Sunday, September 6, 2009

FIC as a Home for the Halt and the Lame

As the Fellowship for Intentional Community's main administrator, part of my job is to play center field. That means that if something comes our way that's sufficiently unusual that it doesn't fall into someone's defined bailiwick, then I'm expected to field it. This past week I got two communications as the FIC center fielder, which, together with a third dialog that I've been conducting for several months, showcase both the entertaining and frustrating aspects of my job.

Example #1
I opened a letter from a foreign correspondent last week, who is an FIC member and recent purchaser of Geoph Kozeny's Visions of Utopia video. So this is someone familiar with intentional community.

They were writing with an urgent request. This person was concerned about the Earth's impending shift into the Fifth Dimension, which will commence Dec 21, 2012. They wanted my help (as FIC administrator) to get space on the program at two upcoming events—the Continental Bioregional Congress to be held at The Farm Oct 3-11, and the NASCO Institute to be held in Ann Arbor Nov 6-8—to pass along vital information about the Fifth Dimension. Oh boy.

The writer had three pieces of evidence in support of their claim:
a) The growing support for belief that there are other sentient beings in the universe.
b) The emergence of indigo, crystal, or starseed children—all born since the '80s and who are markedly more intuitive and psychically open.
c) The presence of "walk-ins" such as himself who come from other dimensions,a nd are here to serve as go-betweens.

Well, I always get queasy when people tell me they have inside information and I just have to take their word for it. I can't tell that their wrong (which, of course, is the beauty of that assertion), but my bullshit indicator is on red alert.

In essence, this person predicts that the Age of Possessions is coming to an end (no shit, Sherlock) and the Age of Relationships is dawning. In this coming age, intentional communities will play a key role in midwifing the transition, which will feature a balance between natural energies (as in forces of Nature) and beings from other star systems. (While I don't know anything about how other star systems will play into our future, I do resonate with the appropriateness (even need) to redefine happiness away from materialism in favor of relationships and the quality of social connections.)

Last, the author wanted my support for getting writing published in Communities magazine.

Clearly, I was in over my head. In my response, I carefully explained that FIC had no sway over the program choices made at CBCX and the NASCO Institute. Further, I had no expertise whatsoever when it came to extraterrestrial intelligence, and was not aware of people seeking that kind information from FIC or from intentional communities (though, to be sure, there are some communities which have focused on preparing for major Earth changes—witness Stelle and Adelphi, which were founded on the prophesies of Richard Kieninger).

When it came to Communities magazine, I explained that our publishing standards: articles must be well written; relate to cooperative living; and be of interest to our readers (as near as we can discern what that will be)—it is not sufficient that the subject is of interest to the author.

Thus, I was the voice of ignorant skepticism, possibly halting their initiative. (As someone who had devoted his adult life to inquiry and experimental culture, it is somewhat embarrassing and uncomfortable to be on the conservative and mainstream end of a conversation about reality, but I reckon there is no position so extreme that there isn't at least someone on either side of wherever you stand.)

Example #2
This letter reminded me of a dialog I've been carrying on over the course of the last half year with another FIC member, who has queried me from time to time about groups interested in working with membership not limited to the corporeal plane. This person has recently gotten interested in the possibility of groups functioning with the explicit understanding that there are non-physical entities who can be part of the group's consensus decision-making. In particular, they were thinking of members who had died and could continue their participation from the spiritual plane.

As with the correspondent in Example #1, I plead ignorance of such a phenomenon, and could report no awareness of groups which functioned in this way. When I asked how the physically present members could discern the will of those who existed only spiritually, my friend was uncertain about how that would work. (If this gets cleared up, you can be certain that I'll blog about it.)

Example #3
On Friday, we got an web inquiry from someone who was appalled that we included in our Directory a listing for a group which does the following:
o Proselytizes at Grateful Dead concerts
o Expects women to be subservient to men
o Tells members how to dress
o Arranges marriages among members

For the correspondent, this added up to CULT (yes, the complainant used all capital letters), and demanded to know why we allowed this, if we cared a fig for our credibility.

I responded:

"We allow a group to list so long as it meets the following criteria:
1. It styles itself an intentional community and wants to have a listing with us.
2. It's accurate in what it says about itself (not misleading).
3. It doesn't advocate violent practices.
4. It doesn't interfere with a member's right to leave the group at any time.

"While I personally am not drawn to a community that has gender-defined roles and where leadership directs members' personal choices (such as who to marry), FIC takes the position that this is not our business so long as the practices in question are choices among consenting adults, and do not cross any of the boundaries mentioned in the list above.

"In our experience, the label of "cult" is typically applied to groups doing something that the labeler disapproves of, and is used as a blanket pejorative. While I totally get it that you don't like what this group stands for, FIC's job is not to only list groups that you like; our job is to list all groups and let individuals make their own choices. In fact, our credibility, as we see it, depends on this neutrality.

That said, "cult" also has a more specific and nefarious meaning: referring to a group which intentionally attempts to hold people against their will and to confuse them about knowing their own minds. It implies brainwashing. If you have specific evidence that such a thing is happening with this group, this is quite a serious charge and we'll look into it."

Within a few hours I got a reply expressing incredulity that we'd never heard of this particular group's "antics."

In turn, I asked what "antics" were being referred to, stating that FIC would not deny a listing to a group on the basis of the four practices cited in the original email.

This was followed minutes later with a wikipedia reference that included information about this group's practice of spanking children who misbehave, and expecting children to contribute labor in community businesses—over which they were found guilty of violating state child labor laws. For the correspondent, this added up to a clear case of child abuse.

As I reflected on how some people consider spanking to be violence (in fact, that's our position at Sandhill, where we forbid it). I thought we were starting to get into interesting territory. Of course, I was also aware that no parents have been convicted of child abuse solely on the basis of spanking their children for disciplinary reasons, and I knew that FIC was not about to apply a more stringent standard in this regard than the US legal system. Still, I could sympathize with the writer's anguish and was in the process of composing a reply when this arrived in my In Box—nine minutes after the wikipedia reference had been sent:

"You guys are lame. I used to like your web site, but now I think it sucks, and I won't trust it or use it anymore."

Guess I wasn't quick enough.

This kind of exchange is highly frustrating. About six-eight times a year we get a communication like this and they often end in the same way. Someone writes to FIC complaining about a group and demanding that we drop their listing. We try understand the exact nature of their complaint and offer to act as a go-between in an attempt to resolve the concerns directly and informally with the community. Almost always, the complainant isn't interested in that; they prefer that we take up their cause, and they don't understand why we hesitate at all (never mind that it's essentially their word against the community's and that we rarely have any direct information about the events in question).

Because we have a core commitment to solving problems in a way that enhances relationship, and because we are trying to build a world that does away with us-and-them polarizations, we are oriented toward conversation rather than judgment. It's fascinating to me how often we get labeled "lame" for trying to consider both sides. And in this last example, written off because we didn't jump high enough or fast enough in response to a complaint. Since we're not fully aligned with the correspondent's position, that makes us the enemy. Sigh.


Anonymous said...


Mare said...

This is a very interesting post. I study with a Cherokee Medicine Woman and through her I have learned that there are certainly different dimensions of consciousness. But the really tricky thing is discerning who these entities are when they try to communicate to people. Only a very gifted shaman can do that... but many folks with some spiritual abilities that are limited have a tough time.

I salute what you're trying to do with your work and blog and trainings etc. And highly recommend that you keep on doing exactly what you are doing.. and not get sway by those who contact you about working with other dimensions. It gets really dicey fast, from all that I've learned.

I've also learned that the litmus test is - Does this action come from a place of love or fear? If one can answer that question, then one can tell the right direction to go in.

ps. pls Tell Ma'ikwe that I'm finding our mutual work more and more sympatico... Hope she'll find some time after the house is done to enjoy my book, as I'm realizing I really need to delve more into hers.