The staff of the Chisholme Institute form an Intentional Community. This is a planned residential community designed to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. We work together to support the aims of the Institute. Like the students, the staff at Chisholme live, work and practice together.

Meet the Chisholme Institute Directors

Current staff

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Andrew Forsythe
Estate and Grounds

A tireless worker, Andy mows the grass, cares for the chickens and helps our visiting volunteers.

What can I say? I am from the Scottish Borders. I was expelled from school at fifteen and spent most of my youth in and out of jail. I finally straighten out and worked as a painter and decorator for some years. A change in my career took me to working on estates as a gamekeeper and in estate maintenance in different parts of Scotland. Somewhat disillutioned with the UK I moved to Canada, and there I worked painting skyscrapers in Toronto. I then moved to rural Ontario where I won a bar on the flip of a coin. Tails... I won!!! After a few hard slogging years at that I sold the business and went to live on a Native Indian Reservation with the Mohawk warriors, and returned to Hawick in 2009.

I was a volunteer at Artbeat Studios helping people with physical or mental difficulties. After squatting in a property in town for four years I was evicted and on the streets again. A friend told me about Chisholme House and I was fortunate enough to do a six-month course there. Doing the course was an amazing journey into my truer self. I now work there maintaining the lawns, splitting wood, and looking after the chickens. Its a great place to work and I really enjoy the study sessions.

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Ciska Gault

I was asked to introduce myself; so here goes “my name is Ciska Gault.” For years and years I would quickly add “and I am a maths teacher” or “and I am Dutch” or “and I am Huw's / Sanne's mother” or “and I am Richard's wife” – almost as if 'just being me' was not enough.

It is Richard who introduced me to Beshara and Chisholme, who organised for both of us to do the First (6 months) Course in 1989, and who was the reason to bring me back to Chisholme in 2016. A year apart was long enough!

I am still the proud mum of Huw and Sanne, and the grateful wife of Richard. I do not work as a maths teacher any longer – and I am very happy to consider myself a student once more.

Lately I have taken on the role of housekeeper at Chisholme, a task which is way beyond my comfort zone, but which I am finding immensely enjoyable.

Please come, visit, and enjoy the beautiful rooms, the linens and fine crockery, the lovely nooks & crannies and the pictures, not only in the main house but also in the cottages and the steading guest rooms. With love, Ciska

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Eleanor Wray

Eleanor has been the Gardener at Chisholme since April 2016.

Eleanor graduated in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University, and went on to work for Oxford University Press as a Marketing Assistant in Summer 2015. She volunteered as a Kitchen Assistant at Chisholme in December 2015, and was then asked to join the staff as Secretary. Near the end of March, an opportunity to work part-time in the garden came up and she leapt at the chance. After two weeks, she was offered a full-time position, and since the beginning of April, has been working there, helping provide food for the kitchen and passing on what she has learned to volunteers and students.

"Working in the kitchen garden has given me the chance to connect with nature in a way I've never experienced before. From the variety of plants growing in the polytunnels to the cygnets on the loch, I get to watch the way life flourishes every day. It helped me realise how important growing your own food is. We know exactly where our food comes from, how it is grown, what techniques are used and, in one way or another, every one of us here at Chisholme has helped to make this happen."

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Geoff Flowers
Maintenance Manager

Geoff does everything from mending a boiler to changing a lightbulb.

Geoff (Jethro) graduated as a civil engineer from Liverpool University and then spent 25 years as a highway contractor in England and the Middle East. He has been the maintenance manager since 2000. Having built a log-framed house in the grounds he intends to live on at Chisholme with his wife, Jili, even after his retirement.

“After working so long for commercial concerns, being here has brought a wonderful difference to my life. There is the peace, the strong sense of real service and I love meeting all the fascinating people who come on courses or come to volunteer. I would not want to leave - but anyway my house is here and my motorbike!”

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Richard Gault

Richard has been principal since 1 October 2015.

Richard (Khaliq) has been principal since 1 October 2015. He has a Ph.D from Strathclyde University, Glasgow, gained for his studies of nursing. He has taught at universities in Ireland, Germany and Holland as well as Scotland. As an academic his main interest was the Philosophy of Technology. Following his retirement as a lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam he was invited to take up the role of principal of the Chisholme Institute thirty years after he first studied here. He is married with three grown-up children. He is a keen curler, canoeist and hill walker.

“Working in universities I saw how they increasingly moved away from offering true education. They are largely concerned with training or with instructing students in what to think. Chisholme, by contrast, opens up its students’ minds as well as their hearts. It’s a real education for life.”

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Shane Jagger
Resident poet R.I.P. (1960–14 June 2017)

Shane's book 'My Heart is Too Big for My Pacemaker', poems and selected writings, is now in its second edition.

Shane (Wakil) Jagger was drawn to poetry early in his life. Influenced by the work of Dylan Thomas, Christy Brown, Wilfred Owen, TS Eliott and Walter de la Mare he wrote a number of poems but, deciding that they were too self-centred, burned them and planted potatoes in their ashes. When he dug up the potatoes he boiled and served them with mint and butter and re- members them as the most delicious he had ever eaten.

This collection of poems is especially inspired by the mystical poetry of Ibn ‘Arabi and Jalal al-Din Rumi. Shane was introduced to their works in the late 1970’s as a student of the Beshara School at Chisholme House. Shane was looking for a quality in life that was more meaningful, and he found it there. Stimulated by being with like-minded people and inspired by the clarity of the material that he studied he remained at Chisholme House, becoming a cook and working in the kitchen there for twenty years.

Shane discovered a greater beauty in his life. He began to feel freer to express himself through his writing. It was essential to him to use his own words, to find his own truth through the thoughts that arose in his mind, which flowed in a rhythm that reminded him of his love of melodic music.

Shane says that the words came easily as if writing for someone he loved. He believes that the inspiration came from something far beyond him. When he reads the poems he asks himself ‘How do I know that?’ Shane acknowledges this mystery saying: ‘I don’t own these poems, they come through me, rather than written by me’.

You can order the 2nd Edition of Shane's book here

Sadly Shane passed away early on Wednesday morning, 14 June, 2017 after a long and debilitating illness. He will be greatly missed.

Visiting Staff

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Prof. Alan Williams
Visiting speaker

Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at The University of Manchester

  • MA in Oriental Studies (Persian and Arabic) (Oxford),
  • PhD in Iranian Studies (SOAS, London)
  • Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion
  • Head of Religions and Theology in the School of Arts Histories and Cultures 2008-2011
  • Joined the University of Manchester in 1985

Prof Williams is the editor of Rumi: Spiritual Verses (Penguin Classics 2006) and the author of The Vision of Rumi: Revealing the Masnavi, Persia's Great Masterpiece (IB Tauris). He presented the Beshara Lecture 2016 at St Ethelburga’s Centre, London and again at Chisholme.

In June 2016 Alan led a one-week seminar at Chisholme, Rumi: The Text as Teacher with the musicologist Rokus de Groot. Read more here.

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Avi Abadi
Visiting speaker

Avi has been a student of Ibn ‘Arabi’s works for many years.


John Brass
Visiting course facilitator

John Brass is a conservator in gilding and carving.

John Brass is the author of Fish See Water: A Treatise on Gilding.
He studied Fine Art at Canterbury College of Art and then taught painting. In his early twenties he came upon Beshara where he began studying the works of Ibn 'Arabi.
He attended both the preliminary and the advanced six-month Residential Retreat Courses at the Beshara School of Intensive Esoteric Education, under the direction of Bulent Rauf, and then joined the staff as a course supervisor. John works as a conservator in gilding and carving for the colleges of Oxford University.

Read his personal tribute to Bulent Rauf, founder of the school at Chisholme, here.

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John Brix
Visiting chef

John cooks for everyone at Chisholme most weekends with locally sourced fish on Saturdays and a traditional Sunday roast.

John has loved cooking from an early age, inspired first by his mother and later by Bulent Rauf. He has worked professionally for many years and although now retired, brings his experience and love of the art of cooking to Chisholme most weekends. Two of his signature Saturday fish dishes can be found on the blog here and again here. His traditional Sunday roasts use local organic chicken and lamb from Mary Howlett and, from time to time, local pheasant and venison. John's roast potatoes simply must be tasted!

Note: Chisholme is not vegetarian but meat is prepared with the deepest respect for its benefit and origin. Meanwhile vegetarian dishes comprise the majority of the food served during the week and are always available as an option, even on Sundays.

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Dr Lloyd Ridgeon
Visiting speaker

Dr Lloyd Ridgeon is Reader in Islamic Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Dr Lloyd Ridgeon is involved in research on Islamic history, theology and politics; Classical and Modern Sufism; Iranian history and culture, and Persian literature at the University of Glasgow, School of Critical Studies. He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Sufism, and one of the foremost UK scholars in the field of Sufi thought.

He recently contributed to an edition of the BBC Radio 4 program In Our Time about the poetry of Rumi, along with Alan Williams and Carole Hillenbrand.

Read more about his talk at Chisholme on The Life and Times of Awhad al-Din Kirman.

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Marijke Kretzers
Director, On-line Courses

Merijke supervises our worldwide on-line courses.

Marijke was born and raised in the Netherlands. During her time of studying and painting at art school profound questions arose about the meaning and purpose of life. In the search for self knowledge she came into contact with the Beshara School in the United Kingdom in 1975. Since then Marijke has been involved with various courses and retreats at the Chisholme Institute in Scotland, where she helped design and develop the online study courses. Marijke has also followed a mindfulness teaching course with IAM (Instituut voor Aandacht en Mindfulness) in Belgium.

Integrating the spiritual way into daily life in the Netherlands, Marijke has facilitated evening courses in study and meditation as well as 8-week mindfulness courses in Maastricht, NL. She restores paintings and is married, a mother of two sons and a grandmother.

"Life and it’s unfolding in many aspects is every day a new beginning; an interesting challenge, invitation and gift of love."

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Peter Young
School Principal 1984–2015

Peter was the Principal at Chisholme from 1984 to 2015 and he continues to lecture and supervise courses at Chisholme and worldwide.

Peter (Hakim) studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge, and Ottoman Turkish at Oxford. For a time, he worked as a psychiatric nurse and later ran his own building company. In the mid-seventies he came to the Beshara School at Chisholme as a student, undertaking two intensive retreat courses under the supervision of the late Bulent Rauf.

He was principal of the school from 1984–2015, devoting his life to serving the school and its students. Recently he led the development of new study and retreat courses in both self-enquiry and self-knowledge (Discovering Unity), and he continues to lecture and supervise courses at Chisholme and worldwide. He is married and has four children and several grandchildren and now lives in Edinburgh.


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‘What a gift, what a great human!’, writes Richard Twinch in his obituary for Mansura Brenda Thomas, who passed away on July 7th 2017.


Wed 20th September 2017 19:00 to
Sun 24th September 2017 14:00

A four-day seminar with Colin Tudge


Sat 30th September 2017

Join a team of volunteers for a week of satisfying work on the beautiful Chisholme estate.


Mon 16th October 2017 18:00 to
Fri 24th November 2017 14:00

What does it mean to be human? How do we relate to ourselves, to others, to the world?