Augustus Francis Knudsen

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A. F. Knudsen

Augustus Francis Knudsen (1869-1944) was an American Theosophist from Hawai'i who lectured for the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India. He was known to his friends as "Kahuna," meaning priest or wizard in the Hawaiian language.

Early years, education, and personal life

Mr. Knudsen was born in Hawai'i on May 28, 1869 to a father who was born in Norway, and a mother from Scotland. He was said to have inherited "second sight" from them.[1] Knudsen was educated in New Zealand, Germany and the United States, training as a civil engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[2] At the age of 29, 1899, he was married to Margarett. At that point in his life he owned a ranch in island of Kauai. His younger brother, Arice A. Knudsen, a lawyer, lived with the couple. They had two Japanese servants.[3] A daughter Ruth was born January 6, 1901.[4]

On November 7, 1940, Mr. Knudsen married Miss Ila Fain, who had been a staff member at the Society's headquarters in Illinois. The service took place in Los Angeles.[5] He died on January 11, 1944 in Ojai.[6]

Knudsen at Lotus Pond, Krotona, 1916. Kauai Museum.
Knudsen at his home in San Francisco, 1916. Kauai Museum.

Theosophical work

Mr. Knudsen was admitted to membership of the American Theosophical Society in February, 1897. Eager to study states of consciousness, he stayed at Adyar with President-Founder H. S. Olcott from 1897-1898, and travelled with him and J. M. Peebles to Ceylon.[7][8] He was active in the life of the TS in Hawai'i. In 1905, The Theosophic Messenger reported:

Mr. Knudson, and another F.T.S., Mr. Hart, live on the Island of Kanai in a small settlement. Various religous denominations are represented there, and they have a "Union Church." Mr. Knudson and Mr. Hart are both on the Board of Trustees, and the minister, a Congregationalist from New England, is studying Theosophy, and giving to his people a broad, liberal teaching.[9]

During the years 1900-1920 he was a national lecturer in the United States. He was very generous and active in support of Jiddu Krishnamurti and of the Krotona Institute of Theosophy during its foundational days in Hollywood, California. He served as Dean of the Institute from 1914 to 1920.[10]

In May 1921, A. F. Knudsen was sent by president Annie Besant to lecture in Europe. During 1928 and 1929, Knudsen served as Acting Principal of Brahmavidya Ashrama in Adyar, in the place of James Cousins, who went on a lecture tour.[11] While travelling from Adyar to England on his way to the United States, he visited Yugoslavia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, the "baby sections," which he had served for a number of years.[12]

On January 9, 1930, a charter was issued for the Ojai Valley Oaks Lodge, with A. F. Knudsen as president and Harold M Rider as secretary. The lodge had 68 members, assembled mostly from the membership of two dissolved groups - The Oaks and Ojai Valley Lodges.[13]

During the 1930s, Mr. Knudsen was appointed as the Presidential Agent to the Far East, based in Shanghai, China.

Mr. Knudsen made a lecture tour of China in 1936 which raised great enthusiasm and showed many possibilities or future expansion. Under his direction translations are being made of Theosophical literature into Chinese and Japanese and he is taking full advantage of the new ferment of spiritual life to the spread of Theosophy.[14]

His work for the Shanghai Lodge was very intensive, with a daily talk on Theosophy from 12:05-12:20 pm on every day except Sunday, plus a public lecture every Wednesday afternoon.[15]

On January 1, 1944, Mr. Knudsen became one of the charter members of the Freedom Group, a Theosophical lodge in Los Angeles.[16]

During his five lecture tours of the world, he worked in at least 22 national Sections as well as East Asia.


Knudsen frequently wrote articles. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists over 80 articles by or about Knudsen.

Additional resources


  1. "Who's Who in this Issue" The Theosophist 58 no.7 (April, 1937), 96.
  2. "Knudsen, Augustus Francis," Theosophical Year Book, 1938 (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1938), 192.
  3. U. S. Census records, 1900, 1930.
  4. 1930 passenger list.??
  5. "Wedding: Fain-Knudsen," The American Theosophist 28.12 (December, 1940), 286.
  6. "Statistics," The American Theosophist 32.3 (March, 1944), 48.
  7. Henry Steel Olcott, "Chapter XII Krakatoa Catastrophe" in Old Diary Leaves, Sixth Series, 1896-1898, pages 189-190.
  8. "Who's Who in this Issue" The Theosophist 58 no.7 (April, 1937), 96.
  9. Anonymous, "Post-Convention Meetings" The Theosophic Messenger 7 no. 2 (November 1905): 18l.
  10. "Knudsen, Augustus Francis," Theosophical Year Book, 1938 (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1938), 192.
  11. General Report of the Theosophical Society, 1928" page 6 and 29.
  12. "Mr. Knudsen Returns," The Theosophical Messenger 17.8 (August 1929), 182.
  13. American Theosophical Society. Monthly Return form[permanent record of charter]. May 13, 1930. Member Services Department. Theosophical Society in America.
  14. Theosophical Year Book, 1937, The (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1937), 150-151.
  15. "Agent of Dr. Arundale in China," The American Theosophist 24.6 (June 1936), 143.
  16. Lodge Charters, Member Services Department, Theosophical Society in America. Digital copy as record number 365 of Chartered Lodges, Archives Department, Theosophical Society in America.