Some Thoughts on Aquarian Community
I want to discuss authentic community as the antidote to mass culture and in particular I want to talk about spiritual community. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation or world view, whenever we come together in a group we realize that there is a fundamental tension between individuality and community.
Vibrant communities are united by common goals and aspirations while being grounded in shared values and precepts. The creation and success of authentic communities depend far more upon personal responsibility than upon external rules and regulations. On this basis, the necessity of externally proscribing behavior or muting diversity of expression among individuals within the group is greatly diminished. Such a community transcends traditional organizational demands. Consider the words of Helena Roerich in Foundations of Buddhism.
It is much easier to submit to rules, even under constraint, than to manifest the personal conscious energy that the Teacher demanded of his disciples. The community strove not to deprive the members of their personalities, but to unite them in friendship and closeness in a single aspiration toward general well being. The community did not desire to level individual peculiarities; on the contrary, Buddha appreciated each evidence of initiative, each individual manifestation, because the Teaching asserts that each one is his own creator and liberator, and that personal efforts are absolutely necessary to achieve this high goal. Thus the individual origin had all possibilities for development.
When we allow freedom to flourish within our communities we may overcome many obstacles to personal growth typically posed by the group or organization with which we are associated. We have to be aware of an all too common tendency in spiritual groups toward what may become a codependent relationship with an outer human authority or institution, i.e. the felt need for a paternalistic system to keep order which leads, in consequence, to an abdication of personal responsibility and initiative for the spiritual path that each most walk. Simply speaking, we need to examine some of our assumptions about the nature of organizations. But imagine, if you will, the power of a community that promotes a culture where the highest individual creativity may flourish, one that minimizes obstacles to self-reliance and personal initiative, one that allows for both individual contribution as well as support, and finally,one that respects and acknowledges human dignity.
Margret Wheatley points out the first step in the creation of such a community: “…we need to understand what it is we are trying to become and at the same time what our actions are demonstrating and creating.” A community will thrive when each individual comprising it becomes self-aware and self-correcting; when each individual holds himself and the group accountable for outcomes. Goodwill is the key. When we create a culture of good will, any conflict within the group or dis-confirming information about the group will become opportunity for growth and change.
Success then, depends upon the highest cooperation. Let’s again consider what Helena Roerich wrote in Foundations of Buddhism
Buddha—who taught that in the whole Universe only correlatives exist; who knew that nothing exists without cooperation; who understood that the selfish and conceited one could not build the future because, by the cosmic law, he would be outside the current of life which carries all that exists toward perfection—patiently planted the seeds, establishing the cells on a community basis, foreseeing in the distant future the realization of the great World Community.
The future is now. There is extraordinary power and dynamism in community; it is a new era. Old structures and assumptions are being reexamined. Change is in the air. The implications of individual communities as cells creating world change, which are in turn created by individuals actively, fully, participating and contributing their unique gifts, in an atmosphere of freedom to their respective communities are profound. The formation of connections and networks between such healthy, spiritual communities amplify the enormous potential for world change. It is not in the multitudes but the few, the creative minority of spiritual seekers that can anchor the flame of freedom which can become a tipping point for societal shift.
I would like to conclude these few thoughts with a quote from an article by Margret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze.
The world changes as networks of relationships form among those who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad based change.
But networks aren’t the whole story. As networks grow and transform into active, working communities of practice, we discover how Life truly changes, which is through emergence. When separate, local efforts connect with each other as networks, then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly and surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale. This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals. It isn’t that they were hidden; they simply don’t exist until the system emerges. They are properties of the system, not the individual, but once there, individuals possess them. And the system that emerges always possesses greater power and influence than is possible through planned, incremental change. Emergence is how Life creates radical change and takes things to scale.