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Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

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11:47p
A French Curry?
I really wanted to like Huna: Ancient Hawaiian Secrets for Modern Living by Serge Kahili King more than I did, as his book Urban Shaman is one of my favorites on practical Shamanism. However, after following up reading Brad Steiger's Kahuna Magic with some additional on-line research, I have some lingering doubts about the whole “Huna” tradition. One of the things that keeps coming up is the deep insularity of the native Hawaiian culture, and how their mystical practices were kept very close to home, typically only transmitted father-to-son, and that the majority of “what we know” about these practices come from one “white guy” who passed it along to another “white guy”, who then tried to tease out “secrets” from the language itself, and create a “system” of the material at hand.

Into this channel comes Serge King, another non-Hawaiian “white guy” who, like the others in this tale, becomes fascinated with the “Huna” teachings and starts to investigate it. To his credit, King does not sit in an office and try to figure out what the words might have “really meant”, but found teachers within the culture, the Kahili family who “adopted” him and “trained” him for over 20 years. As is always the case in these situations, it is VERY hard to determine what is straight-out “history” and what is convenient myth-making (and, as more dedicated readers will realize, is a significant issue in my own “Shamanic lineage”). There are many natives who totally reject what the various writers on this subject have presented as “Hawaiian”, casting various aspersions on it as being “Theosophy in a hula skirt”, etc. (I really don't want the mental image of Madame Blavatsky dancing in a grass skirt with a coconut shell bra!). However, as somebody trained in a far more “open” Shamanic tradition, I see stuff in what King is presenting which is very solid. So, I'm somewhat “on the fence” on the subject of the legitimacy of what's here.

In any case, the material in this book would make a superb “new age” weekend seminar (and I'm sure it regularly is sold this way), as it's clear, coherent, and practicable. In a genre which is full of embarrassing woo-woo, these are very good things to be. To give you an idea of what's operating here, this is the list of the “seven principles of Huna”:

  1. The World Is What You Think It Is

  2. There Are No Limits

  3. Energy Goes Where Attention Goes

  4. Now Is The Moment of Power

  5. To Love Is To Be Happy With

  6. All Power Comes from Within

  7. Effectiveness Is the Measure of Truth

Again (and I think “obviously”), these do not sound like the concepts of any “native culture” that I've experienced or studied. These sound very much like the philosophies of the early forebearers of the current “laws of attraction” movement, and, frankly, King does not spend too much space trying to insist that these are unsullied ancient native wisdom teachings … he sets this up within the context of his white predecessors' work, and frames it within his teachings with the Kahili family, but only spends the first 1/6th or so of the book doing so. The rest of the book is pretty much “OK, here's this system, and here's how you make it work for you today”.

As I noted, I have been very impressed in the past with Serge Kahili King's writing on Shamanic technique, to the extent that his Urban Shaman is one of the main books I recommend on the subject. Given this, I am quite sure that he did study with native teachers, and that he absorbed quite a lot of very specific knowledge in the process. I am also reasonably sure that whatever “newagisms” that are in this have been carefully focused to at least hew closely to the lines of the philosophies that he absorbed from these teachers. However, I seriously doubt that what is presented in Huna: Ancient Hawaiian Secrets for Modern Living is a “native practice” the way that something like the Afro-diasporic faiths such as Ifa are in relation to their source cultures. Does this invalidate the content here? Not as a practice “for Modern Living” (as per the sub-title), but where I am willing to claim having been trained in “Incan” Shamanism (as my teachers were clearly of this lineage, if tribally Quechuan or Q'ero), I would be hesitant to label what is presented here as “Ancient Hawaiian Secrets”. I am reminded of what famed Chinese chef Ken Hom once described as “French curry” (a liter of heavy cream with one teaspoon of curry powder) as it relates to actual Indian cuisine … Huna may be doing homage to its sources, but it really is a whole different thing.

However, as noted, as a “newage” training manual, Huna holds together as a reasonable, cohesive system, and does not embarrass itself by veering off into the “silly zones”. It may be a “French curry”, but it's still a very attractive dish, if one is willing to let it be “native inspired” rather than an authentic Hawaiian cultural artifact.

Huna is a few years old, but is still in print, and the on-line guys have it at a reasonable discount (oddly, the new/used vendors don't have it at much cheaper, once you figure in the shipping). If you're looking for “something like this”, you could certainly do worse than this book, but if you're looking to study “Ancient Hawaiian Secrets”, I'm afraid you're likely to be (as I was) somewhat disappointed.


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