The teaching of theosophy was introduced into Belgium by Wilhem Kohlen, who had returned from Holland and Ernest Nyssens, who returned from U.S. where he studied homeopathy, which he brought to the country as well as vegetarianism and methods of naturotherapy.
The following Lodges were successively constituted:
1. 1897 in Brussels, “Branche de Bruxelles” (Dr. Nyssens).
2. 1898 in Brussels, “Branche Centrale” (Dr. Voute).
3. 1900 in Antwerp, “Antwerp Lodge” (Mr. Kohlen).
4. 1903 in Brussels, Branche “Le Lotus Blanc” for young people and the children of the “Golden Chain.”
5. 1904 in Brussels, Branche “Isis”
Four other Lodges were founded in 1911:
6. In Brussels, Branche “Blavatsky,” devoted to the study of The Secret Doctrine (Jean DELVILLE).
7. In Antwerp, Branche “Persévérance” (Frans Wittemans).
8. “Branche Anglo-Belge” (dissolved in 1928).
9. In Liége, Branche “Annie Besant” (Theodore Chapellier).
The Charter of the Belgian Section was signed by Annie BESANT on June 7, 1911, at ADYAR.
10. Before 1914, in Ghent, “Tak Vrede” founded by Clare Hallet, widow of a British Consul, close friend of Clara CODD.
11. In Brussels, “Branche Lumiére”
12. 1974, in Charleroi, Branche “Science de la Vie,” resulting from the fusion of two groups who decided to adhere to the Theosophical Society (TS): the “Cercle d’études philosophiques de Charleroi,” founded in 1915 by the French philosopher Edmund Wietrich and the group “Science de la Vie” founded by Henri Moreau.
Some other Lodges had been short-lived, — one in Bruges or Ostend and the “Branche Krishna” of young Theosophists in Brussels, before 1940, and the “Branche Arundale” (Maurice Warnon) and Branche “Unité” (Jean Barreiro) both in Brussels around 1970.
An interesting theosophical venture was the creation in Brussels in 1921 of the “Communauté Monada.” A young lady of mystical inclination, Mrs. Héris, brought some twenty members of the Theosophical Society, both men and women, to live together according to their theosophical ideals of brotherhood without distinction of social class, for instance. Putting their professional incomes together, they devoted themselves to a life of service, study and meditation along theosophical lines, sharing the household duties. There were among them a doctor, Dr. Nyssens, an architect, an artist, a tailor, an author, Serge Brisy, a musician, Bertha Deseck (who later married Dr. Nyssens), her brother, two Dutch sisters (one a teacher), the two daughters of the tailor, another lady teacher, an old retired gentleman and Mrs. Héris’ mother and an old lady, aunt of a member. Other persons joined in the following years. From the beginning they bought or built two adjoining houses, with a big garden. In due course they decided to found a school and educate children in a theosophical spirit, using new methods of education based on the development of observation, on the genuine interest felt by children, on the personal initiative and co-operation between them (method of Dr. Decrolly and of Maria MONTESSORI). To begin with it was a boarding school of eight young girls, 5 to 12 years old. The school expanded and became co-educational and part of the garden was sacrificed for a school building; a large public garden and the countryside nearby offered beautiful walks; food was vegetarian. Dr. Nyssens taught the children Swedish gymnastics, Miss Deseck taught music and rhythmic dance (“Theorythmie”) and Serge Brisy encouraged them to create a play for the close of each school year.
This community, directed by Dr. Nyssens after Mrs. Héris’ death from tuberculosis two years after the foundation, was dissolved at the beginning of World War II, 1940-45. Every theosophical activity was forbidden under the Nazi occupiers. The stained-glass windows were given to the “Annie Besant” Lodge in Liége to decorate the lecture hall and the meditation room of its house built just after the war.
Before World War II the Society in Belgium had some 500 members, but after the war few of them remained and their number diminished progressively to be 135 today, distributed among four Lodges in Brussels—“Bruxelles,” “Centrale,” “Blavatsky” and “Lumiére,” studying respectively, astrology, Krishnamurti, basic Theosophy and theYoga Sūtras of Patañjali— and four Lodges in provincial towns — Flemish in Antwerp and Ghent and French-speaking in Liége and Charleroi. Antwerp is very much helped by Dutch members visiting regularly from Holland.
In the time between the two world wars, members of the Society in Belgium often participated in Ommen (Holland) camps organized each year around KRISHNAMURTI, first by Annie BESANT and Charles W. LEADBEATER with the ORDER OF THE STAR. In 1926 there was a World Theosophical Congress in Brussels, held in the halls of the “Palais des Beaux-Arts” which was inaugurated the same year.
It was in the newspaper around 1925 that the young painter, Marcel Hastir, discovered the face of J. Krishnamurti; his master at the art school, the painter Jean DELVILLE, told him about this extraordinary personage of whom Martin was going to draw later a beautiful portrait, and about the Theosophical Society, of which he was a member. The Theosophical Society held then its gatherings in a magnificent hall of an aristocratic house near the cathedral. But soon the building was sold and the young painter searched the town and discovered with another friend the house which the Belgian members, clubbing together, succeeded in buying and which the Society still occupies, in the neighborhood of the royal palace and park. There is a large lecture hall on the first floor and on the second an artist’s studio just as large, where Hastir has worked since then organizing concerts given by young virtuosos from all countries and continents, to help them become internationally known.
List of the General Secretaries of the Belgian Section:
- 1911-1914: The painter Jean Delville whose gigantic Prometheus adorns the waiting hall of Brussels monumental Palace of Justice.
- 1914-1939: Gaston Polak, mining engineer, Kabbalist, Sanskritist, student of The Secret Doctrine, theosophical lecturer.
- 1939-1954: Nelly Schonfeld (her nom-de-plume was Serege Brisy), cellist and writer (see Communaute Monada), author of mystical books, in particular La Divinité des Choses, Le Voyageur Blanc, Le Masque (a play showing the deity under the disguise of evil). She was devoted to Rukmini Devi ARUNDALE and served to the end of her life as her secretary at KALĀKSHETRA.
- 1954-1955: Monami, retired through illness.
- 1955-1960: Théodore Chapellier, engineer.
- 1960-1966: Antoon De Pauw, Flemish school inspector.
- 1966-1972: Berthe Nyssens-Deseck (see Communaute Monada), author of Une Philosophie de la Musique, showing how, through the ages, music evolved in a way parallel to the development of the successive aspects of consciousness.
- 1972-1974: Jean Barreiro.
- 1974-1975: Charles Lallemand.
- 1975-1978: Berthe Nyssens-Deseck, assisted by Charles Lallemand.
- 1978-1984: Charles Lallemand, technician, “Lauréat du Travail”
- 1984-: Dr. Henrietta van der Hecht, pediatrician who enjoyed primary school education in the boarding school of the “Communaute Monada.”
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