The Answer to My Prayers – Layla’s Experience

Layla
Layla F

I discovered the teachings of Gnosis in January 1997, when I came across a flyer at the University of Technology in Sydney, where I was working. It was only a small flyer posted on a billboard promoting a free talk on the topic of Esoteric Psychology by an organisation called The Universal Christian Gnostic Movement of the New Order. Beside it I saw a couple of their other flyers about other free lectures, on Intuition and Astral Travel. What really appealed to me was the esoteric psychology and intuition topics, I hadn’t heard of Astral Travel so I didn’t know what it was. The flyers also stood out to one of my closest friends who I worked with at that time and she suggested we go together to check them out, especially since they were free and you could just turn up.

We showed up to the Bondi Junction Community hall for the first of the three lectures and I saw a crowd of people hanging around outside in the pavilion area waiting for the lecture to start. There was such a broad mix of people from all walks of life, as Sydney is quite a cosmopolitan city, and because of its coastline of famous beaches it attracts a surf culture and lifestyle. I was really pleasantly surprised to see such a wide array of people to this first topic on esoteric psychology, people I wouldn’t have thought would be interested in these spiritual topics but happy to find out were.

We all made our way into the community hall, greeted by some of the people I had seen outside who were part of the night’s event, some people looked like they had just come from work, just as we had. We found a couple of chairs free, sat down, and waited for the talk to begin.

I was interested to see how it was going to unfold, because it was quite a unique topic and an interesting perspective on psychology that I hadn’t heard about before. I had an interest in psychology for a very long time, I even had started my degree with the hope of studying psychology, but after the first semester I realised it wasn’t really the type of psychology that I was hoping it was going to be. I felt it missed something, and it didn’t make sense to me to study it from such a clinical perspective where I couldn’t relate to it. I had hoped it was going to be able to provide the understanding and the know-how of how and why we think, feel and act the way we do and from a first-hand perspective. Mainly because I wanted to apply it myself in my life, because I was looking to learn how I could be happy, to overcome a sense of sadness and deep unhappiness that kept bringing things down in my life. A few months before that night’s lecture, I remember wondering if there even was any real way I could learn about myself. Were there people who could teach about it in some real way, especially as I developed panic attacks literally overnight and I just didn’t want my life to be overcome by this debilitating fear. I remember praying and asking for some type of school where I could learn this special psychology that I was thinking of. I didn’t realise as I sat waiting for the lecture to begin, that the wish that I had made back then, was about to be answered in the lecture that was just about to begin.

A man walked up to the front, dressed simply and with no airs about him and began to speak with this broad accent, which I later came to learn was Welsh. He introduced himself as Mark Pritchard and he came across as quite a nice ordinary person. He welcomed us to the talk and spoke briefly about the organisation the Universal Christian Gnostic Movement of the New Order, who he was a teacher of, he talked a little about how it was a non-profit organisation that was run on donations which was good to know as I was wondering how they were able to offer the talks free of charge, and if there was some kind of catch or hidden cost, but there wasn’t any. I was surprised to discover people shared spirituality in this kind of way and it felt very authentic and natural to know that they did.

When Mark (Belzebuub) began the actual talk, his explanation about the topic and how we can learn to study our own psychology was a real ‘wow’ for me. Finally here was someone talking about the very thing I was interested in. Explaining about how they teach people to do this, and what really struck a chord with me was Mark’s explanation about how we can learn to observe our own thoughts and feelings and from there we can learn to change and experience a true and more meaningful happiness. I was really in awe, because this was the first time I heard someone talk about psychology in the way that I had been looking to learn about it, from that first hand direct experience. Mark gave the talk simply and clearly, and when he was going through the examples it really surprised me because I thought he was talking about me. I was so happy to actually find a real way to overcome those things in myself, and the way it all happened began to show me that there was somehow a tangible connection to praying.

From those inspiring three talks that week, my friend and I went on to take the course that followed suit, which was mostly held at the Bondi Junction study centre. Mark Pritchard (Belzebuub) was a teacher there and he created a very uplifting and inviting ambience in that place. He, along with other teachers, ran the courses with a lot of care, dedication and gave up a lot of their time to people, staying back for hours after the evening course to answer more questions that people had. They were always surrounded by people queuing up to ask them questions, and I’d often wanted to chat with them too but there were just too many people in the queue and my shyness held me back, but as I continued with the courses and got involved with the projects of the organisation I got to work with them very closely and more than made up for lost time 🙂

I really enjoyed the talks Mark gave, and felt uplifted to keep going with the exercises and try to learn about them. Mark’s witty sense of humour was also very refreshing and he has such a gentle and caring vibe about him which I found very sincere. He brought a lot of clarity to things I wanted to understand, and I was really inspired by the topics he gave and the practices we did. He always would make sure to start and finish each topic on time, respecting people’s time, and always answered questions with respect, understanding and patience. If he didn’t know something he would say so, which I found very refreshing, or if he was explaining complex topics that were part of later stages of spiritual development he would acknowledge that. His authenticity and genuineness was really unique and has always stood out about him. Even though the courses and the information was free I began to see how valuable this information was, and with those exercises, little by little, I verified and began to see the huge potential they had.

Sometimes Mark was unwell, and wasn’t always able to take the class. Sometimes he’d come down to the cafe area if he was feeling well enough just to say hi and chat with people. His natural approach to spirituality helped me a great deal to understand that these teachings didn’t mean I had to run to a mountain side to study, and that I could apply it in my life with all that life brought my way, and that was really useful to learn.

Those 25 weeks were very magical, this synergy began to appear from week to week where my friend and I would have these incredibly deep chats that extended from the previous week’s talk, and each following week we’d discover the topic was on the very things we had just been discussing. The synchronicity was really amazing and this is how this first course unfolded for a lot of people, not just us.

I got a lot out of the mindfulness exercises at work and home, and I could see my relationship with people, especially at work where I was constantly interacting with students, professors, colleagues and so on, starting to improve little by little, and I began to see how important mindfulness/ awareness is in being able to listen, understand and resolve situations with care. Even though my efforts were small they made a huge difference to me and I could feel that it made a difference even in small ways to the people I was dealing with.

The reality of these teachings really began to make sense when I began to apply them in my life. I found the effectiveness of the self knowledge exercises were most noticeable when it came to overcoming panic attacks. At the same time I was undertaking this Gnostic course, I also had begun to see a psychologist that came highly recommended to me by a friend to help me overcome panic attacks. After only a few weeks into these meetings with the psychologist she suddenly took me by surprise by telling me that I didn’t need to keep coming to meet with her. She said that the things I was learning in Gnosis was helping me a great deal and that I didn’t need to keep coming to see her. I was really shocked to hear her say that, not because what she said wasn’t true, but because as a psychologist I didn’t expect it from her, but she was right. If it hadn’t been for Gnosis, like many people who suffer from this debilitating attack of fear, I’d still be struggling to live my life with any real sense of stability and happiness. I still experience aspects of fear but it doesn’t grip me in the same way, and I know how to overcome every tiny instance of it too.

Not long after I moved into the second stage of the Gnostic Courses, the UCGM closed down and I was concerned that I may not be able to continue to study the self knowledge courses. They took the last class in 1999, which is where I also thankfully met my husband in that last round. I really valued everything I was learning and I was really happy to hear that Mark (Belzebuub) was going to continue to teach Gnosis but under the new organisation called The Gnostic Movement.

I started learning more, but I still had these fears, but as the courses continued I got strength to keep going, and I got the chance to take the Astral Travel course when it began which was awesome! It really helped me to push through the fears and actually experience astral projection, which was a real ‘wow’ and I was excited to have finally been able to experience it, and from there on I really wanted to go to the astral more and see and learn what I could, and I began to have more out of body experiences.

As part of those courses, they were offering a teachers training course, and as I was able to overcome the panic attacks I wanted to see if I could take it up and give it a go. I trained with quite a few other people and enjoyed it a lot. I saw many more aspects about myself and that helped me to see my approach to life in a way I hadn’t seen before, and gradually learnt to overcome my shyness too.

I wanted to help The Gnostic Movement in any way I could because I could see it was a really good cause. It was uplifting to be able to be part of those projects, and working on them with people from all over the world was so great. Being part of the forums and meeting people from all over the world on those online courses was strengthening and inspiring. I really enjoyed being part of a team of people working on projects of all kinds. And as the organisation grew internationally I got the opportunity to partake in projects with people all around the world, developing course posters, teaching on the online course forums with other teachers, managing events and also local ones like the stalls we had at Mind Body Spirit Festivals. I also worked on projects directly with Mark and I learnt a lot from those times, his sincere care for others always stood out to me and I appreciated it so much.

As part of The Gnostic Movement, Mark organised the first retreat, and it was the first time I had attended a retreat. That first retreat at Perisher Valley in NSW was amazing. I got the chance to spend those 5 days dedicated to learning about the exercises. I only attended two of the many retreats that were held, but I got so much from them, especially the early morning asanas and the meditations in the afternoon. I also gained a more natural approach towards awareness just through those walks we took in the forests and parks. We would sit in the warm evening air and sing songs and chant mantras to nice instruments that people brought with them. I got to meet people from the online courses and the forums who were from other countries at the retreats and it was just so great to finally put a face to the name and talk in person. These retreats kept happening and their feedback was great, people got a lot out of Mark’s talks and the practices and it inspired me hearing about other people’s experiences and could relate to how strengthened they felt from them.

As time went by, I got more involved in the projects and the volunteering that was offered through them. I learnt so many great skills that opened up really incredible job opportunities for me, like the ability to take on large commercial project management jobs. A lot of my current skills now are from my volunteer days in The Gnostic Movement and I definitely wouldn’t have acquired them in any other way, except by having to have paid huge amounts of money for training and study. But the volunteering did more than give me skills, it gave me experience in the field and that’s what made a big difference in being able to do well in the job.

But the most wonderful thing I got from studying the teachings of Gnosis was the ability to learn about myself in a meaningful and real way. It really meant a lot to me, because I suffered so much from unhappiness, fear and anger, that getting a glimpse into how I can change and actually not feel that way was very valuable for me. Moreso reading the books that were part of the courses were so insightful and helped me to understand things, that today I still go back to them as I keep trying to learn.

Reflecting on all those amazing and wonderful years in the organisation, I find it such a loss for people today to not have the same opportunities and environment to learn, be inspired and experience these transformational teachings as I did. Being with others in such a dynamic school was just so uplifting and it strengthened my resolve and focus to practice, learn and experience Gnosis.

I truly hope that one day such an authentic spiritual school will re-emerge again, because I’m hoping myself that I can be part of it again, and it would be great that other people can again too.

Layla F

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