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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