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Universities of the Soul: Linking Up the Centers in a Network of Light

Published April 22nd, 2011 in Community Perspectives

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 waste dump. Now, 50 years on, Findhorn is a verdant and thriving community of hundreds of people hosting thousands of pilgrims each year from around the world. As Christine Lines, my friend who lives there, put it, “Findhorn is a University of the Soul”.

Recently, I spent a week with Christine at the Centers Gathering, an annual conference of activists and administrators representing holistic education centers. I was there with Tom Robinson, representing Breitenbush. This year, the meeting was hosted by Harbin Hot Springs, a center in California. Centers represented included Esalen, the New York Open Center, Kalani Honua, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Spirit Rock and many others. In the more than 25 years since the Centers Gathering has been meeting, it has convened at centers across the US, Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, and Russia.

The idea of a holistic education center functioning as a university of the soul, linking individual awareness to evolutionary collective consciousness via a planetary network of light … now, that is a real stretch for a mind conditioned to expect what passes for “normal” in contemporary, loosely consensus-based relative reality. Which is pretty much all our minds. Most of us are way too busy consuming media and paying the bills to pay much attention to such ultimate possibilities of human potential. But the question that occurs to me is, was Eileen sort of nuts? Or was she onto something?

I think she was onto something. There IS something to this je ne sais quoi of the evolution of consciousness, linking the individual to the planetary. The mystics have explored it forever, now scientists corroborate it with double-blind data. And too, there is the direct experience people have when they visit these holistic centers. I have a friend, a professor at a nearby university. He waxes transcendent as he describes the difference between his experience at the ‘university of the mind’ where he works, and the ‘university of the soul’ he encounters at centers like Breitenbush, Findhorn, Esalen, and others. In the former he experiences market-driven mediocrity and ego-driven determiners of relevance. At the latter he takes refuge from all that, and experiences direct, unmediated exposure to the pure elements and his own consciousness through love. My friend’s experience is a useful reference point to understand Eileen Caddy’s messages from spirit of five decades ago.

Since then, numerous centers have come into being worldwide. Next year, 2012, will be the 50th anniversary for the two most well-known of these, Findhorn and Esalen. Appropriately, the next Centers Gathering will be hosted at Findhorn, during its 50th celebration year.

“Consider this: Our past is not our potential. In any hour, we can liberate the future. We can re-choose, to awaken, to leave the prison of our conditioning, to love, to turn homeward, to conspire with and for one another. Awakening brings its own assignments, unique to each of us, chosen by each of us. Whatever you might have thought about yourself and however long you may have thought it, you are NOT just you. You are a seed, a silent promise. You are part of the conspiracy!” Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy
I take issue with Ms. Ferguson on one point here. What we are up to is not a conspiracy at all. We are not conspiring, we are inspiring … each other, ourselves, future generations. Not a conspiracy, but an INSPIRACY. If you can grok that, then consider taking a moment out of your day and try Eileen’s experiment: Send the radiance of your love out to link up with others as an intentional evolutionary act through a network of light.

PS: Here’s an invitation. If you’re involved in a Holistic Center and interested in attending the next Centers Gathering at Findhorn, on May 12-18, 2012, please direct your mouse to:

Passages in Village Life

Published April 22nd, 2011 in Community Perspectives

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 that spring is a hundred days out, and I will count the blessings of that season when it comes, just as I have counted this season’s blessings.

A time for every purpose under heaven. Jamshed died last fall. He had lived for the last 22 years as a member of our community, filling many roles in service to our guests. You might remember him best for his jolly greetings at the parking lot gate, welcoming summer visitors to the springs. He rode the cosmic orbit around the sun 70 times before getting off the planetary merry-go-round last October. We buried him at the edge of the forest in a simple box fashioned with boards milled from a fir tree that lived its entire life at Breitenbush. Jamshed, by his own reckoning, lived his best years here, too. Of the several extended communities in which Jamshed participated—Sufis, Radical Faeries, Red Road, Breitenbush—all were represented at the good-bye celebration/ceremony. There he lay in simple elegance, dressed in his finest robes, his granny reading glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, looking sage and serene as ever. Being buried on Breitenbush property and returning to the earth to become food for others in the great circle of life had long been his wish, when time came for him to depart this life. He spoke of it many times over the more than 20 years I knew him, though I didn’t hold out much hope for it because there is an unfinished debate on this subject within the community here. But, he got his final wish anyway and there we all were at the last, making a casket, digging a deep hole, talking with county officials and clearing the bureaucratic hurdles (the legislature has made it easy for home burial recently, to their credit). It was a beautiful moment. Thank you, soul of Jamshed.

To everything there is a season. When he crafted the song, Pete Seeger took the liberty of contributing a message of his own to an ancient king’s musings. To Solomon’s listed purposes under heaven, this wise modern voice added there is “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” That can be taken a lot of ways, of course, from personal to planetary. For a start, I take it to mean that, to experience peace, I must myself be it and seek it in others. Beyond this personal practice, we are called to understand that all who live have needs, and that, inevitably, cooperation is a superior survival strategy to competition or the zero-sum game. We humans have a long way to go to succeed in this evolutionary imperative, but it’s where we’re headed.

Peace is a rare treasure in a complex life. For me, Breitenbush is certainly one of the great places to seek it, within and without. If that is true for you too, then we’ll merry meet and merry meet again on the path.