I was a teacher and member of The Gnostic Movement from 2007 until its closure. In that time, I ran the Perth Gnostic center with my husband, and served on the Australian National Coordinating Board and the International Board.
I was also involved with managing legal affairs and publicity for the organizations globally, coordinating national retreats, researching locations for a proposed permanent retreat, managing teams of volunteers, and teaching in the organization’s online courses.
Over the years I worked closely with fellow volunteers including members, teachers, and trainee teachers across the world, as well as with Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub), who was the international coordinator and the spiritual teacher of the organization.
Background to joining the organization
I first found out about The Gnostic Movement in 2005 after my partner was doing their courses online. One afternoon after reading about some of the techniques on astral travel and trying them out, I had a nap and while asleep, I suddenly became aware that I was dreaming, which is known as lucid dreaming. I’d never had that experience before so was quite excited. For the next year or so, I continued to read the course PDFs that my partner had printed off for me to learn more about Gnosticism and spirituality, and found it quite fascinating. I felt I was learning about a magical hidden side of life, and was filled with a new wonder and excitement about my existence.
In 2006, a teacher from Brisbane contacted my partner to say that she was moving to Perth to start a Gnostic group, and arrived early that year. Our teacher was a warm, kind-hearted, open and honest person who became a great friend and trusted mentor. After she arrived, the three of us spent a lot of time together, and I learned more about the organization and what it did, and what the people in it were like. I saw how down-to-earth and genuine she was, and that being committed to spirituality wasn’t about being aloof, idealistic, or wishy-washy, but striving to be a good person, with integrity, principles, care for all living things and doing no harm to others, etc. It was something I yearned for too, and I was so happy that there was a group of people who were interested in spiritual change and involved in activities that fostered it, not only for themselves but for others like me too. I wanted to help support things in Perth and also in the organization, so I decided to complete the courses and train to become a teacher.
Experience in The Gnostic Movement
Initially we hired halls in Perth to run courses, and we would run classes on weeknights and weekends, with the first course on astral projection run in April 2006. The turnout was good, and we’d sometimes get up to 70 people at the start of a new course round. We always ran introductory courses that anyone could attend, and if anyone who completed the introductory courses wanted to take the further courses, we would run them too, even if it was a small number, because we wanted to help anyone interested, and it didn’t matter how many that was. At the time I did the esoteric wisdom and trainee teacher’s courses, I was the only person wanting to do it, and my teacher ran them just for me, which I appreciated.
I had observed that the teacher was covering expenses like hall hire, printing and so on, although she never mentioned anything to me about needing money. I wanted to help and would chip in for expenses or give a donation when I could.
Around June 2006, my partner found a listing for an old church for lease at a very good price for what it was. We went to look at it, and it seemed a perfect place to be a Gnostic centre. There was a large main hall with polished wooden floorboards and high ceilings, an entry/dining area, kitchen, separate study/office, separate male and female toilets, a huge fenced carpark, and garden. We could all see the potential of the place and how great it would be to run courses in a dedicated venue. We worked out that we could cover the rent between us, and were successful in leasing it.
In order to run classes for the public, we had to seek council approval and install a number of features to bring the facility up to the council standard, which we did. This included things like putting in ramps and railings for wheelchair access, installing a disabled toilet, having working exit lights throughout the hall, regular testing of fire extinguishers and so on. We complied with all the requirements and received a certificate from the council approving our use of the facility.
Around August 2006 we finally moved in to the centre and started cleaning it up and doing minor repairs and installations. It was enjoyable doing the decorating, tidying up the garden, hanging up pictures etc., and at the end of the day we would share a meal and relax.
Soon after we started running courses from the centre. It made a huge difference in terms of being able to have a permanent setup for the courses inside the hall, with chairs for lectures and cushions for practices, and not needing to pack everything up at the end. It also allowed us to run more classes and activities, and gave us more flexibility with time if people wanted to hang back at the end to ask questions, where before we had to vacate a hired hall by a certain time to make way for the next group. People would always comment on the energy and atmosphere of the place, saying that it felt mystical.
Courses and activities
Now that we had the centre, we would usually run classes on some evenings after work and on weekends. Depending on the interest of students, we would run a few different courses per term as well as extra activities like drop-in meditation or mantra classes and weekend workshops. We enjoyed running things that people liked doing, and we also enjoyed doing spiritual practices like chanting mantras with others, talking about all kinds of spiritual and metaphysical topics, going for walks together by the river or in national parks, having movie and dinner nights watching spiritually uplifting films, and so on.
The courses and classes we ran were open to the public, and we would run about 4 course rounds per year, each of 8 or 9 weeks duration, with breaks in between. We advertised by putting up posters around the city (such as in coffee shop windows), running ads in local new-age papers, and promoting events online in places like Meetup.com. People would contact us to register for a course, or just show up. There were no attendance requirements for the introductory courses, people’s participation was up to them, and some people would come regularly while others more sporadically. We catered to all levels of interest. Because we ran the introductory courses all the time, alternating between the astral travel and self-knowledge courses, along with drop-in classes for mantras, meditation etc., there was always something going on if people were interested. The intermediary and advanced courses were run if someone who had completed the introductory courses wanted to learn more. We had some long-term students that attended our center over the years, of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. I think one of the things that kept drawing people to our center, even after completing the courses, was its openness to meet with likeminded people and have intelligent conversations on all kinds of topics, in a relaxed and friendly place. Some also just really liked the environment, doing spiritual practices and socialising, and told us they looked forward to attending each week.
People could essentially learn the whole Gnostic doctrine in 3 courses – the astral, self-knowledge, and esoteric wisdom courses, which they could do in just over half a year. Additionally, we had the books of Samael Aun Weor available for anyone to download freely from our website, which also explained the entire doctrine. We provided this information freely and without obligation to anyone who sought it out, and it was up to people whether they took it further or not. We weren’t interested in having followers, and really left it up to people’s initiative if they wanted to continue or not. We were just focused on making things available to anyone who was interested, so by running courses and facilitating things, we felt fulfilled.
Donations and Finances
My partner and I were the main financial support for Perth over the years. The teacher from Brisbane also supported it while she was there, and a couple of years after she left, there was another teacher who also supported it, and a few people here and there would help. We did not receive regular financial support from the public – donations were generally small and sporadic, so it was between the teachers to cover the majority of the costs.
We were happy to do this because we really valued the center and got so much out of it ourselves, and the opportunities it brought forward for us. We had a clear perspex donations box that we kept on a table where people could donate to the organization if they wanted to, and mentioned it briefly at the start of a course round when explaining how we run and work. We would also hold fundraisers for international admin expenses of the organization (eg. web hosting fees, insurance etc.) like movie and dinner nights which were social events and quite enjoyable. Sometimes we’d have themes like an Egyptian night where we’d watch something about ancient Egypt and we’d cook an Egyptian-inspired meal to share.
All donations we received went to the organization. For a period, we also had a separate donation box where people could donate to a foundation established to support Mark Pritchard’s work, and this was clearly labelled. No money donated to the center ever went to Mark personally. He did accept personal donations, but they were separate from the organization, and he had a Paypal link on his website where the public could donate to him if they wanted to.
We handled the donations of the center with great care, double counting all monies received with 2 volunteers present and banking them promptly. We kept receipts for all purchases and recorded all income and expenses on a spreadsheet which was submitted to the Treasurer every quarter.
Experience on the national and international boards
In 2007, I became a teacher and then a member soon afterwards, at which time I took the opportunity to become more involved in the organization beyond the Perth center. I found volunteering very fulfilling, and it helped me expand and broaden my skill-set and experience in many ways. I was elected to the National Coordinating Board that oversaw the organization’s activities and centers around Australia, and served as the Secretary. I also became involved in some of the teams that worked internationally with other teachers and members around the world, like the Publicity and Legal teams, and was also elected to the International Coordinating Board. I got involved with the organization’s websites like Gnosticweb and Gnostic Awakenings, moderating on the forums, teaching in the online courses, and was part of the team that put together videos for the new courses, such as these where I was the presenter:
I also helped organize events like retreats, expos, and publicity campaigns and learned many new skills through these experiences. All these roles and projects gave me invaluable experience in areas like management, public speaking, media skills, corporate governance, training and mentoring, etc. which have helped me both personally and professionally.
I found that the structure and teams within the organization worked in a democratic and transparent way. For example, I was elected by the members to the Australian and International boards. From my experience both in managing and participating in teams, everyone was encouraged to share their views and all were considered, with a consensus often being reached naturally through discussion.
Appointment as Legal Manager
I was nominated for and accepted the role as manager of the Legal team, which involved being across the legal aspects of running the different organizations throughout the world, along with its online presence, and addressing copyright infringement of its course material. We didn’t have a team of lawyers or anything, much of the time it was just me and a couple of other members who would look into things that needed researching and seeking professional advice as required. Although we were self-taught, we were meticulous and became pretty knowledgeable in a wide range of areas. We were diligent and careful to ensure that we were doing everything correctly and by the law, fulfilling all our obligations, and looking after our responsibilities towards our volunteers and the public. Interestingly enough, we found that some professionals we dealt with were surprised at the level of knowledge and experience we had, as apparently it’s not as common among non-profit or volunteer-led organizations who generally have people committed to its cause but lacking legal/financial proficiency. We took it upon ourselves to become competent in our roles because of our care and passion for what the organization did.
Standards of behaviour
Part of the responsibilities of being a volunteer and training as a teacher included upholding certain standards of behavior, so the image and standing of the organization and its teachers was exemplary. If someone expressed intent to train as a teacher, this code of conduct was explained upfront. For example, teachers who were coupled were expected to be in a committed and monogamous relationship heading to marriage, showing how seriously the organization took fidelity and commitment between partners. I felt it also ensured that as teachers, we “walked the talk” so to speak, as it would have been hypocritical for us to teach one thing yet do another.
Dealing with misconduct
As a member, I worked with other members around the world, including in Greece where the organization was taken over by former attendees who had been asked to leave the organization by some members, including myself. It was very rare to have to ask people to leave the organization and generally only happened in serious cases where there was misconduct, or patterns of hostile, negative, or threatening behaviour. This adversely impacted on the proper functioning of the organization, not to mention the wellbeing of others, and was contrary to the principles of respect, care, and spiritual improvement that we were fostering within the organization.
In this instance, we explained the reasons behind our request to those people to leave the organization, and initially they accepted it and left, and remained amicable for some time after that. As time went on however, I was one of the people who received emails from some of them complaining about others in the organization and the way it was being administered, specifically those who had taken over its running after they left, and demanding responses from us. Eventually, they started making bogus claims of supposed fraud and ‘illegal actions’, based entirely upon a clerical error in the date of a cover letter submitted to authorities when updating the organization’s records. The member who submitted the letter informed the authorities of the wrong date as soon as he realised, and they didn’t raise any issues with it.
These fabricated claims were used as a pretext by the former attendees to re-instate themselves as directors of The Gnostic Movement in Greece. They removed the democratically elected members without their knowledge or consent, and seized the Athens center, even changing the locks to prevent the rightful members access to it. Obviously the other organizations around the world dissociated themselves from The Gnostic Movement in Greece once these people forced their way back in.
Through my involvement in the organization and studying its spiritual teachings, my relationships have deepened as I’ve learned how to relate better to others, and see things from a broader perspective rather than just an individual one. It’s helped me to value those around me and not take things for granted. I am more able to let go of grudges, forgive, and move on, and try my best to own up to my mistakes and failings and address them. Through these teachings, I have managed to gain a degree of stability and harmony in my personal, family, and work life, for which I am very thankful.
I am fortunate that my partner and I have shared our spiritual journey, supporting each other and growing together. We were already a couple prior to our involvement with the organization, however since deciding to pursue spirituality in our lives, our commitment to one another has increased and cemented. We got married and have been together for 13 years, and have always received support from Mark and other volunteers. Having a loving, faithful marriage was a core tenet of Mark’s teachings, and Mark and all the teachers and members I knew valued long-term committed relationships. They respected people’s privacy and personal choices and never interfered in the relationships or private lives of others.
Working with Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub)
I’ve known Mark Pritchard since 2007, meeting him at a retreat, working with him in The Gnostic Movement, and now being part of the organization that publishes his works. Over the years I have had frequent communication with him, and have found him unfailingly caring, gentle, honest, and trustworthy. After getting to know him, I realized that the integrity and genuineness that had impressed me about the organization was also a reflection of his own — in his way of treating people with care and respect, his sense of responsibility and diligence to what he did, his attention to detail and thoughtful nature — these values and virtues imbued the organization. Even in small ways of acting that are so common you hardly think twice, he showed a different way to be, like really listening to someone speak and finish without interrupting or cutting them off.
Exemplary conduct towards women
Mark treated me and others with respect, dignity and an almost brotherly care, which as a woman was very heartening. He nominated me for an important position within the organization of Legal Manager, showing that he really supported women as equals alongside men. His actions and conduct was always honourable, and he set an example for others, especially men, in the way he treated women with great respect and equality. As a result, the typical power-struggles between genders that you often see in the workplace or socially were completely absent within the movement. As a woman, my worth wasn’t reduced to my appearance, and I didn’t have to worry about flirting, sexual harassment, or anything like that because Mark and the other men I worked with were all absolute gentlemen. Men and women worked together alongside each other as peers, and there were plenty of women in leadership positions. For example, I was in charge of teams that had other male members and teachers in it, and we worked together very well with mutual respect. I also formed many friendships with other women in the organization, who were strong, capable, and encouraging from the beginning, and took me under their wing.
Even being the International Coordinator and spiritual teacher of the organization, Mark never placed himself above anyone else or made people address him in any special way. I found Mark always approachable and someone who valued the input of others, who would go out of his way to encourage people to share their honest views and feedback. He never tried to influence anyone’s opinion, often waiting until everyone else had offered their thoughts before sharing his views.
I am fortunate that I continue to have a working relationship with Mark even though The Gnostic Movement is now closed, as part of the organization that now publishes his work. This has only reinforced my positive experience of his leadership, friendship, and sincerity in all he does. Mark is someone that I can be myself around and speak my mind truthfully without worrying, because he is so non-judgemental, respectful, and level-headed. These are qualities that I really appreciate.
Modest and humble lifestyle
In all the years I’ve known him, Mark has lived a very modest and humble lifestyle, spending all his time, money, and efforts on teaching and spreading a spiritual message. I don’t recall him ever going away on holidays, or owning anything flashy or expensive. He has always been very principled with money and donations given to him, going above and beyond in accountability. An example is that my husband and I gave a donation wanting to help his housing conditions. We were aware that at the time he was living and working out of a rural property that was unfinished and essentially a construction site. We knew that some other members were helping to work on it in their spare time as friends, and we wanted to contribute. Sometime after we made the donation, he contacted us to see if it would be alright if he put it towards printing costs for one of his books instead (which he wasn’t even receiving any payments/royalties for). He didn’t have to seek our consent as it was legally his money to use as he saw fit, but it just went to show how careful and respectful he was with donations, and also how he sacrificed his living conditions and money to help get a spiritual message out.
Self-funding the work and mission to the US
Another example is how he only accepted a wage for his mission to the US that was funded by donations made specifically for that purpose, and not from the organization’s general funds. As a member of The Gnostic Movement in Australia, I know that Mark asked that personal donations which he was receiving from supporters in Australia be given instead to the Australian organization, for the purposes of supporting his work in the US. We collected those donations and transferred them to the US organization, who used those funds, along with donations Mark made himself, to pay the wage. No money collected through general donations was used, only funds collected by people who donated to support Mark’s work.
Renouncement of compensation for all works
Even to this day, Mark only accepts donations and receives no payment for any of his work. I arranged the publishing contract we have with him, and at his request, a clause was inserted stating that he does not wish to receive any compensation or royalties for his work, and provides them to the publisher for free:
The Author does not wish to receive any compensation for the use of his Works, and provides them to Publisher free of charge for Publisher to fulfill its mission of advancing universal spiritual knowledge as freely and broadly as possible throughout the world. The Author shall not receive any royalties from Publisher.