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Naarden Theosophical Center

This International Theosophical Center is located at the town of Naarden in the Netherlands.

History. In 1924, Mary van Eeghen-Boissevain, the owner of a property at Naarden, heard that Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood was seeking a place where he could train Liberal Catholic Church candidates for ceremonial work. She invited Wedgwood to her house to carry out the experiment, and a small chapel was built with a seating capacity of 18 persons; it was consecrated on September 29, 1924, and dedicated to the Archangel St. Michael and all Angels.

As the number of participants increased, van Eeghan-Boissevain offered to give the property to Wedgwood, but he did not accept as he had a different end in view, namely, a center where different activities, all based on Theosophy, could take place. However, on July 25, 1925, she offered the estate to the then president of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, and it was accepted. On September 11, 1925, the St. Michael’s Foundation was created for the administration of the estate; Wedgwood was its first head. Soon various activities were flourishing: a Theosophical Lodge, a Co-Masonic Lodge, a youth Lodge, the Round Table, the Vasanta Group of Boy Scouts, St. Michael’s Players. In 1928 a Masonic temple was built, and the old chapel was replaced by a church building with a seating capacity of 400. Ten days after its consecration, it was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire. It was not rebuilt and in its place there is now a Garden of Remembrance. Immediately after the fire, the eastern part of the Masonic temple was converted to a church and the western part became a meeting hall.

The Difficult Years. In 1929 and 1930, many people resigned from the Theosophical Society and the Liberal Catholic Church after J. Krishnamurti had questioned the wisdom of adhering to ritual, authority, and organizations. The Center lost many of its members. In 1929 a plan was suggested to transfer the Center to England, and van Eeghan bought the property from the Foundation to enable the transfer to take place. However, Bishop Charles Leadbeater interfered, stating that a spiritual center could not be sold in that way and that it ought to be returned to the Foundation. The money had been transferred and used, so the estate was purchased from Van Eeghen by way of mortgage and donations.

Because of illness, Wedgwood was unable to continue as head of the Center, so George Arundale took his place; and when he became president of the Theosophical Society, his wife, Rukmini Devi Arundale, became head. In May 1940, the Germans invaded Holland; to preserve the Center it was converted into a center of the Liberal Catholic Church. This was a successful move and immediately after the German defeat in 1945, the Center was restored to its original function.

Fire seemed to be an unwelcome happening at Naarden; in August 1966 Besant Hall and the church burnt down. On July 19, 1970, a new Besant Hall with a seating capacity of 250 was opened, and in May 21, 1972, a new chapel was consecrated.

The Center continues to be very active, hosting many varied activities.

Philip Sydney Harris

 

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