Dorothy Maclean, a writer and educator on spirituality, was one of the three co-founders of the Findhorn Foundation spiritual community in northeast Scotland. Our world famous experimental garden was developed based on her attunements to the intelligence of nature and guidance from these beings was a major element in the growth of the Findhorn community. Stories about the exceptional vitality of the garden in poor growing conditions, including the production of gargantuan cabbages, spread and people from all over the world with similar beliefs to our founders started to move into the area.
For Dorothy, connecting with the divine within always came first. As a result of that primary connection, she learned how to explore life’s subtle dimensions and was a pioneer in connecting with the angelic and devic realms. She was best known for her descriptions of contacts with the consciousnesses of nature she called devas. She collected her messages from devas and angels and wrote about her experiences in several books including To Hear the Angels Sing, Call of the Trees, and Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic, always centred on her central idea that people could work more closely with the natural world.
“I’d like people to realise that they, too, can work cooperatively with nature’s intelligence,” she said. “Such cooperation is vital for the world.”
A nature-loving child, in 1920 Dorothy was born into a middle-class family in Guelph, Canada, where she studied for a business degree, and came to spirituality and environmentalism through the unlikely route of British Secret Intelligence Service counter-espionage during the Second World War. Through her work in New York, she met and then married John Wood, who introduced her to Sufism and the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan. They travelled extensively before arriving in London in 1941 and divorced ten years later. Dorothy had met the Scottish mystic Sheena Govan on a train in the US and reconnected with her in London and it was at one of Sheena’s gatherings that she met fellow seekers Peter Caddy and Eileen Coombe.
In 1954 Dorothy had her first experience of the God within, which she called a ‘vast unity’. She began a regular practice of meditation to connect with this voice within, which led her to the sacred essence of things and the belief that love must be practical. So she had been practising going within, following her guidance and being more loving for eight years before she, Peter, Eileen and the Caddy children moved into a cramped caravan near the traditional Scottish fishing village of Findhorn. This turned out to be the modest start of the Findhorn Foundation and community.
A year later – during meditation in 1963 – Dorothy’s inner guidance suggested that she begin to contact the consciousness of nature and cooperate with the unseen spirits of Peter Caddy’s sand-based garden. Probably her most well-known contact with non-physical consciousness was with devas, a term she used to describe angelic beings that oversee the pattern and growth of all forms and are embodiments of creative intelligence.
“It was at Findhorn that I was told in meditation that I had this job to do with nature,” she said. “I suppose basically what the angels were saying is that there are presences on the planet which we are ignoring and that the Earth needs all beings to live in cooperation with each other.”
In the 1970s the community was featured in several BBC documentaries which spread its fame even wider. Despite sometimes being made fun of, it was pioneering and many of the spiritual principles that have been practised by the community from those early days have become mainstream.
Dorothy left the community in 1973 and went to the US, where she helped to found the Lorian Association spiritual education community in Washington state, along with mystical philosopher David Spangler and others who had been living at the burgeoning spiritual education centre at Findhorn. She also travelled the world teaching and lecturing on divinity and her spiritual experiences, helping others to contact their divinity within and connect with the intelligence of nature.
In 2009 she moved back to live at Findhorn and celebrated her 100th birthday here in January 2020 before passing on 12 March 2020.
Spiritual teacher David Spangler called her a forerunner of planetary wholeness.
“Down-to-earth, practical and not given to glamour, nevertheless Dorothy has learned to expand her spirit and step beyond the purely human points of view without abandoning them either.
“Knowing her has been a great privilege in my life.”- David Spangler