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FEATURE - June 2017
The Spiritual Practice of True Community
by Niánn Emerson Chase
Think of each individual as being like a book, composing a life in chapters, writing his or her own history (or “herstory”). Some persons are thicker than others, with more pages, chapters, and sections because of past repersonalizations or past lives while others are thinner due to just beginning to write their story as they live their first-time lives.
There are many ways of moving into spiritual enlightenment, for we are all unique individuals, and true religious experiences can occur in innumerable and diverse ways. This spirit birthing that we mortals experience is an evolvement from our lower selves with roots in the levels of “fight or flight” reactions to our higher selves that are increasingly more linked with the living spiritual forces and circuits of love-based responses. Spiritual unfoldment is ascension from a material-controlled nature to a spirit-controlled nature. It is a movement towards fusion with God within us.
Based on my experience as co-founder of the spiritual-based community of Global Community Communications Alliance, I am convinced that the process of true community building is a spiritual birthing process, a conscious and committed one for each individual as well as for the group as a whole.
In introducing Dr. Scott Peck’s model for the process of becoming a true community as presented in his book, A World Waiting to be Born, I will include his perception of what the process is in mainstream society of the dominant culture, the “third dimension,” and the building and expanding of a “fourth-dimensional” culture such as that of Global Community Communications Alliance.
First of all, what is true community? Dr. Peck’s definition of a true community is:
A group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, and to delight in each other, to make other’s conditions their own.
According to Dr. Peck, creating community is not just people coming together in what we would call an “intentional community”—living together, owning property together, and growing together. A “community” can also be a corporation of people in business working together. It can be a school; it can be a church; it can be any organization—secular or religious. A community can be a group of people living in a neighborhood. What makes a community is a group of people who come together for a common purpose.
In this model of third-dimensional community, Dr. Peck speaks of four stages of the community-building process. These stages, listed in order of progression, are:
First, beginning stage - pseudo community
Second stage - chaos
Third stage - emptying, letting go
Fourth stage - true community
In pseudo community, the focus is on what people in the group have in common—the “we” stage. Usually when people desire to form some level of community they are initially very enthusiastic and have a strong appreciation of the idea of unity and togetherness. They start out optimistic and excited about their focus on creating community. In this “courting” stage the dominating dynamic is a desire to avoid all conflict—fixing things, making things better, smoothing over areas of potential conflict and differences.
At the pseudo community stage there is a denial of any differences in individuals, in goals, and in ideas. There is a denial that there are any problems or that there is anything wrong. There are a lot of good manners, courtesy, and pretense, a lot of wearing of masks.
A long time ago I came to the realization that good manners can sometimes be our biggest enemy because maintaining manners regardless of the situation can perpetuate dishonesty with each other; being polite no matter the circumstances encourages people to continue wearing masks when sometimes maybe they should be a little more honest and confront each other instead of pretending.
If a group of people ever get to the point where they really do begin to see that there are some problems, that everything is not perfect and not going just right, and if they do not run away from the problems, or do not want to “fix it” by covering the issues up or sweeping them under the rug, then individuals or a group in general begin to move into the next stage which is chaos. Remember that this can be applied to individuals as well as to a group.
Chaos is the focus on differences in the group. It is the “you” stage. Individuals look at everyone else and see how they do not agree, how they are different, etc. It is the stage where a group of people begin to realize that they have some problems. People realize that they are not perfect, that everything is not hunky dory.
The stage of chaos is the point of evolution in community building where people can begin to get honest and see the differences and problems and actually begin to look at them. If they focus on just the differences though, and have constant conflict with no resolution, then nothing can get done. No growth can happen. A person can stay right there for the rest of his or her life, and a group or organization can stay in that place of chaos for the rest of its existence too.
If individuals in a group get tired of that bickering and conflict and begin to say, “Hey, we have got to do something about this; we are not getting anywhere,” then that conflict and confrontation can become very constructive. Then they can move into the emptying and letting go stage, and at that stage individuals do not focus on other people; rather individuals go inward and focus on themselves. This is the “I” stage of internal focus. Individuals begin to look at how they are a part of the problem and take responsibility for their part and begin to make changes.
Emptying and Letting Go
In the emptying and letting go stage, people begin to adjust their thinking and moving to another way of looking at things, re-thinking and re-learning. Usually the time of chaos is very noisy and verbal, and the emptying, letting go time is often very quiet and reflective. The emptying and letting go stage can be quite painful for individuals as well as for the group. It is a time when a lot of grief can happen within individuals as well as within the group as a whole, because they are basically dying to a certain order of things, a certain way of thinking, feeling, and doing things.
Walking across the bridges of the chaos and letting-go stages brings people to the fourth stage of true community. At the level of true community, the focus is on unity, as well as individuality.
In true community, conflict and differences will come up, but the problems will be confronted and resolved in a more mature, compassionate, and timely manner. The true spirit of community is present in this fourth stage and more trust and a sense of harmony exist among the members of the group. Individuals experience a healthy sense of belonging, and active cooperation is beginning to manifest. It is not perfect, but there is a sense among the individuals of finding their place, finding their niche in life, belonging, being fulfilled in some manner. Individuals can experience more joy and peace and feel a sense of accomplishment.
It is possible to graduate into a community that is more fourth-dimensional than third-dimensional. I want to use Scott Peck’s definition of true community, but I want to expand on it. A truly fourth-dimensional community is a group of individuals:
who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other in divine pattern and proper procedure, using divine administration principles
whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, pride, and denial and who recognize certain cosmic connections with each other
who have developed a significant commitment to rejoice together in ascension victories, to mourn together over lost loved ones, and to delight in each other’s manifestations of the higher self, making others’ conditions their own, realizing that what they have in common is their status as ascending sons and daughters of God who struggle to move into their destinies and to “be perfect as the Father is perfect”
The model of true community—whether secular or religious, whether third-dimensional or fourth-dimensional—is based on basic divine administration principles and application of spiritual consciousness and practices. Though Dr. Peck has graduated from this world, his dream of true community building is alive and well in many people. Those of Global Community Communications Alliance share his vision and have enlarged upon it. And though any kind of spiritual growth and community-creating requires vision and disciplined, dedicated work, I think it is the only way to really live.
Niánn Emerson Chase's articles have been published in various periodicals including: New Thought Journal, Connecting Link, Communities Magazine, Quantum Thoughts, Inner Word, and the Alternative Voice, of which she is the Co-Executive Director. She is the co-founder and pastor of Global Community Communications Alliance in Tubac, Arizona, and Director of the Global Community Communications Schools for adults, teens, and children.
Image courtesy of Gabriel of Urantia.