Dr Hans Schauder

Dr Hans Schauder, medical adviser and counsellor, co-founder of Camphill Community, founder of Garvald School & Training Centre

Born: 22 November, 1911, in Vienna Died: 10 July, 2001, aged 89

HANS Schauder was born in Vienna of a Polish father and Austrian mother, both of whom were Jews. School life introduced Schauder to the joys of music, art and literature. At this time, Vienna was a city that boasted stunning architecture and an incredibly rich cultural life, world famous for its composers and conductors. From his first encounter with them, the young Hans eagerly embraced all the joys of the arts.

From his mid-teens onwards, he and his friends would spend their Sundays climbing in the mountains, followed by evenings spent reading plays together, singing and making music. This love both of the arts and nature, coupled with an insatiable desire for knowledge, remained a constant thread throughout his life.

Another important quality of his had already become apparent during his youth: a deep concern for human beings, for their troubles and difficulties. Even as a schoolboy, others would readily confide in him, or ask for valued advice because he had such a remarkable ability to listen with great sympathy.

As a child, his greatest wish had been to become a monk. Later in his youth, a friend introduced him to anthroposophy, which opened up a path to spiritual knowledge and understanding. As a result he no longer wanted a monastic life but wished to become a doctor and work out of his Christian ideals and compassion for others.

At the age of 20, he enrolled at the University of Vienna to study medicine, having recently met and fallen deeply in love with the delightful and highly gifted Lisl Schwalb, a fellow Viennese Jew. Although he had by this time converted to Christianity, in 1938 Schauder’s status as a Jew forced him to put his medical studies on hold and flee Austria after its annexation by the Nazis. A few weeks previously, Lisl had also fled Austria, having been offered sanctuary by a Quaker couple near Aberdeen. While she waited for him to join her, Schauder struggled to complete his degree, living in extreme poverty and suffering chronic chest problems.

In spite of the tragic fate of many of his family and friends who died in concentration camps, Hans Schauder never became embittered, distrustful or full of hate. He suffered both physically and psychologically and struggled with a delicate constitution for the rest of his life. However, he never lost his trusting and open nature, which always looked for and fostered the best in people. Moreover, his experiences of persecution intensified his wish to create a spiritual dimension in his life. He was convinced that in order to be a positive influence in the world one must not only do good but above all be active in a spiritual dimension. Those who strengthen their inner being through prayer do not wage war or hate people of other nations.

While still living in Vienna Schauder and his fiance had met a group of young, idealistic people led by Dr Karl Knig. It was their dream to found a community based on simple Christian principles, in which they could live on an equal footing with people in need of special care. For this group of young refugees, their dream became a reality in Scotland.

On completing his medical studies in Basle, Schauder became one of the group of founders of the Camphill Community, near Aberdeen, with his young wife. Little did this pioneering group know at that time that Camphill would become the nucleus of a worldwide organisation which was a model of community living.

For Schauder and his wife this was a difficult period, marked not only by the inevitable problems of a new beginning, but also by the pressure of the community’s high ideals. While at Camphill, their twin girls were born and not long afterwards another daughter.

In 1944, Schauder was an integral member of a group who left Camphill to start a new anthroposophical community, Garvald School and Training Centre, near West Linton. In spite of the hardships brought about by war and extreme underfunding, the pioneering spirit of Schauder and his colleagues turned an empty mansion house into the centre of a vibrant community. Though he was the medical doctor at Garvald, Schauder did everything from cleaning and cooking to singing lessons and Bible study.

However, the work at Garvald took its toll and, in 1949, after five challenging years, Schauder and his family left to settle in nearby Edinburgh. There he became the medical adviser at another anthroposophical organisation, the Rudolf Steiner School, a post he held for over 30 years. The move to Edinburgh created a very welcome breathing space: within the peaceful environment of his own home as opposed to the bustle of community living, Schauder was able to develop faculties which would enable him to focus on the individual and his/her deeper problems.

Already in Garvald, people had recognised and valued Schauder’s exceptional diagnostic abilities, requesting his assessment of young people with neurotic or psychotic traits or those in a sudden crisis situation. Both his colleagues and others in the medical profession admired his creative and unusual way of working, inspired as it was by the image of the illness and the challenges that it presented.

In the late Fifties, Schauder became interested in wider social problems and did voluntary work, counselling prisoners at Edinburgh’s Saughton Prison as well as advising Samaritans staff on their problem cases. These experiences convinced him that he should develop and widen his counselling work. He began counselling parents regarding their children’s problems, soon progressing to doing adult counselling as well.

Over a number of years, Schauder developed his own unique approach to counselling. In essence, he built up as complete a picture as possible of his client so that he could fully identify with them and thus work with them towards a solution. After years of experience in counselling, he met a Dominican monk, Marcus Lefbure who also worked as a counsellor. The two men analysed the structure of Schauder’s therapeutic approach, gradually pinpointing the archetypal elements within the interview process. These elements are vividly described in their book, Conversation and Counselling, published in 1982. The book won high praise in the United Kingdom, was later translated into German, and raised Schauder’s profile considerably in the counselling world.

After the book’s publication, it was not uncommon for people to travel from as far as the United States to visit Schauder to discuss aspects of counselling. The Hans Schauder Institute was founded in Germany in the late Eighties.

There followed a steady stream of visitors from Europe: people who wished to discuss their problems with Schauder or seek advice on spiritual and moral questions, or who simply valued the opportunity to have contact with a very cultured and wise human being. Schauder would repeatedly warn those who sought to develop their inner life against the dangers of involvement in our modern hectic lifestyle, emphasising the need to foster one’s inner being through prayer and meditation.

Schauder himself engaged in regular Bible study which gave him both inner strength and orientation, especially after the death in 1993 of his wife. Lisl’s passing was a tremendous loss to him. Nonetheless he remained cheerful and relaxed. Even in his very frail condition, he gave both visitors and carers his full and loving attention and the benefit of his wisdom and intuitive understanding.

Individuals in many parts of the world will remember his uniqueness and profound humanity.