Wesselman: People ask me this all the time: when is collapse going to occur? Obviously, I don’t know. What Nainoa recalls from the histories of his people—who were Hawaiians—is that the seas rose rapidly and catastrophically, resulting in chaos, starvation, and a rapid die-off of the human population. This was what the Hawaiians passed down from their own experience. They don’t know what happened to the mainland Americans. No technology or records had been found.
Nainoa’s world is one without electricity; without iron; without engines. It is an agrarian society; while the people Nainoa encounters on his trek farther inland are nomadic hunter-gatherers. All advanced technology has disappeared. That appears to be the future we’re headed towards if we don’t reverse course.
The MOON: Yes, but as you point out, climate deniers are currently running the show, so reversal isn’t likely.
Wesselman: Yes. In my most recent book, The Re-Enchantment: A Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder, I delve into the unseen spiritual forces that influence our lives. On the positive side, these are guides, helping spirits, and oversouls. However, on the dark side are what I call “the masters of deception,” who infect the political and corporate leaders running the world today. They are so corrupt that, although they know the truth about climate change—they’re preparing to deal with it as a security risk—they publicly deny it and act to protect their profits, rather than the planet or its people. These masters of deception are not even spirits; they are thought-forms created by humans who take on their own identity and draw their power from those they infect. They can be thought of as psychic vampires. The Cree Indians called them wetiko; the Hawaiian kahuna called them e’epa; while the Gnostic mystics called them archons. In all cases, they’re talking about a contagious psychospiritual disease of the soul, which projects its own negativity and evil onto others—thereby justifying its own violence. In Jungian psychology, this is classic shadow material.
In another book, The Bowl of Light, I describe my relationship with a Hawaiian kahuna elder, Hale Makua. Polynesian kahuna are very mystical people and don’t typically share their knowledge with outsiders. But Hale Makua heard about me as a result of my book, Spiritwalker, and came to check me out when I was doing a workshop here on the Big Island of Hawai’i, back in 1996. He came with a group of Hawaiian spiritual warriors, probably thinking to put me in my place as some New Age fakir who didn’t know what the heck I was talking about.
Hale Makua strode into the room—a great big man with a beautiful carved walking stick, a big beard down his chest, wearing a bold Hawaiian shirt and shorts. He was introduced to me as Hale Makua, whom I’d heard of, though never met. I was nervous now and launched into a rather academic talk on the “modern mystical movement.” He watched for about 45 minutes, during which my talk ended. Then I felt a gentle tugging on my soul, rather as if someone had me by the shirt collar. So I said, “Makua, I’m getting the feeling that you want to say something to me. Would it be correct for me to ask you to speak?” I didn’t know what the protocol was for addressing an esteemed Hawaiian kahuna.
I watched him to do something that I didn’t understand at the time, although now I do. I watched him dissociate and achieve an expanded state of awareness so that he could check in with his spirits regarding what it was okay to say, or not to say, and then, in a matter of seconds, he was back. He looked at me with great amusement. There were 50 people in the room, all aware of who this guy was. He wasn’t “just” another kahuna. He was the big kahuna, a direct descendant of King Kamehameha on his mother’s side and of High Chief Keoua on his father’s side. (Genealogy is everything in Hawaiian culture. It determines you.) He said, “A friend of mine gave me your book, Spiritwalker, and I read it. Then I read it again to make sure I got it right. Then I went down to the beach and put your book on the sand and called in the spirits of the ancestors. We had a talk about you.”
There was complete silence in the room.
Then he continued. “The ancestors asked me what your name is, and I told them ‘Hank Wesselman.’”
He grinned at me. “The ancestors told me I wasn’t pronouncing your name right. It’s supposed to be ‘Vesselman,” like the canoe. You’re a vessel.”
He was watching me as I slowly went into shock because indigenous elders generally don’t like it when outsiders trespass on their spiritual traditions. But of course in the Spiritwalker books I’m describing the Hawaiian kahuna spiritual tradition.
So he smiled and said, “Don’t worry. We Hawaiians don’t write; we talk. We share what’s in our hearts with another. But in your culture it’s the tradition to write. I’ve read your book, and I’m here to encourage you to write, because you’re making my job easier.”
This was the beginning of a very interesting friendship that continued over the last eight years of this remarkable man’s life. He shared with me a lot of the deep mystical wisdom of the Polynesians, which I’ve recorded in The Bowl of Light. He died in a car accident in 2003 after spending a week with us at our workshop group. On the last night of his life he looked at me and said, “I know you’re going to write about me, and you have my permission.” Although Makua has been gone for 13 or more years, many people have told me, “He’s still teaching through the pages of your book.” As an anthropologist and practicing mystic in the shamanic tradition, that is very gratifying to me. Have you had the opportunity to read The Bowl of Light?
The MOON: No, but earlier this year I had the opportunity to interview Kahuna Kalei’iliahi, who told us that Hawaiians believe we each come into this world carrying a bowl of light.
Wesselman: Yes, that’s a very well-known story and an interesting metaphor. When my wife and I had an opportunity to spend our first afternoon with Hale Makua it was at the edge of the crater at Volcano National Park, which is an active volcano and was currently erupting—and has been since 1983. At the end of the afternoon, Makua gave me a simple wooden bowl and said, “This is your bowl of light.”
He then explained that, when humans come into the world, they each come with a bowl of light from their oversoul, their aumakua, which divides itself and sends in a bowl of its light that takes up residence in a new human when we draw our first breath. The breath is the vehicle of transfer of light from the higher self to the embodied self. The Hawaiians call this breath of life hā. The light we received sustains us and nourishes us throughout our lives. But whenever we step into the negative polarity—when we take something that doesn’t belong to us, whenever we injure someone with our words, or thoughts, or deeds, whenever we achieve success as the result of someone else’s failure, it’s like you put a stone in your bowl and some of your light goes out. Slowly but surely as we go through life, we fill up our bowl with stones so there’s hardly any light coming out anymore.”
He looked at me very seriously then and said, “The main problem in the world today is that it is being run by men and women whose bowls of light are filled with stones and there’s no light coming out anymore. Hopefully we’ll realize what we’re doing before it’s too late.
“Do you know what we do then?” he asked.
I’m sitting there with this guy who’s at least a head taller than me, who really looks like a big kahuna, and I’m hanging on every word.
He turned the bowl over and said, “You dump it out!” and he burst out laughing.
“In Hawaiian, that’s called kala, cleansing, but the thing is, after that you’re required to live your life differently. You become a spiritual warrior.”
He said that the spiritual warriors walk a very narrow path, constrained by three spiritual directives. The first is to “Love all that you see with humility.” I’m thinking, “Wow, easy one first.” Makua read my thoughts and burst out laughing again. “Listen,” he said, “I worked on that one for seven years.”
Number two, “We must live all that we feel with reverence,” which means respect. Makua was fond of observing that the foundation stone of the western mind is dominion. Our father God gave us “dominion” over each other and the beasts of the field and the planet. As a result, we’ve been very bad stewards of creation.
In contrast, Makua said, the foundation stone of the indigenous mind is respect. That’s a very different approach to life. I had to agree with him. I’ve lived with indigenous peoples. I spent two years with members of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. Everyone I met during those days treated me with the utmost respect, which was a very new experience for me.
Number three, we’re “to know all that we possess with discipline,” which means self-discipline. So for us, for you, for me, for your readers, this is our job as modern mystics, or shamanists, or spiritual practitioners of whatever persuasion.
The MOON: Can you say more about the third directive?
Wesselmen: Yes. The things that we “possess” are the gifts we come into the world to share. That’s our “medicine,” in the shamanic sense. We must give our gifts to the world with discipline. Consider all those spiritual warriors, big name teachers, for example, who stumble on the path through abuse of their power. Often these get inside their students’ heads and move the pieces around. That’s not what they’re supposed to do; that’s an abuse of their power. Spiritual growth is supposed to be about liberation, not being a surrogate for someone else’s ego.
Or consider the spiritual teachers who abuse their students’ trust by exploiting them sexually. That’s not self-discipline; that’s self-indulgence. I don’t care if you want to have sex with someone, but then you can’t be a spiritual teacher. If you want to be a spiritual warrior you have to lead your life differently than other people.
By the way, I don’t believe there are any “masters.” I believe that we’re all students on the path; we’re all apprentices. Some may have been apprentices longer, but what even the most practiced of us “know” is still dwarfed by all that we don’t know.
The MOON: Wasn’t Jesus a shaman? Reportedly, he could walk on water, calm the storms, and even raise the dead…So how is Christianity different from shamanism?