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Spierenburg, Hendrikus Johannes

. J. Spierenburg
H. J. Spierenburg

(1934-2005) Henk Spierenburg was a unique figure in the Dutch Theosophical Movement. Abroad he is mostly known for the books he produced over the past 20 years, based on the work of H.P. Blavatsky. In Netherlands he was also known as a public speaker who saw the inside of every theosophical organization. Few theosophists were as respected by and welcomed as a speaker in all theosophical groups. For him the theosophical cause came before sectarian differences.

Life. Henk Spierenburg was born on the 24th of January 1934 into a communist working-class family in The Hague. His father was roadmender and had a small firm of contractors. When he got a bit older, Henk did the administration. The Second World War had a great impact on his childhood. After primary school he went on to study to become an instrument builder.

He was 15, in September 1949, when he started working. It was, as was usual in those days, a 49-hour week with unpaid overtime. He became a civilian in the navy (later the defence office) for a meagre sum. For a long time he worked on repair and maintenance of Marine and Airforce instrumentation. He repaired parts, cut lenses and set mirrors on things like periscopes for diving vessels.

To get ahead he attended night school straight out of work, armed with a stack of sandwiches: with no time for a hot meal three nights a week in a row till 11 p.m., plus homework. In that period he first came in touch with the work of Madame Blavatsky. She would haunt him for the rest of his life.

His work in the navy slowly changed in character till in January 1968 when he quit because he found work that fitted his talents and disposition better. It was a simple part-time administrative job, so he had more time for the things that mattered most: study, lecturing and publishing the monthly magazine Lucifer, which he had started with a few people.

At that time he was also active teaching a few Young Theosophists – ‘het klasje’ (the class) – in Amsterdam. He lectured a lot, amongst which he also spoke about the then legendary epic ‘The Lord of the Rings’. It was a hectic period during which he also met his wife. She explains that she was invited to The Hague through telegrams, while envelopes of money appeared so that she could afford the journey.

He climbed up from office clerk in an insurance firm to “ICT (information and communications technology) manager” (although the title was different back then). He had the final responsibility for the automation of police-administration. Thrice he had to clean up the ICT problems caused by others. He also worked as an actuarian. He retired at 60 so that he could devote all his energy to theosophy, especially writing books. Something special took place at that time: Henk went to California for a week. For those that knew him this was an important step, because Henk avoided travelling. To go to Amsterdam was like travelling the world, to him. The reason for this trip was that he really wanted to meet his publisher in Point Loma, the elderly gentleman Emmett Small. Contacts with this publisher meant a lot to Henk: finally his work could be published in books. The support and corrections by Emmett Small remained business-like and aimed at a good book, without limitations on the author. Till the death of Emmett Small, Henk remained faithful to him as a publisher of his English work. Once the first books had been published, he also wrote books for Ankh-Hermes, a Dutch New Age publisher. These books were usually a bit lighter.

Henk died of complications after a bikerhit him while walking. He broke his hip. In the hospital they put in a pin. Then the pin broke and the wound that was caused by that got infected. He died of the infection on March 5th 2005. The whole process took about a month. The cremation was on March 11th.

Character. Henk was a special man, not one for ceremonial relationships and not sparing a word. He worked for the cause, not for people. Another side to him was his generosity. He stood up for the underclass – homeless people. In a few cases he exposed the actions of the police towards the homeless with the help of his contacts. Towards theosophists he was especially generous with books. When he was done with the subject Henk donated his library of rabbinica/Judaica to a kindred spirit. He also donated books to many other people. His criterion was to help people that could do something useful with them and didn’t have that much money to buy books. He had experienced for himself how frustrating it could be to have financial limitations on what you can do or what books you can buy.

Henk was so unattached to decorum, that now, after his demise, it is not clear what diplomas he had obtained. He studied not because he wanted the titles, but because it was the only way to get the academic world to take him seriously. He got a masters degree in math. He studied with the Jesuits and turned in a paper (‘De 45 voorchristelijke messiassen’ or ‘45 Pre-Christian Messiasses’). This led to the title of Magister (Mag.), but he rarely used that. It is equivalent to a masters. He had also attained the title of Engineer through a somewhat unusual route. His employer got him into the register. That was probably during his navy-days (according to his widow). He learned Greek and Sanskrit through private tutoring.


Point Loma Publications – H.P. Blavatsky on the Gnostics (1994) – The Vedanta Commentaries of H.P. Blavatsky (1992) – The Veda Commentaries of H.P. Blavatsky (1996) – The Buddhism of H.P. Blavatsky (1991) – The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky (1985, 1995) – Astrology of a Living Universe, Helena Blavatsky’s Visionary Philosophy of the Seven Sacred Planets(1997) – The New Testament Commentaries of H.P. Blavatsky (1987) – T. Subba Row Collected Writings (Volume 1: 2001; Volume 2: 2001/2002)

Ankh Hermes – De Philonische Geheime Leer, De Kabala van Philo van Alexandrië (2001) – Avadhuta Gita (1998) – De Pelgrimstocht van de Ziel, Een Oud-Syrische Vertelling (1998) – Over 25 Incarnaties van de Dalai Lama (2000) – De Nag Hammadi Geschriften (registers) (2004) Uitgeverij van de Theosofische Vereniging (Publisher of the Dutch TS-Adyar) – Studies in de Bhagavad Gita, T. Subba Row (index en historical overview) (1999)

Starting in the 60’s Henk wrote many magazine-articles. Many of those are now hard to find. At first they appeared mostly in his own magazine Lucifer (60’s and 70’s). Later he also contributed to Kleintje Muurkrant (activist movement), Theosofia (TS-Adyar, The Netherlands) and Theosophical History (independent theosophical magazine).