NOTE: The following are excerpts taken from “Radioparagka” show—the Radio Station of the Church Greece. The show’s theme was “Obedience and Freedom” and it was broadcast on November 10, 2002. Fr. Constantine interviews Fr. Porphyrios, a monk from the Hilander Cell of St. Isaac the Syrian. Since the interview has a lot of repetitiveness and superfluous banter, this article has been condensed and contains only the pertinent information.
Since the turn of the century, a few Hagiorite monks have spoken out about the abuses that take place in various monasteries on Mount Athos. These individuals were from different monasteries, under different Gerondas, and yet tell the same story: authoritarianism, sick forms of obedience being imposed, individuals developing mental illnesses after years in these environments, compulsion of monastics to see psychiatrists and take psychiatric drugs, monastics attempting suicides and monastics committing suicide. This “authentic” Athonite monasticism has been prevalent since at least the 70s and these irregularities are now accepted as a normal part of the genuine 21st century monastic experience.
Fr. Constantine: Do sick forms of obedience exist?
Fr. Porphyrios: I will disillusion you, Fr. Constantine. Yes, only sick forms of obedience exist today. I’m talking about Mount Athos; I’m speaking purely about Athonite matters and I’ll be speaking from my own experience.
An Abbot yells at his monks, “You don’t listen to me! I lost 500,000 [dr.] on Coca Colas and 7 Up! You’re going to make me explode! Does my money grow on trees?”1 Contemporary Elders are tilling and organizing over Greece towards wild novices. And the finale of these relationships is authoritarianism, which reaches schizophrenia. The difference with the Great Anthony is that he said, “My child, in order to sit near me, certain conditions must be met and above all, love Christ.” Whereas what we seek today on Mount Athos, dozens of times, is what is said and sucked like candy from Athonite abbots who, as you know, 90% of them didn’t do one hour of obedience.
Fr. Constantine: They weren’t subordinates beforehand?
Fr. Porphyrios: Never! Only the elders who came from Joseph the Cave-dweller previously did obedience.2 All the others, from the office or Brussels, with their collars and their trousers, became abbots on Mount Athos. Forgive me, but this is the reality. But, exceptions exist. Nothing is 100% absolute. Even on gold we write 999.99.3 Understand? And so, St. Anthony said, “You must love Christ.” Do you know what contemporary elders say? “If you leave my side, you will go to hell my evil child. You will be lost!” Understand?
Once, I was at a monastery and a student came to stay for fifteen days. After fifteen days, they placed him as my assistant. I saw him with a new pair of shoes. Hm! He smelt like gun powder to me. I asked him, “Are you engaged, will you go, this and that.” He said, “I thought that I would stay here.” Today, he is a schizophrenic! And the monastery boasts 120-130 monks. I don’t know how many monks they have but 40 of them are taking psychiatric drugs out of obedience…bad obedience!
Fr. Constantine: Of course, when you say psychotropic drugs, there is a book written by a Grigoriatis monk who responds to such allegations. He mentions that psychotropic drugs are bought for Mount Athos. He also says that he buys them for the pilgrims that visit from abroad. Visitors come and say they need psychiatric drugs.” http://www.rel.gr/index.php?rpage=meletes&rpage2=showkeimeno.php&link_id=5
Fr. Porphyrios: Excuse me! I myself bought psychotropic drugs for 40 monks! Understand? I personally bought psychiatric medication for 40 monks when I went out of Mount Athos to run errands. I don’t know how many monks there are now who take psychiatric drugs.
I tread differently. I went asked someone once—one with no taste, from the bench, the university—and I asked him. We chatted a bit and he told me, “You will do this!” I said, “I cannot.” He replied, “You will do this, it is obedience!” I was coerced; the priest said it. Fr. Constantine, everyone has been trampled by disobedience. I was pressed by obedience. I did obedience and suffered AF [atrial fibrillation] and was put on a pacemaker.5
Fr. Constantine: This priest gave you that medical advice?
Fr. Porphyrios: No! He told me to do something that my conscience couldn’t allow me to do. I told him, “I cannot do that thing.”
Fr. Constantine: Was the obedience a sin?
Fr. Porphyrios: The obedience was a spiritual sin, not a carnal sin. My conscience would not allow it.
Fr. Constantine: You had the right not to do this obedience since it was a spiritual sin.
Fr. Porphyrios: Yes, of course. Also, this priest wasn’t my spiritual father. We chatted, I told him one issue. What else do you want me to tell you?
Fr. Constantine: Everything! You lived the events.
Fr. Porphyrios: A certain monk in a large monastery fell into some small offence. He was ashamed to tell the abbot and he told some transient, worldly spiritual father. All of Mount Athos to Daphne learned about it. And his geronda—the great and holy geronda—called him to the Assembly and told him, “Because you didn’t tell me this, for one year you will not receive a blessing and I will not give you my blessing.” Fr. Constantine, before the new elders, spiritual fathers, such as the ascetic Geronda Sofronius, came to the monastery every month to confess people. The old elders wisely decided that a spiritual father from another monastery could come every month so that we could say something that we couldn’t tell the abbot so as not to create a disagreement or discord. Understand? Today, this has been cut off. Now if you confess to someone other than the abbot, you’re excommunicated and expelled from the community.6
And I’ll tell you something else. I saw a “very pleasant” abbot beating a subordinate and I lost it! I got my stuff and left. The abbot told me, “Come here! Do you know what I’m doing? What Abba Dorotheos did!” Eh! I couldn’t bear it and told him, “Excuse me, Geronda, but as soon as you become St. Dorotheos and Abba Seridos, then you can hit children.”7 It broke my heart. Now this monk is in the wind. I went and he told me, “Porphyrios, I beg you to discharge me.” We both cried. This is obedience today, Fr. Constantine. But when we haven’t done obedience ourselves, how can we impose someone else to do obedience? Naturally, obedience is salvation!
I remember Geronda Gabriel told me the following, “Do you see that man? He came from Cambridge with a transistor in the armpit. And I said to him, ‘What did you come here to do?’ He replied, ‘I came here to be a monk.’ I asked him, ‘Do you know what it means to be a monk?’ I tell you to fall from the balcony and you fall.’ The man replied, ‘Be careful, Geronda. If you’re telling me a joke, you catch me by my feet because I will fall.’ Geronda Gabriel told me, ‘He is an angel.’
And Geronda Gabriel Dionysiatis placed someone as the supervisor and tells him after three-four sessions; the monk disagreed, ‘Geronda, I will resign.’ The Geronda asked, ‘Why, my child?’ ‘I cannot disagree with my Geronda.’ Geronda Gabriel told him, ‘Ah, pay attention. I placed you there for this reason. You will say your opinion in governing. You will do obedience in spiritual matters. Also, I want there to be a contrary voice.’
Today, whoever disagrees about the Hegumen council departs. And they’ve gathered all the idiots; those who never tread in the monastery, they are from outside and they’ve placed them, how do you say…
Fr. Constantine: This is sick. If there is no voice to be heard…
Fr. Porphyrios: No, no, no. Let me tell you something else—Speechless!—about an abbot who went to a new monastery that had an old brotherhood. ‘Oh well,’ he says, ‘are they dumb? Do they not have any other opinion than that from the Geronda?’ And Geronda Gabriel told Fr. Kallinikos, ‘You will stay, my child! Your objection is needed so we can find the right one.
Today, Fr. Constantine, the Geronda is the path (ο-δο) of salvation. And he is also our obstacle to arrive at Christ. ‘I am here (‘δω)!’ Understand? Things are tragic!
Geronda Christoforos, the new abbot of Grigoriou Monastery
Geronda George Kapsanis, former abbot of Grigoriou Monastery
When Geronda Ephraim of Arizona was the abbot of Filotheou Monastery, on the Feast Day of Pascha he would traditionally bless the monks to have a can of Coca Cola for trapeza. He carried this tradition over to St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ. In some of Geronda Ephraim’s North American monasteries, the monastics have soda frequently throughout the year.
The following is a pilgrim’s impression of his visit to Elder Joseph the Hesychast and his disciples in the 50s:
“Many times the Greeks have a weakness to make up stories, especially about people‘s alleged holiness, and as is often the case, once a story starts, it gets repeated and magnified and blown completely out of proportion. Others hear it and relate it in a different way, and it becomes another story, and soon someone has a reputation of being one of the greatest wonderworkers the Church has ever known.
“To some extent, this is what happened with this Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, and it‘s most definitely what happened to the other Fr. Ephraim, who took control of Philotheou Monastery, and who could not remain on the Holy Mountain, but resides in America. The three pilgrims came to Katounakia for a visit, and the meeting with Fr. Ephraim of Katounakia was quite eventless, other than the fact that Fr. Ephraim seemed like a reluctant prisoner, not one rejoicing in obedience. There was quiet talking, all in Greek, greetings and goodbyes.
“The outcome of this occasion was in stark contrast with the words of Fr. Ephraim in his book which recently appeared. Ironically, the book was named Obedience is Life: Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, and in this very book this alleged Elder Ephraim records that he later forced his elder to begin once again commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarch at a time when the Ecumenical Patriarch had openly espoused the heresy of Ecumenism. He thus recorded his own blatant disobedience in a book supposedly teaching obedience. The Elder Nikephoros, it is said, grieved very much that his disciple, Fr. Ephraim, had forced him to do something against his conscience. Three years before he died, however, the Elder Nikephoros returned to the church. http://www.archbishopgregory.info/chapter_06_first_visit_to_mount_athos.shtml
999.99 (five nines fine) The purest type of gold currently produced.
In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, it is taught that monastics lose their salvation if they leave the monastery–whether a novice, rassaphore, or great-schema. Unless, of course, they get a blessing. In 2000/2001 a monk from St. Nektarios Monastery was visiting St. Anthony’s once for an immigration appointment–when new monasteries were opened the immigrant monks who were transferred did not update their address and would travel back to Arizona when they had INS appointments. This monk did not want to return to St. Nektarios Monastery due to the angry and oppressive atmosphere that existed there at that time (as one of the Athonite Fathers said, “Do you want to destroy a monk’s spirituality? Send him to help establish a new monastery). Geronda Ephraim gave him a blessing to be a monk at St. Anthony’s but due to the fact that he didn’t first consult his Geronda [Joseph] and did it of his own volition, it was frowned upon by many of the other monastics in various monasteries. Some even believed that this act would greatly hinder his chances for salvation and that although Geronda Ephraim gave a “blessing,” he was actually doing obedience to this young monk, and the whole affair was really just an act of self-will not really covered by a blessing. In another case, a novice from Arizona received a blessing to go live at Filotheou Monastery on Mount Athos. Many of his brother monastics gossiped that in reality, Geronda didn’t actually bless it but rather this novice ceaselessly begged and harassed Geronda to allow him to go and in the end Geronda Ephraim did obedience to his will and “blessed” it. Later, rumors went around the monastery that he became deluded, was re-baptized at an old calendarist monastery, and was ordained a deacon. Afterwards, he left the monastic life and returned to the world. These stories are used as cautionary tales to scare young novices and remind them that if they don’t stay with their elder no matter what, and do absolute blind obedience, they will become deluded, leave, and lose their soul.
In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the only possible sin in obedience is disobedience; i.e. not obeying the command the elder has given. Both physical and spiritual obedience are expected, and it must be blind, without questioning, back-talk, murmuring, judging, etc. Thus, if the obedience is a “spiritual” sin (i.e. lying, perjury, falsifying records, gaslighting pilgrims to cover-up a scandal, etc.), the disciple is not sinning if he/she obeys the command. The Geronda or Gerondissa are responsible before God for the commands given (thus, if the order they give is a sin, it is their burden and sin). The disciple is only responsible before God for the obedience they did or did not do, regardless of whether it is a sin or breaking of the commandments. In doing obedience they have not sinned and will not have to give an account before God on why they broke His commandments. If they disobey the command, they will have to give an account for their disobedience, and possibly lose their salvation for this crime.
In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, a monastic does not have a blessing to confess to other spiritual fathers other than their own. I.e., a monk from Michigan wouldn’t ask the hieromonks in TX or NY if he could see them for confession. The only other person monastics can confess to other than their own spiritual father/mother in the monasteries is Geronda Ephraim in Arizona. A blessing is usually still required before this happens, though.
Geronda Ephraim uses the story of Akkakios a lot in his homilies to his monastics. This story is meant to encourage moanstics to endure everything their superiors put them through with patience and without murmuring. “The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his Elder, a harsh and dissolute man. He forced his disciple to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, St Acacius meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. St Acacius died after suffering these torments for nine years. Five days after Acacius was buried, his Elder told another Elder about the death of his disciple. The second Elder did not believe that the young monk was dead. They went to the grave of Acacius and the second Elder called out: “Brother Acacius, are you dead?” From the grave a voice replied, “No, Father, how is it possible for an obedient man to die?” [St. Akakios is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on July 7th].
This is the kind of obedience required in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. Similar to Abraham who didn’t question God when told to murder his son, Isaac, nor did he think twice about sacrificing him, so to should the disciple monk do everything Geronda asks without hesitation or a double mind.
NOTE: This article is taken from the Cypriot newspaper Phileleftheros (“Ο Φιλελευθερος”), December 24th, 2010. It is a response to an article published the week before in the same newspaper written by Monk Christodoulos. The former monk of Grigoriou claimed in that article that the monastery employed methods of controlling the monastics by compulsory use of psychiatric drugs or being referred to psychiatric asylums. In the following article, Grigoriou Monastery: The Sludge War is set in Motion, the Monastery attempts to rebut these accusations.http://anavaseis.blogspot.ca/2010/12/blog-post_6672.html
Dear Director of the Newspaper,
It is with amazement and wonder that we were informed of the newspaper article you published, “Cuckoo’s Nest”: Grigoriou Monastery on the Holy Mountain (18/12/2010), which consists of an interview given by the monk Christodoulos.
We do not expect that either you personally nor your partners have specialized knowledge of psychiatry to properly assess the content of his interview and to decide whether it is publishable. On the other hand, one would be expected to ask, to explore beforehand, if the maneuvers of the responsible were liable before lawmen, officers of Public Health, based on real events and mental states. It would take perhaps rudimentary care on your part to preserve the prestige of your newspaper since it is likely that your publication consists of slandering many honest people.
Regarding the contents of Monk Christodoulos’ interview, we want to you and the readers of your newspaper to know that you insulted our monastery with this publication by offensively describing it as a “Cuckoo’s Nest”. Also, you primarily and decisively insulted Monk Christodoulos himself by publicizing sensitive personal information, something he would not have wanted in a calm phase of his life. Our monastery has handled the issue if this afflicted brother with great caution and delicacy, whether he realizes it or not. Such matters are not treated in the way your partner journalist has chosen. Besides, our Monastery cannot speak publicly, out of courtesy and respect for the persons involved. This is due to our obligation to observe the Holy Canons requiring confidentiality of confession, but also because there is the Personal Data Protection Authority. For this reason, we do not now refute his accusations contained in your publications. We only disclose to your readers that issues relating to the Monk Christodoulos, are pending before the Greek Courts.
However, the most significant thing about your publication is that you created, or perhaps reinforced, the impression that the monasteries implement a control method by forcing monks to use psychiatric drugs or by referral to a mental hospital. This is a completely false impression. Only someone deliberately ill-natured or perverse could accept these things as true.
Perhaps without realizing it, you insult both Orthodox Monasticism and the Church with your publication. But this does not suit the traditional pious and philo-monastic people of Cyprus. In Cyprus, there are exceptional hierarchs, pious clergymen and laity spiritual brothers who can prove that the exercise of evangelical love governs contemporary Orthodox Monasticism.
As for the Holy Mountain, it suffices to quote from a letter-response by the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Panagiotis Grigoriou (Hospital Polygyros Chalkidiki) in the Athenian newspaper “Eleftherotypia”, in connection with a similar publication in 2001:
“The reason I thought of myself to be a “substantive qualifier” is that I’ve practised psychiatry for 20 years. For the past 12 years, I’ve been the Director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital in whose jurisdiction Mount Athos falls in terms of health coverage. With my position, I know very well the question under dispute (the use of psychiatric drugs on Mount Athos).”
“Contrary to what one not acquainted with such things might imagine, the way of life on the Holy Mountain is not disease producing but rather psychotherapeutic.”
“The Athonite State, Panagia’s Garden, is an open space, social and genuinely human; a struggling society journeying towards God. The sick have their place and even honour in such a community! Where else would the remaining healthy monks show their love, patience and ministry if not to those who are beside them even if they happen to be sick?”
“The monastic family surround the suffering brother with much care, love and tolerance and spare neither expense nor labor to ensure the best possible treatment and aid.9 He is provided a treatment rarely seen in today’s society, with respect to mental illness, the suffering monk’s soul and his dignity—a treatment that preserves the patient’s self-esteem.”
Dr. Panagiotis Grigoriou, Neurologist-Psychiatrist and director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital.Polygyros May 26, 2001.
We hope that you understand how detrimental Vassos Vassiliou’s article is to both the monk Christodoulos and your local community. Because we believe you are motivated by feelings of truthfulness and impartiality, we ask that you please observe journalistic ethics and in compliance with the law, to publish this article in the same place of your newspaper and with the same elements as those of the controversial publication.
MONASTERY OF ST GREGORY THE HOLY MOUNTAIN: LETTER OF REGRET TO A BROTHER OF THE MONASTERY, FR. CHRISTODOULOS GRIGORIATIS
Meeting and taking council, the following signatories to this document, the prior of the Monastery of Saint Gregory Fr. George Kapsanis, Hieromonk Fr. Demetrios and Hieromonk Fr. Luke, fathers and brothers of the Monastery and the other members of elderly congregation of the monastery, the current chairman of the Abbot of the Holy Monastery, Fr. Christoforou, jointly decided and sign the things agreed below.
We renounce with abhorrence, aversion and regret our decision in 2003 to seek by Attorney the confinement (supposedly for “treatment”) of the monk and brother of our Monastery, Fr. Christodoulos Grigoriatis (according to the following despicable annexed document), at the Public Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki. We accept with humility and contrition of heart that our decision was a product of medical error, with potential deception!!!
We recognize and accept unreservedly the diagnoses of two medical psychiatrists attached below (confirming the full mental health of Fr. Christodoulou, who does not need “treatment”). We accept these as the only valid diagnoses which cancel out every other misleading medical placement, or “diagnosis” on matters of the aforementioned brother, Fr. Christodoulos’ mental health.
After agreement and consensus, we recall and accept as invalid the decisions (Θ’-8.4.2010) made during the session of elderly congregation of the monastery, as well as the forced “Apolytirio” (Απολυτήριο) signed by the hieromonk Fr. Panaretos (as one not having such a responsibility), and the second issued “certificate” signed by the then Abbot of the monastery Fr. George Kapsanis. We recognize this second certificate as a product of backstage coercion and extortion (for the signature) by a particular monk and head of the monastery, who ministering then (as gerokomos) the constant attendance of the Abbot and Elder of the monastery Fr. George Kapsanis, thus situated in this detailed condition due to serious health problems!!!
We accept the following agreement and συνεναίσεως the following request of the monk and brother of our monastery, Fr. Christodoulos Grigoriatis, through the moral satisfaction and economical compensate accordingly, on the injury suffered by his unjust expulsion from the Holy Monastery of his repentance, with the symbolic sum of 100,000 Euros, deposited in his bank account within three hours of the signing of this, our repentance.
APPLICATION OF MONK CHRISTODOULOS, BROTHER OF THE HOLY MONASTERY OF ST. GREGORY, MT. ATHOS
I would like to request from the monastery of my repentance, as a small token of moral satisfaction and compensation of the damage I have suffered from my wrongful expulsion from the monastery, the symbolic sum of one hundred thousand 100,000 Euros—for my unpaid ministry of more than 20 years within the monastery, for my personal library that I handed over to the monastery upon my arrival in order to dedicate myself as a monk for the rest of my life there and for depositing money in a bank account of the Monastery from the sale of my property.
Given that my expulsion from the monastery was completely unfair, since there had not been and there is no final judgment against me—no conviction of ecclesiastical or civil court that implicate me in crimes in order to justify the decision (Θ’-8.4.2010) at the Session of elderly synaxis of the monastery on the issue against my mandatory apolytirion.
KATAΘΕΣΗ ΣΤΟΝ ΛΟΓΑΡΙΑΣΜΟ:
NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE
ΟΙ ΥΠΟΓΡΑΦΟΝΤΕΣ ΤΗΝ ΑΝΩΤΕΡΩ ΜΕΤΑΜΕΛΕΙΑΝ
Ο ΠΡΟΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ ΟΣΙΟΥ ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΥ ΑΓ ΟΡΟΥΣ Π. ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΣ ΚΑΨΑΝΗΣ
Ο ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΙΑΤΡΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ Π. ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΣ
Ο ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΙΑΤΡΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ Π. ΛΟΥΚΑΣ
ΚΑΘΩΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΑ ΛΟΙΠΑ ΜΕΛΗ ΤΗΣ ΓΕΡΟΝΤΙΚΗΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ
NOTE: The following article is taken from the Cypriot newspaper “Phileleftheros” (Ό Φιλελεύθερος), December 18, 2010, p. 23. The article contains the accusations of a hieromonk who was ousted after 22 years of control methods via the administration of psychiatric drugs. http://www.zougla.gr/page.ashx?pid=80&aid=227195&cid=122
The monk, who “was expelled” from the Grigoriou monastery1 on Mount Athos 22 years after his admittance, denounces methods reminiscent of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.2 According to his allegations, methods of controlling the monks were applied with the administration of psychiatric drugs. The complaints come from Father Christodoulos3 who also produced a movie clip which shows him tied with leg padlocks to a bed, in a room of the Thessaloniki Hospital, where he was brought for “treatment.”
Fr. Christodoulos maintains he was of sound mind. He cites the opinion of Cypriot psychiatrist, Yiangou Mikelidis,4 who states that he examined Father Christodoulos and “he is not suffering from any serious mental illness and has no need of treatment.”
“The monk’s so-called mental illness reacheded,” as he says, “up to the Prefect of Thessaloniki whose testimony was invoked to register a complaint against the Abbot of Gregoriou5 Monastery for slanderous libel. Furthermore, he accuses the monastery’s administration of not returning money that he secured from the sale of his own real estate. Father Christodoulos was not the “typical” type of monk since he sought the Abbot’s resignation, he went on a hunger strike twice and while he was not as obedient, he remained an administrator of the monastery.
When they gave him a certificate of discharge and he refused to leave the monastery, the Monastery’s administration called up policemen from Karyes who accompanied him off the Holy Mountain. They transferred the monk’s belongings to Karyes; these numbered 47 boxes with various personal items and were not delivered to him upon his expulsion.
“They tried to make me crazy”
Fr. Christodoulos (Nicholas Diamantopoulos in the world) spoke to “Φ” about everything he claims happened in Grigoriou Monastery:6
“I joined the Grigoriou Monastery in 1987 at age 30. In 2003 I did a hunger strike demanding the resignation of the Abbot because he could not exercise his duties completely. The Abbot gave me a handwritten letter in which he resigned and asked me to pass it to the elderly congregation (a copy was given to the “Φ”).
“I raised the issue of resignation before the elderly assembly (composed of seven monks) but I was told they did not accept it. I returned to the Abbot and asked to be heard by the whole fraternity consisting of about 70 monks. I developed my position before them and they thereupon prepared a document calling the Public Prosecutor of Thessaloniki to lock me in a mental hospital. With the mobilization of the police, they lead me the mental hospital. The psychiatrist chanced to be a fellow student of the Monastery’s doctor; the one who sent me to the psychiatric hospital. I mentioned to the psychiatrist that I have differences with the Monastery’s administration. I explained that this administration wants to use him to make me out as crazy.
“I called my brother from a phone booth and explained that they wanted to declare me insane. So until he came, they tied me to a bed with the help of security guard. They used straps and padlock. When my two brothers came to ask me what happened, they were paid no attention to. When they saw me tied up, they made a clip with a camera and warned those responsible at the hospital they would be given to the public if they continued to have me bound. My brothers said they would take me to another psychiatrist who is not influenced by the monastery. It took three days of contacts and interventions to allow me to leave.
“I went to another psychiatrist who, after a month of visits, advised that I am suffering from mixed personality disorder which has nothing to do with mental illness or any other serious illness. The doctor told me that I can go to the monastery with no problem. I returned to the monastery where they accepted me. (Last May I went to a psychiatrist, Giagkos Mikellides, who after examining me, opined in writing that I do not suffer from any serious mental illness and have no need of treatment. A copy of the advice was made available to “Φ”).
“In 2004 a priest-monk threatened me, saying they would expel me from the monastery. I started a hunger strike and sought the Abbot’s resignation. An assembly occurred, minus the Abbot who was then outside Mount Athos and I was told that either they would deport me from Mount Athos or I would go to a psychiatrist in Patras.
“I told them that I accept going to a psychiatrist. I went off to my hometown in Peloponnese without seeing a psychiatrist. When I returned a week later, the Abbot didn’t say anything to me nor ask me what happened with the psychiatrist. This means that two powers co-exist in the monastery. On the one hand, the Abbot and on the other an elderly congregation that insists on making me a mental patient.
“The elderly congregation has a problem because when I go out with permission, I travel abroad instead of only in Greece. With the “indiscipline” I require small chastisements for my “indiscipline” such as refraining from chanting, etc.
“In 2006 they changed the exit certificate and restricted my travels to only in Greece. On one occasion the Abbot obliged me to give him 500 prayer ropes, which I made, to enable me to go on a pilgrimage to the Patriarchate. Since then, when I go out with permission, I travel abroad without the blessing of the Abbot.
“This year in March I went to the abbot and asked him to convene the fraternity and invite anyone who has something against me to say it before all. He threatened me with a curse (that he would curse me) because I ask things beyond obedience. When he threatened me with a curse, I wrote a curse. I noted that if I am right then the curse is to fall upon the head of the Abbot; if not, then the curse would fall to mine.7 After that, I came to Cyprus where I spent Pascha and when I returned I was called to the synaxis and they asked me for an explanation about my behavior.
“I told them that I cannot respect them to the depth they want; when in 2003 they tried to make me crazy.
“Afterwards, they gave me a certificate for insult and contempt towards the Abbot, but I returned it because it did not have his signature.
“They insisted that I leave. I didn’t leave and they brought the police in and they escorted me to Karyes.
“The Abbot told the Prefect of Thessaloniki, Mr. Psomiadi, that I’m a mental patient. Then I registered a lawsuit against the Abbot for slander which is pending before the Court.8
To this day, Fr. Christodoulos still speaks out and references the injustices he suffered while living as a monk at Grigoriou Monastery. Here is a recent example, dated January 15, 2016:
“Many who know the details of my monastic life urge me to write an autobiography. If I decide to do such a “crazy thing”, the dead will roll in their graves, as well as the bones of those who are alive—the guileful, treacherous rassaphore monks of Grigoriou Monastery, Mt. Athos who through plots and intrigues that even the Italian Kamora would envy, continually tried to shut my mouth, slander me, humiliate me, ridicule me with processes that reach beyond the limits of a murder attempt at my expense.”
“I have evidence and documents stored electronically that would overturn the thrones of Churches (and not just sovereigns) if I were to publish them!!!”
Grigoriou Monastery (Greek: Γρηγορίου) is situated on the southwest side of the Athos Peninsula in northern Greece, between the monasteries of Dionysiou and Simonopetra. Grigoriou originally was dedicated to the St. Nicholas but later was renamed in honor of its founder, Gregory. It is ranked seventeenth in the hierarchical order of the twenty monasteries located on the Mount Athos peninsula. Grigoriou is reputed to be one of the most well-organized and strict coenobitic monasteries on the Mount Athos peninsula.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a 1975 American drama film directed by Miloš Forman, based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Now considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is No. 33 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list. In 1993, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
A blog exists under the name of Χριστόδουλος Μοναχός Γρηγοριάτης—though there is no validation that the Monk Christodoulos actually wrote the posts contained therein (especially since he continues to make comments about the monastery to this day). Notably, to this day, he still speaks out about his experiences at Grigoriou Monastery. A month after Abbot George’s resignation, the following retraction was posted on this blog, “My esteemed Geronda, beloved fathers and brothers, please consider everything I posted on this blog as invalid. I recall all of my posts and have deleted them! I seek forgiveness from all of you, hoping that I will obtain favorable treatment. Pray for my salvation as I too! My Metanoia [repentance or prostration] to all of you! Monk Christodoulos. http://monaxoschristodoulos.blogspot.com/2014/03/blog-post.html
Archimandrite George Kapsanis resigned from his abbacy in February 2014 for reasons unknown. He died on the day of Pentecost later that year (June 8, 2014).
In April 2014, a blog existing under the name of “Monk Christodoulos Grigoriatis”, posted “My Second Sorry to Grigoriou Monastery.” This “Epistle of Repentance to Geronda George Kapsanis and the Holy Monastery of Grigoriou, Mount Athos” sounds more like a PR campaign contrived by the monastery. To this day, when talking about his experiences at Grigoriou Monastery, Christodoulos speaks quite differently than the content found in this epistle. Here is the epistle in its entirety:
My esteemed Geronda,
Since April 2010, I have written and published on the internet or notifications by means of mass media (television, radio, newspapers) that gave me step of speech, ungrounded, obscene and other charges against you and against the brothers of the Monastery.
I recognize fully that both you and the brothers of the monastery are persons above reproach in every respect and that my accusations were untrue. But now I am fully aware of the truth and repent for what they did. I confess that I caused you great grief and psychic pain, but also scandalized many people who did not know the ethos of Grigoriou Monastery. I publicly apologize for this, both to you and the brothers of the monastery and the people I scandalized.
As a minimum indication of my practical repentance, I’ve already deleted my website that I maintained with the unjust and false accusations which I address to you and the brothers of the monastery, and I have posted two letters of apology online (this and the preceding that I have sent).
I hope that in this way I can restore, albeit slightly, the harm I caused you.
Because I am monk and I look forward to my salvation, I put my metanoia [repentance or prostration] and ask for your blessing.
I wish you a good and blessed Pascha in love of the Lord!
My repentance towards my former monastery Fr. George Kapsanis, Elder Fr. Christopher, the Fathers of the Holy Assembly and all the fathers of the monastery. Evlogeite your blessing!!
Geronda Ephraim teaches that cursing clergymen never works and it always falls back on the curser seven-fold. However, a curse by a clergyman always sticks due to the grace of ordination. In this case, both participants are ordained priests; thus, the curse by whichever hieromonk is in the right would have stuck.
There does not seem to be any information about these proceedings available on the web.
Psychiatric drugs are not antibiotics. Do not confuse mucus with marmalades.
Our interview on April 22, 2001 dealt with many of the problems that occur on Mount Athos and even more mobilized against us. As they told me on my recent trip to the Mt. Athos, the Holy Community of Mount Athos, as well as the Church of Greece, has exercised more pressure to censure and refute me. There is even a decision made by the Holy Community to not sell my books in any of the stores in Daphne and Karyes.1
A neurologist-psychiatrist named Panos Grigoriou—Director of the Psychiatric Department of the general Hospital in Halkidiki—was one of those that mobilized against us. Firstly, the likeable psychiatrist with his epistle in the Sunday Typos 10/06/2001 is surprised because I consider psychiatric drugs an indication of morbidity and failure on Mount Athos. He states, “We take psychiatric drugs just as we take antibiotics, anti-hypersensitive or anti-rheumatic medicine.”
The above mentality of the psychiatrist is representative of a new generation of Christians—and monks in particular—that now consider psychiatric drugs as a natural fact of daily life. The conversation we had with a doctor-novice at Grigoriou Monastery at the Monastery of the Holy Forerunner in Dimitsana (Summer 2001), is indicative of this entire spirit. This novice-doctor made a special trip to meet me there.
Novice-Doctor: “Why does it surprise you, Fr. Michael, that monks take psychiatric drugs? Are they not people, too? For example, I arranged the pharmacy of our monastery and indeed I saw boxes with psychiatric drugs but they are used very little. Then I asked the Elder if we could make a special area for the psychotropic medicine and that space was made. I assure you that the monks taking psychiatric drugs continue their lives at the same rate without affecting their spiritual life in the least. Do you know such and such a priest?”
Monk Michael: “Yes, I’ve known him since 1975.”
Novice-Doctor: “Heh, I put him on medication when I arranged the pharmacy.”
Monk Michael: “You mean psychiatric drugs?”
Novice-Doctor: “Yes, I mean psychiatric drugs. But I assure you that he continues to be the same sweet, gentle, humble person as before. And those who confess him confirm this and they assure me that he gives rest to those close to him. So, what is your problem?”
I was startled!
Monk Michael: “Oh well, have you not yet understood as a doctor that healthy is quite different than sick? People take drugs when they lose their health and, in this case, mental health and balance, to support and continue their life. It is surprising that you say this is the same thing. Afterwards, you say that hundreds of boxes of psychiatric drugs inside the monastery and then assure us that they are rarely used. For me, the question isn’t how often are they used but rather what business does psychotropic drugs have in a monastery? What was the reasoning to purchase them? Under what pressing need did they fill their pharmacy with these drugs?
“Understand how ‘psychiatric drugs for Mount Athos’ sounds to my ears—it’s almost like telling me that you arranged contraceptives in the pharmacy. It’s about the same absurdity. So tell me about how this priest went to psychiatric drugs after 25 years [in the monastery]?”
Novice-Doctor: “Yes, but he remains the same as he always was.”
Conclusion: “No, my beloved psychiatrist, psychotropic drugs are neither antibiotics nor anti-rheumatic. Getting physically sick and probably restoring health once again is different than breaking down and your little soul becoming sick—a sickness that frequently the remainder of your life does not suffice to restore it.”
In a strange manner, both Dr. Panos Grigoriou and Makis Triantaphullopoulos expressed precisely the same question with the same words: “If some people have a need why shouldn’t they take psychiatric drugs?”
This is a misleading question. Firstly, let’s make a clarification: When the monks entered the brotherhood, did they take psychiatric drugs or not? If they didn’t take them when they entered and started taking them in the monastery after 10-15 years of the monastic life, then it’s time some prosecutor to investigate the situation and pull the ears of some abbots. In the latter case, it is unacceptable if the individual was already mentally ill when he entered the monastery because a mentally ill person is never allowed to join the monastic brotherhood. You treat him kindly, you support him, you share his pain, help him as much as you can, but you don’t enroll him. There are two reasons for not enlisting a mentally ill individual into a monastic brotherhood.
Because you cannot recruit some young man for an uphill struggle—indeed even for the rest of his life—if he doesn’t have the necessary presuppositions to withstand the pressure and deprivation to make ends meet. The most basic presupposition for one entering a monastery is mental health and balance.
The experience of the Athonite life knows that a mentally ill individual with a strong character can topple an entire brotherhood. Mental illness hides an indomitable ego that becomes uncontrolled and destructive when it finds room to be developed. This is expressed with an unbridled stubbornness, lack of cooperation, fixed ideas, tantrums, complexes, etc. Due to all these things, the mentally ill patient cannot join the monastic brotherhood.
Dr. Panos writes: “Fr. Michael implies that the way of life imposed upon the monks (militarization) is what causes psychiatric problems.” It is not restricted to that. There are many things that smash the soul of a monk.
The false sanctities of their Elder.2
Their “miracles” and “visions” that serve obvious purposes, such as absolute obedience and submission.3
Dispute by the abbots of every healthy reflection and privation of the possibility of dialogue from the simple monk. It suffices to say that three Hagiorite Hegoumens have said to their brotherhoods: “For you, I am your God.”4
In the “neptic” monastery,5 the Geronda announced that he would travel again to America. A monastic thought: “Doesn’t it seem like our Geronda goes out into the world a lot? Why can’t we also travel?” That evening he confessed his logismoi (Geronda had imposed daily confession/revelation of thoughts); the monk told the Geronda his thoughts. The next morning, as the fathers exited the church to go to the dining-hall the monk was kneeling at the door and cried with a lamentable tone:
“Fathers and Brothers, forgive me, the sinner, because the devil deluded me and I judged my Geronda!”6
This happened recently.
But the cultivation in monasticism and turning their monastic interest exclusively to utopian goals, such as lights, visions, charismas, sanctimoniousness, foresight, etc., under its presupposition of absolute obedience to the ruling Abbot. According to them one “no” destroys and negates not only the existing spiritual edifice that they built with so much pain and toil, but also erases and excludes any future spiritual success—it also has tragic consequences.7
These theories replaced the mindset we found when we went to the Holy Mountain: the teaching of repentance and the awareness of our sinfulness as a presupposition of spiritual development and progress.
All these things, amongst many others, cause the complete suppression of personality and suppress any personal expression and healthy manifestation. Over time, these things consistently drive one to mental fatigue, melancholy, disillusionment and slowly to psychiatric drugs. As for the militarization and total subjugation of the contemporary neo-Hagiorite Abbots, it suffices us to mention what occurred at the recent biannual Synaxis of the Holy Mountain [These gatherings take place twice a year consisting of 20 abbots and 20 representatives of the monasteries in Karyes].
A monk left his monastery (Xenophontos) and sought a cell in another monastery. His Abbot, Alexios, intervened and persuaded the other monastery not to give him a cell. When the monk addressed two other monasteries, the Abbot chased him out of there. I asked the monk who told me about the incident, “Why did your Abbot do this?” He answered, “He wanted me to be discouraged as a monk and throw off my rassa. And thus he could justify this to the brotherhood, ‘Here was the one left; a humiliated failure.’”
At this biannual Assembly, Abbot Alexios proposed to the other abbots to make a decision: when a monk leaves a monastery, no other Athonite monastery should accept him. Then Parthenius, Abbot of St. Paul Monastery, stood up and told him:
“Are you not ashamed at what you’re saying? For the child to leave from his monastery means that he is not at rest and fatigued there. He has all the right to look somewhere else, within Mount Athos, to find rest. We already made the decision earlier and we did not give dismissal to monks who wanted to leave Mount Athos. If we deprive them of the ability to another monastery on Athos, then the children facing this dead end we thrush upon them might throw of their robes and go to the world to be married. Is this where you ultimately want to lead them?”8
And the monk who narrated this story concluded, “The good-natured Hagiorite Abbot [Parthenius] could not imagine that our Geronda (Alexios) wanted to push things there.”
But Geronda Parthenius of St. Paul Monastery is the exception in the neo-Hagiorite Abbots as he is of the old and genuine Athonite guard. Concerning the above, Geronda Parthenius, we say unto you: “May your memory be eternal, may your memory be eternal, may your memory be eternal.”
The sympathetic psychiatrist writes: “It is to their praise that the prudent and virtuous monks visit the psychiatrist.” This premise is unprecedented in monastic history because it is particularly absurd. The virtuous monk is presumed to be healthy because as long as virtue is a supernatural event, he will have some supernatural elements in his life. However, the restoration of mental health precedes every trace of spiritual phenomenon and virtue.
It costs him that we consider psychiatrists unnecessary for monks. I would like to say that if there are healthy and normal clergy in the Orthodox Church, then the collaboration with a psychiatrist would be superfluous not only for monks but for every conscious Christian and even every rational Greek. The psychiatrist tries to persuade us that he contributes to restoring the patient’s mental/spiritual health. I myself believe more in what Geronda Porphyrios told me:
“It is humanly impossible for the mentally/spiritually suffering to be helped except only through the Holy Spirit. He who created the human heart is the only one who is able to replace a part when it becomes sick.”9
Namely, the Geronda wanted to say that the boat of everyday life can overturn on someone and result in mental illness, whether with a careless life or through inheritance or by tragic events. From there on, let him look for the miracle in his life because only the intervention of some saint or God’s grace, through our repentance and contrition of heart, may bring healing and health. As long as Elders like Geronda Porphyrios, Geronda Paisios and others exist, psychiatrists are unnecessary for monks or any believer who has associated with them and derived strength from the life-giving power of their heart to continue their life normally without psychiatrists. But now that they have completely missed these healthy and life-giving spiritual personalities and they’ve been replaced by monkeys [also can mean mimics or cunning, malicious fellows], they have discovered that psychiatric centers are useful for monks!10
But psychiatric drugs—useful for the psychiatrist Panos and an honor for the virtuous monks who take them—are soul-destroying because they don’t only suppress mental anomalies and disorders, they also bind every instinctive potential movement of the heart towards its Creator. Therefore, psychiatric drugs exclude the main source of healing, which is the cultivation of relations with God.
The entire article attempts to make prose of the problem and annihilate it with enviable maneuver and excessive art. This whole effort seems funny to me and reminds me of General Mardonius’ speech to King Xerxes after the naval battle of Salamis.11 When Xerxes looked abject and shocked at the debris of hundreds of Persian ships, Mardonius undertook to console him:
“My King, do not be saddened about planks and beams. Did we come to Greece for timber? The mainland army remains integral. My King, don’t allow your heart to be depressed over some broken planks!”
Etc…etc…Panos writes lots of similar things.
The fact that you can prose such tragic events and debase them like Mardonius as well as distort them with such force means that you need a psychiatrist—to at least restore your judgment and say things as they are and as they appear to the rest of the world. You see, I also find some useful roles for psychiatrists.
You address yourself to the Greek people, reassuring them: “Nothing serious and ugly happens on Mount Athos, you can be certain.”
You and those you represent can convince and manipulate the Greeks because they are a species in decline and one does whatever he wants, especially the Hagiorites. But now we’ve entered the European Union where there are civilized societies with sensitivities and human rights. And the time will come when they learn about what is happening on Mount Athos. They will expose you and all of Orthodoxy will be vilified along with you. If you cannot tolerate a debate or criticism by a monk with comprehension and, I can assure you, with a genuine interest, then you will be ridiculed mercilessly by others for your antics. This is a spiritual law and it will be fully applied to you. Your special privileges and whims are recognized and imposed on the decayed Helladic society and Church. Not to God, however, Who requires sincerity, openness, honesty, courage and especially modesty and humility from those associated with Him; namely they don’t have a high opinion of themselves.
This kind of censorship is used by the monasteries under Geronda Ephraim. Books by authors who have criticized the person of Geronda Ephraim or his methodologies (i.e.; requiring absolute blind obedience, authoritarianism, etc.) are usually not sold in the bookstores. For a number of years, St. Anthony’s Monastery, and a few of Geronda Ephraim’s other monasteries, boycotted Geronda Porphyrios and Geronda Paisios’ books “because of all the difficulties they gave Geronda Ephraim in Greece and all their criticisms of him.” However, as more books were translated into English and demands for orders increased, the boycott was slackened. Now that both Elders are officially canonized as saints in the Orthodox Church, the earlier stories about their criticisms are no longer talked about and have been swept under the carpet as if they never existed.
Before one enters a monastery under Geronda Ephraim, no doubt they’ve been inundated with many stories of the elder’s miracles and visions both by lay and monastic disciples. These stories are reinforced during the novitiate by the superior and other monastics.
Geronda Ephraim’s homilies to his monastics, as well as the private conversations he has with them, are full of self-promotion and narrations of his visions and “special powers”, combined with a feigned humility and self-reproach as the worst sinner in the world. Examples are: entering the divine darkness, seeing the face of God, communicating personally with the Father, seeing the actual event of Christ’s birth, physical alterations with demons, having the Archangels Michael and Gabriel as personal bodyguards, bi-locating to various places around the world without his body—such as during a homily in St. Anthony’s dining hall to Montreal pilgrims where he revealed to them that he left twice while talking to them to check up on his monasteries and they didn’t even realize that he had left. These stories which are used to validate Geronda Ephraim has a living saint are also used as leverage to make monks comply in obedience, even when the obedience breaks the commandments, so as not to sadden the Elder and separate oneself from God. As one of his disciple Gerondas once said to his monks, “Your obedience or disobedience goes through me, to Geronda Ephraim, and then to God.”
Some Gerondas have gone so far as to warn their monastics that saying no or refusing an obedience makes one susceptible to delusion and even demon possession. Any form of “rebuttal” or “back talk” is automatically categorized as demonic and evil. Geronda Ephraim has stated, “The mouth of the elder is the mouth of Christ. If your elder speaks, God speaks.”
Monk Michael is referring to Filotheou Monastery.
This form of punishment is called “being put in the Lity” and can be found in The Ladder of Divine Ascent (7th).
Geronda Ephraim teaches his monastics, “On Judgment Day, Christ will ask you only one question: ‘Did you do obedience?’ If the answer is yes, you go to eternal life. If the answer is no, you go to eternal damnation.”
Despite the fact that many monastic saints (and non-canonized fathers) in the history of Orthodoxy did not remain in their monasteries until death—and many times they lived in many different monasteries—Geronda Ephraim is very strict about his monastics staying in their monastery until death, or until their elder dies. If, for some reason, he allows a monastic to go to another monastery, it always has to be a monastery within his own family. Geronda Ephraim also teaches that it’s almost impossible to find salvation of a monk leaves his monastery (whether he has made the vows for the great schema or a rassaphore).
Geronda Porphyrios once decided to attend some classes on psychiatry at the university. However, his response, though not totally negative, was not particularly encouraging. He acknowledged that “they tried to do something, but what can they do? Psychiatrists and psychologists are like a blind man who tries to understand the things around him by touch. The soul is very deep and only God really knows it” (Yiannitsiotis 200:186). Yiannitsiotis relates that at another time the Elder said, “I don’t want psychiatry, but I love psychiatrists.”… [He] understood that anything spiritual concerning the human condition is not going to be unveiled in psychiatry. The assumptions of materialism, which are part of this discipline, limit the reaches of physical medicine or even psychology. If psychiatry claims to understand the entirety of the human psychological condition, if it rests upon a reductive biological view of consciousness and the human condition, then those claims are counter to an Orthodox perception of the person. One can accept the behavioral sciences without accepting all of their metaphysics. Yiannitsiotis alludes to a remark he heard by a Christian psychiatrist spoken during a conference that may be a kind of summary of this topic: “As a psychiatrist I am not a healer of the human soul, but of the nervous system” (Ibid., 2001: 192). [Professor Daniel Buxhoeveden, Science and the Eastern Orthodox Church, 2013, pp. 15-16].
It is notable that many of the contemporary monastics and spiritual fathers from Greece who knew and revered St. Porphyrios and St. Paisios when they were alive do not hold a high opinion for Elder Joseph the Hesychast and his disciples. This is because the two saints disagreed with many of their methods and teachings, primarily the demand of absolute, blind obediene and authoritarianism. These two saints’ teachings about sick and disturbed forms of obedience are references to Geronda Ephraim’s fronima and teachings.
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC who died at the Battle of Platea.
NOTE: This article is taken from the Sunday Typos, June 10, 2001. It was written to refute Monk Michael’s accusations. Dr. Gregoriou is a Neurologist-Psychiatrist and director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital.1 In this article, Dr. Gregoriou validates Monk Michael’s claim that there are Hagiorite monks who have mental disorders, see psychiatrists, and take psychiatric drugs. http://www.psyche.gr/lgreekdiasyndpsyttheo.htm
I was motivated to write this article when I read the Monk Michael Hatziantoniou’s interview with the journalist Peter Papavasileios (see the magazine “E” in the Sunday Eleftherotypia, April 22, 2001).
The reason I thought of myself to be a “substantive qualifier” is that I’ve practised psychiatry for 20 years. For the past 12 years, I’ve been the Director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital in whose jurisdiction Mount Athos falls in terms of health coverage.
With my position, I know very well the question under dispute (the use of psychiatric drugs on Mount Athos). Moreover, the fact that I have regularly visited Mount Athos since 1974 (I was then a graduate student at the Medical School of Athens University) permits me to know the people and things of the area quite well.
Firstly, why did the news use the pompous title with the exclamation that “They Take Psychiatric Drugs on Mount Athos?” For a prudent and impartial reader, it has the same “originality” as “They take antibiotics or antihypertensive or anti-rheumatic medications on Mount Athos.” Psychiatric drugs are also medications that relieve and help the people who need them. I don’t understand why particularly on Mount Athos the mentally ill should not take psychotropic drugs. Is it not a shame to be excluded from the therapeutic means of modern medical science?
Fr. Michael rents his garments: “I cannot bear this situation,” he says. He maintains that anyone can cure their mental symptoms with personal effort. Something that is heard daily amongst the ignorant: “Banish your anxiety, pull the sadness from your soul, throw it out,” etc. Similar views proceed either from ignorance or out of some unconscious fear against mental illness and psychotropic drugs. If such counsels were effective then the existence of our psychiatrists would probably have been unnecessary.
Another “scandalous revelation” Fr. Michael makes—that Hagiorites are visiting psychiatrists—pertains to the same spirit! But are we psychiatrists such defiled beings that all sensible and virtuous people must avoid us “so as not to be defiled?” The fact that Hagiorites visit psychiatrists constitutes an occasion of praise, not reproach. If they didn’t visit psychiatrists then they should be accused of medievalism and criminal omission.2
I stress here that the attitude of some religious people—even spiritual fathers—who claim that anyone who lives in God should never resort to psychiatrists or psychotropic drugs is, in every respect, incorrect.3 They believe that psychiatrists wrongly assume responsibilities that belong exclusively to God and the spiritual father. The Hagiorite monks, following the vibrant spiritual tradition, avoid such absolutes. They recognize the difference between mental and spiritual problems. Like all other diseases, they consider mental illnesses result from defects and the corruption of post-Fall man. They do not identify mental illnesses with outside demonic influences. The respect of the Hagiorites towards the proper use of its results is an example of wisdom and ampleness of spirit.
If I understood correctly, Fr. Michael implies amongst his contradictions that the way of life imposed upon the monks (militarization) is what causes psychiatric problems. He also insinuates that some Hagiorites (I wonder what percentage?) who regretted becoming monks were trapped in the system and because they were prevented from leaving the monastery occasionally they killed themselves or set themselves on fire.4 Then the abbots, in order to deter their escape from Mount Athos, issue them psychotropic drugs to bend their will and make them thoughtless, subservient zombies! Yet, Fr. Michael doesn’t complain that he had such a treatment when he decided to abandon his monastery. Contrary to what one not acquainted with such things might imagine, the way of life on the Holy Mountain is not disease producing but rather psychotherapeutic.
The reference to famous boxes with mysterious contents is naive at the very least. The monasteries obtain their drugs from pharmacies, usually from Thessaloniki, because they don’t operate a pharmacy on Mount Athos. The medication orders for the needs of 80-100 people (with a large percentage of elderly) for a period of one or two months apparently have some volume and should be packed well in “boxes” to reach their destination safely. Usually, these boxes contain drugs of every kind and a portion of them are psychotropic drugs. Let he who doubts ask any pharmacy serving a population of 2,000 residents and let him learn what the current monthly consumption of psychotropic drugs is and a percentage of all drugs, but also an absolute number inserted in boxes and let him calculate their approximate volume. It should be taken into consideration that a significant portion of these drugs are consumed for the extraordinary needs of the numerous visitors as well as the hundreds of laymen who work on the Mountain.5
Mount Athos is also entitled to have its mentally ill. It would be very unnatural if they didn’t exist since the percentage of those in the adult population who exhibit mental disorders at any given time has been estimated at around 15% for residents in the Western hemisphere.
Besides, as we know, one does not require a bill of health to become a monk, nor is a monk expelled from his monastery when some serious illness appears.6 Mount Athos is not an unrealistic place, nor does it aspire to present an outward image of an “elite” community, like the “caste” of Eastern religions or Gnostics or whatever else. The Athonite State, Panagia’s Garden, is an open space, social and genuinely human; a struggling society journeying towards God. The sick have their place and even honour in such a community! Where else would the remaining healthy monks show their love, patience and ministry if not to those who are beside them even if they happen to be sick?
I cannot tolerate that Fr. Michael—the author of the article—professes the popular unscientific opinions: “Don’t go to the crazy doctor, he will make you completely crazy and you will be stigmatized for life!” Or, “Don’t take psychiatric medicine, they’re narcotics, you’ll become dependent and you’ll be rendered a vegetable!” Such positions need no response, this would be futile.7
As a doctor, my ascertainment is that the mentally ill on Mount Athos are treated more correctly, more scientifically and more effectively than whatever in the outside world.8 The monastic family surround the suffering brother with much care, love and tolerance and spare neither expense nor labor to ensure the best possible treatment and aid.9 He is provided a treatment rarely seen in today’s society, with respect to mental illness, the suffering monk’s soul and his dignity—a treatment that preserves the patient’s self-esteem.10 It should be made clear that in no way is an incompetent person involved in the treatment process. They follow the indication on the medication from the specialist physician, which is prescribed under the responsibility of the rural clinic in Karyes. Also, the administration of drugs and the assessment of the patient’s clinical progress are not made by upstart monks. Most of the monasteries have at least one or more doctor-monks with extensive experience who have impressed me with their scientific competence and awareness.11 The long existing journey of mentally ill Athonite monks is many times better than those who have mental illnesses in the world, where human dignity is trivialized with confinement in psychiatric asylums or the taunts of their fellow villagers.12
Fr. Michael’s inappropriate parallelism of Bedouin doped out on hashish and the Athonite monks is an unfortunate verbal exaggeration.13 It might have been worthwhile before the interview was published to have a psychiatrist (of a trusted newspaper) examine the text and question whether Fr. Michael’s allegations have any scientific standing. I am certain that he would have agreed with me that the anti-psychiatry opinions usually belong to uneducated people.14
Regarding Fr. Michael’s “showcase” allegation, Mount Athos does not claim to be a society of perfect men.15 Moreover, he stresses in the last paragraph of the interview (essentially negating everything previous): “The majority of monks are very nice guys! The love, they look at you with clean eyes. I speak for the majority because there are certainly a very small number of monks who have a pure heart…” If this is the case then what is with all the scandal-mongering throughout the rest of the interview? He did not clarify for us from the start of the interview that he was only speaking about a few exceptions! He allowed us to believe that this is the picture of Mount Athos in general. According to Fr. Michael, what is the real and representative showcase of Mount Athos? The 5-10 likeable mentally ill patients, 5-10 unruly monks and the one monk who set himself on fire? Do we not wrong the 2000 struggling monks who live imperceptibly with ascesis, a pure life and hard work, and are happy and normal?16
We were distressed in seeing the exceptions generalized. The error of one was aggrandized and expressed while the virtue of the many was hushed up. The Hagiorites know this and it is natural and imperative for them to take precautions. We accuse them of hypocrisy because they protect themselves? What family would voluntarily surrender the proclamation of their son or daughter’s deviation to public vilification and shaming? By protecting the reputation of the person who erred, as well as the family’s reputation, from the sneer of the voracious publicity, we hope to heal the wounds. Otherwise, “the last error becomes worse than the first.” Mount Athos is a community of true love where the erring sinners are neither ostracized nor pilloried or stoned.17 They are consoled and covered as suffering brothers and they are “economized” with sympathy and spiritual treatment so they are induced to “repentance and come to salvation.”
Fr. Michael’s interview saddened me. He light-heartedly accuses holy people—humble and obscure to the general public—but accomplished in the heart of whoever knew those who apparently “raised themselves as charismatic figures” to captivate souls! It is a shame for a monk to offer his brothers and fathers as victims to the Moloch of publicity in exchange for the silver pieces and the honorary title of “debunker” and “whistle-blower” who apparently tells everything out right. The monastic life starts out with promises of obedience, humility, and devotion to the brotherhood. Self-projection and self-complacency are not included in these promises. In searching for the deeper “why”, I would say that Fr. Michael’s position against the Holy Mountain, in a psychodynamic interpretation, serves as a personal apology.18
Finally, I want to reassure and cheer up those who were perhaps troubled by reading the publication of “E”. No! The Mountain is not a “concentration camp,” nor some “mental hospital” for dissidents.19 The Kassandres and those appearing as benevolent dirge singers have no place here!20 Mount Athos did not lose the “rota”, it is not sinking! The Holy Mountain continues to sail correctly as it has for centuries. For over a thousand years, the rowers stand vigilant night and day at their oar. The Captain—the Lady of the Mount—holds the steering wheel firmly and the compass firmly shows God’s Kingdom. It is not shipwrecked and it collects castaways!
A google search of Dr. Grigoriou’s name in Greek only produces results in connection to this article. There is no photo, articles or a record of him anywhere in Greece other than in relation to this article. Other doctors with the same name do not have the same credentials as listed here. There is a Dr. Panagiotis Dimitrios Grigoriou in the UK, GMC # 7015533. His primary medical qualification is listed as Ptychio Iatrikes 2006 National Capodistrian University of Athens and he is obviously not the same person as the author of this article.
According to the contemporary spiritual fathers of Greece, all neuroses stem from the guilt of unconfessed sins. The monastery is a hospital where the sick go to be healed. However, if daily confession and revelation of thoughts, combined with frequent Holy Communion and the Jesus Prayer isn’t helping the monk, will a psychiatrist be able to help the individual monk more than his own spiritual father? Hierotheos Vlachos writes, “Orthodoxy is mainly a therapeutic science and treatment. It differs clearly from other psychiatric methods, because it is not anthropocentric and because it does not do its work with human methods, but with the help and energy of divine grace, essentially through the synergy of divine and human volition… I know that the term `psychotherapy’ is almost modern and is used by many psychiatrists to indicate the method which they follow for curing neurotics. But since many psychiatrists do not know the Church’s teaching or do not wish to apply it, and since their anthropology is very different from the anthropology and soteriology of the Fathers, in using the term `psychotherapy’, I have not made use of their views. It would have been very easy at some points to set out their views, some of which agree with the teaching of the Fathers and others of which are in conflict with it, and to make the necessary comments, but I did not wish to do that. I thought that it would be better to follow the teaching of the Church through the Fathers without mingling them together. Therefore I have prefixed the word `Orthodox’ to the word `Psychotherapy’ (healing of the soul), to make the title “Orthodox Psychotherapy”. It could also have been formulated as “Orthodox Therapeutic Treatment”.(Orthodox Psychotherapy, Introduction)
It is amazing that Dr. Grigoriou, with all his experience, is unaware of the vast amount of research in his field on the subject of blind obedience, authoritarianism, cult-like mentalities, and the emotional and psychological abuse that exist in such oppressive atmospheres. Evidence shows that these things lead to neuroses, PTSD, and various other mental illnesses. Studies on the emotional and psychological effects of confinement and feeling trapped are also in abundance.
Dr. Grigoriou does not clarify if these medications are administered to laymen by monastics that are licensed professionals, or if these professionals have up-to-date training.
This statement is not true, at least for the monasteries under Geronda Ephraim. There are numerous stories in circulation about the numerous monastics Geronda Ephraim sent packing on Mount Athos. The reasons ranged from not doing obedience, causing to many scandals, becoming a danger to themselves or others, homosexual incidents, or just so deluded that something really bad could have happened if they were allowed to stay. Geronda Ephraim has also sent a number of novices home from Arizona for various issues. As for prerequisites, homosexuals are generally not allowed to become monks. Geronda Ephraim has said it’s like inviting the devil into your monastery, and without going into specifics, he has hinted at the damage such men have caused in monasteries on Mount Athos. Also, people with mental illnesses are gently discouraged from becoming monastics in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries and are usually told it would be better for them to remain and struggle in the world.
Monk Michael did not say those things in his interview. Perhaps Dr. Grigoriou heard read them in some of his other writings?
As a layman who visits the monasteries and witnesses the front stage behavior—without actually living in a monastery or being a monk and witnessing the back stage behavior—Dr. Grigoriou is not in a position to make such a catch all statement. Monastics who make statements like this usually have a PR agenda.
Sick monks—either physically or mentally—have all had their own experiences of neglect from their brother monastics. One who has to stay in his cell may be forgotten and not have meals brought to him, or the person who tends to them may get caught up in another obedience and not show up to help, etc, in some cases remaining in a dirty diaper for a day or so before his monk-attendant comes to change his diaper and bathe him. A monastic suffering from some ailment may not be able to go to a doctor for a long period of time due to whatever circumstances, thus prolonging the suffering. At other times, the Geronda may say do patience and one has to endure. Again, one may have been given specific instructions for recovery and the Geronda will cut it short, saying it’s not necessary, you’re fine and you have to work, now go.
Again, Dr. Grigoriou is trying to paint an unrealistic utopia experience for ailing monks. Fr. Makarios of St. Anthony’s Monastery, AZ is a perfect example of how this is not always true. After he received his head injury and remained in a somewhat vegetative state, it put a strain on the brotherhood. Some of the younger monks giggled and mocked some of his newly acquired idiosyncrasies, especially during the services when he would stand up abruptly and say insensible things or pass wind in church throughout the night. Initially, Geronda said, “What use is he now? He has the mind of a baby,” and wanted to send him home. However, he did not send him away because he felt obliged to keep him (Fr. Makarios’ father is a priest who helps out at Geronda Ephraim’s nunneries). Of course, there was economia given to him due to his mental incapacitation but not all his brother monks had patience and understanding towards him. The reality in a monastery is once you start losing your usefulness you are made to feel like a burden. Woe unto those who get old and have nothing to contribute to the monastery; even more so if they need to take other monastics from more useful jobs to help them in their daily routine.
In many of the monasteries, the doctor monastics do not keep up-to-date with their training. Thus, many times one finds a doctor with an outdated degree. Of course, the basics don’t change much but would you trust going to a doctor who graduated from university in say 1990, never had a practice, and has not kept up-to-date on his training or the new breakthroughs in science and medicine nor had his license renewed?
Again, this is a far stretch of a statement. A perfect example would be the monasteries here in North America where fat-shaming is quite common among the monastics. The following information is not written to center anyone out or further fat shame individuals, but to point out that these things happen in the monasteries just as they do in the world. Furthermore, there is a complex link between obesity and mental illness and fat shaming is a method of stigmatizing. In the beginning, Fr. Germanos was constantly the brunt of jokes and taunts about his weight (both to his face and behind his back). In the mid-90’s, when Fr. Germanos was visiting Archangels Monastery in Texas, Geronda Dositheos walked up to him and said, “Do you know what we use to do to fat kids in school?” and he bumped his stomach into Fr. Germanos’ stomach. Also in the mid-late 90s, while Fr. Germanos was looking for property in New York, Geronda Ephraim gave many homilies to the Fathers in Arizona. In a couple of homilies, he’d joke about Fr. Germanos with his cheeks puffed, arms outstretched indicating fat, and wobble his body back and forth. All the Fathers would break out in laughter at this display. Though Fr. Germanos was not present for these homilies, he’d hear his brothers laughing and mocking him years later when these cassettes were digitalized and all the monasteries were given the DVDs. Another time, Fr. Germanos had forgot to erase his data from the treadmill they bought for the monastery. Fr. Kassianos, Fr. Michael and Fr. Kosmas had to move it from the living room up to the attic to make room for pilgrims and read the data which included his weight. These monks then joked about it and revealed to the other fathers, including Geronda, how much Fr. Germanos weighed. As time went on, stress-eating and high dessert diets increased in the other monasteries and the other superiors and second-in-commands also started to increase in weight and size; many hitting the 300lb + mark. As the other monastics’ weights increased, the teasing of Fr. Germanos decreased. Once, when the subject of how much weight all the abbots have been gaining came up, Fr. Germanos said jokingly, “It’s because you all judged me.” Taunts and shaming exist in the monasteries and neither the physically deformed, the handicapped or mentally ill are spared. Of course, those who become offended are given this explanation, “We do it out of love, not malice.” But in what universe can this be considered monastic, let alone Christian conduct? Sarcasm, contempt and mockery are not indications of brotherly love nor the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not a far stretch. For example, when Fr. Gergory was a hieromonk at St. Anthony’s Monastery, he drank skullcap, St. John’s Wort, and various other nerve relaxant teas around the clock. And he walked around like he was zoned out and doped up. Other monastics that have a blessing for sleeping pills or herbal remedies to help them sleep also have similar demeanors. The monastics who have a blessing to take Lorazepam for anxiety attacks, panic or stress also have similar doped out demeanors. However, the monastics who take antihistamines with pseudoephedrine are a little more alert and tweaked out (though in some monasteries the use of allergy medicine with pseudoephedrine is no longer blessed. This is because some monastics were abusing the medicine and taking it even when they had no allergy symptoms).
Dr. Grigoriou opens his article with his credentials, familiarity with Mount Athos and the fact that there are Hagiorite monks on psychotropic drugs. These things, he states, make him a “substantive qualifier” to address Monk Michael’s interview. Now, Dr. Grigoriou suggests any psychiatrist is quite capable of analyzing the subject. Someone in Dr. Grigoriou’s position must be aware that many Greek psychiatrists are atheists and have biases and predispositions against Christianity, especially the monastic life.
The deeper issue is when the showcase and external image of a monastery become more important than the individual monastics. How often does the showcase image lead to harm (either of a monastic or a laymen)? To what lengths will a monastery go—lying, perjury, gaslighting, cover-ups—what illegal activities will it commit, to ensure that its image remains spotless? And how do these methods damage individuals?
This is a classic example of monastic minimization of serious issues. Not to mention, Dr. Grigoriou is actually stigmatizing the mentally ill by indirectly calling them “abnormal,” when he states that the other monks are “happy and normal.”
Ostracizing does occur in monasteries. This usually happens when a monastic is not doing obedience or toeing the line. Many times, the superior may instruct the members of the brotherhood to ignore this individual, do not talk to him/her, walk away if this individual tries talking to you, etc. Ostracizing also occurs when one is punished in the Lity or given only rusks or one piece of fruit for a meal while everyone else has a full meal. Ostracizing erring monastics is suggested as an instructional technique by St. Basil the Great, St. John of the Ladder and many other Church Fathers.
This resembles a spiritual father’s reproach to his spiritual child; the wording is attempted to instill guilt. The author is playing the Judas card; a classic amongst the Elders. A similar tactic was used in the HOCNA circles when former monastics started revealing the homosexual abuses perpetrated by their Geronda, Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos. Ad hominen and straw man attacks and arguments were used against the former monastics that were sexually abused and raped. Gaslighting and dismissing them as deluded liars and Judas traitors was a common tactic used. In the last century, similar methods were used in other Orthodox scandal stories against the accusers/ whistle-blowers. In many of these situations, it eventually came to light that the accused were guilty and they ended up in prison or defrocked.
The island of Amoulianni, off the northwest coast of Athos, was once said to be run like a sort of ‘concentration camp’ for naughty monks. (See Ralph H. Brewster, The 6,000 Beards of Athos, 1935, p. 26). Up to early 1900s, Ammouliani was a dependency of Vatopedi Monasteryof Mount Athos. In 1925, the island was given in the refugees’ families who had come from islands of Propontis (Marmaras Sea), after Asia Minor Disaster. The population of the island was developed quickly and today the island has over 500 residents. Nowadays Ammouliani is a touristic place with frequent transportation with the opposite coast.
The Cassandra metaphor(variously labelled the Cassandra ‘syndrome’, ‘complex’, ‘phenomenon’, ‘predicament’, ‘dilemma’, or ‘curse’) occurs when valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved. The Cassandra metaphor is applied by some psychologists to individuals who experience physical and emotional suffering as a result of distressing personal perceptions, and who are disbelieved when they attempt to share the cause of their suffering with others. In 1963, psychologistMelanie Klein provided an interpretation of Cassandra as representing the human moral conscience whose main task is to issue warnings. Cassandra as moral conscience, “predicts ill to come and warns that punishment will follow and grief arise.” Cassandra’s need to point out moral infringements and subsequent social consequences is driven by what Klein calls “the destructive influences of the cruel super-ego,” which is represented in the Greek myth by the god Apollo, Cassandra’s overlord and persecutor. Klein’s use of the metaphor centers on the moral nature of certain predictions, which tends to evoke in others “a refusal to believe what at the same time they know to be true, and expresses the universal tendency toward denial, [with] denial being a potent defence against persecutory anxiety and guilt.” (See Klein, M., Envy and Gratitude- And Other Works 1946–1963)
NOTE: The following article, entitled They Take Psychotropic Drugs on Mount Athos, is a Free Press (ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΟΤΥΠΙΑ) Sunday insert magazine “E” (Έψιλον), Issue 524, 22/4/2001. Peter Papavasiliou interviews Monk Michael Haztiantoniou who lived as a monk in the Sinai desert for 11 years (1988-1998) and Mount Athos for 14 years (1973-1988).
After 14 years in Simonopetra Monastery, the Athonite monk raised his voice in protest about what is happening in the Athonite state. Today, Monk Michael lives alone in hesychia in the mountains of Corinth, in a cell allocated to him by some pious people. He writes his books from this cell. He has published 12 books so far and many of his accusations can be found recorded in them; he denounces “things and wonders” about the Athonite republic from homosexuality to heavy psychotropic drug addiction! http://aretimaurogianni2.blogspot.gr/2013/06/blog-post_6872.html
PP: Do the abbots in the monasteries of Mount Athos display authoritarian behavior?
MM: When they first appeared, these abbots projected themselves as charismatic personalities who had somehow received the mission from God to create a new model of monasticism.1 So, for many people these personalities were expressing hopes and dreams. They endeavoured, they created and built brotherhoods, monasteries, and were very actively involved. However, what all this activity has produced is significant. I can mention a conversation we had with Geronda Paisios on this subject. The basic question that disturbed me was: ‘Why is my generation, on the level of monks, while it presented refinement, culture, and sensitiveness—very positive signs for Geronda Paisios—did not yield spiritual fruitfulness?
PP: Do the abbots use special methods to persuade or to render all the monks conformable?’2
“I think that many Geronta Abbots started out differently and ended up otherwise. It was entirely different when the brotherhood numbered 6 to 7 monks and different when the same Geronda had more monks. In the beginning they organized it patristically and monastically. They had found a tradition on Mount Athos. Later, however, as the brotherhood grew, they started to ‘militarize’ it and treat it like a camp.”3
“Consistency and order had to be kept and a new element appeared which was crucial to the mentality of this organization: the showcase. They were extremely cautious in how they expressed themselves, regardless of how we lived and the things we said amongst ourselves. How will we appear? How will our showcase not be ‘scratched’? How can we ensure that our problems will not be heard about in Thessaloniki?”4
“I was present at the Assembly debate when some Abbot telephoned and said an Iveritis monk (i.e. a monk from Iveron Monastery) was found dead in Thessaloniki. This dead monk was a homosexual and had relations with two Romanians. It didn’t particularly trouble us because such incidents could occur in a large number of monks. But the Abbot whom it offended requested the Holy Community5 publish a paper which would state that this monk had no relationship with the Holy Mountain even though the victim was an Athonite monk for decades.”
“The Holy Community then discussed the matter and said: ‘How would we say this? Anyone would be able to overturn us since he hasn’t been erased from the Monastery…He is a canonical Hagiorite.’ This problem shows that that many Gerondas today have transferred their interest to the showcase.”
PP: What are the problems behind the showcase? In your books you maintain that a fraction of monks take heavy psychotropic drugs, even by the Abbot’s orders.6
MM: This was also a very great and sad realization for me. It was a painful decision to start disclosing and writing about these things. I did it after 25 years in monasticism though my realizations had occurred many years ago. After publishing certain books that mentioned psychiatric drugs, many monks came forward and assured me that what I write is very mild compared to the realities that are in force on Mount Athos.
PP: You mentioned in one of your books that a pharmacist from Thessaloniki, who was spiritually connected with some monastery on Mount Athos, was put in a difficult position when an Abbot requested boxes of heavy psychotropic drugs from him.7
MM: We say that this monastery is the chief representative of ‘noetic’ prayer (i.e. the continuous repetition of the phrase, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,’ which leads to illumination); meaning it represents whatever is the most spiritual at this time to dispose Orthodoxy towards contemporary issues.
PP: Which monastery are you referring to, Fr. Michael? In what monastery did this incident with the two boxes of psychiatric drugs occur?
MM: The incident concerns Filotheou Monastery and Geronda Ephraim is the abbot who wanted the psychotropic drugs.8
PP: One can contradict that half of Greece takes psychiatric drugs, anxiolytics, or whatever else.
MM: I do not tolerate this situation. I wish everyone could improve their psychological and spiritual condition with effort and balance their everyday life. But even more, I cannot tolerate this (i.e. taking psychiatric drugs) from the people who came to occupy themselves with a higher way of life, consequently to overcome their human elements and weaknesses and acquire what we call the angelic life.
PP: Namely, the sober, meek and bland lifestyle of many monks on Mount Athos is due to the influence of milligrams of sedatives?
MM: I’ll make a comparison with the Bedouin when I lived in Sinai for 11 years. I was responsible for some hermitages many kilometers away and I watched them basking in the sun with a wonderful smile because they used hashish. They called them ‘sacred plants’ there. They used hashish in their daily lives like tomatoes. They, too, were very meek, mild, smiling and sweet. Consequently, external behaviors and conduct do not suffice for me.9
PP: Let’s return to the Holy Mountain. You’ve written in your books that the abbot, in order to exert psychosomatic control, imposes “reactionary” monks and those who doubt his words every night to take a strong dose of sedative every night. Is this true?
MM: This isn’t a canona that you described, but it does happen. I asked a monk who made a pilgrimage to Sinai, ‘How did you take a psychotropic drug for the first time?’ He answered me, ‘The epitropos (i.e. the epitropos is the abbot’s replacement) put a bottle on the table and told me, ‘You will take one pill in the morning and one in the evening. Geronda sends this and you must drink it …’ As the young monk told me, that night he did ‘obedience’ and drank the medicine. I asked this monk what percentage of the monastery took psychiatric drugs. He replied, ‘A very large percentage of the monks.’
PP: The young monk spoke to you about large percentages of monks taking psychotropic drugs. Was he referring to his monastery or the Athonite monasteries in general?
MM: He spoke to me about his monastery. Of course, I never imagined that psychiatric drugs would find an application in such a large scale. There was a doctor who had continued in Karyes and had taken it upon himself to arrange the pharmacy in a monastery. He had seen the boxes of psychiatric drugs. Later, this doctor decided to become a monk.
PP: Even after seeing the boxes of psychiatric drugs?
MM: Yes indeed. He even became a monk at this monastery where he arranged the pharmacy.
PP: Which monastery?
MM: It is a famous monastery which has over 50 monks in its ranks.”
PP: Can you be more specific?
MM: No, because I think it becomes more personal empathy. Namely, I know these monks. They will say that Michael attacked us personally. I do not want to but if, for some reason, the Community of Mount Athos invites me, then I will speak about the details. I can speak about these things there. I don’t want to become too specific or, perhaps, the time hasn’t come yet … However, the responsibility for these things is transferred to the Abbot and 2-3 persons of his entourage who impose. There is some responsibility and I would even say legal responsibility. One enters a monastery without taking psychotropic drugs and then after 10 or 15 years he starts taking them—and this in a large percentage. Well, then, if our community was healthy, they would not have tolerated this so simply and mildly.
PP: Are there such incidents of people entering Mount Athos healthy and coming out addicted to soothing substances and sedatives?
MM: Yes, this happens quite a lot … (quietly and with a sense of shame). Recently, I spoke with a former Athonite monk who told me: ‘I want to find a channel to speak. They tested 30 psychotropic drugs on me. I lived simply and naturally for 15 years. How did I get on the list to become a guinea pig?’
PP: Did you ever see them moving boxes (i.e. of psychotropics) on Mount Athos during the years you lived there as a monk?
MM: No, I didn’t know about these things. I saw the boxes but didn’t know what they contained exactly.
PP: You thought that they were simple drugs…
MM: Yes. For example, a monk had sent me once to buy medicine when I was out. He had given me a list. At the pharmacy, the pharmacist looked me over well and good.
PP: At the pharmacy in Thessaloniki?
MM: Yes. He asked me, ‘Who do you want these drugs for?’ I told him that I wanted them for a monk. He told me, ‘Father, did you know that these drugs are very heavy and we do not dispense them without a prescription?’ Then I thought they didn’t have the drugs I sought and went to another pharmacy where they told me exactly the same things. When I asked what these drugs were that no one could give me, the pharmacist answered, ‘My Father, I cannot give you these drugs without a prescription and without knowing who they are intended because they are very heavy psychotropics.’ Well, I was very irritated with the monk who sent me.
PP: In other conversations, Fr. Michael, you have revealed to me that many Athonite monks frequently visit a psychiatrist. Is this a fact?
MM: The first is in Thessaloniki. He does therapeutic exercise. He knows the mindset of the monks very well and is very familiar with them. Many monks go to him and they always start talking about the uncreated light (i.e., the indication of the Holy Spirit’s presence that surrounds spiritual monks with brightness) and noetic prayer.”
PP: Does this psychiatrist visit Mount Athos as a family physician?
MM: Yes, he also practises on Mount Athos but the monks visit him in Thessaloniki for more comprehensive treatment. There was an incident where a monk jumped from his balcony and they pulled him out there at a seaside monastery. Fortunately, the monk lived…
PP: As long as the incident is in the past, can we disclose it?
MM: And yet it never became known.
PP: In what monastery did this suicide attempt occur?
MM: Firstly, as the boat goes … However, some specific questions preoccupy me: 1) Why would a monk not be able to leave from a place where he reached a dead end?—because we’re talking about before authoritarianism. 2) If a monk attempted suicide, does the abbot have the right to keep him close by his side? I don’t think so. We know that we all became monks to claim a right, to give rest to our little hearts, to satisfy a spiritual longing, a thirst we have in life. How did these children reach such a tragic point and how did it not become an issue?
PP: Are there many suicide attempts on Mount Athos?10
MM: I know of an incident where a monk had set himself on fire.11
PP: What year was that?
MM: It occurred in 1994 approximately.
PP: Did this happen in a monastery or skete?
MM: In a monastery. Things are much milder in the sketes.”
PP: Who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in Panagia’s Garden?
MM: Two sides are responsible (i.e. he means the abbots and the monks). However, I think the head is implicated more since he is able to sanitize the emergent. For the emergent comes and is delivered to him with an almost absolute confidence. I would like to see cases of some healthy personalities, open-minded, free, to operate without complex, oppression, etc. We have not seen this yet…
PP: The matter of psychotropic drugs has never been raised to the assembly of the Holy Community?
MM: From what I know, no.”
PP: Only the issue of homosexual relations was raised when and if an outbreak occurred.
MM: Many epidemic cases—indeed, some time ago, an old Athonite monk called me UFO and he expected me to be shrewd. There were cliques in Karyes, or in whatever cell, where we met famous monks and they waited for when I would leave so they could manifest more freely. I treated them all so naturally that I confused them. And so one monk asked me, ‘Well, do you not understand anything about what is happening?’ And he continued in the same tone: ‘Did such and such a monk never suspect you? Let me tell you that there is a cassette which has recorded conversations.’ I answered: ‘But I was friends with him for so many years. When did these things happen?’ And he answered: ‘That is why I call you UFO.’ Yes, homosexual issues have been raised at the Assembly, but I no longer believe in this institution to speak honestly, frankly, at a cost. For many years, decades, I saw that the showcase is their priority and I can also say at some point their economy became their priority. Not an economy in ecclesiastical terms, but rather a ‘practical’ economy, namely, the covering up of everything.
Fr. Michael, do you want to compliment/supplement something?
MM: I would like to emphasize that the children today on Mount Athos (i.e. he means the monks) are very good kids. The love, they look at you with clean eyes. I speak for the majority because there are certainly a very small number of monks who have a pure heart. We said the heads share a large portion of the responsibility…
Monk Michael is referring mainly to the disciples of Elder Joseph the Hesychast—Elders Ephraim, Haralambos and Joseph—who took charge of 6 of the 20 main monasteries on Mount Athos in the 60s and 70s.
In the 60s and 70s, many of the Athonite monks had issue with what they viewed as young upstarts (i.e. Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s disciples) starting a new brand of monasticism. Furthermore, many of the Athonite Fathers believed Elder Joseph and his synodia were deluded. Some of the more vocal Athonite opponents of Geronda Ephraim were St. Paisios the Athonite, St. Porphyrios the the Kapsokalyvite, Monk Moses the Athonite, and Archimandrite Vasileiosof Iveron (then Abbot of the Stavronikita).
Some of Geronda Ephraim’s former monastics—both in Greece and North America—have remarked that the structure and atmosphere in the monastery was very oppressive and like a boot camp. Some have expressed that it was like a prison camp without the physical torture but rather with lots of psychological and emotional abuse.
This “showcase” mentality still prevails in Geronda Ephraim’s North American monasteries. One of the main obediences for all his monastics is: “At all costs, do not scandalize the lay people. I do not want to hear complaints from pilgrims. No matter what, always show a good representation of monasticism to the pilgrims.” This is called “front stage” behaviour; i.e. this is the behaviour they want pilgrims to see, however, it does not represent in actuality the truth of what goes on behind closed doors—“backstage behaviour.” When a pilgrim witnesses an action unbecoming of a monastic, or expresses being scandalized due to something a monastic has done or said, then there will be some very serious consequences for that monastic individual. Sometimes this can also include a serious yelling rebuke in front of the scandalized victim to shame and humiliate the monk and appease the pilgrim. No doubt the entire brotherhood/sisterhood will be summoned for a homily where this monastic will be centered out, rebuked and humiliated. This is also done as a warning to the other monastics and to instill fear. Furthermore, the individual monastic will end up in the Lity at the end of the church services confessing their sin and begging every individual leaving for forgiveness.
Athos is governed by the “Holy Community” (Ιερά Κοινότητα – Iera Koinotita) which consists of the representatives of the 20 Holy Monasteries, having as executive committee the four-membered “Holy Administration” (Ιερά Επιστασία – Iera Epistasia), with the Protos (Πρώτος) being its head. Civil authorities are represented by the Civil Governor, appointed by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose main duty is to supervise the function of the institutions and the public order. The current Civil Governor is Aristos Kasmiroglou.
In St. Anthony’s Monastery, one of the monks was on anti-depressants before he entered the monastery and out of economia, Geronda Ephraim allowed him to continue. There have been unsubstantiated rumors of other monastics on psychiatric drugs, too. A monk at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) entered the monastery taking Ritalin for his ADHD. Geronda Joseph made him stop his prescription immediately and he hasn’t taken any prescriptions for his condition since. There is a blessing for abbots/abbesses, and their second-in-commands to take things like Lorazepam (or other anxiolytics) when they suffer from severe anxiety or panic attacks—something which is frequent in their line of work. As well, on numerous occasions, Fr. Germanos of St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery in Roscoe, NY, has given homilies about psychiatric and emotional problems being a direct result of a disciple’s disobedience. In these homilies, he has mentioned the fact that many Hagiorites who had been monastics for 15-25 years are suffering from mental illness as a fruit of all the disobediences they had committed. It was unknown if Fr. Germanos was also referring to himself and his own experiences, something the Athonite Fathers do many times when giving cautionary homilies.
Many of Geronda Ephraim’s North American monasteries have a Greek Orthodox doctor, who is also devoted pilgrim. In some cases, a monastery may also have a monastic who is a doctor. In the early days, many of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics did not have any medical insurance. Usually the superior and second-in-command would have private insurance. The monasteries bypassed expensive medical costs by having the loyal and obedient doctor write prescriptions for all their monastics without insurance in the names of those who had insurance. Also, these doctors would also put aside all the free medical samples they received from pharmaceutical companies (if they were medicines the monastics used) and “donate” them to the monasteries. Thus, most monasteries have a large medicine cabinet full of antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs, psychotropic drugs (low doses which are said to be useful for pain), muscle relaxants, prescription pain killers, etc.
Interestingly, Geronda Joseph (Ioannis) Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, is from Thessaloniki. He was also a pharmacist and earned his degree at the University of Thessaloniki.
Though the main emphasis in Geronda Ephraim’s monastery is blind obedience and the Jesus Prayer, external behaviour and conduct also has a very serious importance. Essentially, ‘fake it until you make it.’
Fr. Germanos of St. Nektarios Monastery, Rosoce, NY, has stated in homilies that there is a high suicide rate on Mount Athos. The Gerontikon and Synaxarion are filled with many cautionary tales about monastics who have become deluded or fallen into such despair that they attempted suicide. There are also many cautionary tales about those monastics who succeeded in killing themselves.
NOTE: The following account is a testimony from a young man who lived as a sub-novice in Arizona for six months. It was written on November 21, 2008 and is found on a forum called Ex-Christian.net. Nikos writes a little bit about Scott Nevins near the end. This blog has elucidated on some of Nikos’ words with “[Ed. Note].”
For anybody that has read my posts, I now have documented evidence of the mind bending that went on with my life, all after doing a simple Google search.
It seems that I was involved with a cult that has not only gained National attention but Global, extending especially back to Greece itself, Mt Athos in particular.
I was 6 months in residence at the monastery when I left, I decided not to become a novice despite the attempts of my Hieromonk and elder monks to convince me to leave the world, not because I didn’t believe their doctrine, I was about as convinced as anyone there of the beliefs, but because I wanted to marry, I wasn’t being healed of my depression or physical pain and because I think some deep part of me knew to run.
This is a video I found of St Anthony’s as they were being investigated, I knew Fr Nikos from seeing him around a lot but I was friends with and worked side by side with Fr Paul (Pavlos) who was conveniently re-named, while I was there, apparently the same time as a lot of inquiries were taking place, I did not know of the controversy nor the inquiries at the time, I believed we called him Father although he was not yet tonsured since he was so in step with the monastery, like an honorary title, when he was tonsured he was given a different name, as is custom, but I know it is to further the disassociation with the self in hindsight…On to the video, it is cut into two parts and i included the link to a webpage because it also exposes the monastery as a cult and was my initial source for the video…… http://pseudo-prophet.tripod.com/[Dead link; there is a back up site here: http://gerondaephraim.tripod.com/backup1.html%5D
Fr Paul, I decline to state his new name out of respect for his adult decision to become a Monk at St Anthony’s, became a quick friend to me due to his sincerity, his friendliness and the fact that before I became involved in the Eastern Orthodox Church I was training to become a Navy SEAL, and Fr Paul had asked for a discharge from the Navy while preparing to do the same thing, he had been a medal winning Swimmer in his high school and I think joined the Navy right afterwards….so we had common ground and that sparked many discussions as we labored in the blazing Arizona sun, planting trees for Jesus, intermittently reciting the Unceasing Prayer, Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me (Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy On Me).
The other monk I do not know by face as its not fully bearded nor partly covered with a cassock in the picture shown, nor by name as that would have been changed (maybe I missed something)….I have my assumptions though, yet another close friend during my stay.
This is just an insight into my definition of cult mentality when I refer to myself on the forum here, I WAS THERE!!!!!! I lived the life.
I am going to continue to post as I find new information, as for know I would like to get the ball rolling.
This is tragic, truly tragic to learn, although the truth is what I want, and need.
For the record,
I was told the Elder Ephraim was taught this by his spiritual Fr on Mt Athos, Father Joseph (Papou Josef) and that one time Fr Ephraim had been plagued with pride and was found beating himself mercilessly with “the cane” in his cell, or a small church on the mountain. The story goes that he was heard to be confessing his sinful pride, beating the shit out of himself while at the same time screaming at himself to “Stop…STOP”, he continued on and was purged of pride and it has never returned to him to this day.
I began to use this practice of caning myself while at the monastery, I continued with it a short while after returning home.
I was also told that martyrdom would be my only salvation unless I was a baptized Orthodox Christian following the standards perfectly, even then I was told martyrdom most likely awaited all of us Orthodox….and that the monks and nuns would be the first to be eradicated by the government and so on. And even then, after death I would be taken to 20 toll booths where I could still fall and be dragged to hell by demons. St John Climacus created an icon depicting the saints ascending the ladder to heaven, while being surrounded by flying demonic presences, being pulled down at different points by failing.
One story that haunted me mercilessly was that of a monk who had died, passed 19 of the tolls and when he had done this looked at Satan and exclaimed “I beat you, you were defeated by me” which resulted in his being cast into the lake of fire for failing the test of the 20th toll, the test of “Pride”.
A MONK!!!!!! Who had devoted his life to Christ and left the world, living a damned near sinless life and working out his salvation to the extreme, wasn’t even safe after death…which by the way, isn’t pretty either, at death your soul is ripped and cut from your body by angels or demons, a myth is that it is so horrible the virgin Mary prayed to her son that she be spared this torment and so was granted to be taken to heaven by Jesus himself as he fended off the harvesting angels (demons).
These are the thoughts I deal with daily, to remove them from their etched position in my mind and heart……years and years of this stuff and i am about 5 weeks out of the box, 5 weeks into de-conversion.
I wonder if any of you had gone this far into your cult? If so please leave a testimony on this thread. Someone asked Nikos: I watched one of the news videos, and they said there were “improper teachings” in the monastery, but I didn’t really get what they were referring to. Do you know what they meant with it?
There are so many…let me add a few I was taught off the top of my head:
• You’re abbot has become Christ for you, if you follow the abbot to the letter you fulfill your requirements as a Christian, if you have done anything wrong under the abbot’s guidance you will not be judged, he will [Ed.Note: In essence, the only way a monk can err in obedience is by doing disobedience. Things that would be considered sins, even ‘minor’ things like lying, white-collar crimes, etc. are not wrong if done under obedience. The elder is responsible for the order given; the monk is responsible and will be judged on whether he did it or not]
• If you disobey the abbot it is the same as disobeying god.
• The more you dedicate your life to Christ, the more accountable you are for your sins, thereby raising the bar hourly of whether you will make it into heaven
• Married couples should live as brother and sister, only engaging in sexual intercourse for the purpose of conception, and having to confess the sexual act nevertheless as a “weakness of the flesh”
• The Aerial Toll Houses, after death you are ripped from your body to the astral plane and are questioned by demons for 2 days each at 20 levels, although this is a conceptual image of a spiritual teaching, it is basically 40 days worth of judgement, the 20 levels being the 7 deadly sins plus 13 extra variations. At anytime you may fail and be cast into the lake of fire. You DO NOT WANT TO GO TO THE ORTHODOX LAKE OF FIRE….it’s the revelation of St peter but worse. Therefore the Orthodox pray for 40-42 days after the death of a baptized Orthodox Christian to assist them in their ascent through the aerial toll houses. Many monks even are said to fail these judgements and be thrown to perdition.
• The Elder can levitate [Ed.Note: Many stories are in circulation of children seeing the Elder walking in the air. As well, there is the story about the woman who went to stab him in the confessional and he was levitating so she couldn’t reach him].
• The Elder can read your thoughts [Ed.Note: This is one of the main things that make new monks and nuns tremble around the Elder; especially if they’re having sinful thoughts].
• The Elder has reached Theoria and already been perfected, he walks as Christ on the earth (this is gleaned but not actually said) [Ed.Note: This is not gleaned, it is outright said. The writer was only a sub-novice and would not have been privy to inner circle knowledge, unless an older monk blabbed things he shouldn’t have].
• The Elder can bi-locate in order to check on his monasteries in different parts of the world [Ed. note: In 2006, Geronda Ephraim was giving a homily to lay people in the Trapeza at St. Anthony’s Monastery. While his explaining this ability to them, he stated, “I’ve already left twice to check on my monasteries while I was talking, and you didn’t even notice.” One Geronda stated, “Geronda isn’t omnipresent like God, but he’s almost like God. He sees and knows everything that happens in his monasteries. He’s watching us and protecting us.”]
• The Elder’s prayers can pretty much guarantee you entrance into heaven [Ed.Note: Furthermore, for the monks, Geronda Ephraim talks about a vision where it was revealed that the monks and nuns who stay with him until the end will be saved. Of course, there is still the clause of doing blind obedience and the other monastic duties, but if a monk and nun remains in the monastery until death, he/she are pretty much guaranteed salvation].
• You must confess your thoughts. Whereas most Xtian teachings condemn behavior and make mention of lustful thoughts and prideful thoughts….at the monastery you are to confess your every thought, good or bad. [Ed.Note: Elder Ephraim has repeatedly told the story from Agapios’ Salvation of Sinners about the nun who was virtuous and seemed holy. After she died she appeared to her Gerondissa and told her she was in hell because she didn’t confess a thought out of embarrassment].
• I was taught that the day the Roman Catholic Church was allowed to hold mass in Constantinople, the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) who had been protecting the city from the Turkish invasion, left and that is why Constantinople fell.
• I was also taught that within the walls of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, where this occurred, there was a secret Liturgy going on hidden inside the walls, Turkish soldiers stormed in and as the sword was about to pierce the presiding Priest time was frozen in such a manner that special Orthodox who are completely gifted with the holy spirit have spiritually visited this room and seen over the centuries that there is a slight movement of the sword towards the priest, we were taught that when the sword strikes the priest time will unfreeze, this will be like the last martyr and this announces the reign of the Antichrist. [Ed.Note: The marble king myth is not a teaching accepted or taught by the Orthodox Fathers. It originates in gnostic and apocryphal texts, and was taught to Geronda Ephraim by the bishop who ordained him. However, in some homilies, the Elder mentions he has seen it, or he gives updates on how far the sword is out of the sheath].
• Demons are everywhere, especially at the monasteries, since the world is already run by the devil.
• I was told of a 3 month exorcism that took place and met the man who this was done to. I do not know if he was severely mentally disturbed during this time and brought back to sanity or what the hell happened because everybody backs up what they saw and heard, I am at a loss with this one, this was a biggie when I was there.
• I was taught that during this exorcism, many saints including Paul and Michael the Archangel joined in the exorcism fighting the demons within this man, but that the Elder’s Elder, from Mt Athos wielded the most power (no shit hah?)
• Priests were “worldy” if they trimmed their beards
• Women should be avoided as they caused the fall
• Women are blessed by the theotokos as she brought the Savior into the world
• Mirrors are forbidden [Ed.Note: This stems from the teachings of St. Nikodemos On Guarding the Sense of Vision: “I beseech you, dear friend, have nothing to do with such vanity and condemnable pleasure. Have nothing to do with such mirrors. And if you happen to have them, please have them taken away as altogether improper for the Christian way of life.” This is why all the mirrors are covered in the monastery bathrooms. Also, monks or nuns who remove corners of this covering get huge canonas when they confess this sin-or if it is discovered first through the random cell searches the Abbot and Abbesses perform]
• Orthodox chanting and Classical music are only allowed (thank the lord I brought my Bach and Wagner)
• Wake up is at 12 AM, you are to pray and meditate performing prostrations and.or work until the morning service begins at 3AM, Liturgy follows immediately lasting until 7-8 AM then there is breakfast and work, lunch (trapeza) is around noon, then work, there is church again at 3 or 4 until dinner around 630 then compline service until approx 730, 8PM-12AM is quiet time.
• That’s about all I care to remember for now, I have to watch the video again, I thought it and the website offered more info.
TBH, there is so much in Orthodoxy that most ExCs here wouldn’t even know due to lack of exposure that I am probably passing over what are considered to be small scale erroneous teachings to them but outrageous to a protestant or Catholic in the first place…..let me find some links and I will post them as I can, believe me when I say the followers of Elder Ephraim do a lot within the church to stop members of the Orthodox Church from speaking against him, and not many non-orthodox know anything about him or the monasteries.
I believe I am moving forward and facing the past. I know my first few weeks of de-conversion, right when I started here on ExC I was very bitter and enraged, confused, frightened full of hatred and blame. I took a few days off from even talking about it, I think almost a week, which for me these days is a long time. I tried to find some peace, make some sense and decided to look towards solutions more than looking at the problems, I think I am doing well in widening the gap between the two. I also am finding moments where I feel a peace, just for a moment and I remember what life was like before Xtianity. And at other times I feel a sense of “now” that I can live with, it is my hope I can experience these moments for a longer duration. When I am in them I feel a distance from what I can only describe as living in a nightmare, and in those moments I feel the nightmare may be ending. I’m only a handful of weeks into the deprogramming state and its been a rough battle finding the proper information out there to help me as a guide, when you’ve thought one way about everything for so long, there’s nothing really to revert to, so I need a lot of outside stimuli.
So as far as leaving it all behind, I cannot learn from what I have been through and undo the thinking patterns I was taught, nor get out of it if I don’t know what I am getting “out of”, thus the search, the questions, the confusion.
I don’t hate the people at the monastery, in fact I have more love in my heaRt for the monks than anything, I don’t believe they know what is happening to them at all, and the ones that do realize or see what is going on are the ones stepping forward. I don’t want to blame them I want to see them for who they really are and the things they teach for what they really are.
They are of the nicest, caring, loveable humans I have ever met, and there is definitely a “presence” of some sort there at the monastery, it’s a very peaceful feeling, a loving feeling, it’s quite tangible, I don’t know how to describe it other than to say when I got there, I believed that to be “God”, and now that I don’t believe the same things I am hard pressed to define it, but whatever it is it is beautiful and they are a part of it.
Perhaps by a power or just the workings of nature they are rewarded for being such kind and loving people in spite of what they believe I do not know.
They have a leader and this leader was raised in Greece in a strong Orthodox home, I believe he went to live on the mountain of Monks at 19 and came to America in the early ’90s, he’s like 78 or so now, so he probably spent 40 years as an Athonite Monk, and they really have no outside influence except the select few daily visitors (all male) which are restrained by regulations not to discuss certain things anyway…so the man knows only this life, its like he’s in spiritual Flatland. He probably believes and practices what he preaches to the bone, but i am giving him the benefit of the doubt. The Orthodox Church has a pretty rigid hierarchy and he has people to answer to.
The abbot of the monastery is a different story, I felt he was very political rather than spiritual to be honest and he is one sharp tack so I wasn’t impressed by his evasive answers or his snobbery when I was in confession, but he did me no harm personally ever….that I know of.
I guess what I am working through here is that I believe you are correct in that they are just as lost as I was, except the possibility of a couple of the elders, they are mostly all True Believers IMHO. So that is why these things need to be discussed and talked about, the controversies surrounding the monastery are also vehicles to bring these matters to the attention of the spiritual leaders of the Monastery and thus the “innocence” begins to wane and they become more and more accountable for their actions, so far there has been no change in the workings of the place, the last I heard while I was there was that when the Elder hears of people who denounce him or accuse him he claims that Christ will “Give me more crowns”….perhaps he is absolutely convinced and yet another pawn of this Religious structure……
Sorry for being so “long winded”, I have to really work through these things when I write of them and I want to be as accurate and open minded as possible because I want the truth and I share a responsibility to others reading this that I will not deceive them as well concerning these matters.
As for the positive things I took from the Monastery, the Byzantine Chanting is friggin’ awesome…the head Cantor was handpicked by the Elder and he is a master of sound, I used to refer to his singing as being “Not of this world” and I meant it, I would love to be able to find my St Anthony’s Vigil CD that they sell at the bookstore, it’s all in Ancient Greek, the words are written in English and Greek inside the jacket and if you don’t know Greek, it won’t indoctrinate you =)
Mind you this man is speaking for the entire Orthodox Church and he is not of the cloth, this isn’t Protestantism, this is the Orthodox Church, they go by the book, not going before the unbelievers, they try to keep everything “In-house”….I just found this youtube series and will be watching it and posting according to what I know, I know it will be a healthy way to separate the wheat from the chaff =) in my head
This may give you some insight into the “Don’t think, just follow” mindset of Orthodoxy, as far as I know they are the strongest proponents in Christianity concerning blind obedience to the Clergy, I’ve never seen anything like it in Christianity.
… Women have very strict dress codes in many of the churches, depending on the Priest or the Abbott if it’s a Monastery and I’ve kinda seen them treated as “necessary functions” in the human race, instead of well…women.
I was told by the Abbot of St Anthony’s Monastery that marriage was only necessary in order to create a way for me not to sin, absolutely bewildered by what I was hearing I said “If nobody had sex, the human race would end, in fact it would have ended before Christ could be born..IN FACT Christ’s mother wouldn’t have been born in order to bear Jesus, so I don’t understand”…I was told that the necessity for sexual relations occurred at the fall, when I asked “Then how could Adam and Eve be fruitful and multiply?” I was told that it would have been done without sexual intercourse. I said “How?” and I was kinda scoffed at and told “God is God, He can make a way for life to be reproduced without sexual relations, don’t ask me how, I don’t know how because we never made it that far so we have no way of knowing”……
I was like ….UHHHHHHH????
The Orthodox, like the Catholic Church allow no women to be clergy, only the exception of female monastics in higher ranks than the common nun, in any other case they are forbidden to teach.
Im sure there are exceptions as this is a worldwide organization but this is the general rule.
Men are over women, as Paul stated, they go by the book on that one.
And they are treated with respect, mind you, but there is a lot of unspoken rules and regulations concerning this, but here in America it pretty much remains unspoken, but the general answer you will get when asking about a woman’s status is that she is less than the man and that Woman brought sin upon the man.
Now the reason I put the statement about the Theotokos in Juxta-position to that is going to be something unknown to you unless you had been in these circles, so I apologize again for not being clear, like I said, I was in this so long I sometimes forget what is and isn’t “normal’ in mainline Xtianity.
Besides God, the Theotokos is THE MOST VENERATED SAINT, but they claim so much more knowledge and revelation about her…to be honest, this is the one part of discussing this that makes me uneasy, I always have and still do have love for the idea of Mary, and my daughter who passed away was named after her because of the love I was given for her while Catholic (Never confirmed, only went through Catechism partially), and then more so in Orthodoxy, she is probably the most overwhelming Archetype for me due to personal reasons.
In Orthodox Iconostasis you will always find Jesus, the Saint the building or site is named after and an icon of the Theotokos. And the emphasis about her is due, considering the belief that God brought salvation into the world through a human mother…they go into great detail about her life and how she was THE ONLY WOMAN who could have bore the Christ child, so in that sense you would get the impression that they see women as equals or even as greater like we see in some cultures and religious practices, but you don’t get that, you get the dirty, sinful, necessity of the woman in order to produce children.
I have never seen women treated cruelly though, it’s just an underlying atmosphere of women being less than men, and some off the wall shit from certain people that make them look like they almost shouldn’t exist….I’m guessing the Abbott had something in mind like that movie where Arnold was pregnant….CREEPY.
Hope that clears that up…yes it is a contradiction.
I also saw in many cases where women were respected very much so it’s all about who’s doing the teaching and what church you are in…it’s not written in stone exactly, it’s one of those things you pick up when you’re amongst them.
…In Orthodoxy you don’t get personal opinions on the true gospel, you join the Orthodox Church only if you swear to adhere to the teachings of the church, if you don’t believe their version of it then you don’t become a member, so I am guessing that you can have two improper views this way
An improper view within Orthodoxy being contradicted by the Monastery and Improper according to a personal belief of anybody that doesn’t believe the gospel according to the Monastery, but what is in question amongst the Orthodox who are saying this is former, the monastery is deviating from what the Orthodox church teaches, therefore if the Lady is orthodox, she has it within her stance as a baptized member of the Church to cite Canon law against the teachings of anybody within the church, in this case the Monastery.
… the Eyewitness news reporter “For the past 8 months, the Eyewitness News 4 investigators have been documenting several families claims of brainwashing and inappropriate teachings at St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery…..” … she’s reporting on THE DOCUMENTATION OF SEVERAL FAMILIES CLAIMS OF BRAINWASHING AND INAPROPRIATE TEACHINGS AT ST ANTHONY’S GREEK ORTHODOX MONASTERY.
She’s reporting on the claims of the 3 families. She later stated that 3 families had come to them, 2 of which are Greek Orthodox, this would be the families of Nikos Pantanizopoulos and Paul Aleck.
The Orthodox families are part of the Church proper, so they can state that the teachings of the Monastery are inappropriate in both ways, any way that is dehumanizing to their child, and in the realest sense, inappropriate as determined by Orthodox Canon Law. The reporter never spoke for her own opinions, she is speaking on their behalf, and speaking OF THEM.
The other father, the non-Orthodox can certainly find out what Orthodox proper teaches and ascertain that his son is being taught inappropriate teachings according to the Orthodox church simply by speaking with clergy on the matter, and again, his son is beating the shit out of his thigh with a wooden stick for having imperfect thoughts, believing in the aerial toll houses where the demons are judging the souls of baptized Orthodox Xtians, being taught that the Elders of Sion are plotting against the Monastery and the Orthodox Church etc., etc.
Again, she isn’t taking a stance, she’s speaking on behalf of the families….Also, inappropriate isn’t judged by 30,000 denominations, the Orthodox Church doesn’t even consider Protestants to be Xtians, they consider them heretics, schismatics, a Protestant must go through Catechism and baptism, including an exorcism before becoming Orthodox, they believe that only the Orthodox Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ due to their sole claim of Apostolic Succession and their belief that the Holy Spirit doesn’t bless the Communion of the schismatic Roman Church, in their eyes the Protestants are completely lost and know nothing of the Gospel and need to find true salvation though the Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholics were a Patriarchate until 1054 AD when the final blow, the Filioque clause was added to the Nicene Creed and the Patriarch of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople Ex-communicated each other, later the land of Rus was brought in to create the missing 5th Patriarchate and in their eyes Rome is worse than being a Protestant.
They don’t care about any gospel but the Orthodox gospel, anything they deem as inappropriate is deemed so by looking into their own Tradition and Teachings collected over the past 2000 years and if it is out of whack then it is labeled heresy and is worthy of ex-communication.
They are so strict and rigid for a reason, they are in no way like the Protestants who have now come up with 30,000 sects in 450 years. They don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they believe in the inerrancy of the Orthodox Church, in their eyes, the Xtians wrote the gospels and epistles, passed them through Apostolic succession until the council of Nicea and the Orthodox Church voted on the Canon of scripture, the Orthodox Church preserved it through the ages by copying manuscripts, spreading the gospel and by shedding the blood of the martyrs to preserve the faith, right on through the Great Schism with Rome in 1054, through the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, right up to this very day….There is no Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide, there is Ortodoxon Xristianon. BTW I just realized who Scott Nevins is, the non-Orthodox convert.
I was at the Monastery when he came back from Mt Athos, that’s when I met him. He was made a novice while I was there…holy shit..we sat for hours on end telling stories about the Xtian life and about becoming monks, he lost so much weight it was frightening during the 49 days of fasting in Lent, thats why they make special mention of his photographs. He took on this real brooding appearance, began to walk in a hunched posturing for humility or something, barely ate, shit he cut out tomatoes, potatoes and peppers because the man that was supposedly exorcised there for 3 months said that since those food belong to the nightshade family they are neuro-toxins, which they are, AT TRACE LEVELS, so he had to eat even less of the little food allowed for thos entering the novitiate or the rest of the monks AND it was during Great Lent with all the food regulations, he got real pale and gaunt, he was dragging his boots as he walked, none of us knew he was entering the novitiate, he kept that to himself, out of humility I guess….I never understood why he thought that. Then one day he was a Man In Black.
Feel free to visit anytime, just call ahead to reserve a cell, ask for Pater Markellos, he’ll do you right up
Kyrie Iesou Xpiste Eleisov Me
Eper Ayia Theotoke Soson Emas.
Click on the little doo wah ditty button on the left for a sample of their chanting, the best thing to come out of that place……. http://www.stanthony…y.org/index.php
Tais tov tha criov sou roes….
I was just checking this thread to find the Youtube link to my Home Church priest, see I had a home Church cult and then the Monastery, so I actually left 2 cults at the same time, one is Antiochian Orthodox and the other was the Greek Orthodox, they are both in communion so there was no qualms about me having the Ant. as my home base church and also become a Greek Orth. monk.
Back when things were real bad, while I was a catechumen the priest-monk told me not to seek medical care in certain instances, I was pushed away from seeing a psychiatrist or even any counselling. I was told that the Nous, the eye of the soul which is the power, the I in Greek understanding was energetically destroyed and fragmented, that Satan had 100% rights over me and that I COULD NOT become psychologically well until baptism, they dangled baptism over my head for more than 3 years, I was forced to confess many sins that were committed due to my physical and psychological imbalances then had the cure withheld from me, by telling me not to seek secular help as well as not baptizing me.
So I was basically being broken down on purpose.
It was officially confirmed that I needed an exorcism of my house, and my home priest never even got around to doing it, a priest in a neighboring city came by to perform the rituals. I was told by my priest-monk that the Elder of the monastery wanted me to be so spiritually strong that I could be sitting in my house with things flying around the room like in the movie Poltergeist, and sit without being affected and be able to repeat the Jesus prayer non-stop, I was told by my priest-monk that this was my spiritual goal. Therefore the exorcism was done by my request in secret at my home base.
So I was being told that on the one hand I was to become a spiritual warrior and NOT have the proper Orthodox exorcisms and cleansings and be immediately baptised to protect me…….then I was being told that I had absolutely no power to do so because of the condition of the Nous before baptism.
I was told all psychological problems were to be spiritually healed, yet I was denied the healing which is Exorcism of the Catechumen, denouncing Satan, having hands laid on, being baptized and born of the spirit immediately aligning the Nous, then receiving the “True Eucharist”, the body and blood of Christ which would absolve me of every single sin committed, all this on the day of baptism.
In fact talking about it now, my mind is saying “You are deceived, you are now in the dark, you were so close and you blew it….” That’s how powerful they made my becoming Orthodox seem to me.
For years I was enticed with what would happen at that event, how i would become alive from the dead.
I was told so many stories of miraculous baptisms, the Orthodox pride themselves concerning their spiritual powers…I was told numerous miracle stories about first communion, that the neophyte would experience total catharsis as well as euphoria, I was told that at baptism I would be absolutely in touch with god until the first sin committed after baptism, which would begin the cycle of sin/confession/absolution/communion. The stories of baptism are so amazing that many plan ahead to go and be alone somewhere for days and weeks after baptism in order to retain the full blown connection with God, pray for all their needs at this time and they would be answered, read books and know their meaning, read scripture and be instantly enlightened. I was to be baptized at the Monastery when the time came and was to spend weeks alone in my cell with pre picked books, audio tapes, CDs and food brought to me.
As I have found out how much psychological damage was done to me now that I have learned what it was they were doing and teaching and how it affected me, I am trying to find a specialist in de-programming….to be honest, I am going to post this but I am sure i will have to EDIT a lot of it later today, I can actually feel my mind fighting itself and becoming confused.
I am willing to bet this entire post is fragmented and hard to follow…I can’t get my thoughts straight, the words aren’t coming out the way I would normally be able to.
I am going to post it as a testimony to the power of the brain washing and finish it up later, hopefully it made I have sent numerous emails to the monastery and have received no replies
As far as I know, they know nothing of my de-conversion, these attempts to contact them were made over the last year, I think that they somehow got wind of me telling my home priest to shine on and have labeled me a paraya (sp?).
I think I am going to get a professional involved as well as contact the media who have already looked into the problems there, I want some closure and I want my voice heard.
I want to be able to put this behind me and I can’t do that without making my story heard, they need to know and I need to know that they know. enough sense for you to understand how much control they had over me. http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/27554-st-anthonys-greek-orthodox-monastery-now-im-on-psych-meds/#.VHkCCmfp-Sp
In 2011, a lay disciple of Geronda Ephraim, using the name zealot777, posted the following: “Saint Anthony’s Monastery is in perfectly good standing with the Greek Archdiocese and World Orthodoxy as a whole. There is nothing cultic about them. If they were operating in an independent fashion outside their jurisdiction, yet claiming to belong to it, then I might have some concerns. But everything they do is Orthodox. The author of this thread is probably just unfamiliar with the Orthodox ascetical lifestyle. I have visited the monastery twice. They’re wonderful people. That the author is now on psych meds, does not prove the monastery is to blame.”
Chikirin responded, “We are ex christians therefore we believe all of Christendom is a cult (at least I do any way)”
And a moderator reiterated the forum rules: “Christians are not allowed to evangelize or debate their beliefs in the Testimonies Forum. The Lions Den forum on this site is open for that. Please carefully read and respect the rules of this forum before posting in here”
The forum is now locked.