Botton refugees seek new “Community”.

A couple who had to leave Botton Village Camphill Community in Yorkshire after a six month suspension over safeguarding allegations and who now live in Stroud have written about their plans for a new Steiner or “Camphill” Community near “a town”. (see previous post)

They have approached local Steiner follower Martin Large, the executive director of the Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT) who supports their plan “in principle”.

The plan, to “find a new way forward with adults with a learning disability and others who need community” , would have to have a “spiritual core”.  Any care required would be provided by individuals, so as not to be subject to social care regulations.

The plan seems to be a last ditch attempt by this couple to find somewhere to live an anthroposophical lifestyle as they did undisturbed in Botton until the authorities became involved. If nothing comes of it they say they will be off to the States.

Anthroposophy is a belief system very few people have even heard of, and yet it has tentacles the world over. As highlighted by Pete K on the Waldorf Review, there is usually scope for those who “have to leave” one Steiner school or community to find a home in another, but this does sometimes mean swapping continents. It is difficult for anthroposophists to adapt to  life outside; if your working life has been spent teaching eurythmy for example, there is no chance of finding work outside the Steiner movement, so leaving the country is sometimes the only option.

Looking at the enterprise planned, they are quite specific about what they want and have already begun making contacts here.

They have “little personal financial backing” but they want a farm and a garden close to town. The land would be owned by a charitable Trust, there is mention of workshops, a hotel and conference centre and room for expansion. They need “capital support and community support”.

They want to work “with the Fundamental Social Law, by sharing income and expenses”. The income, if Botton is anything to go by, will be mainly from housing benefits.

The Botton newsletter has the following information; “…villagers pay to stay in Botton. We receive housing benefit for most individuals to pay their rent. We also receive money from councils or from people’s private money to pay for their care and support whilst in Botton.”

The learning disabilities of the likely candidates for this plan will need to be of the kind that do not prevent them from working on a biodynamic farm, as at Botton, since their labour will be required to produce the food biodynamically in order for it to be sold to other anthroposophical businesses in the area, as described in an earlier post.

They also want a “warmth body”, and to be close to a town with an “active anthroposophical community”. They are here in Stroud, but perhaps other towns with Steiner institutions should be on their guard too. They may well find a “warmth body” around here, but have we now reached saturation point for Steiner in Stroud?

We reached it some time ago in my opinion, but clearly anthropsophists think there is more to be extracted from this area, as demonstrated by the expansion of existing businesses such as Ruskin Mill and Cotswold Chine, and by the free school initiative, which last week made a second attempt at approval. So perhaps this couple feel encouraged to try their luck here.

Martin Large’s BDLT has funds to acquire land, as highlighted on the BDLT website and clearly he has no scruples about assisting people previously in trouble over safeguarding issues to set up a community with people with learning disabilities. In such a close world as the Steiner movement, it is difficult to imagine he is not aware of their history. Indeed they are open about their transgressions in the past and their intentions for the future.

All the stuff about a “warmth body”, a “spiritual impulse” and “earthly organisations” probably doesn’t ring alarm bells for people like Mr Large at all. It probably seems quite normal to him and to all those in his sphere.

But to the authorities, surely the contents of the document must raise questions about the motives of anthroposophists who are so keen to recruit people with learning difficulties for their purposes.

There has been an assumption, even on my part for a while, that whatever the bizarre nature of the beliefs held with Steiner, their motives were unselfish. But the way forward these people speak of is for themselves, not for the people they seek to recruit. No mention is made of how the “villagers” would  benefit.

“Of course, not all would need to carry this inner impulse.” they say. They probably won’t even be informed about anthroposophy at the beginning.

Recruits would however, need to become amenable to rituals and services of the kind mentioned at the end of the Botton Newsletter; religious/spiritual services take place several times a week.

From reading this document it becomes clear that the  financial aspect is important, and that there is contempt for the social care legislation they view as an obstacle. They do not see the error of their ways at Botton, but seek instead to sidestep the regulations, seeing the “spiritual impulse” as a priority over the welfare of individuals in their care. This couple may have burnt their bridges at Botton, but they are finding at least some support within Steiner Community here.

I do hope the relevant authorities are alert to the potential dangers of an enterprise such as this.



  1. Nick Nakorn

    Helen, I agree that many areas are already highly Anthroposophised:

    “We reached it some time ago in my opinion, but clearly Anthroposophists think there is more to be extracted from this area, as demonstrated by the expansion of existing businesses such as Ruskin Mill and Cotswold Chine, and by the free school initiative, which last week made a second attempt at approval. So perhaps this couple feel encouraged to try their luck here.”

    But I don’t see that there is any practical limit to any organisation that has money, purchasing power, friendly banking and a large number of interconnected businesses. What worries me is that, as belief in traditional religion dwindles and politics moves to the right, the space might well be filled by New Age adherents who provide both the membership and market for Anthroposophical concerns. My expectation is that strategists at Dornach will keep going until they become the majority in areas already friendly towards them.

    • Helen

      I hope you are wrong, but Gregoire Perra agrees with you, and has said that Dornach will not give up; their aim is complete domination in certain areas, and ultimately for all humanity to reach the dizzy heights of spiritual Initiation as they believe Rudolf Steiner himself achieved. They really do believe in the Post Atlantean Epochs. As they keep saying “this clairvoyance is available to us all”
      The way it is done is by stealth. People here who unthinkingly join in with anthroposophical activities say “but the Steiner people here don’t have those beliefs, they are not really anthroposophists, they just do biodynamics/therapies/teach children about gnomes because it’s right on and cosmic and looks pretty.”
      In fact there is a large and growing core of true believers here. I am thinking of doing a series of profiles so we can assess how many there are.

      • Rain17

        Or, the way it manifests in my neck of the woods: “I’m not an anthroposophist. But…[I send my children to anthroposophist schools, eat and purchase my food according to anthroposophist standards of health beauty, repeat their rhetoric using anthroposophist vocabulary, and follow anthroposophist cultural norms to the letter. So what if my 16 year old still believes in Wood Spirits, SO WHAT.]”

  2. Jim

    Actually Helen I think the Stroud anthroposophists have now gone beyond stealth. It is true that when it comes to disclosing their beliefs in the context of education they continue to deceive and mislead but when making their land grabs they no longer seem to feel the need.

    Even if people don’t really know much about Steiner’s mad ideas, around Stroud they know well enough what arrogant neighbours they make. So the stealth has been replaced by a sort of triumphalism.

    • Helen

      “I think the Stroud anthroposophists have now gone beyond stealth”
      I see what you mean, but much as I would like to think everyone here now knows the extent of the Steiner empire in this area, and at least a little about their beliefs and practices, this is not the case. Most of what goes on under the cloak of anthroposophy, (and the people who organise it) is well-hidden. As I pointed out before, Ruskin Mill (just one example) are very secretive about anthroposophy, and when I talk to people, even some who use some of the Steiner businesses, they often do not know there is any Steiner influence here, what it is, or that there is a belief system attached to it at all.
      Not only do Steiner followers not volunteer information, they do their best to mislead, and will not answer straight questions. I would guess at least 95% people have never even heard of Anthroposophy, never mind attempted to pronounce it. (it helps to have your creed known by a very complicated name if you want to keep it quiet.)
      The CQC and GCC Safeguarding had not heard of it, and they are responsible for regulating the services provided by Steiner organisations. It’s not surprising when you consider how much obfuscation takes place on the part of the Steiner movement.
      The various camphill places around here describe Steiner as a philosopher and doctor. Sounds respectable enough to the authorities, but the truth would be mystic, clairvoyant, occultist and charlatan. He was NOT a medical doctor.
      There ! Now you’ve got me started.
      Yes, the immediate neighbours of Cotswold Chine and Ruskin Mill know what pests they are and their disdain for local people, but everyone else just thinks “oh , it’s them again, that lot who keep making a nuisance of themselves”.
      And people who go and stir up the cow dung for the biodynamics just think it’s a bit whacky but quite fun, and suitably alternative for Stroud. Some don’t even know it is a Steiner pursuit carried out because of his visions.
      I could go on, but you see what I mean. If we could get a map and colour in all the Steiner businesses in the area and paste it up around town… there’s an idea!

      • Jim

        Hi Helen – I’ve not had chance to respond earlier.
        I agree with your comments above and I certainly wasn’t suggesting that the anthros have become more open and honest. I was referring to that aspect of stealth which is going about your business in such as way as to pass unnoticed, and thus avoid possibly unwelcome attention. It seems to me our local anthro groups now consider themselves so established and powerful in the area that they have no need for such stealth and can ignore everyone else.

        Maybe the rejection of the free school bid and the refusal of change of use for Tipputs will make them think again. But maybe not.

  3. David Clark

    Hi Helen,
    You wrote:

    “If we could get a map and colour in all the Steiner businesses in the area and paste it up around town …. now there’s an idea!”

    Sorry, not an original idea. It has already been tested in Central Europe.

Any thoughts?

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