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Eranos Foundation History

Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn was born in 1881 in London of Dutch parents. Her mother Truus Muysken was engaged in feminist movements and social renewal, while her father Albertus Kapteyn (or Kapteijn) was an engineer with passion for photography.

She studied history of art in Zürich and in 1909 married Iwan Fröbe, a musician and conductor who, unfortunately, died a few years later due to an airplane accident. Olga Fröbe was also an experienced skier and adored the mountains: she was one of the first women who participated in climbing the Mont Blanc. During the First World War, she left her home in Berlin to live in Zurich, where she had a literary salon.

In 1920, after having spent several holidays in Porto Ronco near Ascona, she settled down in Casa Gabriella in Ascona Moscia. Here she began to study Indian philosophy and meditation and to take an interest in theosophy. Her first profound contact with symbolism was thanks to a poet from Munich, Ludwig Derleth, who also had a considerable influence on the birth of Eranos.

Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn met Carl Gustav Jung for the first time at the ‘School of Wisdom’ , run in Darmstadt by Count Hermann Keyserling, where she found a group of researchers devoted to finding the ‘common root of all religions’. It was here that she came across the text of the Yi Ching for the first time, translated in 1923 by Richard Wilhelm. He, too, had an important influence on Olga Fröbe’s life. In 1928, she built a conference room near Casa Gabriella, without quite knowing for what purpose.

It seems that it was Jung, whose psychological system was very important to her and to the Eranos experience, who suggested that she use the conference room as a ‘meeting place between East and West’ . The name ‘Eranos’ was suggested to her by the historian of religions, Rudolf Otto. His human-centered conception of religion and the fact that she thus met other members of the ‘Ecumenical Circle’ in Marburg, had a deep impact on the work at Eranos. C.G. Jung remained a fundamental figure in the organisation of the Conference.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Olga Fröbe traveled to European and American libraries (such as the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in Rome, the British Museum in London, the Morgan Library in New York, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Archeological Museum in Athens) in order to pick up archetypal images: she thus formed a rich ‘Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism’, containing more than six thousand images, which became of key importance to the research of many Eranos lecturers, amongst others M. Eliade, K. Kerényi, E. Neumann as well as C.G. Jung. In the following years, she focused on renewing this particular dance, which was at the same time a modern and ancient ritual. Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn passed away in the Casa Gabriella in 1962.