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Via Lucis – Comenius in our Time

Posted on by BPH

On Friday 4 October members of the Comenius Gesellschaft were the guests of The Ritman Library. They were first made welcome in the Huis met de Hoofden by Esther and Joost R. Ritman. The visit was part of the programme of the international Comenius Conference 2013‘Keys to the thoughts of Comenius in our time’, which took place in Naarden from 4-6 October. The conference was jointly organized by the Comenius Museum in Naarden, the three Comenius Museums in the Czech Republic and the German Comenius-Gesellschaft. The conference included a visit to the Huis met de Hoofden on 123, Keizersgracht , the place where Comenius had been a guest when he lived in Amsterdam, supported by his patrons, the De Geer family.

A conference participant before the entrance of the Huis met de Hoofden. On the right a plaquette commemorating Comenius’ association with this house.

During the conference visit Mrs. Rachel Ritman gave a presentation on the contemporary and future importance of one of the most famous works of Comenius; the Via Lucis. Mrs. Elisabeth Levelt then performed some pieces on the harpsichord. After the visit, the company proceeded to The Ritman Library where founder Joost R. Ritman gave a tour of the rare books room, the heart of the library, by showing original printed works and some manuscript copies of works of Comenius and the German mystic Jacob Böhme, who was a great source of inspiration to Comenius.

Jan Amos Comenius (Nivnice, Moravia 28 March 1592 – Amsterdam, 15 November 1670) was a Czech theologian, philosopher, pansophist and above all educational and societal reformer. He could be considered the first modern pedagogue. He wrote many works and was renowned throughout Europe for his innovative ideas, educational activities and spiritual awareness. His many journeys brought him in touch with many great thinkers of his time, occult and mystical brotherhoods and practitioners of a great many disciplines, arts and crafts. He advocated Pan Sophia, i.e. omniscience (all-knowing) or pan science, which formed the heart of his educational system and pedagogics. This primal, universal wisdom needed to be taught to all people of all nations in all times in ways suitable to the spirit of the times. Comenius believed in the immanence of the Divine and the immanence of the Heavenly Kingdom on earth and in mankind.

The Community of Saints from Dante’s Divina Commedia (1564). This image of the Community shows similarities with Comenius’ idea of a Collegium Lucis.

Comenius aimed to launch an international college, one in which his didactical system centring around Pansophic wisdom and peace could flourish, a Collegium Lucis, a College of Light. The  blueprint for his ideas is to be found in his treatise Via Lucis (1641/1642), which was later also printed and published in Amsterdam, in 1668. Comenius was inspired for his Collegium Lucis by Bartolomeo Barbaro, a member of the wealthy Venezian Beneto family, who wrote De Omni Scibili Libri Quadraginta: Seu Prodromus Pansophiae in the middle of the sixteenth century. The concept of a Collegium Lucis is mentioned in his work.

In 1642 Comenius stayed in Amsterdam where he died at the age of 78 in 1670. In Comenius’ time Amsterdam was a flowering city with a vibrant intellectual climate and a reputation for tolerance. Learned men (and some women) came together to share their expertise, keep each other abreast of their latest intellectual endeavours and discuss together societal concerns. Books forbidden in other countries were published, read and widely debated here. It was a Golden Age with Amsterdam blossoming and vibrating as a Venice of the North or, as Rachel Ritman expressed it in her presentation, a Little Alexandria. In this time Comenius was introduced to the De Geer family, which became his patron in the period 1656-1670. During his life, Comenius wrote more than 200 works in which he searched for a method, a system to reduce human suffering and contribute to the well-being of all men by uniting them through a common understanding of the Divine.

Have a look here for an appealing video of the conference visit to the Huis met de Hoofden. The video includes a selection of the presentation by Rachel Ritman, an inspiring view on the future of the Huis met de Hoofden by Jons Hensel and a tour in the heart of the Ritman Library by Joost R. Ritman:

For more articles on Comenius on this site go to:

Comenius’ Via Lucis has been published in a Dutch translation by our Publishing House In de Pelikaan, you can find it here in our webshop.

2 Responses to Via Lucis – Comenius in our Time

  1. Vara Sue Tamminga, PhD says:

    My favorite quote about Jacob Boehme is in an Essay by Yeats discussing Blake’s study of Boehme. Yeats said that Blake understood Boehme’s description of the importance of the imagination to be: “Imagination is that sympathy with all living beings which is the forgiveness of sins commanded by Christ.” So when we read stories or poetry or science which requires us to imagine the life or works of other human beings, by imagining them we are, in fact, forgiving them and following Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” Surely, the gift of love through imagination and creativity is the alchemical resurrection, indeed, transformation which Rilke claimed in his 9th Elegy is our poetic responsibility in this world, to transform, to resurrect all things so that we are co-creators with God. Such a world would be Boehme’s Aurora, the Golden Dawn of a New Age.

  2. Vara Sue Tamminga, PhD says:

    Thank you Rachael for your amazing essay on Comenius and the College of light.

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