The Spiritual Practice of True Community


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.

In looking back at their lives, some may observe that their religious growth was fairly even, with little inner turmoil. Their spiritual unfolding seemed to move right along gradually and smoothly, or fairly smoothly with few minor conflicts. For others, their spiritual awakening has been more tumultuous, with many ups and downs and all arounds.

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.

The Urantia Book states on page 1130: “…Many spiritual births are accompanied by much anguish of spirit and marked psychological perturbations, as many physical births are characterized by a ‘stormy labor’ and other abnormalities of ‘delivery.’ Other spiritual births are a natural and normal growth of the recognition of supreme values with an enhancement of spiritual experience, albeit no religious development occurs without conscious effort and positive and individual determinations.”

Spiritual Birthing
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. A community can have a very large infrastructure or a very small infrastructure. 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

The First Stage
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. Individuals get nervous in situations where there is any “rocking of the boat,” for they want it all to be good and harmonious.

There is a wrong idea that in order to be unified there should be no conflict, no differences, no strong discussion and debate. When people “stuff” their concerns and ideas in order to not create any conflict, then uniformity sets in. Everyone tries to conform and be just like everybody else so that all seems harmonious and flowing smoothly, while beneath surfaces are brewing issues that should be addressed.

Of course there is some good at this stage of pseudo community because at least people come together with shared goals to attempt to get something done, whether it is to make money or whether it is to grow spiritually. Remember that this is just the beginning stage of community building, and if people can stick it out, they can move on to the next stage.

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.

I think that being “civil” and being “polite” are two different things. Being civil is being appropriately respectful of another’s perspective and attempting to understand someone else’s viewpoint in a nonviolent manner. Being polite is more on the surface and skirts any issues that may create any kind of conflict or heated discussion. People can be transparent and openly honest in their difference in a civil manner, but they tend not to be as genuine and open when just being polite.

The Second Stage
I emphasize again that these stages of community building not only show the progress of a group of individuals but the progress of the individuals themselves in their ability to socialize at more mature and productive levels. So, progressing from one level of community building to the next level requires the evolvement of the individuals within the group as well as the group itself. When most persons in a group are ready to graduate to the next level, those individuals who are not moving forward in their own personal process usually drop out of the group’s endeavors.

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.

At this stage there is a lot of anger experienced and expressed. There are individuals who never graduate from this stage in their own personal growth process. These people are very angry and confused, constantly in conflict with others, blaming others, and rarely taking responsibility for their own wrongdoing or contribution to the conflict. They create constant confrontation, but it is not productive or creative confrontation; it is just constant blaming and judgment without resolution. There is no movement forward for individuals or for a group if they remain in this stage. When someone or a group of people are stuck at this stage of evolution, I refer to it as “static chaos.”

For a while this stage of development can be a time of fighting and struggle. If a business stays in the stage of chaos for very long, it will go under; it will go bankrupt. If a church or any social organization stays in chaos for a long period of time and does not move into resolutions, it will crumble, too.

It is very common during this stage for an individual or group to begin to attack the leader or leaders of the organization and begin to blame them for the situation. It is also typical for individuals to constantly deny their responsibility or their participation in perpetuating a problem. They always blame everyone else for the problem. It is difficult for any group of people to build community with individuals who will not change and remain in that place of denial that they have anything to do with any of the problems that have surfaced.

The Third Stage
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.

This stage can be the bridge between chaos and true community. Most people who go into any kind of situation in life have many expectations, many ideas of how things should be done. When those expectations do not manifest, when their beliefs do not all pan out, a lot of conflict and confusion can occur. In this place of internal focus, of emptying and letting go, individuals begin to let go of those unrealistic expectations, incorrect notions, and false beliefs that do not work out, that do not contribute to the unfoldment of healthy individuals and a healthy community. Releasing unreasonable and unrealistic expectations of self, as well as of others and of the group is a very important step in the evolution of an individual and a group.

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.

The emptying and letting go stage is a time when persons empty themselves of those dio (erroneous) attitudes, traits and practices that prevent growth and healing so that they can create a space to listen to others. In the chaos stage, individuals are so busy yammering, defining and defending themselves and their own belief systems, pointing fingers and blaming everyone else that they do not have time to really listen to others. If and when they finally get exhausted with all of that, they then can release the emotions and attitudes and behavior that create the chaos and the conflict. They can shut up long enough in their minds and in their mouths to actually listen to other people and begin to really hear them.

If, in the chaos stage, enough individuals within a group begin to realize that people are individuals and that there are indeed many opinions and ideas that may actually work, then they move into the level of emptying and letting go. At first some individuals may not want to accept this movement forward in consciousness, but for those who do move into the emptying and letting go process, they begin to progress from personal shame and embarrassment for their dio traits and accept themselves as an individual ascending child of God. And then they begin to accept others and their differences. Those who do not want to progress in their own growth processes and move on to the next stage will feel uneasy and uncomfortable within the group and probably leave or be asked to leave.

The Fourth Stage
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. The phrase from The Urantia Book, “unity without uniformity,” can be realized at this stage. There is a graduation from the first three stages — the “we” stage, the “you” stage, and the “I” stage — to the “we-you-I” stage of true community. In other words, in true community, there is a balance of focusing on unifying with others, confronting and resolving conflict, and tending to inner growth and healing.

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.

Dr. Peck emphasizes that moving through these stages of community development takes work. In community building, those involved must do it with intent, as an individual and as a group of people coming together. They have to want to progress in order to make it happen. Progress through these stages does not just happen by itself, just as individuals who want to grow spiritually and heal psychologically must be disciplined and work at it.

Once a group attains true community, the group or individuals can very easily fall back into pseudo community or the other lower stages, into old patterns and old ways of doing things. At each step, at each stage, individuals and even groups can get stuck and not move on to the next level of progress. The whole idea is to keep constantly moving forward. Dr. Peck’s idea is that once you get to true community, that is it, that is where you stay, and then you have to work hard to stay there.

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 upon 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.”

Living in true community is a process of learning to express oneself honestly, with wisdom and discernment, understanding what is appropriate when, with whom, and how to do it. In a fourth-dimensional true community, communication involves application of spiritual principles in relationships and encouragement of each other’s spiritual rehabilitation, growth, and healing. People have developed a significant commitment to rejoice together, and though they can get some enjoyment from trivial things, their true joy comes when they see each other’s growth, when they see each other ascending, evolving, moving forward, overcoming dio (erroneous) reality, and growing in Deo (godly) reality. They mourn together — not sitting on the pity pot, weeping, sniveling, and feeling sorry for themselves together — but mourning together over those human beings who turn away from their Source and Center, the Universal Father, or who abandon the dedication and labor of meeting their highest destiny of helping create true community that will someday be manifested worldwide.

True community and spiritual maturity in the fourth dimension naturally evolve into having a sense of respect and sacredness, and changing old patterns and habits of being sloppy, unclean and leaving things lying around. Within individuals moving more into their cosmic minds, there is an ever-enlarging realization that not only is Mother Earth sacred but also the homes individuals live in and other facilities that are used for work and play. There is an appreciation for divine order and beauty on all levels of universal reality — physical, mindal and spiritual.

As the Fragment of the Father works with individuals, they begin to move from being totally wrapped up in themselves and making themselves happier to wanting to reach out to others, bringing some joy and recognition to them. When an individual moves to that place of “others awareness,” he or she usually does make a move into a life of higher love and service. In that consciousness of enhanced “other awareness” an individual will naturally begin to look for opportunities to create true community, for the natural state of love is to socialize in a much closer, more genuine level that requires some degree of community building.

As an individual increasingly unfolds in his or her personal spiritual ascension, he or she is more qualified to create and maintain true community, whether on a third-dimensional or fourth-dimensional level. And this world needs true communities in every nook and cranny, in all nations, religions, cultures, businesses, political endeavors, neighborhoods, and every other kind of group imaginable.

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.

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Niánn Emerson Chase
Niánn Emerson Chase grew up on four different Native American reservations in the southwestern United States. After earning her Bachelor's Degree in Literature/English and Education, she returned to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona where she lived and taught for fifteen years. In 1989, Niánn co-founded Global Community Communications Alliance, which is now a 100+ member intentional community and working EcoVillage in southern Arizona in the historic southwest towns of Tubac and Tumacácori. Within the community, Niánn Emerson Chase serves as the Director of the Global Community Communications Schools for Adults, Teens and Children, and she serves on the Board of Elders and as a pastor. She is emerging as a world-renowned spiritual leader, published author, educator and activist. Her spiritual-based philosophies and peace-motivated efforts have positively impacted countless individuals worldwide, enriching their own personal growth, while fostering life-giving city, state and national policies.


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