Intentional Communities

Further to my article The Old Dream, Perceptio has written Corporate Association and Intentional Communities. It is remarkably astute, and the notion of “intentional community” harks back to the attention I gave to Christian and non-Christian communities. Many are models of ecology and environmentalism – with which I sympathise. Some live in old mansions, modern eco-friendly buildings, and others in forests or some other natural site in improvised wooden constructions and yurts. Public planning authorities have been known to be hostile to these unconventional initiatives, but there are signs that things are changing for the better if initiatives are carefully planned and shown to be sound.

Here are some of my older postings:

I am a little more sceptical, especially as I bring back my old memories of Wennington School. Someone has to be a leader whilst the others in the community have to take their own responsibilities. Fallen human nature enters the picture, as does concupiscence for power, money and sex (as a means of conquest and dominance over others). All of a sudden, the community collapses and someone is left with the duty of picking up the pieces.

If Christianity has any credible future in the West, it is not in a cultural or sociological model. It is more along the lines of intentional communities (perhaps a new monasticism) that deliberately blur the tired distinctions between Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. Ultimately, the principles binding the three together are more persuasive than the at times exaggerated distinctions between them.

The problem with such an idea of a community is that it would fail to be accepted by any institutional Church, and that’s when people get cold feet – and we are back to square one. Monasteries are quite unpleasant places. Of course there is the physical discomfort of being cold and starved of sleep (and food to an extent). There is above all the fact that a monastery only works because it is run like a totalitarian cult. A Benedictine abbot put it to me exactly in those terms! Someone enters the system in full knowledge of what he’s doing, via the novitiate and temporary vows, so that gets the system off the hook. Any human community runs on the reptilian instincts of dominance, self-defence and sex. Monasteries are no exception even if sexuality is sublimated in some way. Six months at Triors convinced me that a monastic vocation was out of the question. I never even considered it.

The ecological and non-religious intentional communities (see Diggers and Dreamers) seem for the most part to have been successful in implementing a democratic structure like traditional tribes, so that dominant individuals can’t seize power and corrupt the whole. This needs to be studied. I would have greater trust in a community that is not Christian but secular, and in which all spiritual and religious expressions are tolerated and allowed to flourish as private initiatives. Secularism does take away the political power which is not appropriate for communities gathered for spiritual purposes – and that has shown proven success as long as atheism is not the “default” and “official” “religion” of the group. That is the problem with French laïcisme. Impartiality is difficult to gain except perhaps through a genuinely democratic structure. Therefore, the intentional community would be built on other principles, such as a new way for man to share life with nature, a humanist philosophy and a protest against the modern “mega” system of nations, empires, the European Union, etc.

Any attempt to make Christianity into a human community contains the seeds of its degradation into political ideology and intolerance. It is just a matter of degree. I believe that Christianity as a political ideology (the word used in its purest and etymological meaning) has no future. It cannot be totalitarian enough! Islam would do the job better in the way it happens in Saudi Arabia, Iran, territories occupied by Daesh and other terrorist organisations, and other places where life is like it was in the seventeenth century in western Europe and before the Enlightenment. That is why western liberalism seems to be supporting such a transition (as well as curbing the threat of the Extreme-Right). Christianity as a political ideology has failed, because it has been used for purposes for which it was never designed. That is why Islam has always fought to take its place.

Humanism has its limits, and seems to be something that is passing away into history. Unfortunately, it was only of passing value. We have to return to darkness – as I read in Berdyaev’s theory about the “New Middle Age”. This sounds incredibly pessimistic, perhaps even pathological, but it isn’t. I am being realistic about the general situation. On the other hand, it is an opportunity for each of us in the last few years we have in this world to find and discover the divine image within us, and thus enter into a new and wonderful world.

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