A tribute to Eileen Caddy

Jonathan Dawson pays tribute to Findhorn co-founder Eileen Caddy who has died aged 89

This week saw the death of Eileen Caddy, one of the co-founders of the Findhorn community, at the age of 89. Eileen has been a treasure and a huge source of inspiration to the community.

The last of the many gifts that she gave was the clear instruction that her passing be a cause for thanksgiving rather than mourning and, true to her wish, the community seems almost to have an extra skip in its step this week.

So many glorious stories surround Eileen and the other early pioneers who were involved in the creation of this settlement back in the early 1960s. Most centre around her unwavering obedience to the guidance she received from the inner source that she called ‘the God Within’.

This guidance ranged from the bizarre (‘Build a community centre that can seat 200 people’ at a time when there was neither money in the bank nor any plans to create a community as such) to the unexpected (‘if the caravan you are sharing with six others is too noisy, go meditate in the public toilets’ – she did, for years) to the many gems of wisdom on achieving stillness and connecting with inner divinity that were later collected into the book ‘Opening Doors Within’.

Whether it made obvious sense or not, Eileen’s guidance was the compass by which the emerging community steered.

The key moment in defining the nature of the community came in 1971 when Eileen returned from a meditation with the guidance that it was now up to members to get their own guidance – no longer would she be the sole source of authority. This mirrors a tricky moment in the evolution of many intentional communities: how to stage the transition from the founders to the next generation?

This is all the more difficult in cases like Findhorn, where the authority of the first, founding generation is recognized as being divinely inspired. Eileen’s guidance ensured the transition to a mature community that had to find the wisdom and inspiration to make its own decisions.

Guidance remains at the heart of our decision-making structures to this day. So, meetings tend to begin and end with periods of silence and are often punctuated with short meditations. For sure, there is no guarantee that peoples’ guidance will always coincide – make of that what you will! However, the attempt to gain access to deeper sources of wisdom is surely laudable, on the premise alone that the intelligence potentially available to us is not limited to the rational mind.

Take, for example, the new piece of land just to the south of the built settlement that is coming up for development, called Duneland. We could limit our process around this to rational discussions involving planners and architects. What we have chosen to do is to walk the boundaries of the land singing, to sit in the land getting to know its moods and shapes more intimately, to seek to create a silence in which the spirit of the land and of the other creatures that share it can communicate with us.

This is not just more fun than heady discussions in darkened rooms – though we are no strangers to these too! – but is also capable of opening us up to wisdom that can only accessed in stillness; we are ever seeking ways of listening more deeply to the vibrations of the web in which we are but one thread.

This is the legacy that Eileen and her co-founders have left to us. For this, and so much else, thank you.

Jonathan Dawson is a sustainability educator based at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. He is seeking to weave some of the wisdom accrued in 20 years of working in Africa into more sustainable and joyful ways of living here in Europe. Jonathan is also a gardener and a story-teller and is President of the Global Ecovillage Network.
Getty
Show Hide image

How to think about the EU result if you voted Remain

A belief in democracy means accepting the crowd is wiser than you are as an individual. 

I voted Remain, I feel sick about this result and its implications for what’s to come. But I’m a believer in democracy. This post is about how to reconcile those two things (it’s a bit unstructured because I’m working it out as I go, and I’m not sure I agree with all of it).

Democracy isn’t just fairer than other systems of governance, it’s smarter. It leads to better decisions and better outcomes, on average and over the long run, than countries that are run by autocrats or councils of wise men with jobs for life. It is simply the best way we have yet devised of solving complex problems involving many people. On that topic, if you’re not averse to some rather dense and technical prose, read this post or seek out this book. But the central argument is that democracy is the best way of harnessing ‘cognitive diversity’ — bringing to bear many different perspectives on a problem, each of which are very partial in themselves, but add up to something more than any one wise person.

I don’t think you can truly be a believer in democracy unless you accept that the people, collectively, are smarter than you are. That’s hard. It’s easy to say you believe in the popular will, right up until the popular will does something REALLY STUPID. The hard thing is not just to ‘accept the result’ but to accept that the majority who voted for that result know or understand something better than you. But they do. You are just one person, after all, and try as you might to expand your perspective with reading (and some try harder than others) you can’t see everything. So if a vote goes against you, you need to reflect on the possibility you got it wrong in some way. If I look at the results of past general elections and referendums, for instance, I now see they were all pretty much the right calls, including those where I voted the other way.

One way to think about the vote is that it has forced a slightly more equitable distribution of anxiety and alienation upon the country. After Thursday, I feel more insecure about my future, and that of my family. I also feel like a foreigner in my own country — that there’s this whole massive swathe of people out there who don’t think like me at all and probably don’t like me. I feel like a big decision about my life has been imposed on me by nameless people out there. But of course, this is exactly how many of those very people have been feeling for years, and at a much higher level of intensity. Democracy forces us to try on each other’s clothes. I could have carried on quite happily ignoring the unhappiness of much of the country but I can’t ignore this.

I’m seeing a lot of people on Twitter and in the press bemoaning how ill-informed people were, talking about a ‘post-factual democracy’. Well, maybe, though I think that requires further investigation - democracy has always been a dirty dishonest business. But surely the great thing about Thursday that so many people voted — including many, many people who might have felt disenfranchised from a system that hasn’t been serving them well. I’m not sure you’re truly a democrat if you don’t take at least a tiny bit of delight in seeing people so far from the centres of power tipping the polity upside down and giving it a shake. Would it have been better or worse for the country if Remain had won because only informed middle-class people voted? It might have felt better for people like me, it might actually have been better, economically, for everyone. But it would have indicated a deeper rot in our democracy than do the problems with our national information environment (which I accept are real).

I’m not quite saying ‘the people are always right’ — at least, I don’t think it was wrong to vote to stay in the EU. I still believe we should have Remained and I’m worried about what we’ve got ourselves into by getting out. But I am saying they may have been right to use this opportunity — the only one they were given — to send an unignorable signal to the powers-that-be that things aren’t working. You might say general elections are the place for that, but our particular system isn’t suited to change things on which there is a broad consensus between the two main parties.

Ian Leslie is a writer, author of CURIOUS: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, and writer/presenter of BBC R4's Before They Were Famous.