Intentional Community
Posted by: Lonz Moon ()
Date: October 13, 2004 07:52AM

I have a life long interest in communal living. I have visited several communes and intentional communities. I am secular, and those I visited were. However, I think a secular community, without an ideology, can still be cult-like.

At a commune, people will talk of freedom of thought, but individual members will at times be bigots. You're either with them or against them.

And newcomers are scrutinized severly, to see if they fit in.

Now, you can leave easily enough (this is funny) and people do. In hoards! At one commune, I was told most people leave after about 2 years. Now this place had 60-some members, sucessful businesses, and had been around over 30 years. There was no pressure to stay, and maybe the opposite!

So, can there be cult-like things in the atmosphere, at secular, hippie, left leaning communes?

Remember, some of these places are urban, some rural, some are income-sharing, and some are not.
They all tend to belong to the Fellowship of Intentional Community, or the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Go look at there websites.

Anyone have thoughts on this one?

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Intentional Community
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 13, 2004 11:44AM

It isnt the belief system that makes a group dysfunctional, its the group process itself that triggers a shift in a dysfunctional/cultic direction.

There is a new book by Professor Janja Lalich in which she sees this as a process of 'bounded choice'---people feel free, continue to think quite logically, but they make their decisions within an increasingly limited menu of options. Lalich learned this from the inside, as member of a secular Marxist political cult. She compared this with the Heavens Gate UFO group, which had a metaphysical slant. In both cases, the groups functioned in a direction of bounded choice.

Kind of like the old saying attributed to Henry Ford Sr: 'You can have any color car you want--as long as its black.' (The old Model T's were only manufactured in black--hence the point of the joke)

You might get find Lalich's book quite informative. The full title is [i:5666017efb]Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults[/i:5666017efb]

then, for a different perspective, I highly recommend Dr Len Oakes' book 'Prophetic Charisma'--a study of 20 charismatic leaders and thier followers. Oakes was intrigued by how people become charismatic and how they mesh with their followers.

Given what you've been through, you may find the books complement each other & ring a few bells.

Ive been on the fringes of social justices groups that were supposedly run by consensus and noticed a few things:

1) Meetings went on forever. THat meant that people who were not night owls, people who had to get up early to go to work the next day, or who just plain hated marathon meetings, went home early. Result: whoever had the stamina to stay to the end of the meeting, won.

2) Power still ended up being concentrated in a few people's hands, even though it was not supposed to happen that way. When a group is supposed to be egalitarian but is actuallly authoritarian, there is no conscious framework by which to make people accountable for their use of power.

3) Everyone's contributions were regarded as equal. In practice, this meant there was no way to screen out people who were crazy and who went off topic. Eventually, people who wanted to get the work done lost patience, left, and the group that remained became increasingly dysfunctional.

4) We operated on hero worship. If anyone had misgivings about a hero or heroine, they were snubbed if they dared say so. Or misgivings were silenced by invoking Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Dorothy Day--a combination of thought stopping and guilt tripping. Very effective.

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Intentional Community
Posted by: Lonz Moon ()
Date: October 17, 2004 09:33AM

Very interesting. My thoughts have more to do with abusive people and control freaks (lack of democracy within the group) since people freely leave these communes, almost weekly.

I thought the population would be nurturing folk, altruistic, socially responsible, etc. Many were, but some folks seemed like the last type you'd find at an intentional community. For instance, one member had an MBA, and ran the business affairs. She was as abusive as any corporate manager. She'd use character assassination, too, a trait which is in your list of warning signs that you are dealing with a cult.

At another commune, the founder actually went off and did "consensus" seminars/ workshops, around the country. But at her place, turnover was high. They bragged of a population of 15-20 over the course of 30 years. In reality, there were only about 5 full, permanent, voting members, and the rest were provisional , non-voting members. These generally didn't stay long. I returned for my 2nd visit 4 yrs. after the first, and saw few of the same faces. And I saw that rules were bent for the old established members. And worse, they told me one thing about personal debt when I first inquired, then after I spent hundreds of dollars visiting 3 times, they said the opposite, with no explanation and no apology (due in part because chaos rules in such places. One person will tell you one thing about rules, and another the opposite, and the old founders don't even deal with you, as you're a peon.)

These places may not be cults but are cult-like. They can harm you emotionally.

And, the whole hippie/far Left sub-culture is dogmatic and pretentious. And into excluding those it sees as un-cool.

All for now.

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Intentional Community
Posted by: LaughingWillow ()
Date: October 23, 2004 03:26PM

i was in a religious cult that we were more than free to go..but we were taught that we were the "move of God" and told how special we were to be the forerunners in this great (not existant) movement and we could leave ..hell the pastor would open the door wide open for us to leave...but we were also told very indirrectly that will will be left behind in god's movement....and our purpose would not actualize...but hey if you wanna go....go ahead

was the commune you in similar to that?? not the religious aspect but the push me-pull me kinda attitude about leaving?

Also You need to evaluate you desire to live in a commune.....communes are largely not healthy.....and most I heard of seem to have peer presure to the max and limit one's choices in life. I have a friend of mine who has a hard time making her own descions...she likes others to make them for her because she is a very submissive person....but if you look deeper...she was in an abusive situation at home with her father who was an alcholic and her mother who is alittle off the rocker...she learned that submission kept her father's temper to a min.. She and I were both in a fact we met there...but we left together. But even now she still does not like making descions and I really work hard not telling her what to do because it is easier for me to tell her what to do than to listen to her suffer in indescion and insecurity of her own you experience any of those problems???

If so may need to see a therapist about rooting out fears of Automy

Dont just go hopping to one commune to the next to band-aid the problem


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