Findhorn Foundation and CIFAL Findhorn

A Critical Statement by Kevin Shepherd


Acute drawbacks attend the recent UN certification of the Findhorn Foundation as a CIFAL centre for ecology. In addition to my own efforts to warn of negative and obscured factors, two analysts in Scotland made a strong attempt to communicate with UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) in Geneva. One was a professional who sent to that headquarters the economic analysis of Foundation accounting known to the Financial Services Authority in London. No reply could be elicited from UNITAR, even though the economic analysis indicates "deceit or possible fraud." A process of evasion was at work.

Press reports about the new CIFAL centre stopped for several months after May 2006, indicating that the Findhorn Foundation were lying low in view of renewed criticisms which they feared might affect their plans. Then in late September 2006, the local press were suddenly reactivated by Foundation publicity spokesmen. The Forres Gazette (27/09/06) reported that a "deal" had just been signed in Geneva between UNITAR, the Findhorn Foundation, and Moray Council. All warnings and objections had been totally ignored. The desire of Moray Council for anticipated economic benefits was the facilitating agenda. [The agreement was signed on 22/09/2006 for the opening of the CIFAL Findhorn training centre.]

The multi-million pound CIFAL centre is to be built at the Findhorn Foundation [according to press reports], a factor which will lend that organisation an exemplary, and even infallible, appearance to uninformed gaze. The awful truth is that the Findhorn Foundation continually suppresses details attesting a rather less than perfect performance. A more obvious fact is that their ecology is markedly compromised by a commercial programme selling alternative therapy and pseudomysticism at high prices.

Shortly before the "deal" was signed, my Second Letter to Tony Blair [dated 01/09/2006] was despatched, involving a strong complaint about the UN project in Moray. The reply was inadequate, and via the Department of Health, rerouted the complaint to the Scottish Executive, who had already proved unreliable and uncommunicative. It is no further use to send letters of this type, as bureaucracy has failed to cope with responsibilities. The larger fraternity of analysts might now study the data that struggled to negotiate new age and political evasionism.

Certain letters of mine attempted to inform bureaucracy, the medical world, academe, and the media, of discrepancies involved in "new spirituality" and the UN project in Moray. The prevalent inertia is not conducive to the public wellbeing. The medical profession may be digging their own grave by their indifference to the alternative scene. The media is an ostrich. Cambridge and Oxford universities (and similar institutions) are too aloof from reality to be socially effective. The new age underworld has been endorsed at the expense of all objections and critical data.

Kevin  R. D. Shepherd

October  2006

 

Shortly after their elevation to CIFAL status, the Findhorn Foundation were reported to have given a misleading reply to the OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), an event which further places in question their misapplied NGO prerogative. This matter is encompassed in my First Letter to the OSCR, reproduced on this website.

21st November 2006

 

UPDATE  MAY  2007 (with additions 2010)

CIFAL Findhorn, an extension of the Ecovillage [on Findhorn Foundation territory], is currently promoting the theme of low ecological footprint in relation to food-energy-carbon dioxide. While the present writer would usually be enthusiastic over such trends, my mood is tempered by a knowledge of relevant events which are missing from Findhorn Foundation promotionalism. Having been a resident of Forres during the years 1990–1998 (and also having lived in Findhorn village during 1989–90), I am aware of complexities consigned to oblivion by the Foundation management.

The “footprint” theme is now becoming popular elsewhere also. In the case of the Findhorn Foundation, the ecology message is attended by complexities not duly assessed by that organisation. CIFAL Findhorn, as this is sometimes known, is the ecology extension of the Foundation [and associated with the Ecovillage on that territory].

A Scottish newspaper has recently been a vehicle for the allied “Findhorn Foundation eco-village” thematic register, which now claims four wind turbines that contribute to being “a net exporter of electricity.” (For many years there was only one wind turbine in operation, and which was noted to be inadequate for supply.) Recent developments in promotion have included a study of the Ecovillage extending to such factors as wind power, organic food, and shared washing machines.

That study was undertaken by two local bodies related to the Findhorn Foundation, one of these being the project of Jonathan Dawson [associated with GEN-Europe]. The study was given “technical support” by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), based at the University of York. SEI have gained repute as “footprinting” consultants. On the basis of the study presented, SEI  has stated that the Foundation Ecovillage has the lowest footprint in the UK. That footprint is said to be a fraction over half of the national average, meaning in terms of consumerism and related waste. Some explanations for this are shared resources, the wind park, local organic food, and low levels of commuting for motorist members of the community.

A significant accompanying proviso from Foundation ecology spokesman Jonathan Dawson is that “there remains much to be done to bring the footprint down to the truly sustainable levels that experts are saying are needed.” Honesty does emerge here, though more realism is necessary in analysing the ecovillage situation. Dawson formulates the objective in terms of erecting more eco-houses and reducing the use by ecovillage residents (and guests) of international air flights, plus increasing the proportion of British guests. That is a significant statement. (Pauline Taylor, “Praised for a small footprint,” The Northern Scot, April 20th, 2007).

The drawbacks posed by aircraft emissions were known to ecologists in the 1970s, the very same decade that the Findhorn Foundation changed gear from a UK-based new age community to a substantially overseas supported commune which established a long tradition of dependence upon aircraft emissions. The nascent sense of ecology nurtured by the community very seldom paid close attention to aspects of the affluent lifestyle which supported them.

A further article in the same newspaper disclosed that Moray Council have been busy encouraging the recent publication of a 36-page document on the theme of raising environmental awareness. This document was launched at the Findhorn Foundation in late April 2007. (Chris Saunderson, “Aiming for a greener future,” The Northern Scot, April 27th, 2007, p. 15.) Yet once again, the background to the agenda arouses criticism. Moray Council were not formerly noted for an interest in ecology, and the tactic of currying favour with the UN is viewed sceptically by those who are aware that Moray Council have ignored and suppressed objections to their reported “deal” with UNITAR and the Ecovillage. Non-response to a lengthy circular is not proof of correct administrative approach (see About the Findhorn Foundation and UN, on this website).

Critical observers interpret such non-response in terms of an ecobiz incentive to factors such as overseas tourism via eco-hostile aircraft, overseas guests currently supplying over half of the input to Foundation programmes. UN delegates will mean more tourism and revenue. Yet a positive factor may be that in falling into line with ecological themes, Moray Council may now be measured for discrepancies harboured in the rather deceptive agenda.

For instance, a salient entity at the launch of the proclaimed eco-document was Michael Shaw, appearing in a press photo and described in the accompanying press report (Saunderson, The Northern Scot) as Chairman of Trustees for the Findhorn Foundation. What sort of responsibility menu might we expect here? The promotional report neglects to state that Shaw has been visible as a key practitioner of Holotropic Breathwork™ as recently as 2005, being one of the team of “therapists” lacking all medical credentials who have engaged in the Grof trademark enterprise in defiance of medical warnings (see First Letter to OSCR, point 2, on this website).

The footprint of heedless commerce is a high one well above the national average. Another undeclared problem is that the lure of the low ecological footprint, designed to attract more inland subscribers in Moray and elsewhere, will tend very much to act as bait for conversion to the many eccentric alternative ideologies and practices which are rife at the Findhorn Foundation, and in such a commercial guise that aeroplane traffic might be considered beneficial by comparison.

CIFAL Findhorn presents a marked ambiguity for assessors. Readers will notice my reference above to the “new age underworld.” By that phrase I mean to imply the close links of the ecovillage with dubious conceptual components paraded in commercial mysticism (or pseudomysticism). The unfortunate infrastructure of CIFAL Findhorn exhibits nearly half a century of close relation to commercial therapies, extremist therapies, occultism extending to the sale of Aleister Crowley literature and accessories, guruism extending to validation of Rajneesh and Tantric sex, and yet other manifestations of doubtful relevance causing many confusions. To find ecology acting (however indirectly) as a front for the confusing interests is not impressive to close analysts. One cannot effectively separate the eco-activity (and ecobiz) from the supporting trends in commercial mysticism.

The objectives expressed by Jonathan Dawson lack realistic appraisal of the overall situation. It is not merely the reduction of air flights and the increase in British guests that should fill the horizon, but also other matters of elimination and inclusion at conceptual and related levels. The answer to basic problems is surely not more eco-houses, which have been observed to encourage commercial processes, and which require a certain level of affluence to purchase. There was perhaps more idealism in some of the vanished caravans once filling The Park. Ecology as an affluent pastime or investment is not a convincing rationale for sustainability, which can be a very simplistic word in some vocabularies.

Many new age ideologies and practices have been imported to Moray via affluent passengers on aeroplane flights from America. The British contingent of dissidents who were censored in the 90s by the supposedly excelling community (i.e., the Findhorn Foundation) faced hostility from a less than benign hierarchy who notably included Americans and Germans. The censored dissident Kate Thomas has to date never been on an aeroplane and has never driven or owned a motor vehicle. That is a performance well below the communal average as denoted by the Findhorn Foundation ecovillage.

One of the books suppressed by the Foundation management was able to quote from a partisan (but critical) article in One Earth (the Foundation magazine) which lamented the use of motor cars by the Foundation community. In 1995, Patsy Blackstock observed that in one community sector denoted, 74 adult residents in 51 residential caravans and houses had no less than 32 cars. Blackstock complained that this was occurring in a community calling itself a model for sustainability. Further, the ratio discernible of 1 car to 2.3 people actually exceeded the British national average of 1 car to 3 people (Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, p. 192).

Stephen Castro was another dissident who did not own or drive a motor vehicle, and who never travelled on an aeroplane. His book was pronounced to be “not worthy of review” by one of the international jet set featured in a Findhorn Foundation tactic of stigmatising dissidents (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, pp. 168ff.). As proof of identity, the dissident book is reported here [from a web feature dating to 2007]:

 

Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation

Towards a Sociology of a New Age Community

Stephen J. Castro

 

            The author

A graphic report by an ex-member of the Findhorn Foundation about discrepancies in attitude and behaviour. Established since the 1960s in Moray, Scotland, the Foundation claimed to have created a "planetary village," and to be a leader in raising consciousness and producing exemplary new social models. Castro focuses upon events, correspondence, and media reports of 1992–5, and strongly questions the presumed role of "a community demonstrating a way of life in conscious co-operation with God." Chapter Six is an account of the Foundation patronage of Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork, a trademark therapy which was opposed by Edinburgh University. The Foundation staff reacted to this book by suppressing it and vilifying the author. The book was considered by them to be unreadable. Six years later, in 2002 they placed a now notorious item on the internet which declared that Hypocrisy and Dissent was not worthy of review. Even their collaborator David Lorimer expressed (in private) a misgiving that they were here making a mistake.

Stephen Castro’s book had already received a favourable review in the journal of ICSA (International Cultic Studies Association), which is a far more accurate guide to the contents. More recently, that  book was also saliently mentioned in Kevin Shepherd’s Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer and Letter to BBC Radio. Because of Foundation tactics, many onlookers were confused about Hypocrisy and Dissent, being led to believe that the contents must be wrong. In reality, this book is an accurate record of events, duly annotated and indexed.

CONTENTS: Holistic health centre causes scare; New Age narcissism; Friction with the local Scottish villagers; The Breathwork Problem; Critical Author suppressed; The "mafia cult"; An ill-fated college; Royal refusal for ecology conference. Notes, Appendix, Index.

"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" — Cults and Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2001 (ICSA journal)

"The publication of Hypocrisy and Dissent met with an incredible degree of evasion from the Foundation, a fact which further emphasises what the author is complaining about. A responsible organisation would have quickly confronted the issues raised and healed the breach, as was in the power of the Foundation to accomplish with local residents." — Kevin Shepherd, Pointed Observations, p. 168

"Provides an important insight into the disparity between the professed ideals and the actual reality of a New Age community" — Scientific and Medical Network Review

"A sorry tale of how an idealistic group of ecologically-motivated people turned themselves into a typical cult" — The Christian Parapsychologist

Published in the UK, 1996, by New Media Books
ISBN-13: 978-0952688105   ISBN-10: 0952688107
240 + xv pages

 

 

The Findhorn Ecovillage study informs that motor cars are used by community residents, but asserts a low mileage factor amounting to just 6% of the national average. That  Ecovillage study, though interesting and significant in its own way, omits to dwell upon economic and other drawbacks elsewhere attested in the Ecovillage. The achievement of sustainability is still in strong query, despite the increase in the number of wind turbines at the Findhorn Foundation (see The Findhorn Foundation: Myth and Reality, on this website).

The theme of low carbon footprint has recently become nationally celebrated in England, with local district Councils mentioning the phrase and attempting to digest the implications. They are not encumbered by the deceptions of alternative therapy and commercial mysticism. Fears about increased air traffic have at last become well known, though little is actually done to counter this problem. The delay in apprehension was not the fault of the general public, who were and are at the mercy of a defective governmental bureaucracy. (See my Letters to OSCR, Update May 2007, on this website.) The next step for some spectators will be to assimilate the looming probability that significant climate changes will occur well prior to the UN dateline of circa 2080, which is still conveniently far in the future for high footprint consumers.

 

NOTE:

Further details on CIFAL Findhorn are available at article 13 of kevinrdshepherd.net. That contribution is entitled Findhorn Foundation Ecobiz and Commercial Mysticism, and is dated August 2008. The title indicates a basic complaint of critics about  convergent  programmes of  the Foundation, a problem that has not been remedied by the enterprise known as CIFAL Findhorn Company Ltd.

LINKS

Findhorn Foundation Ecobiz and Commercial Mysticism (2008)

Findhorn Foundation: Problems (2009)

Kate Thomas and the Findhorn Foundation (2009)

Letter to Robert Walter MP (2009)

Findhorn Foundation (2010)

 

Copyright © 2010 Citizen Initiative. All Rights Reserved. Page uploaded August 2007, last modified December 2010.