Best H.P. Blavatsky Books

Henk SpierenburgHPB Books - theosophical inspiration

Henk Spierenburg Theosophy Books

In admiration of H.P. Blavatsky - an overview by Katinka Hesselink

My mentor, renowned theosophical scholar Henk Spierenburg, deserves a page on my site. He was best known for his compilations of Blavatsky's work according to subject. With the internet and digital search the most valuable thing about these books is no longer that he compiled the quotes, though it makes for easier reading. No, what really makes them invaluable is the notes and index added to those quotes.

Henk was a firm Blavatsky supporter and believer. But unlike most he came to that point after having done all the legwork. His life story is admirable - reads like the American dream, except it took place in The Netherlands. Two things are the main clues to his character I think: steadfast research and an analytical mind used to computers. But I can personally testify, as can the vagrants of The Hague, that he was generous to a fault as well.

Anyhow, he would not want me to dwell on his person too much, so instead I'll focus on his books here.

What the English books have in common

With the exception of the Inner Group Teachings and the Subba Row Collected Writings, these books share the fact that they organize Blavatsky's work. In other words: Henk brought together quotes from the various parts of Blavatsky's writings about one subject. In addition he would look up what Blavatsky's possible sources had to say on the subject, and where possible he checked contemporary translations of the ancient texts she used.

Given that we can now all search Blavatsky's writings online and on cd-rom, what is most important about these books today is these scholarly notes, and the index at the back of them. Henk was unparalleled in his capacity for making a thorough index. Not for nothing his addition to the Dutch translation of the Nag Hammadi writings was the index.

Henk Spierenburg English language bibliography

Henk Spierenburg's Dutch Bibliography (Nederlandse bibliografie)

Unlike his English books, his Dutch books are often written by him, or translations of ancient texts into Dutch. He was more comfortable in Dutch than English - refusing to give lectures in English for instance (though I can't help but think that his reluctance to travel had something to do with that as well).

Henk also wrote numerous articles in Dutch. In addition, many of his lectures were transcribed and published without his permission, so this is a very partial bibliography. I should note that Henk did not trust those transcriptions.

De Philonische geheime leer: De Kabbala van Philo van Alexandrie

The Secret Doctrine of Philo of Alexandria, about the Kabalah

Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish scholar - philosopher living at the time of jesus, roughly. He left a lot of writings, and in the centuries following his demise, he would be written about a lot. Only Plato got more commentary. But one aspect of his work has been neglected - the fact that he was initiated in the mysteries. Henk Spierenburg shows in this work that the kabalistic tree - usually dated to the 7th century A.D. - is already present in Philo's work. At the end of this book Henk also shows the amazing overlap between these teachings and what is said about the same subject in Vedic Sanskrit texts.

De Avadhuta Gita

A less well known Sanskrit text about Raja Yoga translated into Dutch.

The Hymn of the Soul, an ancient Syriac tale

De pelgrimstocht van de ziel, H.J. Spierenburg

Other titles of this text are 'The hymn of the pearl', 'The song of redemption', 'The hymn of the mantel of glory' etc. Present in one version of the Acts of Paul, an apocryphic Christian work about the work of the Apostle Paul in India, this beautiful tale of a man in a strange land is translated into Dutch by Henk Spierenburg.

About the 25 incarnations of the Dalai Lama

Over 25 incarnaties van de Dalai Lama, H.J. Spierenburg

A welcome overview of the history of the Dalai Lamas. A thoroughly unromantic book, in which the bare facts known about these spiritual leaders of Tibet are told.
Index to the best Dutch translation of the Nag Hammadi Texts

Nag hammadi geschriften (registers)

Nag hammadi geschriften, Jacob Slavenburg & Willem Glaudemans

A translation praised by scholars, though they add that the value is mostly due to a thorough reading of the English translations of the Nag Hammadi writings. However that may be, the index is very well done by Henk Spierenburg.

Henk Spierenburg and theosophy

Though he was not fond of sharing his personal life, the biographical information I gathered with his widow is rather lacking in depth and color. I've decided to fill in at least the few blanks I can.

His first contact with theosophy, so he told me one day, came in his teens as an employer took the smart but edgy youth to a ULT lodge meeting. As his biography makes clear, Henk had not had it easy. From a working class background he literally started at the bottom of the stack with technical work that requires expertise (lenses aren't the easiest things to make or mend). Still, this was the time after the war: The Netherlands were being rebuilt and many people got a chance to work themselves up from their class background. Henk would prove to be one of them.

He told me that the thing that impressed him about the ULT was the students who came there to ask smart questions, though I'm sure his lifelong love for Blavatsky started there as well.

Though Henk said I reminded him of himself at that age, I'm sure in many ways I was closer to those smart students. After all, my background is way more privileged than Henk knew as a kid and I've been a smart mouth for as long as I can remember.

Anyhow, Henk soon started teaching theosophy instead of just learning it. By the end of the 60's he's teaching and has started the Dutch magazine Lucifer. What's known to anybody who knows anything about this, but hasn't been published online, is that Henk Spierenburg started that magazine with Dick J.P. Kok, the man who would go on to found Isis, the third largest theosophical organization in The Netherlands. Their magazine is still called Lucifer.

They quarreled, presumably because Kok wanted to be in charge. Kok went on to found Isis and Henk went on to become the largest name in Dutch theosophical history. Isis on the other hand turned out to be a PR hit: it convinces people to this day that they're a world wide organization, which they really are not. They do however succeed very well in translating theosophy into something relevant to the world today.

Henk Spierenburg on the other hand simply went on studying, lecturing and writing. He ended up a member of the TS Adyar, according to his widow this was because it was the only democratic theosophical organization. I may add that he had studied history enough to realize what the non-democratic structure of the other theosophical organizations did to their stability, or lack thereof.

In his theosophical history work he ended up often stressing that Besant had been praised by Blavatsky as much as Judge had. And that de Purucker had made as many extra-ordinary claims about Masters as Besant and Leadbeater had. In short: he seems to have been dead set to equalize the playing field.

Still, it's clear that his personal life long theosophical love was Blavatsky. And the books he gave me were never by Besant and Leadbeater, instead focusing on Blavatsky, Judge, de Purucker and Jiddu Krishnamurti.

More by Henk Spierenburg in English and Dutch