I was recently asked to write a short piece for the 25th anniversary issue of Diggers & Dreamers, the UK directory of communal living. The topic: ‘What is the purpose of communal living?’ In one sense I think the question misses the point. To my mind, communal living doesn’t need to be justified, defended or even celebrated in terms of its purpose. I see communal living as a default setting i.e. it’s the most natural way for human beings to cohabitate. It should be the norm, and of course it was, up until the Industrial Revolution some 300 years ago. For millennia beforehand, we mostly lived as fully interdependent, mutually supportive members of tribes, hamlets, villages and towns. If present day communal living has a purpose at all, then perhaps it’s to remind us of this now forgotten fact.

Particularly over the last 150 years, a sense of oneself as an integrated member of society has been supplanted with a measure of one’s economic worth to the capitalist system, which has in turn been closely associated with status and power. Human values have fundamentally shifted from the social and cultural to the economic and material. More recently (in the last 60 years or so) human need has been dissociated from social satisfaction and cultural meaning, and been realigned instead with consumption, not only of commodities, but also entertainment and substances. Never mind that this trend has fuelled global warming and climate change, it’s more than enough that it has eroded our innate capacity for creativity, service and love.

If we are to regain our basic humanity then the specious satisfaction offered by consumption needs to be replaced by pro-social, non-material means of fulfilment. Intentional communities are the perfect setting for replacing psychological attachment to material gain with location-based social development and cultural rejuvenation. Anti-consumerist values are, in fact, common amongst members of most intentional communities and axiomatic for many sectarian, egalitarian and alternative lifestyle groups. Intentional communities model a more humane, pro-social, values-based way of life. In so doing, they encourage a return to a more modest, measured and, dare I say, spiritual way of life.

Findhorn, is an enduring, practical example of exactly this kind of values inversion and lifestyle transformation. As such, it inspires change and transformation in thousands of visitors every year and is a ‘beacon’ for many more around the world. And of course we are not perfect; far from it. But we are constantly working on it, striving for the “highest and the best,” as we say. And we are doing so with love!

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