Many of the concepts behind the founding of Shimber Beris are to be found in the childhood and youth of David Burden. Raised in Central Africa by parents who were medical missionaries with the Church of England, he was inculcated to view figures such as famed explorer Dr. David Livingstone whose name he bore, as brave and selfless.

Dr. Burden applied the ethic of dedication to the greater good of God and Country that founded The British Empire to the salvation of humanity as he understood it.

Instead of "godless African savages" he set his sights on, in his words, the “soulless offspring” of the “dissolute” American upper and middle class who he believed needed spiritual instruction and redemption. When speaking surreptitiously to his daughter, Daphne, he would periodically refer to her generation as “The Children of Violence.”

Virginia revealed to Daphne years later that Daphne’s grandmother originally used this phrase to describe future generations of children born to WW II veterans. Being a music teacher during the wartime era, she feared that society at large would not treat post war children with understanding, and that these innocents would be unwittingly impacted by the violence their parents underwent.

Hopeful that Virginia and her husband’s alternative school would serve as a refuge for victimized children, the old lady backed Shimber Beris both practically and financially. Dr. Burden later corrupted her intention by erroneously labeling the baby boomer generation to which she was referring as “The Children of Violence” meaning “violent children.”

With his wife Virginia secretly prompting him through her psychic guides, Dr. Burden espoused Spartan living, fresh air, and a vegetarian diet. He also advocated the mystical philosophies and rules for thinking and conduct with which he replaced evangelical Christianity.

Dr. Burden believed in strenuous fasting for himself and his family, and in some cases required insubordinate students to fast in isolation. He delivered his solemn daily sermon-like lectures with pious zeal and condemned sensual appetites, television, popular culture, pollution and fast food.

The diet at Shimber Beris was inspired by the popular book Diet For a Small Planet, and intended to adhere to health food concepts then in the vanguard. It was purported to be rich in organic fruits and vegetables, with a minimum of the sugar and fat common in American fast foods. But in reality the diet, described as vegetarian, did not even remotely live up to Dr. and Mrs. Burden’s high ideals about food. It was a haphazard mélange of those principles mentioned above and often considerably unbalanced by over dependence on "atole," a cornmeal porridge common to Mexico and Guatemala. Foods often spoiled, and were served when available, such as sesame seed gruel, root vegetables, pancakes, beans, Spanish Rice, and fish left by the sport fishermen (during the early Baja phase) but these foods seldom appeared together at the same meal. There was also excessive consumption of dates, honey and a local Mexican boiled cane sugar product, "panocha" for snacks.


The text of a typical talk given to students at a morning orientation

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