A term indicating vital or magical force used widely
throughout Polynesia. From his work in the South Pacific, R.
H. Codrington observed:
‘‘The word is common, I believe, to the whole Pacific. . . .
It is a power or influence, not physical, and in a way supernatural,
but it shows itself in physical force, or in any kind of power
or excellence which a man possesses. This Mana is not fixed in
anything, and can be conveyed in almost anything; but spirits,
whether disembodied souls or supernatural beings, have it and
can impart it. . . . All Melanesian religion consists in getting
this Mana for oneself, or getting it used for one’s benefit.’’
The techniques of arousing and acquiring mana were extensively
explored by Max Freedom Long (1890–1971) in his
study of the kahuna magic in Hawaii and described in his books,
notably The Secret Science Behind Miracles (1948). Long established
the Huna Research Organization to conduct research
and spread knowledge of mana and its basis in kahuna magic.
The concept of mana has been expressed in many cultures
under different names. Among the Iroquois and Huron Indians,
it is known as orenda. In his book Primitive Man (vol. 1 of
A History of Experimental Spiritualism, 2 vols., 1931), Caesar de
Vesme wrote:
‘‘We are in a fair way to recognize that we find (approximately)
Mana in the Brahman and Akasha of the Hindus, the
Living Fire of Zoroaster, the Generative Fire of Heraclitus, the
Ruach of the Jews, the Telesma of Hermest Trismegistus, the
Ignis subtilissimus of Hippocrates, the Pneuma of Gallien, the
Soul of the World of Plato and Giordano Bruno, the Mens agitat
molem which Vergil drew from the Pythagorean philosophy, the
Astral light of the Kabbalists, the Azoth of the alchemists, the
Magnale of Paracelsus, the Alcahest of Van Helmont, the pantheistic
Substance of Apinoza, the Subtle Matter of Descartes, the
Animal magnetism of Mesmer, the Will of Schopenhauer, the Od
of Reichenbach and Du Prel, the Unconscious of Hartmann, the
Entelechy of Driesch, the Plastic Mediator of Éliphas Lévi, the
Psychode and Ectenic Force of Thury, the Force X and the Cryptesthesia
of Richet, the Metether of F. W. H. Myers, the Spiritus of
Robert Fludd, the Spiritus subtilissimus of Newton, the Spiritus
Vitae of St. Thomas Aquinas, and many more Spiritus besides,
if it were permissible to touch upon the different theologies.’’
Codrington, R. H. The Melanesians: Studies in Their Anthropology
and Folk-lore. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1891.
Long, Max Freedom. The Secret Science Behind Miracles.
Vista, Calif.: Huna Research Publications, 1954.