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Saucers Over Findhorn

Scotland’s Findhorn Community is known as one of the great New Age success stories – a small-scale experiment that grew, like the miraculous giant organic vegetables that are part of the legend, from humble beginnings into a world-renowned spiritual centre. But, says Andy Roberts, the real origins of Findhorn – and a missing chapter of British ufological history – lie in the heady days of the flying saucer contactee movement.

The Findhorn Community has been dubbed ‘The Vatican of the New Age’, and includes among its patrons such diverse personalities as Prince Philip, Shirley Maclaine and Mike Scott of The Waterboys. Findhorn’s credentials as a New Age University are beyond reproach, with thousands of people attending courses each year, ranging from Dances In Space and Time to Close To God On Iona, and happy to pay up to £1,500 for the privilege. Findhorn is worth over £5 million a year to the local community, yet still strongly polarises opinion. Some believe that the Findhorn Community attracts vitally needed employment and tourism to the area. Others are more cynical. One neighbour commented: “If they were any good to anyone they wouldn’t be at the Findhorn Foundation”, while another noted disapprovingly that members of the Community are often seen hugging when they meet.

Yet whatever its detractors may say, the Community is so embedded in the spiritual psyche of the UK that one of its founders, Eileen Caddy, was awarded the MBE for ‘service to spiritual enquiry’. According to the Community’s newsletter, “Eileen chose to hand the medal to God”. What God thought of the award was not recorded but it may have been more pertinent to ask, “What did the aliens think?”

Yes, aliens. The official Findhorn website states: “The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. All three had followed disciplined spiritual paths for many years and had been specifically trained to follow God’s will.”

But 1962 was merely when Peter, Eileen and Dorothy moved to Findhorn. The Community’s true origins lie in the 1950s, in the maelstrom of post-war fringe ideas and philosophies that eventually coalesced into what we now call the ‘New Age’.

Peter’s Progress

Central to Findhorn’s origins is a secret that the current leaders of the Community would very much like to play down: flying saucers. For all their talk of the Community being formed by the guidance of God, one of the core beliefs held by Findhorn’s founders in the Fifties and Sixties was that flying saucers existed, and their occupants were in psychic contact. It was also an article of faith that direct physical contact with the saucers was not only possible, it was certain.

Findhorn’s principal movers and shakers were Peter Caddy and his close-knit circle of partners and spiritual travellers such as Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. Peter died in 1994 but Eileen still lives at Findhorn and Maclean is a big name on the US New Age scene. All were heavily involved in the flying saucer contactee belief system, but it is Peter Caddy’s story that binds them together.

Like many spiritual leaders, Caddy progressed through a series of religious, philosophical and occult beliefs, a parade of mysto-fashions of which flying saucers were just one aspect. Caddy became interested in esoteric subjects in his early teens and eagerly read anything he could get his hands on; the teachings of medium Grace Cooke, yogic philosophy and similar writings occupied and informed his every spare waking hour. In 1936 he met a Dr Sullivan, who was the Supreme Magus of the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, an esoteric order which also numbered Gerald Gardner, often called ‘the founder of modern witchcraft’, among its ranks. Dr Sullivan and the Crotona Fellowship made a deep impact on the young Caddy, a series of lectures called ‘Soul Science’ becoming “the single most important foundation” for his future life. Dr Sullivan also presided over Caddy’s ‘spiritual’ marriage to Nora Meidling, after which they sealed the knot with a more formal civil service.

In 1945, after a ‘good war’ spent in the RAF’s catering branch, Caddy’s life became a whirlwind of meetings with remarkable men and women. He soon realised that he was getting little from his marriage to Nora, when he met another spiritual seeker, Sheena Gowan. Their meetings were spiritually intense; eventually, the relationship became a physical one and they moved in together. Sheena received ‘guidance’ – by way of what we now call channelling – from God, and was told that Caddy must end his marriage to Nora.

It’s easy to suggest that the ‘spiritual’ milieu in which the couple existed was merely a justification for the sort of extra-marital relationships frowned on at the time. Indeed, reading Caddy’s autobiography, it’s hard not to see the post-war spiritual scene as a hotbed of partner-swapping. He and Sheena were married for a brief period (although they would continue their spiritual collaboration for much longer); then Caddy (by now Commanding Officer of the RAF School of Cookery) met and married Eileen Combe during a posting to the Middle East. By the time of his death in 1994, Caddy had been married five times and had had numerous ‘special friends’ during his voyage through the spiritual, but fecund, waters of the New Age.

A chance meeting in the Philippines with channeller Anne Edwards, also known by the spiritual name of Naomi, spun Caddy off on a new series of adventures. Naomi had received the message that she and Caddy had been together in previous lifetimes and were destined to work together again. She was also the first sensitive Caddy met who was in touch with aliens, and he noted: “Naomi had received many messages from beings in space, concerning their space ships, their purpose and mission”. Naomi remained in the Philippines while Caddy, Sheena and Eileen settled in Scotland.

Messages from Space

By 1954 Caddy, via Naomi, had amassed numerous telepathically channelled messages, some from those he termed the ‘space brothers’. In line with others who were receiving channelled communications during the 1950s, such as George King of the Aetherius Society, the message coming through Naomi was that extraterrestrials were fearful about the state of Planet Earth, warning of impending ecological disaster if humanity didn’t change its evil ways. Caddy received an ‘inner prompting’ that he should put together a report on the nature of these messages –to be called An Introduction to the Nature and Purpose of Unidentified Flying Objects – which would clearly outline who and what lay behind the increasing numbers of UFO sightings.

Once the 8,000-word report was completed, the problem was how to distribute it to the 26 people Eileen’s guidance had decreed. Some copies were simply entrusted to the Royal Mail, others reached their destination by more direct methods; former Prime Minister Clement Atlee was handed his by his aunt! Lord Dowding, already an outspoken proponent of flying saucers, spiritualism and, er, elves was given his by Caddy personally at his London club. After reading it, Dowding wrote to Caddy saying: “I am personally convinced of the existence of spaceships, and I think it highly probable that they are manned by extraterrestrial crews… I think that the government ought to take the subject of spaceships very seriously, and to let some senior and responsible official take on the task of collecting evidence as a preliminary step to formulating an opinion, and perhaps a course of action.”

Caddy’s main target for the report, however, was Prince Philip. The Queen’s consort was known to have a keen interest in flying saucers (see FT211:37), even subscribing to Flying Saucer Review. His Equerry, Squadron Leader Peter Horsley, was instructed to investigate flying saucers on the Prince’s behalf, using his master’s influence to meet and interview key UFO witnesses, often at Buckingham Palace.

Peter Caddy was an old friend of Horsley and together they hatched a plan for getting the vital saucer report to the Prince during a North African stopover the royal couple made while returning from a state tour of Australia. Caddy’s contact in the royal entourage was Commander Mike Parker, the Prince’s Naval Equerry and another flying saucer buff. Parker immediately leapt at the chance to get the report into Prince Philip’s hands, saying, “Oh good! Anything to have a crack at the dome-headed boys”, meaning the scientific establishment, most of whom had no time for fanciful notions concerning UFOs and alien visitors.

In March 1957, the Caddys became the managers of the Cluny Hill Hotel in Forres, on Scotland’s Moray Firth, overlooking Findhorn Bay. Eileen had channelled guidance from God that they were to establish a ‘Centre of Light’ there. Now, as the Cold War hotted up in the late Fifties, so did Caddy’s interest in flying saucers and how their occupants could save the Earth from a potential nuclear conflagration. Eileen had received a channelled message consisting of one word, LUKANO, which appeared in her inner eye written in letters of fire. The Caddys could find no meaning for this word and were prompted to ask their most powerful sensitive, Naomi. Naomi tuned in and discovered that LUKANO was the captain of a Venusian ‘mother ship’ who wanted to make contact with the Caddys. According to Caddy: “We were told the time had come to make that contact”.

From then on, there was almost daily channelled contact between Caddy’s sensitives – Dorothy, Lena, Eileen and Naomi – and the Venusians. Expectations were high that physical contact was imminent and it was a widely held belief, shared by Caddy’s circle, that the saucer folk would evacuate specially chosen Earthlings. Caddy and his coterie of female followers saw themselves as these chosen ones, and he and Lena would often visit a potential flying saucer landing site on the beach near Findhorn to await the sky-saviours. As a measure of how serious this belief in physical contact with the saucers was, Caddy noted: “I had the trees cleared from the mound behind the hotel in preparation for the landing.”

In Advance of the Landing

The much longed-for landing never came. But the media found out about Caddy’s activities and ran articles about the goings-on at Cluny Hill Hotel, labelling its strange inhabitants ‘The Nameless Ones’. The front page headline in the Sunday Pictorial for 20 September 1960 read: “The Martians Are Coming, He Says”. The exposé trumpeted that Caddy believed “great numbers” of flying saucers from Mars and Venus would be landing on Earth within the next few months to warn humans that they were on the brink of disaster. “The main thing is to be nice to them”, he said. “They have to be met with friendship. They are trying to help us.” Caddy explained he had created the landing strip on Cluny Hill at the aliens’ behest, claiming: “I was instructed to do so by a kind of telepathy from them”, and going on to outline exactly what his belief in flying saucers meant. “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.” The adverse publicity these media revelations caused the Cluny Hill Hotel almost got Caddy the sack.

The summer of 1961 saw political relations between Russia and the West deteriorate to the point where there was widespread belief that nuclear war was imminent. Caddy’s team of sensitives and channellers were reassured that an extraterrestrial rescue plan to save the Earth was under way, and that they were among the chosen ones who would be saved. Eventually a message came through that seemed unambiguous: “Each one of you should be in readiness, you will be given very little warning”. The extraterrestrials telepathically informed Caddy that they had tried twice to land on the Cluny Hill landing strip, once on Christmas Eve 1960 and again on New Year’s Day 1961, but had been foiled due to a combination of climatic conditions and atomic bomb testing. Caddy and Lena mounted watch for several hours a night in the hope that the third attempt at a landing would be successful, but sadly the aliens still stayed away. In November 1962, the Caddys parked their caravan at the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park – the beginning of the Findhorn Community as we know it today. Caddy decided they would become self-sufficient, and they planted a huge variety of fruit and vegetables in the poor soil of the Moray coastline. Against all expectations the garden thrived, a fact which the Findhornians attributed to their daily meditations and contact with the nature spirits, or Devas. Dismayed by the contradictory advice he found in gardening books, Caddy decided to eschew traditional knowledge and simply asked the Devas for guidance. The result was a continuous flow of huge and nutritious organic fruit and veg which helped sustain the community during their early years.

Although the group was now working closely with nature spirits, Caddy’s flying saucer fascination continued unabated. He forged links with many saucerians who shared his vision, including American contactee Dan Fry and New Age maven Sir George Trevelyan, who was making tentative enquiries among the flying saucer élite about the possibility of forming a national UFO authority within the UK. Through Trevelyan, Caddy also met Brinsley le Poer Trench (Lord Clancarty), Air Marshall Sir Victor Goddard and Johan Quanjer, all dedicated saucer fanatics.

Johan Quanjer, one of those mercurial types within British ufology who have been completely written out of the subject’s history, came to know the UK flying saucer scene very well and wasn’t very impressed with it. Through his connection with Peter Caddy, Quanjer became aware of flying saucer contacts and near-landings at Findhorn and eventually visited the community, proclaiming that “there is no doubt in my own mind that these extraterrestrials and their saucers do exist and that they are seriously intending one day to make their presence known to people on Earth.”

Caddy, at this point, had set up a ‘telephone tree’ so that a select group of people could be alerted when the saucers were due to appear. Quanjer recalls: “One morning, in May 1966, an urgent phone message came through to me from Edinburgh, Scotland: ‘The bells are ringing’. These four words, breathlessly sounded out for me on the trunk line, were apparently a ‘code’ for something like, ‘Flying saucers might be landing on a previously indicated spot somewhere on the North Coast’.” Although he had not yet visited Findhorn, Quanjer was sceptical about their claims of extraterrestrial contact, writing: “These saucers had thoughtfully planned to burst upon an astonished world during the Whit weekend of 27–30 June, so that everyone with a job (as I had) could attend without great inconvenience”.

Sceptical or not, after an eight-hour train journey Quanjer was soon being whisked by car along the Moray Firth coast road to Findhorn. But on arrival, his reservations proved correct: “What I had been led to believe would be a bucolic paradise of New Age initiates, was really a huddled mass of mild eccentrics”. Quanjer’s view of Caddy was dim: “Here was their leader, a healthy middle-aged man who preferred to accept unemployment money and family benefits rather than a job to support himself and his family”. The Findhornian’s attempts at self-sufficiency didn’t impress Quanjer either and he referred to their “small but luxuriant vegetable garden” as being “perhaps their only visible hold on reality”.

After introductions to Caddy, Robert Ogilvy Crobie (Roc) and the other invited guests, Quanjer was informed that a channelled contact had sent instructions that a flying saucer was going to come in from the north east, flying low over the North Sea to avoid being captured on radar at nearby RAF Lossiemouth.

This was it! The landing had begun. As a preparatory, if somewhat bizarre, measure, Caddy and Roc channelled various occult historical figures such as St Germain as well as Masters from Saturn and Mars. Darkness fell, and the excited saucer-spotters loaded cars with provisions and blankets and drove to the beach where they waited eagerly for the craft to land. For a while, nothing happened, and then: “Suddenly, the actor (Roc) with arms aloft, exclaimed that it had arrived. ‘Yes, it was here.’ No one else saw anything, though; it was concluded that our space guest must still be in another dimension”. Quanjer had, by now, had enough of the naïve pretensions of the Findhorn set and sent his own thoughts out “much further and higher in silent prayer that they please not land here among this inauspicious human welcoming party”.

After the failed landing, Eileen Caddy received a channelled message which confirmed contact had almost been made: “Let none of you have any feeling of disappointment regarding last night (the landing of our space brothers). All was in preparation for something far, far greater than any of you have ever contemplated.” The message went on to advise that what Caddy and his friends believed would be a saucer sent to evacuate supporters as part of the ET plan was in fact merely delivering a message that everything would be OK.

Findhorn’s reputation as a New Age community was now spreading rapidly, and not just within New Age circles. A growing number of hippies, inspired by the idea of living simply and communally, in harmony with God and nature, became aware of Findhorn and could see no reason why it wasn’t for them.

One such seeker was Neil Oram, a flamboyant character on the hippie scene. In the long, hot summer of 1968, Oram was living the simple life in the Yorkshire hill village of Haworth, notable for its connections with the Brönte Sisters. No stranger to unusual phenomena, and open to psychic influences, Oram received a telepathic message during a meditation telling him to “found a spiritual maternity hospital. A centre without dogma, where people could give birth to their real selves”. In an act of spontaneity which characterised the zeitgeist, Oram accepted the message, sold his cottage and was about to venture into the unknown when he received a letter from guru Meher Baba’s secretary. The letter told him of Findhorn where a small group of pioneers were “living on sand by the edge of the sea, and are uniting together Divine Guidance, Alien Intelligence, fairie intelligence and human faith in developing consciousness”. Findhorn appeared full of promise to Oram and he and his young family immediately hitch-hiked to the bleak Morayshire coast.

On arrival, he was immediately disappointed: “It felt like Noddy land. Utterly UNREAL. Like ceramic pixies and gnomes cavorting in the garden. Phoney. ‘Croquet on the lawn’ type of atmosphere.” There was an instant culture clash between the two tribes. For all Caddy’s protestations of unconditional love for the human race, his first impressions of meeting Oram and family were not positive: “To my dismay, they were dirty, dishevelled hippies… They had to learn that dirty, torn and slovenly clothes were not acceptable at Findhorn, particularly in the Sanctuary.” During this initial meeting, Oram recalls Caddy saying: “You see the trouble is a lot of you hippies have been taken over by the sex drive and that’s why you can’t channel God, the angels, or our advanced space brothers.” The irony of this, considering Caddy’s interwoven personal relationships – as well as Oram’s later claim that Caddy had been “screwing the hippie chicks who started arriving… behind Eileen’s back” – was decidedly rich.

Oram’s hippie sensibilities grated with Caddy’s old school ascetic leanings and tensions grew between the two men. This culminated one evening when Caddy barged into a caravan to order Oram to the Sanctuary. When Oram ignored him, Caddy became increasingly angry, finally shouting an ultimatum: “This is your last chance! Are you coming with me now or not?” Oram declined, but was later berated by one of Caddy’s sycophantic followers: “What were you doing man? What were you doing refusing to come to the Sanctuary? You were meant to be a CHANNEL, man! A CHANNEL for our space brothers! The mother ship was HERE!!! Right above the Sanctuary man! Right ABOVE and it was calling for YOU!!! And you let us ALL DOWN MAN!!! You threw away the opportunity for HUMANITY to EVOLVE onto a HIGHER LEVEL!!! You’ve let us ALL DOWN, MAN!! You’re a BETRAYER of our movement. A JUDAS!!!”

The following day, Oram and family left Findhorn. His original vision came true shortly afterwards and he founded his own spiritual centre at Goshem, high in the mountains above Loch Ness. Thirty-seven years after his encounter with Caddy, Oram’s opinion of the man is undiminished: “He remains to this day, the biggest egomaniac I’ve ever met. Utterly insensitive. Outlandishly bombastic. He was a total phoney. Con man.”

Desperately Seeking Something

Peter Caddy left Findhorn in the 1970s and the focus of the Community changed dramatically. Channelled messages from the space brothers and belief in flying saucers were marginalised, being replaced by deeper work with the Devas and more direction from God. Alfresco saucer welcoming parties were out and spiritually earnest seminars and conferences were very much in. Prophecy turned to profit and Findhorn began to market itself as a commercial venture, setting itself on the course which has brought it financial success today. I suggested to Findhorn that flying saucers and aliens were a key element of the community’s development but that they had been carefully airbrushed out of Findhorn’s official history. The one-line reply I received avoided my questions, with the anodyne response: “There’s no ‘official’ community line regarding UFOs and we have no policy on publicising the subject or otherwise.”

Yet it does seem that Findhorn is somewhat embarrassed at its contactee origins, and like all corporate entities seeks to minimise problems by simply ignoring them. Other than a few brief comments in Peter Caddy’s autobiography, there is nothing in the Findhorn literature which refers to this crucial aspect of the community’s past. To the vast majority of those who visit Findhorn, this obfuscation will not matter. But the story of Findhorn and flying saucers is a vital missing piece of the British UFO jigsaw and cannot be ignored to suit the current fashions in New Age belief at Findhorn.

It could be said that Findhorn is nothing more than an apocalyptic 1950s flying saucer cult which got savvy and moved with the times, dropping one of its original tenets and replacing it with others more in keeping with the mores of the New Age market place. Others may say, in light of Neil Oram and Johan Quanjer’s comments, that Peter Caddy was a hypocrite – a con-man using cod-spirituality for financial and physical gain, utilising and manipulating whatever elements of the supernatural were currently fashionable to attract adherents and money. But perhaps – and this is much more likely – Caddy and his followers were just a group of sincere but flawed human beings who were desperately seeking something. That something, like the goal of all spiritual seeking, was a desire for certainty, guidance and purpose in a chaotic Universe. During the period between 1954 and 1970, flying saucers – or rather the idea of flying saucers – provided them with that something. Their shared belief in the impending Apocalypse and the possibility of salvation from the skies enabled them to form strong relationships and to build a thriving community based on their communal beliefs and hopes. By their own accounts, they were happy, and if belief in extraterrestrials provided them with that happiness, then that’s no bad thing really, is it?

With warm thanks to Neil Oram for his assistance.

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Neil Oram
Neil Oram at Goshem not long after his time at Findhorn. Image: David Larcher
Author Biography
Andy Roberts is a veteran fortean researcher, author and broadcaster. He is a frequent FT contributor and regular ufology correspondent.


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