I was told of The Gnostic Movement a number of times via word-of-mouth in the summer and fall of 2002. I heard that there were classes being run in Toronto and that there was a website called Mysticweb.org.
Participation in The Gnostic Movement
In March 2003, after having been experimenting with simple meditation techniques on my own for about a month and deciding it may be worth looking into spirituality after all, I read Mark’s (Belzebuub’s) Self-Knowledge course and the first half of the Astral Travel and Dreams free course PDFs online and started practising all the exercises within them, I read Samael Aun Weor’s books Revolutionary Psychology and The Great Rebellion, and then, I attended a Gnostic Movement free live course for the first time—it was in week five of the Astral Travel and Dreams course in Toronto at the time.
Very soon after actually studying the material and practising the exercises, I began to notice positive effects such as becoming calmer and more patient on the whole, and generally became more satisfied with my life overall. I also had a few metaphysical/spiritual experiences while doing meditation-based practices that I never thought possible before.
I attended a camping trip mini-retreat to Algonquin park in late June / early July, 2003, just after completing the Esoteric Wisdom course. There was one teacher, one trainee teacher, and about ten students on this retreat (who had recently completed the Esoteric Wisdom or Advanced Investigation courses). On this retreat, the teacher set a goal to try to enjoy “being in the moment” in every menial activity, such as while making campfires, preparing the meals, setting up and taking down tents, going for hikes, and so on. Seeing as this was high season for bug activity in Algonquin park, we spent most of the time on the campsite itself hanging out and chatting, with some meditation practices in our tents as well. The weekend went by very quickly, and I mostly enjoyed the camaraderie of the group at this time and the mantras we did together around the campfire in the evenings.
I attended another weekend mini-retreat in a rented retreat centre near Collingwood, Ontario in September 2003 as a student in the Advanced Investigation course. There was one teacher, three trainee teachers, and about eleven students on this retreat (from the Advanced Investigation course). At this retreat I experienced a myriad of benefits from being able to truly concentrate upon the spiritual exercises taught by The Gnostic Movement in a dedicated way without any distraction from the normal demands of life at home and in the workplace. Two things stand out in particular: one being that I had an almost magical experience while hiking on the Bruce trail, in which, I felt so alive and connected to nature, while at the same time, fully conscious of me being in that experience; and the other was during an all-night astral projection exercise. For this, we gathered in the main large practice room in the lodge on our own mats to try an astral projection exercise while going to sleep. The astral projection exercise we tried that weekend was basically concentrating upon and visualizing ourselves travelling to the planet Mars, since that weekend Mars was reportedly very close to Earth. We would then set an alarm and wake up a few times through the night and try the exercise again as we went back to sleep. Doing this together in a group gave me so much impetus and will power to succeed with the astral projection exercises that I was able to practise them every night thereafter as I went to sleep with much more focus and concentration than before, and as a result, I went on to have quite a few astral experiences in the coming months—not to mention this training helped me overcome problems I’d always had with going to sleep.
From as early as I can remember, I had always had trouble going to sleep. I remember trying a variety of solutions ranging from reading before bed, to thinking about various things (i.e. “counting sheep”), to listening to music, and so on, but nothing really worked. Many nights I’d just be lying in bed awake for a very, very long time before being able to fall asleep. Learning how to do astral projection exercises, besides leading to conscious astral experiences, was the one thing that actually helped me learn how to go to sleep properly whenever I wanted to.
Becoming a Volunteer
I discovered that there were public forums on the Mysticweb.org website and noticed that students and the public at large would often post questions there that I often knew the answers to, given that I had read all the course material and practised the exercises as much as I could. As such, I began answering questions on the public forums as best I could, because I felt that this was my way of “giving back” and being appreciative, paying it forward, etc. for what had been given to me. In the same vein, I asked the teacher in Toronto if I could take some course posters and put them up to help advertise the next round of courses. From that point on, every course round break I would put up as many posters as I could in whichever shops would allow me to and on whichever street/utility poles it was legal to do so.
I took the Teachers course in fall 2003 and successfully passed it, becoming a trainee teacher in late December, 2003. Besides giving the mock/practice lectures and guiding mock practices with the other students in the Teachers course and the teacher, during my time in the Teachers course, I would also arrive early at the rented room in the library for the Astral Travel and Dreams course every week to help out. A close friend of mine (who was a trainee teacher at the time) and I asked the teacher if we could help set up the room with chairs and sit at the front desk as people arrived to help take attendance, and he agreed. We would also assist with answering students’ questions at the conclusion of each weekly session (students would come up to us and ask us questions about the topics or exercises). It’s at this course that I first met my wife; she was attending the course along with her mother and a different friend or two each week.
Also during this time the teacher in Toronto mentioned that Mark gave up his job some time ago to dedicate himself full-time to teaching spirituality, working with The Gnostic Movement as a volunteer (unpaid). I heard that he was renovating his almost completely uninhabitable house on a rural property in another country which amongst other things, didn’t even have a working fridge. When I heard about this situation, I felt I wanted to do whatever I could to help (seeing as he had helped me in my life so much by starting and running The Gnostic Movement) and so I gave a donation to the teacher here with the specific purpose to wire it there to help him get through those renovations at the time. This was different from any donations I had been giving in the normal donations box when attending the courses from time to time, which were for The Gnostic Movement and went strictly for things such as room rentals, printing advertising materials for the courses, and so on.
In my first round as a trainee teacher starting in January 2004, I gave two lectures and guided one or two practice sessions in the Esoteric Wisdom course, and attended all the other course sessions as an observer and to help whenever possible. I would also arrive early at the rented room in the library again, this round for the Self-Knowledge course, to set up the room with chairs and then would sit at the front desk as people arrived to help take attendance, and I would also assist with answering students’ questions at the conclusion of each session.
Experience with Other So-Called Gnostic Groups
On one course night in this round, another so-called Gnostic group had booked another room at the library where they knew our courses were held. Besides being concerned that they were there to try and convince students from The Gnostic Movement to join them instead, I had heard that one of their teachers allegedly threatened to “drop kick” the teacher of our courses if he ever saw him, as he was very antagonistic to Mark (Belzebuub) in particular and didn’t like the idea of someone from The Gnostic Movement running free courses for the public. Myself and the other trainee teachers were very concerned for the safety of the teacher and students in our courses and as such, myself and another trainee teacher stayed in the lobby of the library that night to ensure that our students would not be harassed or harmed by anyone from that group.
Experience as a Teacher and Member
During the break between course rounds in mid-march 2004, about one week before the next one was to begin, I became a Qualified Teacher along with another trainee teacher. Two members of The Gnostic Movement in Australia as well as two members of The Gnostic Movement in the USA also started helping and supporting me from afar as I began to run the Centre and its activities in Toronto. They would answer any questions I had and give advice whenever needed.
At this time, I learned all the ins and outs of running a Gnostic Movement group/Centre, including the strict financial procedures as per the organization’s by-laws/regulations, such as two people had to be present to count the donations after every course night and deposit them into the bank account, that funds would always have to be deposited before being spent (i.e. you couldn’t simply take money from cash donations and use them to pay for things, but rather, everything had to first be deposited in the bank account so that it was accounted for on record, and then cheques written out to pay for expenses), and that everything would have to be tracked very meticulously in either Excel spreadsheets or accounting software if one was able to use that, such that the person acting as the national Treasurer of the organization could combine them from all the Centres in that country to prepare and file the annual tax return.
Moderating Web Forums
When I first became a teacher, I was also invited to join the online moderating team as a “Global Moderator.” This was a team comprised of a small group of people who would keep an eye on the public forums, action any reported posts, and overall whose primary job was to “keep the peace” so-to-speak on the forums on the movement’s websites. On occasion, Mark had given advice regarding how the websites should be moderated, always emphasizing that we should allow for free discussion and not be heavy-handed with moderating, only intervening where there was indecent material or personal attacks. In any case, based on the documentation some other people had put together about it and my observations posting on the public forums up to that point, I figured this would be a once-in-a-while, just help-out-when-needed sort of job, but I quickly realized it was often far more time consuming than that. In fact, there was about one reported post every other day or so that would need some sort of action.
Trolling from Other Gnostic Groups
While there were the usual Internet trolls and spammers that we’d come across and have to deal with, by far the most cumbersome issue was related to people who were regular contributors to another Gnostic organization’s website who came to post on our websites with dubious intentions. These individuals were doctrinally opposed to The Gnostic Movement and Mark (Belzebuub) and some of them set out to disrupt the happenings on the public forums and course forums basically with the underlying motive to get people to stop participating in our courses and/or forums and come join them on their courses and forums instead. Typically one of these individuals would sign up with a fake username of some sort, make a couple of posts that would try to make it seem like they are a genuine new person or interested in our courses, and then slowly start introducing things that would attempt to undermine The Gnostic Movement or Mark. Eventually when they were caught out, they’d drop the facade and often start calling the moderators or teachers names, accuse them of being “dictators,” and so on if their posts were removed or if they or another one of their group were blocked from further posting. This would then sometimes spin over into their forums as well, where they’d further mock our organization and some of the people within it, including myself, as I was one of the main moderators through all these years. At least 15-20 percent of all reported posts we received were related to cases of these people.
From 2004 to 2008 I came across a minimum of twenty threads in which our websites, courses, course author, teachers, or participants were mentioned in a negative light on their forums. These threads contained many postings in each of them, sometimes running pages long, with loads of defamatory information in them.
In my first year alone, I found at least ten users who had come to our forums from their site ultimately to disrupt our websites, and twenty-six more in the next two years.
- In 2004, about ten usernames were created by six or seven people who contributed to another so-called Gnostic group and were hostile to The Gnostic Movement.
- In 2005, about sixteen usernames were created by approximately six or seven people from that group.
- In 2006, approximately ten usernames were created by about eight people from that group.
- In 2007, at least two people from that group disrupted our website.
- In 2008, approximately ten usernames were created by about four people from that group.
- In sum, from 2004 to 2008, approximately forty-eight usernames were created by people from a group hostile to The Gnostic Movement who disrupted our sites, and they were created by approximately sixteen people.
The most cumbersome part about dealing with users who had come from their site to do this was that once banned, they’d often just sign right back up again with a new username and we’d have to start the process all over again, seeing as we were strong believers in “innocent until proven guilty” and we always wanted to give people in general a chance. It was mainly just with people like this who acted deceptively and whose sole motivation for participating on our sites was to dubiously pull people away from them that we felt we’d have to act to protect the forums.
After about two years helping out and becoming, according to the Moderator Manager at the time, the most active and familiar moderator with all aspects of the moderating job on the whole, in February 2006, I was asked if I would like to take over the Moderator Manager role. I accepted, which meant I’d handle an email account, manage and supervise the other volunteer moderators, keep records, and organize and supervise all the trainee teachers who had volunteered as moderator monitors. I served in this position for about two and half years until the fall of 2008, when someone else then took over.
Working on The Gnostic Movements’s Websites
From 2003-2006 I wrote a few articles for the movement’s websites, helped with proofreading on occasion, and other small tasks that came up here and there. In 2007, I took on a more active role with the website and content teams in helping to put together the new version of TGM’s main website at the time, Gnosticweb. I volunteered as the “Chief Checker,” whereby I would coordinate and also participate in the writing, editing, and proofreading of any new articles that were needed on the site before they were uploaded, as well as completed other projects such as finding, compiling, and uploading relevant passages from a few different authors’ books on various subjects related to Gnosticism for the new “Extracts of Teachings” section of the site.
In 2009, I coordinated a small team consisting mainly of a graphic designer, a coder, and myself to work on the redesign of the movement’s Astralweb website. We gave the website a fresh new look that was more fitting of the subject (the astral) as well as the more modern look of websites at the time, and worked to ensure that people’s personal experiences were the main focus of the website, added new content, videos, and other new features such as an opportunity for people to directly submit articles and videos of their own for publication.
Besides the above, when I became a teacher I also learned all about the ins and outs of running a non-profit corporation in general: first by becoming a Director of The Gnostic Movement as a federal not-for-profit corporation in Canada, and second ensuring we were also properly registered to run at the provincial level in Ontario and Quebec, had a proper Business/Trading Name wherever we operated, and so on. We also became involved in registering trademarks for the organization and had a variety of high-level trademark lawyers that we were put in touch with by the Volunteer Lawyers Service. All of these experiences would serve me well on numerous occasions in both my personal working career and my volunteer experiences with other groups, and especially when it came to opening and running my own small business.
A close friend who was living in Kingston, Ontario (a few hours from Toronto) and who had been an online trainee teacher also became a Qualified Teacher at the same time I did, and we worked out that he would assist in the running of the Centre by taking a more active role with the administrative and online tasks such as legal, banking, taxes, emails, etc. while I supported him in those activities but focused primarily on the physical running of the courses, searching for a location to rent for a dedicated Centre (instead of holding classes at one-off rented rooms in the library), and all local advertising activities.
Giving my first lecture in the intro course about a week after I became a Qualified Teacher, in the Astral Travel and Dreams course, was a blessing in disguise. There were approximately seventy people in attendance that night and I was able to use this experience to work through anxiety and nervousness surrounding public speaking, and consequently, overcoming that helped me in many other areas of my life in which the same sort of worries and anxieties had previously had a strong hold over me. From that point on, I became much more able to face and get through what I had previously found to be difficult, uncomfortable, or even seemingly impossible situations in my life—not to mention my teaching experience with The Gnostic Movement would later help me immensely when I spent time teaching English as a Second Language, as well as when I worked in a program teaching children how to read and when I ran computer classes for adults and seniors in various positions I held over the years at my job with the Toronto Public Library.
After an extensive search for a suitable location to rent for a Centre, we signed a lease granting us possession on May 1, 2004 for our very first actual Centre location in Toronto. It was a house located on a major street on the North side of the city. Work began immediately amongst volunteers in the evenings and on weekends on minor renovations, including painting, carpeting, kitchen cabinetry, and trim and mouldings. I was one of three teachers who had rented the basement apartment of the home in order to help finance the Centre. During this time, I learned many new skills around home renovations and routine home maintenance, as two people—one of the teachers and one of the trainee teachers—were more experienced or knowledgeable and had general skills in these areas and lead the charge and showed all the other volunteers how to do all of these things.
Sometime towards the end of 2004 we left our first Centre and a search commenced for a new property suitable to rent for a Centre moving forward. Eventually a property was found in a great location in downtown Toronto across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum. On June 15, 2005 we were allowed in to begin renovating, and we took possession on July 1, 2005. Our time in that premises was short-lived however as that building would be knocked down about a year and a half later to make way for a new condominium development. As such, another search began.
At the time we took possession however, I was away attending the first international retreat held in North America that was open to students of all the courses; this time it was in California. My wife and I would go on to attend every single international North American retreat until the last one held in 2010, with the only exception being the one held in 2006, which we couldn’t attend because our wedding was taking place at the same time. We had officially gotten engaged just after the previous year’s retreat in summer 2005, and in fact, being somewhat of a traditionalist in this regard, our relationship was serious and clearly headed towards marriage and complete fidelity from the very start. And so when I heard for the first time that The Gnostic Movement maintained that due to the sacred nature of relationships those representing it as teachers who were in relationships should be married or seriously intending to be married in order to maintain a serious and stable relationship in which love and harmony could blossom, I was pleasantly surprised, as so often I had seen quite the opposite promoted, whereas this viewpoint aligned completely with my own feelings on the matter even into childhood as far back as I can remember.
Attendance to our courses varied from round to round, but would usually have on average about fifty to sixty people per intro course at the outset and then numbers would whittle down each week as the courses progressed. However, our biggest and most popular round of courses happened during this period, towards the end of July 2007, when over 160 people signed up for the Astral Travel and Dreams course. It was held in a central location in Toronto at one of the public libraries.
The momentum from this course round carried over into our search for a new Centre location, and on September 1, 2007 we took possession in a relatively large commercial property in a popular location of the city known as Greektown on the Danforth, and began renovations to make it into a thriving Centre. People attending this Centre often commented on the positive environment and how it really helped them connect better with the exercises and the spiritual side of themselves more easily.
Serving as President of the National Board in Canada
On October 10, 2007, I became a member of The Gnostic Movement, and with that role came further opportunity to help out with international projects and initiatives of The Gnostic Movement, which I would be a part of until its close. Besides participating in a variety of teams at different times (i.e. not all at once) charged with overseeing and stimulating various initiatives worldwide (that would then be carried out at the national level in each country in which The Gnostic Movement ran) such as the publicity, advertising, videos, website, courses, and legal teams, I also served as the President of the National Coordinating Board of Canada and oversaw not only the local Centre in Toronto, but the ones in Montreal and Vancouver for various points in time as well.
Also at some point I bought a book on HTML and began learning how to code websites. Some volunteers in The Gnostic Movement who were trained and skilled in IT also helped me expand my skills into CSS, PHP, and various content management systems, and as such, I learned how to work behind the scenes on the movement’s websites more and more as time went on, which would also be a useful skill I could use in all my work endeavours from then on, as I developed the ability to build and maintain websites.
Further Hostilities from Other Gnostic Groups
In June 2004, just as we were finishing up with the renovations on the Centre, some students in the Esoteric Wisdom and Advanced Investigation courses stopped attending our courses and joined another Gnostic organization’s courses and forums. Some of them became openly hostile towards what The Gnostic Movement was teaching, making derogatory postings on that other organization’s website about Mark (Belzebuub) and The Gnostic Movement, directly contradicting things they had said in person and posted on forums in the past. As such, it essentially ended any personal friendships we had, as the offensive and insulting posts they were making online and actions in promoting groups that were openly hostile to ours—and by extension us as people—were very hurtful to me and other fellow teachers and senior students at the time.
I also learned later from someone who had attended one of the groups affiliated with that organization as well as The Gnostic Movement’s groups, that those people would allegedly gossip about and make fun of The Gnostic Movement, Mark (Belzebuub), the “spiritual level” of the teachers, and the courses at their gatherings. It reminded me of something one of the teachers of those groups had said back in 2002, that Mark and whatever he teaches is not to be trusted, nor were the translations of Samael’s books given by The Gnostic Movement. This confirmed our view that these other Gnostic groups listed on the other Gnostic organization’s website and those who associated with them were actively hostile towards us, and regularly spread misinformation about us to their students.
Meeting Mark (Belzebuub)
At the beginning of August, 2004 I attended an international retreat held by The Gnostic Movement in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. This retreat was open to trainee teachers and teachers, and it was attended by about twenty people and run by the International Coordinator of The Gnostic Movement, Mark (Belzebuub). Besides meeting quite a few people on that retreat that I’d go on to become close friends with for many years, it was a real honour for me to meet Mark in person. Despite my preconceptions of what Mark would be like for example, he turned out to be a very simple and humble man, dressed normally, and without all the usual pretenses, funny clothes, or ways of acting that usually accompany those the world considers “spiritual.” When we first met, he simply shook my hand and said “Hello Jordan.” Yet at the same time, I could really feel a real sense of strength and love from within underneath it all, a power that I couldn’t quite put into words, and which really came out when he was teaching. Whatever it was that he had, I wished I could achieve too. Meeting him had a profound effect on me at the time, as it prompted me to deeply reflect upon what I was like as a person and the way my life was heading. I left the retreat feeling totally re-energized and focused to succeed in life and to ensure my spiritual practice would merge and become synonymous with my life.
On this retreat, Mark gave some talks that were being recorded in audio and video, and I asked if I could transcribe them, which Mark agreed to—I did about one-third of them from that retreat, while other volunteers did the other two-thirds. As time went on, I would periodically inquire with Mark as to whether I could do transcriptions for him and went on to transcribe (or oversee transcriptions for and edit) nearly all recorded talks that Mark gave from the period of roughly 2002-2011, including live talks at retreats or Centres, radio interviews, videos, and the online weekly talks he gave in the later years. Similarly, I inquired numerous times over the years as to whether I could help out and edit Mark’s courses, articles, and books. He agreed and was very appreciative, and this became a valuable experience for me in many ways. Most of all, it meant I got a pre-released copy of his works and had the unique opportunity to study them very closely, while at the same time, it was great to be able to assist in helping him get his message out to the world. Finally, many years later I decided to open my own small business as a professional editor, copy writer, and content marketer, which also provides transcription services upon request, and so my volunteer experience editing Mark’s works helped tremendously in shaping my skills and getting the confidence to know I could do that, as well as showing that I had valuable experience with reputable works at my craft, particularly at the beginning when I was first building a client base and Mark’s works were amongst only a handful of other examples I could point to at the time.
Sincere and Thoughtful Nature
In early 2008, my wife and I decided we wanted to start sending regular donations to Mark to help support his living expenses, seeing as he was dedicated to spreading spirituality full-time. We asked if he would accept if we would send over a donation every three months from then on and he was very, very grateful. Every single time we sent something he would reply with a very sincere thank you either via email or in conversations on Skype.
Sometime in early 2009 I had a conversation with Mark on Skype, and towards the end of that conversation when we were finishing up and just casually chatting, he asked if he’d see us in person that year (my wife and I) at the annual North American summer retreat in July. When I mentioned we wanted to attend as we always did but I wasn’t sure if we could that year because finances were a bit tight for us at that time, he said not to send him “another penny” but rather we should use it to help us get to the retreat. This was just one time amongst other examples when despite his personal financial needs and hardships, he told us not to send him any donations whatsoever, but rather, wanted to make sure everything we needed or wanted was taken care of.
In September of 2010 I organized a five-day retreat held in North Bay, Ontario that just over thirty people from the Centres in North America attended. I invited Mark to attend via email and asked if there would be anything in particular he’d like for us to organize in order to make it possible for him to come, and he replied that he’d be coming and that he couldn’t think of anything he’d need other than whether there’d be meals he could have while there, which I confirmed there would be so he didn’t need to bring anything of his own. A few of us arrived early on the first day just to ensure everything at the venue would be prepared for the arrival of everyone else. This meant cleaning, tidying up things, sorting out and setting up a suitable space to do sitting meditation exercises, and so on. While we were checking out Mark’s room, I noticed a (what seemed to me) giant spider in the window sill and remarked at how although I had been able to overcome my fear of spiders a little bit, even though that one was in the window sill and couldn’t actually escape, I nonetheless felt pretty uncomfortable being anywhere near it. Mark wasn’t fazed at all—he went right up to it to study it and look at it closely, and then he told me about some of the spiders he had to put up with where he lived when he lived for a time on a remote property. He mentioned that instinctive fears like the one I had can take a lot of work to overcome.
Besides the international retreats, my wife and I also attended approximately three or four mini-retreats per year organized by our Centre or in conjunction with the Montreal and/or Madison Centres. As with those first two mini-retreats I attended near Toronto, I really enjoyed going to all these retreats as it meant having a chance to focus on the activities and practices of the spiritual work in various dedicated and conducive environments in nature. Beyond this, it was always nice to meet people in person with whom I had been volunteering and working on projects online, as well as many of the keen students that I had been helping via teaching in the online courses. I made many new friends at these events, some of whom I’ve become close friends with for many years now.
Abuse from Person on Anti-Cult Forum
In May of 2008 a person living in Toronto started attending the courses online and would also come to the Centre for some practice sessions each week. This student professed to be very interested in the course material at the time. At this time I was working at my job on most nights he attended the Centre but would arrive to the Centre after work and after the sessions those nights to pick up my wife and drive home together. As he stuck around until we were closing up the Centre, we often offered and gave him lifts home as well.
Attendance at the Centre
During his time with The Gnostic Movement, he emailed and mentioned in person a few times that he would like to help out at the Centre, for example by putting up posters to advertise upcoming courses or doing any maintenance work the Centre needed help with, etc. No maintenance work came up, and he ended up going postering with a trainee teacher on one occasion. He also came by the Centre of his own accord during a street festival that was being held outside the Centre one weekend and asked if he could hand out flyers to passers-by, which we agreed to.
After attending for just over five months, right before taking the third course, the Esoteric Wisdom course, he sent an email to the Centre email account stating that he would not continue with any TGM courses in future, and thanking us for helping him, saying he would continue to appreciate our efforts and wishing us all the best.
After I received that email, I logged into the Gnosticweb chat room and noticed he logged out as soon as I went in there. I then discovered that he had changed his Facebook status that day to say, “the Gnostic Movement is a cult.” Two days later, I logged into the chat again and noticed two students talking about a link this person had given them a few days previously to a forum discussing The Gnostic Movement as a “cult.”
Abuse on Anti-Cult Forum
I had a look at those forums and noticed that he was making more and more troublesome postings as time went on, and presenting himself as some sort of “expert” on The Gnostic Movement, when in fact he had only been attending for about five months and never progressed past the first two intro courses.
On that website, as time went on, he would disparage the teachings of Gnosticism, The Gnostic Movement, Mark, and Samael Aun Weor, the founder of modern Gnosis, more and more with no actual evidence to back up his outlandish claims, as well as presenting many deep misunderstandings about the organization and the things it taught, as the truth.
Towards the end of January, 2009, I posted one response on those forums addressing some of the misinformation. Unfortunately, after this his posting frequency increased dramatically and the unfounded attacks upon The Gnostic Movement as well as me personally also intensified. I did not want to respond any further as it only seemed to incite him even more. Furthermore, the few participants on that forum and the moderator’s postings essentially encouraged his behaviour and activities to continue. They accused me of making a “personal attack” in my post and warned that I would be banned, yet even when I wrote to the site owner/moderator to please remove my posting as I no longer wished for it to remain up there, they refused and left it up there. There was a serious double-standard going on, in that any posts that would point out the inaccuracies of claims from people attacking so-called cults were often removed by the moderator and/or deemed as “personal attacks” with warnings about being banned given, yet actual personal attacks, including name-calling, abuse, and straight up lies about people, were left up and completely ignored by the moderator so long as they were targeting so-called cults or the people who participated in those groups.
In any case, unfortunately this person’s campaign against us was not contained only to this particular website’s forums, but we were informed by a student in our courses who met him at another group listed on Meetup.com that he was attending some Meetup groups live in Toronto where he was spreading the same misinformation about us and telling people to stay away from our group.
On April 2nd, 2009, upon arriving at the Centre for a course session that night, there was a “Cult Alert” notice taped to the front doors of the Centre. A day earlier, a similar notice was put on the windshield of our car, which was parked across the street from the Centre. A similar notice was put on our car a few months later, this time though, the car was parked outside our house. It was very unsettling to get these notices as it felt as though someone was stalking us. We never found out who did it.
On October 18th, 2010, I saw this person walking by on the street on my way to the Centre for a course session that night and thought to myself that it was strange that he was in that area of the city seeing as he lived and worked nowhere near there. After arriving at the Centre, I went back outside and noticed him putting up posters on poles, bus shelters, and mailboxes all around the Centre. The “warning” posters he was putting up stated that we should be considered as a “dangerous, destructive, and manipulative cult group.”
Not only did all his activity online and in other groups in the city and in putting up those posters disparage our group and therefore us totally unfairly, but also, it made us seriously concerned for our safety, as the effect of those activities could easily have incited people (who only had the terribly skewed and harmful vision of us that he presented) into some sort of action against us—i.e. an angry/uninformed mob type of thing. One such example would be that we would occasionally find our posters advertising upcoming rounds of courses defaced, and we had never seen that before.
Closure of the Centre
To make matters worse, two people who had been asked to leave by The Gnostic Movement for misconduct in April of 2009, upon being denied re-entry multiple times one year later, started a campaign against The Gnostic Movement. Weighing up all this, eventually the decision was made in April 2011 to stop running public events as we did not want to put the organization, Mark, ourselves, or our students at risk in any way. This was a very sad time as it meant something so many people had worked hard to create and spread would no longer be able to reach people.
The Gnostic Movement was such a big part of my life and to this day I miss being able to share the information it provided with others and meet and practise in groups at the Centre and on retreats.
Retreat Property in Canada
After The Gnostic Movement in Canada stopped running activities, I was then part of a group of people in Canada that opened another non-profit organization through which we wanted to carry on studying and practising spirituality as best we could. After running classes which were primarily sit-down practice-focused in the city for a while, we decided to try and find and operate a retreat centre for this purpose in the countryside. We rented a place in September 2011, and in April 2012 opened another organization that would be solely dedicated to maintaining and operating the retreat centre, while the first organization would run any of the activities with groups that took place there. We rented that place until April 2013, but in the meantime, the new organization created a website and began raising funds and seriously searching for a permanent location that we could purchase for this purpose permanently.
Later that month, on April 22nd, 2012, I received a letter from a member of The Gnostic Movement USA saying that The Gnostic Movement USA was thinking of donating money that had been raised for The Gnostic Movement’s North American retreat project to our organization. The letter stated that they were considering this donation because it had become clear to The Gnostic Movement USA after about a six-year search that a suitable property would not be found in the USA, while our organization in Canada had a similar vision for a retreat property that could allow the project to ultimately achieve its goal. After having had numerous discussions with that member about our organization, the donation was finalized.
After a lengthy and thorough search, we finally found a property that looked like it might be suitable for our purposes. Owing almost entirely to the help of The Gnostic Movement USA’s donation which formed a downpayment, we were able to put in an offer on the rural property we found in February of 2013. We took possession on April 19th, 2013 and quickly began work transforming the property into a suitable retreat, including vastly modifying the house and land.
Upon seeing our efforts to transform the property into a thriving retreat facility and wishing to help see us succeed, on December 4th, 2013, we received notice from another organization that was holding funds of The Gnostic Movement’s European retreat fundraising (of a couple of thousand pounds), that they were donating it to our organization.
After a few years of development, the property was sold, and the organization is now holding the proceeds from the sale for a future opportunity.
In receiving these two donations and putting them to use in finding, acquiring, and then working to create a retreat property, it turned out that despite The Gnostic Movement having closed, at least another organization was able to carry on the legacy of both the North American and European retreat projects that had been started by The Gnostic Movement all those years ago.