EXCERPTS FROM DR. D.L. EDMUNDS' WORKS:

"When all they knew was that oppression and coercion was said to be because ‘we love you’, when ‘love’ really was only about control, how can the person then understand genuine love? Once again, the confusion sets in. To reach the person who has been deemed ‘mad’, we cannot overwhelm. Our sincerity will not be enough, for there trust has been shattered time and time again. It is only through entering their world for what it is, by joining in, and learning to speak the language, can we ourselves begin to understand the experience of these individuals. It is only by this joining in that the person may have the chance for their journey known as ‘madness’ to reach a transformative ending towards recovery." -JOURNEY THROUGH 'MADNESS' (2006)

"What exactly is a person? We live, but what does it mean to actually live? Who are we? Where are we going? What exactly are we doing? Must we do anything? Must we go anywhere?" -BEING AND BECOMING (2007)

"Some teens are so hurt and are suffering from the adults in their lives and the chaotic environment in which they dwell, that they turn to 'radical rebellion'...Parents and others must stop looking at the child as the 'problem' or try through various means to uncover some 'hidden problem' or try to blame the problem on others. If the parent can be honest and instropective, no matter how difficult and even painful that may be, they will find that there are ways that they can help alleviate the suffering of their child and they may even uncover that there were ways they contibuted to this suffering. This does not mean the parent must wallow in guilt, but rather to recognize the things that must change for the teen and the family to have a more harmonious relationship." -HEARING OUR SERIOUSLY DISTRESSED ADOLESCENTS (2005)

"I share this scenario because sadly it is becoming a frightening reality: A child is considered overly active and has behavioral issues at school. The school staff may recommend psychiatric intervention and even go as far as to say that medication is necessary, even designating which one. The child sees the psychiatrist for a brief session- it is never examined if the child has any physical conditions, allergies, etc. Immediately the child is labeled and given a dose of psychostimulant. The child develops side effects such as weight loss, insomnia, and possible tics. In order to counteract the insomnia, a new drug such as Klonidine is added. The child develops emotional lability and has crying episodes and manic behaviors. The psychiatrist is seen again for a brief time, and on this visit its determined that 'bipolar is emerging'. The child is then given Depakote or some other mood stablizer. The child now must receive regular blood tests to insure that liver toxicity does not arise. The child is not overly active, he is quite docile, so it is reported that improvement has occurred. However, with the combination of drugs, he develops some psychotic like symptoms where he feels something is crawling on him and has some hallucinations. The psychiatrist is consulted again, and its determined that bipolar with psychotic features exists or maybe even the possibility of childhood schizophrenia. The child is then given Risperdal or another neuroleptic. Strangely, the child begins developing unusual jaw movements and muscle rigidity. The parents are concerned and ask the psychiatrist if this is medication related and if the child is overmedicated. The psychiatrist brushes off the question and prescribes Cogentin (used for Parkinson's) to alleviate the neurological problems but fails to remove the offending agent. The child's behavior becomes more unusual and bizarre leading to hospitalization where medications are raised and adjusted and new ones added. Then the recommendation comes from the psychiatrist that it would be better for the child to be moved to a residential treatment facility. While in the residential facility, the child is frequently restrained and is injured, he is placed with other children with serious emotional and behaviorla distress. he is discharged home having absorbed alot of new negative behaviors from peers, lacking knowledge of the outside world, and with few skills. So, once the child nears adulthood, it is recommended that he live in a group home where he can be cared for and the psychiatric regiment can be maintained. The child has been 'treated.'"-CHILD'S PLAY:TREATING THE INSANITY OF THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM (2004)

"Before joy can blossom, before a true friendship can blossom, it must first endure and understand the opposing force, for then it is pointed to the more profound and the more lasting understanding of what joy is all about." TRUE FRIENDSHIP (1998)

"Are there too many barriers? Can we put aside our affiliations, our ethnicities, our religions, and all the other things that set us apart? Can we come together completely bare and share in the human condition?" EXPERIENCE: THE SOUL OF THERAPY (2007)

As human beings, we all seek to be free from suffering. We all seek to be free from oppression. We all react to what we experience. Some react in unconventional ways. Not all reactions are effective means, yet we react. We all are seeking to create order, a sense of purpose to our lives, though there are varying constructs of what life is, of what it means to be human. Some retreat from suffering or seek higher levels of consciousness through use of substances, but this often becomes destructive, much like a plane soaring to high altitudes only to crash and burn upon landing. Those who become labeled as mentally ill are often seeking to break free from severe oppression and suffering. Yet society seeks to stifle their experience. How dare they break free! How dare they act in ways we do not approve! So we drug and shock them hoping they 'come to their senses' or at least not be a 'bother' to us anymore. If we could only come to realize the transformative process, and support their liberation. If society could but realize its illness rather than ascribing so called illness to persons.-ROOTS OF DISTRESS (2008)

"When all they knew was that oppression and coercion was said to be because 'we love you', when 'love' really was only about control, how can the person then understand genuine love? Once again, the confusion sets in. To reach the person who has been deemed 'mad', we cannot overwhelm. Our sincerity will not be enough, for there trust has been shattered time and time again. It is only through entering their world for what it is, by joining in, and learning to speak the language, can we ourselves begin to understand the experience of these individuals. It is only by this joining in that the person may have the chance for their journey known as 'madness' to reach a transformative ending towards recovery." -JOURNEY THROUGH 'MADNESS' (2006)

"What exactly is a person? We live, but what does it mean to actually live? Who are we? Where are we going? What exactly are we doing? Must we do anything? Must we go anywhere?" -BEING AND BECOMING (2007)

"Some teens are so hurt and are suffering from the adults in their lives and the chaotic environment in which they dwell, that they turn to 'radical rebellion'...Parents and others must stop looking at the child as the 'problem' or try through various means to uncover some 'hidden problem' or try to blame the problem on others. If the parent can be honest and instropective, no matter how difficult and even painful that may be, they will find that there are ways that they can help alleviate the suffering of their child and they may even uncover that there were ways they contibuted to this suffering. This does not mean the parent must wallow in guilt, but rather to recognize the things that must change for the teen and the family to have a more harmonious relationship." -HEARING OUR SERIOUSLY DISTRESSED ADOLESCENTS (2005)

"I share this scenario because sadly it is becoming a frightening reality: A child is considered overly active and has behavioral issues at school. The school staff may recommend psychiatric intervention and even go as far as to say that medication is necessary, even designating which one. The child sees the psychiatrist for a brief session- it is never examined if the child has any physical conditions, allergies, etc. Immediately the child is labeled and given a dose of psychostimulant. The child develops side effects such as weight loss, insomnia, and possible tics. In order to counteract the insomnia, a new drug such as Klonidine is added. The child develops emotional lability and has crying episodes and manic behaviors. The psychiatrist is seen again for a brief time, and on this visit its determined that 'bipolar is emerging'. The child is then given Depakote or some other mood stablizer. The child now must receive regular blood tests to insure that liver toxicity does not arise. The child is not overly active, he is quite docile, so it is reported that improvement has occurred. However, with the combination of drugs, he develops some psychotic like symptoms where he feels something is crawling on him and has some hallucinations. The psychiatrist is consulted again, and its determined that bipolar with psychotic features exists or maybe even the possibility of childhood schizophrenia. The child is then given Risperdal or another neuroleptic. Strangely, the child begins developing unusual jaw movements and muscle rigidity. The parents are concerned and ask the psychiatrist if this is medication related and if the child is overmedicated. The psychiatrist brushes off the question and prescribes Cogentin (used for Parkinson's) to alleviate the neurological problems but fails to remove the offending agent. The child's behavior becomes more unusual and bizarre leading to hospitalization where medications are raised and adjusted and new ones added. Then the recommendation comes from the psychiatrist that it would be better for the child to be moved to a residential treatment facility. While in the residential facility, the child is frequently restrained and is injured, he is placed with other children with serious emotional and behavioral distress. he is discharged home having absorbed alot of new negative behaviors from peers, lacking knowledge of the outside world, and with few skills. So, once the child nears adulthood, it is recommended that he live in a group home where he can be cared for and the psychiatric regiment can be maintained. The child has been 'treated.'"-CHILD'S PLAY:TREATING THE INSANITY OF THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM (2004)

"Before joy can blossom, before a true friendship can blossom, it must first endure and understand the opposing force, for then it is pointed to the more profound and the more lasting understanding of what joy is all about." TRUE FRIENDSHIP (1998)

"Are there too many barriers? Can we put aside our affiliations, our ethnicities, our religions, and all the other things that set us apart? Can we come together completely bare and share in the human condition?" EXPERIENCE: THE SOUL OF THERAPY (2007)

I had the experience of encountering a young man who had been given the diagnosis of 'schizophrenia'. He had been through years of therapy and had been through multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. Mental health professionals spoke of him only in clinical terms and I found this disturbing. His chart was reams and reams of paper painting the picture of an immensely helpless and hopeless character. The school system sought to exile him as well. I tossed aside all the clinical records, they only reported on his behavior, not his experience. It is the experience that is the 'soul' of the person. Psychiatrists never really spoke to the young man, they deferred to his parents, or spoke at him, judging his behavior and assigned their labels. I embarked on becoming his therapist and in this did not want to judge his behavior, I wanted to know the person. So our sessions involved a process of my merely listening, of connecting. I did not seek to judge him, label him, or dismiss his experience. I only sought to join him where he was at. He began to relate to me his pain, his feelings of isolation and aloneness. He shared with me about the voices he heard and the beings he saw. I would converse with him about these beings, treating them as real as he was before me. Over time, I saw that these things were fragments of himself, they were dreams he had, hopes he envisioned, people he wanted to meet who never arrived. He had immense fear, and I journeyed with him in understanding the roots of this fear. I stood by him as he sought out new ways of living and coping. I understood the circumstances which led to his 'madness' and set forth some new possibilities, but at his pace, at his comfort level. He has overcome a lot, and we continue to have periods of conversation though we do not see each other as frequently. We forged a bond as two persons with very different experiences, but each seeking to understand the human condition, each seeking to know about this thing we call life." -ROOTS OF DISTRESS (2008)

"As human beings, we all seek to be free from suffering. We all seek to be free from oppression. We all react to what we experience. Some react in unconventional ways. Not all reactions are effective means, yet we react. We all are seeking to create order, a sense of purpose to our lives, though there are varying constructs of what life is, of what it means to be human. Some retreat from suffering or seek higher levels of consciousness through use of substances, but this often becomes destructive, much like a plane soaring to high altitudes only to crash and burn upon landing. Those who become labeled as mentally ill are often seeking to break free from severe oppression and suffering. Yet society seeks to stifle their experience. How dare they break free! How dare they act in ways we do not approve! So we drug and shock them hoping they 'come to their senses' or at least not be a 'bother' to us anymore. If we could only come to realize the transformative process, and support their liberation. If society could but realize its illness rather than ascribing so called illness to persons".-ROOTS OF DISTRESS (2008)

"We are a society of shifting blame. We are a society that does not seek to take ownership and responsibility. We are a society that knows not how to think critcally but only to possess and consume. The American dream can be now said to be the American nightmare. We do not think of others, but we focus on our own survival, and our political leaders and the elite have placed persons in this uncomfortable position of intense worry for their own survival. When this occurs, the concern for others lessens, and we focus solely on our own needs, our own desires. Society itself is sick, yet it seeks to pathologize those who would react to this sick society, and it offers them its technologies, it offers them its drugs, to numb them into accepting things as they are rather than to actively protest and change the injustices that exist. American society has become apathetic and numb, and if such persists, our further decline is only inevitable. Let us hope that some will awaken from their stupor before it is too late."

Sadly, in my work with children and adolescents I have come to the awareness of the fact that there are often many dysfunctional family dynamics and oppressive societal structures that impact these kids that I as one person cannot possibly change though If I could I would. This does not mean that I do not continue to challenge and resist those things that lead to distress and oppression. But, I must realize that many of these young people are placed in situations that are almost like a prison sentence. They cannot escape it, and many times these dynamics tear them apart and often lead them to self-destruction. But, if it can be instilled that this prison sentence could be over in time, that self-destruction is not necessary, but that the person can overcome and be free. I realize that though I cannot change many of these things (largely because those perpetuating it do not want to change), what I can do is to provide these young people a time of respite, a time where they can feel safe and free from the burdens, and know that they have someone who will listen and respect their experience. This in itself is a great gift, and very powerful. It means so much to me when I hear from former clients who tell me what the time I spent with them, often just listening, meant to them. I cannot say that every client had the most wonderful outcome, some overcame, and some persisted in difficulties. But even the ones whose choices were poor and persisted in difficulties, when I spoke to them or corresponded with them, they would remind me of how much it meant to them to have someone on their side, someone who would listen and seek to understand.

We are seeing the collapse of our economic system based on the greed that has been inherent in this system. It is a disgrace that some individuals are able to accumulate wealth individually that is greater than that of some small nations while children are starving, and the middle class continues to shrink and struggle for their survival. It is the barriers of class, religion, race, and so forth that leads to conflict and ultimately our downfall. Our society has lost its sense of community and connectedness, and the desire for profit has caused us to lose sight of the humanity of others. All of these barriers lead to our isolation and alienation. We are each day become more and more alienated from each other, so absorbed into selfish interests. And even the so-called 'helping professions' have become more about the profits that can be gained that the true desire to be with others and to come to their aid. In the age of managed care organizations, the needs of distressed persons are limited by the elite's need to earn profit. The downtrodden are dehumanized, they are looked upon as lesser, and ultimately as a source of profit. They must be kept in their place. If they actually 'got better', where would the profits come from? So, it is easier to drug them into compliance and conformity. It is easier just to 'maintain them', as then we know that our profits are not in jeopardy. Is it possible for us to come to a point where we will place people before profits? What will it take? What must we do?

What we become is a product of our thought and a product of how we choose to respond to the social and political processes at work daily in our lives, from our very birth. The young child begins to learn what responses to give that will gain him or her attention, affection, or approval. The family is the cauldron of our being. Often what we see, we become. Aggression breeds aggression. Lies creates liars. Lack of regard for the child leads to the child have a lack of empathy for others. Poor familial boundaries leads to the child haivng poor boundaries in regards to others. How do some families evoke such violence upon their own children? We live in a society where children are committing the crimes of adults, where children are rapidly entering the world of adults but lack the growth and maturity to be fully responsible and understanding. Because of societal pressures, adults are abandoning their children, and children are thrown into a brutal quest for survival. They are exposed to the corrupt world of adults. Parental egoism and desire for self gratification become passed down to the children. Families shrouded in secrecy and denial are often the most destructive upon the minds of children. This becomes the breeding ground for the most vile of thought and action. These are the families who make lofe about control- 'do as I say but not as I do, do this because I love you". The child has no clear direction. They then begin to seek to break from their painful reality. They are fearful, possibly mre fearful of living than of death. These children because of what they have seen and heard become persons as well who seek to use power, domination, and manipulation upon others. These are the children who become offenders. The mechanical world we exist within, where those who are not of the elite must struggle day by day leads to children being cast aside. The mechanical mentality has infected all institutions. Schools are no longer about learning but conformity, where students produce desired results for their teachers. We are creating frustrated families and frustrated children. This frustration has now built to the level of rage. This rage is destroying the minds of our children. This rage leads to violence and conflict. Is there a way out? Is there another way? It requires us to evaluate our responses. Life is suffering, all are presented with problems, this we cannot escape. But we can chose how to address our problems. If persons begin to lay aside the pain and hurt, and can build resiliency against the violence said to be 'love', if we can become survivors rather than victims, we stand a chance. If society and families can re-evaluate its values and principles, there is a chance. Many times a child is helped by having a helping person journey with them. We cannot do this alone, we must have others to journey with us. We need the restoration of a sense of community, of our inter-connectedness. There are no easy solutions. Sadly, the battle for the 'soul' of our children will mean some will be saved, and some will remain lost. But if even one child can be saved from the pit of self destruction, the efforts of time, compassion, and wisdom will be well worth it. In a world so rife with despair, it is so easy for us to fall into the same traps. Let us guard our minds, let us strive for social justice, and not give up hope that even in our small way, we can make a difference. -ROOTS OF DISTRESS (2008) FROM DR. EDMUNDS NEW BOOK, 'THE ODDITIES OF RELIGION' (2009) At age 15, I was studying about the Middle East in Middle School, I was 15. As a project, I decided to interview some individuals at the local Islamic Center. It was here I encountered Ali, a kind gentleman from Saudi Arabia. He later invited me to his home for dinner and introduced me to others in the Muslim community of Fort Collins. I spent another two years studying Islam, learning the Qur'an and Hadith. To this day, I still remember how to recite Surah Al Fatiha, Surah Al-Ikhlas, and Surah Al-Kauthar as well as how to chant the Adhaan. I began working for a man, Ahcene, from Algeria, and every Friday attended the congregational prayers with him.

Islam was a simplistic religion based on the oneness of God, however I must admit I was distressed and remain distressed about the militant nature of the religion. As I mentioned some of the strange rules with Judaism, I found some of the same with Islam. There were certain guidelines about being ‘pure’ before prayer. I was given a handbook on what nullifies ‘wudu’ (the cleansing before prayer), one of them was breaking wind. So, if you fart before prayer, you need to wash again, if you fart during prayer, you have to do your prayer over. Allah does not like farts. More distressing was the fact that I saw women treated as second class. At the mosque, they were sent to the basement and were apart from the men. At dinners, they ate separately and only interacted with the men to serve their food. They had little voice. During Juma’a prayer on Friday one time, it was taught about the pleasures awaiting those who enter Paradise, but most of these pleasures were reserved for men, and the description of Paradise seemed much like a drunken orgy. It appeared to me that Muhammad was taking fragments of the religions at the time to consolidate power and bring unity to the Arab world, thus he was a radical political leader, a warlord and dictator.

During my high school years, I was friends with a Mormon girl who when I moved back to Florida from Colorado I decided to keep in touch with. I stayed with my grandfather for a week and gave her his address. Though, my family later located elsewhere, the Mormon missionaries ended up with this address and for almost 6 months each week would look for me and bring brownies. My grandfather would take the Brownies and never told them we were not living there, I guess after awhile they must have figured it out. When traveling through Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, I noticed a small shrine on the side of the road. Curious, I stopped to find that it marked the supposed site where John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith. Wow! Here I had been working in Tunkhannock, PA on the banks of a holy river, and I never knew it! How mistaken I was to think that the Susquehanna was just a smelly, polluted river! I began to think, maybe it might be like the Ganges, if I drink the water, I might be cured or healed, or go to Heaven. I remember my Mormon friend explaining to me this concept of people becoming spiritual beings to inhabit planets. Her mother had been wedded to her father in a Temple wedding, so by virtue of this, they were married eternally. However, the woman he presently remarried after the mother’s death was only wedded in the church itself, so their marriage would end at death. She also explained to me how she had baptized some of my relatives by proxy. This is why they keep genealogical records so they can baptize dead folks and give them the opportunity to become Latter Day Saints once they are dead. I think Elvis is a Mormon now.

When I was in graduate school at the University of Scranton I recall there being an extensive discussion surrounding the idea of transubstantiation, that is the changing of bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ by the priest using the words of institution, “Take, eat this is my Body” and “Drink this all of you, this the My Blood, the Blood of the New Covenant.” One of the Jesuit priests gave a discourse on how that in Roman Catholic theology that it was the priest stating these words that were most important and which led to the transubstantiation. I then asked what would occur if a priest were to walk past and bakery and mutter these words, if all the breads in the bakery would then become the Body of Christ. I can think of many who would probably much rather enjoy stopping off at their local bakery for a Body of Christ than having to endure sitting through a Mass.

When I was actually involved for a time in the Roman Catholic Church (I had been baptized and confirmed at age 18 in St. Brendan’s Roman Catholic parish in Ormond Beach, Florida), I recall two stories involving my parish priest. Once, about 5 minutes before Mass, I was asked to bring the priest’s elderly mother over to the Church. I did not realize that she had locked the keys of the rectory inside. The priest began cursing at me and telling me I should have been watching his mother more carefully. Immediately after this tirade, he went up the altar steps to celebrate Mass. I have to admit I was a bit disgusted with him, but a few weeks later I guess retribution came as he was walking up the altar steps the bottom of his alb caught on fire. I along with others had to get cups of water to put the fire out. The priest was not injured and he carried on.

I had a discussion, once again in a theology class, over the Roman Catholic concept of divorce. I had personally known individuals who had been married, had children, and then later had their marriage annulled. In each of these situations they had paid vast amounts to the Church and the annulment process was heard by a tribunal of elderly Roman Catholic fuddy duddy clergy. I questioned what they would know about this marriage and divorce process to begin with and why it rested upon their authority to make a decision. Aside from that, I asked the question that if these people had their marriage annulled, and there were children involved, then this made the children illegitimate, as the annulment implied that no marriage ever actually existed. No one ever responded to this. I also found the devotion to the “Sacred Heart” plainly unusual. I remember asking if we are going to pray to the Heart, why not the Sacred Spleen, or the Holy Gall Bladder? Beyond this, was the wax body parts I saw in some Italian churches and medals of body parts in the Greek church that were made and hung from an icon or placed in front of a statue to honor a particular ‘healing’.

I worked for a time as a chaplain in a nursing home. I found a lot of value in spending time with the elderly and it saddened me to see how for many of these folks their families were often absent. Even more disturbing was the fact that many of these people were lifelong members of churches, were considered in ‘good standing’ and even while in the nursing home would often send donations to the churches. I came to learn from the activities director that they had spend almost 6 months with no success trying to get a Roman Catholic priest to come and minister to these persons. I offered my services and was well received. I basically became an inter-faith minister. It did not matter to me the belief system of those I was dealing with, I was not looking for some future or even present reward. I looked mainly at that it was the right thing to do to be with these people, lend them an ear, and be comforting to them. I hope that someone will do the same for me when I am elderly. However- this situation caused me some trouble, let me explain: At the time I was serving as a chaplain I was still attached to an Eastern Orthodox Christian jurisdiction. I was told that I was to only minister to those of the Orthodox faith, and that I was to ask each person of their background before I ministered to them. I found this unfortunate and absurd, and in my rebellious and stubborn spirit, I refused to acquiesce. This was one of the last straws that led me out of the Orthodox Church entirely. There were many other issues, let me begin with that-

I first became interested in the Eastern Orthodox Church when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Florida. Having been in the Roman Catholic Church, I was taught that Orthodoxy was our sister Church. I visited a Greek Orthodox parish for the Divine Liturgy at Easter. It was a beautiful service with wonderful chanting, sweet smelling incense, brilliant Iconography. I was very impressed by the aesthetics as well as the historical nature of Orthodoxy. However, this very first visit to the Orthodox Church would be very telling and sum up a lot of my later objections. During the middle of the service, the priest interrupted the service and began yelling, “Sit down! Sit down! When you are standing it makes me nervous, and when I get nervous, I get annngggggry! And you do not want the priest angry at Pascha!” I could not believe my ears. I somewhat ignored the outburst and continued to take in the rest of the service.

A few years after this experience, I was ordained as a deacon in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I recall encountering a Bishop who was a very haughty man who enjoyed having the people kiss his hand and certainly thought he was ‘all that’ because of his rank and title. It was my first Paschal service serving as a deacon and I had invited my family. The Metropolitan Archbishop was present, a jovial old fellow. I explained to him that my relatives were not Orthodox and would just be observing. He seemed fine with that, however the other bishop began pushing them into unfamiliar rituals and scoffed at them when they did not oblige. For instance, the Gospel book was presented for the congregation to venerate by kissing it. The bishop, having been told my family would only be observers, had the Gospel book shoved into their face. The bishop just stood there waiting for them to kiss it. My uncle politely nodded his head but would not kiss it. He later remarked to me, “I guess we are just not book kissers.” The following year, I was ordained to the priesthood. It would be soon after that I would spend some time in monastic life. While the time for contemplation and reflection was of value, I later began to question the real value of what I was involved in. How is spending my life in isolation from others really making any impact in the lives of others? In concluded it was not, and that was largely how I later entered the counseling field.

At one monastery, I had a number of interesting experiences (if you have not noticed, a lot of my experiences have been ‘interesting’). First, I walked into a room where there were chairs to sit, and also in this room was a small bed, more of a cot, with a picture on it. I was very curious as to what this was all about, so I asked the Abbot-Bishop of the Monastery. He explained to me that a Russian bishop had lived and died there and that had been his bed. He later went on with stories about how this Bishop could bi-locate and he had performed other miracles and that he was definitely a saint. At that moment, a nun (who I had great admiration for her boldness and willingness to tell it how it is) whispered to my friend, Deacon Zacharias, “nah, he was just an old senile man who used to chase me with his cane.” Deacon Zacharias later jokingly told me that if I did not behave in the monastery that this Russian Bishop’s hand would creep across that bed and grab me!

In this same monastery, I would experience what I came to turn the ‘putting out of the lights’ ceremony. It was Orthodox Christmas Eve. We had just finished the services for the evening and I left the monastery to stay in a hotel as I would be visiting my grandparents who were in town. Deacon Zacharias stayed behind at the monastery for the night. As I was leaving the church after services, I noticed a woman with a scowl walking in. I thought, I wonder who she is, never seen her before, and man, she looks rather unhappy. Well, the next morning, I would discover that this woman had to be escorted out of the Church by police as she went into the Church to smash things and kept repeating, “I am the devil, I must put out the lights.” Deacon Zacharias has always been a great friend of mine and he is autistic. His response to this situation I found hilarious, but it worked. He informed me that he told her “you do not have any devil, and if you do, maybe I can smack it out of you.” He said it was then that she actually stopped her bad behavior in the church and stopped trying to smash things. It was thereafter the police came and took her away. I later found out that the Abbot had met this woman before and had performed some sort of exorcism ritual over her. Obviously it did not work, but Deacon Zacharias’ plan to ‘get the devil out of her’ certainly did!

I went to visit a Greek Monastery in New York City. After the Liturgy, I was invited to lunch. The Archbishop was seated on a platform above everyone else. I was told that when I approached the bishop I was to bow my head, fold my hands, and say “Evlogeite, Master!” (Bless, Master), and after receiving a blessing and kissing his hand I could take my seat. I wanted to use the telephone while there, but told I would have to go through the same ritual (I decided the call was not that important). We were seated by rank. So, the supposedly more important you were the closer you got to sit to the Archbishop. I was not that important, so we sat towards the end of the table. The nuns did not eat with us, they only brought the food and wine. And boy was there much wine consumed by a group of monks! Basically, I was appalled by this hierarchical nonsense and saw no purpose in it other than men behaving arrogantly and using presumed authority to control and manipulate others. I would later learn that these bishops were involved in a scam involving a supposedly weeping icon. These two ‘monks’ were millionaires! I later learned of other scams of similar nature, one at a Russian monastery in Texas where they later admitted that their claims of having a weeping Icon was plain fraud.

I did have a very positive experience meeting the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but this too would latter be shattered. I went to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Columbus, Ohio and the Patriarch was visiting. Many of the women had tattoos of crosses on their foreheads and they would cover their mouths after receiving communion. The service was similar to a Greek Orthodox liturgy but there was drumming included. I was invited to lunch and spoke with the Patriarch who appeared kind and down to earth. However, I would later learn that there was a schism in the Ethiopian Church and that this Patriarch had been accused of capitulating to an oppressive regime in Ethiopia. This sort of thing also happened in the Russian Orthodox Church, where compromise of principles occurred frequently. The worst of the worst was to discover that a Greek Bishop I had spoken with many times, and who people held in esteem, was guilty of molesting a child. This sort of thing is one of the worst travesties I can think of, because in the church, young people are unfortunately taught that their clergy are representatives of God. If they are taught to put faith in these people and see them in this pivotal role and then this trust is shattered, just imagine what this must do to a person. It was after this incident that I began to really have my doubts about remaining in the Orthodox Church, and it was the things that happened as a chaplain that I mentioned prior that I decided to finally depart.

Through my experiences, I came to some conclusions- first, that my initial desire to explore and embrace religiosity was based on a desire to be benevolent to others; however religion does not always teach benevolence, religious people are not always benevolent, and that one does not need religion to be benevolent. I also began to see how that religion is used by some as a means of oppression. I witnessed many who went through various rituals because it was 'what they were supposed to do' but it lacked any real sense of meaning for them and in many instances these rituals lacked any real sense of rationality. This was the other conclusion I came to, that religion often lacks any rationality; it plainly at times makes no sense. I find it interesting how new religions can be criticized as "cults" by the 'mainstream' religions, yet these 'mainstream' religions belief systems can often be seen as rather 'far out' though because there is a vast number adhering to it, it has become accepted. If we talk about body thetans, we are looked at strangely. If we talked about talking bushes and virgin births, we are not. To me, if we are to discuss "God", then it would be all the physical laws and our own innate potential as humans to be benevolent to one another. I have found that people often are looking to escape from life, to reject their own nature, and to try to alter nature. Rather than live joyfully, they live in drudgery expecting some idealized future existence. And often fear and rewards are employed to 'keep people in check'. Religion may have served as purpose in a time where people were distressed and sought meaning and stories and myths provided them comfort. But now, when we have the ability to explore our world far beyond previous eras, and we have more vast tools to be rational and make sense of our world, then religion becomes less of something that individuals should need to turn to. However, it remains because many in power impose it, families impose it on their children, and some retain it because for social reasons, to benefit themselves, or because they cannot find meaning in rational ways. Often rather than seeking to help and support one another, or looking to transform ourselves and our society, we await something from above to come and do everything for us, so we never take any real action, or we rattle of our laundry list of requests (or sometimes demands), hoping that they will be heard, and when nothing changes, we think, well maybe it was not the Divine will. Hopefully, we can come to a realization of just what it means to be a human being and how precious our lives really are!


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