I began attending the Melbourne Centre of The Gnostic Movement in September 2002 after seeing a poster for a free course in Astral Projection. I had been interested in Astral Projection for many years and although being skeptical looked forward to the opportunity to explore it in a group.
I completed all introductory and intermediate courses in order. During this time I attended lots of sessions at the centre as I really enjoyed doing the practices and got a lot out of being around like-minded people. It was amazing to me that such useful information was all given freely by volunteers.
Experience in The Gnostic Movement
Approximately 10 months after I started attending the centre I joined the Teacher’s Training course where I learned to be a teacher. I wanted to do this course as I had benefited a lot from what I had been taught and wanted to learn how to teach Gnosis myself. In the Teacher’s Training course I participated in more advanced practices, like night time meditation sessions with the goal of astral projection. These practices aimed at deeply exploring the process of sleep and dreaming by focusing on meditative practices as we fell asleep. Mark Pritchard (who writes as Belzebuub) talked about these practices in his book on astral projection, explaining that it was important to allow extra time for rest if sleep would be disrupted. I looked forward to these practices with great anticipation, as they were often very successful for me in terms of having interesting experiences.
Becoming a teacher
I spent approximately nine months in the Teacher’s Training course before becoming a trainee teacher. As a trainee teacher I began taking group lectures and running practices. After approximately 2 to 3 months as a trainee teacher I became qualified as a teacher. When the member who was running the Melbourne Centre decided to take a break from his role for awhile I was offered the role of administering the Melbourne Centre. I thought this was a great opportunity and happily agreed. I am very grateful for all the help and support this member gave me, and we still remain close friends to this day.
I was a teacher for approximately 2 years before taking a six-month break from the courses and the centre. After the break I attended introductory courses for approximately one and a half years before deciding I wanted to become a teacher again. I became a qualified teacher again and remained one for the duration of The Gnostic Movement, and also became a member and took on the role of secretary for the Australian organization for a period.
During my time as a trainee teacher, teacher and member I was involved in many different teams and projects related to the administrative, publicity and design aspects of running The Gnostic Movement. I was also involved in most aspects of the administration of the Melbourne centre and the Geelong study centre and the courses and events run there.
Volunteering for The Gnostic Movement is one of the most personally fulfilling things I have ever done. It allowed me to learn about myself, and help people in many ways that I never would have had the opportunity to otherwise. It was very inspiring to see the excitement and enthusiasm of others trying the gnostic practices and having lots of success with them. I also learned many new skills which have led to career opportunities.
Roles and responsibilities
Some of my responsibilities in The Gnostic Movement as a trainee teacher, teacher and member included:
- Coordinating, running and delivering courses and events
- Sourcing and booking community halls and liaising with booking coordinators
- Organising advertising material
- Centre accounting, including administration of donations and expenses and quarterly accounting which was submitted to the National Treasurer
- Accounting for book sales made on behalf of Absolute Publishing Press
- Coordinating centre publicity efforts
- Managing teams of trainee teacher and teacher’s course student volunteers in administrative and publicity tasks
- Administering volunteer and student paperwork
- Organising participation in spiritual festivals (such as Mind, Body, Spirit Festivals, the Parliament of the World’s Religions and smaller regional festivals) along with presenting at various festivals as a speaker on behalf of The Gnostic Movement
- Organising council permits related to centre events and activities (ie. planning permits)
- Working on the design team to design publicity material including websites, book covers, brochures, posters, flyers, magazine advertisements and other published material
- Working on projects for the creation of The Gnostic Movement online course materials
- Organising centre fundraising drives and activities
- Organising and coordinating retreats for the Melbourne centre
- Searching for properties that may have been suitable for purchasing as a permanent retreat
- Preparing meeting minutes for TGM member’s meetings
As part of administering the Melbourne centre and in the various teams I participated in I worked closely with a number of other teachers and members in Australia and around the world. As a teacher I also held the position of Design Assistant to a member who was in charge of publicity and marketing. Working closely alongside those who were responsible for administering The Gnostic Movement and the centres within it and being involved in lots of different projects gave me a close view into the upright way The Gnostic Movement was run.
Upstanding and diligent administration
In his teachings Mark spoke clearly about the importance of honesty and acting in accordance with the law, even in small ways that could easily be overlooked. This principle was upheld in every aspect of the way The Gnostic Movement was run. It was an upstanding organization, whose administrators were very diligent in their roles, going above and beyond to ensure that it met all its legal and ethical obligations, and to ensure that it was an engaging and supportive learning environment for its students.
Logical course structure
Both as a student of the introductory courses and in my volunteering roles as trainee teacher, teacher, and member, I found The Gnostic Movement to be a very open place for exploring spirituality. The introductory courses were open to anyone from the public to attend, and anyone could choose to continue onto further courses once they had completed the introductory ones if they wished. It was my experience both as a student and teacher that course participants and members of the public were able to ask questions at any time about any of the Gnostic work. Even advanced information from the Gnostic doctrine was available as the works of Samael Aun Weor were available for free download for anyone who wanted to read them. When I first read these books however I had difficulty understanding what they were talking about. Mark’s teachings in my view built on, developed and helped clarify the concepts in Samael Aun Weor’s work. After spending some time learning from Mark I found that I was able to later return to reading Samael’s books and find them quite useful and understandable.
The courses encouraged personal exploration of spiritual practices and information rather than blind belief. The courses, events and information provided empowered attendees to understand themselves, including their thoughts, emotions and the psychological causes of their actions. As a result the people who applied the exercises and information were able to see very positive changes in their lives, for instance overcoming challenges such as depression and various addictions. Those who did not use the practices tended to hang around for a while before moving onto something else. The Gnostic Movement welcomed anyone interested in its courses. Many students attended other spiritual groups, churches and even other gnostic groups while attending The Gnostic Movement.
Free of charge
All courses were free of charge in line with Mark’s teachings that spiritual knowledge should be provided freely so it can be accessed by all no matter what their financial situation may be. Financial contributions were accepted in the form of voluntary donations; The Gnostic Movement was solely funded by its students and volunteers. I never felt any pressure to donate however, and there were a number of periods where because of personal situations I did not contribute financially at all. In the centre I taught at the donations box was displayed unassumingly and people could donate quite privately if they chose too. The donations box was emptied and monies banked on a regular basis by teachers. Even small donations were greatly appreciated and used carefully. Reimbursements for any goods bought for the centre where receipts were provided were also made upon request. Teachers and members were extremely careful not to make anyone feel obliged to donate. It was made clear to me upon becoming a teacher, as well as many times after, that people should not feel obliged to do things in any way so as not to infringe upon their free will. Respect for free will was a core tenant of the teachings of The Gnostic Movement. In reality few people contributed donations. The centre bank account never had very much money in it after rent and utilities were paid.
All finances were very carefully managed and accounted for. Donations were counted by at least two people at all times and the initials of those people were entered into the centre accounting ledgers along with the amount of money to be banked. As well as accepting donations we ran occasional fundraisers for important projects or causes. All funds raised were directed specifically to the cause the fundraiser was for. Mark accepted donations however these were separate from donations received through the centre. No money from the centre donations was ever directed to him. Book sales were also carefully recorded and accounted for on behalf of Mark’s publisher Absolute Publishing Press. Separate accounting was done for Absolute Publishing Press quarterly around the same time as centre accounting.
Encouraging and supportive environment
Students, teachers and members of The Gnostic Movement also retained strong relationships with family and friends outside Gnosis, with many people finding these relationships improved as a result of the understanding developed through Mark’s teachings. A large majority of teachers and members also had part or full-time jobs in addition to volunteering for The Gnostic Movement in their spare time. Strong relationships were encouraged, as was personal responsibility at work, in daily tasks and in all the interactions of life.
The friendships I developed in The Gnostic Movement were some of the best and most genuine I have ever experienced. I have retained many friends from my time there even though it has now closed. In the period in which I was not involved I regularly caught up with friends who were still attending the courses and running classes. In The Gnostic Movement it was taught that life is a school for spiritual knowledge. Students were encouraged to be active and involved in all aspects of their lives, including in their relationships at work, with friends and family. This is a totally different approach to many spiritual traditions who teach renunciation of the world in order to seek enlightenment.
High standard of conduct
When someone wanted to become a teacher there were requirements. A code of conduct like this made sense to me, as it protected The Gnostic Movement and its reputation from being damaged, as well as ensuring that teachers were good role models for students. I still maintain the same level of conduct even though The Gnostic Movement has closed. I have found living in this way aids me in making better, clearer choices that are beneficial for me spiritually.
When I found out about the teachings I had been struggling with depression for some time. I was not looking for a cure through the offerings of The Gnostic Movement as I was most interested in the possibility of out-of-body experiences in the beginning. I soon found however that with the understanding gained through the teachings of Gnosis I would be able to address my depression too. I have not felt depressed now for many years solely thanks to the self-application of practices I had learned from Mark’s teachings in The Gnostic Movement. I also feel that discovering the teachings of Gnosticism gave me a purpose and perspective in life that I had not previously had. This prior lack of purpose was a contributing factor to the onset of depression in the first place. Mark’s teachings allow me to look at my life with clarity and to make informed decisions to benefit my well-being in a way I had not been able to earlier.
I have studied spiritual doctrines from many different traditions and at times have worked closely with Buddhist practitioners on mindfulness-related projects. I found the teachings of The Gnostic Movement to be much more practical, grounded in reality and effective than any other spiritual teachings I’ve come across. I personally believe that there are no other teachings as effective for spiritual exploration as those taught by Mark and The Gnostic Movement. Because of this I happily took the initiative to promote The Gnostic Movement and Mark’s books wherever I could, for example through putting up posters in my community and leaving reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Youtube etc. I know that many other students also felt the same way as me in regards to the quality of the teachings provided by Mark and The Gnostic Movement and wrote reviews and engaged in publicity activities of their own volition in similar ways.
Independant thinking encouraged
Students of The Gnostic Movement were always encouraged to think for themselves, to question and to take what they were learning with a grain of salt until they were able to prove it for themselves. The Gnostic Movement taught the importance of making informed and rational decisions. In my view one of the goals of the courses was to create leaders rather than followers. Personal initiative was encouraged and personal opinion and input was valued when working on projects as a group. Mark clearly explained in his work that gnosis was not about following or worshiping an individual. He explained how the practices of gnosis help a person make informed decisions based on a clear perspective of what was occurring in their lives.
Responsible and inspiring teachers and members
I found the teachers and members of The Gnostic Movement to be very grounded, balanced, sensible individuals, who were able to make complex management decisions with clarity, calmly managing many competing priorities. They were were successful both in their volunteer capacity and in their lives outside of gnosis, and were caring and supportive friends and mentors. I considered the members to be excellent role models, very natural and inspiring people whose selflessness I admired.
I also found the teachers and members of The Gnostic Movement to have a lot of forbearance as other gnostic groups were often negative towards us feeling that they alone had the right to teach Gnosis. When people came into the public forums of our websites to make antagonistic or negative comments and to try to stir trouble they were dealt with peacefully, sometimes simply being blocked from further posting, in a similar manner to other communities who face trolling. We always respected other’s freedom to practice the spirituality of their choosing and hoped that they would do the same for us.
Participation at the discretion of the individual
Everything in The Gnostic Movement was done voluntarily, including attending sessions at the centre, any donations given, any time spent volunteering etc. much the same as participation in any other type of group in society, such as a sporting club or church. Mark’s teachings made it very clear that we have to understand and work within our own limits related to time, money and health, and only do what we felt capable of doing. Mark taught that it was much harder to do a spiritual work if we were sick, and that we should do the best we can to look after our health. Mark also made it clear how important it is to ensure we are being responsible in our daily activities to meet our physical needs and those of our family.
Teachers and members of The Gnostic Movement were able to resign from any positions of authority they held as they pleased. Many students in the Melbourne centre did not go beyond the introductory courses, some deciding to repeat them continuously for many years. Some people attended only briefly. Some attended for a while, left for a while and then came back. I was taught early on that it was inappropriate to interfere in the decisions of others and it was my experience that if people decided to leave they were not followed up about why they had left, or asked to return, nor was there any judgment about them leaving. We often found that by the end of a course round, of those who began only approximately 20%-30% completed the entire course, and only approximately 10% of those who completed the course decided to continue onto further courses with The Gnostic Movement. It was taken as a matter of course that some people would decide Gnosis was not for them and would move onto other things.
Care for people’s wellbeing
I have had a chronic health condition for many years which began prior to finding out about Gnosis, and on a number of occasions I was reminded of the importance of looking after myself by members I worked with. It was clear the members did not want me to force myself in any way and that my needs and health came first. At times when my health was worse I received a lot of help and support in rearranging tasks in order to have more time to rest. I also felt that I could turn down or pull out of tasks at any time if I needed to without receiving any kind of judgment. For example, at one stage I was working on a team looking for a retreat property in Australia. My health issues had flared up so I emailed the member in charge letting him know I was having to rest more and apologising for the delay in sending through what I was working on. He replied saying that it was fine to take a longer time to finish what I was working on. He also stated that if I felt like I couldn’t keep going at all due to my health not to hesitate to let him know. He stated that my health was more important and that I shouldn’t push myself to the detriment of my health.
Experience With Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub)
I have been studying Mark’s books, reading his articles and listening to his talks and radio interviews for many years. I feel that the consistency and depth of knowledge about life that is displayed in Mark’s teachings comes from a great deal of personal integrity and spiritual experience built through years of dedicated spiritual practice. His teachings have helped me to understand myself and improve the quality of my life, and to gain amazing life experiences in ways I never could have imagined possible.
Here’s a video review I gave of Mark’s astral book for example many years ago:
Caring and compassionate nature
Mark is an upstanding person of the greatest credibility and trustworthiness. A gentle, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, balanced, down-to-earth and humble person who encouraged teamwork, naturalness and friendship in pursuit of spiritual development. In his interactions with people in The Gnostic Movement and from the public Mark showed a great deal of care, warmth and understanding, even with people he barely knew. I remember one instance where a woman whose husband had recently passed away phoned in to ask a question about the afterlife on a radio interview with Mark. The compassion he had for this lady’s circumstances was very tangible in his voice when replying. I was struck with surprise that it was possible to have this much compassion for a person you had never met. Mark would regularly answer questions from people both old and new to the Gnostic doctrine. It was clear his answers came from experience rather than a theoretical understanding. I found his suggestions worked very effectively when I tried them out.
Treating men and women as equals
Mark’s respect for his students and the Gnostic work is obvious in the exemplary values expressed through his teachings, and in the approach to administration and the ethical standards that were upheld in the running of The Gnostic Movement. Standards like equality and respect between genders were a matter of course. Both men and women held positions of responsibility in the Movement, working together collaboratively on projects as friends and equals. Mark commented on a number of occasions that women have the same opportunities that men do in terms of spiritual development, correcting a misconception that is common in some areas of society where women are looked down upon as inferior.
It is a testament to the values developed through practising Mark’s teachings that my experience working with others in The Gnostic Movement was refreshingly free of anger, negativity, competition and divisiveness compared to other areas of my life where I’ve interacted with people who did not know about Gnosis, for instance at some of my previous workplaces. It was also the first place where I felt I was able to have genuine friendships with women which were not based on any sort of underlying agenda or sexual interest which is often present in interactions between genders. This was also very refreshing, as I felt that prior to learning about Gnosis the friendships I had with women were somewhat artificial.
Emphasising the sanctity of marriage and relationships
Mark placed a lot of emphasis on the sanctity of marriage, the importance of committed long term relationships and the role that love in this context plays in spiritual development. When learning to be a teacher it was explained to me very early on that relationships are considered sacred and that it was inappropriate to interfere in other people’s relationships in any way.
Mark explained in his teachings that feeding lust and temporary sexual desires leads to relationship breakdown and is opposed to spiritual development. While growing up I looked down on permanent commitment and marriage, however Mark’s teachings about relationships changed my perspective, speaking to something deep inside me about the possibility of finding a “soul mate”, and that a long term relationship rather than promiscuity was important.
Principled conduct in all interactions
Mark was a strong role model for me regarding relationships and interaction between genders, and I looked up to his example in the principled way he conducted himself with both men and women in The Gnostic Movement. I have also had many role models in friends practicing the teachings of Gnosticism whose relationships have benefited greatly from the understanding and cohesion that Mark’s teachings bring whether their partner was also involved in Gnosis or not.
Unassuming and down-to-earth
In talking to Mark I found that he has a very unassuming form of wisdom and a great depth of understanding about human emotions and difficulties. This understanding means that his teachings are very relevant for the modern day challenges we face. Mark is very humble and down-to-earth in his interactions, and has retained these qualities despite running very successful courses and writing a best-selling book. I personally have a great respect for Mark and view him as the pre-eminent source of spiritual teachings alive today however he has never made, nor can I imagine him making that claim of himself. Despite his popularity, I have never felt that Mark wanted to be worshiped or upheld as a spiritual luminary in any way. Mark has stated on a number of occasions that his role is to simply give his teachings and that anyone is free to take or leave them as they wish. Mark greatly respects free will, as can be seen throughout his teachings.
In my view Mark was careful never to make anyone feel pressured in any way regarding his teachings, and to me his teachings were based in common sense, aligned with major religions, and taught in a way that allowed personal verification rather than leading to blind belief. Interestingly I was brought up a Christian but found religion boring and irrelevant. I only began to understand and appreciate Jesus’ message as a result of practicing what I learned from Mark.
Very modest living conditions
As a friend, I helped with some renovations of Mark’s home. Seeing his residence it became clear to me that he was not financially motivated in regards to spreading his teachings. Before renovations, his one bedroom house was in a poor condition which I personally would have had difficulty living in. The house was located in thick vegetation inhabited by all sorts of spiders, bugs and poisonous snakes, many of which found their way inside. The climate was hot and humid and his house had no air-conditioning. The water supply had to be treated before drinking, and the kitchen relied on a makeshift camping stove connected to a gas bottle.
Mark was very safety conscious in regards to those helping to renovate his house. At the beginning we were given a safety briefing and first aid kits and plenty of water were kept on hand. We ate very good, filling meals which were some of the best I had ever eaten and there was plenty of time to rest and converse with others after meals, in the evening etc.
Mark was very appreciative of the people who helped to renovate his property and he expressed this to me. I helped because I wanted to improve Mark’s living conditions so he was not subjected to such physical hardship and had a more comfortable environment in which to work.
I also chose to donate towards Mark’s living expenses, and was glad to help out in this way so he could focus on writing and teaching. These donations were separate from those going to The Gnostic Movement. I feel like I have received much more than I have ever given.
Effects of hate campaign against Mark Pritchard and The Gnostic Movement
When Mark and The Gnostic Movement came under attack from a small group of individuals it impacted my life dramatically. During the attacks much negativity was spread online by a few people who falsely and manipulatively depicted Mark and The Gnostic Movement as harmful. As a result it became unsafe for people to keep attending centres. The online attacks also incited physical vandalism, and eventually The Gnostic Movement was closed. It was no longer safe for everyone involved due to the public stigma that had been maliciously fabricated.
The opportunities and experiences I had through The Gnostic Movement were among the most important and valuable experiences of my life, in fact they were priceless. As I had lived in the Melbourne Centre as a caretaker for a period of time it was like a second home to me. I felt a huge sense of loss and wasted opportunity when the Melbourne Centre and the Movement closed. Unfortunately the repercussions of the attacks in my life did not end there.
Assistance from courts and human rights comission
A contributor to the online harassment targeted towards Mark and members of The Gnostic Movement posted a number of statements about me which detailed aspects of my personal life and involvement in The Gnostic Movement but depicted in a very negative and false light. When I spoke to this person regarding what had been written, they admitted to falsifying information. I had to initiate legal and court proceedings in order to get all the false representations this person had posted as part of the online harassment removed. It is a testament to the character of people in The Gnostic Movement that they were not influenced by the negative statements that were posted about me, and the way they related to me did not change.
In another instance, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) accepted our complaint against an individual who was contributing to the online harassment more generally, but who was also harassing attendees of our centre directly. A representative of the VEOHRC contacted the individual in order to try and organize mediation between them and The Gnostic Movement. However after the initial contact by the VEOHRC the individual cancelled their phone number and stopped responding to VEOHRC emails. The VEOHRC was unable to contact them again.