Max Freedom Long

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Max Freedom Long (October 26, 1890 – September 23, 1971) was an American novelist and New Age author.[1]

Early career[edit]

In 1917, a year after graduating from Los Angeles State Normal School with an Associate of Arts (two year) degree in General Education, Long moved to the island of Hawaii to teach in elementary schools.[2] When he arrived, he claimed that some Native Hawaiians were practicing what he called magic. Long wrote that at first he was skeptical of this magic, but later became convinced that it worked.[citation needed] He devoted the rest of his life to creating theories about how the Native Hawaiians did what he claimed they did, and teaching those theories through the sale of books and newsletters.[citation needed]

Invention of Huna[edit]

Long decided to call his compilation of teachings Huna, because one meaning of the word is "hidden secret."[3] He wrote that he derived it from the word kahuna, who were priests and master craftsmen who ranked near the top of the social scale.[4] Long published a series of books on Huna starting in 1936, and founded an organization called the Huna Fellowship in 1945.

There are no accepted Hawaiian sources - Malo,[5] Kamakau,[6] 'I'i,[7] Kepelino[8] - that refer to the word Huna as a tradition of esoteric learning.

Max Freedom Long wrote that he obtained many of his case studies and his ideas about what to look for in kahuna magic from the Director of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, William Brigham. There is no credible evidence that the two men met. Even if they did, Brigham was not an expert on kahunas and did not document in his own writings any of the incidents Long ascribed to him, including walking on hot lava. In his letters and manuscripts, Brigham stated that Hawaiians were "an inferior race," and implied they were lazy. He referred to Queen Lili'uokalani as a "she devil," "squaw," and "nigger."[9]

Native Hawaiian scholar Charles Kenn, a Living Treasure of Hawai'i recognized in the Hawaiian community as a kahuna and expert in Hawaiian history and traditions,[10] was friendly with Max Freedom Long but said, “While this Huna study is an interesting study, … it is not, and never was Hawaiian.” [11]

Hawaiian author Pali Jae Lee, a research librarian at the Bishop Museum, conducted extensive research on Max Freedom Long and Huna. She concluded, based on her interviews with Hawaiian elders, "Huna is not Hawaiian." Lee cites Theodore Kelsey, a Living Treasure of Hawai'i renowned for his work as a Hawaiian translator who wrote a letter to Long in 1936 (now in the Hawai'i State Archives) criticizing his use of the terms "unihipili" and "aumakua."[11][12]

Professor Lisa Kahaleole Hall writes that Huna "bears absolutely no resemblance to any Hawaiian worldview or spiritual practice" and calls it part of the "New Age spiritual industry."[13]

Huna books are "examples of cultural appropriation." [2]

Books by Max Freedom Long[edit]

Other works[edit]


  1. ^ Chai, Makana Risser, "Huna, Max Freedom Long, and the Idealization of William Brigham," The Hawaiian Journal of History, Vol. 45 (2011) p. 101
  2. ^ a b Chai, p. 102
  3. ^ Pukui and Ebert Hawaiian Dictionary(University of Hawaii, 1986)
  4. ^
  5. ^ David Malo, Hawaiian Antiquities (Bishop Museum, 1951)
  6. ^ Samuel Kamakau, The People of Old (Bishop Museum, 1991)
  7. ^ John Papa 'I'i, Fragments of Hawaiian History (Bishop Museum, 1959)
  8. ^ Martha Beckwith, Kepelino's Traditions of Hawaii (Bishop Museum, 1932)
  9. ^ Chai, Makana Risser. "Huna, Max Freedom Long, and the Idealization of William Brigham," The Hawaiian Journal of History, Vol. 45 (2011) pp. 101-121
  10. ^ Stone, Scott S.C. (2000). Living Treasures of Hawaii 25th Anniversary of the Selections of Outstanding Persons as Honored by The Honpa Honwanji Mission of Hawai'i. Honolulu: Island Heritage. p. 24. 
  11. ^ a b Lee, Pali Jae (1999). Ho`opono. Honolulu: Night Rainbow Publishing. p. 56. OCLC 43454305. 
  12. ^ Lee, Pali Jae (2007). Ho`opono - Revised Edition: The Hawaiian Way to Put Things Back in Balance. Mountain View, HI: IM Publishing. pp. 89–93. ISBN 978-0-9677253-7-6. 
  13. ^ "'Hawaiian at Heart' and Other Fictions," The Contemporary Pacific, Volume 17, Number 2, 404-413, © 2005 by University of Hawai'i Press

Hawaiian traditions[edit]

  • Jensen & Jensen, Daughters of Haumea (Pueo Press, 2005)
  • June Gutmanis, Kahuna La'au Lapa'au: Hawaiian Herbal Medicine (Island Heritage, 1976)
  • E. S. Craighill Handy, Polynesian Religion (Kraus Reprint, 1971)
  • Pali Jae Lee and Koko Willis, Tales From the Night Rainbow
  • Makana Risser Chai, Na Mo'olelo Lomilomi: Traditions of Hawaiian Massage & Healing (Bishop Museum, 2005)