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A new way of living

By Chris James - posted Thursday, 28 August 2008

Eco-spiritual communities are springing up across Australia and the world. They are a response to a rise in global and domestic conflicts, an oil crisis, an environmental crisis as well as a perceived crisis in food security. They also seemingly seek to address the local disparities in the distribution of wealth.

Added to this there appears to be a general feeling of isolation and alienation that has been running alongside modernism and our ever-expanding materialist lifestyle.

For many the notion of a homogenous community is perceived as being missing in the landscape: but the homogenous community is a fantasy, it does not and cannot exist.


Undoubtedly, there is a need to restore the integrity of human activities on the planet, especially in relation to development and human rights, but while the eco-spiritual communities are taking on the roles of micro-production, self-governance and the dissemination of generally disqualified knowledge[s], are these communities suitably placed to be part of the solution to a multi-dimensional global crisis or will they become part of a much greater problem?

In other words are these eco-spiritual communities a way of liberating populations from transnational exploitation and the modernist values of mass consumerism or are they re-inventing feudalism and/or new elites?

What is an [eco]-spiritual community?

The eco-spiritual community blends environmentalism with spirituality as the basis for a purported healthy, sustainable, self-governing and self-determining community group.

It is an environmental and spirituality consciousness mix. The “spiritual” community is not new. Historically, spiritual and religious communities have existed around the world whereby most have followed a particular religious order such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism so on.

Today, there are many New Age variants all competing for a spot in the local and global markets. The current eco-spiritual trend generally embraces all beliefs as long as they can claim to be spiritual. The idea is to have an open and inclusive framework that allows the individual to define their own idiosyncratic form of spirituality.

It is a model that was largely developed from one of the earliest eco-spiritual communities that of Findhorn in the United Kingdom. Findhorn was started in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. Findhorn was a social experiment based on the idea that people could live in a different frame of consciousness that would improve their well being and thus the state of the world.


Findhorn was conceived in a Cold War climate with its threat of a nuclear holocaust. Consequently, Findhorn became decidedly non-political. It devised a code of conduct called the Common Ground whereby each member made a commitment to active spiritual practice and to work for the greatest good.

The Common Ground code itemised 14 protocols for self- improvement; they included service to others, personal growth, integrity, respect, honest communication, reflection and taking responsibility.

There is a great emphasis on non-violent change and the adherence to leaders who follow a path of passive resistance: people such as Gandhi. Findhorn is indicative of a number of communities that have attempted to opt out of a mediocre society and its monopoly capitalism. However, the nature of capitalism is universal and such communities find themselves, of necessity, equally embroiled in capitalism.

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About the Author

Dr Chris James is an artist, writer, researcher and psychotherapist. She lives on a property in regional Victoria and lectures on psychotherapeutic communities and eco-development. Her web site is

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