In 1959, Dorothy Maclean lost her job at a Highland hotel with just four hours notice. With nowhere else to turn she and her friends Peter and Eileen Caddy along with their three children, moved into a single caravan on a site near the village of Findhorn in Moray.

This twist of fate was to be the starting point of the Scottish spiritual community and ecovillage, the Findhorn Foundation. Now the only surviving founder is preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday next week.

More than 30,000 visitors have attended workshops and conferences held at the Findhorn Foundation, which is now the largest eco-village in the UK.

Many of the teachings and philosophies shared there are an extension of Ms Maclean’s discoveries on the themes of inner listening and co-creation with nature.

Ms Maclean was born in Guelph, Ontario. She was a nature-loving child with an enthusiasm for Badminton.

She studied business at the University of Western Ontario before moving to New York to take up a position as a secretary for the British Security Coordination Service. She later transferred to their Panama office where she met the man who would introduce her to spirituality.

John Wood introduced her to Sufism, a form of Islamic mysticism that encourages believers to seek the truth of divine love and knowledge through a close personal relationship to God through introspection.

The couple married and they travelled extensively, arriving in London during the Blitz.

Until the end of the war, Ms Maclean worked at the Counter-Espionage Section of British Intelligence.

During her time in London, Ms Maclean became involved in a spiritual group through a friend Sheena Govan. It was here, in the early 1950s, that she met the Caddys.

Shortly afterwards, in 1954, Ms Maclean had her first spiritual experience which she has described as “experiencing the God within”, which she called a “vast unity”.

After taking up a regular meditation practice, she found she could connect to this ‘source’ which led her further along a spiritual path - the essence which she believed was love and could be connected to through the practical.

After she and the Caddys lost their positions at the Cluny Hill Hotel in Forres, Ms Maclean meditated, honing her inner listening and connecting to a higher power.

In 1963, during her usual morning sitting, Ms Maclean heard a directive to commune with the intelligence of nature, which she cultivated at Findhorn leading to the development of a world-renowned garden that brought forth an abundance of fruit and vegetables including the famous 40 pound cabbages and winter-flowering roses - said to have grown by summoning “nature spirits”.

Ms Maclean has authored a number of books which have been translated into many other languages including her autobiography, Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic and To Hear the Angels sing, which details her contact with angels and mystical beings.

After leaving the community in 1973 and helped to found American spiritual group, the Lorien Association before travelling the world teaching others how to connect with their divinity.

Friend and spiritual philosopher David Spangler said: “[Dorothy is] down-to-earth, practical, not given to glamour, nevertheless she has learned to expand her spirit and step beyond the purely human points of view without abandoning them either. Knowing her has been a great privilege in my life.”

Once ridiculed for its ethos of spirituality and environmentalism, Findhorn Ecovillage is now regarded a model for sustainable living.

The 61-home village has solar panels, wind turbines to generate electricity, organic gardens and a waste water treatment system that was the first of its kind in Europe.

The foundation offers year-round workshops, both at the community and online, addressing policy development and technical issues related to climate change, renewable energies, biodiversity and low-carbon housing, while other events include celebrating Celtic festivals and community building.

Now serving a community of around 500, the foundation holds the UN Habitat Best Practice designation and is co-founder of the Global Ecovillage Network and Holistic Centres Network.

In 2004 a report by Moray, Badenoch and Strathspey Enterprise said that Findhorn was worth £5m a year and supported 300 jobs.