Natura Sophia - The Wisdom of Nature





Intuition & Imagination

Intuition & Spiritual Path

The Three Selves of the Shaman


Doctrine of Signatures


Matthew Wood's Bio

The Three Selves of the Shamans

Matthew Wood MS (Herbal Medicine)
Registered Herbalist (American Herbalist Guild)

Shamanism can be a philosophy of life, but much more than that, it is a working system, the point of which is to produce change, not through a physical or even psychological agency, but through the power of the spirit.  Physical change obeys physical laws.  Psychological change follows the lines of psychic energy, emotion, and desire.  This approach can also cause physical changes.  Change due to raw spiritual power is the least often seen or understood.  The primary symptom of this type of action is that it seems to be miraculous and exceptional.  This level of activity includes both subjective spiritual changes in one's inner life and objective changes in the environment -- miracles.

          The miraculous, by nature, cannot be anticipated from a rational, material standpoint, but occurs in defiance, so to speak, of the ordinary rules of life.  Since ancient times, shamans have been associated with shape shifting.  This is, in a sense, the distillation into an essence of what the shaman does.  He or she causes changes the rational mind cannot understand, foresee, or even interpret.

          No one can seek to be a shaman and the shaman cannot seek the student to perpetuate the tradition.  Even this has to happen in a miraculous fashion.  All is controlled by spirit.  The same is true in shamanic healing.  The results of the doctor are promised by state regulation, the results of the herbalist by skill, but the results of the shaman are not promised.  A person approaches them in a hopeful, open-minded manner.  On the other hand, a person can be healed without asking for help -- the spirit cannot be controlled or predicated.

          Whenever a shamanic healing event successfully occurs spiritual transformation occurs, even if it is merely the cure of a head cold.  There is something different about shamanic healing and it provokes a different response in the person.  Often miraculous healing intrudes, to some extent, into conventional or alternative treatment, with drugs, surgery, herbs, or touch.  The good healer is, to one extent or another, also a shaman.  One of my students, who was both a shaman and a homeopath said, "as soon as a person receives the correct homeopathic remedy they start to become interested in spirituality.  The change occurs about three months after the healing takes place."

          The energy being used in spiritual healing is innately different from that used in physical and psychological healing.  It works through a different media, substance, and set of rules.  It occurs via an intrusion of energy from a different dimension or world.  A model of miraculous healing and change was developed in the first half of the twentieth century, long before there was an understanding of shamanic practice in academia or ordinary society.  This model was developed by Max Freedom Long, an American who studied Hawaiian shamanism or huna (secret knowledge).  He worked in the early twentieth century, during a period when kahunas (keepers of the secret) were banned by imprisonment and had already largely disappeared.  The Secret Science Behind Miracles (1948) chronicles his search for understanding and the results of his findings.

          However, it is open to question whether Long actually recorded an ancient tradition or interpreted it through the lens of his own culture.  Long's theory of the 'three selves,' the basis of his system, resembles Freudian psychology, which was emerging as he was studying and writing.  True, his view of the three selves is considerably different from Freud, but there is a resemblance. Because of this work a whole 'cottage industry' of 'Hawaiian shamanism,' written and taught by non-Hawaiians, came into being.  I imagine that some native Hawaiians take offense at this.  The question then arises, is Long's work valid and if it is, are outsiders culturally insensitive if they use it?

          There are several answers to this.  First of all, as I said above, nobody can control shamanism.  Secondly, I believe that Long had the right to study huna and dessiminate the teachings (as he came to understand them).  His mentor, Dr. William Tufts Brigham, was a friend of the last generation of Hawaiian shamans, participated with them in their miraculous works, and sought to understand their knowledge before it was lost.  This was at a time when native Hawaiians, due to persecution and assimilation, were not willing to apprentice themselves to these great shamans. Too my mind, the culturally sensitive person here was Dr. Brigham, who befriended the last of the kahunas when they were shunned by both Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian society.  By default he became the carrier of their traditions and he appointed Long as his heir.

          A more important consideration, however, is that Long's system is definitely valid within his own culture.  It has proved its worth over more than fifty years to many people.  The lid having been taken off the box, it is really too late to stop the use of this interpretion of kahuna teachings in non-Hawaiian society -- as long as it is recognized as an interpretation.  Thirty years ago I read The Secret Science Behind Miracles, incorporated some of its teachings into my life and work, and there it stands, emeshed in my world.  I could not change the situation if I wanted.  And this would be true for other people.

          It is hard to appreciate now, when shamanism is a fad, how alone Dr. Brigham and Max Freedom Long were when they undertook the study of huna.  The former, a world famous scientist, had to study the subject in secret.  The conventional opinion in anthropology and religious studies at this time was that shamans were mentally ill or con men.  They were not believed to have a positive role in society.  The first major book refuting this view was Mircea Eliade's Shamanism, which appeared in 1947.  That was more than a decade after Long self-published his first booklets on huna. 

          But the younger brother must respect the elder (as Paul would have said to the gentiles), and therefore it is encumbent upon students of Long to make acquaintence with authentic Hawaiian kahuna teachings.  Here I would refer to the work of Moke Kupihea, Kahuna of Light; the World of Hawaiian Spirituality (2001).  This Hawaiian author provides a radically different treatment of the same subject material.

          Kupihea does not mention Long, possibly because he does not think him credible, or possibly out of a desire to be polite.  He does, however, level a general criticism against non-Hawaiians who are making money from kahuna teachings.  (Long cannot be included here; he taught through a small study group and I know as an author that his books could hardly have made him significant money).     A more serious charge leveled by Kupihea is that Western imitators are endangering themselves and their students. Kahuna teachings can be very dangerous, corrupting the spirit if practiced by a naive or egotistical person.  Kupihea has only the history of Hawaiian society to demonstrate the debacles of this abuse.  He associates the individual shamans and priests of the past with darkness and unconsciousness.  The old shamans often used their powers to manipulate people while the priests used their status to isolate the common people from direct spiritual contact.  He calls these people the "kahunas of darkness."

          Here I must agree with Kupihea wholeheartedly.  The use of psychic energy and psychological coercion to influence others for gain can cause the destruction of the integrity of the soul, resulting in spiritual destruction -- and this is only from abuse of powers on the psychic plane.  The misuse of spiritual powers, of miraculous powers, is also possible.  This is where the greatest danger lies.  Some aspects of spiritual energy are simply ambivalent and can be harnessed for evil.  Therefore, shamanism is not to be taken lightly.

          To counter these tendencies I can only cite the advice of Carlos Castaneda's famous mentor, 'don Juan.'  One goes to knowledge, he says, as one goes to war: sober, serious, and willing to die.  Trivia and self-interest must be left behind.  Don Juan also recommends that one follow one's heart, or the 'path with heart,' as he says.  Castaneda himself is a good example for a corrupted shaman (see Amy Wallace, Sorcerer's Apprentice, 2000).

          In order to avoid the corruptive influence of the old kahuna teachings Kupihea introduces one that is based on the common sense spirituality of ordinary people.  This was passed on by the kupuna, or elders of ordinary society in the Hawaii of his youth.  They raised their children, watched over other people's children, and passed the lessons of life on to the youth.  Kupihea spent a great deal of time with old mountain men whose mental universe and hunting methods still arose from ancient traditions.  He was a native speaker and understood the implication of Hawaiian words.  Kupihea calls the ordinary kupuna of Hawaiian society the "kahunas of the light."

          Kupihea argues that it is not the production of miracles that is important, but leading a spiritually fulfilling life.  Thus, he ignores the teachings of the miracle working shamans and focuses on a pragmatic 'Hawaiian spirituality.'  This is an excellent path to take, helpful both within and without Hawaiian society, but it abandons Dr. Brigham's friends, who seem not to have been entirely bad guys.  Their only heir is therefore Max Freedom Long.

          There is value in shamanic teachings.  Before this field was known as 'shamanism' it was called 'occultism' in Western society.  That word, having become encumbered with bad associations (not unlike the kahunas of old), was eagerly abandoned when an alternative label appeared.  Occultism and shamanism teach about the hidden side of man.  The word occult is therefore actually identical to the word huna.  There is darkness here, but also the possibility of rebirth and light; the spirit resides on the other side of that darkness.  Thus today shamanism in Western society is associated with self-transformation.

          This is the good side of shamanism but there is also a very bad side, as Kupihea warns.  To attempt to personalize psychic and spiritual powers courts absolute disaster.  Yet, these lessons must continue to be taught because they offer a valid spiritual path and because many people are fated to walk that path.  In my area the secret native teachings are maintained by the Grand Medicine Society.  It is said that the Society goes through cycles of spirituality and corruption.  It rises and falls, like all things under the sun.  Today shamanism is associated with self-transformation rather than manipulation.  We are on the upcurve.

Keepers of the Secret Tradition           

         Max Freedom Long tells us his story, which is indivisible from his research and discoveries.  As we read this story we note that he went through several of the classic stages on the shamanic path.

         Long moved to the islands and worked as a teacher in a remote village shortly after world war one.  Here he heard numerous stories about the miraculous feats of the kahunas.  At first he was curious about them, but eventually the stories got under his skin.  How could people claim that the old kahunas healed, killed at a distance, changed the future for their clients, and produced a variety of miracles?  He searched for information about them, but it was always elusive.  The native Hawaiians did not like to be questioned about it by white people.

          As time passed Long finally became obsessed and angry about the whole thing.  Looking for some definitive answer, he went to the Bishop Museum, in Honolulu, an esteemed institution dedicated to preserving Hawaiian culture and educating Hawaiian children.  It had been endowed by Hawaiian royalty before their overthrow by American fortune-seekers.  The receptionist, a Hawaiian woman, looked Long over and directed him to the curator, Dr. William Tufts Brigham.

         Dr. Brigham listened to the young man's tale.  He asked questions, sometimes about Long himself.  He asked where he heard the stories about the kahunas, what he studied in college, what he thought about various subjects.  Long was exasperated by the curator's questions.  He wanted a straightforward answer.  Finally, Dr. Brigham closed the door and asked if his visitor could keep a confidence?  The old professor said something about his scientific reputation.  Long agreed and Dr. Brigham finally gave his opinion about Long's original question.  Yes, he said, the kahunas did heal, they did kill, they did perform miracles, they did walk on hot lava barely crusted over enough to hold a man's weight.  Dr. Brigham himself had walked on hot lava under their protection.  Long sat speechless.  He mumbled something about hot lava.  He hadn't heard of that before.

          The old professor went on to explain that he himself had seen some of these things happen and had been studying them privately for forty years.  He walked on hot lava as the guest of his kahuna friends.  Fearing the fire, he left his boots on, so they were burned to a cinder and he had to walk for days through the forests in grass sandals, much to the amusement of his friends.  Today there are still lava flows with human footprints on them scattered around Hawaii.

          Dr. Brigham was an old man now.  One by one his kahuna friends had died and none of the younger generation were interested in perpetuating the "secrets."  The penalty for the practice of kahuna in civil law was six to twelve months' hard labor, with fines of a hundred to a thousand dollars.  As Kupihea points out, a lot of Hawaiians turned to Christianity because of fear of the kahunas.  Knowledge of great importance to humanity was dying out and the professor, now over eighty years of age, was one of the last people to know that it was real.

          The conversation grew easier after a while.  In later years Long realized that the old man was testing and studying him, to see if he was fit to assume the task which he needed to hand on to another.  He felt like Elisha receiving the mantle from Elijah and knew that in those first few hours Dr. Brigham was handing on to him a deeply valuable personal and cultural legacy.

          That was in 1922.  Dr. Brigham instructed Long in his understanding of the nature of the kahuna secrets.  Although he did not have all the pieces, he had some.  For instance, he felt there was a significant difference between the famous "death prayer" and the miraculous works of the kahunas, like fire walking.  The former worked based on psychological and psychic coercion.  The authentic kahunas did not work by trickery and illusion, nor did they work by the most advanced methods of psychic manipulation.

          Dr. Brigham turned out to be well read in religion, psychology, and occultism, as well as contemporary science.  He made sure that Long understood the questions which needed to be answered in order to perform miracles.  There were three things the younger man needed to watch for: there must be some kind of consciousness, some kind of force and some kind of substance through which the kahunas did their work.

          Once Long adopted a more sympathetic view, the native Hawaiians were more willing to share their views with him.  It also turned out there were still a few kahunas in existence, although they were not as numerous or powerful as their forebears.  One of them helped him sell his store during the depression -- not by coercion, but by understanding the needs of the buyer.

          Eventually Dr. Brigham died and Long moved back to the mainland.  He was frustrated that he had not finished his mentor's quest, but Long continued to look for a solution.  In 1935 he woke up in the night with a revelation.  He realized that the kahunas had to have a language to express their ideas to their students, and it had to be Hawaiian.  He was sure that the secrets of the kahuna craft would be embedded in the roots of the Hawaiian language.

          Very quickly, Long came to understand that the kahunas recognized three different "selves" or spirits within each person, each with a different consciousness, power, and substance.  By comprehending these three spirits, it was possible to understand how the kahunas did their magic.  And yet, something was still missing.

            Long's final breakthrough, completing his knowledge of kahuna methods, came when he analyzed the word haole, the insulting Hawaiian slang for a white person.  He found that it had a very technical meaning, i.e., a "person who does not breath [life or spirit] into their prayers."  Long formulated a working model for kahuna and founded a study group that began to collect examples illustrating the principles, while attempting to put them into practice.

          Looking back over Long's story, we see that he experienced classic stages on the shaman's path.  First he became obsessed about it and this obsession drove him unconsciously to a teacher.  Second, the teacher initiated into the secret tradition -- as much of it as was left.  Third, Long's understanding arose out of the unconscious, the darkness, in the night.  Fourth, Long dedicated his work to helping humanity, rather than exploitation.  Knowledge gives power and power tests.

The Three Selves

          The kahunas divided the human being into three separate parts.  The Hawaiian word for a spirit or soul is u or au, which is the root word we detect in all three 'selves' mentioned by Long, the uhane, unihipili, and the aumakua.

          From Long's perspective, each self operates fairly independently, having its own consciousness and method of 'thought,' exercising a different kind of force and acting on a different kind of substance or matter. At the same time they are coordinated, or have the option of being coordinated with each other.  Each has to be addressed on it's own level and all three have to be brought into a state of cooperation for transformative and miraculous events to occur.

          Long defines the consciousness, force, and substance of each self much more concisely than does Kupihea.  In this he was following the directions of his mentor.  Dr. Brigham had observed and participated in the production of miracles and had meditated on what it took to produce them.  Thus, his thinking in some measure reflected the actual practice of his mentors.  This is why I believe it is valid to say that Long's work does reflect the practice of the shamans.

          Long commented, "In religion we are accustomed to consider God a triplicity, but we have apparently lost sight of man as a similar triplicity."  He is quite right here.  Although the missionaries laughed at the Hawaiians for recognizing three 'souls,' if they knew their Hebrew they would have discovered the same within their own tradition.  The ancient Hebrews, and some Jews today, recognize three different 'souls' that are bound together to create the living being: the nephesh (animal soul), nechamah (breath soul), and ruach (spirit).  Plato also recognized three 'souls' or 'spirits' in the human complex.  These persisted in the Greek medical tradition until the seventeenth century and still remain with us as a part of antique English speech: vital spirits, natural spirits, and animal spirits. 

          The point must also be made that Hawaiian words have innumerable possibilities of translation so that seemingly different interpretations for a single word can be absolutely correct.

The Talking Self

          For Long, the term uhane signifies the conscious self or rational mind with which we are all familiar.  Long called it the "middle self." The root hane shows that it is a spirit that talks.  The uhane can frame words and sentences to talk to others and it can also talk to itself; indeed, it persists in maintaining a continuous dialogue with itself.  Therefore it lives up to the literal translation of its name, the "talking self."  Kupihea calls it the "life spirit" or the "spirit of the living person."

          The talking self is a control-freak.  At all times it tries to retain an experience of reality that is logical and reasonable in accord with its own nature.  It also talks to itself constantly.  It is little disposed to letting in perceptions or thoughts that do not accord with the reality it has selected.  However, it must access the resources of the unihipili and the aumakua in order to carry on a feasible existence.

          Although capable of consciousness, thought, and communication, the talking self does not possess the power of memory.  Important experiences are communicated to the unihipili, which stores them and retrieves them when requested by the talking self.  This is why a person can be fully conscious, but not aware of something trivial or even important which occurred in the past.  When a time to reflect comes, the talking self turns within and canvases the psychic and physical memories stored by the unihipili.  The latteralso provides emotional warmth and belongingness to the talking self, without which it would lead a lonely existence.  This sort of existence is sometimes felt by those who are too intellectual.

          The life of the talking self is based on supposition and speculation.  Therefore, it lacks a definite apprehension of truth.  It must derive this from the aumakua.  This 'higher self' knows the absolute truth at all times and it lovingly accepts the blemishes of the uhane and unihipili. 

          Although Long does not make the differentiation, in some systems of traditional psychology and spirituality, what we call the conscious self is divided further.  In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are two 'souls' called the hun and the po.  The former resides in the gallbladder, the latter in the lungs.  The hun is roughly equivalent to the 'ego' or 'egoic will,' while po is associated with the breath and mortality.  I call it the 'mortal soul' or the 'being-that-is going-to-die.'  This is why egoic will (or its lack) is associated with the gallbladder in TCM and grief with the lungs.

          The Secret of the Golden Flower, translated by Richard Wilhelm, with a commentary by C. G. Jung, adds further information about the hun and the po.  Together they create the conscious self.  This is located above the root of the nose.  Here the focusing power of the hun meets the breath, which carries the awareness of mortality.

          The hun is responsible for egoic strength, personal willpower, and decision-making.  Thus, indecisiveness is associated with a 'weak gallbladder' or 'gallbladder qi deficiency.'  In Chinese idiom a person with a strong personal will is said to have a 'big gallbladder' while a coward is said to have a 'weak gallbladder.'

          We have similar ideas in English.  A person with a strong personal will, whether appropriate or not, is said to have 'a lot of gall.'  A coward, on the other hand, used to be called a 'yellow belly.'

          A good example of someone with a lot of bile would be the Civil War general, U. S. Grant.  Many times he ordered men forward where others were afraid of casualties.  Sometimes he made mistakes and lost thousands of men in an unwinnable battle, but usually he won battles.  Someone said he always appeared as if he were ready to stick his head through a brick wall.  An angry quartermaster came to Grant one day and complained that there was no way the general could possibly know whether the supplies he had just ordered were the exact amount the army needed.  Grant calmly explained that this was true, but the war was costing the country millions of dollars a day, and he needed supplies to end it as quickly as possible, and it was more important to waste supplies than to waste time on getting the amounts certain.

          The symbol of the hun is a skeleton and after death it is said to sink down into the earth.  Thus, the hun is equivalent to the 'shade' or 'shadow' that, in ancient Western cosmology, leaves the body at death and resides in the underworld, in the earth.  The ancient Greeks sought immortality for the conscious self through fame and feared an eternal will-less, dark, shadowy existence in the underworld.  The great heroes of Greek, Teutonic, and Celtic lore stole weapons, gifts, and people from the underworld and with these they established empires and dynasties.  For the average person, however, death represented the end of the line: an eternity of conscious but will-less existence in total darkness.  This was one of the reasons that Christianity swept the pagan world: it offered the promise that the dead would rise and there would be eternal life.

          One of the last Western authors to describe the shade is Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), the great spiritual seer.  He describes the 'shade' or 'figure' as resembling a 'shadow' cast by a living being.  Every organism that 'comes to light' in the great mirror of Mother Nature, and every action that is taken, leaves a shadow that acts as an eternal record.  The shade is not the eternal soul that will rise after death to eternal life, but only a memory that will be held by Sophia, the eternal soul of Nature, as a record of all things that have occurred.

          Paracelsus also described the shade in great depth.  He attributed to it prophetic powers, so it actually could contact what would happen in the future.  This is presumably because it is eternal, arising eternally from the abyss and, knowing no time, exists with all other shades from past and present in eternity.  However, since it has no will it only acts as a prophetic messenger when it is animated by a willful creature, that is, a living human being.

          The irony of the ego or egoic soul is that during life it supplies the will of the individual ego while after death it has no will.  This is because only life gives the individual creature the opportunity to express self-will.  That is why the fall from Paradise through self-will only occurred after the appearance of Eve (organic life).  Thus, it is the po or breath soul that empowers the hun. 

          The po exists from the first breath to the last.  Therefore, it is mortal.  It is aware of its mortality and this makes it grieve.  This in turn drives the conscious self to desire interaction with the basic self, the seat of emotions and the bridge to other people.  The breath soul or mortal self causes the egoic will to focus on the emotions or memories stored by the basic.

          The breath soul, the egoic will, and the basic are all required to be in unison in order to contact the aumakua, or any sort of higher spiritual guidance.  The breath soul provides the energy, the egoic will the focus, while the basic must decide to cooperate, since it is the watch dog in charge of attacking threat.

          As mentioned above, Long's final insight into the production of miracles involved the word haole, which meant 'those who do not breath into their prayers.'  The Hawaiians noticed that the white people didn't breath energy into their prayers, thus disempowering them.  In contrast, says Long, the breath must be involved in the prayer.

          This is not just a matter of breathing hard or long or fully.  Rather, the breath is a medium through which spiritual powers of all sorts are able to flow.  Thus, breathing into the prayer means that one is aware of one's thoughts during the prayer.  When that happens the prayer itself is alive and the response is alive.

          The best way to do this that I am aware of is to smoke tobacco in a small or modest amount.  Something about tobacco makes one meditative and makes the thoughts more objective and easier to contemplate.  Another effective method involves burning angelica or an aromatic of similar nature.

          Both these practices are, of course, American Indian.  The tobacco is used in pipe, the angelica, osha, or balsam root on the rocks in the sweat lodge.  The Hawaiians picked up the use of tobacco in prayer, either directly from American Indians who visited the islands after the arrival of the white man, or from the whites themselves, who did not understand that aspect of is use but traded it with the Hawaiians.  Like the Indian people, they put tobacco out when making a prayer.

          One can either smoke a pipe or a cigar to gain the benefits of tobacco, but for some reason cigarettes (or constant smoking) causes the mind to shut off the flow of imagination by which spirit-communication takes place.  Thus, the old cigarette advertisements (now banned) always showed tough cowboys or sheik young people in leather coats being cool and aloof.  The cigar and the pipe have the opposite effect of opening up the mind.  Once one is experienced with this, it is possible to pray simply by putting out some tobacco.  It is interesting that General Grant worked out his battle plans quietly smoking a cigar.

          This discussion has taken us far afield from Hawaiian spirituality and shamanism, but it sets us up for Kupihea's definition of what he calls the 'unihi pili.'

The Basic Self

          Long translated the word unihipili as a "veiled or hidden spirit that serves another."  The root nihi means something veiled or hidden, while pili means to serve.  Thus, for Long the unihipili is hidden from the middle self but also is its servant.  As Long notes, the Hawaiian people discovered and named the unconscious long before it was 'discovered' by Freud.  Long ignored the translation associating the unihipili with the bones.  Thus, a more complete translation would associate the unihipili with both the bone soul and the unconscious.

          Because the unihipili is 'below the level of consciousness,' in Western cultural terms, Long calls it the 'lower self.'  This, unfortunately, is not a satisfactory name because the unihipili is susceptible to feeling judged and may develop an inferiority complex from such a term.  Therefore, we will adopt the name given to it by John-Roger Hinkins, founder of the Movement for Spiritual Inner Awareness.  He calls it the "basic self" or "basic."

          The word translated as 'veiled' or 'hidden' can also be translated as 'darkness,' so the unihipili is not associated with the light of self-consciousness.  Therefore, it cannot think in a rational or logical sequence, like the talking self.  It has a different consciousness and 'thinks' in a different fashion.

          The part of us that is unconscious and thinks in a completely fashion are the gut-level or animal instincts.  The unihipili thinks like an animal.  It has intense instinctive reactions to people and situations.  It is like an internal watchdog that barks at strangers and welcomes its loving master.

          The primary concerns of the basic are basic: safety, food, companionship, love, pleasure, and pain.  It responds to simple commands and can be trained like a dog.  However, like a good watchdog, its instincts and needs should not be ignored or made fun of.  It can save the life of its master – the talking self – by a combination of attachment, loyalty, love and instinctive awareness of danger.

          Attached to the gut-level instincts are the emotions.  Modern neurological research shows, in fact, that emotions arise from instincts, and are modifications of the basic urges to pleasure and pain.  Thus, it is through the basic that the whole person is emotionally connected to other people.

          The word that Long translates above as 'serves' can also be rendered 'clings,' so the unihipili clings to the uhane.  However, it actually clings to everything it comes in contact with.  As Long pictures it, the basic leaves a fiber or, in Hawaiian, an aka thread that remains attached to everything it has ever experienced.  Thus, the basic comprises the memory.  The talking self, on the other hand, cannot focus on more than one thing at a time so it has to use the basic for its memory.

          When the middle self wants to remember something the idea forms in the conscious mind first, then relays through the egoic will, which changes the focus from whatever the conscious self was thinking about and moves it to the unconscious or basic, to recollect the memory.  The egoic will or bone soul is therefore the connection between the conscious self and the unconscious basic.  This explains one translation of unihipili that Long did not explain: bones.  Further explanation is offered by Kupihea.

          Although I have used the dog as an example, the personality of the basic can act like a wide variety of animals -- cat, wolf, bear, badger, deer, rabbit, hawk, etc.  People often feel an affinity for a certain animal that they identify with strongly.  This is often the animal that most closely personifies the basic.

          The basic is essentially equivalent to the autonomic nervous system that runs the functions of the body that do not require conscious oversight.  It experiences what the body experiences and stores memories as "body memories."  It is highly sensitive to physical pleasure or pain.  Hence, it learns by very basic mechanisms what feels good and what does not.

          The basic communicates through instinctive reactions that are felt in the autonomic center connected to the stomach, the solar plexus.  This is where we feel our "gut level instincts" or "animal instincts."  The stronger the instincts, the more power the basic possesses and the more clearly its demands are felt and registered by the middle self.  The more secure and articulate the talking self, the more it is able to listen to and interact with the basic.  Eventually it can learn to verbalize the instincts of the basic.

          Because of its emotional attunement, the basic readily senses when it has been involved in a transgression against another person.  It is almost always dragged into this by the talking self, since the latter does not directly feel emotional connectedness, but has to pull it up from the basic.  When this happens the basic takes on a sense of guilt from transgression, even when the middle self is unaware of the problem.  Because it is not logical the basic can feel guilt where there has been no real transgression but where the uhane has crossed some taboo.  The basic can create guilt out of thin air.  When things are not going well for the talking self, the basic is often to be found rummaging around, looking for something to feel guilty about, in order to give an explanation for the situation.

          The basic self is relatively defenseless against an insensitive and uncooperative middle self.  It can easily be intimidated, coerced, or manipulated.  It responds to such ignorance or abuse by developing emotional fixations that drain energy away from projects dear to the talking self.  Because it is prone to arrange knowledge according to irrational taboos, the basic can easily develop strong fixations and complexes even when they are not called for by the action of the middle self.

          One of the most important functions of the middle self is to protect the basic.  The latter can be deeply hurt by the actions of others.

          In order for a person to function appropriately and confidently, the middle self needs to be in constant dialogue with the basic self.  The basic is freed from a fixation by the conscious re-experience or re-capitulation of the event by the middle self.  This is true whether one was the perpetrator or the victim.

          The type consciousness experienced by the basic is often called "body awareness."  When old memories come up and are re-experienced, they usually do not leave a person alone until the actual physical sensations that accompanied the original fear, pain, guilt, hatred, etc., are re-experienced.

          The shamanic technique of re-experiencing all major life events, or "making an inventory," is one method that brings the middle and basic selves into harmony with each other.  Carlos Castaneda describes this type of 're-capitulation.'  In order to be successful, the inventory must be done with utter humility and openness by the talking self, so that the basic self is not suppressed or ignored.  Fasting, which works directly on body-awareness, is another method for mending the relationship between the basic and talking selves.

          When these two selves are brought into conscious cooperation psychological health is restored and maintained.  Psychology consists principally in healing the relationship between the conscious and unconscious.  They correspond closely to what Freud calls the ego and id.  This kind of healing seldom, however, accounts for what we would normally describe as the miraculous.  For that, we need to make contact with the remaining member of the triad.

          Kupihea offers a somewhat different understanding of the relationship between the uhane and the unihi pili.  He says that the unihi pili is a part of the uhane that survives death and lives in the bones and remains of the body that it once resided within.

          According to Kupihea, an evil sorcerer can capture the unihi pili of a deceased person and unite it with a cult object or animal spirit, to which it will cling (pili) in darkness (nihi).  In this form it is called a "deified spirit of darkness."

          The evil sorcerer becomes the kahu or keeper of the captured unihi pili.  In order to keep it alive he or she has to constantly feed it with some kind of energy or breath.  It is then sent on errands of witchcraft and evil.  If a kahu lost control of the unihi pili it would come back and bother him until the kahu released it back into the earth.  Sometimes another kahuna will be called in to stop the 'deified spirit of darkness'and convince it to turn on its owner.  That could be quite inconvenient – even fatal.

          One type of sorcery that Kupihea does not mention occurs when the sorcerer uses his or her own unihi pili to do witchcraft.  This creates a 'familiar spirit' (to use the English term).  This is more dangerous to the practitioner, because if the familiaris killed or injured on its errand of evil the vital power of the black magician will be injured or killed in a like manner.  For instance, if a snake familiar is thrown in the fire, the black magician will be found burned to death at the same time.

          On first glance, Kupihea's description seems to disagree with Long's definition.  However, Long's definition is quite accurate.  Long's unihipili co-exists with the uhane in the living person.  During this period it exists in darkness (nihi) or unconsciousness and clings (pili) to its rightful master, the uhane.   

          These ideas represent the healthy relationship between these two entities. They also represent a picture of potential illness.  They offer an explanation for insanity: the unihipili is dominated by something other than its proper uhane.

The High Self

          Taking into account the fact that Hawaiian words can have many valid interpretations, Kupihea derives the word aumakua from au ("endless chain of time") and makua ("parents").  Thus, the word refers to an endless chain of ancestors.  For simplicity it is usually simply translated as 'ancestral spirit.'  Long gives a rendering that is quite nice: "older, entirely trustworthy, parental spirit."  Kupihea (2001, 2) describes the aumakua as "a part of our ancestors that still dwells with us."

          This is the concept over which Long and Kupihea part ways.  For Kupihea the link to the aumakua is genetic.  For Long, on the other hand, the aumakua is not necessarily genetic.

          Kupihea explains that according to Hawaiian religious teachings, the primary God and his first creations, two subsidiary Gods, were immortal and eternal but descended into mortal incarnation and became the ancestors of the human race.  Through their genes they passed on their eternal spiritual nature to their mortal descendents.  This became the long, endless chain of the aumakuas.  Thus, aumakuas have been in incarnation previously.  They have great knowledge since it descends from immortals and ascends from human experience.  This is available to their descendents through the genetic link.  Originally all Hawaiians had direct access to the supreme being and all ancestral knowledge through their own aumakua but a dark period descended on Hawaii, during which the high priests declared the kings to be gods and replaced the invisible aumakua with cult objects inhabited by unihi pili.  The subjugation of the people was not complete because the trades, such as sailing, fishing, herbal medicine, and building, were learned partly through genetic lineages.  Thus, the tradesmen were to some extent still in touch with their aumakua.  There were probably others who maintained some independence from the kings and priests.

          In this way, there came to be two divisions of aumakua, the ancient ancestors of darkness and the more recent aumakua of the light.  The darkness (unconsciousness) of the former was due to their being forgotten by their descendents.  The latter, which were still remembered, comprised recent generations still contributing to their descendents through recent events and teachings.

          This was the situation when the white missionaries arrived and placed the old religion under a taboo.  Not only were the old ways largely forgotten, but what remained of them were misunderstood.  Kupihea gives several examples. Jesus is widely regarded as an aumakua, but he did not have descendents.  Hawaiian families also identify themselves according to clan animals that they call aumakuas.  Kupihea says this widespread belief is wrong and identifies these clan animals or totems with unihi pili that were attached to animals by the priesthood of old, so that they are not authentic aumakuas.

          I think it unwise of Kupihea to consider a widespread tradition in his culture to be wrong.  The idea that helpful spiritual beings have to be human and have to be genetically related to oneself is rarely found in any tradition of which I am aware.  In my area, for example, the Anishinabe Ojibwe people fall into seven dodems or clans with associated animal totems.  Tradition says that the animals took mercy upon their ancestors and seven major animals adopted them, conveying to them their gifts and skills, not only for seeking a livelihood, but for self-government and social harmonization.  These gifts were genetic and passed from generation to generation, so that the young people dreamed of the teachings of the totem animal and renewed the knowledge in every generation.

          For Kupihea, reconnection with the spiritual light requires returning to one's ancestors, at least the aumakua of the light (recent generations).  Through this one gains relationship with one's own purpose and destiny.  After death, while the unihi pili remains in the earth, the accumulated lessons of life and connection to the spiritual world continue as one becomes an aumakua for future generations.

          Kupihea relents slightly from the absolutism of literal genetic ancestry, to add that ancestors can include anyone who has lived on the land where one now lives and anyone from whom one has learned by experience.

          Kupihea stresses that the purpose of life is to live in harmony with oneself and others, and that the pursuit of miracles and special powers tends to bend and corrupt the uhane, so that it becomes separated from the aumakua and wanders the earth as a sort of hungry ghost.  He criticizes foreigners who have latched unto ancient Hawaiian mysticism to make money by pretending to teach miracle making and shamanism.  I am not sure if he had Max Freedom Long in mind here, since Long never attempted to make money by following Dr. Brigham's directions.  Both of them come across as men who were genuinely interested in the betterment of humanity.

          Before turning to Long's description of the aumakua I need to interject here the phenomena of initiation, in which a student receives from his mentor an understanding of methods for practicing various trades or shamanic powers.  This operates like an 'adoption,' and there is no doubt one could be connected to a lineage in this fashion.  I'm not going to take this up any further here, however.

          What did Long imagine the aumakua to be if he and his students could not be privy to a direct ancestral connection?  There are really only two possibilities, and they are in fact analogous to Kupihea's teaching.  The aumakua either has to be a guardian that is outside of oneself, or it has to be our own 'higher self.'

          Both of these ideas are widespread in Western culture.  Assistance by a genetically unrelated being is certainly the message of Christianity, which was founded on opposition to an exclusively genetic relationship to God.  (Even here, however, believers are saved by the 'blood of Christ').  More recently, the idea of a 'higher self' that is a part of oneself, that directs one's development, has also taken root.  Let us deal with this idea first.

          In the book that Rudolf Steiner thought was his most important, The Philosophy of Freedom (1896), he argued to establish the concept of a self-regulating, self-actualizing aspect of the psyche that would direct the higher, spiritual development of a person.  He fought against the idea that the child was essentially a wild being that had to be civilized by fear and coercion.  It became apparent to me, on reading this work, just how thoroughly the culture of his time believed in the theory that the child had no innate moral compass and would turn out very bad without extensive suppression and training.  Against this Steiner argued that there was a true inner self, which he called the "I," that would direct the person, if allowed to do so.

          We need only turn to Freud's model of the psyche to find the view that Steiner so strenuously opposed.  For Freud, the ego was civilized by the 'superego.'  This was not a spiritually advanced or even simply an intelligent being higher than the ego, but a complex created by social guidelines and taboos which programmed the belief system of the ego and the guild-complexes of the id, or unconscious, so that they learned how to behave.

          Steiner argued further that the free exercise of the intuition, the ability to see wholeness and pattern, would develop the spiritual self, because the intuition perceived the whole within others and thereby began to experience its own inner wholeness.  I would argue further that every time a person comes to a fork in the road there is a rational voice arguing for maintaining the status quo (money, companionship, fame) and a counter voice representing the intuition, which has already divined the path that is best for the person.  Thus, indeed, the intuition helps us to understand our higher purpose, wholeness, and path in life.

          Freud's theory was offensive to C. G. Jung, and was one of the reasons for their break.  Jung, like Steiner, argued in favor of a 'Self' that needed to be actualized through life experience.  Jung associated true 'individuality' with the 'Self' and mere 'personality' with the small ego.  Jung called the path to actualization of the Self 'individuation.'  Unlike Steiner, he did not see the intuition as a function through which the Self was individualized.

          Today the conception of a Self, or High Self, is widely accepted by those on a spiritual path in life.  It is widely perceived that it is important to actualize one's innate nature.  Kupihea considers this one of the goals achievable by contact with the aumakua.  However, this does not match Long's conception.  For Long the aumakua is a guardian or higher self that is so powerful that its characteristic manifestation is through miracle.

          In order to illustrate the nature of the aumakua Long describes an event that took place at a party he attended.  A teenage boy suffered a compound fracture.  An older relative who was a kahuna set the bones and the healed the leg completely in several minutes, so that the boy simply got up and rejoined the party.  Long asked the woman how she did this and she explained that she contacted the aumakua of the boy, who knew the correct configuration of the bones and put them back in place.

          Long goes on to characterize the high self.  It does not think, reason, speculate, or wonder, like the middle self.  It does not have emotional or instinctive reactions to events, like the basic.  It only experiences what is true and real.  This is its consciousness.  Its power lies in a will that is impossible for the middle and basic selves to oppose in any way whatsoever, if it chooses to express itself.  The substance it acts on is the fabric of reality.

          The only vehicle in the middle or basic selves to which the aumakua has an affinity is the egoic will.  When the latter aligns itself with the spiritual will then it is able to participate in the production of miracles.  But why would the aumakua ever want to walk on lava?  The reason this occurs is because the egoic will can actually influence or channel the spiritual will.  Thus, for example, the kahuna channeled the spiritual will of the aumakua to heal the boy of the compound fracture.  This then, is the production of the miracle, which Dr. Brigham sought to explain.  However, the explanation is not complete.

          Obviously, everybody would be able to create miracles if all it took was the exercise of one's egoic will.  The reason this doesn't occur on a regular basis is that it takes an alignment of the conscious self, the breath self, the egoic will, the basic self, and the aumakua to produce the miracle.  The conscious or talking self has to shut up for once and get out of the way.  The breath soul has to provide life energy to the endeavor and allow permeation of the different levels to operate together.  The egoic will is aligned with the spiritual will.  And finally, the animal self has to be satisfied that no taboo or 'bad thing' is going to happen due to the activity.  This can happen naturally in life threatening circumstances because they make all the vehicles become aligned or when life-altering decisions need to be made.  At such times miracles are more likely to occur.

          The power of a single aumakua is great.  Long, like Kupihea, pictures the aumakuas as a massive community.  Imagine that power.  Then there is God.

The Three Selves and Transformation

          Even if Long's system resembles the Freudian psychoanalytic model it ultimately parts ways as an inherently spiritual methodology that moves beyond the social and psychological world to the realm of miracle.  Long's account of the middle and basic selves differs very little from Freud's ego and id.  Their relationship is the basis of what we call psychology and Freudian psychoanalysis could be used as a model for improving this relationship as much as Long's method.  However, when it comes to the aumakua and the superego the two systems part completely.  Then we see that the purposes are actually completely different.

          Although ostensibly Long is interested in defining a shamanic model in order to understand and produce miracles, he also delineates a comprehensive psycho-spiritual guideline for self-transformation.  After all, what is more miraculous than change from a non-successful life to one that is thriving, enjoyable, and constructive?  It is for this reason that Long has been so widely appreciated and adopted as a guideline for modern seekers of both shamanic and spiritual transformation.

          Although I dismissed the Steinerian and Jungian concept of the 'I,' 'Self' or 'High Self' as not equivalent to Long's conception of the aumakua or 'higher self,' I want to return to that subject for a moment.

          People everywhere, both those on conscious spiritual paths, and those of a worldly persuasion, feel the need to actualize their individuality.  Thus, an engineer, even if he does not believe in God or a spiritual path, feels the need to be an engineer.  There is a certain propulsive power in individuation that reminds one of the aumakua.  Having established a difference between the two we can now also admit of a resemblance.  Therefore, it would seem fair to say that the 'Self' of individuality may be an aspect of the aumakua. 

          The aumakua, like the middle and basic selves, may be a 'complex' of several layers or associated spiritual elements.  In this case the 'Self' may be the most approachable and therefore the 'lowest' aspect, closest to the uhane and the unihipili.  I do not wish to go any further than this because I feel it would dissipate the miraculous, which is ultimately an important part of ourselves, though rarely accessible.   



Long, Max Freedom.  The Secret Science Behind Miracles.  Ninth edition.  Marina del Rey, Ca.: DeVorss & Co., 1954.

Kupihea, Moke.  Kahuna of Light; the World of Hawaiian Spirituality.  Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2001.

Carlos Castaneda.  The Teachings of Don Juan; a Yaqui Way of Knowledge. 

Amy Wallace.  Sorcerer's Apprentice. 




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