DURING THE past century investigations have been made of native magic in Africa, India and other parts of the world. Spiritualistic phenomena have been certified as genuine and studied painstakingly by over a hundred recognized scientists. Religions have been surveyed and the instant or nearly instant miraculous healing at Lourdes verified.
But from all these studies and efforts there has come nothing faintly resembling a definite basic system, philosophy, theory, or psycho-religious science which would explain, even in the most general terms, the phenomena of the various fields. In fact, investigations in these fields began to arrive at a stalemate several years ago. New discoveries have been conspicuously lacking.
Meanwhile, in the years following 1880, in the little noticed field of Polynesia, there was begun an investigation which, after seventy years, has at last produced a general theory that promises to break the stalemate and provide answers for a host of puzzling questions.
This investigation was begun by Dr. William Tufts Brigham, [Wikipedia] long curator of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. In Hawaii there were, up to about 1900, many kahunas, or native priests, who, although outlawed, worked among their fellow Hawaiians as healers of body and purse, or used the dread "death prayers." Some fire-walked over lava overflows which were cooled barely enough to bear their weight. A few demonstrated instant healing, and the young scientist was fortunate enough to be able to observe and study a case in which a lad, dead from drowning for sixteen hours, was brought back to life through a use of native magic After fire-walking himself under the protection of the kahunas, and verifying the healing and other phenomena which they produced Dr. Brigham came to the conclusion that behind these and similar activities there must be a single basic scientific system, like a string upon which the beads of religion, psychic phenomena, psychology and native magic were strung. He redoubled his efforts to discover this system.
The kahunas, (the word means "keeper of the Secret") had a strict cult of secrecy. They would tell him very little about their lore. What little they did tell, was so unfamiliar and so muddled, because of the use of unintelligible Hawaiian words, that he could make almost nothing of it. The anaana form of the "death prayer," however, was studied and partly explained in terms of spiritism.
In the year 1919 I went to Dr. Brigham to ask what scientific information might be available concerning the activities of the kahunas, of whom I had heard many wild tales during my three years in the Islands. A friendship developed, and I was invited to make use of all the materials which he had assembled, and to continue the study if I could. [1, 2]
[1. Researcher Makana Risser Chai, upset over a litany of offenses such as cultural appropriation and racism, asserts that Max Freedom Long possibly never met Dr. Brigham, and, if he did, exaggerated Bringham's knowledge to bolster Long's own work. Ms. Chai is a white, wealthy academic and lawyer from California who claims to teach huna religion herself. Her complaints appear in the rarely-cited "Huna, Max Freedom Long, and the Idealization of William Brigham", in a 22-page pdf here:
[2. Critics of Long's system who say it is "not Hawaiian" miss the fact that what he calls "huna" is a prehistoric, pre-Egyptian system, which he traces in this Bulletin through ancient cultures worldwide.]
I was trained in the matter of correct scientific approach to this unfamiliar field and its materials. I had many cases of kahuna healing and other activities described in great detail for my benefit, and discussed these cases with my mentor in the light of what was known in the psycho-sciences at that time, which was very nearly as much as is known in these stalemated days.
Upon one set of conclusions, Dr. Brigham was insistent: 1. That here must be some form, or monad or entity. of consciousness which was in man or without him, and which the kahunas were able to contact through ceremonial or prayer. 2. This unidentified consciousness could use an unidentified force in such a way as to control temperature in fire-walking or make changes physical matter in instant healing.
As these conclusions pointed inevitably to a basic system of a psycho-religious nature, it was necessary to decide that there was much still remaining to be discovered in the new science of Psychology, and much to be explained in the phenomena of Psychic Science.
In the absence of even the slightest clue to what these things might be. I would certainly have refused to take a part in such a hopeless investigation had it not been for one outstanding fact. This was the fact that this secret and mysterious basic system was not a matter of empty words and theorizing. IT WORKED. It was alive and kicking, even if in its death struggle. Dr. Brigham had been suspiciously careful in verifying the materials of the investigation. I had already verified some lesser things (and was soon to verify some most important accomplishments of the kahunas).
The thing could not be ignored. There was something right there under our very noses which WORKED, and even though it evaded our grasp, it seemed inconceivable that, with modern science so far advanced we should not ultimately get to the bottom of the mystery.
A few years later, Dr. Brigham died at a ripe old age, much honored but still with a burning curiosity unsatisfied.
I continued the work, collecting more materials in the field, watching for any new development in the psycho-sciences which might give me a clue to the "Secret" of the kahunas, and going absurdly far afield at times hoping to find a glimmer of light on the baffling problems. Finally, by 1935, new clues had been discovered which led directly to the basic system. In due time it was possible to explain in fairly general terms a part of the basic theory and its methods of application. It was the ancient "Secret" of Huna, of the kahunas.
The new clues came largely through a study of the meanings of the roots of the Hawaiian words.
By the summer of 1935 sufficient progress had been made toward understanding the ancient lore that a report seemed In order.
I wrote this report and it was published in 1936, in London, by Rider, under the title of Recovering the Ancient Magic. [Google Books] The study and its materials were described and tentative conclusions given. Assistance was asked from any reader of the report who might have knowledge of this or related fields or of similar materials.
One reader was W. R. Stewart, retired newspaper correspondent, living In England. He had been engaged in his youth in an effort to learn native magic from an isolated Berber tribe in the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. There he had studied beliefs and practices which, years later, upon reading the report, he saw stemmed from the same original source. The words used in naming the elements in the Berber version of the system had been said to belong to a secret priestly language, but, upon comparison to similar Hawaiian words proved to be identical except for slight changes which may be ascribed to differences in dialect. Such language differences are found among the eleven Polynesian tribal branches in the Pacific. The common language of the Berber tribe was a degraded Turki. Stewart joined the investigation, which by that time, 1937, had reached an advanced stage. He added his findings and contributed in many other ways. Unfortunately his death. in 1943 robbed the work of his aid, but, when World War II ended, the basic system was deemed to have been developed as far as would be possible until it could be put to the acid test of practical use.
Efforts to apply the basic system and duplicate the most valued parts of kahuna practice, are expected to correct errors and to make possible the further perfecting of the system.
To this end experimental groups are forming (late in 1945,) in Los Angeles, with other groups to be formed in Australia and England.
While this outline report of the investigation is intended as a partial text for the use of experimental groups, it will also be made available to the public.
A much fuller and more detailed account of the long investigation is planned when the last stage, the experimental stage, has added its quota.