A Review of the Claymont Society for Continuous Education
Across the Blue Ridge Mountains, West of Washington DC, an organic spiritual community resides at Claymont Court. Claymont Court Mansion was built on hundreds of acres of rural land by a relative of George Washington in 1820. In 1974 John Bennet founded the Claymont Society there. The historic estate and grounds remain secluded, yet accessible and maintained thanks to the good people at the Claymont Community.
Claymont Community members attend their regular Society meetings, where they participate in group activities, cook, serve, eat, and clean up together. Also they have various projects, events, and maintenance duties which are usually decided by democratic or social consensus. These responsibilities insure that the community is maintained, and income is received from donations, workshops, seminars, retreats, and events. Their spiritual philosophies are based on the teachings of George Gurdjieff and John Bennett.
Various individual members of the community through-out the years, have brought their own interests, practices, and personalities to Claymont. The Mansion and School (“Barn”) are the largest structures on the property, but there are also collections of smaller dwellings scattered within, and on the outskirts of the land. The foods that they grow, make, use, and serve on site are mostly organic and vegetarian in nature. Although the school for children is no longer in operation, they have a very successful CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that is cooperative with the surrounding area farmers’ markets.
Their mission was: “To promote a way of life that is balanced, harmonious, and uses our full potential while being responsible to nature.”
Their vision was: “A community where people interact using all human faculties to their fullest, in a spirit of cooperation. A harmonious educational environment that utilizes an understanding of nature, conscious awareness, and synergy created by a ‘milieu’ of unconditional love, to improve the quality of life on this planet.”
From my experience attending the Claymont School as a child, living and working with them for a brief time, and from my continued communications; I believe they succeeded, and continue to succeed in their mission and vision statements. I attempted to make a transfer to their communal way of life, and fully believed I was ready, however there were factors I had not considered, which led to me backing out. The factors that stopped me from making the transition to live there full-time were mostly Capitalist issues. My Capitalist issues that deterred me were regarding loan payments on a new car, needing a functional car to have to try to pay my college loans, and then there were previous personal obligations, responsibilities, and interests. However despite my limited part-time commitment to Claymont, I continue to believe that they are a model that more of us living in corporate mundane housing should strive for or support in any way possible.
Here is the proposal I wrote for the Claymont Society to consider me for residency, which they accepted:
A Claymont Proposal for Habitation
I have noble intent in as far as having “the will to discover an imperishable Reality beyond the changes and chances of this mortal world”. Bennett used this description of human ‘will’ for his definition of ‘spiritual’, calling it “man’s noblest quality”. This quest for truth can be seen in relation to the 18th century view of man as a noble savage on the path of “spiritual psychology”. This ‘Noble Intent’ that I have, cannot be less noble than accepting in the modern world use of human technology as part of Nature. (see J.G. Bennett’s A Spiritual Psychology, Preface)
The following are my answers to a series of questions regarding habitation and work at Claymont:
1) A short bio
…. (not included in this public version)
2) Why do you want to move here?
I was not brought forth from the hills of Harpers Ferry to merely accept the system of the conventional mundanes, that surround and threaten Claymont. This was first exemplified through my early educational systems: from Montessori, to public-school gifted programs, the Claymont School, the Banner School, Catholic high-school and beyond through college studies.
3) What ideas for community contributions / work projects do you have?
Architecture: Interior and Exterior renovations and restorations at the mansion, private houses, barns, & future property structures
– designing and documentation through drawing and photo images
– construction work; solo, organizing help, and / or contracting
– contributing to the writing of records for systems of the “whole”
Landscape: Agriculture, gardening, design assistance, roadway maintenance, terrain drainage, etc…
– Mansion & barns
– private dwellings and public ways
4) Are you sane? (additional question by John Henry)
An interesting and worthy question of my own sanity, will be answered pertaining to the two forms of psychology as described by Bennett (and as answered by myself). If you believe in sanity, perhaps there is some insanity about that. In regards to “clinical psychology” I believe I am stable enough to be sane most of the time, and have never committed any crimes that are deemed by U.S. courts to be insane.
My failings in sanity are best addressed in accordance with Bennet’s “do-it-yourself psychology” which is a practical, yet also spiritual psychology. Maintenance of my sanity is achieved regularly by commitment to action (or will), by myself both physically and mentally; sometimes with the assistance of others; to work on myself, “in search for the imperishable Real” and experience of the NOW. I cannot explain in words, my full feelings as to why I want to live and work at Claymont, only that I want to based on all of my previous thoughts and experiences. I think that hoping that I can fit into a community similar to myself is sane, and perhaps both can be improved by the experience, if even only slightly more than before the effort was made.
some friends of Claymont during a music festival event in 2003 (?)
visit the Claymont Official Website
or read another account of Claymont