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Deanna Koontz - Subud: the Tribe

Rejecting "God's will". From Sahlan Diver, July 10, 2007. Time 14:17

Deanna,

Reading your article and the parts of other Subud Vision articles that touch on similar themes, I came to a sudden realisation of how ideas that originate from specific religions have become subtly subsumed into Subud thinking as being a necessary and proven part of the "Subud way". Were such ideas merely a matter of personal philosophy this would, maybe, not be a problem, but they do become a problem when used to exert peer pressure that stymies the way we act.

The example that comes most vividly to mind is the "God's will" concept. This is invariably wheeled out every time someone proposes a radical change, such as, for example, that we should go in for all-out publicity of the existence and availability of the latihan. The implication is that the proposer is getting ahead of themself, trying to "go faster than God", that they are showing spiritual impatience and arrogance etc etc.

As you astutely observe in your article, peer pressure and the power of tribal thinking in Subud is sufficient to guarantee the success of such a pronouncent as "it's not yet God's will" in its intention of stifling any debate. Looked at in the cold light of day, such a pronouncement is enormously presumptuous. It assumes that the speaker has special and certain knowledge of God's will. However, there is a deeper reason why such a pronouncement is inappropriate.

The concept of "God's will" is a concept that is strong in some religions. Many Christians, I believe, have the concept of a personal God, who is there to give the yes and no as to how they should act. Excuse me if I am not fully accurate, I am not trying to make a point about Christianity, merely to point out that the "God's will" concept was not invented by Subud, but comes from elsewhere, and should not, therefore, be promoted by Subud members as a concept that we are duty-bound to agree with, since Subud is supposedly neutral when it comes to religious dogma.

For the record, I no longer subscribe to this God's will concept. My own philosophy is now that implied by the "man drowning in the flood" example given at the end of Dirk Campbell's article -- "God" has given us the tools for life: heart and mind, lower forces etc, and now, as Bapak would say, we have also been given the latihan -- all we have to do is put it all into practise in the best possible way.

Therefore, if, in future, I propose that the latihan should be vigorously promoted using the tools of modern publicity, and someone says "it's not yet God's will", I will merely counter by saying that is an idea from religion which I happen not to agree with and they should not imply that to be a good Subud member the idea must become part of my personal philosophy.

From Deanna Koontz, July 10, 2007. Time 16:37

Thanks very much for your feedback. I am glad to know that my thoughts helped bring you to the point where you intend to speak your truth about the idea of "God's will" and its relation to the idea of advertising Subud's existence. I hope you are able to follow through on that intention. For myself, I know that, in a situation where no clear public space has been made to air differing understandings, I find it very difficult to actually act on such intentions. If you should find yourself in that situation, I would suggest simply asking questions about what has been said, what the underlying assumptions are and so on. It is easier to do in that situation than clearly stating your own truth. And, in a way, I think it may be getting closer to the root of the problem. I don't think, at this point, that the primary problem is that some people feel it is not God's will to advertise and others feel differently. Rather, the problem is that there is no space for questioning and no true sacred conversation about how Subud does things.

I find that asking questions, if you do it in the right way, can be very effective in opening up sacred conversation. The right way is to ask and truly be open to what you will hear. Really attend to the other person and let what they say enter your heart. Hear it not only as an expression of their mind, but as an expression of who they are, fears and all. The point of asking these questions is not to elicit information or to solve the immediate problem, but to open up what has been closed down, to untangle inner knots of fear, to set conditions for people to feel accepted and begin to heal. This questioning won't lead to immediate answers about whether or not to advertise or questions about God's will, but it will begin to change Subud's culture and its people to the point where, if you do end up advertising, you might be able to better serve and retain new members.

Again, thanks for your comments!

From Sahlan Diver, July 10, 2007. Time 21:26

Deanna,

Just as you, quite rightly, don't want to feel obliged to ascribe to a fixed religious philosophy in Subud, so I, as a person who, unlike yourself, is not at all interested in any religion, don't want to feel obliged to get involved in any "sacred conversations", as you put it.

Once someone starts to imply that the only sort of conversation that is worthy or valuable in Subud is a "sacred" one, it feels to me like another variation of a religious attitude that I am expected to ascribe to. I would be quite happy in fact to have an entirely non-sacred, plain ordinary, straight from the head, conversation about a matter like to best way to promote and spread the latihan. If someone then says to me that they cannot accept my argument, because it is against their personal understanding of "God's will", that is fine, I have no objection to that, even though I would disagree with their viewpoint. What I object to is the way such concepts, which have their origin in one or more religions, are so often pushed as being "Subud" concepts that are part of the "Subud way" of doing things. Similar, in fact, to that appalling incident you describe in your article, where the international helper implied there was something amiss with the person who was unable to receive that they had "a personal relationship with Bapak."

From Stefan, January 3, 2008. Time 14:8

Hi Deanna,

Thank you for your article. Considering Subud as a group stuck in the "tribal" stage is very clarifying. I feel close to many of my spiritual peers as individuals but find Subud's fear-driven taboos stifling.

I lived for two years in an intentional community and found similar patterns and challenges. This and my observations and reading suggest that most groups get mired in self-limiting "norms". One remedy is to consciously choose re-evaluation and to have a periodic questioning and "discarding" of founding ideas that no longer serve. Tough but necessary to avoid stagnation.

In your feedback to Sahlan you said "I find that asking questions, if you do it in the right way, can be very effective in opening up sacred conversation. The right way is to ask and truly be open to what you will hear. Really attend to the other person and let what they say enter your heart. Hear it not only as an expression of their mind, but as an expression of who they are, fears and all." This is my experience too, and has been helped along by seeing NVC in action.

I have difficulty only with one or two words. "sacred conversation", immediately suggests to me a potential value judgement ...

(as in "this converation is mundane, that one is profane!").

I'd rather call it a "mutually fulfilling conversation".

"in the right way" seems to imply that there's one correct way. (whereas most conversations go "the wrong way")

I'd sooner say "skillfully".

I think your suggestions here could be very valuable in terms of Subud members learning to have open and frank dialogues. At the moment my concern is that clever and articulate people with an academic background are having a real field day here (albeit a well deserved and long-awaited one), while others unused to presenting their views with the same polish and punch are left with feelings and concerns that don't get aired. I don't want to inhibit this "robust" dialogue, but I'm wondering how to broaden the exchange to include those who are more feelings-orientated or less accustomed to presenting arguments.

With this in mind I appreciate you passing on your experience that: "The point of asking these questions is not to elicit information or to solve the immediate problem, but to open up what has been closed down, to untangle inner knots of fear, to set conditions for people to feel accepted and begin to heal."

With best wishes from Stefan

From Philip Quackenbush, January 4, 2008. Time 21:24

Hi, Stefan,

You said:

"I think your suggestions here could be very valuable in terms of Subud members learning to have open and frank dialogues. At the moment my concern is that clever and articulate people with an academic background are having a real field day here (albeit a well deserved and long-awaited one), while others unused to presenting their views with the same polish and punch are left with feelings and concerns that don't get aired. I don't want to inhibit this "robust" dialogue, but I'm wondering how to broaden the exchange to include those who are more feelings-orientated or less accustomed to presenting arguments."

I agree with what you say here (though I couldn't navigate to the original article from the feedback page to check out what Deanna may have said that you're commenting on), but the way to become articulate, I've found, is to practice it. When I first started making comments on lists like this and others, I found it quite difficult to express myself, but after years of working at it in my spare time, it's starting to flow (with no more than a passing nod to the "latihan" as a possible "cause"; it's mainly a result of the effort involved, IMO). Translating feelings into words is difficult, if not impossible in some cases, but if the attempt is never made, the communication is never made, either, except perhaps by gesture, facial expressions, etc., which are not available as an option on a verbally-oriented forum such as this.

Peace, Philip

The link to the article: "Subud: The Tribe". From Sahlan Diver, January 4, 2008. Time 21:34

Deanna's article "Subud: The Tribe" is reachable from this page. Highly recommended.

From Deanna, January 7, 2008. Time 13:24

Dear Stefan,

Thanks for your appreciation and for your thoughts re wording. I especially like substituting "skillful" for "right." Re "sacred conversation," I used the term because it best describes the feeling of a certain kind of conversation, not in order to create a typology of sacred/not-sacred. And yes, that kind of conversation is mutually satisfying, but many other kinds of conversations are also mutually satisfying (shooting the breeze, catching up, etc.). So, although some may object to it on the grounds of typology, to me, the word best describes the feeling of the kind of conversation I'm talking about--one where it is safe to admit you don't know the answers to life's mysteries, to explore your own and other's experiences of them, and in the process, to come closer to your fellow spiritual travelers. It's a kind of conversation where participants embrace life's mysteries and their own inability to pin them down. And this includes what we know and don't know about ourselves.

I must say that I never had this kind of conversation when I was in Subud. Perhaps it is because testing is available and people tend to use it to look for concrete answers to questions that bother them. It took me a couple of years after I left Subud to stop wanting to test to get answers. I went through a psychological testing withdrawal. I'm very happy that I no longer depend on it. I'm content to muddle my way through life with my fellow travelers and have embraced the ambiguity of living without the certainty of concrete answers.

Deanna

From Edward Fido, January 10, 2008. Time 1:48

Hi Deanna,

A very insightful article.

As 'a recovering Subud member' it seems obvious to me that many things which happen in Subud are the result of group dynamics.

To grow up, as you point out, it is necessary to individuate i.e. strike out on your own.

I think there is a lot of 'directive testing' around. Most Helpers Groups at all levels have at least one member who has fallen off his/her tree and is what Jack Kornfield describes as spiritually 'inflated'.

Like you, I was going through some sort of catharsis after 30/31 years and was about to walk and did, briefly, but was enticed back, probably hoping to experience some spiritual fireworks. My recent walk has been more definite. I felt I needed space to move on.

I am unsurprised people find help, support, affirmation,meaning,whatever in groups or therapies outside Subud. The world is bigger than Subud.

Religion/no religion doesn't matter. It's meaning people are looking for.

Subud is an experience we have all shared. Whichever way we go as individuals my attitude is: 'May we all be blessed, protected and guided.

Regards,

Edward

From Amanda Bolt, December 12, 2009. Time 21:33

Deanna,
Your article has described so articulately the last two years of my own journey and I want to thank you for helping me to understand why I haven't been able to attend latihan or Subud events in that time.

I became a candidate helper at around the time I began my PhD and I brought my practice of critical thinking and 'question everything' to helpers meetings and group life and eventually felt that the two were mutually incompatible. Finding that the practice of critical thought was growing and developing me faster than the latihan and Subud ever had (I was, like you, born into Subud and opened at seventeen) I walked out of the group.

When I first stopped doing the latihan I looked into Unitarianism but never got around to attending a church. After reading your article and relating to your experiences I think I will revisit that notion.


From Stefan, December 12, 2009. Time 22:33

Hi Deanna,
Thanks for sharing what you mean by Sacred Conversation. I occasionally find myself talking with someone in a way that suddenly opens space for wonder, fear, paradox, the mystery of it all. Yes, it's quite different from catching up with news (though the two can sometimes overlap). I'm grateful for people who will walk with me into the wilderness.


From Philip Quackenbush, December 13, 2009. Time 9:7

Hey, Deanna,

Having read your article again, I agree with most of what you say, but I wonder if it may be helpful to yourself and the SUBorg to eventually return to doing "latihan" without assuming any "duties", just being there. That's what I've been doing for quite a while now, having quit the org for a couple of years and not done "latihan" for most of that time, finding out, as you have, that there's a whole world outside the cult [but I've only been in the cult for c.45 years, on and off, not 31 years officially, and under its influence, outfluents, effluents and lack of affluence (for the most part]. When I volunteered to do something, the offer was put on hold while various people hemmed and hawed about it, so I finally withdrew the offer. One of the "revelations" in Walsch's "Conversations With God" series is that you don't have to do anything. Knowing that produces great freedom.

The reason I suggest it may be helpful to you is that the "latihan" seems to have been beneficial to you in the past up to a point (which is really all that one can ask for from anything, IMO; the main fault in the attitudes of some SUBmembers being that they expect the "latihan" to solve all their problems). Of course, there's the caveat that you still have to watch out for the Old Guard attitudes that may get thrown at you from some quarters, but if you are able to withstand such nonsense by then, then you can just groove to your own "latihan" beat, which is what the founder of the cult said to do anyway, if you remember the "opening" words, ignoring what's going on around you.

The reason your return to grope "latihan" may be helpful to the SUBorg. is that your very presence will change the vibes to be more preferable to you and others, if you're ready. The "responsibility" is just to be, not to do. Just being is doing already. That's why I generally don't say a lot of the things I say on SUBtalk and SUBvision unless asked, but I don't hesitate to speak my mind any more, because that's detrimental to my being, and I can't help anyone else until I help myself, as the ol' Hindu(?) proverb goes.

Lastly, without your questioning presence, how's anybody gonna know what the questions are, unless they get past their own blocks to ask them themselves, or you're around to ask them?

Whatever you do, have a good life. Sounds like you are already. Enjoy.

Peace, Philip


From Philip Quackenbush, December 13, 2009. Time 18:24

Corrected sentence from previous post:

That's what I've been doing for quite a while now, having quit the org for a couple of years and not done "latihan" for most of that time, finding out, as you have, that there's a whole world outside the cult [but I've only been in the cult for c.45 years, on and off, not 31 years officially, and under its influence, outfluence, effluents and lack of affluence [for the most part] since birth).

Peace, Philip


From Michael Rogge, January 7, 2010. Time 13:45

Andrew Hall reports in his 7 January 2009 as follows:
"Found an American who made a special effort a few years ago to find out how Subud measured up as a cult. Told me he read several books by cult deprogrammers or exit counsellors to help him compare the Subud culture with their experience. Told me he felt Subud was a "weak" cult but definitely fit the bill in some areas - such as name changing. I was surprised that he took the time and energy to find all this out for himself. Tried to recruit him to write about it for the Subudvision website. He seemed interested."
I attempted to define sect characteristics on my webpage: 'On the psychology of spiritual movements':
http://www.xs4all.nl/~wichm/psymove.html


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