The birth of Odyssey, a holistic lifestyle magazine, is a story of faith, manifestation and a profound connection to Friends of the Findhorn Foundation and co-founders Peter and Eileen Caddy.
It was 43 years ago on 7 July that the influential South African magazine appeared – just a few short weeks after founding editor Jill Iggulden Stevens felt her first stirrings of inspiration. And pivotal was a Findhorn Foundation workshop in Cape Town run by the Caddys.
She recalls: “The inspiration to start such a magazine came to me in February 1977 while putting together a booklet for adult pupils who had just learnt to read through a literacy training programme. I so enjoyed organising the material submitted by the other teachers and writing the editorials to motivate the newly-literate readers, that I thought how wonderful it would be to bring out a magazine with articles on religious philosophy, new approaches to education, alternative technology, parapsychology, holistic healing and the inter-relationship between thought and manifestation.”
An added motive, although she didn’t express it publicly at the time, was to help raise the consciousness of South African voters and bring an end to Apartheid.
Jill says that it was difficult then to find stories on spiritual subjects, but the following month the project received a dramatic kickstart when Peter and Eileen Caddy ran the Findhorn workshop.
“During the lunch break I approached Peter to tell him what I intended and to ask his advice. Without hesitation, he said: ‘You must set a date and stick to it. When we go back into the hall, you must stand up and make an announcement.’
“Immediately after the announcement, we had several people offer their support, notably Simone Williams, a yoga teacher and journalist, who became a permanent member of the team. We also received donations towards initial costs in the form of pre-publication subscriptions. Certain that the publication would generate the income necessary to sustain its growth, our group of ‘midwives’ set to work.”
With a printing company lined up, and a groundswell of goodwill generated from the Findhorn workshop, the seeds of manifestation went into overdrive and Odyssey was launched on July 7, going on sale at selected news outlets, health shops and bookstores throughout the country.
Forty three years later she looks back with awe and gratitude. “The magazine’s relatively painless birth could not have happened under normal circumstances. We had been told that it took at least two years to establish a market for a new magazine and that one needed a lot of funding. Odyssey’s only assets were a typewriter and a homemade lightbox.”
A turning point in her life had arrived in 1974 when a very close friend drowned in the ocean. “I was devastated and I was invited to join a spiritual enquiry group run by Hazel Tops at her home.
“After a reading entitled In Search for God, we discussed the topic as we shared our thoughts and experiences within the context of a holistic body, mind, and soul evolving consciousness. Besides the weekly meetings, we frequently interacted with members of several other alternative groups, including The Friends of Findhorn run by Katherine Inglis.”
Later while searching fruitlessly for a magazine that would keep her up to date on New Age philosophies, it occurred to her that with her alternative contacts she could start one. She put the idea forward at the next meeting. The group was enthusiastic and encouraged her to give it serious thought. That was in February 1977.
The following month she met the Caddys. “My meeting with Peter and Eileen was inspirational in that they demonstrated that, when we allow our actions to be governed by the ‘still small voice’, all our daily needs (material and spiritual) will be met provided we channel our energies into doing what we have to do, well and with love.”
The message was reinforced by Mahala Harrison of the Johannesburg-based Friends of Findhorn group. In response to Jill’s request for financial advice, she wrote: “If you can grasp the fact that matter is energy brought to a point of visibility, and that thoughts can influence energy, then you have the key to that which makes anything possible.”
Perhaps surprisingly Jill’s only visit to Findhorn was in the 1980s while touring the Highlands with a view to living in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen. “Realising how close I was to Findhorn I decided to visit Katherine Inglis unannounced. However, she was not there at the time. I did see her daughter Mary and I remember joining a meditation group in the hall.”
In August 1984, Jill relinquished control of Odyssey and after spending many years abroad, lived near Durban for a while and finally returned to Cape Town in 2018.
Today she’s a fit and healthy 85, and a regular columnist to the magazine.