Eileen: A Personal Reflection

On Monday, we cremated the body of Eileen Marion Caddy, a courageous, dedicated, radical lover of God. I feel hugely blessed and privileged to have known her as a friend, a teacher, and as an adopted son. She has influenced me and my life in countless, and beautiful, ways, and in this short piece I would like to share some of them.

I first got to know Eileen when I was working in the Foundation’s management team, focalising the Reinvention process between 1997 and 1999. This period involved us looking, collectively, at the fundamentals of our community, our identity and structure, values and ethics, decision-making, staffing, pay and remuneration – everything, in fact. I felt it only appropriate to talk to Eileen about these things, both to seek her feedback and insights, and also because I thought that, as a founder, she had a right to know. I spoke with Dorothy for similar reasons when she was visiting.

Throughout these conversations, Eileen consistently spoke of the centrality of God to our purpose. If people come here for community, this is not the place for them to be. If they come for workshops, this is not the place for them either. If they come for organic food and ecological houses, this is not the right place. This is a spiritual community, and that is at the heart of everything. If you don’t want to listen within, and pay attention to the spiritual nature of the community, then you had better live elsewhere.

Such conversations, with both Eileen and Dorothy, fed into our community dialogues to help us coalesce a Mission Statement, adopted on 21st September, 1998, which read:

The Findhorn Foundation is a centre of spiritual service in co-creation with nature, encompassing education and community.

Eileen was happy with that.

These conversations also built the foundations of our friendship. I still can’t really fathom out why we became so close but we did, and I am deeply grateful for that.

I introduced her to my parents who had tea with her one Sunday afternoon in 1998. The conversation changed my father’s entire understanding of the nature of biblical prophecy. While he had always taken the stories of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets, as metaphorical (‘Of course, Moses didn’t really hear God speaking to him’) having met Eileen he now revised his understanding and thought maybe they really did hear a voice. Inspired by his meeting with Eileen and the community, he went on to give talks about the Foundation in his local synagogue and in many other settings.

Eileen and I carried on meeting and talking for many years. Throughout these times, she embodied a calm, clear, yet radical simplicity. I would go with my questions and issues, about the community, its development, management, and finances; and about my own life, my relationships, work and my spiritual longing. I would often go into her house fraught and frowning, and come out calm and optimistic and really feeling, that yes, All is very, very well. It was a little like receiving darshan – the transformation that comes simply by being in the presence of a more illumined person. Her ability to be completely present with me, listening to me, and then reflecting back the simplest truths and questions; Have you invited in grace? Have you asked for help? Help is available you know – consistently brought me to a deeper, more expansive and more trusting place.

Alongside this there were two more qualities I want to highlight. One is her sheer down to earth, no nonsense approach to life, perhaps best exemplified one Sunday afternoon in December 2002 when she was walking through the Park with Linda, one of her carers. She came across Craig and several other members of my men’s group, making a coffin for a recently deceased community member, Lyle Schnadt. We were also preparing some of the planks for Eileen’s coffin as she had asked Craig to start preparing this. When she learnt what we were doing, she wanted to check that the planks were the right size so, much to Linda’s dismay, she lay down in her Sunday best on the rough wood to check the planks had been cut to the right length. Satisfied that they were, she got up, brushed herself down and went on her way. This robust, matter of fact approach to both her life and death, stayed with her to the very end. I could always trust that Eileen would not hold back, and would tell me what she felt I needed to hear.

The other quality I want to highlight is her radical nature. Many of the most poignant episodes in her life required a truly radical heart to embrace them – leaving a husband and 5 children to be with God and Peter; meditating for hours on end in a cold outdoor toilet in a caravan park; touring the world giving teachings and workshops as a shy and more naturally retiring woman; and just living a life so totally dedicated to surrendering to the still, small voice within. These are radical ways to live.

And when I would talk to her, she was always wanting us / me to do the courageous and radical thing. Shake up the structures, break open the forms – spirit can’t flow if systems have become crystallised and rigid. She was always pushing for change. Be bold! Ask for help! Just do what you feel is deeply right.

In the last years of her life, she struggled to come to terms with her inability to do much. ‘Now I am being told I just have to be’, she would say. And she grew into that too. When I talked to her about where I had just been or what I was about to do she would be patient and attentive, but when I talked of God, or of lessons given to me by my spiritual teacher in the USA (who she met twice and enjoyed very much) her eyes would light up, and she would squeeze my hands tight. Most recently, I told her I was going to America to spend some time with my teacher in a spiritual intensive entitled, Discipline and Obedience – Protection for the Spiritual Aspirant. As she heard the words, she leant forward, eyes shining. ‘Excellent!’ she said. ‘I am so happy about that.’

Nothing gladdened Eileen’s heart more than the sincere intention to surrender to God. After all, as she might say herself, what else is there?

Robin Alfred
Findhorn Foundation Trustee

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