Subud Vision - Feedback

Merin Nielsen - Genuinely Open

On not jettisoning cultural accretions. From Iljas Baker, May 8, 2009. Time 5:42

All of this, that Merin mentioned, is true to some extent. But the cultural shift proposed I don't think is the solution. From one orthodoxy to another is no real solution. People do at times seemingly put all the current cultural accretions before the essence, which is the latihan, but doing away with the current cultural accretions will only lead to new cultural accretions, not necessarily more healthy ones, even if they seem like that at first. Humans cannot live without culture. Ultimately, it depends on people's openness and jettisoning the current Subud culture is no guarantee of this. Those who would like to jettison the culture are not necessarily more open than those who adhere to it in some way and few people adhere to all facets, beliefs etc anyway. One thing you might expect of the new orthodoxy somewhere down the line is the latihan becoming another technique rather than a complete path of surrender that needs no adding to. I know I am showing my bias here but any objections will equally be based on someone's bias. After all, we, as the latihan seems to reinforce time and again, know very little.

I believe the best way forward is to bring the latihan forward in our own lives and the life of the organization, and to see other people's choices, where they don't agree with ours, as tests of our ability to surrender and show understanding and tolerance and not as a stimulus to break up.

If Buddhist adherents, for example, shows me love and understanding I don't reject it because of their beliefs and I wouldn't reject love and understanding from athiests because of their lack of belief in God. What is more important than changing a lot of the culture directly is loving and understanding our fellow humans.

We need to bring this to the front and it won't necessarily appear automatically by jettisoning the cultural accretions

If some feel you are more open than others please stay and be the window you think you are, don't be a door that closes on the others. Studies show that when the more tolerant leave an organization the organization become more intolerant.

From Sahlan Diver, May 8, 2009. Time 9:27

"...One thing you might expect of the new orthodoxy somewhere down the line is the latihan becoming another technique rather than a complete path of surrender that needs no adding to...."


That is a very interesting point. How do we explain or justify things that we do or recommend for the practise of the latihan if we take away the foundation "explanations"?

Years ago, I had have no trouble saying what the latihan is. I would have launched into an explanation of the lower forces and the latihan putting the influence of these forces back in the right place, and so on. However, if I want to avoid an explanation based on a set of esoteric assumptions, it is very much more difficult.

Similarly this point you are making. It is very easy to justify to people why we should just do the latihan and do it persistently and sincerely, without mixing in other techniques, when our base explanation is that this is something that comes from Almighty God. The implication is of surrender to and trust in a higher force or source of knowledge. But if you take away this explanation with a view to removing a religious bias, then what is the reason why we would recommend just doing the latihan? Certainly not experience, because most of us have diligently just done the latihan and do not have experience of combining it with other techniques.

I disagree with some of the other things you say. You use phrases like "From one orthodoxy to another", and "jettison the culture" that imply Merin is asking us to replace the Subud culture in a stroke with something else. This is not what is being suggested in Merin's article. He hasn't lined up in it an alternative set of beliefs which he is proposing we adopt. He is merely critcising certain aspects of what we do, which he believes will be an obstacle to the latihan reaching more than just a small minority of mankind, and suggests therefore that those things should be changed.

You say "If Buddhist adherents, for example, shows me love and understanding I don't reject it because of their beliefs and I wouldn't reject love and understanding from athiests because of their lack of belief in God." I assume from this remark that you are neiher a Buddhist nor an atheist, so it is relatively easy to be tolerant of those beliefs as you are not directly involved in them. But what if for example you had been brought up as a Catholic but had issues with the teachings of the Catholic church. Then it would not be so easy.

This is the situation in Subud where members find there are things they disagree with to the point of thinking that Subud is actually wrong about those particular matters. Your recipe in this situation would apparently be "What is more important than changing a lot of the culture directly is loving and understanding our fellow humans". But loving and understanding means listening to the individual points a person is making and engaging in a shared search for the truth. A blanket admonishment that we shouldn't change anything is in direct contradiction with that, because what we are effectively being asked to do is have a very nice feeling towards others but reject all their suggestions out of hand as if they are not of any value.

"Studies show that when the more tolerant leave an organization the organization become more intolerant." In one sense that statement is a tautology, but in another sense isn't it also cause and effect? An organisation that favours intolerance is by its nature going to drive out the tolerant people? Don't shoot the messengers. Tolerance is not the issue, however. What is being criticised is not the individual opinions of members but the way Subud officially presents the latihan. You seem to be concerned about disagreement being a "stimulus to break up", but I would say Merin's concern is more that if we don't examine and change the way Subud presents itself and the latihan, that Subud will just fade away by itself,


Sahlan Diver

From Iljas Baker, May 9, 2009. Time 4:54

Hello Sahlan,

I think we need to keep some of the foundational "explanations" as you call them. Certainly they resonate with me so yes I am biased. I am not saying we need to use words like nafsu and jiwa etc.I don't have a problem with them but I don't have a problem with saying passions and soul or or inner self or whatever. We can have parallel explanations. The latihan is for me a long, difficult journey and I have found Bapak's and Ibu's explanations very very helpful and would like others to have easy access to them and to give them an important place in Subud culture.

I was not, I believe, suggesting that Marin had an alternative culture ready to impose on a new look Subud. I was suggesting that a culture is inevitable and jettisoning the old is no guarantee that the new will be better or more healthy. There are some things I am happy to change but there are things I am happy to keep. Ultimately, I don't believe it is those aspects of the culture that most critics refer to that is a serious barrier to the growth of Subud or the spread of the latihan - people don't stop watching CNN because most of the newsreaders have strange non-English names and Buddhism and Islam are growing quite nicely despite all the exoticisms, as are many other spiritual orgs including sects. I think the problem is us - we are not loving enough, we don't attempt to offer understanding.Perhaps we should be asking why this is the case. I don't think a wholescale change in the culture is the answer. I think emphasising bringing the latihan into daily living and loving and respecting each other ( as Bapak and Ibu emphasise) is much more important.

Regarding tolerance - I wasn't really talking about religious tolerance but about religion not being a consideration when people offer me love and understanding. I am Muslim, my wife and children are Buddhists. We love and try to understand each other, we don't have religious arguments. I was born a RC and I have very warm relations with an extended RC family whenever I return to the UK. There are many aspects of RC that I can't accept but my extended family and I have very warm relations and religion is important to all of us but we don't argue about it. Can't Subud be like this? I have no doubt that it can.

Another thing: I used to mix the latihan and Tibetan Buddhist practices. No one told me to stop my Buddhist practices as I didn't talk about them and they didn't ask. Later I moved to a city where I had to do latihan on my own. I went through a relatively mild crisis the result of which I gradually and spontaneously gave up being a Tibetan Buddhist, first the meditation (visualizations), then the rest. Bapak's talks helped me a lot during this time. Subsequent difficult times have been eased a lot by Bapak's and Ibu's talks. But of course I try to read them in the way Bapak advised, I do not treat them as discourses to be analysed and criticised. During Ramadhan once I had a very clear experience of Bapak's soul communicating to mine when I was listening to a talk on tape. I respect that receiving, but it does mean I see the talks as being therefore 'special'.

I am willing to listen to people's grievances about Subud and I think I can do this respectfully, if you find evidence of me doing otherwise show me and I will apologise.

I do find it difficult to communicate about these things, especially in this medium and worry that I am not really making things clear but just adding to the problem.

Sahlan my email address is if you send me your email address I will send you a piece which I prepared for SV. It was rejected as being too long. It consists largely of extracts from the journal of a Mevlevi Sheikh who used to do the latihan and who indeed opened a number of others, both male and female. I seem to remember you wrote something about Subud and the brother of Idris Shah so you might find my piece interesting.

From Sahlan Diver, May 9, 2009. Time 7:14


We would be interested to look over that article, and I have sent you my email address for it. For the record, articles can also be attached to the form on our articles submissions page or emailed to

You say "there are many aspects of RC that I can't accept", but you also say you are a Muslim. That was my point entirely, you are outside of RC, so whereas tolerance and respect of RC beliefs is praiseworthy, it is a whole different ball game from when you are a member of something
and have issues with the beliefs or ideas it appears to be imposing on you. Bapak was always saying "Subud is yourselves". As Subud members, we don't have to show tolerance to stuff that we believe is wrong. We can change it if sufficient of us are persuaded that it is a good idea to change.

I think language is very important when discussing Subud and use of particular words and phrases can be strong indicators of where a line of argument is coming from.

For example

"listen to people's grievances about Subud"
This phrase has been used before in relation to writings critical of Subud. It puts you on a level above the other person. They have a complaint or self-centered grievance and you are listening to them with love and understanding in an attempt to ease their complaint. This is "tolerance" in the sense of putting up with something, suffering it gladly, but not really giving it any place. Whereas what we are asking for is a debate amongst equals about stuff that may (or may not) need change and improvement for the benefit of us all, and, more importantly, for the benefit of others who don't yet have the latihan. Forget the "love and understanding", listen to the specific points a person is making. That is the way to show respect for the other person. Like when you raised the matter of if we dropped Bapak's explanations, what was to stop the latihan becoming just another technique and not a complete path. That's the kind of specific counter-argument that we need, but don't get enough of, on Subud Vision.

"I think emphasising bringing the latihan into daily living and loving and respecting each other ( as Bapak and Ibu emphasise) is much more important"
Why is it necessary to say this? There is an implication (whether intentional or not) thar the other side of the debate are somehow lacking in these qualities? In fact it may be the other way round. The latihan may have made them sufficiently aware to realise there are things that are wrong and sufficiently caring to be ready to speak out and try to so something about them. I am not saying it is like this, just pointing out that it is very easy to put a spiritual stamp of approval on vague moralistic exhortations, and equally easy to spiritually downgrade anything that appears to be rocking the boat.

"jettison" "wholesale change in the culture"
This kind of language blocks debate by sidestepping the need to debate or to change anything. There is an implication of irresponsibility, of chucking everything out without properly considering the replacement. But in practise change does not need to be wholesale, nor irreversible, it can be experimental, piece by piece, step by step,


From Iljas Baker, May 9, 2009. Time 9:43

Hi Sahlan,

I am not saying show tolerance for everything that we feel is wrong in Subud. My point was about loving and understanding those whose ideas we may not agree with. More on this below. Why can't we live with diverse ideas?

Where do you get your definition of grievance from? It no way implies self-centredness or one party treating the other as inferior. We can listen genuinely to a person's grievances/complaints/dissatisfactions and take a course of action together to address them. Just as we can listen to a defense of the status quo and find it persuasive or otherwise.

I can't forget about love and understanding because that is the "specific point" I am making. Don't you hear that? I feel this is more important than making major changes in the culture.

Bring the latihan into daily life and loving and respecting each other has to be said because that is another "specific point" I have to make. I don't think it implies that one side (the status quo) displays this and the other side doesn't. Although clearly and problematically some may feel it does. I think it is an area where most of us are lacking, not one side. And again I feel this is more important for spreading the latihan, than making major changes in the culture.

Having said that I am not against making some changes.

Saying "jettisoning wholesale the culture" doesn't really block the debate - you unblocked it fairly easily. Sometimes it feels that some people are asking for this to happen. Not being a robot or a bodhisattva I do react emotionally sometime and I guess we better learn to accept this to get on with the debate and not get caught up in a sideshow.

I must say Sahlan most of your response to my comments were based on what you think they imply or on your interpretation of what I am saying based on what other people have said. I think the medium makes it very difficult to debate these complex matters. If you go through all the posts you will probably find none of us uses our posts to ask what the other means, we use them to get our point across. In face to face communication we might spend more time asking for clarification, accepting that people don't always say exactly what they mean and we don't always hear what they are saying to us.

I like your last sentence Sahlan. I can agree with that.

I can't prove that the latihan will become simply another technique in a repertoire of techniques but that is what I see. J G Bennet opened both his sons after he left Subud because he believed the latihan was very good for some aspects of spiritual development but not others. As far as I know Bennet did nothing to spread the latihan to large numbers and his sons do not seem to be involved in Subud. People will say perhaps Bennet was right. Others have taken a similar position. Bapak says otherwise. I accept him as my spiritual guide. My experience of the latihan doesn't really enable me and I presume the majority of us to make pronouncements of this sort. I would not want Bapak to play no or only a minor role in the development of Subud or the spread of the latihan.

From Merin Nielsen, May 9, 2009. Time 12:0

Hi, Iljas,

Please, what do you mean when you say you'd not want Bapak to play no role or only a minor role in the development of Subud or the spread of the latihan? Do you mean you'd like Bapak to play a major role? If so, then for whose betterment would that be?

Bapak already played a crucial role. Now, I find the latihan more useful without Bapak or his perspective, and I expect that many other people would prefer that their practise of the latihan be likewise unencumbered by what seems to be an unnecessary cultural embellishment. It amounts to a barrier that deters people from even trying out the latihan, let alone avoiding peer pressure to discover whether or not they may have a genuine affinity for Bapak's worldview.

This is not to deny individual practitioners the privilege of regarding Bapak as their spiritual guide. It simply calls for disengaging Subud-as-a-community-organisation from the subtly aggrandising promotion of Bapak and his talks. There's no suggestion of introducing a new orthodoxy or of rejecting Bapak -- merely of freeing up latihan practise from any particular, exclusive spiritual emphasis.

You wrote === I believe the best way forward is to bring the latihan forward in our own lives and the life of the organization, and to see other people's choices, where they don't agree with ours, as tests of our ability to surrender and show understanding and tolerance and not as a stimulus to break up.

I think these are wonderful sentiments if the ability to surrender extends to respecting other people's spiritual views such that any particular perspective -- including Bapak's -- is not set up or contrived so as to dominate the community of latihan practitioners. Maybe that's a tall order, but in any case I think it's obvious that Subud will otherwise disappear.


From Iljas Baker, May 9, 2009. Time 14:4

Hi Merin,

I mean I believe that Bapak's guidelines and explanations about the latihan should be an important part of the Subud culture. (I acknowledge that we disagree on this point.) I believe this would benefit many many people who practice the latihan. I do believe it would help them to face the difficulties of the experience that transforms us and would help them stay in the long run. I am only saying "help". But obviously that alone is not enough. Ultimately I believe we need to care more for each other. And obviously some people would not benefit as is the case with every spiritual path.

Why do you think it's an encumbrance? I don't suppose people in your group force you to listen to Bapak's talks or read them. Are you not free to come and go and participate or not as you please? What is the encumbrance that prevents you and others having a really free latihan? Can you not do your latihan in the way you wish? Is the problem only outside the latihan? Please explain.

And why do you think so many people are put off receiving the latihan by Bapak's vocabulary? There are many many people joining groups and sects with quite elaborate systems of thoughts, teachings, clothing etc. Is Subud somehow an exception? I don't really understand the strength of this feeling that is being expressed about how people are turned away by the Subud vocabulary and other aspects of the culture. Of course some will be and that's normal I would say. And I don't really see that most people leave because of it. Don't they leave more because they didn't have a deep enough experience, or have a personal conflict or feel there is not enough companionship or a whole host of reasons. Why do you mention one in particular? I ask this sincerely.

I respect that people see the latihan and Bapak and enterprises and all differently from me. How can we reach agreement on a form of community that satisfies all of us? is that possible? Should we simply split up? perhaps it is inevitable. When I lived in the UK I always felt the Subud culture was rather lite as they say. No pressure really and not much of a superstructure. Has it changed so much?


From Merin Nielsen, May 9, 2009. Time 14:48

Hi, Iljas,

You wrote === Why do you think it's an encumbrance? I don't suppose people in your group force you to listen to Bapak's talks or read them. Are you not free to come and go and participate or not as you please? What is the encumbrance that prevents you and others having a really free latihan? Can you not do your latihan in the way you wish? Is the problem only outside the latihan? Please explain.

Yes, the problem is only outside the latihan, and it's a huge problem in that Bapak and his talks are incredibly prominent for an organisation that says it has no teachings and says it is about making the latihan available. Bapak's talks contain lots of spiritual teachings. Sure, members aren't required to believe what's in the talks, but the talks nevertheless get extraordinarily high profile through the helpers, through Subud newsletters and websites, through tape-evenings and even through our post-latihan small talk. The indoctrination process is perhaps mostly non-deliberate, but it's as plain to see as the ocean, if you're not a fish.

As a result, the overall prominence of the talks in the Subud community, to the point of being strongly promoted, makes them a significant deterrent to newcomers from trying out the latihan -- that is, any inquirer who may turn up with his or her own personal perspective on religion or spiritual reality, and who does not wish to be identified with an organisation that actively, and even sometimes officially, endorses the teachings of one particular person. Most inquirers are turned off by this reality, and as such it is obstructive to most people trying out the latihan. That's a very big problem because the latihan might be of value to so many more people if only they weren't hindered from trying it in this way.

You wrote === I don't really understand the strength of this feeling that is being expressed about how people are turned away by the Subud vocabulary and other aspects of the culture.

There's no need for the organisation to place any cultural emphasis upon one specific spiritual interpretation. If there were no such dominant perspective, then there'd be no culture by which people are turned away. Accordingly, the celebration of Bapak throughout Subud represents an encumbrance. The latihan can clearly be practised in a context that's free of spiritual bias, and any organisation that happens to caretake the latihan can similarly be free of religiosity. If only Subud were thus, it would be in a position to present to the world something potentially useful and compatible with modern times, whereas currently it sustains an unnecessary obstacle.


From Sahlan Diver, May 9, 2009. Time 15:37


I accept that you personally may have not intended the word "grievance" in the sense and context that it has ocassionally been used against us by other parties, but it is an unfortunate choice of word nevertheless.

Dictionary definition:

Meaning of grievance (noun)
form: grievances
a complaint about a (real or imaginary) wrong that causes resentment and is grounds for action.

"complaint" "resentment". The word does carry connotations of a person feeling wronged or hard done by in some way, and also there is an implied element of self-centredness, you can feel resentment for yourself, but you can't in quite the same way feel resentment on behalf of another person.

If a government inspector carries out an inspection on a car and draws up a list of problems that he thinks should be fixed, for the safety not just of himself, but for the safety of the car owner and his fellow citizens as well, do we describe the inspector as having grievances? No. It is an inappropriate term. Similarly, most of our Subud Vision writers it seems to me are drawing up a checklist of problems in Subud that they think ought to be fixed, not because they are personally aggrieved, they in fact might not be, but because they believe their suggestions are for the good of Subud as a whole.

"My point was about loving and understanding those whose ideas we may not agree with...... Why can't we live with diverse ideas?"

Well it depends on the ideas. If we are talking about religious ideas, then Subud already does that very well, deosn't it. Where else can Muslims, Christians, atheists etc etc meet and put aside their different philosophies to share in a common beneficial experience? I think it was on our new listserver that an applicant remarked on being impressed by this, because it was natural, not just people trying very hard to be "ecumenical".

But there is also such a thing in the world as right and wrong, good decisions and bad decisions, good policy and bad policy, and on such matters there has to be an open debate so the issues can be properly examined, without prejudice and maybe new policies formulated and actioned. People can hold different, opposing opinions, sure; they can also be persuaded their former opinions were wrong; even better a mix of people can each individually elucidate an aspect of the truth, but ultimately when the decision is made, some opinions are going to end up being selected or favoured over others, coexistence of opinion on an equally favoured basis is simply not possible. The only way it is possible in fact is to hold to a polite standoff where people hold different views, but nothing gets changed for fear of upsetting one side or the other. But that is not a neutral situation, it is effectively a decision made by default, and without debate, to retain things as they are. And that is a recipe for organisational stagnation and decline.

You say you are not against making some changes. At the same time I am sure you would not be in agreement with making changes blindly - e.g. "we'll allow you to change any 3 aspects of Subud of your own choosing, but after that no more changes" So how is it possible to set a limit on the amount of change other than through a process of debate and throughly examining all the issues. We might need to change 20 things, we might need to change 200 - what is important is to try to make the right decisions, not to set some entirely arbitrary personal limit on how much should be done.

"Bring the latihan into daily life and loving and respecting each other" This sounds grand, but it is too abstract, too high-flown. In what ways are members not doing this? Give some examples. Where is your evidence that members are in fact lacking on this in a big way,


From Iljas Baker, May 9, 2009. Time 15:56

Merin you didn't really answer my question, you simply repeated that most enquirers are turned off by a focus on Bapak's talks. Most? What numbers are you talking about? In which groups? In which countries? Males or females or both? People already practicing a path or having no affiliation with any? How did they find out about Subud? Did these "many enquirers" specifically say that it was the emphasis on Bapak's talks that caused them not to receive the latihan? How many said this? To whom did they say it? Many enquirers these days seemed to have learned about Subud through the internet so I'd guess they know what we're all about in terms of our respect for Bapak. Is it really a revelation for most when they actually meet helpers? It would take a lot of hard evidence to convince me of that. So although I do think some things could be changed, I am still not convinced of your basic premise.

In my group of the last 9 male enquirers 6 have been opened (more than 50%), one declined at the last moment as he decided to give his existing path another chance, another was advised to be opened in the country he was going to live in and we contacted the helpers there to explain the situation and another didn't reappear which didn't surprise us as we felt he was a grazer so to speak. No one has expressed dissatisfaction with the place of Bapak's talks or the sense of religiosity emanating from us (the helpers), which doesn't of course prove that they weren't dissatisfied.


From Iljas Baker, May 9, 2009. Time 17:8

Hi Sahlan, my dictionary (Concise Oxford) doesn't mention resentment. It simply defines it as a real or fancied cause for complaint. To complain means to express dissatisfaction. It could be over the treatment of others, no implication of self-centredness. But I know what you mean. Words can disable as well as enable.

You ask for examples, but perhaps I should better have put my statement as a question: Do we love and respect each other enough? Some of the groups I have been in haven't been strong on love, I accept my own share in that situation. I used to contribute to one of the early Subud discussion groups and clearly people described there many experiences in their groups which would support this. On the Vision web site Marcus Bolt's experience with his group seems to support this. Isn't there always complaints in SV about people visiting groups and more or less being ignored, or is that a thing of the past? Groups all over the place seem to be arguing and breaking up for one reason or another. Sorry I can't offer more than that. The view actually relates to my receiving and I know saying that is pretty useless in terms of debating.

Do you think we love and respect each other enough or do you think it doesn't matter? Or do some other things matter more?

Will someone eventually summarise everything on the web site or compile a list of the most desired changes or what?


From Sahlan Diver, May 9, 2009. Time 18:32


Well the first dictionary definition I found supported ny own understanding of the word, but if we searched a lot of dictionaries that might not be the majority verdict. I don't know.

Now that you give examples on the love and understanding subject it is much easier to comment.

People visiting groups and being ignored still happens I believe. Only last week a correspondent, a new member, complained to me privately about this happening to him at a group he hadn't visited before. But is the reason lack of love, or just social ineptness, or groups not having their own premises to feel relaxed in, or maybe people feeling others need to be quiet after the latihan and not wanting to disturb them, or some complex mixture of the above factors and more?

A reason that I do know of is that members in many groups don't get on with each other, so they are not inclined to be socialable anyway, whether they have a visitor or not. That of course is evidence in favour of what you say is your receiving on this matter, and your previous experience in discussion groups, and I think there are plenty of other stories, some in Subud Vision articles, that would back you up on that.

A point that I make in some articles is that we don't have adequate procedures for dealing with grievances (and I do mean personal grievances this time) I am not going to repeat my case here, just to say that I think a lot of the trouble is caused by our lack of skill at resolving disagreements, I suggest in one article that while testing can be very valuable in disputes, applied inappropriately it might even worsen a situation.

But yes a big additional factor may come down to lack of love (in the sense of people not caring enough). So I am partly in agreement with you on this. People have got to want to care enough to feel it as intolerable that these long term disputes go on causing disruption. At the same time I believe that we don't always go about resolving disputes in the right way, so even where there are member who do care and make efforts, these efforts are hampered. But although you can preach (in the nicest sense of the word) to people about the need to have a better attitude, I am sceptical that this can make any real difference in practise. We can however set guidelines, standards and procedures for dispute resolution. What we have at the moment is test together, or wait for the latihan to sort it out. The evidence shows this clearly isn't enough. I am no expert on dispute resolution, but I have suggested we need an additional procedure, for example the availability of independent bodies to appeal to - not so they can apportion blame, but simply so they can help the parties to resolve the problem and learn from the dispute for the future.

"Will someone eventually summarise everything on the web site or compile a list of the most desired changes or what?"

- I am in the process of attempting this myself in the form of a set of proposals for change to be submitted to World Congress, although as Subud Vision has no official status, the article will be presented as a set of suggestions for proposals, rather than actual formal proposals,


From Merin Nielsen, May 9, 2009. Time 22:15

Hi, Iljas,

You wrote === Many enquirers these days seemed to have learned about Subud through the internet so I'd guess they know what we're all about in terms of our respect for Bapak. Is it really a revelation for most when they actually meet helpers? It would take a lot of hard evidence to convince me of that. So although I do think some things could be changed, I am still not convinced of your basic premise.

Fair enough -- I don't have formal statistics. By 'inquirers', I'm thinking mainly of all the possibly thousands of people in Western countries who inquire by looking on the internet. These days, that's how it's initially done. Having come across the name 'Subud' somewhere, their next stop is the internet. I've spoken with many people about their impressions of Subud on the internet, and I know that by and large they never go past the first typically pious introduction to Bapak and his talks -- for the very reasons I've mentioned above. There are also family members, relatives and friends of members who can't help but be aware of the exotic, pseudo-religious, I-dare-say cultish nature of this organisation. For each Subud member, these people represent perhaps dozens more who might have been interested enough to give latihan a go -- if only . . .


From Iljas Baker, May 10, 2009. Time 1:25

Hi Merin,

Have to say you didn't sound convincing. You've taken something, portrayed it as an enormous obstacle to bringing people to the latihan and ultimately shown it to be based on no more than some impressions derived from some people you have spoken to (perhaps in one small area of Australia), some family members etc.

I might be forgiven for thinking that this connecting Bapa's talks, vocabulary and the respect we (conservatives?) give to Bapak with the decline in Subud numbers is basically led, if not engineered, by some members who might themselves be uncomfortable with these things and try to characterize it as a bigger problem than it is in order to effect change they would like to see.

I have no doubt that some people are put off by the things mentioned but probably some are attracted to them. People do join sects and apparently wearing special exotic clothes doesn't faze them. Trungpa Rinpoche used to castigate his followers for their spiritual materialism, i.e. collecting 'spiritual' objects to feel more spiritual. Most Buddhist, even zen, magazines in the West have a veritable cornucopia of exotic things on sale to a growing faithful. There are still lots of popular gurus. Many overtly religious groups are growing. Why does our lite exotic, spiritual culture by comparison drive hordes away? Perhaps it doesn't.

The point I am making is that people are put off by these things just as people are attracted to these things just as people learn to put them in perspective and approach them intelligently.

I am not saying that I am not worried that there is a declining membership, that so many leave Subud and not a few of these probably don't do latihan. I even wonder if I will have a group to latihan with when I'm seventy! I am not saying that we don't need to or shouldn't make changes - we do and we should. But I think the particular argument you are making is specious.Do you think there might be other reasons or is this the only case you want to make?


From Iljas Baker, May 10, 2009. Time 2:36

Hi Sahlan,

Yes an independent dispute resolution mechanism would be fine. I thought the regional helpers were supposed to get involved if things couldn't be resolved at group level.

But without love and respect, would people accept the outcome of independent arbitration and move on?

I wish you success in sorting out all the ideas that have been contributed. I have great confidence in you.


From Sahlan Diver, May 10, 2009. Time 9:11


The problem as I see it is we can try new procedures like a dispute resolution procedure and hopefully something like that will help improve many situations, but what do we do to add or increase love and respect, apart from doing the latihan, which we are doing anyway? Subud isn't like a religion that has priests who can give sermons. The nearest we have to a scripture is Bapak's talks, where of course he does talk about love and respect, but again we are not like a religion where reading the scripture is a compulsory part of the experience. Did you have any particular strategies in mind for this?

Apart from (1) procedures (2) improving attitudes, there is a third area where I believe we need change and that is realising where our behaviours are determined by underlying attitudes that we haven't got quite right.

I can give an example that illustrates what both of us are saying. There was a long-term dispute and a member who had not been well treated, though they may have been, on their own admission, partly responsible for the problem. They hadn't attended the group for years. An opportunity came to resolve the dispute at a gathering, but it was scuppered by one helper who, as soon as they saw the person, behaved in an extremely aggressive and abusive manner. Clearly this helper was an example of the point you have made, i.e. what use is a procedure if one or more of the people involved lacks love and respect.

On the other hand, we do function as an organisation and helpers belong to "helpers groups" so there is a collective responsibility. This responsibility is not often exercised. Wny not? Possibly because the local helpers don't want to be seen putting themselves in a position of superiority over a fellow helper and calling them to account. I know of lots of instances, some where I have been the victim myself, where a helper or committe member persistently behaves out of line, causing much long-term disruption, with members leaving, and so on, but their behaviour is always tolerated, never challenged.

Simon Monbaron told me a story of an incident he had witnessed where there was a bad dispute in a group and a member was no longer coming to latihan as a result. Something like that - I can't remember the exact detail. Bapak was asked about it and he said there was no doubt that this member had been treated very badly and they should apologise to him. No "forgive and forget", "learn to love each other". Basically, one side was wrong and that was that! Simon said that Bapak's reply was so unexpected that he has never forgotten the occasion.


From Sahlan Diver, May 10, 2009. Time 9:41

Merin and Iljas,

I am going to add a comment to your conversation.

The proportion of the population who join spiritual/esoteric movements is quite small, is it not? So, although Iljas may be right that the way we present Bapak's teachings alongside the latihan is quite 'lightweight' compared to other movements, it may nevertheless sufficiently identify us as a movement with a belief system that, like all other movements with belief systems that are not mainstream religions, we are likely to attract only a very small particular proportion of the population.

Putting aside for the moment the discussion of the importance of Bapak's talks to the practise of the latihan, let's imagine we packaged the latihan as a valuable experience free of any teaching, and free of any religios association. I know we are already free of the latter in the sense that doing the latihan is apparently not problematic for members who are devout Christians, Muslims and so on, but I mean completely free in the sense that what we say about the latihan requires no identification with any set of assumptions about the spiritual. This would surely create something that would be much more amenable to the majority of people.

Coming back to the point Iljas originally made, I do think it poses some interesting questions. For example, the reasons why we don't do ten latihans a week are obvious, but if we take away Bapak's explanations where he says the latihan is not just having an effect on us in this life, but is preparing us for the next life, then how do you justify to a new member the importance of doing at least two latihans a week. We can't point to members and say - look at A, he has been doing the latihan diligently for years and he is so much further on than B who only comes occasionaly -- sometimes those long term enthusiasts are the ones most obviously needing the purification! So we can't make a direct link between latihans done and changes achieved. But those of us who have accepted most or a lot of what Bapak says would have no problem here - the justification is obvious, you are preparing for the next life, as well as this.

From Iljas Baker, May 10, 2009. Time 10:57

Sahlan and Merin,

I have no doubt that sometimes we just have to stand up to wrongdoing in our groups but in a certain way, I suppose, you know what I mean.

OK so we portray the latihan as nothing to do with the present spiritual framework. You can't just say that will lead to it being amenable to many more people. Are the vast majority really interested in transformation? Are they really looking for something? You have to tell them something, offer some framework or context. What will you tell them, the vast majority? You'll lose weight, get fitter, solve all your psychological problems, or just that "take my word for it your life will improve" etc. Will the vast majority come running? I don't think so.

Subud is a small store in a vast mall of spiritual and self-development outlets that only some people visit. Should we position the latihan along psychological development lines rather than spiritual development lines. The main problem I think is that our product, the latihan, is a hard sell. And we don't really get in people's faces with our sales techniques. And I'm not suggesting we should.

But let's look at our product. To be honest you would (or would you?) have to say:

1. You are never in control of it, you can't direct it to specific areas of your life you think need to be changed. You have to give up being in control - very different from how we usually live our lives. And giving up is really really hard.

2. You can only do it twice a week - you can't decide to intensify it to get better results. There's no latihan retreats with 16 hour latihans. You can't do it twice a day or five times a week for better quicker results.

3. You can't add to it to make it change you faster or more thoroughly (or is that part of our false dogma about mixing?)

4. There's no predictable series of steps to go through, somehow your life will get better

5. You may not feel any movement or any sort of action for while, perhaps weeks, months but you should keep doing latihan with your group twice a week

6. No one knows how long it will take to make you feel its benefits, it could be years, decades and the things you think need to be changed may not be the ones that get changed first or even at all

7. It's really wonderful, but most people eventually leave it for one reason or another. Many of them don't find what they are looking for or hoping for but I did so that's why i want you to have the opportunity I had.

8. There's no teachings you can study and memorise to give you a sense of accomplishment or being in control. There's just the latihan.

I won't continue but I think you get the idea.

If I were "selling" meditation or some other technique I would probably (and many of their proponents do) say the exact opposite (within reason) of these eight points.

From David W, May 10, 2009. Time 11:21

Hi Iljas

I agree that people cannot live without culture. I also agree that people can read the websites. However, it's not ANY cultural accretion that we're talking about here, it's specifically an alien one.

As a Westerner, I find it strange to be lectured on ancestral purification and Sufistic Islam. These are not part of my culture, and I have no need of them. As an educated Westerner, I find it off-putting to have people say "there is no teaching", and then try to load me up with something they were clearly taught, and clearly comes from another culture.

That this is going to happen is not apparent from the websites, where the content of the Talks is carefully and deliberately hidden. It's not just the fact of having a guru which is off-putting. I have Buddhist friends who have a guru: Sogyam Rinpoche. The contents of his thought are not only not off-putting, but are published openly in a best-selling book: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

It's the specific content of the talks which I find off-putting. I do not want my daughters taught the theories of sex contained therein, or the hierarchies of soul-content, or the any of others that come from Java's Hinduistic caste system. And I don't think you need to know their origin to find it awful to be taught that outside someone may look like a human being, but inside they may have the soul of a stone. These are hardly the teachings of Christ or the Buddha, or Mohammed.

In one of my papers on the subudvision site, I list the contents of a book of talks as advertised "to members only". Here's what's promoted in secret, hidden from public view:

"The story of the seven heavens and the angels, and why God created God’s will within human beings • Why people are unable to find one path to God for all humankind • … • Why God created angels • How the will of God was placed in all things—including human beings—and what stops you from being able to experience it • How the one human race became divided into many, and the need to reunite them within ourselves • The reason why God has given us the latihan now • How the form of God’s gift changed in keeping with the ages • What the letter alif and the sign of the cross symbolise • Where Islam and Christianity came from • … • How what happens as a baby grows up affects that person’s belief in God, heaven and the angels • The reason why, in the latihan, we learn everything again • How some stones, plants and animals are considered to be of more value than human beings • … • How not to be affected by demons • … • Why human beings were placed in this world, and what happens when they leave it • The story of God creating the seven heavens, the angels, and why God placed God’s will in everything He created • What is necessary in order to reach God • How you will know when you have reached the level of having a genuine human soul • How you can know if counsel is coming from God • … • The story of the angels and why God’s will was manifested in human beings • … • Why the angels could not go with the prophets on their journey to God • How surrendering, being cleaned by and following God’s will affects a person’s reaction to illness and sadness • Why the latihan is easy to receive, and why it is wrong to do strange things to try to get to know God’s power • What the latihan will give us in our work • Why people sing in church and the mosque."

Couple this internal reality, with the outer claims that there "is no guru", "are no teachings," "compatible with all religions." The difference between the secretive reality and the plausible packaging is so vast that I can only call it deceptive.

Many "conservatives" seem to feel that it's up to someone to convince them to change their behaviour. I feel that the the shoe is on the other foot. This duplicity, and the deliberate hiding of bizarre and in many cases just-plain-awful anachronistic supernaturalism are what requires explanation.

I find such behaviour "unconvincing". I think the onus is on you to explain yourself. I think that most "conservatives" know that such behaviour is not fit for light of day, and therefore are publicly silent on the real content of Subud literature.

The solution proposed by many authors in subudvision is the simple "separation of church and state" which to date is the most widely practiced and proven way of allowing different beliefs to coexists within one polity. Javanese culture, on the other hand, has a history riddle with inter-religious mass murder. It is not a good model to draw from.

I'm content with my own culture, and the many deep sources of spiritual wisdom I can draw upon, if I so wish. I'm content with democratic governance, modern biology, cosmology and cosmogeny. I don't need to seek alternative forms, and certainly don't think that better forms are to be found in rural Java. Even if they are, that's a proposition that has nothing to do with Subud.

So: why can't we have our latihan served up without the Javanese worldview? And if you think it's so attractive, why don't you serve it up at your university, warts and all, hiding nothing, as your beliefs, and see how people react?



From Sahlan Diver, May 10, 2009. Time 11:25


Great check-list! And of questions that do need answers.

Presenting the latihan as a non-spiritual exercise is one extreme, presenting it in the context of Subud as a religion where you do the latihan but are nevertheless expected to subscribe to certain beliefs is the other extreme. Subud at the moment seemd to me to be below that extreme, but not in the middle position. i.e. we say that you don't have to believe anything, but at the same time we are strongly advising people that to get the full benefit from the latihan they need to read Bapak's explanations.

What about somewhere in the middle? It IS a spiritual experience, but beliefs are NOT required. How would we justify it as a spiritual experience without bringing Bapak's talks into the picture and asking people to accept some of his statements on faith? Isn't your checklist just as awkward for someone trying to explain Subud as having spiritual benefits, as it is for someone trying to explain the benefits without reference to the spiritual?


From Merin Nielsen, May 10, 2009. Time 12:7

Hi, Iljas,

You wrote === You've taken something, portrayed it as an enormous obstacle to bringing people to the latihan and ultimately shown it to be based on no more than some impressions derived from some people you have spoken to (perhaps in one small area of Australia), some family members etc.

Have to say you're being disingenuous. The problem I describe is amply substantiated by the world around us, and in terms of the main reason for Subud's decline, it's the most realistic account. I might be forgiven for thinking you are up to rhetorical gamesmanship. You might indeed say my argument has been engineered in order to effect changes that I'd like to see, but I'm not at all uncomfortable with giving respect to Bapak -- merely with the organisation doing so officially. The changes I'd like to see represent making the latihan more available to more human beings.

You wrote === Do you think there might be other reasons or is this the only case you want to make?

I have no other case to make and none is needed. Here are some of the central points of my article again, in summary.

Bapak's talks contain many spiritual teachings. They are promoted and endorsed by the organisation in obvious ways such that the spiritual teachings form a perspective which dominates all other spiritual perspectives throughout the Subud community, and it is celebrated as such. Hence it is effectively the belief system of Subud, and in various ways, big or small, it conflicts with most people's personal belief systems. Because Subud has such a belief system, many people consider Subud incompatible with their own viewpoints. As a result, quite unsurprisingly, they can't consider associating directly with Subud.

Many people who would find latihan beneficial never try it because the caretaking organisation is Subud, which has the characteristic incompatibility described above. So while we're fond of saying that Subud makes the latihan available to everyone, this is belied by the present situation. Yet there is no need for the organisation to promote Bapak's talks, and thereby have a Subud belief system, and thereby alienate people who have their own beliefs. As private individuals, Subud members could promote Bapak to whomever they please without roping the organisation into this process. Then we would not be excluding all those who find an organisational belief system problematic.

Subud could be 'officially secular' without diminishing the privilege of members so-inclined to respect and celebrate Bapak as a spiritual guide among themselves. New members, with whom the Bapak fans happen to associate, might well also find an affinity with Bapak. This all sounds fine to me, providing that the orientation of the organisation is confined to providing practical assistance and facilities for practising the latihan. The belief systems of latihan practitioners is not relevant here. What matters is that a potentially useful practice is currently not being made available to the extent that it could be.

You wrote === Are the vast majority really interested in transformation? Are they really looking for something? You have to tell them something, offer some framework or context.

Each of us can tell them what we like. There's no good reason why it should be all the same framework, or any particular framework. Especially, there's no good reason why it should be the Bapak framework.

Hi, Sahlan,

You wrote === if we take away Bapak's explanations where he says the latihan is not just having an effect on us in this life, but is preparing us for the next life, then how do you justify to a new member the importance of doing at least two latihans a week?

I don't get your question. Some of us feel most comfortable with two latihans a week, some with more, some with less, and some with far less. Each person can assess for himself or herself what rate seems to provide the most benefit, presumably taking into consideration what they hear from more experienced practitioners. Sorry, but if I'm off track, perhaps you could put it differently?


From Sahlan Diver, May 10, 2009. Time 12:46


I suppose what I am thinking round is a point you make in a new article of yours that we are soon to publish, where you say that we don't need Bapak's explanations like we might once have needed them because we now have 50 years experience of practising the latihan to guide us. What I am saying is some of what we do is not just guided by experience, and that we have done it precisely because Bapak told us to do it like that and provided an explanation of why we should. I gave the 2 latihans a week example. We all know why 10 a week would be bad because of the experience of what we know happens when someone does too much latihan. But less easy is to say why we should do two a week instead of, say, one a week, or one a month.

Let's imagine for example a more secular Subud like you are proposing. A new member is opened and we tell them that it is a good idea to latihan with the group 2 times a week. They reply that when they did yoga once they only went to their class on Mondays, and similarly their French evening classes are only once a week on Wednesdays, why do they need to devote two evenings a week to latihan. Where is our experience to rely on to persuade the member this is the right frequency? As I said we can't produce scientific specimens in the form of member A who has done more frequent latihans than B and is obviously thereby much more benefitted. My point is that the helpers who in the main have relied on Bapak's explanations don't have a problem explaining because they can say how Bapak explained you are storing up spiritual progress for the next life, so even if outer benefits are not obvious, it is part of the spiritual package to be patient and sincere and committed. If we take away the reliance on that teaching, what is our alternative explanation? This is important because, supposing in some places your argument gets through and people say, yes it is a good idea to maintain a separateness from any teachings, those same people might be less happy with the idea that now they have no means of advising a new member why they should do on average 2 latihans a week instead of 1 or less,


From Iljas Baker, May 10, 2009. Time 15:9

Merin first: You still just say that the cause is obvious . To me it's not obvious and neither is the problem amply demonstrated to me by the world around us nor is it to me the most realistic account. It's a pity you treat my skepticism as insincerity. I have no secret agenda and am open in my support of a significant role in the Subud organization for making sure Bapak's talks get translated published and disseminated. To me it is obvious they are not teachings and you don't have to believe any of the stuff that David identifies to get some benefit from the latihan.

Merin you have simply restated your argument and it still doesn't convince me. The world is waiting for the latihan if only the Subud organization would get out of the way. I don't think so. Some (I don't know how many) people are waiting for the latihan, some (again I don't know how many) are probably not, even if you saw all of the reforms you wish implemented.


From Sahlan Diver, May 10, 2009. Time 15:19


A request for clarification:

You say:
"you don't have to believe any of the stuff that David identifies to get some benefit from the latihan"

Does this mean you believe:

"you do have to believe some of the stuff that David identifies to get full benefit from the latihan" ?

or perhaps what you think would be more accurately put as:

"you do have to believe some of the stuff that Bapak talks about to get full benefit from the latihan" ?


From Sahlan Diver, May 10, 2009. Time 15:28


Sorry, I think I over-simplified in my last post. Let me see if you agree with this: Merin thinks that the association of the latihan with an apparent teaching is a significant obstacle to numbers of people wanting to practise the latihan. He proposes a secular presentation. You are not convinced (a) that this will significantly increase the numbers interested, but (b) even if it did, your concern would be that without the organisation putting emphasis on Bapak's advice they would not have sufficient reasons or motivation for the long-term diligent practise of the latihan that is necessary. Result: we don't significantly win on numbers, either way. Does that sum things up more accurately?


From iljas Baker, May 11, 2009. Time 1:39

Yes, you got it right Sahlan. I was trying also to say that it's not required to believe all the esoteric Javanese stuff that so troubles David and Merin to benefit from the latihan. Personally I find it interesting but I don't believe it is important for most of us in the way that Bapak's guidance on the latihan is. But I wouldn't want to edit it all out and just present my or anyone else's version of what is important. I will say more about that in my message to David soon.


From iljas Baker, May 11, 2009. Time 2:55

Hi David,

To be honest I don't really know how to reply to you. I am not sure why that is the case. Perhaps it's because you are very very certain about the positions you take and express very strong opinions about them. I don't see us getting much joy out of debating these things. You seem to have a scientific worldview. I have a spiritual/religious worldview. I don't feel anyone is pushing (including Bapak) the Javanese worldview on us or lecturing us about it. I don't think it really plays a major role in Subud life even if it is there. If you gave a test on Javanese cosmology most Subud people would probably fail spectacularly. I think Bapak's guidance on the latihan is what really moves most of us and to me is more attractive than the kind of unleavened explanation you created as an example of a secular presentation. For me the latihan is about developing my soul, the kind of psychological things you referred to are really a definite boon for those of us who do the latihan but they are for me not the main course. Furthermore, I've never been troubled by the Javanese cosmology. I don't feel I need to protect my children from Bapak's explanations of sex or his pronouncement that a person can have the soul of a stone. I might be more inclined to warn them to be careful about allowing scientists to acquire power or about eugenics making a comeback or euthanasia or nuclear power or...

I guess a major problem is I am just not convinced that the presence of the Javanese cosmology or the promotion of Bapak's talks is the cause of a declining Subud membership. I can't see your secular explanations being a magnet for hordes of new members. And even if members do join you'll have trouble keeping them because of the kind of things I enumerated in an earlier post. I would guess lots of other techniques would be more attractive.

Rather than Bapak's talks, you seem to be bolstering your secular explanations by the latest scientific bestsellers. The neurosciences are still relatively new, lots of stuff comes and goes. I'd be wary of giving any particular set of ideas in this field too much importance in your scheme. I'd guess the books you mentioned will be forgotten, perhaps dismissed as immature thinking in 5 years time. There are even some neuroscientists that take the position that religion is hard wired into the brain. But I am not qualified to speak of these things and they don't really do it for me what with my religious/spiritual worldview.

My university recently established, with the assistance of California Institute of Integral Studies, a Centre for Contemplative Education. They've been promoting the development of the centre's staff through the use of the enneagram. So I think I could arrange for Salamah to come and give a lecture on Javanese cosmology and its application to various fields and they would love it. I wouldn't love it because it doesn't really appeal to me as a system I want to study and apply.


From Michael, May 11, 2009. Time 3:0

I am very pressed for time and just skip-read the passages with Iljas. I found them fascinating.

I am puzzled by what seemed to me an absence. Much discussion about culture and the need or not for it and its relationship with the organization.

Yet no mention of the 'multi-cultural' approach to be allowed for or even fostered by the neutral core organization in the form of what David metaphorically called 'petals'. Why was that image not mentioned and developed?

No time for more.

From iljas Baker, May 11, 2009. Time 4:7

Readers: Just wanted to mention a couple of points to demonstrate that some of Bapak's experiences as recounted in his autobiography, contrary to what David Week, stated don't appear to be uniquely Javanese. From St Theresa of Avila's autobiography:

"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying."

And from Irish legends:

"Saint Brigid was not the only saint to be associated with miracles of fire and light. Saint Flannan breathed on his fingers to make them emit light to help him work through the night. St. Ciaran prayed earnestly for warmth one cold winter when the monastery fire had been inadvertently put out, and a ball of fire fell into his lap. A great blaze of heavenly light was often seen around Saint Columcille, and a ball of light "like a comet" shone above his head and rose up to the heavens in a column as he celebrated Mass. "

And of course apart from Bapak Jesus, Mohammed, Mary and various Sufis ascended, we are told, to heaven.

If you are interested in these things I am sure you will find other examples.


From Philip Quackenbush, May 11, 2009. Time 6:40

Well, Iljas,

I think it may be important to realize that at least some of what "Bapak" puts in his autobiography may be part of his imagination or declining memory. Can an ambitious railway clerk find an easier way to get rich? Hmmm... how about story-telling to the credulous? For one thing, the ball of light descending phenomenon is sort of the "mark of a guru" in Java. Without it, you get no "spiritual" points. Maybe I'm being too skeptical here, but over the years, what with one Subud sister who's a psychiatrist identifying "Bapak" as a probable congenital liar from his consistently saying one thing and doing another (specifically, his advice to most members to stay monogamous while having several women "on the side", apparently supplied by his then-wife, again considered the prerogative of a "guru" in Java by many, if not most, followers) and a Subud brother getting confirmation of much of that parenthetical info from a member of the Sekretariat. I certainly don't remember a lot of what's happened during my life at 73, and I seriously doubt that he did, either, since he supposedly wrote it several years before he died at 87 (86? : he's supposed to have been born at dawn and died at night on his birthday, so, 87, nu?). In any case, I'm currently reading Rue McLanahan's autobiography, "My First Five Husbands...And the Ones Who Got Away", and it's far more interesting (and far better written) than "Bapak's", IMO.

Peace, Philip

From Sahlan Diver, May 11, 2009. Time 8:8

Thinking further on the status of Bapak's talks, I would like to suggest that the following two problems need recognition.

Firstly, we have an imbalance. For any other spiritual movement we would think it strange if prominence were not given to the writings of the founder. However, Subud is different, in that we claim the experience is evidence-based, should be led by the latihan, not by any teaching. Yet our web sites and publications hugely emphasise the talks of Bapak and Ibu Rahaju.

I don't think anyone would be put off coming across a Subud web site, if there were a section "talks by the founder" and also another section "the life of M.Subuh". In fact that would be an important part of transparency, people want to know what started a movement, where it is coming from, what sort of person the founder was - genuine or quack? But, if the latihan really is the real guide, then to be convincing in that claim, we need to give the prominence to witness from members of the effect of the latihan on them and on their lives, and I mean independent witness, not the "believe me, Brother, I have recieved it all exactly as Bapak says" type of witness.

The second problem is more insidious. In reply to David, Iljas says that we don't have to follow Bapak's world view. This is no doubt true for many - they are able to absorb the good bits of the talks and not be too bothered by the obvious culturally-biased stuff. At the same time, a lot of what we have done, and still do, in Subud, is hugely influenced by culture that we have absorbed uncritically from Bapak. Only recently, in a Subud publication, Osanna Vaughn says that if she is expressing an opinion that causes friction she is willing to let it go and not press it. Where does she get this idea from? There is no logical connection between the wrongness of an opinion and the amount of personal offence it is likely to cause. If anything history shows that the association is likely to be the other way round - vested interests don't like being threatened with the truth. This view is not a Western view, it's the kind of alien cultural attitude, that as David has pointed out in his writings, we are picking up directly from uncritical acceptance of the world view promoted in Bapak talks. I myself have also been able to write three articles, including one about to be published, in which I have gone into some detail about wrong thinking in Subud. It's surely no coincidence that Subud supplies such a rich source of material for articles of this kind, that stuff is coming from somewhere and I think we can trace it back directly to a world-view members have adopted from Bapak's talks. In other words, members have been taught to adopt a certain philosophy of life,


From Iljas Baker, May 11, 2009. Time 9:19

Philip, enjoy your book.

Sahlan, I haven't read Ossana's article so it might be inappropriate for me to comment. But as I will cease participating in the forum after tonight, the end of a long weekend, and go back to examining theses and preparing courses I will offer a comment.

I think often it might be appropriate not to push an opinion. It depends on a number of factors, not necessarily on blindly following a worldview, Bapak's or anyone else's. It depends on how important the issue is on which one is expressing an opinion, it depends on the receptivity of the person to whom the opinion is being expressed. I mean if I get into a debate about religion or something and I realise the person I am debating with is really just enjoying the argument and not considering my opinions I will probably not push them. I will find a way to withdraw my participation. If someone is accusing my friend of something he or she didn't do I am likely to push my opinion on the matter, if they are lying about me I might just shrug it off and see it as an inner test. This is an Islamic position (I know Buddhists and Christians who would take a similar position) and this is part of my culture now not something alien. (Hazrat Ali said:"Respect other people's rights, forget your own." Or words to that effect. Actually, I do believe Bapak said something similar. You'll find this prominent in the writings of Sufis and I have to admit it's part of how I try to live my life. But it doesn't mean I accept being cheated. I do try to approach life pragmatically too. So I didn't get it simply from copying Bapak's worldview, it's a position I got from numerous sources and when I inwardly check about this it is a good thing to do. Now I don't know what Ossana's sources of inspiration are but I would guess not just Bapak's worldview ( and anyway as I have said time and again Bapak never recommended us to blindly and ignorantly follow his worldview). And I respect Ossana enough to think that she might actually inwardly feel she is authentically doing the right thing and not simply copying Bapak. Why blame Bapak's worldview for all our ills? It's irrational. All the others you allude to? I definitely won't comment on an anonymous mass.


From Sahlan Diver, May 11, 2009. Time 10:25


I probably should have made it clear that Osanna's article was in the context of her position as WSA chair and was about discussion and decision making in Subud. It wasn't referring to discussions on matters of personal belief.

I am not suggesting an opinion is wrong because the person is copying Bapak, because that would be implying everything Bapak said was wrong. I am saying that there is a danger of accepting Bapak's world-view uncritically, just because it comes from Bapak. And there is a particular danger in taking certain ideas out of their cultural context and transposing them into another culture. Like the idea of giving ways so as to be able to maintain harmony. Applied wrongly that makes Subud people feel as if any kind of criticism causing upset is inappropriate, even when the sincere intention of the criticiser is to make a bad situation good. I am sure that Osanna authentically feels she is doing the right thing, but I am saying that she is very wrong about that particular point, whatever her feeling about it happens to be.

For example, a few years ago another WSA person said to me that they believed that "any criticism of Subud was just showing that the person had issues to deal with in themselves" No doubt that person sincerely believed what they said. But it was nonsense nevertheless, dangerous nonsense because of its endorsement of the rationale of cults.

I observe some of the American Christian channels on Sky and note that the "proof" that is offered of Jesus's love is stuff like "I belived in the Lord and got a new car as a result". That tells me something about their brand of Christianity and that they have been indoctrinated into a world view that is at odds with commonsense. Similarly I observe sufficient coincidences of viewpoint in Subud that are at odds with the way the world works that leads me to suspect a kind of indoctrination, reinforced by peer pressure to conform. This is the way cults work and I don't want Subud to be a cult. With the individual path offered by the latihan it certainly doesn't need to be,


From iljas Baker, May 11, 2009. Time 11:35

Hi Sahlan, I agree with a lot of what you say. But remember we are not tabula rasa when we come to Subud and I have long suspected that our pre-Subud life and character still influences us more at times than the latihan or Bapak's worldview. It certainly might make many of us misunderstand what Bapak says.

Most worldviews are not simply copies of someone else's but are constructed over time from a variety of sources and experiences. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, left it at 18, practised Tibetan Buddhism with a guru and everything, joined Subud, left Tibetan Buddhism and eventually converted to Islam. I studied sociology and other social sciences undergraduate and graduate level at and this is the field within which I teach or try to!

My worldview is predominantly religious/spiritual but I have a strong pragmatic streak too preferring to solve social problems for example through social (broadly speaking) means. It is predominantly shaped by Islam and not Javanese cosmology although they share some perspectives. And I have deep character faults that prevent me at times from acting as I would like to that cause me to misunderstand things and other people, to hurt people's feelings, make wrong choices and decisions etc. Now I am not unique. Mightn't these kind of things be responsible for a lot of our problems and not Bapak's worldview or Javanese cosmology?


From Sahlan Diver, May 11, 2009. Time 12:11


I don't dispute what you say. Subud Vision is supposed to be about examining situations with an open mind and identifying all causes of problems, and hopefully trying to find ways of fixing those problems. People may feel that our editors or other contributors are exaggerating or over-emphasising certain problems. Well that's what the debate is supposed to be about and it has been refreshing to get, in yourself, a persistent challenger who can put forward decent counter-argument. We do get that on Subud Vision, but not as often as we would like.

If our pre-Subud life would cause us to misuderstand Bapak that can possibly be in two ways:

1) we bring a variety of distorted views. I would have thought that would cause us to then show a variety of Subud-flavoured distortions. Myself, I don't see evidence of that kind of variety.
2) There are already common ideas about what constitutes "being spiritual" and this accounts for a certain uniformity of approach in Subud which is not attributable to Bapak's talks. For example, in my "50/50 rule" article, I challenge an idea that is quite common in Subud that in a dispute both sides must share equal responsibility. My case is that there is nothing wrong with Bapak's advice on this matter, just the way we have interpreted it in practise, probably because the 50/50 approach has more of a "spiritual" appeal to it,


From iljas Baker, May 11, 2009. Time 13:11

Sahlan, it's not perhaps that we bring a variety of distorted views but that we bring the capacity to endlessly distort what we read and hear to bring things down to the level of our understanding or to reflect what we're used to.

From Sahlan Diver, May 11, 2009. Time 13:34


"we bring the capacity to endlessly distort what we read and hear to bring things down to the level of our understanding or to reflect what we're used to."

Yes, what you say is probably nearer the truth of the situation,


From Merin Nielsen, May 11, 2009. Time 14:16

Hi, Sahlan,

You wrote === My point is that the helpers who in the main have relied on Bapak's explanations don't have a problem explaining because they can say how Bapak explained you are storing up spiritual progress for the next life, so even if outer benefits are not obvious, it is part of the spiritual package to be patient and sincere and committed. If we take away the reliance on that teaching, what is our alternative explanation?

Hmm, thank-you for explaining the question so well. Now I'm worried that my response is liable to sound too facile. Basically, I don't think there's a major issue here because I suspect that a consensus, or at least a readily discernable divergence of views, would be likely to develop on this and related topics. I suspect that the community of latihan practitioners, without getting into heavy theoretical or doctrinal debates, would probably arrive at a pragmatic, roughly decipherable set of rules of thumb -- based on past experience and discussion -- in a forum that respects non-proselytisation. Maybe this is overly optimistic, but I'd be inclined to trust in a free-for-all and our ability (latihan connected) to assimilate the best of whatever falls out. I like what Michael says in this regard.

Hi, Iljas,

Are Bapak's talks teachings? Well, I haven't said they ARE teachings, but that they contain many teachings, and that they're treated as a source of teachings. The talks have many different components, including pragmatic advice about practising the latihan, advice about enterprises and advice about the Subud organisation. However, they do also contain many statements that are spiritual or religious in nature and that conflict with many people's spiritual or religious beliefs -- as per David's list. These statements were made as if they were true, and by any respectable English dictionary they constitute teachings.

Subud people often argue there are no teachings in the talks because nobody is actually required to believe the sort of statements mentioned above, and because many members indeed don't believe them. But this argument is a non-sequitur. Schoolchildren studying history, for instance, may or may not believe what they're taught, but their teacher is none the less teaching history. In parts of the USA, moreover, many science teachers are required by law to tell their students that there's no need to believe certain parts of the lesson content, yet many of the parents still complain about the teachings that these lessons contain.

As for the diminishment of Subud membership, it can't be attributed to any describable cause beyond all doubt, but for me the main cause is apparent beyond reasonable doubt -- anecdotally confirmed to the point of triviality.

e.g. Like latihan, yoga appears to benefit practitioners regardless of their belief systems. My next door neighbour is a yoga teacher who incorporates no exotic doctrine in her lessons, and always has a steady stream of students. This is despite an Ananda Marga community in the district offering yoga lessons for free -- which are taken up by very few people. My neighbour confirms that by far most students prefer their yoga ungarnished by spiritual teachings.


From Sahlan Diver, May 11, 2009. Time 14:37


I see what you are saying, but I don't think it quite addresses my question. We don't need to arrive at a rule of thumb, we already have one, i.e. 2 latihans a week and for many also, a third at home. My question relates not to arriving at good practise, but what happens if the current view of good practise is challenged? Less of a problem with challenging the applicant period because we can experiment and measure results in terms of applicants opened and what their committment to the latihan is after that. But take my specific example of someone who says they only want to latihan at the group once a week. Even if we set up an experiment where group A latihan once a week for a year, and group B twice a week, how would we measure results?
Bapak's explanation of the latihan storing up benefits for the after-life is, for those who believe it, a very compelling explanation. If we take away the ability of the helpers to promote Bapak's talks, what then what is our alternative explanation - I can't think of a practical expkanation that would be convincing. Of course, not everyone will go along with Bapak's explanation - I don't think this worries the helpers particularly - they probably think "more fool them", but at least at the moment they get the chance to get across explanantions to those that will accept them.

Incidentally, as you probably realise, I am not arguing against you, just pointing out some of the difficulties with the changes you are suggesting.

By the way, that example of the doctrine free yoga getting all the people is most interesting. It confirms to me what I have begun to suspect and write about - that the latihan packaged within a spiritual movement that you have to join is not ever going to be more than a very small minority interest in the modern world,


From iljas Baker, May 11, 2009. Time 15:7

I'm dropping out at this point, I've enjoyed our conversations but I won't have as much free time as I've had over this long weekend here in Thailand. Moreover, I think we are repeating ourselves. I certainly am. I don't think I can say much more to move things forward. I still remain unconvinced of the basic premise about our problems as an organization being caused by our association with Bapak's worldview, Javanese cosmology or whatever. I'd like to suggest a couple of things:

1. Could David and Merin and others perform an experiment by starting a secular group or groups if they don't live near each other? This could be done with the blessing of WSA and some funds made available if required for secular literature or whatever. Perhaps they'd agree to present some kind of report in 2,3,4, or 5 years or whatever to World Congress. Anyone could attend the latihan in these groups but only those helpers who are comfortable with their secular perspective should perform helpers duties. Let's see how it grows and how many who join stay.

2. A lot of our conversation is taking place in a sort of information vacuum. We are as an organization somewhat obsessed by our condition (there are definitely things to be concerned about) but are we really worse off in terms of numbers, harmony etc compared to other similar groups? Wouldn't some perspective be good? Wouldn't it be good to know if there's something out there in the culture that is impacting all spiritual, self-development type groups? Would it be possible to arrange some kind of study. Krishnamurti's organization, Zen centres in California, Trungpa's groups at Boulder, Rajneesh's ashrams have had the kinds of problems that make ours seem like a picnic. Are there any academics in this field who might be hired to do some kind of study for us? Would it be useful?

I'm sorry I won't now be answering any questions if you have them about anything I've written. I wish you all well.


From Sahlan Diver, May 11, 2009. Time 15:55


In my opinion this has been one of the most valuable and timely conversations on the site. Thanks very much for the time you have spent on it,


From Philip Quackenbush, May 11, 2009. Time 19:26

Hi, guys (and gals),

It seems to me that the problems brought up in this discussion (if I can remember all the points made back to day one, whenever that was, are not mutually exclusive. I agree, for example, that Iljas's idea that the main problem with attracting new members and keeping them can't be simply traced back to the lectures of "Bapak" and his daughter (and occasionally, Vittachi and Sharif), but IMO, they are structural: i.e., what to do about the "helpers", when it's appropriate to "test" (if ever, these days), and whether anybody knows what the "latihan" is from a scientific viewpoint, so that those secularly inclined can accept it as useful.

I remember Vittachi recounting in one of his books "Bapak" telling him that rules are for children. It's obvious, if you read his early lectures that he regarded the members in the early days of the organization as children (psychologically speaking, i.e., from his psychology, or set of attitudes).

IMO, a few members may have overcome their earlier attitudes through life experiences, study of their own attitudes, and the "help" of the "latihan" as a means of "getting quiet" (i.e., going into alpha trance to relieve oneself of the "burden" of day-to-day difficulties) to sort them out as they arise during the moving (or non-moving) meditations.

The reason we had a guru (and for some still do) who kept claiming he wasn't a guru is because the psychology of many people (perhaps most members, considering their seeking for a "spiritual guide" when initially, at least, looking at Subud) demands it, and because the "latihan", while to some degree self-regulating, being a natural function of the body, may still require some oversight and guidance from "outside". Now that the guru is dead (and mini-gurus are still available for those who still can't get their own "guidance"), if the cult is not to gradually fade into the sunset, as its present course seems to indicate it is doing and will continue to do, it's perhaps finally time for those few who can "stand on their own two feet" to do so, bringing in to the organization everything they have learned from "outside" to aid in the necessary transformation for the organization's survival.

Despite all my years as a sort of hanger-on member, I don't claim to be one of those people, but the suggested experiment of forming a separate, semi-autonomous, secularly-minded group may have considerable merit. In fact, it may already have happened under the radar of the organization, since a number of drop-outs may have gotten together already to follow their own leanings, something which "Bapak" said the organization has no control over.

I personally have no such need, having a group nearby with a Subud house that I can pop into at any time, but there could be such a possibility both locally and worldwide. It would probably be preferable if such a "split" can be arranged so that it's not a split, the secular-minded people doing "latihan" as much as possible in the same facilities as the "divinely-inspired" for mutual support during a time of transition. That such a thing is possible is demonstrated by the fact that in the local group here (Seattle) there are now five group "latihans" a week, and if some of them (or even more) didn't require the presence of an official "helper", it would help to prevent "helper burnout".

Of course, "Bapak" claimed that the Subud "latihan" offered "proof" of the existence of "God" by the fact that it had spontaneous movement, but that "proof" is belied by the current scientific explanation of spontaneous movement being a result of the "ideomotor effect". I doubt that the two views are reconcilable, any more than the "secular" and "divine" members are at present, but it doesn't mean that the two groups can't hang together, rather than hang separately, as A. Lincoln (not a Ford), if I recall correctly, expressed it.

Peace, Philip

From Sahlan Diver, May 11, 2009. Time 19:53


It seems to me that the more secular members have never had major problems either latihaning with or hanging out with the more religious members. Neither do Jews have problems latihaning with Muslims, and so on. We are not seeking separate refuges for different belief systems. What is being asked for is a presentation of the latihan to outsiders, potential applicants and to existing members that does not appear to be coercing members into giving special value to a particular world-view.

If some members want to create a new version of Subud where there is officially a teaching that Bapak was some kind of prophet and that his talks should be treated as holy writings that are obligatory or strongly advised reading for the practise of the latihan, then they can of course create a new Subud. What is unsatisfactory is a situation where we say to do the latihan you don't have to believe anything but within our culture and our interfaces to the outside world are all sorts of behaviours and statements to the contrary. This lack of clarity both creates internal tensions and surely cannot assist our wish to be identified as an open and transparent movement without any cult-like bad features.

We need to face up to this issue and identify clearly what Subud is. Is it truly a spiritual experience free of any teaching, that happens to maintain archives and libraries of the founder's talks, for those that want to access them, or is it a spiritual movement whose primary activity is free of instruction, but which nevertheless strongly recommends its members to also take additional instruction from the founder's talks,


From Philip Quackenbush, May 11, 2009. Time 20:3

Hi, Sahlan,

A simple solution might be to have a "secular" virgin of the handouts usually given to applicants as well as the "divine" one and, in groups large enough, have "secular" "helpers" as well as the "divine" ones, but having experienced the almost-palpable animosity from one "divine" "helper" who objected to my becoming an active "helper" again because I didn't follow the Party Line and bow down in fealty to "Bapak," I doubt that it's structurally possible, given the current makeup of the "helpers" group, which, like a police union, protects its own perhaps more than protecting the public.

Peace, Philip

From Michael, May 11, 2009. Time 23:16

Merin wrote, paraphrasing Bapak: " are storing up spiritual progress for the next life, so even if outer benefits are not obvious, it is part of the spiritual package to be patient and sincere and committed. If we take away the reliance on that teaching, what is our alternative explanation?"

Indeed. I came to Subud with that belief a priori. When I became an agnostic and realized that there was no foundation to the belief I had a cosmological crisis from which I have not recovered. I am just learning to be content with not knowing why I do the latihan in those terms. Not being able to justify doing the latihan in those terms makes talking to newbies difficult.

From Michael, May 11, 2009. Time 23:22

Sahlan wrote: "If some members want to create a new version of Subud where there is officially a teaching that Bapak was some kind of prophet and that his talks should be treated as holy writings that are obligatory or strongly advised reading for the practise of the latihan, then they can of course create a new Subud."

That would create a schism. What happened to David's 'petals'? Wouldn't those people form common, self-organizing interest group using the neutral organization's latihaning facilities? They could then persuade others to join their clutch as much as they wanted to.

From Philip Quackenbush, May 12, 2009. Time 0:5

Not to worry, Michael,

If there's another life (or continuity of consciousness without a physical body [the same, if you think about it a bit], which there's plenty of evidence for from OOBE's, NDE studies and the nature of the universe according to quantum physics), then everything you do, including "latihan", would probably have some quantifiable effect on that "other life". Whether it would be a positive or negative effect is up to you (or the newbie) to subjectively decide.

Peace, Philip

From Sahlan Diver, May 12, 2009. Time 8:42


I don't see the petals idea being a workable solution for this problem. The helpers work as one unit and, taking the real-life example that Philip gave, you are going to have helpers in active opposition with each other, with one helper strongly wishing to push Bapak's advice and another strongly wishing to avoid it. So you don't have an overt schism, but you have a fundamental internal matter unresolved, which is almost as bad. If this were just a matter of belief it wouldn't be a problem. Subud has accomodated lots of different beliefs. It's that this goes beyond what people privately believe and determines their policy towards other members, towards applicants, and also the way Subud presents itself to the world,


From Sahlan Diver, May 12, 2009. Time 19:54

Is that a teaching, or what?

Presumably those members who give a great deal of emphasis to Bapak's talks would give a similar degree of emphasis to Ibu Rahaju's. Fair enough, but the statements within such talks seem to be at odds with the assertions that there is no teaching going on, that it doesn't matter whether we believe or listen any of it.

I quote a recent talk:

"we know and we have experienced that we are one of God's creatures who have received a gift from God - the spiritual training of Subud" "with the latihan we are taken back... to the time of the prophets when the contact between human beings and the One who created them was extremely close" "And what led us far from God was our hearts and minds - we have been preoccupied by the life forces of the world" "We can read and hear in Baoak's talks how much Amlighty God loves humankind" "God placed God's will in every individual human being as well as in all the other natures of God" "God did that because God realised at the time that if human beings were to return to God they would have to pass through all the heavens" "If you read Bapak's talks you would know this" etc etc

From Merin Nielsen, May 13, 2009. Time 6:25

Hi, Sahlan,

You wrote === My question relates not to arriving at good practise, but what happens if the current view of good practise is challenged? ... take my specific example of someone who says they only want to latihan at the group once a week. ... Bapak's explanation of the latihan storing up benefits for the after-life is, for those who believe it, a very compelling explanation. If we take away the ability of the helpers to promote Bapak's talks, what then what is our alternative explanation - I can't think of a practical expkanation that would be convincing.

Okay then, if I get what you're asking -- is it problematic to have no official theory for backing up bits of advice? Well, a piece advice could only be based on either of two things -- some theoretical background that the respective advisor happens to have adopted, or simply what has felt good to the advisor over time. In any case, newcomers to latihan may confront a range of different recommendations. But my response is much the same as before -- we're all obliged to muddle our way through anyway, and it's probably better for advice to emerge from no generally accepted or dominant theoretical background, so let muddling proceed -- at least it'll stimulate conversation!


From Bronte, July 11, 2009. Time 6:24

I read a lot of theories here and elsewhere about Bapak's so-called explanations, and his teachings.

I think the man who said to me the other day "I do latihan. It works." maybe just tapping into the calming effect, as I do still.
The thing is, for me, that Bapak's explanations ultimately do not matter. Neither do the explanations, or limitations, given by helpers. It just matters, at least to me, that some of the things that were explained before they happened did eventually happen. Most things did not. My religious beliefs were neither confirmed nor disproved by Subud. My life's problems and joys were neither given to me nor removed from me by Subud. They may have been made much worse because I allowed myself to be upset by Subud people, but that is a different matter too.
But I found, and still find, the latihan has a reality of it's own, apart from the rest of my life, and it still connects me with all of my life. It is an ongoing process of self awareness, if not also religious development, which can be and is a separate thing. As so many people have said and will say "latihan first, explanations later. Beliefs are a substitute for knowledge." Does anyone reading this recall the source of my quote "The taste is unmistakable."? We need to be open to our own humanity, and God's blessings if we believe in them/Him, and I do. And we need to be wary of other people's controlling actions or words. As that terribly damning (of Subud) book is titled "call no MAN master."

From marcus Bolt, July 13, 2009. Time 9:4

Hi Bronte

What you write is very close to my own current understanding of the latihan. And the shift away from the Subud credo and my vestige of a Christian God concept is all part of the latihan process for me. As Buddhists say, 'If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.', which I take to mean, anytime you think you've got it sussed, that you've arrived, the process stops and you're stuck. And as someone else put it succinctly, 'The problem with Subud is some people forget to leave' (and I guess you could include every religious, spiritual and psychotherapeutic movement in that statement).
Strangely, I still enjoy reading Bapak's talks. Not so much for the 'guidance' (there isn't much of practical use, really) but to get a grip on how Subud, the organisation, developed and lost its way. To be honest, the fault lies mainly with the members who, mostly, seem so desperate to create an 'ultimate saviour' to entrust their lives to. On the other hand, Bapak did little to stamp this out. Maybe he thought we'd all come to our senses through the latihan. Unfortunately, to paraphrase what you wrote, the latihan doesn't necessarily do what it says on the tin.

From Andrew Hall, July 15, 2009. Time 21:9

Hi Bronte,

I was deeply touched when I read your description of the latihan "..a reality of its own, apart from the rest of my life, and it still connects me with all of my life... an ongoing process of self-awareness, if not also religious development, which can be and is a separate thing. As so many people have said and will say 'latihan first, explanations later. Beliefs are a substitute for knowledge.'"

I have been working out in my own mind for some time how I feel religious beliefs are misunderstood and abused.

(A friend told me once that when the Buddha was enlightened that 10-thousand Universes shuddered. Take a second and try and imagine what that EVENT must be like. It gives me the shivers.)

I wonder if a credible case can be made for religion that people found they can use imaginative iconography to access the transcendent or religious experience. I certainly tend to see my own hunger for transcendence in religious terms and wonder why I feel drawn to do so.

Although I feel personally attracted to and comfortable with using religious terms, I justify it as a conscious choice and understand that it is always a metaphor and can never be anything more than a metaphor, just as any other idea or symbol, even the idea of God, can only be a metaphor. The mystical experience happens elsewhere in the brain.

Using another terminology, I suggest there is a human need and utility in having a fetish.

Is not religious devotion a time-tested religious technology for experiencing the mystical union? The experience of transcendence is powerful medicine and humankind has created mythic explanations and religious claims that are just as potent ideas for the imagination.

I think the challenge for people with my background is to not feel ashamed to practice religious devotion, yet not feel compromised by or wedded to any religious beliefs, or any specific religious belief.

My experience of Subud is certainly helping make it possible for me to do so.
Take care,
Andrew Hall
Ottawa, Canada

We need to be open to our own humanity, and God's blessings if we believe in them/Him, and I do. And we need to be wary of other people's controlling actions or words.

From Michael, July 16, 2009. Time 0:49

Andrew: " still connects me with all of my life... an ongoing process of self-awareness..."

That about sums it up

From Philip Quackenbush, July 17, 2009. Time 1:17

Well, of course, that's also true for lots of people doing various other forms of meditation. Maybe it's time for the cult to stop denying that the "latihan" is a type of meditation. The fact that it's (partially, largely, or wholly) spontaneous doesn't change that. After all, 99+% of what happens in our own bodies we're not consciously aware of (if our conscious awareness were to take over all those tasks, we'd probably die within minutes, if not days, of nothing less than sheer incompetence), and much of that is spontaneous, so there's nothing particularly unique about the "latihan" in that respect.

Peace, Philip

From Bronte, July 18, 2009. Time 10:2

Thank God that we do not hve to develop an awarenes of how our body works and then take charge of it with our concious mind and heart! Gee, my intestines can do their stuff without letting me know anything about it, though they don't at times, like today when I have to dine-out with good friends twice in one day. Not a frequent occurrence for me, unlike some people. How did Bapak ever manage it?
Seriously, I still believe that latihan is meant to become more and more an "alive" thing for us, developing forever. Hence my dismissl of all suggestions that there is a time to walk away. If meditation is the same, or prayer is the same, then I wish we could hear more about it in this forum. I have done a lot ( for me) of one, and little of the other.
And now we see some fierce claims from an ex-member that Subud, Bapak, latihan all are lies. Thats' what I call "throwing down the gauntlet." Really, to what are we open? An awakening of our self-hood? To Our God (Not Jesus's God according to Gaby on the a-s site), or are we training in a fun but sickening version of self delusion, and mental fantasy, so that, like the lady I know who meditates hours a day, we can want to leave this reality as soon as possible, because "It just ain't nice."???

From Philip Quackenbush, July 19, 2009. Time 8:3

Well, Bronte,

I hope that I'm not the only one on this forum who recognizes the congruence of the "latihan" with other forms of meditation in terms of not only what it seems to be, but also in terms of the eventual results. Even Ibu Rahayu has said that (in her terms, not mine) that there are other "ways to God", but the "latihan" is (in her opinion, anyway) the easiest way. I won't go to the extreme of saying that it's all a lie, which some might, but certainly there's plenty of items of confusion and falsehood present in the cult as it stands, IMO, and claiming that there's anything special about it, when the Chinese, the Jews, the Hindus, the Daoists and so-called Christians (who are they, anyway? I'm one and you're not, right?) have been practicing some form or other of it for millenia, and Muslims for centuries, is pure folly, IMO.

Peace, Philip

From Philip Quackenbush, July 19, 2009. Time 8:27

I almost forgot, Bronte,

Many SUBmembers, just like the woman you mention, have run to the "latihan" to "get away from it all" (mea culpa), so it's just another form of meditation that has that possible intent. Whatever form of meditation you engage in, whether programmed (like watching the breath) or spontaneous (like the "latihan" or "free taiji", the intent is best set, IMO, not on solving your problems or getting away from them, but as a tool for clarifying and molding one's thoughts and leading the preferred sort of life that results from those thoughts. "All that you are is a result of what you have thought" - - - Da Boo Da.

Peace, Philip

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