Christos G

Christos GI used to be a student and teacher of The Gnostic Movement (The Gnostic Movement) of the UK and Greece. I joined The Gnostic Movement in Athens, Greece in March 2007. In July 2008 I moved to London, UK to volunteer at The Gnostic Movement in the UK and in July 2010 I moved to Edinburgh to help out with a new Gnostic center that was being established there.

Background

I joined The Gnostic Movement because I wanted to become a better person and lead a spiritual life. I had been part of another Gnostic school a few years before joining The Gnostic Movement which was called UCGM (The Universal Christian Gnostic Movement), and had felt the positive impact that the Gnostic spiritual teachings and values could have in my life. I was aware of what The Gnostic Movement was about and I decided to join so that I could make full use of its gnostic techniques that had already proven effective from my previous experience. During my time in the Gnostic Movement I made friendships with like-minded people and we always enjoyed meeting, discussing and practicing the spiritual exercises that were taught by Belzebuub through his books, courses and talks. I found them to be very beneficial for my self-development and my relationships with others. Being among others that were after self-knowledge and spiritual experiences as well as attending courses that were both simple and practical offered me guidance, discipline and inspiration to focus on my spiritual practice. Furthermore, I liked The Gnostic Movement’s approach which was allowing me to make my own decisions and encouraged me to be self-reliant and think for myself through the space of explorative sit-down practices and critical thinking when running projects and various tasks within the organization.

Experience in The Gnostic Movement

My introduction to The Gnostic Movement actually started in October 2006 at Gnosticweb.com in their online forums. I was quite active in the forums as I enjoyed discussing different topics that I found interesting. The topics of discussion were mainly topics from The Gnostic Movement’s courses but also other subjects, such as movies, art, music etc. Most of all I enjoyed the process of entering an online community; coming home from work and being part of a live network of spiritual seekers that were commenting about different things. This online environment gave me the push to be part of a very interesting larger discussion that I loved being part of and learning from. I also appreciated that most of the people were open minded to discussion and views were generally exchanged with respect to others’ beliefs and opinions. It was a very constructive environment and I was learning a lot from the insights, opinions and attitude of other forum participants and particularly the forum moderators. For example, now and then there would be some strong opinions over one thing or another but the moderators would effectively defuse any arguments respectfully instead of being arrogant or angry at people. I admired their insights and calm reactions in heated arguments. I generally felt most people had a really good time at Gnosticweb.com. I certainly did.

Athens center

Between March and June of 2008 I helped with the renovations of the then new Gnostic Center of Athens. I had already been attending the center courses for about a year then and I felt like attending more activities at the center. I wanted to get more involved with The Gnostic Movement and I had the wish to help and volunteer. I had asked if there was anything I could do to help and I was told that the renovations at the center could use an extra pair of hands since there was a lot to do. I joined the renovations team which consisted mainly of teacher’s course students of the Athens center but also some new people, like me, from beginner’s courses. I was glad I was able to help.

Retreat property search

It was around May 2008 when a teacher of the Athens center, invited me to drive with him to a place he had spotted in a Greek mountain. This was part of The Gnostic Movement Greece’s expeditions to find a property that could be used for a permanent retreat project for The Gnostic Movement. It was a long drive; we spent the whole day driving as well as inspecting the property. The property was very nice but it was not ideal for retreats as it was too close to a village and neighboring a relatively busy country road. This teacher as well as others were driving a lot around Greece in search for an ideal property.

The permanent retreat was a vision that many advanced students had embraced and were looking forward to. This project was in most people’s mind because we have had great times in retreats throughout the years but the cost of accommodation was sometimes difficult for people. A permanent retreat project would provide the same benefits but with a fraction of the cost.

Retreat in Greece

In June 2008 I joined a retreat in Greece. About 50 people from different European countries as well as the US had joined. It was great to meet many people I had talked with at Gnosticweb’s forums. After so many online interactions I felt I knew them already. Out of all the activities that The Gnostic Movement organized, retreats were my favorite. It was great to spend a few days enjoying the beauty and serenity of nature, meditating, going for walks and meeting like-minded people. I had the chance to talk with people and get new insights about how they approached the Gnostic techniques. That was helping me to refresh my interest in the existing exercises and try out others that I hadn’t given justice to. Retreats also gave me the chance to reflect on my own self-development. Being away from the hustle and bustle of city life always helped me feel rejuvenated.

London center

In the summer of 2008 I moved to London, UK. A new center was being renovated there. The building was in a very bad state and there was a lot to do to make it functional. A few people had joined this effort from around Europe and North America.

Activities in London

I helped the teachers in London with the running of the center until I left to go to Scotland in spring 2010. Living in London was very expensive. Trying to also sustain and run a venue that generates no profit can become very difficult financially. Especially when the only income is from donations. There was no charge on any of the courses or events as that was the policy of The Gnostic Movement. If people wanted to donate they were free to do so and some did. Sometimes in the lectures we mentioned that courses are run on donations and any contributions were welcome. However, although donations coming from the introductory courses were always welcomed, they were never enough to cover even the most basic expenses. More advanced students and trainees were made aware of the financial situation and could contribute as much as they felt like. All the money raised would go towards the center, and every bit helped. There never seemed to be an excess of money. We always barely covered the running costs. Occasionally, we held fund-raising events to generate some income that would help sustain the center, but we never raised any large sums of money. Nevertheless, we had fun during those events that were usually creative and entertaining. Although money was needed to run the center and events it was not really our focus. More than anything, we cared to practice and disseminate the teachings of Gnosis.

Harrassment from a few former attendees

While being in London we found out that a few former attendees had started spreading false allegations about the organization and Belzebuub. I was shocked to the extent of their unreasonable and vicious lies. Around that time, I found out that they had approached my family in person. They had tried to convince my family that I was attending a cult and that I was being deceived. I was unfairly put in a position to have to explain myself regarding things I had never done. I got extremely worried that those lies could detrimentally affect my relations with my parents. Gladly though, my parents stayed on my side since, as they said, they could see how improved my character was compared to when I was not in The Gnostic Movement.

Retreat in Slovakia

In June 2010 I participated in a retreat organized by The Gnostic Movement in Slovakia. I have very nice memories of that retreat. More than 50 people from different countries had joined. It was great meeting up with all these people to practice spiritual exercises like meditation, go for walks in nature and also relax, discuss, gaze at the night sky and sing around the bonfire. Some of the talks in the retreat were about exploring spirituality as a way of life, relaxed and with simplicity; enjoying even the simplest of activities.

Gnostic Monastery in Edinburgh

Group Sitting on an Oak Stump
That’s me on the bottom right. We stopped to relax and for a chat after being out on a walk in the woods around the Gnostic Monastery that day.

In July 2010 I moved to Edinburgh, UK. The teachers there had found a really beautiful 15th century house, built from the ruins of an old castle. It was a big deal for us to have such a place not only because of its beauty but also because of its size and the favorable location. We called it the “Gnostic Monastery”. People visiting for events and retreats were praising its beauty and serene atmosphere; it was a unique place. During breaks, event participants would go to the lounge or the gardens and sit in contemplation or take part in lively discussions in the foyer or the dining room. It was encouraging and gratifying to be able to provide a venue where everyone seemed to be having a very good time. The center was sustained mainly by the teachers although the occasional donations from others were helping as well. Later on advanced students from around Europe joined the center and helped by contributing some money to the retreat as well.

Becoming a teacher

In August 2010 I became a teacher of The Gnostic Movement. It was a big responsibility I felt I had, and I encouraged people to rely on their experience rather than anybody’s theories or opinions. From my understanding and from the way I was taught, Gnosis was about gaining personal spiritual knowledge and experience. As a result, I tried as best as I could to relay that message and guide other people to have the same approach. The Gnostic Movement was preparing teachers that were responsible individuals that cared and helped others with respect to their free will. Trying to acquire and uphold The Gnostic Movement’s values was very beneficial for me individually, but it was also a starting block that taught me to genuinely care for others.

Spiritual practices

Sometimes, usually on Saturday nights, we would gather and do all night spiritual practices at the centers mainly geared towards astral projection and out-of-body experiences which were meditation practices that worked with sleep. Saturdays worked best since on Sundays we could rest extra if needed. There would be one practice before we would go to sleep and usually one or two optional wake ups during the night to give another go to the techniques we were trying that night. Sometimes, I felt too tired or I was busy the next day so I wouldn’t participate. Other times I would simply skip one or two of the wake ups depending on how I was feeling and how rested I was. But most of the times I would look forward to all night practices as they were very beneficial for me. Although other people were also in the practice rooms the exercises felt very individual and were very much geared towards personal investigation. The silent presence of others relaxing and meditating around me added to the mysticism and inspiration of those spiritual practices. I usually felt invigorated and was looking forward to the next week’s all night practices. It was an enjoyable and strengthening experience for me.

Practicing meditation in a group with my wife and a friend
Practicing meditation in a group with my wife and a friend

Practice rooms were places where everyone would feel comfortable and have the chance to meditate. Everything from the temperature of the room to lighting and also the practitioners’ personal space was taken care of from the teachers. People would sit or lie in comfortable cushions and pillows; if someone had any medical problems like back pain or anything else then they could choose to sit on a chair, lie down or anything that would make their experience practicing meditation comfortable. Women and men were either on separate sides of the room or if the practices were longer, like the all-night ones, men and women would have separate rooms.

Democratic and well-organized structure

The Gnostic Movement was functioning in very democratic ways and people’s responsibilities were respected. There was a lot of value given to personal initiative and everyone’s opinions and skills in order to improve the spiritual school collectively. The organization, management and running of any events or retreats was very thoroughly taken care of.

Respectful and welcoming environment

Participating in courses, retreats and other events in The Gnostic Movement was always a pleasant and comfortable experience regardless of race, sex, or religious preference. There were people participating from various ethnicities, backgrounds, religious denominations and everyone was treated the same. The organizers of those events were usually very busy looking after everyone’s needs. I remember we had people attending events that were Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, New Age groups and even atheists. The environment was open to all and positive discussions were common.

Occasionally, there were some people that did not agree with what was taught and it happened that some were quite strong in their opinions. These people were treated with respect to their beliefs and opinions and any tension that could emerge was gently defused by the experienced and good-mannered teachers and event-organizers. In my view, that was helping interactions to become pleasant, constructive and the events to be flexible and open to everyone.

Experience with the Teachings of Belzebuub

Practicing Gnosticism, as taught by Belzebuub, has helped change my life for the better. Mark Pritchard is a man of integrity, decency and care for others. His books, articles and online talks have really helped me understand and improve many things about myself, my life and my relations with other people. He is down-to-earth and able to talk about spiritual and psychological topics in a simple way and without pretenses. His guidance through his teachings has been invaluable to me because of the positive impact it has had on my life. I consider him to be a person with a lot of wisdom and care for the spiritual well-being of others and at the same time very approachable and easy going. Belzebuub practices what he teaches and that is obvious in everything he says or does.

Popular and successful courses

A lot of people attended Belzebuub’s (Mark Pritchard) online courses and I had encountered many people coming to the centers, workshops and retreats where his work was taught. Many people were helped from the teachings of Gnosis and the simplicity and effectiveness of the techniques and from what I could see many people were returning from course to course to learn and practice his teachings. Those that were more keen were joining the advanced courses and becoming trainees and later on teachers. This is the process I went through as well. Seeing how much we had benefited from his teachings, we appreciated and admired Mark’s teachings and the efforts he had made to set up a spiritual school.

Down-to-earth approach

Mark Pritchard’s stance and general behavior was not pretentious at all and he was not trying to promote himself as a person to be idolized or anything like it.

Equality and respect between men and women

In Belzebuub’s teachings the relationship between a couple is considered sacred and of high importance. Being faithful and loving to one’s spouse is essential to a person’s spiritual progress. Men and women are considered equal and have the same spiritual potential. Throughout my time in The Gnostic Movement I remember that women were respected and always felt safe. I admired their dynamism and how they could take up administrative roles and tasks and fulfill them really well. My wife was a teacher and a director of The Gnostic Movement-UK during the period I was a student. She had been managing the center effectively, teaching, keeping track of finances and fulfilling other administrative tasks responsibly. Men and women in other centers were doing the same. The Gnostic Movement, to me, was a role model for equality and decency in any group or in society as a whole.

Other activities in Scotland

After The Gnostic Movement closed my wife and I decided to keep renting the retreat facility in Scotland. We believed that it had a lot of potential. We carried on organizing retreats in this venue under a different organization. We were also running events in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Some people from Europe that used to be in the more advanced courses of The Gnostic Movement were also helping to run the place in various ways including financially.

Meanwhile various people, mainly from Europe but also from the USA, Canada and Australia, used to participate in summer week-long retreats organized by our new group. We also ran weekend retreats where people from the UK could come and practice meditation and other mystical practices for a few hours on Sundays. Sometimes these retreats lasted for the whole weekend with people staying overnight on Saturdays.

European retreat fundraising

The Gnostic Movement UK, before its closure, donated the small amount it had fundraised for a permanent European retreat project, to our new group in order to be used for a similar purpose. That motivated us to launch an effort to fundraise for buying a property that could be used for retreats. We put up a board at a central place of our retreat venue and were explaining our intentions to all retreat participants. On the website we created a separate web page which was dedicated towards fundraising for a retreat property. That money was transferred to the dedicated bank account for the fund raising efforts to buy a retreat property. Mark’s books were also donated to us by an organization that supported his work, so we could sell them and put the profits towards the permanent retreat project. We sold some of them in various events with all proceeds going towards the EU Retreat Project.

Insufficient funds to pursue project

The fundraising effort ended up having mediocre results. Although people from around the world and especially from Europe were contributing in different ways, this contribution was not significant enough to make a difference. After about a year and a half of trying to fundraise we barely managed to gather much money, not nearly enough to start thinking seriously about moving on to the next stage of the project which would be to start searching for a property somewhere in Europe.

How funds were dealt with

The directors of this group decided to return all funds that had been donated to our group for the permanent retreat project. We contacted everyone that had donated. Some people agreed to be refunded, others asked us to transfer their donations to other non-profit organizations with similar goals and others said they did not want a refund. A non-profit organization in Canada had just found a retreat property to utilize for reasons very similar to ours. After talking with the rest of the directors we decided to transfer what remained of the funds to this organization in order to support their efforts. We decided that this would be the best use of the funds and would be the most beneficial for the vision of a permanent retreat project where people could practice spirituality freely.

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