It’s not often a community member would stand up to co-founder Peter Caddy, but this time it led to an asset for families in the Park – not to mention a highly entertaining tale! Jonathan Greene*, who lived here with his wife and toddler between 1975 and 1976, recounts the skulduggery, gentle conniving and other mild redefinitions of the art of manifestation, that led to the creation of the School House, which is still a vital part of the Park today.
The Findhorn Foundation, improbably situated in the north of Scotland, adjacent to the North Sea, within the Arctic Circle climate zone, was begun over 50 years ago, and is one of the oldest, most successful conscious spiritual communities. Originally founded by Peter and Eileen Caddy, and their friend Dorothy Maclean, linked to the spirits of Nature by R. Ogilvie Crombie and tutored by David Spangler, based on age old spiritual and esoteric principles, grounded in demonstrating cooperation and co-creation with the spirits and forces of nature (thus world-famous for their remarkable gardens); most recently evolving into a thriving globally linked eco-village – developed on several close proximity sites, working towards broad self-sustainability, wise stewardship, and spiritual growth in a residential working setting. People from around the world have lived and worked in the Findhorn Community, and thousands have visited or participated in educational and demonstration workshops or projects. Amidst our current pending global crises of the spirit, and of our Earth, Findhorn is increasingly moving towards participation in defining the current evolution of a critically needed “new story” for mankind.
I revisited The Park 25 years after living there, to reconnect at the 40th birthday celebration. Seeing and listening to all those old friends and new acquaintances, I found I was continually moved by the admiration I felt for them. At the same time, I just couldn’t quite “find my voice.” Whether I couldn’t tell what I was thinking and feeling, or whether it just wouldn’t quite rise to words, I can’t say, but every one of us must have a “story,” and this one kept coming back to me, especially as I thought of treasured and sometimes whimsical experiences, and of friends no longer with us.
So about a year later I wrote my story down, and here it is…
Well, just look at the face in that baby passport picture. Angelic cherub or mischievous munchkin? That was 1975, just before we arrived in the spiritual Findhorn community, a young naive couple with a little girl toddler, and of course fresh with another one of those I don’t know exactly why we’re here, but we just knew we had to be stories; as well as several of the requisite signs and omens to prove it. Fast forward through the usual traumatic initiatory rights of community passage, the ubiquitous community calamities and certain pending financial doom, to a quiet and cold, but sunny winter day in an ancient patiently rusting caravan. James Hill and I sat in front of a disarmingly warm coal fire, hypnotically engrossed in a game of ancient Chinese origin, called Go, a game of cagey strategies, much like chess in the West. I recall watching the old men at the Go Club in San Francisco’s Japan town, inscrutably and silently studying their board, until with total resolution and out of the seeming blue, they snapped a Go stone briskly and loudly to the wooden board, like a samurai concentratedly wielding a blade…
And so James and I fancied ourselves as we sat, somewhat more Western and peaceable warriors of the spirit. Until that is, our wives walked in the door, recalling us to the present, and to our inviolable charge of caring for our respective two-year-old daughters. I can still see and hear the way the two kids engaged each other in some new mischief – eyes sparkling, and with a dancing belly laughter – ‘Alicia!’ – ‘Angie!’ It must have been their agreed upon code call to plunge with reckless abandon into some new breach of the adult social fabric. ‘Well, where are they then?’ Rosie queried with suspicion, seemingly made solely for the native Scottish accent. Partly looking up, James and I smugly noted the children’s soundlessly peaceful afternoon’s play.
Until that is, our game was unceremoniously ended by the loudly proclaimed revelation of our total abdication of the responsibilities of fatherhood, uttered amidst several other choice epithets. It seems the young urchins, sensing our fatherly neglect, had stealthily as stalking cougars – emptied every drawer in the caravan, carefully removing every single piece of clothing, pot, pan, and any other article within two-year-old reach; and now all laid casually strewn about – silencing any possible retort we tried vainly to summon. Oh the joys of parenthood, and of young family relationships. Unsure whether to whack the bums of the perpetrators, or those of the caretakers – the two young and now righteously indignant mothers, with cases strengthened immeasurably by this incontrovertible evidence, neatly presented to them by our treasonous offspring, drew themselves up to full stature, wrapping themselves no doubt in the mantles of all the mothers and grandmothers before them, and loudly reiterated every deficiency they had ever seen or even suspected in their misbegotten men. What could we say? We meekly shot furtive glances at one another, between submissive shoulder shrugging, dreading how much worse it could only be certain to get, once these now lit on fire women, got each of us home alone.
Well, never one to be lightly discouraged, or to needlessly assume full personal responsibility; I reasoned that this current dearth of family harmony must certainly have a deeper root cause. Of course – the lack of support for young families in general, in an ever preoccupied Community. There it stood right before me like balm in my now open wound. I duly shared this wisdom with James, and waited casually for the women to appropriate it as their own refrain – and then I sprung the solution. What did it matter after all, that Peter insisted on no small children in the Community Centre dining room at meal times? Wasn’t this obviously an idea whose time had come? And as the revealers of an intuitive grasp of this bit of the Community’s evolving destiny – wouldn’t we actually be congratulated for our sage foresight, rather than reviled as disruptors of the quasi-sacred silence of mealtimes? Even resolute Peter Caddy would surely come round. Oh true it is there’s no fool like a young fool; and non-more brash than our own ever unrepentant generation. How can Peter possibly say children were “best seen not heard,” when we young families were after all the future builders of a New Age! Suffice it to say, that when the unstoppable force of two firstborn two-year-olds met Peter’s immovable rock – it was not entirely pretty.
Not only was he not charmed and amused by their ever endearing cuteness, he was noticeably affronted by their parents, especially our cheek in openly defying this long and dearly held dictum, and thus causing several out and out public scenes in the dining room. Okay, these two-year-olds may have been a trifle noisier and more mobile than we had reckoned, and maybe they were a little messier than expected when they threw their food at one another, amidst their irrepressible laughter and clarion calls echoing across the dining room. However, not one to surrender a point without some shield of honour and dignity, I pressed the point on several mealtime occasions, taking Peter’s stony silence as acquiescence; until he stood an alarmingly close distance from my eyeballs, and informed me in no uncertain terms, that this would decidedly NOT do, and simply MUST stop, don’t I see. Fearing a pending invitation to pack our two-year olds and leave the Community, we let discretion be the better part of valour, and withdrew the children from the dining room – but only a temporary retreat we thought, as we licked these new wounds and sought subtler and sounder guidance on this obviously delicate issue, certainly one of pressing moment to the greater Community.
Sensing the signs of higher intent, I was now more certain than ever, that all this newly uncensored sheer energy roiling around this heretofore sub-surface family issue, was a surefire sign from the powers to be, that we were on to something here. Not that the Community didn’t have enough on its hands this winter – the Hall just closed in but very rough and entirely unfinished inside and out, Cluny Hill just purchased and the Community divided over whether we should include the world or just paddle our own canoe, our debt spiralling as usual hopelessly out of control. In short, didn’t it sound just like déjà vu all over again?
Full plate or no, not wanting to miss any opportunity to disrupt the status quo anywhere, and now virtually captive in our caravans, we felt certain we could jolt the tiny community store into ordering a bulk shipment from a natural foods distributor in Boston, consisting of those family culinary necessities so missing in bleak northern Scotland, such as buckwheat soba noodles, organic tamari soy sauce, keg miso, umeboshi salted plums, several varieties of Japanese dried seaweed, gomasio, Vermont maple syrup, and various other requisite esoterica. We consoled ourselves with the contraband goods, as our families were once again marooned in our tiny caravans with our unruly offspring thrust back into our sole charge. Thus did we seek to soften the blow to our fledgling aspirations for expression, in that time-honoured way of eating away our sorrows. Since Vance Martin had once been a natural food store proprietor, we had convinced him to appeal on our behalf to the store’s operators to make this inexpensive purchase. They finally consented, but only if we ordered as a subscription, and agreed to deliver enough customers upfront to buy out this worthless merchandise. Vance, being the tactful negotiator and intermediary that he was, may possibly have left out the parts where we quipped something about this stodgy store really needing to get with the programme, and start replacing its decidedly pedestrian British larder of packaged foods, cigarettes, and other unnecessaries, to support the “correct” new tastes. We were increasingly certain that young families were such a boon to a spiritual community in a hopelessly conservative bastion like the northern wilds of Scotland, that we could do nothing but good.
Well-fed though still forlorn although not defeated, I meandered aimlessly through my daily routines, inspired only by the huge group effort and energy marshalled to completely refurbish Cluny the first time around. And then, there it was again, like the proverbial signpost right before my eyes. Families needed no more whining and complaining about their plight, all they were wanting was a resolute will expressed by reaching out with their own hands, and a great group effort! But what group? With everyone stretched to the perennial Findhorn breakpoint, all gracefully but firmly declined when asked. One indefensible thought led to another, until it occurred to me that families just needed a breather, and some way to get out of their rabbit hutch caravans. A family and children’s centre – the obvious answer! And what were we doing anyway with that old deserted block building on the way to the Pineridge studios? No apparent claims or interest in it, so like a steel trap my ever restless mind had it already designed and functioning, complete with white fence and outdoor playset, to contain our children’s enthusiastic wanderings.
Clearly only the most revered process of “manifestation” could bring such a seemingly unreachable goal into reality. Reciting the tenets of this quasi-magical procedure were one thing, doing it was entirely another. After the proper quantum of initiate’s worry and woe, it occurred to me that such a daunting task required nothing less than sitting at the feet of the undisputed master of manifestation himself. After being reassured by several leading “in the know” intermediaries and leadership confidantes, I screwed up my own shaky courage and resolved to take my dilemma directly to Peter, questing after both direction and blessing, not to mention a dose of forgiveness for those most unfortunate dining room incidents. So there I sat, in Peter’s small office, offering my fledgling concepts on hopefully propitiating new directions as atonement for my past indiscretions, and earnestly asking how does one DO this? For a serious young person seeking instruction, there would be few people who could equal Peter’s effect, as he pulled his chair over, put his hand on your knee, and looked directly into your eyes, giving you ALL his legendary attention and energy. Although I had heard it before, I was unprepared for the electrifying effect of hearing that I myself could indeed make anything happen, by just proceeding ahead with total faith based upon sound intuition, unwavering, with no doubts whatever. Dropped into the particular well of my current receptivity, this was to have an effect perhaps not precisely what Peter intended.
And then came Peter’s story about when he was in the Himalayas in the RAF during the War, and they couldn’t reasonably expect to procure much of anything, but somehow Peter and the fellow officer who was his close friend, always managed to draw what they needed, against all logic. This pretty well capped it for me. Wasn’t Peter saying, in so many words that is, that my intuition WAS sound, and that I reminded him exactly of his friend, and if so, Peter had no doubt about my as yet unexpressed ability to virtually “manifest” out of thin air, as it was. Although neither the comparison nor this glowing endorsement was probably intended, nothing could have convinced me of this. One connection linked inextricably to the next. Why, I thought, would Peter tell me this one on one, if he did not intend this very thing? Well there it was, I was like a man whose feet were on fire. In a fleeting moment of doubt, or perhaps just reality, I expressed to Peter my concerns about the overwhelming preoccupations of the Community and the consequent dearth of its available resources. This was only sure to elicit Peter’s even more staunch insistence that the seemingly infertile ground of any inhospitable outer reality was always nothing more than a test of faith, and one never knew what was or wasn’t possible after all, until you forged ahead. And this coming from a certainly world-class forger. Hadn’t he once ignored a raging war, and now infertile soils and a hostile climate far north in the Scottish Arctic Circle, general societal skepticism, a total lack of money and resources, and a thousand other obstacles. What else could I do? This clinched it. Casting doubt aside, I effusively conveyed my absolute intent to stand the test and manifest what results I would. I left feeling forgiven, buoyed, and with a virtual carte blanche, I thought, to manifest as I will.
So like a highly enlivening evening at the pub, the morning after had its counter, and like a bad hangover, doubt veritably rolled over me, paralyzing me into inaction. Now what? You can only sit once at the feet of the master, and ask for the same blessing, and I’d just been to that well. So seeking perhaps just one more voice of experience and practical reason, in a perhaps somewhat more worldly guise, I took my painful dilemma to Dick Barton, for the analytic and logically weighted approach. Just the right person, Dick precisely laid the matter out into its various components, sorted them into the pros and cons, best and worse case scenarios, with extra weighting given for what I repeatedly assured him was Peter’s virtually unequivocal endorsement, and all but unconditional green light for the project.
In my natural desire for a field of play, I hoped I hadn’t perhaps exaggerated too much this last and most key influential factor, as Dick looked deeply and searchingly almost through me, implying that all the possible “cons” would be just ever so slightly edged out by the pros, with this one wee element leading the split decision. I WAS sure of Peter’s absolute approval, wasn’t I, Dick queried with raised bushy eyebrows. For my part, taking Peter’s final words on “no doubts” firmly to heart, I closed the door on this inquiry, and the deal was done and the die was cast, as Dick exclaimed enthusiastically – go with my intuition, and do whatever I would know I had to! And what, Dick asked, was my clear and highest vision for the final project result? My diminishing flame once against newly kindled by this kind hand, I laid out my vision, the whole works. And why not – so I enthusiastically listed a vibrant children’s and family center, that ought to offer families full Community “citizenship,” and even should evolve eventually into a school! What kind of school Dick asked – a Waldorf-Steiner school I intoned, and I was in fact considering going to the south of England to research Steiner education and teacher training myself. Since I had a fresh teacher’s certificate laying untouched on my shelf, alongside my equally unsoiled college diploma, I casually linked a long-term role for myself with this trying work of manifesting. There it was, another sign, surely not just base self-interest, but a certain intuitive flash, in the service of all concerned. All confirmed by Dick, with his fully proven family presence, no less.
Who can say what convoluted course this business of manifesting might take? And this was already looking like a roller coaster ride, just now barely out of the gate. Dick’s final advice was to just jump right in and start the project myself, and if it was “right,” the rest would follow. It was a cold and wet Scottish winter as it always is, but even more so in that unheated little abandoned bare concrete block building; and I can tell you it got mighty lonely waiting faithfully for whatever. My uninspired building skills left ample time for me to consider that it might not hurt for me to help this process out a bit, and who said passive was good? That just might not be how I particularly manifested things. So off I went to the Guest Department, and glad to see me they were definitely not.
Those pesky Hall and Cluny projects were siphoning off every last available excess guest, not already in the usual allocation to Housekeeping, the Garden, and the Kitchen. Time blurs whether I may or may not have mentioned Peter’s and even Dick’s “certain endorsements” of my project, as a desperate last inducement to secure a cast-off guest or two. Whether they felt sorry for me, or thought it best not to trifle with a project which so “obviously” had Peter’s blessing, I can’t say, but I began to get my two or three guests, several days a week. Besides trying the patience of the Guest Department by my ceaselessly outstretched hand for spare guests, it turned out that the questionably skilled, leading the definitely unskilled is not a recipe for much accomplishment. So while we cleaned it up a bit, and got it looking something like a real project inside and out, we definitely weren’t getting it actually built this way.
Philosophically inclined, I turned once again to the game of Go that started me on this fateful path to non-stop trouble. There was always this casual bantering about “old souls,” and I certainly knew must not be one, since I couldn’t determine anything much about my soul, let alone its age. But, I reasoned, young energetic souls should have a slight edge then, shouldn’t they? This went some ways towards easing the sting of my ignorance, and it was precisely there that the plot was hatched, just awaiting that always “right timing” to come on down the road, not entirely unlike the unsuspecting Brer Rabbit of Tar Baby fame somehow… And before too long, who should appear on that road, but my guileless friend, James. So I arranged a quiet game of Go with James, this time sans children, and put forth an idea I’d been turning over. I had already asked Lyle, our master construction lead, for help, a loaner carpenter, or a small crew perhaps just once a week, and his response had been immediate and unequivocal – NO!
No crew, no discussion, no way, no how. The Community, and he in particular, were under enough pressure to complete the lagging Hall construction, with Cluny continually pulling both he and the Hall crew off task from their urgent and seemingly bottomless needs. It was this apparently impenetrable thicket, that caused me to float this new trial balloon with James. What if, solely in the cause of manifestation mind you – I just temporarily purloined some of the key construction tools, until Lyle HAD to come over with the crew to retrieve their tools, and felt thus compelled to work on the Family Centre out of a modest sense of obligation, or failing that, as a sort of “exchange in kind” for the ransom of their tools – all this of course most reluctantly chosen as perhaps a somewhat questionable means, but only mind you for such a sterling end… Granted this may have represented a new and some would contend, a fringe definition of the means of manifestation.
However, my new-found faith and positive single-minded commitment to a goal I was sure was right, banished all such doubts; and besides this, the project was just plain stalling out, and was in definite need of a radical new approach. James had an unusually stunned look, as he lost track of the game, to give sudden full consideration to my apparently alarming proposal, which had clearly thrust James far out of his comfort zone. I winced as he expressed serious and admittedly sensible reservations about this stretch in the to-date lexicon of the tools of manifestation. The progress of the game, and my rephrasing of my intent every way but upside down, did little to alleviate his concern, which contrary to my best efforts seemed to grow in direct proportion to my determination to proceed, irrespective of possible consequences. The best I could reluctantly cajole out of him was his agreement to say nothing to Lyle of my plans. In fact, his relief seemed positively palpable, at being released from any taint of association with this high-risk scheme, should it fall into disrepute, which event did appear to have some very distinct possibility.
So on I went alone, with an enthusiasm akin to a man marching to the gallows. This would either be the breakthrough the project needed, or I would be looking for a new line of work apart from this manifestation business. I had a padlocked cabinet on the wall of my block building, and one by one, it filled with Lyle’s tools. I checked in with James, to see if Lyle had yet noticed, and if now was the “right” time to broach the subject with him. Beginning concerns, but not yet to critical mass, said James. Feeling as though I was shoving unstable radioactive uranium rods into a hot nuclear reactor, I braced for the inevitable reaction, as I gathered up one last enormous collection of tools. Feelings of misappropriating resources mixed with general grave apprehension, alongside my ever-present and now burdensome sense of determination in the fast diminishing good I felt this project was sure to accomplish. This required serious added meditation in the Community Sanctuaries, and reflective review of my prior conversation with Peter. As a safety precaution, I mentally practiced my duck and cover over and over, and readied my horoscope for a good and propitious day.
Finally James said the stew was nearly cooked, and so he thought I too would be. Masking my horror of the prospects just barely, I marched straight-away into the Hall at morning tea break, to inform Lyle and crew that I was in fact the cause of the missing tools, and how might they feel about “negotiating” the return of said tools, for a mere one full day of their combined joyful and willing labor on the little block building? Time and the naturally protective nature of faulty memory have thankfully erased the finer details of this encounter, as well as the incredulous reactions of everyone involved, including my own heavily compromised state and whatever nonsense I must have uttered with some presumed modicum of a straight face, and pretence at explanation and justification. The one thing I do recall clearly was Lyle’s look, penetrating straight through to the back of my head, as he stood legs squarely planted apart grinding his teeth, sending the muscles around his square jaw distinctively into profile. He had one of the best and most visible and transparent transmutations of anger that I’ve ever known. And I was certain I’d weep with relief, when after my final refusal to recant, he unset his jaw, and said with strained effort at conciliation and good will – right, let’s go to work then, and get it done; we’ll be there first thing in the morning. His last glance at me spoke the rest, but it remained gratefully unspoken once his mind was made up. My distress was obvious enough, and Lyle was ever a person with a kind and generous heart. Even more thankfully, I never knew or was told just what was said once I left the Hall, and fervently do I hope never to know.
The next morning, I was in an unrestrained state of agitation, relief, excitement, and anticipation – in short, a complete wreck. Lyle arrived at the appointed hour with so big a crew, we could all barely move, let alone work in the small block building. Brushing my ungrounded state aside with benign silence, he leaped at the work and led the direction of his crew with his characteristic steadiness and on-purpose even manner. Thankfully, he even acted towards me as though nothing unusual or untoward had ever happened, and as if the crew had simply woken up this very morning, and suddenly of their own volition marched straight away over to help me out of my conundrum. In fact, try as I might, I had not been able to hand pound the special “cut” old fashioned square concrete nails into the old block walls, to hold the interior framing up, without blasting out the concrete, and causing the wooden studs to come falling accusingly back at me, utterly unfastened to their intended positions, and with nails now protruding every which way. Lyle and the crew made short work of this, and of the entire interior building work. James was heads down all day – no eye contact indicating his clear preference for avoiding being in any way thought a co-conspirator. Like a miracle I thought, the interior of a real Children’s and Family Centre took shape in a day – wood studs, insulation, interior surfaces of walls and ceilings, the works! Those tools in my little building were starting to burn like a scarlet letter, and glad was I to see them return to their rightful home with the Hall Crew, when at last they finished and closed up that day.
Figuratively wiping the sweat of misgiving from my brow, I was only too glad to enter into the longed-for cycle of completion, and to bask in the modest glow of small successes. I had linked the projects’ completion with my recent decision and plans to move from the Community, and had felt it was something I somehow MUST “return”, before I could go forward. Unexpectedly, I was now not just going forward, but virtually anointed or so I thought with my newfound and highly innovative talents at unravelling the mysteries of manifestation. I could only imagine what a vast field of opportunity the world would now provide me for the full exercise of similar “right actions”.
Equating success with vindication of all doubts associated with my entire process, as well as all of its most dubious methods, I was positively inspired to set the windows in place with James, and put the other varied finishing touches on the new Centre. Leaving no stone of opportunity to do good works unturned, in order to finish the project definitely and to fulfil Peter’s supposed mandate and trust completely, I turned to the only untapped and heretofore hidden pool of enthusiastic labour remaining in the entire Community. After all, my time was running very short. Jumping right over the elder and infirm, I seized on the energies most perfectly attuned to this very project – who else but the Community’s pregnant mothers to be! Lo and behold, there I was on the roof of the building with a bevy of fertile co-creators, most likely to have a very personal stake in the timely existence of a cozy public space to house children and families.
Benevolently freed from any lingering guilt, compunction, or even perish the thought – self-doubt, I laboured most willingly with perhaps the most peaceful and happy crew I will doubtless ever chance to work with – scrubbing, painting, and cleaning away, it felt like entry to the proverbial land of, dare I say it – milk and honey. I could now leave the Community complete and in peace, having gifted in return to it, what I felt I must, and could most certainly now look forward to an energetic if unconventional series of opportunities to practice this now not so inscrutable manifestation thing in the surely awaiting greater world…
The ancient Hawaiians had no written language, so story-telling was the great communal art they used to keep their culture alive, and to transmit their memories of themselves and of one another.
When they had voiced their story in words, song, poetry, or dance, they ended their telling (as all Hawaiian songs still do) with the words, “haina ‘ia mai ana ka puana,” “and this then, is my story.”
In giving voice to this story, I can complete my Community Birthday experience. What I felt most there, but couldn’t quite voice, was a great curiosity to know what everybody was doing, and who they were or had become, and for those I knew well, and for those even not at all – a great and completely unexpected love, as though for a family. This was accompanied by the somewhat less than comfortable thought that this will doubtless be my (and our?) task, to feel this way for the entire “family” of humankind and more. It seems this smaller and better known circle was as far as I’ve gotten just now. I relayed this to a good friend, and he told me of his one visit as a guest at Findhorn, as a young person almost 30 years earlier. He said he’s never been anywhere before or since, where as a complete unknown, he was made to feel so warmly held, as though here he definitely mattered, and that he could do and accomplish virtually anything. And so off he went to a lifetime of very giving accomplishment, in the confidence that he did matter.
I thought his account encapsulated perfectly my sense of this special and ever growing Community, when I was briefly given the privilege of living and working there, and more recently in returning for the 40th Birthday and reconnecting to the friends and purpose of Findhorn.
So for new friends, old ones, and friends only remembered, but very well so, whose great privilege it was also mine to have known – this then is my story…
* Jonathan Greene is a pen name
Today the schoolhouse is a much-loved and much-used playground area for the recent crop of Findhorn children. The Steiner school that originally occupied it has moved to the nearby town of Forres.
Today the Foundation is going through one of the most significant transformations in its history. As we cultivate the emergence of a vision for our next chapter of service to the transformation of human consciousness, we welcome your love, blessing and also your monetary donations. Please give today and be part of the transformation.