Countercultural activism needs a spiritual home, while religious pluralism needs cultural visionaries, dissenters, and organizers. In some ways such a religious-activist partnership already exists, needing only to be affirmed and nurtured. While there is said to be about 200,000 Unitarian Universalists in the U.S.A., there is no complete accounting of the number of persons living in intentional community, although it is believed that that number is somewhere between 100,000 and 125,000 in the U.S.A, including members of the largest communitarian movement, the Catholic monastic orders. In the definitions used by the School of Intentioneering, “communitarian” and “intentioneer” are the same thing.
Unitarian Universalism (UU) has far fewer members than Catholicism, and fewer than most Protestant denominations. Universalists organized their denomination in America in the 1790s, and Unitarians organized theirs in 1825. The two merged their denominations in 1961 to create the Unitarian Universalist Association. Robert Broderick states in his The Catholic Encyclopedia that the Unitarians’ rejection of the Catholic doctrines of the divinity of Christ and of the Most Holy Trinity, and the Universalists’ belief that “all persons will be saved” from eternal damnation, are heretical. Evangelical, fundamentalist Christians condescendingly, arrogantly, and ironically sometimes call UUism a “cult.” (Broderick, pp. 590-2)
Last year I re-joined my local Unitarian Universalist church after being gone many years, and since the beginning of 2020 I have begun a project which I call “Gifting and Sharing Lifestyles,” setting up a table display at the Sunday services of the First Unitarian Society of Denver about intentional communities (ICs), worker-owned businesses, and similar cooperative and solidarity economy initiatives in the area. I plan to begin a discussion group and other related projects for our Faith-In-Action program. I define ICs as simply people practicing common agreement and collective action while usually living together in either one building or in an “intentional neighborhood.” I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of UU folks who have talked with me about their interest in and experience with intentional community, and the potential for a Unitarian Universalist–communities movement partnership. A primary example of such a partnership is the UU folks in Boston, MA, home of the UU denominational headquarters, who have created an urban community land trust, now with two large buildings, one 11-bedroom and another 15-bedroom, called the UU Community Cooperatives (UUCC).
Also near Boston was the famous 19th century utopian society named Brook Farm (1841-47), founded by a Unitarian minister named George Ripley. Ripley helped develop the concept of New England Transcendentalism, which is defined as there being an inherent divinity within each person which enables thoughtful reasoning as the source of truth and a guide to action. This is opposed to the Christian concept of an external Holy Spirit which must come into the individual, although Transcendentalism is in agreement with the concept in women’s spirituality of immanence, or of grace and wisdom coming from within or through ourselves, grounded in nature.
The second part of the Gifting and Sharing Lifestyles initiative is to encourage people in the IC movement to engage with their local Unitarian Universalist church or fellowship to create UU-IC partnerships, focused initially upon educating UUs and others about ICs in general, and specifically about communities and worker-owned businesses in their particular area. Teaching intentioneers about UUism is also a priority, while creating new UU ICs like UUCC would be a possible later step. In the mean time, my focus is upon further developing the educational initiative I call the “School of Intentioneering.”
It is a problem that different people use the same words to mean different things when talking about intentional communities, and so the School of Intentioneering serves, among other things, to clarify and standardize the terminology. For example, the use by the UUCC of the phrase “community cooperative” confuses the question of how exactly the UUCC houses are legally structured. Since they are incorporated as nonprofit organizations and not as legal cooperatives, they are actually a community land trust, although I have not seen them use that term in their descriptions. They probably use the term “cooperative” because that term is in the name and mission of their primary funding organization, the Cooperative Fund of New England. To resist such confusion in the communities movement I have developed a set of definitions of terms, theories about intentional community versus the dominant culture, an alternative history of gifting and sharing societies in Western Civilization, and various materials on specific concerns such as children in ICs and legal structures used by various types of communities. All of this and more I am making available for a UU educational, networking, and organizing initiative through the Gifting and Sharing Lifestyles project.
Whether or not liberal-religious persons live in community, they develop a partnership between Unitarian Universalists and some of the many socio-cultural movements creating intentional communities when they help to educate people about and support those who are living in community. At the same time there have been efforts on the part of intentioneers to initiate partnerships with UU congregations, since many are supportive of gifting and sharing lifestyles. Good examples of such partnerships are the current UU Community Cooperatives in Roxbury, MA, and the aid given by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville, VA to help build a UU meeting hall at Twin Oaks Community in the early 1970s called the Ta’Chai Living Room.
Many religions, major and minor, have countercultural off-shoots founding intentional communities, like Catholic monasticism and the Protestant/Anabaptist Hutterites, both of which exist today. Many other intentional communities are not as religious as were most of the earlier groups, and today are typically cooperative or collective rather than communal, such as: community land trusts; cohousing communities; and most ecovillages.
A good discussion about the connection between religious traditions like UUism and countercultural radicalism is provided by Dan McKanan in his 2011 book, Prophetic Encounters, in which the author states that, “religious ideals, institutions, and practices have always been intertwined with radical activism. American radicals drew inspiration from religious community … It is common nowadays to speak of a ‘religious Left’ that is distinct from secular radicalism …” McKanan lists several historic campaigns of the American religious Left, including: the abolition of slavery; women’s rights; labor organizing; racism and civil rights; nuclear power and weapons; war; and environmentalism. Intentioneering, or advocating, supporting, and building intentional community, can certainly be added to that list. (McKanan, pp. 4, 8, 55-9, 97-111, 192, 213-14, 231, 253-4, 260-1, 274, passim)
Unitarianism and Monotheism, Christian verses Christian, and the Question of Evil
Although “unity” is an aspect of both unitarianism and of monotheism, the difference between the two is that while unitarianism is monotheist, monotheism is not necessarily unitarian, since monotheism can refer to a multi-part God like Trinitarian Christianity’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and like the Triple Goddess: Maid, Mother, Elder.
There are books explaining why Catholicism settled on the patriarchal Church doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and two of them, by Davis and Pelikan, are in the references. However, before the Council of Nicaea a large part of the Early Christian Church was led by women, with women founders and prophets. The orthodox Catholics wanted women silenced, so to serve the patriarchy the women leaders of the Early Christian Church were pushed aside although not totally forgotten. In the same way, the Jewish communal society called the “Essenes” is rarely mentioned in Jewish or Christian writings of the period. Whether deliberate or not, the Christian-Trinity concept would have overshadowed the much more ancient concept of Goddess-Trinities, comprised of the three life stages of the feminine: maid, mother, and elder; or maid, bride, mother, also reflected in the three phases of the moon: waxing, full, and waning. Elaine Pagels writes that “probably as late as the year 200 virtually all the feminine imagery for God had disappeared from orthodox Christian doctrine.” Christianity succeeded in silencing women within the patriarchal Church, subsuming women’s spirituality in the same way that it adopted many aspects of Paganism. (Durant, 1950, pp. 75, 746; Eisler, p. 25; Gimbutas, 1989, pp. 316; Goettner-Abendroth, pp. 21-2; Harrison, pp. 262, 286-292, 647; Pagels, 1979, p. 57)
Certain religious ideas appear periodically throughout history in different contexts, such as: the idea common to most religions that “God is Light;” the fact that most all religions have an expression of the Golden Rule; the idea that all of humanity exists as a single blessed family; and the idea that all religions come from the same source. While ideas are expressed in different ways, and contexts change over time, essential truths remain relevant. We say it is true, then for us, truth it is!
Some people may believe that unitarianism began with the monotheistic idea of the oneness of God, in response to polytheism’s innumerable gods and goddesses. The Jewish patriarch Abraham and his family may have originated the monotheism idea around 1900 B.C.E. (i.e., Before the Current Era) while living in the ancient Mesopotamian city-state of Ur. They then joined the back-to-the-land movement leaving city life to settle in rural Palestine, with their descendants becoming known as Hebrews or Jews, with a large number residing in Egypt. Later in Egypt the monotheist idea arose again, as the worship of the sun god Ra gradually overshadowed the worship of all other gods and goddesses in polytheist Egypt, until around 1340 B.C.E. when the Pharaoh Akhenaten mandated belief in a single god named Aten. This Egyptian experiment with monotheism ended with the Pharaoh’s death. No connection is asserted between the god Aten and the Hebrew god Yahweh, although for a while both belief systems existed in Egypt at the same time.
The Judeo-Christian concept of evil in the world grew out of the simple dichotomy of good and bad. In Zoroastrian Persian dualism, beginning about 500 B.C.E., a supreme deity creating goodness and justice is named “Ahura Mazda,” and a secondary deity creating greed, anger, lies and other forms of evil is named “Ahriman.” In Zoroastrianism, as in the Judeo-Christian tradition, good overcomes evil. It is believed that Judaism picked up aspects of Persian dualism when the Hebrew people were held captive in Babylon by the Neo-Babylonian Empire from about 605 to 520 B.C.E. The later Jewish Temple-rites dissenters, the Essenes, further developed the dualist concept into a great battle between Light and Darkness to occur at the end of time. Many aspects of Persian dualism entered Christianity, including the names of the angels, the concept of Paradise, the Three Kings of the Orient or Magi in the Jesus’ birth story, and the idea of an End Times battle between Light and Darkness called Armageddon. Manichaeism, which started in Persia in 230 C.E. (i.e., Current Era), “thought to reconcile Christianity and Zoroastrianism, and was bitterly buffeted by both.” (Durant, 1950, p.47) Manichaeism would later influence the Cathari of South France from the 11th to the 14th centuries, against whom the Catholic Church created the Inquisition.
The influence of Persian dualism upon the Judeo-Christian tradition addresses the question of evil with an entity named “Lucifer,” meaning “light-bringer” in Latin (Isaiah 14:12). In The Origin of Satan Elaine Pagels explains that Lucifer was the name of a fallen angel subsequently renamed “Satan,” which Richard Broderick says means “the opponent” or “adversary.” In the Old Testament Book of Job, Satan is God’s obedient servant testing Job’s faith (Job 2:1-7 ). Then in the Book of Zechariah, Satan’s role changes from a servant to an opponent of God. (Zech. 3:1-2) Christianity later picked up this evil Satan concept, added Persian dualism, and created the New Testament “Devil” who is much more powerful and independent than the earlier Jewish concept of a fallen angel still serving God. Both Judaism and Christianity are considered to be monotheistic rather than dualist religions, even though both affirm an evil spiritual entity opposed to a positive, virtuous, righteous spiritual entity. (Broderick, p. 542; Pagels, 1995, pp. xvii, 39)
Many forms of Christianity were created in the Early Christian Church, including unitarianism, later opposed by Trinitarian doctrine as affirmed at the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. Since Early Christian unitarianism and later Catholic Trinitarian Christianity are both monotheistic, the issue in this case is not monotheism versus polytheism or dualism, instead the issue is Trinitarian monotheism versus unitarian monotheism. Confusing?
At the Council of Nicaea, Arius, a priest in Alexandria, Egypt, rejected the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity (i.e., Father, Son, Holy Spirit), insisting through rational argument that God the Creator is a spiritual being and that his creation, Jesus, was a material creature. In response, Saint Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, rejected Arius’s ideas and his Arian Christianity and championed the Trinity and the divinity of Christ to affirm the primacy of faith over reason. Arius was subsequently excommunicated from the Catholic Church by the Nicaean Council. (Davis, p. 50; Pelican, p. 194)
It was Athanasius who said, as the historian Will Durant writes, “Reason must bow to the mystery of the Trinity.” (Durant, 1944, p. 660) During the Reformation the Protestant reformer Martin Luther said the same thing in his comment that, “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.” (Durant, 1957, p. 370) The Arian controversy split the growing Christian Church with the two sides sometimes fighting each other to the death in the streets. Will Durant writes, “The great debate between Athanasius and Arius had not ended with the Council of Nicaea. … for half a century it seemed that Christianity would be Unitarian, and abandon the divinity of Christ. … Probably more Christians were slaughtered by Christians in these two years (342-3 C.E.) than by all the persecutions of Christians by pagans in the history of Rome.” (Durant, 1950, pp. 7-8) It was Arian Christianity that converted the pagan Goths and other Germanic tribes to Christianity, such as the Vandals who later raided and sacked Catholic Rome during the fall of the Empire.
Universalist Christianity and its Stoic, Phoenician, and Minoan Antecedents
Universalism does not have as clear a starting point as does unitarianism. Something similar to universalism may have originated in the ancient Minoan Civilization, which itself was influenced by ancient Egyptian culture. The evidence for a Minoan universalism is implied and plausible given the story of Stoicism, although tenuous and unproven.
Aspects of universalist thought can be found in Stoicism as portrayed in the Christian New Testament through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Saint Paul, as Griscom Morgan wrote in “World View of the Galiliean” in his 1988 publication called Guidebook for Intentional Communities (Morgan, pp. 29-31), was from the “Stoic university city of Tarsus” in what is now south-central Turkey.
Stoicism as a philosophical school-of-thought was founded in Athens, Greece about 300 B.C.E. by Zeno of Citium. Zeno was of Phoenician ancestry, and in his time he was called “the Phoenician” by the Greeks because he never lost his Phoenician accent. (Freke & Gandy, p. 228n) Phoenician culture was likely influenced by the earlier peaceful, non-militaristic, non-patriarchal, partnership-culture of Minoan Civilization, stretching back to 2,500 B.C.E. (Platon, p. 51) In her book The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler uses the term “partnership model” to describe a “gender-holistic perspective,” as opposed to the assumption that pre-patriarchal cultures were matriarchal, when instead many seem to have been egalitarian, enjoying the political-economic-social equality of women and men. (Eisler, pp. xvii, xix)
Minoa was the first European civilization, developing on the Isle of Crete as a Bronze Age matriarchal trading culture, very unlike the patriarchal, warrior culture of the later Mycenaean Greeks whom the Minoans influenced. The Minoans built extensive, maze-like “palaces” housing large numbers of people, with no fortifications anywhere on their island, suggesting a peaceful, gender-partnership culture. The Minoans did make bronze weapons and armor since they traded with many war-like cultures, including the exceedingly cruel Assyrians. (Mellersh, pp. 178-9) Minoan art featured women in public rather than domestic activities, with both women and men enjoying peaceful pursuits rather than the war-like pursuits of men in other cultures. See the color reproduction of the “Prince of the Lilies” plaster-relief fresco from the Great Corridor of the palace of Knossos on the cover of Rodney Castleden’s book, Minoans. (Alexiou, pp. 24, 30-9, and appendices; Eisler, pp. 32-8)
The Semitic people at the Minoan trading ports-of-call around the Mediterranean Sea seem to have adopted the peaceful aspects of Minoan culture, like an emphasis upon trade as opposed to the warlike culture of the Mycenaeans and Assyrians. Beginning around 1800 B.C.E. the Phoenician city-states began to grow at some of these Minoan ports-of-call along the Levant, at Carthage in North Africa, and elsewhere, and they likely received Minoan refugees following earthquakes on Crete, the eruption of the volcano on the Isle of Thera (now Santorini), and subsequent tidal waves about 1628 B.C.E., all thought to have inspired Plato’s “Atlantis” myth. (Gimbutas, 1991, p. 148)
Later invasions of Crete by Iron Age Dorians and Mycenaeans beginning about 1450 B.C.E. drove out or subsumed the Minoans. The archaeologist Marija Gimbutas states that the early, peaceful, matriarchal cultures found in southern Europe and Asia Minor after the last Ice Age and later on Crete expressed an egalitarian culture. If the Minoan culture on Crete and elsewhere extended their gender-partnership concept to include all people, then the universalist idea that all of humanity is of the same blessed family is potentially more ancient than the “God’s chosen people” concept of Judaism. (Eisler, pp. 14, 24-8; Gimbutas, 1991, pp. 94, 324, 331, 347-8; Gimbutas, 1999, pp. 3, 112, 158; Platon, p. 51)
In his article cited above, Griscom Morgan, son of Arthur Morgan who served as vice-president of the American Unitarian Association, writes that the, “Stoics were the first to urge obedience to the holy spirit in the hearts of [people] rather than merely to the laws of nations. … The Stoics bade [people] live simply in accord with nature; Jesus gave this its most beautiful expression in such of his sayings as, ‘Consider the lilies, how they grow’.” (Morgan, p. 30) Whether or not Jesus actually said this, it is clear that the Early Christian Church was significantly influenced by Greek Stoicism, which had developed the concept of Natural Law as distinct from the human-made laws of cities and nations, called “positive law” by political scientists.
In the 1st century C.E. the Stoic philosopher and freed slave, Epictetus, taught the universalist concept that “You are a citizen of the universe.” While some ancient Stoics were much like the countercultural Hippies of the 1960s and since, for which the term “counterculture” was first coined, Stoicism was also the belief system of the “philosopher kings” as expressed in the 2nd century C.E. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ writing called Meditations. (Morgan, p. 30)
The Spiritual Home of the Counterculture
Both unitarianism and universalism are countercultural as both have been in opposition to aspects of the dominant culture, and both have essentially been congregations of cultural visionaries, principled dissenters, and radical activists.
UUism, however, is not the only countercultural religion, as most religions developed in contrast with, or in opposition to, or were otherwise derived from an earlier religion. The Quaker religion, or Society of Friends founded in England in the 1640s by George Fox, has probably a greater experience of persecution by the dominant culture than UUism, and has founded or inspired far more intentional communities than UUism, particularly the Shakers yet also many smaller communitarian groups. Differences between UUism and Quakerism include the former having more of a non-dogmatic, non-Bible-centered, pluralistic-belief structure, including even atheism and humanism. While UUism includes Christians and came from Christianity, some people no longer consider UUism to be a Christian denomination. In contrast, Quakerism is more confrontational with regard to opposing injustices in the dominant culture, and has a more formalistic method of worship based upon the Judeo-Christian Bible. Quakers affirm a personal “inner light” which is more like Transcendentalism’s inner divinity than Catholicism’s Holy Spirit.
In many parts of the U.S.A. and other countries today there are Unitarian Universalist congregations of liberal, progressive activists coming together weekly to practice the gifting and sharing functions that reinvigorates members for the coming week of work to sustain themselves, their community, and their political, economic, and cultural ideals. In the region around many UU congregations exists a counterculture comprised of people living and working in small to medium-sized intentional communities in a decentralized network, who often know very little about and rarely see each other. These two countercultural networks, one built upon centuries and even millennia of opposition to the dominant culture, and the other arising as contemporary alternatives to it, could each benefit from a closer association between them. Yet for the most part there is little awareness or affirmation of their ethical, philosophical, and spiritual commonalities, or of the potential for mutual aid and support between them.
Many communitarians know about Unitarian Universalism and sometimes attend UU churches, while some UU members know about and even live in intentional community. In some cases UU fellowships exist, or formerly existed, within intentional communities. Given the ideological affinities and historical interconnections between Unitarian Universalism and communitarianism, there is clearly a significant potential for these two entities or networks to enjoy a closer association. Together both can be more than either alone.
In a recent article by Michael Bones in the Australian Canberra Times about the counterculture needing a spiritual home titled The Left Needs to Change the Way it Thinks About Protest, the author writes that while street protests are necessary there are other “less eye-catching but incredibly powerful ways to organize for social change.” Bones makes the point that street protests are “inherently unsustainable—as the Occupy movement showed, you can’t protest forever.” Organizing through churches may affirm not only resistance against injustice of all kinds yet also a commitment to building just and joyous lifestyles. “Churches offer belonging and meaning,” Bones writes. “While we progressives stoke our anger, vent on social media and get more stressed and depressed, they use ancient practices to care for souls. They make music, share food, read, pray and play, all the while reinforcing their core beliefs. … Don’t blame right-wing religious people for being more organized, generous and active than us. We need to get smarter. Let’s learn from how they build spiritual community, and start doing it. Because it’s good for wellbeing, and it works.” (Bones, 2020)
To respond to Michael Bone’s question, “can we find a grand narrative, faith or practice to draw a larger circle … [to] unify typically fragmented, issue-based groups into an open, belief-accepting community?” the answer is yes we can, through Unitarian Universalism! (Bones, 2020) Further, Dan McKanan quotes Jim Wallis, of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Sojourners Community and magazine of the same name, saying that “most of the important movements for social change in America have been fueled by religion.” Given the history of the religious Left’s engagement in social issues, a partnership between Unitarian Universalism and intentional communities is potentially of great importance in this time of rapid, unsettling change. In fact, such a cultural-religious partnership could be developed with other liberal religious traditions as well, such as with the United Methodists or the United Church of Christ. (McKanan, pp. 239, 265; Wallis, p. 19)
Unitarian Universalism is particularly suited to being the spiritual home of intentional communities of all kinds because the nature of the UU association is to accept differences among people, and the intentional communities movement is very diverse in how different groups structure their gifting and sharing processes. That diversity tends to keep each community and their related community movement in its own silo, separate from the others, and so a neutral common ground, like meeting in the context of the acceptance of differences practiced in Unitarian Universalist churches, can help bring various intentional communities together for mutual aid, not only among communities yet also in how those communities relate to the larger, dominant, outside-world culture.
In Colorado in the latter half of the 1990s a couple organizers, including the present author, founded a regional network of intentional communities called the “Community Network of the Rocky Mountains.” We met several times for a few years at different communities. Sixty-five people came together for our first gathering at a cohousing community, about one-third being from established or forming intentional communities while the rest were interested in learning about community. After a few years the network went dormant as only a few communities had the space for such large groups of people, and we did not want to keep imposing upon them. Having such local networks forming around UU congregations could make UU churches the home of ongoing local associations of intentional communities, keeping up with the changes in the communities, assisting local communities in working together for mutual aid, helping new communities to form and grow, helping the “outside world” to understand intentional community, providing the space for periodic gatherings of intentioneers, and increasing the awareness of those UU members who are not familiar with intentional community. As a consequence, some intentioneers may very likely become members of their local UU church since many want to be involved in social justice issues, and perhaps get involved in other forms of activism through the church, and generally help to build the UU church community.
Versions of Gifting and Sharing Lifestyles
Some intentional communities focus upon providing a comfortable, cooperative lifestyle for their members, while others are actively engaged in social service programs. The hospitality offered by Catholic Worker communities to poor and working-class people is an example of how intentional communities help people survive in an inhospitable world.
An example of therapeutic intentional communities is the Camphill Village movement begun in Scotland and others like it, such as L’Arch begun in France, which both create communities around differently-abled children and adults. These communities pool the social security funds received by their members with developmental and other disabilities, along with donations from their families and income from their cottage businesses, to build intentional communities welcoming normally-abled people as “co-workers,” to live with and provide support for the differently-abled “villagers.” Visiting such communities a person sees how positive and able the disabled can be when they are not institutionalized and instead are appreciated for who they are in their village. Hopefully the effort to create a Colorado Camphill Village will be restarted.
Another example of a social service community is one started in the Denver Metro Area focusing upon providing a home for foster teens. Angelica Village adapts the Camphill model to serve family-less teenagers, relying upon the same means of support of government assistance plus donations of money and time from families and friends.
However a person grows up, college or trade school can be an ordeal. Many community college students rely upon food banks and some are homeless. Shared rental houses, or student housing collectives, require appropriate zoning laws to be more common. A very helpful step in Denver is currently being made in which the city planning office itself began a process for revising city ordinances to provide more housing options for “residential care” such as community-based corrections, shelters, and transitional housing, for more “congregate living” such as tiny-home villages and single room occupancy units, and for increasing the number of unrelated people who can live together from two to eight in housing cooperatives, collectives, and cohouseholding. There are no restrictions in Denver or in most cities upon how many people who are related to each other can live together, and so revising the city’s zoning code to permit cooperative housing is justifiable. Supporting cooperative housing would be a positive response for any city in which the cost of housing has increased or is increasing. The City of Boulder has a long-standing regulation providing for cooperative housing (ordinance no. 5806, 1996) which may serve as a model. (See: https://denverite.com/2020/02/06/do-you-know-denvers-rules-about-living-together)
A program of supporting student housing cooperatives in Denver may seek aid from local nonprofit housing organizations like the Boulder Housing Coalition, and from the national student organization named the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO). NASCO has regular conferences and co-op development programs, and some observers have noted that the student co-ops are the most racially integrated of all intentional communities.
These are difficult times for teens becoming adults. You are born onto a planet with a dying biosphere. The economics of the dominant First World, market-based economy is enriching a few and impoverishing many, including you. Politics is trending toward abhorrent fascism, and religious war is ludicrously anti-Golden Rule. Denver currently has an increase in teen-on-teen violence and other juvenile delinquency, including teen suicide. Colorado Public Radio says teen suicide in the state is higher than the national average, increasing 58% from 2016 to 2019, and is now the cause of 1-in-5 adolescent deaths. (Colorado Public Radio, 9-17-2019)
Juvenile angst provides easy targets for radical-right youth outreach and recruitment campaigns. The German youth movement growing up after the German defeat in World War One was both anti-religious and apolitical, making it easy for the German fascists to define their religion and politics for them, and then draw them into World War Two. Today groups from neo-fascists to international terrorists are proselytizing and recruiting our youth. To counter such influences an activist congregation can provide a communitarian pathway for young adults from student housing co-ops to worker-owned businesses and community land trusts, all using participatory management and governance processes for building abilities and confidence in people. The assurance of these organizations’ values statements affirming racial, gender, economic, political, and cultural justice would hopefully allay parental anxiety about what influences are attracting their children.
A UU young-adult outreach program could be developed similar to or perhaps in cooperation with the existing NuMundo (“New World”) initiative providing “transformational experiences” for youth having the resources for traveling among a “decentralized network of ecovillages, intentional communities, permaculture farms, social projects and retreat centers.” (See: http://www.numundo.org) This is similar in concept to a countercultural Peace Corp or Americorp. For young adults without the resources to travel, learning about the opportunities in their locality for visiting and joining intentional communities could be facilitated by a UU Gifting and Sharing Lifestyles project.
A common legal structure for student housing cooperatives and other groups is the community land trust (CLT). CLTs provide for economic justice by the de-commodification of land and housing, by removing it from the speculative market to hold down the cost of access. The three-neighborhood group, the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea Coalition in north Denver, is inspired in part by the older and much more developed Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Roxbury, Massachusetts, which happens to be the same neighborhood as that of the two Unitarian Universalist groups organized under the CLT called, UU Community Cooperatives.
Worker-owned and controlled businesses, social entrepreneurialism, and benefit or B-corporations all affirm economics for the people, as their bottom line is no longer profit. Instead the corporation can choose any priority desired for its bottom line, such as providing benefits to workers, practicing environmental stewardship, or benefiting community organizations. An example of a community organization providing services to its neighborhood is the Re:Vision organization in the Westwood Neighborhood of Denver. Re:Vision has begun a food cooperative to serve people in the local food desert, a community-led Nutrition and Cooking Education program, and a community-oriented healthcare program called Community Health Equity Champions employing local residents trained to assist others with options for healthy living, such as encouraging urban agriculture.
Cohousing is a specific form of intentional community susceptible to much misunderstanding. The term “cohousing” has been used as an eponym, identifying all forms of intentional community with just that one form, such that a person can mean any kind of community when they say “cohousing.” Many people assume that the term “cohousing” can refer to a shared household, which is more appropriately called “cohouseholding.” Some people even use the term “communal” when talking about cohousing. Rather, cohousing involves many households, each with its own kitchen, along with an industrial kitchen, dining room, childcare space, and other amenities, all arranged around a pedestrian-only land-use design in the center of the community, resulting in an “intentional neighborhood.” The term “common house” is another confusing use-of-terms in cohousing since there is no commonly-owned property in cohousing. Instead, “classic cohousing” communities are legally structured as condominiums, and so they are sharing privately-owned property. Every year the U.S. cohousing movement has a national open-house day offering tours of cohousing communities. In 2020 that is Sunday, April 26. (See: http://www.cohousing.org)
While it is a very good thing that the middle-class now has a form of intentional community designed for it, the problem is that cohousing communities are very expensive. New cohousing developments require people to purchase a condominium unit, typically via mortgage financing. Older cohousing communities may have rental units which working-class persons may be able to afford. Yet many cohousing residents realize that most of their children growing up in cohousing simply will not be able to or cannot now afford to purchase a cohousing unit, and therefore cohousing children and their parents often look for other kinds of community which the young adults can or will be able to afford, like housing cooperatives, cohouseholding, and the for-profit, long-term hostels called “coliving.”
Ecovillage is another term which has become an eponym for the larger communities movement. There are no specific criteria for ecovillages as there is for cohousing, since the term only refers to the intention, presumably accompanied by appropriate actions, to create ecologically sustainable, cooperative lifestyles. Given such a generic description, practically any community can be called an “ecovillage” simply by expressing the intention to be one. And so the ecovillage movement has grown quickly, now with an Ecovillage Design Education course created by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland (see http://www.gaiaeducation.org). Gaia Education is an international non-governmental organization (NGO), and GEN’s North American affiliate is called GEN-North America or GENNA. GEN’s youth program is called “NextGEN.” The present author’s School of Intentioneering is similar to part of the Gaia Education curriculum and the two may someday collaborate. (Gaia Education, 2012; see: http://www.ecovillage.org/our-work/nextgen).
Class-harmony community is a term created by the present author for the School of Intentioneering, to represent the model of a community involving one or more landlords and tenants. Typically, people have not thought of such a power imbalance among members to be appropriate for an intentional community, yet the model is very common. In the communities Directory (see: http://www.ic.org for print and online versions) about twenty-percent of the listings state that one person or a small group owns the land and buildings while other members rent housing from them. A unique example of class-harmony community is Ganas Community on Staten Island, New York, where a communal core-group of about ten people own eight houses in which about seventy people rent rooms.
Historically, class-harmony intentional communities are what Karl Marx called “utopian socialism,” which he contrasted with his idea of “scientific socialism,” which was supposed to eventually result in some form of communalism. Marx and Engels were only able to describe communalism using Morelly’s Maxim; “from each according to ability; to each according to need.” While the term “communitarianism” can be associated with either “community” or “communism,” using instead the terms “intentioneer” and “intentioneering” denies association with the class-conflict of Marxist communism while affirming, inspiring, and advocating the utopian socialist ideal of class-harmony through collaborative, co-creative solidarity among those with and those without money.
Today there are multi-faith communal societies of up to a hundred adults existing around fifty years using time-based, labor-sharing economies with no money exchanged internally, such as the vacation-credit labor system, so ways have been found to make communalism practical. However, many communal groups have restrictions on how many children they will support, such as Twin Oaks and East Wind communities, causing some members who want to have children to leave the community. Since cohousing is too expensive for working-class families, that leaves class-harmony community as one of the few options for the working poor with children who want to live in community.
Cofamily community is another term created by the present author for the School of Intentioneering. Cofamilies are small groups of from three-to-nine people, with or without children. Since small communities often do not have a defined structure, it is convenient to simply call them a cofamily since the “co” prefix can refer to: communal-, collective-, cooperative-, complicated-, complex-, convoluted-, or simply community-family (although not consanguine-family). While cofamilies can stand alone, when they are part of a larger intentional community they are called “nested cofamilies,” regardless of the type of that larger community; whether communal, land trust, cohousing, ecovillage, etc. The cofamily represents a kind of “family” that is not comprised of people who are related via blood or marriage, instead they choose to live together based upon their commonalities or affinities. This adds a fifth form to the existing forms of family including: single-parent, nuclear (regardless of gender), extended, blended, and now cofamily.
In 2016 I researched American families in U.S. Census reports and found some startling statistics which suggest failings of the “American Dream,” for which the need for a new “Communitarian Dream” featuring the cofamily is indicated:
The two countercultures of Unitarian Universalism and of intentioneers have much to offer each other for addressing their common interests and concerns, now as always. Interactions between the two have been common, although rarely recognized, yet for both there are likely benefits to be realized as the two begin to work together in partnership. The basic idea of UU faith-based intentional community is not a new idea as there are several that have been lived in America over the last two centuries and currently in 2020. These include: Brook Farm, MA, 1841-47; Harmonia, NY, 1853-63; Altruria, CA, 1894-5; New Clairvaux, MA, 1900-1909; Fellowship Farm, MA, MO, CA, 1912-27; The Vale, OH, 1946-present; Twin Oaks, 1967-present, Springtree, 1971-present, and Shannon Farm, 1972-present, all in Virginia; Lucy Stone Co-op, 2011-present, and Margaret Moseley Co-op, 2016-present, both in Massachusetts. For the very diverse network of intentioneers, Unitarian Universalism offers the perfect spiritual home, as UUism is just as diverse in the composition of its form of spirituality. The need for and benefit of an intentioneers-UU partnership is expressed by Arthur Morgan, a Unitarian himself, as he was surely thinking about this when he wrote, …
Any vital social program is possible only if it is the expression of a religion which calls on the whole loyalty of [women and] men … The more adequate the interpretation of life which is provided by a political or economic philosophy, the better foundation does it constitute for a social and economic program … [and that interpretation needs] a religious motive to vitalize the program. —Arthur Morgan, founder of the Fellowship of Intentional Communities, wrote this view of the importance of religion in his study of utopian theory, fiction, and practice in: Edward Bellamy: A Biography of the Author of ‘Looking Backward’. (Morgan, 1944, pp. 302-3)
In the quote above, Arthur Morgan presents the case for making our spiritual or religious identity consistent with our cultural intentions. Extrapolating from this; when people want to live in a gifting and sharing culture outside of the dominant, competitive culture, then a religious expression which respects non-traditional lifestyles is helpful.
It seems like there’s a new convergence of religious and secular groups that hold the same values and are able to comfortably hold differences in belief. This feels like a new and important development, like everyone did a lot of throwing out babies with bathwater, and now it’s time to bring it back together to help the world see a different vision for humanity living in peaceful, sustainable community. —Sky Blue, former Executive Director, Foundation for Intentional Community, In Community, On the Road: Dispatch #7 – Taos Initiative for Life Together, April 17, 2019.
In the second quote above, Sky Blue suggests that the ideal of peaceful, sustainable community through the future can be served by reuniting corresponding secular and religious values. Writing 75 years apart from each other, these two leaders of the same network of intentional communities, originally called the “Fellowship” and now the “Foundation,” can be interpreted to be saying nearly the same thing; that a society without spiritual expression or religious myth lacks the vitality critical to the alignment of a people’s commitment to a lifestyle ideal.
Community is important and necessary for preserving and developing our humanity in both good times and bad. While some are enjoying good times today, others are not, and many of those having good times worry that it may not last for themselves or their children. Unitarian Universalists and intentioneers can together create a Gifting and Sharing Lifestyles partnership that can make for all a material life consistent with our highest spiritual beliefs and ethical ideals.
Alexiou, Stylianos. (1969). Minoan Civilization (Cressida Ridley, Trans). Spyros Alexiou Sons: Heraklion.
“America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016.” Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Retrieved December 17, 2016, from: http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/glance.asp > America’s Children at a Glance > Family and Social Environment, and List of Tables > Table FAM2.B at: http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp; or http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/fam2b.asp?popup=true
Blue, Sky. (2019, April 17). In community, On the road—Dispatch #7—Taos Initiative for Life Together, archived at https://www.ic.org/in-community-on-the-road-dispatch-7-taos-initiative-for-life-together/
Bones, Michael. (2020, January 14). The left needs to change the way it thinks about protest. Canberra Times. Retrieved January 26, 2020, from http://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6575960/protests-arent-working-the-left-needs-to-learn-from-churchgoers/
Broderick, Robert. (Ed.). (1987). The Catholic encyclopedia. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Davis, Leo Donald. (1983). The first seven ecumenical councils (325-787): Their history and theology. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.
Durant, Will. (1944). The Story of Civilization: Vol. 3. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Durant, Will. (1950). The Story of Civilization: Vol. 4. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Durant, Will. (1957). The Story of Civilization: Vol. 6. The Reformation. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Eisler, Riane. (1987). The chalice and the blade: Our history, our future. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row (1988 edition).
“Families and Living Arrangements,” United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 17, 2016, from: http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/adults.html > Living Arrangements of Adults > Table AD-3a at:
http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/files/graphics/AD3a.pdf; and http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/files/graphics/AD-3b.pdf; also > Households > Table HH-4 at: http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/files/graphics/HH-4.pdf
“Families and Living Arrangements” United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 17, 2016 from: http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/households.html > Households > Table HH-1; and “Families and Living Arangements” > Living Arrangements of Children > Table CH-1.
Freke, T. & Gandy, P. (2001). Jesus and the lost Goddess: The secret teachings of the original Christians. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Gaia Education, (2012). Teacher’s Guide: Design for Sustainability (Ver. 5). The Park, Forres, Scotland: Findhorn. http://www.gaiaeducation.net See also: Gaia Youth Activities Guide.
Gimbutas, Marija. (1991.) The language of the Goddess (Joan Marler, ed.). San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco.
Gimbutas, Marija. (1991.) The civilization of the Goddess: The world of old Europe (Joan Marler, ed.). San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco.
Gimbutas, Marija. (1999.) The living goddesses (Miriam Robbins Dexter, ed.). Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press.
Goettner-Abendroth, Heidi. (2012). Matriarchal societies: Studies on indigenous cultures across the globe (Karen Smith, transl).New York: Peter Lang.
Guzzo, K. B. (2014, July). New partners, more kids: Multiple-partner fertility in the United States. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4182921/
Harrison, Jane. (1903). Prolegomena to the study of Greek religion. New York: Meridian Books.
Logan, C., Manlove, J., Ikramullah, E., & Cottingham, S. (2006, November). Men who father children with more than one woman: A contemporary portrait of multiple-partner fertility. Child Trends research brief. Publication #2006-10 4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20008, 202-572-6000. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from htttp://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/2006-10MultiplePartnerFertility.pdf
Martin, M. (Host). (2011, April 19). Multiple partner families: More common than you think. (Radio broadcast) with Cassandra Dorius and Maria Cancian (Guests), National Public Radio News. Washington D.C. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=135541549
McKanan, Dan. (2011). Prophetic encounters: Religion and the American radical tradition. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Mellersh, H.E.L. (1970). The destruction of Knossos: The rise and fall of Minoan Crete. New York: Barnes & Noble.
Morgan, Arthur. (1944). Edward Bellamy: A biography of the author of “Looking backward.” New York Columbia University: Press.
Morgan, Griscom. (1988). Guidebook for intentional communities. Yellow Springs, OH 45387: Community Service.
Pagels, Elaine. (1979). The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Random House.
Pagels, Elaine. (1995). The origin of Satan. New York: Random House.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. (1971). The Christian tradition, A history of the development of doctrine: The emergence of the Catholic tradition (100-600). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Platon, Nicolas. (1966). Crete. New York: The World Publishing Company.
Wallis, Jim. (2005). God’s politics: Why the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn’t get it. San Francisco, CA: Harper.
A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • Denver, CO • 4thWorld@consultant.com • Nov. 2019
Any vital social program is possible only if it is the expression of a religion which calls on the whole loyalty of [women and] men … The more adequate the interpretation of life which is provided by a political or economic philosophy, the better foundation does it constitute for a social and economic program … [and that interpretation needs] a religious motive to vitalize the program. —Arthur Morgan, founder of the Fellowship of Intentional Communities, wrote this view of the importance of religion in his study of utopian theory, fiction, and practice in: Edward Bellamy: A Biography of the Author of ‘Looking Backward’. (Morgan, 1944, pp. 302-3)
It seems like there’s a new convergence of religious and secular groups that hold the same values and are able to comfortably hold differences in belief. This feels like a new and important development, like everyone did a lot of throwing out babies with bathwater, and now it’s time to bring it back together to help the world see a different vision for humanity living in peaceful, sustainable community. —Sky Blue, Executive Director, Foundation for Intentional Community, In Community, On the Road: Dispatch #7 – Taos Initiative for Life Together, April 17, 2019.
In the first quote above, Arthur Morgan presents the case for making our spiritual or religious identity consistent with our cultural intentions. Extrapolating from this; when people want an egalitarian, feminist culture to replace patriarchal culture, then a religious expression is needed which respects gender equality. In the second quote above, Sky Blue suggests that the ideal of peaceful, sustainable community through the future can be served by reuniting corresponding secular and religious values. Writing 75 years apart from each other, these two leaders of the same network of intentional communities, originally called the Fellowship and now the Foundation, can be interpreted to be saying nearly the same thing; that a society without spiritual expression or religious myth lacks the vitality critical to the alignment of a people’s loyalty to a lifestyle ideal. The challenge today is to transition our culture from the patriarchal Abrahamic faiths to one affirming the equality-of-the-genders, through remaking the foundational Judeo-Christian myths justifying patriarchy to instead affirm the partnership of women and men in an egalitarian religion. As Riane Eisler writes in The Chalice and the Blade that the Garden of Eden story was re-mythed from the earlier story of the Gifts of the Goddess, so again our cultural myths can be re-mythed for a “Partnership Spirituality.” (Eisler, pp. 63-6, 85)
Considering where to start in the creation of a Partnership Spirituality, begin with identifying who is already doing something similar, and the largest such group may be the Unitarian Universalists (UU). Arthur Morgan served a time as the vice-president of the American Unitarian Association (from the back cover of “Edward Bellamy”), before it merged with Universalism in 1960, both originally being liberal Christian denominations.
Arthur Morgan and family founded Community Service, Inc. in 1940 (now Community Solutions), and The Vale community in 1946, both in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and sponsored the founding of the Fellowship of Intentional Communities (FIC) in 1948-9 (Morgan, 1942, p. 9). The FIC changed its name in 1986 to the Fellowship for Intentional Community, then changed it again in mid-2019 to the Foundation for Intentional Community.
Unitarian Universalism in Community
Unitarians and Universalists inspired and supported several intentional communities in America during at least the 19th and 20th centuries. The founder of the famous Brook Farm community, George Ripley, was a Unitarian minister in Boston, Massachusetts. Ripley contributed to transcendental thought, hosting the first meeting of the Transcendental Club in his home in 1836, which later became the organizational theory of Brook Farm (1841-47). Robert Fogarty called Brook Farm, “By far the most well-known of all the ‘utopian’ societies.” (Fogarty, pp. 99, 183; Oved, pp. 142-3)
A member of Brook Farm, John Orvis, became a leader in the Universalist minister John Murray Spear’s Harmonia community (1853-63) in southern New York. In 1858 they sponsored a convention with the theme “Feminine Equality.” (Fogarty, pp.107-8, 197)
The Altruria community in Fountain Grove, California lasted only one year (1894-5). Its founder, Edward Biron Payne, was a Unitarian minister who preached a social gospel, eventually becoming a Christian Socialist advocating gradual change, interdependence, and mutual obligation. Although Altruria attracted many competent people who started several different income projects, the group failed to focus upon any one to scale it up sufficiently to support the community. (Fogarty, p. 127; Hine, pp. 102-4)
Early in the 20th century two community projects were started by Unitarian ministers in Massachusetts, one in 1900 in Montague by Edward Pearson Pressey called New Clairvaux, and the second in 1908 in Haverhill by George Littlefield called Fellowship Farm. Both of these groups were homesteading communities focused upon rural self-sufficiency and cottage businesses, taking inspiration from the arts and crafts movement which decried urbanization and industrial mass production. New Clairvaux had a printing press, a school, and up to twenty-nine residents, yet dissolved by 1909 due to financial problems. (Miller, pp. 54-5)
Fellowship Farm had about forty members, a printing press and craft businesses, although it is unclear how long it lasted. Littlefield’s community idea inspired several other groups, including homesteader/arts and crafts communities in Norwood, MA, Kansas City and Independence, MO, and in Los Angeles, CA where twenty families comprised the LA Fellowship Farm from 1912-27. In all about three-hundred families lived in Fellowship Farms. (Fogarty, pp. 228, 230; Miller, pp. 107-8)
Later in the 20th century three intentional communities in central Virginia were associated with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville, Virginia: Twin Oaks (1967-present), Springtree (1971-to present), and Shannon Farm (1972 -to present). Springtree and Shannon both started after their founders attended a summer Communities Conference at Twin Oaks Community. Early on, Twin Oaks had its own UU Fellowship, which carried on exchanges with the UU Church in Charlottesville, members of which helped Twin Oaks build a UU meeting hall with labor and money donations, called the Ta’chai Living Room. Over the decades various Twin Oaks members have attended UU services and other events in Charlottesville and at various UU churches in the Washington D.C. area.
Partnering an Egalitarian Christianity with Women’s Spirituality
Notice in the timeline above of intentional communities that the Unitarian Universalist influence has been a significant part of the communities movement, now evolved into the Foundation for Intentional Community. There are as well many other religious and spiritual organizations comprising aspects of the communities movement, with the Quakers having the longest association with communitarianism. While in the past people founded utopian societies or intentional communities for expressing their religious ideals, in the case of Partnership Spirituality the communities expressing feminist values have existed prior to the creation of an egalitarian religion consistent with feminist culture and lifestyle. Various forms of intentional community today express equality-of-the-genders, not just some communal societies. The list generally includes cohousing and ecovillage communities, and may even include some religious and spiritual traditions, although usually without overtly presenting feminist egalitarianism as a primary value as does identifying with Partnership Spirituality.
Unitarian Universalism is likely to be friendly to the idea of developing a Partnership Spirituality movement since it has already an earth-based, women’s spirituality affirmation in its independent affiliate called the “Covenant of UU Pagans” or CUUPS. The origin of this affiliation is said to be in 1977 when the UU Association passed at its General Assembly a “Women and Religion Resolution.” In 1988 the UUA General Assembly granted CUUPS an affiliate status, “honoring goddess-based, earth-centered, tribal and pagan spiritual paths.” CUUPS provides a theological orientation and a liturgical tradition (i.e., the rites of public worship) consistent with the idea of combining the spiritual traditions of transcendence and immanence, Goddess and God, male and female. (See: cuups.org) Traditionally, God is associated with love, and Goddess with wisdom.
Merging an egalitarian expression of Christianity with women’s spirituality may not be considered polytheistic when it affirms a “binarian monotheism.” In the same way that Trinitarian Christianity (i.e.: Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is considered to be monotheist, so also may Binarian Partnership Spirituality of male and female (or any other genders) be considered monotheist when affirmed as one entity. That is, we say it is so, then for us, so it is! Such is the malleable nature of spiritual and religious beliefs.
Creating a Binarian Partnership Spirituality will involve extensive dialogue and deliberation, and so Unitarian Universalists are the perfect group to carry out the vision, not only because their tradition is one of careful thought and inclusive discourse, yet also because they have woven into their tradition the values of peace through social and economic justice, sustainable ecological stewardship of the environment, and the shared leadership of women and men.
Partnership Spirituality and the Internal Revenue Service
In particular, it would be well that Twin Oaks Community and other groups utilizing the 501(d) tax status for what the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls “Religious and Apostolic Associations,” consider taking their primary organizational tenant of feminist egalitarianism to an affirmation of a religious belief, because having a spiritual or religious orientation is a requirement of that favorable tax status. We know that the IRS and conservative government in general has a bias against communalism, and any time these forces desire to do so they can challenge again Twin Oaks’ or other community’s claim to meet the requirements of the 501(d) tax status, as they did in the late 1970s.
While Twin Oaks had been filing its taxes for many years under the 501(d) subsection of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code they did not formally request the status. When the IRS discovered in 1977 that Twin Oaks did not have the formal 501(d) designation they said that the community was not tax-exempt and had to pay a quarter-million dollars in back taxes. Because Twin Oaks does not have a vow-of-poverty, meaning surrendering all personal assets to the organization upon joining and receiving none back upon leaving like churches and monasteries filing under the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status, the IRS made the spurious statement that in 1936 when the U.S. Congress created the 501(d) status they intended to include a vow-of-poverty requirement like that of the 501(c)(3) churches and monasteries. To challenge this contrived argument Twin Oaks appealed the IRS ruling in Tax Court and won the case! (Twin Oaks Community, Inc., versus Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 87th Tax Court, No. 71, Docket No. 26160-82, Filed 12-3-86)
Given that such a spurious legal challenge happened once, it could happen again to any Federation or other community using the 501(d) tax status, and the obvious charge next time could be that the community is not actually a religious organization, instead it is secular. In the past it has been argued that since “religion” is not or cannot be defined by the IRS, any statement-of-religious-belief will suffice. Yet the United States Post Office made an adverse determination against East Wind Community in 1979 when the community applied for the non-profit bulk rate mailing permit. The USPO St. Louis Office denied East Wind’s request saying, “The bylaws submitted by the East Wind Community makes no mention of any religious worship or religious activities.” (Postmaster, USPO Mail Classification Center, St. Louis, MO, January 4, 1979 to the Postmaster, Tecumseh, MO 65760)
In another case, East Wind Community was attempting to set up an “Earned Leaving Fund” (ELF) to enable members to leave the community by letting them work in the community businesses to earn personal funds for resettlement costs in the outside world. This is clearly contrary to 501(d) requirements, so the community retained a legal firm, which responded saying that the ELF be “treated as an outside employee both for accounting and tax purposes. One way to do this would be to set up a separate bank account … into which the Earned Leaving Fund is deposited as earned.” (Collins Denny, III, letter of 9-4-87, Mays & Valentine, Richmond, Virginia)
This separate bank account plan could and perhaps should be used especially by new communal groups that have a significant amount of income from outside jobs as opposed to community-owned businesses. While the community business income is exempt under 501(d) outside job income is not, and so the two need to be separated. Having two separate community bank accounts, one tax-exempt for community-business income and the other non-exempt for outside-work income, with the two taxed differently, would likely facilitate a new community’s application for 501(d) status, since the problem of establishing community-owned businesses has prevented some groups from adopting the 501(d) communal structure.
Collins Denny wrote in his concluding remarks to East Wind that, “I believe that the Internal Revenue Service still maintains an internal bias against 501(d) organizations which do not have a vow-of-poverty. In saying this, however, I must point out that I have not made any inquiries or seen any IRS publications which support my feelings that a bias exists.” (Collins Denny, III, letter of 9-4-87, Mays & Valentine, Richmond, Virginia)
There may come a time when Federation communities will want or need to dust off their statements of religious belief which they have filed with the IRS and make witness of their lifestyle as justification for their claim that they are indeed religious organizations. Both East Wind and Twin Oaks include in their statements-of-religious-belief filed with the IRS the quote from the Book of Acts in the Bible about all believers holding property in common, along with various ideals about sharing and oneness. Yet the most prominent aspect of their existence and structure is egalitarianism, and so adding the equality of women and men as a central aspect of their stated religious beliefs could make Partnership Spirituality their saving grace.
The 2027 Convergence of Religious and Secular Community
As there are in existence examples of egalitarian lifestyle and culture in various types of community, not just communal, affirming a religious or spiritual expression of egalitarianism builds upon the ideals and experience of women and men in partnership. Sky Blue called for such an egalitarian religion when he was inspired to write, “there’s a new convergence of religious and secular groups that hold the same values . . .” This is a “New Age” level of transformation of our culture through which we may anticipate many rippling affects, among these being the congruence of religious and secular expressions of egalitarian partnership culture in the year 2027. This date will be the bi-centennial of the first printing of the term “socialist,” in the London Cooperative Magazine of 1827 (v. 2), and is roughly the bi-millennial of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the exact date of which, like everything else in his life or myth, is contested. Celebrating the concern for peace through social justice in Jesus’ ministry earlier gave rise to the 19th century community movement of Christian Socialism (Fogarty, pp. xxiv, 5, 91, 134, 220), while today the concern for egalitarian religion inspires Partnership Spirituality.
Partnership Spirituality may be considered a gender-equal form of Christian Socialism, emphasizing the caring and loving message of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5:3-7:27) through advocating all of the forms of intentional community lived today. During Jesus’ ministry, it is said that both he and his audience knew of the communal counterculture of the time, called the Essenes, although mention of the sect is conspicuously omitted from the Judeo-Christian Bible. Only the class-harmony of rich and poor practicing mutual aid was emphasized in Jesus’ ministry. Today, Partnership Spirituality advocates all non-violent forms of the gifting and sharing counterculture through an educational initiative called the “School of Intentioneering,” with the newest terms for describing particular forms of community being “class-harmony” and “cofamily.”
The School of Intentioneering teaches that class-harmony community involves sharing privately-owned property among people with different levels of income and ownership in either large or small communities, while cofamilies are small communities of three-to-nine adults with or without children. The cofamily extends the number of standard types of “family” to include intentional families comprised of non-related adults choosing to live together. Along with single-parent, nuclear, extended, blended, and same-gendered families, add the cofamily. Cofamilies have shared ideals, goals, or affinities binding people to each other, unlike the other forms of family based upon blood-relations or marriage. One of those binding commitments may be children, with the cofamily formed as a small-group-support collective around each child, reducing the need for women to resort to abortion or to giving their child up for adoption as friends commit to helping to raise a child or children in community. When such a collective forms within or joins a larger intentional community, like cohousing, an ecovillage, a land trust, or a communal society, the result is a “nested cofamily.”
The convergence of secular and religious concerns for social justice and ecological sustainability in the year 2027 encourages an assessment of the patriarchal era, toward an affirmation of a new era of partnership-of-the-genders. A good ally in that assessment and projection is the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) created in 1987 by the author Riane Eisler. The CPS website states that it serves as a, “catalyst for cultural, economic, and personal transformation—from domination to partnership, from control to care, from power-over to empowerment. CPS’s programs provide new knowledge, insights, interventions, and practical tools for this urgently needed shift.” (See: centerforpartnership.org)
The identification of the partnership model and the domination model as two underlying social configurations requires a new analytical approach that includes social features that are currently ignored or marginalized, such as the social construction of human/nature connections, parent/child relations, gender roles and relations, and the way we assess the value of the work of caring for people and nature. (Wikipedia.org, Riane Eisler, Partnership and Domination Models)
Riane Eisler’s Partnership Center would likely be an excellent resource for Unitarian Universalists and others in the creation of new stories of partnership culture and spirituality. A New Age of Partnership, however, will require more, it will need a new Bible and new forms of liturgy and ritual. For a new Bible I offer an alternative history of gifting and sharing societies through the ages, focusing upon women’s stories within tribal and communitarian cultures, currently available as an Amazon.com ebook titled, The Intentioneer’s Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity, with a revised second edition to appear in print. For egalitarian liturgy and rituals see the teachings of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft and of the Covenant of UU Pagans.
Egalitarian religion arose with the Early Christian Church as women comprised a second apostolic group following Jesus, with his partner Mary Magdalene becoming a leader of the Christian sect in his stead. Many women leaders followed until the movement institutionalized under patriarchal, orthodox Catholicism, making women second-class to men as proscribed by the patriarchal laws of the Old Testament or Hebrew Torah and carried into the Christian New Testament, especially in Saint Paul’s writings. Partnership Spirituality reclaims and resumes the momentum of egalitarian religion and culture, furthering the inclusive nature of the syncretic Christian religion comprised of Judaism, Persian dualism, Stoicism, and Paganism, now to emphasize women’s spirituality. For discussion on the re-mything for the egalitarian religion of “Partnership Spirituality” see the Facebook page with that name. As patriarchy is justified through religion, so partnership may be affirmed in spirituality: When we say it is so, then for us, so it is!
Eisler, Riane. (1987). The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
Fogarty, Robert. (1980). Dictionary of American communal and utopian history. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Hine, Robert. (1953). California’s utopian colonies. New York: Norton & Company.
Miller, Timothy. (1998). The quest for utopia in twentieth-century America, volume 1: 1900-1960. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Morgan, Arthur. (1942). The small community: Foundation of democratic life. Yellow Springs, OH: Community Service, Inc.
Morgan, Arthur. (1944). Edward Bellamy: A biography of the author of “Looking backward.” New York: Columbia University Press.
Oved, Yaacov. (1988). Two Hundred Years of American Communes. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Inc.
“We can dream of a culture of harmony and peace in balance with nature” . . .
Marija Gimbutas tells an origin story that at the very beginning of Western Civilization lay cultures that were peaceful and long-lasting, which she named “Old Europe.” This was the Late Stone Age or Neolithic time of southeastern Europe (Greece, Italy, the Balkans) of 10,000 years ago, give or take a few centuries, when our European ancestors lived in a female-centered culture in which the settlements had no fortifications and the people made no weapons of war. Learn how this peaceful culture existed and how it ended in the video:
Take an hour out of your life to learn of Marija Gimbutas’ lifetime of work in archeological mythology to awaken us to what we lost, by watching the video “Signs Out Of Time” by Donna Read and Starhawk.
Today the idea of “partnership” is to create an egalitarian culture which is neither matriarchal nor patriarchal in a Partnership Spirituality.
The Private-Property Sharing, Cross-Class Model of Intentional Community
A. Allen Butcher
For presentation at the thirteenth triennial International Communal Studies Association (ICSA) Conference, July, 2019, Hudson, NY • Portions of this paper first appeared in the author’s 2016 book The Intentioneers’ Bible ([book:chapter] II:5, III:10, V:3, V:5, V:6, VI:15), and in the article “Class-Harmony Community” in Communities: Life in Cooperative Culture (issue 178, spring 2018, pp. 61-3) .
About 4,500 words in the body of text.
From Bias Against to Recognition of Class-Harmony
Among the various forms of intentional community, the common practice of mutual aid among rich and poor is an old story; although not well understood and rarely emphasized. Typically, community movements focus upon either the ideal of class-less communalism, as in the egalitarian communities’ processes of labor-sharing and their sharing of commonly-owned property, or they focus upon class-homogeneity as in cohousing communities comprised mostly of middle-class people enjoying the processes of labor-gifting and the sharing of privately-owned property. Yet there have also always been forms of intentional community in which people of different economic classes have shared either privately-owned or commonly-owned property, or both, which is the class-harmony community model.
Disparities in wealth and privilege need not divide people when those of different socio-economic status develop ways to communicate for common understanding, and thereby gain trust in each other for gifting and sharing in community. This is not a new idea. Class-harmony is a common form of both religious and secular intentional community; it simply has not been recognized, named, and advocated until recently, as people’s attention has been monopolized by communalism, historically, and more recently by cooperatives, land trusts, cohousing, and ecovillages. In the same way that these various forms of intentional community attracted interest and involvement into separate movements, so also may class-harmony community develop its own community movement as people learn about, understand, and practice the lessons of a fascinating story of communitarianism, which has existed from ancient times to the present.
Class-harmony community is often discounted as a presumptive, specious, pretentious pseudo-community. Many activists within and watchers of the intentional community movements, including the present author, have tended to disregard class-harmony communities as pretenders to an ideal they cannot achieve, rather than as a genuine, authentic, legitimate expression of sharing and cooperation. For example, probably the first author to directly address the class-harmony community model is Diana Leafe Christian in her 2003 book titled, Creating a Life Together, in which she wrote,
If you’re a property owner seeking to create community on your land, … Be willing to release total control and find ways for people to become fully participating, responsibility-sharing fellow community members. And if you cannot or don’t want to release full control but still want [to] live in close proximity with others, please do so and enjoy it—but don’t advertise it as a “community.”! (Christian, p. 24)
Ten years later, Jennifer Ladd quoted Christian’s comments above in what may have been the first article presenting class-harmony community, and the various challenges and lessons of the model. In her Communities magazine article titled, “Yes, Wealthy People Want to Live in Community in Sustainable Ways Too! Fourteen suggestions from those who are trying it,” Ladd called the upper-class owners of the shared property “primary funders,” and the community model “cross-class projects.” Ladd explains the motivations of the primary funders in writing that,
Many people with wealth are looking for ways to leverage their resource for good—to help heal the environment and to support the emergence of a new culture based on cooperation and collaboration. And so wealthy people are playing a role, with others, in the growth of intentional communities and other collective working and living projects. (Ladd, 2013, p. 36)
Five years after that article, Jennifer Ladd presented in a 2018 Communities magazine article a little about the work she and her cofounder, Felice Yeskel, had done through their company called Class Action (see: http://www.classism.org) to help a just-forming (2005) cohousing community, Rocky Hill (MA), resolve their class and money issues. Their process involved: identifying four goals for the process; having each person answer two questions about personal attitudes toward money and class; and identifying a number of next steps.
Interestingly, one of the exercises the two Class Action facilitators put the Rocky Hill community members through in 2005 had also been used to help the communal Twin Oaks Community (VA) clarify its issues involving their community design in 1976. While at Twin Oaks the group-process facilitators had members line up “according to the way they saw their ideological relationship to each other—close, if they agreed, and distant, if they disagreed” (Komar, p. 94), at Rocky Hill Cohousing the facilitators asked members to line up “according to their self-defined class background when they were 12 years old” (Ladd, 2018, p. 27). In some way, evidently, physically standing in line close to those with whom one shares similar ideals and socio-economic backgrounds, and further from those one considers to be of different orientation and experience, helped these two very different communities along their respective paths to finding unity in the problematic diversity of their ideological attachments and socio-economic class status.
Yana Ludwig expresses the importance of cross-class solidarity, or class-harmony, in her 2019 Communities article “Cross-Class Cooperation and Land Access.” She recognizes the problem that not being able to acquire land and housing prevents the accumulation of both financial assets or wealth, and social capital in the form of community.
I think it is increasingly important to not only talk about the role class privilege plays in our movement, but also celebrate the ways that cross-class cooperation can be a form of solidarity that is very much needed at this time. Land access is a fundamental barrier to many things in the US: being able to grow your own food, being able to build equity and wealth, being able to have a direct and daily relationship with the natural world, and being able to start an intentional community are just a few areas in which lack of enough wealth to own property further limits our capacity to have our dreams become realities. (Ludwig, p. 25)
While Diana Christian, Jennifer Ladd, and Yana Ludwig are all talking about very different forms of intentional community, class-harmony, cohousing, and community land trusts, respectively, the common themes are the problems of land acquisition and tenure: who buys it and who controls it. Ludwig’s land trusts place their land in a form of legal common ownership with parcels or units (whether land, houses, apartments, or rooms) leased to individuals and families. Ladd’s cohousing communities place the land in a form of “undivided” private-property ownership, and Christian’s landlords rent rooms, apartments, or houses to individuals and families. While Diana Christian expresses a bias against landlord-owned communities, it can be difficult for working class people to afford to build a house on land leased from a trust or to buy into a cohousing community, leaving renting the only option for the working class to enjoy intentional community.
Community for Working-Class Nuclear and Single-Parent Families, and Young Adults
For working-class people, especially if they have children, renting is often the only way they can live in community. Communal groups, particularly secular ones, often do not accept new members with children. East Wind Community (MO) votes on each of its members’ announced pregnancies as to whether or not the community will support the child, with those losing the vote having to get an abortion or leave the community. While a working-class family may be able to rent a unit in a cohousing or land trust community they often cannot afford to purchase or build a housing unit in one of those communities. What remains open to working-class nuclear and single-parent families is class-harmony community where someone else provides the funding for land purchase and construction so that all the family has to do is pay rent.
An estimate of the extent of the class-harmony community format within the intentional communities movement is seen in the Communities article (fall 2017, no. 176) by Sky Blue and Betsy Morris titled, “Tracking the Communities Movement: 70 Years of History and the Modern FIC.” The authors include a category in their analysis of the 2016 FIC Communities Directory listings which they call “Shared House/Cohousehold/Coliving,” yet they do not explain this category as they do the other forms. The authors report that this type of community accounts for 31 percent of the Directory listings. Only cohousing had a larger showing at 39 percent. (Blue & Morris, p. 17)
In the 2016 Communities Directory Sky Blue and Betsy Morris count 738 U.S. intentional communities, of which 194 or 26% are forming (i.e., < 4 adults existing < 2 years), leaving 544 or 74% “established” communities. Of the 544 groups with 4 or more adults existing two years or more, 170 or about 31% are classified by Blue and Morris as “Shared House/Cohousehold/Coliving.” (Blue & Morris, p. 17)
Another way to count the number of class-harmony communities in the FIC Directory is to simply count the number of groups reporting that just one person or a small group owns the land. Of the 738 total U.S. communities in the 2016 Directory, 154 communities or 21 percent indicated that their land is owned by an individual or a subgroup of members.
What accounts for the difference above between Blue’s and Morris’ 31 percent Shared House/Cohousehold/Coliving groups and the present author’s 21 percent individual or subgroup ownership in class-harmony community? Part of the discrepancy is how groups are listed and counted, and part is the different definitions that people use for terms like “shared-housing” and “coliving.” Hopefully the 2020 Communities Directory will be redesigned for easier analysis.
Consider the issues of the definitions of terms and of the classification of communities. Most likely Blue and Morris did not include Ganas Community (NY) in their category of Shared House/Cohousehold/Coliving communities, while the present author does consider Ganas to be a class-harmony community. Ganas has a unique structure in which a communal subgroup of about ten people own the houses and rooms rented to about 70 other people. Clearly there are two classes of Ganas members, the owners and the renters, with the owners functioning as communal-capitalists in this unique form of class-harmony community.
Along with the Ganas model of a small communal-ownership subgroup renting to a larger number of non-owner members is another form of class-harmony community with the reverse of the Ganas model. Consider that in the Camphill Village communities the members live communally, sharing commonly-owned property controlled by non-profit, tax-exempt organizations and supported by a large group of funders who contribute money and time while generally not living in the communal society. The summer 2019 Camphill Foundation newsletter reported that this year over $357, 000 was granted to eighteen Camphill groups around the world. Since its founding in 1966 the Camphill Foundation has made $9.3 million in grants and low-interest loans to Camphill communities. Clearly, the Camphill community model involves a class of funders supporting a class of less-wealthy members. The Camphill financing model provides an excellent model for what Matthew Bishop and Michael Green call “philanthrocapitalism” in their 2008 book by that title, encouraging the use of private wealth for the public good. (Bishop & Green, p. ix; Camphill Foundation, 2019, see: https://camphillfoundation.org/grantmaking/#grantees).
The class-harmony community category is comprised of a broad range of different ownership forms. While Blue’s and Morris’ category of “Shared House/Cohousehold/Coliving” communities probably does not include Ganas or Camphill, and none of Blue’s and Morris’ three types of communities perfectly fit the present author’s small community comprised of four apartments called the Dry Gulch Ecovillage (Butcher, pp. 61-3), it is unclear exactly what all is included in the term “coliving.”
Consider the article in the July 8, 2019 San Francisco Chronicle by J.K. Dineen titled “Co-living Tower in SOMa [i.e., South Market] could Usher in Wave of Innovative Housing Projects,” which describes a “270-bed co-living building … [The] $90 million project will be 16-stories tall. Residents will pay $2,000 to $2,400 [per month] for the market-rate rooms … The idea is to create an instant community for the young workers flocking to jobs in San Francisco … [City-wide] there are about 3,700 co-living beds in operation and 9,300 in the pipeline … This doesn’t include … collectives that have long thrived in the Bay Area.” That is $2k to $2.4k per month just for a bed-space, not even a room with a door, with shared bathroom, lounge, and kitchen. While people appreciate the long-term-hostel-like experience for a while, there is evidently a high turn-over rate of coliving residents. Other cities with large coliving projects include Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. (Dineen, 2019)
As with any growing social movement, the expressions of class-harmony community and the names describing them can be many and varied, actually causing confusion around and therefore limited understanding of the social phenomenon of a continually developing life-style pattern. The most common names for the class-harmony model of intentional community include: coliving, cohouseholding, cross-class community, and shared-housing.
Property-Sharing Continuum (i.e.: real estate, chattels, and money)
Shared Commonly-Owned Property Shared Privately-Owned Property
⃒ ⃒ ⃒ ⃒
Communal Society: Economically-Diverse: Equity-Sharing: Class-Harmony:
• Monasteries • indigenous tribalism • housing co-ops • coliving
• Hutterites/Bruderhof • community land trust • cohousing • cohouseholding
• Twelve Tribes • shared-housing
• Federation of Egalitarian Communities • cross-class comm.
• Ganas Comm. (NY)
• Camphill comm.
The term “class-harmony community” is offered as an umbrella term inclusive of others, as it is descriptive of the basic concept of including two or more economic classes of participation or involvement, while at the same time emphasizing what class-harmony is not; specifically disassociating the class-harmony communitarian model from communist class-conflict.
Classical communism emphasizes class-war as a necessary first phase toward what Marxist-communist theory traditionally considers the ideal of non-class or class-less communalism in its projected second phase. In contrast, class-harmony is affirmed as the primary aspect of the form of intentional community first disparaged and disrespected by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) as “utopian socialist.” While the late 18th century and early 19th century utopian theorists such as Count Claude Henri de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon (1760-1825), Robert Owen (1771-1858), Charles Fourier (1772-1837), and Etienne Cabet (1788-1858) all expressed different versions of class-harmony community, Marx and Engels attacked class-harmony as naïve and simplistic. (Butcher, 2016, V:6)
In the section of Marx’s 1848 The Communist Manifesto called, “Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism” he refers to communitarians such as the followers of Owen, Fourier, and the others as “mere reactionary sects,” saying that they are in opposition to the progressive historical development of the proletariat or working-class. (Ebenstein, p. 740; Tucker, p. 499)
They, therefore, endeavor, and that consistently, to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms. They still dream of experimental realization of their social Utopias … and to realize all these castles in the air, they are compelled to appeal to the feelings and purses of the bourgeois [i.e., capitalist ownership class]. (Ebenstein, p. 740; Tucker, p. 499)
One of the biggest problems for intentional communities, particularly the communal form, is earning or attracting sufficient financing. While communal groups like East Wind and Twin Oaks communities have to build businesses to support themselves, other groups like cohousing communities attract people who can qualify for 20-year mortgages to build the community. This access to financing results in cohousing communities being built in a matter of a few years, while communal community takes a few decades to build a similar size community. Thus, class-harmony communities, like cohousing sharing privately-owned property while borrowing from banks or credit unions, and like Camphill sharing commonly-owned property donated by individual funders, can grow at a rate ten times faster than communal groups having to earn development capital in their own businesses. Access to development capital is not the only reason why communities sharing private property are more numerous and grow faster than communal groups sharing common property, yet it is an important factor.
Frank and Fritzie Manuel probably wrote the most detailed criticism of Marx’ and Engels’ hypocritical attitude toward “utopian socialists” in their 1979 book, Utopian Thought in the Western World. Like the communitarian scholar and kibbutz member, Yaacov Oved, the Manuel’s use the term “sneer” in describing Marx’ and Engels’ comments about the communitarians. Oved writes about Engels in his 1988 book, Two Hundred Years of American Communes, that, “He openly sneered at utopian experiments,” while the Manuels state that Engels’ writing titled in part, Anti-Duhring (1878) is, “spotted with similar sneers.” That is, sneers like calling communitarian settlements, “optimum little republics.” The Manuels point out that Marx’ and Engels’ Communist Manifesto is utopian, and that, “on occasion even they might lapse into utopian glossolalia.” (Manuel & Manuel, pp. 699-700; Oved, p. 428)
Historical and Future Class-Harmony
Class-harmony community is an old idea used by both religious and secular groups. The oldest such recorded community may be Homakoeion at what is now Crotone in south Italy, founded about 530 B.C. by the Greek mystic and mathematician Pythagoras (581-497 B.C.).
At about age fifty Pythagoras created a philosophical school after traveling around the Ancient World learning from various cultures, including women’s spiritual traditions at the Oracle of Delphi. At Crotone, Pythagoras’ school accepted women as well as men, giving both training in philosophy and literature, such that “Pythagorean Women,” who were also instructed in the domestic arts, were “honored by antiquity as the highest feminine type that Greece ever produced.” Intentional communities designed around schools has been a reoccurring theme ever since, with Findhorn in Scotland being the best contemporary example. (Durant, 1939, p. 162; see also Butcher, 2016, II:5)
The rise of Christianity in the Western World provides a number of later examples of class-harmony community. Christianity itself has always been welcoming of people of all socio-economic backgrounds, from slaves to property-owners.
An early example of Christian class-harmony community is the mid-15th century Unity of Brethren in Bohemia (now in the northwestern part of the Czech Republic), later called the Moravian Church. The Moravian Brethren were Christians who separated from the Catholic Church to live closer to the ideals of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, thus earning their persecution by the Church. Christian Pietism grew from the idea of unifying various Christian sects surviving the persecutions against the Anabaptists, with the German Pietist Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) inviting the remnants of the Moravian Brethren to settle on his estate in Saxony, Germany, founding Herrnhut in 1722, meaning “under the Lord’s watch.” Many of the Moravian Brethren later immigrated to America creating communal communities in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. (Butcher, 2016, III:10)
The best-documented Christian class-harmony communities are those of the Anabaptist Hutterites. Several times in their history they were invited to settle on the estates of nobles who avoided control by the higher powers of the day, specifically the Holy Roman Empire, which persecuted the Hutterites for their practice of “re-baptizing” adults. Because they were industrious in developing their communal villages, and because there was not a strong union between church and state in Moravia (now the eastern part of the Czech Republic) the Hutterites were invited soon after their founding in the 16th century by some of the lords of Moravia to build colonies on their land. Eventually succumbing to the dictates of the Holy Roman Emperor the Moravian lords ejected the Hutterites from their land. In the early 17th century some Hutterites were abducted from Moravia to live on and develop land owned by a Transylvanian prince in Romania. Jesuit persecution of the Hutterites there pushed the 18th century Hutterites into what is now southern Romania, then part of the Ottoman Empire controlled by Moslem rulers practicing religious tolerance. When the Russian army pushed the Ottomans out of the region one of the Russian generals invited the Hutterites to settle on his land near Kiev in the Ukraine. When later Russian officials decided to take away their earlier assurance that the Hutterites would not be conscripted for military service, the Hutterites began moving to the Northern Plains American states and Canadian provinces in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. (Butcher, 2016, III:10)
With the Industrial Revolution class-harmony community became a means for the working-class to benefit from the rise of mechanized industry. During the early Industrial Revolution in first England then later in France, Germany, America and elsewhere, both class-harmony and class-conflict arose in response to the resulting poverty and debasement of the dispossessed and deprived underclass. When there was no social safety net like welfare the British people created by at least the 1790s various mutual aid societies like “trade clubs” and “voluntary mutual sickness and life insurance companies” referred to as “Friendly Societies.” (Garnett, pp. 11-2)
With the Friendly Societies and earlier cultural solidarity practices arose the cooperative movement; one of the primary leaders and organizers being the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen (1771-1858). Owen and others sought to expand social solidarity functions into forms of non-capitalist economics via forms of labor exchanges and alternative currency systems. Owen’s New Lanark mill-town community in Scotland attracted much attention at the time, as did his most famous later experimental community New Harmony in early 19th century Indiana. While Owen lost a large portion of his wealth in New Harmony trying to create a communal society, a non-monetary economic tradition was begun by Josiah Warren at New Harmony which Donald Pitzer calls the “Time Store Cooperative Movement” lasting from 1833 to 1863. Warren’s labor-exchange communities all involved private property with no or little common ownership, the largest and longest-lived being Modern Times (NY) lasting twelve years. (Pitzer, pp. 123, 133, n. 109). Warren’s ideas later appeared in different forms in Edward Bellamy’s 1888 utopian fiction Looking Backward, then B. F. Skinner’s 1948 book Walden Two, which inspired Kathleen Kinkade’s vacation-credit labor system developed at Twin Oaks Community in 1967 for their communal economy, still used today at Twin Oaks and in other groups of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
While Owen’s inspiration was creating class-harmony communities in Great Britain and America, in France a different type of class-harmony community was being developed. Edward Spann explains in his 1989 book Brotherly Tomorrows that while Owen’s communities tended to be paternalistic, making members dependent upon the owners of their communities’ real estate and investment capital while idealizing communal ownership, Charles Fourier’s influence in France emphasized private property. Charles Fourier (1772-1837) invented the term “feminism” and wrote that “the extension of the privileges of women is the fundamental cause of all social progress.” (Beecher & Bienvenu, p. 196; Butcher, 2016, V:3; Riasanovsky, p. 208; Spann, p. 84)
Inspired partly by Charles Fourier’s concept of “passional attraction,” which included the idea of making work as attractive as possible, Jean Baptiste Godin (1817-1888) began as a blacksmith then “made a fortune as a manufacturer of iron stoves in Guise, northeast of Paris …, began in 1859 to build a … ‘Social Palace’ … Godin instituted a system of profit-sharing based on the Fourierist formula for the division of profits among capital, talent, and labor. [The Social Palace] he intended would eventually be managed and owned by the workers.” (Spann, pp. 164-5)
Dolores Hayden includes drawings of the Social Palace in her 1981 book The Grand Domestic Revolution, and points out that 350 workers and their families lived in the Social Palace in Guise, France, buying supplies from cooperative shops and enjoying the community’s restaurant, café, theater, developmental nursery and schools, profit-sharing, and sickness and old-age insurance. Marie Stevens Case Howland translated Godin’s writings, and wrote in her own book about the Social Palace, first called Papa’s Own Girl later re-titled The Familistére, ideas which Hayden says seems to have influenced Edward Bellamy in his 1888 utopian fiction Looking Backward. (Butcher, 2016, V:5; Hayden, pp. 37, 96-100, 136)
The historical examples above provide highlights in the history of class-harmony community. Another highpoint to acknowledge is the origin of a term which encompasses the entire range of Owenite theory from class-harmony to communalism, and that of many other cultural theorists, reformers, and commentators ever since. While today there are different definitions for the term “socialist,” an understanding of the original definition can be interpreted from its first use in the Owenite journal The London Cooperative Magazine (see accompanying graphic).
In his 1948 article, “The Evolution of the Socialist Vocabulary,” printed in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Arthur Bestor writes that the noun “socialist” was first printed in 1827, while “the form ‘socialism’ did not appear in England until 1837.” Note in the graphic below that “socialists” is juxtaposed with the term “communionists,” which Bestor interprets as a religious term originating in 1644 to refer to intentional community members or communitarians. The term “communitarian,” Bestor states, was first printed November 13, 1841 in the London Times. (Bestor, pp. 277, 278 n. 103, 280; see accompanying graphic)
While today the term “socialism” is resurgent in concepts like “democratic socialism,” referring to a political-economic design of nation-states, its original use was for describing alternative, civil-society constructs outside of Church and State. As such, cooperative and communitarian societies which originally inspired the terms “socialist” and “socialism” have an etymological “ownership” of them. With the bi-centennial of the first use of “socialist” coming up in less than a decade this provides an opportunity for the communities movements to reclaim their own history in a way that will bring the tradition of alternative, radical, counter-cultural, civil-society experimentation and development to the public consciousness in order to contribute to the current and future desire and need to build post-capitalist political-economic structures.
The coming 2027 Socialist Bi-Centennial provides an opportunity for the communities movements to create educational campaigns to support the continuing need to construct political-economies that respect social justice, which began in early Christianity and developed along with the Industrial Revolution and now the Information Age, along with the more recent concern for ecological sustainability. While all forms of intentional community fit the original meaning of the term “socialist,” the class-harmony form may be the best for attracting financial support from philanthrocapitalists.
A 2027 Socialist Bi-Centennial educational campaign highlighting the concept of class-harmony may be an important method for carrying on resistance to both rapacious capitalism and to cultural conservative’s sneer that gifting and sharing societies are Marxist-communist. Much has changed in the last two-hundred years, yet much remains the same. There is today the same need as ever to build political-economic-social structures which respect people’s highest ideals and ethical standards; and if anything, the need is becoming increasingly urgent. If a socially just and sustainable utopia is not achieved before the coming 21st Century Dark Age, perhaps at least the foundation can be laid for a utopian renaissance after the apocalypse of the 6th Great Extinction, now threatening human civilization.
Beecher, Joathan and Bienvenu, Richard (Eds.). (1971). The utopian vision of Charles Fourier. Boston: Beacon Press.
Bestor, Arthur E. (1948 June). “The Evolution of the Socialist Vocabulary,” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 259-302. University of Pennsylvania Press. (www.jstor.org/stable/2707371)
Bishop, Matthew, and Green, Michael. (2008). Philanthrocapitalism: How giving can save the world. London: A & C Black.
Blue, Sky and Morris, Betsy. (2017, fall). Tracking the communities movement: 70 years of history and the modern FIC. Communities: Life in cooperative culture, no. 176. Rutledge, MO: Fellowship for Intentional Community.
Butcher, Allen. (2016). The Intentioneer’s Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity. Denver, CO: Self-published at Amazon.com
Butcher, Allen. (2018, spring). Class-harmony community. Communities: Life in cooperative culture, no. 178. Rutledge, MO: Fellowship for Intentional Community.
Camphill Foundation. (2019, summer). Your donations at work: 2019 grant awards. Camphill Foundation Newsletter. Chestnut Ridge, NY: Camphill Foundation.
Christian, Diana Leafe. (2003). Creating A Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada: New Society Press.
Dineen, J. K. (2019, July 8). Co-living tower in SoMa could usher in wave of innovative housing projects. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 10, 2019, from https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Co-living-tower-in-SoMa-could-usher-in-wave-of-14074532.php?fbclid=IwAR0K-ggbkMcqgDN4rvELHQMKuVMnTutbFU3ulR62T9N5AoEGwzw_34Zm-ZI
Durant, Will. (1939). The Story of Civilization: Vol. 2. The Life of Greece. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Ebenstein, William. (1951). Great political thinkers: Plato to the present. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Garnett, Ronald George. (1972). Co-operation and the Owenite socialist communities in Britain, 1825-1845. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
Hayden, Dolores. (1981). The grand domestic revolution: A history of feminist designs for American homes, neighborhoods and cities. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press.
Komar, Ingrid. (1989). Living the dream: A documentary study of Twin Oaks Community (2nd Ed). Louisa, VA: Twin Oaks Community.
Ladd, Jennifer. (2013, summer). Yes, wealthy people want to live in community in sustainable ways too! Fourteen suggestions from those who are trying it. Communities: Life in cooperative culture, no. 159. Rutledge, MO: Fellowship for Intentional Community.
Ladd, Jennifer. (2018, spring). Reflections on class from a newbie at Rocky Hill Cohousing. Communities: Life in cooperative culture, no. 178. Rutledge, MO: Fellowship for Intentional Community.
Ludwig, Yana. (2019, spring). Cross-class cooperation and land access. Communities: Life in cooperative culture, no. 182. Rutledge, MO: Fellowship for Intentional Community.
Manuel, F. & Manuel, F. (1979). Utopian thought in the Western world. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
Oved, Yaacov. (1988). Two hundred years of American communes. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.
Pitzer, Donald E. (Ed.) (1997) America’s communal utopias. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Riasanovsky, Nicholas. (1969). The teaching of Charles Fourier. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
Spann, Edward K. (1989). Brotherly tomorrows: Movements for a cooperative society in America 1820-1920. New York: Columbia University Press.
Tucker, Robert C. (Ed.) (1978). The Marx-Engels reader (2nd ed.) New York: W. w. Norton & Company.
A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • 4thWorld@consultant.com • February 24, 2019
This paper (of 8,384 words) was first published as a blog post at: http://www.Intentioneers.net
serving as a preview of the material to appear in a forthcoming book.
For a history by the same author of the gifting and sharing counterculture see:
The Intentioneers’ Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity
for sale at Amazon.com
1. Idealism versus Self-Interest
It is not the private interests of the individual that creates lasting community, but rather the goals of humanity. — I Ching (ancient Chinese divination text)
The correlation to reality: When I surveyed former members of the egalitarian, communal, intentional community East Wind in Missouri about why they joined and why they left, people said that they joined for idealistic reasons like sustainable, ecological lifestyle, feminism, cooperation, equality and such, and left for personal reasons, like going back to school, or to pursue a career not available in the community, or to focus upon a relationship and children. The I Ching got it right, although this is in slight contradiction to item number 10 “Individuality versus Community.”
2. Class-Harmony versus Class-Conflict
The mutual respect among people of different socio-economic statuses in non-communal intentional communities creates the peace of class-harmony, as opposed to a disrespect leading to the violence of Marxist class-conflict.
The correlation in reality: Jesus of Nazareth (the inspiration for Christianity), Robert Owen (English advocate of the early cooperative movement in which the term “socialist” originated in 1827), and Charles Fourier (French utopian writer who advocated a “formula for the division of profits among capital, talent, and labor” see: Edward Spann, 1989, Brotherly Tomorrows, p. 165) all showed that community does not require economic equality among people. “Class-harmony community” accommodates people of different social-economic statuses living and working together. Jesus, or those who created Christianity, along with Owen, and Fourier got it right!
3. Intentional versus Circumstantial Community
Intentional community, in which people deliberately define and live common values, as opposed to circumstantial community where people happen to live in proximity by chance, illustrates the “communal sharing theory,” which states that the greater the experience people have of sharing and/or gifting, the greater will be their commitment to the community thus formed.
The correlation in practice: Sharing and gifting involves material objects as well as thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions, leadership, and power, the practice of which builds resilience for survival of the community’s unique identity. It is through practicing gifting and sharing in many different formats that the communities movement is continually growing, differentiating, and evolving. Labor-gifting is used in communities which involve the sharing of privately-owned property, like cohousing and class-harmony communities, and labor-sharing is used in communities which involve the sharing of commonly-owned property, specifically communal societies. Intentional communities having both private and common property, like community land trusts, may practice any form of time-based economy: labor-exchanging, labor-gifting, labor-sharing.
4. Sharing versus Privacy
The “communal privacy theory” states that increasing levels of privacy, afforded by resources or powers entrusted to individuals (called “trusterty”), does not reduce communalism as long as the ownership and responsibility remains under communal ownership and control.
The correlation to practice: “Trusterty” is the process of entrusting commonly-owned assets or powers to individuals for personal use or for service to the community. Egalitarian communal society entrusts assets and powers to individuals and small groups. Trusterty also refers to the trusted asset or power, for example in land trusts the term refers to both natural resources and to the responsibilities of the trustees. (The term “trusterty” is attributed to the Russian anarchist, Prince Peter Kropotkin.)
5. Cofamily versus Consanguineous Family
The “cofamily” affirms and expands the options or possibilities of human culture beyond the common forms of the family of single-parent, nuclear, extended, and blended families, to include small groups of adults in community who are not related by blood or marriage.
The correlation to practice: A “cofamily” (which may also be called an “intentional family”) is a small community of three-to-nine adults with or without children, with the prefix “co” referring to: collective, complex, cooperative, convoluted, communal, complicated, conflicted, or any similar term, except consanguineous. A cofamily may or may not be a group marriage, as in the plural-conjugal structures of polyamory and polyfidelity. A cofamily may stand alone as a small intentional community or be part of a larger community such as cohousing or a communal society as a “nested cofamily” (sometimes also called “small living groups” or SLGs) whether comprised only of adults or formed around the care of children or those with special needs.
6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare
People often romanticize “communal childcare,” and it is well that they do! Communal childcare is a beautiful thing when it works, and it works best in small groups such as cofamilies and nested cofamilies, primarily due to the need to limit the number of adults who must make and keep agreements about the children. Large-group communalism has an inherent bias against children: as couples forming in the community leave to start a family elsewhere; as adults without children are concerned that the children who are born into the community will likely leave eventually and not become members, after the community pays the expense of raising them; and as large-group communal childcare in which parents cede decision-making power over their children to the group has proven unsustainable over the long term. Yet the problems are mostly among the adults! Meanwhile, Daniel Greenberg presents in his study of children in community the quote from an anonymous community member saying, “For our young children, community is the closest they’re ever going to get in this life to paradise!” (Anonymous, paraphrased from Daniel Greenberg, Communities no. 92, Fall, 1996, p. 12)
Correlations in community: Some parents prefer that or believe that in some cases “communal childcare” can or should replace the family, whether single-parent, nuclear or patriarchal, extended, or blended. Generally, communal childcare in small groups, named by the present author “cofamilies” [see: 5. Cofamily versus Consanguineous Family] can and does work well, while communal childcare in large groups of ten or more adults, where the parents give decision-making power over their children to the group of child care-givers in everything from diet to vaccinations to education to discipline, is problematic for the adults when some have difficulty in making and keeping agreements. While the adults have trouble with conflicts among the child care-givers, the children are usually doing fine, as long as they sleep with their parents rather than away from their parents in a communal children’s house.
There are two main problems with communal childcare in large groups, first, a lack of consistently high-quality childcare as care-givers with different skill levels come and go. Achieving agreement on the many issues presented in the previous paragraph creates such a bureaucratic cost in meeting time that focusing upon the developmental needs of each child is often lost (see: Ingrid Komar, Living the Dream, p. 240). While more meetings scheduled specifically for addressing each child’s development may be called for, increased time in meetings begs the questions of diminishing returns and commitment to the ideal. Especially given the turn-over in child care-givers, the parents usually end up having the most consistent relationship with their children, which can lead to parents disregarding community childcare policies with which they disagree, resulting in the failure of at least the communal childcare program, and sometimes the community itself.
The second major problem of communal childcare in at least secular, egalitarian groups is the fact that non-parent adults in the community who may or may not have children of their own, or who’s children are now adults, do not want to pay the costs of raising children communally, because the great majority of the children will be taken out of the community by their parents once they reach school-age, and anyway those children remaining will likely choose to leave community when they reach adulthood. This has been the case in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC). Further, the FEC group East Wind votes on whether to pay the costs of each individual woman’s pregnancy and childcare, requiring that those women who lose their vote must either get an abortion or leave the community, resulting in a small yet steady stream of East Wind pregnancy refugees. In the case of Twin Oaks Community, which rarely refuses pregnancies, their communal childcare program evolved from where parents ceded control of decision-making with regard to the care of their children to the large group, to where now parents find support among members to help them with childcare, essentially creating a small community group within the larger communal society, called by this author a “nested cofamily.” The larger FEC groups like East Wind and Acorn seem to be following this pattern, while the smaller FEC groups of less than ten adults each function as a cofamily. (See: A. Allen Butcher, 2016, Cofamily: Raising Children in Community, Amazon.com)
It is because of the problems of children in communal society that the present author asserts the provocative conclusion that “large-group communalism has an inherent bias against children when parents cede decision-making over their children to the group.” Parallels to this can be seen in the dominant, outside-world culture where conservative governments seek to avoid providing social services to families with children. In contrast, cohousing communities which practice the sharing of privately-owned property as opposed to commonly-owned property, and labor-gifting as opposed to labor-sharing, actively advertise for families with children to join the community, while secular communal societies usually do not. In fact, some members of FEC groups have left communal society to join a cohousing community where they then raise their children.
Religious communal societies have somewhat different yet similar stories with regard to children in communal society, and a good explanation of the dynamic was written with regard to Catholic Worker communities. In his 1982 book, Breaking Bread: The Catholic Worker and the Origin of Catholic Radicalism in America, Mel Piehl quotes a Catholic Worker community resident named Stanley Vishnewski who clearly explains the dynamic. “Single persons under the influence of a powerful religious motive can live happily in a communal society where everything is shared in common. … But we soon learned that marriage and our attempts at communal living were incompatible, for no matter how devoted to the work, the moment they married their relationship gradually and imperceptibly and then frankly and strongly veered away from the community to take care of their own. … This fact, that the family seeks its own because it is a natural community, is the fundamental reason why a complete plan of communal living was bound to fail.” (See: Stanley Vishnewski, quoted in Piehl pp. 128-9, found in Brian Berry, 1992, America’s Utopian Experiments: Communal Havens from Long-Wave Crises, p. 204)
Catholic and other monastic societies typically avoid the issues of children in communal society by simply requiring celibacy, while the Hutterites of the northern plains states and Canadian provinces gave up their communal children’s houses in favor of extended-family-based early childcare. Today only a few of the communal groups of the Israeli kibbutz movements founded in the 20th century maintain their communal economies, while a large majority if not all have given up their communal children’s houses in favor of family apartments. This change in the kibbutz social design led to cascading changes down a slippery-slope of privatization to where, as formerly the term “kibbutz” meant “communalism,” the term is now synonymous with “intentional community,” many now being like cohousing communities on government land trusts. In the 21st century many young adults who grew up in rural kibbutzim have been creating urban communities, many of which are communal, so it will be interesting to see how they structure their childcare systems. (See: Amia Lieblich, 2002, “Women and the Changing Israeli Kibbutz: A Preliminary Three-Stage Theory,” Journal of Israeli History, vol 21: 1, 63-84; Richard Isralowitz, 1987, “The Influence of Child Sleeping Arrangements on Selected Aspects of Kibbutz Life,” Kibbutz Studies, Feb. No. 22, http://www.communa.org.il; and Michal Palgi, 1997, “Women in the Changing World of the Kibbutz,” Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal, vol. 1 no. 1)
7. Solidarity versus Alienation
In community people clearly see that we are all in this together, while in the monetary economy it is understood that everyone is in it for themselves.
The correlation to experience: Time-based economies, whether labor-exchanging (e.g., Time Dollars), labor-gifting (e.g., volunteering, “giving back,” and “paying it forward”), or labor-sharing (i.e., whether anti-quota or vacation-credit labor systems), by valuing all community-labor equally no matter what is done or who is doing it, provide freedom from the alienation of monetary economics.
8. Abstract Principle versus Unique Situation
Confusing the image for the essence is a common mistake. “Any idea of God is just that —an idea. Confusing the idea of God with the true ineffable nature of the Mystery is idolatry.” (Timothy Feke and Peter Gandy, Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians, 2001, p. 27)
The correlation in community: The psychology professor Deborah Altus (Washburn University, Topeka, KS) explains that the Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner, who wrote Walden Two, a utopian fiction applying his theories of behavioral engineering, appreciated Sunflower House (KS) and Los Horcones (Mexico) because those communities affirmed empiricism (the scientific method) in a deliberate, systematic way, in contrast with Twin Oaks (VA) and East Wind (MO) in which the founders initially attempted to emulate Skinner’s utopian fiction Walden Two (1948) as a blueprint, although eventually evolving their own unique systems. In his 1949 book Paths in Utopia (p. 139) Martin Buber concurs with Skinner saying, “Community should not be made into a principle; it should always satisfy a situation rather than an abstraction. The realization of community, like the realization of any idea, cannot occur once and for all time; always it must be the moment’s answer to the moment’s question, and nothing more.” Emmy Arnold, wife of Eberhard Arnold, cofounders of the Society of Brothers or Bruderhof wrote, possibly in reference to the Bruderhof’s on-again-off-again relationship with the much older, larger, and more traditional Hutterites, “A life shared in common is a miracle. People cannot remain together for the sake of traditions. Community must be given again and again as a new birth.” (Emmy Arnold, 1974, Children in Community, 2nd edition, originally published 1963, p. 173)
9. Communal Economics versus Exchange Economies
The well known Morelly’s Maxim written in the 18th century of “from each according to ability; to each according to need” is now updated in the 21st century to apply to groups as opposed to individuals by the present author in Allen’s Aphorism as “from all according to intent; to all according to fairness.” Ability is to intent; as need is to fairness.
The correlation in community: As Daniel Gavron wrote about the Kibbutz movement in Israel, the red line between communalism and the exchange economy is whether all labor is valued equally or whether differential compensation is used to reward different types of labor. “… [W]hereas previous changes in the kibbutz way of life, such as increasing personal budgets [see: 4. Sharing versus Privacy] and having the children sleep in their parent’s homes [see: 6. Family versus Communal Childcare], did not alter the fundamental character of the institution, the introduction of differential salaries indicated a sea change.” (Gavron, 2000, Kibbutz: Awakening from Utopia, p. 9)
When Marx and Engels sought to define a future ideal culture to supersede market capitalism they had the same trouble as everyone else in projecting the details of what it would look like and how it would function. In the Intentioneers.net blog post “Understanding Non-Monetary, Time-Based, Communal Economics” the present author wrote that with the innovation of the vacation-credit labor system the egalitarian, secular, communal intentional community Twin Oaks has solved the problem of Karl Marx’ and Freidrich Engels’ second phase of communism.
Marx and Engels had no better idea than did the Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner who wrote Walden Two, a utopian fiction applying his theories of behavior engineering [see: 8. Abstract Principle versus Unique Situation], or anyone else as to what a secular communal society would look like. The best that Marx and Engels could come up with was to use Morelly’s Maxim (see: Karl Marx, 1875/1891 “Critique of the Gotha Program” in Robert Tucker, 1978, The Marx-Engels Reader pp. 525, 531, 685). Later Friedrich Engels did get it right in saying that the second stage of communism would involve the “administration of things and a direction of the processes of production” (see: Friedrich Engels, 1880, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific in Tucker, p. 689), since the production and distribution of wealth is different in communism than capitalism (see the following two paragraphs on production and distribution in communalism below). Marx and Engels set the goal of achieving a non-capitalist economy as an uncertain step to be taken sometime in the distant future, focusing in the interim upon what they explained as the intermediate step in Marxist communism of class-conflict for control of the State. And yes, the second stage of Marxist communism is a utopian theory and ideal despite their inclusion of it in their concept of “scientific socialism.”
It was Kathleen “Kat” Kinkade, cofounder of Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Acorn communities (USA), who in 1967 originated the innovation in time-based economies called by the present author the “vacation-credit, labor-sharing system.” This is not a labor-exchange, instead it is labor-sharing involving the community deciding what types of work is important to the community, valuing equally domestic, income, and all other labor which the community chooses to recognize as “on the system.” A labor-quota or minimum number of hours per week that all members must contribute to maintain their membership is then set by the community, while the member chooses among available work roles, often working a few hours in several different jobs per day, while enjoying a “radical flex-time” work-day, with breaks as the member or crew desires. Any member can request to be trained for any job. The single most important aspect of the vacation-credit labor system is the provision that over-quota work by the individual earns personal vacation time (see: Kinkade, 1972, A Walden Two Experiment, p. 45). It is primarily the time-based, vacation-credit concept, along with valuing all labor equally, that has enabled Twin Oaks’ communal survival and growth for over half-a-century, and which provides the bonding agent in Mala Twin Oaks’ assertion that the community’s labor system is “the glue that keeps this community together.” (See: Emily Rems, 2003 winter, “Ecovillage People,” BUST magazine)
Membership entitles the person to all the goods and services of the community, with distribution organized in appropriate ways, such as: equally to all, according to need (e.g., health care), by chance (i.e., dice, straws, etc.), first-come-first-served, or by preferences matrix (see: Komar, 1983, Living the Dream, pp. 113-4). Merit is used for assigning committee and managerial positions, while seniority is rarely acknowledged in egalitarian communities.
For ten years the egalitarian communities experimented with variable-credit labor systems, compensating different types of work with different credits-per-hour depending upon people’s preferences, until the members decided they preferred to value all work benefitting the community equally, thus respecting Daniel Gavron’s red line between communalism and the exchange economy. This design of a communal economy has now been in use over fifty years, with all of the known communities using variations of the system associating in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
10. Individuality versus Community
There must be brotherly [and sisterly] love, a wholeness of humanity. But there must also be pure, separate individuality, separate and proud. —D. H. Lawrence
The correlation in community: Many writers about community have focused upon the opposing dynamics of the individual versus the community, some suggesting the need for individuals to give up attachments to their own interests in order to support what brings and keeps the community together. Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s 1972 book Commitment and Community considers a large range of these issues. An example would be in communal groups where each member is given a private room, which is a basic need for individual privacy that communal groups generally recognize. Yet a dynamic seen in such groups is that some new members spend the first months of their membership focused upon fixing up their rooms, like building a sleeping loft or raised bed with storage below, installing a parquet floor, painting the room, building shelves and so on, then soon after it is done, they drop membership and leave. They never make the transition from focusing upon themselves to focusing upon the group. In the opposite case of over-bearing group-think and manipulative group processes, the individual loses the ability to think critically and independently (see: Tim Miller, 2016, “‘Cults’ and Intentional Communities,” Communities Directory 7th Ed., FIC; and Marlene Winell, 1993, Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion). Survival of an intentional community requires that at certain points the individual and the group must be interlocking, yet both must be sufficiently autonomous to resist submergence of one by the other. [This is somewhat contrary to item number 1 “Idealism versus Self-Interest.”]
11. Social Pressure Justified by Idealism versus Dissenting Non-Compliance
When the irresistible force of personal needs hits the immovable object of the attachment to communal ideals, a cognitive dissonance results of people doing one thing while saying something contradictory about exactly what it is they are doing.
The correlation in community: For about a decade East Wind Community, about a quarter-century Twin Oaks Community, about sixty years the Kibbutz movements, and for probably a few centuries the Hutterite colonies, all struggled to make something work that tends to not work well in large communal societies; designing and maintaining communal childcare systems in which the community rather than the parents make all the decisions for the children. [See: 6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare] In many cases the community sentiment is essentially that of course a communal society must have a communal childcare system, while typically the children who grow up in communal childcare systems refuse to raise their own children the same way, resulting in their leaving the communal society to have children and sometimes causing the communal community itself to privatize or disband.
Kat Kinkade explains one of the founding ideals of Twin Oaks in her 1994 book Is It Utopia Yet? when she wrote, “We thought children belong to society and we could raise them better than the parents could. Look at all our neurotic parents! So we thought we were going to raise our children by experts. Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of experts.” (Kinkade, 1994, p. 34) Ingrid Komar explains further in her 1983 book Living the Dream about Twin Oaks that, “Originally the most radical group conceived of parenthood as ‘giving a child to the community.’ [The concept was called “the community child.”] The community, these people reasoned, had a better chance of creating the utopian ‘Walden Two’ personality out of the second generation of communitarians. … How far community pressures went in ‘attenuating the parent-child relationship’ in the early days is difficult to ascertain in retrospect.” (Komar, 1989, 2nd edition, original publication 1983, pp. 215-6) Komar then quotes Kinkade saying, “There was never at any time a practice in the child rearing at Twin Oaks which even faintly resembled the theoretical separation of natural parent from child. Never. What there was, however, was a leftover sense of guilt from among those who betrayed the idea, and they made a big point of talking about the early radical days as if there had been such a thing. The only thing there ever had been was resentful statements to the parents for having betrayed the group-agreed upon ideal.” (Kat Kinkade in Komar, p. 216)
Conflicts reoccurred over the years as non-compliance was met by social pressure, yet parents continued to ignore the rules they disliked. Eventually it was social anarchy that ended communal childcare at Twin Oaks, while at East Wind the story was similar yet more intense, with those most committed to communal childcare giving up and leaving. Despite the commitment to participatory governance, the story of communal childcare in the larger Federation communities shows how group-think can maintain commitment for a limited amount of time to a hopelessly failed ideology while policy dilemmas seem to never go away. Social pressure reinforced the status quo, while non-compliance with childcare agreements resulted in an example of social anarchy within a bureaucratic system.
12. The Parallel Cultures of Exchange Economies versus Communal Economics
While America is generally described as a “capitalist country” the dominant culture is actually fairly well balanced between the aspects of competition and of cooperation. The theory of “parallel cultures” as developed by the present author says that the two economic systems are intertwined or interwoven, such that the debt-based monetary system and the non-monetary time-based system are mutually dependent.
Although the monetary system gets all the glory (via economic metrics such as GNP/GDP), the fact is that industrial, agricultural, governmental and all other forms of production are dependent upon the uncounted labor which provides domestic and community services, usually performed by women. If the non-monetarily-compensated work in domestic reproduction, often called “women’s work,” were to be monetized, it would add significantly to the country’s GNP/GDP. As it is, the corporate/private and government/public world is dependent upon the non-monetized domestic labor of women and men for the raising of each generation of wage-earning and salaried employees.
In her 1991 book Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyond Economics Hazel Henderson calls domestic gifting and sharing labor the “informal economy of unpaid productivity” (Henderson, pp. 120-2). Marilyn Warring explains further in her 1988 book If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, that “the international economic system constructs reality in a way that excludes the great bulk of women’s work—reproduction (in all its forms), raising children, domestic work, and subsistence production. Cooking, according to economists, is ‘active labor’ when cooked food is sold and ‘economically inactive labor’ when it is not” (Waring, pp. 30-1).
Defining economics as the total production of goods and services, in the nation-state monetary economics is less than half of the economic story. The gifting and sharing part of our economic system includes three main components, two that use money and one that is time-based. The gifting and sharing parts of the U.S. economic system are comprised of: • Government spending [the first monetary-sharing part] including federal, state, and local equaled about 34 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 (see: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com). • The economic contribution to GDP in 2014 of tax-exempt organizations [the second monetary-sharing part] comprised 5.3 percent (see: nccs.urban.org/data-statistics/quick-facts-about-nonprofits). • A United Nations survey titled The World’s Women: Trends and Statistics, 1970-1990 reported that if time-based domestic economic production [the gifting and sharing part] was monetized, the U.S. GDP would be 30 percent higher (Henderson, 1991, pp. 11, 167). Since it is not monetized this “domestic reproduction” contribution to GDP is uncounted, invisible, and disrespected, while being essential to the monetary system.
The correlations in community: Justification for the “parallel cultures” concept is found in three surprising aspects of the counterculture, where people who are committed to alternative lifestyles actually end up engaging in at least three activities which constitute the basic building blocks of monetary economics. It is astonishing to think that by returning to pre-monetary gifting and sharing lifestyles people naturally end up recreating and reliving the basic dynamics which apparently led to the foundations of monetary economics in human civilization!
• First is the issue of children in communal society, where as explained in an earlier section of this paper [6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare] people typically leave the secular communal society they previously joined, and in the case of East Wind Community they are sometimes forced out (as was the case with the present author and others), to rejoin the dominant, monetary system in order to have children in a family setting, whether single-parent, nuclear, extended, or blended. In other cases people simply avoid joining communal society in the first place when they choose to focus upon personal needs and wants over idealistic values [see: 1. Idealism versus Self-Interest]. Further, even if children do grow up in communal society they will typically leave once they become adults in order to take their chances in the dominant, monetary economy and society. The dynamic here seems to be that adults usually want something different than what they had growing up. Just as those who grow up in the country often want to move to the city, and those born in the city want to get back-to-the-land, so also do those who grow up in communalism want to explore the monetary system, while those who grow up in the dominant culture want to become part of its counterculture. It may be that youth always wants to take the dragon by the tail, as it were, and see how well they can make it serve their own interests and ideals, or it may simply be the case that the grass always looks greener in the parallel culture on the other side of the looking glass.
• Second is the case of the wilderness training experiences in basic market economics provided at the countercultural gatherings of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. A standard feature of Rainbow Gatherings, large and small, is the Trade Circle or Barter Lane. At Rainbow Gatherings private property is used in two ways: in gifting and in trading. All Annual and most Regional Rainbow Gatherings happen on government land, like national forests and other wilderness areas. Primarily the Gatherings focus upon gifting of labor and food from the individual to the group, yet to the dismay of many Rainbows, a large number of attendees insist upon spreading a blanket on the ground and displaying all manner of articles for trade, from camping supplies and clothing to semi-precious stones, crystals, and art and craft work. On warm sunny days hundreds of people will be actively trading, and thousands will wander down Barter Lane enjoying this colorful, bustling milieu of Rainbow culture. Typically, certain commodities like chocolate and tobacco will take on the functions of indirect-barter, becoming primitive forms of currency. When the value of chocolate in particular inflates too high in the barter market someone will typically purchase a huge bag of the commodity and hand it out at Barter Lane to saturate the market by increasing the supply. Inadvertently, the pleasure-of-haggling results in the teaching of children especially the basic market functions of supply-and-demand, monopoly, market saturation, buy-low/sell-high, and other aspects of exchange economies, within an ostensibly gifting and sharing culture. While similar festivals like Burning Man actively shut down any kind of trade or barter activity, Rainbow culture is too anarchistic to stop such antithetical behavior. Barter at Rainbow is essentially a form of non-compliance with the gifting ideal and intent of the festival, similar to the experience of parents going against the assumptions of large-group communal childcare [see: 6. Family or Cofamily-Based Childcare versus Large-Group Communal Childcare], illustrating again the intertwined nature of exchange versus gifting and sharing parallel cultures, where both opposing cultures actually create their own antithesis.
• Third is the experience of communal groups attempting to trade commodities produced in their own businesses with each other. There are two aspects to this dynamic, first being the experience of two groups in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, both in Missouri. East Wind Community makes nut butters like peanut and almond butter, while Sandhill produces sweeteners like sorghum and honey. The two wanted to trade for the other’s commodities, yet had to work out how best to value their products. Should they trade according to weight or volume, or maybe by how much time was required by the two communities to each make a comparable unit of their products? Then too is the problem that trade in commodities is taxable, just like monetary sales, so the communities would have to keep a special barter ledger to account for their trades. A second ledger for barter transactions then complicates the communities’ computation of the dollar-per-hour of their various businesses which they use to monitor their own productivity over time. Given all these complexities East Wind and Sandhill decided to simply sell their products to each other as they would a commercial account, just to avoid making more work for themselves. Here is seen, in this experience of two of the most radical, non-monetary, time-based, communal societies opting for exchanges between them utilizing monetary economics, another illustration of how and why monetary systems developed at the beginning of civilization.
The second aspect of commodities exchanges between communal societies resulting in experiences of the return to monetary economics, illustrates how communal idealism continually results in the proverbial reinvention of the exchange system “wheel.” Arthur and Jane Morgan, cofounders of The Vale community in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1946, had earlier founded Community Service, Inc. (CSI) in 1940. Alfred Andersen, after his release from detention as a conscientious objector during World War Two, joined them and helped form in 1946-47 an association for barter exchanges of agricultural products and crafts between communitarian settlements called, “Inter-Community Exchange.” Andersen explains, “Our hope was that we could develop an entire alternative economy of trading among cooperative communities. … It was only after a year or two that we realized the main thing we had to exchange was fellowship.” (Andersen, “Fellowship Roots: Where We’ve Been; Where We Might Go,” Communities no. 97, winter 1997, pp.12-13) After the founding of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities at East Wind in 1976 a member of East Wind started a short-lived marketing initiative called “Community Products,” and later in the 1990s a former member of Twin Oaks then living at an associated community created an Internet-based community-market initiative, only to give that up after a few years. With the rise of a number of small communities around Twin Oaks about the time of its 50th anniversary the topic of exchanging and marketing of products made by the various communities has arisen again. None of the people involved in these initiatives have known about the earlier failures, while the same idea has probably surfaced as well at other times in other places, and so this particular market-exchange-system wheel keeps being reinvented, or at least discussed time after time, with the result always being the return to reliance upon the market-economy system of the dominant culture.
These examples of how people who have been committed to the communal ideal and have left the monetary economy to live in various types of intentional community, only to end up recreating aspects of monetary systems, even creating community-owned businesses, illustrates how debt-based monetary economics and time-based non-monetary economics function as parallel cultures. The intertwined nature of these two, supposedly diametrically opposed cultures, is perhaps best portrayed graphically in the oriental Taijitu or “yin-yang” symbol, in which two opposite concepts are represented as each having an aspect of the other embedded within them. While such an illustration is not included in this paper it will appear in the book version.
13. Utopian Countercultural Lifestyles versus Imposed Reality of the Dominant Culture
Cultural innovations often arise from utopian theory or from within intentional communities, or they are picked up by communities from the outside-world and adapted or evolved, then are disseminated back into the outside-world where they may result in changes in the dominant culture. Three examples of this dynamic are: feminism, legal structures for communalism, and freedom from taxation.
The correlations in community—Feminism: Charles Fourier (1772-1837) of France was an eccentric utopian philosopher and writer who focused upon cooperation rather than communalism, and like Robert Owen who inspired the cooperative movement in England, Fourier is credited with being an early inspiration to the French worker and consumer cooperative movements (Beecher and Bienvenu, pp. 66-7). Both Fourier and Owen inspired later class-harmony communities [see: 2. Class-Harmony versus Class-Conflict]. Using a pen-name, Fourier published in 1808 his Theory of the Four Trends and the General Destinies in which he stated that, “the extension of the privileges of women is the fundamental cause of all social progress.” Beginning in the 1840s, as Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu write in their 1971 book, The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier, this statement became “one of the battle cries of radical feminism,” contributing to the revolutionary movements of 1848 throughout Europe (B. & B., p. 196). Fourier is also “credited with coining or giving currency to the term … feminism” (Nicholas Riasanovsky, 1969, The Teaching of Charles Fourier, p. 208), which later became, along with the cooperative movement, two primary aspects of socialism, with the first use of the term “socialist” appearing in the Owenite London Cooperative Magazine in 1827. Feminism became a mass movement of its own through the suffragette and material-feminist organizing (see: Dolores Hayden, 1981, The Grand Domestic Revolution) of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with feminism’s second wave occurring during the radical protests and organizing of the 1960s and ‘70s. According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her 1972 book Commitment and Community, it was from a 1960s New York women’s liberation group that Twin Oaks Community adopted the word “co” to use as a neutral, non-gender-specific pronoun, in place of “he” and “she,” and “cos” in place of the possessive “his” and “hers” (Kanter, p. 23; see also Kinkade, The Collected Leaves of Twin Oaks, vol. 1, p. 115 and vol. 2, p. 23). In a letter from Kat Kinkade to Jon Wagner, professor of sociology at Knox College, Galesburg, IL, around 1980, Kinkade wrote about Twin Oaks and East Wind Communities that, “sexual equality … is fundamental to our idea of ‘equality,’ and equality is fundamental to our approach to changing society. There is no platform of our ideology that is more central.” To which Jon Wagner replied in his 1982 book Sex Roles in Contemporary American Communes, “These communities may be among the most nonsexist social systems in human history.” (Wagner, pp. 37-8)
The correlations in community—Legal Structures: The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) was founded at East Wind Community the fall of 1976, and in 2017 Twin Oaks Community, another founding member of the FEC, then with about 100 adult members, celebrated its 50th year, breaking all records of longevity for secular communal societies in the United States. An important aspect of that success is the prior existence of a form of legal incorporation designed specifically for communal societies, set by the U.S. Congress in the Revenue Act of 1936, called 501(d) for “religious and apostolic associations.” The 501(d) section of the tax code was originally created for the Adventist community called the House of David in Benton Harbor, Michigan, which built an amusement park as its community business, beginning a tradition of exhibition ball games combining athleticism with comedy in their baseball and basketball teams, later copied by the Harlem Globetrotters (Tim Miller, 1998, The Quest for Utopia, p. 81). Along with various communal religious groups, many of the member communities of the FEC incorporate as 501(d) tax-exempt associations, except that Twin Oaks filed its taxes as a 501(d) organization for many years without obtaining formal recognition for the status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). About 1977 the IRS sent a letter to Twin Oaks saying that it was not exempt from taxes and would you please pay a quarter-million dollars in back taxes? For most communities such a letter would be a death warrant, except in the case of Twin Oaks which decided to take the IRS to court. The primary problem that the IRS identified was the “vow-of-poverty.” Catholic monasteries and similar religious societies incorporate under the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, which requires a vow-of-poverty, meaning that when people join they must donate all their assets and income to the monastery and receive none back, nor have any claim to the communal assets, when they leave the community. The IRS argued that when the 501(d) tax status was created in 1936 the U.S. Congress meant to include a “vow-of-poverty” clause. Not agreeing with this obviously contrived argument, Twin Oaks appealed the problematic IRS ruling to the tax court, and won the case in 1981!
Since then many other communal groups, Christian, Hindu, and more, have incorporated as 501(d), while many others have been refused by the IRS. The problem now is that the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 states that a 501(d) organization must realize a substantial amount of its income from its own businesses and not from members holding jobs outside of the community and contributing their wages and salaries to the group’s common treasury. The IRS has never set a limit for the ratio of outside-job income to community-owned business income which will result in the denial of a community’s application for 501(d) status, which enables the IRS to use that rule to deny the tax-exempt 501(d) status to applicant communities which are not yet sufficiently established to have their own businesses.
The solution to the problem of the limit for outside-jobs income versus community-owned business income was suggested by Herb Goldstein of the School of Living Community Land Trust. Goldstein sites the experience of the 1970s and ‘80s Christian evangelical Shiloh Youth Revival Centers which received a letter similar to the one that Twin Oaks received. Shiloh had been filing taxes under the 501(c)(3) status, which cannot receive income from jobs its members hold, which were unrelated to Shiloh’s exempt purpose, forcing the dissolution of the entire Shiloh community network. In a letter to the present author, April 10 of 1989, Goldstein explained that if Shiloh had formed a separate for-profit corporation to operate its businesses, allowable deductions would have created minimal tax liabilities. The suggestion is then that communal groups, especially new ones that do not yet have sufficiently established businesses to support the community and therefore need outside-work income, might set up two separate communal treasuries, one for community-owned 501(d) business income and the other for outside-job income. The second common treasury can be simply under a partnership agreement involving just those members who have outside-work income, or under a limited liability company, or other form of for-profit corporation. To the knowledge of the present writer, who is neither a lawyer nor a legal professional of any kind, no community has experimented with two communal treasures as explained here, and nothing in this document may be construed as legal advice for any group desiring to embark upon such an experiment, as this writing is only for informational purposes explaining various historical experiences and speculations as to possibilities.
In 1987 East Wind Community sent a letter to a law firm asking about its idea of letting members make money in the community’s businesses for members who wish to leave and relocate, called the “Earned Leaving Fund.” In the reply letter the lawyer suggested setting up a separate bank account in the name of the persons accumulating funds for leaving, refraining from accessing them until their membership is ended, just like with assets previously owned by members before they joined which are not given to the communal society (since the vow-of-poverty is not required of 501(d) organizations). The lawyer wrote further, “On the advisability of seeking a private ruling from the Internal Revenue Service on this question, I believe that it would be time consuming with no reasonable assurance of success. I believe it likely that the Internal Revenue Service would refuse to rule on the question and the exercise would serve only to put a spot light on [the Community]. I believe that the Internal Revenue Service still maintains an internal bias against 501(d) organizations which do not have a vow of poverty. In saying this, however, I must point out that I have not made any inquiries or seen any IRS publications which support my feelings that a bias exists.” (Collins Denny, III, Mays & Valentine, Richmond, Virginia, September 4, 1987)
The correlations in community—Freedom from Taxation: LIVE • FREE! Labor Is Valued Equally • For Realizing Economic Equality! When all labor is valued equally, money is no longer used as inducement or reward for labor. When labor accounting is involved in time-based economies, an hour of work is equal to one “labor credit,” regardless of what is done or who is doing it.
There are three forms of time-based economies: labor-exchanging, labor-gifting, and labor-sharing, and all three are tax-exempt. When labor is not valued in dollars and instead is only counted in units of time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has ruled that time-based economies are tax-exempt.
The IRS gives three reasons for labor-exchange systems like Time Dollars to be tax-exempt: 1. An hour is always an hour, regardless of what type of labor or productive work is involved; 2. Labor-exchange hours are backed only by a moral obligation and are not legally binding; and 3. The purpose of labor-exchanges is charitable.
Labor-gifting is tax-exempt as it is also a charitable, moral obligation, often explained by the common phrases: “fair-share,” “giving back,” and “paying it forward.”
Labor-sharing is tax-exempt for generally the same reasons as labor-exchanging and labor-gifting above, even when used for income-producing labor making money in community-owned businesses, when the community is incorporated as an IRS 501(d) organization [see the previous discussion “The Correlations in Community—Legal Structures”]. There is, however, a limit to how much tax-free income a 501(d) community can make through its time-based labor system. The formula is: net income from community-owned businesses for a given year (with only a small percentage from outside jobs, although the IRS does not specify that percentage) ÷ total number of community members (adults + children) = less than the poverty level annual income where the tax rate is zero.
Motivations for Communitarian Gifting and Sharing
The intentioneering of cultural innovations in utopian theory and communitarian cultures is often motivated by the desire among people to live in ways more consistent with their greatest values and highest ideals of personal responsibility for self, society, and nature than what the dominant culture offers or supports. As explained in section 12 “The Parallel Cultures of Exchange Economies versus Communal Economics,” the gifting and sharing cultures give rise to monetary economics, which became the “dominant culture” expressing the negative values of possessiveness and competition, while monetary economics similarly gives rise to countercultural systems of gifting and sharing representing the positive aspects of cooperative culture first learned in eons of tribal culture. Ever since the advent of money people have devised forms of time-based economies to escape the evils of monetary economics, including endless warfare, mass slavery, wealth amidst poverty, and environmental decline.
When money is not used within a community, encouragement and reward for participation requires creative methods for expressing group affirmation and appreciation for the time and skills contributed by each person. Since there is no monetary reward for motivating work in the time-based economy, forms of positive reinforcement for contributing time in labor or work may include: • Personal satisfaction for doing work valued and appreciated by others, or which serves the common good; • Recognition by friends for one’s good work, especially when offered personally, and • Knowing that other members are also doing the best quality work they can for the community. This latter form of positive reinforcement results in a sense of group awareness and commitment, or ésprit dé corps to use a military term, which helps to avoid or decrease burnout, or the loss of the intention originally inspiring the individual due to the daily effort required to maintain commitment and participation.
There is a large amount of sociological and psychological material about what motivates people, suggesting that “carrot and stick” approaches which inspire hope-of-gain versus fear-of-loss is not the most important concern. Daniel Pink explains in his 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us that once our basic survival needs are met, our greatest motivation for what we do is the resulting personal growth and development that we realize, toward expressing our individual human potential. The author analyzes the components of personal motivation as being first autonomy, or the desire to direct our own lives, then mastery, or the desire to continually improve what we do (and the more it matters to others the better), and also the desire to be of service to an ideal or something that is larger than just one’s own life. Alfie Kohn writes in his 1999 book, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes that “artificial inducements” only work for a period of time, after which the lack of a meaningful context for what we do can cause people to lose interest in the bribes offered. Rewards can actually work against creativity as they discourage risk-taking when the safest way to earn a reward is to follow the methods designed and imposed by others. Kohn identifies the conditions for authentic motivation as collaboration with others, the meaningfulness of the work, and choice or self-direction, all of which can be provided in the social-economic-political design of intentional community.
Natural Law as the Unified-Field Theory of Human Society
The thirteen correlations of theory and practice above present fundamental dichotomies in human culture. Many of these and probably others can also be written as ironies of human culture, yet however presented they may also be considered to be behavioristic principles of “natural law,” and together affirmed as aspects of the unified-field theory of communitarianism, or of the practice of intentioneering, as expressed in the application of our highest values and ideals in our chosen lifestyle.
Natural law integrates in one coherent world view a set of moral principles for the design of spiritual, political, economic, and other social issues. These aspects of our existence at the juncture of the physical and the spiritual aspects of the universe justifies both common and private property by affirming respect for social, environmental, and personal responsibility in our applications of the laws-of-nature.
These correlations of intentional community, or of intentioneering theory and experience, represent at least some of the psychological laws of behaviorism. These balance the group’s right to self-determination in creating its social contract, including a behavior code and a system of property ownership and/or control, against the individual’s subjective needs and wants. The individual’s participation in the mutual processes of decentralized, self-governance, toward common expressions of “the good life,” results in our cultural evolution through successive approximations of paradise on Earth.
• Behaviorism (behavioral psychology) — A philosophical theory that all behavior ultimately results from external environmental influences upon, or conditioning of, the individual’s internal cognition, emotions, and attitudes.
• Natural Law (political or religious philosophy) — A body of unchanging moral principles influencing human conduct, whether recognized through reason or revelation.
• Intentioneering (compare with communitarianism) — The effort to design and live a preferred lifestyle or culture; coined from the terms “intentional community” and “behavioral engineering.”
The School of Intentioneering • A. Allen Butcher • Intentioneers.net • Denver, CO • January 22, 2019
Merry Meet! I am founder of the Dry Gulch Ecovillage, a 4-unit apartment building in Denver, Colorado. In 2007 I purchased this property from a slumlord and have been improving the property ever since to save it from dereliction, and to make it instead into a nice place for people to live.
DGEcovillage’s location is especially good for non-auto travel, given the light-rail train line (going to various downtowns in the area, and on to the airport), bus line, and bicycle route just a block away. Train and bike trail run down the middle of the Dry Gulch to the Platte River.
Besides turning some of the lawns into gardens, the most ecological things we’ve done are to make this building much more energy efficient, with new windows, insulation, and a new super-efficient gas furnace. Hopefully soon I can afford to have solar panels installed.
For me the “ecovillage” idea involves not only the physical yet also the social environment, and it is the latter that is now my focus, having gotten much of the remodeling and updating done. Resident turn-over here at the DGEcovillage has evolved to where we have a good crew of people who are becoming more community-mindful. People come here looking for housing, then when they get here I emphasize the community aspect as a lifestyle amenity, helping to make the property safer, healthier, more productive (veggies and fruit), more beautiful, and more fun and inviting for social activities.
The question is just what kind of “community” is this? There are lots of developers creating “apartment communities” in which it can be hard to see much in the way of a community. While people, like myself having lived twelve years in communal society, generally tend to think that a property owned by one person can hardly be what we think of as a “community,” the fact is that about 15 percent of the U.S. listings in the print version of the 2010 “Communities Directory,” published by the Fellowship for Intentional Community, state that the property is owned by one person! Compare this with 10 to 12 percent identified in the directory as communal societies.
Since people generally do not see a property owned by one person as a “community,” we have been blind to this form of community while it has been hiding in plain sight. To help awaken people to this model of community I have given it a name: “class-harmony community.” This refers to the economic classes of property owner (capitalist class) and tenants (the renting classes: poor, working, or lower-middle class) living in harmony, as opposed to the Marxist-communist concept of class-conflict.
In the fall 2017 issue of “Communities” magazine (#176) a study of the 2016 “Directory” showed that a category of communities called “Shared House/Cohousehold/Coliving” totaled 31 percent (pp. 15-19). All three of these forms of community can be called “class-harmony,” and it is amazing that this is about twice the number found in the 2010 “Directory!” Evidently the number of class-harmony communities is growing, which suggests that advocating this form of intentional community could be very successful in attracting funding from people who want community yet who may not be ready to donate their wealth to a community. Over time a class-harmony community could transition to a community land trust, a cohousing community, a housing cooperative, or something else.
In that same 176th issue of “C” mag., in the article by Sky Blue and Betsy Morris titled, “Tracking the Communities Movement: 70 Years of History and the Modern FIC” the authors state that about 26 percent of the 2016 listings are of groups using the term “ecovillage.” My analysis of the 2010 “Directory” shows only 5 percent of the listings using the term, so the growth of the ecovillage movement in just six years as reflected in the directories is impressive! At the same time, other groups like Twin Oaks Community which earlier called itself an “ecovillage” no longer does so in its directory listing (although the term “ecology” does appear in its description). I will be doing a statistical analysis of the 2016 “Directory” listings later in 2019 to clarify and be more certain of these numbers.
Fortunately for us, property values and rents have climbed so high in Denver over recent years (property values doubled in five years, thanks to legal recreational marijuana!) that I have been able to grant rent discounts from the market-rate to all DGEcovillage residents according to their income level and how much they help with construction, maintenance, gardening, and such. I help residents in a number of other ways as well, from requiring low deposits, to loaning tools and storage space to one person who is starting a small construction business, and to another person doing furniture refinishing, to help my tenants make money to pay their rent.
I also practice “inclusionary housing” which means that I offer a couple sub-standard living spaces (a room in the Shop and an RV in the parking lot) providing heat and electricity yet no water, for which they must come to my or someone else’s unit for kitchen and bath facilities. So my rent discounts range from 20 to 50 percent for the apartments, and for the sub-standard spaces about 60 to 70 percent off the market-rate for a single room in a house or apartment.
Another aspect of the “social ecology” of DGEcovillage is a concept I am calling the “cofamily.” Unlike the term “cohousing” which is a specific legal and financial design, the “co” in cofamily refers to any of a number of different forms of intentional community, including: cooperative, collective, convoluted, communal, complicated, or any similar term other than consanguineous. I am using this term in my analysis of the “Communities Directory” for groups of from three to nine adults, in any type of community. Cofamily is a form of intentional community with fewer than ten adults and however many children. The unspecified form of community in cofamilies is helpful because small groups often change their structures over time, and so simply calling them a “cofamily” respects their shape-shifting.
Further, the term “cofamily” extends the list of types of families, adding to the common forms of single-parent family, nuclear family, extended family, and blended family, another form of family which is not based upon blood relations or marriage, instead upon the commitment of unrelated people to live together. Creating cofamily community is a method for replacing patriarchal culture with partnership, emphasizing mutual respect or equality-of-the-genders, although not in all cases. While a cofamily can be patriarchal, the egalitarian form may be emphasized.
Not all of us at the DGEcovillage are committed to the concepts of class-harmony, cofamily, and ecovillage, yet we are a community-in-the-making. To extend these ideas into the dominant culture I have begun planning to create a religion upholding these concepts, which I am calling “Partnership Spirituality.” In time, then, the DGEcovillage may add “spiritual community” to its identity. Blessed Be!
The School of Intentioneering • A. Allen Butcher • Intentioneers.net • Denver, CO • Dec. 23, 2018
The intentional communities movement has been growing since at least the Great Recession of 2008. The last time that there was such growth in alternative lifestyles in America and around the world was the late 1960s through the late ‘70s.
The 1980s saw the “Big Chill” when the Baby Boom generation returned to main-stream culture and the communities movement quieted down. A regrouping began in the 1990s with the reorganizing of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC or Fellowship; see: http://www.IC.org), while other earlier community networking organizations passed their energies to a new generation of organizers. The steady building progressing ever since has provided a foundation for the resurgence begun since 2008.
Today we see not only the Baby Boomers organizing “senior cohousing,” yet the subsequent generations are also jumping into various other forms of intentional community. Youth always embraces alternatives to the dominant culture, which then influences the lifestyle choices of future generations, ever expanding the methods people use for building cultures outside of the mainstream, and for survival within the confines of the dominant culture.
Generations of Intentioneers:
• Baby Boomers: Born 1946–’64, coming of age when cooperatives and communes were resurging;
• Generation X: Born 1965–’76, coming of age when cohousing and ecovillages were beginning;
• Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977–’95, coming of age with coliving and transition town organizing;
• Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996–TBD, coming of age as cofamilies and class-harmony community is ascending, while authoritarian Catholic monasticism is shrinking and other decentralized religious and spiritual communities are expanding.
With a continually growing number of intentional communities adding to the listings in the Fellowship’s “Directory of Intentional Communities,” the tendency moving into the 2020s is for the clustering of either similar intentional communities, or of various different forms of community, in specific regions or local areas.
The Fellowship provides a map showing where the hundreds of intentional communities listed in its directory are located, and from that one can see that most of those clusters are in and around urban centers, with some rural areas also showing countercultural clusters.
Communitarian clusters are found at: The Big Island, HI; Seattle, WA; Portland, and Eugene, OR; Nevada City, Occidental, Davis, SF Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego, CA; Tucson, AZ; Boulder/Denver, CO; Austin, TX; Black Mountain, NC; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Madison, WI; Chicago, IL; Ann Arbor, MI; Louisa, VA; Washington, D.C.; Amherst, and Boston, MA. New York City should also be in this list because of its many old-wave housing co-ops, yet not many communities appear there in the FIC map.
There are also areas where worker-owned, cooperative businesses are noticeably growing, including: Jackson, MS; Cleveland and Cincinnati, OH; NYC and SF Bay Area; and on some Indian reservations, particularly those of the Sioux.
And there are many other areas with smaller clusters of sometimes similar and sometimes different forms of intentional community, although these are hard to see unless one lives in the area long enough to learn of them.
Often these small community networks form and grow around a single large, successful intentional community. In fact, this model of a single large community inspiring the development of a cluster of satellite communities around it is an ages-old pattern, possibly begun around the time of the Ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras’ community called Homakoeion in what is now Italy in the 6th century B.C. , and later during the rise of Catholic monasticism through the Dark Ages of Europe. A similar pattern of a successful intentional community inspiring others nearby is developing today as we move into a potential 21st Century Dark Age.
While it is not always the case, there is a pattern of youth seeking a different lifestyle than how they grew up. People growing up in the country are often drawn to live in the excitement of the city, while those growing up in the city idealize and romanticize living in the country. Generational oscillations between rural and urban lifestyles are also reflected in oscillations of the generations between mainstream and alternative lifestyles. The primary point being that people, especially youth, need and want options from which to choose how they are to live. What intentional community movements provide is choices, not only for changes of scenery yet also for changes in lifestyle, particularly from that of competitive, wasteful alienation to that of cooperative, sustainable, righteous living.
A particular rural area that I believe has great potential through the future for the development of a cluster of alternative communities is the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. In the 1970s the Ozarks experienced an in-migration during the back-to-the-land movement of that era. It was here in Tecumseh Township of Ozark County that a “Walden Two” community was landed in 1974, inspired by the first successful Walden Two community called Twin Oaks in Louisa County Virginia, the two communities sharing the inspiration of Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden: Life in the Woods” and B. F. Skinner’s utopian novel “Walden Two.” Today, nearly half-a-century later, another back-to-the-land movement is arising and while the existing community clusters are benefiting from it, new clusters may also develop, with the Ozarks being a likely location.
Through the 1980s and ‘90s most of the other back-to-the-land communities of the Ozarks dissolved, while the Walden Two community in Tecumseh named “East Wind” survived and slowly grew, thanks largely to the success of its communal design being transplanted to the Ozarks from its sister community Twin Oaks in Virginia. A few years after its founding East Wind initiated, along with Twin Oaks and a few smaller communities, an association called the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (not to be confused with the Fellowship). After the founding of the Federation the communities dropped the term “Walden Two Communities” in favor of the term “Egalitarian Communities.”
I was twenty when I joined East Wind in 1975. At the time I was hitch-hiking around the country looking for the most promising communitarian society to join. I was thinking that I would go anywhere that I found a group of people developing what I felt was the most likely community to succeed and grow, and at the time East Wind expressed the goal of growing to 750 people. Some 43 years later East Wind is only at about a tenth of that goal, and may never decide to grow over 100 people, yet the idea of a large communitarian project of hundreds of people remains a good idea, and Tecumseh Township, Ozark County, Missouri remains a good place to do it! Just not as one large communal society, instead as a network of a variety of different forms of intentional community, all to be in close proximity.
There are several things that suggest that the Ozarks is a good place to build a close network of intentional, cooperative communities, historically called a “communitarian commonwealth.”
First, however; I think that the term “commonwealth” is a good one to use as it means simply the common wellbeing of a region with no specific economic design implied, although the political design would be “democratic decentralism,” as the Kurdish people in Rojava, Syria call it. Rojava in Syria and Catalonia in Spain are two places where the concept of democratic decentralism is currently being developed.
A diversity of economic designs includes not only communal societies sharing commonly-owned property, yet also various forms of collective communities sharing privately-owned property, like land cooperatives or real estate investment co-ops (REICs). A third form of intentional community is the community land trust in which the land (and maybe some buildings and/or equipment) is owned in common via a nonprofit organization while everything else is private property.
Each local community network or commonwealth may in some way adopt the organizing framework of the “transition town” concept started in England. I think of each of the community clusters listed in the paragraph above as being a “regional commonwealth,” and so the goal is to create the “Tecumseh Commonwealth.”
Tecumseh, Missouri is a good place to build a commonwealth for the same reasons today as it was in the mid 1970s. As then, Tecumseh Township is still very rural and very remote. So remote that there are essentially no or few jobs in the area, so to help assure good public relations with the local people the transplants need to create their own businesses and jobs. East Wind has done very well with that, to where it is the largest “employer” in Ozark County. Of course, in a communal society there are no employees and no bosses, instead all members are worker-owners. This creates considerable respect and good will among the local people since usually the only time they see East Wind members is when we go to town to spend money in their stores. Candidates for county sheriff even visit East Wind since the members tend to vote as a block. (Full disclosure: the author lived eight years as a member of East Wind Community.)
Ozark County is friendly toward intentional community since it has no building codes, and while land is not cheap it is less expensive than most places. There is a good amount of water with creeks and rivers flowing through the rolling hills, with dams and reservoirs creating recreational areas. The Ozarks is largely wooded with a great diversity of wildlife as it borders on several different ecosystems, including Kansas grasslands to the west, deciduous forest to the north and east, Mississippi wet lands to the southeast, Oklahoma desert to the southwest, and the Boston Mountains (up to about 2,500 feet above sea level) to the south in Arkansas.
While the wooded hills provide wood and stone for building, there is very little level ground for agriculture. The most common agricultural commodity in the Ozarks, besides timber is beef. Fortunately, with hemp now legal it can be used to make another building material, hempcrete. The roots of the hemp plant can help stabilize the soil on hillsides, and it often grows well in poor soil.
I can think of two possible drawbacks of living in the Ozarks, besides the lack of jobs. First is that since the entire region is largely wooded, the potential for devastating fires like those recently in California will become more of a problem as climate change advances. Fire breaks and other fire safety precautions, like water systems planned for fire-fighting, are necessities.
Another concern is that the region is largely Republican, although as mentioned above the ability to make money in the Ozarks can ameliorate potential problems coming from that cultural difference to some degree. The Ozarks is part of the Bible Belt, and Christian survivalists and other “preppers,” or those preparing for the 21st Century Dark Age, are also flocking to the Ozarks. So it would be wise to avoid proclaiming the Tecumseh Commonwealth from the roof-tops, and instead to quietly buy land and start building.
An important positive aspect of Ozarks culture is that for at least a century people have relocated to the Ozarks to get away from the dominant culture. For this reason the locals tend to live by the ideal of “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.” So in some ways Ozark hillbillies are, although not particularly welcoming, at least tolerant of their neighbors. Therefore, to be accepted it is necessary that new folks take care of themselves, bring ways to make money with them, don’t take jobs from the locals, don’t try to live on welfare, and most of all don’t try to influence the children of the locals. As long as communities create and enjoy their own culture on their own land, and for God sakes clean up before going into town to spend money, the local folks will be mostly friendly.
Since I did my time pioneering a community at East Wind during my 20s, I personally do not feel the need to relive that experience, yet when I have the money I intend to invest it in Tecumseh real estate. There may come a time when I will be able to leave the city, and since East Wind is my home I think of living at least near the community again someday. Pioneering a homestead or a community is a job for young people, and as always, the Ozarks is a good place to do it! There are other ways for older folks like me to help besides chopping wood and carrying water, although I always will need the exercise!