Fritz Kunz

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Fritz Kunz
Fritz Kunz, left, with older siblings. Image from TSA Archives.

Fritz L. Kunz (1888-1972) was an American lecturer, educator, editor, and writer associated with the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, India. He was married to Dora van Gelder Kunz, who served as President of the Theosophical Society in America.

Early years

Frederick L. Kunz was born on May 16, 1888 in Freeport, Illinois. He was the twelfth and last child of Frederick John Kunz and Susan R. Knecht Kunz, who were naturalized citizens of German birth. He was usually known as Fritz. Not all of the children survived until adulthood, and the ones shown in the photograph at right are those with whom he spent the most time. From right to left, in descending age, are Alma, Minna, Bill, Litta, Sue, and Fritz.

Both parents and several older siblings became members of the Theosophical Society soon after attending the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago, and were active in the Freeport Lodge. Fritz was only five years old in the year of the Parliament, and was not allowed to attend, but he was soon engaged in the service of Theosophy by helping with the office work of the lodge. He became a member in 1902. TS lecturers visited the Kunz family in Freeport, and Fritz became acquainted with Charles W. Leadbeater.

Travels with Charles Leadbeater

In 1903 Fritz visited Leadbeater in California, and in 1904 traveled with him on the East coast. In 1905-1906 they went to Hawaii, Samoa, Australia, India, Burma, Ceylon, and Egypt on an extended lecture tour, and home by way of Italy, France, and London. Fritz and a young Englishman, Basil Hodgson-Smith, worked as secretaries to assist Leadbeater with correspondence.


Upon returning from his year of travels, Fritz resumed his secondary education at Freeport High School, receiving his diploma in June, 1908.

From 1908 to 1912, Kunz attended the University of Wisconsin and received a B.A. in English literature. Several family members were in Madison during that period. During his early years young Fritz was very active in tennis, swimming, bicycling, canoeing, camping, hiking, and basketball; and enjoyed Big Ten football games. He attended concerts and had an active social life, but did not join any campus organizations.

In his later years, his professional writing used the byline Dr. Frederick L. Kunz. In the 1930s, he began to sign articles as "Fritz Kunz, M.A.," so it is likely that he earned a master's degree, but the doctorate may have been honorary.

Fritz Kunz at Krotona

Work at Old Krotona

Kunz became one of the first residents at Krotona Institute in Hollywood, California, where he assisted A. P. Warrington for one year with office work and editing periodicals. He enjoyed the work and the adventure of establishing a new institution, but had to leave after a year because he could not afford to work unpaid.

Principal at Ananda College

Late in 1913, Leadbeater sent a telegram offering Kunz a position as principal of Ananda College, a Buddhist school founded by Henry S. Olcott in Colombo, Ceylon. During his tenure, from 1914 to 1917, he instituted many improvements at the school, raised funds, and supervised several construction projects. His sisters Alma and Minna and brother-in-law Hervey Gulick joined the school faculty for a time. At Kunz's request, his brother-in-law Hervey Gulick brought an Encyclopedia Britannica with him from America. It was a treasured resource that only the upper classmen were allowed to use under heavy supervision.[1]

In Ceylon, as later in India, Kunz supported social and educational reforms with his work in the Ceylon Service League and other organizations. He assisted Sir Pannambalam Arunachalam in writing the famous address "Our Political Needs," that initiated Ceylon's independence movement. Mr. Kunz became increasingly active in attempting to improve conditions of the lowest level of society. His social activism caught the attention of the British, who called him "stumpy," and "that short little Buddhist American." As the political environment became more volatile, the British suspended the constitution and instituted martial law. One day when a large commotion took place in front of the school, Kunz sent one of the staff out to see what was happening, and Mr. Menon was shot and killed by the British.

When a friend notified him that his arrest by the British authorities was imminent, Kunz fled to India.[2][3]

Work at Adyar

When he arrived at Adyar, Annie Besant put him to work on many projects. He assisted with the editing of The Theosophist, wrote articles, lectured, and performed any other task needed. He was heavily involved with the Society for the Promotion of National Education during the years when it was forming. In 1918 he wrote the Manual for Marking, a guide for school staff in how to track student performance and maintain school records. He served a role in the management of the National Elementary School, when it was founded in Kilpauk, Madras City, Madras in July 1918.

In 1921, B. P. Wadia resigned from the management of the enterprise and Kunz was appointed to succeed him.[4]

Life at The Manor

Publicity flyer. Image from TSA Archives.

Lecturing in the United States

Marriage and family life

Kunz family in Rye, New York. Image from TSA Archives.

Family life centered on the parents' activities in the Theosophical Society. Their plan for 1931 is a perfect example:

On March 1, Fritz Kunz and Dora van Gelder Kunz and John Kunz leave New York for Seattle by motor car, traveling by way of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Asheville, Atlanta, and Biloxi, at most of which stops public lecturing or other work will be done. Fritz Kunz will then travel by car to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Dallas to Oklahoma City, where he will give a sustained course of lectures... for six weeks. During this stay in Oklahoma City he will also be available or work in cities within a night's journey by rail. Invitations may be addressed to Mr. Kunz, c/o Mrs. Josephine Barry, 2210 West Beach, Biloxi, Mississippi.

During the first ten days in June the Kunzes will assist at the Cimarroncita Camp, near Raton and Taos, New Mexico. After this regional camp, in which Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Hodson will be principals, the Kunzes proceed to Orcas island, to prepare for and assist in the Orcas island T. S. Camp, which occurs the last two weeks in July. The Hodsons will also attend and assist in this Camp, also Captain and Mrs. E. M. Sellon of New York. The Kunzes will return to New York after autumn work in the northwest.[5]

Indralaya and Pumpkin Hollow

Teaching at universities

Activities with New York TS

From the early 1930s when they moved to New York, the Kunzes were active in the New York Theosophical Society and various federations. In 1933, Fritz served as president of the New York Federation (later the Northeast Federation).[6]

FIE and Main Currents in Modern Thought

Later years

Fritz Kunz died on February 13, 1972 in New York, survived by his wife Dora, who later went on to become President of the Theosophical Society in America. Their son John was also very active in the Society.

Honors and memorials

In 2012, the Fritz Kunz Challenge Cup or Fritz Kunz Memorial Challenge Trophy was established as an annual award for citizenship at Ananda College:

Fritz Kunz Challenge Cup-. Mr. D. N. W. de Silva, M.B.E., J.P., an Old Boy of the Kunz regime, has just created a new award, the Fritz Kunz Challenge Cup, to be annually awarded to Ananda's Best Young Citizen. It was a happy inspiration that prompted Mr. De Silva to choose this way of honouring Principal Kunz, who never tired of instilling into the minds of his pupils at Ananda the loftiest ideas and ideals of good citizenship.[7]

Books and pamphlets

When the Society for the Promotion of National Education was becoming active in 1918, Kunz wrote its Manual for Marking, a guide to evaluating student performance.

In 1937, Kunz saw the publication of his first book. The Men Beyond Mankind: A Study of the Next Step in Personal and Social Emotion (New York: David Mackay, 1937) discusses the evolutionary process that led to humankind, the nature of human consciousness, and the types of beings that will succeed humans. It is available in digital form on a Russian web page.

Another book, Integrative Principles of Modern Thought was to be published by Gordon and Breach in 1970.[8] Kunz died before publication took place, and the work was published in 1972 by Kunz' longtime associate Henry Margenau.

In addition, he wrote several pamphlets, including:


Mr. Kunz was a prolific writer of articles for Theosophical periodicals. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists articles published under the name Fritz Kunz and under the initials FLK. Kunz also used pseudonyms during the years 1914-1917 including L. E. Girard, E. L. Girard, S. E. Girard, and Fabius Cunctator, and probably wrote many articles anonymously when he was working for Annie Besant at Adyar.

He also contributed many articles to popular magazines and academic journals.

  • "Theosophy" in Dagobart D. Runes Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: Philosophical Library, 1942. Available at Dictionary of Philosophy.

Recorded lectures

Some lectures are available on compact disc for loan from the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library and for purchase from the Theosophical Publishing House:

  • "Akasha". 1970.
  • "Science, Education, and Spiritual Development". 1970.
  • "Reminiscences of Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater". 1967.

Many additional lectures and informal talks were recorded on magnetic tape reels that are in the Archives Department of the Theosophical Society in America.

Correspondence, pseudonyms, and handwriting

Signature in 1915. From TSA Archives

Fritz Kunz engaged in an extensive correspondence throughout his life. He was a proficient typist from his early teens when he was a secretary to C. W. Leadbeater, and tended to type his letters when a machine was available.

In writing to his sisters and friends, he was high-spirited and playful, often using nicknames and pseudonyms. To correspondents, he usually signed as FLK or FK, but sometimes as Lent [significance unknown]. He addressed Alma Kunz as A, Litta Kunz as Lid or Boans, Minna Kunz as Schmidt, and Leadbeater as Uncle. He used pseudonyms in some of his writing for Theosophical periodicals, including L. E. Girard, E. L. Girard, S. E. Girard, and Fabius Cunctator during the years 1914-1917.

Additional resources

  • In Profound Gratitude by Edward Abdill
  • "Theosophists Who Changed My Life". Audiorecording, 1996. Available from the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library. Four theosophists remember others who influenced their lives, including a remembrance of Fritz Kunz by his son, John Kunz.


  1. Telephone interview of Sumith Matugama by Janet Kerschner on March 12, 2012. Mr. Matugama, a member of the Milwaukee Lodge of TSA, related stories of his family.
  2. Telephone interview of Sumith Matugama by Janet Kerschner on March 12, 2012. Mr. Matugama, a member of the Milwaukee Lodge of TSA, related stories of his family.
  3. Kunz letter confirms some of this. NEED DETAILS FROM ARCHIVES.
  4. "The Theosophical Publishing House," The Messenger 8.10 (March 1921), 632.
  5. "The Kunzes on the March," The Theosophical Messenger 19.3 (March 1931), 338.
  6. The American Theosophist 21.9 (September, 1933), 204.
  7. Anandaya (September, 2012), 2. Available at Ananda College website.
  8. Letter..... January 1969. Kunz Family Collection 25.01. Theosophical Society in America Archives.