Are Communes Cults?

by Raven East Brook 

A few weeks ago, Twin Oaks communard Keenan went on to Reddit and said that he lived in a commune in Virginia and invited folks to ask him anything. He got over nine thousand comments.

Many of the comments were very good questions.  However, a number of people asked if Twin Oaks was a cult and several commenters insisted that it was. And the more that Keenan said it wasn’t, the more that they decided that meant it was.

Of course, a good question is, what is a cult?

This was a cult.

Merriam Webster defines a cult as: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book)” and “a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion”.

First and foremost, there is no great leader at Twin Oaks or any of the other communes; no one is the object of “great devotion”.  There is a reason we call ourselves “egalitarian” communities. There is no one in charge. About the only thing that everyone agrees to at Twin Oaks is that sharing is a good thing and I doubt that many people there would say that they are “devoted” to sharing. 

There is also this notion that people are trapped in cults; that they are not allowed to leave. We are definitely not cults by this definition. People leave Twin Oaks and the other communes all the time.

A third way that cults are talked about is claiming that everyone is required to believe the same thing. As I said above, about the only thing that everyone believes in, in the communes, is sharing and I am not even sure that everyone believes in that. On any other subject, I am sure that if you talked with ten communards, you’d get twelve different opinions–at least. 

This is Twin Oaks. Not a cult. Really.

I suspect that what these commenters mean by cult is that we are different. We’re weird. I am not disputing that. In a capitalist, individualistic society, where people are encouraged to get what they can for themselves, and maybe a few loved ones, doing this radical amount of sharing, and working on being as equal as we can be, is very different. 

The idea that we could share everything is very threatening to some people. They want to say that it would never work, but it’s been working at Twin Oaks for more than fifty years and it is still working. So they dismiss it as a cult. 

I am not claiming that this level of sharing will work for everyone or that this is something everyone should do.  I am just saying that this is a real option and it can work. 

We are not creating cults at the communes, we are creating culture. 

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Are Communes Cults?

Honk, Part One

Two and a half years ago, a bunch of communards invaded Somerville, Massachusetts, to be part of the Honk Festival. This six part series documents what they did. For the next six weeks (starting today), we will follow their adventures. In Part One, they leave East Brook Community Farm and head east, and arrive and go dumpster diving.

March forth!

Honk, Part One

Eastern Massachusetts Community Dream

by  Dave Scandurra

We have a dream of creating an intentional community here on Cape Cod, or in southeastern Massachusetts.  We are seeking community-minded folks who also share our vision of creating a community somewhere in southeastern MA sometime in the next 1-5 years. We will have 1-3 rooms opening up within the year.

The most important aspects of our community:

~Egalitarian.We are big fans of egalitarianism which is the belief that all people deserve equal rights and opportunities. All people will have an equal voice, equal access to community resources, and all labor in the community is valued the same (an hour of cooking is valued the same as an hour of carpentry, for example). Our goal is to affiliate with the Federation of Egalitarian communities (www.fec.org).

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~Inter-generational. We want to create an inter-generational/multi-generational community where we take care of our elders while raising up the next generation of humans- truly a full circle. In a perfect world, we would be able to take care of elders till the end of their life, bypassing the need for nursing home. And when it comes to children, we would love a critical mass of parents and kids so we could create our own childcare set up and/or home school.

~Shared Businesses. We want to start and run community-owned, ecologically-based businesses. We currently own and operate a profitable Edible Landscaping company here on the Cape (www.ediblelandscapes.net), but we want to find people who are excited about the following businesses: specialty perennial edible plant nursery and seed business, online store (for plants, seeds, books, tools, etc.), herbal products, foraged and farmed floral arrangements and art, niche farming (micro-greens, high profitability market gardening, mushrooms), education/workshops (classes, field trips, etc), and we are open to others’ thoughts on what businesses could fit into this mosaic.

~Location. Our target location is southeastern Massachusetts. Currently, our core of three people is based here on Cape Cod, where we are running an organic landscaping company. The fact that the business is making money here makes it hard to leave any time soon. But in the long term, once we have solid community momentum and if our online store is doing good, we are open to moving anywhere in southeastern New England.

~Permaculture. We are big believers in the potential of permaculture, especially as it applies to community and ecologically-based business. Permaculture is a cohesive set of ethics, principles and practices that help guide the stewardship of an ecosystem to ensure resilience and abundance to all its inhabitants (human and non-human alike). Permaculture means meeting human needs while improving ecosystem health. Permaculture is more of a design science that can be employed when designing anything from a forest garden, to a house, or even a village. It’s a holistic approach to land design, human design, life design or any kind of design. 

These are the five pillars of our vision.

 We also have a three-phase timeline:

Phase 1: The next 1-3 years

We are currently renting  a big beautiful home in Barnstable on 2 beautiful acres with great gardens. We plan to keep renting this home for the next 1-3 years, depending on who comes into the fold and how quickly we can move toward phase 2… We have a greenhouse, an irrigated veggie garden, a ton of edible perennials in the ground and lots of potential. We are renting this home from the mother of one of the core members. We expect 1-3 rooms to open up within the next year or so. When these rooms become vacant, we want to fill them with solid community-minded people. We  want to get our core group solidified, so that we can figure out who is “in it for the long haul.” When we feel really good about our group and we have trust in each other, we can move on to phase 2.

Phase 2: Buying a home

Once we feel ready and that we are all on the same page, we plan to buy a property as a group. This would most likely be here on Cape Cod (or just over the bridge) and will ideally have at least 2 acres, a big home, good privacy, and enough space outside for our permaculture/farming projects. This could happen in any number of ways, but what this will likely look like will be creating a 501d entity. This 501d entity will technically be who buys/owns the property. Eventually any individual contributions made by core members will be paid back by the entity. Another way of funding this would be through so called “angel investors,” or even some kind of crowdfunding campaign. Also, the funding could be a hybrid of: individual contributions from core members, angel investors and a crowdfunding campaign. The whole point of phase 1 is for us to be living together so we’ll have plenty of time to figure this out. Once we get ourselves into our home, we can get to work on phase 2. Phase 2 will be very exploratory. We will try out some of the business ideas, see which ones work for our context. The goal of phase 2 is to tighten up our community, make it work, prove that it works, and figure out what can be scaled up for phase 3.

Phase 3: Scaling up

In the long term, we would love to create a larger intentional community / eco-village on a 50+ acre piece of land that could potentially support 50+ people, somewhere in southern New England. We would love it to be a demonstration site of what is possible when permaculture is applied in the community context. It could take 10, 20 or 30 years to get there, but we still want to keep this goal simmering on the back burner. To give some idea of things we’d love to see in the phase 3 community, we are thinking about creating large scale agro-ecology/agroforestry/silvopasture/permaculture/regenerative farming systems, as well as a storefront/market to sell our diverse products, infrastructure for agri-tourism/education, a hospice-esque building for elders who need extra end of life care, a nature-based school and daycare, ultra-ecological waste treatment (something like John Todd’s Living Machine), conference rooms and retreat center infrastructure, commercial kitchen and big dining hall, gym/sauna/fitness area, camping areas, a big meeting space/auditorium, tiny house sites, communal houses, etc. This is why it could take 30+ years to build. But we are big believers in having epic dreams.

A final point: We are firmly against oppression and violence. We want to foster nonviolent communication, empathy and compassion within our community. We want to create a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ folks and folks of all races, ethnicity, gender identity and spirituality. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  We have been having monthly potlucks called “community conversations.” We just get together to share food and brainstorm and talk about our future community dreams and visions. If you have any questions or would like to be in the loop, shoot us an email at dave.earthmusic@gmail.com and tell us about yourself.  We are excited to hear from you! 

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Eastern Massachusetts Community Dream

MiniQuink

by Paxus Calta from Your Passport to Complaining

MiniQuink – March 21 Cville Ecovillage

hoop festival

Stolen from festivalfire.com

QuinkFest 2020 will be between July 30 and Aug 2 in Louisa, Virginia.  But well before then there will be single day free events called “MiniQuinks”.  The next one is at the Center for Healthy Living in Cville on the upcoming solstice – March 21st.

The MiniQuink is the afternoon part of this all day event  [Here is the full event schedule].  The first event MiniQuink is a Temple of Oracles.

eye in hand minimal

A beautifully decorated space hosts a collection of talented volunteer readers and several different tools including runes, tarot cards and I Ching coins.  Before you get dismissive of oracles, i would encourage you to read this insightful paragraph from the preface to the Book of Runes.

Remember that you are consulting an Oracle rather than having your fortune told. An Oracle does not give you instructions as to what to do next, nor does it predict future events. An Oracle points your attention towards those hidden fears and motivations that will shape your future by their unfelt presence within each present moment. Once seen and recognized. These elements become absorbed into the realm of choice. Oracles do not absolve you of responsibility for selecting your future. But rather direct your attention towards those inner choices that may be the most important elements in determining that future.

runes

6 PM Inflammable Art Workshop

Many gatherings and festivals are burning effigies as part of their rituals and celebrations.  But these burns require careful design and an understanding of fire to be both beautiful and well paced.  This hands on workshop will cover a range of fire related topics from building campfires, pyrotechnic sculptures and even fires that float on water.  Participants will learn about and build fire art creations.

The workshop lasts about 2 hours, bring non-toxic things you are excited about burning as part of your sculpture or camp fire.

Burning efigy

Last inflammable Art Workshop

Presenter Bio Jason Taylor is a local maker, fire artist and teacher.  He and his talented son Anthony live in the greater orbit of Cambia Community.

8 PM Story Telling Workshop

What are key principles of compelling storytelling?  This workshop explores these axioms including “Tell the story your audience wants to hear”horses in hair

Where does your imagination take you?

Perhaps half of this workshop is listening to example stories as well as stories of the other participants.  You will get to practice telling a short personal story as well as examine what makes an engaging tale.

No experience necessary, both workshops and the Temple of Oracles are open to kids and adults and are free of charge.

MiniQuink