from: "Intentional Communities: Lifestyles Based on Ideals" by Geoph Kozeny of Community Catalyst Project, San Francisco, California http://www.ic.org/pnp/cdir/1995/01kozeny.htmlAn "intentional community" is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common
This definition spans a wide variety of groups, including (but not limited
to) communes, student
cooperatives, land co-ops, cohousing groups, monasteries and ashrams, and farming collectives.
Although quite diverse in philosophy and lifestyle, each of these groups places a high priority on
fostering a sense of community--a feeling of belonging and mutual support that is increasingly hard to
find in mainstream Western society.
Intentional communities are like people--you can categorize them based
on certain distinguishing
characteristics, but no two are ever identical. Differences among them, whether obvious or subtle, can
be attributed to variations in philosophy, in mission or project emphasis, in behavioral norms, or in the
personality and style of the leaders (if the group has identified leaders), and the individual members.
Each group is somehow unique.
The scope of their primary values is equally broad, including ecology,
technology, self-sufficiency, right livelihood, humanist psychology, creativity, spirituality, meditation,
yoga, and the pursuit of global peace. However, even among groups that base their philosophy on
"achieving a holistic view of the world," it would be quite surprising to discover a community that has
achieved "perfection" amidst the fast-paced chaos of modern life. Communities draw their membership
from society at large, and those members bring with them generations of social conditioning. The
attitudes, behaviors, and institutions prevalent in the broader society--including the very things we seek
alternatives to--are a significant part of our upbringing. Merely identifying a problem and expressing a
desire to overcome it does not mean that we presently have the perspective or skills needed to
transcend it. The problems we see "out there" in the mainstream--greed, dishonesty, excessive ego, lack
of self-esteem, factionalism, inadequate resources, poor communication skills, you name it--all manage
to find a significant role in alternative cultures as well.
What is encouraging about many intentional communities is their tendency
to be open to new ideas, their
willingness to be tolerant of other approaches, and their commitment to live in a way that reflects their
idealism. Although communities exist that are close-minded and bigoted, they're the exception, not the
rule. More often than not, people who consciously choose to live in an intentional community also have
parallel interests in ecology, personal growth, cooperation, and peaceful social
transformation--pursuing the work necessary to change destructive attitudes and behaviors often taken
for granted in the prevailing culture.
Among secular communities, the inspiration is typically based on bold visions
of creating a new social
and economic order--establishing replicable models that will lead to the peaceful and ecological
salvation of the planet. In some cases, however, secular groups may opt for isolation, seeking to escape
the problems of the rest of the world by creating instead a life of self-sufficiency, simplicity, and
Most members of intentional communities share a deep-felt concern about
home, family, and
neighborhood. Beyond the obvious purpose of creating an extended-family environment for raising a
family, communities create an environment of familiarity and trust sufficiently strong that doors can
safely be left unlocked. In today's world of escalating crime, merely having that kind of security may be
reason enough to join.