Because this subject is so elusive, it is fascinating. Some serious digging makes it very likely that Farwerck indeed was active in Theosophical circles.
By the time that Farwerck was active the Dutch branch of the Theosophical Society has been around for a while. There is information about these early days, but two decades down the line is less interesting and thus less well documented. Fortunately, something did happen around ‘Farwerck’s time’.
The Dutch branch starts with an interesting name: Petronella Catharina Meulenman-Van Ginkel, who named herself “Piet”, a men’s name. P.C. Meuleman was a psychic who held seances which brought her a small following. She was an active woman who not only stood at the cradle of the group of activists fighting for the right to vote for women, but also at the federation of vegetarians which Farwerck joined decades later.
It is indeed a generation earlier that we are talking about. Meuleman was born in 1841 and passed away in 1902. Her maiden name was Van Ginkel, a name we run into more often. H.J. van Ginkel (1880-1954), the man who initiated Farwerck into Freemasonry, published some of his Farwerck’s works and he himself was a Theosophist and also was one of the first of a group of Dutch Theosophists that became co-Masons. So what is the relation between P.C. Meuleman and H.J. van Ginkel?
Cornelis Yzak van Ginkel (1802-1888) was married to Peternella Catharina Hensen (1802-1853). A son of theirs is Marinus Hendrikus Anthonie van Ginkel (1844-?), the father of H.J. van Ginkel. A daughter of theirs was P.C. Meuleman-van Ginkel, so P.C. Meuleman was H.J. van Ginkel’s aunt. Theosophy ran in the family.
It was in P.C. Meuleman’s house that the first meetings took place to come to a Dutch branch of the Theosophical Society.
Do we have names that we can connect to Farwerck more directly? Not really. The ‘real initiator’ of Theosophy in the Netherlands was Adalberth de Bourbon who was in contact with Olcott and Blavatsky in the 1880’ies. Then there is Thomas van Stolk, Edward Brooke, L.L. Plantenga, Tegel, Meuleman’s husband, Fricke, Immerzeel and then a familiar name Wierts van Coehoorn. This is all quite well described (1), but of course this is all in the time around Farwerck’s birth. So at best we find the parents of people from Farwerck’s circle here.
The name Wierts van Coehoorn appears among the names of the Theosophists who were initiated into mixed gender Freemasonry by Annie Besant.
We now have an indication of how H.J. van Ginkel came to Theosophy (probably since his youth), but nothing about Farwerck.
There are some interesting things though. From January 1905 there was an official periodical called De Theosofische Beweging (‘The Theosophical Movement’). The (first?) 25 issues can be found online. In 1905 and 1906 Farwerck was only 16 or 17 years old, so I doubt he would have been a member in the first place and if he was, if his name would not yet appear among contributors and lecturers. What could be of interest, is that in the earliest issues there is already a Hilversum lodge, so would he have been a visitor there, this makes a strong suggestion as to why he’d join a co-Masonic lodge in Hilversum. There are a few other points of interest.
Henri van Ginkel was, as we know, very active and Farwerck knew him at least in 1911. Also there was Dernier van Gon, a Freemason, member of the men-only Grand Orient Of The Netherlands and a man that Farwerck quotes a lot. What is also interesting is that lectures included Kabbalah, the first subject that Farwerck wrote about.
There are a few other indications that Farwerck was involved:
He was involved in things ‘around’ Dutch Theosophy, such as:
- Mixed gender Freemasonry (from 1911);
- Universal Sufism (from 1921);
- Federation of vegetarians (unknown).
The book The Politics of Divine Wisdom bluntly says that he was active in Theosophy. Almost all of his writings are available in the Theosophical library in Amsterdam, also very small publications (I have found the possible explanation for this, also see below). In his first book The Secret Doctrine is in the bibliography. His brother refers to Blavastsky. Franz shared the board of directors of the Leerdam Glass Factory with P.M. Cochius (1874–1938) who was a Theosophist, Freemason and Rotarian and he knew other Theosophists. Perhaps here we have a link to the Theosophical Society.
Then of course he has been initiated into Freemasonry by a Theosophist. Did he know Van Ginkel before his initiation?
Chronologically it makes sense if Farwerck became active in Theosophical circles or at least got to know Theosophists and his other alliances started there. He would have joined in a difficult time. When he was about 20, there were problems around Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) and in 1912 Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) split off to form the Anthroposophical Society.
Finally I have found two strong indications that Farwerck indeed was active in Theosophical circles.
On the left you see a page from the periodical of “The Order Of The Star In The East” that was active between 1911 and 1927. This order was founded from within the Theosophical Society to welcome the new “Messiah” in the form of Krishnamurti. The fact that Farwerck is mentioned as a ‘local secretary’ (for Rotterdam with an address in Amsterdam) raises the suggestion that Farwerck was more on the ‘Besant side’ of the discussion than the ‘Steiner side’. The fact that he was involved in this order makes if very likely that he also was active in the mother organisation, the Theosophical Society.
This suggestion is strengthened by a newspaper announcement from November 12th 1918 in which the Theosophical Society in Hilversum announced “a new course for interested parties by mister Farwerck”. Willy Farwerck only moved from Amsterdam to Hilversum in 1943 so it is likely that this is Franz. On the other hand, in 1917 Willy was initiated into Franz’ Masonic lodge in Hilversum, so he was around often.
Speaking about Steiner. There was a Theosophist Erns Louis (Tenno) Selleger (1876-1967) who was director of a paper factory and who invented thin paper to use for Bibles. He was an active promotor for freethinkers and in his house in Bergen he welcomed an impressive range of people from Carmen Silva (queen of Romania) to Inayat Khan and … Krishnamurti and Steiner. Not all at once for sure, but here we have another interesting spider in a web. Farwerck and Selleger were both committee members of the Leerdam Glass Factory in 1930 of which another Theosophist, P.M. Cochius (who married Selleger’s daughter) was director until 1933, so they knew each other. Perhaps Selleger got Farwerck acquainted with Theosophy? Selleger already was a Theosophist when he married in 1905 and he started the paper factory shortly after 1907. In 1911 Farwerck got his first appointment as director (of a brown coal factory). Perhaps they met in these circles? The glass factory that links the three men was founded in 1891. Cochius became director only in 1912 and the combination of the three names is only in 1930.
Last but not least, after the war Farwerck was investigated to see if he had to be persecuted. One of the interviewees was Marcel van de Velde (1898-1964). Van de Velde was a more colorful person than what seems from the interview. In his interview he says that he got to know Farwerck around 1933 because he frequently visited his Theosophical bookshop. I haven’t been able to find out if this is the Hansa Bookshop that Wikipedia and other sources mention, but this is likely. Also I don’t know when this bookshop was opened. The year that we’re talking about (1933) is after Farwerck joining the N.S.B. According to Van de Velde, Farwerck was appointed head of the “Raad voor Volkse Cultuur” (‘council for folkish culture), a council that was supposedly founded at 18 November 1936 as part of the N.S.B., the name was changed and later the council merged with another subdivision of the N.S.B. Farwerck supposedly was head until december 1940. Back to Van de Velde. Farwerck took him as his secretary. Then he says something interesting:
Van Houten was opposed to my appointment, because he thought theosophy was a weird movement. I was a Theosophist and Farwerck was too.
Van Houten is probably Reinier van Houten (1908-1983) who was shortly member of ‘Farwerck’s’ folkish group Der Vaderen Erfdeel (he quit in 1937), publisher (Nenasu, Farwerck is sometimes mentioned as head) and a person that Farwerck would get quarrels with later. I can already think of a few reasons!
Then there is the following thing. In his post-war interviews Farwerck says that he was frequently harassed by the German secret police who confiscated some 1200, many valuable, books from his own and his brother’s house, containing “masonic books, theosophical etc. literature”.
Strong suggestions, but I prefer a little more certainty. Also I would like to know if this Theosophical phase already started before 1911 when he was initiated into Freemasonry.
(2) “Van Houten was op mijn benoeming gekant, omdat hij de theosofie een gekke richting vond. Ik was Theosoof en Farwerck was dit ook.”