Jon A

JonThis is my personal experience being involved with The Gnostic Movement from 2006 until it closed.

Finding The Gnostic Movement

When I first came to the courses and read Belzebuub’s books, I was looking to understand and experience spiritual things. I wanted to know if the practices really worked. To my pleasant surprise, they did – I began to understand and overcome many debilitating inner states I had been facing such as tremendous fears, addictions, anger, and so on, as well as having mystical experiences through dreams and astral travel. I was grateful to Belzebuub for having taught it, and appreciated his straightforward presentation of the unique information.

Sometime in the first half of 2006 I had ordered a copy of Belzebuub’s book The Peace of the Spirit Within before starting any of the courses. I had already read a lot of the articles and experiences online but wanted to delve deeper. This book had such a profound impact on me – Mark wrote with such simplicity, explaining deeply spiritual topics such as our personal relationship with the divine, but made it sound so achievable that I longed to put it into practice and experience it for myself.

Other Gnostic Groups

In my initial research into gnosticism I had come across a few other groups online, but to me they seemed so aloof and unpractical. In comparison, The Gnostic Movement (Mysticweb and Gnosticweb at the time) felt very approachable, with the published experiences coming across as very real and from people that I could easily relate to. The other sites were pretty much all anonymous. They even spoke against TGM and Belzebuub as well as his predecessor Rabolu, which if anything put me off due to their negativity.

Early on, when I used to participate in the online forums a lot, I noticed harassment from people from other gnostic groups in the forums who repeatedly tried to undermine Belzebuub while preaching to new students to join them. I found out later about all the time spent by the moderators to try and keep the forums a positive and productive place free from anonymous trolling. Sadly some people just didn’t want to allow The Gnostic Movement to exist or Mark Pritchard to teach freely.

Critical Thinking Encouraged

From the very beginning, the importance of “gaining your own experience” was continuously spoken of, and standing on that rather than belief about this or that theory. It was such a refreshing change to what I had been used to previously. Growing up as part of a church there wasn’t much talk of personal knowledge; it was more about learning the established doctrine and sticking to that. This was very different.

Throughout all the courses, retreats, and events I attended at various locations with people from The Gnostic Movement, the focus was always on the practices, and individual exploration. I eventually began to teach others through TGM because I had personally benefited from inner change and was happy to share my understanding with others.

My experiences with The Gnostic Movement and the teachings of Belzebuub helped me to be more independent, to think for myself, gain my own knowledge, and take responsibility for my life.

After putting the practices to work in my life, I overcame many difficulties I had been facing. Being able to come out of depression and laziness, and vastly improving my ability to concentrate, all helped me get back into university and eventually graduate with a double major and two academic awards, when at one point previously I had been dropping out of classes altogether. I was astonished that such a change was really possible.

Relationships and Involvement in Society

Mini-Retreat 2009
With friends on a Bay Area Center mini-retreat at Tilden Nature Area in late 2009.

Relationships were treated with great respect in The Gnostic Movement. There was a big focus in the courses on how we relate to others, and changing ourselves so that we can relate to others better, whether it was our partner, family, friends, colleagues, and so on. Removing things like anger is one example of what we aimed to do.

Belzebuub’s teachings on relationships resonated with me greatly, from the way we relate and interact with the world, to the sacredness of marriage and our partner, and ultimately to within ourselves and our connection with the divine.

Through self-knowledge, I was able to become more of a social person, not afraid of meeting new people or being in new places or circumstances. Negativity had previously kept me from going out of my comfort zone, but I managed to largely overcome this. The aim was to become responsible people fully involved in society, not apart from it.

There were responsibilities involved with being a part of The Gnostic Movement which took time and commitment, but it was no different from having responsibilities in any other area of my life, like with family, at university, social commitments, and so on. I just chose to be involved with TGM and the courses because I got so much out of it.

Because I cared, I gave a lot of my time to helping at the center and took it upon myself to organize things like music and artwork. I appreciated the space and valued having it as a nice place not only for myself but anyone who came and wanted to also practice as a group.

Having felt such a positive impact, I naturally wanted to tell others about it, so would occasionally leave positive reviews and comments online. I also told a number of my friends I thought were most interested, particularly regarding astral travel. One of my friends attended the Brisbane Centre for a few months and spoke very positively of the courses and his experiences, remarking how peaceful he felt being at the center.

Over the years in TGM, I developed some of the strongest friendships I’ve ever had, and was able to vastly improve the relationship I have with my family.

My sister attended one of the workshops in the Bay Area Center when she was visiting the US from Australia. She enjoyed the practices and chatting with everyone there for the day. I knew of others who brought along their parents, siblings, and friends to various activities over the years.

I maintained a regular meditation schedule, taking breaks in nature when possible (every day at times), and managed to have consistent astral and dream experiences over my whole duration with TGM. I set my own personal practice schedule.

The Gnostic Movement’s Courses and Esoteric Teachings

Bay Area All-Day Workshop
Me explaining awareness or self-observation at a neighborhood park during one of the Bay Area Center’s all-day workshops.

The Gnostic Movement taught some practices which in history were kept secret due to persecution, but today are taught openly, such as the esoteric technique of alchemy. The complete spiritual work as taught by The Gnostic Movement was available for anyone to learn about at any time, however, the courses had a structure that would allow people to learn the theory and practices in an orderly and progressive way, as you would expect of any course where you learn lots of information.

Personally, before I started the courses with The Gnostic Movement, I wanted to know what to expect. So I researched, reading personal experiences on their websites, as well as some of the recommended books. Through this initial research I learned almost everything that was to be taught in the courses before I even started! The benefit of the courses was in being able to practice the various techniques with others at the center in-person.

I gained a lot from the initial courses, so I stuck with it and progressed through them all. Most (almost all) people didn’t even finish one course. That’s just the way it was – most people didn’t seem interested. But if they liked being there they could become more involved and train to be a teacher. I knew of people that left the courses for a long time of their own accord, and returned later to become involved as they pleased.

There were recommended readings many times in the courses, because we were studying different practices or spiritual teachings referenced in those particular readings. The outward presentation of TGM was ultimately from a Gnostic Christian perspective, so naturally we focused on texts from that lineage, rather than sacred texts of other religions. However, I owned other spiritual books and knew others involved with TGM who had many other types as well. We would often openly discuss different religions and spiritual texts/books.

My Experience with the Centers

Bay Area Sign
I’m on the left helping put up the sign with another teacher. There was a protective coating on the letters which was removed afterwards.

The centers were very open and welcoming to people of all walks of life and spiritual backgrounds. Over the years at the center in Brisbane one regular attendee frequented Hare Krishna gatherings. He was one of my best friends at the center.

In mid 2009 I had moved from Brisbane to the Bay Area of California and began to be involved with the center there. A huge amount of varied activity was underway which appealed to me greatly, and there was an eclectic mix of people from around the world gathered there for the same reason. Mark Pritchard was also in the area and gave a number of talks. The biggest attendance I remember from any center activity I had been to was October 2009 when Mark gave the intro talk for the new course round – about just over 80 people attended. I remember being amazed at the way he managed in simple language to sum up everything The Gnostic Movement taught in about 10 minutes. The audience was captivated, and he led everyone through a simple yet effective relaxation practice. At the end of the session there was a lot of lively discussion.

In one chat with Mark and everyone in the Bay Area Center cafe, he made a side comment about video work in TGM. As I was looking for new things to learn, a couple of days later I asked one of the members about getting involved with video. A short time after that I began to help out in small ways setting up equipment for the video projects that were underway at the time and learning the basics of video editing. Through the support of the teachers and members of the Bay Area (and remotely from Perth, Australia), I eventually became one of the key people involved with video production. And in the years since The Gnostic Movement closed, I have become a successful freelance video producer, despite never having any formal qualifications. I never even thought of this as a possibility in my earlier years. I was never asked to take on this work, but I knew it would benefit myself and TGM, and it has since paid off for me personally in a massive way.

All-Night Astral Practices

Both at the Brisbane and Bay Area Centers, I participated in “all-night” astral practices, where we would use techniques for astral projection such as mantras or concentration on the heart, waking up about three times through the night to share how we went and refresh ourselves before trying again. These were some of my fondest times at the centers due to the number of amazing mystical experiences I gained out of the body. I always relaxed the following day (generally a Sunday) and in the Bay Area for a time we even had pancake breakfasts and music sessions. They were very happy social times!

At these all-night practice sessions men and women would practice in separate rooms, as respectful behavior was always observed.

The Gnostic Movement’s Structure

Jon
Helping renovate the Bay Area Gnostic Center in mid 2009. We had a very good time!

There was a structure within The Gnostic Movement of trainee teachers, teachers, and members, which is a pretty typical structure for a well-functioning organization.

Mark Pritchard initially coordinated The Gnostic Movement, however, over time he became less involved with its day-to-day administration, so he could just concentrate on writing books and teaching. The running of the study centers was the responsibility of those at the individual centers, then on the national level it was the responsibility of the national boards, etc.

While Mark (Belzebuub) didn’t administrate the Movement, the times he attended our study center to teach and give advice were extremely valuable for everyone there. Naturally he would make suggestions now and then, but ultimately it was up to those of us directly involved to make decisions. We had many open discussions with everyone free to have a say.

One of the main reasons the structure of The Gnostic Movement was so beneficial was that it provided a means to work with other people giving spiritual knowledge while also changing yourself for the better.

There were high standards we had to maintain to keep a spiritually beneficial atmosphere. If people displayed behavior that was consistently negative, angry, judgmental etc. towards others it was an issue affecting everyone around, so sometimes people would be asked to take a break from attending. I saw this as overly positive and beneficial – negativity was addressed rather than left to have an even more debilitating effect later.

Money and Donations

Running the study centers was up to those of us involved at each individual center. While small donations were made by the public for the free courses we ran, and occasional fundraiser (e.g. movie nights), the majority of funds came from the trainee teachers, teachers, and members, who ran each center. We gave our money for the simple fact that we benefited from having a center running, and wanted it to continue.

In any nine-week course we would maybe briefly mention to the public that we ran on donations during the first three weeks, and point out that we had a donations box. All mention of money would be left at that.

In Brisbane I was involved in counting cash donations given at the center. This was always done by two of us to ensure accuracy. We treated it very seriously as we understood the non-profit principles by which The Gnostic Movement operated, and the honesty required to always use money for the purpose in which it was given.

For a short time in the center there were donations given directly to Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub), kept in a separate box so it was very clear if a donation was going towards running the study center or to Mark. The amount placed in the box to him was pitiful.

I freely gave donations and time to The Gnostic Movement because I valued it so much. If people became involved and valued it too, naturally they gave to it as well. People were also free to give nothing at all – and most didn’t.

All work I was involved with was as a volunteer. Volunteer organizations exist all over the world, and in this case it was very clear from the beginning that there was no money to be made. I was happy to give my time and effort so that others could learn if they wished.

Mark Pritchard’s Character

Retreat 2007
At my first retreat in January 2007. There were lots of friendly birds ready for a feed.

The description of “down-to-earth” is an understatement regarding Mark’s character. From the very first retreat I met him at the beginning of 2007, he always taught in a simple, straightforward manner, at times with appropriate humor. In addition, his teachings have been more profound and life-changing than any other I have come across. He showed care and respect to all I saw him deal with, whether new students or those who had been around for many years. The first time I met him, at a retreat in January 2007, I was sitting in the main hall with a scattering of other students; he came in with a friendly smile and took the time to greet each person individually, asking who we were and where we were from. This personal approach impressed me greatly.

The car I saw him driving to this retreat was basic and not at all new. He dressed in simple neat smart casual clothing.

One evening at this retreat in the main hall, everyone gathered and he spoke about The Gnostic Movement acquiring a permanent retreat that could operate year-round. This sounded quite awesome as the retreat had been amazing so far. He opened the discussion to everyone there which I found surprising as myself and quite a few others there had only been attending TGM for a few months, but it just showed how much he valued open discussion and hearing everyone’s opinions.

Mark’s conduct over the years has always been at the highest standard I can think of. He has treated men and women as equals, and lived the spiritual virtues he taught. That he demonstrated his teachings through his life and actions was important to me, as it continually reinforced the validity of what he taught. The core principles of removing lust from everyday interactions, working on having a committed strong and loving marriage, and respect and privacy in personal relationships – his was the best example I’ve ever seen and continues to be an example to look to for inspiration.

On a personal level, I have enjoyed numerous social gatherings with Mark, and would definitely consider him as a friend like any other. You could think of Mark as just a normal guy, albeit with a rich and unique spiritual knowledge. In personal interactions I’ve only ever seen him show the utmost respect for people and genuine care and compassion.

Of all the times in which I’ve heard him speak, his ultimate concern was always helping others selflessly and giving the teachings in the right way so that people would have the best chance to understand them and take them up if they wished. This among many other things has shown me he is truly a genuine and sincere spiritual teacher.

I greatly respected Mark Pritchard’s role as a spiritual teacher, along with his predecessors Samael Aun Weor and Rabolu, as you would respect any teacher that imparts helpful knowledge.

Retreat Projects

Over my years with The Gnostic Movement, I was directly involved in the project to establish a permanent retreat in North America, helping with fundraisers, searching for properties online, and contacting real estate agents. There was never much money involved (certainly not enough to purchase a functioning retreat property, or even a decent “land only” property), but what money was involved was only ever reserved for the purpose in which it was given, i.e. for establishing a permanent retreat.

At one point in the North American retreat project, a promotional offer was made for people to donate a certain amount and secure a spot at the planned upcoming retreat to be held at a property secured for purchase by The Gnostic Movement. When the property purchase didn’t go ahead due to issues with road access, those who had donated to this promotion were offered a full refund. I was one of those people, so can attest to the honesty involved.

Despite the lack of funds, the project was continued by other organizations and a retreat was ultimately purchased and established in Canada, while the Australian project continues (and has never ceased). Mark Pritchard was extremely generous to the Australian project to his own personal financial detriment.

As The Gnostic Movement was winding down, I was witness to the funds from the North American Retreat Project (as handled by TGM USA), sent to a Canadian organization with the same purpose of establishing a permanent retreat. My wife as Treasurer of TGM USA oversaw this donation. Eventually the Canadian organization purchased a retreat using these funds – I attended a couple of years later. It was able to operate solely on donations with attendance for free just as had been envisioned in TGM.

The Malicious Smear Campaign

When the smear campaign started, I could immediately see they were making outlandish claims against Belzebuub and The Gnostic Movement. I dismissed it as sensationalized lies. In hindsight this was careless on my part as I didn’t take the time to understand or find out what was really going on at the time in order to take the right course of action to defend against the lies.

It was only a year or so later that I fully found out what had been happening. By then the malicious anonymous attacks had already had a devastating impact. I regret my lack of care then – I had been solely focused on my own tasks without considering the welfare of Mark whom had given so much to help me and everyone who had become involved with TGM.

Eventually a number of us took action of our own accord in defense, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. I regret my lack of responsibility around that time in not clearly seeing the issues involved and adequately dealing with them. Eventually through the lack of an appropriate response or defense, The Gnostic Movement closed.

Conclusion

I had been attending the centers in Brisbane, Australia, and then the Bay Area, California, since mid-2006. I had formed many long-term friendships over the years based on common spiritual leanings. The closing of TGM and the centers meant the activities (courses, workshops, retreats, social events, etc.), came to an end, and thus all the opportunities to be together in groups.

To me, the courses had been a way to change myself for the better, gain spiritual experiences, and teach others what I had learned. It was a precious opportunity and time. The good memories will remain with me the rest of my life.

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