The Depth of Gnosis — Justin’s Experience

Justin N

I wasn’t raised in a religious family, but I feel I’ve always had a small part of me that was interested in connecting with the spiritual in some way. I had a certain inner urge to experience something that was “deep” — something profound or beyond my everyday experience. Although I searched for this experience in many places and found a whisper of it occasionally, I usually didn’t identify it as something spiritual.

Over time the idea of participating in anything overtly spiritual actually became very unappealing. As a teenager, I liked to consider myself an “intellectual”, and I became a committed atheist, certain that I was smarter than everyone else and had it all figured out. I still sought out certain types of “deep” experiences, but mostly through the lens of art and music or through my goal of being a writer.

Life seemed rosy on the surface, but I had one big problem: the life I had built was making me deeply unhappy. The unhappiness came not so much from my external life, but rather from the internal world of thoughts and emotions that I lived in every day. I was consumed with unpleasant and negative feelings such as jealousy, anger, and negativity, along with compulsive thoughts connected with these feelings. I seemed unable to shut off my mind or enjoy the nice things in my life, even though I seemed to have it made. Each day I was consumed by these awful inner states, with seemingly no way out.

This reached a tipping point where I had to admit to myself that I didn’t have it all figured out after all. My approach to life seemed perfectly logical, but it wasn’t leading me to happiness. I had to acknowledge that I had missed the boat somewhere, and even in the seeming failure of admitting that, there was an odd relief. The unknown and mysterious opened up to me again, and I could contemplate a world that held the potential for something more than my current unhappy state, even if I had no idea what that “more” was.

As if on cue, around that time I was introduced to some spiritual writings and in particular the teachings of Samael Aun Weor through some chance acquaintances. I still had a lot of built-in skepticism around spirituality, especially organized religion (which I didn’t see the point of) and the new age (which seemed a bit hokey to me). So it was very difficult to become open to any kind of spiritual study. However these new teachings seemed to provide an alternative way. It was a more “scientific” kind of spirituality, in that it involved experimentation and experience. I liked how the Gnostic teachings seemed direct and honest about both the good and the bad in life — they didn’t just sugar-coat everything with pleasant ideals, which I thought a lot of other teachings did. I felt an affinity with this perspective, which allowed me to get past my biases and start to explore things in a more open way.

In reading Samael Aun Weor, I learnt about the concepts of Gnostic psychology, of the many “I’s” or egos and the notion of being “asleep”. These ideas seemed intuitively correct, even if I didn’t fully understand them. I could actually see the truth of these things within my own psychology, in a limited way, and I felt these teachings had answers to a question I had often thought about without finding any real solution: who am I? Among all the different thoughts, ideas, and feelings, where is the essential me?

My main difficulty in studying Gnosis was that I was used to approaching things intellectually. As I absorbed more information, my mind became filled with Gnostic ideas, and even though I tried many practices enthusiastically, the experiences lacked depth because of my intellectual approach. I adopted some new spiritual concepts into my life, but I think that, based on the books alone, I didn’t yet have the understanding of Gnosis needed to make real changes.

This picture is from April 2006. A group of us went hiking near Toronto and explored near this waterfall.
This picture is from April 2006. A group of us went hiking near Toronto and explored near this waterfall.

Soon after this, I encountered the teachings of Belzebuub. I attended some of the courses that he had authored which were given by The Gnostic Movement, and I read the course handouts online (which would later be published as his books).

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The teachings seemed so simple, very matter-of-fact and down-to-earth. I was expecting something much more complex and grand from a spiritual teacher.

But I was encouraged by the fact that the teachings given in The Gnostic Movement made things seem very practical and accessible. For example, when I had read about astral projection or learned about it in other schools, I got the impression it was something “advanced,” an experience I might have after many years of study.

But when I attended my first course with The Gnostic Movement, the teacher said I could experience astral projection in my first week if I tried. The thought that I could actually leave my body and experience mystical phenomena as an objective reality was just flabbergasting. I was so excited to try it. Some people actually did have experiences quite quickly, including close friends of mine. I was amazed. This wasn’t a theoretical teaching like I was used to. This was something that integrated with life.

I soon had astral experiences of my own, and even more importantly, I was learning how to tap into my consciousness (the spiritual part within). Before this time, I had twisted my brain into knots trying to experience mindfulness or increase my self-awareness, all with little success. I also had been still unable to fully control my negative emotions and thoughts. All my intellectual study had given me some interesting spiritual concepts, but I was throwing them into my internal mess, with all its compulsive negativity, and couldn’t figure out how to really change that.

It was the teachings given in The Gnostic Movement that really taught me how to be aware, explaining precisely the steps I needed to try. And in doing this I was able to discover what was truly spiritual within me.

I was so surprised and overjoyed to discover this source of real spirituality within myself. I had never really thought spiritual experiences were real or that you could actually experience a heightened state of consciousness just by practicing a meditative technique. But I saw for myself that you can do this and that there’s something magical in living this way.

I then saw how I could truly detach myself from the negativity and unhappiness within myself. I didn’t just paper over it with positive thinking or try to repress the negativity, but I actually began to observe and learn about these thoughts and feelings. Using the techniques given, I could see the possibility of becoming free from these inner states and replacing them with a better way of being. I was changing myself, in a fundamental way. It was such a magical and exciting time of discovery — life took on this mystical quality, and my most basic understanding of what was possible in life changed completely.

Here’s me teaching a course in Vancouver.

It was this type of experience that really changed the course of my life and propelled me to continue my search into Gnosis. If I had not experienced something real within myself, I don’t think I could have continued working for it as long as I have. Even in difficult times, the memory of this is strong in me and reminds me to ‘wake up’ when I’ve fallen ‘asleep’.

It was the power of these experiences that also propelled me to get more involved in The Gnostic Movement, as I felt that learning more and being able to share this information with others was one of the most important things I could do.

Vancouver Gnostic Group
A course being held in Vancouver at a nice community centre in a converted church building. We could have up to 80 people at these talks.

I eventually became a teacher of The Gnostic Movement and helped with giving courses, workshops, and retreats in several cities. I also joined a larger community of teachers and members working online, over time taking on a variety of responsibilities in many areas — accounting, legal matters, corporate administration, managing websites, running marketing campaigns, helping design a new course system, and so much more.

The experiences I’ve gained in doing all that have been priceless. Even on a simple level, the activities I did as a volunteer helped increase my confidence and capability in many areas in life, eventually launching me into my current career. But the more intangible rewards have been even greater.

Vancouver Arts and Crafts
An arts and crafts fundraiser we held in Vancouver. This one involved making our own tile mosaics.

To start with, teaching is a great way of learning, as you are continually inspired to re-engage with subjects afresh and to go deeper in your own practices. As a Gnostic teacher, I was able to connect with literally thousands of people who attended courses of The Gnostic Movement that I helped facilitate. These teaching activities were a constant source of strengthening energy in my life, as I engaged with people who were sharing a common interest in discovering the spiritual and mystical. In a world where the dominant values of society are oriented towards material things or towards more conventional belief systems, it was really incredible to create a shared space for people interested in experimentation and exploration of the unknown.

There was a “buzz” in the atmosphere as dozens of like-minded people gathered together to explore astral projection or to learn about consciousness. In retrospect, it almost amazes me that it ever happened, and I feel both a certain nostalgia for those bright days and a sense of loss that those times are over.

Juan de Fuca trail on Vancouver Island
A hike on the beautiful Juan de Fuca trail on Vancouver Island during a mini-retreat we held.

I also gained so much by working as part of an international team of committed volunteers. There have been many people that I have learned from and that inspired me through working on countless different projects, as well as many friendships formed. All of us were committed to the cause of sharing Gnosis with the world because we really valued it, and we were also committed to practicing it within ourselves. It felt like being part of a real team (very different than typical office politics) where the primary goal was to accomplish something greater than ourselves.

Writing this now, I can recall so many little memories that have a lot of significance. Even simple things like advertising for courses, renovating a center, helping with the search for a retreat center, building new websites, casual meals or conversations with friends, going on retreats, seeing Belzebuub teach in person and sharing experiences with him…they all had value.

I am really grateful to have had all that as part of my life for so many years, and I hope I and others can have a similar opportunity again one day. It was something precious in its day, and it is a shame that a school like that doesn’t exist any longer.

Justin Norris

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