Layla F

LaylaI started in The Gnostic Movement (TGM) as a student and I trained and became a teacher after about three years. Later I was also a member and worked on many projects, from running centres, Mind-Body-Spirit stalls and public seminars, to web tasks, publicity initiatives, retreat property project and many other projects, which taught me invaluable life and work skills. The range of learning was enormous and it has improved my life tremendously on so many levels and areas.

Background to involvement in The Gnostic Movement

I found TGM to be more than a non-profit benevolent spiritual organisation; it was an authentic spiritual school. It was very well structured and practical and helped me to learn in a positive and constructive way according to my understanding. The way the teachings of Gnosis unfolded through the courses allowed freedom to learn at my own pace and also to absorb and try the information and techniques in my life to get my own experience of them.

The courses at every stage were always free of charge and free of obligation. I learnt and also saw that this was an inherent part of true spirituality. I volunteered where I could and in any way, and I gained spiritually by taking part in things.

I developed great friendships through TGM with people at the centre and online across the world – it really felt like we were one big worldwide family. Meeting with people in the online forums and chatting and sharing experiences I could feel a heartfelt bond. Through the teachings of Gnosis I began to see changes in how I felt towards people.

I met my husband through these courses 15 years ago and we have only grown in love since then. I deeply appreciated how much Mark, TGM and the teachings of Gnosis valued and respected the privacy and sacredness of marriage, which I have found to be rare qualities in our society today. One of the core teachings of Gnosis depends on love and commitment between a couple and this being an integral part of the spiritual journey. There was this true respect, decency and sacredness towards relationships. I found that the teachings of Gnosis and what Mark taught supported how to achieve this commitment

Working with Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) in The Gnostic Movement

Donations

I learnt to ensure that all funds donated to the organisation were to be used for the purpose for which they were given, and Mark was very clear about this so that funds were honoured for their intended use. Mark has always been very principled about money, and very clear in all matters relating to funds. At the various centres I was part of, TGM had several donation boxes according to the fund-raising purposes at that time, so that people had a choice to donate to a project they wanted including a donation box to support Mark personally. There was never any obligation for anyone, including myself to donate. The donation boxes were visible but they were placed in an area that people had to go to put money into if they wanted to, so that people didn’t feel any obligation to donate. We were always clear that the organisation ran on donations and how they were used, so that people knew how the organisation operated and how donations were applied. Mark also taught how to have respect and care for the funds people donated and not to waste funds in any way; he explained very kindly that people had to work really hard in life in their jobs to earn a living and their donations needed to be respected and used carefully and wisely. Mark was also very considerate of my husband and I’s donations to him, and he would decline to take donations from us when he felt that we needed them more, and at other times he would decline our donation to him as he didn’t want to take potential donations that could be applied to other projects that we were interested in being part of. He is very considerate, respectful and transparent with funds and has always been so.

Mark’s Character

By his genuine and principled conduct and friendship, Mark (Belzebuub) has been a remarkable role model, guiding with love, humility, care, understanding and his high respect and support for women. He never put himself above anyone. His down-to-earth, genuine kindness and humanity towards everyone I’ve seen him interact with has been a quality of Mark’s. Even though his teachings are incredibly profound, Mark’s persona is very subtle; his peacefulness and common-sense approach to tasks, and scheduling and working in a practical way, emphasise this more natural and light way of working through all the projects I was part of. I find that he imbues this within his unassuming nature.

One thing that also stands out about Mark is his exceptionally witty sense of humour. I’ve found myself laughing years later when I remember some of his light comments which always put a smile on my face. It’s not like he cracks jokes, it’s that he is very witty and can see the comedy of situations or things very naturally.

Over the 20 years that I have known Mark I’ve only seen his care, warmth and amazing gentleness continue to grow, which has been quite remarkable.

Australian Retreat Property Project

I was part of the retreat project in Australia for many years and in different capacities; as a volunteer student, as the TGM member overseeing the research and purchasing of the retreat property, as a live-in caretaker at the property with my husband and later as a director of TGM’s retreat organisation that purchased the property from Mark Pritchard.

Poor condition of property

I had inspected the property before the initial purchase by TGM and visited the property many times during the years TGM owned it. It was a densely-vegetated property, and the small cabin on the property had become home to snakes, vermin and venomous insects like scorpions, centipedes and spiders. I came to be bitten many times by ticks and jumping bull ants and I developed huge swellings from their bites and became increasingly allergic to them over time. I also remember coming across one of Australia’s most venomous snakes, the Brown snake, right at the front entrance to the little cabin and its presence was the scariest of all the snakes I had seen there.

The cabin itself was deteriorated and had gaping holes in the walls and ceiling, as the sealing between the boards had disintegrated. Unfortunately, even the basic provisions were quite poor, such as a dirty water tank that provided the drinking water to the cabin, which I remember my husband trying to seal up from creatures getting into it. The cabin only had a tiny solar power source which wasn’t enough to supply power through to the evening There was no cooling facility, and no fly screens to keep the swarms of flies, mosquitos and plagues of flying ants out of the cabin that were common in that region. It only had a dial-up internet connection which was painstakingly slow.

Unfortunately the property wasn’t suitable as a retreat property due to the local government restrictions of use in that location, which had been overlooked in our initial research for a property. At that time we were very limited in our choice of properties because of the small funds we had, and in many ways it was the best property we could find for the funds available and so we tried to make the best of the situation.

TGM sells property to Mark for almost double the amount it paid

My husband and I became the caretakers of the property in 2005, and shortly after we were advised by a member of TGM that TGM was going to sell the property and I was asked if I could assist with finding an accredited valuer to assess its worth. My husband and I were there when the valuer came to assess the property and his valuation of the property was $100,000 more than what TGM had bought the property for. Other members and my husband and I were asked by the member of TGM if we would be interested in purchasing the property from TGM, but my husband and I declined the offer. Not long after that TGM sold the property to Mark at the valuation price, and I know that Mark paid for it using his recently acquired family inheritance. I also assisted TGM with finding a solicitor to contract the sale for them.

TGM did look to buy another retreat property after selling this property to Mark, and though I was only part of a retreat property search for a little at that time, I remember the research itself going on for a long time to make sure that a new retreat property would be suitable and usable, which was understandable.

TGM had been fundraising for the retreat property developments during the time it owned the property, but when the property was sold to Mark I was advised, as the caretaker with my husband, that all donations from TGM for the property would stop at the termination of TGM’s ownership, which they did and no more public donations for the property were received when Mark became the owner of the property.

During the transition of ownership, we were asked by a member of TGM if we’d like to continue to caretake of the property when Mark became the owner, which we were very happy to do. We really enjoyed being there and being part of the developments. Mark returned to the property for about 10 months and my husband and I chose to rent a house in the local area. The conditions of the property at that time were still of a building site. Parts of it had become infested with vermin due to the holes in the building, with insects finding their way into cupboards we had temporarily set up. Mark had to put everything into plastic boxes and it was pretty much indoor camping type of living with the building works continuing when Mark was there.

Mark left for overseas at the end of those 10 months to continue his work overseas. I remember speaking with Mark on the phone while my husband and I were living at his property and he was living in a very poor and dangerous residential area in the US.

Experience working on the property

Mark treated my husband and I and all the other people who helped work on the property developments like we were his family, and he was always so thoughtful and caring towards all of us. There was a lovely family feel with much love, care and laughter; it has been one of my fondest memories of the past 20 years. Mark very much appreciated all of our help in working on the property developments, and he also supported my husband and I’s efforts to start our own business and helped us to get it up and running which made a big difference to us.

During those years of working on the property, Mark always sought the advice and opinion of people involved in it, and there were many times where what Mark wanted was not the outcome chosen by all of us, but what we as a team decided. He would make suggestions and put forward his opinion and considerations but he never enforced it, even though he was the home owner. He always respected our free will and the democratic choices made by the team. As it turned out Mark wasn’t able to live at the property for the majority of the time he owned it, as Mark had only been there for 10 months.

In 2010 I was advised that Mark was going to sell the property to TGM’s retreat company. I was asked if I could assist with sourcing an accredited valuer to undertake a valuation of its market value, in preparation for the sale, which I did.

My husband and I met with the valuer, showed him through the property and discussed the property with him on the day of his inspection. His advice was to only carry out basic renovations to the property.

Retreat project further boosted by Mark’s generosity

Also, I was informed that Mark wanted to sell the property for only the amount that was spent on it, which was going to be much less than the market price the valuer had assessed it to be worth even in its unfinished state, ‘as is’. The price Mark sold it for turned out to be 30% less than the lowest value the valuer had assessed it to be worth if sold ‘as is’.

Mark was hoping that TGM’s retreat organisation that bought the property from him would gain the profit of the market value themselves once they sold it, so that it would help the organisation to increase their retreat funds and thereby give them the best opportunity to afford a good retreat property. I know for a fact over all those years Mark had done all he could possibly do to make that plan a reality.

Mark helped a great deal with the retreat property plans both when he bought the property and when he sold the property; having paid the market value when he bought it and selling it for much less than the market value when he sold it – both times this assisted TGM to have the funds to acquire a retreat property. Mark himself throughout this time only lived in pretty much poor conditions both at the property and when he was overseas. The real facts are that Mark worked very hard and went without so much for all of us in TGM to be able to have a retreat property.

As caretakers, we were told by the retreat organisation that the property was needing to be sold. Plans unfolded to renovate the property to its full potential after the property was purchased from Mark.

We then undertook major renovation works, and ended up going beyond the basic renovations outlined by the valuer and Mark’s own request, as we felt that the property would be worth a lot more if we finished all the property renovations so that we could buy a larger retreat property.

Mark’s request had been to sell the property as soon as possible. Half way through the renovations I had learnt that the real estate market had become a “buyers market” not a “sellers market”, which meant property prices were dropping. It became a very difficult time to be selling the property. It was also a year since the retreat organisation had bought the property from Mark.

Correcting the lies about the property

Not long after the property had been listed for sale, malicious people, that had been unrelentingly attacking Mark and TGM, used the property against Mark, when Mark didn’t even own the property, he hadn’t owned it for over a year and Mark hadn’t even lived at the property for over 4 years.

This terrible lie about Mark was not corrected by me or any of us in the organisation, nor that his only experience of living at the property was when it was only a cabin, and then a building site and only indoor camping-like facilities instead.

Unfortunately, and very regrettably, at the time I was more concerned and overwhelmed with selling the property and dealing with the issues that we were facing due to the delays that the extensive renovation works had caused, instead of supporting Mark with the facts that only a few of us knew were the actual truth.

I deeply regret that I didn’t take the steps to ensure that the truth was known. It also meant that people were left without knowing the truth about the property and about Mark.

Mark suffered a great deal through this property in ways that I never would have imagined had I not seen them first hand myself, however I never saw Mark with any negativity or ill will of any kind against anyone.

So malicious were the attacks that many people in the organisation crippled with fear of being targeted remained silent and Mark was left on his own to take the full brunt of the smear, lies and verbal abuse with very little proper defence from the many that knew the truth, myself included.

I wouldn’t have thought or imagined that despite knowing the truth about Mark that I would have remained silent at a time Mark and TGM really needed people to come forward to just tell the truth, but unfortunately that was what happened and it has been a devastating outcome with the rippling effects continuing many years after – for Mark, for everyone who loved being part of TGM and for all the people who would have wanted to be part of such a well organised and highly principled spiritual school that TGM was.

I feel a great loss for those people who are truly keen on experiencing spirituality to not have the opportunity of incredible learning that I had and I feel quite sad that I didn’t safeguard it for them. I feel the deepest sorrow that I didn’t stand up for Mark and TGM in every way I could have.

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