Sunday, January 16, 2011

True Community-Why and How?

Over the past year, I have been getting to know a group known as “The Community”. About 20 individuals live closely together in two houses, on 5 acres with gardens, outbuildings, storage areas and a classroom; there is also a sister group in New Mexico of about 30 individuals, where they have achieved almost total self-sufficiency. The group’s Teacher is a student of Gurdjieff who has created a framework for community around his teachings and modified the ideas around movement and dance, for the purpose of awakening and channeling vital energy, to include a running focus. As part of this process, Yo has taken some very ordinary humans and turned them into world class champion runners, specializing in winning “ultra-marathons” (races of 50 to 100 miles).

Every dinner is prepared by a small team and then eaten together as a group in the evening. Everyone eats the same food as everyone else, with no exceptions. There are daily/weekly schedules of work and recreational activities – everyone has a role and plays their part without objection. If someone decides they don’t want to be a part of the daily routine, they will leave the group. Bottom line, I have found this group to be an inspiration, and they have formed a very successful community through their daily practices of ego surrender and an unwavering focus on service to each other.

“...tens of thousands of small communities all over the world are trying to experiment with new ways of life, but most of them are failing...There is a need to associate... but unless a group or community has a higher purpose it is not possible for it to have equilibrium. If it is not a work group, it cannot maintain itself, because then the disruptive forces have nothing to balance them...if people say that there is something to be done, and if they all know that for it to be done it requires a community, then it can work...”

Needs of a New Age Community, J.G. Bennett, 1977

About 2.5 years ago, I decided I wanted to join a “community” that was centered in the place founded by my Teacher. I spent over $100K building a home at the Farm and was so busy with that project and running my own business in another State that I failed to notice something really important – the “community” I thought I was joining wasn’t any kind of cohesive group organized around the teachings at all, but more like a loosely organized “neighborhood”. After months of observation, and then being confronted with a basis for comparison through "The Community" described above, I suddenly realized there was no organized focus on living or learning the teachings, very few scheduled work activities with full participation expected from all the beneficiaries of the labors of a core group, not even agreement from many of the residents about why they were even living there (other than cheap rent!), and membership in the School our Teacher founded is no longer even required to take up residence. Our teacher even talked about the exact situation that has evolved since he passed on:

“...a group does not mean just an aggregation of persons on the ‘objective’ level. An aggregation of persons does not constitute a group. When an aggregation of persons on the ‘objective’ level has a cause or an interest held in common, and provided that they are all working for a purpose or cause or interest, there will emerge out of that aggregation of persons a ‘group spirit’. But an aggregation of persons where all are at sixes-and-sevens with each other will never form a group – never!”

--Excerpt from Membership Letters by Vitvan

Why is any of this relevant or even important here at Siamese Mirrors? Because I believe Les Visible has the right ideas about forming a group of like-minded individuals who are no longer interested in playing a mindless part in the current scheme of things – a group of capable, functional people who want a better, more sustainable existence and who want to feel like they are part of something with a higher purpose. Les outlined some good ideas about forming a “working group” in the post labeled ‘Getting Serious About Our Potential’ on 12/15/10:

“... a residential community with artistic and agrarian aspects devoted to a general consciousness raising and melding for the purpose of unveiling potential and realizing it, as well as having a good time... a teaching environment and a learning environment, without any specific or hierarchal separations as to the roles or importance of them... this community will possess living areas and the usual amenities along with a commercial kitchen and the various spin-offs that come out of it. It will have some land for growing things and various educational and recreational possibilities... This community should not only be self-sustaining but show a certain amount of profit in every available area...”

The vision as described by Visible appears to have potential to succeed, because it will be started from individuals who share similar viewpoints and clear awareness about the present worldly scheme of things along witha desire for a more spiritual existence, who will be working together to create something fresh and real. There are those of us who are very aware of a strong spiritual influence which is making us clearly see that things are not as they should be. It is past time to start cooperating with this Force and become its instruments of power and constructive change. However, as Bennett discusses in his book, it is not enough to form a viable community where the participants ‘tolerate’ each other and “live together because they have an interesting and diversified life. Beyond that, it is necessary to give all of us the confidence that there is a ‘higher power’, a spiritual power working in the world with which we can cooperate, that is helping us, that is concerned with the future of mankind...”

“Man didn’t come into this world for nothing. Man is an extraordinary achievement that has required long and difficult preparation. This achievement is not complete. It would be quite a considerable cosmic disaster if this experiment with man on this earth were to fail, and for this reason much is being done to prevent this experiment from failing – not because man deserves to survive, but because he is really needed.” (J.G. Bennett, Page 89)

In closing, I would highly recommend the referenced book by J.G. Bennett and general study of “Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way” to anyone who is truly interested in learning what it really takes to build a successful “community”. And, for those of us who have expressed an interest or feel drawn towards helping Les Visible make his vision a reality – each of us should ask ourselves, “what can I do right now to get this started?” The tire-kickers over at The New Shangri-La don't appear to be going anywhere, they probably just signed up to see what was going on – we need to form that “core group” that Visible talks about NOW.

As Vitvan once said, “the greatest boon in treading the path is to have the support of a group. Preserve it and cherish it if you ever get it...!”


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Central European Time.