--Serge Kahili King, student of Huna, in Urban Shaman (1990)
Today is the 179th birthday of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last member of the Kamehameha dynasty of Hawai`i. Pauahi left her considerable estate, estimated at 9% of the total land area of the Islands, to the support of a system of schools for native Hawai`ian children, which remains the largest independent pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school system in the United States. Her life story gives an interesting demonstration of the virtue of Makia (mah-KEE-ah), one of the Seven Huna Principles.
Huna comprises the metaphysical teachings of 20th century philosopher Max Freedom Long, who, while not Hawai`ian, had a fascination with the archipelago’s language and culture. Many scholars consider Huna an aspect of the New Thought spiritualist movement of the late 19th century. Huna concepts, particularly the notion of a tripartite human soul, had an enormous influence on Victor Anderson, co-founder of the Feri tradition. Feri, in turn, lent a metaphysical framework to the eco-spiritualists of Reclaiming.
Makia is the third Huna principle, sometimes translated as “Focus.” We have visited another virtue that touches on this idea of focus, when we discussed Severitas, a root virtue of the Roman personal virtue of Disciplina. While Severitas has connotations of training and control over behavior, Makia, in my mind, has more to do with harnessing one’s state of consciousness.
Huna teachers say our energy moves in the direction of our focus, and so by harnessing our power of concentration, we can actually influence the flow of our energy to attain our desires. As author Xavier Even explains in an article on Makia,
Do you know what is the secret of those who have achieved their dreams and have fascinated people throughout history? It is not their ability to avoid the pitfalls and obstacles of life. For all the great men and women of history have failed. Their secret lies in their ability to stay focused on their dreams no matter what.
Princess Pauahi indubitably qualifies as one of these fascinating people. Born in Honolulu, Pauahi Paki was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, the warrior chief who united Hawai`i under his rule in 1810. Known by her English name Bernice, she had an upbringing typical of any Victorian lady of the time, educated by Protestant teachers at the Chiefs’ Children’s School.
Pauahi certainly demonstrated the personal Willpower that Huna teachers claim as a prerequisite for Makia. Though destined for an arranged marriage within the Hawai`ian artistocracy, she instead chose to marry a European businessman, Charles Reed Bishop, against her parents’ wishes.
When her previous betrothed, King Kamehameha V, lay on his premature deathbed, he offered the crown to Pauahi, who refused. Historians to this day remain mystified by Pauahi’s Renunciation of the throne. Perhaps, though, she simply was exercising Makia, and her interest lay in pursuits outside the Hawai`ian court.
At the end of her life, Pauahi focused her Willpower on one last challenge. As explained by the schools that bear her dynasty’s name:
When Pauahi Bishop was born in 1831, the native population numbered about 124,000. When she wrote her will in 1883, only 44,000 Hawaiians remained. From childhood, Pauahi witnessed the steady physical and spiritual demise of Native Hawaiians... Deeply troubled by the decline, Pauahi Bishop felt a lack of education helped precipitate that decrease.
Feeling responsible to the Hawaiian people as heir to the lands and power of the great chiefs, Pauahi directed in her will that money from management of her lands would fund the Kamehameha Schools. She hoped that through education, the native people would reverse the decline in their numbers seen during her lifetime. The schools continue on the Islands to this day, where an estimated 265,000 people now claim Native Hawaiian descent.
How interesting that by choosing to place her focus on the empowerment of her people, instead of simply her individual self, Pauahi gave up enthronement in Aliʻiōlani, Palace of the Heavenly King, only to secure her enthronement instead in the Halls of History.
How in your own life has an act of Makia, of Focus and Willpower, allowed your potential to manifest in the world? Think about how, at any given moment, we can choose to put our attention on what serves, or what does not serve. We can think ourselves into jail, or into liberation. At times, our most important choice may be upon what we choose not to put our Focus.
May we see the gates of Makia, and perhaps make a home there.