Blog by Han Bakker

Dear Readers Worldwide

Today is a wonderful day for me as I’m starting a weblog at the invitation of the Embassy of the Free Mind (EFM), which I consider a great honour! It’ll be a blog in which I will regularly share with you the EFM’s plans.

I will look back occasionally on past events, or tell you a little bit about what’s happening at present. For current news and updates, please visit the website.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Han Bakker, I was born in 1955 and I’ve been fortunate to have been able to play a role in international culture life in many ways, in such fields as the theatre and music, festivals and cultural programmes of numerous European cities.

Early on, while still at University, I became fascinated by the subject of creativity, by the question how something new or new knowledge and insights emerge and how we may acquire the ability to achieve insight. My search initially led me away from the academic world after completing university, to the world of creative arts and of spirituality.

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Source of inspiration

It must have been around the beginning of the new millennium when someone pointed out to me there was a very special library in the heart of 17th-century Amsterdam. A collection, hidden in a few historical buildings, of thousands of rare books and manuscripts  by so-called freethinkers. People who, independent of church dogmas or ideology, reflected on who we are, and on the origin of all that is. Manuscripts and rare printed books containing views and visions which were said to be capable of uniting the world religions into a coherent whole. Eminent literary men like Umberto Eco and Harry Mulisch were to have consulted the library as a source of inspiration. I became immensely curious. 

Florence in Amsterdam

My first visit was decisive for my by now long-standing relationship with the library. The founder of the library, Joost Ritman, happened to be there himself and  handed me a hefty volume in a case, with the words: ‘Han, this is where the Renaissance starts.’ He invited me to take the book out of the case without having to wear gloves. With my bare hands I put the book on the wooden reading desk and found myself leafing through a 15th-century Plato translation. It was the famous translation by Marsilio Ficino, who had received the commission from Cosimo de Medici, ruler of Florence. As pristine as if it had been printed yesterday, with marginal notes – by the translator himself?

A historical sensation

The renowned Dutch historian Johan Huizinga once referred to ‘the historical sensation’. What he meant was the emotion we experience when we find ourselves in direct contact with the past. It was what happened to me when I held this book that seemed to bridge five centuries in a single instant. For a moment I felt I was in 15th-century Florence.

The literary writer and later Culture Minister of the Netherlands, Aad Nuis, once described the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica as the ‘House of Living Books’. Anyone lucky enough to have experienced what I have, will appreciate why.

In the years that followed I regularly returned to the library, bringing artist friends along to share my fascination with. More about that in future blogs.

Blog 1, HB/EFM/170921

Learn how you, too, can contribute to the development of the Embassy of the Free Mind in your own way: https://embassyofthefreemind.com/en/ambassade/support-us