Huna is a Hawaiian word with a basic meaning of “secret” or “hard to see,” used by some Hawaiians to refer to a body of traditional esoteric knowledge that is applied to the practical problems of life. Because the same word was also used by Max Freedom Long for his interpretation of Hawaiian esoteric lore, the term is surrounded by a certain amount of controversy among the Hawaiians themselves.
In addition, Hawaiian culture is composed of a number of ideas about life based on different family traditions that arrived in the islands from various parts of Polynesia at various times in history, which makes the study of Hawaiian culture and philosophy a very complex issue. The view of Huna described in this article derives from the tradition of the Kahiliokamoku family from the North Shore of the island of Kauai whose oral genealogy traces their existence as a family for more than two thousand years. According to this tradition, the essence of the philosophy that they call Huna is contained in seven Hawaiian key phrases and the principles derived from them.
“Hanau ka ‘ike i ka mana’o” (= “the world is what you think it is”). This is a viewpoint that the world quite naturally responds to one’s thoughts and feelings. The world is, in effect, an exact reflection of what one thinks it is, no more and no less. In Huna, physical reality is generated from beliefs, expectations, intentions, fears, emotions, and desires. The Huna practitioner learns to change beliefs or shift mindsets at will in order to produce specific effects under various circumstances.
“Ana ‘ole ke ao, ka po” (= “there are no limits”). This posits that there really are no limits, no actual separations between beings or things. The universe is infinite, and therefore everything is intimately connected. So it is possible to communicate with a stone, and through the stone with a fish in the ocean. It is also possible for one’s consciousness to leave one’s body to become one with the wind, and go back again without the slightest difficulty. Believing that there are no limits is a way of granting oneself tremendous freedom, but its corollary is total responsibility for one’s actions and reactions.
“Makia ke ali’i, ehu ka ukali” (= “energy flows where attention goes”). This is a poetic way of saying that the concentration of attention on anything produces a concentration of energy connected with the object of focus, whether physical or not. The energy thus concentrated will have a creative effect according to the nature of the thoughts that accompany the attention. This effect is seen to be in operation in everything one does, from planning a project to healing an illness.
“He mana i ka manawa” (= “now is the moment of power”). The idea that power or the ability to act effectively exists only in the present moment is found in the Hawaiian language itself, which has no past or future tense. The Hawaiian sense of time is thus quite different from that of the typical modern individual. This view assumes that one cannot act in the past or the future and so there is no point to regrets and worries. It also assumes that from this present moment one can change both past and future. For this reason there are no long-term Hawaiian prophecies about future events. One can see the patterns of the future in present events, and one can take action to change them.
“Ke aloha, ke alo, ke oha” (= “to love is to be happy with someone or something”). One of the most far-reaching ideas of Huna is that love is an act of expressing and sharing joy. Anger, fear, jealousy, hate are not seen as the opposite of love, but rather as its absence. Love is also thought to work better than anything else as a tool for effective action. For the Huna practitioner, love is a spiritual power that increases as judgment and criticism decrease. A truly loving intent is the most powerful spiritual force the world can know. Separation diminishes power, and love diminishes separation, thereby increasing power. The Huna practitioner expresses love as blessing, praise, appreciation, and gratitude. The concept of “aloha” as the expressing of love is a fundamental ideal of the entire Hawaiian culture.
“Mai ka po mai ka mana” (= “all power comes from within”). If the universe is infinite — and that is a basic assumption of the second key phrase — then the center and power of the universe is infinite also. Therefore, goes the argument, the center and power of the universe is within everything. That being so, there is no power outside of oneself that is greater than the power inside oneself. The fact that one may not be able to access that power at any given moment has to do with one’s skill and confidence, and not with the existence of the power. A large part of the practice of Huna has to do with learning to make this power manifest within one’s own life as well as in the lives of others. This whole idea is based on the Hawaiian concept of “mana.” Although generally treated by Western anthropologists as a mysterious or symbolic force, the actual meaning of the word is “authority,” in the sense of an ability to influence events and behavior. Thus, in Hawaiian thinking, “mana” can derive from genealogy, skill, physical energy and strength, wealth, political position, responsibility, inner confidence, spiritual powers, or any source that confers authority and influence.
“Ana ‘oia i ka hopena” (= “effectiveness is the measure of truth”). Being eminently practical as most traditional peoples are, the founders of this philosophy were concerned with practical truth. Absolute truth carried to its logical extreme comes out translated as “Everything is,” because anything added to that makes it relative. Since this is hardly helpful at the human level, Huna practitioners measure truth by the question “Does it work?” If it does, then for all practical purposes at that moment it is true. The Huna practitioner therefore feels free to change mindsets and shift belief systems in order to achieve the best effects in a given situation. Is it true that one can speak with a stone and that it can answer back? Yes, if the answer is useful. Is it true that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west? Yes, if that helps us regulate our work and play. Cause and effect are not the same for the Huna practitioner as they are for the ordinary person in modern society. In this philosophy, beliefs shape experience, and experience shapes truth.
In its application, Huna is above all a healing path, a way of loving power and powerful love adapted to whatever time-period it is being used in. Because the principles are always operating, the same basic processes are used for healing body, mind, and personal as well as social circumstances. In their way of thinking, the Huna practitioners of today are using modern means to carry out an ancient service to humanity based on even more ancient observations on the nature of life.