- In Defense of Huna -
Max Freedom Long replies briefly to Phillip Rasch.
To the Editor:
My thanks for an opportunity to reply to the criticisms of Mr Phillip Rasch and his colleague Mr. Miller, in an article in this issue of Round Robin. As this letter is open to readers, may I ask that they note the explanations quoted from Harry Price's book to show why his famous tests of fire-walking seem not to have borne fruit. In passing, let me say that I had not read Mr. Price's late book or learned of the reversal of his earlier conclusions, at the time I wrote the Huna pamphlet. I was endeavoring to point out the fact that a belief in any particular religion, or a lack of such belief, did not make genuine fire-immunity impossible to obtain. I was not trying to verify the fact of fire-immunity in the tight space of my pamphlet. I was simply pointing to cases fully detailed and verified to the best of my ability, in my book Recovering the Ancient Magic, of which Mr. Miller has first hand knowledge, having copied much of the book and having sold parts of it to magazines, with my permission, of course.
In this criticism Price's arguments were used, so I understand, to show that fire-walking is not a genuine phenomenon of the field of psychism, and therefore that Huna collapses as a psycho-religious system the moment fire-walking is punctured.
Price wrote that he thought the short time of contact of the moving feet with the coals, and the insulating layer of ash, might explain why amateurs fire-walked as well as Hussain, or better (because of steadiness in walking). But in 1935 Price wrote of the Kuda Bux test (surely my critics have read that report!):
The experimental fire-walks described above (in his lengthy and illustrated Report) have established the fact that it is possible for a slightly built man with chemically unprepared feet to take four rapid steps on charcoal at 430 degrees centigrade, without injury to his feet. . . No one portion of the skin of his feet was in contact with the hot embers for as long as half a second. The experiments also show that the poor thermal conductivity of wood ash is not a factor necessary for success, as the ashes were carefully removed before each walk." (A high wind was blowing on the first test day, dislodging ashes and whipping coals to a "cherry-red colour") "Reasons for the failure of the two attempts to imitate Kuda Bux's performances are not clear from these experiments."
Mr. Digby Moynagh and Mr. Maurice Cheepen had each taken half as many steps as Bux, and both had been well blistered. After taking four steps on the fire, the performed submitted his feet immediately for a temperature check of the soles; the temperature was "now 93 degrees, that is to say, slightly lower than before the walk.."!!! "Owing to a high wind . . . the embers reached an intense heat. . ." 806 degrees F. at the surface and above steel-melting temperature just below the surface, which is 'white heat.'
Does this sound like a performance to be classed with the later fiasco with Hussain? And, I may ask, why in the name of fair play did Mr. Price not report what prayer Kuda Bux prayed, or what exercise of mind or sub-mind he practised as an adjunct to his fire-walk? This omission in itself tends to nullify any opinion Price may express as to the lack of need of psychic powers or states in getting fire immunity.
If my critics objected to my use of the Kuda Bux case, why did they not telephone me for better verified cases and data? I live in the same city and am in the phone book. Or did they hope to discredit Huna on such flimsy ground? And if so, why? For their own glorification? Perhaps they were not aware of the fact that I used fire-immunity only as a spring-board from which to launch my explanation of Huna. If they were not, they would not know that any smallest item of psychic phenomena would have served nearly as well, be it telepathy, ectoplasm, or the subconscious. In any case, to discredit Huna, they would have had to disprove the verity of all psychic phenomena - which would be quite a task even for them - because Huna deals mainly with such materials. Or do Rasch and Miller belong to the same clan of noble objectors as Hugo Munsterberg ("The story of the subconscious mind can be told in three words: there is none.") and Harry Houdini, who, according to Conan Doyle (p. 213 of Encyclopedia of Psychic Science) "was a very clever magician, but his narrow-mindedness was sufficiently indicated by the fact that he died disbelieving that the phenomena of hypnotism were genuine." (?)
Students and investigators who are working forward as best they can on the pioneer fringes of psychology and psychism, are wearily aware of the shortcomings of their efforts to understand and explain the host of perplexing problems which confront them. They need no reminding of this shortcoming at the hands of critics who have exhibited no credentials for entry into the field.
However these things may be, one event would be greatly refreshing to us all; the presentation by the Rasch-Miller team of even the most microscopic bit of new information or tenable hypothesis which might help forward research in the field under discussion. Will the gentlemen oblige? I am sure the editor of Round Robin would roundly welcome any such contribution.
Max Freedom Long
(Ph.H.O. 3113 L.A.)
Round Robin is indebted both to Mr Rasch and to Mr Long for their interesting and instructive articles. The real issue seems to be the familiar one sometimes called 'legal metaphysics' - the question, that is, (1) just what is the evidence, or just what are the pertinent facts in the case, (2) just what inferences may properly be drawn from them? Identical facts do not lead to the same conclusions by all investigators. . . The principle of parsimony (Occam's razor) is basic in scientific reasoning but is grievously abused. Green apples cause tummy-aches; therefore all tummy-aches are caused by green apples. 'Spirit raps' have been caused by toe joints; therefore all 'raps' come from that source. . . Harry Price is a distinguished and cautious investigator, not over-gifted with philosophy or logic. . . As usual, the more one knows about a given type of phenomena, the less certainty he feels as to interpretation. . . A logical dissection of Price's 2nd Report would be a fascinating exercise. . . A-B AB spells BA BAH sometimes. . . . .
- Long, Max F. Recovering the Ancient Magic. London: Rider, 1936. Print. [Re-ed. by Huna Research, 1978: <http://amzn.to/1kIf7vu>]
- Fodor, Nandor. Encyclopædia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933. Print. <http://amzn.to/1ECaOLo> [Digital, re-ed.: <https://www.dropbox.com/s/bmbcp9v8neyeko5>]