Skymont

An early Subud community in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley that aimed to create a utopian society but faced significant challenges.


Skymont was an early community of the Subud spiritual movement, located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Subud, which began in Indonesia in the 1920s, was founded by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo and is known for its spiritual exercise called the latihan kejiwaan. This exercise involves unrestrained movement and vocalization as a means of coming closer to God.

Foundation and Early Years

In 1969, Subud chose Skymont as the site for its quadrennial world congress. The event attracted roughly 750 Subud followers, including the movement’s founder Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. The congress was described as a significant but chaotic event, comparable to Woodstock but without the rock stars. During the congress, followers slept in a gym and ate under tents, but the event left the camp bankrupt and ready for closure.

However, many Subud followers, inspired by the movement’s teachings, decided to stay and turn the camp into a community. They pooled personal funds to buy the camp, striving to create a utopian society based on their spiritual beliefs.

Living Conditions and Challenges

The Skymont community faced various challenges. The facilities were not designed for permanent, year-round living. The commune lacked basic amenities like heat, which was particularly challenging for members who were unaccustomed to harsh winters. Jobs were scarce in the surrounding area, leading to economic difficulties for the residents. Moreover, the community faced skepticism and uncertainty from the local population.

The Arquette Family

The Skymont commune is notably linked to the Arquette family, with actors David and Patricia Arquette spending part of their childhood there. The Arquette family, including parents Lewis and Brenda and their children, moved from Los Angeles to Front Royal to participate in the Subud World Congress. Their life at Skymont was marked by simplicity, lacking amenities like running water and electricity. The commune’s conditions and the parents’ struggles with alcoholism led to a challenging upbringing for the Arquette children.

Decline and Aftermath

Despite its utopian aspirations, Skymont faced numerous practical difficulties, and the project eventually fell apart in the 1970s. The communal living experiment, while significant for its participants, could not sustain itself in the long term.