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The Baskets Of Knowledge

The three baskets of knowledge obtained by Tāne were named Tua-uri, Aro-Nui, and Tua-Atea.

Tua-Uri literally translates as ‘beyond in the world of darkness’. There were twenty seven nights each of which spanned aeons of time. This is the ‘real world’ behind the world of sense perception or the natural world.

It is the seed bed of creation where all things are gestated, evolve, and are refined to be manifested in the natural world. This is the world where the cosmic processes originated and continue to operate as a complex series of rhythmical patterns of energy to uphold sustain and replenish the energies and life of the natural world.

Four related concepts must be held in balance although they occur at different stages and are divided by other elements in the genealogical table of the birth and evolution of the various stages of the cosmic process. They are Mauri, Hihiri, Mauri-Ora, and Hau-Ora.

Mauri occurs in the early stages of the genealogical table. It is that force that interpenetrates all things to bind and knit them together and as the various elements diversify, Mauri acts as the bonding element creating unity in diversity.

Hihiri is pure energy, a refined form of Mauri and is manifested as a form of radiation or light and aura, that radiates from matter but is especially evident in living things.

Mauri-Ora is the life principle. As the word implies, it is that bonding force which is further refined beyond pure energy (Hihiri) to make life possible.

Hau-Ora is the breath or wind of the spirit which was infused into the process to birth animate life.

The genealogy of creation is quite specific and develops logically from the early stages of the root cause implanted within the cosmic space-time continuum of the void/abyss and nights in its primordial beginnings, evolving into the highly specialised and variegated objects of the natural world. When each stage in this evolutionary process reached its high or ‘Omega’ point, the process took a huge leap forward to initiate a new stage and series.

To sum up, the three baskets of knowledge deal with the three world view of the Maori in which Tua-Uri is the real world of the complex series of rhythmical patterns of energy which operate behind this world of sense perception.

Though we cannot prove its existence by logical argument, we are compelled to assume its existence behind that of the world of sense perception. We cannot comprehend it by direct means. But in the Maori view and experience we have other faculties of a higher order than the natural senses which when properly trained can penetrate into the ‘beyond’.

It is still accepted by the modern Maori that our tohunga who were specially trained and gifted in this field were ‘matakite’, literally ‘seers’; – which reminds me of the words of that seer mentioned above regarding the exploding of the atom bomb:

‘They’ve torn the fabric of the universe, but do they know how to repair it?’


Te Aro-Nui. Literally, this translates as ‘that before us’, that is, ‘before our senses’. This is the natural world around us as apprehended by the senses.

Like any other race the Maori observed the world around him and noted recurring cycles and events, their regularity, deduced cause and effect and came to the same conclusions that most people come to. That knowledge and lore became part of the corpus of general knowledge and was transmitted from one generation to another.

An example of this was my own father born in 1862 and brought up in the traditional ways of our people. As children we often went fishing both in the harbour and in the open sea with members of the tribe.

My father was always consulted. He would quickly calculate the day according to the Maori lunar calendar, the state of the tide, the direction of the wind and other phenomena. He would then advise us what reefs or grounds to fish, and the best times according to the state of the tide. He would advise against going to other grounds which were handier or more popular as a waste of time. He would give us the reasons. By the time we were young men, we had imbibed a lot of this traditional lore. Often we tested this knowledge and found it trustworthy.
Such lore was carefully stored and transmitted. But over and beyond that they used other extra sensory faculties and techniques to test their environment and new phenomena. They had techniques for testing poisonous plants and trees; those that were good for healing and for food; ways by which highly poisonous berries such as the karaka could be rendered harmless and utilised as food.

Some of those techniques are still used to this day.

Genealogy as a tool for transmitting knowledge pervaded Maori culture. Every class and species of things had their own genealogy. This was a handy method for classifying different families and species of flora and fauna, of the order in which processes occurred and the order in which intricate and prolonged activities or ceremonies should be conducted etc.

According to a typical classificatory genealogy, Tane the god of the forest married several wives to produce different families of children. From one wife was born the healing trees, from another the building trees etc.

Tangaroa, the god of the sea, also married several wives from each of which the different species and genera of fish, shellfish and seaweed were born. The same technique was applied to herbs, to root crops, berries, birds, soils, rocks, and so on. Everything had its whakapapa or genealogy.


Te Ao Tua-Atea is the world beyond space and time. Atea is the word for space. It was usually combined with wa-(time ) to form waatea- (space-time) They saw space and time as conjoined together and relative to each other. The final series of the Tua-Atea genealogy is recited as: ‘Te Hauora begat shape; shape begat form; form begat space; space begat time; and time begat Rangi and Papa (heaven and earth)’. Thus the space-time continuum became the framework into which heaven and earth were born.

According to this concept, the universe is finite in extent and relative in time. This is in contrast to the realm of Tua-Uri the realm in which the universal processes were founded in the space-frame of the void and abyss, and set in the time-frame of the aeons of the nights.

Tua-Atea is the world beyond any space-time framework. It is infinite and eternal. This is the realm of Io, the supreme God whose attributes were expressed in the various names attributed to him, Io-taketake (first cause), Io-nui (almighty), Io-roa (eternal), Io-Uru (omnipresent), Io-matakana (omniscient), Io-mataaho (glorious one), Io-wananga (all wise) etc.

This is the eternal realm which was before Tua-Uri and towards which the universal process is tending. The worlds both of Tua-Uri an Aronui are part of the cosmic process. And if the universe is process it is more akin to life, mind and spirit which are obviously processes.

Therefore the world of sense perception, the natural world around us is unlikely to be ultimate reality.

For the Maori, Tua-Atea the transcendent eternal world of the spirit is ultimate reality.


The World Of Symbol To the three baskets containing the knowledge of the three worlds we must add a fourth world, the world of symbol.

The world of symbol is a deliberate creation of the human mind. Man creates symbols to depict, represent, and illustrate some other perceived reality. Words formulae, art forms, ritualistic ceremonies, legend, myth etc are created by the human mind as maps, models, prototypes and paradigms by which the mind can grasp, understand and recognise the words of sense perception, of the real world behind that…….

In every culture, there are exclusive groups who disseminate their knowledge by means of secret symbols known only to the initiates. Secret societies, professional groups and certain religious groups use secret signs, rituals, legends, etc to safeguard that knowledge from the general public. And, unless one knows and understands the keys to unlock that knowledge then the reality to which the symbols refer remain a mystery.

On the other hand, there are symbols created by and for the general public. But these symbols must approximate to the reality to which they refer before a society will accept and give assent to them.

Only then are they incorporated into the corpus of that culture’s general knowledge and become part of that culture’s traditions and customs.


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