Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: 'The Bowl of Light' by Hank Wesselman

In this book, Hank Wesselman, Ph.D., an anthropologist who has spent extensive time with indigenous African peoples, details some of the wisdom he and his wife Jill Kuykendall gained from an extraordinary friendship with Hawaiian elder Hale Makua. In American English usage we use the Hawaiian word kahuna to mean "boss," but Makua was a true kahuna, a spiritual shaman.

Wesselman and Makua met at one of Wesselman's lectures. Given the floor to speak, Makua told Wesselman he'd read Wesselman's previous book Spiritwalker, talked about it with the Ancestors, and the Ancestors told him everything Wesselman wrote in that book is true. One of Makua's most memorable teachings is that "each of us comes into the world from the great beyond with our bowl of light," and we can either let the light shine or fill the bowl with stones (hurtful actions). When the light grows too dim, we must pour out the bowl and cast away the stones, allowing our bowls to shine once more.

Makua taught Wesselman the Polynesian lore of how the Ancestors came down from the stars, guided by whales and dolphins, the reason these creatures are so sacred in Hawaiian culture. These guardians gave the human race two assignments: grow, and love one another. Native Hawaiian spiritual teachings will be unfamiliar to most Americans, so this book serves as a wonderful introduction, just as Black Elk Speaks introduced Lakota teachings to mainstream American. People of all faiths can learn much from the late Hale Makua through this book.

In his work of fiction The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, Russian author Victor Pelevin wrote, "The energy that serves for the conception of life does not belong to people. Entering into the act of love, a human being becomes a channel for this energy and is transformed from a sealed vessel to a pipe that is connected for a few seconds to the bottomless source of the life force. I simply require access to that source, that's all."

Makua, like Pelevin's character A Hu-Li, believed this. Makua told Wesselman,"Sexuality is one of the great gateways to transcendent experience...In fact, sexuality is probably the fastest way we can reach spirit."

In another fascinating passage, Makua discussed the four directions. By traditional association in Polynesia, men correspond to the east and women to the west. Women and the west are also in charge of both healing and death and influenced by the planet Venus. This is remarkably resonant with the mythology I explored in the "If I Die Young" post. Greco-Roman civilization called Venus/Aphrodite the goddess of love, but also associated her with death. The rose was her symbol, the reason why we still bury our loved ones with roses. Aphrodite collected the souls of the dead in her dove form, as the Valkyries of northern European mythology swooped down to collect warriors slain in battle. The sun setting in the west is a natural symbol of death, so it all makes a great deal of sense that west, feminine energy and death belong together. Hawaiians, like the Greco-Roman cultures, believe in reincarnation, so death always brings the possibility of rebirth.

I received this book at no charge through the Amazon Vine program. I received no other compensation.

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