Naarden International Theosophical Centre
The International Theosophical Centre is located at the town of Naarden in the Netherlands, some 30 kilometres east of Amsterdam. It is one of the three international Centres of the TS, the only one where the national language is not the same as the international language of the TS. The Centre is owned by a foundation with national (Dutch) and international Council members. The President of the TS is President of the ITC. A small community lives and works at the centre. Beauty and activities are important elements of the work of the ITC.
To serve humanity as a spiritual study and retreat centre, inviting people to come and work on the process of human regeneration through self-transformation.
History; how the ITC came into being
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 young 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 Eeghen-Boissevain offered to give the property to Wedgwood, but he did not accept as he had a different end in view, namely, a centre where different activities, all based on Theosophy, could take place. On July 25, 1925, she offered the estate to the President of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant. On September 11, 1925, 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 extended with 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.
The Difficult Years.
After the fire a plan Wedgewood proposed to transfer the Centre to England, and van Eeghen bought the property from the Foundation to enable the transfer to take place. However, Bishop Charles Leadbeater interfered, stating that a spiritual centre could not be sold in that way and that it ought to be returned to the Foundation. However, the money had been transferred and used for the acquisition of Teckels Park, so the estate was re-purchased from Mrs. Van Eeghen by the Foundation by way of mortgage and donations. This made the financial situation of the Centre very vulnerable.
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 Centre it was converted into a centre of the Liberal Catholic Church. This was a successful move for many years during the occupation. Only the last winter (1944/45) it was confiscated by the German army. Immediately after the German defeat in 1945, the Centre was restored to its original function.
Fire seemed to be an unwelcome happening at Naarden; in August 1966 Besant Hall, which included the church, burnt down. On July 19, 1970, a new Besant Hall with a seating capacity of 150 was opened, and in May 21, 1972, a new LCC chapel was consecrated.
Relationship with Adyar
The relationship with Adyar has not always been simple and easy. Remarkably no formal relationship with Adyar was created. Both Annie Besant as well as George Arundale as President of the TS became honorary-chairman of the ITC. Jinarajadasa, the fourth President of the TS, decided not to accept this title, after which this custom ceased. After the death of Rukmini a new situation emerged. The function of Head was abolished and a formal link with Adyar was made. The President of the TS is also President of the ITC, with certain powers to safeguard its theosophical identity.
Aims of the Centre
The first statutes of the Foundation gave as aim: “To promote Universal Brotherhood and International Peace, by means of maintaining and promoting all such social, political, spiritual, educational and other activities which promote this principle according to the judgment of the Board”. In 1959 the description of “political” activities was changed into “theosophical”. In the 1930s political discussions were clearly relevant to young TS members. In the 1970s the aim was extended to “dedicated to the service of the Hierarchy and aims at providing a worthy channel for Their Work”. As the official aims are mentioned in legal documents, where we prefer not to refer to the Hierarchy, it was decided in 1988 to describe as the aims: “The object of the Foundation is to foster the principle of Universal Brotherhood and Peace under the inspiration of the highest human values, with the will to serve the world and under the perspective of the Oneness of Life in all living beings and in all”. The Council made a clear –internal- statement that “under the inspiration of the highest human values” is actually meant “dedicated to the service of the Hierarchy etc.” In practice this means that the Foundation aims to foster the aims of the Theosophical Society.
ITC today exists of a beautiful estate of 16 hectares, with a range of buildings for different activities. Apart from Besant Hall with own library – with some 9.000 books, mainly in English and Dutch – and the modern LCC chapel, it has amongst others two different guesthouses, Crystal House and Lotus House with 30 bedrooms in total, each with own bathroom, a large dining hall, two professional kitchens, Ashrama for smaller group activities, as well as three self-catering wooden cottages for those who want to stay longer for personal study or retreat. The Centre is rented out to different spiritual organisations, with similar core values as those of ITC.
Any stay at the Centre is meant to promote quietness of mind, peace and a harmonious life. Therefore, smoking or using drugs on the estate is not allowed; furthermore, only vegetarian meals and non-alcoholic beverages may be consumed.
For further information www.itc-naarden.org
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