"WHAT THE PLANETARY VILLAGES like Findhorn and Auroville really are is a kind of planetary deme. This is the word geneticists use to describe small isolated subpopulations that have a mutation in them. The species will always send out little tendrils from the major adaptation of where it is now, and these tendrils will explore new ecological niches and in these niches a mutation will occur. And as long as the mutation is in communication with the rest of the species then there’s a feedback into the species as a whole and it will flow into the ecological breakthrough and will create the major adaptation for the future and then once again will fan out. All these planetary villages are evolutionary demes, little subpopulations where cultural evolution and physical evolution are becoming conscious."
– William Irwin Thompson
In the substratum of human consciousness a sense is growing that the race must alter decisively its ways of living and being or face annihilation. The change that has begun to occur is primarily one of consciousness, though it has – and must have – immediate consequences in every aspect of human life. As with all major historical transitions, it is difficult to see the evolutionary shift we’re in the midst of; we rather sense it, and can perceive here and there some of its first tentative shoots poking up through the crust of the old earth. One of the more notable of these is the emergence of the planetary viIlages.
"Village" suggests a manageable, human scale aggregate of human beings that offers support and nourishment to its individuals, provides the services and facilities necessary to support individual growth and expression, and contains a cultural richness and diversity not available to a small group or extended family. "Planetary" indicates a vision and way of working that transcends the sectarian narrowness and parochial confines of traditional village culture, moving into a new consciousness of global awareness and interconnection. A planetary village such as Auroville or Findhorn is one that unlike earlier settlements attempts to grow and organize itself consciously; embrace a large, heterogeneous population of many nationalities; is based on a broad spiritual vision of personal and social evolution; and is trying to develop new forms of collective living that are ecologically sound and express a new transnational, sacralized culture. While sharing this in common, the outward life, expression, and particular work of such places varies considerably.
In a place like Auroville, one feels caught occasionally in a strange, twilight zone straddling myth and reality: the daily problems, struggles, sweat and anguish are real enough, but because the process is symbolic of much larger concerns that must be worked out on the global level, the most seemingly insignificant occurrences of daily life take on archetypal significance. And a place like Auroville really is symbolically, mythically, as well as actually, enacting on a small stage the drama of bringing a new civilization to birth.
The significance of such a place lies not in its creation of cut and polished new structures (in fact there is really very little polished about the work at all) but in its "exploration of new ecological niches", and in its providing a focal point, reference, or mirror for others engaged in the wider work for change in society as a whole. It is futile to look to Auroville for an "answer": it can only say, as it tests and explores, that it is groping around, running into some dead ends, dark corners, and, occasionally, a shaft of sunlight in an open field. It’s the exploration itself, not a finished product, that opens up channels for evolutionary growth.
This seems important to remember. A deme is not a utopia nor does it wish to be. Rather it is, at least in Auroville’s case, an experimental laboratory whose nature is that of a forge. Hot, dirty, noisy, it’s a place where materials are hurled together, experimented on, pounded into or out of shape, ripped apart, discarded, fused together, and eventually, transformed. Like an ordinary forge, it is often not a particularly pleasant place to be. If it wasn’t of this nature, it probably would not be doing its work very well.
There is much in the experience of the planetary villages that is useful to those working in the larger social context, and much occurring in the wider sphere that can assist the work in the villages. Auroville has been in existence for fifteen years, Findhorn for twenty-one. While the future is very much unknown and anything is possible, it does seem safe to say that such places have shown themselves to be more than a passing phenomenon; certainly the people living in them expect them to continue for a very long time. As the world crisis intensifies and the work of the evolutionary transition continues, these small cells within the global body will take on greater significance, and there will be an increasing need for communication and interaction between those in the planetary villages, those outside them, and among the communities themselves.
We need to understand more clearly the role each plays in the total process, for the work in the communities and the work outside are complementary parts of one reality, one attempt to manifest a new vision of humanity and the planet. Key notes of the coming age include cooperation, support, and sharing; if we can see the common thread underlying our diversity and support each other, we will help considerably humanity’s passage to a new, more humane, sustainable and whole society. In fact, the nature of the play seems to be such that unless we learn these qualities the passage will not be possible.
Auroville is an experimental, international community started in 1968, located in Tamil Nadu, South India. Originally envisioned as becoming a "planetary city" holding eventually 50,000 people, Auroville today is spread over 11,000 acres and includes over 40 settlements ranging in size from two or three people to over 100. The present population consists of over 500 people from 24 countries. Auroville is founded on the work of India’s great modern visionary, Sri Aurobindo, who died in 1950, and his co-worker, a French woman known as the Mother, who died in 1973. David Wickenden and Sally Walton are long-term residents of Auroville who spent this past summer touring the United States speaking about the work and vision of the community. David has returned to Auroville, while Sally is continuing her work for the community in the U.S..