Guiding the game

Standing in for Jonathan Dawson, Rhiannon Hanfman tells us about a game that has become an important


When Jonathan asked me to fill in for him again, I had just come out of a workshop called The Game of Transformation.

This workshop is possibly the most imaginative and original workshops offered by the Findhorn Foundation.

The Game of Transformation is just that — a game. Dice are rolled, pieces are moved, and players move towards an objective. The difference between this and other games is that the objective is not to win but to increase awareness and gain self-knowledge.

The idea of a game facilitating spiritual development is not new. I remember stories like Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, where mysterious monks in remote monasteries play games with incredibly complex and arcane rules. This is something like that but it’s a lot more fun.

Nevertheless, there are complex and arcane rules so every game has five players and two facilitators or guides. The guides are known as Game Overall Directors, or G.O.D. I am one of them. One guide writes everything that happens down in a chronicle for the players and the other facilitates the process.

The game was the brainchild of Joy Drake, who lived at Findhorn in the 70s. She thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a game that we could play on long winter evenings, like Monopoly but with more consciousness. She worked on the idea and, with the input of many others in the community, something began to emerge.

The process was creative and experimental. Different things were tried. Some worked, some didn’t. In the beginning it was a light-hearted exercise but it soon became apparent that something deeper was going on. The game seemed to develop a spirit of it’s own. This presence or energy became known as the Game Deva.

The Game Deva is mercurial, humourous, one minute frivolous, the next profound. It’s a bit of a trickster that leads you down some awful road and only at the end can you see why you had to go that way. It is a joyous, life-loving spirit. At least that is how I experience it.
The Monopoly analogy fits but rather acquiring property and wealth, players acquires self-knowledge and self-acceptance. The game symbolically re-enacts the journey of life and each player enters the game with a purpose or intention. They are ‘born’, and are gifted with free will and intuition with which they can create their game. On their life path, they experience insights and setbacks; miracles and dark nights of the soul; opportunities to serve, appreciations and nature experiences, pain and joy.

How can a game, however complex, facilitate spiritual development and personal growth? I think it is this: we play games in much the same way as we live our lives. We react in the same way and make decisions in the same way. In our real lives much of this may be unconscious but in the structured environment of the game, patterns become apparent and what we do is reflected back to us very clearly. This can be a real eye opener.

The game in its various forms has been part of the life of Findhorn since its inception. In addition to the original version we use in workshops for guests, there is an abbreviated version, the Box Game, that is frequently played by departments within the Foundation to clarify their issues and by individuals for any number of reasons. The Angel Cards that are used ubiquitously here came from the game.

The game absorbed me completely last week as it tends to do and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love guiding the game and feel it’s a privilege to see my five players blossom and change so profoundly in such a short space of time.

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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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