Jim alerted me to a story in the Guardian today about the Camphill Community at Botton in Yorkshire where trouble is brewing as a result of changes being made to how the Communities are run.
These Communites, providing care for people with learning disabilities, present themselves as “Christian” in ethos but they are in fact anthroposophical, based entirely on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, and specifically the view that those with learning difficulties are not properly incarnated as a result of karma. One of the co-workers says; “It’s based in Christianity…There is a massive philosophy behind it”.
They have traditionally operated using unpaid co-workers who in return for their work are provided with board and lodging and other benefits funded by the charity. This system has its problems as a commenter mentioned here, with a lack of transparency in decisions about who should have free holidays and clothing.
According to the Guardian, following “a series of reports that raised concerns about the quality of care the communities provide for learning disabled residents” The Camphill Village trust (CVT) now requires it’s co-workers become paid members of staff with contracts.
Significant numbers of longstanding co-workers have left as they object to the changes, and one is quoted as saying Camphill was a social experiment, not just a place for looking after people with special needs.
One of the criticisms in a report on Botton was that “residents were given insufficient opportunity to exercise personal choice”. Personal choice does not feature much in anthroposophical organisations, as we have seen. People are expected to fall in with the particular requirements of Steiner doctrine; clothing, food, medicine, past-times –these are all viewed as ways to follow the creed, and life can be uncomfortable for those who do not comply.
There is a split between those who wish to stick to the traditional methods and those who wish to make changes in order to survive.
The “Action for Botton” leader is quoted as saying the battle is critical, and those fighting the changes believe they will lead to the dissolution of the community. Perhaps this particular “social experiment” has had its day.
MarkH posted a link to a tv documentary about Botton in comments here. It is worth watching, as it gives an idea of daily life at the isolated community.