Communities on this earth come in a bewildering array of shapes, sizes, ethnicities, economic conditions, religious persuasions and language groups. There are macrocosmic communities like America, China, Russia, Australia; regional communities like New York, California, Minnesota, Georgia; city-based communities like Minneapolis-St. Paul, and then, of course, there are our families: mothers, fathers, children, relatives and close friends who might as well be family because we’ve known them so long.

There is a school of thought today that likes to simplify the whole idea of community by looking at all groups of people through economic glasses. They will say things like this group in Afghanistan or this group in Columbia are very poor, and that’s why they raise heroin poppies and coca for cocaine. This group in Beverly Hills is very rich and therefore has no real problems. However, taking off our economic glasses for a moment, and using a little old-fashioned common sense, we see that Beverly Hills can have a drug problem just like Harlem does. You can also find a lot of spiritual diseases in a place like Beverly Hills — depression, rampant marital infidelity, too much divorce, mental illness, boredom and general unhappiness. This calls to mind a lyric from The Beatles: “‘Cause I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”

So what are some of the basic ingredients for a “good community,” the kind of place where you can live a meaningful, full life, a place where you feel like you’re balancing your karma and giving something back to God?

Fortunately, we can turn here to the advice of a real expert on spiritual community, a mystic and former Rajput prince of India who joined the company of ascended masters in 1898. That master, El Morya, was one of the founders of the Theosophical Society and dictated a book in the early 20th century through his messengers, Russian mystic and artist Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena. That book is called New Era Community.

New Era Community, in turn, was reviewed and interpreted in a series of lectures by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, also a messenger of El Morya. Those lectures were gathered into a book in 2002 called Community: A Journey to the Heart of Spiritual Community. This book is very much focused on what it takes to create a lasting and meaningful living group. Mrs. Prophet herself had extensive practical experience, founding spiritual communities of The Summit Lighthouse with her husband Mark L. Prophet in Virginia and Colorado, and then by herself, after Mark passed on, in Southern California and in the mountain country of Montana.

In both El Morya’s book, New Era Community and Mrs. Prophet’s modern interpretation of it, the guiding principle of community is that living groups, to be lasting, meaningful and able to make a positive contribution to the world, must be founded on solid spiritual bedrock. Speaking in a kind of Zen parable style, El Morya says:

“Wayfarer, friend, let us travel together. Night is near, wild beasts are about, and our campfire may go out. But if we agree to share the night watch, we can conserve our forces.

“Be careful not to step upon a scorpion, and warn me about any vipers. Remember, we must arrive at a certain mountain village.

“Traveler be my friend.”

Mrs. Prophet interprets this to mean: “Conservation of cosmic forces is the purpose of community. We can do better together than we can alone, because we have a common foe [negative energies] and limited resources. If we pool our resources, we can arrive at the mountain village.” She goes on to say that the “mountain village” is an archetypal pattern of a retreat-like place, perhaps in the vast Himalayas, where there is a rustic little house in a village and “in that house is the [spiritual] master.” The humble surroundings, she says, “denote that the value of this master is on inner planes.”

On the spiritual journey of community there will be challenges, note El Morya and Mrs. Prophet. Those would include “humanity haters,” people who seem to hate you for no good reason, but may actually be possessed by demons and discarnates. Mrs. Prophet points out that Jesus often dealt with such possessed people and that the demons actually recognized him before the people did. They even spoke to Jesus: “We know thee, thy holy one of God. Torment us not” (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:2). Sensing the light of the Master, the demons also desired to be liberated.

There is a lesson here for today’s troubled communities, such as inner-city neighborhoods riddled with drug and alcohol addiction problems. Yes, the action of law enforcement is necessary to curb drug dealing and, yes, rehabilitation centers are required to rescue addicts from their addictions. But spiritual intervention also is absolutely necessary. Intense prayer work by the spiritual communities within America’s cities must be focused on stubborn problems like international drug trafficking, local drug dealers, and individual addiction, which may very well affect our own family and friends. In addition, spiritual communities should offer the alternative of the spiritual path to those fighting chemical addiction or other kinds of personal malaise.

There are many other useful keys, too numerous to discuss here, within these two books on community — El Morya’s New Era Community and Mrs. Prophet’s modern interpretation of it. Among those are the need to restore a desire for excellence in our neighborhoods and cities and also the task of inspiring our community members to help others in need. In addition, Mrs. Prophet makes the startling statement that every community of the Holy Spirit now “springing up throughout the earth for the Aquarian age” is the “repository of all efforts toward community that have ever been made by any group of souls anywhere on the face of the earth.” That would include, she says, “the twelve tribes of Israel, of Camelot, of the people of Tibet, of the people of China, of the mystery school of Pythagoras.” Those previous efforts at community, she is saying, by a kind of spiritual law of the conservation of energy, are not lost but live on in today’s spiritual adherents.

In other words, all seekers after Truth and true spiritual community are on this journey together. We need to unite, not fight over petty differences, and together get on with the work of restoring our neighborhoods, our cities, our nations and the Earth.

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