Jan van Rijckenborgh
Grand Master of the Young Gnostic Brotherhood (1896-1968), his real name was Jan Leene (1896-1968). As co-founder and spiritual leader of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum his life’s work was building, together with Catharose de Petri (1902-1990), the International School of the Golden Rosycross.
Jan van Rijckenborgh was born in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Even as a young man, he was seeking for truth and the deep meaning of life. The discrepancy between theory of faith and the actual life which the young Jan Leene recognized very often among theologians and believers, alienated him from the Reformed Church, which his parents belonged to. He did not attack the Church of his parents, but he decided for himself to truly practise the life that was preached there in theory.
He found important impulses in the statements of the Reformed preacher Professor Dr. Arnold Hendrik de Hartog (1869-1938). De Hartog built on the ideas of Jacob Boehme, whose hermetic concept of two nature orders also inspired Jan Leene. These ideas became decisive for his spiritual orientation.
Spiritual roots and decisive encounters
His spiritual search led Jan Leene, together with his brother Zwier Willem (“Wim”, 1892-1938), to the Rozekruisers Genootschap, the Dutch affiliation of Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Fellowship in Oceanside, California. In 1924, he joined this community, and in 1929 he became its director. 1924 also was the year of his marriage to Joan Ames. The couple had a son and a daughter.
During that time, the Leene brothers intensively studied the writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Max Heindel and Rudolf Steiner, as well as the Rosicrucian Manifestos and the writings of Comenius and Paracelsus. These spiritual streams, alongside the works of Jacob Boehme, formed the roots of urther development.
On Christmas Eve of 1930, Henriette Stok-Huizer (1902-1990) met the Leene brothers for the first time and joined them in sharing their “methodic pilgrimage”. Later she adopted the spiritual name Chatharose de Petri. In 1935, all three of them parted from the Rosicrucian Fellowship and together founded, in Haarlem, the later International School of the Golden Rosycross, Lectorium Rosicrucianum.
About the attitude to their work and their motivation Jan van Rijckenborgh wrote:
“We are undertaking a deliberate, methodical pilgrimage. We do not want to die anymore, and we do not want to live. We do not want to be found anywhere, not in any single sphere of this nature order. … We have found this nature as a nature of death. … So we were obliged to investigate the ancient Tao objectively and not according to instructions from authorities. … The study clearly showed that, apart from this nature order, there is an original kingdom, a kingdom far outside the territory of the Nirvana, a realm which differs very substantially from this nature with its two spheres … “
This quote very clearly shows the Gnostic message of Jan van Rijckenborgh, which became the core element of the originality of his Rosicrucian teachings in the 20th Century. The definite focus and the clear fire with which he transmitted this message in countless speeches, inspired and stimulated the people who listened to him. He always put the emphasis on the aspect of realization: Not that the philosophy is liberating, but the deed alone.
Meeting with Jiddu Krishamurti
On a site near the village Doornspijk in the Netherlands, the so-called summer school regularly took place in summer for members of the School of the Rosyross. Hundreds of visitors attended and even more were coming every year.
During the summer school of 1933, Jan van Rijckenborgh came into contact with Jiddu Krishnamurti. In the journal “Het Rozekruis” he wrote about this meeting:
“The philosophy of the Rosyross is confirmed in the teachings of Krishnamurti. His system of liberation, however, is different and therefore also applies to people other than those we want to approach at the moment. But to my mind, in the future, both developments can converge.”
The start of the international work
In the year 1935 in Duesseldorf, the “International Federation of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood“ was founded. People from twelve countries joined this community and did a spiritual work in forty centers.
In 1938, Zwier Willem Leene died. He was the more impassioned and dynamic of the two Leene brothers. On his deathbed, he asked his more cautious and thoughtful brother for the promise to proceed with the work they had begun together. Jan Leene was not just able to do so, but this task became his life’s work, which he accomplished, with great power, as Grand Master of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum together with Catharose de Petri.
The development of the School of the Rosyross after World War II
During the years of war 1940-1945, the School of the Rosycross was closed by the occupation forces in the Netherlands. All activities of the community were forbidden. But their work never stopped for a single moment during this time. The school’s activities were conducted undercover. During this period Jan van Rijckenborgh delved into the Corpus Hermeticum (the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus), the writings of the Manichaean and other Gnostic communities, and studied the history of the Cathars. He wrote the book “Dei Gloria Intacta” in which the basis for the Gnostic teachings of the Rosyross in the 20th Century is worded.
Immediately after the Second World War, the Grand Masters focused on the new time – firmly believing that all humanity would be taken by a tremendous atmospheric change that should confront every single person with the divine purpose inside himself.
In 1946, the School acquired a site in Lage Vuursche, situated near Hilversum in the Netherelands. Here the first conference center was built over the next five years. In the following years, other conference sites were set up rapidly in Germany, Western and Eastern Europe and in Brazil, where the work had already begun before the war.
The spiritual heritage of the Cathars
In 1956, the work of Jan van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri received an important impulse by the contact with Antonin Gadal (1877-1962), the custodian of the Cathar heritage in southern France. They allied themselves with the spiritual treasure of this spiritual community shattered by the Inquisition about 700 years ago.
The literary work of Jan van Rijckenborgh
Jan van Rijckenborgh wrote his first manuscripts under the pseudonym John Twine. With the choice of this pseudonym, he expressed that he was a John man, a forerunner of the Christ man. The last name Twine symbolizes the two aspects that are present in every human being: the divine element that urges the liberation, and the earthly element, the natural soul. In January 1940, Jan Leene adopted the spiritual name Jan van Rijckenborgh.
In the British Library in London Jan van Rijckenborgh discovered a work by Johann Valentin Andreae, “Rei publicae christianopolitanae descriptio”, in English translation. Interpreting parts of this document, he wrote a commentary which he published together with his Dutch translation of this manuscript in 1939 under the title “Christianopolis“. Furthermore he translated the Manifestos of the Rosicrucians: “Fama Fraternitatis”, “Confessio Fraternitatis” and “Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosyross” into Dutch. In these writings he found what moved it himself: the call for a general reformation, which especially aimed at the fundamental change in man himself.
With about 40 publications written by Jan van Rijckenborgh, partially together with Catharose de Petri, he left a great wealth of advice and support to people who seek for truth and liberation on their spriritual path.
Most of his books consist of transcripts of speeches addressed to pupils of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum in the 1950s and 60s. Jan van Rijckenborgh used a very direct and straight language, the character of which is to be understood against the background of the post-war time period. With vivid, sometimes even drastic words, he was able to shake up his listeners and carry them along. His books are not to be understood as scientific or literary papers, but as authentic testimonies of the spoken word. Beyond the historical background, however, the unalterable fire of Gnosis pulsates in these writings.
Jan van Rijckenborgh tirelessly worked on the global spreading of the Gnostic Rosicrucian teachings and the building of the Spiritual School, the mission of which is to show today’s seekers a gnostic spiritual path and to accompany them on this path. The term “Spiritual School” was chosen deliberately. Jan van Rijckenborgh never became tired of bringing the ultimate goal of human development to the consciousness of his audience: the union of the newly born human soul with the divine spirit. When he died in 1968, he looked back on a successful and fruitful work and left behind a vibrant, strong and growing organization that was fully prepared for their task.
After his death, during the installation of his follower in the organization, a difficult time started for the school. It was Catharose de Petri, who guarded the spiritual work of Jan van Rijckenborgh with her unique focus on the Gnostic Order, and further developed it. It became clear that now, during the dawning new period in the late 20th Century, the spiritual leadership could not longer be executed by a single person. Thus, Catharose de Petri, already in 1970, laid this responsibility into the hands of a multi-member leadership, the International Spiritual Directorate. As the Grandmaster of this college, she continued her work with wisdom, and with advice, when necessary.
Just as Jan van Rijckenborgh had committed to his brother, and primarily to the Gnosis, to continue the work, today the Lectorium Rosicrucianum continues the Rosicrucian work worldwide.
Freedom of self-authority and community
During all his years the work of Jan van Rijckenborgh was imbued with the elemental truth that man can only reinstall the original state of oneness with the divine origin in the freedom of self-authority and in community with others.
In an address to young members of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum he said:
“If you make yourself dependent on my view of life, if you would turn your life boat after the course I chose, then you are a negative follower, and a negative follower can never be a master, a master of self-authority. You have to reach an independent decision, and my opinion of things may and should not be essential for you, nor the views of life and the decisions your parents or friends took for their lives can or may be crucial for you …
Do I want to wipe out, with my hand, all that some people have meant and still mean to you? No! I want to say that their advice only has to mean something to you, if you feel a kindred spirit in this advice, if you recognize it as a beacon in dark night. There are ideas, forces, tensions that you can see in the middle of the violent swirls of times, that you immediately feel familiar with and that give you the feeling that you have already encountered them in an ancient past. That’s affinity. … The recognition can sometimes be very simple. I remember that I found my spiritual affinity through the simple reading of a name … Truth teaches us that Christ is being linked with our blood and that no one can really escape that. If we want to be with Him, He is with us! “