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The Roots of Findhorn - part 2

by

Derek Cameron


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The de-religionized evangelicalism of Sheena Govan was, though, not the only ingredient in the Findhorn compost. The reduced circumstances and constant anxieties of middle-aged unemployment prompted Peter Caddy to reveal to Eileen and Dorothy some of his earlier training in positive thinking.

The modern positive thinking movement is credited in its origins to the expermients and theories of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1874). Quimby had became interested in hypnosis, then called mesmerism. By testing many people, he was able to find one highly suggestible subject, a young man named Lucius Burkmar. With this subject Quimby continued his experiments.

One of these experiments involved hypnotizing Lucius Burkmar and then asking him to diagnose illnesses. Burkmar was able to do so with astonishing accuracy. But when asked for a proposed cure, the hypnotized subject would put forward absurd suggestions, such a simple herb tea.

What was even more astonishing was that these ridiculous cures worked. The patients recovered their health.

Quimby concluded that it must be the patient's minds that were effecting the cure.

Among those who sought and obtained cures from Quimby were Mary Baker Eddy and Julius and Annetta Dresser. Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) went on to christianize Quimby's ideas in the form of Christian Science. Eileen Caddy had been exposed to Christian Science at an early age when her mother took an interest in it, though she herself was not much interested at the time.

It was the Dresser's son, Horatio Dresser (1866-1954), who coined the term "New Thought" for the subsequent movement that believed that our thoughts influence not only our health, but also the course of our lives.

As the nineteenth century progressed, the New Thought movement produced a proliferation of authors and speakers. Emma Hopkins (1853- 1925) was a student of Mary Baker Eddy who founded her own College of Metaphysical Science in 1889. Among her early students were Charles and Myrtle Fillmore; among her later students was Ernest Holmes. Charles (1854-1948) and Myrtle (1845-1931) Fillmore were both cured after applying Emma Hopkins's teachings, went on to study with her, and subsequently founded the Unity School of Christianity, under whose auspices they put out many publications on a donations basis. Ernest Holmes (1887-1960) studied with Emma Hopkins but also read the works of Phineas Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, Ralph Waldo Trine, Horatio Dresser and Thomas Troward. He published his Science of Mind in 1926, and founded the Institute of Religious Science and the School of Philosophy in 1927. Other influential New Thought writers and books at the turn of the century include Ralph Waldo Trine, whose In tune with the infinite (1897) was influenced in part by Thomas Troward but also by Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as the Scottish evangelical writer Henry Drummond.

Peter Caddy was to encounter these ideas in 1936 when he joined an organization called the Roscirucian Order Crotona Fellowship.

There is no evidence that the Roscirucian Order Crotona Fellowship had any connections to any previous group that bore the name "rosicrucian". Though Peter Caddy believed that the ROCF was an ancient organization and had branches all over Britain, both of these beliefs appear to be wildexaggerations.

The Roscirucian Order Crotona Fellowship was founded by George Alexander Sullivan (1890-1942). Sullivan is believed to have organized a group named "The Order of Twelve" from 1911-1914 and again from 1920. It was in about 1924 that it became known as the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, Crotona being the site of Pythagoras's school in southern Italy. The ROCF operated first from Liverpool area of England and then from the mid 1930s onwards from the Christchurch area. The group's headquarters was a wooden building called the Ashrama Hall, completed in 1936 on the grounds of a house belonging to a woman named Catherine Chalk.

In the light of future developments at Findhorn, it's interesting to note that Sullivan's disciples began to buy bungalows close by his Ashrama Hall so that they could live in proximity to the group and is master.

In 1938, also on Catherine Chalk's land, the ROCF built Christchurch Garden Theatre, which billed itself as "The First Rosicrucian Theater in England." It presented Sullivan's mystically-themed plays during June-September 1938. Gerald B. Gardner (1884-1964), the reviver of British witchcraft ("Wicca"), claimed to have been initiated into traditional witchcraft through contacts he made at the rosicrucian theatre, though there is some debate about this. Gerald Gardner's biography by Jack Bracelin (although said by Frederic Lamond to have been written by Idries Shah) mentions the group.

Although the group named itself after the Rosicrucian tradition, and although its rituals had a Masonic flavor to them, the teachings of George Alexander Sullivan -- at least as given by Peter Caddy-- resemble most of all the teachings of the New Thought movement.

Having joined the group at the impressionable age of 19, and having dedicated himself to its practices, the cultivation of positive thinking became second nature to Peter Caddy. By the time he found himself unemployed and living in a trailer, he a quarter century of experience with these practices. It was from this depth of mastery that he introduced the positive thinking practices to his cohorts at Findhorn.


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text content by Derek Cameron
page uploaded 11 July 2005