Below is a review by Rene Wadlow, President and representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens, of A Most Unusual Life: Dora Van Gelder Kunz:
Kirsten Van Gelder and Frank Chesley
A Most Unusual Life: Dora Van Gelden Kunz
(Wheaton IL: Quest Books, 2015)
Dora van Gelder was born in Java, then Dutch East Indies in 1904 in a family which had sugar plantations. She had natural clairvoyant abilities, able to see nature spirits in the garden and woods around the house. She was taken seriously at home as her grandmother and mother had the same clairvoyant abilities. Belief in nature spirits is wide spread in Java – an island with a mixture of Chinese, Hindu, and Muslim cultures. Thus people working on the plantation did not find the ability strange. Her mother taught her meditation techniques at an early age and encouraged daily meditation practice.
Her parents were leaders in the Theosophical Society and were in active contact with Theosophists living in Asia, especially India and Australia. With the outbreak of the First World War, Charles W. Leadbeater, an English clergyman and a close co-worker with Annie Besant at the Adyar headquarter of the Theosophical Society in India decided to stay in Australia where he had been visiting and to open a small school for a limited number of boys to be trained both in academic studies and to develop spiritual abilities. Leadbeater was also a clairvoyant, and he was interested in having Dora among his 8 students – the only girl. She went to Australia, aged 12, and never lived extensively in Java again. In fact, her parents moved to Australia. During the First World War and again during the 1930s, there were efforts to develop theosophical communities based on common work, sharing of revenue, and common study. Dora's parents were leaders of such a community, and theosophists from different countries would spend time at the Manor as the Australian community was called.
Thus she met Fritz Kunz, an American educator who had been an earlier student of Leadbeater. Kunz had been working at Adyar in India. He encouraged Dora to go with him to the USA were he became a popular speaker at theosophical centers and meetings. Although there was a 16-year difference in age, young Dora married Fritz Kunz and devoted her life to helping him in his educational activities and raising their son John until Fritz's death in 1972.
In 1940, Fritz Kunz founded a journal Main Currents in Modern Thought devoted to the concept of integrated education − the way in which science and spirituality could cooperate and then how the outcome of this collaboration could be taught in schools and universities. Through Main Currents Dora met a good number of leading educators. However, she did not speak often of her clairvoyant abilities except to a small circle of friends. With the illness and death of Fritz Kunz, Main Currents ended publication. Thus Dora could come out with her own abilities and interests. Dora's clairvoyant abilities had been investigated by Shafica Karagulla, a British-trained professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York for Karagulla's book Breakthrough to Creativity (1967) but Dora's name was only mentioned as DVK.
Once Dora could act on her own, she and Karagulla teamed up to write The Chakras and Human Energy Fields. Long before, C.W. Leadbeater had written a book called The Chakras as well as a book on the same lines called Man Visible and Invisible.
Thus Dora knew of Ledbeater's work from her years of training with him. Leadbeater had clairvoyant abilities but also a strong imagination. He was not interested in a scientific approach, and a reader of his books cannot make a distinction between what he saw and the vibrations felt and what he imagined. Thus Dora had to start over in the study of subtle energies but in the spirit of Main Currents and not CWL as she called Leadbeater.
The analysis of the nature of the chakras and how to align their harmonious flow of energies led naturally to the development of what is now known as “Therapeutic Touch”. With Dr Dolores Krieger, a Professor of Nursing at New York University, they developed a technique of healing based on the universal energy which has a healing dimension to restore order and wholeness within the person needing healing.
The late 1970s as Therapeutic Touch was being developed was the time that AIDS and HIV Positive conditions came to public consciousness. Thus Therapeutic Touch needed to be seen as a technique which did not “cure” but rather as a way of developing ego-detachment to achieve a sense of well-being even though the body cannot reverse its pathology. Therapeutic Touch is increasingly taught to nurses and other health professionals and is widely used well beyond members of the Theosophical Society.
For 12 years, Dora was President of the Theosophical Society in America and lived much of the time near Chicago. She had known many of the members of the “second generation” of the Theosophical Society: Annie Besant , CLW, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Krishnamurti and so was a living memory of the organization and its activities. Her keenest interest remained in the healing process, though she did have published The Real World of Fairies based on her earlier clairvoyant observations.
During her years after leaving the presidency of the Theosophical Society, she lived in Seattle, Washington near the home of her son and other relatives. She died in 1999 at age 95. This rich book of her life and activities is a combination of taped interviews by Frank Chesley, a retired journalist who became a friend but who died before the work was finished and Kirsten Van Gelder, wife of a relative.