What is a Spiritual Community?

Updated: Sep 14, 2018

Shunyamurti has written a new essay asking what community is and how to flourish at this time of global crisis.

1. The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Communities

The modern age is characterized by the deliberate destruction of authentic communities by the ruling forces of the social structure. We can even go back to the earlier classical age and observe clearly that the Roman Empire in its decline attempted to destroy all forms of community that could threaten its own hold on the minds and hearts of the population.

Eventually, Christianity was used as the bludgeon to destroy all so-called pagan communities, and even all Christian communities that remained true to the original teachings of Christ. These were labeled as heresy, and their sacred texts were burned and banished. To do this, a form of Christianity was required that was in alignment with the goals of the empire, rather than the will of God. But the church remained sufficiently spiritual to foster and sustain real communities under its aegis. This is what gave it the spiritual power to continue in existence. Through the production of saints, healers, and mystics, mostly from those in the monastic communities, the church was able to offer inspiration, confession, and sanctification of life. As the authenticity of those communities waned, and as the opposition to them grew, a tipping point was reached, expressed in Europe as the Protestant Reformation, which wiped out most monastic communities.

The Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet, a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1151, Catalonia, Spain

The Spanish church sent its priests along with its armies of conquistadores to destroy the native communities of the Americas, and burn and banish their sacred texts, and convert them all at sword point to Christianity. This form of religious imperialism took place in many parts of the world.

If we examine the history of human society and culture, it will be found that every civilization is based on an originating formation of a small group of disciples around a God-realized being or council of beings. The energy field created by such a group attracted others. People are naturally drawn to those who emanate love, wisdom, and capacity to heal. People are willing to sacrifice some of their autonomy to a group only when they feel they are in safe hands, that the leader wants the best for them, and can protect them from attack, and assure them that being part of the group is the most effective way to assure survival, flourishing of talents, and ongoing psycho-spiritual growth.

A culture develops out of the wisdom transmitted by its founding fathers and mothers. Resonance with that level of consciousness allows all the members to attain God-realization as well. When the community can no longer pass on to the next generation the torch of God-consciousness, the community stops growing, even though the power that had already been transmitted may enable horizontal growth into larger and larger forms of organization. But eventually, the society that has devolved from the original community becomes threatened by the presence of God-realized beings. This is because the lack of legitimacy of authority of those in power would be seen.

The destruction of communities, and especially of spiritual communities, has been the central thread of the foreign and domestic policy of postmodern empires as well. The creation of Islamic fundamentalism has been sponsored by the West in order to destroy the authentic forms of Islam, especially Sufi communities, which have been devastated by misguided jihadists. The war on Syria was in part dedicated to the destruction of the ancient Christian monastic communities located there that were still strong and authentic expressions of higher wisdom and love. The Western civilization has systematically destroyed all native tribal communities, as they were based on wisdom and love of Nature that are anathema to the capitalist materialist values of the West. They, too, formed originally around shamans and wise men and women capable of leading and guiding their members to live in peace on the land in harmony with the Great Spirit.

Modern Western societies—now globalized, having conquered the world with the capitalist mode of organization that expresses the nature of the ego—have installed an egoic operating system in everyone’s mind that prevents the desire to enter into community from even arising. People are taught to want to live in psychic bunkers, ignorant of who their neighbors are, afraid to connect, trapped in narcissistic bubbles. The mind parasite of paranoia has taken over. The indoctrination into narcissism, egocentricity, psychological immaturity, and moral weakness (or complete psychopathic lack of moral compass) and making that the new normal has succeeded in debilitating the society. The system is no longer creating leaders who can threaten the status quo. But the unintended consequence is that there is no power to manage the social conflicts, the basic infrastructure maintenance, and the fragile complex technological grids properly. The decomposition process has led to our historic moment in which we are witnessing the impending death of planetary civilization.

The problem is that the current social system has so well succeeded in destroying all extended clans (except those of the power elite), all guilds, labor unions, social movements, all ethnic group solidarity, and even the nuclear family system, in fact even the gender relational system, that durable human bonding has become almost impossible. Now people are calling online groups communities. Governmental spy agencies are referred to as the intelligence community. That is a far cry from what a community really is, and must be, to flourish. The signifier community has been degraded so that people would forget what the word really stands for.

If the human species is not to perish in extinction during the coming apocalyptic phase transition, then we must do away with these self-sabotaging ego mind parasites that have usurped our consciousness. This can happen most efficiently in a spiritual community. The problem is that there is so little trust, and so little willingness to change, or ability to relate to others in an authentic way, that people shy away from living in a community. And of course there are very few God realized beings who can ground and sustain a community until a council of wise elders can form as a result of the inner work that must be the heart of communal activity.

Nonetheless, there is a grassroots movement of community creation around the planet. People know instinctively it is time to leave the Titanic, which is soon going under, and to create sustainable lives in places that will be safe refuges during the time of tribulations ahead. The question is what kind of community to create or join. Some choose secular eco-villages; others choose monasteries that are part of established religious traditions. Others try to create capitalist housing developments that offer spiritual classes, cultural entertainment, and secure food production and other amenities, but where one can buy in and sell out at any time and there is no communal commitment and no unifying vision or sacred core.

There is a great deal of knowledge on the phenomenal level to start a community. The knowledge of efficient construction of housing, agriculture, and other infrastructural development are not in short supply. But communities break apart because of interpersonal conflicts—and those in turn are based on intra-personal conflicts. Unless community leaders have the skills to mediate external disputes and to process and eliminate people’s internal conflicts, those divisive energies will eventually emerge and destroy the community.

The skills necessary to ground a community are unfortunately not taught in schools. Nor can they be taught by anyone still caught in the grip of the ego mind. Those skills are gained by fulfilling the imperative of a spiritual quest into the deep interior of consciousness and returning with the Pearl of Great Price (or call it the Holy Grail or the Philosopher’s Stone, or the Vajra, or the Fire of the Gods, etc.). This is the hero’s journey. Once this journey has been made, there must still be a testing period in the onslaught of challenging events and victory in dharma combat over the temptations of the flesh and the symbolic forms of mental mastery. Once complete liberation has been attained, then the energy field that emanates from such a being will spontaneously convene a new community—one with the power to endure and grow.

2. The Ingredients of a Healthy Community

The founders of a sustainable community must all have the personal qualities of maturity, integrity, faith in the vision, full commitment, generosity, loyalty to one another, and care for the well being of the whole. The members of the community must all be dedicated to individual psycho-spiritual growth, to the transcendence of ego, and to the development of a vibrant empowered and empowering energy field. Of course the accurate agricultural and ecological practices must also be put into place to assure food security and other physical needs, but a healthy community grows from inside out. We are Spirit. We are consciousness. Our consciousness creates our reality. The collective intelligence of the community must resonate with this understanding. If the community has that, they will be able to download solutions to problems from the akashic records and have precognitive visions that enable preparedness to be achieved. The community will also be able to dream synchronistic events into being that will bridge otherwise un-cross-able obstacles. The secret powers of higher consciousness are the key to success in sustaining community.

Communal life must hold the interest of its members and be sufficiently vibrant to interest other people in joining. This requires the development of a meaningful and beautiful culture that involves ongoing learning and self-expression in many fields of endeavor. A strong community will create its own music, art, styles of dress, poetry, literature, ceremonies and celebrations. A community must also be sufficiently resilient to deal with natural disasters, external social disruptions, and other challenges. This requires great seriousness of purpose and willingness to cope with the most unpleasant aspects of life and triumph over adversity. A real community is a gathering of leaders, not of followers, who share the same vision and are humble enough and free enough from the desire to dominate, that power can be fairly and accurately distributed in accord with principles that all share and support. What destroys communities is the struggle for personal power.

In order to eliminate the tendency for power struggles to erupt, a community must create a culture of sublimation and processes for therapeutically overcoming the ego’s demand for territory, for pleasures and affairs that undermine the morale and solidarity of the community, and must offer incentives for sacrificing the lower to gain the higher. Community requires sacrifice. This is also the essence of authentic Selfhood: the sacrifice of the ego.

3. The Tao of Community

It will be clear that a healthy communal culture has been created when there is a graduation from rule-based activity and formality to principle-based living that has become second nature (in reality a return to our primordial nature). At that point, the collection of human individuals will morph into a unified super-organism. From then on, the group mind will be in a flow state, and glitches will be few and far between. The intelligence that will be guiding the communal activity will not be that of any one individual or leaders’ council, nor even of the whole as a consensus democracy (which never works at the ego level), but an Entelechy that descends and entrances all members into a resonant state of telepathic understanding that is both teleological and transcendental, employing scalar force and bioelectromagnetic energies in harmony with both Nature and the Great Spirit. This has been referred to in the East by such terms as the Buddha Mind or the Tao.

The community must be willing and able to abide in the Tao that has no name. It is beyond dogma or description. It requires the willingness undergo continual death and rebirth, ceaseless metamorphosis. There must freedom from any fixed identifications, tendency to stagnate, or sitting on one’s laurels. Every moment is new and the community must always be alert, awake, and fully present. Eternal vigilance, as they say, is the price of liberty. But once ensconced within the vortex of the Tao, the eye of the hurricane (or better, the Eye of Shiva), there will be utter peace in the community regardless of whatever is occurring in the world. This peace that passeth understanding is the fruit of purified communal consciousness. As Thich Nhat Hanh is famous for declaring, the next Buddha will be a sangha (a community in Buddha consciousness).

At some point, the planetary collective consciousness will come to understand the necessity and value of communities for carrying forward the highest attainments of human culture, not necessarily in the form of technology or organizational principles or even of art forms, but of the awakened Essence that has the power to re-dream the world. In this final phase of development, the community and the world as a whole become one within the all-encompassing unitive field of Timeless Ecstatic Infinite Consciousness.

If we start our community with this end in view, then the impossible will become inevitable. We must have full faith in the power of liberated consciousness, and the willingness to be the instruments of that supreme intelligence that transcends the individual. This total surrender to the Real that determines our destiny is the portal to fulfilling, abundant, and awesomely beautiful communal living.

May we have the courage and wisdom to pay the price required for the birth of a new world that can emerge from the cosmic egg of a small community living in egoless accord with the Tao.



Interested in learning more about this topic?

If you realize the necessity of forming and fostering a new kind of tribal living, join Shunyamurti and the Sat Yoga community for a very special retreat in September:

How to Flourish as Community: Living in Joy in a Time of Planetary Phase Transition

The themes we intend to discuss at this inter-communal gathering include the following:

  • Unifying Vision and Full Commitment

  • Structure, Dharma, and Leadership

  • Psychological and Spiritual Power, Understanding, and Training

  • Food Security and Adaptation to an Off-Grid Future

  • Harvesting the Wisdom of past Monastic, Ashram, and Tribal Cultures

  • Transformational Processes for Maturation, Conflict Resolution, and Ego Transcendence

  • The Nitty Gritty: Dealing With Such Matters as Aging, Death, Money, Workers, Children, Entheogens, Sex and Drugs



logo_yellow&white_red backround.jpg