13. You often refer to commercial mysticism in relation to so-called “new spirituality.” Do you credit any form of genuine mysticism in this widespread trend?
The answer to that is brief. There are so many forms of commercial mysticism in the world today that the possibility of any visible form of genuine mysticism is very slight. The word mysticism is currently meaningless in “new spirituality” (formerly called new age). These are elementary facts in my view, and so it is pointless for me to further discuss such an elusive factor as non-commercial mysticism. The scope for opportunists is unprecedented. The glib word spirituality in the “alternative” and postmodernist context is likewise a facesaver for something too suspicious to take seriously. I think that word currently means something equivalent to spam in computer jargon, and also the more sinister term scam.
13.1 Commercial Workshops in Query
I can perhaps best illustrate the basic point made above by reminding about the high charges made for “workshops” and conferences at the leading “new spirituality” centre in Britain, namely the Findhorn Foundation in Moray. There is an important extra consideration to take into account here. In 2006, UNITAR raised the status of the Foundation by extending the ecovillage aspect of that venue into a CIFAL ecology project. Protests from elsewhere were suppressed. UNITAR blithely ignored the commercial dimensions of the disputed organisation. UNITAR is the abbreviation for United Nations Institute of Training and Research.
The ecovillage project gained an extension in CIFAL Findhorn. When UNITAR made their decision from distant Geneva, they should have taken into account the commercial programme of the Foundation, which subsequently basked in the reflected limelight of the CIFAL project. CIFAL Findhorn quickly began to operate as a separate business called CIFAL Findhorn Company Ltd (afterwards CIFAL Scotland Ltd, the company status being dissolved in April 2018). Even the well advertised wind park operated as a separate business (Findhorn Wind Park Ltd). Almost everything in this sector is run on a business enterprise basis. There is scope for very strong criticisms of the “workshop” programme.
The vogue for “workshops” is controversial. The term “workshop” has nothing to do with crafts activity, instead deriving from the American scene in alternative therapy that became popular in the 1960s. Strongly associated with the Human Potential Movement, the commercial workshop has been accused of evoking cued emotions and manipulating beliefs instilled into clients. Extravagant claims are frequently made in these improvisations. The Findhorn Foundation has been employing “workshops” for many years as a staple ingredient of their annual programme, which advertises these activities in the most glowing terms. The dominant criterion is evidently economic. The credentials of workshop practitioners are frequently very much in doubt. The programme under discussion relies upon affluent international subscribers who are susceptible to the beliefs and activities being sold.
In 2005 was published my account of Findhorn Foundation irregularities (Pointed Observations, pp. 167-220). A chapter was there included which referred to the heavy price tags in Foundation “workshops” of commercial mysticism. For instance, a week of “Astroshamanic Trance and Sacred Circle Dances” sold for £425 in 2004. That same year the ecological fare entitled “Sustainability Here and Now” sold for £485 (ibid., p. 206), also lasting a week. Sustainability has a very saleable face at the Findhorn Foundation, where the cosmetic factor is relentlessly exploited.
A conference week entitled “Spirit of Healing” was on offer at the Findhorn Foundation in April 2004 for £565. The “focaliser” was here William Bloom, the alternative therapist associated with the London venture called Alternatives. In economic terms, an equivalent achievement was a weekend event in May 2004 called “The Power of Now,” costing £255. That workshop featured Eckhart Tolle, a new age celebrity in present-centredness who was here credited in terms of: “Experience firsthand what has been called the ‘awakened state’ through the intense conscious presence of the teacher.” This assertion featured in the half-yearly Courses and Workshops brochure of the Findhorn Foundation (May-October 2004, p. 27).
Tolle became popular in America as a result of his book The Power of Now (1999), which is sub-titled A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. He claims an inner transformation. His bestseller is backed up by numerous “audio books” in the new age commercial trend. He consented to a commercial interview with the American guru Andrew Cohen, another claimant to enlightenment who has been the target of stronger criticisms (see 14.6). That interview occurred in the pages of the Cohen magazine What is Enlightenment? Ex-devotees of Cohen say that the title question was never realistically answered in the commercial periodical.
The autumn 2004 conference at the Findhorn Foundation cost £570 for a week. This was entitled “Connectivity and Synchronicity: Building a Global Culture of Peace.” The peace talk is notorious amongst critics, despite the UNIPAZ auspices (and UNESCO associations) of Pierre Weil, a major Findhorn Foundation supporter (see article 10 on this website) who was listed as a speaker for this conference. Suppression of dissidents under the cover of peace talk is one tactic of commercial sustainability and neo-Jungian lore. The inability to heal basic rifts and to confront ethical issues is contagious even in bureaucratic sectors such as UNESCO, who are sometimes incapable of due responses on relevant matters pertaining to official endorsement of discrepancies. See Letter_of_Kate_Thomas_to_UNESCO. See also 13.10 and 13.21 below.
Neoshamanism is one of the commercial attractions at the disputed venue endorsed by slumbering bureaucracies. The 2005 programme included a week of “The Original Quest: An Astroshamanic Journey into Space and Time.” The price tag was £425, that amount being favoured by the managerial strategy in many other attractions also. This particular event was described as a “unique workshop of healing and transformation,” the aim being that of “retrieving our most genuine and whole nature.” The ad for this occurrence further reveals that “drawing from Pagan and Christian shamanic traditions, this workshop aims to re-own our hidden past.” (Findhorn Foundation Courses and Workshops May-October 2005, p. 11).
Slightly cheaper was four days of an activity called “Choose Life at Whatever Risk: A Personal Development Workshop.” The cost for fashionable risk was £375. The risk is perhaps greater than is commercially stated, many attendant problems being unacknowledged by workshop entrepreneurs. One of the objectives stated in the ad is “connectedness to others” (ibid., p. 15). Clients are not told that this deceptive myth entails the disconnection and stigmatisation of dissidents or critics. The underlying managerial ploys at the Findhorn Foundation remain unaccountable in terms other than immediate income.
Only a week earlier than Whatever Risk, in September 2005 occurred an “advanced workshop” in Astroshamanic Trance Dance and Basic Drumming Training. The price for this week of neoshamanism was £445. Clients were promised “spontaneous healing expression.” The exploited theme of healing is common in Findhorn Foundation workshop ads. The affluent clientele are trained to be uncritical in the receipt of such neoshamanic lore as “we explore drumming and traditional dances according to astrological cycles, creating sacred space, establishing connections with spirit powers, retrieving fragmented soul-parts, activating blocked energies and using them to support major transformational processes” (ibid., p. 15). Commercial transformation is a doubtful asset.
The Foundation Faculty were specifically mentioned as the joint conductors of a further dose of neoshamanism in October 2005. The sub-title was “Astroshamanic Healing Touch and Soul Retrieval.” This was a “special week” at £425 “for those who are open to using the transformational power of deep emotions.” Deep critical thoughts are anathema in such environments, even though “advanced healing methods” are explicitly denoted by the ad (ibid., p. 17).
The vocabulary is fluent. An October 2005 workshop was entitled “Anything Can Be Healed.” This week of declared expertise was on offer at £475, slightly more greedy than other exercises in alternatives to rational thinking. The Body Mirror system was here being promoted “for the purpose of restoring harmony where things have gone out of balance” (ibid., p. 17). Prospective clients were told that “the chakras will be used as a key... to understand the inner causes of symptoms” (ibid.). The chakra lore was misappropriated by the new age (via Jung) from Hinduism. Almost anything said about that subject is currently in question unless deriving from a strong critical angle.
13.2 Influence of the Esalen Institute
Commercial mysticism should be distinguished from “spirituality,” whatever that might transpire to be. The enduring influence of the Esalen Institute (in California) on the Findhorn Foundation programme is not something to be ignored. Esalen was the seedbed (since the 1960s) for “workshop” contrivances devised to capture the attention of gullible clients. A tangible indication of the parent influence was on offer at the Foundation in September 2005, when six days of “Healing through Touch” cost £485. The sub-title stated “An Introduction to Esalen Massage.” The Findhorn Foundation ad for clients emphasised that “Esalen Massage, known for its flowing, exquisitely sensitive techniques, has been developed from an integration of the work of master teachers who have blessed the Esalen Institute in California with their knowledge since 1963” (FF Courses and Workshops May-October 2005, p. 15).
As a consequence of such emphases, many Findhorn Foundation clients were programmed to “techniques” in alternative therapy. Dissidents found that these people were unable to think outside the “technique” conceptualism imposed by the constant commerce. Such criticisms were and are unwelcome to the economic process known as sustainability amongst partisans. Sceptical observers refer to that same process as ecobiz (which includes sustainability workshops).
Another 2005 workshop influenced by Esalen models was “The Gay Pioneer.” This cost £445 for a week of playing “the Transformation Game.” The ad for clients saliently included the maxim: “Consider the radical possibility that being Gay is a spiritual calling” (ibid., p. 16). By the same standards, heterosexuality must also be a spiritual calling. At least, this was evidently the rationale for such Findhorn Foundation workshops as “Intimacy for Couples,” dating to 2004 and priced at £455. That workshop week was advertised in terms of: “It can help a couple to deepen love and intimacy, heighten sensual pleasure and move into expanded states of consciousness” (Findhorn Foundation Programmes November 2003 – April 2004, p. 12). Such emphases can be traced, via the consumerist demand created for medieval Tantra, to similar modes favoured at Esalen over the past forty years. This exploitive field of commerce merits repudiation.
The trend of “new spirituality” can be viewed with due reserve in the face of clichés, and also in the face of bureaucratic endorsement, which ignores what clients are being taught in the wide range of confusions presented by the Findhorn Foundation.
13.3 Associated with the Department of Public Information of the UN
The Findhorn Foundation Courses and Workshops brochure, over many years, repeatedly carried the statement: “We are a registered educational trust and are associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organisation.” This mantra served to transmit the onerous economic imposition of a workshop programme upon unquestioning clients.
We may therefore associate the Dept of Public Information (DPI) with a very dubious agenda of “new spirituality” teachings, and should furthermore strongly query the flaunted status bequeathed by the NGO process.
Critics say that almost anything sells at the Findhorn Foundation except the truth, which has been evasively rejected and concealed at every step of the “new spirituality” path established by devious management techniques. See further Findhorn Foundation: Myth and Reality.
The Findhorn Foundation gained NGO status in 1997, at a time when economic failure was covered up by the transition from one management team to another. One team were obliged to resign. The successor team took over without any due public acknowledgment of the problems in occurrence. Further years of evasion continued. Even the new team, skilled in dissimulation, were unable to prevent the news surfacing in 2001 of a debt amounting to almost a million pounds. Such details were strategically forgotten with the passing of time.
A desperation plan was pursued of presenting the Foundation as an alluring source of local income. This became evident in 2002. Their supporters said that the Foundation were second only to RAF Kinloss in terms of providing monies. The cupidity of Moray Council for tourism revenue overlooked the significant debt. The Foundation plan worked. Informed critics of the strategy were completely ignored by Moray Council. Donations were invited at every step by Foundation personnel, for the undeclared purpose of shoring up the debt.
A more effective strategy was nevertheless needed. The key Foundation objective was to gain CIFAL status from UNITAR. That status was secured in 2006, despite strong objections ignored by incompetent and heedless bureaucracy. See the details at Cifal Findhorn. More specifically, CIFAL Findhorn Company Ltd was an emerging factor in the ecovillage extension and encouraged further workshop clients. The triumph for workshop extortion was complete, protected by UNITAR neglect of priorities.
Investigators of CIFAL Findhorn have been critical. The publicity informed that this innovation is “part of a global network of 12 UNITAR International Training Centres that operate as a hub for training and capacity-building through the exchange of practices between UN agencies and local actors, such as local authorities, public and private enterprises, civil society and educators.” What does all this blurb amount to? There was certainly the prospect of new international contacts, especially in the Far East.
Cheques were made payable for seminars or “training programmes” to “CIFAL Findhorn,” whose address showed as The Park, Findhorn. That address is the location of the Findhorn Foundation, who used the same address. The Findhorn ecovillage also had the same address. The price scale for CIFAL Findhorn training programmes was even more expensive than that applying to workshops. The daily rate for CIFAL Findhorn seminars in 2008 was £100-£145. Critics call this phenomenon ecobiz.
A glowing editorial in The Northern Scot (20/06/08) was entitled “Findhorn centre plays its part in United Nations.” The publicity wing of CIFAL Findhorn Company Ltd was again in the ascendant. The message here is that “Moray has become a key player in the United Nations.” Perhaps overworking a favoured word, CIFAL Findhorn was described as “a key UN training centre,” despite being the smallest of twelve CIFAL centres worldwide. The chief executive officer of CIFAL Findhorn (May East) had a special meeting with Moray Council to update them about events. The executive officer expressed gratitude to Moray Council for their ongoing support. CIFAL Findhorn had so far been the venue for ten training programmes and had welcomed 368 delegates from as far afield as Vietnam and Korea. The fee totals are undisclosed. The last paragraph of the editorial briefly mentions an agreement made for two annual payments of £6,250 to CIFAL Findhorn from a Council committee, with contributions also being obtained from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Executive.
A significant letter had earlier appeared in the Forres Gazette (“Letters to the Editor,” March 19th 2008, p. 6 column 1). This communication was headed Nature coming under threat. A local resident of Forres here complained that the area behind the Universal Hall (at the Park, Findhorn) was home to some rapidly declining bird species such as the yellowhammer, which do not nest in human settlements. The local resident stressed how every local council “is now supposed to have an officer for biodiversity to make sure that we put biodiversity first, but Moray Council do not have one.” This complaint relates to the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Moray Council were interested in tourism revenue, not ecology. Bird species did not figure in the balance sheets.
The new “Magic Triangle” housing development scheme, of the Findhorn ecovillage, had recently been advertised in the same Forres Gazette. The operative agency here was the ecovillage commercial project known as Dunelands Ltd. The local resident ended with the statement: “I realise that Dunelands Ltd and the Foundation think their vision is good, even ideal, as a model to the world, but solar panels do not make an ecovillage. I don’t feel it is too much to ask an ecovillage to do a nature survey for the area before building 40 more houses on Findhorn’s tiny peninsula.” Ignoring such objections, the expansionist plan for ecohouses continued under the auspices of Findhorn Foundation ecovillage, which cultivated an ambiguous reputation for ecological scruple. Ecohouses could be sold for profit. Birds could not be sold. Biodiversity was a negligible factor in ecobiz.
13.4 Grof Problem Screened by the Kingdom Within
The new management team of the late 1990s included Alex Walker, a major opponent of dissidents. He was the primary economic consultant over many years, being strongly associated with the ecovillage project at the Findhorn Foundation, and especially the Findhorn Wind Park Ltd. The latter enterprise involved four wind turbines. Great claims were made in that direction. Vast numbers of wind turbines would be needed in Moray for any ecological improvement. The wind park was part of the cosmetic factor, gaining cheers from clients but strong doubts from restrained observers.
Walker edited a book entitled The Kingdom Within: A Guide to the Spiritual Work of the Findhorn Community (1994). This served as a screening factor for serious anomalies discernible in the early 90s. Walker provided a brief but endorsing reference to the practice of Holotropic Breathwork (abbreviation HB), which had elsewhere become the subject of strong criticism. HB was the improvisation of Stanislav Grof, who desired a substitute for his illegal LSD “therapy” (see article 12 on this website). HB had been devised by Grof at Esalen, and consisted of hyperventilation accompanied by loud music and “bodywork.” Hyperventilation means increased speed and depth of breathing, and is a very questionable resort in any circumstance. The attendant ideology of HB provided extravagant claims of spiritual significance and healing.
The risk practice and misleading ideology came unstuck at the Findhorn Foundation, where HB was incorporated into the commercial programme, with results that frequently led to serious stress and abnormal symptoms. This Grof therapy was sold to gullible clients for £415 in a workshop week. The allied auspices were those of Grof Transpersonal Training Inc., an enterprise which critics have viewed as a mercenary example of Esalen tactics. Grof himself made celebrity appearances at the Findhorn Foundation, where HB was a strong influence during the years 1989-1993.
Alex Walker approvingly mentioned the Grof rationale for HB, in terms of HB being “a spiritual technique with an ancient shamanistic lineage” (The Kingdom Within, p. 138). Walker added that “legal problems make the future of breathwork in the community difficult to assess, but its positive impact on the lives of many individuals here has already been considerable” (ibid.). This justification for HB was all that he disclosed about the “legal problems,” which were effectively consigned to oblivion for future readers of Findhorn Foundation lore and propaganda. See also Shepherd, Minds and Sociocultures Vol. One (1995), Appendix 5, pp. 945ff., on HB.
Walker and others ensured that the dissident Kate Thomas (who opposed Grof and HB) was stigmatised and denied all voice within the so-called therapeutic community. The grave situation of evasion and suppression evoked the dissident book from Stephen Castro entitled Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (1996), which tells the truth that is sorely missing from The Kingdom Within. Chapter six of the Castro critique is specifically devoted to the subject of HB, and page 101 has a rebuttal of Walker’s misleading reference above cited.
Alex Walker neglected to tell his readers about the response of the Scottish Charities Office (SCO) in 1993, who expressed a recommendation that HB should be indefinitely suspended at the Findhorn Foundation. This was because of a report which the SCO had commissioned from the Pathology Department of Edinburgh University. That negative and warning report was not available to the public, but subsequently became known amongst well informed parties outside the Findhorn Foundation. The Foundation management agreed to suspend the problem therapy. However, a core of diehard HB partisans defiantly maintained this therapy in private sessions. HB workshops later re-emerged into publicly accessible and commercial use at the closely associated venue of Newbold House in Forres. University warnings meant nothing to entrepreneurs. See my letters_to_the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator dating to 2006.
Alex Walker's pro-Foundation book encouraged believers to think that nothing had gone wrong. Grof was here justified by employing his deceptive insistence upon “an ancient shamanistic lineage” for HB. The Foundation lore about a “kingdom within” now certified the therapy drive. Indeed, Walker even glossed the preoccupation with therapy and “workshops” in terms of the “perennial philosophy,” a resort which did not stand up well to close analysis (see 14.7 on this site). Research into religion did not exist at the Findhorn Foundation, who were concerned only with donations, plus revenue from the annual programme of misleading workshops and exploitive “techniques.” The cosmetic factor of “perennial philosophy” amounts to a sick joke when the situation is realistically confronted.
13.5 The Big Debt and Pursuit of CIFAL Status
Alex Walker joined the Findhorn Foundation in the early 1980s, when he was still in his twenties. He worked in the accounts department, becoming managing director of the closely allied New Findhorn Directions Ltd (said to have commenced in 1983), which pioneered the theme of “Spiritual Business.” He had been known to state that “a major task is to marry business and spirituality.” Further, Walker’s mission statement for his trading company was “Celebrating Business as Sacred” (The Kingdom Within, p. 72).
Subsequently, Alex Walker became an independent management consultant, retaining a prominent position as a director of NFD Ltd. He was inseparable from the ecovillage activity. His influential role as long-term consultant to the Findhorn Foundation was amenable to privatisation of community assets, along the lines of the capitalist model which the new age was supposedly transcending. Walker's policy had the disastrous effect of incurring an £800,000 debt by 2001. The Foundation management made desperate attempts to conceal this problem until the last minute possible. So-called Spiritual Business was no superior to any other kind of business.
Measures were taken to negotiate the debt by elaborate balance sheet procedures relating to nominally independent enterprises. The economic strategy was extending to the mortgage of Findhorn Foundation properties to cover overdraft (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, p. 190). Observers said that if this situation were allowed to continue without official inspection, Findhorn Foundation policies would escape due enquiry and eventually frustrate normal processes of professional accounting. Bureaucracies who were informed of anomalies demonstrated an inability to take any action. The Findhorn Foundation continued to promote themselves in glowing terms as a centre for spiritual education, a theme facilitated by a much proclaimed association with the Department of Public Information (DPI).
In 2003, the Foundation described themselves as “a centre of spiritual service in co-creation with nature.” The attendant prerogative was expressed in terms of being “one of the best known intentional communities in the world.” To this claim was added the identity as “a major international centre of adult education, and of personal and spiritual transformation.” These credentials were displayed on the back cover of their commercial Programmes, complete with the persuasive DPI association.
The local Forres Health Centre had for long been anticipating an AIDS outbreak within the excelling community. Medical doctors were familiar with the permissive standards of the new age. A prominent Foundation staff member became notorious for his bullying, and also his bisexual activity within the Foundation. The transformation was a myth, protected by bureaucracies with diverse agendas.
Nothing had gone wrong according to the “new spirituality” exemplars. They pushed the debt into obscurity, while some of them increasingly resorted to fluent ecological jargon. Their new ambition was to persuade UNITAR into conferring CIFAL status upon the ecovillage project of the Foundation. This project had been nurtured during the 1990s. That project could eventually boast four wind turbines, along with the commercial workshops in sustainability (known as Ecovillage Training) endorsed by UNITAR (based in Geneva) as a consequence of Foundation pleading. The cosmetic factor was perfect for alternative therapy workshops.
There was a bonus in the much advertised “eco-houses,” pursued by affluent affiliates and the executive staff who acquired salaries not existing in the earlier phase of this community. The debt was incurred by the salaries and other perks, perhaps. The asking price of desired eco-houses soared controversially. The much publicised Field of Dreams was sceptically described as a glorified new age housing estate for affluent purchasers. Over fifty new eco-houses had been constructed by 2008, including some large dwellings arousing the accusation of eco-luxury. Commercial eco-houses do not prove ecological expertise or holistic accomplishment, bearing in mind that the Findhorn Foundation has frequently advertised as “a centre for holistic education.” The word holistic is currently as commercial as the fashionable phrase “sustainability.” The Findhorn ecovillage did display some genuine ecological features. The overall context of compromise was too often obscured by promotional reports.
A theme was sometimes encountered that the ecovillage is quite separate from the Findhorn Foundation. This ruse was devised by the “spiritual business” trend, which expanded both the ecovillage and the Foundation commercial programme. The two “separate” projects effectively worked in unison, with ecovillage figureheads like Alex Walker and Craig Gibsone being celebrities in both sectors. The ecovillage attracted additional subscribers to the commercial workshop programme. Both of the “separate” projects existed on the same territory. Both of these projects exploited the name of Findhorn village, a separate community in the process of being taken over by the new colony.
A convergent factor was the appearance of the new Moray Art Centre, on the same Findhorn Foundation campus. This centre was built at a cost of nearly £1 million, all raised by charitable donations (extending to sponsorship and grants) according to media reports. The Moray Art Centre (opened in 2007) appeared to be unrelated to "spiritual" and therapy workshops. Incoming visitors were inevitably acquainted with those prominent workshop features of the landscape. Critics pondered the fact that the charitable donations (and grants) amounted to the same figure as the controversial debt which passed into oblivion, the latter process assisted by publicity tactics of key Foundation and ecovillage personnel. UN affiliations were the discernible encouragement for new donations.
Wikipedia described CIFAL Findhorn as “a new sustainable development training facility” appended to the ecovillage. That facility comprised a separate business known as CIFAL Findhorn Company Ltd, a business converging with the many other businesses represented by the Findhorn Foundation. The trend of proliferating business ventures dates back to the time when Alex Walker declared the need to marry business with the presumed “spirituality” inherited from the 1980s phase of workshops and nascent ecological concepts. Some critics describe this phenomenon as a business network with different masks such as Ecovillage, Findhorn Foundation commercial programme, CIFAL Findhorn, and transformation.
My web article entitled CIFAL Findhorn: A Critical Statement was dated October 2006, thus relating to the very early days of the disputed training facility. The Scottish press relayed that a multi-million pound CIFAL training centre would be constructed at the Foundation. This sounded very impressive. Substantial donations were evidently envisaged. Ecovillage spokesmen were very active that year in vocal performance. No high expense training centre emerged. The CIFAL training programme did commence at the ecovillage in the autumn of 2006, comprising expensive seminars (see 13.3 above), to all intents and purposes an accompaniment to the commercial programme of workshops held on the same premises. CIFAL Findhorn employed the same address as the main campus of the Foundation.
The very questionable action of UNITAR, when creating CIFAL Findhorn in 2006, ignored the complaint of a professional accountant that anomalies were discernible in Foundation accounts dating back prior to the NGO phase. The well known property acquisitions of the Foundation date from the 1970s, and did not escape criticism over the years. For some accounting discrepancies, see Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, pp. 383-385 note 175, which gives details from a document accepted by the Financial Services Authority in London. That document is entitled A Financial Appraisal of the Findhorn Foundation. The contents basically relate to the 1985-95 period, by which time the ecovillage was forming via the first eco-houses and one wind turbine.
Due analysis is needed for certain statements appearing on the FAQ of this organisation at their website findhorn.org. The relevant section was entitled United Nations Affiliation. This reiterated the fluent phrase “associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information.” That phrase pertains to the acquisition of NGO status in 1997. A further statemen was visible: “The Foundation engages with the work of the UN specifically in the areas of education, sustainability and values, and is a member of UNESCO Planet Society Network.” Membership of the latter body has been open to any individual or organisation interested in sustainable development.
Association with the DPI is a different matter. Eligibility for this distinction has to demonstrate interest in UN issues and proven ability to reach audiences. That is not too difficult. By 2001, there were over 1500 such organisations officially associated with the DPI. Association is not such an elite privilege as some readers were led to believe. However, in such cases of association, it is legitimate to raise questions about discrepancies in code and conduct.
Another FAQ statement was that, since 1998, Foundation representatives at the UN headquarters in New York were attending regular briefing sessions and meetings of diverse kinds. The claim was made that these representatives “play an important part in bringing a spiritual perspective to many people in the UN organisation.” Tthe Foundation commercial programme was not good news for a spiritual or educational perspective.
By the time Alex Walker and the ecovillage team secured the CIFAL coup, “spiritual business” had become married to ecology. The nominal spirituality had been put aside and left to masquerade in the workshop programme. CIFAL was a more yuppy prospect. Walker had by that time become a director of Findhorn Wind Park Ltd and chairman of Ekopia Ltd. These were two well known ecovillage projects, the first having acquired four wind turbines, and the second being described in one promotion as “a community owned cooperative with investments in a number of local sustainability projects.” The ubiqitous word sustainability now permeated Foundation business.
In The Findhorn Community (1991), Carol Riddell employed the theme of "becoming a Spiritual Businessman." This accomplishment was attributed to Francois Duquesne, the early 1980s Foundation leader (who later moved away to work in a computer company). Alex Walker was heir to this approach. However, such terminology passed out of favour. In 2006, Walker was described as “a social entrepreneur who is involved in a variety of renewable energy and sustainable development projects in the UK.” That description comes from a CIFAL Findhorn promotion for the brief training course “Sustainable Energy Solutions” occurring in November 2006. This promotion also informed that Walker was a director of Development Trusts Association Scotland.
The Nov. 2006 CIFAL programme lasted three days, making references to such topical themes as climate change, declining oil production, renewable energy technologies, and the reduction of carbon emissions. There was, of course, a charge, which varied from the non-residential £290 to the residential £380 (including meals). There were three speakers for this event, and one of them was Alex Walker. One of the other speakers was also an ecovillage figurehead, namely Michael Shaw, promoted as an engineer in ecological design. The promotion did not mention the relevant details that Shaw was a Trustee of the Findhorn Foundation and a member of the recent team who had conducted Holotropic Breathwork workshops in defiance of warnings from Edinburgh University.
Other factors were also missing from the CIFAL Findhorn promotionalism. While the ecological vocabulary was streamlining, many visitors were continuing to pay for the workshops in “spiritual” and “holistic” education conducted under a different banner in closely adjacent territory. That complement was maintained and supplemented with no regard for any possible miseducation resulting, a hazard now even more obscured by the new UNITAR auspices. Furthermore, no mention was made of the elaborate policy of repressing dissident views about the commercial programme, and nor discrepancies in dictatorial staff attitudes. According to the promotionalism, only progress had been made, with CIFAL honours clearly being regarded as the apex of the entrepreneurial pyramid. Ecobiz is something to seriously reckon with.
Mention of the dissident Kate Thomas was taboo. She had dared to oppose the Holotropic Breathwork workshops over fifteen years earlier, having furthermore indicated that the management were making serious errors. This heretical standpoint had been ruthlessly punished by ensuring that she could have no representation within the Foundation. Furthermore, her friends were also outlawed and stigmatised in a manner which can surprise impartial outsiders. One of those ostracised persons was Jill Rathbone, who had found that oppressive Foundation staff conspired to debar her from her rightful employment with the nearby Moray Steiner School. A legal case (successful on her part) had arisen in 1995 from this revealing episode, documented in a book that was rigidly suppressed by Walker and other Foundation hierarchs (see 13.10 below). The legal case related to the Moray Steiner School. An out-of-court settlement was reached. The Steiner School were evasive about their treatment of Rathbone, and would not admit the involvement of the closely adjacent Findhorn Foundation.
In December 1998, Alex Walker sent Jill Rathbone a rather less than charming letter. This communication frowned upon her deference to the heretical book (by Stephen Castro) which mentioned her legal case and the circumstances precipitating that drama. Walker stated that the Castro book was not acceptable within his community, and therefore the ban on Rathbone must continue. This inflexible letter has been fully documented elsewhere. See Kate Thomas, Scientific and Medical Network Events, chapter one.
At the time she received this unfriendly letter from the successful entrepreneur, Rathbone (an English émigré) was still living in Forres, struggling on her own to make a small crafts shop sustainable. There were too many days when she had very few customers in that far northern locale. Being a newcomer to Forres (having moved from Cambridge), it was difficult for her to make friends with local Scots. She had tried to reconciliate with the Foundation, to no avail. She had even been placed in the “hot seat” of disapproval by an accusing American male colleague of Walker (who was Scottish). Rathbone later married a Scot who was horrified at what his wife (and others) had undergone at the hands of the Findhorn Foundation elite.
13.6 Superstars William Bloom and Caroline Myss
Meanwhile, who had replaced Grof in the workshop status stakes? Two figures readily spring to mind, especially as they were already influential during the Grof phase of 1989-93. Charges for the workshops of William Bloom and Caroline Myss attest to the popularity of these “new spirituality” entrepreneurs. In 2004, Bloom achieved £475 for the complication entitled “Neuroscience, Healing and Meditation: The Endorphin Effect.”
Nearly a decade earlier, William Bloom had unwisely ignored all warnings against Holotropic Breathwork by promoting that Grof therapy at his Alternatives base in London (prior to being thwarted in his entrepreneurial ambition). Bloom advertised himself as having the credentials of a Ph.D. Medical doctors and other bona fide academics were flatly unimpressed. A Wikipedia item informed that William Bloom gained a doctorate in political psychology from the London School of Economics. The same source described Bloom as a healer and “meditation teacher” who conducts workshops. The field of expertise here claimed is “holistic development.” A statement is made that Bloom has spent over twenty years on “the faculty of the Findhorn Foundation.” See Wikipedia William Bloom (accessed 02/02/2013).
Critics say that a doctorate in psychology does not justify the discernible license involved in a commercial career of putatively holistic workshops. The advice given by William Bloom has often been queried. For instance, his website (williambloom.com) has displayed a section entitled “Advice and Help,” featuring the heading Money and Business. There followed the statement: “Starting a business (single practitioner through to entrepreneurial) and you have a spiritual orientation” (accessed August 2008). The superficial nature of contemporary “spirituality” is abundantly evident. Such compromising factors evoked my Letter to BBC Radio (2006), a document composed in reaction to Bloom’s promotion of “new spirituality” on a Radio 4 chat show broadcast in 2005.
The prestigious role of Caroline Myss (of the Caroline Myss Education Institute) in these circles is indicated by the price tag of £595 for a five-day workshop in December 2003. Bloom was runner-up to this American celebrity. The Myss workshop was entitled “Archetypes and Sacred Contracts.” Mere mention of the word archetypes can be a switch-off for critics, so one must be patient in quoting from the ad for Myss which says: “Archetypes are roles we play.... The workshop sessions will introduce you to the archetypes that make up the creation of your sacred contract. Using this knowledge, we will create your own sacred contract, your individual agreement made with the Divine before incarnation” (Findhorn Foundation Programmes November 2003 – April 2004, p. 17).
A few weeks later, in February 2004, there occurred “A Mystery School Retreat” focalised by Caroline Myss and assistant Judi Buttner (a prominent Foundation representative associated with the internal Spiritual Mentoring Service). This workshop event lasted for four days and came with a price tag of £545 (£495 with no accommodation). The “laws of spiritual alchemy” were here being administered, a factor “based upon the teachings of the classic ancient mystery schools in which students were taught the laws of the universe” (ibid).
The Findhorn Foundation have implied their role as “a mystery school” in some promotions (e.g., FF Courses and Workshops May – October 2005, p.2, which states “approaching experience as a mystery school” in relation to commercial “Core programmes”). This theme represents an ongoing preoccupation dating back to 1982, when Trustee Nicholas Rose stated “a return to the essential core of the mystery teachings” in the Foundation magazine One Earth (cited in Carol Riddell, The Findhorn Community, 1991, p. 286).
An even more influential Trustee, namely Alex Walker, is on record as saying circa 1990 that “another option is to develop the ‘mystery school’ environment” (ibid., p. 223), here compared to an ashram. This was contrasted with the option of becoming “more specialised in adult spiritual education with a more professional attitude to life and work, and to improve the material lifestyle of its employees” (ibid.). Walker is associated with the material improvements that subsequently occurred, including the new salary structure.
Alex Walker favoured the theme that “a major task is to marry business and spirituality” (ibid.). Critics say that he should have advocated a divorce. His role as a “spiritual businessman” added to the confusions about ecology and “holistic education,” outlawed dissidents, and even defended Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. (see 13.4 above). The Spiritual Business gave incentive to the expansionist ecovillage activity that was locally controversial, simultaneously increasing the size of the workshop programme. The Spiritual Business also incurred debts that were concealed for years. See 13.5 above.
One imagines that UNITAR must be enthralled by archetypes and mystery schools. How else could they have condoned the commercial programme (or “adult spiritual education”) by conferring CIFAL status upon this territory? UNITAR means United Nations Institute of Training and Research. Rigorous ecologists (and climate scientists) will not be likely to depend upon UNITAR or the allied CIFAL centres for any comprehensive version of events.
A major problem with the workshop activity, indirectly condoned by UNITAR, is the matter of unproven claims made by a substantial number of entrepreneurs involved. Caroline Myss is one of the workshop celebrities currently in strong query. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry endorsed a Council for Media Integrity Alert dated April 1998, This communication represented “a network of prominent scientists, academics, and members of the media.” They were contesting the “self-described medical intuitive” Caroline Myss, who claimed “the science of medical intuition.” Medical scientists are more resistant to such matters than lax UNITAR or the unmonitored DPI associations via NGO status. The Myss promotion of self-esteem does not appeal to everyone, and has assisted an unbridled self-assertion in the new age.
Myss has claimed to diagnose illness by reading the “energy fields” of a client. She has also advocated untested therapies such as acupuncture, reflexology, crystal healing, and other controversial methods. The subject of “energy medicine” is employed by Myss. This has been associated by partisans with ancient Chinese and Hindu practitioners, and also shamanistic medicine men; more realistically, it is the product of contemporary American alternative medicine. Critics say that Myss has encouraged “almost anything” in the field of alternative medicine. She is strongly associated with the fashionable word “holistic.” A partisan accolade in her direction is that of “ a prominent figure in holistic consciousness.” She has promoted themes such as "love yourself" and "self-esteem," new age preferences which have caused extensive confusion.
Caroline Myss has claimed a Ph.D. Critics have emphasised the lack of due clarification about this credential in her bestselling books. Her putative degree relates to “intuition and energy medicine,” which is a disputed subject. “The degree was granted by Greenwich University, a now-defunct correspondence school that was never accredited to deliver higher education awards by any recognised government accreditation authority” (Wikipedia Caroline Myss, accessed Aug. 2008). "Many critics question the validity of her degree, saying that she created a department at a fake University to grant herself a degree" (same source, accessed 03/02/2013). The controversial “medical intuitive” does have degrees in journalism and theology, but these do not justify the claims of supposed intuition and energy medicine.
In 2013, Caroline Myss returned to the Findhorn Foundation workshop programme with "Discovering New Archetypal Patterns". This performance lasted for only three days. The tiered charges were £435-£675. This represented a monetary advance upon charges of a decade formerly. Two years earlier, in 2011, CIFAL Findhorn Company Ltd had transited to a more ambitious identity as CIFAL Scotland Ltd. CIFAL was based at The Park (near Findhorn village), the major venue of the Findhorn Foundation. The CIFAL company status blended effortlessly with the pervasive entrepreneurialism.
13.7 Ecovillage Training and UNITAR
A four week programme of workshops or “modules” was advertised for 2004 with the title “Ecovillage Training.” This was coordinated by Craig Gibsone and others of lesser note. Gibsone is a major celebrity of the Findhorn Foundation, and the former Director who inaugurated Holotropic Breathwork (HB) in 1989. He gained a reputation for continuing performance of HB workshops at Newbold House, contrary to medical warnings and official recommendation against HB. Gibsone has also regularly conducted sustainability workshops. See further my document to the Home Office entitled About the Findhorn Foundation and United Nations (2006).
The same 2004 Ecovillage Training programme came with a price tag of £1,190, or £180 per module (a fashionable term creeping into the commercial vocabulary). The magic word sustainability featured in the ad, along with such module titles as “Permaculture – Design for Sustainability.” Critics point out the discrepancy in the module title “Right Livelihood: Towards a New Social Economy.” Livelihood here encompasses the role of commercial workshop entrepreneurs, and also that of commercial consultants within the Findhorn Foundation who have charged £450 for a three day module aimed at companies who are susceptible to themes such as “soul work.”
Another module in Ecovillage Training was entitled “The Healing Power of Community,” which does not apply to dissidents. The appearance of the phrase “Deep Ecology” in yet another module was insufficient to allay fears about this deceptive project. At the bottom of the ad appeared the justifying statement: “Ecovillage Training has the endorsement of UNITAR.”
The Findhorn Foundation Programmes brochure juxtaposed the Ecovillage Training ad with a workshop of Eckhart Tolle on “The Power of Now,” while the facing page lent prominence to two Astroshamanism workshops (FF Programmes Nov. 2003 – April 2004, pp. 18-19). All such matters go hand in hand where “deep ecology” prevails. Some critics commented that UNITAR should be carefully monitored on behalf of the public interests.
The Department of Public Information (DPI) is also a bureaucratic joke in some sceptical circles. Perhaps some bureaucracies are so present-centred that their ability to assess the past and future is seriously impaired. In which case the DPI should be described in terms of public misinformation. If this is not the case, then the DPI should be in long overdue haste to repudiate their well-advertised association with an undiscriminating organisation who gained NGO status in deficient circumstances which have been queried elsewhere.
In 2005, the annual Ecovillage Training again featured Craig Gibsone as a prominent coordinator. This time the fee of £1190 was stated to be “payable by participants with low income.” Clients with “medium income” had to pay £1280, while those with “high income” were obliged to pay £1370. The price per module had increased to £220 (Courses and Workshops May-October 2005, p. 18). The sustainability stakes moved ever higher in ecobiz, the factor being sustained, amongst other features of the blatantly commercial programme.
13.8 OSCR Failure and Moray Council Allegiance
That same year (2005), Gibsone conducted another Holotropic Breathwork (HB) workshop (lasting three days) at Newbold House (Forres), an event to which UNITAR turned a typically blind eye. The Findhorn Foundation denied any connection with that workshop. This evasive strategy was nevertheless transparent, in view of close mutual associations existing between the Foundation and a splinter organisation vested in Newbold House. Furthermore, the HB event was glowingly advertised in the internal magazine of the Findhorn Foundation. The HB anomaly was the subject of a dispute with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, to which I am a direct witness as the complaining epistolist involved. Like UNITAR, the OSCR also failed to take due action. However, the OSCR clearly recognised the discrepancy, which means that OSCR efficiency cannot be taken for granted.
Although UNITAR had sanctioned the Ecovillage Training (as a result of pleading from Gibsone and his colleagues), the ecovillage personnel were desirous of a much stronger liaison. This process has been described elsewhere. The ambition to gain CIFAL status was rushed to completion in 2006 with the complicity of Moray Council, who saw in the CIFAL investiture a golden opportunity for tourism dividends in Moray. Local councillors, who had formerly been quite indifferent to ecology, were suddenly captivated by the prospect of gains and profits. The Scottish Executive followed suit, being another party immune to objections about lack of scruple and misleading forms of “education.” Only money talks in some bureaucracies.
The Findhorn Foundation were escaping debt and gaining further donations because of UNITAR tags. In 2005, a closely related project associated with Craig Gibsone gained a loan of £1.36 million from a single donor “connected to the Findhorn Foundation.” See the Update November 2005 to my Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer.
13.9 The 2002 Internet Stigma and No Review of Dissident Book
Meanwhile, the Findhorn Foundation management had accomplished, in 2002, an internet stigma that will not be forgotten by those with the ability to analyse, as distinct from those who get paid for perfunctory bureaucratic roles. Desperate to plead integrity and efficiency after the public disclosure of their heavy debt, the erring management desired to stave off the significant criticisms in Stephen Castro’s Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (1996). The only available defence the Foundation management could display on the web was a very superficial item by their supporter Bill Metcalf, a zealous advocate of “intentional community” who insisted that the Castro book was not worthy of review. This excuse for no review, disowning fair analysis, was so transparent that it can serve as a permanent reminder of what suspect organisations can achieve in defective non-democratic agendas.
The Metcalf “no review” dogma is regarded with aversion by competent academics (although Metcalf claimed to be one such). Partisan tactics which refuse to recognise, or accurately chart, the views of dissidents or opponents are not given credence in serious assessments. Not only did Metcalf advocate “no review” as a defensive and extremist gesture, he also misrepresented Castro and Kate Thomas more or less to the utmost in his dismissively brief item that gained the status of a polemical fiction. See 13.21 below.
The Findhorn Foundation persisted in maintaining the intended stigma on the web. As a consequence of this and other tactics, they placed their support body at UNESCO in serious question amongst hard core analysts who do not accept “intentional community” bluster and libel as a valid yardstick. See further my Pointed Observations (2005), pp. 167ff. See also the Letter of Kate Thomas to UNESCO (2007). UNESCO failed to respond yet again, setting a deficient example in international communications that was later confronted by a British politician, who did evoke a brief reply denying affiliations with the community under discussion.
The Letter to UNESCO is a much longer and more thorough document than the Metcalf dismissal of dissident data. The status of Bill Metcalf, as a spokesman of “intentional communit,y” does not cancel out relevant standards of assessment maintained by the human community at large. Metcalf’s supporter status rested upon his partisan text The Findhorn Book of Community Living, an in-house publication of the organisation described and eulogised as a model of community living.
13.10 The Therapy Mafia
The Kate Thomas case has amazed critical analysts of the Findhorn Foundation. Becoming a member of that organisation in 1989, she came into conflict with the promotion of Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork by the Foundation Director Craig Gibsone. He reacted strongly to a different viewpoint. Gibsone was an ardent believer in Grof therapy, and would not acknowledge any relevance of criticism. In such channels, Grof was regarded as the new age saviour, reflecting the lore of Esalen. There was no rational explanation provided; dissenters were simply wrong. Gibsone thought that he proved their error by becoming a Breathwork practitioner himself.
The mood of Gibsone was contagious amongst other Foundation personnel, notably Eric Franciscus, the director of “Education Department.” In 1991, Franciscus capriciously prevented the associate membership of Thomas from continuing. In 1992, Alex Walker (then a Foundation Trustee) denied in a local newspaper that Thomas had been a member of the Foundation, an untruth which was duly contested (Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, p. 15). Many people in Forres knew that she had been a member. The dissident matter as a whole overspilled into national newspapers, due to the active hostilities and misrepresentations of the Foundation management and staff.
l to r: Alex Walker, Craig Gibsone
During the early 1990s, an elite male group within the Foundation gained a local reputation as aggressive opponents of dissidents, especially women. Local resident Kate Thomas (Jean Shepherd) was stigmatised and denied any hearing by these cordoning agents. The dictatorial Eric Franciscus banned Thomas from Cluny Hill College (in Forres), a venue associated with the repudiation of analytical criteria and the wholesale adoption of alternative therapy clichés. An extant cassette recording reveals the evasive attitude of Franciscus during a conversation with Thomas in a local Forres cafe. That was in 1994, when the misleading official manifesto of the Foundation appeared in the form of Alex Walker’s carefully edited volume The Kingdom Within (see 13.4 above).
Thomas was conciliatory towards this organisation, but was never allowed to air her views in public. Indeed, the only way she could gain access to the Foundation was to submit to the management imposition of placing her at the level of a menial cleaner of toilets. She could never give a talk or express her views. She could go to the Foundation cafe and the bookshop, but could not otherwise be represented as anything but a visitor of no consequence. The stigma continued throughout, and became amplified over the years. Her autobiography (published in 1992) was banned by the management because of a chapter expressing her objections to prevailing dogma and dictatorial tactic in her own direction. The new Director of the Foundation, namely Judy Buhler-McAllister, was implacably opposed to Thomas, accepting all the stigma created by Eric Franciscus as the gospel truth, and being strongly resistant to any due investigation, which was totally blocked.
Kate Thomas, 1988
The friends of Thomas were also harassed by the aggressive Foundation personnel, who continually presented themselves as representatives of spiritual transformation and unconditional love. One female victim of their attentions (suffering from acute stress) had to be rescued by a retired medical doctor living in Forres. The senior medic was very indignant at the events in process, and personally visited the Foundation quarters of Director Judy Buhler-McAllister. Dr. Sylvia Darke then found that she was denied access to the elite quarters, and that all prospect of communication was dismissed by the Director (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 215).
Dr. Darke had to return home in defeat. Other medical doctors in Forres were also very sceptical of what was occurring at the Findhorn Foundation. Sir Michael Joughin, a resident of Findhorn village, was likewise strongly critical of the encroaching conceptualism and behavioural traits. He found that counteracting the propaganda was a difficult process, because of the strongly entrenched position of the problem as a charity-registered organisation with an international clientele who inspired a floating population. Dr. Darke had already discovered that the Foundation refused to credit conventional methods of ethical and medical assessment. Only alternative therapy jargon and “transformation” presumptions counted in the bizarre Foundation environment, which Dr. Darke deemed a nightmare scenario.
In 2004 commenced the episode involving Jill Rathbone, an English woman who found that her new job with the local Moray Steiner School was blocked by the aggressive faction within the Findhorn Foundation. The reason for this very influential opposition was because Rathbone knew Kate Thomas and would not agree to the stigmas in favour. Rathbone was ruthlessly displaced from the Moray Steiner School, and subsequently mounted a legal action against that collaborating institution, which was effectively a vehicle of the Findhorn Foundation.
Rathbone was successful in her legal case and gained some degree of financial compensation. This matter was thereafter covered up by the Foundation management. However, part of the episode was reported in newspapers. One Scottish newspaper (in January 1995) boldly described the Foundation staff as “the ‘mafia’ cult.” A more comprehensive version was included in Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, chapter eight. That very revealing episode was just one of the reasons why the Foundation management wished to eliminate the dissident book from serious reckoning, and why they chose to employ the trite dismissal by Bill Metcalf as an internet stigma. This obscuring action helps to define their real stature.
See also the graphic report by Kate Thomas in chapter one of her account entitled Scientific and Medical Network and the Findhorn Foundation (2007). See also my article Kate Thomas and the Findhorn Foundation (2009). See also The Findhorn Foundation: Problems (2009) and Letter to Robert Walter MP (2008). See also 13.5 and 13.9 above.
13.11 Association with Sectarian Harassment
As a consequence of their 2002 internet stigma of Kate Thomas, the Findhorn Foundation acquired the additional complication of becoming bracketed with the name of Gerald Joe Moreno (alias Equalizer), the sectarian internet harasser and libeller. See 22.19 and 22.20 below. Moreno was an extremist supporter of Sathya Sai Baba. He borrowed from the Metcalf stigma in his mistaken slur of Kate Thomas, which further reflects adversely upon the Findhorn Foundation. This organisation now became associated with the worst form of sectarian harassment.
The Findhorn Foundation record, with regard to questionable factions supporting sectarian belief, is not a redeeming feature. They are noted for their affinities with the Rajneesh cult (24.1 below), due to an infiltration of Rajneesh sympathisers within their membership. The Foundation even patronised the extremist Rajneeshi exponent Margot Anand, whose permissive agenda of “enhancing sexuality” was not welcome in more responsible environments. That controversial agenda was accommodated by the Foundation in 2001, via their pretentious “international conference” entitled Sex and Spirit. Some critics accordingly joked that DPI association decoded to Deep Promiscuity Interests.
The Foundation star therapist William Bloom became strongly implicated in the promotion of Rajneesh concepts, which were assimilable to neo-Reichian therapy, popular in these circles during the late 1980s and 1990s. Neo-Reichian Gestalt was another bizarre ingredient of the Foundation commercial programme. The hedonistic attitude of this so-called therapy had earlier been cultivated at Esalen. One neo-Reichian therapist became embroiled in an alleged case of child abuse at the Findhorn Foundation during the Grof phase. This therapist was known to be promiscuous, although nothing could be proved about child abuse, a negative factor assisted by evasive management attitudes in the face of police investigation. The embarrassment accompanied ideological extremisms like the Sathya Sai Baba “channelling” which occurred in Foundation precincts at that period.
13.12 The New Age Channelling Vogue
Sathya Sai Baba gained some followers in the Findhorn Foundation, including an influential transsexual; however, this contingent appear to have been outnumbered by the Rajneeshis. Nevertheless, the Sathya Sai supporters contributed far more than the Rajneeshis to the confusing beliefs about “channelling” which were rife at the Foundation.
The author of an oft-quoted book on the Foundation became a devotee of Sathya Sai in 1985. Carol Riddell is best known for The Findhorn Community (1991), an account which gives selective details from a strongly partisan viewpoint. Riddell was a resident member of the Foundation. She claimed to give “messages” (channellings) from Sathya Sai Baba during her “Breaking In” workshops conducted in various countries. She related that the guru personally blessed the workshop “messages” when she visited his Puttaparthi ashram. Riddell gained two books of channelled “messages” on the internet; these are easily dismissed by critics of the workshop vogue (later “messages” became independent of workshop settings). The second of these channelled works is entitled To Transcend the Ego (1998), comprising 83 “messages” said by the author to comprise “a manual for spiritual training.”
The vogue for new age “channelling” was very strong at the Findhorn Foundation, often in the form of readings from the reputedly channelled epic entitled A Course in Miracles. This controversial American work first appeared in 1976, being authored by psychologist Helen Schucman, who claimed “inner dictation” from a source stated to be Jesus Christ. This rather bizarre book is noted for being in contrast to Christian doctrine, despite many biblical allusions. A Course in Miracles is described by some analysts as an amalgam of concepts drawn from Christianity, Platonism, Freudian and Jungian psychology, Eastern religion, and even Shakespeare. This book became very popular in the new age. Schucman affirms that forgiveness is the practice leading to spiritual awakening. For this reason, the term “forgiveness” became almost ubiquitous in the new age. The commercial attitude signified was not extended towards dissidents at the Foundation.
Lucrative courses in the Schucman miracle epic became operative at the Foundation during the 1980s. A recurring theme was “forgiving rather than judging,” which became a virtual creed. Some themes of the Schucman opus blended effortlessly with therapy jargon inherited from the Human Potential Movement. This convergence created a formidable dogma amounting to: nobody must criticise anyone else because all the faults are in the observer. The stigma of projecting personal “guilt” onto others was reserved for any critic. Such emphases were very popular amongst the Findhorn Foundation staff, who employed these loaded doctrines as an antidote to any possible criticism of their behaviour. Some of the statements made in this idiom were totally incredible by more rational standards, and was one reason why dissidents took a step back.
The facesaving dogma was reflected in a letter of 1988, written in answer to the pressing complaint of a dissident, and composed by one of the well known Findhorn Foundation workshop entrepreneurs, namely Carol Riddell:
I see what happened to you in Findhorn as entirely your own creation, your own message to yourself to show you what in you needs to change so you can get nearer to your own Essence and be less restricted by your physical and psychological problems. It is your teaching for yourself, created by you for you.... Anyway, Findhorn (Foundation) is a Divinely inspired institution to prepare people to be able to live harmoniously in a spiritually based age that is in process of being enacted. Important for us is how people relate to other people, and how these relations demonstrate to them what they need to change in themselves. (Thomas, The Destiny Challenge, 1992, pp. 920-1)
People who complained to, or about, the Foundation elite were always on the wrong end of the argument. It was the protesters who had to change, not the transformed elite. This dogma was already entrenched in the 1980s, and was subject to further twists in favour of the elite during the 1990s.
The evasive and extremist exegesis was favoured at the expense of due education, which was effectively outlawed. All the more reason to question the erratic sanctioning policies of the DPI, UNITAR, and (by extension) UNESCO, whose aggregate example is somewhat less than reassuring to criteria differing from new spirituality lore.
13.13 The Transformation Game Continues
CIFAL status did not prune excesses visible in the Findhorn Foundation commercial programme. The official Foundation website at www.findhorn.org provided proof to the contrary. The price tags moved higher. The same misleading lore and fantasy remained the core material for public consumption.
The 2008 workshop programme included such allurements as “Miracles at Findhorn” (July). The web ad stated: “We explore the radical and liberating teachings found in A Course in Miracles, supported by the practical lessons embodied in community life and the inspirational teachings that came through Eileen Caddy.” The charges for this workshop week reflected the new 3-level scheme favoured by management strategy. Those with low income paid £495, those with medium income paid £585, while those clients with high income paid £685. The tendency to extract as much as possible from subscribers is a questionable achievement, facilitated by reassuring references to the enveloping ecovillage activity invested with CIFAL status.
The expensive miracles are not justified, in sceptical eyes, by the juxtaposition of Eileen Caddy (d.2006). That co-founder of the Findhorn Foundation claimed to receive divine messages. She is thus a disconcerting support to the general exotic trend of exploitation and subterfuge.
Astroshamanism continued to be an attraction promoted by a management vaunting their association with the DPI. The main significance for critical analysts is that the 3-level pricing structure now made this offering seem even more undesirable. The attraction decoded to £455-£635 depending upon the level of affluence tapped by the programme, raised to new heights of greed by UNITAR carelessness and complicity.
The Transformation Game is a Findhorn Foundation speciality that has been promoted for many years in numerous workshops. This game is played on a board, and invested with various questionable significances by the promoters. The 2008 programme dignified this board game with the familiar theme of “a quantum leap into greater wholeness.” The game was also described as “transforming key life issues.” That really means the continual annual profits coaxed out of this superficial pastime. Four days of the Game were priced at £375, while a fourteen day term of “Facilitator’s Training” entailed a cost of £1,550 for those clients still lacking due critical assessment. By 2019, the tiered price for four days of the game had increased to £500-£800.
13.14 The Consultancy Service and a Myth of Conflict Resolution
Esalen massage recurred (October 2008), this time in the catering bracket of £425-£585 for a five day workshop at the Findhorn Foundation. Esalen has a great deal to answer for in the afflictions imposed upon public spending. There are promotions much more deceptive than massage. Scheduled for July 2008 was a five day workshop called “Embracing Diversity in Conflict Facilitation.” The title phrase signifies conflict resolution. The term facilitation is an American import; this glib term is saturated with pronounced commercial significations.
The conflict facilitation workshop was conducted by a Foundation team known as the Consultancy Service. The attendant claim reads: “This training is designed to develop the skills to facilitate and transform conflict in diverse cultures.” That theme is considered both ludicrous and hypocritical. The Findhorn Foundation has a shocking record of being totally evasive about dissident views, failing to resolve even basic local issues with people who lived on their doorstep in Moray.
An instance of determination to preserve conflict was the total non-response to a letter sent by the dissident Kate Thomas to the Head of Management at the Findhorn Foundation (Bettina Jesperson). The pressing letter was dated 23rd November 2007, and ended with the phrase “in anticipation of your response.” Thomas requested Jespersen to “look into this matter and inform me why for so many years I have been stigmatised.” She also asked why others had been discriminated against for supporting her right to a hearing. A copy of that letter was also sent to May East, the CIFAL Findhorn Project Director (and the wife of Craig Gibsone). The CIFAL Project followed suit in the denial of resolving conflict. Conflict facilitation is something more than a joke, and even more than a commercial hypocrisy.
The farce known as “Embracing Diversity in Conflict Facilitation” was presented (in 2008) under the auspices of the Findhorn Foundation Consultancy Service, who had for ten years been charging exorbitantly for their presumed expertise in many similar events. In a July 2008 workshop, the threefold fee of £455-£545-£635 was capped by an extra charge of £895 “if paid by your organisation.” The Consultancy Service was known to angle for company interest, in view of the greater dividends forthcoming in those corporate directions.
A key member of the Consultancy Service was Robin Alfred, reputedly influential in management thinking. He and his colleagues favoured the fashionable description of “modules” for their workshops, which were stated to be “based on tools developed at the Findhorn Foundation, Process Work, psychosynthesis, and other holistic approaches; the training will be a blend of theory, experiential work, inner work, and role play” (Courses and Workshops May-October 2005, p. 29). Process Work was here defined as “a transpersonal psychology developed by Dr. Arnold Mindell; it brings together Jungian and Taoist philosophy and Quantum Theory” (ibid.).
Mindell process work was very popular at the Foundation during the early 1990s, totally failing to induce any sense of ethical responsibility for the dissident problem, which was repressed to an extremist degree by the complacent Foundation therapists. The pretentious conflations in “transpersonal” lore (e.g., Jung and quantum theory) may be interpreted as an obstruction to improvement rather than any proof of vaunted achievements.
The Consultancy Service had been dispensing the “Diversity in Conflict” workshop for some years. The title also appeared with the addition of the words “and Transformation.” The word transformation has been repeated ad nauseam at the Findhorn Foundation. Words are no guide to actions.
13.15 Conversations with God and the Holistic University
The 2008 commercial workshop calendar features the enduringly popular Caroline Myss, who offered for three days (November) a workshop called “Healing and the Mystery of Grace.” This has the price tag of £365-£505 in the calculating 3-level scale devised by the Findhorn Foundation management. See also 13.6 above. Myss is £20 behind the asking price for another new age celebrity billed for September 2008. Neale Donald Walsch supplied three days of “The Real God - The Real You,” for which the price scale was £345-£525. This exercise in American new age theology is promoted in terms of “an extraordinary interaction with a man whose spiritual messages have changed the lives of millions.” That assertion refers to the Walsch series of books entitled Conversations with God, said to have been translated into over twenty languages. What is the purport of this sensational contribution? The web ad tells clients: “Neale believes that your life and your world can be healed through the process of re-identification, which he says was revealed to him in his conversations with God.”
Walsch is strongly associated with the American trend of “new spirituality,” imported into Britain via the Findhorn Foundation. This very commercial trend has received criticism even in America. Walsch has not escaped the criticism; his “conversations” have been described in terms of a simplistic form of expression that is primarily commercial rather than profound. His subsequent book Happier than God (2008) does not inspire glee in sceptics of the dollar drive.
Critics point to a monotony of superficial content in the Foundation programme, which is sometimes known as “holistic education.” The latter phrase is elsewhere considered to comprise distractions offsetting requisite education. The commercial term holistic is a buzzword in the alternative sector, not a proven source of benefits.
A related centre, the International Holistic University of Brazil, was established by Pierre Weil (see article 10 on this website). This institution sponsored Holotropic Breathwork, affording a haven for Craig Gibsone when Grof therapy was suspended at the Foundation in the early 1990s. The same disputed University gained strong associations with UNESCO and the Findhorn Foundation, and is thought to have been a major factor in the acquisition of NGO status by the latter community. The Rector of the Holistic University was Pierre Weil, the patron of Gibsone. Weil was considered to be an international peace education expert by UNESCO. His version of Conflict Resolution achieved vogue at the Foundation, proving ineffective, like other presentations of this commercial theme in failing to resolve real life dissident issues.
A British dissident, attempting reconciliation at the Foundation, was strongly discriminated against by a vocal and aggressive American peace advocate at a Weil workshop (Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent at the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, p. 110). This event occurred in 1993, when the Weil “Living in Peace” workshop was held at the Foundation under the declared auspices of Pierre Weil as “UNESCO’s Adviser on Education for Peace.” The victim of UNESCO discrimination afterwards wrote: “I was treated like some kind of leper” (ibid.). The bigoted American agent of conflict was a Foundation staff member who happened to be “focalising” the stigmatising workshop, which effectively favoured American and not British participation. The Weil workshop had been recommended by the 26th General Assembly of UNESCO.
13.16 Ecovillage Training Adds to Mythologies
The advance web ad for the Ecovillage Training month in 2009 was predictably billed in the name of Craig Gibsone and the Foundation Faculty. A statement in that ad requires very careful evaluation. We are told that this event “draws on the experience and expertise developed within the Findhorn Ecovillage over the past 46 years.” More realistically, this is a gross exaggeration. The ecovillage, as it exists today, only took formative body during the 1990s, and was controversial from the start. For some thirty years after the founding of the Findhorn Foundation in 1962 (in a caravan park), the ecology concept was nebulous and confused, despite the pretension to “global village” prerogative in the 1980s. There was no communal expertise in ecology, but instead a series of erratic and presumptive associations admixed with emphases of alternative therapy.
The acquisition of a single wind turbine, in 1989, was not any proof of communal expertise in ecology. “Global village” lore disappointed some visitors who were led to expect more than had been achieved. Such visitors found that very few of the Foundation personnel (if any) were seriously interested in ecology. Many of the staff merely indulged in buzzwords. Some of them were quick to see new economic opportunities in the sale of land plots for eco-houses. This trend developed during the 1990s. In this respect, a critical report is revealing:
“The acres of dune land at Findhorn, once purchased for next to nothing, are now in the hands of a group of Foundation entrepreneurs who, having acquired planning permission, sold this land for up to £30,000 per plot – plus the (eco)houses erected upon such plots” (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 178). The point is made that only affluent subscribers could live in the new “eco-houses” that were for sale.
Launching the eco-house project, John Talbott contributed Simply Build Green (1993). Unfortunately, there was far more to the Findhorn Foundation than this attractive concept, which became entrepreneurial to a marked degree. There was, for instance, the annual miseducation achieved by the workshop programme. The complex economic drive underlying the Findhorn Foundation ecovillage is evident to close analysis. Talbott became one of the directors of the expanding New Findhorn Directions Ltd, along with Alex Walker and others. The motto for this trading subsidiary remained “Celebrating Business as Sacred.” Topical phrases did not prevent the debt incurred during the 1990s, and nor the questionable privatisation of communal assets associated with the guiding hand of NFD Ltd.
For many years there was only one wind turbine, a factor entailing a pronounced limitation upon performance. Three more wind turbines were installed in 2006, facilitating the new publicity theme of being "a net exporter of electricity." Observers noticed that John Talbott’s incentive of “Simply Build Green” led to his adoption of “a golf workshop which looks at golf as a spiritual path to enlightenment.” This speciality was advertised in the Ecovillage Project promotionalism. Beware of ecobiz.
Craig Gibsone came upon the scene in 1970, with recurring alcohol and drug problems according to his own former (and honest) admission (Riddell, The Findhorn Community, 1991, pp. 209ff.). Gibsone was the instigator of Holotropic Breathwork workshops in 1989. For several years, with no medical credentials, he pursued the very misleading role of a Grof Breathwork exemplar. He was conducting hyperventilation, so often stressful for clients paying for unsuspected disadvantages. After this bizarre phase of ambition was foiled by Edinburgh University, Gibsone resorted to the fashionable vocabulary of sustainability, designed to achieve further workshop gains.
The mythologies developed by the Findhorn Foundation have frequently been extreme. That organisation cannot be relied upon to supply even the most elementary portrayal of realistic events occurring since 1962. Instead they have excelled in evasion and propaganda. Critics refer to a form of spiel sufficient to deceive UNITAR and other disputed bureaucratic bodies. They also innovated the 3-level price scale attaching to workshops for affluent subscribers prone to a deficiency in observation.
13.17 Propaganda Tactics
One of the episodes involved in the much proclaimed “expertise” of the ecovillage (see 13.16) is no longer referred to by the publicity specialists. In the mid-1990s occurred the ill-fated peculiarity known as the Findhorn College of International Education (FCIE). That presumptuous description far outstripped the abilities of the “Faculty” who were temporarily elevated to educational status. One of the new Faculty was no less a celebrity than Craig Gibsone, now seeking an alternative role to his afflicting career as Holotropic Breathwork “facilitator,” a career offset in 1993 by the Pathology Department of Edinburgh University.
The new College was advertised in a way that only organisations like the Findhorn Foundation can dare to do. The project was described in the most glowing terms as something of great significance. Could anything like it ever have appeared before? The prospect of a “Global Village Programme” was here being incubated by the elite therapists and speculators comprising the Faculty. There were the usual themes in evidence such as the Foundation being “a leader in raising consciousness.” The envisaged Global Village Programme was now to become a [supposedly] legitimate academic course at the new mecca. Even some members of the Foundation are known to have queried the academic credibility of the Faculty. Nevertheless, the impression was glibly conveyed of a consensus support. The initial target was the 1995-96 academic year.
Gibsone became a Director of this enterprise, having no academic credentials whatever. There was one Ph.D. amongst the thirteen members of the Faculty. Roger Doudna was also heavily committed to alternative concepts and had for many years been a resident at the Foundation. Of the other Faculty members, five were alternative therapists and two were dancers.
The FCIE did not last very long, just a matter of months. The project was only able to enrol seven American university students. These subscribers quickly became dissatisfied with the course on offer. The promotions stopped and the elaborate predictions ceased. A concluding report appeared in the local press. In April 1996, the Forres Gazette related that the FCIE had collapsed, the seven American students having rebelled at the course in ecology. Global Village lore had failed. This significant event occurred the year before NGO status was acquired by the Findhorn Foundation, under circumstances requiring close scrutiny.
The FCIE was one of the subjects dropped from Findhorn Foundation propaganda. Mistakes are consigned to oblivion and documented only by critics. The putative experts in ecology reverted to their accustomed strategy of therapy lore and workshop activity, conveying a sense of dramatic significance. That strategy has continued into the present [alongside the sequel project known as Findhorn Foundation College, claiming holistic education and professional trainings].
For the neglected FCIE episode, see Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (1996), chapter nine; Shepherd, Some Philosophical Critiques and Appraisals (2004), pp. 44ff.
13.18 Spiral Dynamics and the Ken Wilber Crisis
The routine emphasis on sustainability was not the only trap for uncritical believers in new spirituality. A mercenary undertaking achieved ascendancy for five days at the Findhorn Foundation in September 2008. The price graduation was here £1190 to £1590. The daily increment over other workshops on the commercial calendar is rather noticeable. The workshop title was clearly designed to be suitably impressive. What we are confronted with here is “Spiral Dynamics Integral Training at Findhorn Level 1 and Level 2 Certification: The Dynamics of Change.” Was this a case of run for your wallet or run for your life?
What does the web ad tell us about this Findhorn Foundation moneyspinner? We learn that this enticement originated with Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. Reference is made to the closely associated book Spiral Dynamics (1996). Further, the phrase Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi) emerges as an identity tag. The SDi framework is said to offer “a fresh, powerful, and holographic approach to problem solving, change, and transformation.”
Again the ubiqitous word transformation, much favoured by alternative therapy. The beguiling ad further encourages the client to “discover your own unique ‘integral sweet spot’ and how to apply this work in all areas of your life.” The client is promised Level 1 and Level 2 certification, with no further detail of what these diplomas comprise, other than presenting exhortations in the idiom of: “Look back at the present world of ‘symptoms’ and move to a deeper, 5 deep appreciation of life and living.”
The Spiral Dynamics workshop conductor was here Christopher Cooke, described as “a master practitioner of SDi and a senior member of the Spiral Dynamics Group in Texas, who is one of the only active practitioners to have been certified, trained, and worked with Cowan and Beck.” Further, Cooke created the organisation called 5 Deep Integral, being “an innovator of Social and Organisational Architecture.” His expertise in “change management” is emphasised.
The message of Spiral Dynamics Integral is regarded as acutely arbitrary by sceptics. The sweet spot can turn sour, as in the instance of Ken Wilber, the pundit of broad-based American “integral psychology.” Some of Wilber's followers turned against him in a volte-face that merits attention (see article 14 on this site). Ken Wilber was one of those who opted to incorporate the cues supplied by Don Beck. “As far as Wilber was concerned, the model devised by Beck and Cowan had a great deal of appeal” (Frank Visser, Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, 2003, p. 230). However, there were disagreements between Beck and Cowan, who split up. The Beck-Wilber meme theory has become very controversial (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, pp. 62ff.). Spiral Dynamics meme theory is generally regarded as an obsolete distraction, like numerous other forms of therapy. Various factors in Ken Wilber integral spirituality are viewed as problems.
13.19 Promoting Experience Week and Essential Findhorn
The most regular feature of the Findhorn Foundation commercial programme is the induction occurrence known as Experience Week, an event complete with online booking forms. The strategic 3-level price range became £365-£535 by 2010. Experience Week was aimed at newcomers, enticing subscription to other events on the annual calendar. By 2018, the tiered pricing had moved up to £490-£780.
Experience Week has always been described in eulogistic terms by the management. “Seven days that can change your world” is one promotional description of the archive. “It is an unforgettable week,” we are assured. “It is a rich and active week,” they add, just to make certain that the point is being made on behalf of “this vibrant, international, spiritual community.”
What exactly is going on here? The promotion says that Experience Week has been in successful operation since 1974 and continues to be the most popular programme. This important Week is “rich in opportunities for personal growth,” and is also “an invitation to let go of your limits, open to love and to ‘be the change’ you want to see in the world.” The emphasis on love is accompanied by another statement in which the activities of this surpassing Week are described as being “all combined with laughter and love.”
More explicitly, an accompanying web promotion (on findhorn.org) has informed: “Essential Findhorn begins with Experience Week and continues on a journey towards a unique blend of practical spirituality and conscious, sustainable living.”
The promoters were now able to discreetly harness the new CIFAL status for the wonders of Essential Findhorn. Read carefully. “Knowing that global change begins within each one of us, we offer workshops and programmes which encourage deep self-discovery.”
One of the enticements mentioned for Experience Week is “being part of a supportive group.” Many people do attend such events for that kind of reason. This tendency does not necessarily amount to deep self-discovery, far less any global change. Very big claims are made by the Findhorn Foundation in what is basically a glib and very saleable format.
Reactions to Experience Week have varied from unqualified enthusiasm to rank disillusionment, with a halfway mark that is mildly appreciative but also wary of excesses. Daily chores, meditation, dancing, and other activities are attended by an ideology which can meet with resistance. Events of earlier years are lent an air of nostalgia in the simplified outlook.
A dissident report of events in 1988 indicates an aspect of Foundation occurrence that is not found in promotional ads. “While I was in residence, guests for various reasons refused to continue with what they had come for, and were despatched home quietly with a refund. Dissatisfied members left, and stated why; and both members and visitors sent in critical letters which were suppressed. One such letter was pinned to the noticeboard for about fifteen minutes – only long enough for myself and the staff member who took it down, to read. It was from a lady in her early sixties who had used her life savings to come to the Foundation, but who was genuinely distressed by the sexual attitudes of several focalisers and the sexually explicit material used for one of their talks” (Thomas, The Destiny Challenge, 1992, p. 908).
13.20 Surviving Essential Findhorn
The phrase “Essential Findhorn” is a promotional device extending from Experience Week to a further week of “Exploring Community Life” and also “Spiritual Practice.” A further refinement is “Living in Community Guest,” which denotes four weeks of residence and “getting to know us and yourself in a new way.” All this costs money, of course.
Stephen J. Castro
One of those who qualifies for having participated in Essential Findhorn is Stephen J. Castro, a Londoner who wished to escape urban pressures. In 1988 he attended a Living in Community programme. He started with a mood of enthusiasm, but soon became deflated. He questioned some of the occurrences, and found that queries were totally unacceptable. The “focalisers” in charge of proceedings were absolutist dictators. The idiosyncratic new age terminology and psychobabble was not his idea of perfect clarity. Castro found himself averse to the “attunement” processes that were incumbent upon the visitors. He liked the panoramic views of Findhorn Bay and the Moray Firth, but disliked the nearby aerodrome that was never mentioned in the promotions. Findhornspeak instead talked about a global village that did not exist.
Castro had to think hard about continuing. However, he wanted to move to Scotland, and agreed to try again as a nearby associate member of the Foundation. He moved to Findhorn village, and later to Forres. Those years gave him a close-up view of the Findhorn Foundation during the Grof phase and after. At first he tried hard to “bend over backwards” towards the elite staff members, despite the difficult behaviour of some prominent persons. He disagreed strongly with Craig Gibsone’s new role as a “facilitator” of Holotropic Breathwork, and himself personally witnessed aftermath effects of this very disturbing therapy.
The Foundation literature was markedly “new age.” Stephen Castro contributed an unprecedented attempt at a scientific journal in that organisation, launching a magazine called Confluence. He was totally dependent upon the whim of Craig Gibsone (the Foundation Director) to permit this endeavour. Castro did not attempt to monopolise the project, and invited contributions from the whole community. However, the Findhorn Foundation proved that they were resistant to science and analysis; instead they wanted therapy and fantasy and overblown phraseology conferring mystique. The Confluence project floundered because of the sheer lack of interest. Castro was unable to get the second issue of his magazine into circulation.
The retarded education in this community perturbed him; he was averse to workshops, and did not believe in the relevance of favoured texts like A Course in Miracles. Castro felt the same way about the corpus of Eileen Caddy, the “God Spoke to Me” co-founder of the Foundation. Caddy tended to be very retiring in the face of the assertive management and staff, admitting that she no longer tackled them on any issue. “Her policy was not to interfere with the management, as she had found that they took no notice and disliked disagreements” (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 179).
After a year of association with the Foundation, Stephen Castro was no longer concerned about being a member. He was thoroughly disillusioned by the prevailing situation, which he described in private as mercenary and domineering to an almost psychotic degree. He did not blame the rank and file, but the elite staff members who were the decision-makers. He was in friction with Gibsone, but conceded that this Australian had the occasional mood of amiability. Not so with Eric Franciscus, a German who controlled Cluny Hill College with an iron fist. That college was a therapy centre, not a college in the accepted sense, and afforded a setting for many commercial activities.
Franciscus tended to reserve his abusive outpourings for private meetings. His “front man” was a different matter. This was Loren Stewart, an American, seemingly ubiquitous as a staff representative. Stewart was frequently belligerent towards anyone who could be viewed as nonconformist. Castro found that Stewart tailed him and some of his friends in a confrontational manner that could be very unpleasant. “Unconditional love” and other sentiments were objectionable myths employed for prestige purposes.
Franciscus threatened one woman with the prospect of getting “burnt.” He was also very hostile towards Kate Thomas, who had dared to criticise Holotropic Breathwork. Franciscus interpreted any criticism as an unpardonable crime, himself having been appointed by God (he said) to be the custodian of Cluny Hill College. So Thomas had to be banned from that sacred place of alternative therapy. There was absolutely nothing to prevent such dictatorial actions except the totally passive role of Eileen Caddy, reputedly the divinely inspired mentor of the Foundation. For too many years, this retiring figurehead had cultivated a habit of not speaking out against discrepancies. That was why Stewart and others could act like ogres when the mood took them, which was far too often.
Director Craig Gibsone did not intervene in the activities of other assertive staff; the management were unrestrained. His persecuting successor Judy McAllister (a Canadian) likewise had a free hand, and was never amiable in the direction of British (and Scottish) dissidents. McAllister subsequently took a role in the Foundation Consultancy Service, an elite sub-set who charged high fees for such contradictory themes as Conflict Resolution (see 13.10 and 13.14 above).
A consequence of this unsatisfactory situation was the book by Castro entitled Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (1996). That revealing work was rejected and unofficially banned by the Foundation staff. Criticism of their policies could not be tolerated, being interpreted as proof that critics were the only guilty party. The evasion surrounding this book could well become legendary. The recorded facts are quite sufficient to provide a sobering reminder of what can happen in organisations that rely upon lofty sentiments, catchphrases, and so-called “workshops.”
13.21 ICSA Fair Review and the Metcalf Evasion
The same dissident book Hypocrisy and Dissent was read by more impartial parties. The report by Castro was fairly represented in some journals, most notably that of ICSA (International Cultic Studies Association), the major American cult-monitoring organisation. The ICSA view of the Findhorn Foundation was somewhat less flattering than the facile idiom of workshop ads.
The well known ICSA review of the Castro book first appeared in Cultic Studies Journal (1996) 13(2):212-213. That review ended with the statement: “This informative book is recommended for the general public, as well as sociologists and mental health professionals. It is essential reading on the dark side of the human potential movement.”
The Foundation did not advertise themselves in terms of the Human Potential Movement (HPM). That is how many academics tended to classify them. The community programme does fit various aspects of the HPM trend, starting in the 1960s and incubated at Esalen. That trend encompassed “workshops” and alternative therapy, spreading internationally to sectors like Findhorn during the 1970s. The American infiltration of the Findhorn Bay caravan park, during the1970s, stimulated the tendency to “workshops” and related vogues. Some of the terminology encountered by Stephen Castro and others was derived from California. Americans were represented amongst the Foundation staff, but other nationalities were in similar evidence. There were many American and German visitors.
It is relevant to compare the ICSA review with another item that appeared a few years later. This idiosyncratic composition was entitled “Not a Book Review.” The negation is pronounced. This item was published in the relatively obscure magazine Diggers and Dreamers (2000/2001, pp. 76-7). The non-review took up four paragraphs in the internet version subsequently employed by the Findhorn Foundation as a belated official response to the Castro volume. The response was overtitled as “Findhorn’s answer,” and dated September 2002.
The negatory item came from Bill Metcalf, who described himself as a senior academic, but whose identity is otherwise supplied as “a member of Mable’s Treat in Australia.” Metcalf is known as an enthusiast of communes, or “intentional communities” as he insisted upon calling them. He moved from Canada to Australia via a 1970s neo-hippy role. He has authored The Findhorn Book of Community Living (2004), a partisan text published by the Findhorn Foundation.
Metcalf stated dismissively that the book by Castro “is not worth a review.” Instead of giving due coverage to Hypocrisy and Dissent, he indulges in what is a tangibly hostile version of dissident events that misses the truth by a very substantial margin. The attitude of Metcalf is that criticism of an “intentional community” is not legitimate, because too many people are “eager to see a Waco-style cult behind every intentional community.” The Castro book is saying something quite different, detailing the anomalous behaviour of one community toward dissidents who had a sound case for their objection to such events as Holotropic Breathwork, the Grof therapy which involved high fees for hyperventilation and painful experiences.
Metcalf makes absolutely no reference to this crucial factor. Indeed, he does not mention the commercial workshops at all. Instead he arrives at the unconvincing conclusion that the Castro critique can “best be understood as part of a co-ordinated ‘cult-busting’ exercise.” Metcalf is clearly obsessed by this imagined factor of cult-busting, and cannot reason clearly on the basis of evidence and annotation.
Metcalf describes Castro as “a bitter and rejected, would-be member of this intentional community,” which is very inaccurate in view of the latter’s orientation as a disillusioned ex-member. Castro had rejected the values of the Foundation, which he was defining in terms of a tendency to habitual hypocrisy which did not live up to the values they promoted. Metcalf is unable to see this matter in perspective, being a zealous supporter of the Foundation since 1982. He was not a resident member, but visited. He says that he knew Castro and Kate Thomas; however, they had no memory of him. Metcalf admits that, although he knew most of the people involved, he did not know them well. To the contrary, Castro (and Thomas) had a close-up view of events over a prolonged period, when they were both living in the immediate neighbourhood of the Foundation. Overseas visitors like Metcalf did not have the same facilities.
Metcalf seriously confuses the train of events. He depicts the Foundation staff as being reactive after “media ridicule.” The exposure in newspapers occurred partly as a result of Alex Walker’s ruthless denial in a local newspaper of the former membership of Thomas. Furthermore, the Foundation staff had also attempted a legal interdict upon a book by Thomas published earlier that same year (1992). This high-handed action was seeking to suppress details which Thomas had recorded about their discrepant behaviour and harassing policy. The realistic reporting did not support the image of the unblemished spiritual community preferred by Walker, Metcalf, and others. Thomas was basically complaining at the way in which her membership had been eliminated by dictatorial and undemocratic actions.
Instead of reviewing the data, the evasive Metcalf item seeks to apply a form of stigma to dissidents. He says that the Thomas book attacked the Foundation “in a most vitriolic manner.” That can be disproven by an inspection of the relevant chapter. He also makes the bizarre assertion that Castro and Thomas “have both maintained that they really want to join Findhorn, in order to save it.” This represents the allegation of Eric Franciscus, who is not mentioned by Metcalf. Castro was no saviour; he actually believed that the Foundation should be divested of honours by the Scottish Charities Office. Franciscus and others had grotesquely misrepresented the willingness of Thomas to remain on good terms (she was a resident neighbour at Forres). The integrity of the “intentional community” was in question at every step as a consequence of their own double standards.
The argument of Metcalf indulges in a contradiction; he wants to believe that the dissidents were anti-cult busters, and yet he presents them as trying to become members. Their accounts reveal that they were victims of dictatorial staff who frequently acted like a cult, even if one opts for ICSA classificatory variants such as “cultic groups, psychological manipulation, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse, extremism, totalistic groups, new religious movements.” The Foundation Trustees were also indifferent to ethical matters, as the Castro book attests.
Metcalf accuses Castro of being “vehement.” Others have concluded that the refusal of Metcalf to extend review is the unreasonable position under realistic discussion. Castro cited from many Foundation sources and employed a total of 325 annotations, which also included reference to relevant letters and media reports. In contrast, Metcalf merely asserts his strident sense of dismissal.
There is clear evidence that Metcalf was drawing upon the hostile calumnies invented by the Foundation staff, which they are known to have transmitted to their supporters. He depicts Castro and Thomas as fundamentalists “alleging that all sorts of wicked and evil misdeeds occur.” A sober inspection of the dissident sources will soon correct this misinterpretation. The habit of depicting critics as fundamentalists is a bad one found too often in the new age, whose associations rarely move far from the American situation of Christians versus neo-hippies.
The almost illiterate abilities of Foundation spokesmen were on a par with Esalen simplicities in neo-Reichian Gestalt, which was a factor strongly implicated in the alleged case of child abuse occurring at the Foundation in 1991. Thomas briefly mentions this in her account (The Destiny Challenge, p. 957). This reference was quite justified in view of investigations made by the police and social services. The management tried to blame the partner of the promiscuous suspect for an exaggerated report. The defending angle was expressed by a leading Foundation therapist in terms of: “It is highly unlikely that anything can or will be proved beyond all shadow of doubt and therefore speculation as to who are involved seems totally inappropriate” (ibid.). Nothing could be proved, but strong suspicions remained. Thomas did not name the suspect.
Metcalf says that Castro and Thomas were joined “by a local right wing councillor, a conservative local doctor and a retired bureaucrat.” Notice how such “traditional” roles were viewed as enemies – that is a telling indication of the “intentional community” psychology. Metcalf misses the context for these connections, and the considerable detail appended. The “conservative local doctor” was a former consultant to the World Health Organisation, and had more medical knowledge than all the preening “transpersonal psychologists” in the Foundation, who made diagnoses on the most unlikely pretexts. Dr. Sylvia Darke was the medic who found that the Foundation Director was unavailable for comment on pressing ethical and mental health matters (13.10 above). The medical views on “intentional community” evasionism were strongly critical.
The “retired bureaucrat” mentioned so disdainfully by Metcalf was none other than Sir Michael Joughin, who lived opposite the main Foundation site known as The Park (at Findhorn). He became very alarmed by the ideology of this community, and also their expansionist ambitions, plus their habit of covering up discrepancies. Sir Michael Joughin was a man of principle, and would never have succumbed to the greedy pursuit of tourism gains demonstrated (after his death) by Moray Council in 2006 (when CIFAL status was secured via liaison with Geneva).
In his significantly distorted document, Bill Metcalf states that Castro and Thomas “have fought a guerrilla war against their neighbours, the Findhorn Foundation.” In the same paragraph he links the dissidents with Sir Michael Joughin, and so they were assuredly in good company. This was definitely not a “guerilla war,” but something that requires a form of description evading the limited vocabulary of Mable’s Treat.
The harassed dissident Kate Thomas, then in her sixties, was in need of Castro to accompany her on visits to the Foundation premises, due to the hostile attentions of certain staff members like Loren Stewart. Castro had a solid physique, and was generally a deterrent to the worst forms of harassment. However, the unpredictable American heckler had some moods in which he pestered Castro as well. More collective staff biases meant that Thomas had to clean toilets instead of being able to express her views in public. She was the major repressed factor at the Findhorn Foundation during the 1990s. Her books could not be sold at the Foundation bookshop, which was full of dubious works including those of Grof, Rajneesh, and Aleister Crowley. In a memorable encounter with another officious American male at the Foundation, the offender shouted at Thomas and said that she must never divulge anything of what had happened to her at the Foundation.
Because Thomas was frequently seen with the protecting Castro, some observers assumed that they must be “housemates.” This was incorrect. Metcalf repeats the error by describing Thomas as the “ex-housemate” of Castro at Forres. The truth is that Castro was a paying lodger in my home at Forres, where my mother (Kate Thomas, or Jean Shepherd) also lived. In contrast to them, I never associated with the Foundation, and was unknown in that community. The example set by the Findhorn Foundation did not impress me. I continually advised my mother not to go near such a colony of undemocratic extremists. However, she had initially moved to Scotland because of their propaganda, and so she took a different view of events, believing that there must be some possibility of resolution if due reason ever prevailed. Reason never did prevail, as Bill Metcalf proved.
At one point I pressed for police action against an offending Foundation staff member. My mother did not wish for this action, and so I was obliged to desist. I have mentioned such details elsewhere. “I would have no hesitation in advocating a separate court of law for registered charities of the type under discussion” (Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 212).
The backward mentality of the Foundation management is exemplified by the fact that their internet stigma (in the form of Metcalf misconception) was mounted the year after Kate Thomas had revisited the Foundation with a renewed intention of reconciliation. That intention had been repeatedly expressed over the years, but had never been permitted to actualise by this morally retarded organisation. In 2001, Thomas was deceived by a telephone conversation and journeyed from England to Findhorn. Upon arrival, she found that the talking had been forgotten, and that her position as a visitor was one of a total alien. She became ill, and had to return home (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, pp. 180ff.). The circumstances were a disgrace in view of the propagandist spiel about diverse virtues represented by the "conflict resolving" Findhorn Foundation.
13.22 Reconciliation Mockery
In January 1999 occurred an event described by the Findhorn Foundation as a complaints and reconciliation meeting. This episode is documented (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, pp. 183-189).
The main subject was a woman who had already been victimised by Foundation personnel. Seven years earlier, she had left the community in circumstances of stress induced by Eric Franciscus and others. She had been threatened with getting “burnt.” Now she returned after being told that things had changed for the better. Her initials are GW. All she had ever done was to complain at the extreme treatment administered by staff members to Kate Thomas. This complaint had been regarded as a punishable offence.
GW was reassured by talks with Ken Hills, a recent Foundation Trustee who stated that there would be no problem with her LCG (Living in Community) application. In fact, Ken Hills declared her to be totally sincere. Hills was more humane than all the other Foundation personnel. He was described as a former Christian vicar. However, a problem arose because the official who was in charge of LCG applications transpired to be very difficult. The obstructing official was Richard Mark-Coates, who delayed the interview of GW. That subsequent event proved abortive. On that occasion, the official adopted an attitude of stern interrogation which the applicant found very offensive.
Mark-Coates and his German assistant associated GW with Stephen Castro, a former acquaintance of hers. They alighted upon the subject of Castro’s book Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, published a few years previously. The criticisms in that book were stated to be totally invalid. GW was depicted as a criminal for being associated with the author. Mark-Coates flatly refused the applicant her LCG admission. She was upset and asked the reason. The German assistant (a woman) then lectured her on a pet Foundation theme employing the jargon of alternative therapy. Briefly, the refrain was that all errors are those of the critic, not of the criticised party, the latter being effectively guiltless. The lecture ended with the statement that GW was not yet ready for the LCG distinction because she was holding on to the “energy of blame.”
The applicant objected to this procedure. She dared to tell Mark-Coates that his behaviour was confirming the content of Hypocrisy and Dissent, meaning that the problem was in the attitude of the interrogators. The counter-argument was strenuously denied. The date was November 25th, 1998. The rejected applicant went back to Ken Hills, who expressed regret about the situation. “Ken openly stated to me that he knew Richard was wrong and also that Richard could easily be angered.” Hills advised GW to wait, but the problem for her was accommodation. She felt so intimidated by Mark-Coates that she drove off by car to St. Andrews, a long distance away.
Kate Thomas persuaded GW to return. Ken Hills was concerned, and emailed Mark-Coates that a further interview should be given to the rejected applicant. Hills requested to be present this time. He had perceived that Mark-Coates exhibited a psychological problem arising from his reaction to the book Hypocrisy and Dissent. So Hills suggested that the new interview should also include Stephen Castro and Kate Thomas. The two dissidents were both amenable to this prospect, but Mark-Coates failed to reply.
The LCG official now attempted to prevent any meeting at which Castro and Thomas would be present. Hills faltered and said that GW would have to wait in “love and trust.” The only way that GW could effectively precipitate the interview was to write a formal complaint. Hills was by then clearly anxious to protect his own partisan reputation within the Foundation, and began to cover up for the extremist Mark-Coates.
GW wrote a letter of complaint dated December 18th, 1998. She did not neglect to comment upon the acute disparity evident in the promotion of conflict resolution therapies by the Foundation staff. She sent her lengthy letter to Clive Kitson, the Manager of Education. He replied that the “complaints procedure” would take place in early January at Cluny Hill College (Forres). The date for that event transpired to be January 6th, 1999. Castro and Thomas were permitted to attend at the insistence of GW. Both Kitson and Ken Hills also attended, along with Mark-Coates and two other women. The official description of this event in a letter from Kitson was “reconciliation meeting.”
The major vocalist was Mark-Coates, who was clearly resistant to any reconciliation with dissidents. Ken Hills noticeably allowed Mark-Coates to have unrestricted say, which meant a damnation of GW. The rejected applicant lost all respect for Hills, who had forsaken ethics for the convenience of partisan official role as a Foundation Trustee. The basic refrain of Mark-Coates was an emphasis upon “energies,” which he implied as being beyond the comprehension of the dissidents present. The insidious suggestion was that the “energies” of GW were negative, as indeed were those of the dissidents Castro and Thomas. This argument was so strained that it was not even representative of any standard alternative therapy dogma. The extremist argument now meant that GW was not eligible for LCG. At the end of the very loaded “reconciliation” meeting, Mark-Coates expressed a “cruelly worded refusal” to have GW on any LCG programme in his charge.
The rejected applicant “was extremely distressed after the complaints meeting and broke down in tears in the hall of Cluny Hill College.” This eyewitness report was written the next day by Kate Thomas in a letter to the official Clive Kitson. That official was now strongly suspected of collusion with Mark-Coates. Kitson lost no time in sending an official letter to GW stating that it was not appropriate for her to join the LCG programme.
Hills had earlier expressed the perception that Mark-Coates reacted to the brief report concerning himself in Hypocrisy and Dissent. In this book, Castro relates how Mark-Coates preached that the essence of the Findhorn Foundation was “to allow love to permeate everybody and everything” (Hypocrisy and Dissent, p. 153). This sentiment was contradicted by the unfeeling response of Mark-Coates, in his role as Head of Education Department, to the plea of a victim. The celebration of love had appeared in an introduction, written by Mark-Coates, for a Foundation programme brochure of 1995. The introduction was entitled Love is also a Constant.
Castro soon afterwards left Forres in the face of acute inconstancy and total hypocrisy. He never returned, having lost the last vestiges of any belief that reasoning with the Findhorn Foundation was worthwhile. He subsequently became a qualified computer technician and an employee of the Inland Revenue.
GW quickly left Forres, moving to the far south of England, forsaking her native Scotland in the exodus from new age doubletalk. She likewise never returned to the Foundation. Thomas departed south later that same year.
Findhorn Foundation politics subsequently presented the January 1999 “complaints and reconciliation meeting” in terms of there having been no progress made, “implying that the dissidents were unreasonable and should therefore be ignored” (Pointed Observations, p. 189).
The real history of the Findhorn Foundation is unofficially banned, replaced by alluring ads in a simplistic idiom. The hollow theme of Conflict Resolution is a commercial device used by the therapeutic elite. The “facilitation” jargon has no effective meaning except in terms of income.
13.23 Workshop Calendar and UN Sanctions
CIFAL Scotland Ltd retained the address of The Park, Findhorn, for many years until April 2018. The company status was then dissolved after twelve years of operation. The address of CIFAL Scotland then moved to Edinburgh. The commercial workshops of the Findhorn Foundation had flourished via association with the CIFAL umbrella. Some outsiders believed that no criticism could be made of the Foundation because of the CIFAL association. An exception was Findhorn Foundation Discrepancies (2013).
The commercial workshop calendar showed no abatement of high charges. The charges gradually increased. In 2013, four weeks of the Esalen massage technique were priced at £2675-£3075. Comparatively cheap was the luxury comprising four weeks of astroshamanism, for which the charge was £1,835. One week of this novelty cost clients £535-£875, now a favoured sales bracket at the Findhorn Foundation.
Observers continue to wonder at this situation. The clients are evidently wealthy and uncritical. Edging slightly above the standard price levels in 2013 was the Game of Transformation at £595-£945 (seven days). This board game is a regular moneyspinner. Even Astroshamanic Trance Dance cannot quite match the allure of board game; the fee for Trance Dance in 2013 was £535-£875 (seven days), reflecting the adroit income related charges. Clients all pay too much, say the sceptics.
Another attraction is the familiar theme of Unconditional Love, performing commercially at £535-£875 for five days in 2013. The exemplar of this commodity claimed self-realization, another new age pretension rejected elsewhere. Sacred Sexuality followed the seven day week of standard pricing. The workshop calendar expressed a fashionable belief that this commercial contrivance will "use our sexual energy to heighten spiritual awareness."
l to r: Judy McAllister, Kate Thomas
A further innovation was Incarnational Spirituality, advertised as a Series (capital S). One mode of this is identified in the ad as Resonance and Relationship, a commodity available at £595-£945 for seven days in 2013. The dispenser here was Judy McAllister, noted for a long term presence at the Foundation in terms of staff, trustee, and workshop capacities. The ad states: "Resonance is an important principle of relationship that brings each of us into connection with earth's second ecology, a subtle, non-physical network of intelligence within our planet." McAllister is described by the publicity as being "passionate about people, nature and the divine source that links them all."
Canadian Judy (Buhler-) McAllister was one of those practitioners involved in the Conflict Resolution workshops. In strong contradiction, she acted as a major suppressor of the British dissident Kate Thomas (1928-2017), to whom she denied a fair hearing and marginalised for years during the 1990s. The suppressor had the advantage of a high staff position reflecting the airs of management elitism (Stephen Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, index page 234 on Judy Buhler-McAllister). Even close neighbours were not eligible for conflict resolution, whatever the pantomime theory expounded at the Foundation. The "divine source" does not extend to dissidents and critics. These persons are not linked to the workshop system and the passion for high monetary charges.
Dissidents and critics must speak up in the vocal shadow of workshop celebrities and their skills of resonance. The first ecology is in political chaos worldwide. The second ecology converges with community abuse of dissidents and heavy price tags. Judy McAllister has the role of Transformation Game Guide. Tiered pricing for the Game is £500-£800 for four days in 2019.
Recent news, in 2018, has relayed that several suicides have occurred amongst Findhorn Foundation partisans. These unfortunates were evidently not feeling transformed.
As might be expected, Caroline Myss was commercially celebrated again. In 2017, the Foundation media presented three days of a Myss workshop for a tiered £490-£780. The title was "Guts and God." A preferred theme here was: "It takes a lot of 'spiritual guts' to delve deep into spiritual questions." In which case, Myss is disqualified as a gutless merchant of new age improvisations such as self-esteem, also "archetypes and chakras." A relative of mine (Kate Thomas) did have the guts to confront the predatory workshop entrepreneurs at Findhorn, over twenty years ago. She was suppressed off the map by Conflict Resolution and Unconditional Love. Some of those who most appreciated her contrasting emphases were medical doctors who knew precisely what damage alternative therapy and "spirituality" could perpetrate amongst the confused floating population of the new age.
The misleading commercial ads of the Findhorn Foundation annual workshop calendar show no awareness of intellectual developments, whether at national or international level. Alternative therapy and pop-mysticism are instead presented as the effective and viable answer to human educational needs. A pressing question is why UNITAR arrived at decisions of sanction for the closely related ecovillage project existing on the same territory. The sanction was tantamount to endorsing the commercial workshop programme. A further question is why UNITAR and UNESCO failed to reply to relevant letters of protest about the Findhorn Foundation.
There are rumours that UN officials are sometimes influenced by new age or “new spirituality” beliefs. Precedents are known in this respect. Twenty years ago, a Secretary General of the UN gained the repute of being abducted by aliens. Another UN official became known as a “channeller.” A UN centre in Europe became so preoccupied with new age “channelling” that an internal email system is reported to have been infiltrated by the Light. In 1999, the UN centre at Vienna hosted a “channel” in which about seventy people were influenced by dubious themes (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, pp. 320-1). There is a constant need to check on anomalies permitted by the UN bureaucracy, who are not immune to error in their extensive activities.
The UN headquarters in New York became notorious amongst critics for being susceptible to the influence exerted by the late Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007), whose meditation schedule was attended by discrepancies more recently emerging. Having emigrated to America in 1964, Sri Chinmoy began to deliver monthly lectures at the UN centre in 1971. Meditation sessions for UN staff were held twice weekly. This patronage boosted the status of Sri Chinmoy, who gained thousands of followers and many centres in his name throughout the world. The UN officials considered him to be beyond criticism.
A number of women have claimed that this guru sexually abused them after exacting an oath of secrecy, even while he advocated sexual restraint. Dr. Jacques Richard, a French member of FAIR, was sued for defamation by French followers of the guru after he had dealt with many complaints. A French court of law dismissed the prosecuting action, viewing a “secret text” of Sri Chinmoy as a threatening document. That text was dated 1978, being addressed by the guru to his disciples. The secret text contained such statements as: “I don’t have the power like Shri Krishna to destroy you people. I only know how to destroy myself. But after my departure you will destroy one another, all of you, my entire so-called spiritual family” (FAIR news, December 2007, p. 13).
The “dark side” of millionaire guru Sri Chinmoy has evoked various testimonies. Ex-devotee Carlos Santana said that the guru was vindictive when he (Santana) left the sect, forbidding others to contact him “because I was to drown in a dark sea of ignorance for leaving him (Chinmoy).” That report became well known on the media, Santana being a rock music celebrity. However, it is the sexual encounters which arouse most indignation. An ex-devotee who lost his wife to the erotic desires of the guru has stated: “Chinmoy is a dark master; a kind of sorcerer – he is very skilful and deceptive; he lives off the energy of others” (quote from article formerly online at factnet.org). See also Testimonials of Sexual Exploitation and Accused Sex Criminal. Another critical article is Celibate Spiritual Master or the Master of Sex Slaves.
Because of such revelations, it is not advisable to overlook possible errors made by bureaucracies. If those bureaucracies ignore public complaints, then there may be sound reason to investigate further. Several bureaucracies have ignored complaints about the Findhorn Foundation.
An obvious fact is that many affluent clients are willing to pay exorbitant sums for very questionable Findhorn Foundation workshops. The clients are being deceived by entrepreneurs, a situation that should not be officially condoned in any way. Gullible clients so frequently lack all due background knowledge of subjects like religion and psychology. The CIFAL presence and company status did not offset the deficit. The convenience of UN sanction and legitimacy are not always in the public interests. Ecobiz, commercial spirituality, and therapy lore cannot be taken seriously as a gauge for progress.
Kevin R. D. Shepherd (2008, modified 2013, 2019)