Community Must Be Given by the Spirit

by Eberhard Arnold

Note: Spoken at the Alm Bruderhof July 25, 1935, at a meeting with visitors including Pitter Premysl, the General Secretary of Christian Communists in Prague. (Parentheses indicate that the shorthand notes were incomplete.)

We are very much concerned that we might glance into the innermost relationships and secrets of true community. Even though we will not fully understand them, we are concerned to have a glimpse of them. To this end it will be necessary that we ask the good Spirit to move and open our hearts in innermost intuition, so that we may perceive the essence of true community, or that we may at least begin to have a feeling for it.

We are aware that this feeling and perception must again and again be revealed to us; we do not think that we possess true community through the many years of living together. On the contrary, we believe that we cannot take possession of it; it must take possession of us. We need again and again to be illumined by the light of the Holy Spirit, to be inwardly shaken by the presence of Christ, to be overpowered by the reality of God's rule.

We confess that a life together is possible only if each day we are visited anew by the Spirit from the heights who unites us fully and wholly from the outermost to the innermost. Our common life became possible only because we came to the faith in the Holy Spirit and in His working, the Spirit who leads us together. There is something quite wonderful in the fact that our movement actually came to the faith in Christ and in the gospel of Jesus Christ, starting from the third and first articles of faith, from the faith in the Spirit and in the Creator of all nature. If we keep our vision on that which daily fills us, then each day we will gain an experience of the working of the Holy Spirit--the experience that the Holy Spirit never contradicts himself. Never should a human leading prevail.

Word leader means that one is the spokesman for that which lives in the others. Everybody can be the spokesman for the life of the whole community. We have no principle of leadership and no majority system. We do not want one human opinion to rule over the others; we believe that the Spirit of truth manifests himself to all and never contradicts himself. When we have a special concern, when someone is seriously ill or when we we are in a very difficult financial situation, or when we think of some special suffering of the proletariat or of a special task in the garden or elsewhere--always and at all times we want to hear the voice of the Spirit. We believe in the revelation of truth in the living community.

This distinguishes us very much from merely private Christianity. Of course the individual heart must be visited by the Holy Spirit, but the actual working of the Holy Spirit only begins in the church; for when that which the individual heart experiences is being lived in the community of conviction, only then will the Kingdom of God be revealed. This common unanimity does not want to be limited to one circle; rather we all feel it as an experience of truth in communion with those witnesses who already are glorified, an experience which brings us into full unity with them. We really experience and this is the mystery of the church--that the Spirit speaks among us daily.

Again and again people have wondered, in how far the Spirit of truth reveals His will even in matter. Our experience is that for the revelation of the Spirit there are no limits, but least of all that boundary which separates spirit and matter. The Holy Spirit is not hindered by these boundaries; He is a creative Spirit; He seeks the way from the heart of God down into objects. We believe that the will of the Holy Spirit and communion in the truth can be shown precisely in material things, also in the work on the materials which the earth provides.

We believe that in all this, in the apparently outermost things of existence, the unity of the Spirit shows itself just as powerfully as in the innermost things of faith. Faith wants to be active in love; this means that faith through love wants to transform matter in the sense of God's Kingdom and His justice. (This applies to the outer appearance of our property, simple beauty, neatness, flowers, etc.) Therefore our unity must also cover the purely material things. The more we are inspired by the Spirit, the more we shall obtain mastery over matter.

This does not mean that we must be rich; it does mean that in the midst of poverty the materialization of the Spirit can be expressed in brotherly justice, in the common life and in common work. Thus for instance we can speak of money matters, if we feel that the Spirit is urging us. In order to provide, for the sake of justice and love, adequate nourishment and clothing for our brothers and sisters, we must ask the Spirit to set us on our feet, to enable us to build ten or eleven houses (extensive agriculture and gardening, a children's home, and more).

Since we do the work ourselves, without outside labor, the costs are greatly reduced. Expressed in money it is a considerable sum, but we are not afraid of money. We believe that through the fellowship with the creative Spirit we are being moved toward the building up of love.

Only thus is it possible for us to be newly moved from day to day in full community and again and again led together. There is an ever renewed visitation by the spiritual powers from the other world. From here our mission into the world is understood. We are not optimistic as regards world politics, but we are full of faith for the witness of unity of the church, and that this witness can do the best service to people. Full community and unanimity is possible! People then ask, "How?" Here is the answer: it is possible through faith in God, in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. This is our life task. We also ask you to tell your friends this. Everything else is secondary.

Olga Fierz: Dear friends, I am under the impression of finding myself on an island of love in this great world which is so loveless. We would like to believe that we in Prague are also such an island of love. I believe there are many such islands in the world, and I believe that it is the best service to build such islands and to strengthen them, so that when all the destructive powers of the world break loose, there are these islands where searching souls find the aliveness of God. May the purity which such a life demands be fully protected, and may we always receive the power from God to remain faithful to these thoughts.

Premiszl Pitter: My heart is full of thankfulness to God for having led me here to show me that the eternal Holy Spirit again and again reveals himself at any time, and to show me how great and strong He is. I would rather be silent, for any human word is too weak and too insufficient to express the power of the Spirit, of truth and of love.

Eberhard: It is quite clear that we are not concerned with a purely organizational joining together. We like meeting people who refuse to bear arms and who love their enemies, whether they be (communists) or National Socialists. What matters is that we love our enemies in the real, true sense; the name makes no difference. They are all the object of God's love and we have no right to pass a final judgment on them.

It is true, we have to reject their deeds, which we have come to know, but nevertheless they remain the enemies whom we sincerely love. Jesus asks the same thing for the Roman soldiers and the Jewish priests who brought him to his death: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. So it is today, too. They are blinded by their idealism, and we hope that we can love them unto death. But in this spirit and in this sense we stretch out our hands to all those who for love's sake want to live in community.

You will understand that it is repugnant to us to be too much reduced to an organizational form! There is a certain repugnance to organization, even though we are not against order, but it must come to us in an immediate way as a leading of the Spirit, as the organic order through the leading of the Holy Spirit.