solemn procession, he was to accompany it in the same guise, to be beaten at every station and at the end. Even when the town happened to be placed under interdict, or himself to be excommunicated, there was to be no cessation of the penance, and apparently it lasted as long as the wretched life of the penitent, or at least until it pleased the inquisitor to remember him and liberate him” [Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 1906, pp. 464-5 http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=Henry+Charles+Lea ].

1904 illustration of a medieval Spanish flagellant.
1904 illustration of a medieval Spanish flagellant.

Also see: https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/the-practice-of-scourging-ones-self-unknown-to-the-early-Christians/

and

https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/elder-joseph-the-hesychasts-saying-the-cane-is-the-remedy-for-every-passion/

The Sect of the Flagallents (George Ryley Scott, 1968)

NOTE: This article is taken from The History of Corporal Punishment, pp. 109-115

The History of Corporal Punishment

Every student of sociology is well aware of the inherent gregariousness of man. It goes far beyond the gregariousness of animals or birds, which is purely physical. In mankind it is physical, spiritual and mental. It is just as dominant a force, this gregariousness, in man’s make-up today as it was in the earliest stages of civilization, and in the Middle Ages. This gregariousness, which was at the root of those manifestations which, in past ages, have shown themselves as various communal manias, such as mass dancing, demonology, witchcraft, religious crusades, and in many other ways, is similarly at the root of many present-day mass phenomena such, for instance, as national advertising campaigns, the radio, television, the cinema, the Popular Press.

The response of masses of men and women to suggestion has always been the basis of every religious, political or social movement. The actions or responses of an individual member of society to given stimuli can never be foreshadowed with any degree of certainty; the actions or responses of mankind in the mass can be predicted with mathematical exactitude. It is to this more than to any other fact that charlatans, quacks, political mountebacks, dictators, revivalists, and other merchants of much, owe their success.

Now, of all movements which owed their inspiration to waves of emotion, none has ever transcended in spectacularness, fanaticism and (to observers in other ages) incredulity, the successive waves of voluntary flagellation which punctuated the annals of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

Flagellants

There seems to be some doubt as to where precisely the first public flagellating movement broke out, or who exactly was the individual responsible for the actual genesis of the idea; but certainly St. Anthony seems to have had a good deal to do with it. Unless the chroniclers of the age lie, he went about the country preaching to sinners about the wrath of God, on the need for repentance and atonement, much in the manner of a modern drum-banging revivalist; and, in the early twelve hundreds, he appears to have set in motion the first serious organised procession of men and women beating each other with the express object of establishing themselves in the good books of their God and earning a pass to Heaven.

Around the year 1260, fresh impetus was given to the movement through the efforts of an Italian hermit and fanatic by name Ramier, a Dominican. Italy at the time was passing under a black cloud. Her list of misfortunes, through one cause and another, was apparently endless. Ramier, in the true religious spirit of the age, argued that penance was the only way to avert disaster, and, at that, penance of such a widespread nature as would surely suffice to atone for all that was inducing the anger of Jehovah.

Men, women and children in their birthday suits, and carrying nothing but thongs of hide, walked in solemn procession, praying to God for forgiveness, weeping, groaning, and, every few moments, lashing the persons nearest them with the scourges they carried. These processions of penitents were everywhere. The priests, carrying banners and wearing crosses, made up the van of the procession. To the tune of ten thousand eager souls, they marched, these fanatics, through Italy; they crossed the Alps; they ‘invaded’ Bavaria, Alsace, Bohemia, Poland, and at every step and in each country, they gathered recruits, swelling their ranks enormously and rapidly. “Those who were at enmity with one another became friends. Usurers and robbers hastened to restore their ill-gotten riches to the rightful owners. Criminals confessed. The doors of the gaols were opened and the prisoners released, those who had been banished from the country were allowed to return. In short, Christian charity, humility and good will prevailed.”

Procession of flagellants during the Middle Ages.
Procession of flagellants during the Middle Ages.

But despite its remarkable popularity with the masses, the movement met with a good deal of opposition from the leaders of other and rival faiths. It met with a good deal of ridicule too. All this is not to be wondered at, being the common lot of most new religious cults. It has been the lot of the Mormons, of the Perfectionists, of the Spiritualists, of the Theosophists, of the Christian Scientists, of the Dukhobors, of the Shakers, et al. Two thousand years ago, it was the lot of Christianity itself.

In 1349 the movement swept through Germany like a whirlwind, however. At that particular time the country was being ravaged by a plague known as the Black Death. The German movement was apparently initiated in the town of Spira, where the Flagellants went through their ritual in full view of the onlookers who gathered to watch them. Divesting themselves of all their clothes except their shirts, they lay on the ground in various postures, and were whipped, either by the priest in charge or by one another, to the accompaniment of psalm-singing, prayers to God against the plague, and other appeals. When the flagellating performance was concluded, says Albert of Strasbourg, a contemporary historian:

“One of the brotherhood rose, and with a loud voice read a letter, which he pretended had been brought by an angel to St. Peter’s Church, in Jerusalem; the angel declared in it that Jesus Christ was offended at the wickedness of the age, several instances of which were mentioned, such as the violation of the Lord’s Day, blasphemy, usury, adultery, and neglect with respect to fasting on Fridays. To this the man who read the letter added, that Jesus Christ’s forgiveness having been implored by the Holy Virgin and the angels, he had made answer that in order to obtain mercy, sinners ought to live exiled from their country for thirty-four days, disciplining themselves during that time.”

The flagellants at Doornik in 1349
The flagellants at Doornik in 1349

From Spira they moved to Strasbourg, recruits joining, solidly and enthusiastically, on the way, so that by the time the procession left the latter town, it numbered all of a thousand strong.

After this, however, the sect met with constantly increasing opposition from influential quarters. The Pope opposed the movement; the Inquisition tortured and executed its leaders.

And so, for a time, the Flagellants were compelled to pursue their cult in secret and as best they could, until, towards the close of the 16th century, the movement again burst into activity. In France, in particular, the cult spread throughout the whole country, infecting Paris itself and attracting the attention of many influential personages. Then, with the conversion, first of the Queen-Mother to their tenets, and later of King Henry III himself, the supremacy of the Flagellants was complete and their standing assured for the time being. There were soon many different bands or branches operating in various parts of France. The King, in 1585, formed a new band known as the Brotherhood of the Annunciation Day, with the Cardinal of Lorraine, the Duke of Mayenne, the Cardinal of Guise, the leading courtiers and ministers, and other members of the aristocracy, as principal officials. The Cardinal of Lorraine, after one of the public demonstrations, took to his bed and died within a few days, and the tale is told that his fatal illness was due to severe whipping and exposure.

Medieval flagellants engaged in violent self-mortification
Medieval flagellants engaged in violent self-mortification

Following the example of their lords and masters, the women took up public flagellation, joining the processions. At first, the more bashful among them, it is true, waited until darkness provided a protective screen for their performances; others, with official approval, wore masks; others again contented themselves with the mere carrying of whips; but as the number of females, and especially of aristocratic ladies, taking part in these processions increased, they shed all decorum and bashfulness, in the end entering into the performance with all the zest and vigor of men. “After the death of the Guises,” says Cooper, “the fanatical mania for fleshly mortification revived, and this time women and maidens, naked to the shift, ran about with whips. Noble ladies showed themselves to the populace in a semi-nude state, and gave themselves the discipline, in order to encourage others by their example” [William M. Cooper, A History of the Rod, 1868, p. 111].

But although the cult was blessed with royal support, as it happened, this did not suffice to render it impregnable. King Henry III of France, his royal blood notwithstanding, was no Czar able to flaunt hostile criticism with impunity, or possessing the power to consign to prison, or to exile, those who failed to genuflect to him in word and deed. There was, at the time, an opposition element of some power, and the members of this opposing party did not fail both to criticize and to heap scorn upon the antics of the King and his associates. Also, as was natural, there was once again a good deal of opposition from the leaders of the orthodox religion. One opponent, John Gerson, no less a personage than Chancellor of the University of Paris, published a treatise pointing out the evils of flagellation, which he alleged was a cruel and an evil practice, contending that it should be held by the authorities to be as unlawful as castration or mayhem.

Flagellants detail from Sant'Eleuterio by the Master of Staffolo
Flagellants detail from Sant’Eleuterio by the Master of Staffolo

Others hymned the same tune until, in response to the gathering trend of public opinion, in the early sixteen hundreds, Parliament took action, prohibiting public flagellation and proclaiming all members of the sect to be heretics.

This, so far as France was concerned, was the beginning of the end. There were, true enough, for the finding, scattered remnants of the once powerful bands. These practiced their cult surreptitiously and behind closed doors, but no public demonstrations or processions flourished or were even attempted. In other parts of Europe there were sporadic efforts to revivify the movement, but they met with little success. Cooper mentions that Father Mabillion claimed to have seen “a scourging procession of the Flagellants at Turin on Good Friday 1689;” that in 1710 there were processions still to be seen in Italy; that Colmenar “mentions a procession taking place in Madrid;” that as late as 1820 Flagellants appeared in public in Lisbon [ibid.]. Long after this, too, private ‘whipping clubs’ flourished secretly, but it is highly probable that these were then, as certain somewhat similar ‘societies’ of today are now, using the cloak of religion to cover purely erotic purposes.

And so passed into oblivion as strange a manner of stimulating religious ecstasy and fervor as the world has ever seen.

In marvelling, in these supposedly enlightened days, over the survival for centuries of such a remarkable religious phenomenon, one must never overlook the fact that all religions owe much of their success to their spectacularness. The dramatic has always been an essential feature of any religious cult, and the more effective the show presented, the greater the success of the cult. All through the ages we see examples of this in the flourishing of half a hundred different faiths, all presenting the same fundamental quackeries, decked out in half a hundred different gaudy wrappings, and presented on half a hundred different dramatic stages. The Protestant faith always depended much on its ceremonial, its rubric, its empiricism, its ritual; the Roman Catholic faith outdid it, and thus scored a wider and a more lasting success. In the early days of Christianity, there was nothing else in the way of appeals to the dramatic that could, so far as the masses were concerned, move them to admiration and acceptance as did the shows staged by the Churches. Even today, when religion in Europe and America seems to be moribund or even gangrenous, any temporary flare-up that it is able to stage is connected with the putting on of a new and a free show. The showmanship of the Revivalists, of the Aimee MacPhersons, Billy Sundays, Woodbine Willies, Faith Healers, Billy Grahams, and so on, succeed in filling the temples, stadiums and arenas, spasmodically at least, simply because the old, old act is being staged in a new dress.

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It will surely be evident that with the rivalry of the cinema, television, and a score of other appeals to the dramatic, the shows that the Churches can stage are, in the main, old-fashioned and crude. Moreover, the increased prosperity of the masses has largely negated the appeal of free entertainment. They prefer to pay to go to the theater or a night-club rather than accept anything which the Churches have to offer for nothing (except what is put in the collection plate).

The influence of suggestion still exists. It is still powerful. But it works in different ways; it calls for different modes of presentation. Newspaper and television campaigns, with their strong emotional appeals, today have largely taken the place once held almost exclusively by religion.

Looking back through the centuries, as history depicts them, it is easy for the student of sociology to understand which exhibitions of self-flagellation had upon the masses. Its dramatic element, and its suggestive powers, were considerable. Its reputed painful nature merely served to increase its dramatic effects. And much of the anguish associated with it was apocryphal. The ancient pedlars of religion staged their shows with all the skill of the moderns. There is a deliciously ironical suggestion about the account given by an eye-witness of one of the flagellating services held during Lent in the Church of the Cravita in Rome. The service lasted a quarter of an hour, during which time the church was in total darkness, and judging from the sounds, some worshippers were using whips and others their hands. “Hundreds,” says this writer, “were certainly flogging something, but whether their own bare backs, or the pavement of the church, we could not tell” [James Gardner, The Faiths of the World, p. 901].

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Also see: https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/the-practice-of-scourging-ones-self-unknown-to-the-early-Christians/

and

https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/elder-joseph-the-hesychasts-saying-the-cane-is-the-remedy-for-every-passion/

Flagellation in Monasteries and Nunneries (George Ryley Scott, 1968)

NOTE: This article is taken from The History of Corporal Punishment, pp. 91-97:

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The story of flagellation is inextricably mixed up with the story of religion. The heads of every religious order existent in ancient days punished severely any breaking of the rules prescribed by their order, whether by the priests, the monks or the nuns associated with it; and the favorite form which this punishment took was that of whipping. The only difference between the judiciary whipping of the vagrants and criminals of the world, and that administered to religious disciples by their superiors, was that while in the one instance it was something to be eluded if at all possible, in the other it was a punishment to be welcomed as a just discipline. So true was this that, as we shall see later, many officials connected with the religious orders inflicted this punishment upon themselves in the form of self-flagellation, as a penance for real or imaginary sins. Especially was this true of the saints and martyrs, with the doings of which the annals of religion are so plentifully besprinkled.

The early historians are in agreement respecting the custom in many lands of whipping worshippers on certain feast days, and all bear out the fact that these worshippers accepted the punishment resignedly, and that in some cases they even appeared to welcome it—a statement well in accord with the fanaticism on the one hand and the submission on the other hand, which were such marked features of the religious zeal with which followers of all early religious cults were plentifully endowed. Plutarch, referring to the customs of the Lacedaemonians, mentions that as the Feast of Flagellations, held once a year, before the altar of Diana, boys were whipped for hours at a stretch. He says “they suffer it with cheerfulness, and even with joy: nay, they strive with each other for victory; and he who bears up the longest time, and has been able to endure the greatest number of stripes, carries the day.” Other writers, notably Mozonius and Cicero, bear out all this, the latter asserting that “I several times heard it said that boys had been whipped to death.”

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According to Herodotus, at the festival Isis, held each year at Busiris, thousands of people of both sexes “beat one another,” apparently with an industry which well matched their enthusiasm.

There can be little doubt that in all monasteries and nunneries, from the days of their foundation, flagellation was common, so common indeed as to call for little comment in the writings of the earliest of the chroniclers; but, as early as the year 508 there appears to have been a ruling by Saint Cesarius d’Arles definitely prescribing whipping as the form of punishment for nuns failing to observe the regulations of their order. By the eighth century, however, most of the religious orders issued specific rules respecting offences and their punishment.

There was the rule which the Bishop of Usez, Saint Ferreol, made for the prevention and punishment of theft: “let him be chastised with the whip, and with great rigour too. The same punishment ought to be inflicted upon him as upon a fornicator, since it may be justly suspected that his lewdness has induced him to commit theft.” Somewhat similar was the rule of the Bishop of Braga, Saint Fructuosus, for dealing with a liar or a thief: “That if, after being warned by the elder monks he neglects to mend his manners, he shall, on the third time, be exhorted in the presence of all the brethren, to leave off his bad practices. If he still neglects to reform, let him be flagellated with the utmost severity.” Anything in the way of sexual indulgence was looked upon as an even greater crime than theft and the like, as this same Bishop of Braga’s ruling shows: “If a monk is used to tease boys and young men, or is caught in attempting to give them kisses, or in any other indecent action, and the fact be proved by competent witnesses, let him be publicly whipped.” Even to so much as look at a woman was a dangerous practice for a monk in those early days; to speak to one was enough to earn him a mild whipping at any rate; to be alone with one was punished by two hundred lashes or living “on bread and water for two days.”

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Saint Colombanus, Saint Macarius, Saint Benedict, Saint Benoit, Saint Pacome, Saint Aurelian and others, all drew up rules and regulations respecting the punishments to be inflicted for various offences, in some cases stipulating a prescribed number of lashes for the offence in question, in others leaving the severity of the whipping to the discretion of the abbot or superior in charge of the monastery. In addition to the offences already noted, attempts to escape from the monastery, swearing gambling, any indecorous behavior, exhibitions of anger, failure to observe the rules of silence, lewd conversations, immoderate drinking, indulging in noisy conversation or laughter, revealing to outsiders any secrets of the order, and many other piccadilloes, were sufficient to ensure a sound whipping; and any attempts to escape such punishment by the parading of extenuating circumstances or excuses, often merely served to ensure a double dose. In fact here the vindictiveness of the religious leaders showed itself plainly—thus: “If the brothers who have been excommunicated for their faults, persevere so far in their pride as to continue, on the ninth hour of the next day, to refuse to make proper satisfaction to the abbot, let them be confined, even till their death, and lashed with rods.” So literally, indeed, were these orders taken, and so rigorously were they carried out, that it was no uncommon thing for a monk to be whipped to death where he stood, or to die later from the injuries sustained during the chastisement.

In fact, the abuses connected with the administration of the ‘discipline’ caused Cesarius, Bishop of Arles, to remind the abbots and priors that “if the flagellations they inflicted were continued too long upon offenders, so that they died in consequence thereof, they were guilty of homicide.”

St. Caesarius of Arles
St. Caesarius of Arles

Although the Bishop of Arles himself, and certain of his brethren, restricted the number of lashes to that prescribed in the laws of Moses, such restriction was by no means general. According to the author of The History of the Flagellants, not only was “the punishment of flagellation extended to almost every possible offence Monks could commit,” but “the duration of the flagellations was left pretty much to the discretion of the Abbot, either in consequence of the generality of the terms used in the Statutes, or in consequence of some express provision made for that purpose. In the ancient constitutions of the Monastery of Cluny, for instance, which Saint Udalric has collected in one volume, different kinds of offence are mentioned, for the punishment of which it is expressly said, “that the offender shall be lashed as long as the Abbot shall think meet.”

There were two forms of flagellation in use in the monasteries and nunneries, known respectively as the ‘superior discipline’ and the ‘inferior discipline.’ The first named was restricted in its area of application to the upper half of the back and shoulders; the ‘inferior discipline’ was confined to the buttocks and belly. It is worthy of note that the ‘inferior’ form was by far the less dangerous, especially if it was restricted to the fleshy parts of the posterior, well removed from the interior and more vulnerable organs.

The flogging itself was often carried out by the abbot or superior personally, though he had the power of entrusting the work to other hands. The universality of the practice and the anticipation that every monk would be whipped for some offence or other, real or imaginary, are indicated by the custom, in many monasteries, of wearing a special shirt which opened at the back to as to facilitate the uncovering of the lower part of the body in preparation for flagellation. In certain cases the monk to be whipped was compelled to divest himself of all his clothing in preparation for flagellation, which was performed in full view of all the inmates of the monastery. Thus, by order of Pope John XII, a monk named Godescal was publicly whipped, among those present being Bishop Otger and Charles the Bald.

In those days women received little respect, and were looked upon as the property of the men to whom they were given in marriage. It is not to be wondered at therefore that in the convents they were considered to be deserving of no more consideration or respect than were the monks in the monasteries. Flagellation was common in the nunneries, and for the most trivial of offences, such as the conversing about worldy matters, carelessness on the carrying out of their duties, entering the speaking-room without obtaining permission, and the like.

One of the oldest ecclesiastical writers to prescribe the whipping of nuns was Cesarius: “It is just that such as have violated the institutions contained in the rule should receive an adequate discipline; it is fit that in them should be accomplished what the Holy Ghost has in former times prescribed through Solomon.” Saint Benedict similarly says: “If a sister that has been several times admonished, will not mend her conduct, let her be excommunicated for awhile in proportion; if this kind of correction proves useless, let her be chastened by stripes.”

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It was the custom in many nunneries for the abbess or superior to undertake the necessary castigation herself, often in a private room, but sometimes in public. In some convents, however, specially selected members of the order were trained in the art of whipping, and in all such cases the punishment was of a more severe character than where an untrained hand administered the discipline. In some cases the sadistic nature of the flogger led to the devising of special whips for adding to the severity of the punishment, in addition to increased skill in the wielding of the scourge. It is said that one such, Jeanne de France, daughter of Louis XI, with fiendish ingenuity, devised a five-spiked silver cross for attaching to the whip, resulting in each stroke inflicting five terrible wounds.

Sometimes the flagellation, as in the case of the monks, was not looked upon as a punishment at all, but as a pleasure, giving rise to hallucinations, sexual ecstasy and masochistic love of God. Thus the Carmelite nun, Maria Magdalena of Pazzi, who lived in Florence towards the close of the 16th century, found pleasure in being publicly whipped on her naked buttocks. On one occasion she cried: “Enough! Fan no longer the flame that consumes me: this is not the death I long for; it comes with all too much pleasure and delight.” Another similar case was that of Elizabeth of Genton, who, during the flagellation for which she craved, would cry: “O Love, O eternal Love, O Love, O you creatures! Cry out with me: Love, Love!” [See Kraft-Ebing, Psychopathia, Sexualis, English adaptation of the 12th German edition, p. 36 https://archive.org/details/PsychopathiaSexualis1000006945 ]. In these, and similar instances, much of the pleasure experienced was undoubtedly due to stimulation of the gluteal glands in individuals whose sexual repressions were of such a nature as to induce pathological conditions. The part which flagellation plays in sex will, however, be made clear in a subsequent chapter.

Not always was the whipping of the nuns carried out by their own sex. It was no unusual thing for the priests of the order to handle the thong themselves, and it was in such instances that so very often there entered into it the sexual element to which I have referred.

Nuns used the whip on the buttocks of the monks; and in turn the monks flagellated the nuns. It was indeed a merry and a libidinous game.

The Jesuits in particular were addicted to whipping. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the order, used the whip himself, and, if historical records are anything to go by, he used it to some tune too. Peter Gerson, not content with flagellating those who came to receive the discipline in the ordinary way, according to Cooper, “fell upon the country girls at work in the fields and flagellated them” [See William M. Cooper, A History of the Rod, 1868, p. 97 https://archive.org/details/B20442336 ].

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A peculiar form of flagellation, known as grave-whipping, is referred to by a correspondent in Notes and Queries (March 13, 1852):

“Excommunicated persons were formerly restored to the Church, according to the old Rituale Romanum, by the ceremony of whipping their graves. When it was resolved the dead party should be restored to the communion of saints, it was ordered that the body should not be disentombed, but that the ‘graves shall be whipped, and while the priest whip the grave, he shall say, “By the authority which I have received I free thee from the bond of excommunication, and restore thee to the communion of the faithful.”’”

1904 illustration of a medieval Spanish flagellant.
1904 illustration of a medieval Spanish flagellant.

Also see: https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/corrections-of-a-flagellatory-kind-inflicted-by-force-by-bishops-and-the-heads-of-monasteries/

St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Now Im On Psych Meds (Nikos from California)

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 too had face to face with Fr Paisios and was instructed by him and numerous others to use
I too had face to face with Fr Paisios and was instructed by him and numerous others to use “The cane” as it became known, beating the inner thigh with a cane or heavy wooden stick when Pirasmoi (Sinful thoughts) would not relent,

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”.

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
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 levitate; the Elder can read your thoughts.
The Elder can levitate; the Elder can read your thoughts.

• 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 can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world
The Elder can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world

• 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].

obey
• 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,
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,

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 =)

BTW, here is what you get when you try to leave, or if you don’t believe the whole kit and kaboodle. http://www.youtube.c…feature=related [dead link now]

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

They Live Obey

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.

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… 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.

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… 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.

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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….

Evloyisov,
Nikos
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.