The Rainbow Gathering: 5 Decades of Beta-Testing Anarchist Society (Part 1 of 5)

in philosophy •  3 years ago  (edited)

One of the biggest questions that anarchists face when spreading the message is "If it works so well, why isn't anyone doing it on a large scale?". Unfortunately, most anarchists stumble at this question, because they don't realize the correct response is: "they are".

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This is a work-in-progress paper on the Rainbow Gathering, and specifically the importance that I believe it holds to the freedom movement, both as proof-of-concept and as an already established global network. I am very much looking for input, please give any feedback, ask any questions, and generally just let loose, so that I can create the most fleshed-out writeup possible. I'll also be breaking this down into a couple of pieces, just to keep the word-count down and hopefully get less people to gloss over it.


The largest, long-running experiment in anarchy is something that most have never even heard of: The Rainbow Gathering. Since 1972, this metropolis of freedom and healing has been forming all around the world, often with a population in the tens of thousands. In staying true to the nomadic nature of humans, the gathering is not a single physical location, it is a set of principles & agreements, a way of being, that coalesces around the world for weeks or months at a time. This is not to say that there aren't any permanent Rainbow Gatherings, as I will get into later.

Key Principles

The things that bring humans together from all around the world, with widely varied cultures, ideologies, lifestyles, and even languages, are the principles that they live by, the basic understanding that everyone operates under. Some of these things are never even discussed, but the container has been established so clearly and intentionally that they don't really have to be. These principles encapsulate the basics of anarchy/voluntaryism, but take it (much needed in my opinion) step farther as well.

1. You can do what you want, as long as you aren't hurting or threatening anyone else

This is quite simply the basic idea of self-ownership and the non-aggression principle. Whether you want to drop acid and run through the forest naked, build a giant net-fort in the trees and make bird-calls at people, or bring ounces of DMT and sit next to the trail sharing with passers-by, you are free to do you.

2. Give what you can, take what you need

The gathering is a place where nobody is forced to give anything in order to get the necessities of life. If you are hungry, go to any kitchen, and they will feed you. If you are hurt, ask where CALM (the medics) are, and they will take care of you. If you need a sleeping bag, start asking and you will have one before you know it. The gift economy model functions extremely fluidly, and everyone ends up with more than they need. I myself am a chef in a 24-hour kitchen, and all that I ever have to do is yell "we need dishwashers", "we need firewood", or "we need veggies chopped", and I will always end up with more volunteers than I know what to do with.

3. If you find a job, it's yours

This principle falls right in line with the previous one. Since the Gathering is a place of true freedom, that means that it is also a place of true responsibility. We are all responsible for taking care of each other. If you notice that a compost pit is full, a kitchen is out of firewood, a water reservoir is empty, you now have a responsibility to make sure that problem is solved. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to physically solve the problem, you may not be physically capable, or even know what to do. Everyone can, however, spread the word until they find someone who is capable of solving it. By taking responsibility for any problem we find, everyone makes sure that the Gathering remains safe, clean, and functioning.

4. Everyone at the Gathering is your family, treat them as such

At Rainbow, you will never see 2 humans who just met shaking hands; they will always be giving each other a hug. Throughout your time at a gathering, you will hear crowds getting together and screaming "We love you!" at the top of their lungs, with the cry rippling through the forest. As you make your way down the main trail for the first time, with all your gear on your back, hundreds of people will say "Welcome home". One of the biggest things that separates the Rainbow Gathering from any other kind of event or community on Earth is the remembering that we are all truly one human family. As with any micro/macro-chosm of a family, and as the name suggests, Rainbow has people from every part of the spectrum. Doctors, veterans, street-kids, Christians, Hebrews, Hare Krishnas... In this place, they set aside the illusion of separation and live in the truth of the love that we all are.

To be continued in Part 2: History, Original purpose of the gathering, Interactions with the state

Thanks for your time, and I hope you enjoyed this! Be sure to follow me to catch Part 2, as well as my vegan recipes and articles about world travel, philosophy, and living a life you love!



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I agree with nigel, this would be quite the place to live. How do they cope with people who oppose on the lifestyle? If they were to be threatened or terrorized?

I'll be covering that in 2 ways:

  • The Gatherings have been threatened & terrorized by the U.S. government many times over the years, which I'll cover in part 2 (tomorrow)
  • Part 4 is going to focus on conflict resolution & consensus-based decision making, both of which will take a look more at the internal aspects of dealing with outliers & threats.

dang, guess you kind got me hooked haha

i'll follow and check out the next couple parts, sounds like an interesting topic

yo hermes!

what does "20 ' male" mean?
...are you saying your 20 feet tall?

Ahh, you got me there. I guess i'm technically a 20 foot tall male country, didn't feel like using slashes but i'll change it just cause of this haha. Really meant 20/Male/Canada...

Of coarse.....of all people I would expect Hermes @trismegistuz to overstand the law of cause and effect.


This would be a wonderful society, @kennyskitchen
Is there a role for God in an anarchist's world?

The simple answer is, if someone wants it to, and it doesn't involve forcing anything on someone else, then yes. The word has a wide variety of meanings to different people, and the only problem is when people decide to take their beliefs and start using them as an excuse for violence.

Thank you, @kennyskitchen
By your defintion, then even as a Christian, I too am an anarchist then.

Jesus was certainly an anarchist, at least that has been my understanding from reading of the Christian texts. Anarchy/voluntaryism is simply the idea that each human is a sovereign being, and no other has the right to use violence against, or steal from, them.

Some examples:

Judges 17.6:

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

Galatians 5.13:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Acts 5:29:.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men."

Ephesians 6.12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Matthew 7.12:

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

For a bit more reading:
"Romans 13 and the Christian Anarchist"
Christian Anarchism on Wikiquote

Thank you, @kennyskitchen

"obey God"

LOLOLOLOLOLOL Way to provoke everyone here, though NOBODY even bothered to respond to your crap bro, why don't you tell us about what a billionaire can and can't do or what trump believes when it comes to Climate Change.

At a usa rainbow gathering Jesus Camp is popular, and the Krishnas always have a camp.


That was really goid. I can't wait for the next part.

Thanks @mranderson! I plan on releasing all 5 parts this week, so stay tuned :-)

i am reminded of a quote by Aleister Crowley... "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, love is the law, Love under will" . Thelemites and anarchist are not too far off from each other in a broad sense.

Oh ya. Certainly most of the the Thelemites I've known are anarchists as well. I used to go to mass at the OTO temple in Portland before I started traveling, tons of amazing people :-)

i would love to travel but unfortunately i do not have the means to travel. i have never even been out of michigan.

The means to travel? You mean a physical body? I quit my job, gave away my belongings, and left Portland with $200 in my pocket to head to the Rainbow Gathering in South Dakota, June of 2015, and I've been on the road since. I'm in Acapulco, Mexico right now :-)

"do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, love is the law, Love under will"
I challenge you to argue that it doesn't mean simply "do what you will, blah blah blah" which has nothing to do with the philosophy of the world (animals included) "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and the basic tenet of anarchy "no rulers".

The Ying Yang of it all.
If the world wasn't so chaotic mankind wouldn't recognize a change was needed.

You dang hippies get off my lawn.

This sounds like a great community of humans thanks for sharing upped.

Some of the most amazing people I've ever met for sure, and the biggest catalyst for people to change themselves. Thanks for your support!

Awesome. Steemit is pretty much the internet version of a gathering. Glad to see the two meeting more formally.