G.F.: Joost, for more than 20 years I have had contact with you again and again. I found it remarkable how you have been able to be active in very different areas. You ran a large company with international connections, you were in a leading position in a spiritual community and internationally active, and you also built up an institution in Amsterdam, which is now called Embassy of the Free Mind. Could you tell us a bit about your life how you managed to do all that?
J.R.: I can say that I received a gift from my mother through my birth. She was my first love, and she gave me life. I experience life as a great miracle. From early on I was convinced that birth was a way into the world. That means that I was also given life in the world.
On the one hand, there is God, from whom everything comes into being. On the other hand, there is the mother who gives life. And thirdly, there is the world, nature. I have always marvelled at nature, and at the people in it.
Nature is the cosmos, man is a microcosm, who has a creative task to perform in nature. From early on it was clear to me that my life has a purpose.
I was very young when I got married, I was just 19 years old. My wife Rachel and I have been married for 60 years this year. We have a large, fantastic family. I loved my father very much, he was a role model for me. Another role model for me was Catharose de Petri, the Grand Master of the Rosycross spiritual community. I accompanied her on her travels. Through her and Jan van Rijckenborgh I was baptised when I was six years old. I experienced the stream of power that flowed through them.
At the age of 16 I started working in my father’s company. Actually I wanted to study theology and philosophy. But my father told me: “That might come later. Please come to the company now.”
When I was 23 years old, my mother bought a book by Jakob Böhme in an antiquarian bookshop in Amsterdam: Aurora or Day-Spring. In the cover picture you could see the sun, the earth, the zodiac and a sevenfold radiation effect. She gave me this book as a present.
My first look at the cover picture was an initial experience for me. This edition of the Aurora became the first book of my future library.
The symbol of the Pentagram
I am from Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a maritime city, it is a city with international connections. When I was 22 years old, I joined the management of my father’s company. At that time there were 22 people working in the company. Under my management it grew up and eventually had 600 employees. We worked with airlines.
The symbol of my company is a five-pointed star, a pentagram, the symbol of the perfect man. Our products carried this star millions of times around the world. The symbol of the five-pointed star also stands for my library, which has grown to nearly 30,000 books with many original prints. With its various sections, it represents the fivefold force that was also depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in his painting of the Vitruvian Man.
Every person carries a star within him that can shine. But this can only happen if he really becomes a human being. For me, the most important thing in life was to carry out this message of becoming a human being. And I did this on the basis of my family, my connection with the spiritual school of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum, my company de Ster and my library, which now has its new headquarters here in the Huis met de Hoofden. It has developed into the Embassy of the Free Mind, a source of free thought based on the treasures of the European tradition. The library symbolises the treasure that I have gained in life.
G.F.: The term Embassy of the free mind points to the future. You speak of a five-pointed star hidden in the human being. You have shown that as a man of economy, as a man of culture and as a person on a spiritual path, you have united these very different areas in yourself. Do you see such integration as a task for the future?
J:R.: No, I see it as a task of today. There was a big exhibition here in Amsterdam about the Kabbalah, which was called Tree of Life. I had the opportunity to talk to people from Jerusalem who had contributed books and manuscripts to this exhibition. They came to my library and asked about their significance. I replied that the library symbolized a message and at the same time an openness, an openness to the world. Mrs Groß, who belonged to the group from Israel, then said: “With our Kabbalah collection we are carrying a message from our people, with your Embassy of the free mind you are carrying a message from the world.”
G.F.: I think you founded this institution out of a vision of the future, that is, out of a necessity that something must and can develop on the basis of Western culture. Can you still talk about what that actually is?
The vision of an Una Sancta
J.R.: Jan van Rijckenborgh set out his vision of the future in a work from 1955. It was the vision of an Una Sancta, a holy unity. He said
that the world would enter a phase in which a great deal of what now lives unconsciously in the collective of humanity would enter into individual perception.
I once had an important visit from New York and was also asked on this occasion for the mission of my library. I said: My library is a mirror of thousands of perceptions of people who have lived before us, a mirror of perception and curiosity. And we can be quite sure that all this that is reflected in it will, in a certain moment – very much as the symbol on the book by Jakob Böhme showed me – connect all people on earth with each other. I see it in such a way that the truth is within itself, but that we can become witnesses of it. All spiritual perceptions that have existed in the past can be seen as the rays of a prism that come from a common source. My library is to bear witness to this. It can bring the message to the people that a force that can multiply itself indefinitely rests in humanity.
Jan van Rijckenborgh once said: “There are seven communities in the world representing the seven primal streams of the Spirit. They have their roots in different cultures and religions. And one day they will come together.“ For me this is the glory of the Una Sancta. I am glad that I was able to anchor this message in the heart of Amsterdam. The research institute of my library has existed for 35 years. Hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from the research carried out there. The core of the message is that man has been given a gift at birth, life. It connects him with the life of nature. The Embassy of the free Mind is to bear witness to the depth and future of this connection.
G.F.: I own some books published by your research institute. They are works on the path of Hermetism and Gnosis in the occidental tradition, on alchemy, the Rosicrucians, works on the Renaissance, on Jakob Böhme and Gustav Meyrink. There are many seeds in them that can still unfold.
You have connected spirituality with a very practical life. In my view, it is of utmost importance for the future to unite business life and also scientific life with values that come from spirituality. And also to bring the different spiritual movements into a dialogue with each other.
In 2009 I witnessed how you brought together seven spiritual movements at the Rosicrucian Conference Centre Renova in the Netherlands. This is probably related to the vision you received through Jan van Rijckenborgh. There were three Rosicrucian movements – AMORC, the Lectorium Rosicrucianum and the Rosicrucian Fellowship – the Anthroposophs, the Theosophs, the Freemasons, the Sufis. Important representatives of these movements met for a joint event.
The call of the World Heart
J.R.: Yes, I was sitting in my library and it actually only took me about half an hour to call the leaders and invite them to the symposium The Call of the World Heart. “Let us meet in Renova”, I said to them, “so that each one of us may speak from his heart and head about the call of the World Heart”. They all spontaneously said “yes”. And then we first met in the temple that belongs to the Renova Conference Centre. There is a fountain in it. We sat in a circle around the fountain and a friend, Lex van den Brul, played the piano. It was a deep silence and a wonderful music. We shook hands in the sign of the call of the World Heart. 880 people attended the symposium and listened to the seven lectures.
In September 2001 there was a big international conference of our spiritual school in the South of France. About 2500 people from 40 countries met in Ussat-les-Bains in the Ariège valley and also at Montségur. That was 77 years after the Leene brothers received the impulse to start a Rosicrucian movement in 1924. Jan Leene, who took the name Jan van Rijckenborgh in the 1950s, predicted in 1954 that a spiritual breakthrough would take place at the end of the year 2001. We then witnessed the collapse of the towers of the World Trade Center. Perhaps this was a sign and symbol that something entirely new would emerge in this century.
I want to look further back into the past. In 1244 the leading Cathars died at the stake at Montségur. Next year (2021) this will be 777 years ago. We will then be able to remember once again the spiritual heritage they left us. I see it as a substance at our disposal, a force that enables us to continue to develop. And we can once again remember Antonine Gadal, the keeper of the Cathar heritage.
We need the free, unprejudiced spirit
For me, the world has opened up. I can also see it in the development of my library. Sixty years after its creation, it has become possible for us to cooperate with many libraries and universities and thousands of people from many different countries. Its symbol is the pentagram, that is, the person who has become aware of his or her nature and mission. When I was 16, I realized why I am here on earth, and this can also become clear to every person. Our task is to shape the future together, on the basis of an Una Sancta. The key to finding it is respect and love for each other, worldwide.
We need the free, unprejudiced spirit (“the free mind”) through which, as Johann Amos Comenius said, “we teach all things to all in a universal way”.
G.F.: Thank you very much, Joost, for this interview.
Note: The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, founded by Joost Ritman, is divided into sections on Hermetism, Rosicrucian Philosophy, Alchemy, Mysticism, Gnosis, Western Esotericism and general religious studies. Special collections concern Sufism, Kabbalah, Anthroposophy, Freemasonry and the Grail. It organises exhibitions and guided tours.