Renate Sleigh

Renate Sleigh

26 August 2020 | Anne Weise

Her parents met in 1927, in Ita Wegman’s hospital in Arlesheim (CH), where they had come to undergo further training: Mathilde Maasberg, a nurse, and assistant doctor Karl König. Renate was born on 3 December 1930, followed later by two brothers, Christoph and Andreas.


Camphill

Mainly because of his Jewish roots, Karl König was forced to leave Pilgramshain (then GE, now PL) in 1936. His wife and children stayed temporarily with friends. Soon the family was able to start a new life in Vienna (AT), where in 1937 they had another daughter, Veronica. When Austria was annexed to the German Reich in 1938, Karl König fled to Italy, while the rest of the family stayed at first in Vienna before moving to the parental home in Silesia.

While in exile, they and their friends – most of them of Jewish origin – felt the wish to work with people with special needs. A house was offered to them in Scotland. In the spring of 1939 they moved into Kirkton House near Insch where they were soon joined by the first children and one adult with special needs. Some of them were also refugees.

From the age of 14, Renate attended Michael Hall Steiner School in Forest Row (GB) as a boarding student. She became a nurse and attended the Camphill Seminar where she met her future husband, Julian Sleigh.

In 1957 they started a new life in South Africa. Karl König had been asked to found a Camphill community there and Renate Sleigh had always felt drawn to Africa. Support was needed in the newly founded Camphill Community Hermanus/West Cape, a task they took on together with Susanne and Hans Müller-Wiedemann. Julian Sleigh followed them a year later and he and Renate got married in 1959. The first children – Veronica, Joan and Sonya – were born.

Back in Africa

While Julian Sleigh attended the Priest Seminar of the Christian Community in Stuttgart (DE), Renate Sleigh moved with the children to Botton Village (GB); after his ordination in 1965, they all returned to South Africa, where they established the Camphill Village Alpha to the north of Cape Town (now: Camphill Village West Coast) and where James and Fiona were born. After the pioneering phase, Renate Sleigh took on responsibility for all medical concerns, the weaving workshop and the cultural life in the village. In addition to that, she was also in charge of a house with adults in need of support. She brought as much devotion to watering the flowers and feeding the birds as to meditating and the reading of the Class Lessons of the School of Spiritual Science.

Renate Sleigh had the courage to stand up again and again for what she thought was right, good and true. If that meant she had to enter into discussions with someone, then this is what she would do. At the same time she was open to new ideas. She questioned the traditional ways and was particularly concerned with the future of Camphill.


Point and circle

In the evening, you consciously create within yourself the mood ‘God is in me’ […]. And in the morning, so that it shines out over your whole day, ‘I am in God’. Consider what you are actually doing by bringing these two mental images to life within yourself, by letting them permeate your feeling life and even become will impulses. […] In the morning you must think, ‘This is a circle, this is a point’. You must understand, deep inside you, that a circle is point and a point a circle. […] Within the human being is realized that the I-point of the head becomes a circle in the limb-person, a circle which has been configured, naturally. […]

As you meditate, allow the point again and again to slip into the circle, expand into the circle, and sense, as you do this, how the human organization of limbs and metabolism arises from the head organization. […] You are applying the theory of metamorphosis.

Source: Rudolf Steiner: GA 317 (Curative Education Course), lectures of 5 and 6 July 1924.