Teachers & Pedestals
by Graeme Kapono Urlich
I am writing this article after having a discussion with someone who had put
some teachers up on a pedestal and granted them some authority in her life. I found her very
disillusioned after some of these people let her down in her eyes. They had behaved in a way
that she thought was unbecoming of a spiritual leader.
When I was much younger and first starting my journey to becoming a shaman and a
teacher of Huna I searched and searched for books and teachers who “knew” more than I
did. When I found an author I liked I would buy every book that they wrote and hang
off every word that they had written. I essentially became a groupie and gave up my power to
When the opportunity came to do workshops with some of these people I would try to get
as close as I could to the teacher, seeing them as more advanced and being better than me
because they had grown so much along their path and knew everything that was going to get
me everything I wanted, even if I didn’t know what that was yet.
There were times when I became very confused and frustrated because some teachers
contradicted and criticised other teachers claiming that what they had to say was the
real truth. At times I became disillusioned and lost wondering if I would ever find
the “right” and “true” way. At times I think I even became depressed and thought I
would lose my mind trying to figure it out.
In one period of my life when I was working with one particular teacher I found myself
becoming increasingly uncomfortable about some of the behaviour of the teacher and some
of the people he had gathered around him. After a time I decided that I could not continue
to train with him, even though I valued what he had to teach a great deal, because
I had to compromise my principles too much to continue with it.
Over time and as I began to teach myself I began to get a better perspective on things. I began
to realise that these teachers were all just human beings, like me, with all of
their own ideas, values, principles, fears, doubts and foibles and that my reactions to
their behaviour stemmed from my own expectations and rules about how other people “should” behave.
All of the people that gathered around them like moths to a flame each had their own
reasons for wanting to be close to the teachers. Some sought recognition by association
and some thought that it made them special while others were there out of a genuine search
for knowledge. Bickering and jostling for position often ensued out of fears and jealousy.
At the same time many of the teachers thought they were super beings who were saving
the world by teaching the lesser mortals all the while scoffing at them for not understanding
well enough the lessons that they offered. They sought to be revered, worshiped and
followed without question.
A good teacher in my opinion recognises the synergy between himself or herself and
the students and does not see them as being on a lower level. When I teach it is not to
save the world or to indoctrinate people with my personal view of the world. I teach so
that I can come to understand Huna more and more and to bring it more and more into my
own life. I don’t consider those who come to hear me speak students but companions on my
As a teacher it is not my role to impose a way of thinking onto others but to raise questions
and curiosity that will lead them to making their own choices. If they take away something of
what I have taught and used it to improve their lives to some degree, and many do, then for me
that is a wonderful bonus. Without people to come and listen I am no teacher. Without their
questions my knowledge does not grow and evolve. Pedestals are for works of art not people
and certainly not teachers.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (February 2009)
Aloha New Zealand - School of Huna and Hawaiian Shamanism