It’s a long time since I’ve spent a whole week at a conference or event. Bizarrely, life just seems to get even more frantic as I get older, with the available time sliced and allocated in ever more parsimonious packages. So how can I account for spending a week at the recent ‘New Story Summit’ in Findhorn?

The principal reason lies in the title. Ever since I read Thomas Berry’s amazing book, ‘The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future’ back in 1999, I’ve been something of a New Story groupie. Simply said:

‘The universe story is the quintessence of reality. We perceive the story. We put it in our language, the birds put it in theirs, and the trees put it in theirs. We can read the story of the universe in the trees. Everything tells the story of the universe. The winds tell the story, literally, not just imaginatively. The story has its imprint everywhere, and that is why it’s so important to know the story. If you do not know the story, in a sense you do not know yourself; you do not know anything.’

I’m persuaded by this proposition. Indeed, I believe it’s primarily because we don’t have any real sense of what and who we are, as a species and as individuals, that we’re so vulnerable both to ideological extremes of every kind, and to the kind of crass, escapist consumerism that stunts people’s imagination and kills off any idea of higher purpose.

I know that sounds all very highfalutin’. But would we really be living the way we do today if we hadn’t been hollowed out by the deceptions and illusions of the Old Story – one of exploitation, domination, subjugation of the Earth, colonialism, materialism, growth-at-all-costs, and so on?

There are many definitions of what the New Story is all about, most of which start by locating us firmly in the still-unfolding span of 13.8 billion years of the history of the universe. But it remains a slippery notion, hard to pin down, let alone to articulate in such a way as to breathe new life into the efforts of all those seeking a radical, progressive overhaul of today’s orthodox models of progress. So for me, this New Story Summit presented a fantastic opportunity for moving things forward on that front.

And the second reason for being there is that I’m a Fellow of the Findhorn Foundation, and it was at a Fellows’ meeting two years ago (celebrating the Foundation’s 50th Anniversary) that the idea of the New Story Summit was first mooted.

And it was an amazing week. More than 320 remarkable people, from 50 different countries – artists and activists, star-gazers and navel-gazers, elders and young people in like measure. There were representatives of indigenous people from countries all over the world, who improvised a number of moving and powerful rituals, reminding us of the appeal of ancient stories, surviving and still inspiring, against the odds, despite everything our old story (the one that has laid waste to the world since the start of the industrial revolution) has chucked at them. It’s fair to say that there was something of a ‘rite of passage’ about the week as a whole.

(Given all those linguistic tensions between ancient, old and new, a number of people hijacked a rather more timeless alternative from Peru: ‘the Story that Serves’.)

But it wasn’t all sweetness and crisp Highland light. People had signed up to be there for very different reasons, not all of which were entirely compatible. Our infinitely patient facilitators sometimes struggled to find common ground, let alone consensus.

And there wasn’t enough on how best to bring the story to life beyond that somewhat charmed circle. I had to repress the occasional urge to leap to my feet and point out that the planet was still burning outside, and that we’d hardly made a start on deciding how best to put the New Story to use, to transform a world almost entirely in thrall to today’s old, life-crushing but still frighteningly resilient story.

A small group of us did spend a bit of time analysing that old story, but it’s far too depressing a picture to share with you here. And we only went through that somewhat masochistic exercise to do a better job of surfacing at least some of the core assumptions that underpin the new story – as Thomas Berry so eloquently mapped out back in 1999. This is what we came up with, to be built on, of course:



The New Story Summit represents the start of an exciting process which will reach out far beyond the confines of Findhorn. Check out