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.
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Labour's establishment suspects a Momentum conspiracy - they're right

Bernie Sanders-style organisers are determined to rewire the party's machine.  

If you wanted to understand the basic dynamics of this year’s Labour leadership contest, Brighton and Hove District Labour Party is a good microcosm. On Saturday 9 July, a day before Angela Eagle was to announce her leadership bid, hundreds of members flooded into its AGM. Despite the room having a capacity of over 250, the meeting had to be held in three batches, with members forming an orderly queue. The result of the massive turnout was clear in political terms – pro-Corbyn candidates won every position on the local executive committee. 

Many in the room hailed the turnout and the result. But others claimed that some in the crowd had engaged in abuse and harassment.The national party decided that, rather than first investigate individuals, it would suspend Brighton and Hove. Add this to the national ban on local meetings and events during the leadership election, and it is easy to see why Labour seems to have an uneasy relationship with mass politics. To put it a less neutral way, the party machine is in a state of open warfare against Corbyn and his supporters.

Brighton and Hove illustrates how local activists have continued to organise – in an even more innovative and effective way than before. On Thursday 21 July, the week following the CLP’s suspension, the local Momentum group organised a mass meeting. More than 200 people showed up, with the mood defiant and pumped up.  Rather than listen to speeches, the room then became a road test for a new "campaign meetup", a more modestly titled version of the "barnstorms" used by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Activists broke up into small groups to discuss the strategy of the campaign and then even smaller groups to organise action on a very local level. By the end of the night, 20 phonebanking sessions had been planned at a branch level over the following week. 

In the past, organising inside the Labour Party was seen as a slightly cloak and dagger affair. When the Labour Party bureaucracy expelled leftwing activists in past decades, many on went further underground, organising in semi-secrecy. Now, Momentum is doing the exact opposite. 

The emphasis of the Corbyn campaign is on making its strategy, volunteer hubs and events listings as open and accessible as possible. Interactive maps will allow local activists to advertise hundreds of events, and then contact people in their area. When they gather to phonebank in they will be using a custom-built web app which will enable tens of thousands of callers to ring hundreds of thousands of numbers, from wherever they are.

As Momentum has learned to its cost, there is a trade-off between a campaign’s openness and its ability to stage manage events. But in the new politics of the Labour party, in which both the numbers of interested people and the capacity to connect with them directly are increasing exponentially, there is simply no contest. In order to win the next general election, Labour will have to master these tactics on a much bigger scale. The leadership election is the road test. 

Even many moderates seem to accept that the days of simply triangulating towards the centre and getting cozy with the Murdoch press are over. Labour needs to reach people and communities directly with an ambitious digital strategy and an army of self-organising activists. It is this kind of mass politics that delivered a "no" vote in Greece’s referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bailout last summer – defying pretty much the whole of the media, business and political establishment. 

The problem for Corbyn's challenger, Owen Smith, is that many of his backers have an open problem with this type of mass politics. Rather than investigate allegations of abuse, they have supported the suspension of CLPs. Rather than seeing the heightened emotions that come with mass mobilisations as side-effects which needs to be controlled, they have sought to joins unconnected acts of harassment, in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn. The MP Ben Bradshaw has even seemed to accuse Momentum of organising a conspiracy to physically attack Labour MPs.

The real conspiracy is much bigger than that. Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving, enthusiastic and determined, into the Labour party. These people, and their ability to convince the communities of which they are a part, threaten Britain’s political equilibrium, both the Conservatives and the Labour establishment. When the greatest hope for Labour becomes your greatest nightmare, you have good call to feel alarmed.