Category

Findhorn Foundation

David Lorimer and New World Values

By Andrew Cohen, Findhorn Foundation, Kate Thomas, Ken Wilber, Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), Stanislav Grof, Wrekin Trust
David  Lorimer
Seven years ago, the present writer composed a letter of complaint to David Lorimer. The mailing list was extensive, and included over sixty members of the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), led by Lorimer. Only one of those recipients replied, and in a purely personal context. The key addressee, David Lorimer,  was notable for a total lack of response.
The contents of that letter included reference to various anomalies within organisations influenced by Lorimer, and also the Findhorn Foundation, closely linked to SMN membership and subscriptions. Discrepant behaviour of authority figures was a primary feature. Evasion was preferred by SMN recipients.
Lorimer is known for his activities as a writer and lecturer, including the book Radical Prince (2003), the subject here being the Prince of Wales. He is Programme Director for the SMN, and Vice-President of the closely associated Wrekin Trust, “a charity concerned with adult spiritual education,” to use one of the media descriptions. Lorimer’s blog emphasises “vision and values for a new world view.” So what are the royalist connotations of “spiritual education” and “new world”?
Lorimer has expressed estimation for both Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen, two controversial new age celebrities promoted by the Findhorn Foundation. His arguments were not convincing. In 2004, Lorimer even stated: “I have been impressed by the level of debate between Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber in What is Enlightenment?” This deference to a commercial magazine, the well known vehicle of Cohen, tends to confirm “new world” drawbacks in spiritual education. Elsewhere, Wilber and his “integral spirituality” are the subject of strong critical attention from former enthusiasts and other commentators. Cohen has gained a very unenviable reputation as an American guru of extremist tendency.
To provide an update here,  other  entities are favoured  in the SMN ratings. In 2011, Lorimer named “Jung, Maslow, Stanislav Grof, Charles Tart” as being “far more meaningful” than the psychology syllabus in British universities. In particular, the explicit deference to Grof merits close attention.
In the same interview, Lorimer stated: “One of the assumptions I am making is that my mind is the Universal Mind.” Reminiscent of the Ken Wilber “Big Mind” lore promising enlightenment, this belief can cause acute confusion. We should be very careful before assuming that our very limited individual bundle of mental impressions has any relation to a “Universal Mind.” The neo-Advaita of Andrew Cohen is noted for the theme of cosmic identity, which is flippant to the point of absurdity in new age circles. 
The designation of Scientific and Medical Network is quite affirmative. This organisation is not calling themselves, e.g., the Alternative Scene for New Age Beliefs and Daring Theories. No, they are something far more reliable, far more ultimate, and indeed far more authoritarian. To the extent, indeed, that they can ignore complaint. They are too scientific to be criticised. That is the implication. They are too medical to be taken to task for supporting the holotropic and psychedelic beliefs of Grof. New world values mean, for instance, that hyperventilation (employed by Grof) is a deceptive avenue to cerebral hypoxia, denoting a decreased supply of oxygen to the brain (Stephen J. Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, pp. 45-6). The results are purely material, not spiritual, like the blatantly commercial motivations involved.
Holotropic Breathwork (HB) was a very lucrative exercise devised by Grof at the Esalen Institute in California, and also employed at the Findhorn Foundation for several years until official intervention occurred. In this “new age workshop” sphere, everything is done for money. Grof resorted to HB because his LSD psychotherapy faced legal problems in the 1970s reaction to the hallucinogenic drug. He also employed “MDMA therapy” until the mid-1980s, his method having been described as “drug-aided mind manipulation in order to create paranormal beliefs” (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 126). Grof chose to gloss psychological problems as “spiritual emergencies.” Grof transpersonalism has enjoyed a big dollar turnover via Grof Transpersonal Training Inc.
In this suspect scenario of the new world elite, wealthy academics and promoters can profitably ignore complaints. Entrepreneurs thrive on the absence of criticism, which is banished from the convenience of commerce and pseudo-meaning. On the basis of LSD experiences and holotropic sessions, Grof has devised a “cartography of the psyche,” which critics reject as spurious (cf. Grof, Psychology of the Future, 2000, pp. 20ff.).
Alternative therapy has been big business for several decades at places like Esalen and the Findhorn Foundation. I have related how a 1990s unfortunate lost his wife in this popular quicksand, after she had suffered most of the following drawbacks created by group sessions of “therapy”: nervous breakdown, suicidal tendencies, severe headaches, involuntary muscle spasms, memory failure, and lack of decision making ability. Despite realities, therapy deceptions have gained the status of “a unifying shift in our worldview,” to quote one of the ubiquitous celebrations on the new age media.
In the direction of drug use, the exhortations are widespread on the internet. Some channels are strongly associated with the Grof bandwagon. Even at relatively low volume pitch on email responses to journalism, one can find strident web voices urging that humanity has been taking drugs for thousands of years, and the police are therefore an obstruction to presumed benefits. More realistically, there are devastated LSD victims in wheelchairs, while the recent craze for ketamine has involved extreme bladder problems and stomach operations for young victims. The new age now features teen sufferers with incontinence. Also in evidence are daily “recreational” users of skunk cannabis who favour the popular “shift in worldview.” They are unable to stop their drug habit, which can prove deadly, being only a step away from cocaine and heroin.
The main subject of the Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer was a former member of the SMN, whose situation (as a relative of mine) I was closely familiar with. Jean Shepherd (Kate Thomas) suffered discrimination because she was a critic of drug use. The agent of cordon here was Findhorn Foundation Trustee Janice Dolley, a close colleague of David Lorimer. The victim expressed the opposing view that drug experiences are counterfeit, comprising a delusion of “spirituality” for the partisans, and a misleading cue to addiction for the clientele. However, the critic was downgraded by the SMN in favour of Grof’s academic disciple Christopher Bache, an exponent of psychedelic neoshamanism. 
The Bache encounter with LSD involved a major problem: “I interrupted my work [for seven years] because the extreme nature of the states I was entering became too stressful for my family to endure” (Bache, Dark Night, Early Dawn, SUNY Press 2000, p. 311 note 10). Anomalously, the academic drug advocates deny causing any complication, talking of their “moderate” usage as distinct from street excesses. The pro-cannabis refrains of Tart, and the LSD lore of Grof and Bache, have been very influential, permeating counterculture with false concepts, thereby assisting drug-pushers on the street.
The academic drug advocates are viewed by citizen philosophy as “shallow mystics who invent a form of specious logic that misleads thousands and millions of people deceived by prestigious credentials” (Shepherd, Some Philosophical Critiques and Appraisals, 2004, p. 50).
In the strongly contested new age, Scientific and Medical now signifies evasion, commercial “workshops,” Jung lore, and psychedelic theory. The “new world” orientation leads to a blind alley of “channelling” delusion, hallucination, visits to real medics for assistance in survival, aversion to criticism  in the interests of income and economic expansion, and  a  neglect of ethical considerations.

Kevin R. D. Shepherd

ENTRY no. 53

Copyright © 2013 Kevin R. D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved

Pseudomysticism and Cults

By Andrew Cohen, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Findhorn Foundation, neo-Advaita, Rajneeshpuram

Rajneeshpuram in Oregon, 1980s

The stance of an analytical citizen philosopher does not mean any form of convergence with popular beliefs. Quite to the contrary, at least in my case. Philosophy denotes a discipline of mind and exposition. Compromises are potentially disastrous.

I believe that the viable form of philosophical exercise extends to psychology, sociology, logic, language, history, biography, metaphysics, and yet other channels of analysis. For instance, the difficult subject of metaphysics is no barrier to philosophical commitment, and can be argued for and against with many permutations. To be convincing, the subject has to be closely argued with due reference points. This is just not the same procedure as one tends to find in the widespread “alternative thought” clichés so closely associated with the confusing post-1950s American “new spirituality” trend.

The 1960s “Me” decade of pseudo-enlightenment left ongoing symptoms of debility in contemporary thinking processes. Simplistic refrains are still taken for granted; the word “therapy” is dominant  in too many versions of supposed spirituality. Countercultural Americans of the neo-hippy ambience elevated therapy to the status of a mystical achievement. The Esalen commerce in alternative thought disliked philosophical rigour, which was and is unfashionable in sectors of “Inner Science” and related claims.


The general confusion is staggering when duly analysed. The field under discussion is ripe for linguistic and other forms of appraisal, which could perhaps never be exacting enough at the present time. The idioms employed to capture commercial therapy clients and nominally “holistic” subscribers have been nauseating for many years. The pseudo-holistic commercial adventure so frequently subsists upon banal language and suggestion.

The “workshop” vogue was imported from America to Britain and Europe, providing a career income for numerous entrepreneurs in the spurious esoteric. Some of this is on detailed record. The surfeits of pop-mysticism are not merely erratic, but totally misleading in too many instances. For some indications, see Stephen J. Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (Forres: New Media, 1996), chapter six; also Findhorn Foundation Commercial Mysticism (2008).

Another pitfall was supplied by the “guru cults” and related phenomena. These have varied from relatively harmless religious sects to predatory activities, also suppressive strategies conducted against dissidents. An early danger signal was afforded by the Rajneesh sect, which transplanted to Oregon from India in the 1980s, creating the intended city known as Rajneeshpuram.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) became noted for his sponsorship of reckless alternative therapy of the neo-Reichian type. This activity was strongly implicated as one factor causing belligerent attitudes within the sect at Oregon, where a group of Rajneeshi women resorted to terrorist acts of food-poisoning in the local area. The American authorities had to intervene, with the consequence that Rajneesh was deported. See further Professor Lewis F. Carter, Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram (Cambridge University Press, 1990). 

Relevant is an account of discrepancies in the activity of “neo-Advaita” and “crazy wisdom” guru Andrew Cohen. See William Yenner, American Guru (2009). Yenner was a leading participant in Cohen’s community EnlightenNext for thirteen years. A related website describes the book as “documenting a history of abuses that Cohen and many of his current devotees have gone to great lengths to conceal.” See also the review by Professor David Lane.

My first three websites profiled some anomalies in the popular field of presumed “spirituality.” Psychologists, psychiatrists, medics, victim support organisations, and yet other agencies, have been concerned at the drawbacks in evidence, which amount to rather more than the well known controversies about Scientology. 

In future, it is not the claims to prowess that must be taken seriously, but the visible repression of dissidents by any suspect organisation. There is the further complication of extremist verbal aggression displayed towards outsiders by sectarian believers. See Internet Terrorist and Hate Campaign Blogs.

Kevin R. D. Shepherd
March 5th 2010

ENTRY no. 14

Copyright © 2010 Kevin R. D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved.