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October 1997


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 Huna Article


The Problem of the three Selves 

There is a something of an on-going debate among Huna devotees that there is nothing in the original Hawaiian teaching that indicates that they believed in man having three selves. Max Freedom Long clearly believed in three selves, yet many people even some Hawaiians seem to feel this is wrong. In reality the situation is a little more complex than it appears at first glance. There are three selves in the Hawaiian teaching, the difficulty arises in the particular conceptualisation of SELF that we believe in as westerners. If you look in the old Lorrin Andrews dictionary you see that man is considered to have two 'souls'. The Uhane and the Unihipili. Obviously then Man must be a trinity in that he is self and 2 souls. Its only the semantics of the issue that prevent us from thinking of this as meaning man has three selves. In Hawaii the concept of a self as a mental ego was unknown. What we as westerners think of as the ego the Hawaiians conceptualised as a soul or indwelling entity. The Hawaiian concept of self was simply that it is who you are and was clearly identified as the body.

When I consider the difference between the Western position and that of the ancient Hawaiians I am reminded of the question sometimes posed by Western trained psychologists, "Would you say that you have a body or that you are a body?". The answer of any Hawaiian from the era preceding Western influence pervading their culture would have always and consistently been 'I am a body' where as a typical westerners response is most likely to be 'I have a body'. Clearly the Western response indicates a separation from the body and a shift from identification with the body as self to the mind or ego as self.

When thinking of the Hawaiian identification of body as self I am reminded that they believed that thought took place in the na'au (the intestines) a telling concept in relation to this issue of the fundamental importance of the physical body. I would describe the body as pivotal in the ancient Huna teaching because the body was the basic self. How many of you reading this could conceive of thought taking place in your abdomen and not your head. What difference would that make to the nature of your thoughts and your self-perception. Would you find a better sense of connection with the world that you live in and the people you associate with ? Perhaps so, it is certainly worth considering. If the mans two souls are uhane and unihipili then what is the Hawaiian term for the self. It is au or wau, often preceded by 'o. Na'au - intestines - thought. au - self or I. na'u - mine belonging to me, interesting isn't it!

In an early Western study by E. Claperede (Notes sur la localisation du Moi, Archives de Psychologie, XIX, 1924, p.172) he noted that we generally localise the ego at the base of the forehead, between the eyes (note the synchronicity of this finding with the eastern concept of the third eye). It is interesting to consider that in certain eastern practices notably the oriental martial arts of Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido and Judo the cultivation of self awareness within the lower abdomen is essential for the skilled performance of the movements of the particular art in question. To move well in the context of these arts requires a practitioner to free themselves from the dominance of head orientated mental ego. When this state is achieved the movements exhibited have a power, grace and fluidity that is awesome to behold. This same movement quality is notable in that it is naturally inherent in the movements of the Hawaiian people in particular it can be seen in the performance of the Hula and the Hawaiian martial art 'Lua'.

In the Max Freedom Long version of Huna it is clear that the idea of the three selves as higher, middle and lower is borrowed from the Theosophical, New Thought and popular psychology teachings of the 1890's through the 1940's. It is well to remember just how influential these teachings were to the seekers of this era. Max Freedom Long among them. This is not a criticism of his teaching simply an observation on the derivation of his terminology. To make a teaching relevant and accessible in any era requires the use of the current understandings of that period. As a teacher of oriental martial arts, alternative medicine and Huna I am well aware of the need to make ancient and obscure teaching from foreign cultures accessible and comprehensible to my western students. The danger lies in subtly altering the original meanings. Would that we all had direct access to the source teachings to keep ourselves from damaging the arts and understandings we love so much.

I hope you now have some sense of the real basis of the teaching of the three selves. Finally if man is a self (au) and has 2 souls (uhane and unihipili/uhinipili) where does the aumakua fit in? The aumakua is in fact a fourth self.... a created self, an immortal self (see article on the aumakua). Next months article will focus on the nature of the unihipili and which ladies and gentlemen is not your lower self nor your unconscious mind........another challenge to accepted teachings? I doubt it!

On a personal note wouldn't it be great if we could put aside all our head stuff and like the Hawaiians of old shift our self perception to our lower abdomen and then dialogue in an open and friendly fashion on all aspects of the Huna teaching. More likely I suspect it would end up as a kind of friendly combat to the death over opinions, ideology and belief.....as the ego begins to assert its power.... If you don't agree with my understanding of Huna well ..... as one Huna teacher said "give up judgement and if you can't do that you had better get yourself a very good lawyer". ....... Human beings are so perverse! Particularly when the uhane dominates instead of the bodyself and unihipili.

Phil (whose given Hawaiian name is Kihonua)

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