Queer Spiritual Spaces
This part of the project looks at the place of New Age spirituality in the lives of LGBTQI people. The Findhorn community has been chosen because it is widely recognised as one of the UK's oldest and most successful spiritual communities. Alternative spirituality, unlike traditional religion, sees all life as divine, including the human self. With the right approach everyone has the potential to contact the divinity within. The Findhorn community has been working with this principle of inner listening for over 40 years. The idea that people are divine is in contrast to that of most traditional religions which locate the essence of holiness in an external deity or God. Thus, unlike traditional religions, which are about controlling the self according to externally given disciplines, New Age spirituality celebrates all aspects of the self, including sexuality, as potentially divine.
In June I spent a week in Findhorn and did six further interviews with people who included community members, Foundation staff and visitors. A second focus group took place and involved visitors participating in the Foundation's introductory workshop, experience week. Thanks go to all these people for their time and willingness to talk so openly with me about their experiences and perceptions, particularly the visitors on what is a very fully timetable workshop. I hope you enjoyed the chocolate biscuits guys! For the last 2-3 weeks I have been transcribing the interviews and focus groups. I would still love to hear from anyone interested in the project who has some connection with the Findhorn community or with alternative spirituality. And please log on to the forums and join in the discussions there.
Three interviews and one focus group with wider community members of the Findhorn spiritual community were conducted at the start of May. Further interviews and a second focus groups are currently being arranged for June, to include members of the Foundation and wider community, and visitors.
The Findhorn Foundation and community was founded in 1962. It's aim was to demonstrate a new way of living in harmony with nature and with others who shared similar beliefs. Despite the loss of the original founders and several changes in organizational structure the community continues to attract thousands of visitors each year and has a permanent population of around 500 people who all claim some sort of association with the spiritual aims of the Foundation. The Foundation, the largest organization in the community, is an educational centre providing workshops and retreats for around 10,000 visitors annually. The wider community is composed of small businesses, charities and individuals experimenting with new forms of living consciously with nature through various environmental, economic, social and political decision-making bodies.
The community's original aims of creating a new way of life in cooperation with nature have gradually given way to a more educational purpose. This means that large numbers of people 'pass through' the community, rather than making it their permanent home. Thus there are always visitors arriving, particularly during the summer.
The Foundation is located at two 'campuses'; one at 'The Park' and the other in Forres. Wider community members and businesses are more widely scattered over an area of a 50-mile radius from the Park. The Foundation is a founder-member of the Global Ecovillages Network, and is a non-government organization associated with the UN.
If you would like to get involved you should have some affiliation with New Age spirituality, and identify in some way with alternative sexualities/gender identities. Your first step would then be to contact a member of the project team, via the Contact page. You will be given an information sheet about the project and a consent form to fill in. You will be free to withdraw at any time without giving a reason.
If you take part you will be asked questions about your spiritual and sexual/gender identities and experiences. This may be in-depth individual interviews with a researcher, as part of a group or online. You can participate in a way that suits you.
Anything you say will be kept confidential and you will not be identified in any publications resulting from this study (unless you want to be).