One of the most intriguing and radically different elements in the system of psychology used by the kahunas, must be introduced at this point in the report in order to continue the presentation of the vastly important subject of vital force and accompanying magnetism.
Dr. Brigham was able to learn more about the magical methods used in the “death prayer” in Hawaii than about any other kahuna practice. In a moment I will present a case from his experience, but first we shall have to have some general notes.
The kahunas had a number of beliefs which they did not keep secret. For instance, they shared with the common people their knowledge of the fact that man has two souls or spirits instead of one. The early missionaries thought this a most droll and idiotic concept, worthy only of heathen and savages. To them, man had but one soul, and their job was to save it if possible. As they arrived in Hawaii in 1820, and the subconscious was not discovered by Freud until over half a century later, they can hardly be blamed for laughing at the kahuna beliefs.
The kahunas went a step farther than modern psychology has gone (except for some of the most advanced thinkers, amongst whom was William McDougall, early mentor of Dr. Rhine, and a pioneer in the field). The kahunas knew that the subconscious, as we call it, was one spirit, and the conscious mind another. They dwell together in the body, each soul (or spirit or self or psyche—call it what you will) performing its part in the general task of living and thinking.
Each of our two spirits has its own mental abilities. The subconscious (unihipili) can remember but has only elementary reasoning power such as a dog or horse may have. On the other hand, the conscious (uhane) cannot remember a thought once it has let it go out of its center of attention. It has to depend on the subconscious to give back any thought needed as a memory. Sometimes the subconscious cannot find the right memory when it is desired, and often it must be given time to make a search. We have all had the experience of being unable to remember a name, and then, some time later, having the name suddenly come to us. The conscious mind has two powers which are its very own, however. One is the power to use will of the hypnotic kind (more potent than the elementary will of the subconscious self). The second power is that of using the highest known form of reason, the inductive, which sets man apart as a superior animal in the animal kingdom.
The subconscious accepts and reacts to hypnotic suggestion (or mesmeric treatment). The conscious cannot be hypnotized. Under the influence of suggestion, the subconscious, being illogical to a large degree, will accept and react to even absurd suggestion. In the theatrical performances based on hypnotic demonstrations, people can be made to believe most absurd facts about themselves, and thus amuse the audience. (Unfortunately.)
Case 8: Data on the Use of Vital Force in the Kahuna “Death Prayer” as Related to the Belief that Man Has Two Spirits, the Subconscious and the Conscious
During my years in Hawaii, the stage play, The Bird of Paradise, was advertising Hawaii, its volcano and the kahunas with their “death prayer,” throughout the civilized world. Hardly a tourist arrived in Honolulu who had not seen the play and learned of the deadly use of magic by the native priests.
One of the questions most frequently asked by visitors concerned the verity of the “death prayer.” Usually they were told that there was nothing to it. Or they might be treated to wild tales of death through this form of magic. The truth was that over a period of several years during which time I checked the data through doctors frequenting the Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu, not a year passed but one or more victims of the potent magic died, despite all that the hospital could offer in the way of aid. And the old time doctors had recognized the familiar symptoms year after year.
There were several kinds of kahunas in Hawaii before they ceased almost entirely to understand the ancient lore. Some were hardly more than spiritualistic mediums. Some were prophets. Some labored to control winds and weather. A few were able to perform almost any part of the magic, be it healing or controlling the elements.
Among the specialists were kahunas who might have several magical abilities, but who also could use the “death prayer” (anana).
The ability to use the “death prayer” was based on a mechanism so strange, and to us so fantastic and incredible, that it stretches the imagination to grasp it before we understand the full details of kahuna lore.
As I have explained, the kahunas believed that man had two spirits, the lower or subconscious one being illogical and subject to the influence of hypnotic suggestion.
To become able to use the “death prayer” a kahuna had to inherit from another kahuna one or more ghostly subconscious spirits. (Or he might, if sufficiently psychic, locate subconscious spirits or ghosts, and use hypnotic suggestion to capture and enslave them.)
In very early Hawaii, prisoners of war or other unfortunates were sometimes given what apparently was hypnotic suggestion in a potent form, to cause their subconscious spirit, after death, to separate itself from its conscious mind spirit and remain as a ghost to serve as guard at sacred stone enclosures or native temples of the degraded form of Kahunaism. It is probable that some of these unfortunates were given orders to serve kahunas in the “death prayer” magic after they were executed.
In any event, the kahunas in question had one or more—usually about three—of these enslaved ghostly subconscious spirits. When a person was to be prayed to death for any one of many reasons, the kahuna called to him his enslaved spirits and gave them mesmeric orders to absorb mana from food and drink placed on a mat on the ground and surrounded with ceremonial objects such as small white stones and certain pieces of wood.
This mana was vital force such as we have been discussing. It was undoubtedly transferred from the body of the kahuna into the food, drink and ceremonial objects which were called the papa or “forbidden.” It was thought that when the mana was taken from the food and drink, some of the substances were also taken, especially alcohol from gin set as the papa in later days. (Recall Baron Ferson’s experience with the transfer of intoxication from a drunk person to himself.)
The spirits were also given very definite instructions as to what they were to do with the force. They were to catch the scent from a bit of hair or soiled garment belonging to the intended victim, and follow it much as a dog does a track. Upon reaching the victim they were to await their chance to enter his or her body. This they were able to do because of the power to use as a paralyzing shock the surcharge of vital force given them by their master. The order which the spirits were trained to obey was recorded in one case. It was:
Listen to my voice.
This is the plan:
Rush upon ——— and enter;
Enter and curl up;
Curl up and straighten out.”
The “curl up” and ”straighten out” had other meanings than we give the words in English. The process was one of entering the body of the intended victim or attaching themselves to it. That done, the vital force of the victim was taken by the intruding spirits and stored in their ghostly bodies (of which we have much to say in due time). As the vital forces of the victim were withdrawn from the feet a numbness came to them which rose gradually over a period of three days to knees, hips, and finally to the solar plexus or heart, at which time the victim died.
When the death had been accomplished, the spirits left the body, taking with them their great charges of vital force, and returned to their masters. If the victim had been rescued by another kahuna, and the spirits sent back by him to their owner with hypnotic orders to attack their master, they might make such an attack with fatal results. In order to avoid such a danger, a magic ritual of cleansing was usually performed by the kahuna sending out the spirits (kala). Or, as was most often the case, the person who had hired the kahuna to send the “death prayer” to another, and who had vouched for the fact that the intended victim deserved such drastic punishment, would be named as the one responsible and to be attacked should another kahuna send the spirits back before their task was accomplished.
In the event of a return from a successful mission, the kahuna ordered his spirit slaves to play until they used up the vital force they had taken in the process of killing the guilty one. Their play usually took the form of what we would call “poltergeist activities.” They would move or throw objects, make loud noises and create a bedlam of some proportions. Dr. Brigham once heard a great commotion in the hut of a kahuna at night, and was later told that spirits were at play in this manner.
None of the usual explanations of the “death prayer,” such as the use of a mysterious poison or of “dying of superstitious fear” were true. Almost never did the victim know that he was about to be killed by magic.
To illustrate this, let me tell of two cases in which the fear element could play no part.
(A) A young Irishman came to Honolulu with the first of the modern taxicabs. He was rough and ready, his hair was red and he was afraid of nothing.
Before he had been long in the city he had contrived to get a fine Hawaiian girl so much in love with him that she broke off her engagement to a Hawaiian boy. The girl’s grandmother did her best to break up the new affair, seeing as she did that the Irishman had no good intentions. She even went so far as to make veiled threats that heaven would punish him if he did not leave the girl alone.
Very naturally, the Irishman had no fear of heaven. He was very much of the scientific attitude, and probably quite accustomed to the futile threats of angry mothers and grandmothers. It is certain that such threats could not have had the least effect on him. One day his feet “went to sleep.” He did his best to right matters, but the prickling numbness crept slowly upward. In the course of a day he had passed through the hands of two doctors and landed in the hospital.
Every effort was made to discover the cause of the malady, but no cause was found and no treatment availed. In fifty hours the prickling had reached his waist. When several doctors had interested themselves in the case, including one of my friends, there came headshakings and grave suspicion. An old doctor who had practised long in the Islands was called in. He recognized the symptoms at once as those of the “death prayer.”
Taking the patient in hand he questioned him closely and soon learned the story of the girl. More questioning brought back the memory of the grandmother’s threats, which the boy regarded as piffle and as of no consequence in diagnosing his strange malady. Saying nothing, the wise old doctor set off to visit the grandmother. Later he gave the substance of the conversation he had with her.
“I know that you are not a kahuna and have had nothing to do with this case, Grandma,” said the doctor. “But, just as a friend, will you tell me if you think anything could be done to save the man?”
“Well,” said Grandma, “I know nothing about the matter, and I am no kahuna—as you know. But I think that if the man would promise to take the next ship for America and never return or even write back, he might recover.”
“I will guarantee that he will do just those things,” said the doctor.
“All right,” said Grandma imperturbably.
The situation had to be explained over and over again to the unbelieving Irishman, but when the idea finally was driven home to him, he became terrified and was willing to agree to any terms. That was in the early afternoon. That night he was on his feet again and able to catch a Japanese ship for the “Coast.”
(B) I will give the next case as I transcribed it from my notes shortly after an evening spent with Dr. Brigham. I will use his words as nearly as possible.
“I went to Napoopoo on the Big Island,” said Dr. Brigham, “soon after the Museum was built. I wanted to climb Mauna Loa to collect indigenous plants. It was to be a three-weeks’ trip with native guides and a pack train.
“At Napoopoo I spent five days getting men and pack animals together, but finally set out with four Hawaiians and eight horses and mules. It was good weather, and aside from the usual difficulties of those days when trails were all but lacking, we got on very well.
“I had reached the barren country above the rain forests and was making for the summit crater of Mauna Loa when one of my boys became ill. He was a strong lad of twenty. I left him behind with a man to care for him and went on to the summit, thinking it was the altitude which was bothering him, and that he would soon be all right.
“We spent the day in the crater and got back to the lower camp and the sick boy early in the evening. He was stretched out on a blanket, now too weak to rise. I decided to move him to a lower level the next morning, and was about to sit down to my evening meal when one of the older men came to me.
“‘That boy very sick,’ he said. Then, after much beating about the bush, it came out that the Hawaiians had decided that he was being prayed to death. I was slow to believe, but went to the boy and questioned him.
“‘Do you think you are being prayed to death?’ I asked.
“‘No! No!’ He was instantly frightened within an inch of his life. I next asked him if he had any enemies who might want to have him killed. He could think of none, and was more than anxious to have me say that I still thought it was the altitude that was bothering him.
“I made another and more thorough examination, but found nothing significant except the usual symptoms of slow paralysis of the lower limbs and threatening general collapse, all of which symptoms belong to the death prayer. At last I became convinced that the old man was right and that some kahuna was at work. When I admitted this, all the men became frightened. For all they knew the whole party might be killed.
“I went back to my meal and thought things over. Meantime, one of the men kept on questioning the boy. After a while he got some interesting information. The boy’s home was on the windward side of Hawaii in a little out-of-the-way village in a narrow valley which ran to the sea. There was little to bring the haoles (whites) to the village, and its old kahuna had endeavored to keep the people isolated and living in the old way. Among other things he had commanded them to have no dealings with the haoles under penalty of being prayed to death. The boy had left home and gone to live in Kona several months back. He had all but forgotten the command.
“Up to the time of my arrival at Napoopoo, the boy had lived entirely with his Hawaiian friends and had not come into contact with white men—at least not in a business way. When I was hiring men for my trip up the mountain, he had joined me without a second thought. It had not occurred to him that the command still held outside his village.
“As I heard about these things I became more and more angry. My temper was no better in those days than it is now when it comes to someone injuring my friends. I sat there wishing I could lay hands on the kahuna, and also facing the fact that my work would have to stop if the boy died and I had to take him down to the coast.
“While I was thinking things over, the old man came to me as spokesman for the others and made a perfectly natural suggestion. He politely called my attention to the fact that all Hawaiians knew that I was a great kahuna and even a fire-walker. To him it seemed simple enough that I should adjust matters by praying the kahuna to death and saving the boy.
“The men waited expectantly, and I could see in their eyes their confidence that I would turn back the death prayer and that all would be well. On my part I was cornered. I had bluffed for years, and now my bluff had been called. I was most uncomfortable. If I refused to do the obvious thing they would be sure that I was afraid of the kahuna and not the strong fellow I pretended to be.
“Now I’ve always had a considerable pride, and at the thought of showing what might be mistaken for the white feather before my men, I decided there and then to try my hand at sending the death prayer back to the kahuna. This is perhaps the easiest thing an amateur magician could be called upon to do. The spell had been initiated and the trained spirits sent out. All I had to do was to put up the usual big arguments to talk the brainless things over to my side, and then exert all my will to send them back and make them attack the kahuna. I felt this would be fairly easy as the boy was guilty of no actual sin.
“I was a long way from the ti leaves which are usually brushed over the victim as a part of the ceremony to help drive out the spirits, but I had never believed them very necessary. Moreover, I was angry and impatient. I got up and said to the men: ‘You all know that I am a very powerful kahuna?’ They agreed most enthusiastically. ‘Then watch me,’ I growled. With that, I went over to the boy and set to work.
“The trick of the thing is to put up an argument of such cunning that the spirits will be made to think that their master must be a devil to send them to kill one so pure and innocent. I knew that if I could win them over and get them worked up to a high emotional state and ready to revolt, I would be successful. Of course, I had to chance the kahuna having kala-ed (cleansed) himself; but I thought that improbable as he would have no fear that I would send back his death prayer. I doubted if he had ever heard of me over on that side of the island.
“I stood over the boy and began to advance arguments to the spirits. I was smoother than a politician. I praised them and told them what fine fellows they were, how deserving and clever. Little by little I worked around to tell them how sad it was that they had been made slaves by a kahuna instead of being allowed to go on to the beautiful heaven that awaited. I explained just how they had been captured by the kahuna and imposed upon. I told them how pure and innocent and good the boy was and how black and vile the kahuna was. I still consider that argument a masterpiece. The Hawaiians blubbered from time to time as I described the pathetic condition of the spirits.
“Finally I decided that I must have the spirits ready to pull the kahuna limb from limb. I was ready to give them the command to return and visit the kahuna with ten times the punishment he had ordered for the boy. I could bull-roar in those days with the best. I can yet! [The doctor threw back his head and gave a roar that shook the house.] Well, I gave my commands in about such a tone. I yelled so loudly that I frightened the pack animals. The men drew back hurriedly and the boy whimpered like a frightened child.
“It was a supreme effort, mentally, emotionally and physically with me. I put every particle of will and concentration into that command. When I had repeated it three times, I sat down by the boy, trembling and dripping.
“I continued to keep my mind fastened like a vise on the project in hand, never letting it waver from my willed determination to see that the spirits obeyed my orders. The light faded and the stars came out. The boy lay silently waiting. From a safe distance the men watched me with faces now expectant and now reflecting horrible fear of the unseen. At times the air about us seemed to tremble with the fury of some unearthly conflict of forces.
“The longest hour in history was about gone, when I suddenly felt an odd sensation. It was as if the tension in the air had gone in a flash. I drew a deep breath. A few minutes later there came a whisper from the boy. ‘Wawae … maikai’ (Legs … good).
“I could have shouted in my triumph as I set to work to massage the twitching limbs which seemed to react as if they had been frozen and were gradually becoming warm again. Little by little circulation was restored and the toes began to wiggle. The men crowded around me to offer timid congratulations. It was the high point in my career as a kahuna. In an hour the boy was up and eating his poi.
“But that isn’t the end of the story. I had a pleasant conviction that I had killed something deadly. I wanted to check on my performance and see what had happened to the kahuna. I decided to cut my trip short so I could go down to the boy’s village—the collecting had been less successful than I had hoped, anyway.
“We covered the ground rapidly in the few days we stayed on the mountain-tops. We camped one night at the lake on Mauna Kea, and explored the crater of Mauna Loa. We roasted by day and froze by night.
“In due time we pulled out for the lower country on the north side of the mountains. Water was easier to get, but the country was badly cut up and the forests heavy. At last, however, we got down to the ocean and struck a trail which took us along the bluffs and up and down through valleys and ravines. Always we followed the sea.
“Late one afternoon we came straggling out of the brush into a clearing in a fair valley. An old woman and a girl were working in a taro patch as we came along. They took one look at me and the boy, then flew screaming before us. We followed and soon came to a cluster of grass houses. Not a person was to be seen. I sat down outside the big hut where the kahuna had lived, and waited while the boy went to see if he could find someone.
“I heard him shouting for a time and then it was quiet for several minutes. Pretty soon he came back with news. On the night I had sent back the death prayer to the kahuna he had been asleep. He had awakened with a scream and rushed around to get ti leaves and began to fan himself to fight off his spirits. Between gasps he told the people what had happened. He had neglected to kala himself and the white kahuna had taken a low advantage of him. In a very short time he had fallen to the ground and lay there groaning and frothing at the mouth. He was dead by morning.
“The people were certain that I had come to wipe out the entire village. I told the boy to go back and tell them that I had taken my revenge and that if they behaved themselves I would consider them my friends.
“We waited some time before the head man came back with his flock. He wasn’t at all happy, and most of the women were frightened nearly to death. However, I soon reassured them, and in no time we were all great friends. In fact, they seemed to consider me quite a fellow. No one seemed to resent my having killed their kahuna—that was all a part of the game to them.
“Some of the horses were tired out, so we accepted an invitation to stay and be fêted. They gave us a luau (feast), which, considering the poverty of the village, was not bad. They had no pigs, but the dog was as tasty as you please—being poi-fed meat. I had never taken kindly to dog, but as a full-fledged kahuna, I no longer hesitated. We parted blood brothers.
“The one thing which I could never understand about the matter is this: The old kahuna had found out that I had hired the boy—and by psychic means—but he had not found out that I had turned kahuna and was sending his death prayer back to him. The only way I can account for this is that he must have turned in for the night at dusk and gone at once to sleep.
“Another thing which seems certain is that the kahuna was of a fairly powerful class. Only those well up in their art can see at a distance. Just why he had not seen into the future, I cannot say, unless he was not quite up to that.”
There is another kahuna method of causing death by magic, known as kuni or the burning. It seems to be one seldom used in the old days, but was said to consist of the rite of burning a hair or other part of the victim’s body and casting the ash into the sea. I have no reliable data to offer in this matter, and simply mention it in passing lest there be something of importance in this practice which later investigators might overlook if left unmentioned.
The killing of a person by magic was thought by the kahunas to depend upon whether or not the victim had a deep sense of guilt which was caused by wrongs done others. Such a guilt sense (complex) made the attack of the unihipili or subconscious spirits successful. Without this sense of guilt, the subconscious of the victim would successfully ward off the attacking spirits.
Down the centuries there has been a form of magic practiced (or tried) which consisted of making a doll or image of the intended victim, then thrusting pins into the image, a fresh pin each day. The idea was that some form of sympathetic connection was established with the victim, and that a magical reaction would be set up to cause death in due course of time. While this practice may have little potency, it cannot be tossed aside contemptuously. We are on the far forward fringe of exploration in a field which has not been fully explored. We must consider all possible sources of information lest we overlook some important clue to the full understanding of such things as instant healing.
The vital force or mana of the kahunas has three strengths. If it is electrical in nature, as modern experiments have demonstrated, we may safely say that the three strengths of mana known to the kahunas equal three voltages.
The kahuna words for the three voltages were mana, for the low voltage used by the subconscious spirit, and mana-mana for the higher voltage used by the conscious spirit as “will” or hypnotic force. There was a still higher voltage known as mana-loa or “strongest force,” and this was thought to be used only by a superconscious spirit associated with the two lesser spirits to complete the triune man.
Modern studies of the vital electricity have been made by attaching wires to the skin of the body and of the scalp, then using very sensitive instruments to measure the electrical discharges carried by the wires.
Life magazine files show in the issue of October 18, 1937, some pictures of tests with charts and graphs. Two voltages of electricity have been found, a low voltage in the body tissues and a higher voltage in the brain. From this it has been discovered that all thinking involves electrical activity of the higher voltage of vital force.
The kahunas associated all thinking processes with mana. The word mana-o means “to think,” the “o” added to show that the process is one of using mana to produce thought.
From the foregoing it will be seen that the ancient kahunas were good psychologists. They knew the subconscious and conscious as two spirits, and they knew the two strengths of vital electrical force which we call “body waves” and “brain waves.” The kahunas also knew a superconscious spirit and a voltage of vital force used by it, this voltage being the highest. Although these last two elements are not yet known to modern science, they probably will be in time. In our present investigation there is much evidence to be considered which points to the correctness of the kahuna psychology. (One must always remember that the kahuna system of psychology, even if not complete and accurate in its smallest details, made possible such things as fire-walking. It was a workable system, and we cannot rest on our oars until we find one equally workable.)
Either the vital force or the magnetic force generated by the presence of vital force in bodily tissues, has been found to exert other strange effects on various things.
Experiments carried on in France with a famous medium showed that meat and fish could be prevented from decaying by being held in the hands and treated to a “magnetizing” process. Oranges and other fruits, as well as vegetables, so treated, did not decay but slowly dried up.
Other experiments showed that the vital force could be stored for a time in various substances such as wood, paper and cloth. Water took and held charges. Glass did not.