Faculty of Humanities
University of Amsterdam

Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (BHP)

A city of concealed knowledge

Hermetically Open

The world-famous Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (BPH), also known as The Ritman Library, is situated in the Embassy of the Free Mind (EFM) and is an indispensable resource for students of esotericism. Over the years, the BPH and the HHP Centre have enjoyed a close and collaborative relationship. With the BPH’s new profile of “Hermetically Open,” and HHP’s commitment to furthering education and research in the field of esotericism, collaboration between the library and the research centre at the Embassy of the Free Mind has already proved fruitful. In 2013 we began recording a series of webinar lectures under the title “Infinite Fire,” which can be viewed here.

The Embassy of the Free Mind, based at the House with the Heads, Keizersgracht 123, Amsterdam, opened in October 2017. In April 2018 HHP’s Dr Peter Forshaw was appointed Head of the Ritman Research Institute, where he works on the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer (Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians) and on the long-term project of ‘Teaching by Images’. HHP MA and Research MA students are welcomed as Honorary Researchers to gain experience in sharing their research interests with the public by helping with exhibitions, guided tours, presentations (for example, on Museum Night, every November), and helping with plans for the new Alchemy Room, part of the EFM’s ‘Magical Museum Experience’.
History of Hermetic Philosophy Amsterdam

In November 2018, the EFM participated for the first time in Amsterdam’s Museum Night, staying open late into the night, with MA students creating an Alchemical Beast Hunt game for the hundreds of visitors and giving presentations on alchemical and magical material in the BPH collection.

From June-November 2019 the Embassy of the Free Mind curated its first exhibition, “Kabbalah & Alchemy,” based on scholarly research by Peter Forshaw and curator Cis van Heertum, with books and manuscripts in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica. That July, the EFM hosted the welcome reception for ESSWE7, the seventh international conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, organised by HHP.

In November 2019 the EFM again opened for Museum Night; this time with a popular alchemical cocktail bar and more presentations by Masters students on themes ranging from Chaos and Darkness to the Body and Light.

In 2018 and 2020 the EFM hosted day-long student conferences for the Research MA course “Nature and the Supernatural”. In 2021 they host a two-day international conference, “Esotericism and the Varieties of Transformation” (July 2021) organized by Research MA students L. Faith Pramuk and Misha Kakabadze.

In early 2020 Dr Stephen Clucas from Birkbeck, University of London, Senior Vossius Fellow, ran a reading group with Peter Forshaw on John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica (1564).

In 2021, for the first time, the EFM has two interns, Pauline Duijndam and Kelly Willersen, students on the MA in Museum Studies. They created a Virtual Alchemical Treasure Hunt, which is now available online. Together with other MA and RMA students (most notably Corey Andrews and Jason Hooijberg) they have also recorded and edited videos to promote this project as well as introduce ‘Teaching by Images’. Students will also be researching and presenting short videos on various aspects of alchemy for the Alchemy Room.

The Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC) has offered to support further events at the Embassy of the Free Mind. In Autumn 2021 they are funding a workshop on Alchemy and Rosicrucian, co-organized by RMA student Corey Andrews and in 2022 a workshop on Freemasonry and Alchemy, co-organized by RMA student Tjalling Janssen.

In recent years HHP has successfully supported applications for Junior and Senior Vossius Fellowships offered by the University of Amsterdam. As well as speaking at the Vossius Seminar, each fellow has contributed to the life of the EFM-HHP, by helping with research, giving a public lecture, or holding a reading group (most recently, Dr Stephen Clucas and Peter ran a reading group on John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica (1564).

In November 2020 the state-owned part of the BPH was transferred to the Special Collections section at Allard Pierson. Allard Pierson is now also party to the collaboration between the HHP Centre and BPH.

Stay tuned for updates!

We thank the BPH and the Embassy of the Free Mind for permission to use imagery from their collections on this website.

Contact the HHP Centre

The Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (HHP)

Visiting adress:
Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis
Kloveniersburgwal 48
1012 CX Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Postal adress:
Postbus 1622
1000BP Amsterdam

T: +31 (0)20 525 3571
E: hermetica-fgw@uva.nl

For all general information:
Ms. Antoinette Rutten (secretary)

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