Jenny A

Jenny A

Jenny AI was first introduced to The Gnostic Movement in late 2002 when a close friend told me about the free spiritual courses on the website Mysticweb.

I really appreciated and got a lot out of the courses written by Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) that The Gnostic Movement provided. What most resonated with me in the courses was the self-knowledge and spiritual inner change aspects and techniques. The courses helped me to understand myself, what was going on inside of me with thoughts and emotions, why I felt the way I felt, and how to experience spiritual states like profound peace and stillness within. As I kept going with the course I learned techniques to actually change the negative states and emotions inside of me. I started to see that in situations I was feeling less angry, or jealous, worried, or negative, and in place of those feelings, I felt peace and even love and compassion for others.

I really liked how with Gnosis and what The Gnostic Movement taught, that it had within it the common spiritual principles from many religions, and to me was getting at what the heart of what religion was supposed to be about.

Background and General Experience with The Gnostic Movement

After two years of taking all of the courses The Gnostic Movement offered, I was really interested in sharing with others the really helpful exercises and techniques I had gotten so much benefit from, which I had learned for free from The Gnostic Movement. I wanted to help pass on the information to others, so I signed up for the teachers training course. I began the teachers training course and soon after became a volunteer of the organization.

To begin the teachers training course a person needed to agree to uphold certain spiritual standards, principles and codes of conduct. It made sense to me for there to be these basic standards since it was a spiritual school, and often spiritual schools or for that matter many organizations have a code of conduct for people participating in or representing an organization. The Gnostic Movement was no different in this manner, and the standards and principles were ones that I had already naturally adopted into my life and had an understanding for their purpose.

In October 2005 another teacher and I established the Madison Gnostic Center in Madison Wisconsin USA out of our own initiative as we wanted to start a Gnostic Center in the city in which we lived, as there was only one center in the US at the time, in California, which was over 2,000 miles away. It was great to set up a physical place to run The Gnostic Movement courses from. Attendees of the courses in Madison really enjoyed the courses, learning about astral projection and practicing it and also the self-knowledge techniques as well. I really enjoyed practicing the exercises with other people, and facilitating a space for it all to happen.

I attended The Gnostic Movement retreats held in the USA in 2005, 2006, and 2007 in California, and 2008 and 2009 in Oregon, which people from all over the world attended. The international retreats were awesome – it was so great to meet up and practice the spiritual exercises The Gnostic Movement taught with people from around the world. People I met on those early retreats I am still friends with today.

Overview of Roles and Positions Held

I became a qualified teacher in 2007, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008 to be part of the Gnostic center there, where The Gnostic Movement was trying to establish a stronger presence. At the Bay Area center there were many members, teachers, and trainee teachers there, which was awesome – a lot of strong friendships were made during that time. In August 2008 I became a member of The Gnostic Movement USA and a director of the organization. Because I very much valued the work The Gnostic Movement did and the free spiritual teachings it provided, I was very happy to take on a more responsible role within the organization.

From 2008-2012, I was part of developing ways to present the courses that would be more suited to an American audience. I was involved with teaching courses, I was part of the filming of the Secret Quest documentary, searching for properties to develop a spiritual retreat center in the countryside, being the host of weekly online talks given by Belzebuub, being part of finding and establishing a larger Gnostic center in the area, coordinating the events and courses for the center, and being part of the process of making the online course videos by either presenting or doing some of the video editing. On many Saturdays, we would have mini-retreats in the nearby parkland and spend the day in nature practicing meditation, awareness, going on walks, and quiet self-reflection practices.

During this time I also did aspects of the company administration, and in the last year of The Gnostic Movement USA’s existence, I did all of the company administration.

Positions Held:

Teacher – December 2007 – October 2012

Member – August 2008 – October 2012

Secretary – October 2008 – October 2012

Chief Financial Officer (Treasurer) – January 2011 – October 2012

From 2008-2011 I was a volunteer and director of Absolute Publishing Press, where I assisted with accounting and book publicity.

From 2008 -2010 I was a part of coordinating three retreats held where people worldwide attended. At all three of these retreats Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) attended and gave talks, which were really amazing, insightful and inspirational.

In working with and being part of The Gnostic Movement I was given many opportunities to help share these teachings with people, and through those diverse opportunities, I learned a lot about myself, learned new skills, and was doing things that I never knew I had the ability to do. Over the years, with all of the activity and people at the Bay Area center, many good times were had, which leaves me with many fond memories of those days.

I first met Mark in 2006 when he came to Toronto, as I lived somewhat near Toronto at the time. I worked with him in The Gnostic Movement and Absolute Publishing Press from 2008-2012 and currently as his publisher at Mystical Life Publications. In my time knowing him professionally and personally, I can say he is a very caring, honest, respectable, sincere, and humble person. He dedicates himself to helping people to understand and experience the process of spiritual transformation with no self-interest, just out of genuine care. He respects free will. He has a deep respect and care for nature and animals. He truly lives and exhibits the spiritual principles he writes about.

I will now explain in detail my experience of working within The Gnostic Movement, at the Bay Area Gnostic Center, working with Mark Pritchard, and my knowledge and experience of events to do with employing Mark Pritchard, his living conditions, the North American retreat project, and the running of Absolute Publishing Press.

What I share in this testimony is from my own personal experience, from being a member and director of TGM USA with access to the company files.

Overview of The Gnostic Movement USA and Its Administration

Being a member and director of TGM USA with access to the company files, I know that The Gnostic Movement USA was incorporated as a non-profit religious corporation in the state of California on August 29th 2002, by two members of The Gnostic Movement Australia that moved to California to establish The Gnostic Movement in America. It received tax exemption under section 501 (c)(3) by the Internal Revenue Service and under 23701d of the California tax code in 2003.

In the early years, courses were run out of community centers starting in October 2002. Courses were run in the San Jose area, San Francisco, and Berkeley. In March 2005, the first official center was established for TGM USA in Berkeley California, in an office suite on Channing Way. This would be the home of the Berkeley center until 2008. In November 2008, a large 7,000 sq ft former church for lease on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley was found and became the home of the San Francisco Bay Area Center until November 2011 when the lease ended.

The Madison Gnostic group/center, in Madison Wisconsin first started running courses out of community halls in October of 2005. In July 2006 the first center was established on East Washington Avenue. The location moved to a bigger center on South Dickinson St in 2008, and ran courses and activities there until 2010.

The Los Angeles Gnostic Group was established in 2010 by a teacher and trainee teacher from the Bay Area Gnostic Center. They ran courses at rented community halls from 2010 – 2011.

Financial Accountability

Each center had its own bank account and kept track of donations and expenses for the center/group on a special spreadsheet provided by the treasurer of TGM USA. At the end of each financial year, the accounts (spreadsheet) of each center/group was provided to the treasurer in California, who would add the income and expenses figures of each center to the income and expenses for the entire organization for the tax filings. The center’s teachers would keep on file all bank statements, deposit slips, and any receipts or bill payments for their center.

The funds of each center were kept separate to the funds of the greater organization, as The Gnostic Movement of California, (referred to as TGM USA) owned and hosted the websites of The Gnostic Movement and took on many of the projects and initiatives to further The Gnostic Movement’s teachings globally. I explain further about the finances and separation of funds and bank accounts of TGM USA in greater detail in the next section of this testimony.

From time to time there would be a special fundraising box for Belzebuub/Mark in the centers, to support his work, which students could donate to if they wanted to, and any funds raised would be kept separate to the general organization funds, and kept separate from the center funds.

The centers ran on voluntary donations. There was a donation box, usually near the entrance where people could give a donation if they chose to.

When I became a director in August 2008, I began to study non-profit governance and protocol, as well as accounting and tax return preparation, since I was now a director of the organization. My colleagues did the same in their relevant areas, as everyone took their responsibilities within the organization seriously.

The members and directors of the organization would meet as needed to discuss matters of the organization and vote if the decision required a vote. We would take minutes of the meetings, which included the points brought up, action points (if someone was going to take action on a point) and records of any voting that took place. We would also hold yearly Annual General Meetings where we would review, nominate, and vote on director/officer positions, review the activities from the year, and make plans for the coming year.

Although TGM USA was tax exempt as a 501 (c)(3) organization, we were still required to file tax returns, which were specifically for tax-exempt organizations, which we did annually.

From 2008-2010 I assisted the treasurer to do the bookkeeping and prepare the tax filings. We would first go through all the donations and expenses for the year, meticulously going over the bank statements and receipts, properly categorizing them and entering them into accounting software. From there we would generate the necessary reports to add up the total donations, expenses, and breakdown of expenses to fill in the tax form.

From 2011 – 2012 I was the treasurer and main administrative person for the organization. In this role I studied even further the laws and regulations associated with non-profit governance and tax filings.

In 2011/2012 we hired an accountant that specialized in non-profit accounting to do our bookkeeping and tax return. When I first met her to provide her with all of our accounting files, documents, and past tax fillings for reference, she commented that we were very organized and were doing a good job.

We did our very best to do the best job we could, to the best of our understanding, to fulfill our non-profit company obligations. We filed all of our tax returns and all statements of information with the California Secretary of State as required.

In 2012 we engaged a San Francisco-based lawyer who specialized in non-profit law, in regards to making a grant to a Canadian non-profit (which I discuss later in this testimony).

When I first came to her office and met her, she asked me a little about how we ran, if we were current with our filings with the California Secretary of State and with our tax filings. I responded, “yes of course,” and she said something like, “wow, I’m really impressed, a lot of non-profits don’t file their tax returns or keep the California Secretary of State up to date with the organization’s current information.”

When we were talking over the options for doing a grant to a Canadian non-profit organization she was really impressed with the knowledge I had about the subject. I had fully researched the principles and requirements that needed to be fulfilled when a 501 (c)(3) organization makes a grant to a foreign organization. She explained that most non-profits she worked with didn’t know much about non-profit law or governance and she stated she was very impressed how organized we were and our level of professionalism.

Experience as the Treasurer

As a member and director of the organization from 2008-2012, being the treasurer of The Gnostic Movement (TGM) USA from January 2011 to October 2012, and having access to the organization’s files, I was involved with sponsoring Mark’s mission to teach Gnosticism in the US.

Sponsorship for Mark Pritchard’s Work in the USA

In February 2007 research was undertaken on the options for having Mark come to the USA, as it was seen that developing The Gnostic Movement in the USA was an important mission, as the teaching of Gnosis had never fully become popular or spread in the US as it had in other countries. In 2006 Mark had done over 30 radio interviews and a television interview in a 6 week period in the US and Canadian media,1 which created a lot of interest in Mark’s work and The Gnostic Movement. Around the same time there was a growing interest in Gnosticism with the release of The Gospel of Judas by National Geographic in 2006. The idea was for Mark to come to help develop The Gnostic Movement in the USA, as he was the most qualified for the mission.

In 2007 The Gnostic Movement USA successfully applied for Mark to come to the US. The requirement of the visa Mark was granted was that Mark needed to be hired as an employee of The Gnostic Movement and paid a wage.

Mark did not want to become an employee of TGM USA, or be paid a wage, because of his spiritual principles, as he did not want payment for teaching. However, he needed to be hired as an employee of TGM USA and be paid a wage, because it was the only way for him to be able to come for the mission in the USA.

Before Mark became an employee of TGM USA, he worked for free as a full-time volunteer for The Gnostic Movement. Mark lived off of donations that people freely gave to him out of appreciation for the work he did for the Gnostic Movement, in which he provided spiritual teachings for free.

He also did not want general public donations to the organization to be used to pay his wage, which TGM legally would have been entitled to do as salaries are common for many non-profit organizations, including religious ones.

Because of his principles, Mark requested and arranged for his wages to be funded only by donations given to support him and his work. Before he left Australia to go on his mission to the USA, Mark spoke to some of those who had been donating to him personally in Australia. He explained about his mission, and asked them if they could donate what they would have otherwise given him directly, instead to TGM in Australia into a special fund to pay his wages in the USA, which they happily agreed to do. It was also planned, should there not be enough funds raised directly for his employment expenses, that Mark would personally donate whatever the shortfall was to TGM USA himself. Also TGM USA received donations specifically to support Mark and his work in the US from volunteers.

The Gnostic Movement Australia and The Gnostic Movement USA worked closely together and co-sponsored the mission to have Mark come to the USA.

Wages

With the wages paid to Mark, he requested to be paid the lowest wage possible. That was taken into account along with the consideration of making a strong sponsorship application where TGM USA could demonstrate that it would be able to adequately support Mark as an employee with the employment package it was offering, and meet minimum wage requirements.

The arrangement for his employment was that he was paid just over the federal minimum wage as his salary, and was provided a housing allowance since he would be doing work for the organization from his home. Providing Mark with a housing allowance also helped TGM USA to meet the state of California minimum wage requirements, as the federal minimum wage was below the California state minimum wage. He was provided with a housing allowance for around three years and when he was not receiving a housing allowance, he was just paid the California state minimum wage. Providing Mark with a housing allowance made it possible for TGM USA to demonstrate in its sponsorship of Mark, that he could support himself with his employment in light of being paid a very low wage, and it also helped us to fulfill our employer responsibilities within the state of California.

Mark’s wages (his salary and housing allowance) were funded by donations he personally made to The Gnostic Movement USA, and from volunteers that donated to support Mark and his work in the US.

Mark himself personally donated over $42,000 to TGM USA to help fund his employment. He also had over $15,000 in donations that would have otherwise been given to him directly, instead donated to TGM Australia into the sponsorship fund for his employment expenses. In total, these donations were equivalent in value to paying his salary with an excess of $1,072 left over.

The housing allowance Mark was provided was funded by donations from volunteers in various countries, but mainly from volunteers in Australia and the US who donated to support Mark and his work in the US.

Only funds given for the purpose of supporting Mark and his work in the US were used to pay his salary and housing allowance. General public donations to The Gnostic Movement were not used to pay his remuneration.

Again, TGM USA would have been legally entitled to pay Mark with any of the donations it received, as employees with salaries are common in non-profit organizations of all kinds. This arrangement was made upon Mark’s request due to his own personal principles.

The wages paid to Mark were very little. The most he was ever paid–which was in late 2009-2010, when he got a small raise in his salary after being an employee for two years, and included both his salary and housing allowance–equated to around $10.80 per hour. For most of his employment he was making below that amount. The San Francisco Bay Area of California has one of the highest costs of living in the United States. A person making the equivalent of $10.80 per hour would have a difficult time leading a comfortable life. That was the case for Mark while he was living in the Bay Area. His quality of living while in the USA was not very good.

Finances for the General Organization

The Gnostic Movement USA was responsible for many of the international expenses of the organization. It was the international headquarters for the global Movement where most of the administrative work for the organization globally took place. It owned and hosted the websites of The Gnostic Movement, and held the insurance policies for the organization’s websites and online courses. Additionally, having Mark, the Movement’s official spiritual teacher, based in the USA, The Gnostic Movement in the USA took on many new projects and initiatives to further The Gnostic Movement’s teachings internationally.

Volunteers donated and fundraised in centers around the world to help cover the ongoing costs of the international headquarters of the organization, which had been taken on by TGM USA. The Gnostic Movement USA received these funds and distributed them to their allocated areas. These funds were used to cover the expenses of the websites, insurance policies, office and equipment costs, software, publicity, legal/professional fees, and administrative costs.

There was a separation of accounts and funds, in which funds allocated for one area were used in that area. The Gnostic Movement USA had a number of bank accounts and PayPal accounts.

Each center had its own bank account, which received the donations specifically for the running of the particular center, and had expenses drawn from it for the center like paying the rent, utilities, advertising, improvements, etc.

TGM USA had a number of bank accounts which were specific to the international expenses and fundraising for the organization. These accounts covered the costs of the websites and overall administration of the Movement, promotions, equipment, software, etc. The general donations received through PayPal on the TGM websites went into these accounts.

TGM USA also had a dedicated bank and PayPal account for the North American retreat project for donations raised specifically for the project.

There was a separate account which dealt with the employment expenses for Mark Pritchard. This was the account where all donations intended for Mark to support him and his work in the US were received, and where the expenses for having him as an employee were drawn from.

The Work Mark Did for The Gnostic Movement

Mark worked to develop and promote the study of Gnosticism in the USA. He was the International Coordinator for The Gnostic Movement worldwide when he started his employment in 2007 until November 2008 (he had been the international coordinator for years before he was employed by TGM USA). As the International Coordinator, he oversaw all the administration of the organization worldwide plus provided the course material. In November 2008 he stepped down from that administrative position and was then elected as the spiritual teacher of The Gnostic Movement worldwide, which allowed him to focus on teaching and writing.

Here is a general outline of the work Mark did to develop and promote the study of Gnosticism while in the USA:

Courses and Websites

  • Provided the course material and teachings for the organization; every 8-9 weeks the courses were reviewed and often refined or changed.
  • Gave recommendations for how the courses were run online and in centers, and how the centers were to operate in the USA and globally.
  • Oversaw the development of the GnosticAwakenings.com website which contained a completely overhauled course system for The Gnostic Movement with engaging videos and an interactive course system.
  • Developed a new course called Introduction to Gnosis, which was taught in the American centers and internationally. For the online version of the course, videos were created, with half the videos produced at the Bay Area Center.

Bay Area Center

  • Helped to plan and facilitate the move of the Bay Area Center to a larger premises that became the main center in the USA.
  • Attended and gave talks at the Bay Area Gnostic Center, for both the public and advanced students.

Online talks

  • Gave live weekly interactive talks online, broadcasted from the San Francisco Bay Area of California, with live questions and answers.
  • Gave a series of online talks on the meanings of the Nag Hammadi Library texts.
  • Established live interactive online book studies on ancient Gnostic texts.

Video Work

  • Shot many interviews filmed at the local community television studio in the Bay Area; those interviews were posted online and broadcasted on TV locally.
  • Gave talks at the Bay Area Center which were filmed. With the talks filmed he was involved in their post production where they were posted online.
  • Was involved in the scripting and direction of the documentary Secret Quest: a Three Part Series on the Christian Gnostics, which was released on DVD by TGM in the USA.

Books

  • Mark’s book Gazing into the Eternal (a book about the spirituality of Gnosis)2 was published, printed, and promoted in the US. It was a finalist in USA Book News category of Spirituality in 2009.
  • Oversaw the re-release of the book The Flight of the Feathered Serpent (a book that gives insight into the ancient Gnostics and has a similar account to The Gospel of Judas), which included a revised translation and new cover. This revised edition was sent to reviewers throughout the US and won the USA Book News Best Book Award in the category of Christianity in 2009.

Retreats

  • Attended and gave talks at retreats in North America. During his time in the USA, some of his talks were captured professionally on video and broadcast on the TGM websites.
  • Spent time planning and looking at potential properties for a North American spiritual retreat center.

Mark worked very hard during his time in the USA. Although his employment contract was for full-time work (37-40 hours a week) he put in far more time than that. He worked all day, every day, often late into the night, doing work for The Gnostic Movement.

Having Mark Pritchard become an employee of The Gnostic Movement USA and paying him a humble salary, enabled him to be able to come to the USA to fulfill the mission of spreading the teachings of gnosis to people in the USA, and he succeeded in fulfilling his principles in not being paid to teach, since his own donations effectively funded his wages.

It was a real honor, privilege, and benefit to have Mark as an employee of The Gnostic Movement USA. He is truly a selfless and generous individual that dedicates his entire life to helping others develop spiritually.

Experience at the Bay Area Gnostic Center, and Working within The Gnostic Movement

As mentioned before, I had the opportunity to work with Mark in TGM from 2008 to 2012, and I work currently with him through his publisher.

From what I have observed, Mark has a deep care for people to understand and experience spirituality. I have seen this for myself personally many times. In The Gnostic Movement, he would from time to time make changes to how the courses went and what was taught. I could see by the changes made, it helped to make things clearer or the courses and centers run better.

I was elected to become a member and director of TGM USA by the other TGM members in the USA through a democratic process. When I was a member I was also part of nominating and voting upon membership election for three other US teachers while TGM was operating.

I appreciated that men and woman had the same opportunities within the organization. I was one of many women that had a responsible role within the Movement. Opportunities within the organization were given based on merit, and there was equal opportunity for men and women.

At the Bay Area Center, the members were in charge of the running of the center and organization. Teachers and trainee teachers were involved with helping to run the center (giving lectures, center maintenance, help with advertising, help in the café, etc.), but the ultimate responsibility was with the members.

I was often at the center, and was given many suggestions and ideas from students, trainee teachers, and other teachers. People felt comfortable doing that and understood it was a welcome thing. We would also from time to time have meetings with the people active in helping out at the center–trainee teachers, teachers, and the members–to brainstorm ideas or to get suggestions on how to make things work better, how to tackle a problem, etc. When Mark would come to the center, we would have talks like this with him. He would ask for people’s feedback and ideas on various things. It was a very open environment where ideas and suggestions would be given.

What to do with carrying out the ideas and suggestions in relation to the center was up to the members, as we were the people ultimately responsible for the running of the center and organization. Members would then discuss and vote (if necessary) on decisions that needed to be made. The members had different areas they looked after within the organization and at the center. Each member was free to make decisions on things pertaining to their area since they were the most familiar with it. If there was ever a major issue, it would be brought before all the members.

Working with Mark

Mark was the international coordinator of The Gnostic Movement, and when he stepped down from that position in November 2008, he was democratically elected as the recognized spiritual teacher for the organization by the members of TGM around the world. Mark would provide the content and guidelines for the courses. He would give suggestions and provide ideas for the organization, but it was up to the members to implement any suggestions.

Just as he listened to the feedback of students and teachers at the center, in my experience he was happy to hear ideas and suggestions from members on issues and projects, and often asked for our input. He would never force things; he would just share his views, provide suggestions, and give ideas.

I saw firsthand that there were a number of suggestions he made that were never carried out or followed through–once he had made the suggestion or gave an idea he just left it at that, which highlights how respectful he was of freewill and how carrying out suggestions was truly up to the members of the organization.

When we were renovating the new center, Mark was there providing tips and suggestions for how we could design things and how we could go about doing the renovation work in the safest and most economical way. His suggestions were to have it look nice, tidy, to give it a sense a warmth and spirituality, but nothing over the top, and to only get the basics done so we could use the space and not spend all our time renovating. Once the center was open, he gave numerous talks. He would often come to have discussions with the members, teachers and trainee teachers on matters to do with the center and the courses, or other projects. On holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, there would often be a gathering at the center with the volunteers and Mark to celebrate the holidays with a nice meal together. It was an amazing experience having Mark be a part of our center–his talks, discussions, and casual chats always left me with new insights and feeling inspired.

In regards to renovating the center, everyone worked really hard to keep the costs down, and we got many things for free. A paint store was closing down and they donated their remaining stock of paint, so we ultimately had to buy very little paint. We got free carpet, lights, and all kinds of other things off of Craigslist for free or for a very low cost. We spent less than $1,000 renovating the place, which was approximately 7,000 square feet in size.

Mark Pritchard

From knowing and working with Mark over roughly the past ten years, I can say he is one of the most down-to-earth, kindhearted, genuine, sincere, honest, caring, and respectable people I have ever met. He’s a true gentleman. He has the utmost respect for women and for the sanctity of relationships and marriage.

Mark’s Character

As a woman, I have always felt comfortable working with Mark. This comfort in working with him comes from his general way of respect towards women, as it is not his way to flirt, or to make lewd jokes, or have any lustful behavior towards women, which I have found to be a very rare quality. In most working relationships I have had with men, usually those types of interactions have been present to some degree, but not with Mark, which is so refreshing.

Mutual respect between men and women was a principle taught and exhibited by Mark and upheld within The Gnostic Movement. This really stood out to me and was something I really appreciated. Having been a female musician in bands, I had worked with men a lot, and many times it was very hard to be seen as a person, as another musician and artist, and not just as someone to flirt with.

I felt comfortable being a woman, working within the Movement amongst men and with Mark, as I was never ‘hit-on’ or made to feel uncomfortable, which was a change of interaction for me having been a female musician playing in clubs, or even dealing with people at the workplace. I was relieved to be in an environment where there was a respect for women and the sanctity of relationships.

I work as his publisher in Mystical Life Publications, where the organization has always had women in director’s positions and leadership roles, which was also the case for Absolute Publishing Press, his previous publisher, in which I was also a director along with four other women. He has always shown and given us the utmost respect.

Another aspect of Mark’s character that stands out to me is his care for personal safety. When renovating the center he would always advise that safety comes first. When I would go with other members of TGM to look at properties in rural locations, he would always ask us to be careful and be safe, and to drive safely. Before finding The Gnostic Movement and working with Mark, I was a bit of an adventurous person, and wouldn’t think much about my personal safety. Working with Mark over the years, I feel like his respect of and emphasis on personal safety has helped me to appreciate, understand, and respect my own personal safety more.

Mark is a caring and considerate person, and although he lives off of donations, he doesn’t expect payments or things to be bought for him. He doesn’t take people for granted, and he is always very appreciative for the help and donations he is given. A few examples of this come to mind.

Humble and Selfless Lifestyle

I knew Mark did struggle financially, and that people did donate to him personally so he could cover his living expenses, since he dedicated his time solely to teaching others spirituality for free, and like spiritual teachers in ancient times he lived off donations that people gave to him for his work. When I moved to California the economic crisis had just hit, getting a job was difficult, and the jobs available were low paying. I was never asked to make a donation to him, or asked to donate on a regular basis, or to donate more money. I donated when I could, and when I did he was very appreciative.

Another example that comes to mind is a time that Mark and a friend needed to run some errands around the SF Bay Area and he didn’t have a car available, so I took them around. At the end of the day he took us out to dinner at a nice, trendy health food café in San Francisco, and gave me money for gas. I tried to pay for my own meal and told him not to give me gas money as I was happy to help them out, but he insisted to pay for those things, and was very grateful for the help I had given them.

In the US, Mark would tell me about some of the bad situations he would encounter, like sales people being very nice and friendly but then ripping him off and becoming very aggressive, that there was a shooting of a policeman at the building behind his house, regular gun and drug activity in the suburb he lived in, dodgy people hanging around the area he lived, etc. Upon hearing these things and seeing firsthand his living situation in the dangerous suburb he lived in, I thought it was terrible, but also that it’s just how it is here in the US–that’s just how life is. I could see that it was difficult dealing with people and places in the US if you hadn’t grown up there.

I know that Mark had suffered many difficulties coming to and living in the US, since I personally saw his living situation (living on very little income, living in a run-down house in a dangerous suburb), and was hearing what he had experienced. I also know that Mark himself had donated a lot of money to The Gnostic Movement to help pay his wages so he could be in the US to get a spiritual message to people in North America. I didn’t truly comprehend how much he had sacrificed, living in the US for years, until I lived in Australia and saw what he had given up to go to the USA.

Mark’s Living Conditions while in the US

When Mark arrived to the US he had a very hard time finding a suitable place to live, because he did not have a lot of money and was new to the country.

He eventually found and settled in an old, run-down house in a dangerous suburb, which was known by the locals for having lots of drug activity. While being at the house you could sometimes hear gun shots. A police officer was shot in the neighboring apartment behind the house. At the local pharmacy in town, just down the street from where he lived, a man was killed in the parking lot in front of his son.

It was not a pleasant place to live. It was really sad because it was the only house he could afford. The house was somewhat on the outskirts of town, and had a small farm bordering the property. Sketchy guys would sneak back there in the night and try to steal things off the farm.

The house was furnished with used furniture found on Craigslist (a classified ads website) and old things from friends.

He drove old cars, with the heater broken in one of the cars that he had. In the winter in California it can get down to freezing temperature at night, and was often chilly throughout the year in the Bay Area.

Experience with the North American Retreat Project

I was personally heavily involved with the North American retreat project in searching and coordinating the search for properties, the due diligence research needed for potential properties, and visiting properties during the project’s five year timespan.

TGM hosted international retreats in North America, Australia, and Europe. These retreats were a chance for TGM participants to get away from the city and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of nature, to meet up with friends from around the country and the world, and to have dedicated time to spiritual practice. When TGM hosted retreats it rented out facilities and would often pay these facilities $20,000 just for accommodation for a week’s time. TGM never charged for the spiritual programs it ran; participants only paid the cost of the accommodation charged by the facility. People really enjoyed these retreats and looked forward to the yearly retreats in the different regions. Some participants liked them so much that they attended all the international retreats TGM was offering throughout the year.

The vision for the North American retreat project was to buy a property and develop it into a spiritual retreat facility. Since the retreats were enjoyed so much and participants got a lot from attending, the idea was to hold them multiple times throughout the year. When we rented facilities we had a nice experience, however we could see the amazing potential of building our own place, creating a space from the ground up that was dedicated to the spiritual–a sacred place, like a monastery or an ancient sacred site. The vision also was that there would be no charge to attend the retreats, and that the facility would run on donations just like the centers.

Searching for and Assessing Properties

A search for a property spanned from 2007 to 2011. We searched in various regions of the USA, covering over 20 states. Members, teachers, and trainee teachers from all over North America, over the years searched online through various real estate listing websites. Spreadsheets would be sent through to members for short listing, and then phone calls would be made to agents to get more information for further short listing of the hundreds of properties that would get sent though.

If a property seemed good, then more detailed calls would be made to real estate agents to learn as much about the property as possible, and calls would be made to any local government departments to find out the requirements necessary for developing a retreat facility in the area. If the property seemed to be suitable and had reasonable potential to be developed as a retreat facility in the location it was, then we would schedule a visit to see it. A lot of time effort, and care was put in by many people over the project’s time span.

The basis of our criteria was to ensure the quiet, peaceful enjoyment of nature, in a private, safe place that could be used for as much of the year as possible.

Finding a place like this with the funds available was a challenge and a lot of research was done to find the best areas to search so we could avoid things like tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, droughts, mining, and environmental hazards such as nuclear waste and testing sites.

After sorting through thousands of properties and short listing hundreds, we visited and pursued seven properties in California, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maine, and put conditional offers of purchase on four of those. We only went to see properties if they met our criteria and had the potential to be developed as a public retreat facility.

All of the properties we saw and pursued were beautiful and felt like a sanctuary in nature. With each property we could see the potential for developing a spiritual retreat facility. However, in all cases, after further investigation, or beginning the development application process, they turned out to be unsuitable or impractical for us to develop. The issues ranged from the property buildings being in too much of a state of disrepair, having unsafe access in wet weather, needing to upgrade roads into the property which would have been very expensive, extraordinary waiting times for development approvals, not a large enough water source on the property, and an owner rejecting our offer due to not wanting to wait for an environmental assessment to be done on the property (we subsequently found out there was a nuclear waste dump site less than a mile from the property).

Although we tried very hard to find a property over the four year period, we could not find a property within our budget that was suitable for developing into a retreat facility.

Retreat Project Put on Hold–How Raised Funds Were Dealt With

In October 2009 a fundraiser had been initiated – ‘Donate $350 now to get a free retreat booking to the next North American Retreat’. The purpose behind this fundraising campaign was to boost available funds to buy a property.

When TGM had done retreats the previous summers, we had given the rented facilities $20,000 for their use. When people paid to go to TGM retreats, they just paid for the facility and meal fees, not for the spiritual retreat programs run by The Gnostic Movement. The idea was that people would put money towards coming to the retreat in advance – their donation for a booking to the next retreat would help to buy the TGM retreat property.

In March 2011, after trying very hard for the past year and a half to purchase a suitable retreat property, we decided it was best to return funds that had been raised during the fundraiser ‘Donate $350 now to get a free retreat booking to the next North American Retreat’, since we had not been able to provide a retreat facility to honor this booking.

The 53 participants of the fundraiser were emailed; we heard back from 41 of the participants, and refunded the donations to those 41 people as they requested.

In March 2012 The Gnostic Movement USA members considered the future of the North American retreat project and the possibility of making it a reality. We reviewed the different searches that had taken place over the past five years and different properties that TGM pursued, and noted that although many efforts had been made to find and purchase suitable land to develop a retreat, TGM USA had not been able to make this project happen, so we looked at the possibility of donating the funds to another spiritual non-profit organization that would be able to get this project off the ground and use the funds for their intended purpose.

We started to consider and research other organizations that would be a good candidate to donate these funds to, and researched the process of making such a donation.

In April 2012 we reviewed information learned about donation processes and other spiritual non-profit organizations that could help TGM USA to further its mission of purchasing and developing a retreat property for North America. One organization noted was a Canadian non-profit which had an active retreat center and was fundraising so they could purchase and develop their own retreat property.

In May 2012, it was agreed that this Canadian organization was the right candidate for the retreat funds and we felt confident that they would be successful in purchasing and developing a retreat property due to the fact that their organization was currently running a retreat center, and had board members with a good track record, who also served in TGM Canada.

We thought it was good to get legal counsel when making the grant to the Canadian organization as there were many aspects to making a grant to a foreign non-profit, and we had been talking to a good lawyer that specialized in non-profit law.

We engaged a lawyer based in San Francisco who specialized in non-profit law to help us in the process of granting the retreat funds to the non-profit organization in Canada. The lawyer reviewed our situation, worked with us to determine the best way to make the grant, and drafted a grant agreement for us.

In May 2012 a grant agreement was made and the retreat funds were donated to the Canadian organization.

In April 2013 the Canadian organization purchased a property of 120 acres in northern Ontario using the funds donated by The Gnostic Movement USA.

The Gnostic Movement’s search for a retreat property spanned a five year period. A massive effort was made by many people over the years in searching for properties, doing various research on areas in the United States, calling agents to shortlist properties, doing extensive research on potential properties, and going out to visit properties. A great amount time, research, effort, due diligence, and care was put into the project, so that a suitable property could be found which was fit for purpose. Unfortunately, no property ever worked out in the United States, however it’s great that eventually a property was found in Canada.

The Teachings of Gnosis on Relationships

In The Gnostic Movement it was taught that marital relationships are a very sacred thing and are not something to be treated lightly or casually, as well as the importance of a monogamous relationship in relation to spiritual principles. It was also part of the principles taught that relationships were a very personal and private matter, and in principle something that no one can interfere with, due to the sacredness and sanctity a relationship has.

People within the organization recognized the importance of these principles. Everyone respected them and lived by them, especially Mark.

Overall I was very drawn to and appreciative of the teachings of Gnosis on the respect between men and women and the importance of monogamous relationships and their sanctity, as this was something I had always personally felt was important.

Relationship with My Family

Since taking up what The Gnostic Movement taught, my relationship with my family has improved a lot and I feel I have become much closer with my parents in many ways. I have developed a lot more care and understanding for my family, as a result of understanding myself more— in what causes arguments, negativity and so on. I can more understand where they are coming from, since I understand myself better. Before coming across the teachings of Gnosis, I would get into lots of arguments with my parents. I wouldn’t care if they were upset by what I said or did. Now that has changed, we don’t really get into arguments anymore, and I am much more considerate of them as people, I respect them more, and have much more appreciation for them and all they have done for me. Although I have lived far away from them for some years now, I have always gone back to visit them and call to catch up with them regularly.

Experience with Absolute Publishing Press

Absolute Publishing Press published books including Mark’s. As mentioned above, I was a volunteer and a director from 2008 to 2011. In this role I was involved with the company bookkeeping, website development, publicity, and public relations. I worked closely with the founding director over those three years, and have access to the historical company files. With all this, I relay my experience and knowledge of the workings of the company.

Company Structure

Absolute Publishing LLC was registered as a Limited Liability Company with the California Secretary of State on February 25th, 2003. A lot of research was done as to the best way to set up a publishing company. It was found that it was actually better to set up a publishing company as a for-profit company rather than a non-profit organization, as a regular company could have a better place in the book publishing field and would be more respected as a serious publisher.

Although Absolute Publishing LLC was registered as a for-profit company rather than a non-profit organization, it ran like a non-profit organization. It was run by volunteers, no profits were paid to anyone, including Mark the author–all profits that were made from selling the books were put back into the company to print more books or fund the activities and expenses of the company.

As mentioned above, one task I did for the company was some of the bookkeeping, along with another director. We would go through the bank statements, bank deposit slips, credit card reports, and PayPal statements, and enter in all of the income and expenses into accounting software, making sure that all of the transactions reconciled with the bank statements.

An accountant would do the company’s tax returns in which we would provide the company’s accounting file, profit and loss, income and expense reports, bank statements and receipts.

From doing this and having access to the company’s accounting files, I could see where the money came from and where it went.

Most of the time, the company operated at a loss. Absolute Publishing Press printed its books with off-set printing, which gives a very high quality product, however you have to pay for the printing of the books up front, which was a big expense. With having the books printed all at once, they needed to all be stored, so we had books shipped and placed with distributors in the US and in the UK, which charged their own fees of storage and distribution. APP also had many other administrative expenses. With all the expenses, any income from the sale of the books was put right back into the company.

No Royalties or Fees Paid to Mark on His Request

Mark never received any payments for the sale of his books by Absolute Publishing, as that’s what he requested. A formal author and publisher agreement was made where Mark renounced any claims to royalties/profits from the sale of his books.

The lawyer who drafted it reportedly said to a fellow director: “This has to be the worst author contract that I have ever drafted in my whole career – where the author is not entitled to anything, no royalties whatsoever. I have never seen this, ever”.

I can also confirm from my experience doing the bookkeeping that no payments ever went to Mark from Absolute Publishing.

In my time volunteering with Absolute Publishing I also went to North America’s largest book expo in New York City, Book Expo America, in 2009 and 2010. We were part of the Independent Book Association of America, which had a booth at the expo. Our books were displayed there and we had a table within their booth for an hour where we displayed our works, told people about Absolute Publishing, who we are, what we did, and promoted the Gazing into the Eternal book, The Flight of the Feathered Serpent book, and the Secret Quest DVD, as they were new releases at that time. I signed copies of the Secret Quest DVD.

It was great going to Book Expo America, as we got to network with others in the book publishing field. We met up and talked with other book publishers and distributors while at the expo to see if we could further our distribution and reach. We also met up with some of the companies that had printed our books.

Beyond printing of the books, Absolute Publishing hosted Belzebuub’s website and the live weekly talks he was giving online from 2008 to 2010.

Titles Published

Absolute Publishing had a small team dedicated to getting his works out to the world, mainly by way of printed books.

Here is the list of works Absolute Publishing produced in its existence from 2003 to 2011:

Experiencing Astral Travel: An Eight Week Course, paperback 2003

The Flight of the Feathered Serpent by Armando Cosani, 1st ed. paperback 2003

A Course in Astral Travel and Dreams, 1st ed. hardcover 2004

A Course in Astral Travel and Dreams, 1st ed. paperback 2005

The Peace of the Spirit Within: A Guide to Transform Your Life, paperback 2005

When I Go to Sleep: A Course in Dreams and Out-of-Body Experiences, 2nd ed. paperback 2006

Secret Knowledge, Hidden Wisdom: A Journey into Spiritual Transformation, paperback 2007

The Flight of the Feathered Serpent by Armando Cosani, 2nd ed. paperback 2008 Winner Best Book 2009 in category Christianity (USA Book News)

Secret Quest: a Three Part Series on the Christian Gnostics, documentary film, DVD 2009

Searching Within: A Nine Week Course in Gnostic Psychology, paperback 2009

A Course in Astral Travel and Dreams: A Reference Guide to the Out-of-Body Experience, 3rd ed. paperback 2010

Gazing into the Eternal: Reflections Upon a Deeper Purpose to Living, paperback 2010 (Finalist USA Book News National Best Books Awards 2009 in category “Spirituality: General”)

Back to People’s Experiences

David H

David H

David HI was involved with The Gnostic Movement (TGM) from early 2002 when I started as a new student through to completing all the courses and becoming a teacher in 2006 and then becoming a member in 2008 until the Movement in Australia closed down in 2013.

Participating in the Courses

My first introduction to Mark Pritchard was when I took my first TGM course which was a free online 8 week course on the topic of Astral Travel and Dreams written by Mark offered through the website Mysticweb.org. I had seen a poster in the street which was advertising the free in-person courses held in Sydney NSW Australia and that they were also available to be taken for free online through the aforementioned website so that is what I did.

Finding that course amazing and wishing to continue with my personal exploration into spirituality, I went on to the online Searching Within course and then the Esoteric Wisdom course.

After finishing the first 3 courses and finding them very interesting, beneficial, and even life-changing (which I still benefit from to this day with much thanks to Mark) I took the Advanced Investigation course in the later half of 2002 which gave a chance to delve more into the practices given in the first three.

During this time, I started to get more lucid dreams and waking up in dreams experiences and some conscious projections into the astral which in my experience is a real other dimension and not some figment of the imagination or a trick of the brain. I also started to read the recommended books by Samael Aun Weor such as Revolutionary Psychology and The Great Rebellion and found them helpful and full of wisdom.

At that time the course material, which was written by Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub), was delivered by way of free weekly downloads of pdfs with information and an exercise to try for the week. The information was very interesting to me and it just rang true and provided possible answers for many questions I had. I found there was a clarity and common sense to Mark’s writings and this formed my first impressions of him. What was really great also was to try the various exercises which were easy to understand. I enjoyed getting a new topic each week with an exercise to try, it was like a little adventure of discovery each week.

I always had quite an interest in psychology and Mark’s courses really helped me to see my own psychology from a fresh perspective. Mark gave deeper explanations about the workings of reality in an easy to understand way and how to make lasting positive changes to one’s psychology and therefore actions so as to truly evolve spiritually. He gave practical advice with exercises to do which helped me to begin delving further into seeing more of my own world of thoughts, self-talk, drives, motivations and reactions with the goal of becoming a better person through not acting negatively but responding to things in the most appropriate way which was advice of his I valued highly then and still do now. Again it all just rang very true with me and made a lot of sense.

Attending the Sydney Centre

David Hostering 2007
Here I am postering in Sydney in 2007

In early 2003 I started attending some practice sessions at TGM’s study centre in Bondi Junction, Sydney. Some of the people I met there that first time became and still are great friends of mine. I felt like I was welcomed into a family of kindred spirits and indeed over time more and more that is what it was.

Eventually I started doing the Advanced Investigation course at the Sydney centre. I went through a time of asking loads of questions and clarifying my understandings of the teachings and making friends with fellow students and the teachers.

I also started to help on weekends with putting up posters in shops (after asking them for permission first) to advertise upcoming introductory talks.

I began the teacher training course to become a trainee teacher, starting in October 2003 because I found the teachings to be beneficial and practical over a period of time of studying them and trying them out and I wanted to help others find them like I did and benefit from them too. Also the people involved in helping to run the centre and the other students I knew were all nice and genuine people and I could see that was the case for the whole endeavour of the organisation across the world, including Mark and his courses.

As a student of the teacher training course there was an attendance requirement and a code of conduct to abide by to uphold the good reputation of the organisation, just as any other religious organisation has its standards. Nothing was forced upon me or any other students, they were decisions I made myself as I wanted to attend, to increase my involvement, and to make positive changes in my lifestyle which I maintain to this day even though TGM is no longer.

At various periods of time for those in the more advanced courses we did a regular all-night practice of astral projection once a week on the weekend in the centre for about an 8 hour period with 2 or 3 short wake ups during that time. These were really magical nights held for serious and sincere attempts at projecting with various mystical or astral experiences usually had by attendees and so were looked forward to with earnest. I usually had some sort of conscious astral experience at least once on each of these nights and it was amazing to consciously experience this other dimension. Although I might have been a little more tired the next day it wasn’t that bad like staying up late at a party or a bar as I used to but it was far more rewarding and I would just catch up on some sleep the next night.

In September 2005, I became the caretaker of the Sydney Centre. It was a great opportunity to help out more, to use the practice rooms and I enjoyed the regular activity happening there since I was otherwise living alone. By having someone live there and paying some rent it helped with the centre’s finances to keep the free courses running.

Becoming a Qualified Teacher

In mid 2006 I became a teacher of The Gnostic Movement, along with several others whom were in the trainee course with me. We had gained a good enough understanding of the teachings and how to explain them, and showed responsibility and reliability in the tasks we were given.

In practicing public speaking in the trainee course, and even more so when I was a teacher, I was a more confident person in general. As a teacher I started giving classes on my own and become more involved in the administration of running the centre and in training new trainee teachers.

I started helping with counting the donations given for the centre running costs and banking them into the centre’s account. I was taught by the other members that donations given for a certain purpose were to be used solely for that purpose, and that Mark would only ever accept donations from people donating specifically to him and never accepted general donations given to the organisation. As a teacher and later as a member dealing with the finances this is something I always strictly adhered to as did the whole organisation worldwide.

Experience as a Member of the Organisation

astrallibrarytalk3_july2010
That’s me giving a talk on astral travel and dreams at a local library in July 2010

Eventually, I became a member of The Gnostic Movement in Australia in 2008 and became more involved in the centre administration, searching for an Australian retreat property, helping to run retreats, and joining the Australian National Co-ordinating Board. Internationally I helped in general administration tasks such as website forum comment moderating and joining the international administrative body (the International Board) which was made up of various members around the world working together to facilitate projects such as website creation, upgrades and maintenance, advertising and promotions, video work, and fund-raising.

TGM was run as a democracy with men and women treated as equals in sharing the responsibility of running the organisation. We had the benefit of the teachings of Gnosis to effectively work on eliminating our inner negativity especially in relationships which included the working relationships that existed within TGM. This made TGM a great organisation to volunteer for as everyone strived to work harmoniously and supportively with each other and with respect for giving everyone an opportunity to be heard and their ideas considered which is the way I saw Mark treat everybody at all times.

In the six and a half years from first joining the courses to becoming a member I got more involved very gradually and as a natural response to seeing the value of what Mark and TGM had to offer and coming to know how genuine he and those helping him were. The more I got involved then naturally the more busier I got, through all of which I learned and gained so much in my knowledge and experience in terms of the inner work and in life in general.

I found TGM and Mark’s teaching to always be respectful of one’s own freewill, allowing the student to exercise their own discretion and make up their own minds. Anyone was free to take it or leave it at any time and people did come and go whilst others stayed on. It made sense to me that information and exercises were given incrementally so as to have a proper knowledge of the basics and time to get experience and understanding with them before the more advanced teachings and exercises were given otherwise they might not be understood in the right context.

People were free to come or go whenever they liked, to get more involved if they wanted, nothing was ever forced and it was all free. This was quite unlike one experience I had with a commercial ontological organisation. This organisation very much forced their will on others, they had this philosophy of being ‘powerful in the face of no’ and trying to convince you to attend and pay for their expensive courses. TGM was the exact opposite.

I got more involved the more I started to experience and understand things for myself that Mark, his teachings and TGM were very honest, genuine and provided effective positive techniques for self development. My whole time with TGM was a time of great learning and beneficial growth for me and I personally know many people for whom it was the same.

Positive Benefits of the Teachings

Sydney cafe
Hanging out with people after class at the Sydney centre’s outdoor cafe. I’m next to the heat post in the middle on the right-hand side

From my own experience I can say that the teachings and exercises, taught by Mark through The Gnostic Movement courses, are very natural, they do work and are very effective. They taught that spiritual change involves consistency and diligence, keeping yourself down to earth with feet on the ground perceiving reality as it is as clearly as you can, standing upon what you have experienced, and without letting negativity or ideals or fantasy about the inner work blind you, or abandoning other responsibilities in life.

Going through these courses was like an adventure, I got so much out of each topic that it was exciting to see the next topic, there was a logical and natural progression – building exercises and understanding.

I was already interested in self-improvement before finding The Gnostic Movement. I was feeling, as a result of various situations in life, like I wanted to be a better person but didn’t know how to effectively do that. I was wanting inner peace and Mark’s free courses turned out to have very effective tools to bring that about along with gaining mystical experiences which I was also already interested in prior to these courses.

As a result of these courses by Mark I became happier, purposeful and engaged with my life. In using the techniques taught in the free courses, by the end of June 2002 I quit smoking for good and have never relapsed (that is something I was not able to do having paid for a quit smoking course elsewhere). I was also able to begin to lift myself out of harmful addictive behaviour and from lingering in grief for the sudden death separately of some close people in my life.

Compared to the path I was on previously, I became a lot more healthier as a result of being involved with TGM and going through the free courses written by Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub), gaining a better appreciation for the gift of life, for my friends and family, and the need to take care of the physical body and working to improve my psychology and remove negative thoughts and behaviours, understanding sometimes learning and inner growth means having to go through adversity.

I was freely given very practical tools to help myself become a better person and more effectively seek answers to life’s deep questions which previously had always left me wondering with no idea how or if I could find out. However as a result of Mark’s courses I began to experience an interactive spiritual connection to life and everything around me. This experience continues to this day.

Throughout my 11 years being involved with The Gnostic Movement I was always in regular contact with my family and maintained a positive relationship with them (in fact I would say it got even better thanks to Mark’s teachings) and of course that is still the case now. Mark teaches the principle of making sure family members are not left in physical need as a requirement for true spirituality and that certainly resonated with me and shows the care he has for all humanity. Over time my main circle of friends changed as my interests changed from going out to pubs and nightclubs to practising meditation and the like but I still have some contact with my old friends. I was never isolated from my family or friends and was always acting according to my own free will.

Experiences with Mark Pritchard

Meeting at a Retreat

Aus Retreat 2007
Chatting with other teachers and students at the Australian retreat in 2007 I’m third from the right (mostly blocked in picture)

I attended my first TGM retreat held in the first week of January 2007 at the Bunya Mountains in Queensland which was the first time I met Mark. He was very friendly, down to earth, and straight away put me at ease as if he could sense that I was at first feeling a little nervous. He gave some talks during the retreat to the whole group which I found very poignant and powerful such as one about not falling into fanaticism with these teachings and another around the camp fire at night about considering what your future self would say to your current self about what you need to do now to grow spiritually.

He ate his meals with all the other attendees and was happy to answer any questions any of us had but he never sought any kind of limelight or anything like that. He came across to me as being very genuinely caring, very knowledgeable, and quite humble with a good sense of humour too. I felt very grateful to have had the opportunity to personally meet the man who had written the courses and was guiding the esoteric school which was helping me so much to grow as a human being and to change in many positive ways and to see what a great example he was of what he taught.

One time during the retreat I asked him a question and his answer included repeating back to me word for word a train of thought I had months earlier on the same topic which I had never said out loud to anyone. It didn’t seem to me to be a co-incidence but was yet another indication there was something special about him along with how he was so gentle in the way he made his point.

When the retreat came to an end, he was there to say goodbye to each one of us as we got onto the bus. As we shook hands, I thanked him very much for his guidance, he paused for a very brief moment and replied with a genuine encouragement – “work hard to give the teaching to the people you speak to” – which I took as meaning to work hard on continuing to improve myself using the practices and teachings of gnosis so as to better give those teachings from experience, something which he exemplified himself. I could feel he really wished me well as he watched me step away to get on the bus before shaking hands with next person.

Visit to the Sydney Centre

The next time I met Mark was when he came to Sydney for a short visit later in 2007. We met up with him at TGM’s Sydney centre on two consecutive nights. Again he was a friendly, caring and humble person. He was quite humorous at times too and could really make you laugh.

He was also concerned for all of us, very supportive and enquired how we are going and how running the centre was going. He made some helpful suggestions such as making use of the double garage as a cafe-type space for students to gather in before and after class. Soon after we started repainting the centre, cleared the garage and turned it into a cafe area which was well used in the warmer months.

Some more good advice I remember him giving us then was along the lines of not being identified with running a centre or being a teacher as the spiritual work is not about who you are, it is about what you do. There’s a need for humbleness whilst doing your duty, something which he again exemplified.

He was concerned for the animals in Sydney zoo saying he felt they feel like they are in a prison. (Another time, separate to this visit, he expressed concern for people’s attitude to the environment and the destruction of it and the need to work in harmony with nature.)

He also spoke about his plans to go to the USA to help spread the teachings more there. As I said goodbye to him on the final night I had a one on one chat with him and he was very warm and brotherly and was thanking me for helping the centre to keep going and for the hospitality he had received.

Working in The Gnostic Movement

In meetings, Mark would put forward ideas, often just as passing comments, but always would invite others to put forward any ideas of their own or to give feedback on his ideas.

He treated us like we were all equals as we all shared the same responsibility for helping to get the teachings out into the world, each with our own roles within that overall goal. As members were generally fairly busy people holding down normal paying jobs as well as volunteering for TGM, Mark showed care by emphasising the point that we should get the rest we need and make known how much time we have for tasks so as not to be overburdened.

The Movement was run in a democratic way and all the members aimed to work harmoniously together as brothers and sisters. There were a number of women in roles of responsibility as well as men. Mark didn’t force anyone to do anything, not to defend him either, he left it up to the individual free will.

Character and Conduct

In all my dealings with Mark and in what I observed in his dealings with others, he was always a gentleman and respectful with all people, men and women. He was a shining example of his own teachings regarding the value of fidelity. His only interest was to help people. Thanks to Mark I came to understand about and wanted to uphold the sacredness of monogamy and marriage along with seeing the harmfulness of any form or degree of lust.

The Mark Pritchard I know is very caring, warm, friendly and respectful to everyone he meets and deals with, a very gentle gentleman. Mark also has a fantastic sense of humour and is good company.

Mark is quite knowledgeable about history, life and spirituality and is full of wise practical advice for living a truly spiritual life which he freely gives away without trying to be any kind of guru or with any self-importance or even wanting any thanks. He can give you exactly what you need to hear at the time and in the way that you need to hear it, often times it is uncanny, and always given with genuine care.

Mark is tremendously generous with his time and with funds for supporting the spread and practising of the teachings. He is just a genuine person striving honestly for what he sees as the common good for the world without seeking any reward for it and very encouraging of those interested in the same thing.

Mark Pritchard is the most genuine, friendly, honest, generous, wise, respectful, decent, humble, responsible, courageous and forgiving person I have met which just makes it all the more sadder how he has been so unjustly smeared with lies and I wish I had said and done more sooner to dispel those lies so that TGM did not have to close and so Mark was free of those attacks and the bigoted untrue labels of the anti-cult movement. Whatever his spiritual trials and achievements, Mark is still a human being. Mark being so good natured, I know he bears only love and forgiveness.

Experience in The Gnostic Movement

I was a Member of The Gnostic Movement Inc (TGM) in Australia from August 2008. I acted as Assistant Treasurer from 2009 to 2010 and then Treasurer of TGM in Australia from 2011 till the Movement closed down in 2013.

Centre and National Finances/Administration

Sydney renovations
Here I am helping with some renovations on the Sydney centre

The Gnostic Movement in Australia was first registered as an Incorporated Association in December 1999 and it was then amalgamated with the pre-existing Universal Christian Gnostic Movement of the New Order Incorporated. Both of these organisations had been established by Mark Pritchard in Australia and legally merged into one organisation by him and other members. The amalgamated entity was known as The Gnostic Movement Incorporated and registered in 2000 as a not-for-profit Incorporated Association in Sydney, New South Wales.

TGM was a not-for-profit organisation, as stipulated in its registered Constitution meaning any profit would only be re-invested back into the organisation to fulfil its mission and not paid to members as dividends and also that upon winding up any assets would be transferred to another similar non-profit organisation.

The Constitution stated TGM was an esoteric organisation and an heir of the traditions of early Christianity and that its mission was for the practice and fulfilment of the spiritual work as explained by the founder of modern Gnosis, Samael Aun Weor. It also stated entrance to all lectures and courses was to be free of charge. In accordance with this the Movement was always funded solely by voluntary donations and there wasn’t any requirement to donate to be able to attend its events.

TGM was administered responsibly by the members, meeting all legal governance requirements including filing the yearly and quarterly financial reports to the relevant government regulators.

Along with the principle of only being funded by voluntary donations we also upheld the principle of only using funds for the purpose for which they were donated. All payments made from any account were by cheque which required signing by two volunteers authorised to make payments.

There were centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth with each centre having its own bank account. Any donations collected for the running costs of that centre were counted by two volunteers, the amount recorded and then banked into that centre’s bank account. Any operating costs for the centre were paid out of its own account.

There were donations also raised in each centre for the Movement’s national insurance which were banked into an account held for paying the Movement’s national expenses.

TGM held a number of international retreat events at cost price and attendees payments (for food and lodging costs only) for these retreats were banked into the national account with the retreat hire and catering expenses paid from it. As per Mark’s vision though we had a goal to purchase our own retreat property at which to run free retreats funded by donations in the same way the centres ran.

Monies donated for purchasing a permanent retreat property in Australia were collected in a dedicated fund established for that purpose. A PayPal facility was established on TGM’s main website for anyone to donate to the Australian permanent retreat project but donations could also be made through any centre.

One year an offer was made for attendees to pay a bit extra if they wanted to for attending one of the hired retreats with the extra amount being a donation to the Australian permanent retreat fund. In return we offered them a free retreat next time as we had hoped to have found and purchased a suitable property soon. About a year later when our retreat property search looked like taking longer than we had hoped we offered and gave refunds of those extra amounts to those who donated them.

In Sydney, people could also donate separately to Mark Pritchard for which we had a dedicated donation box. These funds were kept separate from TGM’s general funds.

Each centre did its own accounting of its monthly income and expenses and all receipts and invoices were always kept and held on record. Each centre would then send its monthly accounts each quarter to the Treasurer.

Experience as Treasurer

In Sydney, as a member, I did the monthly accounting for the Sydney centre using spreadsheets (as did the other centres). As Treasurer, I did the accounting for the national accounts and collated all the data from the centres accounts and did the required reporting to the government authorities.

For one particular financial year, I organised for all the accounts to be prepared by an independent bookkeeper and then had everything audited by a registered Company Auditor (registered with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission) whom was also a Charted Accountant. Neither the bookkeeper nor the Auditor found any issues with our operations and the Auditor found the accounting and financial reports to represent a correct view of TGM’s financial performance and position.

Another year the accounts and financial reports were done by an independent accountant.

The last couple of years I did the accounts myself as there weren’t too many transactions as the centres and the Movement were winding down. As the Movement was closing down we donated all of TGM’s remaining assets to the non-profit retreat property company established by TGM which we had previously given all the retreat funds to for it to purchase and maintain a retreat property.

Sponsorship for Mark Pritchard’s Work in the USA

In order for Mark to go to the USA as a missionary from Australia he had to have a religious worker visa, the conditions of which required he be paid a salary by TGM USA. He was paid a small salary just above the federal minimum wage. There was also a small housing allowance paid which brought the salary up to meet the state minimum wage requirements (that were higher than the federal) for where he was in the USA, as he worked from home. The US and Australian organizations worked together closely to arrange and support Mark’s visa sponsorship.

Mark visited the Sydney centre in July 2007 where I was and he spoke to all of us there about going to the USA soon to help spread the teachings there further, as there weren’t many centres there yet but many English-speaking people who might be interested in Gnosis. Everyone there was very supportive of this mission and wished him well with it.

Volunteers and friends of Mark’s from TGM who were already donating directly to him were asked to instead donate to The Gnostic Movement Inc Australia, which established a special fund for those donations to support his mission in the USA. The Australian organisation collected funds from people who had donated to support Mark’s work in the US, and transferred them to the US organisation, who also had a dedicated fund from which it paid the costs associated with the sponsorship.

As the sponsorship costs were funded by donations from people who gave to support Mark’s work, Mark’s own principle of being funded solely by voluntary donations was upheld even though he was legally being paid a wage. Mark himself actually donated to the US organisation out of his own inheritance and the amount covered much of the cost of his salary. Mark did not receive any general funds raised by the organisation, only funds from people who donated to support his work.

I remember hearing from the Australian members involved in co-ordinating the funds (before I was involved as the Treasurer) that Mark could only afford to live in a poor neighbourhood which had a lot of crime and there was even a shooting at a neighbouring property. The Australian and USA members were concerned for his welfare and had offered to try to pay Mark more so he could rent somewhere better but he continually refused to be paid more than the small legal minimum that was required.

General Administration Fundraising

In January 2008 it was decided by the Australian members to hold fundraising activities and to collect donations through each centre to support TGM USA which had become the organisation’s international headquarters. It was responsible for many things such as office and equipment, websites, international insurance costs, publicity and legal costs. Other centres around the world also undertook the same initiative at the time.

The centres raised funds by holding fundraising activities such as dinner/movie nights at which donations were accepted but not mandatory and also by selling off unwanted second-hand goods donated to the centres by the volunteers. This is what we typically did in Sydney to raise the funds and the other Australian centres did too, as well as occasional activities like incense-making workshops. The funds collected would be counted in each centre and then banked into the National account by those centres with a communication going to the Treasurer to explain what had been banked.

The treasurers of TGM Australia & TGM USA co-ordinated with each other to allocate the raised funds to the appropriate areas depending on the purpose for which they were donated/raised. The donations/fundraising collected for general administration expenses went to those expenses whilst the funds collected to support Mark went to covering his small salary and housing allowance.

For the funds collected in Australia, monthly overseas telegraphic transfers were done to TGM USA.

Mark had never had a salary before as he did not want one, he worked fulltime for free from the beginning of TGM in Australia. He only had a small salary in the USA as it was a requirement of the visa he was there on and it was funded from donations given to support his work and from his inheritance. Mark only received donations that were made by those who wanted to support him (as was his wish), not the general donations, and he re-directed donations he would ordinarily have received to go to TGM for it to pay its costs in having him in the USA.

By far the largest expense TGM had was all the rent it paid for its various centres around the world. Mark’s salary was quite small by any comparison and he funded most of it himself.

Australian Retreat Project

I was a founding member and director of The Gnostic Movement Inc (Australia)’s retreat property holding company.

Australian Retreat Property Search

In early October 2009, as a member of The Gnostic Movement, I took on the role of managing the search for a retreat property in NSW Australia, whilst other members managed the search in other states, and each State had a team of searchers made up of members, teachers and trainees.

Eventually I managed the whole search across the various States myself and made most of the enquiries for a time.

The organising of the retreat search was refined as needed, trying to get the best outcome because it was a genuine and sincere effort by all involved to get a retreat.

Many online search sites were divided up amongst the search team for them to search for suitable properties in any State using a set of basic criteria such as being in a quiet and private location with no mining or major developments under-way nearby. They would then send a list of potential properties through, for me to go through and investigate further.

Any properties which made the short list would then be presented to all the Australian members to consider.

Research was done by various members of the team over a period of time on various issues such as mining areas, drought, bushfire safety, sudden limb drop from trees, and road construction.

I worked on this project full-time for a year as an unpaid volunteer from October 2009 to October 2010 as I was able to fund myself at the time and did not need to work in a paid job but instead I preferred to work on this to help make an Australian Retreat property a reality. It was a valuable experience, I learned a lot and quite enjoyed investigating properties. Once I went back to full-time paid work in October 2010 and until the Movement closed down, I was still involved in managing the search, looking for properties and making enquiries albeit not on a full-time basis any more.

The search was done by individuals according to the capacity they had to work on it within reason, in terms of the time they had available for it.

By the end of October 2010 hundreds of properties had been investigated with most being rejected, and a number of properties on the short-list but all of them had various issues of one sort or another such as price, no existing infrastructure, too remote, and difficult access. The main reasons for properties being rejected was price and not enough privacy as we never really had enough funds for what we wanted compared to what was on the market and we wanted a private place where up to 100 retreat attendees could have plenty of space to relax in a peaceful and serene natural setting and without disturbing any neighbours.

By early November 2009 there was a property of interest which was thoroughly investigated, but it was too expensive for the amount of funds we had and there were concerns with bush fires.

In mid December 2009 I enquired to an agent about another large property but it turned out though that it had just been sold however the agent told me about another property which was going to be put on the market the next month and which sounded like it could potentially be the one we were looking for as it was within our price range and had plenty of acreage.

Further investigations into it showed it was still a good contender although some of the initial information about its access road turned out later on, once we visited the property, to be inaccurate and made it sound half as short and better than it actually was.

The Gnostic Movement (TGM) in Australia then established a retreat property holding company for it to purchase and develop a spiritual retreat property on behalf of TGM and at which TGM would run free retreat events. I was one of the founding members and directors of it along with two other members from the Australian TGM. TGM Australia gifted its retreat project funds to this non-profit organisation.

Thorough Investigation of Potential Property

property
There’s me on the right on one of the trips to the potential retreat property
In mid January 2010 a group of six people from TGM including myself went to view the property over two days. It was 2,500 acres in size with most of that to be subject to a Conservation plan of management trust agreement but approximately 250 acres could be developed with the local Council approval. The only infrastructure there was fencing and a reasonable sized sheep shearing shed with a water tank next to it. We left the property on the last day after viewing a most beautiful sunset amidst some beautiful scenery inspired by the possibilities the property offered. There were however some hurdles to get over to make it work, mainly the access.

Much due diligence was done on this property to investigate it. I had a lot of phone calls with the agent, several with the council, the forestry department, the fire department, a road engineer, and local contractors to do re-gravelling of the 8 kilometres of access track. A lot of time was also spent going over the proposed Sale Contract, deliberating and negotiating special conditions and liaising with our Conveyancer to ensure our best interests were met.

I went to the property twice in August 2010, the first with a fellow director and the 2nd time on my own (it was great to go for a drive out into the country and get out of the city); to meet up with the road engineer and the local contractors to get some quotes on fixing up the access track. I got 3 quotes which ranged from $86,000 to up to $200,000.

In addition to fixing up the existing access track to the required council and fire department standards, I found out from the fire department there was going to need to be another emergency access road/track via a different route and direction (one did not exist) for the fire department to approve our proposed development. I also found out from the local government council that without the fire department approval we would never get the local government council approval. We also needed a parking lot and potentially a helicopter pad for emergency services.

Whilst at the final TGM retreat in northern NSW in early January 2011 myself, another director, and a TGM member took a day to go see two properties in the area, but they were not suitable or within our budget.

A final trip was made to the main property of interest in late January 2011 by several TGM members including myself. The agent was kind enough to give us the key to the front gate and allow us to spend time on the property on our own. We spent two days going over this property and also investigating a neighbouring property which had recently come up for sale and a third property for sale about a two hour drive away. These two other properties turned out to be unsuitable mainly due to cost.

We had kept an eye on the market for properties in that area since July 2010 and the price comparisons showed this main property we were interested in was the best deal and also there weren’t any other properties in other areas which were better.

In February 2011 I finally received sample documents from the agent of the Conservation agreement which would be registered on the land title. After some time of reviewing this document with the other directors and discussion with the TGM members, we made the decision not to proceed with buying this property due to the costs of bringing the access track up to the required standard plus creating a second alternate route out of the property and the cost of maintaining them long term. Also due to the onerous conditions of the Conservation agreement – to keep the whole 2,500 acres free of weeds and limit the numbers of feral animals with culling – which would have taken too much effort and focus away from what we really wanted which was to have a place to develop and run as a retreat.

The retreat property search continued on with just the TGM members searching once TGM stopped running its courses. Since TGM fully closed down in Australia in 2013, the property search has been continued by members of the retreat organisation where possible, albeit with concern for the potential of hostilities towards the project as a result of the false allegations made against TGM and Mark Pritchard.

Australian Retreat Property

In September 2010, all the Australian TGM members including the 3 directors of the retreat organisation (of which I was one) had a meeting over Skype with Mark Pritchard. He proposed selling his property back to us for less than its market value but only for what was spent on it, asking as a condition of sale that we not spend too much finishing the renovations which were near completion but re-list it for sale again quickly, thereby giving away the profit to TGM’s retreat project.

Some of the members tried to talk Mark out of selling it for such a low price but he was adamant about it, as he wanted the organisation to benefit from the property. Myself and the two other directors of the retreat organisation agreed to the proposal to buy the property for the low price Mark offered it at, agreeing to his only request to not spend much finishing the renovations and putting it on the market quickly. All TGM members supported the decision. It was also agreed to obtain a valuation before entering into a contract.

I was amazed and taken aback at how generous Mark was with this offer and I felt like he was really caring and supporting us in making a retreat happen so that everyone in The Gnostic Movement could have a place for dedicated spiritual practice in nature out of the cities to come to and benefit from. And this offer was after he had already boosted TGM’s retreat funds by $100,000 from what it started with by buying the property from TGM years earlier at its then full market price.

After the meeting with Mark and before entering into a contract, a valuation was obtained from an independent property valuer who gave it a value that was about 30% more than what Mark wanted to sell it for.

In November 2010, the retreat organisation bought Mark Pritchard’s property for about 30% less than its then lowest market value. This property was to be a stepping stone to getting a larger property.

Mark generously allowed us to only pay him just under half the agreed price upfront and for the remainder to be paid to him once we had sold it.

Before the sale was formally commenced, Mark had asked as a condition of the sale, that once TGM had purchased it, the property would be put on the market for sale straight away with minimal renovations. However, it was about another year before it was listed with a real estate agent. This was because the retreat company directors (of which I was one) and the renovation team now volunteering for the retreat company felt that we could make a bigger profit and sell the property more easily if we did more extensive renovations.

All in all, Mark had to wait for 3 years to be paid the second half we owed him for the property. Looking back on it, I regret my part in the lack of care towards Mark and for not fulfilling our agreement to not spend much in finishing renovations and list it for sale quickly. This was despite all the care he showed for us as exemplified by his selfless actions regarding this property.

He bought it at full market value which boosted the retreat project by $100,000 and he sold it back for approximately 30% less than its lowest market value so as to benefit the retreat project, a project which really was about helping people to develop spiritually which is what Mark is and has always been about. His actions in regards to this property show how genuine and selfless he is and that in no way is he “in it for the money” or for materialism but quite the opposite, he gives away money he could have had to spiritual causes.

Mark has consistently made many sacrifices over the years so others could benefit spiritually and his involvement in the Australian retreat project was no exception.

Despite Mark’s incredible generosity towards The Gnostic Movement’s retreat project, he was falsely accused of the very opposite through no fault of his own, but because of the decisions of others, and regrettably these lies spread unchecked for years.

I feel I should have said more sooner to help set the record straight. Through all this I have learned the value and the responsibility of speaking up to simply put the truth.

Mark is so good natured that he has beared all this unfairness without any negativity towards his attackers or those who could have done more to speak the truth. Mark once said that forgiveness does not mean a giving up of justice or a right to a defence but of all the negativity which can distort it. My experience has been that he is a living example of these words.

For now, the retreat funds are being held securely in a high interest bank account until the vision for a retreat property can be realised.

Dealing with Misconduct

In April 2009 two individuals were asked to leave the organisation due to misconduct, some of which I witnessed first hand. I was one of a group of TGM members who asked them to leave the organisation after we had considered the matter very carefully.

After a while they tried to get re-admitted to the organisation, but were unsuccessful. Soon after being denied re-entry to the movement and to posting on the Belzebuub.com forums, in May 2010 these two individuals started the vicious untruthful smear campaign against Mark and The Gnostic Movement. It seemed to me to be fuelled by their resentments and hostility, and had been planned for a while before it began, as the attacks started very quickly after they were last denied re-admittance.

After several months of the smear campaign beginning, a group of us decided to start our own unofficial website to put the truth to the lies and we used pseudonyms for ourselves (as were the attackers) however Mark was always fully named. Mark never approached any of us to defend him or the Movement.

Eventually we decided to start an official blog including the wider TGM community and some people started using their first names in their written and video testimonials and to blog posts whilst others kept anonymous pseudonyms. Pseudonyms were used to name the attackers, meanwhile Mark was always fully named in the attacks.

After several years of refuting allegations and repeatedly asking them to stop lying, and after TGM had to close its doors, in mid 2013, a group of us exposed the facts about the attackers using our full names. Along with separate legal measures taken against different contributors, this finally brought an end to their campaign.

I understand now this is what was needed in the first place, but for my part I lacked the courage and the full sense of responsibility at the time as up until then I was only partially defending using only my first name which contributed to Mark being left exposed on his own as the only fully named person and his reputation unfairly smeared for which I am truly sorry.

Back to People’s Experiences

Matthew O

Matthew O

Matthew OI was part of The Gnostic Movement from mid-2004 until its closure. I began as an online student and completed all of its web courses, and qualified as an online trainee teacher in late 2005. In early 2006 I put up my hand to assist a member who moved to my city in Australia to start a center. In November that year I qualified as a teacher and was offered the opportunity to take over running the center, which I accepted. I was offered and accepted membership in 2007, as did my wife not long after, and we ran the centre together.

I was involved in many aspects of the organization nationally and internationally. In addition to teaching courses in person, I assisted with administering online courses, and for some years managed the Movement’s video productions. I was on the international administrative team of the organization both when Mark Pritchard was international coordinator and after he stepped down from that position to focus on writing and teaching.

My experience as a student and later as a volunteer teacher was very enriching and rewarding. The following article outlines my experience of being part of the organization and working with its spiritual teacher Mark Pritchard. I also share background on why it interested me and the benefits I gained from becoming a practicing Gnostic, to illustrate how and why I chose to be part of it.

Finding the free online courses

My involvement in The Gnostic Movement began in mid-2004, when I came across its website and signed up for the nine week course on astral travel and dreams. The course was then offered at the site Mysticweb, and was due to commence in August that year.

What interested me in the course was a desire to explore metaphysical possibilities. I’d always felt there was something more going on in life – a deeper spiritual dimension and purpose to it – but I had no idea how to confirm if this really was the case or if it was even possible to know. I had little interest in just adopting spiritual beliefs; if it were possible, I wanted the means to discover and learn about metaphysical things through direct experience. For this reason, joining a conventional religion never really appealed to me.

This longing to know was always gnawing at me, giving rise to seemingly unanswerable questions. Did life extend beyond the physical world and what my bodily senses can perceive? Did I, or could I, exist beyond my physical body? If so, what is the point of my being here? I had this feeling there was something more going on in life, like there was some greater purpose to it. I could not escape the feeling there was something more I could be doing with my existence. But I didn’t know what it was, or how I could possibly find out.

It was a few spontaneous experiences I had with the sleep paralysis phenomenon that led me to investigate astral projection. Seeking to understand my experiences, I began researching into sleep paralysis and found material suggesting it was linked to astral projection. That was an interesting lead that caught my attention and I looked into it further.

The more I read about astral projection, the more it seemed like a promising way to find answers to metaphysical questions through firsthand exploration. I had no idea if it would work or was even possible but figured I had nothing to lose by trying. Searching online for information, I eventually came across Belzebuub’s free course on astral travel and dreams offered at Mysticweb, and signed up.

I had to wait a few weeks for the course to start. In the meantime I followed the site’s public forums, avidly reading various topics and posting some comments and questions, to learn as much as I could before the course started.

From looking around the site, I quickly learned that astral projection was just one aspect of what The Gnostic Movement behind Mysticweb taught. It was part of a broader spiritual approach to life based on the work of modern Gnostic author Samael Aun Weor. The site recommended some of his books that went into some very esoteric stuff. I browsed some of them, which were available in pdf format, but they held little appeal to me at that time. At that point, I just wanted to find out if out-of-body experiences were a real phenomenon and possible to accomplish. Since I had no idea if any of this information was valid yet, I took little interest in the broader spiritual teachings available there. So I took the more esoteric matters being discussed there with a grain of salt, and focused on the practical means to achieve astral projection.

My experience studying online

I was really looking forward to the Astral Travel and Dreams course starting. When it did, I found it to be excellent.

Each week a new topic and exercise, described in PDF documents, was made available for download as the course progressed, all written by Belzebuub. His down-to-earth, clear and insightful writing style immediately struck a chord with me, and made the course very easy to follow. It had a very practical structure, and took me step-by-step through the techniques and principles of astral projection. It was a hands-on approach to metaphysics that encouraged and showed you how to be an active spiritual explorer and use mystical practices to find knowledge through personal metaphysical experience.

As an online student I did the course on my own, trying the weekly exercises at home in my spare time. I always looked forward to the next week’s material, and read it as soon as it became available, and then tried the weekly exercise when I could; these were usually concentration/meditation-style exercises that I practiced in my bedroom.

It was emphasised in this course (and other courses too) that knowledge through direct personal experience was what “Gnosis” really is. As someone who wanted to explore and discover rather than just accept what I was told, I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to agree with or accept the whole Gnostic doctrine to learn and try the methods. The practical approach of the course meant you had no obligation to believe anything. So I decided to put aside what I didn’t agree with or know to be true in Gnostic theology and just practiced the techniques to see what I would find.

To my surprise, I achieved rapid success and had multiple astral experiences in the course. I was amazed to find myself floating out of my body, consciously existing and perceiving life outside of it. This changed my whole perspective of life. Confirming I could exist separately from my body was a watershed moment, and opened up a whole new range of possibilities, as well as questions.

Over the course I increased my skills and learned not just to come out of my body, but how to explore the astral world once there. My first experiences were hazy and brief but as I persisted and practised further, my experiences became clear and vivid. Soon I made another major discovery. I discovered it was possible to ask for and receive spiritual guidance – visions and teachings – during out-of-body experiences. This led to mystical encounters and experiences, through which I came to see that what Belzebuub was explaining, at least about the astral plane and other things, was true.

The Astral Travel and Dreams course was full of personal revelations. Another major discovery was realising there was truth to the teachings of Gnosticism imparted at Mysticweb, and that its spiritual teacher Belzebuub was genuine and qualified. I had clear and vivid experiences in which I met him out-of-the-body, and saw that he was one of many spiritual teachers there who guide and help people. This was actually quite a shock to me. I hadn’t expected this to be the case; I was naturally sceptical, even cynical, and initially had no plans to do any courses beyond the astral, thinking I’d just learn the techniques then go on my way.

But having seen there was more to it than I expected, and that the techniques worked and revealed deeper truths about life, and that Belzebuub was a real and genuine spiritual teacher, I decided to continue “down the rabbit hole” to see what else there was to find. So I continued with the courses, moving next to the Self Discovery course, then the Journey to Enlightenment course, then the Advanced Investigation course. As I went through the courses, I maintained what I would call an open minded scepticism – I did not accept all the things I read upfront, but tried to find out the truth by using the exercises to explore, discover and gain personal experience. This was an approach Belzebuub actually encouraged.

Antagonistic Gnostic from rival site attempts to ‘recruit’ me

Not long after becoming involved with Mysticweb, I learned there were Gnostics from other groups or websites averse to Mark Pritchard and the Movement he taught in.

At that time Mysticweb had, in addition to its public web forums, a private messaging system allowing users to send private messages to other users. After I posted a forum question one day, I received a private reply from someone advocating another gnostic site. This person attempted to undercut Mysticweb, claiming its people had limited understanding and provided a link to an article on another Gnostic site related to the subject of my question. He encouraged me to go there and read it because, according to him, the people there knew what they were talking about.

I was a little taken aback by his covert attempt to use Mysticweb’s own services to undermine the site and divert users. He seemed like someone trying to undercut a rival and poach its clientele, but his unsolicited and underhanded attempts to ‘recruit’ me to his ‘side’ made him come across more like an pushy religious preacher than someone from a mystical school like Mysticweb.

Despite being put off by this approach, I was curious about the other site, so I checked it out. I did not find it as appealing however – it had lots of information, some of it interesting, but it lacked something I could not define. For want of a better term I will just say it was not “living” in the same way Mysticweb was. In contrast to Mysticweb, it seemed much more focused on instilling doctrine rather than actively exploring the doctrinal subject matter through spiritual practice. At Mysticweb, the teachings of Gnosis were explained and approached in a much more hands-on way, emphasizing practical application and personal exploration.

But what was most off-putting, was the hostility directed at Mysticweb and Mark Pritchard I found displayed there. There were forum posts dedicated to disparaging both Mark and the school he taught in, including one where an official administrator labelled Mysticweb a “harmful” school. They seemed to carry some sort of embittered chip on their shoulder. I felt it was fine for them to disagree of course, but if they disliked the way Mark Pritchard and The Gnostic Movement did things, why not just carry on doing things the way they preferred and live and let live? Why post online detractions about another site on your own? I never saw people naming and condemning other groups or sites for having different beliefs or approaches to spiritual studies on the websites of The Gnostic Movement. Instead, in forums I often saw teachers emphasizing that you had to respect other people’s free will, especially in spiritual matters, so if someone wanted to practice something different to you then you should respect their right to and their personal freedom and not interfere. It was often stressed that it was wrong to impose one’s ways on others, and this was a point Mark emphasised in his writing quite clearly.

I decided to stick with Mysticweb. Later, as I became more involved in The Gnostic Movement, the unfortunate hostility emanating from some people aligned to other Gnostic organizations became a recurring issue, which I will touch on further later.

Making personal discoveries and changes

As I continued with the courses, I gradually made changes in my life when I saw the benefit of making them. These were conscious decisions based on what I wanted from life, made from my own volition and judgement.

For example, in the Self Discovery course, Belzebuub described how alcoholism and video game addiction can adversely affect spiritual development. Back then I drank copiously on social occasions, and spent a fair bit of spare time playing computer games too. I wasn’t about to stop something I enjoyed and which I felt (at the time) didn’t harm anyone else, just because of what someone had written.

Instead I approached things like an experiment, trying different things and observing the results. To give myself a valid point of comparison, I decided to focus on spiritual practice for a few months and go alcohol-free in that period to see if I noticed a change or benefit. I practised awareness and self-observation, meditation, mantras and continued with my astral exercises, and stayed sober. As I did this, I found I became much more emotionally stable and happy, with much more peace and clarity within. It is a difficult to describe the change I felt, the best word I can think of is “vibrancy”. I felt this new vibrancy within me, an inner awareness from which I could perceive and experience life with much more clarity, attentiveness and focus; there was far less inner emotional turmoil within, and both I and the world around me felt more vivid and alive.

This vibrancy extended from daily life into my dreams. As I practiced like this in the day, my dreams became clearer, vivid, and more meaningful and I remembered them more – sometimes finding they contained insightful messages which seemed to come from a higher spiritual intelligence that was guiding me. Fairly regularly, I became self-aware in my dreams as they happened, an experience commonly known as lucid dreaming. It felt like this whole other magical side to life had opened up to me.

After practising like this for a period of time, one night I attended a party where most were drinking. I decided to experiment by drinking again to observe what would happen now that my period of spiritual practice gave me a different point of comparison. In the past, I turned to alcohol for fun – it was an easy way to numb any emotional turmoil or boredom I felt. But now I felt much clearer, vibrant and alive – happy to be alive, just by being alive, and when I drank that night I found it clouded that inner vibrancy I had cultivated. Everything just became “mushy” within.

I realised I didn’t want to lose that state of being I had worked hard to attain. Now that I could compare the two states of being, I found drunkenness was a poor substitute for what I had cultivated. I could not have realised or felt this before because I had never had such an inner state to be able to lose it. I had always liked to drink to “take the edge off” but I started to wonder what that really meant. Take the edge off what exactly? I realised being drunk “blurred out” and masked inner turmoil and boredom, which is why I often enjoyed it in place of being sober. But it was only pleasurable comparative to my normal state because there was a lack of inner peace. By putting into practice what I had been learning in the courses, I was now digging deeper within myself and facing that “edge” within me and directly addressing its causes, rather than escaping it, and the result was self-knowledge and more clarity and happiness. And when I started to feel happy, truly happy within, I did not want to take the edge off that happiness, dampen it, or cloud it over. Nor did I want to hide from inner suffering by escaping it in something transient, because I knew that by facing and understanding myself I could gain peace and understanding that was lasting and stable.

So I decided to give up drunkenness. This was not something I did out of any sense of obligation; I choose this course from observing its effects and choosing what gave me greater happiness and inner freedom. I say inner freedom because I preferred happiness that came from within – that was not dependent on the temporary state produced by an external substance, which apart from being transient was also costly in terms of money and health.

I made a similar change with computer games. I’d become addicted to a fast-paced action game, and I’d often spend hours playing it each day. If I was interrupted or unable to play because another family member was using our PC, I became irritable and snappy. But as I started practising self-observation, I began to see my reactions in a detached way, and how my fascination with the game led me to behave badly towards people I cared about. I also saw how much time it wasted.

Because I was practising astral projection and dream recall at night, I noticed adverse effects there too. When I tried to concentrate on an astral exercise at night, I would sometimes close my eyes and just see imagery of the game. My mind was so used to being fascinated, distracted and absorbed in the immersive world of the game, that it was hard to get it to just focus. I would even dream about the game. I realised my attachment to the game was hindering me and eventually decided it would be better to leave it behind if I wanted to move forward with my spiritual practice. After doing so, it did not take long before my practices improved – I could focus and concentrate better and had more success with astral projection. My dreams became much clearer, vivid and more meaningful. And I was much more pleasant to be around at home – no longer snappy and irritable – and started to appreciate and enjoy being around my family more, and made a conscious effort to treat them better, instead of seeking to run away to play the game and becoming frustrated if anyone obstructed me. I felt the trade-off was worth it.

In this way, I used the teachings as a toolkit to learn about myself with an open mind, taking a grounded approach. When I made changes, I made them based on what I observed and learned through personal research and observation. I didn’t treat my spiritual studies as something to follow blindly, but as a methodology with which to explore in the field of life and make discoveries. So when I made a change in my life, I did so knowing why I was making it, having seen and understood the reasons and benefits of the change, then making a personal decision about which direction I wanted to go. This hands-on approach driven by personal experience was actively encouraged by Mark; I felt that his practical teachings had really empowered me, giving me the means to explore, make discoveries and take control of my own learning and my own life.

Training to be a teacher

This practical approach to the teachings eventually led me to take up the teacher’s training course online, because I had come to see the benefits of Gnosis. I wanted to learn as much as I could, and also help others to have the opportunities I’d had. However, I was not ready to commit to this straight away.

The teachers course had a code of conduct that you had to be willing to abide by to participate (the previous courses had no such requirements). For anyone who qualified to sign up, the code of conduct was explained upfront beforehand. It stated that teachers were seen as representatives of the Movement, which was a spiritual school, and so they had to set a good example.

This made sense to me. You would expect anyone wanting to teach spirituality to uphold spiritual principles themselves, and live by whatever standards were part of the school or tradition they were teaching in. The code of conduct included rules like not getting drunk or using foul language. Since relationship fidelity was an important principle in the teachings, a teacher was expected to be faithful to their partner in their personal life. Those training to be teachers had to be prepared to marry their partner if they were in a serious relationship when they entered the course, as it was held that a committed and monogamous relationship was essential to spiritual development.

It was made clear from the outset that it was important to reflect on whether you personally understood and were ready to commit to the requirements before joining the course. It was suggested that if you did not feel ready, it was better not to rush in. It was said that one could instead repeat an earlier course and take the time to explore the teachings further at your own pace, and that one could take the teacher’s course in the future if and when they understood and felt ready to commit to its requirements.

I had qualified for the teacher’s course after completing the Advanced Investigation course successfully, but after reflecting on that advice concerning the requirements, and on my own circumstances, I felt I was not quite ready to make that commitment. I deferred for another course term and used the ensuing three months to reflect, practice and make any personal changes I felt were necessary. I wanted to see if I could incorporate that code of conduct in my own life just for myself, for my own benefit and reasons rather than for the sake of a course, to be sure this was something I genuinely wanted in my life and could do.

By the time the next course round came along, I felt ready to join the teachers course. I had consciously incorporated those standards into my own life and was ready to assume the responsibility of training to be a teacher and make the commitment that entailed.

Regarding the standards surrounding marriage, I was in a serious relationship with my partner then but we were not as yet married or engaged. We were not required or pressured to make any immediate plans to be either. It was more that because personal relationships were considered sacred and an integral part of leading a spiritual life, requiring, love, faithfulness and a serious commitment in Gnosticism, marriage was seen as an outward sign of the inner commitment any person genuinely practising Gnosticism needed to have with their partner, and an indication they understood this principle and took it seriously. But it was the commitment in the relationship itself that mattered most rather than the formality of marriage. As a teacher I would have to teach other people about these things, so I had to be willing “walk the walk” which meant demonstrating that commitment outwardly. However the main thing I had to understand initially was understanding the need for a serious relationship to be committed and faithful for the spiritual work to take place in it, and to have a willingness to get married in the future as a sign of that commitment. My partner and I were already committed to each other, and that was what mattered most – the formalities of marriage could wait as long as the principles were understood and lived by. There was no timeline as such as for when we were to get married, as long as there was a serious intention to do so. Things were actually very lenient in this regard. As it turned out, my partner and I got formally engaged about a year after I began training as a teacher and our wedding was a little over a year after that.

In the online teachers course I did not learn anything that was not covered in previous courses. It was about testing your understanding of what you had already learned and demonstrating you could impart it clearly to others. Each week I was given a topic to study and exercises to do as homework. The following week I would give a review of the topic and feedback on the homework to demonstrate I understood both theory and practice. At the end there was a final test, where I spoke with a teacher who asked a series of questions. I passed and become an online trainee teacher.

By that time, The Gnostic Movement had shifted its online courses from Mysticweb to Gnosticweb. As a trainee teacher, I was assigned to help out in the public forums, being part of a team of trainee teachers that responded to people’s questions.

A Group starts in my city

Not long after I became a trainee teacher, I received a call from a member of The Gnostic Movement based in another state in my country. She was planning to move to my city to establish a group and asked if I would like to help. I agreed enthusiastically. My partner was also doing the early courses online, and she also got involved in helping to get things established.

When the member moved over in early 2006 we helped her settle into a place to live, near where we eventually ran courses. My partner and I became good friends with her, and we spent a lot of time together working toward getting courses up and running. She was a good role model and it was great to finally have a teacher we could talk to in person.

Soon we began looking for suitable community halls for practice sessions, which our teacher guided. We soon found one located in a nice park beside a river. It was great to gather in the evening and try to astral project with others, and there was this nice mystical atmosphere. After being so isolated, I enjoyed having this opportunity to practice with others.

We began preparations to hold the Astral Travel and Dreams course in April 2006, putting posters up advertising the course around the city. We had a great turn out on the opening night; the hall was full. While the instructor guided the course session, Priya and I staffed the enrolment desk and took the registrations. It was great to see how the course worked in person – the atmosphere was buzzing with enthusiasm and there were many questions about the astral from the audience.

In the next course round we ran the Self Discovery course and shifted to a better community venue, near a train station, which made it easier for people to travel from further afield. By chance I happened to find a listing for a hall available for long-term rent in the same suburb, a disused former church. It had a large hall with beautiful polished wooden floorboards, a kitchen, and a separate area we used as a café. Outside it had a garden in need of some TLC and its own carpark. After we inspected the place the member received the go-ahead to secure it for the Movement, which gave us our own dedicated venue. My wife and I offered to help the instructor cover the weekly rent, and moved close by so we could easily attend and help out with things.

There was a lot of red tape to navigate with the local government before it could be used however. The old building needed certain upgrades to meet modern public access requirements, including concrete ramps at the main entrance and restroom entrance because the doorways were slightly above ground level. It sounded straightforward but the local government council made it somewhat complicated and the member was in near constant discussions with them. I would drive her to their offices nearly every week while this was being sorted out.

Eventually we gained the approval. Aside from those adjustments, we began cleaning and preparing the place, adding new blinds, and setting it up for events. We moved the sessions there midway through our second course term.

Having our own venue made a big difference; the place took on a very spiritual atmosphere, and because we had it to ourselves, people had more time to stay around and socialize after course sessions and chat in the cafe. It also allowed us to run more events. There was a river a short walk from the center, bordered by a wetland with natural vegetation with a path running through it. We would organise walks along the river to practice awareness in nature.

Becoming a Teacher

Later that year, around November 2006, the member who established the center in our city returned to her home city. I qualified as a teacher and was offered the role of running the center, which I gladly accepted. The center had been such a help to me, and I enjoyed teaching very much, and I wanted to ensure it remained viable to help others too.

My wife and I choose to assume responsibility for covering the center rent and running costs. Public donations were unpredictable, and generally not enough to cover a week’s rent. There were other expenses to cover too including utility bills, advertising costs, and national costs of the Australian organisation. In between course terms donations often fell away completely, so generally it was the support of committed volunteers like ourselves who kept a center a going. Thankfully, for such a large and quality venue, the rent for our center was quite reasonable from the outset and the landlord was generous and supportive and pledged not to raise it.

Attending a Retreat and Meeting Belzebuub

In January 2007, my wife and I attended the Gnostic Movement’s Australian international retreat in the Bunya Mountains. This was our first opportunity to meet people from other centers and countries. Before the retreat began, some of the volunteers from the nearby center hosted a New Year’s Eve party. I enjoyed meeting people from the rest of Australia and around the world. In Perth we were just a small fledgling group, but here I felt part of a much larger international community.

The retreat itself was excellent, on a subtropical mountain covered by an ancient rainforest. It was inspiring to gather and practice spiritual exercises and discuss metaphysical topics over meals with a large and diverse group of interested people, in such a scenic and beautiful location. In the evenings we would all try to astral project in our respective chalets. I was in one with about ten other guys, while my wife was in a separate chalet with women.

A few days into the retreat, Belzebuub arrived, which was a pleasant surprise. This was the first opportunity I had to meet him in person. He gave a number of talks and guided some practices, and joined everyone for meals. His talks were inspiring, but in a very understated and natural sort of way – he didn’t put on any airs or make a show of it.

Throughout the retreat I found Mark to be kind, down to earth and very approachable. He took questions from the group when he gave talks, but he also had lots of informal conversations with people in the dining hall or around the camp fire at night. I noticed that he talked freely to anyone no matter who they were, whether they were a teacher or someone new to the studies who was doing one of the introductory courses, and he was just as comfortable talking about spiritual things or more everyday things like the weather, and spoke and interacted respectfully and politely with anyone who wished to speak to him. I noticed that his role as a spiritual teacher had not caused him to speak or act with affectation. He did not speak down to people, nor did he affect an artificial pose of false humility to impress people with contrived modesty. He simply spoke and behaved just like a regular guy, like a considerate gentlemen, and his manner and appearance was so down to earth that I felt that if you passed him on the street he would not stand out in the slightest. But his ordinary appearance and casual approach belied the extraordinary spiritual knowledge he could impart. He could be both casual and profound. He could be very friendly and casual when chatting with people over a cup of tea, but when he taught, his words, though conveyed with simplicity and clarity, carried this great understated depth. He could be very moving and inspiring, and he had a knack for distilling and explaining complex spiritual topics in a manner almost anyone could understand and learn from.

I had some personal issues I wanted to get his advice on privately, but I wasn’t sure if I would have the opportunity to speak to him alone. One evening after dinner I was at the tea and coffee table in the dining hall getting a drink, and he approached to serve himself something. I asked him if it would be possible to talk to him in private. I hardly knew him, and wasn’t sure if he would agree, but straight away he said yes, and that he would come get me when he was ready. I went back to my seat, and a little later he came by and let me know he was ready. We went into another room and I spoke to him one-on-one. I was a little nervous but I could see that he was making an effort to put me at ease. When I talked to him about some personal difficulties I was having, there was no judgement or moralizing from him, only concern, compassion and a very genuine wish to help. Just talking and listening to him was a comfort. He was very considerate and respectful in the way he spoke to me. That sort of consideration seemed natural to him, like he would treat anyone with the same care, irrespective of who they were, or their status. I came away from the discussion struck by the simple fact that this man genuinely cares about people, yet he expresses this in the most unassuming way.

At the end of the retreat, Mark came and said goodbye to everyone who was leaving on the bus which the Movement had arranged. He wished me well with running the center in Perth.

Running the Perth Center

My partner and I returned to Perth and got on with running the center. The previous year I planted a mixed hedge around the carpark fence, to enhance the otherwise bland space. In 2007 we established a landscaped garden outside the main entrance, where an old weed-infested lawn used to be. Here we planted fragrant plants, flowers and a mature tree, which brightened things up considerably. We used second-hand railway sleepers to make a retaining wall for a garden bed on one side, and shaped a mounded garden bed on the other, and planted a chamomile lawn in between. The garden began to blossom, and the outer fence around the carpark became entwined with native wisteria and covered by native bushes which attracted birds.

One day a pair of semi-tame white doves came to the center and made it their home. We named them Puff and Polly. I built them a shelter which I attached high to the rear external wall, where we left seed so they could perch sheltered from the rain and out of reach of cats. They took to the new shelter and would visit every day. Other times they perched on the roof or garden shed.

Managing Donations

My wife became a teacher that year and we took care of running classes and administering the center together, including its finances. All the courses and events were free of charge, as was the case with all the centers and groups of The Gnostic Movement. There was a clear Perspex donations box placed on a table near the entrance to the main hall, where people could make anonymous contributions towards our running costs if they wished. The table also displayed Belzebuub’s course books, which were available for purchase. The money for books was kept separate from money donated to the Movement, and money for the purchase of books went back to the publisher Absolute Publishing Press. There was a separate donations box for a foundation established to help cover the costs associated with promoting Belzebuub’s work to the public, such as his website hosting fees, and equipment and software used to produce his videos etc. He did not receive any of this money personally for private use, it just subsidized costs associated with the public work he did. He had in fact renounced royalties from his book sales and only accepted money to support his living expenses from donations made to him personally. (My wife and I choose to make separate personal donations to Belzebuub to help support his living expenses, but these were private donations and had nothing to do with any fundraising that took place at the center) The foundation box was clearly marked so there could be no confusion between donations to The Gnostic Movement and donations to the foundation. The two were never mixed.

In our center, we always ensured all donations were used for the purposes they were given. So money donated to the Movement went to the Movement, funds for books went to the publisher (a separate company) and donations made to the foundation supporting Belzebuub’s work went there. We tracked and recorded all center in-goings and outgoings and did the center accounts quarterly. We would send our quarterly accounts to the national treasurer, who did the accounts for the national organisation which were submitted to the government. The organisation’s finances were carefully tracked, recorded and well-managed. As an organisation, we never had any issues with any regulatory authorities, because everything was done according to the law.

Although we received donations at our center, in reality my wife and I covered much of the running costs ourselves, and the donations from the public simply helped to supplement this. For a period, some volunteers also pledged to provide contributions to the weekly rent as we had done when we had helped the member first establish the center. However we only ever had one volunteer, a teacher, who did this long term.

Courses and events

We generally ran four course terms per year. Although the format changed over the years, by then the main sessions were generally held on a Sunday, and practice nights were held on weekday evenings. Before each round, we would put posters in cafes and shopping strips around Perth, with the help of anyone else who wanted to volunteer. Printing the posters was our main advertising cost. We also ran ads in spiritually-themed newspapers.

We also ran other events, like weekend workshops and movie nights, where we provided a home-cooked meal in the cafe and played a spiritually inspiring film through a projector. These were usually held as fundraisers to cover the Movement’s international costs. We also ran drop in meditation sessions and weekend workshops which anyone could attend without having done a prior course.

Over the years we gathered a number of regular students who would come to all the different events and also help out with putting up course posters. People were free to participate to whatever degree they wanted, and it was up to each person how much they did so; only a few ever elected to train to be teachers. We also had people who came along despite having little interest in the overall teachings of Gnosis. One lady who completed the 3 main courses, told me that our teachings were not her ‘cup of tea’, but she respected us and still liked to come along for the meditation practices and to chat with people in the cafe, because it was such a nice environment. Another person told us she had suffered from insomnia for years, and the only time she slept properly at night was after attending our meditation sessions, as they helped her to relax. We found that most people who came along were very polite and respectful, even if they didn’t agree with everything we taught, and anyone was welcome to attend whatever their beliefs may have been as long as they didn’t disrupt things.

For people who were keener and committed we sometimes held all-night practice sessions. In our center, these were special events occasionally held on a Saturday night for trainee teacher students and above. People brought their sleeping bags to the center and we would lie down on cushions and we attempted to astral project as we fell asleep. An alarm would be set to go off a few times in the night so we could repeat the attempt. The next morning, we would gather for a cup of tea or coffee in the cafe and discuss our experiences. These evenings could be magical and exciting and we looked forward to them eagerly because they were quite a lot of fun. It was inspiring trying to astral project with others and when someone succeeded it was a big inspiration to others.

Becoming a Member and working with Mark

I was offered the position of a member of the organization in mid-2007, and accepted. From then on, I became much more involved in international projects. As a teacher, I had been part of a team who responded to student questions in online course forums, and also completed writing tasks for the website. Now I became more involved in some of the behind-the-scenes work of the Movement and held greater responsibility, becoming a course administrator and helping to put together a new section with multiple articles on the main website of the time, Gnosticweb.

Being a member also brought with it the opportunity to work with Mark Pritchard directly, who at that time was the international coordinator of the organization. One day I was invited to attend a meeting of the international team who oversaw the international activities of the Movement. This was an informal group of members from different countries. I was asked if I wanted to become part of the team and I accepted. At that time, there were two other men on the team (making me the third) and four women, and we used Skype to hold conference calls while based in different parts of the world. Mark would meet regularly with this team, and ideas and plans would be discussed and decided upon collaboratively. Everyone had the opportunity to voice their opinion and share ideas and feedback before a decision in the meeting.

As the international coordinator, Mark was something like a spiritual CEO, coming up with strategies and ideas on how to present the teachings of Gnosis in the world. By the time I became a member, I was already a beneficiary of his innovative and visionary way of doing this. It was his idea to simplify the teachings of Gnosis into a series of nine week subject-oriented courses which were made available online and in person, something which had never been done before. Without his online courses, I would never have come across the teachings to begin with, as there was no group in my city at the time. He made the teachings much more accessible, not just by creating courses to run on the internet, but also through the way those courses explained things so clearly.

I observed that Mark was always looking to improve things, or find new ways to get the teachings across or present them. He made no profit from this, so his only interest was in helping people. He would express a range of ideas such as overhauling and improving the websites by introducing more interactivity through incorporating more video content, blogs, and a custom video/audio chat system for the online courses etc. Once the general vision was agreed on then those of us on the team would then work out how to implement it. Each of us usually oversaw a different area, such as writing, design, web development, online course administration etc., and the new initiatives often involved input from many areas. The relevant members would often form project teams with other teachers, members and trainees to implement the ideas.

Mark had a lot of great ideas, but because of the small level of resources we had, in both people and finances, there was always a limitation on things. The Movement was run by volunteers, and almost all of us on the international team had professional careers as well as family commitments, which meant we had limited time available for Movement work. Looking back though, I am amazed at how much was accomplished despite our limited resources.

While Mark was the international coordinator, he would oversee the management of the projects more directly, through meeting with this international team of members regularly and, less frequently, all the members. Later he stepped down from that administrative role to focus on writing and teaching. We, the members, later voted to appoint him the spiritual teacher of The Gnostic Movement. In this role, he continued to provide guidance on teaching and doctrine, and he would still provide input with ideas that he put forward for consideration to the members, but he no longer took a direct role in administration or management.

Mark Pritchard’s upstanding character

Although I only ever had the chance to meet Mark Pritchard in person at an international retreat mentioned previously, I worked closely with him as member and had regular meetings and discussions with him and other members on Skype. In all my interactions with Mark, he always conducted himself honourably, speaking and behaving considerately, fairly and decently towards everyone. I never witnessed him behave aggressively or inappropriately to anyone; he always acted with courteousness and decorum, treating others with respect and kindness. He never for example raised his voice at anyone or made improper remarks or gestures of any kind – his conduct and character was principled through and through.

Honourable conduct

Mark’s principled and decent manner meant that he naturally treated women with the utmost respect and always conducted himself honourably in his interactions with them. You could not find a more decent and courteous man in regards to his conduct around women and respect for them. Whether in skype meetings with members, or at the retreat where I met him in person and saw him interacting with men and women from all around the world, Mark always behaved honourably toward women and around women, being a true example of the spiritual principles he espoused in his teachings.

In his work he upholds the sanctity of marriage and the need for fidelity and faithfulness in one’s personal relationship with a loving, committed partner as essential for spiritual development, and emphasizes the pitfalls of lust. He expressed that adultery was anathema to spirituality and advised against indulging lust in even subtle ways many consider “harmless” – such as flirting with colleagues or friends or making sexual jokes – because he considered sexuality to be something sacred that should only be expressed in a faithful loving relationship, to be entered with seriousness and commitment. He clearly explained that sexuality was not something to take casually or frivolously and explained that infidelity of any form was a serious breach of spiritual principles.

Mark always demonstrated these principles through his honourable conduct which was exemplary; he is a paragon of propriety and always treated women with utmost decency, respect and courtesy. My wife and I both worked with Mark, and I can say that there is not a man on this planet who is more decent and principled than he is, because I know his honest and decent nature, professionalism, standards and principles are head and shoulders above even the best of us.

Equality of women

Mark not only treated women with the greatest decency; he also had great respect for their professional capacities. Respect for women is inscribed in Mark’s teachings, where he clearly states women were equal to men and have the same spiritual potential men do. But these values also permeated the organization he coordinated. Women rose to the highest ranks of the organization and took leadership positions, and Mark worked with them in a professional manner, always conducting himself with the greatest professionalism and propriety. As mentioned earlier, when I joined the seven-member -international admin team, which met weekly with Mark at the time over Skype, there were four women to three men. Mark clearly valued their professional abilities and appreciated their opinions and perspectives. Later on in a meeting of all the members in which new appointments to the team were being considered Mark advocated the appointment of my wife to the role of coordinating the Movement’s legal affairs, a position that had great responsibility.

The values and standards of members

The high personal standards which Mark imparted in his teachings and demonstrated in his conduct carried through the organization, by members and teachers who strove to follow both his teachings and his example. A supportive, friendly, respectful and collaborative environment existed in The Gnostic Movement where people worked together harmoniously.

Respect for women

I worked closely with men and women from around the world, and respect and equality for women was a value we upheld so naturally that I did not even think about it at the time. Looking back though, I can see how women played such pivotal roles in the organization: many of the online instructors who appeared in course videos or who answered student forums when I did the online courses were women; the teacher who moved interstate to open the centre in my city, and trained me to be a teacher was a woman, and she was a great role model to my wife and I. When I later became a member, I found that there were many women in senior roles, and they actually outnumbered men on the international administrative team when I joined it. They also held directorship positions on the boards of the Australian Movement, holding important roles such as treasurer. Women were treated as equals to such a degree that this was simply taken for granted, and it did not even occur to me that things could be otherwise.

Men not only respected women in their professional capacities, but also treated them with the utmost respect in the way that they conducted themselves around them. I never saw any inappropriate behaviour towards women from any member or teacher. What I did see was the value and principles espoused in Mark’s work being upheld. There was no demeaning or condescending behaviour, no flirting or philandering, and no flippant attitudes towards relationships or womanizing going on because everyone understood and respected that a relationship was a serious and sacred matter that required a genuine commitment – it was not something to be treated or entered casually.

Respect for personal privacy

The love and faithfulness between a husband and wife was considered something sacred to be cherished and respected, and a person’s choice of partner and their personal relationship was considered a private matter no one else could interfere with. Personal boundaries were always respected and no one ever infringed upon personal matters between my wife and I or intruded into our personal lives, nor did I see anyone do so to others. We received nothing but kindness, support and friendship from Mark Pritchard and our fellow members who strove to uphold the principles of his teachings.

I also met many loving, devoted and committed couples who exemplified these principles. As can happen anywhere though, there were a few occasions when marriages did not work out. On the few occasions I was aware of where a couple separated their personal lives were not discussed or interfered with in anyway, it didn’t it affect their position in the organization, and people respected their privacy completely. The principle that no one could interfere or intrude in another’s personal life and their relationship was strongly believed and upheld.

Secret Quest Documentary

One of the ideas Mark came up with, that I took a key role in bringing to fruition, was the Secret Quest documentary. This grew out of the Introduction to Christian Gnosticism course Mark had initially envisioned as a four week course that could run in centers and online.

Following the rediscovery of the Gospel of Judas, there had been a groundswell of public interest in the ancient Christian Gnostics. The introduction to Christian Gnosticism course sought to explain who the early Gnostics were and the nature of their teachings, and highlight the more esoteric teachings of Jesus that were found in ancient Christian Gnostic writings, and to show their commonalities with the modern teachings of Gnosis.

An outline of the course was provided to me, which I used as the basis to create PowerPoint presentations to use in course lectures. But for the online format, it was decided to make video presentations. We didn’t really push the envelope with the PowerPoints, but it was decided to do the videos in a professional documentary format presented by a host and featuring interviews with teachers giving The Gnostic Movement’s perspective.

The course outline was a list of bullet points which provided a general sketch of the subject matter to cover, but I had to do extensive research into the subjects mentioned to expand on this and explain things in detail, particularly the historical aspects, to make something of documentary quality, which I aimed to do. My goal was to script a compelling documentary that would incorporate interesting facts, quotes and tell the story in an informed and compelling way. The basic outline in a sense provided the terms of reference for the production and focused the direction of the research I would undertake and the scripts I would eventually write.

Most of the research focused on ancient history. I ordered and studied a number of books by historians to understand and accurately describe historical events that were covered, like the Albigensian Crusade for instance, and sought out translations of obscure contemporary accounts of these periods and events which were featured. I found I had to seek out the published works of historians working in that field, as online resources simply did not contain the material I needed, or were not reliable enough.

I also did a lot of personal research into the spiritual teachings and works of ancient Christian Gnosticism so that I could find and bring together relevant extracts and quotes to illustrate the Gnostic ideas and principles we wished to highlight that were common to modern Gnosis.

I then went about organizing the production with the team I had available, and thankfully we had some people with video skills in the Movement – one in North America who filmed the sequences with the host, Jenny, and produced most of the graphics, and my brother in Australia who filmed all of the interviews. He and I cut the film together. He took care of the more technical aspects of editing and mastering while I oversaw the creative direction and arrangement of the documentary. We also had an original composer in Jon, who created original music to fit the production.

When I showed the first cut to Mark, he thought it was excellent, and said it would be better to release it as a documentary in its own right, rather than a course video that would not be as accessible and which he thought would waste its potential. He also made a few suggestions regarding the content. We ended up revising it based on his feedback to make it work better as a standalone documentary, and reduced it to three parts, rather than four. The first cut of part one was released on YouTube in 2008 and did quite well for the time, garnering over 70 thousand views, which was more than expected at the time.

Getting it ready for a DVD release created additional work, as the format had to be adjusted for different regions. We also added subtitles so it could reach a global audience. We had volunteers of different nationalities, so a team of translators was formed who translated subtitles in Russian, Greek, Spanish, French and German. The final cut of part one released on DVD was revised slightly compared to the initial YouTube release, incorporating some further historical research and information.

It ended up being a big project involving not just those of us who made the video or featured in it, but the translators, graphic designers who created the DVD cover and DVD interactive menu, and the Absolute Publishing Team who released and promoted it. It was an amazing project to be involved in, and it was inspiring what could be achieved by a small group of people working for a common aim.

Mark’s support for the Australian Retreat project

For as long as I was a member, I can remember Mark encouraging the members to work toward establishing their own retreat venues. We usually held annual retreats in hired venues, but there were of course costs involved in booking them. Mark said that he had found retreats extremely beneficial for his own spiritual journey and encouraged us to establish our own venues, so that we could offer retreats for free, and more often. This was a project everyone was enthusiastic about, because we all found retreats very inspiring, and looked forward to the prospect of having our own place where we could attend more frequently. There were separate projects in North America, Europe and Australia. The project was pursued in earnest, but sadly it did not come to fruition, as the Movement closed down before it was accomplished.

As a member in Australia I had some involvement in the second Australian retreat search, but to a limited extent, because I was based on the other side of the country to where the search was focused at the time.

A lot had already happened before I became a member in 2007. I learned that former members in Australia had purchased a retreat property in Australia earlier that decade, and that things did not work out with the property and it ended up being disused, and it turned out to be unsuitable for a retreat. The members had eventually offered it for sale to Mark, so that they could use the funds from the sale to get a property more suitable for a retreat. Mark had purchased the property from the Movement at its market rate, and the property was now his home – however it was not a finished house, having started out as a basic cabin to which renovations had begun which were still incomplete.

I was told by a fellow member, who’d been around longer than me, that when Mark first moved into the property it was in a very poor condition, being just a rundown unsealed shack with unsealed walls, in dense bush, with little protection from the heat, insects and in an area densely inhabited with snakes. The member telling me about it had seen the conditions firsthand, and had had close calls with snakes there personally. He was also a professional builder by trade, and he said that some time ago he had offered to help Mark develop the rundown and rudimentary cabin into a proper home so that it could be more liveable. He said some other volunteers in Australia had also offered to help with this, either by assisting with the renovations or donating towards them, and they had been helping with this in their spare time.

He made clear this initiative was not an official activity of the Movement and was separate from the Movement’s affairs. It was a private contribution he and others were undertaking to help Mark improve his living conditions. He said the people helping him wanted to ensure Mark’s living conditions were safe and suitable for him to live and work in. He expressed that Mark’s difficult living conditions made his large workload coordinating an international organisation much harder, and it was hoped that rectifying his substandard accommodation problems would free more of his time to focus on his selfless work in the Movement, which in turn would benefit others.

I had gained so much from Mark’s courses, and I knew thousands of people were taking them around the world at that time, just like I had done. I was struck by the fact Mark had helped so many people without charging a cent while living in substandard conditions, and yet had asked nothing in return for his free courses which, in my view, were ground-breaking. Later I learned that he wrote much of the material for the courses while living in the property when the conditions were at their worst. All this time I’d had no idea he lived in such bad conditions, and when I heard about this, my wife and I decided to send personal donations to him to support him and his work; we greatly valued his work and knew it had the potential to help a lot of people.

As one of the many people who had benefited from his work, I felt a wish to give back in turn, after receiving so much from him. On a simple level I felt this was a right thing to do – that it is only decent, right and fair to help someone who has helped you when they are in need. I felt that to take from someone’s generosity and never give anything back would be selfish. But on another level, we understood that helping him would help others too. We knew that he was giving his time and dedicated his life towards teaching spiritually, and running an international spiritual organisation full time, for free, and felt that if his living conditions were safe and stable, he could dedicate more time to that and be more effective in that role. We realised his ability to volunteer full time in the way he did depended on support from those who benefited from and valued the work he provided. Donating to him was never a requirement of being in the organisation, and I was never told or pressured to give anything, but my wife and I did so of our own initiative simply because we valued Mark’s work and wanted to support it, knowing that donations enabled him to focus on helping others spiritually full time. The members I spoke to who were directly involved with renovating the property into a proper home, expressed similar sentiments to me.

Mark’s principled approach to donations

Mark expressed a lot of gratitude for the help. After we gave our first donation towards the renovation efforts, he sent us an email thanking us warmly. However, it soon became very clear that he was also very honourable about respecting the wishes of donors by ensuring donations were used in the spirit they were given. My wife and I had made our donation to Mark with no strings attached; once we had given it, the money was legally his to do with as he wished. However, even though our donation was unconditional, he knew we had given it with the renovations in mind in order to help that along. A little while after we had given it, I was contacted and asked if it would be alright if the money was instead used towards printing and producing his spiritual books. I was pleasantly astonished by this. The money was now Mark’s and I felt he had no obligation to ask me what to use his personal money for. Not only was Mark making a personal sacrifice by forfeiting money that could alleviate his living conditions to instead help the altruistic cause of printing spiritual books – which I knew he made no profit from whatsoever – but he was also asking our permission for it. It was clear he had great respect for our wishes and did not want to act outside the spirit in which our donation was given, even though legally he had no obligation to seek this permission at all. I was quite humbled by this, by the level of respect and consideration we were shown by this act, and by his personal generosity and wish to help others. My wife and I of course gave our consent.

Mark’s purchase of the rundown retreat property helped the Movement

Much later I learned more details about Mark’s purchase of the retreat property which demonstrated his generosity. I spoke further with the people involved at the time and perused financial records and meeting minutes from the time. From this I learned that Mark bought that property from the Movement using his inheritance, and had insisted on paying the full independently accredited market rate for the property, and thus paid a much higher price than the organisation had paid for it. I saw the records which verified this: he bought the property for $100,000 more than the organisation paid for it. He had clearly done this to help the retreat project along since he paid a higher rate for it at his own insistence. Some disgruntled online trolls grossly misrepresented this however, suggesting that he basically “took” the property from the Movement, when in fact the Movement made a decent profit from selling it to him for a higher price. The sale increased the organisation’s retreat funds markedly, almost doubling its budget for the project, and extricated the organization from a property it could not use. By the time I became a member, the proceeds from this sale formed the basis of our retreat fund, and the increased budget allowed us to seek out better and more suitable retreat properties in a higher price bracket than was possible in the past.

Retreat search recommences

After the property was sold to Mark for $100,000 more than the organization had paid for it, The Gnostic Movement had a much bigger budget for a retreat search. A new search got underway during the time I was a member, and a team of volunteers undertook a highly organised and thorough property search, and conducted in-depth investigations into properties that were possible contenders.

A separate retreat-holding company was formed that was staffed by Australian members of The Gnostic Movement. Its role was to hold the retreat project funds and to purchase a suitable property when one was found, which would then be used by The Gnostic Movement for retreats. It was overseen by three directors who were all members of the Australian Movement.

At first I wasn’t directly involved in the property search and investigations, as I was focused on other projects like the Secret Quest production. But when a strong contender was shortlisted all the members in Australia were updated about it by those coordinating the search and due diligence. They had visited the property and spoken with a town planner, fire department official and road engineer about the development requirements and costs.

As their investigations into the suitability of the property continued, all the Australian members were invited to gather and inspect it together. My wife and I flew interstate and met up with our colleagues and we all went on a road trip to the property. We stayed in a nearby caravan park over the weekend and drove to the property each day in four wheel drive vehicles, to get around the rugged terrain of the property.

The property was a massive, hilly 2,500 acre property mostly covered in bushland that was once used for grazing. It had no sealed roads. There were gravel roads which in places were steep and difficult for the cars to ascend. Many parts of the road were overgrown with bushes, and myself and others had to walk ahead of the vehicles and clear the branches so they could pass.

Most of the land was bound by a conservation covenant put in place by the owner/seller. There were no buildings or infrastructure apart from an old woolshed, which meant development would have to start from scratch. However we could all see the long term potential of a scenic property like that if it turned out to be feasible, but the cost was the overriding issue.

It became apparent to me that while it was a beautiful property, with lots of rugged wilderness and scenic views, it seemed beyond our resources to develop. It was a remote location with no habitable buildings, power or water. We would spend all our available funds – and more – just getting the land, and then have nothing to put toward the necessary infrastructure to hold retreats.

The conservation caveat on the property also would require us to control weeds and feral animals such as goats over a vast area. Just keeping the paths clear enough to drive down seemed like it was going to be a big ongoing job. Trying to control weeds across the entire property – which was immense, seemed like it would take a lot of time and resources. To control feral animals we would have to get people in to shoot them from a helicopter, a prospect we did not find appealing.

All of these factors meant we left the place with mixed feelings. I liked the property itself, but did not want to spend money on something that would not practically serve our needs. However we tried to keep an open mind about it.

However the final nail in the coffin came later, when another member discovered the requirements for developing the access road to the property (needed for public access and fire and emergency services) which was a public health and safety requirement for a retreat facility in the area. It had to have a turning circle at the end large enough for a fire truck to use (fires being a hazard in the Australian bush you have to plan for). The cost of developing an extensive sealed road in the area was exorbitantly expensive, way beyond our budget requirements just by itself, even without factoring all the other development costs that would have to come later.

So the search went on. Our budget was limited however, so finding something suitable with the money we had was not a simple task. We were still in the midst of the search when a smear campaign began against the organisation in May 2010 (explained further down). That drew our resources and focus, so through the rest of the year, the retreat search stalled.

Mark sells his home to help the retreat project

As mentioned earlier, before I became a member, Mark had purchased a property owned by the Australian Movement, which had turned out to be unsuitable for a retreat. He paid $100,000 more for the property than the Movement had, which increased the Movement’s retreat budget markedly, and the proceeds formed the basis of our second retreat search.

The property Mark had purchased from the Movement had undergone renovations with the help of his friends in the Movement over the years. As a result, it had increased in value from the time he bought it.

Although our budget had increased, we were still unable to find a suitable retreat property that we could afford, as it became increasingly apparent the costs of such a development were beyond our reach. Seeing the project faltering, Mark called a Skype meeting with all the Australian members, including those who were directors of the Movement’s retreat company. I was not directly involved in the retreat company at that time but as an Australian member was aware of its role and purpose.

In this meeting, Mark proposed selling his property back to us, to our retreat company, at a significantly reduced rate, so that the retreat company could then resell it at the full market rate and profit from the sale, and thereby increase the budget for our retreat project further and give us access to better-suited properties in a higher price bracket. He said he wanted to see the retreat project go ahead, and was making his offer on the basis that the property, once purchased by the retreat company, would be re-sold promptly so that we could move ahead with the retreat project. He said only the minimum renovations should be done to finish the property so we could put it on the market soon and sell it. It was clear to me he did not want the retreat project to stall.

I was struck by how generous Mark was being. By this time, the property had been undergoing renovations for some years, and members present in that meeting had been instrumental in that, and had worked and donated towards that to help and support Mark and the work he does. By market rates at that time, the property was worth much more than when Mark purchased it from the Movement because of the renovations that had taken place, which at the time, however, were still unfinished. Despite its increase in value, Mark proposed selling it back to us for the price he initially paid for it plus the amount he had put toward its development personally.

Another point worth mentioning which I learned some years later, after I became a director of the retreat company myself, was that Mark’s selling price for the property was 30% below the property’s lowest estimated market value as appraised by an independent valuer at the time. The valuer’s assessment was made “as is” based on its (then) unfinished condition.

However back to that meeting, when Mark explained that, although he owned it and paid for with his own money, he always intended for that property to serve a spiritual purpose and be utilised by more people, and hoped that one day it could serve as an informal monastery where advanced members could stay for periods. However with the ongoing public attacks against The Gnostic Movement and himself by a small group of disgruntled former attendees, this had to be re-thought given the potential for hostilities to be incited against us. He said that by selling it back to the Australian Gnostics at a reduced price, at least The Gnostic Movement could still benefit from all the work people had put into the property, as by selling it at its full market rate we would potentially generate a lot more money to put toward our retreat search and project.

Some of the members in that meeting did not want to accept this generous offer and tried to talk Mark out of it. They had volunteered time and money to develop that place for Mark’s welfare so he could use it, and felt bad about buying it from him below its value. At the very least, some said, we should buy it at its full value, but Mark declined this, saying he wanted the property to support Gnosis in the world, had always wanted that, and selling it to us below its value could achieve that, as it could enable us to get the retreat project going.

It’s worth noting that Mark was not living in Australia when these events occurred, but in the USA, having moved there as a spiritual missionary some years prior.

Mark went on to explain that he deeply appreciated the work people had put into the property to help him, and that he felt every ounce of care that had gone into it. And while some members continued to try to talk him out of his proposal, he reiterated that this was in the best interests of the spiritual work in the world. He really wanted us to have a retreat in Australia and explained that this was his way to support that. To that end he told those involved in the renovations to just do the minimum to get it ready for market, so it could be put up for sale quickly and allow the retreat project to move ahead.

In the end we all accepted his offer, although some quite reluctantly as they felt it was a bad deal for Mark. Following this, with the consent of all members established, the formal agreement had to be made between Mark and the Gnostic Movement’s retreat company, which was directed by three of the members present in that meeting.

Retreat company puts property on the market

I became aware the property had been put on the market by the retreat company in late 2011. However online detractors found the advertisement and seized on it to grossly misrepresent the situation, claiming Mark was a wealthy man living in luxury who owned a “mansion” that was for sale and falsely claimed the Movement was setup for his financial gain. The “mansion” was in fact a four bedroom house (which is a common size in Australia) which Mark no longer owned; and it was not in the condition shown in the advertisement when he owned and lived in it. He had sold it at a discount long before that point to the retreat company, which was then reselling it. Mark had not lived there for many years, having moved to North America about five years earlier, and when he last lived there it was a construction site. The finishing renovations were done by the retreat company after it purchased it from Mark. But the property had not been anything like that when Mark owned and lived in it. The truth was the opposite of what online detractors claimed: Mark had been extremely generous by selling the property back to us far below its market value, so that we could resell it at a higher price and reap the profit.

I learned that the final renovations undertaken went far beyond the minimum that had been required to get it finished and ready for sale, and as a result it had taken about a year to get it on the market from the time it was purchased from Mark.

I became aware that the resale was not going as planned, as it was proving difficult to sell. While the renovations were going on and the sale delayed, the market declined. By the time it was put on the market, the value of houses in that area had reduced significantly.

I become involved in the retreat company

My wife and I were invited to join the retreat company at this time and joined the board. I got a better understanding of what had happened, having access to the company records.

I knew that the reason Mark had sold the property to us at a low price was so that we could put it up for sale promptly (for a higher price than we paid for it) with the aim of making a profit from the sale and using the proceeds to get a new property and move the retreat project forward. Mark had said he hoped this would allow all the work people had put into that property to come to fruition in a new retreat property purchased with the proceeds from the resale. I knew Mark had stated the property should be put up for sale as soon as it practically could, and that only the minimum work needed to finish it off should be undertaken before putting it on the market. Instead, as I later learned, much more extensive renovations were done which delayed its sale, and the market had deteriorated in the interim.

The renovations undertaken by the retreat company had been counter-productive in another way too. Detractors pointed to pictures of the extensively renovated property to falsely claim Mark had a “luxury” home and was living “the high life”; however he no longer owned the property and it never looked like that when it was last his residence, which was many years ago by that time. In fact, the property was extremely run-down when he first moved in and he had never wanted such extensive renovations to be done to it after he sold it anyway.

After becoming a director of the retreat company, I also learned that Mark had only taken a portion of the sale fee when the retreat company bought the house from him, less than half the purchase price. Because he knew we had limited funds, he made a provision in the contract that said the retreat company only had to pay the remainder to him when it resold the property. Although he never brought it up with me, I was aware that the delay in reselling the property was affecting his personal financial situation too, causing him personal hardship. Another downside to the delay was that as long as the property was unsold, our assets were tied up and we would not be in a position to move the retreat project forward. The delay in reselling caused additional personal difficulties for Mark in the form of relentless cyber stalking and false claims surrounding a property he no longer owned and which he did not even want to be renovated in the manner it was.

We endeavoured to move things along as quickly as we could. The market continued to fall however, which made it difficult. Eventually we sold the property in 2013. After the sale, we repaid Mark the unpaid amount we owed him from when he sold it to the retreat company, that he had waited more than 3 years to receive.

It was clear to me that postponing the sale for extensive renovations was a mistake that had harmed the retreat project and had also caused unforeseen personal blowback to Mark. Mark had really wanted all of us to do well in the sale so we could get a better retreat and had made financial sacrifices to enable this, but instead not only had the renovations and delay in selling the property brought disappointing results, but, as explained earlier, Mark had faced serious repercussions, because detractors pointed to pictures of the renovated property to falsely claim he was living a life luxury, even though he didn’t own the property anymore, and generously sold it to us at a discount rate years earlier when the dwelling was still a building site, in order to help the retreat project.

Dealing with misconduct and public attacks

Throughout my time in The Gnostic Movement, there were various incidents where we were attacked for our beliefs by people for different reasons.

As I mentioned earlier in this statement, not long after becoming an online student in 2004, someone who was an avid supporter of a rival Gnostic website contacted me using Mysticweb’s private messaging system to criticise Mysticweb behind the backs of its administrators, and attempted to turn me against them and channel me to the Gnostic site they supported instead.

On visiting the other site, I noticed it had a policy statement declaring Mysticweb and organisations associated with Mark Pritchard as “harmful” and “corrupting the sacred doctrine of the Christ”. There was a lot of nasty sniping about Mark and The Gnostic Movement in the site’s forums too, on threads which seemed to have been started for this very purpose.

In ensuing years, in our own public forums, I would also sometimes see comments by people coming onto our forums who obviously supported that site, often appearing in the guise of “concern trolls” who attempted to hijack and derail the discussions and sow division. Often they denigrated us, Mark, the organization or aspects of our doctrine they disagreed with, while posing from a phoney position of neutrality. At other times, they became openly hostile and attacked us for having a different approach to Gnosis than they did. They often created multiple “sock puppet” accounts for this purpose and would often appear under a different username if a previous account crossed the line and was blocked.

It was disappointing to see this from supposedly spiritual people. I never went to their forums and attacked their doctrine and approach to spirituality, nor did I ever see any of my fellow members do that either. And in all my time in The Gnostic Movement, we never published a public denunciation of any other Gnostic or spiritual organisation on our site, as respecting people’s free will was one of our core principles, and that included respecting people’s right to choose to practice something different or somewhere else instead.

After things continued to escalate, with people affiliated with the other Gnostic site even beginning to disparage us on third party sites as well the other Gnostic site’s forums, we sent a conciliatory letter to the administrators of the other Gnostic site, appealing to their better intentions and requesting they stop allowing their site to be used as an outlet for hostility and as a platform to attack other people. We received a polite response, and they removed the antagonistic forum threads about us and left a comment to all their users explaining they do not authorise or condone anyone to attack anyone else. They did however retain their policy describing us as a “harmful school”, but from that point on the frequent trolling from users associated with that site ceased to be a problem on our own web forums.

Online Vilification

From about 2008, the entire Movement, and Mark Pritchard in particular, came under attack by anonymous detractors on anti-cult web forums. This was started by an anonymous poster identified as having briefly attended the beginner courses in Canada. Obviously he came to decide that he didn’t like the organisation or its teachings, and had freely left of his own accord, but it was not enough for him to leave – he seemed to want to denigrate and destroy what he had rejected and deny people the right to choose differently than he had, openly expressing his desire to abolish our existence; he admitted to ripping down our advertising posters wherever he could and, in the same sentence, sought advice on what else he could do to get us out of his city. He made post after post in a compulsive manner, and was soon joined by a few other anonymous mudslingers. The thread went on and on for years and became increasingly shrill, alarmist and preposterous.

I observed that in those forums, people were censured by the moderator and even banned for expressing any dissenting views – views that sought to defend the group or person being attacked. (In fact the site in question states in its terms of use that the forums only exist to post negative experiences about spiritual groups.) I thought it extremely unfair to create a venue for disgruntled people to anonymously attack others without restraint or accountability, while shielding their claims from scrutiny or being challenged. It was so one-sided, but it’s clear that the so-called anti-cult movement has an agenda driven by prejudice and paranoia to oppose alternative spirituality and spiritual freedom.

Online vilification escalated when retaliatory steps were taken by former participants who were asked to leave the Movement for misconduct in 2009. The following year they initiated an online smear campaign after their attempts to be allowed to re-enter the organization had failed.

That year, one of the ousted individuals and his business associates took over the Greek Gnostic Movement by subterfuge. They violated the organization’s governing constitution by holding an organizational meeting without notifying or inviting all the country’s members; only those in their faction took part, while everyone who remained loyal Mark Pritchard and the coalition of Gnostic Movement organizations around the world were excluded. They passed measures to depose the legally appointed directors and appointed themselves to the board and changed the constitution. Soon after they took control of the Greek centre, changing its locks so everyone else could not access it. We were informed about all of this by the members in Athens who had been illegitimately sidelined. The renegade members then posted some absurd public statements presenting their actions as heroic and necessary to stop non-existent “illegal actions” – even though it was their own actions which were clearly in violation of the organization’s legally binding constitution. Their sensationalist allegations dramatically alluded to illegality, even “fraud”, but were extremely vague. They carefully avoided clearly stating what wrongdoing had supposedly occurred, making their claims impossible to corroborate – and they certainly provided no information to substantiate them. This was of course because the claims were completely bogus; they were just a smokescreen deployed as a pretext to seize control of the organization.

The Greek organization they had hijacked then instigated an online smear campaign against The Gnostic Movement and Mark Pritchard. They spread a lot of false and ridiculous information behind the cover of anonymity and encouraged anyone else with an axe to grind to do the same. Innocent people were baselessly denigrated and accused of criminal behaviour by an unaccountable online mob of anonymous trolls, who seemed to gleefully enjoy heaping mud on people’s lives without having to answer for or substantiate anything they claimed.

There were incidents of vandalism around a center in an Australian city in direct response to the smear campaign, and similar incidents happened in Canada. We were very concerned about the hatred being incited and directed at us and Mark. I don’t think the people involved in the campaign realised the impacts it was having on people’s lives, and if they did know, they did not seem to care.

Legal measures were taken against four separate people in Australia alone who were actively contributing to the campaign or supporting and republishing its claims. In some cases the Movement took legal measures directly while, in others, individuals targeted specifically within the Movement took legal measures personally. In one instance, after the organization filed a complaint with a State human rights commission, which was accepted, the party concerned was then contacted by the human rights commission to resolve the complaint through mediation. Following this, the person terminated their phone line, stopped responding to emails, and the commission was unable to contact or reach the person again. The person stopped though, which was the main thing. Another volunteer in Australia who was personally maligned took court action, which led to the person behind the harassment removing the material they had posted and ceasing any further public attacks. Legal measures taken by Mark Pritchard and his wife Lara against two other parties were also successful.

In 2010, I contributed to a blog where I and some other members sought to reply to the falsehoods brought up in the smear campaign, and explain what really happened from what we actually witnessed ourselves. In response, the Movement received a threatening letter from the instigators of the smear campaign demanding we remove the content they objected to, and demanding that certain parties behind the online attacks not be identified by name when we responded to their material (which named Mark Pritchard extensively). They threatened to sue us if we did not comply. I was one of the few people singled out by name in that letter and threatened with legal action. I thought it was hypocritical for them to claim they were all for free speech, and then seek to silence people for giving their views on matters they themselves brought up in public – and quite absurd to complain about being publicly identified after publicly attacking others by name. We had a right of reply. As I saw it, if they did not want those matters discussed they should not have brought them up publicly to begin with. In the end, it was decided to make a more official response on a site setup by The Gnostic Movement, instead of an informal blog.

With other members, I helped to put together the new site where we again used our right of reply to put the facts in response to the false claims that had been publicly made about us, but in a more coherent way. In doing this we had to explain the bigger picture of what was going on with the smear campaign, and those behind it. Obviously we would have preferred not to have had to do that, but in that situation we had little choice. It was not our choice to bring the matters into the public domain which the smear campaigners had published (and misrepresented) but we had a right to defend ourselves and put the truth about the matters and events they referred to. When the smear campaign finally stopped in 2013 we took our site down.

Sadly, The Gnostic Movement was already over, in a spiritual sense, before it formally closed in 2013 (in Australia). Our public defence had come too late, and was poorly supported. Not only was there limited support, but those of us who did choose to defend, mostly did so without putting our full names and faces to our defence – I myself failed to do this. This left Mark, who was the primary target of the smear campaign, to remain the principal public focus of the hostility for years; he had to bear the brunt of the campaign and have his personal reputation trashed with almost no one publicly and openly by his side to support him in the defence. This is something I deeply regret and am sorry for.

Although I did do some things to defend The Gnostic Movement, more than most, it was not enough, and as a Movement we did not come together in a strong and coherent way to defend our rights and reputation. In many ways we were self-indulgent and passive. Many people were indifferent, selfish even, and carried on attending courses and events without considering the impacts the attacks were having on the lives of others, including interested people who might now never come to the teachings because they had been misdirected by the smear campaign. Some people taking part in our free services even became downright hostile and suspicious, and attacked those of us who even tried to publicly defend our school at all, however inadequate that defence was, suggesting it was wrong for us to attempt to do so at all.

When I think of the last days of the Movement, I think of a sinking ship with a hole in it. You have a few people trying to scoop the water out with their hands, not very effectively. You have the majority laughing and carrying on merrily, blind to what is happening. And you have others sitting back and riding on the boat and criticising those who, however imperfectly, were trying to save it, not only insisting they were wrong to even attempt to do so and refusing to help, but actively obstructing them and dissuading others from trying to save the ship. In the end it went down, and everyone who was on it had some responsibility for what happened, to a greater or lesser extent.

I came to understand, belatedly, how important upholding the truth is to spirituality – I now know that without truth there is no spirituality, and an organisation that does not value, uphold and defend the truth and spiritual principles cannot serve as a vehicle for spirituality. We stopped running courses in early 2011, because we understood the organization had “died” in a spiritual sense, and would just be an empty vessel of a religion, not the living esoteric school it was supposed to be, if we continued.

I have learned the hard way that without upholding the truth, one cannot hope to have a truly spiritual school. A spiritual school requires values and standards to be met, and these must be lived out and demonstrated with facts by those who are in it. If “spirituality” is pursued as some kind of lifestyle or belief system that is not centred on meeting spiritual principles in reality, then it becomes illusion and fantasy, having lost its living connection to the real thing.

For my own part, I feel sorry that I did not truly understand my responsibility or how to uphold it properly and failed to do what was required to defend my own school and the principles it stood for, by countering falsehoods in a stronger way when there was still a chance to save it. In the ensuing years, I have tried to defend its legacy, because some disinformation from the past continues to sully the present, including the work of Mark Pritchard, who has continued to work selflessly to provide spiritual knowledge to others without any financial benefit to himself. I still want others to have the opportunity to benefit from his work as I have, without being misled or discouraged by lies, deceit and bigoted online diatribes.

Back to People’s Experiences

Priya

Priya O

Priya
Priya O

I was a teacher and member of The Gnostic Movement from 2007 until its closure. In that time, I ran the Perth Gnostic center with my husband, and served on the Australian National Coordinating Board and the International Board.

I was also involved with managing legal affairs and publicity for the organizations globally, coordinating national retreats, researching locations for a proposed permanent retreat, managing teams of volunteers, and teaching in the organization’s online courses.

Over the years I worked closely with fellow volunteers including members, teachers, and trainee teachers across the world, as well as with Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub), who was the international coordinator and the spiritual teacher of the organization.

Background to joining the organization

I first found out about The Gnostic Movement in 2005 after my partner was doing their courses online. One afternoon after reading about some of the techniques on astral travel and trying them out, I had a nap and while asleep, I suddenly became aware that I was dreaming, which is known as lucid dreaming. I’d never had that experience before so was quite excited. For the next year or so, I continued to read the course PDFs that my partner had printed off for me to learn more about Gnosticism and spirituality, and found it quite fascinating. I felt I was learning about a magical hidden side of life, and was filled with a new wonder and excitement about my existence.

In 2006, a teacher from Brisbane contacted my partner to say that she was moving to Perth to start a Gnostic group, and arrived early that year. Our teacher was a warm, kind-hearted, open and honest person who became a great friend and trusted mentor. After she arrived, the three of us spent a lot of time together, and I learned more about the organization and what it did, and what the people in it were like. I saw how down-to-earth and genuine she was, and that being committed to spirituality wasn’t about being aloof, idealistic, or wishy-washy, but striving to be a good person, with integrity, principles, care for all living things and doing no harm to others, etc. It was something I yearned for too, and I was so happy that there was a group of people who were interested in spiritual change and involved in activities that fostered it, not only for themselves but for others like me too. I wanted to help support things in Perth and also in the organization, so I decided to complete the courses and train to become a teacher.

Experience in The Gnostic Movement

Initially we hired halls in Perth to run courses, and we would run classes on weeknights and weekends, with the first course on astral projection run in April 2006. The turnout was good, and we’d sometimes get up to 70 people at the start of a new course round. We always ran introductory courses that anyone could attend, and if anyone who completed the introductory courses wanted to take the further courses, we would run them too, even if it was a small number, because we wanted to help anyone interested, and it didn’t matter how many that was. At the time I did the esoteric wisdom and trainee teacher’s courses, I was the only person wanting to do it, and my teacher ran them just for me, which I appreciated.

I had observed that the teacher was covering expenses like hall hire, printing and so on, although she never mentioned anything to me about needing money. I wanted to help and would chip in for expenses or give a donation when I could.

Perth center

Around June 2006, my partner found a listing for an old church for lease at a very good price for what it was. We went to look at it, and it seemed a perfect place to be a Gnostic centre. There was a large main hall with polished wooden floorboards and high ceilings, an entry/dining area, kitchen, separate study/office, separate male and female toilets, a huge fenced carpark, and garden. We could all see the potential of the place and how great it would be to run courses in a dedicated venue. We worked out that we could cover the rent between us, and were successful in leasing it.

In order to run classes for the public, we had to seek council approval and install a number of features to bring the facility up to the council standard, which we did. This included things like putting in ramps and railings for wheelchair access, installing a disabled toilet, having working exit lights throughout the hall, regular testing of fire extinguishers and so on. We complied with all the requirements and received a certificate from the council approving our use of the facility.

Around August 2006 we finally moved in to the centre and started cleaning it up and doing minor repairs and installations. It was enjoyable doing the decorating, tidying up the garden, hanging up pictures etc., and at the end of the day we would share a meal and relax.

Soon after we started running courses from the centre. It made a huge difference in terms of being able to have a permanent setup for the courses inside the hall, with chairs for lectures and cushions for practices, and not needing to pack everything up at the end. It also allowed us to run more classes and activities, and gave us more flexibility with time if people wanted to hang back at the end to ask questions, where before we had to vacate a hired hall by a certain time to make way for the next group. People would always comment on the energy and atmosphere of the place, saying that it felt mystical.

Courses and activities

Now that we had the centre, we would usually run classes on some evenings after work and on weekends. Depending on the interest of students, we would run a few different courses per term as well as extra activities like drop-in meditation or mantra classes and weekend workshops. We enjoyed running things that people liked doing, and we also enjoyed doing spiritual practices like chanting mantras with others, talking about all kinds of spiritual and metaphysical topics, going for walks together by the river or in national parks, having movie and dinner nights watching spiritually uplifting films, and so on.

The courses and classes we ran were open to the public, and we would run about 4 course rounds per year, each of 8 or 9 weeks duration, with breaks in between. We advertised by putting up posters around the city (such as in coffee shop windows), running ads in local new-age papers, and promoting events online in places like Meetup.com. People would contact us to register for a course, or just show up. There were no attendance requirements for the introductory courses, people’s participation was up to them, and some people would come regularly while others more sporadically. We catered to all levels of interest. Because we ran the introductory courses all the time, alternating between the astral travel and self-knowledge courses, along with drop-in classes for mantras, meditation etc., there was always something going on if people were interested. The intermediary and advanced courses were run if someone who had completed the introductory courses wanted to learn more. We had some long-term students that attended our center over the years, of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. I think one of the things that kept drawing people to our center, even after completing the courses, was its openness to meet with likeminded people and have intelligent conversations on all kinds of topics, in a relaxed and friendly place. Some also just really liked the environment, doing spiritual practices and socialising, and told us they looked forward to attending each week.

People could essentially learn the whole Gnostic doctrine in 3 courses – the astral, self-knowledge, and esoteric wisdom courses, which they could do in just over half a year. Additionally, we had the books of Samael Aun Weor available for anyone to download freely from our website, which also explained the entire doctrine. We provided this information freely and without obligation to anyone who sought it out, and it was up to people whether they took it further or not. We weren’t interested in having followers, and really left it up to people’s initiative if they wanted to continue or not. We were just focused on making things available to anyone who was interested, so by running courses and facilitating things, we felt fulfilled.

Donations and Finances

My partner and I were the main financial support for Perth over the years. The teacher from Brisbane also supported it while she was there, and a couple of years after she left, there was another teacher who also supported it, and a few people here and there would help. We did not receive regular financial support from the public – donations were generally small and sporadic, so it was between the teachers to cover the majority of the costs.

We were happy to do this because we really valued the center and got so much out of it ourselves, and the opportunities it brought forward for us. We had a clear perspex donations box that we kept on a table where people could donate to the organization if they wanted to, and mentioned it briefly at the start of a course round when explaining how we run and work. We would also hold fundraisers for international admin expenses of the organization (eg. web hosting fees, insurance etc.) like movie and dinner nights which were social events and quite enjoyable. Sometimes we’d have themes like an Egyptian night where we’d watch something about ancient Egypt and we’d cook an Egyptian-inspired meal to share.

All donations we received went to the organization. For a period, we also had a separate donation box where people could donate to a foundation established to support Mark Pritchard’s work, and this was clearly labelled. No money donated to the center ever went to Mark personally. He did accept personal donations, but they were separate from the organization, and he had a Paypal link on his website where the public could donate to him if they wanted to.

We handled the donations of the center with great care, double counting all monies received with 2 volunteers present and banking them promptly. We kept receipts for all purchases and recorded all income and expenses on a spreadsheet which was submitted to the Treasurer every quarter.

Experience on the national and international boards

In 2007, I became a teacher and then a member soon afterwards, at which time I took the opportunity to become more involved in the organization beyond the Perth center. I found volunteering very fulfilling, and it helped me expand and broaden my skill-set and experience in many ways. I was elected to the National Coordinating Board that oversaw the organization’s activities and centers around Australia, and served as the Secretary. I also became involved in some of the teams that worked internationally with other teachers and members around the world, like the Publicity and Legal teams, and was also elected to the International Coordinating Board. I got involved with the organization’s websites like Gnosticweb and Gnostic Awakenings, moderating on the forums, teaching in the online courses, and was part of the team that put together videos for the new courses, such as these where I was the presenter:

I also helped organize events like retreats, expos, and publicity campaigns and learned many new skills through these experiences. All these roles and projects gave me invaluable experience in areas like management, public speaking, media skills, corporate governance, training and mentoring, etc. which have helped me both personally and professionally.

I found that the structure and teams within the organization worked in a democratic and transparent way. For example, I was elected by the members to the Australian and International boards. From my experience both in managing and participating in teams, everyone was encouraged to share their views and all were considered, with a consensus often being reached naturally through discussion.

Appointment as Legal Manager

I was nominated for and accepted the role as manager of the Legal team, which involved being across the legal aspects of running the different organizations throughout the world, along with its online presence, and addressing copyright infringement of its course material. We didn’t have a team of lawyers or anything, much of the time it was just me and a couple of other members who would look into things that needed researching and seeking professional advice as required. Although we were self-taught, we were meticulous and became pretty knowledgeable in a wide range of areas. We were diligent and careful to ensure that we were doing everything correctly and by the law, fulfilling all our obligations, and looking after our responsibilities towards our volunteers and the public. Interestingly enough, we found that some professionals we dealt with were surprised at the level of knowledge and experience we had, as apparently it’s not as common among non-profit or volunteer-led organizations who generally have people committed to its cause but lacking legal/financial proficiency. We took it upon ourselves to become competent in our roles because of our care and passion for what the organization did.

Standards of behaviour

Part of the responsibilities of being a volunteer and training as a teacher included upholding certain standards of behavior, so the image and standing of the organization and its teachers was exemplary. If someone expressed intent to train as a teacher, this code of conduct was explained upfront. For example, teachers who were coupled were expected to be in a committed and monogamous relationship heading to marriage, showing how seriously the organization took fidelity and commitment between partners. I felt it also ensured that as teachers, we “walked the talk” so to speak, as it would have been hypocritical for us to teach one thing yet do another.

Dealing with misconduct

As a member, I worked with other members around the world, including in Greece where the organization was taken over by former attendees who had been asked to leave the organization by some members, including myself. It was very rare to have to ask people to leave the organization and generally only happened in serious cases where there was misconduct, or patterns of hostile, negative, or threatening behaviour. This adversely impacted on the proper functioning of the organization, not to mention the wellbeing of others, and was contrary to the principles of respect, care, and spiritual improvement that we were fostering within the organization.

In this instance, we explained the reasons behind our request to those people to leave the organization, and initially they accepted it and left, and remained amicable for some time after that. As time went on however, I was one of the people who received emails from some of them complaining about others in the organization and the way it was being administered, specifically those who had taken over its running after they left, and demanding responses from us. Eventually, they started making bogus claims of supposed fraud and ‘illegal actions’, based entirely upon a clerical error in the date of a cover letter submitted to authorities when updating the organization’s records. The member who submitted the letter informed the authorities of the wrong date as soon as he realised, and they didn’t raise any issues with it.

These fabricated claims were used as a pretext by the former attendees to re-instate themselves as directors of The Gnostic Movement in Greece. They removed the democratically elected members without their knowledge or consent, and seized the Athens center, even changing the locks to prevent the rightful members access to it. Obviously the other organizations around the world dissociated themselves from The Gnostic Movement in Greece once these people forced their way back in.

Personal reflections

Through my involvement in the organization and studying its spiritual teachings, my relationships have deepened as I’ve learned how to relate better to others, and see things from a broader perspective rather than just an individual one. It’s helped me to value those around me and not take things for granted. I am more able to let go of grudges, forgive, and move on, and try my best to own up to my mistakes and failings and address them. Through these teachings, I have managed to gain a degree of stability and harmony in my personal, family, and work life, for which I am very thankful.

I am fortunate that my partner and I have shared our spiritual journey, supporting each other and growing together. We were already a couple prior to our involvement with the organization, however since deciding to pursue spirituality in our lives, our commitment to one another has increased and cemented. We got married and have been together for 13 years, and have always received support from Mark and other volunteers. Having a loving, faithful marriage was a core tenet of Mark’s teachings, and Mark and all the teachers and members I knew valued long-term committed relationships. They respected people’s privacy and personal choices and never interfered in the relationships or private lives of others.

Working with Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub)

I’ve known Mark Pritchard since 2007, meeting him at a retreat, working with him in The Gnostic Movement, and now being part of the organization that publishes his works. Over the years I have had frequent communication with him, and have found him unfailingly caring, gentle, honest, and trustworthy. After getting to know him, I realized that the integrity and genuineness that had impressed me about the organization was also a reflection of his own — in his way of treating people with care and respect, his sense of responsibility and diligence to what he did, his attention to detail and thoughtful nature — these values and virtues imbued the organization. Even in small ways of acting that are so common you hardly think twice, he showed a different way to be, like really listening to someone speak and finish without interrupting or cutting them off.

Exemplary conduct towards women

Mark treated me and others with respect, dignity and an almost brotherly care, which as a woman was very heartening. He nominated me for an important position within the organization of Legal Manager, showing that he really supported women as equals alongside men. His actions and conduct was always honourable, and he set an example for others, especially men, in the way he treated women with great respect and equality. As a result, the typical power-struggles between genders that you often see in the workplace or socially were completely absent within the movement. As a woman, my worth wasn’t reduced to my appearance, and I didn’t have to worry about flirting, sexual harassment, or anything like that because Mark and the other men I worked with were all absolute gentlemen. Men and women worked together alongside each other as peers, and there were plenty of women in leadership positions. For example, I was in charge of teams that had other male members and teachers in it, and we worked together very well with mutual respect. I also formed many friendships with other women in the organization, who were strong, capable, and encouraging from the beginning, and took me under their wing.

Down-to-earth approach

Even being the International Coordinator and spiritual teacher of the organization, Mark never placed himself above anyone else or made people address him in any special way. I found Mark always approachable and someone who valued the input of others, who would go out of his way to encourage people to share their honest views and feedback. He never tried to influence anyone’s opinion, often waiting until everyone else had offered their thoughts before sharing his views.

I am fortunate that I continue to have a working relationship with Mark even though The Gnostic Movement is now closed, as part of the organization that now publishes his work. This has only reinforced my positive experience of his leadership, friendship, and sincerity in all he does. Mark is someone that I can be myself around and speak my mind truthfully without worrying, because he is so non-judgemental, respectful, and level-headed. These are qualities that I really appreciate.

Modest and humble lifestyle

In all the years I’ve known him, Mark has lived a very modest and humble lifestyle, spending all his time, money, and efforts on teaching and spreading a spiritual message. I don’t recall him ever going away on holidays, or owning anything flashy or expensive. He has always been very principled with money and donations given to him, going above and beyond in accountability. An example is that my husband and I gave a donation wanting to help his housing conditions. We were aware that at the time he was living and working out of a rural property that was unfinished and essentially a construction site. We knew that some other members were helping to work on it in their spare time as friends, and we wanted to contribute. Sometime after we made the donation, he contacted us to see if it would be alright if he put it towards printing costs for one of his books instead (which he wasn’t even receiving any payments/royalties for). He didn’t have to seek our consent as it was legally his money to use as he saw fit, but it just went to show how careful and respectful he was with donations, and also how he sacrificed his living conditions and money to help get a spiritual message out.

Self-funding the work and mission to the US

Another example is how he only accepted a wage for his mission to the US that was funded by donations made specifically for that purpose, and not from the organization’s general funds. As a member of The Gnostic Movement in Australia, I know that Mark asked that personal donations which he was receiving from supporters in Australia be given instead to the Australian organization, for the purposes of supporting his work in the US. We collected those donations and transferred them to the US organization, who used those funds, along with donations Mark made himself, to pay the wage. No money collected through general donations was used, only funds collected by people who donated to support Mark’s work.

Renouncement of compensation for all works

Even to this day, Mark only accepts donations and receives no payment for any of his work. I arranged the publishing contract we have with him, and at his request, a clause was inserted stating that he does not wish to receive any compensation or royalties for his work, and provides them to the publisher for free:

AUTHOR ROYALTIES

The Author does not wish to receive any compensation for the use of his Works, and provides them to Publisher free of charge for Publisher to fulfill its mission of advancing universal spiritual knowledge as freely and broadly as possible throughout the world. The Author shall not receive any royalties from Publisher.

 

 

Back to People’s Experiences

Cam

Cameron P

CamI came across the Gnostic Movement in 2002 after hearing an interview by a teacher of The Gnostic Movement about Astral Travel on a popular radio channel. I was very interested in the subject because I was already having out of body experiences but did not know what they were.

Starting as an online student

I wrote down the details of the organisation and of its website called mysticweb.org. I found the website to be open as to its purpose (how to reach enlightenment), and what that entailed in regards to the courses that the Gnostic Movement was offering both online, and in person. At that time, it consisted of a course in Astral Travel and Dreams, a self-discovery course (Searching Within), and a course on esoteric wisdom (Journey to Enlightenment), which you had to complete the other two courses to begin.

During the online course, I received the weekly content in an email, with a pdf explaining the topic to look at for the week, along with an exercise to try. I also had access to some basic web forums where I could ask questions about the topic, and get answers from the volunteers who were helpful, open, and genuinely interested in helping people progress from what I read.

Taking classes in-person

Myself in green in the front row at an early lecture, 2002
Myself in green in the front row at an early lecture, 2002
What I found most helpful though were the pdf’s that were written by Mark Pritchard. They were easy to understand and given in a step by step way. The content also directly correlated with some of the experiences I had been having, which helped to make sense of why they happened, and the reason for it.

Then around that time, a course was being offered close to where I lived, so I decided to start attending in person as well. The class itself had a welcoming presence and the people attending were from all walks of life. I felt very comfortable being there, and wanted to learn.

It was explained at the beginning of the course who the Gnostic Movement was, and the succession of spiritual teachers who ran The Gnostic Movement, being Samael Aun Weor, then Rabolu and now Belzebuub. It was also mentioned that the courses were free and funded by donations, which I thought seemed like a perfect way to make them available to everyone. I would usually make a donation, and since the donation box was clear, I saw that there never seemed that much money collected after a class, just a few small notes and coins.

Over the next 8 weeks of the course, I followed the exercises and texts, and had success in having a conscious out of body experience, along with waking up in my dreams, and more people shared that they also had similar success in the class.

I then went ahead and completed the Self Discovery Course, which delved into the psychology of the self. Again, Mark Pritchard had authored the pdf’s that were available and they were written in an easy to understand language, that was simple for myself to grasp. There were also several books by Samael Aun Weor as part of the course as well. I downloaded them all and read them in great detail.

I then went ahead and took the Journey to Enlightenment course, which delved into a lot more detailed information about how to actually change fundamentally as a human being and the process of enlightenment. It was explained what was required to walk the spiritual path, and how sexuality (alchemy) in a faithful and seriously committed (marriage) relationship was not only essential to spiritual transformation but was the most sacred of all relationships. This really resonated within me and made sense.

In his writings, Mark also made it very clear that if someone wanted to gain knowledge, experience, and change fundamentally, they had to do that themselves, within themselves, which required dedication to the purpose, and that it came down to the individual and that there was no one to follow in a sense.

Role models within The Gnostic Movement

One of the major reasons for myself wanting to get more involved in The Gnostic Movement, was the fact that I could see that the people who worked within it, were attempting to live by example. I had seen many other groups and people proselyting different ideas, views and theories, but it just seemed unnatural and kind of fake.

Yet, the people I met in The Gnostic Movement were not like that, instead the people I was around with had high moral values and maintained them in their way of living, and that was something that I wanted to be more part of.

What also caught my attention was that no matter the level within the organisation, there was a mix of age, and male / female participants, and that there was no place for feelings of superiority, or of gender bias. The teachings and people’s actions within the organisation made it clear that women and men were equals, and decency and common courtesy was something I saw coming naturally within the Gnostic Movement. The people I knew within The Gnostic Movement led by example whereby love, care, and the free will of every person was respected, and the organisation itself held these values as its highest regard. I was taught these values through the courses of the Gnostic Movement, which ultimately came from Mark. His example and leadership was impeccable for the whole time of my involvement, from public to personal situations, and even through and after the hate campaign. The standards and morals that Mark lives by are written within his words, and the way he lives his life.

Mark’s example made me want to change myself to be more responsible, dependable, with respect for all people and things, no matter what their background was. And this propelled me to get more involved, because I enjoyed being around people that held these values as well.

Involvement with administration and finances

It was toward that time that I realised that The Gnostic Movement worked at a grass roots level based on the support and work of a few volunteers. Because the lectures, the level of presentation, and the information presented was done so well, somehow I expected there to be lots of people involved, making it happen behind the scenes but this wasn’t the case. So I started helping out, by cleaning up at the centre, and travelling to help set up for courses that were running in other parts of the city, helping with the odd jobs and the likes.

In 2003 I eventually passed the teachers training course and became a Trainee Teacher, becoming a teacher in 2005, and a member in 2007.

Since I basically became a representative of the organisation to the public, I took this responsibility very seriously, and followed and met the minimum standards of decorum, which was not that different than what was expected from me at my work. One of the requirements was specifically about if being in a relationship, that it should be a committed one with the intention to marry, which was fine as this was the case for my partner and I.

It was around this time that I also took over doing the accounts for the Brisbane arm of the Gnostic Movement. It was set up as a non-profit organisation, and as part of being responsible for this role, I would need to submit the monthly balanced ledger to the head treasurer of the organisation across Australia, who was in Sydney.

By taking on this role, I was shown all of the systems in place that made sure that all monies were accounted for. An example was that everything was paid for by cheque, which required two signatures to be valid. One signature was always the teacher that was in charge, and the other by the accounting person. This made sure that there was no way for any money to be funded off by an individual. It was not possible to transfer money from the account online, since it was disabled on purpose.

The ledger contained every donation through the donations box that was available at the public courses, and any donations made directly to the account. Again it was shown that everything was being accounted for that was being collected, and allocated appropriately. These ledgers were then used to submit quarterly for taxation purposes, and were also used for the yearly financials, which I later saw were submitted yearly to the appropriate body.

Taking part in the online arm of The Gnostic Movement

Meanwhile I also had the experience with taking the online courses, and I wished to be able to be of support with the online activities of The Gnostic Movement as well, and I started to help with anything computer related. Over time I ended up administering the web servers, helping with changes to the site, upgrading forums, creating new course system and general web administration. It was a great learning experience, and it was also very good for my career as a IT Developer and Manager, as I was exposed to different technologies that I didn’t necessarily use day to day at my normal job.

Dealing with online trolling and plagiarism

At my desk working on The Gnostic Movement's websites
At my desk working on The Gnostic Movement’s websites

One of the major hurdles with the online activities was the problem of internet trolls trying to cause disruption on the forums, in the chatrooms, and in the courses. Sadly, most of the trolling originated from other gnostic groups.

For my part, I was involved in the technical side of providing new technical features to allow banning of users (which had not needed to exist until now), logging of chat-rooms, and removal of different features of the software as they started to be abused as a result of this constant harassment. An example was the personal messaging system that we had in place through the forums – It would allow students to communicate one-on-one with each other, but it had to end up being disabled since it was being used to cause disruption and harassment by those online trolls toward genuine members of the forum.

Another major issue that arose while working on the web team early on was the issue of plagiarism of the pdf’s and Mark’s courses that he had developed. It was important that the message was not filtered down/ changed or mixed with other things otherwise people would not be able to gain the full benefit of what was taught. So our aim was to ensure the pdfs could not be copied off and plagiarised, since the spiritual information was important to be given in its original form. At the time, we tried to come up with a way to allow the content of the pdf’s to be viewed, but not to be downloaded/saved to a user’s local machine, but we were unsuccessful in coming up with a solution that was both easy to use for the user and kept the content safe. As a result, the pdf’s could no longer be distributed, and the course information started to transfer across to books, video streams, and exercise only pdf’s.

Closure of websites

Toward 2010, The Gnostic Movement’s new website filled with new features that so many people helped to create was getting a lot of positive feedback from its users; however, the attacks started to occur, and over the next 8 months or so, this increased to the point whereby the organisation had no other choice but to close its doors.

In March 2011, I had to shut down all of the public facing sites, including Mysticweb, Astralweb, Gnostic Awakenings, and the Gnostic Judas site.

It was a terrible tragedy to see all of the work and efforts put in to be destroyed.

Working on online projects with Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub)

From 2007 to 2009, I took over as the web manager, as well as managing the technical team, and after the implementation of the new website Gnosticweb, I then went on to work more closely with Mark and became part of a more dedicated team working directly on his site, and moving into the areas of video on the web, and online video conferencing as he was trying to devote more time to teaching after giving up his administrative role in The Gnostic Movement, since it was taking too much of his time and stopping him from teaching.

It was very easy to work with Mark because he was always very understanding if anything went wrong, or when there were time delays and so on with the projects. Instead of being only concerned with the outcomes of the projects, and getting agitated and worried when things did not work, he would remain calm and patient. He was always asking how I was doing instead, and would also help me to find much simpler solutions to problems, without all the stress and worry that sometimes would blind me from seeing clearly.

Mark’s care and support as a friend and colleague

In all of our discussions, Mark was totally consistent in his high standard of respect, manners, and way of listening and saying what he meant. I also saw how non-challenging he was in every way in his personality – I could see early on that he was intuitive, respectful. It was really easy to work and speak with him because of his gentle nature and unobtrusive demeanour.

That care and understanding that he showed towards me, I have not seen in any other supervisor that I have worked with in my career. If at times, I had to work long hours (as it often happens in IT disaster/recovery situation) Mark would make sure that I would be able to get enough rest by moving deadlines ahead.

I personally got a lot out of the discussions with Mark that we had, and I learnt a lot from him over that time – how to care for other people, how to be responsible and thorough and dependable, especially when being involved in a project with other people. He really helped me with learning how to deal with pressure and stress, and how to keep a level head through events in life, by being a living example of how it was possible to do; he has always made time for me and has personally helped me through many of life’s tough times.

Under Mark’s guidance I developed many projects, some of the more major ones were:

  • public and course forums
  • real time chat system
  • online course system for Mysticweb.com and GnosticAwakenings.com
  • live interactive video and audio streaming system
  • website creation and development of multiple sites including Gnosticweb.com, Absolute Publishing, and Belzebuub.com

I personally hold the time and efforts of the work done online under his guidance as very dear to me within the Gnostic Movement. I saw first-hand how the visionary insight that Mark had for wanting to spread gnosis online worked, and the positive and life-changing effect it had on people’s lives. In its first incarnation (mysticweb.org), there was hardly anything like it on the web at the time, and it was hugely popular.

By constantly bringing in new features, ideas, and changes, I was witness to the real purpose of the online courses, and Mark’s simple and true perseverance to help anyone that had access to an internet connection to have the possibility to change their lives fundamentally, and completely free, from beginning to end.

The Australian Retreat project

In late 2002 I visited a property that the Gnostic Movement was looking to purchase as a retreat. I saw that there was a small run down weatherboard house in poor shape, and it was very green, lush, and overgrown, but I could tell it had potential. I learned a few months later that The Gnostic Movement had purchased it with the goal to turn it into a retreat.

Mark’s financial and physical support of the retreat project

Later on, I met Mark was when he was caretaking for the retreat property that had been bought by The Gnostic Movement. He welcomed me with warm smiles, and spoke in a really down to earth way, clearly, and very similar to how his writings came across in the pdfs. This was refreshing to see that what he said and how he was in real life was the same, and I felt his humility and genuineness during our discussion.

When I stepped inside of the place I found that it was actually hotter than outside. I could tell that there was no insulation in the roof as the heat was radiating down and turning the place into an oven. It hit me at the time how basic things were, it barely had just enough to make it habitable, and the windows could not even be opened as they had no bug screens to keep bugs out.

By seeing Mark’s hard and difficult living conditions, I decided to help him with what I knew could be a help: several items so that he could get basic internet connection and a pc that he could use. Mark was very, very appreciative, and he thanked me sincerely for helping him in that way. I know for a fact that parts of this pc were still in use by Mark, over 10 years later; to me, this just demonstrates how Mark was always very responsible and took great care with what he owned.

Less than a year later, Mark ended up leaving the property in 2003 to go overseas, and other people moved in as caretakers. Mark would be in contact with us as the work progressed, and he routinely liked to see how everyone was doing, how things were coming along, and about every time we talked, he thanked everyone for what efforts people were putting in developing the retreat property.

Mark and I in 2006 at the property
Mark and I in 2006 at the property

Later on, I also learned that the Gnostic Movement would be unable to run retreats at the property because of issues with the council, and the decision to sell the property was raised by people in the project.

Shortly thereafter Mark returned from overseas, and I was informed that he had bought the property at a much higher price than what it had been bought for. By buying it, The Gnostic Movement was now free to look for a more suitable and bigger retreat property, without having to wait for years to sell this current one, and had ended with a lot more funds than it had started with.

However the property was still a building site in progress, nowhere near finished, and did not even have a proper kitchen. A group of us that had been working on the renovation project for The Gnostic Movement decided to continue to help out personally to try and help to finish off the work needed now that it was Mark’s personal residence. We all had decided that we wanted to give Mark a proper living environment, for him to work from as he was helping to bring gnosis to the world on a full-time basis.

Now that Mark was back, he also mentioned the vision he had for the property to still be used for the benefit of others, by wanting for it to become like an informal monastery for use as a spiritual retreat for advanced members. This again showed how selfless Mark was.

Less than a year after, Mark moved to America to try and get gnosis off the ground over there, and from that time onward for the next 6 months I caretook the property. Living there was not for the faint hearted. It did require a lot of upkeep, and nature was ready to overtake things if you didn’t keep up with maintenance. I needed to constantly watch my energy usage because of the small solar system. And there was still no real kitchen, so I kept on using the camping gas burners. On multiple occasions, various type of snakes and spiders would try to get inside the building.

Efforts to find a suitable retreat property

Several years thereafter, The Gnostic Movement was still looking for a retreat property but the funds were still quite low. Efforts to fundraise were made, and we got close to purchase several properties, but they fell through for various reasons. One was because we learned after making inquiries that a number of unknown “locals” liked to light fires and let the area burn to “clean up” the surrounding bushland. And since the safety of the public was a huge requirement, there was no way The Gnostic Movement would ever want to put anyone in harm’s way, and it was decided not to pursue this particular property. And the other property that we seriously considered buying, due to the cost of repairing the main road and the culling of wild animals and weed maintenance imposed by an environment covenant, was also abandoned after much professional inquiries were made.

Physical consequences of the online smear campaign

During the 9 years of my involvement with the Brisbane Gnostic Centre, The Gnostic Movement was well accepted in our local community, and the only feedback that we got from people about the courses and our purpose, was of a positive nature. We would have our regulars who would be coming and going through the courses, and, while there were some people more serious than others, everyone was relaxed, comfortable, and supportive of each other.

Vandalisation and theft at Brisbane centre

This was the case until the attacks started around May 2010. Things peaked in Brisbane in around September 2010, whereby there were really three dark events that took place, all within a month, to show what effects were occurring since the hate campaign started.

The first event occurred in late September 2010, at our local centre in Brisbane. There were some signs at the entrance of the centre where we would be advertising our current courses that were running. An unidentified person ripped down the signs, stole some of our advertising material, and proceeded to vandalise the remaining with graffiti. A neighbour in a close by shop, saw the incident occur, and let us know the description of the person involved, and this was reported to the police.

Graffiti and defacement of advertising material

The next set of events occurred in early October 2010 around the advertising and running of our public course in Astral Travel. We would hold these public meetings at a local university since we could not cater for the larger number of people at our local centre in Paddington.

On two occasions some of the teachers involved in organising the advertising found posters outside of the room, with the advertising material overwritten with “Beware it’s a CULT”. A poster was also found with the same defacing at a nearby shop.

Examples of the flyers
Examples of the flyers

On the evening of the event, a number of teachers arrived early to prepare the location, and found flyers, strewn throughout local student meeting rooms, and posters placed strategically around the location, with the same “This is a CULT” written over the advertising material. Some were also slid into locked glass cabinets around the location, making it impossible to remove them.

The university security was promptly notified and were on call in case of any issues that occurred. The events were later reported to the police.

It was at this time that things hit home for me how serious things really were. The safety of the students, teachers, and ourselves were at risk, and it could not be known how far people could be incited to go from that point on.

It just was not possible to keep public events going in that situation. This would be the last time that public courses were offered in Brisbane, and in February 2011, the centre closed its doors permanently.

Conclusion

Over the time of my involvement, I have worked closely with many members, teachers, students, on web projects, building projects, and organising the Gnostic Centre in Brisbane. My friendships were based on honesty, decency, and deep respect for one another and I knew it was reciprocated because we were people dedicated to wanting to help the world, as well as ourselves, and to spiritually change fundamentally. I held a full time job over this time, and am still working for the same employer since October 2002. I hold a close and loving relationship with my family, and my wife, whom I met through the Movement. The principles and values taught in the Gnostic Movement, and coming from the books, classes and topics by Mark, as well as the other gnostic texts, has only been a positive change in my life over the last 14 years, and continues to do so. My life has been forever changed for the better, and I can only thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all that was done within the Gnostic Movement.

My biggest regret is not understanding the need for protecting the organisation and our teacher in a clear way at the times they occurred. By simply ignoring the lies that were made, and thinking that no-one could believe the ostentatiously falsehoods, and thinking that things would move on was a deeply incorrect way of acting at the time for me.

Unfortunately, this had a deep impact, as the spiritual school was decimated. This highlighted a huge misunderstanding that I will hold close to me and try not to make the same mistake ever again. So much time, effort, and good deeds were done by so many, and yet it was all washed away and lost, under a series of lies and un-truth that was spread. It has crystallised within me the need to truly defend and hold onto what is right, and to try and have the courage to confront that which opposes, however hard internally that may be. If it’s not done, the light will never have a chance to oppose and overcome darkness, especially in this current time, when we all need the light so much in our lives.

Back to People’s Experiences

Jordan

Jordan B

JordanI was told of The Gnostic Movement a number of times via word-of-mouth in the summer and fall of 2002. I heard that there were classes being run in Toronto and that there was a website called Mysticweb.org.

Participation in The Gnostic Movement

In March 2003, after having been experimenting with simple meditation techniques on my own for about a month and deciding it may be worth looking into spirituality after all, I read Mark Pritchard’s (Belzebuub’s) Self-Knowledge course and the first half of the Astral Travel and Dreams free course PDFs online and started practising all the exercises within them, I read Samael Aun Weor’s books Revolutionary Psychology and The Great Rebellion, and then, I attended a Gnostic Movement free live course for the first time—it was in week five of the Astral Travel and Dreams course in Toronto at the time.

Very soon after actually studying the material and practising the exercises, I began to notice positive effects such as becoming calmer and more patient on the whole, and generally became more satisfied with my life overall. I also had a few metaphysical/spiritual experiences while doing meditation-based practices that I never thought possible before.

Attending Retreats

I attended a camping trip mini-retreat to Algonquin park in late June / early July, 2003, just after completing the Esoteric Wisdom course. There was one teacher, one trainee teacher, and about ten students on this retreat (who had recently completed the Esoteric Wisdom or Advanced Investigation courses). On this retreat, the teacher set a goal to try to enjoy “being in the moment” in every menial activity, such as while making campfires, preparing the meals, setting up and taking down tents, going for hikes, and so on. Seeing as this was high season for bug activity in Algonquin park, we spent most of the time on the campsite itself hanging out and chatting, with some meditation practices in our tents as well. The weekend went by very quickly, and I mostly enjoyed the camaraderie of the group at this time and the mantras we did together around the campfire in the evenings.

I attended another weekend mini-retreat in a rented retreat centre near Collingwood, Ontario in September 2003 as a student in the Advanced Investigation course. There was one teacher, three trainee teachers, and about eleven students on this retreat (from the Advanced Investigation course). At this retreat I experienced a myriad of benefits from being able to truly concentrate upon the spiritual exercises taught by The Gnostic Movement in a dedicated way without any distraction from the normal demands of life at home and in the workplace. Two things stand out in particular: one being that I had an almost magical experience while hiking on the Bruce trail, in which, I felt so alive and connected to nature, while at the same time, fully conscious of me being in that experience; and the other was during an all-night astral projection exercise. For this, we gathered in the main large practice room in the lodge on our own mats to try an astral projection exercise while going to sleep. The astral projection exercise we tried that weekend was basically concentrating upon and visualizing ourselves travelling to the planet Mars, since that weekend Mars was reportedly very close to Earth. We would then set an alarm and wake up a few times through the night and try the exercise again as we went back to sleep. Doing this together in a group gave me so much impetus and will power to succeed with the astral projection exercises that I was able to practise them every night thereafter as I went to sleep with much more focus and concentration than before, and as a result, I went on to have quite a few astral experiences in the coming months—not to mention this training helped me overcome problems I’d always had with going to sleep.

From as early as I can remember, I had always had trouble going to sleep. I remember trying a variety of solutions ranging from reading before bed, to thinking about various things (i.e. “counting sheep”), to listening to music, and so on, but nothing really worked. Many nights I’d just be lying in bed awake for a very, very long time before being able to fall asleep. Learning how to do astral projection exercises, besides leading to conscious astral experiences, was the one thing that actually helped me learn how to go to sleep properly whenever I wanted to.

Becoming a Volunteer

I discovered that there were public forums on the Mysticweb.org website and noticed that students and the public at large would often post questions there that I often knew the answers to, given that I had read all the course material and practised the exercises as much as I could. As such, I began answering questions on the public forums as best I could, because I felt that this was my way of “giving back” and being appreciative, paying it forward, etc. for what had been given to me. In the same vein, I asked the teacher in Toronto if I could take some course posters and put them up to help advertise the next round of courses. From that point on, every course round break I would put up as many posters as I could in whichever shops would allow me to and on whichever street/utility poles it was legal to do so.

collingwood-retreat-2003
Taking a walk on one of the paths just outside the retreat facility we rented for Labour Day weekend in 2003. I’m in the middle.

I took the Teachers course in fall 2003 and successfully passed it, becoming a trainee teacher in late December, 2003. Besides giving the mock/practice lectures and guiding mock practices with the other students in the Teachers course and the teacher, during my time in the Teachers course, I would also arrive early at the rented room in the library for the Astral Travel and Dreams course every week to help out. A close friend of mine (who was a trainee teacher at the time) and I asked the teacher if we could help set up the room with chairs and sit at the front desk as people arrived to help take attendance, and he agreed. We would also assist with answering students’ questions at the conclusion of each weekly session (students would come up to us and ask us questions about the topics or exercises). It’s at this course that I first met my wife; she was attending the course along with her mother and a different friend or two each week.

Also during this time the teacher in Toronto mentioned that Mark Pritchard gave up his job some time ago to dedicate himself full-time to teaching spirituality, working with The Gnostic Movement as a volunteer (unpaid). I heard that he was renovating his almost completely uninhabitable house on a rural property in another country which amongst other things, didn’t even have a working fridge. When I heard about this situation, I felt I wanted to do whatever I could to help (seeing as he had helped me in my life so much by starting and running The Gnostic Movement) and so I gave a donation to the teacher here with the specific purpose to wire it there to help him get through those renovations at the time. This was different from any donations I had been giving in the normal donations box when attending the courses from time to time, which were for The Gnostic Movement and went strictly for things such as room rentals, printing advertising materials for the courses, and so on.

In my first round as a trainee teacher starting in January 2004, I gave two lectures and guided one or two practice sessions in the Esoteric Wisdom course, and attended all the other course sessions as an observer and to help whenever possible. I would also arrive early at the rented room in the library again, this round for the Self-Knowledge course, to set up the room with chairs and then would sit at the front desk as people arrived to help take attendance, and I would also assist with answering students’ questions at the conclusion of each session.

Experience with Other So-Called Gnostic Groups

On one course night in this round, another so-called Gnostic group had booked another room at the library where they knew our courses were held. Besides being concerned that they were there to try and convince students from The Gnostic Movement to join them instead, I had heard that one of their teachers allegedly threatened to “drop kick” the teacher of our courses if he ever saw him, as he was very antagonistic to Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) in particular and didn’t like the idea of someone from The Gnostic Movement running free courses for the public. Myself and the other trainee teachers were very concerned for the safety of the teacher and students in our courses and as such, myself and another trainee teacher stayed in the lobby of the library that night to ensure that our students would not be harassed or harmed by anyone from that group.

Experience as a Teacher and Member

During the break between course rounds in mid-march 2004, about one week before the next one was to begin, I became a Qualified Teacher along with another trainee teacher. Two members of The Gnostic Movement in Australia as well as two members of The Gnostic Movement in the USA also started helping and supporting me from afar as I began to run the Centre and its activities in Toronto. They would answer any questions I had and give advice whenever needed.

Financial Administration

At this time, I learned all the ins and outs of running a Gnostic Movement group/Centre, including the strict financial procedures as per the organization’s by-laws/regulations, such as two people had to be present to count the donations after every course night and deposit them into the bank account, that funds would always have to be deposited before being spent (i.e. you couldn’t simply take money from cash donations and use them to pay for things, but rather, everything had to first be deposited in the bank account so that it was accounted for on record, and then cheques written out to pay for expenses), and that everything would have to be tracked very meticulously in either Excel spreadsheets or accounting software if one was able to use that, such that the person acting as the national Treasurer of the organization could combine them from all the Centres in that country to prepare and file the annual tax return.

Moderating Web Forums

When I first became a teacher, I was also invited to join the online moderating team as a “Global Moderator.” This was a team comprised of a small group of people who would keep an eye on the public forums, action any reported posts, and overall whose primary job was to “keep the peace” so-to-speak on the forums on the movement’s websites. On occasion, Mark had given advice regarding how the websites should be moderated, always emphasizing that we should allow for free discussion and not be heavy-handed with moderating, only intervening where there was indecent material or personal attacks. In any case, based on the documentation some other people had put together about it and my observations posting on the public forums up to that point, I figured this would be a once-in-a-while, just help-out-when-needed sort of job, but I quickly realized it was often far more time consuming than that. In fact, there was about one reported post every other day or so that would need some sort of action.

Trolling from Other Gnostic Groups

While there were the usual Internet trolls and spammers that we’d come across and have to deal with, by far the most cumbersome issue was related to people who were regular contributors to another Gnostic organization’s website who came to post on our websites with dubious intentions. These individuals were doctrinally opposed to The Gnostic Movement and Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) and some of them set out to disrupt the happenings on the public forums and course forums basically with the underlying motive to get people to stop participating in our courses and/or forums and come join them on their courses and forums instead. Typically one of these individuals would sign up with a fake username of some sort, make a couple of posts that would try to make it seem like they are a genuine new person or interested in our courses, and then slowly start introducing things that would attempt to undermine The Gnostic Movement or Mark. Eventually when they were caught out, they’d drop the facade and often start calling the moderators or teachers names, accuse them of being “dictators,” and so on if their posts were removed or if they or another one of their group were blocked from further posting. This would then sometimes spin over into their forums as well, where they’d further mock our organization and some of the people within it, including myself, as I was one of the main moderators through all these years. At least 15-20 percent of all reported posts we received were related to cases of these people.

From 2004 to 2008 I came across a minimum of twenty threads in which our websites, courses, course author, teachers, or participants were mentioned in a negative light on their forums. These threads contained many postings in each of them, sometimes running pages long, with loads of defamatory information in them.

In my first year alone, I found at least ten users who had come to our forums from their site ultimately to disrupt our websites, and twenty-six more in the next two years.

  • In 2004, about ten usernames were created by six or seven people who contributed to another so-called Gnostic group and were hostile to The Gnostic Movement.
  • In 2005, about sixteen usernames were created by approximately six or seven people from that group.
  • In 2006, approximately ten usernames were created by about eight people from that group.
  • In 2007, at least two people from that group disrupted our website.
  • In 2008, approximately ten usernames were created by about four people from that group.
  • In sum, from 2004 to 2008, approximately forty-eight usernames were created by people from a group hostile to The Gnostic Movement who disrupted our sites, and they were created by approximately sixteen people.

The most cumbersome part about dealing with users who had come from their site to do this was that once banned, they’d often just sign right back up again with a new username and we’d have to start the process all over again, seeing as we were strong believers in “innocent until proven guilty” and we always wanted to give people in general a chance. It was mainly just with people like this who acted deceptively and whose sole motivation for participating on our sites was to dubiously pull people away from them that we felt we’d have to act to protect the forums.

After about two years helping out and becoming, according to the Moderator Manager at the time, the most active and familiar moderator with all aspects of the moderating job on the whole, in February 2006, I was asked if I would like to take over the Moderator Manager role. I accepted, which meant I’d handle an email account, manage and supervise the other volunteer moderators, keep records, and organize and supervise all the trainee teachers who had volunteered as moderator monitors. I served in this position for about two and half years until the fall of 2008, when someone else then took over.

Working on The Gnostic Movements’s Websites

From 2003-2006 I wrote a few articles for the movement’s websites, helped with proofreading on occasion, and other small tasks that came up here and there. In 2007, I took on a more active role with the website and content teams in helping to put together the new version of TGM’s main website at the time, Gnosticweb. I volunteered as the “Chief Checker,” whereby I would coordinate and also participate in the writing, editing, and proofreading of any new articles that were needed on the site before they were uploaded, as well as completed other projects such as finding, compiling, and uploading relevant passages from a few different authors’ books on various subjects related to Gnosticism for the new “Extracts of Teachings” section of the site.

In 2009, I coordinated a small team consisting mainly of a graphic designer, a coder, and myself to work on the redesign of the movement’s Astralweb website. We gave the website a fresh new look that was more fitting of the subject (the astral) as well as the more modern look of websites at the time, and worked to ensure that people’s personal experiences were the main focus of the website, added new content, videos, and other new features such as an opportunity for people to directly submit articles and videos of their own for publication.

Legal Administration

Besides the above, when I became a teacher I also learned all about the ins and outs of running a non-profit corporation in general: first by becoming a Director of The Gnostic Movement as a federal not-for-profit corporation in Canada, and second ensuring we were also properly registered to run at the provincial level in Ontario and Quebec, had a proper Business/Trading Name wherever we operated, and so on. We also became involved in registering trademarks for the organization and had a variety of high-level trademark lawyers that we were put in touch with by the Volunteer Lawyers Service. All of these experiences would serve me well on numerous occasions in both my personal working career and my volunteer experiences with other groups, and especially when it came to opening and running my own small business.

A close friend who was living in Kingston, Ontario (a few hours from Toronto) and who had been an online trainee teacher also became a Qualified Teacher at the same time I did, and we worked out that he would assist in the running of the Centre by taking a more active role with the administrative and online tasks such as legal, banking, taxes, emails, etc. while I supported him in those activities but focused primarily on the physical running of the courses, searching for a location to rent for a dedicated Centre (instead of holding classes at one-off rented rooms in the library), and all local advertising activities.

Toronto Centre

Giving my first lecture in the intro course about a week after I became a Qualified Teacher, in the Astral Travel and Dreams course, was a blessing in disguise. There were approximately seventy people in attendance that night and I was able to use this experience to work through anxiety and nervousness surrounding public speaking, and consequently, overcoming that helped me in many other areas of my life in which the same sort of worries and anxieties had previously had a strong hold over me. From that point on, I became much more able to face and get through what I had previously found to be difficult, uncomfortable, or even seemingly impossible situations in my life—not to mention my teaching experience with The Gnostic Movement would later help me immensely when I spent time teaching English as a Second Language, as well as when I worked in a program teaching children how to read and when I ran computer classes for adults and seniors in various positions I held over the years at my job with the Toronto Public Library.

Toronto Centre 2004
Myself (at right) with two other volunteers in the main lecture room of the first centre we had in Toronto in 2004

After an extensive search for a suitable location to rent for a Centre, we signed a lease granting us possession on May 1, 2004 for our very first actual Centre location in Toronto. It was a house located on a major street on the North side of the city. Work began immediately amongst volunteers in the evenings and on weekends on minor renovations, including painting, carpeting, kitchen cabinetry, and trim and mouldings. I was one of three teachers who had rented the basement apartment of the home in order to help finance the Centre. During this time, I learned many new skills around home renovations and routine home maintenance, as two people—one of the teachers and one of the trainee teachers—were more experienced or knowledgeable and had general skills in these areas and lead the charge and showed all the other volunteers how to do all of these things.

Sometime towards the end of 2004 we left our first Centre and a search commenced for a new property suitable to rent for a Centre moving forward. Eventually a property was found in a great location in downtown Toronto across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum. On June 15, 2005 we were allowed in to begin renovating, and we took possession on July 1, 2005. Our time in that premises was short-lived however as that building would be knocked down about a year and a half later to make way for a new condominium development. As such, another search began.

At the time we took possession however, I was away attending the first international retreat held in North America that was open to students of all the courses; this time it was in California. My wife and I would go on to attend every single international North American retreat until the last one held in 2010, with the only exception being the one held in 2006, which we couldn’t attend because our wedding was taking place at the same time. We had officially gotten engaged just after the previous year’s retreat in summer 2005, and in fact, being somewhat of a traditionalist in this regard, our relationship was serious and clearly headed towards marriage and complete fidelity from the very start. And so when I heard for the first time that The Gnostic Movement maintained that due to the sacred nature of relationships those representing it as teachers who were in relationships should be married or seriously intending to be married in order to maintain a serious and stable relationship in which love and harmony could blossom, I was pleasantly surprised, as so often I had seen quite the opposite promoted, whereas this viewpoint aligned completely with my own feelings on the matter even into childhood as far back as I can remember.

Attendance to our courses varied from round to round, but would usually have on average about fifty to sixty people per intro course at the outset and then numbers would whittle down each week as the courses progressed. However, our biggest and most popular round of courses happened during this period, towards the end of July 2007, when over 160 people signed up for the Astral Travel and Dreams course. It was held in a central location in Toronto at one of the public libraries.

The momentum from this course round carried over into our search for a new Centre location, and on September 1, 2007 we took possession in a relatively large commercial property in a popular location of the city known as Greektown on the Danforth, and began renovations to make it into a thriving Centre. People attending this Centre often commented on the positive environment and how it really helped them connect better with the exercises and the spiritual side of themselves more easily.

Serving as President of the National Board in Canada

On October 10, 2007, I became a member of The Gnostic Movement, and with that role came further opportunity to help out with international projects and initiatives of The Gnostic Movement, which I would be a part of until its close. Besides participating in a variety of teams at different times (i.e. not all at once) charged with overseeing and stimulating various initiatives worldwide (that would then be carried out at the national level in each country in which The Gnostic Movement ran) such as the publicity, advertising, videos, website, courses, and legal teams, I also served as the President of the National Coordinating Board of Canada and oversaw not only the local Centre in Toronto, but the ones in Montreal and Vancouver for various points in time as well.

Also at some point I bought a book on HTML and began learning how to code websites. Some volunteers in The Gnostic Movement who were trained and skilled in IT also helped me expand my skills into CSS, PHP, and various content management systems, and as such, I learned how to work behind the scenes on the movement’s websites more and more as time went on, which would also be a useful skill I could use in all my work endeavours from then on, as I developed the ability to build and maintain websites.

Further Hostilities from Other Gnostic Groups

In June 2004, just as we were finishing up with the renovations on the Centre, some students in the Esoteric Wisdom and Advanced Investigation courses stopped attending our courses and joined another Gnostic organization’s courses and forums. Some of them became openly hostile towards what The Gnostic Movement was teaching, making derogatory postings on that other organization’s website about Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) and The Gnostic Movement, directly contradicting things they had said in person and posted on forums in the past. As such, it essentially ended any personal friendships we had, as the offensive and insulting posts they were making online and actions in promoting groups that were openly hostile to ours—and by extension us as people—were very hurtful to me and other fellow teachers and senior students at the time.

I also learned later from someone who had attended one of the groups affiliated with that organization as well as The Gnostic Movement’s groups, that those people would allegedly gossip about and make fun of The Gnostic Movement, Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub), the “spiritual level” of the teachers, and the courses at their gatherings. It reminded me of something one of the teachers of those groups had said back in 2002, that Mark Pritchard and whatever he teaches is not to be trusted, nor were the translations of Samael’s books given by The Gnostic Movement. This confirmed our view that these other Gnostic groups listed on the other Gnostic organization’s website and those who associated with them were actively hostile towards us, and regularly spread misinformation about us to their students.

Meeting Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub)

At the beginning of August, 2004 I attended an international retreat held by The Gnostic Movement in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. This retreat was open to trainee teachers and teachers, and it was attended by about twenty people and run by the International Coordinator of The Gnostic Movement, Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub). Besides meeting quite a few people on that retreat that I’d go on to become close friends with for many years, it was a real honour for me to meet Mark in person. Despite my preconceptions of what Mark would be like for example, he turned out to be a very simple and humble man, dressed normally, and without all the usual pretenses, funny clothes, or ways of acting that usually accompany those the world considers “spiritual.” When we first met, he simply shook my hand and said “Hello Jordan.” Yet at the same time, I could really feel a real sense of strength and love from within underneath it all, a power that I couldn’t quite put into words, and which really came out when he was teaching. Whatever it was that he had, I wished I could achieve too. Meeting him had a profound effect on me at the time, as it prompted me to deeply reflect upon what I was like as a person and the way my life was heading. I left the retreat feeling totally re-energized and focused to succeed in life and to ensure my spiritual practice would merge and become synonymous with my life.

On this retreat, Mark gave some talks that were being recorded in audio and video, and I asked if I could transcribe them, which Mark agreed to—I did about one-third of them from that retreat, while other volunteers did the other two-thirds. As time went on, I would periodically inquire with Mark as to whether I could do transcriptions for him and went on to transcribe (or oversee transcriptions for and edit) nearly all recorded talks that Mark gave from the period of roughly 2002-2011, including live talks at retreats or Centres, radio interviews, videos, and the online weekly talks he gave in the later years. Similarly, I inquired numerous times over the years as to whether I could help out and edit Mark’s courses, articles, and books. He agreed and was very appreciative, and this became a valuable experience for me in many ways. Most of all, it meant I got a pre-released copy of his works and had the unique opportunity to study them very closely, while at the same time, it was great to be able to assist in helping him get his message out to the world. Finally, many years later I decided to open my own small business as a professional editor, copy writer, and content marketer, which also provides transcription services upon request, and so my volunteer experience editing Mark’s works helped tremendously in shaping my skills and getting the confidence to know I could do that, as well as showing that I had valuable experience with reputable works at my craft, particularly at the beginning when I was first building a client base and Mark’s works were amongst only a handful of other examples I could point to at the time.

Sincere and Thoughtful Nature

In early 2008, my wife and I decided we wanted to start sending regular donations to Mark Pritchard to help support his living expenses, seeing as he was dedicated to spreading spirituality full-time. We asked if he would accept if we would send over a donation every three months from then on and he was very, very grateful. Every single time we sent something he would reply with a very sincere thank you either via email or in conversations on Skype.

Sometime in early 2009 I had a conversation with Mark Pritchard on Skype, and towards the end of that conversation when we were finishing up and just casually chatting, he asked if he’d see us in person that year (my wife and I) at the annual North American summer retreat in July. When I mentioned we wanted to attend as we always did but I wasn’t sure if we could that year because finances were a bit tight for us at that time, he said not to send him “another penny” but rather we should use it to help us get to the retreat. This was just one time amongst other examples when despite his personal financial needs and hardships, he told us not to send him any donations whatsoever, but rather, wanted to make sure everything we needed or wanted was taken care of.

Canadian Retreat
An Intro Talk in 2007
An intro talk I gave on astral travel and dreams in July 2007

In September of 2010 I organized a five-day retreat held in North Bay, Ontario that just over thirty people from the Centres in North America attended. I invited Mark Pritchard to attend via email and asked if there would be anything in particular he’d like for us to organize in order to make it possible for him to come, and he replied that he’d be coming and that he couldn’t think of anything he’d need other than whether there’d be meals he could have while there, which I confirmed there would be so he didn’t need to bring anything of his own. A few of us arrived early on the first day just to ensure everything at the venue would be prepared for the arrival of everyone else. This meant cleaning, tidying up things, sorting out and setting up a suitable space to do sitting meditation exercises, and so on. While we were checking out Mark’s room, I noticed a (what seemed to me) giant spider in the window sill and remarked at how although I had been able to overcome my fear of spiders a little bit, even though that one was in the window sill and couldn’t actually escape, I nonetheless felt pretty uncomfortable being anywhere near it. Mark wasn’t fazed at all—he went right up to it to study it and look at it closely, and then he told me about some of the spiders he had to put up with where he lived when he lived for a time on a remote property. He mentioned that instinctive fears like the one I had can take a lot of work to overcome.

Attending Retreats

Besides the international retreats, my wife and I also attended approximately three or four mini-retreats per year organized by our Centre or in conjunction with the Montreal and/or Madison Centres. As with those first two mini-retreats I attended near Toronto, I really enjoyed going to all these retreats as it meant having a chance to focus on the activities and practices of the spiritual work in various dedicated and conducive environments in nature. Beyond this, it was always nice to meet people in person with whom I had been volunteering and working on projects online, as well as many of the keen students that I had been helping via teaching in the online courses. I made many new friends at these events, some of whom I’ve become close friends with for many years now.

Abuse from Person on Anti-Cult Forum

In May of 2008 a person living in Toronto started attending the courses online and would also come to the Centre for some practice sessions each week. This student professed to be very interested in the course material at the time. At this time I was working at my job on most nights he attended the Centre but would arrive to the Centre after work and after the sessions those nights to pick up my wife and drive home together. As he stuck around until we were closing up the Centre, we often offered and gave him lifts home as well.

Attendance at the Centre

During his time with The Gnostic Movement, he emailed and mentioned in person a few times that he would like to help out at the Centre, for example by putting up posters to advertise upcoming courses or doing any maintenance work the Centre needed help with, etc. No maintenance work came up, and he ended up going postering with a trainee teacher on one occasion. He also came by the Centre of his own accord during a street festival that was being held outside the Centre one weekend and asked if he could hand out flyers to passers-by, which we agreed to.

Contradictory Behaviour

After attending for just over five months, right before taking the third course, the Esoteric Wisdom course, he sent an email to the Centre email account stating that he would not continue with any TGM courses in future, and thanking us for helping him, saying he would continue to appreciate our efforts and wishing us all the best.

After I received that email, I logged into the Gnosticweb chat room and noticed he logged out as soon as I went in there. I then discovered that he had changed his Facebook status that day to say, “the Gnostic Movement is a cult.” Two days later, I logged into the chat again and noticed two students talking about a link this person had given them a few days previously to a forum discussing The Gnostic Movement as a “cult.”

Abuse on Anti-Cult Forum

I had a look at those forums and noticed that he was making more and more troublesome postings as time went on, and presenting himself as some sort of “expert” on The Gnostic Movement, when in fact he had only been attending for about five months and never progressed past the first two intro courses.

On that website, as time went on, he would disparage the teachings of Gnosticism, The Gnostic Movement, Mark Pritchard, and Samael Aun Weor, the founder of modern Gnosis, more and more with no actual evidence to back up his outlandish claims, as well as presenting many deep misunderstandings about the organization and the things it taught, as the truth.

Towards the end of January, 2009, I posted one response on those forums addressing some of the misinformation. Unfortunately, after this his posting frequency increased dramatically and the unfounded attacks upon The Gnostic Movement as well as me personally also intensified. I did not want to respond any further as it only seemed to incite him even more. Furthermore, the few participants on that forum and the moderator’s postings essentially encouraged his behaviour and activities to continue. They accused me of making a “personal attack” in my post and warned that I would be banned, yet even when I wrote to the site owner/moderator to please remove my posting as I no longer wished for it to remain up there, they refused and left it up there. There was a serious double-standard going on, in that any posts that would point out the inaccuracies of claims from people attacking so-called cults were often removed by the moderator and/or deemed as “personal attacks” with warnings about being banned given, yet actual personal attacks, including name-calling, abuse, and straight up lies about people, were left up and completely ignored by the moderator so long as they were targeting so-called cults or the people who participated in those groups.

Physical Harassment

In any case, unfortunately this person’s campaign against us was not contained only to this particular website’s forums, but we were informed by a student in our courses who met him at another group listed on Meetup.com that he was attending some Meetup groups live in Toronto where he was spreading the same misinformation about us and telling people to stay away from our group.

oct-18-2010-poster
A “warning” poster affixed right below a poster of ours advertising an upcoming astral course a few blocks away from the centre

On April 2nd, 2009, upon arriving at the Centre for a course session that night, there was a “Cult Alert” notice taped to the front doors of the Centre. A day earlier, a similar notice was put on the windshield of our car, which was parked across the street from the Centre. A similar notice was put on our car a few months later, this time though, the car was parked outside our house. It was very unsettling to get these notices as it felt as though someone was stalking us. We never found out who did it.

On October 18th, 2010, I saw this person walking by on the street on my way to the Centre for a course session that night and thought to myself that it was strange that he was in that area of the city seeing as he lived and worked nowhere near there. After arriving at the Centre, I went back outside and noticed him putting up posters on poles, bus shelters, and mailboxes all around the Centre. The “warning” posters he was putting up stated that we should be considered as a “dangerous, destructive, and manipulative cult group.”

Not only did all his activity online and in other groups in the city and in putting up those posters disparage our group and therefore us totally unfairly, but also, it made us seriously concerned for our safety, as the effect of those activities could easily have incited people (who only had the terribly skewed and harmful vision of us that he presented) into some sort of action against us—i.e. an angry/uninformed mob type of thing. One such example would be that we would occasionally find our posters advertising upcoming rounds of courses defaced, and we had never seen that before.

Closure of the Centre

To make matters worse, two people who had been asked to leave by The Gnostic Movement for misconduct in April of 2009, upon being denied re-entry multiple times one year later, started a campaign against The Gnostic Movement. Weighing up all this, eventually the decision was made in April 2011 to stop running public events as we did not want to put the organization, Mark Pritchard, ourselves, or our students at risk in any way. This was a very sad time as it meant something so many people had worked hard to create and spread would no longer be able to reach people.

The Gnostic Movement was such a big part of my life and to this day I miss being able to share the information it provided with others and meet and practise in groups at the Centre and on retreats.

Retreat Property in Canada

feb-2012
Jenny and I at the rented retreat property in February 2012

After The Gnostic Movement in Canada stopped running activities, I was then part of a group of people in Canada that opened another non-profit organization through which we wanted to carry on studying and practising spirituality as best we could. After running classes which were primarily sit-down practice-focused in the city for a while, we decided to try and find and operate a retreat centre for this purpose in the countryside. We rented a place in September 2011, and in April 2012 opened another organization that would be solely dedicated to maintaining and operating the retreat centre, while the first organization would run any of the activities with groups that took place there. We rented that place until April 2013, but in the meantime, the new organization created a website and began raising funds and seriously searching for a permanent location that we could purchase for this purpose permanently.

Later that month, on April 22nd, 2012, I received a letter from a member of The Gnostic Movement USA saying that The Gnostic Movement USA was thinking of donating money that had been raised for The Gnostic Movement’s North American retreat project to our organization. The letter stated that they were considering this donation because it had become clear to The Gnostic Movement USA after about a six-year search that a suitable property would not be found in the USA, while our organization in Canada had a similar vision for a retreat property that could allow the project to ultimately achieve its goal. After having had numerous discussions with that member about our organization, the donation was finalized.

After a lengthy and thorough search, we finally found a property that looked like it might be suitable for our purposes. Owing almost entirely to the help of The Gnostic Movement USA’s donation which formed a downpayment, we were able to put in an offer on the rural property we found in February of 2013. We took possession on April 19th, 2013 and quickly began work transforming the property into a suitable retreat, including vastly modifying the house and land.

Upon seeing our efforts to transform the property into a thriving retreat facility and wishing to help see us succeed, on December 4th, 2013, we received notice from another organization that was holding funds of The Gnostic Movement’s European retreat fundraising (of a couple of thousand pounds), that they were donating it to our organization.

After a few years of development, the property was sold, and the organization is now holding the proceeds from the sale for a future opportunity.

In receiving these two donations and putting them to use in finding, acquiring, and then working to create a retreat property, it turned out that despite The Gnostic Movement having closed, at least another organization was able to carry on the legacy of both the North American and European retreat projects that had been started by The Gnostic Movement all those years ago.

Back to People’s Experiences

Justin

Justin N

JustinI participated in The Gnostic Movement from 2002 until the dissolution of The Gnostic Movement in Canada in 2014. I began as a student, then a teacher, then a director, and then a member.

First interest in spirituality

I had first taken a serious interest in spirituality in the summer of 2002, as I was entering my final year of high school. Prior to that, I had been an atheist. However, I had begun to feel something important was lacking in my life. The conventional priorities such as school, friends, and entertainment seemed to lack deeper meaning and purpose, and I struggled to understand who I was or what I should be doing with my life, leading to feelings of self-doubt and anxiety.

I turned to spirituality as a possible solution. I hoped to find a more fulfilling direction for my life and to cultivate feelings of inner peace and happiness. It was around this time I was introduced to some spiritual and esoteric books by friends who had in turn been introduced to them by some acquaintances. These books included works by authors P.D. Ouspensky and Samael Aun Weor.

These books had a great impact upon me. The description of human psychology they contained – an explanation of how people typically live in a daydream-like state of psychological sleep and have various egos or “I”s within them – seemed very compelling and resonated with what I had seen within myself.

I became very enthusiastic about these ideas and attempted to put them into practice using the contents of the books I had read. I attempted to practice self-remembrance and also mantra techniques and meditations that I had learned.

The acquaintances who had originally recommended the books I was studying also gave classes based on the teachings of Samael Aun Weor and introduced my friends and I to others who gave similar classes. I began attending these types of classes several times a week.

Experience in The Gnostic Movement

In the Fall of 2002, a friend saw a poster advertising a course on astral travel at a Toronto library, held by an organization called The Gnostic Movement. I had assumed that this organization was another group based on the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, similar to the other classes I had been attending, but I was not sure if or how they were related.

A course in Astral Travel

I was already familiar with many of the concepts of Gnosis including astral travel. However, I was very glad and excited to find a course teaching about astral travel specifically and giving instruction on how to do it, which was not something that had been covered in any of the other classes I was taking.

The Gnostic Movement’s course was held in a large meeting room at the library at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto. I recall there were a large number of people attending. I attended with a group of my friends. There was a positive atmosphere in the class, and people generally seemed interested and excited to learn.

This teacher described the topic in a way that made it easy to understand and very practically achievable. At one point I asked a question to the teacher about whether it was possible someone from the class could astral project that same evening. He confirmed that it was very possible. This answer was a significant contrast to the other classes I had attended based on the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, where instructors had stated that astral projection was something very advanced and difficult for newcomers to achieve. The potential for mystical experiences such as astral travel to actually be real and accessible to someone like me in the very near future was awe-inspiring, and I was filled with a sense of joy, like finding out that magic was actually real.

I continued attending these classes on a weekly basis for the duration of the eight-week course. The course content included information on the astral plane, dreams, spiritual experiences and spiritual beings, negative entities that exist in the astral plane, and a wide variety of techniques that we could try at home. I practiced the techniques with a lot of enthusiasm and a fairly high degree of discipline. Towards the middle of the course, I had my first conscious astral experience through waking up during a dream and experiencing being out of my body in the astral plane. This confirmed to me that there was a reality to the course content that I could experience for myself.

The group of perhaps 5-6 friends I had first started with also continued to attend with me, and we shared a great enthusiasm for what we were learning.

The course included access to written course materials in PDF form, as did all subsequent courses. I could access these course materials on the internet prior to the weekly lecture, and I would usually print out and read these ahead of time in order to come to class with some familiarity with the material. I could then clarify any points by asking questions to the teacher.

These course materials were all written by a man named Mark Pritchard, who teaches with the spiritual name Belzebuub. Unlike the other groups I had been attending, which appeared to only focus on the teachings of Samael Aun Weor (who was long deceased) The Gnostic Movement had a living teacher who it was stated had reached an advanced stage of the spiritual path. Mark Pritchard had been a student in the Universal Christian Gnostic Movement (UCGM) of Rabolu; Rabolu was in turn a direct disciple of Samael Aun Weor. It was stated that Rabolu had reached an advanced stage of spiritual enlightenment and took over the coordination of the UCGM worldwide after Samael Aun Weor died. Belzebuub had similarly created The Gnostic Movement after having reached the appropriate stage and continued the teaching after Rabolu died. In this way, I understood that Belzebuub was a spiritual teacher in direct lineage from Samael Aun Weor himself.

Although books by Samael were also used as supplementary, Belzebuub was presenting the teaching in his own way, expanding on and in some cases distilling the teachings of Samael Aun Weor to what was essential for people to gain practical experience. The manner of presentation was exceptionally clear and simple, although it still possessed great depth.

A course in Self-Knowledge

Following the course on astral travel, there was a brief break and then a new course focusing on self-knowledge began.

This course introduced concepts and practices relating to psychology from a Gnostic perspective, including information on egos (the subconscious), the consciousness, and techniques for increasing awareness and observing thoughts and emotions. It also had topics on intuition, relationships, and how to bring more order to life. Each week had an exercise that was given as a kind of homework assignment. I continued to practice these diligently.

Here’s a video review I gave of Mark’s self-knowledge book many years ago, which the course was based on:

During both the astral travel and self-knowledge courses, I noticed that the course tended to start with a very large group (between 50 and 100 people, I would estimate), but then fewer people seemed to attend every week. Sometimes people missed several weeks of the course and then reappeared, which seemed quite normal. There were no attendance requirements for these two introductory courses.

The Esoteric course and experiences with consciousness

The third course was called the Esoteric Course. Unlike the previous courses, it had a prerequisite of having attended both introductory courses. I was told the material was more advanced content that described the spiritual path to enlightenment and how to walk it, and that the practical experience gained in the earlier courses was necessary to truly benefit from the more advanced exercises. It was therefore a much smaller group that attended this third course.

The Esoteric Course was extremely impactful. There were topics about the spiritual path, life and death, karma, creation, sexual alchemy, and how to eliminate the egos. I applied all the techniques I could with a lot of enthusiasm.

The technique that had the most impact on me was the method for eliminating egos (negative inner states). This technique involves internally praying to a part of one’s own spiritual being, called the Divine Mother, for assistance in removing an ego. I recall reading about the technique prior to the evening’s class, and then trying to practice it while going out for dinner beforehand and then in the class itself. As negative thoughts or feelings were arising, I was applying the technique and feeling some relief and a greater sense of peace. I was truly overjoyed at having found, at last, a tangible way of freeing myself from negative inner states.

On another occasion, I recall sitting in my backyard on a beautiful spring day. I tried to sit in stillness and to focus all my effort on perceiving the present moment and applying the technique for eliminating the egos. As I continued this effort for perhaps ½ an hour, I felt a sense of intense peace and psychological clarity come over me. I felt as though I was seeing the world around me through fresh eyes, as if it was new and completely unfamiliar to me. My inner state was very blissful and unlike anything I had felt before. Within a short period of time, thoughts began to creep in and overpower this state, so I could not hold on to it for long. However, it was a very powerful example of what consciousness was like and the latent potential it held, which I had previously understood only intellectually.

When I learned that one of the key components of walking the spiritual path was helping others, I decide to write an article about the experiences I was having with practicing awareness and exploring consciousness. This was published on The Gnostic Movement’s website, mysticweb.org. This was the first volunteer activity I did for The Gnostic Movement. I was very glad of the opportunity to give back and help others in some way, since I had seen already the potential of these teachings to be truly transformative.

Mysticweb.org also had a strong community on it, with numerous public forums, a guest book, and a chat room. It was extremely active, with numerous people asking questions and discussing the teachings of Belzebuub. It appeared that there was great demand for what he was offering.

April 2006
This picture is from April 2006. A group of us went hiking near Toronto and explored near this waterfall.
Understanding the spiritual significance of helping others also helped me better understand why all the courses I had been taking were free of charge. It had always impressed me that all the classes were completely free, with donations being accepted but strictly voluntary and optional. However, I now understood and saw that restricting spiritual information by attaching a price to it was a violation of spiritual principles. This presented a stark contrast with many other spiritual teachings that seemed to be commercially oriented, requiring expensive purchases of material or high fees to take courses.

This was a very magical time in my life. I was 19; I had completed my high school classes in the first half of the year, leaving me with a semester off. I spent much of my free time reading spiritual books, trying spiritual practices, going for walks in nature, and immersing myself in spiritual studies. Everything around me seemed conducive to or connected to spiritual pursuits in various ways.

My experience with these classes had also brought me closer to my grandmother in an unexpected way. Towards the beginning of the astral travel course, I invited my grandmother to attend with me. She had always had an interest in spirituality and was open-minded about such topics. She appeared to enjoy the classes very much and continued to attend with me for several months through three different courses. Although she is now passed away, I remember fondly our time spent together and was glad she had the opportunity to attend.

Teachings on marriage and sexuality

The Esoteric course was also my first in-depth introduction to the teachings of Gnosticism on love, marriage, and sexuality.

Before I learned about Gnosis, I had perceived that lust and sexuality were heavily promoted in society, and I could also see the influence of these forces within my own psychology. I had begun to see the hollowness of how sexuality was depicted in popular culture, which seemed to commodify sex and represent it as something animalistic, crude, and demeaning.

Shortly after I discovered the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, I read about alchemy, a sexual practice between married couples in which the sexual energies are channeled inward and used for spiritual development.

I began to understand the potential of sexuality more clearly in the Esoteric course, where Belzebuub had written several topics discussing lust, sex, and alchemy. He described lust as a powerful sub-conscious force that can enslave a person and that inevitably leads to suffering.

He also described how the sexual energies could be purified through alchemy and outlined the steps of this practice. He stated that this was a practice solely for committed and monogamous couples and that the development of love was an integral part of alchemy. Although I was a single person at the time, I was very inspired by the idea of unlocking the spiritual potential of sex and developing a loving relationship in this way.

Belzebuub stressed that someone who was dedicated to their own spiritual development would find a suitable partner in time, and that a loving and stable relationship between husband and wife could become a foundation for spiritual progress. He also emphasized the importance of commitment and fidelity between a couple, which he said was an absolute pre-requisite for spiritual progress.

Traveling and the Investigative course

In May of 2003, after finishing the Esoteric Course, I decided to spend a few weeks traveling in Europe. This time overlapped with the beginning of the next course, which was called the Investigative course. This class had no more theory but consisted of a series of weekly investigations that required us to put the techniques we had learned into practice and to explore them thoroughly. During the weekly meetings, we would provide feedback to the teacher on what we had learned and receive his feedback in turn.

Although my travel might have required me to miss participating in the class, the teacher in Toronto suggested he could email me the weekly topics while I was away, and I could send him my feedback by email. I was grateful for that suggestion as it allowed me to continue with the courses while I was traveling.

Being in a strange country and seeing new and unfamiliar things every day only heightened the sense of discovery and newness I was already feeling due to my studies with The Gnostic Movement. I practiced diligently while I was there and felt that I was making progress in learning more about the negative emotions that had previously been such a significant part of my life. I was seeing some meaningful changes within myself, even after a short time.

I continued taking the Investigative Course in person as I returned home from travel. I had built up a strong discipline with my exercises, and began to have many more astral experiences for a time. A real momentum was building for me with my spiritual practice.

Contrasts between The Gnostic Movement and other Gnostic groups

Throughout all this time, I had continued to attend classes with both The Gnostic Movement and another group that was based on Samael Aun Weor’s teachings. I was eager to gain all the knowledge and experience I could, and so I was glad to have 3-4 opportunities per week to attend different types of classes.

However, I had begun to realize that there were a number of points of difference between these two groups, despite coming from a similar doctrinal background. These differences included the books that were recommended, the practices that were taught, and most tangibly, the overall approach. I found the classes in The Gnostic Movement emphasized a more practical approach, whereas the other classes tended to place more emphasis on intellectual information and theory, which was difficult for a new student to verify.

I also realized that those teaching these other classes appeared to have a negative view of The Gnostic Movement and its spiritual teacher, Mark Pritchard, as well as Mark Pritchard’s predecessor, Rabolu. They stated that neither Mark Pritchard nor Rabolu were enlightened as they claimed to be, and also that Mark Pritchard was not the spiritual being Belzebuub as he claimed to be. They warned me against attending the classes of The Gnostic Movement and stated that they could be spiritually harmful.

When I questioned my teacher within The Gnostic Movement about these claims, he informed me that after the death of Samael Aun Weor, there had been some schisms within those who studied his teachings. While some had recognized Rabolu as Samael Aun Weor’s successor, another group viewed Rabolu as a mistaken person or an imposter who was not enlightened and did not possess the authority to coordinate Gnosis worldwide. They held similar views about Rabolu’s student, Mark Pritchard.

The negative claims about Mark Pritchard did not seem credible to me. I had studied his writings in depth, and I had found them to be simple, clear, and objective teachings with immense practical depth. These teachings had also enabled me to have some profound spiritual experiences, so I had substantial evidence to verify the authenticity and value of his work, which gave me a lot of faith in the teaching as a whole.

I also felt certain that I could not have experienced any of these things had I just been attending the classes of the other group based on Samael Aun Weor’s teaching, since they were much more theoretical and lacked that practical depth. I became skeptical of the basis upon which the the other teachers made their claims, as it seemed to me that they had not seriously practiced Mark Pritchard’s teachings before criticizing them and that they were attempting to influence me to join their group rather than The Gnostic Movement’s group.

The Teacher’s course

After completing the Investigative Course, I was presented with an option to take the Teacher’s Course. This was a course for people who had completed the Investigative Course and wanted to make a commitment to teaching within The Gnostic Movement. Teaching was stated to be one of the best ways of helping others, and I was very eager to get started.

At this stage, I could see that it would be a clear conflict of interest to participate in a group that rejected the spiritual teacher of an organization that I was simultaneously trying to represent and that I could no longer continue attending the classes of the other group based on Samael Aun Weor’s teachings.

Although deciding to leave one of the groups I was participating in was not easy to do, the choice itself was ultimately not very difficult to make. The Gnostic Movement seemed dynamic, energetic, and alive. The presence of Belzebuub, a living spiritual teacher, to provide guidance and new teachings was the most important factor in my decision to continue in The Gnostic Movement; I had developed a deep trust in his teachings based on what I had experienced from them.

I informed my teacher in The Gnostic Movement that I wanted to proceed with the Teacher’s Course, and I told the instructors of the other class I had been participating in that I would not be attending anymore.

The Teacher’s Course consisted of preparing mock lectures and delivering them to the main teacher and other students who were taking the course with me. A small group of us had progressed to this stage; many of them were part of the same group of friends who I had first started attending the courses with. Each week we would each be assigned a different topic, and then we would gather at the teacher’s apartment to present our mock lectures.

I enjoyed and benefited from the process of taking the Teacher’s Course very much. This was one of my first experiences in public speaking. I found I had some ability in this area, and it allowed me to begin cultivating skills that would serve me very well over time, both as a Gnostic teacher and in my professional career. This process also encouraged me to sharpen my knowledge of the Gnostic doctrine so that I could clearly share it with others. Lastly, I enjoyed the camaraderie of taking the course and how my friendships deepened. It felt like becoming part of a team.

At the end of the course, I successfully passed a final Q&A quiz and was told I had passed the course overall. I was now a Trainee Teacher, meaning I could volunteer to help out in a wider variety of ways and also continue to learn on the job by guiding lectures and practices or answering forums on The Gnostic Movement’s websites in due course. This was a very happy day for me.

Shortly after this, in the fall of 2003, I moved to Kingston, Ontario to begin attending university there. Since I was no longer at the center in Toronto, I was able to join the online version of the Teacher’s Training course, offered through The Gnostic Movement’s website Mysticweb.org. Although there were no other people taking The Gnostic Movement’s courses in Kingston, the online course allowed me to interact online with other teachers in training around the world and continue to learn and help in a virtual environment.

Volunteer activities in Kingston

The online Trainee Teacher’s course was a welcome chance to interact with some like-minded people, as I could share my experiences in forums with others from around the world. This helped recreate virtually some of the sense of community and camaraderie in my work.

I also volunteered to answer questions in the forums on The Gnostic Movement’s websites, and was assigned some specific forums to monitor. On these forums, I would respond to any questions that came in. I found this activity brought me a lot of spiritual strength, and I very much enjoyed being able to offer some information, guidance, or encouragement to other people who were searching for answers of their own. Through my efforts to answer these public forums consistently over several months, I was eventually assigned a spot answering questions in the online course forums. I valued this opportunity very much.

On another occasion, I was given the opportunity to assist with writing some content for a new website The Gnostic Movement was creating. I had always enjoyed writing and was majoring in English literature at university, so I was very glad to apply these skills to write about spiritual things. It was my first experience creating website content, which over the years evolved into an interest in online marketing and eventually into a career. The skills I was gaining through my volunteer work would come to have substantial rewards in terms of my professional development.

Overall, these volunteer activities were welcome opportunities to do something meaningful. I found that when I spent some time contributing in various ways, my inner state changed for the better – I felt happy and purposeful to be involved in something that held value for me. I gained a feeling of strength and energy. This was a very real example for me of the spiritual principle of Gnosis that, in helping others, we are helped ourselves.

Becoming a qualified teacher

In the winter of 2004, I decided to move back to Toronto. I successfully applied to transfer to the University of Toronto and made arrangements to move back once the semester ended in May of 2004.

In March of 2004, I and another trainee teacher from Toronto were made into qualified teachers and became responsible for running the center in Toronto. Becoming a qualified teacher was the culmination of the Teachers Training Course and meant that I was considered qualified to teach to the public independently, potentially start or run a centre, and take on more responsibilities.

Additionally, the promotion to being a qualified teacher did not only mean I was responsible for the operations of one centre; I was also offered the position of being a corporate director of The Gnostic Movement in Canada, which had been incorporated as a not-for-profit entity in late 2003. I accepted this position. I met by phone with the other teacher from Toronto, and decided that, since I was not in Toronto for the time being, I should be responsible for many of the administrative tasks that could be done remotely. I found myself needing to learn all about corporate governance, government registrations and filings, financial reporting, tax returns, and much more.

Becoming a qualified teacher also enabled me to become more involved in other tasks related to The Gnostic Movement’s websites and other international initiatives. These efforts allowed me to collaborate with a team of teachers from around the world. The people I was able to work with were extremely committed, skilled, and hard-working, and my participation in this multitude of different projects allowed me to gain important new skills over time. I also continued to teach online but now helped coordinate and teach some of the more advanced courses.

Toronto centre

Back in Toronto, the group had been looking for a permanent space that we could rent to use as a centre. Until that point, all classes had been held in rented rooms in a library. This worked well, but we wanted to have our own dedicated space that could be used more frequently, that would have multiple rooms for different types of practices, and that could be used to create more of a community feeling. By having our own dedicated space, we would be able to build up a spiritual environment in a way that would not be possible renting rooms for a few hours per week.

Toronto Centre 2004
Myself (on left) with two other volunteers in the main lecture room of the first centre we had in Toronto in 2004
On May 1, 2004, we signed a lease granting us possession of our first centre in Toronto. It was near a busy commercial area in a suburb of the city. The team in Toronto set about renovating the interior, which mainly involved stripping old wall paper, putting up a fresh coat of paint, and laying down some carpet.

Near the end of May in 2004, I moved back from Kingston. We continued renovating the centre for another month or so and soon held our first courses for the public. These courses would typically start with an introductory lecture at the library and then transition back to the centre once the class sizes became more manageable.

This was a very exciting and active time. We had perhaps 8-12 volunteers including our group of teachers, trainee teachers, and advanced students; together we worked in various capacities to renovate the centre, advertise the lectures, run the course events, cook food for the café, take care of maintenance and gardening at the centre, and also attend to the various administrative requirements of running an organization. There was also a responsibility for the qualified teachers to oversee the training and learning of those in the Teachers Training Course and the Teachers Course.

In the fall of 2004, we made a decision to end our lease of the current centre and move on. Although we had not been there for very long, we had quickly determined that the space was not suitable for a variety of reasons, one of which was the location being not central enough. We quickly found someone to take over our lease.

We temporarily moved the courses back to rented rooms at libraries while we regrouped and considered our next options for a permanent centre. In June of 2005, we signed a lease and began renovating a new centre. Located in the heart of the “Annex”, a popular neighborhood near the University of Toronto, our centre was extremely central and directly across from the Royal Ontario Museum, a well-known landmark. This centre traded size for location, as the space itself was much smaller.

We began several weeks of renovations and opened our doors in July of 2005. Although small, this centre was reasonably well attended due to its very central location. We continued in this location until December of 2006, when we ended our lease as the building the centre was in was being demolished to make way for a new condominium development.

Practices at the centre

On the weekends, teachers and students in the Teachers Course and above would meet at the centre for practices of astral projection. These would be referred to as “all-night” practices and consisted of several practices at intervals throughout the night. They would begin with time spent in focused awareness, exploring the room we were to practice in or the backyard. Next everyone would lie down on some cushions and begin their practice. Eventually most people would fall asleep and remain sleeping until the next practice began, signaled by an alarm going off. The subsequent practices were meant as a way of increasing the number of chances to astral project. For example, we would do practices at 10 PM, 12 AM, 2 AM, and 4 AM. The next morning, we would generally sleep longer so that, despite having broken our sleep several times, everyone was generally getting a normal night’s rest during that evening.

These sorts of sustained astral practices were very effective for me. I found that I gained the most experiences of astral projection on nights where I did multiple practices and interrupted my sleep multiple times.

Meeting Belzebuub at a retreat

In August of 2004, I had an opportunity to attend a retreat in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. It would be attended by a group of perhaps 20 teachers and trainee teachers from across North America, and it would be led by Belzebuub. This was my first opportunity to meet Belzebuub in person.

The retreat was on a beautiful property in the Laurentian Mountains, close to plenty of walking trails and with some pleasant lodges that we stayed in.

When I first met Belzebuub the morning after we arrived, he shook my hand and said, “it’s very nice to meet you.” There was a simple sincerity in his greeting, as if he was truly glad to meet me. I was also struck by how down to earth he was, despite being a spiritual teacher. There was no sense of pretense or a spiritual persona. His manner was kind and respectful to every person, whether they were an experienced teacher or a new student, young or old, male or female. He treated everyone equally, with no sense of preference or judgement towards anyone. He also seemed to genuinely value and consider the opinions of each person.

He seemed a very normal and also humorous person, but at the same time there was something different about him. He demonstrated a sense of clarity, stability, and objectivity in how he interacted with others and in situations, and this manner would be consistent in every subsequent interaction I had with him.

Belzebuub guided most of the retreat, and so I was able to listen to many talks that he gave and join in walks, practices, and even casual conversations with him. I found his teaching to have extraordinary spiritual depth. He had an enormous insight into the human condition and psyche; I had never before encountered someone with so deep an understanding and a capacity to convey that understanding in simple, clear, and direct terms. He also made wonderful use of gentle humor to make his points. The retreat was a very valuable experience on many levels.

Starting a group in Vancouver

Vancouver Justin
Here’s me teaching a course in Vancouver
In the spring of 2007, I graduated from university and decided to move to Vancouver in order to start a Gnostic group there, as currently there were only groups in Toronto and Montreal within Canada. There was an online trainee teacher already living in Vancouver.

Before moving to Vancouver, in July of 2007, I traveled to the UK and attended an international retreat in Wales. The retreat was held at Buckland Hall, a lovely country mansion set amidst a beautiful rural landscape. Before arriving at the venue, we also visited the Glastonbury Tor, a sacred site that I had long wished to see in person. I recall that perhaps 30-40 people attended this retreat. These participants came from all over the world. It was a very inspiring and productive time.

In the late summer of 2007, I moved to Vancouver and began preparations to start public courses there.

Around this time, The Gnostic Movement also released a new version of its website, Gnosticweb.com, which had become the primary website of The Gnostic Movement internationally. Although Mysticweb.org had always been very interactive, with active forums and a chat room, the new Gnosticweb made it easier to create user-generated content such as blogs and adopted a modern content-management system.

Beginning new courses in Vancouver was an exciting and inspiring step for me. Initial courses were held at the central library in Vancouver and over time we used several other libraries and community centres.

Initial interest in the courses was very strong, with approximately 120 people attending our first course on astral travel and dreams. Although we had just a small team in Vancouver, I found it very rewarding to host these courses and see so many people come to learn. Over time, we also held walks, mini-retreats, practice sessions, and more. The geography of British Columbia, with its mountains, forests, and proximity to water, made this an ideal place to hold outdoor events.

Becoming a member

In December of 2008, I was invited to become a member of The Gnostic Movement. Although I had been a teacher for about 5 years, membership in the organization was a subsequent and more advanced step.

As I transitioned into membership, I began to see more of the inner workings of The Gnostic Movement. My impression of the other members was very consistent with the one I had formed working with them as a teacher – they generally seemed very serious, hard-working, and extremely committed individuals in terms of their spiritual efforts and their work within the organization.

Final retreat in Temagami

In the fall of 2010, I attended my last retreat as part of The Gnostic Movement, which was held in Temagami in Ontario. Belzebuub attended this retreat and guided part of it. It was a very powerful few days of meditation, spiritual practice, and inspiring talks. In particular, I was very grateful to have the chance to be taught by Belzebuub in person again. The depth of his knowledge and insight was greater than ever, and I was very deeply moved and inspired by his teaching.

Experience of financial matters as the Treasurer

An important task I took on was becoming the treasurer of The Gnostic Movement in Canada. Previous to this, I had not had any financial or book-keeping related experience. Now I was responsible for managing the financial records of a not-for-profit organization as well as preparing its annual tax returns. I also had to understand the complexities of sales tax, since at this time we were selling books which were subject to sales tax. Because we could not afford professional accounting services, I needed to quickly educate myself and understand how to fulfill our legal obligations.

I took this job very seriously. The culture and values of The Gnostic Movement reinforced the importance of responsibility, care, and diligence in all activities and especially with regards to financial matters. Donations given from the public were treated as a very important trust, and The Gnostic Movement had many rules and regulations governing how these donations should be handled. For example, two people must always count donations, and donations must always be deposited directly into a bank account before being used, so that there was a clear “paper trail” of all funds received. These policies were considered very important.

Donated funds were generally spent in a very conservative and cautious manner, since they represented the only discretionary income the movement received (income from book sales was sent back to the publisher, since we sold the books at cost). The volume of donations was typically quite low; donations were strictly voluntary and we did not typically make verbal requests for donations after mentioning them in the first one or two weeks of introductory courses. In the esoteric course it had also been mentioned that providing donations was a form of helping others spiritually, but there was never any requirement to do so even for teachers.

Experience as a moderator of the public forums

I also served as a moderator of the public forums on The Gnostic Movement’s various websites. There were several different forums offered for different types of discussion. These forums were generally active and popular, but their success also made them a target for individuals who were hostile towards the organization or Belzebuub or who simply wished to cause trouble.

Trolling from self-described “Gnostics”

One of the most common problems that occurred on the forums was when self-described “Gnostics” (who were followers of Samael Aun Weor but rejected Belzebuub) would start participating in the forums. These individuals would post very confrontational and condemnatory messages about elements of Belzebuub’s teaching that they objected to. They seemed very negative towards Belzebuub, and their presence was very disruptive. I felt that it was not possible to reason with these individuals, as it seemed to me that they did not come for dialogue or in good faith but only wished to interfere with the proper functioning of the forums.

On many of these occasions, these individuals did not openly announce their intentions at first but rather first spent time “lurking” and acting as though they were friendly participants. Only over time did their true purpose become evident, as they would typically begin to make subtly negative and undermining remarks that gradually become more and more blatant, until they reached a point of openly denouncing the website they were posting on in very harsh terms. These were not isolated incidents; they happened with disturbing frequency and with a very similar pattern each time. It required much time and effort on behalf of the moderating team to detect and deal with these troublesome users.

On another occasion, it was discovered that some of these individuals had been using the private messaging system of the forums to proselytize their own version of Samael Aun Weor’s teaching. They were using the website of an organization coordinated by Belzebuub in order to spread negative information about Belzebuub and direct people to another website that promoted the teachings of Samael Aun Weor and that regularly contained negative commentary about Belzebuub in its forums. These users posed as friendly and interested people in their public postings, but in their private messages they attacked the site they were using the services of and attempted to lure people away from it. When these actions were exposed, the entire private messaging system had to be turned off so that it could no longer be abused in this way.

The website mentioned above (that promoted the teachings of Samael Aun Weor and that regularly contained negative commentary about Belzebuub in its forums) seemed to often have the effect of radicalizing individuals against The Gnostic Movement and against Belzebuub. Students who were interested and enthusiastic about The Gnostic Movement’s courses would often find this other website during their online research. On numerous occasions, I recall that upon reading the negative information about Belzebuub contained on that site, they would often return with a drastically altered attitude, posting negative comments in The Gnostic Movement’s forums and criticizing and openly condemning Belzebuub and his teachings.

This process happened to several people who I knew well and who I had considered very close friends; these relationships were ruined as these individuals became completely hostile towards The Gnostic Movement. Any time they contacted me, their sole aim appeared to be to convince me of the error of my ways and to speak negatively about Belzebuub and The Gnostic Movement.

Online responsibilities

Since becoming a qualified teacher in 2004, I had been involved in a variety of online tasks, and my responsibilities in this area increased over time. Since I was studying English at university, it was natural that I began to take on more tasks related to writing and the creation of online content. I also helped create emails and design web pages.

In September and October of 2008, I participated in a media campaign focused around a new well-publicized study that was investigating near-death experiences in hospital patients. My role was to be a media spokesperson and to discuss how near-death experiences related to out-of-body experiences and astral travel, which were areas of expertise for The Gnostic Movement. This campaign resulted in more than ½ a dozen media interviews for me personally with radio stations and newspapers, and it even led to an appearance on Breakfast Television in Edmonton, one of the most popular morning TV shows in Canada.

The success of the initiative was startling. I recall some family friends and one of my co-workers hearing me on the radio and telling me about it. For the television segment, I flew to Edmonton and went to the television studio. I had not participated in anything similar before, so I had much to learn and challenges to overcome. However, I pushed through and gained some very valuable experience as well as confidence in speaking to the media.

In November of 2008 I helped coordinate an online advertising and social media campaign for a new documentary video series produced by The Gnostic Movement on the history of the Gnostics. Perhaps 50 people around the world participated in promoting this video and we produced some positive results, generating thousands of views on YouTube and other sites.

The structure of The Gnostic Movement made it very easy for me to experiment and try my hand at many different activities that I otherwise might never have been able to try. I found the people I worked with and those coordinating teams I was part of were very open to my suggestions and encouraged me to try new things; regardless of whether the outcome was successful or not, there was always a great deal of learning that took place.

All of this experience in writing, marketing, design, and advertising helped me get a new job in 2008 with marketing responsibilities, and this has evolved into a successful career in the marketing industry. Without the volunteer experience I got within The Gnostic Movement, it is highly unlikely I would have had the career opportunities that I have since received.

Redesigning the online course system

Soon after membership, I took on the role of manager of the web team, which gave me overall responsibility for all of the websites of The Gnostic Movement as well as areas such as advertising. I was responsible for coordinating a team of perhaps 15-25+ volunteers working in different areas such as web development, website design, content writing, website administration and support, and advertising. Our job was to develop strategies in these respective areas to support the goals of the organization and to execute these strategies. Our teams were organized and had some process and structure, but it lacked the formality of a business corporation. It felt like being part of a team, where everyone was united around a common goal and worked together for love of that goal.

I remember many challenges along the way. This was an entirely volunteer team – some with professional skills, others having little more than enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. I place myself in the latter category, although over time I learned a great deal simply due to the necessity of having to figure many things out. Most volunteers had daytime jobs, and furthermore we were spread across three continents; we worked together after hours and in spare time, helping each other as best we could. I very much enjoyed the sense of purpose, fellowship, and camaraderie that emerged. We all committed ourselves to this venture because it was important to us.

One significant project was a complete overhaul of our online course system, which began in the fall of 2009. The Gnostic Movement had been a pioneer in online learning since the first courses were released as PDFs on Mysticweb.org in 2001. The old PDFs were no longer distributed since they had been plagiarized and pirated rampantly, and Belzebuub’s books were published in print format to better protect them. In the online courses, video had replaced text as the main medium for instruction, along with recommended readings that were included each week.

Although the online courses had evolved, the current system (which was then hosted on Gnosticweb.com) had become complex and was difficult to use. The organization saw an opportunity to improve the presentation, usability, and functionality of the course system. With this goal in mind, a working group of developers, designers, and content specialists was formed to begin a complete overhaul.

I remember this project as one of the most challenging and rewarding that I worked upon. At the time, my professional job involved creating online learning materials, and so I had some professional skills to support these efforts. Nonetheless, the project required me to push these skills to the limits as we searched for a more intuitive, inviting, and easy way to help people learn about spirituality through the internet. I developed my user experience skills and learned to wireframe simple prototypes of online systems. We ran sessions of user testing with these prototypes and revised our designs based on this feedback, trying to make them work as effortlessly as possible. This new design also included a whole range of new functionality – more advanced forums, a personal journal, a progress tracker, and much more.

We were targeting a launch date of early winter 2010, giving us only a few short months to completely overhaul the course system and the course content, as all new videos and written content were being developed as well. It was a massive undertaking, and the process was both challenging and exciting. In February of 2010, we successfully launched the first round of courses in the new system. The system had materialized beautifully. It was both visually impressive and user-friendly and was well-received by the students using it.

Attacks on Belzebuub and The Gnostic Movement

In May of 2010, two individuals who had previously been asked to leave the organization began a campaign to attack The Gnostic Movement and Mark Pritchard specifically. Many of their statements seemed to me to present details in a false, misleading, and extremely negative light. The stories were structured in such a way as to appeal to stereotypical “cult” motifs. These motifs combined with what seemed to me to be carefully crafted emotive language created a narrative that would be quite believable to someone who lacked any other context. Although presenting themselves as victims, I saw many statements that seemed to distort, misrepresent, or misconstrue the facts, along with many outright falsehoods, and it is my belief that these narratives were motivated by negativity and a desire to punish the former organization they had participated in.

The two instigators of the campaign were joined by a small circle of others, many of whom seemed to have personal or ideological vendettas of their own motivating their actions. Some began anonymously publishing comments on the forums of a prominent anti-cult website, creating the appearance that they were a concerned person that had stumbled upon the claims and wanted to share them, rather than someone who was actually involved in making them in the first place.

I was shocked by the viciousness and hatred of the material that was posted online about The Gnostic Movement and especially Belzebuub. He was disparaged in the most significant and demeaning ways over a period of time using accusations that were completely false. I saw these attackers speculating on details of his private life, like his home, living conditions, and personal finances. He was harassed and cyber-stalked and his online activities were tracked and ridiculed.

An anti-cult “expert” also contributed directly to this after being approached and I suspect commissioned by the instigators of the campaign, posting an article critical of Belzebuub and The Gnostic Movement despite lacking any first-hand experience with either. I later read that this “expert” had a history working as a professional “deprogrammer” and had been charged with kidnapping in association with this work.

These attacks also seemed to have a radicalizing effect on people who were posting on a separate forum affiliated with the anti-cult movement. One thread contained hundreds of posts, most of them created by a single person who seemed consumed with hatred and who posted repeatedly with negative claims and criticisms about Belzebuub and The Gnostic Movement. Many of these posts were seemingly inspired by claims from those participating in the campaign.

Attacks on Belzebuub’s character

The false claims made about Belzebuub’s character were appalling. The attackers one-upped and amplified each other’s negative comments in an online echo chamber, creating a cartoon-like boogeyman that was diametrically opposed to Belzebuub’s actual character and behaviour. It became increasingly surreal how disconnected their descriptions were from reality.

The reality is that Belzebuub is the most decent, kind, and honourable man I have ever met. I have known him for over 12 years, and he has always demonstrated a deep and very rare consideration and care for every person he interacts with. I have never seen him so much as make a snide remark at someone else’s expense or say an unkind word to anyone.

In his behaviour towards women, Belzebuub has always been a model of absolute integrity and respect, truly embodying the spiritual values that he teaches. He was an example for me as a man, through the way that he behaved, of what a spiritual relationship should be like, demonstrating the values of love, fidelity, and commitment. Belzebuub also exemplifies an attitude of true equality between the sexes and through his example fostered an environment and an organization in which men and women interacted and participated free from bias, discrimination, or harassment of any kind, with every person encouraged to contribute to the full extent of their capabilities.

The Gnostic Movement closes

In the early winter of 2011, a decision was made to close The Gnostic Movement and cease its public activities. Although those actively involved in attacking The Gnostic Movement and Belzebuub were only a small handful, their actions – amplified on the forums of anti-cult websites – were enough to seriously damage the reputation of The Gnostic Movement and Belzebuub. Too few people among all those who were involved with The Gnostic Movement or had benefited from it made the effort to speak out in its defense.

In February of 2011, I announced to the current course we were running in Vancouver that we were ceasing our activities and that the class would end effective immediately. I was deeply saddened and moved that events had reached this juncture, as it seemed unbelievable that everything I and so many others had worked so hard for over the last 8 years had been destroyed by the hatred of this small group of people and the lack of defense against it. A few years ago it would have seemed impossible for such a thing to happen. Although I knew that spiritual knowledge transcends time, and that spiritual organizations are born and then one day have their end, I could sense that we were losing something very valuable with the death of this organization. The passage of time has only strengthened this conviction.

The impact of the online attacks continued and had many ramifications in the physical world as well. A small collection of ex-students contributed to the campaign. In some cases, people who had no experience whatsoever with The Gnostic Movement or Belzebuub became involved in attacking them. In other cases, those who had been antagonistic over the years were re-energized by the attacks and emerged to join in.

One such example was a former student of The Gnostic Movement who I had known from my earliest days as a student. This person was a long-time member of other Gnostic groups and had eventually become negative towards Belzebuub and denounced him. This person had repeatedly tried to contact me over the years to convince me of the error of my ways, and I regularly requested he not contact me. His behavior felt harassing to me. This person at one point had apologized for their behavior and had been silent for many years. However, the information being disseminated by the smear campaign instigated him to a series of online actions. Some of these actions were directed at me personally. He posted a message on my public YouTube account repeating “cult” accusations and claiming fear for my safety. He also sent similar messages to my connections on Facebook. I learned of this when several of these Facebook connections contacted me to express their concern about the message they had received.

I was horrified by this behavior; I had no idea who this person was contacting on Facebook and had no control of the information they were spreading. I felt concerned about these “cult” accusations impacting my relationships, my career, and my reputation in general.

Overall, the smear campaign had taken a heavy toll and had impacted my life enormously. I had lost the spiritual organization that I participated in, which was a great tragedy. But even more fundamentally, my entire concept of spiritual freedom had been shattered. Whereas once I had felt free and open in my exploration of spirituality, I now felt the need to conceal my spiritual practice and to be guarded and private lest I face judgment or criticism. I felt and still feel unable to freely practice or share with others the spirituality of my choice, lest I be accused of being in a “cult”. My spirituality has been tarred with a sense of shame and has become something that must be hidden for fear of how others might perceive it. Because a small group of people used the “cult” stigma to effectively brand my spiritual choices as taboo and dangerous to society, I feel those choices have become socially unacceptable and are no longer freely available to me without facing consequences. I feel that my spiritual freedom has been violated, and I will never regain what has been lost.

In the face of this sustained hostility, a small group of former members and students exercised our right of reply, creating our own website and publishing the truth to clear the name of Belzebuub and The Gnostic Movement. People also contacted the police, filed human rights complaints, and did everything possible to combat the systemic and seemingly interminable campaign of hate. These efforts were eventually successful, and individuals stopped their harassment. However, the damage had already been done.

We initiated the process of winding down The Gnostic Movement within Canada in its various provinces. I filed the application to surrender our charter, which would effectively dissolve the organization. Corporations Canada accepted this application and The Gnostic Movement in Canada was dissolved in June of 2014.

New retreat organization

february-2012-retreat
Taking a walk through the forest on a snowy day at the rented retreat in February 2012
In April 2012, after The Gnostic Movement had ceased its activities, I helped form a new non-profit organization. This organization’s purpose was to create and run retreat facilities that would support the development of consciousness and the practice of esotericism. We began running retreats at a rented facility in the country outside of Toronto, with a goal of one day buying our own retreat.

This was a goal that had long been pursued in The Gnostic Movement but without success. Over the years there had been a continual effort within The Gnostic Movement to raise funds to purchase a retreat as well as to find a suitable property. I had intermittently been involved in the search efforts in North America and had seen first hand how difficult it was. Not only were these efforts financially constrained, but there were numerous geographic, environmental, and regulatory considerations as well. For example, the retreat would not ideally be located in an area that suffered from tornadoes or hurricanes, or near a noisy highway, or near a mining site, and so on. Even when seemingly suitable sites were located (as happened several times), some new factor would emerge during the purchase process that revealed the property to be unsuitable. For these reasons, The Gnostic Movement had not succeeded in buying a property, despite great efforts, during its years of operation.

In May of 2012, we were contacted by a representative of The Gnostic Movement in the USA. This person had seen our website advertising retreats and our desire to one day purchase our own. They reiterated that The Gnostic Movement of the USA had tried for many years to purchase a retreat but had been unable to do so. Now, as it was closing down, The Gnostic Movement USA wished to donate its retreat fund to our organization, as this organization shared the same aims. We very gratefully accepted this donation. This donation formed the basis for a down payment we would use to buy a retreat facility one year later. In this way, the funds raised by The Gnostic Movement did in fact achieve their purpose.

After purchasing the new retreat property, there were considerable funds required to renovate and improve it to make it suitable for running public events. In December of 2013, we received another donation from an organization in Scotland that had become the custodian of the European retreat fundraising following the closure of The Gnostic Movement in the UK. This organization had similarly attempted and had been unable to buy a retreat in Europe due to a lack of funds. Since it too was closing down, it gifted its retreat fundraising to our organization.

Eventually after a few years of developing the property it was sold, and the organization is holding the funds for a future opportunity.

Back to People’s Experiences

Olga

Olga G

OlgaMy name is Olga and this is my personal declaration and experience with The Gnostic Movement and Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub).

I was a Teacher of the Gnostic Movement from February 2008 until its closure. I taught Gnosis in Toronto Canada, and in the UK in London, Nottingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. I have previously always been interested in spirituality and had the support of my family.

Joining The Gnostic Movement

In mid-2002, my social circle was introduced to some people who talked to us at great lengths about Gnosticism. I was personally very interested to explore this new spirituality and leave behind what in my opinion was the closed mindedness of atheism. I attended a group and started learning about Gnosticism.

In October of 2002, one of my friends came across a library event organized by Gnosticweb, a name of one of The Gnostic Movement’s websites, and a name it used as a not-for-profit entity in Canada.

I was already very interested in Gnosticism and therefore wanted to try out Gnosticweb’s events. One of my friends from a previous Gnostic school, and who had introduced me to Gnosis, had already attended a few of Gnosticweb’s classes and highly recommended my friends and I to go. My curiosity in Gnosticism was quickly developing into a deep interest as I was learning about the connection between religions, the universe and some of history’s great philosophers.

The fact that the courses and events were free really resonated with me. It allowed me to explore the teachings without any monetary expectation.

My first activity with TGM was a walk that was being organized in a public park that I had found out about from one of my friends. When I arrived, I couldn’t pick out the instructor until he said hello. He seemed very down-to-earth, composed with a calm voice that wasn’t overpowering anyone else in the gathering. The teacher very briefly explained the activity and purpose of the walk, and we launched right into the activity which basically explored mindfulness and being in the present moment. There seemed to be a structure, methodology and purpose in the way the instructor was gently keeping a focus on the activity, keeping us focused on the exercise of the walk, and learning about the practical functioning of being in the present moment. These kind of guided practices were common in the Gnostic Movement. This structured focus ultimately led me to have a very elated experience of the present moment, sensations of happiness and peace I had never felt before, and this was all thanks to the practical and experience-oriented emphasis on the activity. I left the park feeling completely amazed and blown away at what I had experienced in maybe one and a half hours’ time. When I went for lunch with some friends after the walk I quickly noticed how a lack of discipline and structure to maintain mindfulness was missing from my life. As a result I decided to continue pursuing the future events run by Gnosticweb.

During my time at the Gnostic Movement, the centers and activities accepted all individuals, cultures, ethnicities, genders, etc. Everyone was welcome at the center. Individuals with their own interests in spirituality would come to the center to share their love of what they were into, and did not feel intimidated to share it with others. People with crystals, psychic cards, beads and various topics would meet up to share discussions with others interested in spirituality, and found a safe place to do it at the Gnostic Centers.

When I was at the London Gnostic Centre, a Muslim man, in devout dress would regularly attend and always be positive and grateful of his time at the center. He would often bring us gifts like chocolate and a CD of beautiful voices singing. Other times we had attendance from other faiths, people in religious attire, and we kept our center open and welcome to everyone.

TGM and other Gnostic groups

Within the first year of studying Gnosis, for a few months, I was attending two groups simultaneously, the first was the one which I came to by invitation from some friends that were already participants and familiar with Gnosticism and the second was The Gnostic Movement. The groups ran in different parts of the city. I noticed very quickly on, the very strong and opposing opinions and judgements that the first Gnostic group had towards TGM. Some seemingly respectable figures were saying very unpleasant and hostile things against TGM and its spiritual teacher Belzebuub. There was one person from that group who I had become acquainted with and who I respected, who had also invited me to take part in some drama classes he was teaching in another part of the city. As I got to know him more and more, I noticed that he would occasionally say very peculiar and harsh things, including that he would ‘’karate kick’’ anyone who would stand in the way of his faith. It was the first time I really encountered anyone zealously angry in the name of their religion. This put me off, and I no longer felt very comfortable around him and stopped spending time with him.

Then, on one occasion I saw this person with some of the students from his drama group at the library where TGM was giving one of its courses. As far as I knew, the drama students had no connection with any of the Gnostic groups, and yet he had brought about five or so who were all surrounding him like a gang. I had known most of them from his drama classes, and had always very friendly relations with them. This time however, I felt threatened and challenged, recalling the hostile things this person had last said to me, and seeing their intimidating body language and the way they glared aggressively at me and the people I was with. The group gestured over to me to come with them, suggesting that I was with the ‘’wrong’’ group. This was confusing to me, because I knew these drama students had no interest in spirituality – let alone Gnosis, but it seemed that this person had somehow influenced them. I was left feeling very troubled and anxious knowing that this person had come all the way there as though to stir up trouble. Later on, I would occasionally see this person in the street and feel very uneasy. It was a very bizarre experience to see someone change so negatively just because people held different views to his spiritual beliefs and values.

On another occasion, while attending TGM’s astral courses, a person who was a lecturer from another Gnostic group was making snide and arrogant remarks to the TGM teacher and laughing loudly when he didn’t know the answer to one of his questions. This same person also started being insulting towards Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub).

Another thing that happened to me was while I was participating in both Gnostic groups for some time, I came to a crossway of needing to choose between the two groups, as I was getting more involved with both of them, and moving closer to more senior activities like teaching and helping. While it was clear that the first Gnostic group that I had joined didn’t want me to be part of TGM and was pressuring me to leave, TGM on the other hand gave no such pressure.

Around this time the first group I had joined was acting noticeably different. For example during a lecture, the instructor would keep moving a picture of Samael Aun Weor, (the only Gnostic teacher they accepted) into the center of his lecture board, as though continuously drawing attention to it and adjusting its position every couple of minutes. It was unusual behavior that really felt out of place, uncomfortable and as though there was this underlying pressure to choose and recognize the importance of this particular Gnostic teacher above any other. While individuals in the group were treating me very kindly and giving me a lot of attention that made me feel welcome, I also felt that overall, they were in different ways trying to convince me to be part of their group, and implying how wrong TGM was. Some otherwise friendly individuals became emotional and passionate in expressing negative opinions about TGM, and how their doctrine was the right one. They invited me and some of my friends to an intro talk for a more advanced course, explaining that we could advance into a higher ‘’chamber’’ or level, but that we couldn’t hold any links with TGM if we wanted to take the step. The instructors would call me on the phone very often and leave messages awaiting my decision. I felt very uneasy about the insistent phone calling and behavior of them trying to pull me into their organization and it really put me off and made me feel uncomfortable, even though I had originally been fond of many of them.

This behavior was opposite to TGM which left me alone and gave me time to decide on my own. TGM always respected my free will to make my own choices, and never tried to entice me with any promises of advancement. I felt it was only the other Gnostic group tugging on me and trying to persuade me.

Eventually, my decision was made based on who was respecting my free will to make my own choices. The first group made so many attempts to be extra nice, pleasant, and friendly, while the Gnostic Movement made no change to how they treated me at all, which made me realise how genuine they were and how the others, with all due respect, were possibly acting to gain me as a student or to convince me to have the same opinion as them. I realized how much freedom there was with TGM to take part in its courses without any pressure of any kind, that they stood by their principles to not interfere with my own judgements and that’s when I realized I was among very honest people who made no attempts whatsoever to interfere with my free will and personal decisions.

Meeting Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub)

Retreat 2004
Having a look at a waterfall at the retreat in 2004

I have met Mark on a retreat and when he visited the Gnostic group I was in. My impression of him was someone who was very down to earth, modest, humorous, kind and wise.

From what I could tell, Mark didn’t seem to pull attention to himself unnecessarily or stand out in the crowd like someone seeking fame or public acceptance. On the contrary, he was always quite soft spoken, and discussed without raising his voice to attract attention. This was very different to previous spiritual figures or teachers I had encountered who would speak and accentuate their words very deliberately to be heard and to stand out, others would walk and gesture in certain ways to be seen and be noticed, or they would dress in elaborate clothing, however my impression of Mark was a normal person who was very approachable and I never felt as though he was raising himself up above me or anyone else.

From my experience around Mark, he was very collaborative and thoughtful, never imposing his view or opinion as the deciding factor. He would often welcome advice and consideration from others. In fact, as an early trainee teacher during a retreat in Canada which Mark was guiding in 2004, I proposed an alternative to a plan he had made which he agreed to, even though looking back it was not necessarily the best idea.

On another occasion, upon arriving to the Gnostic Centre our group had in the city, he took time to listen to each of us raise some points. He mentioned a few things about the way we had things set up and organised, all of which were in response to our own concerns and questions. It was up to us, after he left, to make a decision and to reassess what we wanted to do. All the decision making came from the group’s gathering and initiative to decide what was best.

Mark was also a very respectful person. He was always kind and considerate to all people. As a woman, I felt very comfortable around him and was always treated with utmost respect and equality. He created an air of civility and thoughtfulness wherever he went, and I felt this had an impact on the Gnostic study groups and centres he would attend, which as a result also had an overall air of respect and consideration of equality towards all genders, where women were treated considerately and with respect, not as objects of desire or inferiority, and like that many meaningful and trusting friendships were formed between men and women alike.

Mark’s respectful conduct

Mark’s teaching on alchemy and sexuality have had a huge impact on my life and on the sacred relationship between men and women. Growing up I have experienced and encountered several barriers of domination and frustration between men and women, but I found that Gnosticism provided a foundation based around love, respect and understanding that have deeply resonated and guided me in my life and in my relationships, which I have also observed in other Gnostic couples. In my encounters with these other couples I noticed there was an atmosphere of respect and collaboration that I did not normally perceive growing up in society, where one gender dominated the other. This mutual respect was the teaching that Mark provided, the atmosphere he created as well as the example he left behind where ever he would go. Mark was certainly a role model of how people especially women should be treated. It was unheard of that a woman would feel uncomfortable in any shape or form within the organization. On one occasion, when I wanted to ask Mark a question regarding alchemy, he referred me to speak to a woman teacher instead due to the delicate nature of the subject matter, which cancelled out any potential uncomfortableness that even I wasn’t aware would have existed. This careful attention in making sure the relationship between genders was respectful and courteous was always present around Mark.

Both men and women had senior roles within TGM, I myself was a Teacher and Director with many responsibilities while in the UK and witnessed that both sexes had equal opportunities within the volunteer network of the organisation.

Volunteering in The Gnostic Movement

When I first joined The Gnostic Movement, if I wanted to help with anything I would ask or let someone know I was available to help. It was never expected of me to volunteer or help. Getting involved in the organization as a volunteer and helper came from my own interest and initiative.

In the beginning of first joining the courses I felt it was a nice idea to help in order to show my support and positivity to what the teacher was doing. I would help in setting up the chairs at the weekly sessions, put up posters for an upcoming course etc.

As the courses progressed we learned about the topic of helping others spiritually as part of the Gnostic work. It gave a perspective as to why the teachings were given freely. Helping gave a chance for other people to learn about this work and have the same opportunities to experience spirituality. This was interesting and inspiring to me because it put into perspective what The Gnostic Movement had done for me, giving classes every week for free, which was helping me make positive changes in my life. Although I was the one working towards the personal changes, it was through the setup of the Gnostic group, attending courses and receiving the thoughtfully put together TGM topic material that was very helpful for me, it created a structure that I was benefiting so much from. It therefore made a lot of sense to me to share and help in the same way so that others could also benefit and experience some of the wonderful things I had already experienced.

I showed interest in wanting to help and eventually joined the Teacher’s Training course. The sessions and gatherings involved giving practice lectures and sharing feedback about certain practices the group had been assigned to do throughout the week as part of a Teacher’s Training Course. The longer I was part of the advanced courses, the more I saw the benefit of the organization and wanted to help with it.

Toronto Centre 2004
Myself (in the middle) with two other volunteers in the main lecture room of the first centre we had in Toronto in 2004

I enjoyed my time helping in the preparations of the first Gnostic center in Toronto. It was exciting that we were going to have our own dedicated space to explore Gnosticism, meditation, astral projection and many of the various Gnostic practices we had learned, as well as hold many other activities and events. It was amazing to have this transition from libraries to a physical centre which was our own and which we could spend limitless time at. We were also creating a space that was in some way ‘’infused’’ with spiritual activity, so in my opinion it felt like having our own temple and space of worship, where I could go to in peace and quiet, find stillness, repose and reflect. It was such a benefit to my life and I thoroughly miss having an active gnostic centre that was not only an opportunity for others but a great help for my own spiritual betterment.

There was also general upkeep to keep the centre clean and tidy, to stock up the tea and coffee supplies, bring cookies and treats, to purchase cleaning products, or to bring flowers for the display at the front of the entrance. There were so many small ways one could find to show appreciation for the centre with ideas and involvement and it was something I loved being part of. It created an impression of belonging and caring for something bigger than yourself and I loved taking care of things. I don’t recall anyone ever expecting me to do things, it was just obvious that we were all there because we loved helping and watching the place thrive with activity and making sure it was all organised in the background so that the events would run smoothly and benefit all.

When I wasn’t at the Gnostic centre I saw there were opportunities to help the organization with administrative things like design, event registration, video conferencing technology, web work, printing posters, research and so on.

The types of activities I would get involved with were also interesting and thought provoking. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of a variety of administrative work that would come my way. Sometimes I would work on media campaigns that were organizing interviews with TV and radio stations across Canada. I would correspond with journalists, producers and media stations to help coordinate live interviews with another TGM instructor. I felt these campaigns were so exciting and full of potential. I remember having a job interview for an international media company in the UK and the employer was deeply captivated by my TGM media experience. Also due to my thorough video conferencing skills I learned at TGM I got a job as a Video Conferencing Technician in London.

Although my 9-5 jobs were helping me pay the bills and giving me corporate experience, volunteering with TGM gave me a whole new range of opportunities and skill sets. Within TGM I got involved with several new projects that I previously had few or no skills in. One activity involved teaching and answering comments in public and course forums on TGM’s websites Gnosticweb, Astralweb and Mysticweb. While this seems like a light and simple activity, it was helping me enormously to learn how to be a better writer. In high school and university, I had often struggled with my essay writing assignments, but after a couple months of commenting in TGM’s websites and practicing my ability to explain things clearly and concisely, I could see a great improvement in the clarity and articulation of my writing, even the Teaching Assistant of one of my university classes who was aware of my struggles, noticed a massive improvement and was extremely happy for me giving me a high grade on my essay.

Becoming a teacher

The gatherings and the time I spent together with the teachers and other senior students were becoming more valuable to me as I moved on to the senior courses. Looking back at my time, I remember great moments reading and discussing spiritual texts and various Gnostic topics. It was a very special time as we sat together over tea and had discussions. I remember once walking home late one night with a friend and feeling like I was in another world, feeling very inspired from the evening’s talk and admiring the night and the stars as though there was a very special quality present in that moment and that our gatherings were becoming more and more meaningful.

In order to train to teach others, the training sessions were organised to give practice lessons. Public speaking was something I struggled with terribly. I had massive bouts of nervousness and had a hard time getting through them, but after a lot of personal persistence I managed to overcome many of my fears and developed a whole new confidence and ease to speak in front of large groups of people. I used this skill in many aspects of my life, including at work where I would train small to large number of people, or in instances where clear and technical communication were very important to ensure all avenues of a task were understood. The public speaking experience TGM gave me helped me learn how to communicate clearly, confidently and concisely.

After a few years, I went through maybe two full teacher training sessions before I could reasonably give a lecture. Confronting my public speaking fears was such a profound journey for me. I was left to work on my own capacity, no one was pushing me, I had to make the choice myself whether public speaking was something I wanted to do. I once shared my story with public speaking with another person in TGM who had also been struggling with it, and I later found out from her that she was motivated to try again and was able to overcome some of her fears too and began to teach Gnosis with much less nerves. I was so happy for her. I knew it was a common problem, but I knew that by tackling it, I was doing something bigger than myself, as I felt that I could help others overcome it if I could.

Finances and donations

Toronto Center 2008
Hanging out with some course attendees in the cafe at the Toronto Center in 2008. I’m wearing a white shirt on the right.

From the early days of first joining the Gnostic Movement I was very keen that everything was free of charge. Another mainstream spiritual group I wanted to attend was charging a lot of money and pressuring people in my opinion to accept their rationale for choosing to do so, with the mentality that if we cared enough for something, we would pay for it. I never felt such pressure within TGM and the approach that spirituality should be given freely really rang true to me.

As a TGM student in 2002, I was aware of the collection of donations at TGM’s lectures in libraries and how they were 100% optional. I also remember seeing a nearly empty donation box at the course lectures in the libraries, which showed me that there was normally not a lot of money coming in through donations, but the teachers never made a big deal of it. Instead they mentioned it a few times within a full 9 week course program that they accepted donations.

The teachers themselves did not seem to be living luxurious lives, which showed that they were not gaining financially from TGM. Most people had a full or part-time job, and would help with TGM in their spare time. This was the same case for me when I became a teacher in 2008. The only income I ever received was from my regular employment.

The Gnostic Centres in North America that I had visited were clean, simple and modest places where the courses would operate. They had lovely and inspiring spiritual elements in them such as printed artwork and modest spiritual statues.

As I progressed through into the advanced courses, until I became a teacher in Toronto and when I later travelled to the UK, I was aware that there was never a lot of money coming into the centres we were running. However we got by with what we had.

From my experience in a teacher’s role, and in the receiving end of donations, the majority of donations would come from those voluntarily supporting or running the Gnostic Group or Centre such as Trainees, Teachers and Members. Students in the beginner level courses were not privy to the financial needs within the center, unless there was a fundraiser specifically for that, but otherwise finances were never publicly discussed. In general, through my whole duration within The Gnostic Movement, the topic of money and donations was always approached respectfully. It was just a matter of fact that the courses and events ran by donation, and people were informed of this, but it never distracted from what was being taught or limited who could attend.

When running the financial accounts of TGM in London as a Director for the organization, paying bills for the centre, hydro, electricity, rent, coffee/tea etc. the centre was always just able to cover the running costs. All the money that we raised, whether from public donations, or donations between the senior students, teachers and members (of which was always the majority), all went towards the centre and paying for its expenses.

In the UK, every year the accounts had to be filed with Company’s House, the government body that oversaw UK companies, and had to be thoroughly completed, which we did.

Effectiveness of the spiritual practices

The practices and exercises taught in the Gnostic Movement were encouraged as a practical way to gain your own spiritual experience. Some of the practices I learned were for Meditation, Astral Projection, Inner Stillness, Concentration, Self-Observation, Reflection and so on.

The emphasis on practices helped me to understand how important it was to have a practical approach to Gnosis, and that even the little experiences gave me so much more than learning any new theory.

This practical approach was very different to the way Gnosis was introduced to me by the previous Gnostic group I had first attended. Although my initial introduction to Gnosis was very exciting and intriguing, with lots of interesting ideas that were presented to me, there really wasn’t a practical approach that involved my active participation, but rather a lot of lecturing. The previous Gnostic school had some practices and mantras, but not nearly as much as the emphasis given by TGM which encouraged a lot of practicing and trying out different exercises. As a result, this pulled me into a very personal and active experience of Gnosis. This new approach to life launched me into an exciting period of personal discovery and appreciation.

While the practices given by TGM were extremely important, some theory was also given. The course system never felt very dogmatic to me, that I needed to accept things to be true, it was always encouraged for me to come to the truth myself, to gain my own experience and be on my own path to find the understanding I sought. I could put theories to the side and come to them later through my own personal investigation, study and experience.

In every weekly session with the TGM group, there was equal time put towards a lecture and a practice, unless there was a session just for a practice, to give everyone in the course a decent time to try out the exercises. For me the easy part was sitting in on a lecture, listening to the teacher talk and explain things, it felt harder to take time and do a practice especially when I struggled to concentrate. But I found it helpful to try the exercise with the group, guided by the instructor. The practices in a group were 10 times easier than when trying at home as there seemed to be a better focus and motivation when doing the practices together with other people. The follow up questions and feedback from people who managed to get some experiences or insights or even share similar problems that I had encountered was extremely beneficial.

In the beginning the TGM group could only afford to organize sessions in public libraries, such were the humble beginnings of the group which could only afford renting community venues for its sessions. And yet, on many occasions that I would participate, I would often have some little experiences with the groups which gave me some insight and encouragement towards my own spiritual work.

Astral projection

Before I came to The Gnostic Movement, I knew a little bit about Astral Projection already, mainly lucid dreaming as it was something I was familiar with in my childhood. Therefore the topic was already of interest to me because of my familiarity and I was excited to learn more about it and why it was the subject of a full course run by the Gnostic Movement.

The courses were filled with people talking about their interest in OBEs, who wanted to have such experiences, to fly out of their body and to explore another dimension of life. I remember having several conversations with people that were curious in the phenomena of Astral Travel or who already had their own experiences. It was an amazing and unique environment that felt rare to experience, it was a hub of like-minded people who freely discussed and shared their interests. The vibe in these sessions felt very positive, warm and open to me. I was equally excited to learn how to have my own astral experiences.

In the first few weeks the techniques were working as I was beginning to have regular astral experiences. This encouraged me to stick with the practices and continue to bring more amazing experiences into my life. Waking up in the morning after remembering that I had several out of body experiences or lucid dreams was a great way to start the day. I was waking up refreshed and excited every time I had an experience.

My sleep patterns were unaffected when I used the technique for astral projection at night and I would always have a full night’s sleep. The main difference this was bringing to my evenings was that previously I would just lie in bed thinking about a million things, recalling emotions, and worries, and sometimes would get extremely stressed and anxious as I would go to sleep. But the astral techniques, because they involved focusing my mind, my ‘’going to sleep’’ was much more relaxed and soothing then it had ever been. I always woke up feeling rested and refreshed.

Overall, incorporating astral practices into my life was incredibly inspiring. The experiences I had were so uplifting. Hearing about the experiences other people had were also very fascinating and encouraging.

Going to sleep with these focused techniques also calmed down my thoughts, and let me fall asleep less scattered. Since starting the astral techniques I noticed a big change to my dreams which also felt less scattered, more vivid, meaningful and sometimes filled with very important messages and lessons.

From this course onward, I knew my life was changing, and that I found something amazing. These experiences encouraged me that there was something more out there waiting for me to explore. And the most amazing thing was that I had experienced the reality of another dimension, whether it was floating up above my body, or flying through the hallways of my house into my neighborhood. I was having experiences and it was linked to the practical approach of the TGM courses I was taking part in.

Meditation

Before learning about Gnosticism, unless I was doing something entertaining or enjoyable, my thoughts, emotions and worries would take the best of me and I would often find myself in miserable and anxious states. Many times I would think about things that would cause me to stress. The techniques of meditation taught by TGM allowed me to see my thoughts and not let them take over me. I would sometimes complete meditations with tears of joy or with powerful insights about my psychology. Meditation gave me a method to direct my mind in a conscious way, and this would give me certain results that couldn’t happen if I was just daydreaming. The discipline of the exercise gave me the results. It made me realize every time how much I wanted to live within these peaceful, reflective and insightful states in a more permanent way.

Retreats

Wales Retreat
The group visiting the Glastonbury Tor on the Wales Retreat

My first big retreat of well over 50 participants was at Buckland Hall in Wales UK in July 2008. It was a very pleasant retreat and I thoroughly enjoyed the company of such a large group of people, most of which I had only met or heard of virtually through TGM’s Gnosticweb online community of courses, forums and chats. This retreat was held in a very stunning mansion within a national park in Wales, the scenery was rolling hills and grazing sheep. It was very visually captivating, and even the food was perfect. We also visited the very mystical site of Glastonbury Tor and the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.

In June 2010 I participated in a retreat organized by TGM in Slovakia. There were roughly 50 retreat participants in total, and I was fortunate to meet some old friends as well. The teachers guiding the retreat showed through their attitude and example great lessons and insights on not confining spirituality to a doctrine or religion. This down-to-earth approach emphasized how practical and accessible a spiritual journey with Gnosis can really be.

The Gnostic Monastery

In July 2010, a refurbished castle from the 15th century was leased near Edinburgh, Scotland and began operating as ‘’The Gnostic Monastery’’ – a teacher training facility and retreat centre. My husband and I since we were moving to Scotland were invited to be part of the project and help run events. It was a beautiful castle with two towers and 2.5 acres of land. The surrounding area was farm land as well as another 800 acres of government parks and trails. The nature was stunning. After TGM closed, my husband and I established the Esoteric Retreat Centre and ran retreats and spiritual events at the same venue. The TGM funds raised for the European Retreat Project were a couple of thousand pounds, which on closure of the organization were transferred in 2013 to a similar fundraising project of another non-profit organization called the Esoteric Retreat Centre.

The Esoteric Retreat Centre

We ran free workshops on spiritual subjects in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and invited people to the Esoteric Retreat Centre where we would host free retreats to explore the topics in more depth. The Esoteric Retreat Centre was a beautiful scenic building initially leased by TGM for the Gnostic Monastery. ERC also launched its own fundraiser to raise money for a permanent European Retreat.

However we were nowhere near the necessary funds to purchase a new property, but heard that another group in Canada who my husband and I knew, had recently purchased a retreat property. We therefore considered moving the retreat funds there as this group was actively doing something and had its own permanent place.

We brought the idea to members of a board for the European Retreat project and it was agreed to move the funds to the Canadian permanent retreat which belonged to a not-for-profit organisation. However, we all agreed that we would first refund any donations people had made to the Esoteric Retreat Center towards the European Retreat Project. I contacted all the people who had donated to the organization and offered to refund their money. The remaining went to the not-for-profit organisation in Canada with similar aims as the Esoteric Retreat Centre.

“Cult” accusations

After TGM closed, my husband and I started new workshops around the same area, and there were three posts made online, copy pasted in three separate websites suggesting our group was a cult. Sometime later in Edinburgh, all around the same time frame, my husband and I encountered some strange occurrences that seemed as though they were trying to sabotage our efforts to run spiritual groups. After TGM had closed and we were running our new groups in Scotland, my husband received a suspicious phone call from someone asking if our group does “psychic sessions” to “solve people’s problems”, to which my husband answered honestly no. In another lecture, seemingly unrelated but within the same time frame, someone in a lecture asked my husband who was teaching about astral projection if we gave “medical advice” for people with psychological issues, to which he replied we didn’t. Very soon after, the venue where we ran our Edinburgh workshops contacted us by email that they were concerned after someone had contacted them about us, and therefore no longer wanted to facilitate our events. After further communication to seek clarification, I was told that someone had accused us of being a cult, and they didn’t want us to use their venue. Hearing this was so upsetting to me, as it was a new beginning for us in Scotland and it all had been jeopardized based on the cult stigma and false accusations, ruining a series of sessions that were aimed at helping people.

Back to People’s Experiences

Jenny

Jenny B

JennyI first came across The Gnostic Movement’s courses via a flyer on my university campus’ bulletin board for a course on Astral Travel and Dreams in October 2003.

Beginnings

After doing a bit of online research I decided to attend the Astral Travel course with some friends and after attending a session I absolutely loved it. From then on I attended the various talks and courses weekly, each time bringing along new friends, family, and my family’s friends. Not all my friends attended regularly — some decided astral travel wasn’t for them and dropped off, others came back with me or attended on occasion as they had time. My mother and I actually attended all of The Gnostic Movement’s courses together because we were really interested in the subjects they covered.

As I mentioned above, I attended many similar classes, and found this one stood out a lot. For one, there was no fee, though we still chose to put in a very small donation of at least $5 – $10 each class because we knew it must have cost the organizers to arrange those classes and I felt like it was only fair to chip in. A principle my mom and I picked up at other yoga classes was that as you give, so you receive, and it felt right to give something back or help a little for all the work The Gnostic Movement’s volunteers had done. To organize something for 50 – 100 person classes, and so thoroughly was a lot of work and we appreciated the care they took to do that.

Getting More Involved

After the first classes I began to experience benefits from many of the meditation and astral projection techniques I was learning, and I also had lots of questions, so I began to stay back and either talk to the teacher or some of the volunteers at the front desk. I found them all to be very friendly, and they were all eager to share their own experiences, how they overcame obstacles with some of the exercises, etc. Chatting to them at the end of classes, and before each class as well, became a regular thing and I could feel some bonds of friendship beginning to form with many of the volunteers and other people attending the classes.

These chats later translated into friendly gatherings. A few of the other people I had met at the class were living on the same street I lived on and we would ride the bus back home together and chat away through the ride. Later we began meeting up at coffee shops and go out for dinners after the classes to carry on our conversations – these outings included a few of the people who volunteered with The Gnostic Movement, who were quickly becoming friends. It was nice to have people to talk to who shared similar views and held similar questions, who had interesting experiences, and who were all going through similar things in life (we were all mostly in the same age group, finishing up university, and transitioning into our adult careers). Many of the friendships formed there still continue to this day, over a decade later and well beyond the closure of The Gnostic Movement.

While staying around after classes listening to the teacher answer questions or share extra insights into the information he presented, I observed the volunteers busily putting away chairs, packing up tables, cleaning up the room, etc. I understood there was an effort on their part in that respect to host the event, so I started helping them as well at the end of some of the classes as I had time to clean things up. It only felt right to do my part in exchange for everything they offered in the classes.

Although I initially came just with an interest in astral travel, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the class and decided to attend the next class as well – the Self-Discovery course. There was a big holiday break in between the two classes, so the next set of talks didn’t start up until January 2004. During this break, my mom and I would practice many of the exercises we learned at home, frequently referring to the free PDF course material that we downloaded during the Astral Travel course. It was great to have this to refer to.

In January 2004 we both started the Self-Discovery course and were amazed by what we were learning. It opened a refreshing chapter in both our lives and we were excited for the next set of courses. My conversations and friendship with many of the volunteers, teachers, and classmates continued to develop. I observed how caring and open many of them were. I had a thousand and one questions, and they had the patience to listen to my thoughts and observations and share theirs in return. It was an incredibly exciting chapter in my life to finally find people interested in the same things as I was.

Experience with Another Gnostic Group

At a few points during this class I recall there being another Gnostic group running classes in a room right across from the lecture hall we were in. I didn’t know anything about the back story of Gnostic groups around the world, so I asked one of the volunteers what that group was – I just thought it was strange there would be another class right across the one I was attending on the same subjects, which seemed so unique to me at the time. The volunteer explained they were a different Gnostic group who didn’t accept The Gnostic Movement’s approach to teaching Gnosis and its teacher Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub). I didn’t really know what to think of it, but I knew that I was enjoying the classes I was attending and wasn’t sure why the other group would have an issue with that. I later overheard someone share that one of the instructors in that other group said he would drop kick the teacher of The Gnostic Movement for teaching these classes, which I felt was a rather extremist and violent remark. I was concerned for the safety of the volunteers that night, but luckily nothing bad happened.

Later Courses

main-lecture-room-toronto_2004
My mom and I at a course at the first center in 2004. We’re in the second row on the left, though I am almost entirely blocked in the picture.

My mother and I attended the next course in March 2004: the Esoteric Course. That course was packed to the brim with some of the most interesting information and new exercises. It was a much smaller class – less than ten people present each week (including a few volunteers), as compared to the larger two earlier classes, but that led to much more in-depth discussions and a larger focus on being able to ask questions, which was nice for my purposes since I always had a lot of questions. The reason for the smaller number of students was because the two earlier classes were a pre-requisite for this later course, so naturally the numbers trickled down to a smaller group. There were however larger weekly practice sessions on a different night, where students from this course onwards, teachers, and volunteers would meet for group meditations and astral projection exercises. It felt like a more serious crowd and the practices became even more interesting and leading to more experience with the techniques.

After completing the Esoteric Course I moved away to another city for a school program in the summer of 2004. My mother continued to attend the next course with The Gnostic Movement’s Toronto center – the Advanced Investigation Course, while I chose to participate in the class online with a separate group. The Advanced Investigation course was all practice, no theory, and it was great to focus more on practicing the different meditation, self-reflection, and astral projection techniques we learned to date in a more serious way.

The online course was a new experience for me altogether. Instead of people to physically talk to, ask questions, and try out practices with, you had forums where you can chat with people around the world about how you’re going with your investigations. Each week I shared how I went with the exercises and with exploring those techniques. Successfully completing this course meant one would qualify to join the Teachers’ Training course if they were interested.

Studying Remotely via Online Courses

Being away in another city, and swept away in many social events, new learnings, and a busy schedule, I felt I didn’t really give that course 100%. I enjoyed reading through various free PDF books by Samael Aun Weor during that time, which I downloaded from The Gnostic Movement’s website – Mysticweb, but I did not have much time to focus on practicing any of the techniques as thoroughly as I would have liked to under different circumstances. I was curious about Samael’s books because I was told he was the founder of modern Gnosis and the current Gnostic Movement was a continuation of these teachings he had initiated, now led by Belzebuub.

When I returned back to Toronto, I went back to the Toronto center and after a discussion with the teachers there both myself and them felt it would be good for me to repeat the Advanced Investigation course in person. So I did just that and that was my next class.

At this point my mother had finished that course, and she decided to pursue other interests and continue practicing what we learned in the courses on her own and also continued exploring other types of classes on related topics and exercises. I carried on with the course and becoming a teacher with The Gnostic Movement interested me. I was gaining so much from attending all the activities so far, they were agreeing with my view and experience of life, and I wanted to teach what I was learning to others too. Teaching was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing outside of TGM’s courses either way – I was training to graduate with a teaching degree from York University and spent a lot of time volunteering teaching in schools as part of that program.

Being able to teach the subjects I was learning in TGM was an exciting prospect, so I focused on completing the Advanced Investigation course and asked to join the Teacher Training course next.

Training to Be a Teacher

jenny-front-desk-2006
Here I am at the front desk helping people sign in at an astral travel and dreams course in October 2006

I started the Teacher Training course in October 2004 and became a “trainee teacher” at the end of that course. The Teacher’s Training course focused on preparing to teach the various TGM classes, and consisted of weekly mock lectures and Q & A sessions. Becoming a trainee teacher at the end of that course meant that I could help out in more ways within the organization – i.e. helping with setting up classes, answering questions in the TGM online forums on Gnosticweb.com, and assisting the instructors, and eventually beginning to give talks, guide practices, and lead classes on my own.

During this period one of the friendships I made with the people I met in TGM translated into a relationship. We got engaged in 2005, and married July, 2006.

In October 2007 I officially became a qualified teacher of The Gnostic Movement. I began running many of the talks, organizing the classes, taking over some of the administrative tasks, and running many (in fact at one time most) of the online courses.

Centers in Toronto

In the time I was participating in TGM, the Toronto center had switched locations three times. When I began attending the classes they were all held at major branches of the Toronto Public Library due to the large number of people attending. There was a center for smaller classes and groups in a northern area of Toronto, which I attended later on in the smaller classes. Then a new center was obtained in a more popular and booming area in the city, known as the Annex, across from the Royal Ontario Museum, in June 2005. I was a trainee teacher then and was quite involved volunteering to help renovate it and have it ready for classes. That center functioned all the way into January 2007, and was a happening gathering space, albeit small. The number of interested attendees quickly outgrew its capacity, and we knew the building was slotted for demolition anyways down the road to make space for other structures, and so we gave it up and decided to look for a larger and more suitable location.

Meeting Mark for the First Time

It was in this center that I met Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) for the first time in person. He visited Toronto in the fall of 2006, and held some talks at the center with a small group of teachers and trainees. It was great to have finally met him and have an opportunity to get to know him better. I was pleasantly surprised at Mark’s sense of humor and his thorough responses to the many questions asked that evening, even some that I perceived to be “silly”. I recall in particular part of the discussion surrounding the living conditions he’s experienced in a house swarmed with poisonous snakes, scorpions, poisonous spiders, and insect infestations. It sounded so different to me as there is nothing like that here in Canada and I couldn’t imagine how anyone could brave through all that. It seemed commendable.

Aside for the talks, my husband and I also let him use our small apartment to stay while visiting. The stay was only a few days long, yet when we returned home we found a small thank you gift (candles), our laundry done, fresh flowers on display, the place thoroughly cleaned, and extra money left in our laundromat change piggy bank to replace coins that must have been used to do laundry (which we clearly said were free to use as needed) – I was surprised to see that what was used was more than repaid for. I felt from these actions that Mark was very grateful to have been able to stay in our apartment and expressed gratitude in actions.

Danforth Center – Largest TGM Center in Toronto

The next (and final) center in Toronto was leased on September 1, 2007 and was massive in comparison to the previous ones. It was located in the heart of the bustling Danforth area, and had the capacity to hold up to 120 people, with a main lecture hall, smaller practice rooms at the back, and a warm and cozy café area at the entrance, where people often gathered before and after classes to chat and enjoy a cup of tea.

It was a very lively center and the community in the area was very much engaged in it. Some local restaurant owners, bakery owners, the local coffee shop, and the local police officer popped into the center, or sent supplies for the classes (such as free coffee and tea for our attendees), and even participated in some of the workshops and courses.

Renovating the Toronto center
Renovating the Toronto center – I’m on the far left

When we took lease of the center it was in great disarray. Having gone through multiple renters with varying business purposes, the place was a mish-mash of different colored walls, old and new equipment of all kinds that was left behind, and in need of much repair all around. We really wanted to turn it into a functional, inspirational venue for future attendees, and that required remodeling. In the process we learned many skills as we went and did everything ourselves. From taking down walls, putting up new ones, painting, interior designing, flooring, kitchen removal, tile removal, stage building, curtain sewing, carpet laying, etc. The skills I had learned in renovations also greatly assisted me later in life when my husband and I transitioned into country living and other building projects where these skills came greatly handy.

Running the Danforth Center

Coming back to the centers, the Danforth center was the final TGM center we had in Toronto. It was often filled to capacity, and functioned as a lecture hall and meditation space for anyone interested in dropping by. There were many repeat students who completed multiple courses, and many drop in folks who came and went as they pleased. Many brought new friends along to these workshops. Many requested more classes and extra activities, which translated into movie nights, organized hikes in nature in various locations across the province, music nights, and other social gatherings.

Strangely just down the street from the Danforth center was another Gnostic center with affiliation to an old Samael Gnostic group. Over time it became apparent that many of the activities and events that ran in our TGM center were mimicked in that other Gnostic group. We had 8 & 9 week courses, and so did they. We hosted retreats and so did they. We began running meditation nights, and so did they. Suddenly they had a Self-Knowledge course too, and so on. It was strange to see a group that was fundamentally so against TGM and Belzebuub, seemingly copying and repackaging what TGM was doing in their own center.

SD Course 2007
Explaining the topic for the week from the Self-Discovery course in 2007

Explaining the topic for the week from the Self-Discovery course in 2007[/caption]At one point I took over the running of this center completely, running all the classes and being responsible for the smooth operation of the center. It was an experience I benefitted from immensely. Throughout the years I learned many skills that enabled me to facilitate something like this: public speaking, the capacity to guide and teach others, design skills, writing skills, creative skills, research, administration and more. All of these skills have come in handy in my professional work and enabled me to land an incredible set of jobs. I utilize many of these skills professionally to this day, via product creation, design, writing, book layout, web skills, and the teaching of others. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have had to master these skills and the support I had in the process from the many teachers, members, and students of TGM around the world.

My Experience with Finances

At our center, most of the funding came directly from people like myself and my husband, almost entirely from teachers and volunteers who wanted the center to exist for the public. At times we struggled to meet basic operating costs and ran fundraising events, though at most we raised $150-$200 a month from those – an insignificant amount compared to the thousands it took to cover monthly rent and running and advertising costs. We also tried to set up a small gift shop to help with extra funds and ran a little café. I personally handmade many of the items for the gift shop and café, yet the costs of the items and ingredients outweighed any profit received from these ventures. Nonetheless, all donations, no matter how small, were always much appreciated. TGM was a true non-profit from the ground up and to my knowledge, finances and good conduct were taken with utmost seriousness. We kept very detailed accounts of all financial transactions and ensured we operated striving to fulfill every law and code out there.

Retreats

Throughout the years, there were yearly retreats organized for TGM participants in North America, usually in Oregon or California in the USA. My husband and I and many of our friends traveled to these retreats yearly (we missed only one in 2006 as we were getting married at that time). These retreats were always a great experience to partake in. Having the opportunity to get together with others studying these subjects, get away and enjoy the quiet of nature, have large meditation, yoga, and astral projection classes, and listen to guided talks was always a wonderful experience. Often international participants would arrive as well, which was a wonderful opportunity to get to know people better, especially those with whom I had working relationships online in coordinating the online classes and websites.

During these retreats I also got the opportunity to meet many of the members overseeing TGM in various countries, and also Mark (Belzebuub) on multiple occasions. All the members I had met were always very responsible and organized people, and with much experience behind them. It was a pleasure to consult with them on areas I was struggling with – be it in my practice or in my ability to teach and so on. They were always ready with advice or helpful hints. I drew a lot of inspiration from their successes, which helped me along down the line.

At these retreats I was sometimes involved in setting the place up before people’s arrival, organizing rooms, dividing people into teams, and so on. On two of these retreats I was responsible for setting up the cabin Mark was to stay in and found the cabin in great disarray and in a very dirty condition. One of the cabins was infested with mice and earwigs, the other filled with spiders and small biting insects, which to me was almost too much to handle in terms of comfortable accommodations, yet Mark laughed it off and said it’s really nothing compared to some of the places he stayed in and the types of pests he has had to put up with over the years.

I remarked through this time how Mark really only possessed a few durable items of clothing that seemed to have lasted through the years (whereas I burn through clothes like there’s no tomorrow…). He seemed to have a minimalist travel approach. He also drove older and unremarkable vehicles. He didn’t mind staying in the rundown cabin I was struggling to prep to be habitable.

Mark guided some incredible talks at these gatherings. The last North American retreat before the closure of TGM was particularly memorable for me, and the talks were so fresh and moving that even the owner of the accommodations couldn’t help but join in the audience. The incredible feeling of these talks lasts with me to this day.

We enjoyed these international retreats so much that we began organizing “mini-retreats” between our center and other nearby centers. We got together on occasion with the Montreal and Madison centers in rented chalets on weekends at times – doing practices, having talks, chatting, organizing pot-lucks, walking in nature, and so on.

Experiences with Mark Pritchard over the Years

Through all my interactions with Mark over the years I’ve witnessed and was impressed by his consistent efforts for upright conduct. To see so many inaccurate allegations made against him was shocking and upsetting as they were the complete opposite of what I had experienced and seen. From what I had observed, Mark was always a gentleman, consistently considerate in his approach, gentle, and caring, making many sacrifices to bring these teachings to the public. If it meant temporarily staying in a dangerous pest infested house, a dirty and cluttered retreat cabin, a sub-par apartment, or driving an old vehicle, etc., he would do it. I have seen him take criticism seriously, often making instant efforts to correct anything that needed correcting. I have seen him continue to teach despite not being well because people had made the effort to come and learn. And I had seen him spend a great deal of time answering questions I personally deemed as “unserious” or lacking depth, and was surprised he took the time to answer them all regardless. I had heard him state the truth even at times when doing so could have lowered his own status in the eyes of others, thus showing that answering things properly was more important than his image or reputation. He also always treated men and women in the organization with dignity, and in fact contrary to many organizations out there, both men and women held the highest positions within TGM.

To the best of my knowledge, he never made any profit from his teachings or books, and he even experienced great poverty as a result of trying to maintain the teachings free. He declined opportunities to charge for his books, even at the prospect of them reaching a wider audience that way, because it compromised the principal of “giving freely.” All of these characteristics were also reflected in the way TGM was organized and the way teachers and members were expected to conduct themselves – i.e. upright conduct and a willingness to correct mistakes made along the way through-and-through.

Abuse on Anti-Cult Forum

One person who became abusive on the forums of an anti-cult website was a student at our center. When he first began coming to the classes in May, 2008 I must admit he made me feel quite uncomfortable. I noticed certain obsessive tendencies and behavior that put me off, particularly in regard to repetitive questions, nervous behavior, and especially nervous jokes. That said, as he continued attending he had shown great interest in the subjects of the courses and great improvements in those tendencies as well. He mentioned on several occasions how he was diagnosed with certain psychological conditions earlier on in life and how much the self-knowledge topics were helping him deal with these tendencies. He was very enthusiastic about the classes he was attending, asked for more to be run during the week if possible, hung back at every opportunity to ask questions (sometimes myself and other volunteers stayed back for hours to answer questions or listen to his experiences), and he helped tidy the center up at the end of the classes which was a nice thing to do. He seemed to try and be as involved as possible and we had many friendly chats along the way. I even offered him rides home from the center on some occasions as a friendly gesture.

He completed the first 2 basic introductory courses, spending about 5-6 months with TGM in total. Then he sent an email saying he will no longer be attending, thanked my husband and I for all we had done and wished us all the best. Simultaneously, my husband logged into the chat system and when he did, that student immediately logged off. A few days later, he logged in again to the chat and found that the student had shared a link with others in the chat to a forum thread on an anti-cult forum about TGM. The duplicity between the polite email he had sent us and his behavior in that chat was very surprising to us.

He later went on to join an anti-cult forum that is used as a vehicle to discredit people and organizations as cult-like. Within a short span he wrote over 30 pages of forum posts, mostly talking to himself, and filled with all sorts of false allegations about TGM, Mark, and about my husband and myself and the center we helped run. At one point the allegations got so out of hand that my husband left a forum comment there trying to address some of the false things mentioned, but the result was only a reinforced erratic campaign of more and more posts. We felt like this person was unapproachable for discussion of any kind.

I felt quite threatened by this behavior from this individual, especially when he took to publicly shaming my husband and myself on the anti-cult forum, naming us and the city we lived in, calling my husband abusive names, accusing him of being “a local cult leader”, and urging people to distrust me. His behavior also seemed somewhat out of touch with reality – for instance he only completed a few months of classes with TGM yet claimed he knew the inner workings of TGM. And he made remarks of hoping to shut our center down.

Physical Repercussions

This behavior was not only taking place online, but also physically. My husband and I watched him put up posters all around the TGM Toronto center stating many false allegations and telling people to visit the anti-cult forums. These posters were placed in locations clearly visible to center attendees. He also threatened to organize pickets outside the center to boycott TGM.

We had someone share that he ran into this person at another Meetup group, where apparently his sole objective was to let people know not to come to TGM’s classes and that TGM was a cult. Around the same time we found anti-cult notices taped to the center’s front door, naming TGM a cult, and on our personal vehicle parked near the center. On one occasion the flyer was even left on our car overnight at our home, leaving me feeling like someone had been stalking us and knew where we lived. As a result of all this activity we had to install security cameras at the entrance of the center, and ensured all volunteers, teachers, and students were safe by leaving a teacher to stand outside and watch for any troublemakers while classes were going on, and also we had to ensure nobody left the center late alone for safety reasons. It was rather unfortunate and unpleasant to live feeling like you, your property, and the center were being watched, stalked, and potentially in danger.

Of over ninety thousand people worldwide who attended and benefitted from The Gnostic Movement’s free courses over the years, it seemed statistically unsurprising that a few would be dissatisfied, and those who joined the campaign appear to all have had a chip on their shoulder in one way or another (such as not having been made a teacher or member of TGM, for example). They took to the internet and saturated it with false allegations of all sorts, at times publicizing personal and private information in a distorted manner that compromised people’s privacy (such as the case of my husband being named alongside the words “local cult leader” and our city). After several years of trying to continue to operate under the difficult conditions described above, it was deemed that there wasn’t a point in carrying on and The Gnostic Movement closed its doors to the public.

We receive emails and messages to this day from past participants asking us whether courses can be organized again, telling us how much they benefitted from them, and wondering what else they can do to continue what they began studying in The Gnostic Movement and where they can have the opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals again. It is truly unfortunate that the centers and classes are no longer available for these people. And it is unfortunate I no longer feel able to run workshops or teach anything of this nature at this time due to the level of hatred incited from the false allegations directed at TGM.

The Aftermath of the Campaign

It took many individuals, myself included, to speak out and state the truth about the destructive and false allegations of the campaign. As people who have been directly involved in TGM and with Mark, it seemed a duty to speak out against this campaign and its distortions and bring the truth forward. A group of us got together to put forward the truth behind the false allegations.

Mystic Seekers Toronto

In July 2011, after the closure of TGM, my husband and I decided to run a small meditation circle: Mantras around the Campfire. We distributed flyers around an area in Toronto announcing a free meditation meetup in Toronto’s Beaches area. We met once a week to sit around a bon fire by the beach, chat, and practice mantra meditation. The sessions continued to grow in attendance and even became quite popular. Many of the attendees wanted more weekly get-togethers. Additionally, some former TGM attendees emailed from time-to-time inquiring when we would be bringing the TGM courses back or whether we’ll be running similar events down the line.

Later in 2011 we joined a friend and former TGM volunteer Vida Narovski in running classes on Astral Projection at a local library via a group called Mystic Seekers Toronto. The free classes we ran were quite successful and well attended, gathering a fairly large audience each week – with over seventy people some nights. The classes focused on exercises only, including practices of relaxation, concentration, meditation, etc. The feedback from many attendees was quite positive – many have been able to remember their dreams more clearly, or have had interesting experiences to share with the class as a result of the practices. Some traveled from as far as two hours away to attend these weekly classes. The course came to an end when an intern from a popular “cult”-shaming magazine attended the classes incognito. At the end of the course he published an article online labeling us as a cult, alongside our photos and names. The article mocked the instructors as individuals, and republished false allegations about us, TGM, and Mark Pritchard, meanwhile Mark Pritchard was not involved in our group or classes. (A full rebuttal of the false claims made by the intern about Belzebuub can be read here.) Seeing the damage such further “cult” accusation articles could bring about we decided to close down the group. There were a hundred people signed up for the last round of the classes at the end of 2012. The closure was a sad event for many of the attendees. For over two years later we continued to receive emails from people who partook in the course with requests to bring the classes back.

Retreat in the Countryside

In 2011, my husband and I also moved out of the city to a rented country retreat property near Orangeville, Ontario. We resided there as the caretakers and used the surrounding farm and forest as well as the large yoga studio on site for small-scale weekend meditation retreats. These weekend retreats became extremely popular. People from Toronto were very excited to be able to have the opportunity to get away from the bustle of the city and spend some time in nature, doing some meditation exercises, and hanging out with like-minded people. The number of attendees quickly outgrew the space, with up to 30 people driving up on weekends to partake in the free daily workshops. The workshops also came to an end with the closure of Mystic Seekers Toronto due to the unfounded cult accusation article (as explained in the paragraph above).

Throughout the running of the retreat we saw a huge potential and interest in nature retreats for the public, as the events proved to be quite popular. Yet the premises we held these retreats at were rented and were not always suitable to accommodate larger groups. We envisioned one day having a permanent bought retreat center in the countryside that we could build up the accommodations according to our vision and needs and where we could hold large and small gatherings, weekend retreats, etc.

Purchasing a Retreat in North America

In April 2012 my husband and I got contacted by a member of TGM in the USA. They explained that it became clear that a suitable retreat center could not be purchased in the USA, as proven by an exhaustive search over the course of many years (a search I was a part of in various stages of the way and in various capacities, and could attest to the difficulties mentioned). We were asked whether we thought the money could be used to buy a retreat facility in Canada instead. We did a lot of research and found that that was certainly a possibility. A formal agreement was signed to have the funds fundraised for a permanent retreat center in North America transferred to the retreat project in Canada (May 2012).

After an exhaustive search all over Canada, in February 2013, a non-profit organization we established for purchasing and running a retreat, purchased a rural property in Ontario for the purpose of building a permanent retreat facility. The retreat was directed by myself, my husband, and Justin Narovski, and was a plot of 122 acres of forest, hills, and a caretakers’ dwelling. My husband and I moved in as the caretakers in April 2013, paying a monthly caretakers’ rent fee as per a rental agreement we had set out, and which helped cover the costs of the mortgage on the property and some running costs.

Efforts to repair the place and make it suitable for public retreats began immediately, with many repairs and upgrades made to the dwelling, barn, and surrounding areas. We worked with the local council and converted the zoning, which enabled us to plan out and get to work on building outdoor facilities for holding future retreats, such as outhouses, shower houses, a camp kitchen, a grand pavilion, hiking trails in the forest, permaculture gardens, etc.

We were joined in this endeavor by Olga and Christos Grapsas, who were old friends and the former co-coordinators of a similar retreat project in Europe. The project in Europe came to an end and they moved to Canada, assisting us. Upon closing, the organizers of the European retreat project decided to donate the funds it had raised for a retreat (which included funds raised by The Gnostic Movement in the UK) to us, as they did not have enough funds to purchase a property in Europe. And so the retreat in Canada became the merged project of Europe and North America with the aim of providing a permanent retreat location for the public.

The property was sold after a few years of development, and the organization is holding the proceeds for a future opportunity.

Back to People’s Experiences

geraldine

Geraldine P

geraldineI joined The Gnostic Movement in 2005, and became a teacher and member of the US and Australian organizations. I also served for a period as a director of Absolute Publishing Press, the organization that published the books of Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) between 2003-2010.

The Gnostic Movement

My experience as a student

The first class I took with The Gnostic Movement was a free 9-week course on Dreams & Out-Of-Body Experiences at the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) Gnostic Centre. I bought the optional book that was available to go along with the course called “A Course in Astral Travel & Dreams” authored by Belzebuub (Mark Pritchard), which I found very helpful as his writing was clear, straight-forward and contained information and guidance based on Mark’s own personal experience.

As a budding scientist, I particularly appreciated his experiential approach to teaching these techniques – Belzebuub explained in a matter of fact way how to get experiences instead of simply presenting theories to be believed or dismissed. It made sense and helped to keep me grounded instead of imagining what could or could not be, because I could simply verify what he was saying by following his instructions and getting my own experiences.

In this course, I learned how to use concentration with the aim of falling asleep in an aware and conscious state, and within days of applying these exercises I was falling asleep a lot quicker and waking up not only feeling more refreshed, but my dream recall had also dramatically increased. As a side-benefit, my sleep routine changed from being poor and disorganized, with a habit of late nights to instead keeping a regular bed time, and benefitting from longer hours of sleep.

At the end of the 9-week astral course, there was an optional astral group practice happening on a Saturday evening for a couple of hours at the centre I was attending.

I attended it and found it wonderful to be able to practice astral projection with other people, and to be able to relate my experiences with others was extremely useful, as I could use other people’s tips in my next astral attempt.

Learning about respect for free will and personal choice in The Gnostic Movement

Geraldine self-discovery
Me holding the self-discovery course poster
The next course I took was the Self-Discovery & Peace course, another free 9-week course created by Mark Pritchard. However due to personal circumstances, I could only attend about half of the classes. A couple of months thereafter, after dining out in a popular spot of town, I came across a poster advertising the same Self-Knowledge course by The Gnostic Movement again. I quickly signed up for it but I was truly surprised I had not received any notifications from The Gnostic Movement about their upcoming classes, it was like I had never attended their school.

Surprised by the lack of contact on their part, I inquired to the teachers why they had never contacted me or updated me on their activities – their explanation left me stunned: out of respect for my free will they did not contact me after I had stopped attending. This show of integrity and lack of proselytising got me further interested in The Gnostic Movement’s teachings, and this respect for the free will of others is something that over the years I saw honoured and enacted by people within The Gnostic Movement, but especially more so by Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub).

I next attended my first retreat with The Gnostic Movement, which focused on Self-Knowledge and, like the courses, was free – I only needed to pay for food & board, which was very affordable.

I liked the dynamic approach that the retreat schedule was based on, and while the theme had been set on self-knowledge beforehand, the practices and discussions of the day were arranged per people’s feedback and needs. I felt very engaged with the learning without having to attend every practice or activity offered, yet I chose to attend pretty much all of them. We went for beautiful nature walks daily, meditated, chanted mantras and uplifting songs on some evenings. Sharing feedback was another highlight, as it helped me to better understand certain techniques or get tips on what had worked or not for others.

Practical approach to spirituality

After the retreat, my determination to continue with the teachings of The Gnostic Movement just kept growing, and I took on the next course which was the last of the introductory courses, called Esoteric Wisdom. Again, I bought the book that the course was based upon, and two things stood out to me in Belzebuub’s writings. First and early on, he addressed the importance for the need for personal verification and secondly not to accept what he was saying as a belief system, but more like a guide to use to gain my own experiences, knowledge and understanding.

At first, I did not realize how important his suggestions were, as the information contained in his books and courses had always been available on the website, but it became plainly obvious to me that had this last class been taught first, I could have easily dismissed the important practical aspect that these teachings based themselves upon and I could have easily instead started to get stuck in just believing in the theories and make this into something it is not. The Gnostic Movement was an esoteric school, this meant that the learning was never static, and happened in real-life interactions, and in gaining my own experience.

This is what attracted me to The Gnostic Movement the most – there was a real push for people to learn and not become parrots, and to just ground yourself in reality using everyday life for spiritual growth. This approach to question information and to push for personal verification kept things real and down to earth.

After that, I took on every course that TGM was running, continued to uncover spirituality in my daily life and got involved in as many ways as possible at the centre with activities, events, and so forth.

Becoming a Teacher & Member

Bay Area Geraldine
That’s me giving a talk at the Bay Area center
When I started the teacher trainee course, I understood that by becoming a trainee teacher, I was abiding by the standards of the organization as I would now be representing it, and while it was not a decision I took on lightly, it was a decision I made very easily as the standards of decorum were very simple, even in-line with how I had been raised, such as being respectful, responsible and to maintain good behaviour. I was also in whole agreement with the Gnostic doctrine, especially about the sacredness of a couple’s relationship (being faithful and married or committed to be married if in a long-term relationship).

As I got more involved in the organization through various responsibilities, I developed many skills and interests that made me grow both personally and professionally (from public speaking, problem solving, graphic design, book publishing, developing team work skills, basic html coding, media marketing campaigns and so forth).

After a year and half, I became a qualified teacher and then a member shortly thereafter. I took on official administrative roles and often met with other members from the USA, Canada, and Australia. Everyone I worked with was serious yet easy-going, respectful and open to differences of opinions, and we always used constructive criticism to move forward with projects, often many laughs were had along the way. The atmosphere was one of support, respect and it was very easy to work with people who have the same spiritual goal, who yearned to use situations for their own personal learning, and not personal gain. Everyone was always so helpful with one another.

One thing that stood out the most, is as a woman, I was able to grow within the organization like the men. In fact, on many occasions, more than half of the directorial positions around the world were held by women. People within the organization were seen as individuals, not by the way they looked, or which gender they were. It was very refreshing and liberating. Respect of one another (no matter whom) and for free will was taken very seriously and learning how to apply these core values were key to personal spiritual development. Care and responsibility was something I learned to truly value for what it is, and as a woman, I felt very empowered, safe and respected within The Gnostic Movement.

Donations & Finances

At the beginning of each course round, the teacher would mention briefly about how the organization worked solely on donations, yet that none were required to attend any of the courses or activities run by The Gnostic Movement. As it was, most people did not donate, which was totally fine.

I donated because it made sense to support what I was so actively part of. There never was any pressure for volunteers to donate, and donations were always kept a private matter.

At times, it could be tight to cover for all the expenses, so we ran various fundraisers such as trivia nights, spiritually themed movie nights, selling secondhand items at yard sales or flea markets, as well as a volunteer-run cafe. The contributions we received for the homemade food we offered at the café usually broke even, but really the spirit of the café was not so much to fundraise as more of a place for people to have a nice simple meal (often it was vegetarian as it helped to save on cost) and to have a cup of tea or coffee so as to be able to talk and mingle with like-minded people.

One year I assisted the treasurer of The Gnostic Movement with filing the tax return for the organization. Everything was very well organized and it was easy to track everything as there was a paper trail for all receipts, expenses, and donations. The attention to detail was meticulous, there were separate bank accounts for different purposes (e.g. a centre fund account, a web fund account, etc.) All receipts were double-checked and compared with the bank statements, and all transactions were entered in a spreadsheet. At the end of the financial year, the organization’s tax return was prepared and filed.

Over the years, I also assisted with collecting the money from the centre donation box, and all donations were always counted in the presence of another volunteer; the amount was then written on a paper placed in the donations pouch, and handed over to the treasurer for double-checking. On many occasions, I also took the donations to the bank after the treasurer had double-checked it. Record keeping was always impeccable. Everything was done strictly by the book and above.

For a while, we also had a separate donation box if people wanted to donate directly to Mark, but it was mostly never used.

Meeting and Working with Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) over the Years

Meeting Mark in person

I first met Mark when he came to the USA on a book tour for about a month and during this time he organized talks with students and visited the centre I was attending. At the time, I was yet to become a trainee teacher, but we got to talk on several occasions, and I understood back then why The Gnostic Movement was such an inspiring and successful esoteric school. He was the embodiment of what was taught in the class, his respect for people no matter who they were was genuine.

Just by simply conversing with Mark, I learned about the importance of listening in a conversation, not once did he interrupt me, but listened to my narrative and answered all of my questions patiently and with interest. He was respectful and genuinely cared for my well-being when he learned about my past illness. And I was quite shocked to learn later that he had been seriously ill at the time of our meetings as he had always been so patient and generous with his time. Before he left, he shared how he was hoping to be able to come back to teach in the USA, as his book tour had been very successful and people had shown a keen interest during his radio interviews.

He came back the following year on a missionary visa which enabled him to teach and live in the USA. The treasurer of The Gnostic Movement at the time explained how his visa requirements were set (for TGM having to provide a salary and housing), and how he had requested to be paid at the lowest wage that was possible. The funds for his salary did not come from donations from the public, but only from people who knew about it and who were already donating to him, and who now donated to an account of The Gnostic Movement specifically for that sole purpose. So as I used to donate personally to him, I stopped and instead donated toward his salary. Due to these limitations, he lived in a very poor neighbourhood, in a run-down house, where gunshots could often be heard, and raids by police would happen in the apartment complex behind the house. But he never once complained about it, instead he was always very thankful for being able to teach in the USA and the help and support he was receiving.

Working with Mark in the organization

Over the years, I worked with other members and Mark on various projects, he always ensured that everybody had a say during meetings, and that things were run in a democratic manner. He was also always genuinely concerned for everyone’s well-being and as the administrative teams in each country were small yet the organization was big, there were always a lot of things running, and projects to manage. Mark often re-iterated the need to communicate well with one another, to learn to share the workload whenever possible, and for tasks to be re-assigned as needed if anyone was starting to have too much on their hands.

Mark always taught by example, and during a member’s meeting, Mark announced that he was stepping down from his position as the International Coordinator of The Gnostic Movement as he explained he needed to focus on being able to teach and write as the running of administrative tasks was taking too much of his time now. He was soon after elected by the members as the spiritual teacher of The Gnostic Movement, and while he was no longer involved in dealing with the day-to-day running of The Gnostic Movement and its administration, he still provided guidance on the doctrine.

Mark then often came to the SF Bay Area centre to give talks, took part in recording online interviews at a community television studio, and was also very busy with writing books, and gave weekly talks followed by a Q&A session, which were broadcast from the SF Bay Area Gnostic Centre. Attendance at times was well over a hundred people. During this time, he created a new course, and helped with making the SF Bay Area a hub of activities as we started to run mini-retreats and workshops on weekends, and also oversaw the creation of the brand new website GnosticAwakenings.com with many new features to facilitate online learning, and new videos. The response to this website was overwhelmingly positive from its users and newcomers alike.

Mark’s respectful and upright leadership

Over the years, I saw on countless occasions how Mark’s gentleman ways came through in all that he did and is, but what stood out to me the most was his firm stand on the sacredness of marriage (one of the most important part of the gnostic doctrine) – he explained how love, commitment and faithfulness had to be at the centre of a marriage and how adultery in any shape or form was going directly against the spiritual. Mark also reiterated that men and women were equals, and that no one was above the other, but each were needed for one another’s spiritual work.

In all my interactions with him, Mark always behaved in the most upright and noble way, and he was the embodiment of decency and respect. And thanks to Mark’s leadership, men with The Gnostic Movement behaved and acted in a similar way as he did. As a woman I always felt that the environment provided by Mark and the men of The Gnostic Movement was one of safety, equality, respect and where chastity truly was meaningful. It was a wonderful place for me to learn, practice and teach about spirituality.

Since I have known him, Mark has always been an example that I could learn from simply by his interactions with people or how he dealt with difficult situations, which he faced with intelligence, patience and responsibilities. He never rushed into things either – but instead taught how careful consideration, planning and discussion among people was important to do things responsibly, and honourably. He also was very respectful of people’s free will and decisions and never imposed his ideas on anyone, but always proposed them for discussions. And it just did not matter who Mark talked to, he was always very respectful, down-to-earth, non-judgemental, caring and polite.

From the first time I met Mark, he has always been a true gentleman in all aspects and every sense of the word; a man who truly led by example, in his deeds and words.

Volunteering for Absolute Publishing Press

Book Expo America 2009
Here I am representing APP at the Book Expo America in New York in 2009
I started to volunteer for Absolute Publishing Press (APP) toward the end of 2006 and I became a manager director in early 2009 until early 2011. APP was the company that published the books by Belzebuub (Mark Pritchard). My responsibilities were many fold: from international book shipping, inventory, advertising, website design, customer service, processing invoicing & refunds, to book printing and marketing, and anything else that would need a helping hand.

While the company was set-up as a normal company, APP worked entirely on a not-for-profit basis: we were all volunteers, and all money made from the sales of the books was strictly put back into publishing more books as well as the administration and running of the company and its websites.

No one was ever paid, and Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) never received any money from the sale of his books, as he always maintained his principle of giving his work for free.

Mark’s stipulation to not be paid any money

The lawyer who drafted the Author’s contract between Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) and Absolute Publishing Press added a clause per Mark’s request in Mark’s contract about him not receiving royalties or payment from the sale of his books. The lawyer could not help himself and commented on this to another rep for APP:

“This has to be the worst author contract I have ever drafted in my whole career – where the author is not entitled to anything, no royalties whatsoever. I have never, ever seen this in my career”.

Mystical Life Publications (a not-for-profit publishing company) now publishes all of Mark’s work. And even to this day, the clause in his contract which was inserted on his request remains. This goes to show his integrity toward the principle he upholds in regards to spirituality not being used for profit, and especially not for his profit.

Retreat Property Projects

The North American Retreat Property Project

I attended 5 retreats with The Gnostic Movement, 2 of which Belzebuub attended in Oregon, and they were always such great experiences. The retreats he attended were always very uplifting, as the depth of knowledge he imparted was very profound. Mark gave talks, led practices, joined with everyone at lunches and dinners, and was always ready to chat each time someone wanted to talk to him. Over the years, he often spoke about hoping that The Gnostic Movement would one day own its own retreats in various regions of the world so that people could attend freely and not worry about cost or travel too much, and be able to focus on their spiritual practices at any time during the year. Many people within The Gnostic Movement, from trainees to members also wished for the same, and it was with this spirit and common desire that the permanent retreat project was launched in various countries.

I got involved in the permanent retreat project as early as 2006 until TGM stopped running its courses, for both the North American and the Australian Retreat Project. The research was very meticulous and when a suitable property was found that fit all the criteria, more investigations were conducted, and a team was sent to visit these properties. Mark even came to visit some of them whenever possible.

We engaged with town planners, local councils, road engineers etc. By the time I left the USA for Australia, we had gone through contracts with at least 5 property owners over the years, but each time, we found that because we were looking at rural properties, there were various issues, such as the roads often not to the standard required for a public venue, and the cost of fixing the road to meet the local regulations made the property no longer affordable due to the limited funds that had been raised.

As I moved to Australia, my involvement with the retreat search in the USA stopped, and I focused instead on helping with the Australian retreat search instead.

My experience with the Australian Retreat Property Project

Australian Potential Retreat Property
Here I am with some other people visiting a potential property for the Australian Retreat
The purpose was to find a rival property to the one that was being seriously considered by the members in Australia, for the past year. A property that was extremely large, private, forested and untouched for many years and surprisingly at a price that was affordable, but which had an environmental covenant as part of the contract. I received hundreds of possible properties to consider from the retreat search team, but the property was still a stand-out among the rest, as nothing came close in comparison.

However, we were still waiting to receive from the agent the actual environment covenant which was still being finalized and drafted by the owner. Finally, we learned that we also had to cull non-native animals as well as containing the invasive weeds found on the property. To top it all off, the access road was also deemed unsuitable and needed much work. In the end, it was clear that it would no longer be affordable and the environmental covenant was a lot of work to uphold.

Harassment at the Brisbane Gnostic Centre

Shortly after I arrived in Australia and started to attend the Brisbane Gnostic Centre, the online abuse that was happening against Mark and against The Gnostic Movement, had increased dramatically. So much so that the effects of the online hate spilled over into real-life.

One day, one of the teachers arrived on the premises of the Brisbane Gnostic Centre to find that the front sign had been vandalized, some signs had been stolen, graffiti had been written over our signage, and placards had been torn down.

The businesses around the centres were shocked as to what had happened, and one business owner even came forward who witnessed the event. They could not understand how such a thing could have taken place, as they appreciated the running of the center and the people in it. It was reported to the police.

Further vandalization

Then about a week later, we were due to have an introductory lecture at a university and discovered our advertising material had been vandalized as well, in a systematic way in several locations in town, with “cult” accusations written all over the flyers.

In the 10 years that my husband had attended, taught and ran the centre, he had never encountered a case of anyone having any animosity toward The Gnostic Movement or the Brisbane Gnostic centre. So this was completely out of the ordinary and very worrying and unnerving to think that there existed an unknown person/people out there who had taken it upon themselves to vandalize a private property and systematically walk around town defacing our advertising flyers.

This abuse and physical harassment went on for another week, and culminated on the day of the lecture at the university, when we arrived to find hundreds of our flyers having been defaced and distributed around the location of our lecture.

Again, it was reported to the police – but as the online smear campaign against Mark and against The Gnostic Movement was not slowing down, out of concern for the safety of the people attending our centre, all activities at the Brisbane Gnostic Centre ceased and our last class was held in February 2011.

The aftermath and end of hate campaign

The hate campaign against Mark and The Gnostic Movement went on for another 2 years, when finally, some of us (both members and teachers) came forward with the truth about the people behind the smear campaign in mid-2013. While the perpetrators eventually stopped their harassment, by then it was too late, the ongoing lack of defence by The Gnostic Movement’s attendees meant that it could no longer continue. We had failed our duty to uphold and defend the truth. The Gnostic Movement was an esoteric school no more – it had been destroyed not by the attacks but by the passivity and lack of duty from the people within. And Mark by then had left it to teach independently.

Final Reflections

My involvement with The Gnostic Movement is one of the things I hold dearest in my life. It helped change the course of my life to one that I find is now fulfilling and purposeful. I’ve learned to connect with the Divine on a daily basis, to get the techniques and practices I need to develop care, compassion and love toward myself and toward others. It has helped me beyond my wildest hopes to repair and mend my bonds with my family into a mutual loving and respectful relationship.

And as a woman, it has helped me to gain self-confidence, self-respect and learn to stand for my rights in all of life’s aspects. My married relationship has blossomed over the years based on the sacredness and loving sanctity that these teachings taught me to understand and apply in my everyday living.

And I am happier because of having learned and attended The Gnostic Movement’s classes and I’m forever grateful to its founders Samael Aun Weor, and his successors, Rabolu and Belzebuub for what they have brought and contributed to the world through their lives and personal efforts and sacrifices.

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