There are stories of a land where people talk to plants with amazing results; where vegetable and flower gardens are animated by angelic forms; where forty pound cabbages and eight-foot delphiniums grow; where roses bloom in the snow; where the pipes of Pan can be heard on the wind - this place is Findhorn...

One could not begin to talk about the Findhorn Foundation and its long and remarkable history without first setting the scene - and what a scene it is. Every mention of the place seems to be filled with some sort of magical quality - sometimes a simple feeling of peace and harmony, other times it's things like that above. The type of things one is very disinclined to believe, but hear the story of Findhorn and take from it what you will - no one can know more than that for certain, though there are some things that are known and are reflected in the very existence of the place and people today.

The town of Forres in northeast Scotland, 1957....

There is an old, run-down and about to close hotel by the name of Cluny Hill Hotel. In one last ditch attempt to save the place from ruin it is decided to hire someone brand new to take over the management, someone who could just maybe try something new - well, they certainly got what they wanted. Peter and Eileen Caddy and their friend Dorothy MacLean were hired for the job and moved there in late 1957. All three of them had spent many years following disciplined spiritual paths and had received much training in following God's will and spent much energy carrying out their lives in accordance with such.

Now it should be pointed out that 'God's will' was not thought of, and should not be interpreted as that of the one Christian god this may seem to point to. Rather it was a being, a godlike omnipresence who came to their attention via Eileen. For as long as she could remember she had been receiving guidance though meditation from what she called 'the still small voice within’. The voice would advice her on things happening in life and she would often carry out what the messages told her. With this in mind, it was decided that Peter would be in charge of running the hotel, following - to the letter - the divine guidance of Eileen's 'voice'. Although this appeared to result in many unorthodox decisions and what were seen as events that 'could only have been guided by that above', within just two years Cluny Hill was a thriving four-star hotel. However, just a few years later it was decided that new management was needed and all three were asked to leave.

And so the real story of Findhorn begins with a little garden...

Having little money, no place to go, three young sons and a desire to stay in the area, they all moved into a single caravan in the nearby sea-side town of Findhorn. Living in The Findhorn Bay Caravan Park with six people to feed and nothing but unemployment benefits was no easy task, so Peter decided that maybe they should try and grow their own food. He knew nothing about gardening or horticulture and set out to ask locals what was the best way to grow things. He was disappointed to find out though that all the surrounding soil was just like that on the beach - dry, sandy and just about barren. However, not having much choice he decided to persevere.

All three set about trying to make a garden and it was then that Dorothy discovered that she could intuitively contact the overseeing spirits of plants - Devas - who gave her instruction on how to make the best of the soils that they had and how best to take care of the plants. After a while there sprung from this infertile sand more and more plants. They had vegetables, herbs and flowers, all of enormous size and perfectly healthy. When they weighed their first crop of cabbages and found them to be 40 pounds each, word began to spread.

Other people began to join them in making the garden and in 1962 Peter, Eileen and Dorothy began the Findhorn Community which was dedicated to expanding the garden in harmony with nature. As the number of people grew the stories of the plants being grown there began to attract horticulturalists and agriculturists from America and Europe, all of whom were simply amazed by what they found there.

"We all thought it wasn't possible. You need soil, no matter what method is employed, and these people don't even have soil - they're growing in sand. And it would be one thing if Peter Caddy was attributing his success to some ingenious technique of fertilization, but instead, I am presented with an ex-Royal Air Force squadron leader matter-of-factly ascribing his horticultural mastery to communication and co-operation with Nature Spirits, fairies, elves and the legendary deity named Pan."
The fact remains - whatever one chooses to believe - that the garden was going from strength to strength and the community was growing with it.

In 1966 they founded Findhorn Press in order to help get work by New Age authors published. In 1967 Eileen's own book 'God Spoke To Me' was published. As more books were released and the community grew even more, it began to receive much support from significant people within the New Age and esoteric fields, namely English new age pioneer Sir George Trevelyan, Scottish esotericist R. Ogilvie Crombie and Richard St Barbe Baker, ‘the man of the trees’. Most new community members lived in other caravans in the park until Eileen received guidance on how to build new shelter for everyone. Following her lead, Peter and other members of the community built special cedarwood bungalows in the surrounding area, they were a great success and are in-fact still used today to house guests.

And so the little garden grew into something far more ambitious...

In 1968 and 1969 the whole community got together to build Park Sanctuary, their first meditation center. Today there are many, but it still remains the largest of them all. They also built a Community Center where, until this day, all the members come to eat and have meetings. In was after this that things began to really take shape. 1970 saw the arrival of American spiritual leader David Spangler. Together with the three original founders he helped to shape the spirituality that has been the defining feature ever since. The University of Light was established with a spiritual and holistic curriculum aimed to bring people together through its teachings and work towards settlements of people that were more harmonious with both each other and nature.

The people in the tiny town of Findhorn had become rather wary of the people gathering there. There was only one man in the town who had ever actually met Peter Caddy and visited the community. His name was Frank Whyte and he was an old sailor, in a 1973 interview with Paul Hawken who was writing a book about the community he described them like this...

"I've spent some time with the folk down the road. They are the greatest people you'll ever meet. They live and let live, in complete harmony with each other. 'Tis a wee village you know, and you hear all sorts of stories, but it's like passin' a tale round the table. They get twisted around. 'Twas a lady who said they was a 'shower of weirdies', and 'tis others who are afraid, frightened because they seem so well educated, thinkin' maybe they will find some way of influencing the kiddies. They were sayin' there was bathin' in the nude and all that. Why, for goodness sakes, I do it m'self sometimes, right off the boat, but I do na do it here off the blinkin' jetty front of the townsfolk, you know, and neither do they. Oh, we heard stories in the beginning, but less and less now. All was sayin' they got bounced from the hotel for raidin' the tills, but I reckon it's because he was seein' things there, flyin' saucers and space-ships. Well, you can't judge what another man sees."

The relationship between the town and the community was never one of hostility, rather just one of caution on the part of the people of the village, wariness at all that was new. Gradually even this began to wear away and today the Foundation is one of the main reasons people come to Findhorn and as such has provided a means of income all year round for a town that was nothing but an old dock and a military scrap-yard.

In 1972 the Community was formally registered as a Scottish Charity under the name of The Findhorn Foundation. Three years later they were to get their own back when the Foundation purchased Cluny Hill Hotel. They renamed it Cluny Hill College and it became the center for all their educational programs as well as accommodation for members. Everyone in the community worked within the Foundation, usually in many different roles. Everyone participated in the cleaning, building, cooking and maintenance of the College as well as publishing under Findhorn Press. In 1977 they undertook their biggest project yet - trying to use as many natural materials as possible everyone who volunteered began building the Universal Hall - which was to be the center for the Arts. The building took two years to finish and ended up being an amalgam of nature(the roof is made entirely of pebbles from the beach) and the art work of community members(the entire front is made from stained-glass) and houses a modern theatre and concert hall, a holistic café, dance and recording studios, and photographic and computer labs(a more recent addition).

Finding the wider world...

Everyone in the community was given free-reign to develop in any area they chose and extend the community in which ever direction they felt was appropriate and beneficial to all. Findhorn Press became a focus for some and many books were published in the late 70's and 80's, many of which were Eileen's work as well as that of David Spangler who was still very involved with the community although he left in 1974. Two of the members developed something called The Game of Transformation which has become a very important tool for personal development at Findhorn but also in many similar places around the world. It involves Angel Cards which are used to connect with both your inner voice and the forces of nature looking to help you, helping you to transform your life.

In 1982 their original home, the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park was bought by the Foundation. Shortly after they also bought the nearby Cullerne House and its large gardens became the center for the production of organic vegetables which were still growing to record sizes. Drumduan House in Forres was also brought to house many of the members. In the late 80's a project of never imagined scale was embarked upon. What they wanted was an EcoVillage, that is one that is defined as being sustainable ecologically, economically, culturally and spiritually. As this seemed to be a natural progression from their work with nature it was decided that the old caravans would be phased out and replaced by this sustainable village. There are wind powered generators and eco-friendly houses that aim to have as little impact on the environment as possible. Today there are over 40 eco-buildings and in the mid 90's a biological sewage treatment plant called The Living Machine was put into operation. The village is part of the worldwide EcoVillage Network which aims to have eco-friendly buildings in all areas of the world. The EcoVillage Project received Best Practice designation from the UN Centre for Human Settlements in 1998.

By the 1990's the group of people attached to the Foundation had begun to out-grow the specific area the Foundation inhabited and has spread out to include many other areas both in Scotland and abroad, as well as a diverse array of business enterprises. Today there are hundreds of members living on site, and many thousands more who used to live there and still carry the memories and spirit of the place with them. Of the founding three, only Eileen still lives there, still guiding the central education and organization of the Foundation. This year she was awarded the MBE by Queen Elizabeth II. Dorothy is now in North America, practicing and teaching the non-doctrinal spirituality established in the Findhorn Community. After the 70's Peter spent much of his time teaching and attending work-shops all over the world and eventually died in Germany in 1994. His auto-biography called 'In Perfect Timing' was published in 1997. In that same year the Foundation was recognized as an official United Nations Non-Governmental Organization and has since participated in UN events such as Earth Summit and Habitat 2.

For many years, the Foundation has held a vision of expanding its work into the fields of accredited further and higher education, vocational training and professional development. This vision finally became a reality in 2001, with the establishment of Findhorn Foundation College. The College is an independent non-profit, charitable company owned by the Foundation. The aim of the College is to create a learning environment that stimulates balanced development of mind, body, emotions, spirit, and relationships. The college integrates the best of alternative experiential learning with the best of mainstream academic education to create a holistic educational approach that works with a variety of subjects. Many of the courses are accredited in other countries and also within the UK, for example some of the courses are registered providers of Continual Professional Development to teachers in Scotland.

So, you want to see if for yourself?

Well the site of Findhorn is obviously not a tourist attraction in the true sense of the word, it can never-the-less be an amazing and rewarding experience if one does take the time to visit. The center welcomes thousands of visitors every year, and is a very friendly place. Any visitors are encouraged to have an experience of the place, even if it is only for a few hours, rather than just be purely guests - looking in from the outside. One can go for a tour of The Park at Findhorn which is a wonderful way to see the beautiful gardens and feel the atmosphere of the place. Any one can go for a walk in the gardens and a tour costs just £1. The Visitors Reception is where one can start from and find out about all the things that can be done there.

One of the primary stays there is something called Experience Week. It is seen as the best way to truly get to feel the spirit of the place without a really extended stay, in-fact for many of the longer stays or educational programs it is a prerequisite. Started in 1974 it offers an introduction to the spiritual principals upon which the community is based as well as the way the place operates, for example the group decision making, sacred dance and meditation. The week is group based - there is a new group and a new week that starts every Saturday and much of the focus is on group work and sharing. Everyone in the group participates in all aspects of life at Findhorn, just as if they were living there. To apply for a place it is required that you write a letter telling them about yourself, your spiritual background and why you wish to visit/be a part of Findhorn. The cost depends on how much you earn - those who earn less pay less and visa versa.

There is also the option of being a 'short-term guest'. This involves living daily life within the community for anywhere between 1 and 6 nights, you participate and observe but do not receive the guidance or training of Experience Week. There are also numerous (really, there are over 200) different courses available that take place in Findhorn or at the Cluny Hill College. There are also retreats in other places, the main one being on the nearby island of Iona. Some of these are accredited programs in many different fields, others are informal and more spiritually based - it is even possible to host conferences or weddings there. They do say -

"Be aware: having visited, some people decide to stay forever, or at least for a long time. The Findhorn Foundation is a special place and even if you do not remain here with us for long, there is every chance that the spirit of Findhorn will remain in your heart."
And no matter how you view the experience - whether it be a place you truly do find something spiritual, something of academic interest, or even something that is just plain kooky - it does place in you something that will be very hard to leave behind, or at least to forget.

How does one get there?

The Findhorn Foundation is based at two locations: the main site at Findhorn Bay Caravan Park, near the village of Findhorn, and also at Cluny Hill College in the town of Forres, five miles from Findhorn and 26 miles east of the city of Inverness.

Getting there from outside the UK:
Transcontinental flights to London and Glasgow connect daily with flights to Inverness. Once in Inverness, the quickest and easiest way to Findhorn is by taxi - it takes about 40 minutes.

Inside the UK:
There are sleeper trains from London to Inverness with connections to Forres. Buses from the Foundation meet guests at the train-station on Saturday mornings. Otherwise there are always taxi's, but since the College is only a 5 minute drive, a walk is by no means out of the question.

If you want to drive yourself there:
The easiest way is as follows. Traveling from the south via Edinburgh or Glasgow join the A9 at Perth. 5 miles past Aviemore, take the right turn onto the A95 to Grantown-on-Spey and then the A939/A940 to Forres. If driving from Inverness, follow signs to Forres and Aberdeen. When you reach Forres, ask for St. Leonard's Road, then turn left at the sign for the Golf Course and Cluny Hill College. Bear left up the driveway to Cluny Hill College.

Obviously these are just general guidelines and one would have to check specific details at the time of traveling. Total distances are about 600 miles from London to Inverness, 26 miles from Inverness to Foress, and 5 miles further to Findhorn. From the College, the Forres High Street is about a 10 minute walk and it has ATM's, a Post Office and a couple of small shops, pubs and restaurants.

So, what will it be?

If you want to find out more about them, or specific details about courses, dates you can visit or anything else, there is a very good website that gives you a good idea of what it's all about.
Find it at http://www.findhorn.org

The subject of the Findhorn Foundation has filled up many books, and there is far to much story to be told here. However, let's hope that this has at least told you something, perhaps you'll want to find out more, perhaps you'll remember the next time you're at a dinner party and someone is talking about those eccentric esoteric types. But however you view the place, its intentions are good. The ideals of sharing with other humans and living in harmony with nature instead of trying to dominate it are universal values that the world may be much better off with if everyone took them into consideration a little more.

You think that slugs, for example, are a greater menace to me than man, but this is not so; slugs are part of the order of things, and the vegetable kingdom holds no grudge against those it feeds. But man takes what he can as a matter of course, giving no thanks, which makes us strangely hostile. Humans generally seem to know not where they are going or why. If they did, what a power-house they would be. If they were in the straight course of what is to be done, we could co-operate with them. I have put across my meaning and bid you farewell... ~~ the Spirit of the Peas talking to Dorothy.

This node was brought to you in conjunction with Everything Quests: Places to visit in Ireland and the UK >> A Tourist Guide To Scotland


Sources:
The Official Website: http://www.findhorn.org
The Magic Of Findhorn by Paul Hawken
My parents

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