• Celebrating 80 Years of Camphill

    by  • 22 October 2020 • Camphill, Camphill Community, Karl Konig, Spirit of Camphill • 0 Comments

    Karl König with John Jephson, at Murtle House, 1953

    The Camphill Movement is a worldwide network of homes and villages for children and adults with special needs. Inspired by the vision of its founder, Karl König, and a group of close associates, the growth of the Camphill Movement is the story of community: community as the basis for special needs education, therapy and living. You can find out more about the Camphill Movement in Scotland here.

    To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Camphill Movement in 2020, here we share an extract from The Spirit of Camphill: Birth of a Movement by Karl König on the early seeds of the movement.

    Fleeing from Nazi Europe in the late 1930s, Austrian-born Karl König and his colleagues founded the first Camphill community, for children with special needs, outside Aberdeen in the north of Scotland.

    The Three Essentials of Camphill

    Materially we began with next to nothing. Around us was a foreign country and almost the whole world at war. We – a small band of refugees – were classified as ‘enemy aliens’ and most of us had to spend many months in an internment camp. After our release the war gathered strength and fury and the country was fully occupied combatting a deadly onslaught.

    During this turmoil of ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ the seed of Camphill slowly began to sprout. The silent message of the child with handicaps reached a number of parents, doctors, and teachers. Education authorities heard of our effort and sent some of their charges to Camphill. An increasing number of inquiries reached our office and the available space was soon unable to satisfy the demand…

    Camphill House in wartime

    The war changed into peace; frontiers were opened and young people came from the Continent to help us. More and more parents, relieved from the heavy burden of the war, supported our efforts, and some influential people gave us advice and counsel. The seed of Camphill had already grown into a small plant. Branches developed and attempted to sprout through their own strength.

    And one day, a few buds began to appear on one or other twig of this tiny bush. They unfolded into flowers and radiated their beauty and scent into our hearts. These flowers were the inner victories of our external labour and work: the improvement we observed in some of the children, the peace slowly achieved in daily life, the silent wonder during the services on Sunday morning, the sudden understanding of the innermost nature of one or another of the children – these were the things that made our work worthwhile.

    We gradually became aware of the beauty of these flowers. We began to realise that their radiance gave us strength and perseverance. But there were long stretches of time when the bush of Camphill had no flowers. The leaves of everyday life just continued to grow, but no further fresh buds appeared. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, a whole branch burst out again into blossom; and it even occurred a few times that all over the movement a sea of flowers unfolded in wondrous beauty.

    The children of Kirkton House, near Aberdeen, 1939

    These were the times when the ideals of Camphill were strong enough to permeate our life and work. For these flowers are the essentials of Camphill which appear, shine forth and wither away again. Some of the flowers, however, are fertilised and change into fruits. When this occurs, we can clearly observe the results of our labour. With each fruit we make another step in the understanding of our children, of our work and our task.

    These fruits will never perish. They remain, endure and feed our further efforts.

    Explore more books in the Karl König archive:

    Communities for Tomorrow – How can we connect meaningfully with our fellow human beings and build successful communities, whilst also cultivating a healthy individuality? Contributions come from a Goetheanum conference which addressed these issues.

    The Child with Special Needs – A collection of Karl König’s letters and essays in which he considers and discusses the fundamentals of special needs education.

    Social Farming – Presents sixteen lectures and essays by König, which explore the connection between biodynamics, domestic animals, elemental beings and many other aspects of farming and agriculture, all the time looking for how harmony and balance can be achieved in relation to the needs of human beings. 


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