The Shimber Beris Archive Projects
Former Shimber Beris student Peter Ashlock and the founder’s daughter, Daphne (Burden) Oberon, have begun actively seeking out and interviewing former Shimber Beris’ participants and archiving first hand anecdotes, memoirs and ephemera.
The majority of those who joined the school-community during the Mexico years looked upon it as an adventure and a personal growth experience. Some who attended during the final decline in Guatemala also left without regret, though no participants have so far expressed indifference to their interlude with the school.
Because both Daphne’s parents and Peter’s mother were students of arcane philosophy and mysticism, Peter Ashlock and Daphne Burden’s uniquely similar backgrounds informs their understanding of the subject matter. In their view, everyone is entitled to their own personal perspectives concerning the school. Their focus is on the establishment of an archive of collected interviews, ephemera and other related information that bring validation, healing and closure to those whose lives were negatively impacted by it. The result will not only be useful to academics and others interested in researching communal living, but in further defining what constitutes a cult and the nature of how groups behave under the direction of a charismatic leader.
Clearly, the school-commune realized lofty goals and high ideals along with abysmal failures and abuses side by side. Its stated intentions were the outgrowth of a vanguard attempt to help at-risk youth and others who were seeking an alternative learning experience.
That Dr. and Mrs. Burden practiced unorthodox traditions and held secret, undisclosed doctrines inspired by their interest in Theosophy and metaphysics, is nearly universally accepted. Opinions on just how overboard the Burden’s unorthodox practices and attitudes went tend to vary from student to student and from staff member to staff member.
Several projects describing Daphne Burden’s history and experiences with her parent’s school and the circumstances imposed on her are ongoing. Among them are:
In development is a documentary compiled by Dr. and Mrs. Burden’s daughter, Daphne (Burden) Oberon and the Music of America producer and cinematographer, Peter Ashlock. Peter attended Shimber Beris in the 1960’s in San Bartolo and was among the group of students to build the road to Cardonal pictured at left. This project will detail the school's overall history and include interviews with former participants.
The Screenplay Project
Among Daphne’s countless experiences with her parent’s school are her years on the desert island of Cerralvo, first with her mother, and then for approximately two years with a boy who was age nine at the time of his arrival.
Due to windy hurricane conditions in the fall of 1968, Daphne age fifteen, and Dana age ten, find themselves marooned alone on the desert island of Cerralvo with six prostrate ponies, two donkeys and a herd of goats to care for. A severe earthquake has dropped the water table and brought about drought conditions in the only fresh water well. The children’s only hope is to wait for the incoming tide to launch a heavy twenty-five-foot broken down motorboat into the rough weather kicking up in the dreaded Cerralvo channel. Using an oar and a board to paddle with, they paddle two miles up the coast to an old mineral water well with empty five gallon jerry cans and two fifty gallon drums to bring water back to the dehydrated animals. This and countless other experiences will be the substance of a screenplay and book detailing Daphne's life.