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Sacred Arts Foundation a/k/a Monastery Icons

Irish Melkite

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Monastery Icons has been a recurring topic here, as well as on other Eastern fora.

I have had occasion to revisit the topic recently in response to inquiries made on another site by a poster. The individual was rather dubious about how much stock to put in Father Anthony Nelson's well-known expose regarding the group and then insistent on the need for further documentation of the situation regarding SAF/MI.

So, having dug deeper, only to further confirm what we've long known, I decided that folks here should also have the benefit of this latest research. (This will also give my brother, John/prodromos, a new thread on the topic to bump periodically, as he has so faithfully done for a long time, at several sites.) 

Firstly, to save much typing, this compilation of what was already known about them is the product of my brother, Heracleides. He posted it in another thread here some time back (the thread was on another subject and discussion of MI was related but peripherally).

Heracleides said:
To bring together the known information on Monastery Icons I present the following:

1) An Orthodox commentary on the history/origins of Monastery Icons http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/monasteryicons.aspx

2) Due to the negative publicity generated by the above commentary, Monastery Icons has sought to evade the bad press using a corporate slight of hand, this being their "acquisition" by the Sacred Arts Foundation - this is noted on Monastery Icons website http://www.monasteryicons.com/info/index.hzml

3) When questioned about their ties to the previous owners http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/lofiv...hp/t46309.html (quote from "thedude" towards the bottom of the webpage), they now attempt to disavow any connection:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting us. About ten years ago competitors and enemies of Monastery Icons perpetrated the spurious information cited in Fr. Nelson¹s letter, in an attempt to compromise the business of Monastery Icons. Fortunately the sacred arts ministry of Monastery Icons was not harmed by this attempt, and most people recognize the letter for what it is: a bizarre conglomeration of lies, fantasy, and misinformation.

Further, Sacred Arts Foundation acquired the Monastery Icons sacred art collection three years ago. The Monastery no longer manufactures the icons nor does it own the Monastery Icons business. The icons from Monastery Icons are not blessed with any rituals, “occult” or otherwise. Thank you again for your interest. If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely
Richard

Monastery Icons
Customer Service
1-800-729-4952

Monasteryicons.com
 
4) When one digs further, one finds out that the Sacred Arts Foundation is incorporated in Missouri (thank you Irish Melkite for the following information) http://www.byzcath.org/forums/ubbthr...page/0/fpart/2 :

Irish Melkite said:
2005 Annual Report - Sacred Arts Foundation - State of Missouri - Secretary of State's Office filing shows that the principal place of business is 1482 Rango Way, Borrego Springs, CA. The Foundation has only a registered agent in MO, which is a great place to incorporate, as the fees are dirt-cheap.

The officers include William Burke - the former Abbott of the infamous Gnostic Orthodox Monastery.

1482 Rango Way, Borrego Springs, CA, btw, is the locale of Atma Jyoti Ashram , "a spiritual institution devoted to the practice and teaching of Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, as found in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali." This is Abbott Burke's latest religious venture.

It would appear that one corporate entity, as it was being phased out, sold its assets to the new corporate venture - essentially mirrors of one another in regard to governance, differing chiefly in ecclesiology. 

The links for the above information are: https://www.sos.mo.gov/BusinessEntit...ngs.asp?705141 and http://www.atmajyoti.org/ashram.asp
5) As Irish Melkite has pointed out - note that the addresses of both the Hindu Ashram and the Corporate Headquarters of the Sacred Arts Foundation, current owners of Monastery Icons are the SAME: 1482 Rango Way , Borrego Springs, CA 92004

http://www.atmajyoti.org/contact1.asp and http://www.sos.mo.gov/imaging/13302579.pdf

Misc.: It is interesting to note from the Missouri incorporation link (http://www.sos.mo.gov/imaging/15868254.pdf) that the Sacred Arts Foundation failed to file an annual report last year in Missouri and was therefore dissolved as a corporation in that state at the end of 2006 - I'm willing to bet they've incorporated elsewhere.
Ok - now for the new news. Firstly, the SAF remedied its failure to file in Missouri and its corporate status has been reinstated.

It was also brought to my attention, however, that the Missouri link was no longer operative. After checking, I found that the Missouri Secretary of State's Office had revamped its filings site. Go here and you can view the filings - from inception to present.

A quick glance at its 2007 Annual Report shows that nothing has changed from my earlier observations in the text quoted above.

In reply to the e-mail quoted at phatmass and to a concern that the PO box in OH somehow made the Missouri connection less likely ...

OH is the location of their PO Box - effectively an order fulfillment site. Businesses are not uncommonly incorporated in states other than the one in which they principally do business. (As an example, thousands of businesses are incorporated in tiny Delaware solely because that state has statutes which are particularly favorable to corporations them. The vast majority of those firms do not have a physical presence in Delaware nor are they required to do so, provided that they have a registered agent there - an individual who agrees to accept legal service on their behalf. In this instance, as I referenced earlier, corporation fees in Missouri are dirt cheap, making it a good place in which to incorporate.)

As already pointed out, the named directors of SAF in the Missouri corporate filings are the same persons affiliated with the former MI and the address in CA for SAF in those filings is identical to that for George Burke's temple, ashram, whatever. It is unrealistic to believe that a business called SAF would buy MI and that MI's former owners would then incorporate a new business that they would name SAF. And, if they did, and you were SAF, would you not immediately drag them to court for some type of trademark infringement?

But, to seal the issue, a search of records in the Ohio Secretary of State's Office for documentation as to "foreign corporations" - those doing business in the state, but incorporated elsewhere - shows Sacred Arts Foundation, a Missouri corporation, with the California address reported above (showing Monastery Icons as its California name), and a registered agent in OH for purposes of its business functions there.

The records of the California Secretary of State's Office also confirm that a Missouri corporation known as Sacred Arts Foundation does business in CA, from the same address as that documented as belonging to the former "Abbott". The search results url will not return from a link, but you can replicate my search by:

  • going to California Business Search
  • entering Sacred Arts Foundation in the search box and
  • clicking the resulting link for Sacred Arts Foundation (the one with John Weber listed as its registered agent for process)
[br]

Many years,

Neil
 

Irish Melkite

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Another update on the continuing saga of Monastery Icons and Sacred Arts Foundation.

I've again been contacted by a poster at another site, to whom I'm unable to reply directly because of my unwelcome status there. He had read the last material on the subject which I posted there (essentially the same info as in my post immediately above), hoping that it would give him the needed support to discourage persons of his acquaintance from using them as a vendor.

However, his reading and research revealed a few issues, specifically

that some of the info no longer matches.  ...  the ashram website (http://www.atmajyoti.org/contact1.asp) no longer says California, but claims to be based in New Mexico.  Also, (there is) no current evidence online linking the 1482 Rango Way California street address to the ashram or ... monastery.  Lastly, the "William Burke" on the MO registration report is technically a different name than the "Abbot George Burke" of this non-Christian movement.
So, to re-establish ... once again ... the linkage ...

  • a yahoo search for "1482 Rango Way, Borrego Springs, CA" produces this - The Christ of India - on the site of the Atma Joyati Ashram and scrolling down the page will bring one to the article's copyright, with the Borrego Springs (CA) address

  • Visiting the Ashram's main page, and scrolling, one will indeed find reference to the ashram being presently situated in Cedar Crest, NM

  • Clicking the Q&A link takes one to questions addressed to and answered by none other than Swami Nirmalananda, abbot of Atma Jyoti Ashram. Those who recollect "Abbott George" will recognize his jovial features in the photo at top right and likely remember that this is the name he adopted after his departure from any pretense of involvement with Holy Orthodoxy

  • A search of corporate records maintained by the NM Public Regulation Commission, an agency of the Secretary of State's Office, reveals that ... lo and behold ... as of Sept 2007 there is registered in the State of NM as a "foreign corporation" (one incorporated outside the state), a Missouri corporation named Sacred Arts Foundation and ... what a surprise ... its mailing address is P.O. Box 1370, Cedar Crest , NM 87008

  • A return visit to the ashram's website, specifically its Contact Info page reveals that its mailing address is "Atma Jyoti Ashram, P. O. Box 1370, Cedar Crest, New Mexico 87008"  - will coincidence never cease  :eek: 

At this point I don't really care whether George is William or William is his brother, son, spiritual son, or fellow monk. Suffice it to say, where goes the ashram, there goes Sacred Arts - they are one and the same entity, albeit corporately distinct ... on paper.

For anyone wanting to replicate my search of the NM records - since the link above resulted from a search and such links aren't always stable or reusable:

go to NM Secretary of State - Corporations,

click on the link provided http://www.nmprc.state.nm.us/,

click on the "Corporations Information" button,

enter Sacred Arts Foundation in the Corporation Information Inquiry box and press "Find" - it will be the first entry provided in an alphabetical listing.

Many years,

Neil
 

the slave

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Dear me :(

This lot are really remarkably persistent in their attempts to lull folk into believeing they are genuine.

Well I suppose they are - genuine -- in their danger to one's spiritual health.

All we seem able to do is pass on the warnings .

Thank you Neil for your detective work
 

TinaG

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I know two Catholic bookstores here in San Antonio that sell the Sacred Arts/Monastery Icon junk.  I've given Fr. Nelson's materials to a Catholic friend and urged him to complain to the stores but I don't think that went anywhere at all.  15 years ago I bought one of their icon crosses before I knew anything about them.  After my priest warned me about them it always made me uncomfortable to have it around no matter how many house blessings it went through.  It disappeared long ago (either I packed it away, gave it to my priest to dispose of or maybe it was trying to get back to its evil master, I just can't remember) but I am still embarassed to this day that I bought one, and even considered stocking some of their things in our parish bookstore. 

Looking at SAF/Monastery Icons' convoluted incorporation trail, I'm not suprised people fall for their claims.  These "monks" are very skilled cons and don't continue to prosper after this many years without knowing all the tricks.  Look at the Blanco Christ of the Hills Monastery.  Before he was Fr. Benedict, he was Samuel Green, huxter, con man, king of big talk and fast sales.  That kind of charisma is the perfect trap for the religiously sincere.  I've just never really understood what the appeal is to pose or adopt a monastic/religious lifestyle.  You can't spend all that money on something obvious like fast cars and big houses. 
 
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