Being not obliged to swear in words allegiance to any Master; Wherever the Storm drags me, I am turned in as a guest. (Horace’s Epistle to Maecenas)
Originally published 13th February 2020
“Many people think of mind control as an ambiguous, mystical process that cannot be defined in concrete terms. In reality, mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought-stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts.
Based on research and theory by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Edgar Schein, Louis Jolyon West, and others who studied brainwashing in Maoist China as well as cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger, Steven Hassan developed the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. “BITE” stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control.”
If you have watched the YouTube video below you can skip the first few paragraphs to the section headed “Behaviour Control.”
This morning I made a comparison between, Steven Hassan’s BITE model of cult mind-control technique, and my experiences as a monk in an Orthodox Christian monastery. It seems that I was subject to every single one of the points on his model. This work is off the top of my head and slightly stream of consciousness. As it is according to a framework, there are some overlaps and some jumping around chronologically. It is just a fraction of what I could say.
My experience is not as sensational as sex abuse cults. I have no evidence of sexual abuse at my old monastery but it has happened in several Orthodox Christian monasteries. However, sexual or physical abuse is not the essence of cults. It is the brainwashing, love bombing and ongoing mind control through fear, obedience, gas lighting and emotional manipulation.
Here is a question anyone should ask: How can a man who has not achieved any personal holiness demand obedience from others?
If the blind follow the blind both will fall into a pit.
Here is a rule: If you ever meet a man claiming spiritual enlightenment; he is a fraud and a deceiver.
Beware of false prophets.
Here is a defence: The Map is not the Terrain. Cultists want you to accept their maps, and for you to make them your terrain.
I have only scratched the surface of what I underwent. I do not want to fight the monastery as I feel that binds you to it. But I do want to soberly express in words the things that happened to me. For my own sake. If anyone takes anything from it, that is your business.
I am no longer any kind of Christian, nor a theist, nor an atheist, nor an agnostic.
I should also mention that most of the monks at a monastery have been subject to long periods of brainwashing and serious mind control, in particular through fear-based programming. If you ever meet an Orthodox Monk, please don’t be cruel to them or accuse them of anything based on this article. They may just be suffering in the same way I was.
Even the Abbot was subject to the same at some time.
My experience as part of a mind control cult called an Orthodox Christian Monastery was a pretty crazy time of my life. I cannot claim my own behaviour was perfect, but the only person I was brainwashing was myself. I recently heard that my old monastery are putting out a propaganda documentary about how holy they are. I got very angry and upset about it as it was one of their earlier documentaries that pulled me in to their lies. I have exchanged some emails with the filmmaker about my concerns that he has made a propaganda piece for a mind control cult. Whether that will make any difference, who knows. That is on him now.
I have calmed down now. At the beginning of this piece I was more angry than at the end. Sometimes I have to remind myself that despite all the crap, my time in an orthodox monastery has given me an insight into some aspects of reality that other people don’t have. One of these is the dangers involved in conflating the map with the terrain, especially if someone else is giving you the map. And I wouldn’t give up these insights.
I have also learned that despite having no desire to go on an unholy crusade against orthodox monasticism, I can state my opinions and models simply and soberly. I have found this beneficial. I would even say cathartic if I felt like being grand.
Oh and a big fuck you to my old Abbot and to any backlash that I might get.
Promote dependence and obedience
Yes: The abbot taught us that in these last times, monks are so weak and feeble, that the only remaining path to salvation is:
- Dependency on brotherhood. My brother is my life. We can only be saved together. Here is a quote from a letter that a monk sent to me after I left the monastery ,“…and now you are about to cut yourself off from the communion of the brotherhood, which is that very mystery by which we, as coenobitic monks, are saved.”
- Complete financial dependence. I had give up all of my worldly possessions to the monastery.
- Complete Obedience to the Abbot: We were taught and expected to practice obedience to abbot + spiritual father. Here is another quote from the monk that wrote to me “Wake up! Come to your senses! This is monastic life 101—Abba Dorotheos: “I know of no fall that happens to a monk that does not come from trusting his own judgment … Do you know someone who has fallen? Be sure that he directed himself. Nothing is more grievous than to be one’s own director, nothing is more pernicious.”
This is the essence of salvation as I was taught. In the refectory we had formal readings on monasticism which included a talk that taught: If your spiritual father tells you black is white you must believe him unquestioningly.
Obedience is above prayer is a common refrain I was subject to.
“If you are obedient to me [the Abbot] you will be saved.”
Here is a good example: One of the main ways the monastery supports itself, apart from panhandling, is throught selling Church goods. These are sourced from Russia or the Ukraine.
Whilst I was at the monastery, monks would be sent to said countries on a ‘pilgrimage.’ They would return with perhaps 7 suitcases packed full of church goods e.g priest’s vestments, chalices etc. Some monks would bring them through customs without declaring any of the goods for import duty. As I saw it, they were essentially under obedience to break the law and smuggle in goods to increase the monastery’s profit margins.
This may seem like a small crime to you, but think about it from the monk’s perspective and the thoughts that run through his head. Thoughts that he must reject otherwise he will have to confess them to the same person ordering him to do it. How does the monk understand what is going on? Why is his holy abbot telling him to do this? It messes with people’s minds; even those who don’t go on the trip. And once the abbot has got them to go against their conscience for obedience in this case, what else can he get them to do?
Modify behavior with rewards and punishments
Monks are programmed like pavlov’s dogs. If you are good, the Abbot rewards you with, “what a good boy you are blah blah blah,” and you will find yourself in his inner circle of sycophants. If you are bad then you receive penances and also the Abbot’s disfavour. You will be subject to accusations of demonic influence.
Monks must do everything in order of rank, including walking through doorways. They must kiss priest’s hands when they see them and bow before them. When they are made a novice and all other levels of monasticism they must prostrate before the Abbot.
Dictate where and with whom you live
Yes – A monk can only leave the monastery grounds, for any length at all, with a blessing from a priest. His room is assigned. All of his interactions e.g daily work and who with, are under obedience. A monk can also be ordered under obedience to be sent anywhere.
Of course there is the complete financial dependence. Blessings must be received to acquire anything. Even this is not your property and can be taken away at the whim of the Abbot.
Restrict or control sexuality
Yes – Complete celibacy. Any falls are shamed especially masturbation. Even involuntary sexual dreams with or without ‘nocturnal emissions,” are regarded as sinful. They must be confessed and subject to penance such as reading penitential prayers in front of the cross of an icon of Christ.
Many attractive young women visit the monastery. If young monks feel sexual urges they must confess these and are shamed. If you had remembered Christ and prayed then this would not have happened.
Control clothing and hairstyle
Yes – All novices and monks wear the same standard long black robes, uncut long hair and beards. There are some variations according to rank. Monks who have taken life vows wear a cloth with a cross on their back all the time to remind them of their submission and sinfulness.
Regulate what and how much you eat and drink
Yes – Blessings (permission) are required from priests for all meals and snacks. Any breach of the rules must be confessed and is subject to penance.
Even refectory meal times are under obedience. You are supposed to get a blessing for how much you can eat and what you can’t eat.
There are set days for fasting and abstinence. This is under obedience and monks must not make up their own rules.
Attendance at all meals is obligatory for all monks without a blessing from a priest. Novices must receive a blessing from the Abbot.
Meals are eaten in silence. Monks may not start eating until a bell is rang by the abbot. (Pavlov?) Monks may not start their desert until the abbot has. Hierarchy is reinforced as food is taken in order of rank. When the abbot rings his bell no more food may be eaten. At the same time gluttony is the general rule of the monastery.
Readings are read by one monk to prevent the monks from having their own thoughts during the silence.
Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep
Yes – Generally 6hrs or less. In my experience, especially in my first year (when you are being brainwashed) my obedience were arranged so it was impossible for me to get anywhere near even 6 hrs of sleep for extended periods. People walk around in a daze, especially in the morning service (which makes the hypnotic effect of the low drone services more effective).
Insomnia is rampant at the monastery despite how little allotted sleep the monks have. Makes you wonder how damaged their sleep patterns are.
Standard brainwashing techniques.
Exploit you financially
Yes – At the level of ryassaphore-monk (the step after novice) which is usually after three years, the monks must give up all their worldly possessions to the monastery or their family. Note they have not yet taken life vows. I gave all mine to the monastery and left with nothing. Thus I was completely dependant on the monastery and received no money for my work.
Officially monks have taken a vow of poverty. Yes the individual monks have nothing but the leaders, especially the abbot, do pretty well for themselves. The abbot is effectively the richest person in the area that he lives in.
The monastery exploits the pilgrims. They had a layman help with their finances and he told me that he was disgusted with how they waste donations.
When the money runs low they just send out hundreds of begging letters and wait for the money to pour in. Individual donors give thousands of dollars. Of course the begging letters are dripping with may ‘god reward you.’ Using the supposedly free gift of salvation to manipulate sincere people into giving up large sums of money which will be wasted.
When I was a novice, I once was in a room with some priests from our monastery and another monastery. They were talking about how much money the other monastery had spent on flowers for a big feast day. One of our priests asked him what they were going to do. The visiting priest replied, “Just do a fundraising drive, of course!” At which point all the priests and many monks in the room burst into raucous laughter. I was completely disheartened. A vow of poverty indeed.
Restrict leisure time and activities
Yes – There is barely any free time, and when there is, most monks are exhausted. Blessings are required for everything. The monks’ days go so quickly as they involve rushing from one place to another. No time to think.
Require you to seek permission for major decisions
Yes – but not only major decisions, blessings must be sought for all decisions, right down to how often you shower, when, where and how much you eat, everything you read. What work you do and how you do it is all under obedience.
Never ending. On average, two and a half hours in church in the morning. Then assigned prayers and spiritual reading. Then 9 am prayers. Then work saying a short prayer the whole time. The 12 am church service. Then lunch in silence with assigned spiritual readings. Then clean up whilst saying a short prayer out loud. Then afternoon work with prayer. Then 1 hr evening service. Then meal in silence with assigned spiritual reading. Then evening prayer rule with assigned spiritual reading. On top of this various group talks on indoctrination. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH.
Deliberately withhold and distort information
Yes. For most monks, outside information is only available through the abbot. A small number of senior monks e.g. priests or those running aspects of the business, may have blessings to look at some internet news. Apart from the odd big news event, monks are kept aware from outside information apart from what the Abbot wishes to tell them. Blessings must be received to contact the outside world and these are limited. Family may be seen for a maximum of one week a year.
Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics
Yes. Generally monks are forbidden from speaking to critics. They are discouraged from speaking with ex-members although if the abbot thinks he can drag them back in he will allow them to visit. Those with other view points are often derided in orthodox literature and journals.
Discourage access to non-cult sources of information
Yes – Novices must receive blessings for all their reading and are given obediences to read certain books, the content of which is illuminating to anyone interested in cult mind control.
Apart from senior monks, or for a specific reason and with a blessing, no access to outside sources of information.
The library is restricted and censored.
Outside news is controlled by the abbot.
For those monks that use the internet, their web use is monitored by the abbot via a priest. This includes email.
Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine
Yes, but in a subtle way. Although publicly available, it is taught that non-orthodox Christians cannot understand the true meaning of doctrine and scripture. Even lay orthodox Christians cannot understand it the way that monks do.
Generate and use propaganda extensively
Yes – The monastery has made a documentary in the past. An emotional and idealised version of monastic life with little basis in reality. This is on YouTube and the DVD is handed out to visitors. They have just allowed a new documentary to be published which is being pushed around film festivals by an Orthodox filmmaker.
Their sanitised world of monasticism is propagandised via their website and Facebook (a monastery with Facebook!!! Can you work out why?) One of the priest’s runs a blog on a popular Orthodox website pushing their spiritual propaganda into the world.
In my opinion the main purpose of the propaganda is threefold.
- The monastery is constantly thinking about how to get donations out of pilgrims. I don’t think that it is coincidental that the monastery agreed to a new documentary at the same time that they are trying to raise funds for a new church.
- When the new documentary was announced, I heard senior monks discussing that they believed that the only reason it was happening was to make money.
- I helped run the gift shop when I was there. I have sat in meetings with priests discussing how they need to get more farm photos on the internet to bring in donations.
- Note the average monk hates the way that they are being pushed all over propaganda and social media. Most of them did not have hings like Facebook in the world.
- Some people will see through the monastery and leave. Replacements are needed. More free labour is needed to build the monastery for the glory of the abbot.
- The documentaries use spiritual music, spiritual teaching and visual techniques to emotionally influence sincere seekers and those who have been through difficult times.
- Vanity. The world must know of the holiness of the Abbot.
Use information gained in confession sessions against you
Yes. – I was told by a senior monk that in the past the seal of confession was broken by the Abbot. Apparently, it was a big deal in the monastery back in the day but it was covered up. I cannot confirm this to be true, but I would not be surprised. Although I never heard the Abbot break the seal of confession in this way, he would talk to me about other monks, in ways that you only could if you heard their confessions. This made me uncomfortable and anxious during my confessions.
We were expected to confess all of our sins, reveal all persistent thoughts and our spiritual anxieties. We were taught that without this we could not be saved.
The Abbot forced me, and I know he does with other monks, to report on people during confession. I would later find that the monks I had reported on would receive a dressing down or be punished. It is against the rules of confession to do this. I hated having to report on people, so I just stopped confessing things that could get other people in trouble.
This caused my great turmoil because I felt like I would die with these sins and go to hell. I believe that, in the Orthodox Church, purposely withholding sins is considered a mortal sin. A spiritual book I was given to read said that withholding sins from confession usually leads to suicide.
At some point, which will be described later, I started going to a different priest for confession. One monk that I was close to, and confided in, approached me to warn me that the Abbot was using his confession to spy on me. He implored me to be careful what I told him as he didn’t know how long he could cover up in confession. The Abbot was using the Holy Mystery of Confession to spiritually blackmail him. The poor sincere monk felt that if he kept covering up for me he wouldn’t be able to go to Holy Communion anymore.
I had to engage in pretence when I was around people as I couldn’t know who to trust, and if other monks were being used to spy on me.
Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory
Yes – I would tell the Abbot about some of my concerns about the monastery based on events that had happened previously. He would mock my concerns and tell me that the event had never happened or it was something completely different. He would say that only I felt like this cause I was in illusion.
He would tell me that I was behaving strangely and bizarrely and if I couldn’t see it it was more evidence of the demonic influence on me.
I had to check with other monks afterwards, and to my surprise, I found out that they had reported the exact same concerns about the same events to the Abbot. And they did it before I did. He was flat out lying to me to make me doubt my reality.
The Abbot told me that all the monks were coming to him to tell him how I had changed, that I was a different person beyond recognition. He had decided that I was bipolar and that I must go on drugs. Despite having no expertise in this area he told me that I must accept his diagnosis, go on mind-altering drugs and go to an Orthodox doctor of his choosing so it could all me made official. I objected. He told me that my objection was a sign that I was also under demonic influence and I must accept his will on this. I refused.
He would try to push this on me at every confession for months. I would dread confession and felt that if I said the wrong thing I would be forced to go on some zombie drugs. But if I did not confess honestly I could go to hell. On top of this I did not know whose confession the Abbot could be using against me. And I even had to be careful talking to the one monk that I trusted. This good man told me not to worry and he wouldn’t reveal anything, but we had to meet up secretly to talk.
On top of all of this I could not square what the Abbot was saying with reality as I got on well with everyone. I was suffering some pretty horrendous side effects emotionally and mentally, but it seemed like this was being caused by the Abbot’s treatment of me.
For a while I started to wonder if it maybe it was me. Maybe I am bipolar, maybe I am under demonic influence and I am not seeing things correctly. But who could I talk to if everyone was reporting me. I will later describe in more detail, but I changed confessor and I confided in a senior monk (who is a kind, humble and very sincere man. If anyone there has any claim to holiness it would be him, which is why the Abbot is so cruel to him.) This monk asked around and couldn’t find anyone whose thoughts about me matched what the Abbot was saying. He even confronted the Abbot who admitted it was just one person – a fellow monk who had developed a weird attachment to me that I was uncomfortable with. I had tried to wean him off me and he seems to have reacted like a jilted teenage girl.
At this point, the Abbot didn’t know that I knew about his deceit. He kept pushing the same gas-lighting narrative on me. I kept having to put up a pretence in public to avoid problems. Later when the day came that I told him I wanted to leave, or rather I asked him for a blessing, he started the same nonsense with me. I finally snapped and confronted him. I demanded that he tell me who all these people are, who are my accusers, tell me! He finally admitted that it was only one person. He had been lying to me to manipulate my reality for years.
I told him that he had lied to me for years and manipulated my mind to try to put me on drugs, which he wasn’t even qualified to do. Did he apologise? No, he looked down for a few seconds with a dark look on his face. He said I could have his blessing to leave. A few more seconds passed and he looked up at me with a completely different, jolly old fat man look. He started acting as if nothing had happened and pretended that everything was normal.
Before I left, the monk who was the source of my problems confronted me at night in the dark. He started repeating word for word, sentence upon sentence, the exact conversation I had had with the Abbot earlier that day. This freaked me out. I told him some of the reasons why I wanted to leave and tried to get away from him.
Later he sent me a letter pushing the same accusations. Accusations of demonic illusion and having lost my mind, and that I couldn’t be saved if I left the monastery. In other word, I am destined for hell.
Weirdly, in the past the Abbot would tell me that there is something deeply wrong with this monk, how messed up in the head he is etc. After I left the Abbot made him a priest. And what kind of spiritual father gossips like that about his spiritual son like this. This might not be technically breaking the seal of confession, but seems to be pretty rotten behaviour, as he only knows so much about this monk because of what he has revealed in confession.
Below is a quote from this monk’s letter to me. I had told him before I left about how the Abbot was gaslighting to try to make me believe that I am bipolar, trying to force me to go on drugs etc. I hoped he might understand why I was leaving. Now in this letter, what do you think he does, guess – perhaps belittle my experience and say I am deceived (and who does the deceiving in orthodox Christianity?) You are right.
This is where he belittles my experience “Rather, you are maligned and determined to be mentally ill, by the abbot, no less. You say that here, you cannot continue the gospel path, “as I see it,” I’m almost certain were your exact words. Don’t you see the deception? You’ve strained a gnat and swallowed a camel.”
Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors
Yes – the basic texts we are given say that without reporting the above three things we cannot be saved. The Abbot constantly pushes this theme. If people leave the monastery it is because they did not tell him their thoughts. Here the fear programming comes in . Effectively he is saying if you do not tell me your thoughts you will go to hell.
The Abbot is a buffoon and has never made any spiritual progress. He just says soft emotional words like “trust in Christ,” or “you must love your brother;” which anyone can do. Giving a man like that access to your inner self is like letting someone with muddy boots trample all over you inner sanctum.
Anyone who spends a significant amount of time at the monastery will notice the superficial silliness masquerading as joy, but underneath there is a deep sadness and despair in the faces and souls of the poor monks.
In Russia the abuse of confession of thoughts by abbots got so widespread that Patriarch Kirill forbade the compulsory confession of thoughts. It must be voluntary because so many abbots were using it to manipulate and control their followers. Our monastery was under Patriarch Kirill. Towards the end of the Abbots’s ‘spiritual fathership’ over me, he forced me against my will to confess my thoughts to him everyday. This was during the most heavy period of gaslighting when he was trying to force me to go on drugs. I had to start making up stuff to keep his dirty hands off of my soul. This great ‘man of obedience and love’ was disobeying the direct instructions of the Patriarch designed to prevent exactly this kind of abuse.
And who could I turn to? The man abusing me was the same man that I had opened my heart up to and was supposed to be the man that I turned to. If I talked to anyone else I could not be certain that they would not report on me.
I did come across a monk that I could talk to and I could trust. Unfortunately for him he started to come under the Abbot’s gaze. This was the monk I mentioned previously who the Abbot tried to use his confession to spy on me.
By the way, I’ve been back in the world for two years, no signs of bipolar disorder. Just like before I was under the Abbot’s influence. Half my family are doctors and not one has ever noticed anything like it before or since. You know why, ‘cos I am not bipolar but I was being emotionally abused, gaslighted, and mind manipulated by a fucking twat.
I work hard on a dairy farm for about 45hrs per week which I really enjoy, far more that I would have thought. In my spare time I make content based on my ideas, including writing articles and making videos. I am working on a book in which I hope to develop my ideas. Can you imagine what would have happened to me if I had fully given in to the mind control and drugs of the Abbot. I would have been a zonked out zombie under his complete control and in a living hell.
In the monastery, fear was used to encourage people to confess their thoughts in other ways. In the space of one year, two priests left the monastery. The deputy abbot left and I believe has left orthodox Christianity entirely. The abbot told us that he was delusional, under demonic influence and had lost his mind. The source of all of this is that he didn’t confess all of his thoughts and that he had friends outside of the monastery. He is an apostate and destined for hell if he does not return and repent.
A second priest left in secret. Again we were told that the main reason was that he did not confess his all of his thoughts. He is now a Roman Catholic which makes him a heretic and an apostate. Apparently he is also under demonic influence. He is destined for hell unless he returns and repents.
Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”
Yes – as discussed above. This happens in a mind control dissociative way. You are formerly told that this is a sin, but then encouraged/forced to in confession by the abbot. To do so is a sin, to disobey is a sin. The only person you are supposed to talk to about this is the abbot. This creates deep and long lasting permanent anxiety in people.
Require members to internalize the group’s doctrine as truth
a. Adopting the group’s ‘map of reality’ as reality
Interestingly one of the most important ways that I have deprogrammed from my cult indoctrination is to consider and apply the map/model vs terrain/reality distinction.
Orthodox Chrisianity teaches that only it has the full truth. This must be accepted as a whole. Any deviation is a heresy. Heresy leads to hell. Doctrine is memorised and sung or read daily multiple times, as a group and individually.
Doubting or criticizing the Orthodox Faith is a serious sin that leads to hell.
Reading non Orthodox material requires a blessing and is considered dangerous.
Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking
Yes – The monastery vs the world, monks vs lay man (who don’t understand), christians vs heretics, apostates, pagans.
The Abbot pushes an ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of the bible.
The brotherhood is everything, outside the monastery there is nothing of value. My brother is my life. My brother is my salvation. Certain behaviour, usually my kind of behaviour, was labelled as “anti-brotherhood.”
We were taught that having friends outside of the monastery leads to almighty falls which can lead to leaving the monastery which = hell.
Change your identity, possibly even your name
Yes – I had my name changed, was given a rank, and a new identity as a monk. Monks are reborn as a second baptism.
Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought
Yes – Constantly. One might present a well thought out and reasoned argument on some point which differs from monastery practice. None of your points would be answered. Usually you would be interrupted halfway through to be told you were making a mountain out of a molehill. Then you would receive a barrage of loaded language, cliches, meaningless platitudes and dismissals of the seriousness of what you had presented. I was even told that it was just me that was not happy about these things and I should consider what that meant about my mental state. I later found out that three of the most senior monks, including two priests and already been to see the abbot to complain about the same things!
Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate
Yes – Constantly saying the Jesus prayer (see below) in hypnotic environments. The low drone of psalm reading in church whilst half asleep and hungry, in the dark in front of icons. 3-4 hr church services are not unusual. I had experiences in church identical to experiences in night clubs having taken ecstasy. When I told the abbot he said the demons were mocking me.
Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts
Yes – auto-hypnosis by the Jesus prayer. Constantly repeating orally or mentally “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a Sinner.” The more you say it the better. The aim is to have it constantly going on in your head.
Other techniques are taught about sending the thoughts straight to god, and how to cut them off at different stages. Half of monatic literature is about how to deal with doubts about Orthodox Christianity and monasticism. These all come from the Devil and his demons.
I have had conversations with many monks who are distraught about how it doesn’t seem to work but at the same time they also know that it must work as they have the true god and the true path to salvation.
Any doubts are demonic and must be immediately rejected and then confessed. But the demons keep coming.
Allow only positive thoughts
Yes – acceptance of negative thoughts is a sin. Especially doubting the abbot, god, the church, the monastery. Try not to think of an elephant and what happens. This creates very strange nervous behaviour and states of mind in monks.
Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts
Yes – supposed to be 24hrs a day, and you feel guilty if you don’t
Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt
Yes – fundamentalist interpretations of historical scripture. All scripture must be understood through the dogma of the Church and the writings of the Church Fathers. Standard answers given for doubts and questions about contradictions. If you have doubts about doctrine, dogma or scripture you must find out the officially sanctioned explanation and make yourself believe it.
Reason rejected and those that use it mocked.
Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group
Yes – Monks who have taken vows and then leave, are not even allowed to have an orthodox funeral. Gotta make them fear leaving. Questioning or leaving the group is demonic. But of course this would be cultish if it was in a cult, but in a monastery, by magic, it is somehow different. At my level you are not technically destined for hell with no possibility of salvation. However, the Abbot makes it fairly clear that this is very likely. The only difference between the harmful actions of a cult and true spiritual practices seems to be saying, but we are not a cult, we have the truth. Hey Presto!
Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong
Yes – Normal human emotions are evil. One can’t help but have them which creates some serious mindfucker and anxiety states.
Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness
Yes – Turn to christ, say the prayer, think of heaven, fear hell, remember death, better to suffer now than for eternity, remember christ’s sufferings, remember the saints. Don’t you care what Chist did for you!
Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness
Yes – The church services, the refectory readings of the make-believe lives of the saints. The great things they accomplished and how little you can be bothered to do. Also monks are taught how weak and feeble their efforts were compared to others. This makes the monks feel very guilty.
Guilt for Christ’s sufferings. Monks will tell you with their mouth that they are not like Catholics in this regard but they are.
Constantly saying and trying to feel how unworthy they are, the most sinful, the most unworthy, “brothers, we who are unworthy” blah blah blah.
Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)
Yes -Stay in my old monastery and you will experience this. In particular some monks are given the obedience to do this. They can’t stop bothering you. Everyone calls each other brother and so on. You want to be left alone for a bit but no, here come some bloody do-gooder to see if you are ok.
When you start visiting the monastery you will be subject to the constant, “My brother, this is such a special place, no one has ever fitted in like you before, everyone is so kind and loving, truly God has picked you out and brought you here because he loves you.” It never ends.
Once you formally join the monastery that stuff stops straight away, although they never stop talking about how much they love each other in theory.
One of the love bombers I was subjected to, later turned into one of the nastiest people I ever met.
Threaten your friends and family
Not directly but subtlety. The Abbot teaches that if you are a good monk then your family will convert and be saved. Obviously this keeps monks in the monastery as they can justify themselves. If your parents haven’t converted, you start to feel responsible for this. The Abbot would say to me, “Your parents aren’t Orthodox yet, you better start repenting better.”
Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve
Yes – Of course you will be excluded from communion and leave the monastery. At one point I asked if I could be excused from a church service as they were filming for a documentary. I was told by the Abbot if I did not attend I would be thrown out of the monastery straight away. At this point I had given all my worldly goods to the monastery. I was in a foreign country on the other side of the world. I was told to make the decision on the spot. He was furious. I begged to be given some time to think, He gave me a couple of hours. I went away and wept. I came back and said I would be at church.
Shunning is not complete but contact is highly discouraged. An ex-member may revisit eventually but the aim is to pull them back in.
Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group
Yes -You have seen the excerpts from the letter I received above. You have heard of the threats of eternal damnation.
The Abbot weaponizes this point to stop people from leaving. Of course he will tell you that you can leave whenever you want but “you will have no peace, you will be miserable, your life will fall apart, you will be lost” and of course there is the eternal torments of hell.
Here is another excerpt from the letter I received from my former ‘brother.’
“Still, I believe you’re making a terrible mistake that you will deeply, deeply regret if you go through with it.”
There is much more that I could say about what I saw and what happened to me. This has been a comparison exercise for my own sake. In the future I may go into the events that transpired when I first joined the monastery which are a tale unto themselves.
For now I will leave it at this, but I will repeat, I do not want to fight the monastery as I feel that binds you to it. But I do want to soberly express in words things that happened to me. For my own sake. If anyone takes anything from it, that is your business.
Oh and once again, a big, fuck you to my old Abbot and to any backlash that I might get.