Middle Years of Shimber Beris


Daphne was around four years old when Dr. Burden first drove her over the nearly illegible continuation of El Camino Real that straggled down the eight hundred mile trek over the Baja peninsula to La Paz in an old car.


Alternatively, they took a bus from Tijuana to Guaymas where they boarded a freighter bound for La Paz. They also flew to La Paz via Aerocarga, transporting crates of supplies and purebred Saanen and Nubian goats.

Although Dr. Burden was ultimately searching for an uninhabited island or inaccessible mountaintop, he initially settled on an oasis village south of La Paz called San Bartolo. In her memoirs about that time Daphne wrote:

The superficial hardships of our pioneering life were eased when students finally arrived. Again, the underlying enigmas of our spiritual and physical existence were what oppressed my spirit. I felt under the singular pressure of being the only living being in my parents’ confidence. The problem being that the truths they espoused were too esoteric and mercurial to be taken in by anyone else.

Both psychologically and practically we prepared for an impending spiritual and material holocaust that loomed over humanity. Given the threat of nuclear war, making preparations for an Armageddon did not seem at all absurd in itself. It was the means of escaping the spiritual component of the prophesied psychic holocaust that was most oppressive. Abstruse sources of wisdom distilled from religious philosophies and spiritual insights directed the way I, as heir apparent to their cause, was to think and live. 

In the early years of the operation, standards for Shimber Beris’ lifestyle were put into effect. About these Daphne wrote:

It would turn out that in an attempt to circumvent the “evils of our age,” my parents augmented some of the very social abuses they were trying to avoid.

One of the elements that helped to shape the quality of my life was my father’s philosophy about food. To him, suffering and privation were spiritually progressive, and hunger, hard work and impoverishment were not necessarily the glowering villains they were elsewhere. They played a formative role in my destiny, providing grist for the mill that refines the spirit and toughens the flesh.

He maintained that a virtuous soul, good air, and water could sustain life. He gave examples of mystics in the Himalayas whose spirituality was so advanced they could live on air alone. Therefore, when he and I ran low of money and only afforded a bowl of oatmeal and a piece of fruit per day, he pacified me with the explanation that the responsibility for my health and survival lay with the quality of my own soul – something I must develop through self-discipline, abstinence from worldly desires and hard work. 

He refused the beans or tortillas the poor people offered us when I was little because they cooked with lard. Only my father’s rationale for being vegetarian made good sense to me. He explained that there were healthier food sources on the planet that were not as toxic or impure as red meat, and that they didn’t require that we take animal life.

Illustration of Daphne on horse at Los Viejos Isla Cerralvo

Daphne Oberon riding along the shore of Las Viejos on Isla Cerralvo where she lived from 1966-1969 caring for goats, donkeys and horses. Two years were spent mostly with a boy four years younger. There are no known photographs from this island period.

The first two students to join the school attended during summer of 1958. The first school building was demolished by a hurricane on October fourth. After subsequent trips north of the border and the eventual acquisition of another piece of property called, La Tierra Seca, that bordered the San Bartolo arroyo, Mrs. Burden’s promotional efforts brought in more students. Later, Dr. Burden slipped a disk in his lower back while building a stone cottage, and he became partially lame in his right leg. Operations at La Tierra Seca continued until late in 1963.

Another foray north to acquire students and equipment resulted in the purchase of an ocean going tugboat from the Berkeley Yacht Harbor in Northern California. Typically, Virginia Burden led a separate life away from the school advertising and lecturing to groups interested in her philosophy and work.

In 1965, with new students in tow, Dr. Burden sailed his school back down to La Paz harbor. For the next few years he operated aboard The Shelikof which Virginia later renamed The Forge, a name intended to symbolize the smelting of spiritual ore in the hearts and minds of Shimber Beris students. The school remained based in La Paz harbor until early 1969 when Dr. Burden relocated the entire group further north to a remote parcel of leased property with no access road, named San Juan de la Costa.


In 1971, unknown to parents and students, Virginia Burden, who due to Dr. Burden’s growing fanaticism was generally viewed as a comparatively benign influence, abruptly broke her code of silence at three o’clock in the morning by announcing to Daphne that she would be divulging clairvoyant insights to the staff at five o’clock. By the time Daphne had assembled the staff in a semi removed location up the San Juan arroyo, light could be seen in the east. In Daphne's memory her mother spoke for what seemed like nearly two hours. Among other things she stated:

“I have seen a vision of the blinking green lights that warns that a global holocaust is coming. When it is imminent, this warning will be followed by a blinking red light. To prepare for the times ahead, those who have been overextended already will have to work even harder while the rest of you decide whether you wish to stay on. . .”

The school would remain located at the San Juan site until 1972 when the Mexican government deported the group, in all probability as result of the discovery by the owners that the San Juan de la Costa property was rich in mineral deposits and replaced Shimber Beris with a mining operation.


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