Belgium, Theosophy in
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
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 the
Yoga 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
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
theORDER 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
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
List of the General Secretaries of the Belgian Section:
1. 1911-1914: The painter Jean Delville whose gigantic Prometheus adorns the waiting hall of Brussels monumental Palace of Justice.
2. 1914-1939: Gaston Polak, mining engineer, Kabbalist, Sanskritist, student of The Secret Doctrine, theosophical lecturer.
3. 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.
4. 1954-1955: Monami, retired through illness.
5. 1955-1960: Théodore Chapellier, engineer.
6. 1960-1966: Antoon De Pauw, Flemish school inspector.
7. 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.
8. 1972-1974: Jean Barreiro.
9. 1974-1975: Charles Lallemand.
10. 1975-1978: Berthe Nyssens-Deseck, assisted by Charles Lallemand.
11. 1978-1984: Charles Lallemand, technician, “Lauréat du Travail”
12. 1984-: Dr. Henrietta van der Hecht, pediatrician who enjoyed primary school education in the boarding school of the “Communaute Monada.”
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