Nature's Spirit

Carolyn Vaughan gave a talk at AUM '97 on the community which she and others are forming in South Carolina, called Nature's Spirit. They have purchased a tract of 210 acres, with a 10-acre lake, and have started forming the community. The following is from  their first newsletter in March 1997.


by Carolyn Vaughan
Nature's Spirit
Tbout a year ago some of us had the idea of an intentional community. In the three weeks we were in Auroville in southern India we were deeply affected by their universal belief that in order to create a world that is sustainable for all we must expand our consciousness. We were also impressed by their high quality of simple living using alternative technologies and building methods and materials. In Sri Lanka and Bangladesh we were touched by the sustainable lifestyles of the villagers and their lack of need for what we in western cultures have come to depend upon, while enjoying a seemingly joyful lifestyle that most of us can only hope for. 

When we returned to the United States, we felt like many people upon similar returns: overcome and disheartened by the enormity of our consumer society. Over the summer our plans for a just and sustainable community began to emerge. 

At the center of our yearnings to create community is the belief that we are responding to an inner call of the Spirit to which we feel an urgency to respond. Because the Spirit is at the core of our vision, purpose, and mission, our community have a spiritual center that will be not only a sacred place but also the center that is held in our hearts. This will honor that each individual makes the choice for their personal expression of the Divine and will not be founded on any one religion or means of expression. 

Telieving that the land belongs to everyone and to no one individual, we plan to hold the land in common. Each member of the community will choose in collaboration with others in the community a location on which to build their own home out of their personal finances. As in Auroville, a home that anyone builds here will be theirs to live in for the remainder of their life and if some of their family want to live in it after that, then, with the approval of the community, they may do so.  However, it will be "owned" by the community and will not be deeded to any individual. 

Nature's Spirit is seeking differing ways for people to be involved. Membership includes: 

  • folks living and working full-time on the land
  • others living at a distance but participating in projects of the community
  • others who may want to participate in monthly planning sessions
  • those who come to workshops or college internship programs and learn from our experiences
  • exchange programs with villages from other cultures, perhaps in Guatemala, Sri Lanka, or India
Te recognize that this spiritual quest is a daring venture that we are inviting people to join. Having lived most of our lives in individual compartments needing to possess everything from cars to washing machines to televisions to books, we have had little experience living in true community with others. We view our community as Gandhi saw his life, as an experiment in truth, by: 
  • finding ways to expand our consciousness so that we can see the world with new eyes, and seek to live from an inner truth and harmony
  • seeking to discover new ways to live lightly on the earth, giving back more resources than we take
  • discovering new means of relating and caring for each other, locally as a community and globally with other communities in the United States and from other parts of the earth
  • seeking means for communities to be self-sustainable using alternative economics and energy sources
     That summer I began to see, however dimly, that one of my ambitions, perhaps my governing ambition, was to belong fully to this place, to belong as the thrushes and the herons and the muskrats belonged, to be altogether at home here. That is still my ambition. But now I have come to see that it proposes an enormous labor. It is a spiritual ambition, like goodness. The wild creatures belong to the place by nature, but as a man I can belong only by understanding and by virtue. It is an ambition I cannot hope to succeed in wholly,  but I have come to believe that it is the most worthy of all.
óWendell Berry, Recollected Essays 1965-1980
For more information on Nature's Spirit, contact Carolyn Vaughan, 455 Quail Ridge Road, Salem, SC 29676. E-mail: or 
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