I’ve been aware of Findhorn for many years but never suffered a desire to visit. I was on the outskirts of the so-called New Age movement that steamrolled California during the Eighties. I was deeply put off by the folks who honestly believed they would live forever, the fakes who said they channeled dolphins who gathered people into groups to sing ridiculous songs, hold hands and say that the dolphins are telling us to love each other, and endless people who claimed to have met Christ and were channeling him. Famously, one climber up on Kilimanjaro, in the deep grip of high altitude sickness, also saw Christ in the crater. Don’t get me started.
Look, I don’t argue that we don’t all have unique spiritual experiences. I do know that powerful faith of any kind leads to powerful outcomes. Where I stumble is when anyone states flatly that this particular faith is right for everyone, which happens all too often, or that you and I are wrong or idiots for not believing or worse, we should die because our failure to believe X is a threat to a lesser mind.
Great movements driven by great faith have always existed. The disciplines you speak to are also present in so many other faiths, which is to me a statement of their universality. The great beauty of places like Findhorn is that if we are willing to take in the larger lessons rather than focus on the dogmatic themes (like the angel business) then we can adapt those things to our experience: discipline, wholeness, etc. Those are useful. Dogma isn’t, for dogma is what folks hang onto for dear life when they can’t develop the internal self based on the higher teachings. Or they don’t want to do the devilishly hard work to get there.
I am (somewhat, but not entirely) a fan of the teachings of Gurdjeiff, called The Work, but am deeply put off the patriarchal woman-bashing that exists as a result of the too-close-to-Christianity aspects of it. However the basic teachings, when you move away from some of the extremely confusing (to me) and unnecessarily complex aspects of The Work, are intense and powerful. Such as that we draw everything that we need to learn to us. But as with all such teachings, those who assign themselves the role of guru, or who are themselves assigned by other self-proclaimed masters as a Fourth Way Master or somesuch, are just as susceptible to the stupidity, horrors and abuses that anyone in any religion can be. And therein lies the problem. This is a solo road. We are ultimately completely responsible for our personal growth. And while we draw good teachers to us — and bad- we own our results or lack thereof. If we hand over far too much power(and I’m not saying you did, Helen, this is a general statement) to anyone, particularly someone who claims to have a direct line to some invisible diety, then we aren’t owning our own power and the results of our lives. Which is why the Naropa Institute, long a Buddhist powerhouse, is now racked with accusations of sexual abuse on the part of its principle leaders precisely the same way that the Catholic and Baptist and every other religious institute is troubled. Nobody gets out free.
What you came away with is largely what I came away with in the early Eighties from the New Age movement. There are certain universal themes that inform pretty much all the religious/spiritual movements, and those truths are something we can all depend upon. Where I think we fall down as a species is when we infuse the basics with our own egotistical demands to place personality on perpetual truths in order to shore ourselves up. That certainly was the case with the Fourth Way Master I spent eight years studying The Work with, and ultimately when he stepped way over the critical bounds of his expertise and began giving me dangerously bad medical advice, I suggested a break. Highly offended that I would question his absolute authority he kicked me out of his practice. That was a gift. Had I followed his uninformed and completely wrong medical advice I’d be dead by now.
And therein lies the problem. We’re all limited, we all have a tendency to want to follow someone we think might have a mainline to the Almighty. But we all do. That’s the whole point. We all do.