Why a generation that had grown up in the shadow of one world war and just lived through a second would set up intentional communities driven by thoughts of impending doom and of founding refuges and ‘Arks’ is perhaps understandable (See How Many Arks Does it Take Part 1) What is harder to comprehend is why this mood of apocalyptic thinking should cast a shadow over another generation of spiritually based intentional communities that started in 1960’s and ‘70’s. and lead them to use remarkably similar ‘Ark’ references as their communal predecessors.
The story of the beginning of the Findhorn Community in the north of Scotland has been told many times. Of the foundation of a ‘community of light ‘through guidance received by Eileen Caddy and of the growing of giant vegetables by her husband Peter with guidance from plant ‘devas’. Peter Caddy is portrayed in the early literature and reports about the Findhorn Community as a positive thinking man of action enthusiastically putting into practice the guidance received by the, mostly female, ‘sensitives’ or mediums that surrounded him. The focus over the years has fallen on Eileen Caddy as the source of this guidance, but in the early days of the group this certainly wasn’t the case, nor was Eileen the first medium that Peter had listened to for guidance.
After the war whilst serving as catering manager for British Service personnel who were travelling by military aircraft, he found himself in the Philippines where by chance he met ‘a grey haired lady’ called Anne Edwards known by her spiritual name as Naomi. Very quickly the two were deep in conversation ranging from discussing Tibetan Masters to the works of Alice Bailey. Naomi said she had been contacted on numerous occasions by beings from outer space who had instructed her to set up a group that could contact other groups around the world by telepathy and form a psychic network to channel extraterrestrial energies that were being poured down upon the earth by the Space Brothers. She told Peter that so far her group had been telepathically in touch with 370 other groups around the world. The meeting with Edwards would establish “an extraordinary bond” between the two of them. For years they would exchange up to two or three letters a week and her revelations sparked a long term fascination with UFOs in Caddy and their contact would eventually lead to Edwards joining the Caddys at Findhorn in 1964. Peter Caddy’s interest in UFOs backed up by the messages from the Space Brothers being received by Naomi prompted him in 1954 to write a report: An Introduction to the Nature and Purpose of Unidentified Flying Objects, explaining what lay behind the increasing numbers of UFO sightings that were being reported at the time. He received guidance to get 26 copies of the 8,000 word report and deliver them to a list of key persons including; Winston Churchill, Clement Atllee, Prince Phillip, President Eisenhower and several other prominent military, scientific and spiritual figures.
Messages continued to be received from outer space throughout the late 1950’s becoming increasingly apocalyptic as time went by. In one Eileen Caddy saw the mysterious word LUKANO written in letters of fire. This was quickly confirmed by Naomi as the name of the captain of a spaceship from Venus who was planning a rescue mission to earth should a nuclear holocaust occur. The messages from outer space kept coming, at times on an almost daily basis, with details of the proposed mission. In 1958 Eileen Caddy was told “ this is not the only oasis from which people will be rescued when destruction comes. But it is the only one in this country.” In a story in The Sunday Pictorial on 20 September 1960 under the headline “The Martians Are Coming, He Says” Peter Caddy is reported as declaring that flying saucers from Mars and Venus were on the way to Earth to warn humans that they were on the brink of disaster. “I believe they will offer people on Earth a chance to leave this planet with them before the catastrophe. They are like us in many ways, but the chief difference is that they have no understanding of such emotions as hatred, greed, jealousy or spite. Their only emotions are love and friendship.” So convinced was he that an extraterrestrial rescue was imminent, Caddy cleared trees from a mound behind the Cluny Hotel in Forres that he was manager of at the time, to create a UFO landing strip and on Christmas Eve and again on New Year’s Day a small group kept night-time vigil waiting for the spaceships to land. The little band of watchers were later informed that the landings had been attempted but had failed due to by a combination of climatic conditions and the effects of radiation from atomic bomb testing.
In October 1962, as the Caddy’s moved their caravan firstly on to the Findhorn Sands Caravan Park and then the following month to the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park, the Cuban Missile crisis was unfolding presumably adding to the bleak outlook and the groups apocalyptic mood. Extra terrestrial Messages kept coming after the group had moved to the caravan park alternating between visions of the Space Brothers
“ I have always seen our space brothers and the mothership or a craft, but tonight I seem to be taken to the natural garden with the building carved out of the rock with everything in harmony. It was on Venus. No windows in the building. There were people like us their tonight, but radiant people. I have never been with Lukano or seen him anywhere but on the ship, or flying saucer before. On Venus everything is in harmony.”
Elxiir / Eileen Caddy 10 May 1963
through apocalyptic scenes of planetary destruction
“ I saw a great storm over Washington City, and all the buildings seem to be struck by lightning or thunderbolts as they lay shattered. All the people were dead and an awful darkness seemed to envelope the city. Then I saw thousands of small shadowy forms moving everywhere, and I saw they were black rats swarming everywhere consuming the dead, for there was no one left in the city to bury the dead.”
Elxiir / Eileen Caddy 23 Nov 1963
A fascination with UFOlogy would continue to be part of the ideas that attracted people to visit Findhorn until the early 1970’s when it would slowly fade into the background warranting little and eventually no mention in any community publications. The Caddy’s saw the community they were setting up as refuge from the world and the imagery of the Ark crops up in the writing in the early publications written at the time. “The garden is like the ark I asked Noah to build. It is difficult for you to see the reason for it, for you cannot see into the future, but let Me assure you that it is vitally important.” Elxiir / Eileen Caddy Quoted in The Findhorn Garden. And even as late as the 1990’s Carol Riddel writing about Findhorn continues to use the Ark as a symbol to convey the idea of a new ecological threat and the lack of response to it. “We are all part of the same global Noah’s Ark now, a leaky ark that needs a lot of repair to survive the floods of cynicism and disillusion that threaten to swallow us.”
The root of much of the early Findhorn ideology stems from esoteric Christian sources. That they should both use the iconography of the Ark led me to do a bit of digging around general cultural background of stories about the flood and Noah and his Ark. Not only did I find out that the story appears both in the Bible and the Quran but that it also appears in Hindu mythology recorded in The Mahabharata as the story of Vaivasvata who is ordered by “Vishnu” to build a ship for himself and his family and to collect the seeds of every plant and a pair of every species of animal in order that they can survive a flood. Some have speculated that the Hindu myth is in fact the source of all following Ark stories. This led me to two further spiritual communal Arks.
By 1977 the Hari Krisna Movement had established over 100 temples worldwide along with farms, restaurants, schools, a scientific institute and a book company. They also had a number of communes or ashrams across the globe including Bhaktivedanta Manor in the UK. Hare Krishna founder and guru Srila Prabhupada died in November 1977 and despite trying to prepare for his succession the movement entered a period of flux and uncertainty. Eleven new ‘gurus’ had been initiated by Prabhupada each with a regional remit. This contributed to various factions appearing and during the same period the movement went through a somewhat apocalyptic phase.
“…. most of the eleven gurus embraced the revelation of an apocalyptic world war. According to the widely accepted scenario, only core ISKCON members a few thousand chosen souls would survive, with the insiders leading the others into an age of spiritual; enlightenment…. Leaders implored devotees to stand by their posts on the front lines of preaching, collecting money, and selling books until, upon the Governing Body Commission’s command, it would be time to retreat to rural strongholds. They said guns would be necessary to fight off looters and refugees….”
Nori Muster. Betrayal of the Spirit
This dose of cold war paranoia was prompted by interpretations of what was known as the World War III tape. A recording of a conversation in 1975 in which Prabhupada discussed tensions between India and Pakistan and said “Next war will come very soon. Your country, America, is very much eager to kill these Communists and the Communists are also very eager. So very soon there will be war…” Asked what devotees would do while the war is going on, he replied “Chant Hare Krishna.”
At the same time as the Hari Krishna devotees were worrying about the apocalypse so to were followers of another Hindu Guru who had moved to the West and set up his own communes. The teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had always had an apocalyptic thread running through them and in the late 1970’s he predicted that World War Three would start in 1993 in the Middle East, would last six years and would destroy modern civilization except for a few Rajneesh communes which would survive to start the new world. Later this turned into a prophesy of a ‘great crisis’ that would occur between 1984 and 1999 during which every kind of destruction would be visited on the Earth; floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, nuclear war. In this cyclone of destruction Rajneeshism would create a ‘Noah’s Ark of consciousness’ to save humanity.
It appears not to have been clear whether this great crisis was meant to be taken metaphorically or as a reality, though at least one of the groups leading therapists believed that Bhagwan meant that extra-terrestrials would descend in their mother-ships to save them. This doom laden message was heightened when AIDs broke out in the early 1980’s. The reaction of the Rashneeshies to the threat of AIDs was quick and fairly draconian. Bhagwan announced that this was a sign of the great crisis and would wipe out two thirds of mankind. Instructions were sent out from the Oregon headquarters:
“…….we were told: in order that sannyasins would survive, a radical programme of preventative measures was to be introduced immediately. ……..all sexual intercourse, with other sannyasins and between sannyasins and non-sannyasins, would take place using protection. Condoms, plastic gloves and dental dams were to be issued to every sexually active sannyasin. Plastic gloves had to be worn for all genital contact. Contaminated waste-bins would be available for disposal in the kitchens, toilets, and dormitories.” Tim Guest – My Life in Orange
Every member was tested for HIV and a system of coloured beads on members malas was introduced; a blue bead for those not been tested, a yellow bead for those awaiting their test results, and a green bead for those who had tested negative. Anyone who had sex with someone without a green bead was to have their beads confiscated for three months. As it turned out no one at the Medina commune tested positive – had they done so they were to be placed in isolation and cared for by the community. In the 1980’s the Rajneeshi communes would self-destruct in a scenario of their own making rather than serve as Arks to survive an external apocalypse.
I find it somewhat surprising that the shadow of two world wars and the consequent cold war should cast itself so far and wide across intentional communities particularly those with a spiritual basis to them. I could understand that influence on those communities formed during and after the war that had come from a pacifist and peace movement background, but to find a vein of what starts to look like paranoia running through such a spectrum of spiritually based communities has made me wonder if the machinations of the wider political world have more influence on the formation of alternative communities than we think and in ways that are not clear at first, or even second glance.
A version of this blog appears as an essay in: Spiritual and Visionary Communities – Out to Save the World. Ed. Timothy Miller
For further information:
On Findhorn & UFOs see: In Advance of the Landing By Andy Roberts