(This interview with Rotraud Rospert was done after a visit to
America where she traveled throughout California, Oregon and Arizona
visiting community groups inspired by the ZEGG community. She
conducted 2 workshops with Jon Russell entitled "Eros, Partnership and
Community" where the participants got to experience many of the
possibilities around love and relationships in community. The
questions here were posed by Pati Diehl from the Portland group. The
art on this page was all done by Rotraud.)
Rotraud, how long have you been part of ZEGG?
I joined the project in 1984. At that time it
was called project Meiga and ZEGG had not been created yet. The community
was in several different locations during the early years until 1991 when
we bought the property we now call ZEGG. And so I have been part of ZEGG
since it's beginning.
What made you want to be part of that project
in the beginning?
When I joined the project in 1984, I was living
as a single person, my daughter had already grown up, and I was looking
for new possibilities to live more successfully, with more fun, with more
friends and with more responsibilities than just for myself. I found that
this group shared my ideas of creating a world without fear and violence
against each other, and against nature and animals. I really wanted to
do something new and significant. I also discovered that to live in community
means to change many of our habits and structures and that was very interesting
You wanted to do that?
Yes, because my life had become boring and I was
looking for much more expression of my self. I had been working as a social
worker with battered women and I was getting frustrated with that because
I could see how they weren't changing. The way they were looking at their
situations was not making any improvements and I was disappointed in that.
I could see that these women were often creating these situations too,
just as the men were, and I wanted to find a new way.
I found that in community there are so many possibilities
to work with different adults and children, to create situations where
people could really talk the truth, instead of lying to each other out
of fear of being rejected or fear of hurting another's feelings. We could
create an environment that supported us in learning how to be truthful
at a new level. I wanted that.
So were there a lot of interesting things going
on there when you first got involved?
Yes. The first was that I found a whole new world
of communication where, for example in the forum, you would gain so much.
I would be very afraid of showing myself, but once I did it I felt very
free and bigger than before. We were able to see how once we really knew
someone, they became very easy to love, but we'd never know that at first.
At first we are afraid and think people won't like us if we show our real
selves, but just the opposite is true, if we are really truthful.
And then there was the art. I discovered I was
an artist. I spend a lot of time doing art now - painting, drawing, sculpture,
totems. I spent time in Australia with the Aborigines and learned much
from them about their art. In the early days some of the artistic events
we did in the community were very new for me. For example a woman would
sit in the center of a circle and all around her the other people would
be dancing around or sitting there drawing this person and there would
be such an erotic atmosphere doing art that I never would had imagined
would be possible in such a large circle of people.
And there was also very much music. When I was
first in the community I was excited to see so many people singing in
the chorus, but I was very shy. But I said to myself, "Someday I want
to be in this chorus and to sing with all these people," and this was
a vision I had. And now today (smiling) I am part of this chorus, and
I like it very much.
We also did theater. We would do theater about
the common issues we faced in our life and in our culture. We did things
about love and jealousy and fighting over the same man or woman. We had
a theater group that did plays based on the book "Eros Unredeemed,"
about new ways of looking at love and relationships. When we worked in
this theater we would understand a lot about ourselves and our structures.
Also, being on stage is a powerful experience in itself. On stage you can
be much bigger than your previous thoughts of yourself, you are not so
identified with your small self.
There was a lot of activity in the community.
There were about 50 people there at that time and everyone had some sort
of project they were involved in. Besides the things I mentioned there
were people working in the garden, some working with the children, some
renovating buildings. We did many things together. In the evening we would
often meet in the library and we would have discussions about what was
going on in the world and we'd often do forum in the evening so people
could deal with the issues that were coming up during the day.
Was it a lot of philosophizing about all these
Not just that, we did a lot of exercises and experiences
to actually see what would happen if we tried living in a new way. For
me at the beginning one of the most scary and challenging things was to
step into the forum and to show myself. I was very shy. I was embarrassed
to have people look at me. I was excited to be in the community but I didn't
want anyone to really notice me or ask me things about myself, I was so
shy. I thought they would not like me and that I was so strange. So in
the beginning I didn't step into the forum very much. Later I did discover
the real value in it and started using it a lot to deal with the things
that were coming up in my life or with my boyfriend Karston, and it really
helped to deepen our relationship.
So what kinds of relationships were there in
the community, were you monogamous with your boyfriend?
We both had other heart and sexual relationships
and contacts in the community during that time. We were all very curious
to discover how big were the possibilities to share our hearts and our
sexuality with other people. We wanted to discover that, and we were researching
that. We were all researchers. This was an environment that people could
support each other in this task because even though it was very exciting
it wasn't always easy.
So now that many years have gone by since those
early days, what's important for you at ZEGG?
During the last few years many things have changed
at ZEGG. We have gone through many different levels of leadership, like
a single leader then a group of four, then a group of six and then again
the leadership by a single woman with a team. So we've gone through many
different levels of social structures. For me it's interesting because
every year it's changing. We are careful to never create structures which
we declare we will keep for many years. We let them shift whenever we discover
something new about ourselves. These are things like who we want to live
with, what families we wish to create, how we want our leadership, if we
want to work a lot now or if we want time out, if some want to do more
traveling and exploring or create new projects, or doing more study on
ecological themes or visiting other communities. Like Janine Mueller, she
just spent several months in India at Auroville and has come here to the
US several times to help the groups here just like I do. I myself have
decided to spend 2 months each year traveling.
So in the last few years we are all creating a
network, an international network. We want to connect with many people
all over the world. We don't want to be just an island. ZEGG is much more
a point from where people can spread out all over Germany and many other
countries. We want to connect with others who share this vision for transforming
the planet. This is the main task we are all working on.
There are times when ZEGG is like a railway station
(laughs) and people are coming and going and there's lots of excitement.
Then if that becomes too much we step back for a while and think about
how we might now want to create a place that's more relaxed. So even though
we do all this traveling and networking and projects we all really feel
that ZEGG is our home.
An important part of this is for the people to
bring back home all of the new experiences that they've had in the other
communities and with other people. I spent several months with Aborigines
in Australia that gave me lots of information and experiences I could share
with others at ZEGG.
So this is what got you here to America. And
now that we are trying to create some similar projects, what do you think
about what's evolving here?
I like it. It's like a small plant that's growing
and I really like the process. It does take time too. Like our project
that has now existed for 20 years. It was just a small seed and it's become
this big plant now. I believe that the project here in America can grow
faster than we did - I see people here, for example Jon and Miaya, that
are committed to creating structures where new people can fit in, and that
was a slower process for us early on at ZEGG. Like the Portland group and
the Tucson group are growing more easily. It's like the morphogenetic field,
because now people don't have to do all of the very difficult steps we
did. Now people can walk faster because they gain from our experiences.
Also the people who come from America to ZEGG have their own experiences
and create experiments there and share them when they come back to America.
So what have you felt your role is here in
For me it's a big excitement to share with new
people the experiences I've had, and to support them in the path they are
going. Also their path may be a little bit different and that doesn't matter,
but to give them support and encourage them to try something different
than before. I feel enriched by being in America, to study the American
human being (laughs) and I bring them the German human being, and each
part is valuable, and when we put them together I think we are creating
What changes or evolution in the American groups
have you noticed since you were here last year?
I have noticed more depth. People like to connect
more, to experience more. And people who were already involved have really
created a network amongst themselves, and they support each other. I really
got this sense. People travel from Portland to Tucson and from San Francisco
to Portland, and there's a lot of movement and I like that because people
in this way find the groups where they really fit together instead of only
staying in one place and trying to force a group to form where not everyone
fits together. Yet they all share a larger vision and this network supports
people to find the others that they can share excitements with.
The workshops you two have just finished, are
they different in any way than the others you've done here in the past,
and what effect do you think these have had on the American Project?
I can say it was a new step because this time
a German woman and an American man worked together and that was a new experience.
I see that the next step is that the Americans also start a leadership
or a facilitation that's supported by a German but that is an American
project and not a copy of a German one - one that creates it's own communication
structures and social structures. I want to encourage you to create something
new. Everyone is their own researcher, we each need to do our own work
and make our own discoveries. Each group creates something new that comes
from themselves. This is what makes us grow and makes it interesting.
I would like to know how important you feel
the women's field is in what's going to happen here in America?
The women's field is the most important thing.
I think the women's field will become very strong in the American project.
When I was in Portland with the women I felt how strong the women are.
I could feel how serious they were to find solutions, like to their motherhood
questions - such as how they could support each other in child care, or
the questions of how they can support each other when they are in love
with the same man. We had so many good examples of these things when I
was up there and we were really working through these. And the women really
opened their hearts and their minds to dig into these unspoken issues about
competition, jealousy and fears and all that.
Are competition, jealousy and fear big issues
in people coming together in community?
Yes. It is a main part of the struggle in the
beginning. Because when people start opening up after living a life of
fear and hiding and then really see each other then they start falling
in love, and with many others, and that's the beautiful part, but because
it's so new it also can look like chaos. So it's important to have a mental
or intellectual understanding of these things so we can work on our fears
and jealousy. We all experience this, it doesn't mean we should try not
to be jealous anymore, but we can work with that so that our new openness
and love doesn't shut down out of the confusions that come whenever we
try something new. If we really care about each other and understand what
we are trying to do we can move through these things and have real community.
I discovered for example that women are often
afraid to open up with another woman. Yes they have friendships, but when
a man comes between them the friendship falls apart because they concentrate
on the man. But we can break through this old pattern and create something
between us that is entirely new and not like the old patterns, where we
support the other woman and share with the other woman why you love this
man - and you both love this man so you communicate why and all these things
and come close and support each other. This is what's new.
Have the women at ZEGG been able to experience
this level of clarity and support for each other?
Yes, we have been doing a lot of work with this.
We've had women's groups and meetings for years, and we gained so much
through that. And when I was up at Portland I could see it's already happening
there, the women are coming together and sharing their visions and their
struggles and helping each other with their confidence. And in Tucson I
can see that something is happening there already too. These women are
very strong. The women also need to come together to support the men in
the community. That's another important part of the women's field, to ask
questions about how they can work together to support the men so that the
men find it easier to give love to the women.
So now that you are going back to Germany,
what do you see in your future with the American Project?
Oh, I would like to come over here every year,
maybe one or two times to see my friends. That's important for me. And
also I want to support them in their growing and to give water to the plants.
(smiling) I'm excited about doing this and it's starting to feel like a
second home to me. I feel very welcome here and I like my friends here