Eileen Caddy MBE

Spiritual guru who founded the Findhorn Community

Born: 26 August, 1917, in Alexandria, Egypt.

Died: 13 December, 2006, at Findhorn, aged 89.

EILEEN Caddy was the spiritual guru who co-founded the Findhorn Foundation, the New Age community near Findhorn on the Moray Firth. With her husband Peter and family, she pioneered organic gardening, extolling the virtues of it long before it became fashionable. A small commune grew, and today, the Findhorn Foundation is a thriving business, welcoming more than 14,000 visitors annually from 70 countries to spiritual retreats and workshops, generating in the process some 4 million for the local economy.

Born Eileen Jessop, the daughter of a director of the dominion, colonial and overseas department of Barclays Bank, she was her own enigma. In 1953, she said she first began to receive what she termed "personal guidance" from a source she called "the God within". She wrote afterwards: "I was right in the middle of my (silent prayer) when suddenly, I clearly heard a voice speak to me and to say, 'Be in silence and know that I am God'."

The simple teachings she received over the years, she said, offered spiritual truth and vision, and insight into how to live a happier, more meaningful and more fulfilling life.

A charismatic leader, mother of eight and grandmother to 20, Eileen's background reflected the prosperity of her banker father. Educated privately, she displayed as a girl and young woman some interest in Church affairs and theology, but especially the spiritual. At 22, she married Squadron Leader Andrew Combe in what proved the beginning of an intense tangle of marriages and relationships in her own life and those closest to her.

Andrew was involved in Moral Re-Armament, and it was through MRA that she met another RAF squadron leader, Peter Caddy, later her second husband. Peter had meantime left his first wife and in 1948 married Sheena Govan, a divorcee who, in the 1950s, the Scottish press tailed after she was said to have proclaimed herself the Messiah.

Sheena had said nothing of the sort in fact, but her personal allure and her part in a threesome of Peter and Eileen (now living away from family and first husband Andrew) led the hack pack to christen them "the Nameless Ones". They were joined by a Canadian, Dorothy Maclean. The marital entanglement now meant that of the four, Peter and Sheena were still married to each other, but Eileen lived with Peter with Sheena's blessing. Peter went on to marry five times in all.

In 1957, Peter and Eileen with Dorothy took on the management of Cluny Hill Hotel, in Forres, Moray, fulfilling Peter's long-held wish to enter the hospitality business ever since his wartime RAF years in charge of catering on the Burma Front against the Japanese. The hotel was run strictly in accordance with the divine instructions Eileen received, though some of these ran to the bizarre. When the chef turned up drunk, she claimed that God ordered her to "give him another whisky".

Ultimately sacked by the hotel board in 1962, the Caddys, their children and Dorothy settled in a large touring caravan on a site just outside the ancient village of Findhorn, eking out a subsistence living by growing vegetables. Then a cult following slowly started, based on the story that what they grew at Findhorn surpassed in yield and size anything previously known locally. Carrots a foot long and cabbages the size of footballs were verified as having come from previously barren sandy soil. Dorothy Maclean's claim she "communed" with plants, with Peter obeying her orders on simple organic practice, led to astonishingly sized produce.

The press once again trooped to the Caddys' door, this time clamouring for the secrets of organic gardening. Supporters of their work grew to include Sir George Trevelyan and Lady Balfour of the Soil Association. Major attention followed, including a half-hour BBC radio programme in 1965.

New Age acolytes began gathering at Findhorn, and what is now the Findhorn Foundation community started to form around the work and spiritual practices of Eileen and Peter Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. The community was featured in several television documentaries by the BBC, starting in 1969, and most recently profiled by the Channel Four documentary series The Haven in 2004.

In 1979, Peter left Eileen, and moved to California, founding there a similar community based on Findhorn. A branch of Findhorn today exists on Erraid, off Mull. In the late 1950s, Eileen had moved to Mull for a short time with Sheena Govan and Dorothy Maclean.

Eileen's works include God Spoke to Me, a volume of inspirational messages published in various formats from 1966 onwards, Divinely Ordinary, Divinely Human, and an autobiography titled Flight into Freedom and Beyond (1988).

For services to spiritual inquiry, Eileen was appointed MBE in 2004. Too frail to travel to receive her insignia from the Queen, she was presented with it by the Lord-Lieutenant for Moray, Air Vice-Marshal George Chesworth.

Eileen greeted her many visitors with trademark charm and sincerity, utterly convinced of her divine duty from God. When her health finally failed, she stated that the final message she had received was "No more guidance".

The caravan in which Eileen and Peter Caddy started life in Findhorn lies mouldering today by some trees. Her legacy is a widely diversified community of several hundred people leading "green" lives through the prosperity of scores of "new age" businesses and initiatives.

By Andrew Combe, her first husband, Eileen Caddy had four daughters and a son. By Peter Caddy she had three sons.

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