Dora van Gelder Kunz

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Dora van Gelder Kunz (April 28, 1904 – August 25, 1999) was an American writer, psychic, alternative healer, and leader in the Theosophical Society in America, serving as the tenth President of that organization for twelve years.

Early life

Dora van Gelder.jpg

Dora van Gelder was born on a sugar plantation on the island of Java, in what is now Indonesia. (In 1904 this southeast Asian country was known as the Dutch East Indies.) Both of Dora's parents were members of the Theosophical Society. Her mother was president of the local lodge for some years, and the family hosted lodge meetings as well as speakers visiting from out of town. From the age of seven or so, Dora — a quiet, somewhat shy child — sat and listened during Theosophical meetings. She had already begun meditating, since her mother began teaching the children to meditate when they were five or six. The family library also interested Dora, who, while still a young girl, read various Theosophical works by Mme Blavatsky, Annie Besant, and C.W. Leadbeater. Like her mother and grandmother, Dora was clairvoyant, and she appreciated Besant and Leadbeater’s book Thought Forms, which is illustrated. The book allowed her to compare their impressions with her own.

Dora had three brothers, and although of course they were her playmates and classmates — the children were tutored at home — as the only girl in the family she sometimes found life rather lonely. It was still the Victorian age, and the life of a girl was quite restricted. She had grown-up friends but no girlfriends her own age. So, from the time she was very young she spent a lot of time in the outdoors, observing and communing with the devas and other angelic beings in the natural world. Her parents encouraged this interest in her fairy playmates.

Her maternal grandmother was widowed young and came to live with Dora's family. "Oma" was an herbalist with extensive knowledge and experience, in a place where doctors were few and far between, so she had many local clients. Dora had a deep bond with her grandmother, and the practicality and compassion she learned from Oma carried over into her adult life.

Dora met C.W. Leadbeater in 1911, when she was seven and he stayed with her aunt and uncle during his first visit to Java. During his second visit, in 1914, he stayed with Dora's family and noted both her shyness and her clairvoyance. Shortly after he left Java for Australia, World War I began. Leadbeater decided to stay in Sydney and start a school for children from Theosophical families. Having determined Dora's clairvoyant abilities, he wrote to her parents and asked that she be allowed to attend his school. By now Dora was 12, and her parents told her it was her decision. She was to meditate on it and they would abide by what she decided.

Perhaps needless to say, Dora had some doubts about going. She felt, though, that it was the right thing for her to do. She would explain to her own students later that intuition coming from beyond our personality comes with a feeling of resolution.

Life in Australia


Immigration to United States

Marriage and family life

Activities in TSA

Camp Indralaya at Orcas Island, Pumpkin Hollow Farm, Northeast Federation, New York TS

Therapeutic Touch

Nursing professor Dolores Krieger became acquainted with Dora Kunz in a meditation group. Together they studied the techniques of Hungarian healer Colonel Oszkar Estabany and developed the treatment method called Therapeutic Touch (TT). This was the beginning of a lengthy collaboration in research, healing, and teaching. In 1972, they started to conduct workshops at Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center, Indralaya, and many other locations, and taught TT to thousands of health care professionals. Practitioners of TT consciously direct flows of energy near the human body to correct imbalances and subtly promote healing. Dora Kunz demonstrated a highly developed sensitivity:

Through the use of this natural ability she was able to perceive blockages and dysrhythms in a patient's energy field, subtle disharmonies not accessible to other medical technologies. Dora diagnosed numerous perplexing cases referred by physicians and other scientists and often suggested treatments and resources for her patients.

Dora's abilities extended beyond the usual sense perception. For example, she was particularly known for her work with the unseen human field energies in an individual. Since childhood Dora was aware of such forces, and she made a lifetime study of how they work and how they relate to attitudes and emotions, this awareness later evolved into an understanding of the universal healing field from which both healers and patients can draw fresh, potent healing energies.[1]

Kunz and Krieger developed methods for teaching these techniques. The Nurse-Healer Professional Association honored Mrs. Kunz in 1980 as "a model researcher, teacher, and practitioner of healing." Dolores Krieger published The Spiritual Dimension of Therapeutic Touch (Rochester, Vermont: Bear & Co., 2004), a compilation of case studies and transcriptions of lectures that had been presented by Dora Kunz.

President of the TSA


Cover of The Personal Aura

As is customary for Presidents of the TSA, Mrs. Kunz acted as Editor in Chief of the national periodical, The American Theosophist, and she contributed to other Theosophical journals as well. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 39 articles by or about Dora van Gelder and over 200 under the name Dora Kunz. She wrote several books:

  • The Real World of Fairies: A First-Person Account. 2nd ed., Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1999. She described her childhood encounters with fairies and devas.
  • "Christmas of the Angels" was a popular Christmas talk that has been issued as an audio recording and printed as a pamphlet. [However, Mrs. Kunz left a note disavowing authorship of the pamphlet. See TSA Archives, Kunz Family Collection, Records Series 25.01, Box 22, Folder 16.]
  • The Personal Aura. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991. This volume is beautifully illustrated with watercolors of auras painted by Juanita Donahoo under the author's instruction. It has been printed in several editions and languages.
  • Spiritual Aspects of the Healing Arts. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1985. This was a compilation of articles that was reprinted in 1995 under the name Spiritual Healing.
  • The Chakras & the Human Energy Fields: Correlations Between Medical Science and Clairvoyant Observation. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1989. Coauthor Dr. Shafica Karagulla. This described medical research with Dr. Karagulla, in which Dora used her perception of auras to describe patient conditions.

Later years

Dora Kunz

Mrs. Kunz died in Seattle on August 25, 1999 after being a member of the Theosophical Society in America for 80 years. Many friends wrote memorials describing her warmth and compassion, energy, practicality, and the infectious spontaneity of her laughter.

Biographical works

  • Chelsey, Frank, and Kirstin Van Gelder. A Most Unusual Life:Dora van Gelder Kunz: Clairvoyant, Theosophist, Healer. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books, 2015. A biography by two people who knew her well. Illustrated.
  • Karagulla, Dr. Shafica. Breakthrough to Creativity. New York: DeVorss & Company, 1967. This book about psychic abilities has material about Dora Kunz, referring to her by the pseudonym "Diane."

Online resources




  1. "History of Therapeutic Touch at Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center," at