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Book Review - Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1996, Volume 13, Number 2, pages 212-213. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation: Towards a Sociology of a New Age Community. 

Stephen J. Castro. New Media Books, Forres, Scotland (P.O. Box 3, Forres, Morayshire IV36 OWB, Scotland), 1996, 240 pages.

Based on well-documented research, this book discloses "cult behavior" within the Findhorn Foundation, an internationally-renowned New Age community in Scotland. This in-depth study consists of extensive research on social science and the New Age movement in general, documents presented by former members, and local media reports from recent years. The author himself is a former member of the Foundation who pursued his investigation while residing in the neighborhood of the community for five years.

The Findhorn Foundation was founded in 1962 at a caravan site on the Findhorn peninsula by Peter and Eileen Caddy (British) and Dorothy Maclean (Canadian). It began as a small spiritual community. Peter Caddy had been involved in the Rosicrucian Order, and Eileen had participated in Moral Re-Armament. (The author says that MRA is "a cult that relies heavily on indoctrination through peer pressure and group confession.") In the early period, the management of the community, according to the author, was guided primarily by Eileen Caddy's channeling with God and Maclean's psychic contact with nature spirits.

Formally the community was known for its giant vegetables, such as 40-pound cabbages, claimed to have been miraculously grown. (However, a local gardener reports that anyone can produce giant vegetables by using manure. Also the author refers to a case of a 70-pound cabbage grown with lots of manure at Durham Agricultural College.) During recent decades Findhorn has developed into a large educational center. Currently, as a nonprofit organization, it offers a variety of New Age courses and conferences, which annually attract thousands of visitors from all over the world (mainly from the United States).

Among the locals, however, the reputation of the Foundation is rather unfavorable. Media coverage has reported on various scandals allegedly related to the group, such as "Probe of the 'Mafia' cult" (Scottish Daily Express, Jan. 19, 1995) and "Royal refusal for ecology conference" (Forres Gazette, Jul. 5, 1995). The author uses such newspaper headlines as the title of each chapter, also providing detailed background information on the controversial issues surrounding the Foundation.

Matters covered in this book include the alleged harassment by staff members of "dissenters" who question or criticize the Foundation's management policy. The fourth chapter is based on a long inside report on this issue by a former member, Kate Thomas. This fascinating reading is a revised chapter from her autobiography, Destiny Challenge (New Frequency Press [P.O. Box 3, Forres, Morayshire IV36 OWB, Scotland], 1992). In her report, Thomas illustrates in detail the corruption within the community. Further, Thomas questions the qualifications of the Findhorn's New Age course leaders who "in general, are without sufficient knowledge and experience, and are also sadly lacking in sensitivity." She writes this based on her observations of a number of applicants who allegedly were seriously damaged by some of the alternative therapy techniques.

Critics conclude that the Findhorn Foundation's management is inclined to egocentric materialism, describing the Foundation as a privileged "middle-class community" with a lot of cars and modern housing. Some of the materials in this book also suggest that the Foundation's spiritual slogans, such as "unconditional love" and "love in action," are rarely reflected in the behavior of the members. The cul-de-sac of the New Age thought associated with this community is described by Thomas as follows: "The New Age is buttressing an extended dark age of very serious proportions...and takes to an even worse extreme the rabid economic and sensual materialism of the twentieth century.... It has settled for secondary values that yield prestige, power, and a comfortable lifestyle."

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.

Mari Tachikawa, M.A.

San Francisco, California

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2