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 (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 (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 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, meanwhile Mark 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.

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