Developmental Dilemmas? Intentional communities and the differing responses to change

“The biggest challenge facing intentional communities is not setting them up but keeping them going.”  So writes Andrew Plant in the latest addition to his continually growing body of writing on community and change.

“Most intentional communities failed early but those that survived had to grapple with the question of what to do about the increasing gap between their utopian aspirations and the reality of everyday life and to decide what compromises to make and what decisions to take in order to ensure a fair chance of continuation.  Tough decisions had to be made and these invariably involved developing clearer and more rational organisational structures in the hope that they might bring about some sense of clarity, order and sustainability.  As part of this process an intentional community finds it necessary to re-define itself so that members, newcomers and ‘outsiders’ know what it is about and perhaps the community’s aims and purposes are written down for the first time.  There is the process of re-assessing the relationship of the individual to the community and of the community to the individual.”

Looking at the past, how have intentional community movements responded and adapted (or not!) to changing internal and external circumstances?  Looking to the future, what can Camphill learn from the experiences of others, and the typical patterns of community development and decline?  Read the full paper here.

3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Georg Schad says:

    The general assumption how Camphill came about is far from the description given in the first pages. To throw it together with all the other community endeavours does not serve the reality what Camphill has stood for in the past. The recent developments are well observed, but the fundamental attack against Anthroposophy, out of which Camphill was born and developed, seems not to be understood. A study of what a flourishing practice Koenig had in Vienna, with friends and study groups – and then had to flee for his life to end up penniless in a cold and deserted manse with a ruined church in Scotland – and then treated as an alien foreigner – would give a totally different start to this Camphill Research Network, and not one of a charismatic leader who wanted to have his own utopia. Camphill House, from where our movement started, began with a few hardworking women who were committed to begin the work with the least able citizens of this country. There was no money from the state,(as far as I understand) and all children were privately funded! There should be plenty of substance in the Camphill Archive for describing the early days of Camphill.

    • Robin Jackson says:

      I’m not altogether clear what Georg Schad is saying here. If we take a close look at the beginning of Camphill, we should acknowledge a number of facts. The characterisation of Dr Koenig forced into exile in a cold deserted manse in the north of Scotland remote from the sophisticated metropolitan life of Vienna is not just misleading, it is factually inaccurate.

      First of all, his hosts at Williamston House in Aberdeenshire – Theodore and Emily Haughton – were friends of Dr Ita Wegman. Dr Wegman would certainly have known that the Haughtons were part of a very well developed anthroposophical network, as the Haughtons had visited the clinic at Arlesheim on a number of occasions, as Emily was receiving treatment there; also Dr Wegman had visited Williamston House a year before Dr Koenig’s arrival in Scotland.

      Theodore Haughton along with a Major Grange Kirkcaldy and Lord Glentanar – significant landowners in Aberdeenshire – were all actively engaged in pioneering biodynamic agriculture. They had had contact with Friedrich Geuter who knew both Rudolf Steiner and Dr Wegman. Before the Second World War Geuter had links with the Keyserlingks at their home in Koberwitz; and of course, it was at Koberwitz that Rudolf Steiner gave his series of lectures on biodynamic agriculture.

      It is worth noting that Friedrich Geuter went on to establish Sunfield which was the first residential special school run on anthroposophical principles in the UK and predated Camphill by almost a decade. The school was officially opened by Dr Wegman and reflected in its name the institution with which Dr Wegman has been closely identified – Sonnenhof. Claims made that Camphill was the first school run on anthroposophical principles in the UK are therefore inaccurate.

      The wife of Major Kirkcaldy was Mildred Robertson Nicoll who went on to become co-editor with A.C. Harwood of the Anthroposophical Quarterly. With the Reverend Arthur Shepherd she translated, edited and co-wrote an epilogue for The Redemption of Thinking – A study in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas by Rudolf Steiner.

      It was Major Kirkcaldy who provided Hans Schauder with a property on his land – Auchindoir – to develop as a school for children with special needs, when Schauder left Dr Koenig’s circle. Later it seems probable that Major Kirkcaldy may have helped Schauder in securing property in Edinburgh – Garvald – which is a significant provider of services for adults with special needs in the Edinburgh area. To this day there is a Grange Kirkcaldy Trust Fund held by the Biodynamic Association.

      Lord Glentanar – a major landowner in Aberdeenshire – made available to Deryck Duffy, someone who knew Dr Wegman well, his property at Westhall Castle at Oyne in Aberdeenshire in order for a training farm based on biodynamic principles to be set up.

      We know from the visitors’ book at Williamston House, that the Haughtons had as guests Patrick Geddes and Frank Fraser Darling both of whom were to become world renowned in the field of ecology and conservation. Geddes would have been interested in biodynamic agriculture because of his strong opposition to environmental pollution. Today he is seen by some as the father of ‘green politics’. Fraser Darling is best known for his particular understanding of the complex relationship between man, landscape and wildlife.

      Had it not been for the initial support from George MacLeod (founder of the Iona Community) and the generous financial support of Will and Dorothy Macmillan (of the MacMillan publishing dynasty), it is difficult to see how Camphill and subsequently Botton Village could have come into existence.

      Let us therefore acknowledge the fact that Dr Koenig was not compelled to go to some remote, isolated and godforsaken spot far from the heart of European civilisation. Dr Wegman knew exactly what she was doing when she suggested that Dr Koenig should take up the generous offer by the Haughtons to help those who had been forced to flee their homeland.

      Sadly, according to Emily Haughton and Henny Weihs (Dr Thomas Weihs first wife), Dr Koenig showed little appreciation for the hospitality that had been extended to him, a matter that Emily communicated to Dr Wegman. We know this from copies of the correspondence held by the Wegman Archive.

      In writing this piece I am not wishing to diminish the achievements of Dr Koenig but I am anxious to correct the misleading impression conveyed in some Camphill literature that the North East of Scotland was remote from the mainstream of anthroposophical thinking and practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was a hotspot.

      • Maria says:

        Robin’s two articles on the Haughtons of Williamston, as well as other papers on the history and development of Camphill, are available on the Journal Publications page.

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