The Embassy of the Free Mind is a museum and library in Amsterdam which promotes freedom of thought.
The museum is located in the historic House of Heads on the Keizersgraacht canal which was built in 1622. The affluent De Geer family moved into the house in 1634 and opened it up to dissidents escaping social and religious persecution in their own countries. Hence it became known as the Embassy of the Free Mind.
The library collection known as the Biblioteheca Philosophica Hermetica (Library of Hermetic Philosophy) contains around 28,000 books including over 2,000 ancient books and 300 rare manuscripts.
These beautifully illustrated works span some 2,000 years of wisdom and discuss the connections between humans and the divine. In the past many of the books were prohibited by the Catholic church and the authors were regarded as heretics.
Aside from Hermetic philosophy, the collection contains books on subjects ranging from alchemy, astrology, freemasonry, gnosis, kabbalah, magic, mysticism, Rosicrucians, Sufism and Taoism.
The museum has a number of rooms over 2 levels which can be visited by the public.
On the ground floor, the cafe and Grote Sael rooms contain symbolic images from the rare book collection which attempt to explain humanity’s place in the universe.
The rooms are beautifully decorated with a mix of modern and period items. There are books and booklets to be browsed, and iPad tablets provide further insight into the images.
The house has a large regulation garden known as a keurtuin, where the 17th century authorities had strict regulations about garden layouts in the city. This meant the garden had to have a symmetrical arrangement with alleys, ornamental beds and clipped box trees.
Today the garden is tended by volunteers and every year 2,500 tulips are planted. The garden is open to visitors.
The Klein Sael displays The Grail of Amsterdam, an exceptional work of art by the Russian miniature painter Oleg An, which illustrates grail legends and traditions. The display cases in the room show further examples of grail literature.
Upstairs is the Reading Room which houses the modern collection post-1900. Older books from the Rare Book Room can be consulted upon request.
The exhibition continues in the adjacent Pheonix Room with more manuscripts.
There is a free audio tour available (Dutch and English) using your own device or through one of the museum’s tablets. There are also a number of guided tours available at extra cost (€5.00-€17.50) which should be booked in advance.
For anyone interested in philosophy the Embassy of the Free Mind can make for a fascinating visit. You can also make use of the study/work places during opening hours.
Embassy Of The Free Mind Essential Info
|1000-1700 Wed-Sun, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
|Admission Prices (2024)
|€15.00 for adults, €6.00 for children/youths 11-18. FREE entry to children 0-10, I Amsterdam City Card and Museumkaart holders.
Order the I Amsterdam City Card online here which includes free entrance to the Embassy of the Free Mind.
|The museum is on the Keizersgracht canal about 300m from Westermarkt – which can be reached by tram 13 and 17.
Embassy of the Free Mind, Keizersgracht 123, 1015 CJ Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 625 8079, embassyofthefreemind.com
Last updated 9 January 2024. This article was first published in February 2023.
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