This page lists a first draft of grounding principles for Sotrusozer monasteries. Bear in mind that the principles listed here are not the law as invented by me, but starting places for discussions that will hopefully lead to founding documents which will be satisfactory to everyone who wishes to participate in such projects. Discussion is hoped for on the forum page.
The key features of this type of community are:
- Lack of a shared religious path
- Celibacy while on the grounds of the community
- Common gender (each community would be either all male or all female–hopefully, communities of both types will be established)
- Embodiment of egalitarian principles
- Autocratic governance (yes, I know–keep reading)
- Dedication to self sufficiency
- Individual finances, with an expectation of time contributed to joint endeavors intended to support the monastery
Each of these attributes was selected for one or both of two reasons:
- It enhances the experience of living in the community
- It facilitates the successful operation of the community
Some of these attributes are challenging or at least unappealing to many people. I have no qualms about recommending them for Sotrusozer communities because there are thousands of communities already available to anyone who desires to live in an intentional community organized around different principles. For those who desire to live in a community with a shared religious path, there are existing monasteries and convents based on a wide variety of religious belief and practice. For those who would prefer to live in a community of mixed gender or that allows sexual interaction between members, there are many to choose from (refer to www.ic.org for a sizable list).
Given below are brief descriptions of my rationale for each attribute. Discussion of the attributes and rationales for them is encouraged in the forum.
- Sotrusozer will not have a common religious practice because that would prohibit the majority of the human race from participating (the largest religion being able to claim less than a third of humanity as members). It is also because an almost universal feature of organized religions is the establishment of hierarchy through some measure of seniority, which would instigate conflict and tend to supplant with competition the desired-for cooperation. Seniority hierarchy also implies the existence of deserved privilege, which is directly contrary to the Sotrusozer goal of allowing every resident equal opportunity to identify and reach his or her potential. Discussion Here
- Celibacy will be expected on the grounds of the monastery because of the obvious conflict and drama-inducing effects of sexual competition and of the ending of sexual relationships. Very few intentional communities survive their first few years. One of the most commonly given reasons for the collapse of communities and for individuals leaving communities is the stress caused by personal relationships. I recognize that sex is one of the most enjoyable and beneficial of human activities, but all of the benefits it provides (except for gratification of the purely physical sexual urges) can be provided by other activities, and those who are not of an inclination to be celibate are of course free to seek sexual gratification outside the boundaries of the community. Discussion Here
- The communities will be unisex because:
- it is unlikely that members of mixed gender communities would adhere to the policy of celibacy
- the presence of the opposite gender tends to create competition (vice cooperation)
- the presence of the opposite gender tends to suppress participation (see, for example, research into the different levels of female participation and accomplishment in mixed gender versus unisex classrooms)
- the presence of the opposite gender can limit free expression through fear of judgment
- People have chosen to come together in intentional communities for millenia. Every intentional community that has ever survived more than a few decades has been single-sex, and I can’t imagine expending all of the energy and battling through all of the challenges inherent in founding a new human community if it isn’t going to outlive me.
- Sotrusozer communities will be dedicated to egalitarian principles because such dedication maximizes the potential for every member to achieve happiness. Discussion Here
- The communities will operate with autocratic governance* because
- The discussion and debates necessitated for democratic (and even worse, consensus-based) decision making inevitably lead to the formation of cliques and to interpersonal rivalries which detract from the experience of community and can threaten a community’s continued existence.
- The process of reaching sufficient agreement or consensus for operational decisions consumes a great deal of time and energy.
- The opportunity to gratify the natural urges for attention and power through domination of democratic processes encourages antisocial behavior from even well-meaning individuals (this behavior covers the range from basic contrarian behavior to interpersonal manipulation and deliberate obstruction of activities sponsored by rivals).
- Benevolent dictatorship is the undisputed pinnacle of efficiency.
- While the desire to live in a structureless, consensus-based community is a natural reaction to the overly-structured wider society, the reality is that any community will develop a structure over time. If that structure is not explicitly defined and agreed to in advance, it will be a social hierarchy dominated by the most socially aggressive/adept community members. Although she is clearly not advocating autocracy, Jo Freeman discusses this tendency, and its negative impact on groups, in an article available on her website.
- Shared, elective submission to authority is one of the most effective bonds between human beings.
- It is possible to operate autocratically while remaining true to the spirit of egalitarian principles by:
- establishing a set of inviolate principles that bound the leaders’ actions (a constitution)
- ensuring occupancy of leadership posts is kept short and assigned by lottery. Each community member not only has the opportunity to fill such posts, but the responsibility to when his or her number comes up. Members will be prepared for the demands of each post through universally-available training and apprenticeship (perhaps simply overlap of time in office during which the lame-duck shows the incoming member the ropes).
*By that term I mean that all decisions regarding the operation of the community are made unilaterally by the person holding the office responsible for that area of community life. Just imagine it! Never again having to sit in a meeting listening to countless statements preceded by the phrase ‘Well I think we should…’ Refer to the discussion forum for a much more detailed description of how the system might operate. Discussion Here
- The communities will strive for self sufficiency*:
- for environmental reasons (the goal of permanent communities presupposes the continued existence of survivable environmental conditions)
- for the satisfactions provided by the sense of empowerment and competence self sufficiency provides
- because communities that depend on external support will not long survive outside the sheltering umbrella of a large religious infrastructure
*It should be noted that although it is not possible for any one small community to be truly self sufficient with any reasonable quality of life, it may be possible for a cooperating association of Sotrusozer communities to achieve practical independence from society at large with the obvious exception of major medical care. Such care could be purchased outside the communities by a common medical fund or through externally-purchased group health insurance. Either option would require that, in addition to providing for its members’ needs, the association would have to offer products or services for sale to society in order to fund the purchase of care or insurance. Discussion Here
- Independent finances will be maintained because:
- Depending on member’s predilections and talents, they will be earning (or not) differing amounts of money from outside the community. Requiring those earnings to be donated to the community would lead to perceptions of differing status, the suppression of participation in wider society, and good old-fashioned resentment.
- A fundamental aspect of the communities will be their voluntary nature. If members don’t have their own finances, they will find it difficult to leave the community should they feel inclined to. These are communities, not cults.