Via a Hawaiian friend at Berkeley, I’ve recently learned of a “religion” called HUNA that purports to be the ancient spiritual practice of Hawai’i. People all over the world pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to purchase DVD sets, attend workshops, and participate in retreats in order to learn more about HUNA, or in Hawaiian, the “Secret.”
Unfortunately, HUNA is a horrendous scam. It is New Age thought cloaked in misappropriated Hawaiian concepts and terminology. I don’t know much about New Age philosophies and beliefs (hence, I cannot discount them), but I do know that the ancient Hawaiians most assuredly did not concern themselves with matters such as “rainbow shields,” Lemuria, raw food diets, neuro-linguistic programming, teleporting, transpersonal psychology, being psychic, or hanging out in “menehune lagoons.” Also, Hawaiians are not originally from outer space (sorry Dad, I know how much you love aliens), nor did they practice yoga (although, I am sure they would have loved it).
There is more to HUNA than these things of course, but they are just as ridiculous in being claimed as Hawaiian. HUNA is a metaphysics theory that was developed in the early 20th century by an American man named Max Freedom Long, who had no real connection or direct experience with traditional Native Hawaiian spiritual practices. While everyone is entitled to their theory, how many spiritual theories have been this profitable?
It’s a sad thing that people sincerely looking for spiritual knowledge, guidance or fulfillment are not only being swindled by con artists (many of whom adopt Hawaiian names to make themselves seem more authentic – the majority of these “kahus” are not Native Hawaiian), but also genuinely believe that spiritual or cultural experiences can be purchased. In terms of how people perceive Hawaiian culture and history, it’s almost worse than tourism because it messes with their minds and emotions.
What’s more disturbing is that many Native Hawaiians, who may have lost their own connection to their family knowledge and traditions, are being led to believe that HUNA is a legitimately Hawaiian practice. It is not. I don’t discount the benefits that New Age beliefs can have, you shouldn’t call something that it’s not.