great wave


I was talking to a friend last night and a song by the Talking Heads came on called, "Heaven." She said she loved the song and I told her that while I love the Talking Heads, that particular song bothers me, because of the lyrics: Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

She said that she thought that was a true statement, that nothing ever happens in heaven. I disagreed and told her that I think that things are always happening in heaven, that all beings are continually in motion drawing closer to God who is infinite and therefore A LOT is happening in heaven.

I realize it's pretty stupid for two people to argue about what it's like in heaven but we weren't arguing so much as having a discussion/debate about whether or not "things happen in heaven."

She said that she believes that once we are in heaven, there is no need for change and that after death, change is not possible, therefore nothing ever happens (or changes) in heaven.

While I could see her point, I continued to assert that heaven is a place where much (as opposed to nothing) is happening. Then I remembered a talk one of the priests from Santa Rosa used to give about "Sanctified Time" and how human beings on this planet live in time, in a dimension where things change, and that change is only possible in time. His main point was that we are given time on earth to repent (change).

I know this is borderline ridiculous, but do you think that nothing ever happens in heaven?

Also, this discussion made me think of something else. You know that saying, "God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow?" This saying is often used in conjunction with the argument that "God never changes." If it's true that "God never changes" then how do we look at the incarnation of God in Christ. Is it true to say that at one point in time God was not incarnate, and then a time came when he was (incarnated). If he was once not incarnate and then became incarnate then is this not a change? If so, how can we say "God never changes?"

For all survivors....

You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.

You have waltzed with great style,
My sweet, crushed angel,
To have ever neared God's Heart at all.

Our Partner is notoriously difficult to follow,
And even His best musicians are not always easy
To hear.

So what if the music has stopped for a while.

So what
If the price of admission to the Divine
Is out of reach tonight.

So what, my dear,
If you do not have the ante to gamble for Real Love.

The mind and the body are famous
For holding the heart ransom,
But Hafiz knows the Beloved's eternal habits.

Have patience,

For He will not be able to resist your longing
For long.

You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to kiss the Beautiful One.

You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,
O my sweet,
O my sweet, crushed angel.

~Hafiz, 14th century Sufi mystic
translated by Daniel Ladinsky in "I Heard God Laughing"
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The Holy Order of MANS Part II

Anyway, all I wanted say about the Order is that, while I was never a member (I am much too young for that) I did spend about 3 years working with a CSB family that had been with the Order for some time before conversion to Orthodoxy.  My basic impression was that there had been little that was truly insidious in the Order and little insidious in the current CSB.  Basically, they're harmless.  I certainly felt annoyed at times about the reactionary baby-boomer disposition (e.g., everything went crazy in the 60s, let us therefore vote for Reagan), but I find that just as irritating in my parents.

Any religious movement will step on toes, and I don't mean to presume too much in relation to Monksrock experiences.  I only say that in my experience they were nice, zealous and irritating at times like most people are.

The Holy Order of MANS

The "cult"* word thrown at Christ the Savior Brotherhood here prompted me to do a bit of looking around on CSB.  I didn't find much that I didn't at least vaguely know about; but there is this somewhat interesting article by a fellow named Phillip Charles in a collection of essays housed in a book called America's Alternative Religions (1995).  I was able to read it online through the online catalog of my university library.  But if you're interested, you may have to dig up a hard copy.

"Cult" is a loaded word, of course.  Even a little thought shows that the wall between a "cult" and mainstream, accepted religion is hardly made of stone.  At any rate, this would hardly be the first time that the Holy Order of MANS or its successor would have been labeled a cult.  One important aspect of this academic article on the Order was that the whole shift away from progressive, alternative Christianity toward conservative, mainstream Christianity was, in part, motivated by the anti-cult hysteria that resulted from the Jonestown Massacre.  The larger point, however, was that most alternative religious sects, after a period of success, find themselves with dwindling membership and under heavy suspicion by the larger world.  The reaction can be either to move toward a more radical isolation from society or to outflank the critics by becoming extremely conservative and at least take on an appearance of conventional religiosity.  Of course, the latter is the choice that the Holy Order of MANS took and the author, writing in 1995, correctly predicted that CSB would move even further into the mainstream by dropping Pangratios and Fr. Herman (though, Fr. Herman, of course was not entirely done away with). 

What struck me was how closely this paralleled Mormonism (the faith of my childhood).  At first the Mormons wanted to move as far away from American society as they could.  When that proved unsustainable, they became ultra-conservative "patriots." 

I am told it is time for bed.  Goodnight.  More later perhaps.

Brain Surgeon

a story by lamesuperhero

A philosopher at a community college felt a sudden calling to be a brain surgeon. He went to a hospital and declared himself.

“Attention everyone,” he said a little awkwardly in his tweed coat. “Uh, actually I am not really a philosopher. I am really a brain surgeon.”

Some people objected, of course, but he was prepared for this resistance. He quoted Kant and the pre-Socratics at length. “I have studied the human mind, nuances of thought and epistemology – and I fixed my kitchen door once.”

“But you’ve never been to medical school,” objected the head doctor.

The philosopher was hurt. “I have just as much education as any doctor here,” he pouted.

After a shaky beginning (he took a while to get used to the equipment and the fact that he couldn’t smoke his pipe during surgery) the philosopher settled into a practice alongside other brain surgeons in the hospital. It wasn't easy. Other brain surgeons snubbed him constantly and made snide remarks about his corduroy pants and sandals and, most annoyingly, he was also frequently reminded of his very low success rate with patients. He tried to brush it off as jealousy, but after a while he grew indignant at the immaturity and intolerance of these supposed professionals who he had stoically hoped would understand him in time. He felt he was being marginalized by a clique of narrow minded philistines obviously threatened by his different but still quite rational approach to brain surgery.

He got a lawyer and sued the hospital for libel and harassment. With the millions he was awarded in damages, he bought a golf club membership and a large house in the suburbs to more fully steep himself in the culture of brain surgeons. He bought some scrubs to replace his tweed jacket and got some PBS videos on brain surgery to improve his success rate on the operating table.

He left the hospital and soon landed a job on a cable television show about ‘alternative brain surgeons’. With a little make up and some pointers from other TV doctors, the successful recovery rate of his patients soared. The show became a prime time hit and celebrities lined up to get brain surgery. He was interviewed by TV columnists and appeared on talk shows where he was praised for his more rounded, intellectual approach to brain surgery and courage in the face of adversity.

There was a big rift in the traditional brain surgery community. “We could learn from his experience,” said one eminent surgeon, hoping to patch things up. “His media techniques have brought brain surgery into the modern age.” Hospitals everywhere were divided into camps.

Medical bookstores experienced a massive demand for the works of Aristotle, Schopenhauer and other great philosophers. Medical schools scrambled to install resident philosophers in their programs and courses in Platonism, dialectics and existentialism became required for all medical students. Pipes became the rage.

The philosopher-brain surgeon enjoyed the patronage of ever more famous clients. Even people without brains came to him for consultation. At the peak of his career, he even operated on the president during a special CNN live broadcast, removing the presidents damaged, useless brain altogether and replacing it with a genetically bio-engineered sheep’s brain wired to a remote control. Everyone cheered at the tremendous success he had achieved after such horrible repression and discrimination from ultra conservative traditionalists.

Other brain surgeons lashed out, defending the increasingly embattled traditional brain surgery establishment with more and more abstruse and outdated arguments, harshly demanding extensive medical education and respect for proven techniques. Some fanatic fundamentalist brain surgeons wrote propaganda tracts on the health dangers of brain surgery from untrained people posing as actual brain surgeons, protesting the plethora of increasingly bold philosophers who were inundating medical clinics and setting up private brain surgery practices all over the country. Other reactionary extremists banded together to found exclusive hospitals that openly rejected all but a dwindling number of brain surgeons trained in the traditional manner. They had excellent success rates, but the media ignored them.

Philosophical brain surgery went completely mainstream. Most patients were very glad that now they had a choice. The zeitgeist took root and soon a number of traditionally conservative professions like lawyers and astrophysicists opened their doors to those outside their sphere of education and experience. Plumbers became psychiatrists, yoga instructors became electricians and politicians became child care specialists. Laws protecting those untrained in the area of their chosen expertise entered the books and those previously barred from professions just because they had no relevant experience, training or education enjoyed every legal protection.

The philosopher brain surgeon became famous, an international hero. He wrote a famous book called The Alchemy of Identity in which he explained that, “We are all really the same. You don’t have to change to become what you want. You can change what you want to be what you are.”

After years of brilliant television brain surgery, the good doctor announced his retirement from medicine. Asked what his plans were, he smiled in an intellectually stimulating way and announced his future occupation.

“Why, to become God, of course,” he said lovingly. “After all, what could possibly stop me?”

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Thinking, man

Christ the Savior Brotherhood

This is in response to Lamesuperhero's comment on the last post, along with other things I have been putting off saying. I will apologize in advance if I offend anyone.
Regardless of Fr. Herman's faults, he did as you say bring a lot of people to the church, but because of his sickness (not homosexuality), but the molestation which I think is just his own battle with homosexuality, and his continuance of denying what he considers "worldly" has hurt many people. This can be seen in the number of problems with how Christ the Savior Brotherhood came to Orthodoxy, which everyone knows. You Lamesuperhero are lucky that you have received authentic Orthodoxy from living in Russia. Fr. Herman allowed, through his own anti-authoritarian beliefs, the CSB to continue as a cult and not as part of the church as a whole. The CSB, even though, it has now been accepted into to the canonical church will continue to do what they have done since being a cult in the 70's. They still act as a cult and treat Orthodoxy as a cult, at least their form of it. That is why for instance not many CSB churches went under the OCA, they did not want the oversight. That is why I believe they accepted to go under other Diocese, for the lack of oversight. If it were up to any understanding Orthodox church, not looking for money, the priests should have not been so easily ordained and the parishioners not accepted as readily as they were. Most of the communities were given an easy out. Anyway, I don't know how long it will take before the brotherhood discontinues acting as a cult, but as long as they do not receive oversight from their canonical churches they will continue to hurt people and try to take away people's free will. I have experienced this personally in a number of communities I lived in, not to mention the monastery. That is what I was speaking of when I advised people to run from the CSB churches. A few years has not been long enough for them to recover from their own Holy Order of Mans cultish beliefs. This leads to the whole Death to the World brainwash that they have been preaching for awhile. This belief does nothing but hurt adolescent people who are struggling with their own bodies and coming of age stuff. If a person is called to monasticism they will know it, but to preach that monasticism is the best and only way to be it confuses children. The whole DTTW phenomenon is a wrong belief in that everyone has to live in the world and be part of it. The church itself, though it tries to convince people it is other worldly has all the same faults as the world. People are people, as can be seen with Fr. Herman, as long as there are people involved nothing is going to be sacred period! This can especially be seen in the crap that is happening in the OCA recently. There is nothing wrong with the "world" it is the world that helps people overcome whatever it is they need, not the church. It is the brotherhood's and Fr. Herman's rebellion that has spurned this belief, and as I said before it has hurt a lot of people. It may have helped a lot of people as well, but I would like to see the numbers. If one were to be converted to a religion it would be nice to see some transparency in the church, instead of the over exaggerating the good. Speaking of the fallibility of people, I don't believe in anything that was created by people. It can be seen that the "Holy Orthodox Church" was created by people. It may be the oldest Christian church historically, but history is it's only leg to stand on. It was during the first ecumenical council that some dudes, not necessarily holy fathers, got together and out of thousands of Christian writings decided to create the "Holy Bible" well what makes it "Holy'? Just them saying it does not make it holy. I cannot believe in a religion that for one started approximately three hundred years after Jesus committed suicide by cop, so to speak. There were originally a lot of beliefs the early Christians held some gnostic some more in line with what the church holds today. It took a number of Nicene councils to come up with what the Theology is today, and they were not all holy. For instance St. Nicholas (AKA Santa Claus) punched Nestorius, I believe, in the face. I'm sure that was a Holy punch! So it can be seen the foundation of the church was not divine, what about Judaism, which our tradition comes from. I don't even have to go there. Throughout the Old Testament God was telling them to do all kinds of crazy shit. It was more like whatever they needed to do, they would say God told me. Much like it is today, in our Holy war in the Middle East. Going back to the "evil sin of homosexuality, it was the Jews who said it was so bad, and the Christians just took that tradition. I can't believe that such a small group of people, residing in the smallest area on earth during early civilization were the "chosen people". Homosexuals in every other religion and throughout the world have had a place in society. It is only in our Judao-Christian tradition that it is condemned. There is real enlightenment in Christianity! Just as it can be seen historically that the Orthodox church is the oldest christian church, it should be able to be seen that it is not the True church, for only a small number of people follow it world wide. There are many truths found throughout the world. They are not only held within Orthodoxy. It has also been historically shown that Judaism very closely resembles the religion practiced by the ancient Egyptians. Therefore, Our Judao-Christian tradition should be called Egyptian-Judao-Christian tradition. This does not even scratch the surface with the Essenes or Nazarenes, but oh my god, don't read about that, it's the devil trying to shake your faith. Now, last but not least the experiences of the holy fathers/hesychasts. It can be seen that the same experiences related in the Philokalia are similar to monks that have lived throughout history. Anyone who goes into deep meditation experience many different things, some good some bad. Who knows maybe Christian monks met others from different religions. The prayer rope for instance resembles mantra beads, etc. It's a wide wonderful world, why would one want to kill it! They must be waiting to die and be transfigured in heaven, and not care about our world so much as to preserve it for our descendants. Much like G. W. Bush. My whole beef is not with Fr. Herman per se. It is what he represents in a church, and the people he has hurt, along with the thousands of people who have been hurt by people just like him. Is the problem the people or is it the church. That is not for me to decide.   
Thinking, man

(no subject)

Holy Shit! I am very glad and shocked to find your community. I have searched the internet for years and have not been able to find anything from people who are talking specifically about the monastery or the "brotherhood". Anyway I lived at St. Herman's Monastery from 1996 to 1998. From there I moved to Alaska to the St. Innocents Academy until 2000. I lived for awhile in Eugene with the community there, but did not have a very good experience. I now live in Boise Idaho, totally seperated from "the church" or any part of Christianity for that matter. I often think about my experiences with Orthodoxy, because they had such an impact on my formative years. I had a great struggle in 2000 when I decided to seperate myself from Orthodoxy. I had a difficult time for a number of reasons, but mostly it had to do with the fact that while living in the monastery as a novice, Fr. Herman tried numerous times to make out with me and use my own sexual frustration for his benefit. I am not the only person this happened to and other people have left the church for the same reason. I was reticent about saying these things but I recently found him speaking on Youtube, spouting his propaganda. I was under the impression that he was sent to reclusion by his spiritual father, a Romanian priest that I cannot remember his name, but the monastery wrote a book about him because he spent some time in the Romanian gulag. People are under the impression that Fr. Herman is some type of Holy Father, but he is nothing more than a confused old gay man that has nothing left to hang on to other than his Orthodox beliefs. It makes more sence when whosesplittingtheatom was also talking about Fr. Seraphim's homosexuality, and frustrates me to think that two gay guys from San Francisco moved to the mountains and became heiromonks ended up brainwashing a huge multitude of people. I'm not saying these things from a homophobic bias either. I have no problem with homosexuality, it's only ironic that the Orthodox church looks heavily down on it. Please don't let these words discourage you from believing in Orthodoxy. I would just not have anything to do with those people. I would join another church like one that is associated with the Greek Monastery in Arizona. The whole uncanonical bullshit that happened with the Brotherhood and the rechrismation also took a toll on my beliefs. I was very confused and did not feel like I was getting any answers from God or from the fathers at the Greek Monastery in Arizona, that I spent a few days at. I was really depressed and a bit suicidal about my decision to leave the church, for I was sure I was going to go to hell. Though, I have now come through it. These ae my experiences that have probably driven me further from Orthodoxy, and I would not want to discourage other's beliefs. I just want to help people get the hell away from St. Herman's monastey and those associated with it. People should be able to be Orthodox Christians and still exist in the world, and not fell like they have to live a monastic lifesyle. I did not feel like I could do both, so I left. I would be very interested in hearing others' experiences, I hope they may be less depressing than mine. 

The Reno Crowd

I just came across this group after looking up Orthodoxy in Reno, since I'm probably going to be moving there by the end of this month. I lived out in Gardnerville from '99-'02, wandered through the HOOM debris, and then wrote it all off for the OCA before leaving for greener pastures out here in Denver.

I heard somebody else here said something about Fr. Hilarion Frakes Orthodox mission with the OCA... ending in tears and heartbreak, and everybody went back to the Forerunner storefront church with their heads bowed in shame or something??!

What did I miss? I was thinking about looking these folks up when I get back there, since I haven't seen any of them in years.

St. Herman's Day Salmon and Pea Pie

I remember some of the monks could barely repress a snigger when they called it ‘Frosty’s Christmas’ but they were otherwise quite considerate to those who felt obliged to be with their non-Orthodox families on the 25th of December.  They had the spiritual luxury of being in the snowy woods in their own self contained Orthodox environment, but I wasn’t too jealous because Christmas was always a special time for my family and it was as good a time as any to practice the virtue of shutting up and having a good time with well meaning but uncomprehending family relations. I had been a vegetarian for many years so food issues during the fast weren’t really a problem except that I was one of those ichtho-veggies who considered fish a vegetable and during the Nativity fast, even fish was out. So it was cookies and wine and Harvard beets and no peeking at lists of ingredients lest I find nefarious teaspoons of egg or milk here and there. I don’t think my family would have cared if I ate only celery on Christmas, but there was a certain fatal attraction around things like eggnog and French toast and I could hardly blame peer pressure from my family for lapses into the heterodox Christmas spirit. I usually had a three or four course confession before Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.  

I don’t think I made the full transition to December 25th = St. Herman’s Day until I was living abroad and there was no one to cater to but myself or my Orthodox companions. In Russia the 25th is an ordinary working day and I often have to work out a way to celebrate the feast of St. Herman, who is not prominent on the Russian Orthodox calendar.   Fortunately, the Nativity Fast is much milder in the Russian church and the nominal rule is that fish is allowed on every day except Wednesday and Friday. The Russians are very relaxed on the oil rules as well, so making a savory St. Herman Salmon and Pea Pie is a perfect way to celebrate this feast during the fast. 

My pie is my own recipe inspired by Fr. Herman and the St. Herman Brothers, who encouraged the tradition of ‘pea pie’ during the original Valaam Academy held on monastery grounds in Platina, California in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  The informal catechism of lectures and introduction to Orthodoxy by exposure to monastic life lasted for about two weeks in the late summer. On July 27 (OS – August 9th NS) the Feast of the Glorification of St. Herman (1970) was celebrated with particular flare as it is the only feast day of St. Herman that falls outside a fasting period.  The monks did not have the wherewithal to produce pies – they usually served fish with mashed potatoes and a few peas which Fr. Herman would bless and pronounce to be a pie. Though the kitchen faculties have vastly improved at the monastery since that time, the monks probably still don’t make actual pies. This is my tribute to them and it is my hope that someday, I will be able to make it for them on one of the feasts of St. Herman.

 After living in Russia for some time, it became clear to me that when Russians say ‘pie’ they usually mean ‘piroshki’ which are more like stuffed savory buns. They have the added benefit of not requiring pie pans. This recipe is more for what Americans would call a ‘pot pie,’ a savory filling placed into a smaller, oven-proof dish and topped with a pie crust. I like to make larger pies because they look good on the table. So this is an American interpretation of the St. Herman tradition, which I find fitting because I want to give this gift to my Russian friends as well and it will be a new experience for them.

In most Russian markets, it is possible to get whole frozen salmon very cheap.  The quality is often not so good but if one thaws the salmon for a while to a semi-frozen state, it is quite easy to work with. Removing the spine, fins and any freezer burned portions is easy and the remaining fillets can be easily cut into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes. I use the bones and less attractive parts to make the broth richer, but adding the fish means you will need to clarify the broth later, which can be difficult and time consuming of you don’t know how to do it. (see comments for actual recipe) 

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