Similarities between Guruism and Gerontolatry Part III

The third part of this study is based on a chapter in Dionysios Farasiotis’ book, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Greek Edition). This chapter is called The Influence of Yoga on the Body and the Mind. It is only found in the Greek edition on pages 381-393. For some reason, the translator Fr. Alexis Trader (who is also a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim and is a monk at one of his Athonite monasteries, Karakallou) decided to omit this chapter from the English edition.

The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.
The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.

As in the first part, the following are excerpts from the photocopies that were distributed by St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. The similarities are interpolated within the text in brackets […]:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The remainder of the article can be read here:

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Similarities between Guruism and Gerontolatry Part II

The second part of this study is based on a chapter in Dionysios Farasiotis’ book, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios (Greek Edition). This chapter is called Karma Yoga: A Method of Enslaving People. It is only found in the Greek edition. For some reason, the translator Fr. Alexis Trader (who is also a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim and is a monk at one of his Athonite monasteries, Karakallou) decided to omit this chapter from the English edition.

Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.
Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.

As in the first part, the following are excerpts from the photocopies that were distributed by St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY. The similarities are interpolated within the text in brackets […]:

The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.
The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.

Karma Yoga: A Method of Enslaving People

*After they first persuade people about the correctness of their views, they then can guide and command them more easily.

[In the monasteries here, the monks are encouraged to read Geronda Ephraim’s books and listen to his homilies during their free time. As well, the monastics hear the readings in the trapeza twice a day, during lunch and supper. Furthermore, there are the constant admonitions by the abbots and abbesses to their monastics. Also, the monks themselves are attempt to persuade themselves via various forms of rewiring their minds: beating oneself with a stick when they have thoughts against Geronda Ephraim, thoughts of self-justification, etc.]

Fr. Stefanos at St. Nektarios Monastery reading to the dining hall. Monks hear readings at both lunch and supper and have no blessing to talk during meals.
Fr. Stefanos at St. Nektarios Monastery reading to the dining hall. Monks hear readings at both lunch and supper and have no blessing to talk during meals.

*But what is the theory that is propounded by nearly all the New Ager organizations in order to subdue their followers and convert them to workers receiving no pay? It’s an ancient theory of Hinduism, the theory of Karma Yoga. [Karma is a concept totally foreign to Orthodox theology and is not taught in the monasteries. However, the teaching of blind obedience to an elder is what converts many monks into workers receiving no pay. Interestingly, one of Geronda Ephraim’s former nuns attempted to sue her monastery for 14 years of back pay. She lost her case].

Ivantchenko, et al. v. The Sisters of Saint Kosmas

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

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

*It is used with success in India and today they’re undertaking to impose it throughout the world in order to acquire power and money by means of it. Listen how. Karma Yoga is considered one of the most basic forms of Yoga. It is the Yoga of the selfless servants. Every person has their ‘karma’; that is the total of all the good and evil acts of all their ‘previous lives’. This determines the circumstance of their present-day life. A good karma means that the person will be born rich, comfortable, with many opportunities for spiritual progress. On the contrary, a bad karma can mean poverty, want, affliction, pain and ignorance. If your karma is really bad, this means that you could be born as an animal in the next life.[So far, there is not much similarity other than the selfless servant aspect].

Elderly Novice Monk Gardening at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY
Elderly Novice Monk Gardening at St. Nektarios Monastery, Roscoe, NY

*Generally, the Yogis try to be liberated from the iron law of karma which even oppresses their ‘gods’. Still, they try to completely destroy their karma in order to escape from the cycle of reincarnation. [All Christians struggle to be liberated from the passions; or rather transform them into the corresponding virtues; including the Abbot and Abbesses].

*The way for someone to destroy his karma, or at least to lighten its heavy load, is by selfless services to his fellow suffering man, to humanity and to God. Up to this point, we’re dealing with a polite, ideal display of love towards suffering neighbors. Rather yet, this is beautiful bait that will help us to catch the death-bearing fish hook. [Selfless service to their fellow man, humanity and God is a basic expectation for an Orthodox Christian].

In the monasteries it is taught that the most ideal way for someone to practice Orthodoxy is through blind obedience to a Geronda (or Gerondissa).
In the monasteries it is taught that the most ideal way for someone to practice Orthodoxy is through blind obedience to a Geronda (or Gerondissa).

*So, after we accept the theory of Karma (Karma-yoga) as something beneficial for our spiritual progress – and after we have ‘elevated to a higher spiritual level’ (that is when they ascertain that we are ready), then they tell us, “the most ideal way for someone to practice Karma-yoga is to serve the guru”. These services that we offer have great ‘spiritual returns’, since the guru, as the almighty and all compassionate ‘god’ that he is, is able to reciprocate and destroy all our previous karma, and thus, he liberates us spiritually after our death. [In the monasteries it is taught that the most ideal way for someone to practice Orthodoxy is through blind obedience to a Geronda (or Gerondissa). Blind obedience has great spiritual returns for the unquestioning subordinate: illumination, dispassion and theosis. The Geronda is an “icon of Christ” and whatever you do to him you do to God Himself: i.e. your respect, veneration, and obedience is as though doing it to God Himself, just as the opposite actions. If one has obedience, he has his Geronda’s prayers after death to make it through the toll-houses. If he doesn’t have obedience, he doesn’t have his Geronda’s prayers after death and loses his salvation].

ΚΑΛΟΓΕΡΟΣ.,.,
Of course, as an exchange, our present-day life is demanded to be dedicated to work without pay. In order for this reasoning to work, the person must have faith in two basic metaphysical and religious deceptions and delusions:

i) In the theory of reincarnation from which arises the theory of ‘the law of karma’
ii) That his guru is a superman with formidable spiritual powers; a living ‘god’
[In the monastery, the rest of the monk’s life will be work without pay—at least in this life. They are taught they are exchanging monetary pay for spiritual pay in the next life. The monks do not believe in reincarnation but rather the Resurrection of the Dead. The monks and nuns do believe Geronda Ephraim is a sort of superman with formidable spiritual powers: “He is the holiest saint in the history of our church;” “His gifts are immeasurable, after he dies there will be no other like him;” “He’s not omnipresent like God, but he’s almost. He sees and knows everything that goes on in his monasteries. He’s always watching us;” “He’s the closest thing to Christ on earth! If you want to imagine what Christ would be like when he was on earth, just look at Geronda Ephraim;” “He talks to the Father during his vigil;” “One rarely surpasses their teacher, he surpassed Pappou Joseph.” These are some of the numerous things Geronda Ephraim’s monks and nuns (including Abbots and Abbesses) have said over the years].

That his guru is a superman with formidable spiritual powers; a living ‘god’.
That his guru is a superman with formidable spiritual powers; a living ‘god’.

*Only after a person has accepted those two terrible deceptions deep inside, will they start to put him in deeper and they will slowly start to tell him about Karma-Yoga. For this reason, all of the Hindu and New Age organizations insist and project their leader or guru as a superhuman ‘god’ and they legislate his worship while he is still alive. A person more easily submits to a ‘god’ than to a human being. [Once an Orthodox Christian accepts the Resurrection of the Dead and begins to accept that Geronda Ephraim is the holiest man alive on earth and the greatest saint in the history of the Church, then Geronda’s disciples start accepting them more and revealing more to them about the gift of blind obedience and the miracles it works. All of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries in North America and Greece work in the same manner: from the superiors down to the last monk, they all vouchsafe and validate Geronda Ephraim as a super saint, beyond all other saints in the history of orthodoxy. It is very important, even if only once in a lifetime, for someone to meet him and get his blessing. Thus, many times before one even meets Geronda Ephraim, he or she has been exposed to the love bombing of the monastery, and all the hype about his miracle working powers].

All of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries in America and Greece work in the same manner: they all vouchsafe and validate Geronda Ephraim as a super saint, beyond all other saints in the history of orthodoxy.
All of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries in America and Greece work in the same manner: they all vouchsafe and validate Geronda Ephraim as a super saint, beyond all other saints in the history of orthodoxy.

*Thus, the practical indifference and carelessness at the first level and religious deceptions are converted into persuasive instruments of spiritual compulsion or necessity and submission of individuals with daily catastrophic consequences. Many followers of gurus work hard at their ashrams without having any demands for recompense, insurance, pharmaceuticals, nursing or even the least bit of pocket money. Indeed, they are made to feel that the guru makes them spiritual reprieves which they will receive if they serve him. [People are led to believe that it’s a huge gift from God just to be able to take Geronda Ephraim’s blessing, and an even greater gift if he accepts you as a spiritual child. Many of Geronda Ephraim’s followers—monastics and laymen—work hard at his monasteries doing whatever task they are asked or ordered to do. They do this believing they are offering it as alms to the saint of the monastery, alms to Geronda Ephraim as well as receiving a recompense of invisible golden crowns that they will be able to offer to the aerial demons when their soul has to pass through the toll-houses. They do have access to medical means when necessary because Geronda Ephraim wants his monastics to be healthy and strong so they can work (a sick and weak monastic who can’t help out tends to be a burden on the monastery, not to mention they take other able-bodied monastics away from their work when they need to be taken care of). Most of the monasteries have pilgrims who are doctors who agree to see the monastics pro bono].

...They do this believing they are receiving a recompense of invisible golden crowns that they will be able to offer to the aerial demons when their soul has to pass through the toll-houses.
…They do this believing they are receiving a recompense of invisible golden crowns that they will be able to offer to the aerial demons when their soul has to pass through the toll-houses.

*The Karma-Yogis are usually young people that go to some ashram in a foreign country in order to cut themselves off from friends and relatives that could help them at some crucial moment. [Many of the monks are young. Geronda Ephraim says it’s better to become a monk when you’re young because the passions haven’t had the years in the world to become rooted as second nature and the mind is easier to mould.]

Geronda Ephraim says it’s better to become a monk when you’re young because the passions haven’t had the years in the world to become rooted as second nature and the mind is easier to mould.
Geronda Ephraim says it’s better to become a monk when you’re young because the passions haven’t had the years in the world to become rooted as second nature and the mind is easier to mould.

*Of course, there are enough aged Karma-Yogis that have indeed given all their wealth to the guru and ashram in order to make quicker spiritual progress. [Most people joining the monasteries give the remainder of their possessions and money to the monastery as alms.].

*I know a few people like this. Thus, they are reduced to unsalaried workers, usually in foreign countries without friends, family, money or information (except the news censured by the ashram). [A monk is to become dead to the world, thus no relatives, friends, etc. Though in some cases, when relatives offer useful services to the monastery and are needed, there is some leeway given to interpersonal dynamics. In other cases, if the relatives prove to be annoyances and interfering with the monastic’s life at the monastery, they’ll be relocated to another monastery either within America or abroad in Greece (out of obedience, of course). They are unsalaried workers in a monetary sense, but believe they will be recompensed in the afterlife (only if they do perfect and complete obedience; all other works are rendered vain if they don’t do obedience). All news is censured by the monastery superior. There is no news of the outside world unless one is exposed during an excursion out of the monastery, or the superior decides to tell them. All information is disseminated exactly how the superior wants, and the disciples are expected to accept it the way it is delivered.]

*They are immediately dependent upon the ashram for food, shelter and clothes. [The monastics are dependent upon the monastery for everything (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) And the superior can decide to refuse any of these things].

Archimandrite Panteleimon  Metropoulos who was a member of Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s synodia. Geronda Ephraim calls him a spiritual brother in a homily.
Archimandrite Panteleimon Metropoulos who was a member of Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s synodia. Geronda Ephraim calls him a spiritual brother in a homily.

*I ask myself, ‘when a person is found in such a powerless position, is he not an easy victim of sexual (or whatever other kind of) exploitation? [Though there is no known recorded instances of a superior sexually abusing a subordinate in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, it is interesting to note that Fr. Panteleimon (who was a member of Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s synodia and whom Geronda Ephraim calls his spiritual brother in a homily) has been involved in numerous homosexual sex scandals with his subordinates over the years at his Brookline, MA monastery. As well, a few years back, allegations against Geronda Joseph of Vatopaidi, another spiritual brother of Geronda Ephraim, also surfaced but seem to have been repudiated].

Thus, don’t you think that it would be more correct to speak about ‘karma-slaves’ instead of karma-yogis?. Monasticism is recognized as voluntary slavery in the Patristic writings: “you who are hastening to sign a pledge that you are voluntarily surrendering yourself to slavery, and in return want freedom written to your account.” (Ladder 4:5)

The remainder of the article can be read here:

Similarities between Guruism and Gerontolatry Part I

In 2001, a book was published in Greece which sold like wildfire: Oi Gourou, o neos, kai o Gerontas Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis. The book made a deep impression on many a spiritual Father and it was highly recommended in orthodox bookstores, especially for people confused or mixed up with New Age and Hindu religions.

The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.
The Greek edition contains many passages that are omitted in the English edition; passages that indirectly critique monastic blind obedience, etc.

Due to the strong influence of New Age and Hindu religious culture in the Western Hemisphere, there was a hope that it would one day be translated into the English language. Anyone who made pilgrimages to the Holy Mountain in the mid-2000s heard about the pending translation into English being delayed due to the devil’s huge warfare against the monk translating it.

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

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

Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.
Fr. Alexis Trader, hieromonk of Karakallou Monastery. Before leaving for Greece, Fr. Alexis was a professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.

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

Geronda Philotheos, Abbot of Karakallou Monastery. He's been a subordinate of Geronda Ephraim since the early 70s.
Geronda Philotheos, Abbot of Karakallou Monastery. He’s been a subordinate of Geronda Ephraim since the early 70s.

One does not only find these similarities in Dionysios Farasiotis’ books. They can be found in all the Orthodox writings in Greek that deal with gurus, destructive cults, etc. One wonders if preachers like Monk Arsenios Vliangoftis or Protopresbyter Antonios Alevizopoulos actually hear and understand the words that come out of their mouths because what they criticize when describing the dangers of destructive cults is almost word for word the same methodologies that occur in the Greek-American monasteries. The only difference is the theology and belief system—Hinduism is anthropocentric and the guru is the god, Orthodox monasticism is Theanthropocentric and the Elder is suppose to be the icon of Christ on earth. In some cases, though, one wonders if Geronda Ephraim has replaced Christ as the center of his followers’ worship.

Large portions of the book are missing from the English edition (criticism, opinions & analyses of cults, brainwashing techniques, & how gurus manipulate their victims)
Large portions of the book are missing from the English edition (criticism, opinions & analyses of cults, brainwashing techniques, & how gurus manipulate their victims)

Yoga: Science or Religion?

Before the book was translated into English, St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, was handing out photocopies of translated chapters which were also distributed on various orthodox websites and forums. The following are excerpts from those photocopies which don’t appear to be in the St. Herman’s Brotherhood edition. The similarities are interpolated within the text in brackets […]:

In the mid-2000s, St. Nektarios Monastery distributed photocopies of translated chapters from Farasiotis' book. These chapters are missing in the published English edition.
In the mid-2000s, St. Nektarios Monastery distributed photocopies of translated chapters from Farasiotis’ book. These chapters are missing in the published English edition.

*In Greece, the people that do yoga succumb to a greater or lesser extent, to an Indian cultural influence. They start to decorate their house with Indian trinkets, cook Indian food, and listen to Indian ceremonial music (Kirtan). [In America, converts succumb to a Greek influence. They decorate their house with Byzantine icons and pictures of Geronda Ephraim, they start cooking Greek and Lenten foods (many times Athonite or monastery recipes), they start listening to Byzantine music (many times eliminating ‘worldy music’ from their lives)].

A young monk

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

Geronda Ephraim's followers talk more about his 'feats' than about Christ or the saints. They have even made icons of him to which they pray in times of need.
Geronda Ephraim’s followers talk more about his ‘feats’ than about Christ or the saints. They have even made icons of him to which they pray in times of need.

*At length, some become permanent patrons of the ashrams. [Many pilgrims will stay extended periods at the monastery to help out with work, some become sub-novices some don’t. Some families spend their vacations at the monasteries].

Hard labor + blind obedience are said to help free one from the enslavement to passions.
Hard labor + blind obedience are said to help free one from the enslavement to passions.

*They wear the orange cassock of the yogi. They cut their hair and dedicate themselves to a guru. [Many converts will start wearing all black and let their hair and beards grow like the monastics].

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

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

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

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

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*Their wealth and property is donated to the movement and they dedicate all of their self, all their life, all their time to the growth and development of the movement that will save the world. [A person renouncing the world is to be debt free and without possessions. Many times the sub-novice will donate the remainder of their bank account, their vehicle, and any assets they have to the monastery, unless they are instructed to give them all away as alms. The rest of their life is no longer their own, their entire existence will now be dictated by the elder or eldress; even down to the minutest details of hygiene].

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

“Now you get to see Geronda Ephraim as he really is; he’s much different with his monks than with the lay people.”

“ I believe in freedom of religious conscience. The thing that annoys and disturbs me, is the deceiving effort; someone appears with a beautiful mask, fearing that perhaps he won’t become acceptable showing his true face. This is hypocritical and devious. They stole a piece of my life. I wasted time, energy, money and opportunities. For years I grappled with one kudostymevo lie. I hope that I help certain brothers to quickly disentangle themselves, with these writings; much easier and with fewer casualties.” [Essentially, when one enters the monastery, they are informed, “Now you get to see Geronda Ephraim as he really is; he’s much different with his monks than with the lay people.” And this is true. The individual is privy to more knowledge and more secrets as they advance. Sub-novices are not privy to most of the monastery going-ons and are not included when the Abbot or Abbess calls the monastics for a talk or reprimand. A novice will be included somewhat, but is never privy to the inner workings and structure of the monastery. Many times the novice will be excluded from the knowledge of big scandals, or problematic monastics being reprimanded. Furthermore, questioning by the novice is frowned upon and they are instructed about the sin of idle curiosity and told to mind their own business, or to ask the Geronda/Gerondissa (many times the monastic will have already informed the superior about the novice’s queries). The rassaphores are privy to more information and see more things, however, individual diakonimas such as the office or business/financial aspects of the monasteries are insulated to the individual responsible for them, who also has a strict obedience not to talk about what he or she may do. Many years could pass and a monastic will remain clueless about the inner details of the monastery].
(The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, Greek Edition, pp. 369-70)
The full translation can be found here:

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