Growing up in France in a mainly atheist family, spirituality was an unknown concept to me. Religion and all belief systems (atheism included) were often ridiculed, yet I was somewhat familiar with the existence of something beyond what our eyes can see, as poltergeist activities were quite regular happenings in our home (e.g. furniture moving/dragging on their own, many strange and inexplicable sounds, appliances on/off switches starting on their own etc.) As well, I was having very vivid lucid dreams and occasional dream premonitions about my day-to-day life, which were always accurate.
As a teenager, I really wanted to understand the reasons and source behind the paranormal events I had experienced, but I was faced with disbelief or ridicule if I talked about it to my friends. I had no one really to ask about or knew of any source of knowledge to refer to. The internet did not exist back then, and because religion was looked down and ridiculed in my home, I never thought of looking into religious texts for any explanations of the unexplained. So time passed, and with it, I stopped questioning things as I had nowhere to look.
As a young adult, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area (USA). By age 25, I was living the American Dream, life was good, at least it should have been yet I had a deep sense of dissatisfaction. No matter what I had or did, I felt like I was missing something essential, and I often felt a deep uneasiness in my heart. The questions that had haunted me as a child were slowly resurfacing: “Why are we here? What is this all for?”
One day during my commute, an interview about lucid dreaming was being played on the radio. As I was driving, I listened intently to what was discussed. I was just amazed that this was being discussed on the radio! However the overall context or reason to pursue lucid dreaming seemed whimsical at best according to this interview, and I was left disappointed. I remember turning the radio off and thinking “this is what I want to do, but not like that.”
Fast forward to a couple of years later, when a couple from Australia moved in the apartment next door. We quickly became fast friends as we were all foreigners living abroad, and I really appreciated both of their generosity, honesty, and sense of care and responsibility that I could see in all that they did. They were all around a really nice couple – people that made you feel right at home, and with whom I never felt judged for any mistakes I would make or inappropriate things I’d say.
Unbeknown to me, they were members of The Gnostic Movement, and had moved from Melbourne, Australia to establish a Gnostic Centre in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In that same Autumn of 2005, they were starting a class on Dreams & Out-Of-Body Experiences based on the books by Belzebuub. After learning about the course by chance, and discussing the topic with them, I just could not wait to attend the class. What really got me interested is that they explained to me that lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences can be used to learn about why we are here, about what happens when we die, and about our soul/spirit/higher self – they termed that type of understanding and knowledge as “Gnosis”. I was quite unfamiliar with the term, but I understood it as meaning gaining knowledge about life and ourselves based on personal experience. This was something that I could relate to; it made a lot of sense to me.
I bought the book A Course in Astral Travel & Dreams by Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) to go along the class, which I read very carefully and with a BIG grain of salt. Due to my upbringing, I was extremely wary of beliefs, but the content of the book was very straight-forward and Belzebuub encouraged much questioning instead of pushing or stating theories on the reader.
The class followed the book to a T, but with the addition of being able to try the various practices taught in the book with other people and take part in live Q&A with the teachers, and talk and share tips among other students. From being on my own growing up and never having been able to discuss about the metaphysical and supernatural to now being in the open among many other people relating the experiences we had during the week was truly magical. What a difference! I remember the great enthusiasm and support that the students and teachers had for one another over the 9 weeks – it was really helpful, and it worked! Within 6 weeks of the course, I had my first conscious and fully aware out-of-body experience, followed by another astral projection experience where I was able to verify what was happening in another location. It was definitely life-changing to realize that I do exist outside of my body, and that there is more to life than what I can see. But not only that, the uneasiness in my heart eased up a bit – I felt that I was finally holding onto something meaningful.
The next course that they were running at the beginning of 2006 was on Self-Knowledge for Inner Peace – this class really piqued my curiosity, I had always wondered why I would say things that I did not mean or think, yet would say them anyway. Or why I would do something I did not really want to do but still gave in and did it anyway? I had no idea what “self-knowledge” was about and I never thought that it was possible to change in a real and permanent way. So imagine my surprise when I learned that there is such a thing as “Inner Change” and that there were techniques that could be learned and applied to achieve such a feat!
However, some complications arose in my life and I had to skip a few of the classes. Thankfully, they were running the same class on Self-Knowledge the following term in anticipation of a retreat happening in the upcoming summer which focused on self-knowledge techniques. Circumstances in my life improved, and I was able to resume attending the Gnostic center. I became much more interested in what The Gnostic Movement was all about, how it had started with Samael Aun Weor, followed by Rabolu and then being taught by Belzebuub. I also spent a lot of time in-between classes interrogating my friend about Gnosis, her experiences, what she had learned over the years and what she had gained. Our conversations lasted sometimes for hours, and I felt I had missed out on so many opportunities to learn about the spiritual side of life having been boxed in my secular and atheist upbringing. My friend respected my skepticism and never once tried to remove my doubts about anything I questioned.
In that summer 2006, I attended my first Gnostic retreat – it was the first time ever that I was attending a retreat of any kind, and I just had simply an amazing time – I was such a newbie in so many ways! And everyone there was so welcoming, friendly and easy-going. I remember the first evening, we all gathered in the rented retreat hall, there must have been well over 30 people from all around the world, and we chanted a mantra. The energy created from that group mantra was something I had never experienced before – it felt like something within me had become alive with the sound we had chanted all together. It was surreal and beautiful. The rest of the retreat was spent on various types of meditation, walks in beautiful old forests, and the catered meals were excellent. There was great care and attention paid to people’s needs and while there was a set schedule, it was flexible and activities would change due to bad weather or people’s yearning to understand certain practices better. As I was recovering from an illness, I appreciated that no one was obligated in any way to attend any activity. The environment felt very safe and unintruding. The retreat finished on a high note literally with an evening of music and singing – and this was a lot of fun. I left the retreat feeling energized, and I had such an amazing time really. I could not wait for the next one 🙂
A few months thereafter, Belzebuub came over to the Bay Area from Canada and the UK, as he was on a book tour. I was very much looking forward to meeting with him, but I was also quite apprehensive about it. He organized several meet-up times to talk with the beginners (of whom I was part of) and advanced students alike at the SFBA center, where he could meet people and answer any questions we may have. This was a really good experience – I remember thinking how nice and approachable he was. He just had no air of superiority, instead it was quite the opposite, a gentle and unimposing humility which was really a breath of fresh air. The discussions were meaningful, inspiring and useful. I remember being able to get a sense of direction as well as several metaphysical experiences which reinforced the veracity behind The Gnostic Movement and Belzebuub as a spiritual author. As his book tour came to an end, they left.
I continued with my interest in Gnosis, and attended whatever class was being taught at the centre, and helped out in as many ways as possible, such as helping out at a Mind, Body & Spirit festival in San Jose. I kept on with the practices at home and at work. I felt the uneasiness in my heart being lifted, I was happier, more fulfilled, but I was still wondering if it was a placebo effect of being surrounded by spirituality or if it was the real thing – how would I really know if Gnosis worked or not?
A few months later, I got an opportunity to find out. At the time, the Gnostic Movement was searching for a dedicated property where it could run retreats. After having attended the retreat the year before, I was totally backing up the idea of TGM owning its own retreat, as that meant more gatherings like the one I had gone to could happen throughout the year. So I grabbed the chance to go check on a potential retreat property in the middle of the USA when it came up, to go help assess it. The trip involved taking 4 different planes (2 each-ways) and instead of freaking out about flying like I usually did, I found myself busily planning the hotel reservation, and packing my bags. I grabbed a book for the plane ride, and went to the airport. I started to have some of my old fears resurfacing, but I applied some of the self-knowledge techniques I had learned from The Gnostic Movement (TGM), and I remember when the plane took off feeling a sense of freedom instead of crippling fear. I was actually in shock that I was not freaking out and panicking – I had control over myself, and that is when I realized that even though self-knowledge was simple at heart, it had amazing possibilities, and inner change was a reality. I did not have to live in fear, or anxiety. This was another breakthrough for me.
I had experienced life outside of the body, and I had been able to conquer a deep-rooted fear of flying as well as being able to correct difficult personal situations thanks to what I had learned from The Gnostic Movement. I now knew that these teachings were real, and that thanks to The Gnostic Movement, my life had changed for the better. I wanted to pass this on so that others could benefit as I had done, so I decided to train to become a teacher of The Gnostic Movement.
In mid-2007, Belzebuub moved to the San Francisco Bay Area – and he and his wife often attended the SF Bay Area center where they both gave numerous talks as well as simple chats. We celebrated many occasions all together, both at people’s homes and at the SF Bay Area center such as Thanksgiving, weddings, and Christmas dinners. They were both very supportive towards all the students, teachers and members alike. It was very clear from the get-go that all they wanted to do and did was to help others benefit and learn about the life-changing teachings of Gnosis. Many times, Mark (Belzebuub) expressed how this path of inner transformation is for everyone – how every individual has this ability, this extraordinary ability to change and reach the goal of awakening/salvation. He and his wife worked tirelessly to help spread these teachings to the world so that anyone could have access to them.
In mid-2008, I became a teacher of The Gnostic Movement, and later in the year a member of the organization. Over the next 4 years, I held various official positions within the organization and helped out wherever I was able to: from creating a café at the center, translating work, doing real-estate searching as well as visiting potential suitable properties to establish a spiritual retreat, to cooking for the team renovating our new larger center, as well as helping to coordinate the center’s weekly activities, retreat days and its online advertising. My health often stopped me from doing more and all I wanted to do, but I was thankful to get the support and understanding of everyone around me. Yet during all this busy time, my life was getting more and more in order: I was promoted twice at my work, and met my husband who was also a member of The Gnostic Movement. I have learned many new skills thanks to my volunteering activities within The Gnostic Movement, and through practicing Gnosticism was able to turn around various difficult and personal situations into positive and fruitful ones. Over these years, I had numerous meetings in which Mark would provide guidance and he was never pushy or imposing– he was always open to suggestions and it was great and simple to work with him.
Looking back, my time with The Gnostic Movement was something I hold very, very dear – the legacy of Samael Aun Weor’s teachings through the personal efforts of Belzebuub gave me the opportunity to be part of an esoteric school which was priceless, and to come into contact with the spiritual side of life – the side I had yearned all my life to know about but was unable until I came across The Gnostic Movement. It provided the safety of a supportive learning environment, the guidance to reach knowledge and understanding of a spiritual kind, and a common ground for people to come together and practice the spirituality of their choice. The Gnostic Movement was really a one-of-a-kind school, one in which people would often recount seeing each other in out-of-body experiences, where magical times were had, and where the opportunities to learn about life and higher truths thrived.
It was not just a shame that it had to close but a terrible loss, not just for people who were in it, but also for all the people who missed out to be part of it and discover this potential of inner transformation that we each and all carry within, only waiting to be tapped into.