Breitenbush Hot Springs logo
Breitenbush Hot Springs logo

Nature Nurture and Human Nature

Nature density as a remedy for nature deprivation was not among the original concepts we started with when we began the arduous work of repairing and preparing to re-open the defunct Breitenbush resort. In the 1970s we were enamored with more idealistic and romantic notions of self-reliance, appropriate off-the-grid technologies, organic foods, consensus decision-making, egalitarian gender and labor relationships, and a kind of “be here now” nature-based spirituality, not to mention love of the hot springs. The dozen or so of us who came together to do this work between 1977 and the early ‘80s assumed that any commercial business that evolved out of our efforts would reflect these foundation principles of our community.

We weren’t too far off the mark in that assumption, for indeed, people do come to Breitenbush intrigued by our homemade hydroelectric and geothermal energy grids, and curious about our co-op business model and community life in a forest village. I […]
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It Depends On the Way That You See

Last issue, I wrote about 5 guys who, in 1928, pressed their hands and put their initials into the wet concrete of their just-completed 15,000 gallon reservoir at the top of the hill above the Breitenbush Lodge area. It was built to serve the summer-only resort and is now under-sized, cracked and leaking. But, because of the Grandfather Clause, we continue to use that reservoir today, as we have done for decades. Meanwhile, work continues on a new 180,000 gallon reservoir, estimated to be completed this fall, which is engineered to serve the essential needs of our year-round community and retreat/ conference center. This summer we also began the work of excavation and laying in the piping necessary to connect the new reservoir to our historic Lodge (for fire suppression) and to our domestic water system that distributes clear drinking water to kitchens, bathrooms and hydrants throughout Breitenbush’s public zone.

This new pipeline installation project […]
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Vishnu the Preserver and the Breitenbush Reservoir

Lord-vishnu-With-snakeBreitenbush Hot Springs is all about the water. It’s in our name, it’s in the constancy of the hot springs and river that pour into and through the land, and its what provides the flow and thermal dynamics that we use to create electricity, heat and other essential services for ourselves and our guests.

It’s always been all about the water. In October of 1928, five men pressed their hands and scratched their initials into the wet concrete of their newly completed water reservoir. It was a fine accomplishment, built into the hilltop above the structure we now call the Breitenbush Office, and designed to hold some 15,000 gallons of potable water. From that time forward, it became possible to store clean drinking water pumped from the river, and to gravity-feed that water through a pipeline distribution system to the cabins and Lodge. This was an essential […]
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Universities of the Soul: Linking Up the Centers in a Network of Light

There is a quote sent to me by a friend at the Findhorn Foundation, in Scotland:

“Start sending radiances to the group known as the Arizona group. As the love flows, it will unite you with this group. Get a globe and start marking the centers on it. You are part of a tremendous network and each member is closely linked…. This is a network of light; therefore each should be linked with the others…. Learn to feel the intertwining and intermingling of each center…. The strength comes through the linking up (and uniting) of the centers.” – Eileen Caddy, Flight into Freedom and Beyond

These words, penned more than a half century ago, presaged the creation of the Findhorn Community. Ms. Caddy described this message as a direct transmission from spirit. Two years later, in 1962, Findhorn was founded on a sandy bit of an old Royal Air Force base, next to a toxic […]
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Passages in Village Life

In 1959, Pete Seeger wrote a song adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” King Solomon, who is credited with writing the original poem 3000 years ago, was waxing philosophic about there being a season for all things: birth and death, planting and reaping, weeping and laughing, war and peace—you get the idea.

I think it’s cool that a guy who lived 3000 years ago could pen the lyrics of a rock song that topped the charts in 1965, but that’s not why I raise this historical anecdote. I’m thinking about seasons turning right here in the mountains of Oregon, and times for every purpose under heaven.

Seasons turn. It’s winter as I write this. Snow lies thickly in the boughs of the trees and upon the land to the river’s edge. Just past winter solstice and the holidays, these are among the shortest, coldest days of the year. But I know […]
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The Long Strange Trip Continues

birthI’ve been reading a new book recently, Birth of a Psychedelic Culture by Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner. Having lived within the chronological and experiential realms of said culture, I have a greater-than-casual interest in it, and its cascading social effects. In the memory banks of this book you meet professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert at Harvard University, and their 1961-62 psych-lab experimentation with human consciousness, spiritual dimensions and LSD. It didn’t take long for the experiment to “go viral”, and what started as a small group of academic true-believers quickly morphed into a generation of psychonauts using psychoactive substances and dreaming into universal oneness, planetary peace, and political progress. People came together and pretty soon co-ops and communes emerged like magic mushrooms out in the country and deep in the city, challenging and redefining established notions of personal style, family, gender-roles, economic relations, service, citizenship-—in […]
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Nature Deficit Disorder and the Perennial Philosophy

There is a concept, explored for centuries, of the “Perennial Philosophy”, or, as described in wikipedia, “philosophia perennis – the notion of the universal recurrence of philosophical insight independent of epoch or culture, including universal truths on the nature of reality, humanity or consciousness.” Over the years, I’ve studied (dabbled in) the history and development of this idea—that there is a common, eternal philosophy, innate to human consciousness, in its essence mystical and underlying all religions. In a world divided and savaged by fundamentalists, there has thankfully always been human intuition and initiative towards spiritual unity and cooperation.

I believe that our own time in human history is characterized by an expansion of the role of the Perennial Philosophy. Those universal truths on the nature of reality—an esoteric sideshow for so many centuries—now seed visions of sustainability through unity and cooperation, inspiring and informing educational programs, holistic endeavors and social organizations all over the planet.

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Breitenbush Community

IMG_7954In the center section of this catalog you see the faces of many who make up the current Breitenbush Community. Here we are, young and old, with a wealth of life experiences, skills and social philosophies, living together at this old hot springs resort in the forest. Collectively, we are the latest incarnation of the “intentional community” that was born in 1977 when the abandoned resort at Breitenbush was bought and brought back to life

The foundation idea—to create an intentional community—came out of the practical and applied idealism of the 1960’s, which in turn had its roots in the utopian communities and the empowered workers movements that go back for centuries of human experience. Ultimately, there is an inextinguishable longing in the human soul (at least some human souls) to be free and freely creative, to live by […]
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Restoration & Evolution

We have just passed through a year of work projects, at the same time pursuing a demanding planning process with Marion County to create and win approval for our “50-Year Plan”. Taken together, these efforts define what the straight world calls “development”, and what I think is more precisely described as restoration and evolution. Restoration—looking back and honoring the designs & dreams of those who came before us, people who, against the odds, lived at and built this place that we, the current crop of human creatures, like to visit, or call home. Evolution—looking forward, designing and building what we have the vision and initiative to add to this creation.

In the realm of restoration, we continue what seems to be our endless work to bring back to life this beloved quirky resort. It’s an aspect of our endeavor to preserve sanctuary. New foundations on old buildings, new valves and pumps where old ones have […]
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Heat at Breitenbush

radiatorsThe community at Breitenbush is entirely “off the grid”, meaning no access to electricity, natural gas or other utilities provided to metro-America. We’re on our own. We use the river to generate electricity. And we use the hot springs to generate heat for our buildings.

Breitenbush’s heating system was developed in what we call our “pioneer period”, between 1977 (when we bought the abandoned ghost-resort) and 1981. In the most basic view, there are six components of our heating system: geothermal wells, heat exchangers in the wells, underground pipes connecting buildings to the wells, circulation pumps, cast iron radiators, and finally the buildings themselves, i.e. the envelope that surrounds the radiators. We humans inhabit those heated envelopes.

First we bought an antique well driller (circa 1946) and learned to use the thing by drilling geothermal wells (a time-consuming and dangerous enterprise). We hit spectacularly on two of […]
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