Intentional Communities: What are they?

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Author: Fern al'Thorn, May 2018

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Intentional Communities: What are they?

I have seen the comment more than a few times here at TarValon.Net about starting a Tower Community in real life in a place where we can all be near each other. I personally love that idea, and I am involved in learning about what Intentional communities are about--why they thrive or die.

This article is merely a jumping off point for those that wish to learn more about this ideal and lifestyle. It is something that we as humans have done for thousands of years, and yet the idea seems so alien to a lot of people because of the way the world now works in isolating people from each other and individualizing the aspect of being in the world. This leaves us lonely for comradery in and fellowship with others that are like-minded.

We are all amazing people in our own right, but when we come together to build a world such as intentional communities support, we all become so much more than just an individual. There are hundreds of these types of communities across North America.

Let's start with the definition of intentional community:

1. a community designed and planned around a social ideal or collective values and interests, often involving shared resources and responsibilities.


Intentional communities, utopian communities, communes, alternative communities, collectives, cooperatives, experimental communities, communal societies, and communitarian utopias are some of the more popular terms used to describe what many consider to be unconventional living arrangements. The definitions of these terms vary from study to study but, for the most part, the term intentional community is broad enough to encompass all of those listed above. These terms are often used interchangeably.

According to Geoph Kozeny, "An 'intentional community' is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. The people may live together on a piece of rural land, in a suburban home, or in an urban neighborhood, and they may share a single residence or live in a cluster of dwellings" (1995, p. 18). Lyman Tower Sargent defines an intentional community as a "group of five or more adults and their children, if any, who come from more than one nuclear family and who have chosen to live together to enhance their shared values or for some other mutually agreed upon purpose" (1994, p. 15). Timothy Miller identified the following seven criteria as necessary ingredients to be considered an intentional community: "(1) A sense of common purpose and of separation from the dominant society; (2) some form and level of self-denial, of voluntary suppression of individual choice for the good of the group; (3) geographic proximity; (4) personal interaction; (5) economic sharing; (6) real existence; and (7) critical mass" (1998, p. xx).

Now, seeing that laid out in that way, I would say that we here at TarValon.Net have already set up something of an Intentional Community, only, we have done so on the virtual level.

Trying to do this in the physical world is a whole other ball of strings.
There are things and issues that will come up to the surface like bubbles of evil. From who is going to grow the food to who will be cleaning out the bathrooms.

Most places start off with having large tracts of land, then they begin building what they want in their world. Shelter, food, and clothing are the biggest things you will be faced with needing when starting an endeavor like this. Gardens and orchards need to be planted, buildings for farm animals and other livestock need to be figured out, and there is usually so much more that will need to be done. Governance of self and others, the sharing of resources and time, which is a lot more than people really think, is another critical endeavor.

In some of my research I have come across this website:
The Fellowship for Intentional Community
They provide a very good look at and idea about what these kinds of communities are all about. I found it to be a good tool for finding places to visit and looking at different ways that the ideals of community living have come about.

I have also been to visit a couple of these communities, and it is amazing what can be done when people work together on the common goal of just living and being.

One of the places that I have been to was listed in the directory of the above site, called "Sirius Community" in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. It is an established community of over 20 years. They can be found online here, at Sirius Community.

The other that I have visited is a new one starting up in southern Illinois, called "Interwoven Permaculture Farm and Learning Center." Currently, there is one family and an individual that live there full-time, but they have a stream of volunteers and interns almost year-round. You can find more information on their website, Interwoven Permaculture.

I have a goal of visiting more of these places and making connections with a lot of them. For me, it is part of the idea of living off grid or just outside of the normal urban/suburban views and culture about living life. Living in the world without killing it in the process is a big part of my world view. Seeing these places first-hand and living and working toward that end are part of my reason for being.

I hope that this gives you the opportunity to look into the idea behind the thought of having a “Tower Commune.” I look forward to thoughts and ideas that you all may have.
Till next time!