J. J. van der Leeuw

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Van der Leeuw brothers - Cees, Koos (J.J.), Dick

Dr. Jacobus Johannes (J.J.) van der Leeuw was a Dutch Theosophist and writer.


J. J. van der Leeuw was born in Rotterdam, on August 26, 1893. His nickname was "Koos". He studied law, and later earned a doctorate (LL.D) at the University of Leiden in 1920.

He died in Tanganyika on August 23, 1934 in a crash of the small airplane that he was piloting.

Theosophical work

Koos served as head of the Theosophical Society in The Netherlands. A close friend of Jiddu Krishnamurti, he and his brother "Cees" (Cornelis Hendrik) assisted with the Order of the Star camps at the Eerde estate in Ommen. Koos went to Sydney, Australia in 1924 for occult training with Charles Webster Leadbeater, and there became a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church. In the 1930s, he lived in the United States of America, where he was a university lecturer and a field organizer for the New Education Fellowship.

The Fire of Creation, 2nd edition, 1927

Interaction with Freud

During 1933, in Vienna, Dr. van der Leeuw was a regular visitor of Sigmund Freud, who regarded him as his student.[1] He was looking to apply psychological principles to general education.[2] Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), when learning about Dr. van der Leeuw's accidental death, told Freud:

I felt all the time that he was the person who would apply, carry on the torch--carry on your ideas, but not in a stereotyped way. I felt that you and your work and the future of your work were especially bequeathed to him. Oh, I know there is the great body of the Psycho-Analytical Association, research workers, doctors, trained analysts, and so on! But Dr. van der Leeuw was different. I know that you have felt this very deeply. I came back to Vienna to tell you how sorry I am.[3]

Freud regarded Dr. van der Leeuw as an "eminent scholar."[4]


Dr. van der Leeuw's best-known work is The Conquest of Illusion, published in London. In announcing the book, publisher Alfred A. Knopf advertised:

The Conquest of Illusion is Dr. Van Der Leeuw's main work so far and embodies his philosophy. It is the book promised in the Foreword of The Fire of Creation under the title of The Rhythm of Life. This title was changed later to The Conquest of Illusion, under which title also Dr. Van Der Leeuw's lecture to the Ommen Camp, 1928, was given, and his lecture to the English Convention, which Dr. Besant, who presided, called "the clearest exposition of the nature of Reality she had ever heard".[5]

The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists over 70 articles by or about van der Leeuw in 18 different publications. His books were popular and were printed in many editions, and translated into several languages. Here are his titles in the order of publication:

  • Historical-Idealistic Politics. 1920.
  • Practical Idealism and the P.I.A. 1920.
  • To Serve Him When He Comes. Adyar, Madras: Order of the Star in the East, 1921. Los Angeles: Budd-Lincoln Co., 1924. Other publishers and printings.
  • The Fire of Creation. Adyar, Madras, Theosophical Pub. House, 1926. The Subba Row Medal was awarded in recognition of this work.
  • Gods in Exile. Chicago: Theosophical Press, 1926.
  • The Dramatic History of Christian Faith. From the Beginnings to the Death of St. Augustine. Madras, India, Theosophical Pub. House, 1927.
  • The Conquest of Illusion. London: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. London: Allen & Unwin, 1928.
  • Revelation or Realization, the conflict in theosophy. 1930. Lecture delivered to the London Federation of the Theosophical Society on June 15th, to the Dutch Convention on June 21st, and to the Geneva Congress of the European Federation on June 30th, 1930.
  • The Task of Education in a World Crisis. London: New Education Fellowship, 1932.
  • Why a World police Force is Inevitable. London: New Commonwealth, 1934. 26 pages. New Commonwealth pamphlets, Series B.
  • We Can Banish the War! A powerful stand surpassing the thought of war. 1950. This was published posthumously. The co-author was Adriaan Viruly.

Sound recordings

  • The Rhythm of Life. Theosophical Society in America, 1916, 1990. Eternal Quest National Radio series. Talk based on the book The Fire of Creation.

Additional resources


  1. Ariela Freedman, Death, Men, and Modernism (New York and London: Routledge, 2003), 106.
  2. Alice Gambrell, Women Intellectuals, Modernism, and Difference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 164.
  3. Hilda Doolittle, Tribute to Freud Volume 4 (New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1984), 6.
  4. Susan Standford Friedman (editor). Analyzing Freud: Letters of H.D., Bryher, and Their Circle (London: Paterson Marsh Agency, 2002), 400.
  5. Alfred A. Knopf advertisement. The Theosophist 91 (March, 1928), unnumbered page following Supplement.