Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Critical History of Findhorn - Birth of the "New Age"

This interesting article comes from the November 5 issue of Swans, their special "New Age" edition with an interesting assortment of articles on the various contributing sources to what we now term the "New Age" movement. Several of these are cool articles, but I was struck by the one on the Findhorn community, one of the most influential intentional communities of the 1960s and 1970s. You can read the "official" history of Findhorn at their site.


Here are the contents of the New Age issue.

New Age Special Issue

Manuel García, Jr.: Asian Philosophies And The "New Age"
Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist philosophies that influenced the New Age.

Glenn Reed: Mildred I Presume?
Reflections on technology and its effect on social interactions.

Jason Colavito: Of Atlantis And Aliens
Discussion of how the myth of Atlantis and alien visitation are related to imperial historical narratives.

Jan Baughman: New Age Geriatrics
A cartoonish look at the commercialized New Age movement in its old age.

Michael Barker: New Age Flying Objects
An examination of the theosophical roots of UFOism, drawing upon David Clarke and Andy Roberts book, Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy (Alternative Albion, 2007).

Michael Barker: Sir George Trevelyan's Life Of Magic
A review of Sir George Trevelyan (1906-1996) contribution to the New Age community.

Michael Barker: Findhorn's Angels
A critical history of the Findhorn Foundation, an eco-village based in Scotland.

Michael Barker: Paul Hawken's Spiritual Business
Exploration of Paul Hawken's spiritual proclivities vis-à-vis his love of capitalism.

Peter Byrne: Sounding Off Between New Age And Counterculture: Norman Mailer
A critical synthesis of Norman Mailer's literary output vis-à-vis the New Age.

Gilles d'Aymery: Old New Age
A look at the New Age movement through the now-defunct Foundation for Global Community.
* * * * *
Findhorn's Angels
 
"A born skeptic, I can appreciate that much of what you will read will seem implausible and incredible. I do not ask that you believe this account, for it is written only through one man's eyes. Every aspect of creation has as many realities as perceivers."
Paul Hawken, 1975.
(Swans - November 5, 2012)   Paul Hawken is one of the world's leading proponents of green capitalism, having authored a number of books on this subject in recent decades, the most famous being Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Earthscan, 1999), which he coauthored with Amory and Hunter Lovins. What is less well known -- although far from secret -- is the topic of Hawken's first book, The Magic of Findhorn (Souvenir Press, 1975), which explored the role that angels can fulfill in revising humankind's destructive relationship with planet earth. This book accomplished this stunning feat by eulogizing the early history of the Scottish-based Findhorn Community, a group that presently describes itself as "a spiritual community, ecovillage and an international centre for holistic education, helping to unfold a new human consciousness and create a positive and sustainable future." 

Hawken recalls how he first came across Findhorn when he read an article in Harper's by occult author Peter Tompkins "describing a small group of people, isolated on a cold windblown peninsula in Scotland, who were growing one of the world's most fantastic gardens with no resources except bushels of love and contact with another dimension of consciousness called the Devic and Elemental Worlds." But despite the fact that "reports of 42-pound cabbages and 60-pound broccoli plants" made the Findhorn story "quite unbelievable," Hawken's interest was piqued as to how the founder of Findhorn, an ex-Royal Air Force squadron leader named Peter Caddy, had obtained such success in the windswept Scottish sand dunes when before starting the garden he hadn't as much as planted a seed. (1) However, Peter did not simply talk to angels to produce large vegetables but actually spent years consciously enriching the garden's nutrients with organic matter; likewise his initial bumper crops are comparable in size to those regularly attained by British gardeners in competitions (or perhaps those attained by his father who was a prize-winning gardener); (2) while the windswept gardens of Findhorn benefited enormously from the warm air generated by the local Gulf Stream currents, and midsummer days that are some twenty hours long. The area is sometimes referred to as the Scottish Riviera.
 
Peter sat "at the helm of a community with the aura of a corporate president," perhaps owing much to his years spent in the Royal Air Force; and as Hawken adds: "The one thing that Peter emphasized was Punctuality." Much like military doctrine -- unquestioning dedication to Findhorn is a prerequisite for success; critical thinkers and naysayers are a burden to efficient organizational maintenance. Positive thinking is thus key to Peter's "Law of Manifestation" -- positivity being so central that the word "if" apparently "atrophied from his vocabulary years ago" as the word represents negative thinking, which as far as Findhorn is concerned is "self-defeating, demoralizing, and useless." "Just four rules at Findhorn: no dope, no smoking in public areas, a rule can be made by Peter at any time, and no negative thinking!" So although Hawken credits Peter as being "inwardly... extremely sensitive and intensely motivated," outwardly he is "very much the ex-squadron leader barking out commands." (3)

Here it is useful to backtrack a little to understand how Peter came to work for angels. Hawken traces Peter's first occult experience to his childhood, when his father's search for a cure to the crippling "pain of rheumatoid arthritis" led Frederick Caddy to the...
...mysterious medicine of Lucille Rutterby, a "spiritual healer" gifted with the ability to contact those on the "other side" and seek their help. Her husband, Plato Rutterby, joined her and the Caddys in a circle of friends, meeting once a week to channel and transmit the messages of the great Silver Deer, a former North American Indian chief who soared weekdays among the Celestial Ones and descended on Friday nights to the Earth Plane into this jaunty woman in her thirties who resembled a fresh boiled dumpling in woollies. (p.43)
Rutterby's unorthodox approach to healing, however, proved unsuccessful, and when Peter's father -- who despite his occult forays was a "staunch Methodist" -- went back to his family doctor he was diagnosed as suffering from kidney stones, which were promptly remedied by conventional means, as was his pain. "To hear Peter explain it, good came out of the pain and suffering that his father experienced because it brought Peter into contact with his first 'medium'" (4) Never mind that the medium's mysterious approach to healing his father had utterly failed.
Read the whole article.
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