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Hassanah Briedis - The Latihan of Subud, Dissociation and the Neurology of Spiritual Experience

Subud and Mental Health. From Edward Fido, November 29, 2007. Time 6:54

Interesting and extremely brave article there, Hassanah.

My experience in my past life as a Subud member is that, not only did most Helpers not know anything about mental illness, the brain and how it is effected by same, a lot of them were quite eccentric personality wise. Quite possibly "nuts" in my nonclinical opinion. How could they possibly assist anyone else?

Pak Subuh himself was quite succinct about mental illness and his advice to Subud members on same. I must say I thought it, especially the way it was brought out as gospel in many cases, downright bloody disastrous.

You were, I consider, extremely fortunate to be where you were when what you detail happened to you. I could tell you some real horror stories from many places. Because real people are or were involved I obviously cannot.

Nutty Helpers, believing in what is equivalent to the medical science of the Middle Ages (humours, leeches etc) have been quite a problem in various parts of this country and abroad to my knowledge.

Most traditional religions/spiritualities: Buddhism, Yoga and Sufism, for example, have been up to speed with the medicine and science of their time.

The Dalai Lama once convened a group of scientists working in mental health on the matter. I believe a book came out of it.

As I say, I admire your honesty and courage. I would be even happier if you were a medical doctor or medical scientist working in this field because I would really value a comment from someone at the cutting edge of research here.

I have not read any of the other reviews because I know a few of the people and have a rough idea of what they might say so thought it best commenting raw.

When I consider the work done by someone like Jon Kabat-Zinn (a practitioner of Zen and medical scientist) in terms of stress reduction, mental health etc and I think of the basic scientific and medical ignorance of some of the Subud Old Timers still around detailing what happened in Cilandak 40+ years ago or Javanese jamus etc. I know there is something radically wrong.

I believe one of the great cure alls for all ailments amongst Subud members up here is colonic irrigation.

I rest my case.

All I can say in terms of Subud in regard to mental health is what the Duke of Wellington is reported to have said of his troops:

"I don't know about the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me!"

From Hassanah Briedis, November 29, 2007. Time 7:6

Thank you for your response Edward. I appreciate feedback on the article and the issues involved. In fact the other responses are very interesting to read, and I recommend them. Some people have found the information about dissociation very validating of their experience.

Good to hear from you, and best regards, Hassanah

From Edward Fido, November 30, 2007. Time 1:25

Actually, having read the comments, Hassanah, many, but not all by the usual suspects, I am even more impressed by your bravery in going through your ordeal as you felt led and the fact that this bravery actually paid off.

Comments by some that helpers who don't know what's going on when someone is going through dissociation or other psychological problems, rather than a purely spiritual crisis, should be sacked seem to be pretty wide of the mark, because it would probably mean most helpers being given an immediate dismissal notice.

One thing most of us who joined in the Dark Ages didn't realise was that the sheer intensity of the latihan could precipitate anything. It was a basically uncharted sea.

Most traditional spiritual paths - Sufism for example - or religions - Buddhism for one - do have a "healing" element in them but it is not emphasised at the expense of the whole.

My gut feeling is that, if something goes wrong with one's mental health, or if one realises at some stage one carries a deep emotional scar which is poisoning one, that is a sign that the Almighty is opening a way to help, or, possibly a total cure and personal reintegration after a seeming breakdown, crisis, whatever.

But it is not easy and I think it would be difficult to replicate the sensibility and support of the Melbourne Helpers and Group at the time you went through your ordeal.

I am always glad to hear something good happening to people after ordeals.

With my best wishes and regards,

Edward

From Philip Quackenbush, November 30, 2007. Time 18:44

Hi, Hassanah,

I (re-?)read your article and the comments given so far last night, and felt I had to mention a few points that I've come across both in and out of Subud that may have relevance.

First of all, in my experience, it's difficult to take an objective viewpoint of the "latihan" unless one gets "outside" the "system", so I tend to take with a bucket of salt any comments that come from someone who hasn't spent considerable time NOT doing the "latihan" and looking at it from a non-dissociated state, which, IMO, the "latihan" definitely is, despite all protestations to the contrary. It wasn't until I had spent three or four years away from the "latihan" that I was able to realize some of the nonsense that was part and parcel of the mystique surrounding the phenomena.

In terms of physiology, I now regard the "latihan" as being very likely a function of the autonomic nervous system being allowed to balance the distortions that come from "commands" handed down to it from the neocortex through the midbrain, which is where the "surrender" aspect comes in: letting go of the ideas and obsessions that develop as data flood the organism and are processed by the brain(s) (according to the recent book written after the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know, there are 4 billion bits of incoming information per second to the brain, out of which we only become conscious, at best, of about 2 thousand). This is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness, the strength lying in the mental, physical, and emotional balance that potentially can be achieved through its practice, the weakness lying in the fact that it is an alpha or even delta state (measured as alpha in an early EEG study that I heard about from several sources, but don't have the original documentation for, since I heard about it originally several decades ago and was a "true believer" at the time, having little interest in anything that wasn't seen as the Party Line), which alone puts it in the realm of self-hypnosis, something confirmed by a member I met once in Portland who was studying to be a hypnotherapist, who called bung Subuh the greatest hypnotist she'd ever seen. Given that weakness, great care must be exercised in its practice to avoid any suggestions that may be given about it to members or others while in such a suggestible state, as perhaps most egregiously seen in the "explanations" that have been taped and published, which are usually listened to or read in such a state, many questions given in "testing" stated in such a way as to contain the suggested answer to be "received." At the last Menucha "spiritual" retreat in Oregon, the dominant recognition seemed to be that such "test" questions needed to be eliminated, all "shoulds" perhaps changed to "coulds."

While these impressions of mine obviously need to be confirmed or denied by falsifiable experimentation, something apparently anathema to those who would have Subud remain a closed society of the "chosen", other studies of similar (or the same by a different name) phenomena, some of which you've cited, would seem to confirm them.

So, while I have changed my opinion of the Subud "latihan" sufficiently to volunteer to work as a local "helper" again, if I do so (the decision has been passed on to the regional "helpers" to resolve the local indecision), it will be with these realizations kept in mind. Since bung Subuh often stated that his "mission" was to allow all who asked for it to experience the "latihan," all "helpers" would do well to put that as their top priority and never seek to deny the "latihan" to those who ask for it over offering it freely it to all who ask (and qualify as not mentally disabled) while giving due regard to the findings of science that relate to the phenomenon that can effect both a member's ability to experience it and what they experience both "in" the "latihan" and "out" of it (at least for those who don't live in a constant alpha state). Barring that shift in attitude, it's likely that the organization will eventually fade away, like MacArthur's "old soldiers", though the "latihan", by whatever name it assumes, since everyone "receives" it during sleep or homeostasis could not be maintained and death would eventually result (though there seems to be some benefit in "receiving" it while awake), will march on, as it has in most animal specie, if not all of them.

Peace, Philip

From Edward Fido, December 1, 2007. Time 1:26

Dear Hassanah and Philip,

I hope you won't mind if I comment on Philip's comments, Hassanah, just from my own viewpoint, because I think that you and he, by mentioning the actual workings of the brain and modern (as against traditional Javanese) psychology have, in my humble opinion, blown up one of the sacred cows of Subud which, I suspect, both the Almighty and Pak Subuh would have approved of. My only comment is I wish this had happened aeons ago.

As someone who is currently, by free choice, officially outside the Subud Brotherhood, Philip, I have found it a wonderful time to confront some of the things that sapped the guts out of my life.

At various times in my thirty-five "odd" active years of membership, particularly up here in beautiful Brisbane, I have had the desire to leave. Rather cathartic experiences in around 2003 eventually convinced me to do so. I am delighted to be having "time out".

My own qualifications, proudest of which I am of the old BA (Melbourne), are basically all in the humanities or social sciences. So I am not a scientist. But a foundation in the Classics (Latin and Greek) under the Jesuits and some study of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit and the History and Culture of East and West and the traditional relationship between religion/spirituality/medicine and healing left me feeling that "we" in Subud had missed the boat aeons ago.

In retrospect, the only "mental problem" I had as a young man was a mild anxiety, then easily treatable with talk therapy and relaxation exercises, at university. Quite common at university in the late 60s I believe.

I joined Subud in Melbourne in 1969 and had been fairly active since including making three "pilgrimages" to the fabled Cilandak in the mid 70s.

Having spent my first 10 years in the country which gave Indonesia, or specifically Java, the bases of most of its nonanimist language and religions, I was never a Java worshipper. Lovely people but just people.

Fast forward. It was only after watching the results of the brain scan of a depressed person on TV and hearing the comments of my wife, a qualified and highly experienced nurse, that I realised that there is a physical basis to mental illness. Too much Subud and study in the Humanities, I'm afraid.

Brain and physical scans of yogis, Sufis and Buddhist meditators have continued for a number of years.

The question of whether Subud is, as you say, possibly open to hypnotic type influences, is a fair one. Many Sufis specialise in "hals" or certain states which can be precipitated. Would this somehow "invalidate" some Subud experiences?

Subud is not, or should not be, in my opinion, some sort of outdated, hierarchical, fringe cult. I fear it has, in many ways, become that.

Subud is really about its members. It needs to come out of the mystic Javanese laager into the modern world. If it has any value, it will survive. If it is just bogus spirituality led by a core of exGurdjieff loudmouthed nutters it deserves to sink.

Once again my gratitude and good wishes to you both for your intelligence, knowledge, insight and, above all, honesty.

With best wishes,

Edward

From Hassanah Briedis, December 2, 2007. Time 9:14

Hi Phillip, thanks for your interesting comments. It's great to have a proposal or hypothesis put forward about the possible neurological basis of the latihan. If as you say the latihan is a process that is directed from the autonomic nervous system, then it isn't dissociation. Dissociation as a process involves networks across the brain, in the cortex and limbic system. It involves a de-coupling of the normally integrated system of memory, self-identity, consciousness and sensory perceptions, all of which are neo-cortical and/or limbic functions.

Our autonomic nervous system is not something that we can consciously control, so I find it hard to imagine that we could therefore choose to activate the brain-stem in order to go into a latihan state. The fact that we CAN choose to go into latihan would seem to confirm that it is a process linked into the higher functions of the brain.

All that being said, I am delighted to entertain other options and processes, as we investigate this phenomenon.

I agree with your comment about the suggestible state that people seem to be in when in a 'latihan' state, and the great caution that should be practised by people in positions of power. Of course we don't always see that, because people in those positions believe very strongly in the rightness of their own approach. I also found your report about 'Bapak being a great hypnotist' very interesting. It's quite scary really, to think of us all sitting there in a totally susceptible state, as if drugged out of our minds with suspension of all rational thought!!

Best for now, Hassanah

From Philip Quackenbush, December 2, 2007. Time 18:46

Hi, Hassanah,

Reading your reply to my post, I was wondering about a couple of things. First, if the "latihan" is not, per se, what it clinically described as dissociation, but still involves spontaneous movement (of the the body [cerebellar], the emotions [limbic], and thoughts [cortical], then it would be a worthwhile study to examine what does happen to produce the feelings of spontaneity ("surrender" being the ego's intent [and has the "ego" been found in brain functions yet?] that seems to precipitate that "spontaneity").

I suspect, having done some taiji and qigong as well as the "latihan" and having found them to be, affectively, virtually the same in the "free" "form" of the Chinese-type practices except for the suggested venue in Subud of restricting its practice to indoors with the sexes separated and the possible Chinese restriction of sticking to the forms one has learned in the "receiving" state (even in the case of the "latihan", suspecting that a person only "receives" in relation to past experiences), that similar or the same patterns of brain function will be found in both practices once a few appropriate Subud volunteers can be found to undergo examination.

In that regard, I would volunteer to be examined, having reached a point in my "latihan" where I'm in a quiet state (no movement), where I could be stuck in a scanning tunnel, as well as a movement phase, if a nearby facility could be found for it (possibly the U of WA medical center, where they have been doing accupuncture studies to test the validity for inclusion in standard medical protocol (something already a standard in China, apparently). However, in terms of someone who has done both "latihan" and "free" taiji and qigong practices, it might be well to test, or at least interview, others who have "received" the "latihan" after practicing taiji and/or qigong (taiji being one of many forms of qigong, at base), as well as before, as is the case with me.

Considering bung Subuh's admonition to not do "latihan" in the presence of those who haven't been "opened", it might be a good idea to inform the technicians involved that they may be inducted in the "field" generated by the "latihan" practitioner(s), in case they have reservations about it. This seems to me to be a question of sensitivity, actually, and adults are not as sensitive to such things as children, apparently (because of thinner skulls, perhaps? Acoustic neuromas in cell-phone users have been found to be more likely in children exposed to the microwave radiation, though cancer usually requires about ten years to develop, so the effects are not seen until they're adults, usually, by which time the "guinea pigs" have doubled or tripled, as they have every ten years since the introduction of cell phones).

> Our autonomic nervous system is not something that we can consciously control, so I find it hard to imagine that we could therefore choose to activate the brain-stem in order to go into a latihan state. The fact that we CAN choose to go into latihan would seem to confirm that it is a process linked into the higher functions of the brain.

Isn't the brain stem "active" all the time? Otherwise the muscles would not remain in tonus (or continue to contract and relax in the case of the heart, etc.), would they? I'm suggesting that the frontal lobe decision to "go into latihan" simply involves the "surrender" of its dominance in directing movements that the brain stem usually carries out according to the person's intent that is formed in the frontal lobe(s) (once the pattern of that "surrender" is well-established as a [series?] of neural pathways, it becomes possible to "go into latihan" virtually instantly. For me now, it's like turning on an "inner" light switch in a circuit that has several sites, like a multiple throw switch at both ends of a room) . This would allow the muscles and other organs directed by the autonomic nervous system to function more freely, according to the signals received from the organs themselves, without the interference of the habitual thought patterns and emotions connected with them, IMO, that can result in somatic and psychosomatic disorders.

While the frontal lobe's power of decision-making was, no doubt, an evolutionary advantage to primitive humans, its expansion into the realms of philosophy, "religion" and science, when such concerns dominate the modern human's thought processes and emotions, can put a burden of stressors on the body that easily lead to disease through the overstimulation of cortisol release, for example.

IMO, then, the "latihan" offers a way to release or at least mitigate those stress patterns. Whether it is actually a form of "worship of God" I leave to those who may choose to believe in such things, but IMO, the culturally-originated "doctrines that aren't doctrines" must be eliminated from the practice as presented to enquirers or its wider dissemination to "all of humankind" through the Subud organization will become impossible, since there are at least as many people in the world that don't believe in "God" as do, if not more. The simplest exposition of the alternate point of view I've seen was that of the physicist Stephen Hawking, who remarked that, while we haven't been able to prove that "God" does or doesn't exist, we have been able to prove that He's not necessary.

Peace, Philip

From Raymond Foster, December 3, 2007. Time 10:17

Hello Hassanah, Edward, Philip et al

The psychological approach is always interesting, but somewhat baffling to a non-intellectual person like myself. We all know only too well that the brain (along with thoughts, beliefs and all psychiatric developments) is fated to die when the body dies. Similarly the contents of the soul must die, each death in its way a 'purification'. But the value of the latihan surely is that it allows the contents of the soul to die in a continual process without incurring the death of the physical body. In this the latihan is unique and quite unlike any of the religions. This too of course is why susila budhi dharma is sometimes called 'the way of death'.

And Philip, while I think of it: of course Bapak said some daft things, don't we all; but after being on the receiving end of his awesome power of love, we are all very willing to make due allowances.

Regards, Raymond

From Hassanah Briedis, December 3, 2007. Time 11:32

Hi Philip, it's great to have you engaging in this discussion - thanks! You are approaching it in the context I've been trying to communicate - as a neurological issue, not a spiritual one.

Taking your post step by step : the neo-cortex is responsible for thinking processes, yes. Limbic system involves emotions, yes, but so does the cortex. The brain stem (including cerebellum)involves autonomic function (ie, completely automatic), not conscious body movements. So your three part division of the brain is not quite correct. But your question about what might produce the feeling of spontaneity is a really inspired question. It's something I didn't address in my article. I'd like to come back to that later, or in another post if this one is too long.

Next para: it has also been my experience that other spiritual systems seem to have exercises that are almost identical to the latihan. This belief that we have something unique, is I think a myth. For that reason I wouldn't be worried about doing latihan in a research setting. I don't any longer believe that it is going to 'open' the technician if the person has no interest in it. I might be wrong of course, but I say that based on years of experience out in the real world, sharing 'latihan-like' states. It would be great to undertake some genuine research, if and when some of you could set it up in collaboration with some qualified researchers.

About the brain stem again, in your later paragraph, I don't think the process you describe is possible, for the reasons explained above. However, I'm very interested in what the process might be that we call 'surrender'. As it includes the overriding of thinking and feeling, I thought it would probably have to be some form of dissociation. But I agree that the pathway to effect this would become very well worn, and can be turned on very easily.

Enjoy this discussion, happy to continue, but I have to go now. Best, Hassanah

From Philip Quackenbush, December 3, 2007. Time 23:43

Hi, Hassanah,

A brief reply to your last post: If the brain stem isn't at least partially controllable by the neocortex, then what is the mechanism for effective biofeedback, which can slow heart rate (or stop it as in the case of some yogis), reduce blood pressure, etc.?

Perhaps the mechanism of "surrender", etc., isn't fully understood yet; after all, the brain IS the most complex structure in the known universe. However, you may have heard of the machine manufactured in California that destroys tumors cell by cell without surgery, using a combination of imaging and radiation, even on moving objects, like breathing lungs. I see the possibility that individual cells and cell groupings in the brain can be examined and even stimulated in much the same manner (but the machine in question costs about 4 million US dollars, so is probably beyond the reach of most hospitals and research facilities!). If that guy in Wisconsin (is it?) can sell helmets that give people "spiritual" experiences, maybe Subud can "sell" the "latihan" (I understand that a place in New Zealand does for 250 NZ dolllars, available online, if I remember correctly).

Peace, Philip

From Hassanah Briedis, December 4, 2007. Time 7:21

Hi Philip, re-reading your comments I focussed on the following sentence : "This would allow the muscles and other organs directed by the autonomic nervous system to function more freely, according to the signals received from the organs themselves, without the interference of the habitual thought patterns and emotions connected with them . . ."

I see your point, and it sounds compelling. It's an aspect of the experience that I haven't given any thought to, so I have to get my brain around the possibilities. I'm still not convinced that this is actually the physiological process, because the physical movements of the body are not controlled from the autonomic nervous system, only the automatic functions that we cannot control, such as a muscles spasm, a nervous twitch, the leg 'going to sleep' and other automatic things. I don't know, but I suspect, that the movements in the latihan, even though they FEEL automatic, are still being directed by the cortex.

Everything else I've researched so far about the link between spiritual experience and brain function suggests that experiences that we think of as 'spiritual', because they are 'numinous', other-worldly, paranormal, etc., are generated by the neo-cortex after being prepped by the limbic system.

However, I am most interested in your way of thinking, but we need to back it up with neurological facts. Can you tell me more about biofeedback? Is it biofeedback that gave you this idea about the latihan?

I'll look further into the brainstem idea. Cheers for now, Hassanah

From Philip Quackenbush, December 4, 2007. Time 8:39

Hi, Hassanah,

I'm not sure if it was biofeedback per se that gave me the idea of the "line of command", but biofeedback may have something to do with it. Biofeedback is generally accomplished from intentionally directing your body to produce functions that are usually unconscious or automatic, such as blood pressure, heart rate, etc., to change according to readouts on equipment. I've never tried it, but I imagine it has something to do with how one feels during the procedure. Doctors will tell you that there's no symptoms to high blood pressure, but I know how I feel when it's high and when it's low. While I'm not sure of the neurological mechanism involved (nor are the biofeedback proponents, either, to my knowledge, but it suggests that other "willed" functions can be changed as well, such as brain waves going from beta to alpha to delta and even theta or hyper-beta (above, say, 20 cps, that might provide hyperalertness, like a heavy jolt from caffeine, maybe?). This evening in "latihan" it occurred to me that my theory could be "tested", but I immediately rejected that idea, because so much "receiving" has proven to be wrong through later experience and fact checking and, if the equipment is available to find the neural pathways that are involved, the results could be much more accurate. After all, we all know what a disaster dowsing for dollars in SUB"enterprises" has been.

However, after that, while still "in" "latihan", it occurred to me that it was important to remember that what became Subud started out as a sort of martial arts club, but everything in Indonesia seems to have a "spiritual" dimension tacked onto it. So, IMO, what may have happened when the club was winning all the matches against others was that their "latihan", containing spontaneous moves in the "training," had been already "put in the grooves", so to speak, and merely had to be called up during the matches, as some members have recounted experiencing spontaneous reactions during situations that corresponded to moves "learned" in "latihan" that may have been useful in their work or saved their lives. IMO, time is a mental construct (physicists, for example, have identified particles that can only be explained as traveling "backwards" in time), and such "training" can occur outside the mental limitations of the conscious mind (perhaps in the subconscious or the fabled collective unconscious [I hesitate to say superconscious, since IMO that's a mere mental construct, as well]), therefore allowing the Speedy Gonzales's of the world to arrive before they've left, or a SUBmember to react to something before it happens.

Part of the problem in establishing neural pathways for various functions could be that they may be hormonally controlled or have something to do with accupuncture meridians or even electron tunneling over a network of widely-spaced synapses, which would be instantaneous (or light speed, which is virtually the same thing within the body), instead. Even what is known so far about the brain is extremely complex. I remember a highly-complex chart (that was simplified from the actual pathways) of visual functions in a book by Francis Crick. There could be billions of feedback loops involved. Sigh...

Enough speculation for now,

Peace, Philip

From Mike Higgins, December 13, 2007. Time 21:44

Philip, I think you may correct that the Latihan involves a simple biofeedback mechanism. Most people are not consciously aware of how habitually tense they are, how rigid their psychic defenses are. Relaxing those defenses just a little can have profound effects. And like anything else, the more one practices meditation/biofeedback, the more proficient one becomes at it.

From Philip Quackenbush, December 14, 2007. Time 21:7

Right, Mike,

There was a recent Scientific American article that basically claimed, from recent research, that's it's possible to become an expert in anything by doing it assiduously, preferably with support from your friends ("I get a little help from my friends") for 10 years. But what expertise is it to simply "surrender" in "latihan" for 10, 20, 30, or even 40 or 50 years with no purpose in mind in doing so? IMO, we have to get past the attitude fostered by "explanations" of the founder of the organization that the "latihan" can't be used, that we're being used by "God" instead. What is the "following" of certain changes in attitude "gained" in the "latihan" or ideas or "visions" that may pop into our heads other than using it? What is "testing" other than using it (though IMO, "testing" is more often than not a crap shoot, after witnessing it as a "helper" for 20 years, not to mention 24 more as an "ordinary" member, a distinction, IMO, that needs to stop existing).

Peace, Philip

From Hassanah Briedis, December 15, 2007. Time 7:59

Hi Philip and Mike,

I’ve had a look at biofeedback on the net, thanks for directing me to the subject, as I’ve heard about it from patients at the hospital but had never looked into it. It makes sense at a basic level, that being more aware of one’s stress markers and then applying appropriate relaxation techniques would help reduce the stress responses.

Mike, you say the latihan probably involves some kind of biofeedback mechanism, but I would suggest that this is too vague a statement, since biofeedback is a technique using mechanical equipment. So perhaps we need some more specific terminology!

My question to you Philip would be – in what way do you think that the biofeedback procedure helps to explain the latihan? It seems to me that what biofeedback practitioners do with their clients is to measure certain autonomic responses and then make them aware of what is happening, so that the client can learn to relax and thereby alter that stress pattern. The common thread there, in respect to the latihan, is that we do intentionally relax and ‘let go’, to begin. And then during the latihan, quite often we will notice that we’ve tensed up, and will consciously relax back into a ‘good’ latihan state again. That could be said to be similar to biofeedback techniques, but it does not address the neurobiological state of actually being in latihan. I find it hard to see how the actual latihan state can be described as a ‘biofeedback loop’. But still open to further suggestions!

I believe that it’s a red herring to concentrate on the brain stem for explanations of the latihan – it just doesn’t make sense. All neurotheology research into spiritual phenomena has found such phenomena being registered in the cortex, particularly the temporal lobes. I think a connection between spiritual phenomena and dissociation is far more likely to provide answers, but – it’s early days, and I’m always interested in other ideas.

Best, Hassanah

From Mike Higgins, December 15, 2007. Time 8:52

"Mike, you say the latihan probably involves some kind of biofeedback mechanism, but I would suggest that this is too vague a statement, since biofeedback is a technique using mechanical equipment."

Biofeedback training doesn't require mechanical equipment, although most people may need it to produce specific results, e.g., lower their blood pressure significantly. I knew someone who worked at the Menninger Foundation at the time they conducted biofeedback studies with Swami Rama (an Indian yogi). Under controlled laboratory conditions, he demonstrated the ability to stop his heart (actually speed it up to the point where it defibrillated and could no longer pump blood), change his brainwaves at will, produce a temperature difference of a few degrees between two points a few millimeters apart on his hand, and control other "unconscious" autonomic functions that scientists had believed could not be consciously controlled. I believe he said it was done via breath control (pranayama) and mental visualization. So autonomic nervous system functions can be controlled or at least influenced by higher brain functions, and I can imagine this occurring in the latihan (even if only in a rudimentary form). But science cannot explain consciousness, only measure it's effects.

From Hassanah Briedis, December 15, 2007. Time 9:23

Hi Mike

Yes, I know of the swami experiments, which clearly are controlled through yogi techniques. But what evidence do you have that the latihan uses such techniques, in any form?

I've always understood the latihan to be quite the opposite—a 'sliding' as it were, into a different state of consciousness, rather than a willed control of the body's state. That is why my model of dissociation fits the facts as we know them about the latihan and how we 'go into it'.

I wonder if you would like to address the issue of dissociation, as this is the central point of my article? I understand that Philip has focussed on biofeedback, but as I've said above, this doesn't answer the issue of the latihan state. Any further thoughts?

Best, Hassanah

From Philip Quackenbush, December 15, 2007. Time 19:46

Hi, Hassanah,

> My question to you Philip would be – in what way do you think that the biofeedback procedure helps to explain the latihan? It seems to me that what biofeedback practitioners do with their clients is to measure certain autonomic responses and then make them aware of what is happening, so that the client can learn to relax and thereby alter that stress pattern. The common thread there, in respect to the latihan, is that we do intentionally relax and ‘let go’, to begin. And then during the latihan, quite often we will notice that we’ve tensed up, and will consciously relax back into a ‘good’ latihan state again. That could be said to be similar to biofeedback techniques, but it does not address the neurobiological state of actually being in latihan. I find it hard to see how the actual latihan state can be described as a ‘biofeedback loop’.

I'm not sure the mechanism of the "latihan" will ever be known until it's put under the 'scope. Crick's book made me aware of the huge number of feedback loops within the brain, and other books that they exist between various parts of the brain, as well, making it possible to come up with a visual image or identify the location, timbre, pitch, and rhythmic patterns of sounds from cobbling together various neural groupings in highly disparate parts of the brain, for example. While so-called "spiritual" experiences may be associated with the shut-down of temporal lobe function(s) (a sense of "self", etc.), experiments in music have shown the involvement of almost the entire brain in processing the data and motor skills involved in the performer or listener. I suspect that much more than the temporal lobe is involved in moving meditations such as the "latihan", as well. And I don't see how the brain stem can be not involved, since the cerebellum is traditionally connected with movement and contains 80% of the neurons, particularly since most "latihan" movements seem to be repetitive, which would use the timing function of the cerebellum. I also suspect that, even in non-moving "latihans" there would be cerebellar involvement with lesser intensity, or firing of neurons. But only a fMRI would probably be able to pinpoint the locations of the specific neurons or neuron bundles involved, and their crosstalk. As far as dissociation is concerned, it would probably be a question of which functions were shut down more than which ones were firing, but you're the scientist, I'm just an interested observer.

One practitioner of the "latihan" who recently died conclude the "latihan" was a form of Benson's "Relaxation Response," which I would agree with, except that most forms that I'm familiar with don't involve spontaneous movement, though Benson doesn't preclude that. For the millions, perhaps billions, of people who can't get with the idea that "God" exists or has anything to do with such phenomena (including me; I was an agnostic when I joined the cult, but I'm a practicing atheist now, having "proved" to my satisfaction that the spontaneous movements in the "latihan" are simply the ideomotor effect, or chemical movements in the body writ large), Benson's approach doesn't require any beliefs to work.

> I know of the swami experiments, which clearly are controlled through yogi techniques. But what evidence do you have that the latihan uses such techniques, in any form?

I've always understood the latihan to be quite the opposite — a 'sliding' as it were, into a different state of consciousness, rather than a willed control of the body's state. That is why my model of dissociation fits the facts as we know them about the latihan and how we 'go into it'.

Buddhist walking meditation is similar to the "latihan" in that being mindful of each step one takes takes the mind off the usual chattering of the ego. This happens also in the "latihan", but the movements are spontaneous and can draw the attention to them and away from the chattering, which is the same with the Buddhist version when the body is just allowed to walk with no intention behind it.

Peace, Philip

From Philip Quackenbush, December 15, 2007. Time 20:8

Hi, Hassanah,

"Buddhist walking meditation is similar to the "latihan" in that being mindful of each step one takes takes the mind off the usual chattering of the ego. This happens also in the "latihan", but the movements are spontaneous and can draw the attention to them and away from the chattering, which is the same with the Buddhist version when the body is just allowed to walk with no intention behind it."

I should have added to the last sentence: "simply observing the walking taking place." The difference, if there is any, is in the intention of directing or redirecting the attention to the walking, but I'm sure that most "latihan" practitioners have experienced the attention wandering in "latihan" from what's happening to the body to something else and then perhaps saying to oneself sotto voce that the attention really should go to what's happening instead of some obsession of the day or addictive concern, and as soon as that happens, redirecting the attention (which is rather suffused in an alpha state, I've found) to the present moment and what's occurring, which reduces stress, as many studies have shown.

Peace, Philip

From Mike Higgins, December 15, 2007. Time 21:35

"I've always understood the latihan to be quite the opposite — a 'sliding' as it were, into a different state of consciousness, rather than a willed control of the body's state."

Hassanah, I don't see why it has to be an either/or situation. Meditation/Latihan can be a willed form of surrender or relaxation. All hypnosis is self hypnosis, one allows oneself to be hypnotized. As I mentioned in another thread, for me the latihan is a heightened state of attention that I allow to occur. I allow myself to relax completely and move freely - or not move at all if I don't wish to (i.e., it's not spontaneous in the sense of being beyond my control). Also, I don't see how labeling it "disassociation" will help us understand it any more than calling something a "placebo" explains the mechanism of it's healing action. If Swami Rama couldn't dissociate from a fear of dying, he wouldn't be able to stop his heart. Disassociation can be productive or destructive. The medical model is founded on the study of ill people so focuses on the negative aspects of it. If you want to understand optimal physical/mental health, you should study those who are well, not those who are sick. Thank you - Mike

From Bronte, December 16, 2007. Time 0:36

I am astonished at the avowed atheism of any member of Subud. We had one person who, on discovering, after years of very active latihans, that "we" claim we are "Worshipping God", promptly left Subud, because he was not going to participate in such nonsense.

As to "neurological functions" relative to latihan, I think many people would make claims that the "neurological functions" involved in latihan do extend beyond the individual practitioner, to influence people who are present nearby, conciously and unconciously. Once, recently, I even found that some people in the room talked of a "nice feelng" when I "surrenderd to latihan" in their presence, without them knowing. So there is a factor not dealt with really well by materialistic science, unless suddenly, unknown to me, the scientific community is now recognising the reality of telepathy..........

I had one visitor to my home tell me he started to feel strange things happening in his back. Soon after his mother told me he wanted nothing more to do with me. I did nothng physical to provoke that inital reaction, but I did talk to him a little about Subud

Was that hypnosis?

Was it telepathic?

What was it?

The latihan at work?

God at work?

And if God isn't necessary for Subud latihan, it must be very easy for "Gay" people to be responsible helpers, too, as they don't confornm to the narrow moralistic "norms" of religiousity, which, at least in this country, ar firmly imposed by the "people in power" on candidates for helper, Gay people who can certainly experience latihan. Hence one such person was among the founding members in the western world.

I think dismissal of God as a component of Subud is not the way forward. Neither is it necesary for Atheists to leave Subud, though if rules like imposed on Gays were imposed by the People in Power, then such caring people as Hassanah would be banned immediatly.

It' fun to be banned from latihan, by the helpers. It sort of "make's one's day"- into a total long lasting devastation. Been there. Done that.

By the way, isn't the accepted terminology, among "true believers" that you don't "Do" Yogi, you "Do" Yoga, and the one who is a true practitioer of it is the "Yogi", but only if he or she is a devotee of it, lifelong, not just a part time or occassional pracitioner of Yoga?

Those word were being used a bit roughly in these articlesit seems.

From Mike Higgins, December 16, 2007. Time 2:42

"And if God isn't necessary for Subud latihan..."

Yes, obviously belief in God is not necessary to practice the latihan. But it requires an open mind so, as you said, it is difficult to see why a devout atheist would stick with it.

"By the way, isn't the accepted terminology, among "true believers" that you don't "Do" Yogi, you "Do" Yoga, and the one who is a true practitioer of it is the "Yogi", but only if he or she is a devotee of it, lifelong, not just a part time or occassional pracitioner of Yoga?"

If you're referring to my comments about Swami Rama, yes, he had a spiritual guru whom he lived and studied with for most of his childhood and young adult life and, as you said, his life was devoted to yoga and service. The biofeedback studies were simply a form of service to him. Sorry if I gave a different impression. He also did some other things at the Menninger Foundation laboratories that no one wants to talk about because they won't fit in current scientific paradigms. For example, he practiced psychokinesis, moved a physical object in the lab apparently via the means of mental or psychic energy. The experiment was designed so that he could not influence the object by any physical means.

From David Week, December 18, 2007. Time 11:33

Hi Mike

"Yes, obviously belief in God is not necessary to practice the latihan. But it requires an open mind so, as you said, it is difficult to see why a devout atheist would stick with it."

What manner of logic is this? In the first place, there seems to be little empirical evidence for linking Theism with open-mindedness. Most Theism is closely tied to dogmatic belief, and an antagonism towards "open mindedeness", and an intolerance of variant beliefs. Most Theists in the news are right-wing conservatives. For most of European history, belief in God required only one thing: social conformity.

Contrariwise, if you're sticking with the latihan because of some BELIEF that you have, you're quite possibly missing the whole point, which is to go to a place to beyond heart and mind, and therefore outside of matters of faith, doctrine, belief, or even knowledge.

We Buddhist sympathizers have a term: "upaya", which translates as "skillful means" but might be more colloquially translated as "whatever floats your boat." In Buddhism, it's taken to mean "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as it leads you to meditate." Taking this concept into Subud, we might say "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as helps you keep up your latihan." For some people, a story about God or grace or worship might do the trick. Others might not be motivated by that particular tale.

Best

David

From Mike Higgins, December 18, 2007. Time 21:38

I agree with you, David. My definition of "atheist" must be stricter than your own. Always thought of it as the assumption that "There is no God" versus the more open minded supposition of the agnostic: "I don't know if there is a God."

A comment though, you said:

"if you're sticking with the latihan because of some BELIEF that you have, you're quite possibly missing the whole point, which is to go to a place to beyond heart and mind, and therefore outside of matters of faith, doctrine, belief, or even knowledge."

Now I must accuse you too of logical inconsistency. If one had no belief or faith in a "higher intelligence," something beyond the "heart and mind" that one can commune with, why would one engage in mediation/latihan?

I don't think that one can escape from beliefs in this world. Even the "I don't believe" of the atheist is a belief.

Happy Holidays to you and everyone on this board! - Mike -{ :?)

From David Week, December 18, 2007. Time 21:52

Hi Mike

I agree my statement was a mite extreme. Beliefs are inescapable. But I have to admit that I do the latihan for no reason at all (or at least none that I can fathom), and that the less that I expect of it, the better I feel. Buddhists, by the way, meditate for one reason: that this, according to Buddhism, is the road to the cessation of suffering, which is seen as a noble end in itself.

Best to you, and have a good break, I know I need one myself!

David

From bron, December 18, 2007. Time 22:42

"If one had no belief or faith in a "higher intelligence," something beyond the "heart and mind" that one can commune with, why would one engage in meditation/latihan?"

Now here I must throw in my two-penneth worth of my sublime ignorance again.

And I think I am very much on-topic, believe it or not.

If there is an observable effect from doing latihan, then it is not a belief that we are following.

It is being done, like some house decorations, "For the effect".

Seriously though.....

We, who claim we have a "response" to the "Opening", and manifest behaviour which is not logical or rational most times when we "do latihan", are showing ourselves, if no one else, that we have something that works. So we do not need beliefs, explanations, even, as David implies, purpose.

We just enjoy doing it. When we can.

So science might be trailing along behind the reality of Subud, and religion might claim it is "in front", because it seems to claim a copyright on God.

And as we can observe (very scientific. yes?) the world's religions don't prove to anyone that there is a God or a soul, and science, looking at us crazies in Subud, can't see any sense or reality in what we do.

So let's keep doing it because it does something in our neurons, and elsewhere, which helps some people make changes in their lives that, to a few of us, seem very beneficial.

I'd hate to give up my latihan altogether just because someone asked me to do what they said, although that is technically what I have done in relation to group latihan.

I started doing it originally because I was told no one was going to tell me what to do or, as I find in Religion, to tell me to do something that I find I can't do, like "Being A Good Person." That abilty seems to be an act of chasing an illusion, even if the Subud people place their rules around our limitations and fence us in with them.

Have a nice break David. I did not think the little interstate visit was all holiday, but may it be a nice time for you.

From Philip Quackenbush, December 19, 2007. Time 8:18

Hi, Bronte,

My stating that I am an atheist does not negate my regarding myself a deist, i.e., one who thinks (not believes; the opinion is based on logic, not belief) that all the universe is "divine" or, to put it another way, there is nothing which is not sacred (scared?) nor profane (nor pro bane?): it's all One, no creator, no non-creator, it just evolved from no thing and continues to evolve.

Peace, Philip

From Bronte, December 19, 2007. Time 13:10

I know we are all trying to re-invent, or to distill the reality, of Subud. What else can we call what we ar doing?

However, there are many things taught, both by Bapak, who wanted us not to take his teachings as teachings, and by others, which leave us with only Bapak's descriptions of Subud as being adequate. Even the Guru site said Bapak was unable to escape religion. Should we find ourselves cleverer?

We often want to find a different place, or role for God, preferably right out the door and the window. Oh, I am finding lots of Atheist around these days. My partner is.

So look at the amazingly obscure statement "I am that I am". and I leave others to find it's source. Nothing could be more obscure, or more demanding.

Then consider the saying "the Toa that can be spoken is not the true Toa"

Well, if that doesn't leave lots of rom for Subud, or at least it's latihan, what does?

And then there's the wonderfull "if you see Buddha on the path,kill him." How do we handle that cryptic crossword?

I think this discussion is putting Bapak Subuh's name into that sentence.

And how about " A new head and a new heart will I give you."

Now there's a beauty. The moral re-armament guys used to quote that, about the God they believed in, the God of all Jews and Christians. That's how one of them explained his recovery from a bad heart attack. And I seem to notice an element of that in Bapak's advice that, as we do latihan more and more, the inner being becomes alive and grows, is something new in us.

Now, where are we if we want to discard God? In the category of the person described in the statemnt "The fool has said in his heart "There is no God.""? It is not I who first said that.

The effort to distill, dilute, distance ourselves from Bapak's original words is going to fail, badly.

Or so I believe, because it is all about something new, which comes into being because we practice latihan, and develop a new understanding, which defies words.

And what is left?

The latihan.

And so it should be that all peole coming to latihan might be told that.

There is You, and Life.

All else is lies. All else is illusion.

Latihan is a new life.

Our words won't change that.

Let's keep that fact in this equation more, please.

From Hassanah Briedis, December 20, 2007. Time 3:13

Hi Guys, I find it interesting that the thread of feedbacks has moved through an evolution towards a discussion about atheism versus a belief in God, and the relevance of this for the practice of ‘latihan’. In writing the article about dissociation and the latihan, I avoided placing myself in any category of belief system. I did not want my article to be seen as a soap box for atheism. But I do think that the issue is implicit in my article.

I heard a wonderful article on the radio once, by a man who was putting forward a belief category that allowed for both atheism and spirituality. He spoke directly to my beliefs. I can’t remember what he called it, but it might have been something like ‘humanistic spirituality’. He described a belief system that was exactly what had developed in me since rejecting all the conventional religious systems of thought. In this I agree with Philip absolutely, that spirituality can exist quite separately from the concept of a God.

I feel a sense of spirituality intensely, but it is more centred around a sense of the sacredness of all life and all creation, and an imperative for good action, constructive not destructive behaviour, and the essence of love, which is to do what is best for the wellbeing and growth of oneself and the other. I don’t feel any need for there to be a ‘God’ controlling all this. The latihan, whatever it is, taps into this universal spirituality, this feeling of intense and overwhelming love for all creation. The attaching of a belief in a Godhead as the ‘giver’ of this latihan, for me is a baggage left over from about three thousand years of monotheism, which is deeply ingrained in people’s consciousness and culture. But I see it as essentially a cultural construct, not as an absolute truth that should not be questioned.

I think that people who reject conventional God-based systems of belief get a bad rap, and that it might be helpful for them to speak out more about what they actually believe in, as it seems to me that there is a tendency for the God-fearing to think that atheists don’t believe in anything!

Best to all, Hassanah

From Bronte, December 20, 2007. Time 20:43

Hassanah,

I know Bapak was a Moslem. But he had the option to talk about the more vague, non-God concepts involved in spirituality if he wished. The Buddha supposedly did, no matter that his teachings occurred so long ago as to be considered "dubious history", along with all the traditions from that far back, or merely a thousand years ago, before printing crystallised the words used in religious beliefs ever since.

Also, in dealing with religious experiences, many people relate things which demand that there be a God, not just a vague universal-life-force, which even Theosophists seem content with. It does not seem part of what Bapak gave us to dissociate the concept of God from the source and reality of the latihan.

I personally practice latihan so little now that I have to say I have no significant religious experience within it, and the component of my latihan which is strictly religious is still an essential part of the reality of my latihan. Namely, I make it an act of Submission to the Will of God, which I always believed was part of Bapak's definition of latihan.

Roll on the Return of the Saviour (or the Madhi, if you are Moslem, the Messiah if you are Jewish.) And then too, Bapak had an interesting thing to say this, did he not. More in line with the Biblical "Thief in the Night" version of the return to Mankind of the true spiritual guidance that is needed.

Well, I offer this as my own experience and beliefs. If people don't want it, and still want latihan, that's their choice. At least in Subud the latihan can still happen, but in religion, if you profess no belief in God, the benefits, whatever they are, are not accessible. Though in some expressions of religion it is all about control of one lot of people by another, and seems to be nothing more.

From Merin Nielsen, December 21, 2007. Time 4:52

Hi, Bronte,

I have a brother ten years older than me. He loves fishing. I remember once he said how enjoyable it is, and I responded, truthfully, that I detest fishing. He seemed utterly amazed that anyone, let alone his little brother, could possibly find it unenjoyable. But even though I hate fishing, I still love my brother.

We're all different, and there are really very few actions that we all need to do the same, as a bunch, by virtue of all being members of Subud. One of the things that we're free to do differently is to treat Bapak's words differently. Bapak himself said this.

Earlier, you referred to the "effort to distill, dilute, distance ourselves from Bapak's original words". For me, this is no effort - it's something that, on occasion, I'm inclined to do quite naturally. But it's not something that I expect or wish anybody else to do. It's not my concern how other people treat the words of Bapak - unless they are somehow pressuring me to treat the words of Bapak in the same way that somebody else does.

Embracing Bapak's words is not something that we, as a group, can ever possibly do. Likewise, distancing ourselves from Bapak's words is not something that we, as a group, can ever possibly do. Both these actions can only possibly be done by individuals, because we are not all sufficiently alike to ever do such things in unison!

Some of us will do the former, some will do the latter, and many will do neither. When it comes to believing in God, the same thing applies.

There's no problem with being a bunch of individuals. Being in Subud together does not impose any requirements of conformity, apart from the understanding of mutual respect that we accept in terms of practising the latihan together.

Of course it's wonderful if, as Subud members, we end up discovering more than mutual respect, such as love, but one thing I would hate to discover is that we're all the same.

Cheers,

Merin

From David Week, December 21, 2007. Time 14:48

Bronte says:

...in religion, if you profess no belief in God, the benefits, whatever they are, are not accessible.

The Desert Fathers said:

God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers or unbelievers, of the just or the unjust, of the pious or the impious, of those freed from passions or those caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated and the illiterate, of the healthy and the sick, of the young or the old. He is like the outpouring of light, the glimpse of the sun, or the changes of the weather which are the same for everyone without exception.

Abba Pambo said, "If you have a heart, you can be saved."

A story from the Desert Fathers:

There was an old man living in the desert who served God for so many years and he said, "Lord, let me know if I have pleased you." He saw an angel who said to him, "You have not yet become like the gardener in such and such place." The old man marvelled and said, "I will go off to the city to see both him and what it is that he does that surpasses all my work and toil of all these years."

So he went to the city and asked the gardener about his way of life. When they were getting ready to eat in the evening, the old man heard people singing in the streets, for the cell of the gardener was in a public place. Therefore the old man said to him, "Brother, wanting as you do to live according to God, how do you remain in this place and not be troubled when you hear them singing these songs?"

The man said, "I tell you, abba, I have never been troubled or scandalized." When he heard this the old man said, "What, then, do you think in your heart when you hear these things?" And he replied, "That they are all going into the Kingdom." When he heard this, the old man marvelled and said, "This is the practice which surpasses my labour of all these years."

A Zen story:

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.

"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."

At these words Banzan became enlightened.

From Philip Quackenbush, December 21, 2007. Time 23:30

I got this in an email from another grouplist this AM. It's rather long, so I'm dividing it into sections, but this first, at least, seems to pertain to Hassanah's research.

Peace, Philip

Sandeep wrote:

>The world as a holomovement.

>

>The tangible world is movement,... not a collection of moving objects, but

movement itself.

>

>There are no objects 'in movements'.

>

>It is the movement which constitutes the objects, some of which are

architectured to sense "other" objects, through the attribute of the property,

known as sentience.

>

>In essence there is nothing but movement, ...........as phenomenality.

>

>A nuance of which, is this very stating.

>

>------------

>

> Wholeness is flowing movement. With the hologram, the movement of interference patterns of coherent light enfolds a subtle range of structures and orders. In a similar, but unthinkably vaster, way, the whole movement or "holomovement" of the universe carries the implicate order and allows us to see and experience our four-dimensional space-time world.

>

> - An expressing through the objects named Briggs and Peat, in Looking Glass Universe

>

>Movement arises from flashes of energy.

>

>This movement is a continued and infinitely rapid succession of flashes of

energy.

>

>All objects perceptible to our senses, all phenomena of whatever kind and

whatever aspect they assume, are constituted by a rapid succession of

instantaneous events.

>

>------

> Mind, I believe, exists as fleeting energy in parallel universes. The universe we perceive consists of the overlap of these fleeting flashes of energy. The patterns create mind as surely as they create matter. Both the existence of matter and the perception of it are the same thing.

> - An expressing through the object named Fred Allen Wolf in Parallel

Universes

>

>A single result arises from many causes.

>

>Nothing is produced by one single cause;

>

>The combination of practically infinite number of causes is necessary to bring about a result. The seed without the co-operation of earth, dampness, light, etc. will never become a tree.

>

>The most sublime poetry, the most profound prose, the highest acts of

creativity, no matter what is the medium of expression,........ needs that

precise combination of the neuro-transmitting chemicals like

serotonin-dopamine-oxycyticin (among others), in the synaptic gaps in the neural network of the brain.

>

>It is this prevailing chemical profile of the millions of synapses in the

brain, which is now seen, in turn to affect the HPA axis,

(Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal),................... in precisely the specific

manner, .....................such that, the exact instructions are carried out

by the physiological system, such that those precise words, actions, behavior erupt, as external actualizations.

>

>In the moment.

>

>Moment to moment to moment.

From Philip Quackenbush, December 21, 2007. Time 23:50

Second section; enough for now; more later, if approved by the editors

Peace, Philip

The world as holomovement II - Sandeep

>The dynamically changing chemical profile of a responding organism, is both genetic in origin as well as the result of the impacting influences and inputs it receives while the organism is "alive".

>

>Genetic origin of any organism whether sentient or otherwise, is the genetic legacy of phenomenality itself.

>

>And hence, there are only universal causes and universal effects.

>

>It is only the Whole which acts, each act as nuances of the movement of

Totality.

>

>Whether the nuance is an act of scratching your nose, or a seeking of Moksha or a whirling in a state of fana.

>

>Whether it is walking in words in a satsangh, or the frenzy of a transnational corporate merger.

>

>Whether it is foraging for food on the streets, or the exploding super nova, in a brilliance of thousand suns.

>

>---------

>

> The universe is multidimensional, creative, and indeterminate, constantly

unfolding new 'forms' or subtotalities which are expressions of the whole. The galaxy, the city, the corporation, even the very cells of a human's body are in a ceaseless energy exchange like water flowing through a vortex.

>

> - An expressing through the objects named Briggs and Peat, Looking Glass Universe

----

>

>The microcosm and macrocosm are intimately connected.

>

>"The cycle of Interdependent Origins thus takes place in everything,

everywhere, in the infinitely small as in the infinitely great. Its development

does not take place progressively in time; the twelve causes...are always

present, co-existent and interdependent, their activity is interconnected, and they only exist on with the other.

>

>Expressed as The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects

>

>The development of structures in what is called microevolution mirrors the

development of structures in macroevolution and vice versa. Microstructures and macrostructures evolve together as a whole.

>

>- An expressing through the object named Erich Jantsch, Creative Evolution

----

>

>The World as Mental Projection

>"Mind" is a description not a thing.

>

>The realization that 'mind' is only a word indicating a series of mental

phenomena.

>

>---------------

>

> For the operation of the nervous system, there is no inside or outside, but

only maintenance of correlations that continuously change.

>

>Self-consciousness, awareness, mind - these are phenomena that take place in language.

>

>"'Mind' is not an entity but can be ascribed to a system exhibiting regular

behavior.

>

> - Expressings through the object named Humberto Maturana, The Tree of

Knowledge

From Bronte, December 21, 2007. Time 23:53

I think, after reading the very carefully thoughtout ideas here, and the responses to mine, I am just going to sit back and accept the fact that I am just Not Enlightened.

Very self evident fact I think. Thanks, and happy new year to all.

From David Week, December 22, 2007. Time 12:42

Becoming Human

Once a man came to me and spoke for hours about

"His great visions of God" he felt he was having.

He asked me for confirmation, saying,

"Are these wondrous dreams true?"

I replied, "How many goats do you have?"

He looked surprised and said,

"I am speaking of sublime visions

And you ask

About goats!"

And I spoke again saying,

"Yes, brother - how many do you have?"

"Well, Hafiz, I have sixty-two."

"And how many wives?"

Again he looked surprised, then said,

"Four."

"How many rose bushes in your garden,

How many children,

Are your parents still alive,

Do you feed the birds in winter?"

And to all he answered.

Then I said,

"You asked me if I thought your visions were true,

I would say that they were if they make you become

More human,

More kind to every creature and plant

That you know."

--Hafez-e Shiraz, Sufi Poet, Persia, 14th C.

From Bronte, December 22, 2007. Time 23:56

Ah! At last! Some objective criteria!

Well-my score:

Wives - 0

Goats - 0 (1 dog)

Roses - flowering - none, but one or two trying to.

Birds fed in winter (or summer) - 6 magpies, 4 Kookaburras, 2 occassional unwelcome crows, 2 or 3 wattle birds.

That's my Total score.

Well - not much.

But it at least provides an Objective Measure.

Thanks for that, and Happy Christmas All and Happy Congress for all you Australian Subudists in a fortnight's time.

I'll be thinking of you as I drive past your venue from time to time.

And I'd say by now I must be completely Off Topic.

Sorry Sahlan and all you Subud Vision editors.

You may delete this any time now.

From Hassanah Briedis, December 23, 2007. Time 23:29

Hi Philip and Bronte,

The excerpts from the other website which you pasted in Philip, seem to me to be very confused, and I wonder just how you feel they pertain to my article subject or my research, as you state. My response as I began to read the various bits was that I recognized the general approach, of the concept of life and matter as essentially energy and movement, but the reference to neurons and then the HPA axis, seemed to be unconnected. Particularly the HPA axis - what does that have to do with the rest of your quotes?

I think the issue of belief systems is, as usual, something upon which people have to agree to disagree. Those that see a belief in God as necessary to religious experience seem to find it very difficult to conceive or visualize the opposite, that all the wonderful, life-affirming, compassionate qualities of human behaviour, even worship of the sacred wonder of the universe, can be practised without any reference to a God. That the values of behaviour can be just as pure and constructive, and often carry far less judgementalism, because those values are not part of a package handed down from a omnipotent deity.

I personally feel that being quoted the wisdom of other philosophical systems, even Buddhist, can come across as rather patronizing, and I don't blame you Bronte from having a knee-jerk reaction. Can we not quote from our own experience and our own wisdom?

I hope family times are good for you all at the moment. Best, Hassanah

From Andrew Hall, December 25, 2007. Time 13:43

Hello Hassanah,

I was very moved by what you said in a previous post on this page when you address the issue of non-belief in God:

"I feel a sense of spirituality intensely, but it is more centred around a sense of the sacredness of all life and all creation, and an imperative for good action, constructive not destructive behaviour, and the essence of love, which is to do what is best for the wellbeing and growth of oneself and the other. I don’t feel any need for there to be a ‘God’ controlling all this. The latihan, whatever it is, taps into this universal spirituality, this feeling of intense and overwhelming love for all creation."

Reading this brings tears to my eyes. I really feel it describes what a "spiritual" experience is for me.

It is so different than what I am experiencing when I have recently been reading Rofe's commentary on Susila Budhi Dharma. There I feel I am in the world of the Pharisees, with complex descriptions of forces that engulf and ensnare humanity.

We recently had a men's gathering where we tested "what is the reality of the latihan" and the words used afterwards when we shared our receivings talked about the majesty of the Almighty and connection to the Great Life Force, but none of us used the word "love" in our descriptions.

Thinking of this now makes me very sad.

I'm not sure if this metaphor works, but I wish that Subud members could move beyond what I see as an Old Testament worldview and experience the liberating New Testament message that the Kingdom of God is within each of us.

Thank you for your article and your messages on this feedback page. I feel enriched. I have learned about things I know very little about and am amazed at what you have gone through.

From David Week, December 26, 2007. Time 0:44

Hi Hassanah

You wrote: "I think the issue of belief systems is, as usual, something upon which people have to agree to disagree."

I disagree.

The problem for me stems from the claim: "...in religion, if you profess no belief in God, the benefits, whatever they are, are not accessible." When Theists speak about themselves, that's one thing. When they start making statements about others, that's enters a very different domain.

If someone said that there were some benefits of religion that were not accessible to gays, or to women, or to Asians, or to Muslims (and there are people that say all of these things), I might feel the need to speak out. I also feel the need to speak out when such claims are made about non-Theists.

Such statements are not based on experience. No human being alive knows the experience of all 3 billion non-Theists on the planet. No person knows to what religious benefits are available all of the world's 3 billion non-Theists.

The reason that I quote widely respected Theist authorities (the Desert Fathers, Christian, and Hafez, Sufi) is to show that such claims are also not necessarily grounded in Theism. There are broad, inclusive, Theists who do not make exclusionary statements.

Best

David

From David Week, December 26, 2007. Time 0:59

Hi Andrew

On Christmas Eve, I attended (with daughters Lara and Bella) a recital of Handel's Messiah at the Community Church on 35th Street, here in New York City. The Church is Unitarian Universalist. They have on their walls a credo, which includes this statement:

"We hold that the best unifying force in church life is common service instead of common belief; that we may not believe alike, but we can love alike..."

I like that statement.

Christianity and Sufism give us metaphors of love. Buddhism gives us metaphors of compassion and of light. The common Islamic invocation is "In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful..." The language of Subud, on the other hand, is wrapped up in metaphors of "might" and "power" and "force". Where do these come from?

If you google the term "God almighty", you’ll see whose company we keep (have a look!) We seem to be trapped in a very narrow corner of religious conception. In my view, that conception is a relic of feudalism.

Google gives some 1.6 million results for "God almighty". On the other hand, it gives some 64 million results for "God love". Roughly, we can conclude that those who associate God with love outnumber those who associate God with power by about 40 to 1.

I’d like to see us align ourselves with the language of the warmer, and in my view wiser, majority.

Best

David

From bronte, December 26, 2007. Time 1:17

I am not sure I was having a "knee jerk" reaction- I hope you never use that phrase in your life again, Hassanah. It is actually so insulting, even if you did not mean it that way, and I suspect you did not.

To reflect how I really feel, I am in line with the previous comment on this site about love. And I thought this out carefully before I got up this morning. And I am not feeling very "OK" today either.

When I was forced to not-attend the latihan with the group, the very last time I ever tried to, in 2002, I told the helper concerned, as I walked out with him into the street, that I promised I would "never set foot in that hall again as long as I lived". ANd I have not, and I will not! I also said that, like a rather more important fellow said about Islam at the start of the last century, I felt Subud deserved the same comment that he gave to Islam, as he converted to Christianity.

Canon Apollo said, (according to historic quotes)

"In Islam I find neither love nor pity, nor do I find in it a Saviour." (That look a bit familiar to readers of the Western press today, even if a bit unfair?)

Subud people - look at your selves! And ponder again!

From Merin Nielsen, December 26, 2007. Time 3:12

Hi, Bronte,

It seems that you've quoted Apolo Kivebulaya. I take it you're saying that in Subud you have found neither love nor pity nor a saviour. I'm not sure what you mean by a saviour. Also, I assume you are not admonishing all Subud people to take a look at themselves.

Speaking for myself, it's unusual to feel what I'd call 'pity' for any other Subud members, and I see no reason for me to be pitied. Of course, 'love' is a rather fuzzy word that lends itself to metaphors, as noted above by David. In everyday language, what I would call 'love' is not something that there's great opportunity to express overtly among my local, fellow Subud members - because they are not my closest community. That's not surprising, since I didn't select them individually to be my acquaintances. We generally choose friends based on closely compatible thinking, interests and dispositions, which sometimes I find in Subud (or anywhere), but often not.

Regards,

Merin

From bronte, December 26, 2007. Time 5:26

Wow!

Another human who sees "love" as a limited word.

Well, I know we always used to equate it with sex, when I talked about it at school. But I'd been taught a broader meaning too, even if I did learn to like sex!

But any person studying seven years of "Sunday School" won't, usually, find it limited to people they know. And certainly, any definition of it as "something one extends to all mankind" would not suit most of the Subud poeple I have known.

But the few, rather wonderful, people I have met in al my decades of "Subud involvement", have been real lights in the darkness.

I can't find it in me to agree with the viewpoint you have on love, so we certainly have to agree to differ on that. And any Christian will understand what is meant by "savior", though it becomes a bit fuzzier and broader when we try to make the term more general, and refer to an "Inner Saviour" who comes into the lives of people blessed by God in that way.

I am glad we don't have to do the latihan that someone else does.

Because most of us would not want to.

But I obviously, even when having a silent latihan, could not do the one "they" wanted me to to, way back then, hence I have only done it in the company of anyone else about five or six times since being ostracised by the "people in power", most of whom seem loving on the outside, and pretty ghastly when you have to deal with them in things they don't agree with or understand.

That's why this site exits. For people to analyse themselves, and the Subud we think we all "do".

Love,

Bronte.

From Hassanah Briedis, December 26, 2007. Time 9:43

Hi Andrew, I appreciate your feedback, and am so glad that you have gained new info from reading my article – it was certainly why I wrote it. You describe a philosophical atmosphere that seems to characterize Subud life, at least at some official level, and I agree with you and with David, that it is a cold atmosphere. I’m sitting here trying to decide what language is appropriate to describe it, and the term that strikes me is ironical. Subud dogma is extremely down on intellectualism, and attempts such as we have here on Subud Vision to look at the issues of concern, are frequently criticized as being ‘intellectual’, as if this relegates our efforts to the domain of the nafsu . But I wonder if spiritual systems that revolve around hierarchy, levels, power, forces, nafsu, sin, uncleanliness, purification, etc etc, would you say these systems are inherently intellectual? I personally have found the official Subud doctrine appallingly deficient in qualities of compassion and love, non-judgementalism and acceptance.

I understand David’s objection to ‘agreeing to disagree’. The need to speak out. I wanted to speak out in writing the article. My question is : does it make any difference? I remember when I believed so totally in the God-reality that a non-Theist (as David puts it) filled me with sadness. I really believed they were denying themselves the grace of God. At that time nothing anyone else could have argued would have convinced me otherwise. I could not see any other reality. That was why I made the statement about ‘agreeing to disagree’. I was saying that some impasses cannot be bridged through argument or persuasion.

It seems to me that the discussion and feedback section can get bogged down in attempt to argue opposite sides of attitudinal divides. I would like to see more debate about the issues described in the article to which the feedback refers, but that isn’t something that one can control. I’m always delighted when someone new logs in to express a response to reading it. Perhaps others feel that the venue and opportunity to express thoughts and feelings is enough and makes the feedback site worthwhile - ?

Finally, David, I love the saying you quoted from the Unitarian church – it’s wonderful.

Best, Hassanah

Starting anew.... From Andrew Hall, December 26, 2007. Time 18:11

Hello Hassanah,

I can understand what I feel is your frustration that some (maybe a lot??) of the discussion on this feedback page misses the points you made in your article. I imagine you worked quite hard to present the material and perhaps feel cheated when others respond with remarks that miss your points, or tell their own stories and use the opportunity to argue their own theories.

I think that part of the legacy of Subud is that we have a lot of wounded members and ex-members who carry hurts and grievences and have never gotten the empathy that all human beings crave.

This is a big subject for me, but I would prefer to respond now to your observation that some impasses cannot be bridged through argument or persuasion, and your question whether it makes any difference to even try.

I want to begin by pointing to David Week's post (as you did) where he quotes from the Universalist-Unitarian credo that "the best unifying force in church life is common service instead of common belief; that we may not believe alike, but we can love alike..."

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, David. I find this very profound, and I imagine that it took many years and much soul-searching by the Universalist-Unitarian members and congregations to arrive at that statement.

I wonder if it would be worthwhile to look at their experience and also to other religious or doctrinal minorities (like the Quakers?) to see how they came to terms with the same or similar issues that I feel Subud is struggling with (or at least some of us are struggling with).

I think it would alleviate some of the tension in these discussions in Subud if we saw that similar issues have been faced by spiritual groups before and we learned how they came to an accommodation.

Rosalind Priestley's article "Bridging the Divide" says the Big Issue facing Subud is how to disengage and defuse the conflict between those who really feel that Bapak's teaching is part of the identity of Subud and those who want an ethos where skeptics and humanists feel accepted.

Of course, it takes two to tango. There are those who are (like you were) convinced that God exists and feel that any who deny this are misguided and denying themselves the Grace of Salvation, similar to those who feel that Bapak's explanation of God and the human jiwa is sacrosanct and very real and absolutely essential to Subud identity.

If these Subud members are unwilling to recognize and welcome others who do not accept these assumptions, then I think it may happen that the skeptics and humanists who value the latihan and want the support of group practice will split off and form their own groups. This, too, has happened before in spiritual groups.

I think we are barking up the wrong tree if we hope to convince others with the force of argument. The best we can hope for is where the Unitarians ended up - we do not all agree on doctrinal issues but we value our spiritual practice - the latihan - and value treating each other non-judgementally, with love and compassion, and bringing love into the outside world.

The problem for me is that I think Subud culture actually discourages members and groups from taking responsibility for themselves, let alone beginning a "Truth & Reconciliation" process whereby people can start to move in this direction. I can't imagine how sitting on the sidelines and watching helpers test these questions would get us anywhere.

So I fear the best outcome may be a schism or separation, so that those who feel that Subud culture is an impediment, can start anew.

I hope this response addresses the issue you raised.

Warm regards,

Andrew

From Michael Irwin, December 27, 2007. Time 0:13

“So I fear the best outcome may be a schism…” (Andrew Hall)

What would the schism be about? If it were to be about beliefs then what beliefs? Subud isn’t supposed to have any creed. Contemplating a schism may well bring it about because the reasons for it would be ignored. The parting people would just agree that they couldn’t get along. That sort of thinking would likely result over time in endless splits each containing a shrinking group of friends. Owning exclusive latihan halls for each small sect would be very expensive.

The solution is to organize for all kinds of sub-groupings none of them supported by the core Subud organization but all of them created by Subud members in independent organizations with varying purposes and structures. This is exactly what we accept in the society of any nation today. Individuals may simultaneously belong to a sports team or two, a cultural group or two, a learning society, a religion, an advocacy group, etc. Those who latihan could limit the 'Subud' central governing body to supporting the latihan by the owning and operating of spaces for the purpose. Independent, perhaps world-wide, organizations with local chapters could publish Bapak’s talks, do charity, arrange local and trans-national events, form professional, business or age related organizations, respectively: SPI, SDIA, SICA, SIHA,SES, SYA but without the word 'Subud' in their names. Not having Subud in their names matters because then they would not be understood to be part of the core organization with its very limited, very neutral task of supporting the latihan. Nothing would prevent the core organization from having business arrangements with the satellite organizations such as renting spaces in the latihan building.

In such a structure, where would the schism be?

Frankly, this model is widely supported in Bapak’s talks if, as with all subjects, the ideas are selectively chosen. My recollection is that SDIA, the original affiliate, unlike the others was deliberately not labelled as the Subud International Charity Association or some such because of an understanding then that it should not have the word ‘Subud’ in its name just as the businesses of Subud members should not be called the ‘Subud …(bank,farm,law firm)…’. Note that SDIA is the only one that has flourished. It is without pretentions. ‘Bapak’s bank’ was Bank Susila Bakti.

How things are organized affects how they change. Local change is the easiest. Schism is unnecessary.

From Rayner, December 27, 2007. Time 8:20

Thank you Hassanah for your article. I must confess that I haven't yet given it its deserved attention.

Whatever I say here is limited in the sense that I have not been reading most of the articles posted. This isn't due to any feeling that there isn't much to be learned from these articles - far from it. I look forward to doing so at some point in the future.

While I agree that mental health issues are not properly understood or dealt with in Subud (I'm definitely guilty of this) what most peaked my interest is the topic of the dividing gulf between how people view and understand the latihan and the implications of this.

The last few responses from Andrew, David and Michael will no doubt keep me pondering all of this for a while.

All that I'm able to say at this point is that I remain hopeful that in time we'll get to a point in Subud where the culture becomes one where diversity of thought,experience,views and beliefs becomes the norm and where anything else is not acceptable.

love,

Rayner

From Philip Quackenbush, December 27, 2007. Time 8:54

Hi, Hassanah and Michael,

I've been intending to reply to your (Hassanah's) post for daze, but in seeing Michael's post I think I have a more cogent grasp of what to say.

First of all, I agree with Michael's assessment of the structural inadequacies of the Subud org., but I'm not sure that renaming SPI, SES, or SYA makes much sense, since they are clearly Subud organizational "wings" or functions (although SPI, IMO, would do well to stop having all the money in it sucked up by bad translations of what the founder said in his "explanations", many, but far from all, of the mistakes pointed out by a former translator on the Subudtalk site over many years of analyses of the manifold errors as a service to future adherents of the cult that IMO would do well to stop being a cult).

Given that that reduces the Subud organization itself to a support organization for the venues and spread of the latihan and nothing else, then, it still remains to figure out precisely what the "latihan" is so people that practice it can have it more likely benefit them in their lives. That's where neuroscience comes in, as well as psychology, IMO.

Hassanah wrote:

The excerpts from the other website which you pasted in Philip, seem to me to be very confused, and I wonder just how you feel they pertain to my article subject or my research, as you state. My response as I began to read the various bits was that I recognized the general approach, of the concept of life and matter as essentially energy and movement, but the reference to neurons and then the HPA axis, seemed to be unconnected. Particularly the HPA axis - what does that have to do with the rest of your quotes?

Well, I thought the connections were reasonably clear, though I think his reference to neurotransmitters and the HPA axis may be technically in error, since other hormones could, and probably are, involved in "creative" endeavors:

>The combination of practically infinite number of causes is necessary to bring about a result. The seed without the co-operation of earth, dampness, light, etc. will never become a tree.

>

>The most sublime poetry, the most profound prose, the highest acts of

creativity, no matter what is the medium of expression,........ needs that

precise combination of the neuro-transmitting chemicals like

serotonin-dopamine-oxycyticin (among others), in the synaptic gaps in the neural network of the brain.

>

>It is this prevailing chemical profile of the millions of synapses in the

brain, which is now seen, in turn to affect the HPA axis,

(Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal),................... in precisely the specific

manner, .....................such that, the exact instructions are carried out

by the physiological system, such that those precise words, actions, behavior erupt, as external actualizations.

>

>In the moment.

>

>Moment to moment to moment.

The phenomenon of spontaneous "receiving" in "latihan" is possibly explained here, at least poetically, but my assumption that it might prove useful to you in your research was a probably a bit presumptuous: my bad. The moments he refers to, at least on a chemical level, are far "faster" than any mental moments, millions of ion exchanges taking place in every cell every second (if they're not dysfunctional, dying or dead), but how are such moments perceived by "us", the egos, that is, the mental constructs made up of verbalizations that, in turn, "create" emotions, IMO as a byproduct of cognitive dissonance between ideas or beliefs and the functioning of the total organism? Does the "act" of "surrender" in "latihan", then, allow such dissonances to resolve themselves by allowing the neural pathways that are beneficial to the organism to "clear", or not? Such questions might be answered by properly set-up experimental protocols.

Peace, Philip

From Hassanah Briedis, December 27, 2007. Time 10:5

To Mike, Philip, Rayner et al,

Thank you Rayner for your comments, much appreciated. If on further reading you have something to offer from your own experience around the issues, I would look forward to hearing them.

I think that Philip keeps mentioning the most important point in any discussion about the neurology of the latihan, and that is that we need to find some Subud people who would volunteer for some research program, of which there are probably many, where neuropsychologists are investigating the neurobiology of spiritual experience (called neurotheology). We need to start looking at the phenomenon of the latihan as it is actually happening and see for ourselves. Then and only then can we begin to take this discussion further, because the theory I've presented is only a hypothesis, which needs to be tested.

As I write this, it occurs to me that I should really offer myself, shouldn't I?? Ha, ha, I only just thought of that. Well, I could certainly investigate if any such work is being done in Melbourne. But it would require several test subjects of course.

Cheers for now, Hassanah

From Merin Nielsen, December 27, 2007. Time 10:44

Hi, Philip,

You say: "... it still remains to figure out precisely what the 'latihan' is so people that practice it can have it more likely benefit them in their lives."

Why should it be true that the latihan will more likely benefit its practitioners if the latihan has been precisely figured out? The opposite might be true - that the latihan will less likely be of benefit - if there's subsequent likelihood of mental interference of some kind. I'm not asserting this; just pointing out the possibility.

Much depends on what is meant by precisely figuring out what the latihan is. Many phenomena can be satisfactorily explained in many different ways. For some of us, an explanation couched in physical terms is the only satisfactory kind, but for others, such explanations are wholly unsatisfying. As you mention, psychological explanations are also available - satisfying to some of us, but not to others - and not necessarily compatible with physical (neurological, say) explanations. Then there are 'spiritual' explanations of various varieties (as I mentioned recently in feedback to the article "Do We Really Need a New Explanation of the Latihan?"), including Bapak's explanations. For many people, only such explanations are satisfactory, whereas for other people, they are absurd.

Is any explanation the real truth? No-one can say, but it's clear that people come in many different kinds, and therefore so do explanations. Some turn out to be obviously useful to certain people, while others turn out to be detrimental to certain people. It's good if explanations are aired, so that we can individually compare their respective merits and demerits, providing we are open to hearing about other views. I think that Hassanah's picture is terrific in this way, and I personally find it interesting. In the long run, however, it's important to support diversity = more alternatives available.

Hi, Michael,

You say: "Those who latihan could limit the 'Subud' central governing body to supporting the latihan by the owning and operating of spaces for the purpose. ... Not having Subud in their names matters because then they would not be understood to be part of the core organization with its very limited, very neutral task of supporting the latihan. ... How things are organized affects how they change. Local change is the easiest. Schism is unnecessary."

This is brilliant!

Cheers,

Merin

From Philip Quackenbush, December 27, 2007. Time 11:49

Hi, Merin,

I agree with your idea that finding out what the latihan is could be detrimental to some people (and possibly to the organization if it's found that it can be "accessed" by anyone at any time with no need for "helpers," something that I've been contending is the case for years now).

The precision I'm talking about is in scientific terms, i.e., measurement, which on some scales would always be imprecise (for example, we can "measure" the size of Jupiter, but it's only measurable by a given instrument or set of instruments to the precision that those instruments are capable of: it's not reasonable to measure a gallon with a shot glass, even though a gallon is defined as a specific number of ounces, not only because it's tedious, but because the markings on a shot glass are rather gross [at least on mine, which I use daily to measure out approximately an ounce and a half of aloe vera to drink]).

How do you measure a feeling? Well, Candace Pert has been doing that by measuring hormonal output in various parts of the brain, I think (haven't got the data on hand, but it's published somewhere [she's written books, I think]), and fMRI's can show the brain functions when the subjects report certain emotions are being experienced. Thus, I suspect it should be possible to get a map of some sort of what happens in the "latihan" and perhaps use the map to "get somewhere" that we want to go, instead of sort of standing around and waiting for something to happen that may or may not be helpful to us.

Peace, Philip

Schism?. From Andrew Hall, December 27, 2007. Time 13:9

This is a reply to Michael Irwin's post.

This feedback page is supposed to be about Hassanah's article and I am loath to start a side conversation but my mentioning the s... word seems to have pushed some buttons:

"Contemplating a schism may well bring it about because the reasons for it would be ignored. The parting people would just agree that they couldn’t get along. That sort of thinking would likely result over time in endless splits each containing a shrinking group of friends. Owning exclusive latihan halls for each small sect would be very expensive."

I started out by trying to frame Hassanah's question in the following terms - whether it is possible to reconcile those in Subud who feel Bapak's explanation of the latihan and things spiritual or other theist interpretations are the Truth, and those who are agnostic, skeptical or non-theist and want recognition that the latihan is available and worthwhile for people with these beliefs.

I ended up expressing some doubts about the ability of Subud culture and the Subud organization to work through and make decisions so that this would be possible.

If you really feel that Subud can reform itself in this direction, Michael, then I am surprised to hear this.

My wish list is a re-writing of Subud web sites and information pamphlets that recognizes Subud's origin, history and the range of feelings of current members about what the latihan is, and a consensus among helpers and members that this is how we will explain the latihan and Subud to applicants. How do we get there from here? What are the impediments and how do we deal with them?

I don't expect a reply and if there is a desire to continue this discussion, we should probably have this moved to a different page.

Thank-you.

From Merin Nielsen, December 27, 2007. Time 13:14

Hi, Philip,

"... and perhaps use the map to 'get somewhere' that we want to go"

Okay, but wherever we might choose to go, based on a map of what occurs during the latihan, might not be 'where it is best to go' - if this is beyond the capacity of the map to indicate. If the latihan cannot operate under mental jurisdiction, then no scientific map is likely to help the latihan to do whatever it does. There are piles of philosophical discussion and very deep issues about the role of measurement in science (not even concerning quantum stuff), including the very concept of 'explanation'. It's important to recognise the limitations of scientific processes. I respect your use of phrases such as "I suspect it should be possible to...", and I think there's probably no harm in trying, but on my part, I strongly suspect it will be impossible to acquire any map (of whatever occurs in the latihan) that would provide means to somehow deliberately direct or enhance it with useful results.

Regards,

Merin

From Mike Higgins, December 27, 2007. Time 21:2

Philip said: "Thus, I suspect it should be possible to get a map of some sort of what happens in the 'latihan'"

Perhaps, but the map is not the territory. Measuring the electrical output of an engine is not going to tell you how it operates. Furthermore, the assumption is being made that we're all practising the same latihan. The physiological processes occurring in my body/mind while practicing the latihan may be different from those occurring in the body/mind of another latihan practitioner. If I can control the "dissociation" experience, the "meter readings" on me may be quite different than those seen on someone who cannot control it. Stanley Krippner discusses this in his talk, 'Varieties of Dissociation Experience', that I posted the link to here. - Mike

[ as he struggles to drag the discussion back to issues addressed by Hassanah's article. -{ :?) ]

From Philip Quackenbush, December 27, 2007. Time 21:23

Hi, Merin,

"If the latihan cannot operate under mental jurisdiction, then no scientific map is likely to help the latihan to do whatever it does."

Hmmm. What is "testing", then, if not a directing of the conscious "mind" (the frontal lobes) to the "unconscious" (roughly speaking, the rest of the brain), to come up with an answer through some sort of "indication"? Bung Subuh has suggested in several "explanations" that it is not enough to just placidly go on "doing the latihan" without giving it some sort of direction when needed or appropriate, such as "asking" it ("God"!) to be quieter when it disturbs the group process. Of course, he put it in terms familiar to him and other Javanese, but that's it, in essence, as I see it, and read or heard it in translation at least once or twice personally.

In 20 years of observation of "answers" as a "helper" I don't recall a single instance in which the "answers" in "testing" were not related to the previous experiences of the people doing the "testing", i.e., data stored somewhere in the biological computer known as the body, the most researched (and most easily researched, because the mechanism of its operations are fairly well understood now, despite its extreme complexity) portion of which, seen as such, being the brain. This doesn't preclude, of course, that some of those experiences might have been telepathically "received" from some other source, but the universe, as now perceived by science, and explained by Seth Lloyd in his book Programming the Universe, IS a vast self-expanding and self-regulating computer, so telepathy seems to be within the realm of possibility for the human brain, with its considerable capacity for absorbing and storing data and its sensitivity to percepts through known sensors (the retina can respond to a single photon, for example), although scientists have stayed away from exploring it, for the most part, just as they've not addressed until recently the "hard question" of "What is consciousness?".

Peace, Philip

From Hassanah Briedis, December 27, 2007. Time 23:7

Hi All, - Mike, I’m in the process of listening to the download of the talk about dissociation, so will get back to you when I’ve heard it through. Thanks for the link!

I agree with Merin about the many differences in the way the latihan – and understanding of it – will be useful to people. Absolutely. My approach is linked to David Week’s concern about the fact that Subud has not yet developed a ‘research’ arm, in other words, an ability to examine itself and its practices, using modern methods. The internet has emerged as a turning point in Subud’s history, because it seems to be the driving mechanism in a new self-examination. I may be wrong, but it’s possible that internet discussion has been successful because it’s not face-to-face, it is much more divorced from emotion, it has allowed intellect and intelligence to flourish (so often discouraged at the group level).

So neurological research would address certain issues, would open certain doors, that would be of interest to some, and not to others, just as it is in other areas of life in the world. It doesn’t invalidate it just because not everyone is interested. My interest in it is because research is being undertaken in other areas of spiritual experience, and any research done on the latihan by ‘official’ people, will be slotted into current understandings in neurotheology. At the beginning it will probably not impact on Subud much at all. But it would mean that the Subud experience would actually be taken more seriously at these levels, simply by being included in cutting edge research. The flow-on effect for us would probably take ten years or more.

As for getting a map of the latihan, or measuring it, etc., that will also be a slow and bit-at-a-time process. These research protocols are not quick. I don’t think we need to worry too much about where it might all take us (with the inference that it might be detrimental), because it will depend on what we find!

Thank you all for participating in this discussion – I look forward to more.

Hassanah

From Merin Nielsen, December 27, 2007. Time 23:53

Hi, Philip,

When it comes to phenomena involving complex processes, I think there are at least two sorts of relevant map / explanation that may be distinguished. The first sort is perhaps like an engineer's workshop manual; the second is more like a user's manual. The first is fabulously detailed and powerful, describing means for the operative processes to be manipulated, although in this metaphor it pays to remember that a workshop manual can exist only because the respective device was designed from the ground up by engineers themselves. The second sort does not allow for the operative processes to be manipulated. The user's manual explains what results to expect when certain buttons get pushed, and maybe how to effectively deal with various contingencies, possibly how to prompt particular types of outcome, and how to get the most benefit out of the device, but it isn't supposed to supply any insight about how the device actually functions, or any means to influence that. In accord with this metaphor, I maintain that testing does not involve the latihan itself being 'directed' by the conscious mind, and it appears to me that the latihan could not operate in such a situation.

It's interesting to interrogate this metaphor a little; who's really the 'user' of the latihan anyway?

Cheers,

Merin

From Edward Fido, December 28, 2007. Time 1:8

Hi Hassanah,

I think that you have really pointed to the fact that the latihan experience - whatever it is - has to operate through the body's physical mechanism.

As others have pointed out brain scans have been done of various yogis, Zen Masters and Sufis meditating.

Obviously, the latihan not being an experience where you sit absolutely still, special equipment may be required to scan the brain (unbreakable?).

One of the problems this will raise is that this will take Subud out into the real world and possibly invite comparison with other spiritual ways. I am unsure whether this will be popular with the Old Guard.

The more spirituo-philosophical-theological questions people have raised may not be germane to your central thesis.

The Roman Catholic Church, I believe, did attempt to assess and record the physical phenomena manifested in the three children at Fatima.

I commend your approach.

Regards and best wishes to all,

Edward

Compass and map. From Merin Nielsen, December 28, 2007. Time 2:14

An afterthought: When hiking across the countryside, I may have a map, but be unable to recognise the landmarks which it indicates. In that case I need a compass, and it is clearly self-defeating to control which way the compass points. I have to simply trust it. But also it can be used to determine what landmark I happen to be looking at, by placing the compass upon the map in order to orient the map correctly. Throughout all this, I don't need to know precisely how the compass manages to always point north, and even if I did, such knowledge could not help me to navigate my way across the countryside.

Cute metaphor, huh? I'm not saying there's anything inappropriate about studying what physical processes correlate to the latihan. This might well prove useful in terms of developing a better picture of how to cope with contingencies or make room for more effective benefit. I'm just noting that it should not be expected to help facilitate whatever action the latihan involves.

Merin

From David W, December 28, 2007. Time 3:58

Hi Merin and all,

Re your "map" metaphor, and the question of whether it might help people "do" the latihan. I agree: it probably won't. If the latihan is movement not directed by ordinary consciousness, then what help would a map intelligible to ordinary consciousness be? (The same question might be asked of Pak Subuh's Kejawen map.)

However, consider sleep research. Sleep research suggests the function of sleep. It even suggests different patterns of sleep, e.g. when it's "best" to wake up, and when worst; what minimal pattern of sleep is most effective. But it doesn't actually help anyone to sleep.

So, for instance, research might not assist someone to do the latihan. It might even be positively unhelpful. But it might suggest that there are patterns better than 2 x 30 minutes per week; and that there are times when it is helpful to do more, and other times to do less; and what might be realistically be expected of testing, and what is wholly unrealistic.

Best

David

From David W, December 28, 2007. Time 5:44

Hi all

I notice a pattern in the conversation here, which I think is dangerous: and that is, that the idea that of A map (singular.)

We are used to there being a single map for how the weather works, or population growth, or how ice forms, or how electrons flow on a silicon chip.

But there is no single map for how music works, or how cultures change, or what poetry means, or even how language works.

So: I would love to see what the neuroscience of the latihan might produce. But I don't think that it would produce a unique, singular map of the latihan. Rather, it would produce just another map: no more, but no less.

Best

David

From Merin Nielsen, December 28, 2007. Time 7:17

In the "Compass and map" comment above (Time 2:14), I intended the 'map' in the hiking metaphor to have nothing to do with other mention of maps in other comments above. The map in the hiking metaphor was meant to represent roughly any kind of rational guidance for finding one's way through life. (Thus the compass was supposed to represent the latihan.) I'm sorry for causing confusion.

Merin

From Philip Quackenbush, December 28, 2007. Time 7:45

Hi, y'all,

In my use of the word "map," since Merin is discussing his, I was referring to the scientific modeling, or mapping of something. As to the usefulness, if one takes the example of the modeling of the atom, originally it was considered to be the smallest particle of matter. When the Bohr (wasn't it?) model of electrons in orbits around a nucleus of protons and neutrons became popular, modern chemistry became possible. Now the model is more along the lines of wave packets and electron clouds of various densities, which apparently is useful in quantum theory that, in turn, has given us products such as lasers and transistors, and will soon give us practical quantum computers (that already exist in primitive models) that will run rings around the classical computers we have now.

A modeling of what happens physically and psychologically in the brain or person, as they say in NY, vouldn' hoit, IMO, and if it were seen to be revisable as new data comes online, then the rigid views often expressed about the "latihan" might become more malleable and members might be able to choose various possible applications of it for themselves, just as a chemist can manipulate atoms in the laboratory to come up with useful compounds such as improved steel and cancer-fighting drugs (although IMO, biological research has found better alternatives to synthetic drugs in that instance).

Peace, Philip

From Hanna Thomas, January 2, 2008. Time 10:50

Hi Hassanah,

I sooo enjoyed reading your article - thanks for your insightful, educational and articluate contribution on this very important topic. As you know, I have had concerns for several years now about the irresponible attitude of the Subud Organisation to mental health and illness. I am hoping to draft a policy/set of guidelines at our up-coming national congress about how we should provide appropriate care to members with a mental health problem. A somehwat ambitious task - but I want to make a start at addressing what you have already stated (to quote you) "Subud is behaving unethically in not taking this subject serious at decision-making levels". If you have any tips/suggestions on this, it would be much appreciated if you could send them my way. I am aiming for a strong practical focus in writing the policy,e.g. How to recognise mental health problems; What advice to give members who have a mental health problem; What might be useful to test with members and what shouldn't be tested; A reference of useful resources for members/helpers/carers; Establishing a network of Subud members who have professional experise in this area; etc.

Best wishes to you,

Hanna Thomas

Subud Wollumbin (Australia)

From Sahlan Diver, January 2, 2008. Time 12:40

Hanna,

Great project, and I have an additional suggestion - collect case histories, from which the helpers can learn. Two examples I know of from a long time ago:

1) Someone who was on medication for mental illness was opened - I believe the helpers tested the opening was OK, but the applicant was left alone in a waiting room with just one person, a non-helper, while the helpers did a pre-opening clearance. The applicant had never heard the noise of the latihan before and got quite disturbed and upset by it, but there was no experienced helper with them to offer support.

2) A person who involved all levels of the helper organisation for years in testing about their life situation without anyone suspecting mental illness, until a chance observation by a visitor showed that there was a problem and the person finally received the appropriate treatment.

From Philip Quackenbush, January 2, 2008. Time 19:21

Hi, Hanna and Sahlan,

I can give a slightly different example, which pertains to the legal status of Subud testing in relation to mental problems. At a Denver congress several years ago a member who was a lawyer and a "helper" pointed out that "testing" in such cases was a virtual ticking time bomb, in that giving advice when one is not legally qualified to do so can result in major lawsuits, and it would only take one major award to wipe out the organization financially.

The example I'm thinking of was a member who exhibited sudden, major personality changes that were tearing the family apart. The advice sent from "on high" (Ibu Rahayu, in this case) was that it was just "purification". It later occurred to me that it might be that a stroke had happened, and several people have agreed with me about that, though I'm not sure whether any of us is a qualified health practitioner of any sort. Anyway, a clear diagnosis in such a case that went against what was "received" could have resulted in a suit being brought against the organization with a possible major award being granted by the court. The organization can sit back and assume its under the protection of "God", but I'd suggest that, even despite that, if clear policies are not established, then the Association could be liable, rather than the specific "helpers" involved that could be going against those policies.

The easiest solution, IMO, is to eliminate "testing" for answers to members' questions entirely, but since that's unlikely to occur in an organization where it's seen to be one of the chief advantages of the "spiritual" practice, setting up policies, not just guidelines, for "helpers" and having them sign off on them to take on the position of "helper" may be the only solution to avoid possible future legal quagmires.

Peace, Philip

From Sahlan Diver, January 2, 2008. Time 20:8

A fascinating point, Philip.

Regarding setting up policies, I wonder whether that could ever give sufficient legal protection. There are surely too many grey areas. For example, a person starts to experience some strange but mild feelings, they go to the helpers who test in good faith and receive that it's just purification and will pass in a few months. The person leaves the situation alone even though the feelings get much worse. It turns out on this occasion that the helper testing is wrong, the person is suffering mental illness. The family urge the person to get treatment but they say "No, I've tested, it will be OK". Let's say the person then attacks and injures a member of their family. The family sue on the grounds that the person was encouraged to follow the testing and this prevented them seeking appropriate treatment for their worsening condition. In this case one could say the helpers probably followed reasonable guidelines, they tested in good faith and truthfully stated what they received - unfortunately they were wrong, with serious consequences.

I am no legal expert but it may be that the only real protection for Subud is to ask members to sign some kind of document that states that the responsibility of choosing to follow testing results is their's alone, and that therefore they can't hold Subud responsible if they request testing which turns out to be wrong.

Another answer might simply be to insure. If you enter a business premises and fall over on slippery floor, you can sue. Businesses do not conclude they should let no-one into their premises, or ask visitors to sign a waiver at the door, they recognise accidents can happen for which they will be deemed liable, and insure against them,

Sahlan

From Philip Quackenbush, January 2, 2008. Time 20:46

Hi, Sahlan,

You said:

"Regarding setting up policies, I wonder whether that could ever give sufficient legal protection."

I doubt that there's anything that could give total legal protection, because the whole business of lawyering is to get a judgment in favor of your client, and lawyers can often find persuasive arguments that will sway a judge or jury to rule in their favor, but I have no knowledge of the SUBorg having any legal protection whatsoever other than copyright for the symbol and publications.

"I am no legal expert but it may be that the only real protection for Subud is to ask members to sign some kind of document that states that the responsibility of choosing to follow testing results is their's alone, and that therefore they can't hold Subud responsible if they request testing which turns out to be wrong."

Could be a good idea, but the law may vary from country to country on liability.

"Another answer might simply be to insure. If you enter a business premises and fall over on slippery floor, you can sue. Businesses do not conclude they should let no-one into their premises, or ask visitors to sign a waiver at the door, they recognise accidents can happen for which they will be deemed liable, and insure against them,"

Another possibility. Maybe a SUBlawyer might know the preferable course to pursue. Peter Fillipelli is one name that comes to mind, but he's a criminal defense lawyer, I think, and might not be the best choice. Part of the problem with consulting a lawyer not in the cult might be a lack of familiarity with what happens in camera during "testing".

If the organization is to survive, either in its present or modified form, it seems prudent to me to take some such step as a precaution. The nice thing about the "latihan" is that it doesn't require an organization to survive or even promote it, though, so I guess it comes down to how attached one is to the organization's survival. Personally, I don't care much one way or the other, but a lot of the people I feel close to are in the org., and it's convenient to walk four blocks to do grope "latihan" and socialize afterwards.

Peace, Philip

From Sahlan Diver, January 2, 2008. Time 21:6

Philip,

Seems to me that's a strong argument in favour of the survival of the organisation, because if there's no organisation to sue, individuals are going to be sued instead - a far worse prospect,

Sahlan

From Philip Quackenbush, January 2, 2008. Time 22:27

Hi, Sahlan,

That doesn't guarantee that the individuals won't get sued; they often are, as part of the suit. That's one of the reasons I was reluctant to become chair, first of the San Francisco group, and later Seattle, because the officers of a corporation can be held liable for its acts, and both groups were in situations that were problematic legally (the Seattle group at the time I became chair, was its own corporation, but has subsequently become a part of Subud PNW, which is part of the national corporation, I think, and is now known as the Subud Greater Seattle, because the Subud Eastside group had to merge with the Seattle group to save the skins of one or the other [I wasn't in the cult at the time, so I'm not clear on the history, if anyone is]).

The likelihood of non-profit organizations getting sued, BTW, seems to have gone up in this country, as seen in the prosecution of various Catholic dioceses for the pedophile priests they've been responsible for hiding. At least one diocese has declared bankruptcy as a result of court judgments against it, I seem to recall from a newspaper article I read a while back.

Peace, Philip

From Stefan, January 3, 2008. Time 0:9

Hi Philip,

I just noticed you wrote this:

a lot of the people I feel close to are in the org., and it's convenient to walk four blocks to do grope latihan and socialize afterwards.

WOW, That's a hot idea! This "grope latihan" innovation (especially if latihans were mixed) could be just the way to attract new members. Wonder how many people would keep their eyes shut ...

Happy New Year

Stefan

From Hanna Thomas, January 3, 2008. Time 0:32

Hi Sahlan and Philip,

thanks for your comments. I'm planning on using a scenario-based approach for part of the policy/guidelines. So please provide me with any other cases you know of - they would be very helpful. I'm also well aware of the potential legal implications of our 'neglect' in this matter. I don't want to focus too much on this and think that by having a policy that Helpers/Members follow will help to ameliorate our responsibility. At the very least we should have this in place at an organisational level.

Regards,

Hanna.

From Philip Quackenbush, January 3, 2008. Time 8:1

Hi, Hanna,

I can think of two instances more that involved the law in cases of what was clearly mental illness.

The first was about the time I was chair of the SF group, between the time we were renting a hall and went to renting our own house, owned by a Subud member, but being purchased from him by Subud California, I think. The facility we used in the interim was the second story of a semi-industrial structure in a high-crime neighborhood with three rooms, the men's hall and women's hall and meeting/social/women's "quiet" room separated by a building well that had many windows along it as well as windows along the front of the building. A member who claimed to be "channeling" an Indian chief from the "spirit world" (I have a while to wait to see if I'll die at 84 as he predicted while "channeling") was somehow gaining access to the building when it was not being used and essentially living there, stealing money from the donation box and generally making himself a nuisance both during "latihan" times and during meetings. It reached a peak when he broke all the windows (c. 125) one night before "latihan" and was carted off to jail. When he was released, he took a room in a nearby hotel and was found dead, an apparent suicide, by the hotel manager. As I recall, the building owner's insurance covered the broken windows, but the group was persona non grata until we moved out, possibly evicted (it's been a long time since it happened and I don't remember all the details).

A similarly violent episode occurred in Seattle around the time I was chair, when a guy from Eastern Washington who showed up with another guy from Canada camped out with him in the men's hall while they were painting the building (which they never finished). He was obviously displaying strange behavior after the "latihan" one night (which he didn't attend, because he wasn't "opened", but was from a Subud family, so he probably knew that he

wasn't supposed to be around when it was happening. Also, in his mental state, he could very well have been imagining that he was picking up "bad vibes" or "lower forces" "thrown off" by the members that set him off, since that's a part of the Subud mystique that many members adhere to in their thinking. Anyway, I was living in the building at the time in one of the rooms upstairs, and I came back the next day to find out that he had trashed the downstairs and had been carted off by the police to the city hospital's mental ward for observation. Meanwhile, there was no door to the men's hall and no back door downstairs until somebody nailed some plywood to both of them.

Neither of these instances had anything directly to do with "opening" applicants, but they suggest that a policy might be useful in dealing with Subud crises cases (or as known in the UK medical literature, "Subud psychoses") that might include reimbursement for damages when possible.

I heard there was a "crisis cage" in Cilandak for violent members, but, even if that was true, it probably wouldn't be legal in most countries, if it even was in Indonesia, so I suspect another solution should be considered.

Peace, Philip

From Hanna Thomas, January 3, 2008. Time 10:47

Thanks Philip for the additional anecdotes.

It's been suggested that in the interests of maintaining confidentiality that I use a private email address for this kind of information. I think this is a good idea and I would feel more comfortable doing this. So, if you have any more stories or if others reading this feedback would like to contribute, please send the information directly to me at:

hannathomasconsulting@gmail

Best wishes,

Hanna.

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