Kauai-born Theosophist Augustus Francis Knudsen

  • Theosophist Augustus Francis Knudsen

Born at Kekaha, Augustus Francis Knudsen (1869-1944) was the son of Valdemar Knudsen, who in 1856 was appointed by Kamehameha IV as curator of royal cattle herds on leased lands encompassing over 100,000 acres, which stretched westward from the Waimea River, across the plains of Kekaha and Mana, beyond Polihale as far as Nualolo Valley along the Na Pali Coast, and inland from the sea into the mountains of Kokee.

His mother, Annie Sinclair, was the daughter of Eliza Sinclair, who purchased Niihau from Kamehameha V in 1864.

Knudsen graduated from MIT in 1892, and was by profession a civil engineer, and for a time, he and his brother, Eric Knudsen, managed Knudsen Brothers Ranch, centered at Waiawa, just west of Kekaha.

While ranching on Kauai, he learned, through reading, that the ancient Hawaiian and Hindu religions were similar in practice.

To cite one example, both religions embrace a few prominent deities and a multitude of lesser deities.

And, in 1896, he set off to India to delve more deeply into the psychic relationship between them by studying Hinduism.

However, during his voyage to India, he met Col. Henry Alcott, a co-founder of Theosophy, along with Annie Besant and Helena Blavatsky, and was convinced by Alcott to abandon his quest and to adopt Theosophy instead.

Then, for two years at Adyar, India, he studied subjects Theosophists were interested in at that time.

Theosophists believe in Mahatmas, an ancient, secretive brotherhood of spiritual masters who exist all over the world, but are most numerous in Tibet and are attempting to reintroduce an ancient religion they believe was once found throughout the world that will eclipse all existing religions.

Adherents of Theosophy also believe in reincarnation and karma, but do not adhere to a particular moral code.

Known to his friends as “Kahuna,” Knudsen spent many years in India, China and Tibet and was active in the work of the Theosophical Societies of America.

Augustus Knudsen was survived by Ila Fane Knudsen and daughter, Ruth, by a previous marriage to Margaret Russell Knudsen.


Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share theisland’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com


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