Volume: 5, Issue: 4


Meet us in Town: an urban Camphill place
Форд, Рой [about]

KEY WORDS: Camphill, Konig, Curative Education, Social Therapy, Youth Guidance.
ABSTRACT: Camphill is a worldwide network of more than 100 communities in 22 countries where people with and without disabilities share in a rich cultural, spiritual, and work life. A brief picture of the founding days and the development of essentials which guide the work and life together is presented in this paper. Camphill Hudson, an urban initiative is viewed through the lens of the first of these essentials – regard for the spiritual nature of one’s fellowman.

The goal of this short paper is to give a glimpse into what lies “behind” Camphill Hudson. Camphill Hudson served as one of the primary hosts for the Russian-American dialog around developmental disabilities in upstate New York this past September. Solaris, Camphill Hudson’s Center for the Social Art served as a hub of activities for the visit: a daily meeting place, conversations, presentations, and lots of food preparation and sharing. The final feast will be long remembered. This event reflects the picture of a place that invites dialog, social meeting, joy-filled collaboration, and dedicated hard work. All are hallmarks of Camphill since its inception.

Camphill Hudson is an urban manifestation of the vision emanating from the community of socially conscious people gathering around the strong personality of Dr. Karl Konig whose personal biography and destiny encounters lead him to the Curative work. In 1927, Dr. Konig began work at the Clinical Therapeutic Institute in Arleseim, Switzerland, where he met his future wife and co-creator, Tilla Maasberg.  He gave his first public anthroposophical lecture and witnessed an event that was to shape his future: an Advent Garden. This festival has children carrying a lighted candle, walking by themselves into a darkened spiral. They place their candle on the greenery of the spiral and find their way out. This is done in silence with very gentle music being played on a lyre or harp. The light shines ever brighter as each child adds his contribution. In this spiral were many severely disabled children. A short time after witnessing this special event Dr. Konig wrote the following words using the language of the day:

In this hour the decision was taken that I would dedicate my life to the care and education of these children. It was a promise I gave to my self: to build a hill upon which a big candle was to burn so that many infirm and handicapped children would be able to find their way to this beacon of hope and to light their own candles so that each single flame would be able to radiate and shine forth (Lindenberg in Pietzner, 1991).

Christof-Andreas Lindenberg  describes the unfolding story:

For the next seven years, Karl and Tilla Konig put all their efforts into the new curative home, Pilgramshain, in Silesia, working with handicapped children. Destiny had spoken, and a life of dedication to the child in need of special care, and to the handicapped person in need of integration, had been born out of those portentous weeks in Switzerland (Lindenberg in Pietzner, 1991, 24).

The political climate in Europe brought this incubating period in Silesia to an end. It was necessary to spend two years in Vienna. During this time of preparation a group of young people gathered around Dr. Konig. Through study and conversation relationships and commitment to each other and to Konig emerged. The group dispersed as fleeing Europe became a necessity. After exploring possible alternatives, England and eventually Scotland became the place that they would gather and take up the work. This high-energy, diverse group of unique individuals became the founders of the Camphill Movement in Scotland. There is a moving word picture of Dr. Konig sitting alone in a small room in London, Christmas 1938, wondering if his friends will come from Europe and whether he will be able to bring his ideas and work into the world – a small candle shines in the room. The opening ceremony for what would be the first Camphill Community, held in Aberdeenshire on May 28,1939.

From these seeds the Camphill movement has developed into a worldwide network of more than 100 communities in 22 countries.

By 1964, Camphill was growing and flourishing. Dr. Konig offered these thoughts to a group assembled at the opening of Camphill School Furenbuhl near the Lake of Constance in Germany.

We need to join together again in communities, but such communities that are not governed by bonds of blood but by spiritual principles that incite us to strive together and work for each other. There a mood can be set where adults and children can live in unison; important and not so important people, able and not so able but nonetheless in reciprocal appreciation of the dignity of the individual. Only when a new style of community is formed in this way will it become possible for children and young people to reach an expression of their true being out of which their individual contribution can ensue (Karl König Archives).

To really begin to understand, on all the different levels that understanding is possible, the essence of Camphill, you would need to visit one of the places or engage in a conversation with someone who lives there. You may find yourself in a rural farming village complete with shops, farms, artistic workshops, a central cultural hall, library, theater, and even a coffee shop. You would see people involved in all of the commerce of life. Some are walking to their place of work, or to a class, play practice, or a doctor’s appointment. If you prefer, visit one of the centers for youth guidance. The people you see may be a little younger. There is probably still a farm or a large garden, and life is rich and active. The conversations that you hear will be about college projects, world history, economics, and mythology. Small groups can be seen working together on projects, singing, or cooking. The Children’s Village has its own ambience and rhythm. Children from kindergarten through twelfth grade and beyond share the fruits of Curative Education.

All of these places share essential values, principles, and a particular image of the human being. They are part of the worldwide Camphill Movement. The three types of places described reflect the growth of Camphill since its birth during and after WWII. Camphill began with a Children’s Village. Later, it became necessary to create communities for adults: Villages with a Social Therapeutic milieu, where adults could live with freedom, dignity, and responsibility. The special time between childhood and coming fully into adulthood needs still another way of being and working together. Places supporting Youth Guidance were created. Now Care of Elders is coming to the fore.

Dr. Konig articulated three essential principles, “which give the basis to our life and form the background to our work”(Konig in Pietzner, 1991, 34). One way of naming the essentials is offered by Dr. Konig after a longer paper discussing them in depth is:

These essentials are threefold in structure and it would be difficult to establish one or even two without attempting all three together. The three essentials are interwoven with one another. Regard for the spiritual nature of one’s fellowman, the endeavor of one’s inner development and the establishment of a true community are a trinity, they are a threefold unity (Ibid, 34).

Keeping this in mind, I will share some thoughts about the first essential and then come back to Camphill Hudson through the lens of this principle.

The first essential of Camphill places the importance of human encounter at the center. Two people meet and “see” each other – gaze into the soul of the other and glimpse the eternal being, the self that is whole and always there. Rudolf Steiner gave this verse, frequently called the Faithfulness verse. In the words, we can see a spiritual picture of the striving toward the first essential:

Create for yourself a new strong-minded understanding of faithfulness.
What is usually called faithfulness passes so quickly.
Let this be your faithfulness:
You will experience moments, fleeting moments, with the other person. The human being will appear to you then as if filled, irradiated, with the archetype of his/her spirit.
And then there may be, indeed will be, other moments, long periods of time when human beings are darkened.
At such times, you will learn to say to yourself, 'The spirit makes me strong. I remember the archetype. I saw it once. No illusion, no deception shall rob me of it.'
Always struggle for the image that you saw. This struggle is faithfulness. Striving thus for faithfulness you shall be close to one another as if endowed with the protective powers of angels.         

(Rudolf Steiner)

I am reminded of the Advent Garden and the effect it had on Dr. Konig in 1927.  He set out to build a “beacon of hope” where “each single flame would be able to radiate and shine forth.” Is it possible to “call forth” that “flame” in one another? What does it take to see the light within the other even during those darkened times? The verse tells us that the, “spirit makes me strong.” It takes spiritual striving, inner work, prayer, meditation, and living with other people in community.

The pioneers of the Camphill Movement took on this task with earnest enthusiasm and good will. Right from the beginning, it was clear that living together in such an intense, focused way invited the full range of human capacities, the high ideals as well as less attractive ways of being. It was constantly necessary to balance individual needs with those of the community. This group and others who have come after, bolstered by Dr. Konig’s leadership, teaching, and support, learned from this situation through active inner and outer work and study. Forms and practices were created and articulated to support individual and community transformation. Those that worked were developed further and evolved as practices. Others were discarded or modified. There is a sense that this ongoing research, while supporting the needs of the present community, was preparing social processes for the future of the earth and humankind.

Steadfast faithfulness to recognizing the inner being of the other person and attention to the “little things”, the everyday things, is the foundation which makes this possible. It becomes necessary to treat each encounter as sacred. Living together then can become a Social Art – each person being an artist and creator.

I will now turn to Camphill Hudson, perhaps the newest initiative in the Camphill family.

Camphill Hudson

The healthy social life is found, when in the mirror of each human soul, the whole community finds its reflection; and when, in the community, the virtue of each one is living

(Rudolf Steiner's Motto of the Social Ethic) 

The Community dinner is one of the core practices of Camphill Hudson. It serves as an exemplar for the essential values of the movement particularly the first essential that we have been talking about.

The dinner happens every Tuesday – never missing a week since it’s inception. The dinner is simple, often pasta and a delicious sauce. Preparation is shared with various members of the Town of Hudson Community. Most often the main preparation is done by the Camphill Hudson group. They serve as host, cooks, cleanup, and public relations – as they go about daily business in town, they invite everyone they meet. The youth group from Camphill Village in Copake hosted for a whole term. Local chefs and interested citizens have created feasts for special occasions or for the joy of serving the community. There used to be a “Diner” in town, one of those old-time American places where people from all walks of life and social strata could share in a common meal – a melting pot. Now, the Community Dinner fills the void. When you visit, you will meet a cross-section of the Hudson community coming together simply to share a common meal.

There are many forces at work within this picture of a friendly social event. The meal offers a vessel for meeting. In the weekly planning and preparation each person’s contribution is valued and necessary. There is attention to the “little” things: cutting vegetables, setting the table, holding the mood, greeting guests, and of course, cleaning up. Listen, you will hear under all of this activity, people talking, sharing stories, listening to each other. This is a place to practice the high art of “Conversation.”

Camphill Hudson is integrated into the town of Hudson. This is a small town with one very active main street and a wide range of social, cultural, and religious activities in neighborhoods and throughout the county. The Center for the Social Art, Solaris, is located on the main street. The beautiful shop, selling mostly handmade items made by people from Camphill Places in North America, fits right in with the other local establishments. This offers a gateway for visitors and an opportunity, again, for meeting. Each day the building is filled with life…

Core activities are generated by Camphill Hudson with Solaris serving as the primary workplace for the five original villagers and the coworkers as well as many from the local community. The initiative started five years ago when a group moved into town from Camphill Village in Copake. These pioneers built up personal, work, and spiritual relationships that continue to grow and flourish. The two residential houses serve as a basis for future development with plans for many different living opportunities. Coworkers, supporters, and volunteers live scattered around the town. The City of Hudson becomes our “Village”, alive with potential and possibility. Local artists, businesses, and social service organizations find Solaris an ideal place for their activities, meetings, and retreats. Camphill Hudson offers hospitality and catering. The food, largely regionally produced, organic, and fair-trade is becoming a local treasure with people hoping that their next meeting will be held there! Solaris opened its doors just over one year ago. Already, it is a hub of activity for the community.

Camphill Hudson strives to be a place where, the three essentials are interwoven with one another, as Dr. Konig entreats us. Behind each activity lies the desire to manifest: “Regard for the spiritual nature of ones fellow man, the endeavor of ones inner development and the establishment of a true community…”

I offer this poem by Eco psychologist and author Theodore Roszak as a closing picture which encompasses much of what I have been saying about what 'lies behind’ Camphill Hudson.

You and I ...
We meet as strangers, each carrying a mystery within us.
I cannot say who you are: I may never know you completely.
But I trust that you are a person in your own right, possessed of a beauty and
value that are the earth’s richest treasures.
So I make this promise to you:
I will impose no identities upon you, but will invite you to become yourself
without shame or fear.
I will hold open a space for you in the world and defend your right to fill it
with an authentic vocation.
For as long as your search takes, you have my loyalty.

Theodore Roszak (Quoted by Zerka Moreno)

… My loyalty and my faithfulness.


  1. Konig, K. (1964). Retrieved from Karl Konig Archive: http://www.koenig-archive.net/mission.htm 12/5/2013.
  2. Moreno, Z. (2006). The function of “tele” in human relations. The Quintessential  
  3. Zerka. New York: Routledge.
  4. Müller-Wiedemann, H. (1996). Karl König: A Central-European biography 
  5. of the Twentieth Century. Botton, England: Camphill Books.
  6. Pietzner, C. (ed.) (1991). A Candle on the Hill. Bristol: Floris Books.
  7. Pietzner, Carlo. (1983). Who was Kaspar Hauser? Edinburgh: Floris Books.

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