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EHE Autobiographies
Record Type: Review   ID: 83

The Straight Path: A Story of Healing and Transformation in Fiji

Katz, Richard

The author is a clinical psychologist who is trained in anthropology and who taught at Harvard for 20 years. The dust jacket calls this "an important work combining psychology and anthropology." Ah, but it is so much more than that. In his professional and now his personal life Katz has turned from being an "objective observer" to being a participant—of knowing whereof he speaks. This book is a report of his two-year study of "the strait path," a Fijan healing tradition. He did not simply camp out there and observe. He and his family lived there and he was apprenticed to a well-known healer. In the course of this he himself experienced transformation. It is said that when you have lost God, you should go back to where you last had him. Much of the Western world has lost the sense of the sacred. Katz has blazed a path many should follow. In studying a group of people who are still in living contact with the sacred his own living faith was kindled and now burns in his new position as a professor at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College in Canada. Katz says that his teacher, the healer Ratu Noa, is the central figure of this book and in many ways, it is his book, though he declined to be named as author. In his Fijan experience and in writing the book, which took over a decade, he is practicing the Figan principle of exchange. It is not enough simply to share what he learned from the Fijans. There is a further step: "As we recognize the value of their knowledge in our lives, we must affirm the dignity and value of the land and people from which that knowledge grows" (p. 7). The same principle of exchange applies to EHEs. As we are informed by these experiences, it is not enough simply to explicate the lesson they teach. We need to honor and recognize the initiating experience(s) that gave us the knowledge and credit the source of the gift that we are now able to give to the world.

Part One consists of 2 chapters on "healing in Fijan culture." The second part consists of 30 chapters in which he relates "The Story." This is a chronological record of his Fiji experience, what he learned, and how he learned it. Part Three describes "the straight path," a way of living in Fiji. He also presents "a transformational approach to healing, development and social exchange." In a coda, "Going Out: Responsibility and Exchange," he argues against "academic imperialism," or the exploitation of indigenous cultures for academic gain. In this chapter he tells what has happened since his return, as he risks "activating what has been given to me" (p. 349). In dealing with indigenous cultures, a true exchange must take place, which is an outgrowth of a personal, not an institutional, response. It would involve finding an appropriate (to the indigenous people) way to support "their land and culture" (p. 351). In a sense Jean Houston is doing this by traveling around the world, helping peoples rediscover and revive their own rituals and teachings. To read this book is to be touched by the numinous. Of course it is filled with exceptional experiences and EHEs and offers much wisdom in regard to how to respond to them—but it itself is an EHE. I do not see how anyone can read it and not be changed.

Publisher Information:Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1993. 411p. Bibl: 372-397; Glossary: 377-381; 22 illus; Ind: 398-411
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