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Subud Vision - Feedback

Stefan Freedman - Subud at Middle East Spirituality and Peace Festival

show and tell. From sjahari, April 9, 2008. Time 4:30

Stefan,
This is a fascinating article you have written. I am particularly interested in the excercises you have chosen to introduce the idea of the latihan.

It is very difficult to tell people in words what the latihan is and in general we do a very poor job of it. How much better to actually demonstrate and give a taste of the experience.

There are many exercises similar to those you have described, which are used in interpretative dance and improvisational contexts and which could be adapted for this purpose. The whole concept of movement from an inner impulse with eyes closed is applicable here. (The practice of Authentic Movement makes use of this.)

The other interesting element would be to have a discussion of how (or whether) the latihan is different in an essential way from such an excercise.

Is there something unique that happens in the latihan itself, in this "vibration" we seem to follow and which we believe is passed along in a direct line from Bapak? What is the essence that makes the latihan any different from a multitude of other similar practices like the ones you have described?

Why would someone need to join the Subud latihan? What could they get there that they might not get from simply improvising with eyes closed this way?

Fascinating questions.

Did you actually demonstrate the latihan to people? If not ......why not? Would you consider doing that? Would you be afraid of opening people accidentally? (A lot of Subud people would be deathly afraid of that.) Is that an important issue?

I think it would be very interesting to develop this idea more fully and completely.

Sjahari


From stefan freedman, April 20, 2008. Time 18:4

Hi Sjahari,
I'm encouraged by your feedback. Sounds as though you've done quite a bit of spontaneous/authentic movement.

I have a few hesitations about demonstrating the latihan itself. Firstly, the one you mention, that people might possibly be opened. I'm in favour of shortening & simplifying the introductory period but would not want to open someone with no prep or without their consent.

Also I'm concerned that in a public display I'd be feeling self-conscious and would either find myself unable to receive or else would receive a sort of clearing latihan which wouldn't convey the deep, transporting quality that can arise as the latihan continues.

How is the latihan different from spontaneous movement?
Aha, this is the million dollar question I've enjoyed dialoguing with you and others about. Much as I thrive on free movement and dance I often FEEL something in latihan which I haven't experienced elsewhere, and which I've come to relish as a regular source of nourishment.

Unlike many of my Subud peers I no longer feel able to describe my latihan as worship of God, but I do experience the exercise as a powerful numinous experience, and its effects as integrative. I have the sense of being opened up, stretched and re-connected with a large spacious consciousness. Often I'm left feeling simultaneously stilled and revitalised.

When talking with others I mention that not everyone perceives the latihan as unique. Some equate it with dynamic meditation or spontaneous Qi Kung, for some it's a spontaneous form of prayer or communion with spirit, and others find little action or benefit. Each person's response is individual and nobody else can predict it or interpret it.

How about you, Sjahari? How do you find that the Subud latihan differs from improvising with eyes closed in another context? If/when you explain it to an enquirer (perhaps using Bapak's experiences as a basis) what sort of response are you getting?

Thanks for responding & best wishes
Stefan


From sjahari, April 21, 2008. Time 0:59

Hi Stefan,
thanks for your reply to mine

Like you I feel something happening in the latihan which does not happen in the other spontaneous movement practices I engage in. It seems to be something that is arising within me and beyond my own will. ANd it seems to be arising from a totally different source. It also has a different direction and a different motivation within it.

The way I would describe this, as well as what you have said in your note, is reflected exactly in Bapak’s words. This is why I resist the attempts to relegate Bapak to becoming “a petal on the flower” of Subud. ( Was that your analogy?)

I think that all three of us (you, me, and Bapak) are trying to describe the same thing that happens. And when I read Bapak’s talks I find that his descriptions and explanations of the experience are amongst the best I have yet seen or heard. I much prefer them to yours for instance, or to my own weak attempts, or to those of the others writing in Subudvision. This does not mean that I think that Bapak's explanation should be the only one. It does mean that I believe it should be the core original source of reference until such time as a better one arises.

It seems to me we probably agree that there is something that happens in the latihan, and that is passed along in the opening, which is an energy or vibration of some kind. (which is why in general we are reluctant to demonstrate it).

This something can be traced in you and I back to the person who opened us. And from there it can be traced back to the person who opened them. And for every subud member, after tracing the contact back 3 or 4 stages, we get to one common place. Bapak’s experience.

Therefore Bapak is not a petal on this flower. No. He is at the very center and core of the entire thing, and in a certain sense he truly is the “father”. And in so far as mankind eventually embraces the latihan, in that sense he could be called the “father of mankind”

I am sure these thoughts will trigger all KINDS of opposition. But in my mind it is a logical extension of the ideas you have raised in your original article, and in your reply.

best wishes
Sjahari


From Philip Quackenbush, April 21, 2008. Time 6:9

Hi Stefan and Sjahari,

I found your article fascinating, in that it demonstrates how the "latihan" can be introduced to non-members in various ways. I think the reluctance to do so comes from the statements of the founder that it should be kept within the group if it is to be referred to as Subud. But he also said that that's not possible, since people are free to do with it what they want, or "receive" to do. Nevertheless, it's something that is a universal phenomenon, IMO, and can only be seen as parochial or elitist when held close to the vest, as many Subud members seem to regard it as being necessary.

As to the idea that the "latihan" came from "God" through the founder of Subud and could only be a result in other instances of some unknown line of succession, the lie is clearly put to that by so many other religions and movements that have it. A good example of that is the books of Tony Crisp, where he mentions that before coming to Subud, he was teaching his students how to "receive" spontaneous movements and members from the local Subud group thought he had "stolen" the "latihan". When he was "opened", he found no difference (which was the case with others that I've met, and my experience was similar, coming from a source that clearly preceded Muhammad Subuh's "receiving" of it [probably by several hundred years, if not thousands of years]; I only remembered the sameness after being a Subud member for a couple of decades, since I had only experienced it once in the other group). Decades after being "opened" in Subud, I found what could be called a "restricted" (to the already-learned forms) "latihan" happening in a Taiji class under the label of "free Taiji". I suspect that many of the people experiencing charismatic phenomena you can see on Christian TV channels would find the "latihan" to be the same as what they have going in their groups.

Of course, it can all be put under the subheading of self-hypnosis, but looked at from a deistic standpoint, that wouldn't matter, since hypnosis is part of nature, and therefore must come from "God" (a sentiment similar to what M. Subuh said in some of his lectures, but open to dispute in terms of traditional Islam, which separates "God" from nature).

Anyway, one of the techniques Crisp suggests for achieving spontaneous movement is to stand with your side next to a wall and press your arm against it for a while, then move away from the wall and watch it rise spontaneously. Once a person realizes that spontaneous movement is nothing to fear (everybody does it every day, consciously or unconsciously (yawns and breathing are two examples that we can't avoid), then they're "ripe" to "receive" it for, say, a half hour at a time, and can get the consequent benefits that come from "letting go."

Peace, Philip


From stefan, April 21, 2008. Time 10:33

Hi Sjahari & Philip

Good to be having a discussion with you about the nature of the latihan and how to communicate about it.

Sjahari, you say that you find Bapak's explanation of the latihan more persuasive than mine or any on Subud Vison.
How then does Bapak's explanation differ from the one I gave in Edinburgh? ...

I summarised the Subud process (in my experience) with 5 points:

• inner vibration

• movement and sound arising unbidden

• discarding ‘psychic baggage’

• connection with that-which-is-beyond-words (transpersonal)

• peace and fullness (peace-fulness)

The results of Subud over a period of time, in 5 points:

• unfolding of potentials

• inner directed life

• release from self-harming habits (often)

• pushed to edge of capacity and stretched

• regular contact and renewal from unifying source

Bapak urged us to talk about Subud from our own experience.
In fact all I was aware of doing was putting one or two points in my own words. For example, the word "purification" has connotations that (to my mind) are puritanical and punitive so I used a more contemporary phrase - discarding psychic baggage.

In practice I think you and I both share a desire to communicate as effectively as possible the essence of Subud.
You see Bapak as being at the centre but he said "Subud is You, and ou are Subud". Suppose I emphasise the revelation, the person and the talks of Subud's founder, I'd be giving a misleading impression: that Subud is a guru-based movement (whose leading light is deceased). This might be the kiss of death for a spiritual peer group I value very highly.

Philip, I agree that the latihan may arise from the same source as other spontaneous practices such as intuitive Qi Kung, Javanese Kejawan, dynamic meditation, charismatic Christianity and co-ex. In practice though it seems to me that people tend to have very different experiences if they participate in each of these groups.

For example, a good friend, Ken, who has studied Qi Kung for years and now teaches it tells me that he is not yet able to access spontaneous movements. A woman friend who attended several charismatic church meetings said that many people would stand for some time waiting for spirit to move them, then typically they would swoon and fall over, or sometimes burst into a sustained "fit" of giggles. She later got opened and described latihan in very different terms.

I'm glad you make reference to other groups which offer a spontaneous exercise or prayer. When Subud members talk as though we've invented the spiritual wheel it makes us look naive or arrogant. At the same time I recommend that interested people try more than one group, to see whether (for them) the experience is the same, and - if not - to discover which gives them the most integral result.

Best wishes from Stefan


From Philip Quackenbush, April 21, 2008. Time 15:41

Hi, Stefan,

You said:

Bapak urged us to talk about Subud from our own experience.
In fact all I was aware of doing was putting one or two points in my own words. For example, the word "purification" has connotations that (to my mind) are puritanical and punitive so I used a more contemporary phrase - discarding psychic baggage.

===

Well, he also went out of his way to state several times during his latter years of talking about the "latihan" to say things like only he was making "progress" in the "latihan" and the rest of us looked like Swiss cheese from a "spiritual" perspective, not something calculated to encourage anyone to go out and talk about it confidently. I agree with the point made elsewhere on this forum that the turning point in his march to megalomania and the stifling of anyone else's expression came with the taking over of the Pewarta as his exclusive domain, which was around the 70's, the time that I have noted that, IMO, he "lost his Mojo".

Peace, Philip


From sjahari, April 22, 2008. Time 0:23

Hi Stefan:
You asked me to explain why I feel your summary of the subud process in 5 points doesnt match the one Bapak gave:

-Inner vibration
-but you havent said what it is that is being vibrated, nor how this entity began vibrating.
-Bapak has no qualms about stating what it is that is vibrating and how it comes to be vibrating.

- movement and sound arising unbidden
-You havent explained from where it is arising. What is it that is initiating this movement and this sound? And for what purpose?
-Bapak’s various talks reveal his position on this in quite a lot of detail.
(-a scream of destructive rage is also a movement and sound arising unbidden. . . what is the distinguishing characteristic?)

- discarding “psychic baggage”
-if what you mean by this is the concept of purification, then I think this is a fine way of rephrasing one of the core concepts that we have about what happens in the latihan. But it isnt different. It is just a rephrasing of what Bapak said into more modern language.

- Connection with that-which-is-beyond-words
-again you are just rephrasing what Bapak said here. And in fact in many of his talks he says exactly this - that the idea of a God cannont be expressed in words.
-so you are changing “connection with God”
to “Connection with that-which-is-beyond-words”
I agree this is more relevant to our times, and I totally agree that this is what we should be doing. But lets not start to believe that we have gone beyond Bapak’s explanation with it.

- Peace and fullness (peace-fullness)
-again, in my view you can find this using different language throughout Bapak’s talks. And this doesnt include the very real aspect that often there is a great deal of inner turmoil that occurs and that the latihan is often not a peaceful blissful experience. And the biggest thing. You havent explained is Why. Bapak does this. He explains exactly why we feel the bliss. ANd he explains what it is that is in the blissful state.
(bliss can also occur smoking a joint. . . what is the essence of the difference?)

Regarding your statements about the results of Subud:
again, most of these things are found in Bapak’s talks. the reason I like Bapak’s explanation better than yours is that he explains WHY there are these results. What you have done is to say that there are certain results that just seem to happen out of the blue. For instance - unfolding of potential. . . what does this mean in your explanation? In Bapak’s schemata it is very clear. He talks about a potential which he calls an “inner talent” which is a component of the soul. It is this component which is supposed to unfold as a result of doing the latihan.
“Unfolding of potentials” could be applied to many different things such as for instance a practice of listening to music as a child. That could result in flowering of potentials. Absolutely. But it is not the same kind of unfolding of potential that occurs as a result of doing the latihan.

Finally: I agree that we are essentially on the same page in a desire to communicate the latihan effectively. We also I think share the same concern about subud becoming a guru based movement, or being perceived as such.

I agree wholeheartedly in the effort to find new ways of explaining the core experience of subud.

And I agree wholeheartedly with what you are doing as an individual to try and come to your own personal understanding of the latihan and trying to develop a way of explaining that to other people. I am doing the same thing.

Like you I resist every tendency to worship Bapak like a guru. And at the same time I value everything about what he did and said. ANd I acknowledge it as being core to this practice.

And I continue to have the personal opinion that there are no other explanations so far developed that come anywhere close to the completness and breadth and depth of those provided by him.

-


From Philip Quackenbush, April 22, 2008. Time 1:53

Hi, Stefan,

On rereading your post, I note the following:

"Ken, who has studied Qi Kung for years and now teaches it tells me that he is not yet able to access spontaneous movements."

One of the characteristics of the "latihan" process seems to be that it's induced by being in the presence of someone who's already "open" to it, i.e., has the process going within themselves. When it's given as shaktipat by a yogi "master", that's the case then as well. I first got it when sitting in a group of meditators of a yogic tradition, and later realized that the "latihan" was the same thing. Ken might look for someone who does spontaneous qigong and then, after having it induced in him, get "opened" and compare the two. I find that the main difference is that the qigong is freer, in that it doesn't have the baggage attached to it of the Subud theology; it just happens and you follow it.

"A woman friend who attended several charismatic church meetings said that many people would stand for some time waiting for spirit to move them, then typically they would swoon and fall over, or sometimes burst into a sustained "fit" of giggles. She later got opened and described latihan in very different terms."

Such experiences are common to people practicing the "latihan" as well. I've observed that, despite the founder's comments to the contrary, it makes a difference with whom you do "latihan" in a group setting. Also, there's a lot of conscious or unconscious copying of others' movements. The early history of Subud before it acquired that name as a pencak silat club illustrates that quite well, I think. Kejawen (the Javanese religion that is the source of much of Muhammad Subuh's "explanations") seems to regard pencak silat as a "spiritual" discipline, as do some qigong practitioners. In the founder's mind, however, it got colored, as I see it, by his views of Islam, which in many cases, just as in the case of Christianity and Judaism, were far from the mark (i.e., sinful, in the original meaning of the word).

I think it's best to just take the "latihan" for what it is and leave the theology to those who insist on attaching it to the phenomenon, as do the Christians with the charismatic phenomena, but not insist on "explaining" it in those terms to applicants unless they ask for such a view, because that will only contaminate their psyche, requiring further "purification" to relieve them of those beliefs. Ideally, the "latihan", IMO, should be approached with no beliefs about what it is or what will happen when one practices it. That may allow the organism which looks upon itself as a separate human being to possibly experience something resembling Reality in its practice. That does, of course, mean that any "helpers" who are attempting to "explain" it better be talking only from their own personal experience and not parroting anyone else, including the founder or his daughter, something I have yet to see in any applicant meetings I've been involved in. Another reason, perhaps, that the whole "helper" system needs to be either revised or abandoned.

Peace, Philip


From Merin Nielsen, April 22, 2008. Time 10:9

Hi, Sjahari,

You say: "... when I read Bapak’s talks I find that his descriptions and explanations of the experience are amongst the best I have yet seen or heard. I much prefer them to yours for instance, or to my own weak attempts, or to those of the others writing in Subudvision. ..... I believe it should be the core original source of reference until such time as a better one arises. ..... And I continue to have the personal opinion that there are no other explanations so far developed that come anywhere close to the completness and breadth and depth of those provided by him."

I note your belief that Bapak's description of the latihan should be 'the' core original source of reference until such time as a better one
arises. Do you consider, like me, that it's entirely a personal matter for each individual to observe whether he or she is already at 'such time as a better one arises'?

Regards,
Merin


From David Week, April 22, 2008. Time 16:40

Hi Stefan

At one level, I don't want to "engage" (i.e. debate) with this issue, but at the other level I would like to feed back from what I see as a more "public" level of perception. It's okay to have personal and private experience, but Jody Williams and Albert Einstein and Muhammad Yunus and the Dalai Lama are meaningful to other people not because of their personal and private experience, but because of their contribution to others, and to the public sphere.

From this perspective, here are some responses to these descriptions.

• inner vibration: so what? Why should anyone cares?

• movement and sound arising unbidden: so what? What should anyone care?

• discarding ‘psychic baggage': many processes claims this--is Subud's claim true? Does it do this better, or worse, or average? Why is this comparative question not explored.

• connection with that-which-is-beyond-words (transpersonal): so what? What should anyone care? Having now explored many other religions, I'm prepared to say tha this "connection" is either minor or irrelevant in most religions. At the same time, it seems that Subud focuses so much on "personal experience" that it falls into the camp of The New Age, of which someone once said (in my view, accurately) New Age will never produce a Gandhi, because New Age (and in my view most of Subud) is All About Me.

• peace and fullness (peace-fulness): Yes, fine, but talk to some Stoners and you'll get the same story.

The results of Subud over a period of time, in 5 points:

• unfolding of potentials: Frankly, I've never seen such unfulfilled potential as I see in the Subud community, so I don't believe it.

• inner directed life: so what? Why should we care? To give you an objective measure of this, google <"inner directed life">: you will get an amazingly low 57 hits. It's not an important human value.

• release from self-harming habits (often): You're in competition with many other processes. Are you better at it? Worse? Average? It's your social responsibility to find out, isn't it? Unless, of course, you're only concerned with yourself, in which case see most of the comments above.

• pushed to edge of capacity and stretched: Don't see it in the community, so don't believe it.

• regular contact and renewal from unifying source: So what? Why should anyone care? People love Rumi's poetry. He's on about this. But beyond the poetry, he was a pretty non-productive, self-involved person who actully caused a lot of pain to people around him. And Subes are not good poets. So again: who cares? How is this different from the Stoner story, man?

As you know, I think you're a solid guy. But I don't think the story you are telling here is going to ever attract other solid people, because it doesn't seem to be connected to the meat of the life that people care about and apire to.

(a) "latihan connects me to renewing source"-- 3 points
(b) "latiahn demonstrably allows all people (not just me) to be better mothers and fathers -- 100 points, for both me and for humanity

Best

David


From stefan, April 23, 2008. Time 0:26

Responding to Sjahari, David & Philip...

Hi Sjahari,
You put your points very well. I would say that if a Subud member believes that the latihan comes from God's power and acts on the soul, and if talking with an enquirer who believes in God and in souls too, then Bapak's explanation -which explains the source - is likely to be more convincing than one like mine.

On the other hand, this applies only when all the above conditions are met. For those who may not believe in God, or those who believe in God but are sceptical about claims that the latihan is a link to that source, the type of explanation you recommend requires a major leap of faith, whereas one can follow the latihan without faith.

Philip,
You speculate that when Bapak took control of the Perwarta it was a significant turning point and I agree. I love some of the early Subud Journals for their sense of a peer group exploring, communicating about and co-creating a movement.
I would not expect all the voices to have equal gravitas but it's the diversity and freshness I relish. It's high time Subud members reclaimed the right to share their issues and their visions. (Muzel Tov Sahlan, David and Subud Vision for taking the initiative)

David,
You wrote "I don't think the story you are telling here is going to ever attract other solid people, because it doesn't seem to be connected to the meat of the life that people care about and aspire to."

The participatory presentation I was invited to give was at a "peace and spirituality" event, and was tailored to it.
The Edinburgh group chairwoman who attended said that several people approached her afterwards interested to talk with her about Subud. People approached me too. They were genuine, intelligent people - mostly professionals or staudents - who seemed "solid" enough to me.

• inner directed life: so what? Why should we care?

Most people attending the Edinburgh event were keenly interested in this theme

• regular contact and renewal from unifying source: So what?

(as above)

• peace and fullness (peace-fulness): Yes, fine, but talk to some Stoners and you'll get the same story

The audience were attending workshops which recommended supporting work for peace in the world with an inner practice which helps restore calm. My aim was to was include Subud among the practices which may help. (None of the ways mentioned required getting stoned or dropping out)

David, I really do see what you're driving at and I'm reaching for ways to describe Subud in ways that connect with "the meat of life". For example you'd like to refer to some solid evidence such as the latihan helps all mothers and fathers to be better parents. That would present a very compelling case, but does any evidence of this kind exist?

I find myself in the position of someone who relishes an obscure music band that many others don't care for. I can't promise any benefit, or even that my friend will like it. I can say that of the minority who appreciate the music some find it powerfully moving and special.

This seems to be the kind of subjective, wafty statement that gets up your nose - but what else can one honestly say? There are many popular bands around and in no way am I suggesting that the band I like is "better". I'm saying - you might want to check it out, too. What do you say about Subud?

To an extent it must depend on the listener, and in the case of my audience in Edinburgh I can't agree with your assumption that nothing of interest was communicated.

Best wishes from Stefan


From sjahari, April 23, 2008. Time 3:14

Hi Stefan,

I dont think you really understand the point I am making here.

I am not trying to argue that Bapak’s explanation is ‘the truth”
What I am trying to say is that the model which Bapak presents is a model which quite accurately predicts the essential characteristics of the subud latihan. It is a complete and comprehensive explanation because it identifies what the vibration is and where it acts. It identifies why the results which we anticipate occur. Because it has these characteristics, it is a model which accurately depicts the situation it is describing, and therefore we can say that as a model, it is a good model.

Your model on the other hand really does none of these things because it doesnt provide these things. My previous note illustrates this. This is why I maintain that Bapak’s model/explanation is better than yours.

But a model is only a model. It is not necessarily the truth. I concede that we may not know the truth. There are many models that could do a good job at explaining a phenomenon.

It is true that In order to understand the meaning of the model Bapak presents we have to accept the existance of some things that are invisible and unprovable. The basic idea that there exists an original creative force is the primary one. Also the idea that there exists a partition of that inside us which we name as the soul. All these things are part of the model.

I totally agree that one can follow the latihan without necessarily knowing about or believing in this model. I agree with you and with Phillip on this point.

However Bapak anticipates you and precedes you both because he says exactly the same thing in his talks. He constantly emphasizes that he is giving these explanations only to satisfy the curiosity of our minds. And he said that it is virtually impossible to understand these things with our minds anyway. So it is all basically a waste of time.

Nevertheless. The reality remains that when people come to the latihan they are going to ask some questions and will want some answers such as
-what is the latihan?
-where does it come from?
-at what place in the human being does it have its action?
-by what mechanism does this action take place?
-what is the result of this action?
-what is the purpose of the latihan?

One set of answers to these questions can be found in Bapak’s talks. I would put it to you that your explanation does not provide an answer to any of these questions. Not a single one.

best
SJahari


From Philip Quackenbush, April 23, 2008. Time 6:4

Hi, Sjahari,

You said:

"It is true that In order to understand the meaning of the model Bapak presents we have to accept the existance of some things that are invisible and unprovable. The basic idea that there exists an original creative force is the primary one. Also the idea that there exists a partition of that inside us which we name as the soul. All these things are part of the model."

Okay, so how about if I present another model that has the possibility of not having to accept the existence of things that are invisible and unprovable. It's just a model, of course, and has no more likelihood of being valid than that of Muhammad Subuh, but is certainly simpler in terms of both mass of verbiage and complexity of theological expression, if perhaps not as subject to belief and/or faith, since it's based on observable phenomena and effects. In answer to your points below, then:

-what is the latihan?

It is an active (usually) form of what Herbert Benson, M.D., of Harvard, has called the Relaxation Response, from the book of the same name. There are many other forms of the Relaxation Response, but the "latihan" may be more suitable for some people than other forms.

-where does it come from?

It comes from the need of the organism to acheive a physical, mental, and emotional balance.

-at what place in the human being does it have its action?

The entire organism may be affected, from the cellular level on down or up.

-by what mechanism does this action take place?

By the mental release of intention, sometimes referred to as "letting go," or surrendering the need to do anything.

-what is the result of this action?

Its continued practice may result in an increased sense of well-being, release of tension, possible increased immune response, emotional sense of peace, and mental clarity (and other possibly desirable effects not mentioned here). However, it may have negative effects on some people, and its practice in such cases may be advised to be discontinued, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the circumstances. In such case, a practitioner could be advised to seek other types of Relaxation Response, such as self-hypnosis, chanting mantras, watching the breath, "getting away from it all", etc., or consult with a professional health practitioner of a suitable type.

-what is the purpose of the latihan?

A purpose can be derived from applying the above answers, if wanted or needed by the individual personality.

Peace, Philip


From Merin Nielsen, April 23, 2008. Time 7:37

I think Philip's description is better than Bapak's. It presents a model that satisfies the curiosity of my mind much more readily, since it quite "accurately" depicts the essential characteristics of the Subud latihan, yet requires far less acceptance of the invisible, unprovable existence of abstract things.

Cheers,
Merin


From Michael Irwin, April 23, 2008. Time 18:22

Questions by Sjahari:

-what is the latihan?

I have no idea. I just follow instructions.

-where does it come from?

I don't get the impression that it 'comes' from anywhere.

-at what place in the human being does it have its action?

Are there places in me? I have multiple construct models that attribute characteristics - sometimes 'place' - to what I'm focussing on but I don't know which model is correct - if any.

-by what mechanism does this action take place?

What does this mean? I know of no mechanism. Does the question mean 'technique'?

-what is the result of this action?

I feel calm (for a while), more aware of my self (for a while), more conscious of the difficulties of paying attention to anything, more capable of dealing with life's trials with equanimity (though that may be an illusion), more objective about everything (for a while). The unanswered question is what is the result long term? I don't know. Maybe the long-term version of the characteristics listed above are just from the aging of my particular personality.

-what is the purpose of the latihan?

If by 'purpose' is meant 'leading to a goal' I haven't a clue. I have hopes but expect them to be dashed as my cosmology changes. The phenomenal world of life does not indicate to me that it is teleological. It does not even seem to be expressive even though it delights and disgusts.


From sjahari, April 23, 2008. Time 20:13

HI Michael
It is clear from your response that these questions have no meaning or importance to you. And actually i wasnt asking for your personal answer to these questions.

What I am interested in is how it is proposed to respond to interested people when THEY ask such questions. Is the above the response you would give to interested people?

If we go the direction that most of the people responding here seem to be proposing, then when people make inquiries about Subud they will receive a variety of responses ranging from

- "well, there is a doctor from Harvard who can knows what the latihan is although he doesnt do it himself and has never heard of it. You should read his book. "

all the way to:
-"Well, actually, we have no idea what it is and why we do it. Absolutely none. And we do not consider such questions to have any importance at all. We just do it and we dont know why we do it and we have no purpose in doing it. We just like it. "

Personally I do not think this is appropriate. I think that the inquirer deserves to receive two kinds of responses:
1. our personal interpretation of our own experience
2. a reflection and interpretation of Bapak's explanations of what the latihan is all about.

Sjahari.


From Michael Irwin, April 23, 2008. Time 23:17

Hi Sjahari,

You wrote: "What I am interested in is how it is proposed to respond to interested people when THEY ask such questions. Is the above the response you would give to interested people?"

Your asking how I would play the helper role. I would be talking to a single man, not a group of men. I would try to find out as carefully as I could what his frame of reference was and suggest that he talk to so-and-so with a similar frame of reference and leave the door open for us to continue a conversation later if he wished.

"1. our personal interpretation of our own experience
2. a reflection and interpretation of Bapak's explanations of what the latihan is all about."

If I thought the first was called for I would give it and explain that it was just my point of view but by no means the only one. I would refer the person to Bapak as the founder who left a legacy of recorded and written works with which he could agree or disagree as he chose. If, after having read some of that legacy he wanted to discuss his concerns about or praise of Bapak, my view of Bapak or any other matter concerning the place of Bapak within Subud, I would welcome such a discussion. I would probably add that with reference to Bapak's explanations about the latihan, I have found them to be very useful.


From Merin Nielsen, April 24, 2008. Time 2:9

I think Sjahari has left out a third, valuable category of latihan explanation for making available to enquirers, and which is along the lines that Michael suggests:
3. other models that seem potentially helpful, and particularly ones which seem better than Bapak's model.


From David W, April 24, 2008. Time 5:23

Hi Sjahari

"One set of answers to these questions can be found in Bapak’s talks. I would put it to you that your explanation does not provide an answer to any of these questions. Not a single one."

Here are some alternative, complete answers to every one of your questions. Unlike Pak Subuh's model (a) these are historically based, not faith-based, and (b) they do not require a "soul", which is an invention of Plato's, and not central to the major religions on Earth. It did not exist in early Judaism. It was introduced into both Christianity and Islam by Greek-influenced philosophers. And it is not a feature of any of the Eastern religions.

-what is the latihan?
The latihan is a form of spontaneous exercise for advanced practitioners of Silat, of which Subuh was a student. In the form of spontaneous Silat that became the latihan, the tradition is that one practitioner "opens" another to a universal "inner energy". The opened practitioner then starts to move spontaneously.

-where does it come from?
Most recently, it comes from Central Java. Before that, it came from China. The founder of Subud told a story in which the practice originated through him, through a Javanese tradition called "wahyu", but the anthropological evidence is that all the Central Javanese teachers tell the same kind of story, even though all their teachings and practices are clearly derived from earlier local teachings and practices.

-at what place in the human being does it have its action?
On the whole human being. The objective of both the latihan as explained by Subuh, and the spontaneous silat from which the latihan is derived, is to be able to spontaneously and unreflectively do the right thing in a given situation, without being pulled by base impulses (what Kierkegaard called "lower immediacy"), and neither with the need for reflective thinking. One can experience a form of this state when one becomes proficient in a sport, or playing a musical instrument: one plays expertly, sometimes amazingly, from the whole of your being, without reflection, and without the distortions of extreme emotion such as anger or desire to win.

Note: It's potentially misleading to start talking about the latihan "having an action". The latihan, as is clear both in the term Subuh used for it, and in its cultural history, is an exercise. We don't ask "at what place in the human being does an exercise have its action." More properly, we ask about effect.

-by what mechanism does this action take place?
This is not known, but there is no basic reason that we could not find out if we stopped sacralizing the latihan, and instead started openly examining its origins, and connecting it to the enormous pool of existing knowledge about human functioning and experience that we already have at hand. Unfortunately, the basis and mechanisms of the latihan have been sacralized, mythologised and obscured by a chain of human beings acting out of interests that have little to do with the accurate transmission of this interesting tradition.

-what is the result of this action?
Over time, an increasingly prolonged state of "high immediacy". To use a sporting metaphor: to live the whole of your life as Tiger Woods plays golf.

-what is the purpose of the latihan?
Again, the phrasing of this question is potentially misleading. The latihan is an exercise; it is ascribed a purpose by different human beings. In its original Chinese and Javanese form, the purpose was to attain this naturalness and fluidity of being described above. The Javanese Silat practitioners saw the latihan as having two aspects: an outer aspect, which involved becoming a good fighter, and an inner or spiritual aspect, which involved becoming a good human being that lived in this world in this state of unreflective flow. External rules were for beginners, the advanced practitioners would be able to make the right moves in both fighting and in life, spontaneously.

When he became a spiritual teacher, Subuh took this silat practice out of its context, and made it more publicly available. In doing that, he gave the silat explanation: which is to be moved spontaneously by the great life force, tenaga dalam, or qi. This explanation however gets a dim view from Java's orthodox Muslims, and the whole relationship between Silat and Javanese mysticism on the one hand, and orthodox Islam on the other, is highly charged, and even violent. Subuh therefore also added an Islamicised explanation: which it that the latihan and its purpose were to be moved by "God's power", as an alternative term for "life force".

Subud only grew and become internationalised, however, when it was discovered by the followers of Bennett, who—according to their own literature—were embarked on a millenarian, messianic search for a new dispensation: a successor to all earlier religions. With this came then an overlay of the latihan as a form of receiving "grace", and as a form of "worship". But if you strip back the Javanese and European historical and cultural overlays--i.e. assignments of a purpose to the latihan due to particular sectarian interests and situation of the actors at the time--then you get back to the Silat "purpose", which is basically unmodified transmission of the Chinese tradition, unmodified over 2000 years. That purpose is described above.

Best

David


From David W, April 24, 2008. Time 6:44

Hi Stefan

"To an extent it must depend on the listener, and in the case of my audience in Edinburgh I can't agree with your assumption that nothing of interest was communicated."

I am not making an assumption. I making an observation about the language you are using. I'll focus on just one term:

"inner directed life: Most people attending the Edinburgh event were keenly interested in this theme."

Then how do you account for the fact that "inner directed life" gets a whoppingly low 57 hits on the whole of the 4 billion pages on the Internet? There are 428,000 sites which make some mention of Middle Eastern spirituality. Exactly zero of them have any reference to "inner directed life". The Festival website itself makes no mention of such a thing. How is it possible that all of these keenly interested people have failed ever to mention it on the Internet?

Question 1: If these people are keenly interested, and it looks like they're not using the term you are using, what term are they using?

Question 2: Why don't you use their language, instead of making up terms which no-one else appears to use?

That's on the matter of language. But I don't think that all of these people really are interested in an "inner directed life". The Festival is explicity centred on "Middle Eastern Spirituality". There are three major religions, that I know of, which come out of the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. None of them, to my knowledge — even in their mystlcal forms, or their spiritual practices — suggest that one should lead an "inner directed life".

As an example, all of these==in addition to whatever spiritual practices they may have--have texts, ethics, codes and laws. These "outer" forms are considered as essential to the direction of life as any "inner" direction. I'll bet you that if you look through the whole of the Tanakh, the Gospels, and the Qur'an, you won't find any mention to such a thing either. I think you'd even find it hard to find, in Middle Eastern spiritual traditions, any extensive discussion of the distinction between "inner" and "outer". It's the Sufis, and the Javanese (and the Japanese, interestingly), that make this big deal out of the "inner" and "outer" person.

But it's in Java that one finds the idea that by spiritual practice, you acquire an inner directedness that surpasses the need for any outer rule or law. It's a commonplace there, and the Muslims there take a dim view of it. And in Subud, I'm personally weary of seeing people undertake "inner guidance" at the expense of "outer common sense", and then making a complete (and predictable) hash of whatever it is there doing, thus hurting themselves and others.

Question 3: Find me a form of Middle Eastern spirituality in which the good life is seen as "inner directed". (Let's leave Sufism out of it, for the time being, because that might be one form, but also one that attracts some criticism for just that reason.)

As I understand it, you come from a Jewish heritage. To me, this is one of the richest and most profound religious heritages on Earth. My Jewish friends accuse me of being a closet Jew! And I am fond of saying that Judaism contains so much wisdom, because they've been at it longer than almost anyone else, and therefore has had more time to iron the bugs out. And I believe that. I also have books by Rabbis on my bookshelves, that are best-sellers to the non-Jewish population (Rabbis Schmuel Boteach and Steven Z Leder come to mind.) These are people that know how to communicate about life!

Question 4: Why don't you develop an understanding of the latihan within the rich, complex Jewish tradition?

I think that such a Jewish understanding of the latihan would be so much more readily received and understood by a Festival on Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, than a Javan understanding. It would also represent a major contribution to Subud.

Best

David


From stefan, April 24, 2008. Time 9:13

Hi David,

Your explanation of latihan (in response to Sjahari's questions) includes:

>one practitioner "opens" another to a universal "inner >energy"

>The objective of both the latihan as explained by Subuh, >and the spontaneous silat from which the latihan is >derived, is to be able to spontaneously and unreflectively >do the right thing in a given situation, without being >pulled by base impulses

Then you try to convince me that nobody will be interested in an "inner directed life".

This seems contradictory.

Friends of mine who are not in Subud, really do speak in "inner/outer" terms. Some of these enjoyed talking with me about Subud and later were opened. Such talk is by no means exclusive to Subud or Sufis but part of many pardigms. Jung describes a process of inner reflection. Gestalt and Voice Dialogue psychologists developed this into an integrative practice. Psychosynthesis (psychology which recognises a transpersonal dimension) uses inner-reflection to throw light on a person's outer situation, and outer problems as signposts for inner issues. Pagans and neo-shamans talk about "inner journeying or "pathworking".

So whatever your internet search suggests, I still contest
a) your certainty that nobody finds this relevant
b) that your alternative explanations are free from the same
implication

However your position does remind me to be aware of those who don't share my frame of reference and to wonder how I'd explain Subud to them. David, can you recommend a good book to help me appreciate a Jewish perspective? My many sources of inspiration don't yet include Jewish thought, perhaps due to the aversion therapy of being raised as one of God's chosen. Smitings, plagues, stolen birthrights and jealous Gods have yet to win me over.

Stefan


From sjahari, April 24, 2008. Time 22:35

Hi David.
I am responding to your attempt to explain and characterize what the latihan is. For the sake of brevity in this forum I will confine my remarks to just your response to the question “what is the latihan?”

Lets imagine that I am a person who is interested in Subud and come to talk to you about it. According to what you have written here, you would First tell me that it is a form of “spontaneous exercise”.

Now I am someone who likes language to have specific meaning, and I will want to know what does this mean exactly? There are many kinds of exercise. Are you referring to physical exercise? Emotional exercise? Mental excercise. So my first question to you is “what exactly is being exercised in this thing you do?”

Next you would tell me that it is an exercise which is intended “for advanced practitioners of Silat”. I am not an advanced practitioner of silat so how could this be for me? (by now I am probably half way out the door anyway because i am not interested in becoming an advanced practitoner of silat)

Next you say that one practitioner “opens” another. (What you are saying here is very unique to you. ie to David Week. In general subud members never claim to have the power to exert any kind of influence on other people nor to be able to “open” them. Be that as it may:...) As an interested member I would want to know what it was that you did to me in this process. How do you go about opening someone? What does this mean? And what are you opening? Is it the mind? Is it the emotions? Is it something else? What? And how exactly do you do this? I know what it means to open a can of soup, or to open a door, but I have no idea what it means to open another person.

Next you say that the person is being opened to a “universal energy”. Is this what people often refer to as “God”?

Your final statement in this “explanation” is that the practitioner begins to move spontaneously.

Now I am involved in a number of different exercises where I move spontaneously. I do this sort of thing every day as part of my dance practice. Is there any difference between what I do already and this? If so, what is the difference? And also, what exactly do you mean by this word spontaneous? My wife is a very spontaneous person. She is always saying the first thing that comes in her mind. Is this the same thing? Is it different in any way from the ordinary spontaneous actions of every day life? If so. How and in what way is it different?” And finally. What is the big deal about moving spontaneously? Why is it a desirable thing to do?

There is no point in my going through the rest of your reply which is full of flaws, and inconsistencies. However I will just mention two things.

You state that the purpose of the latihan connected to “doing the right thing”. How is this anything more than a rephrasing of everything Bapak talked about under the general heading of “susila”?

You also talk about avoiding the “base impulses”. How are the base impulses different in any essential way from the impulses that Bapak talked about under the general heading of the “nafsu”?

No I am afraid that Your explanation is not full and complete. And in fact in large part it is simply a rehashing of everything that Bapak has already said. The trouble is that you have only taken bits and pieces out of his explanations and you havent presented a coherent whole.

Sjahari


From Merin Nielsen, April 25, 2008. Time 12:11

Hi, Sjahari,

You say that David’s post has inconsistencies, but I think your posts in this thread are inconsistent with respect to context. On one hand, you are clearly concerned with the suitability of a latihan model for presenting to enquirers. On the other hand, you dismiss the model presented by David because it “is not full and complete”.

Now, David’s post comprised about 850 words, and Philip’s earlier post comprised only about 350 words, but you derided Philip’s model because it made reference to a book by a university academic. You appear to feel that David’s post provides insufficient information, but that Philip’s post was inappropriate in referring to outside sources.

In terms of offering an adequate latihan model to enquirers, you seem to suggest that a full and complete explanation must be provided. So, how many books of Bapak’s talks would you proceed to read out to an enquirer? Alternatively, if reference to outside sources were acceptable, then how many books of Bapak’s talks would you recommend that the enquirer read -- in order that the presentation be full and complete?

Alternatively, if an adequate summary were acceptable, then what latihan model would you provide to an enquirer -- in, say, 1000 words or less? To this end, let’s imagine that I am a person who is interested in Subud and come to talk with you about it. In this website, you’ve previously mentioned (in this context) an ‘eternal soul’. To be fair, therefore, I must warn you that I am someone who likes language to have specific meaning, and I would want to know what does this mean exactly.

There could also be other terms or concepts for which I need a full and complete explanation, but surely 1000 words would suffice to quell my doubts. If not, I’m afraid that by then I would probably be halfway out the door.

The notion of a ‘full and complete’ description is ambiguous, anyway. By way of analogy, James Clerk Maxwell devised his equations of electromagnetism in 1864. They’ve since been condensed into four simple lines, and there’s an overwhelming consensus that they encapsulate a full and complete description of the classical electromagnetic field. Nevertheless, hundreds of books have been published describing what they represent.

Incidentally, when David said the latihan is a form of spontaneous exercise for advanced practitioners of Silat, he clearly meant ‘traditionally’ -- and subsequently noted that Pak Subuh took the practice out of its traditional context. It’s a non sequitur to complain that you’re not a silat practitioner.

Regards,
Merin


From Merin Nielsen, April 25, 2008. Time 12:13

Hi, David,

Just a point of priority. Do you reckon Plato invented the soul, or that he got the idea from the ancient Egyptians?

Regards,
Merin


From David Week, April 25, 2008. Time 12:47

Hi Merin

I've heard that Plato might have got it from the Egyptians, but I haven't bothered to check that out. Certainly, one only has to look at the pyramids to realise that these people were really obsessed with life after death. But what struck me most was reading about Jewish beliefs about the afterlife, and learning that there was no "eternal soul". Read the death of Moses in the Pentateuch.

I've also been informed by these lectures available at iTunes U, which I can't recommend highly enough: Hubert Dreyfus on the evolution of the concept of God in Western religion; Thomas Sheehan on the historical Jesus (Yeshua).

Yeshua wasn't interested in any eternal soul either. He was about the here and now.

Best

David


From David Week, April 25, 2008. Time 14:7

Hi Stefan

SF: one practitioner "opens" another to a universal "inner energy".

DW: I'm just reporting the silat conceptual language, not proposing it.

SF: "The objective of both the latihan as explained by Subuh, and the spontaneous silat from which the latihan is derived, is to be able to spontaneously and unreflectively do the right thing in a given situation, without being pulled by base impulses."

Then you try to convince me that nobody will be interested in an "inner directed life".

DW: What I describe above is not an "inner directed life." Let's take the example of a famous baseball player who was brilliant at catching balls. (This is a real guy, I can't remember his name -- what's significant about his story is that once he started thinking about it, he stopped being able to catch balls!) He was able to do so spontaneously, and unreflectively, without being pulled this way and that by his passions. He is not playing "inner directed baseball". Inner directed baseball does not exist, since baseball -- and life -- involves being completely in tune with the WHOLE situation, not some inner condition.

SF: Friends of mine who are not in Subud, really do speak in "inner/outer" terms. Some of these enjoyed talking with me about Subud and later were opened. Such talk is by no means exclusive to Subud or Sufis but part of many pardigms. Jung describes a process of inner reflection. Gestalt and Voice Dialogue psychologists developed this into an integrative practice. Psychosynthesis (psychology which recognises a transpersonal dimension) uses inner-reflection to throw light on a person's outer situation, and outer problems as signposts for inner issues. Pagans and neo-shamans talk about "inner journeying or "pathworking".

DW: Let's not conflate different models on the basis of that -- in English translation -- they use the same words. There is certainly a normal English use of the words "inner" and "outer" to refer to workaday experience of things in terms of "consciousness" and "world" or "mind" and "external reality", etc.

But you missed my main point. You were speaking to a conference on Middle Eastern spirituality and peace. Jung (a notorious anti-Semite), pagans, neo-shamans and psychosynthesis have nothing do with Middle Eastern spirituality.

SF: So whatever your internet search suggests, I still contest (a) your certainty that nobody finds this relevant

DW: I never said any such thing. I said that Middle Eastern spirituality (with the possible exception of Sufism) does not promote or recommend anything like "inner directed life." That's very different from saying "no-one finds it relevant."

SF: (b) that your alternative explanations are free from the same implication.

DW: I'm not clear on what implication you mean.

SF: However your position does remind me to be aware of those who don't share my frame of reference and to wonder how I'd explain Subud to them. David, can you recommend a good book to help me appreciate a Jewish perspective? My many sources of inspiration don't yet include Jewish thought, perhaps due to the aversion therapy of being raised as one of God's chosen. Smitings, plagues, stolen birthrights and jealous Gods have yet to win me over.

DW: Sounds like you were raised in some form of orthodox or conservative Judaism? Try Reform or liberal Judaism. Try:

Rabbi Steven Leder, The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things.
http://www.amazon.com/Extraordinary-Nature-Ordinary-Things/dp/0874416477

Since you're interested in peace, you might also enjoy the work of Rabbi Michael Lerner:
http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/

Then there's the fabulous Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder of IKAR
http://www.ikar-la.org/
http://www.ikar-la.org/rabbi.html
(she's cute!)

I also find Rabbi Justin Jaron Lewis a smart and compassionate teacher:
http://www.kolel.org/zohar/intro.html
and you can probably find other good stuff at that site:
http://www.kolel.org/

Finally, my favourite roshi, who is as Jewish as he is Zen: Bernard Glassman... Zen language, but Jewish sensibilities.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetsugen_Bernard_Glassman
http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/
http://www.greyston.org/
http://www.greystonbakery.com/

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not one of my favourites, and probably more of a traditionalist, but has a big audience, and he's smart, and worth knowing about. Try:
http://www.shmuley.com/articles.php?id=165

Best

David


From David Week, April 25, 2008. Time 16:27

Hi Sjahari

SJ: Now I am someone who likes language to have specific meaning, and I will want to know what does this mean exactly? There are many kinds of exercise. Are you referring to physical exercise? Emotional exercise? Mental excercise. So my first question to you is “what exactly is being exercised in this thing you do?”

DW: As I stated in my post, the whole of your being. No part of you is excluded. How your culture or religion tells you to carve up a human being may vary: but the latihan is an integrative exercise of the whole, not a part.

SJ: Next you would tell me that it is an exercise which is intended “for advanced practitioners of Silat”. I am not an advanced practitioner of silat so how could this be for me? (by now I am probably half way out the door anyway because i am not interested in becoming an advanced practitoner of silat).

DW: I think Merin cleared up that misunderstanding. By the way, I notice no-one is running away from Tai Chi (several hundred million practitioners?) just because it has its origins in a martial art with a funny name.

SJ: Next you say that one practitioner “opens” another. (What you are saying here is very unique to you. ie to David Week. In general subud members never claim to have the power to exert any kind of influence on other people nor to be able to “open” them. Be that as it may:...)

DW: I am just giving some of the historical language used by the Silat tradition, not the Subud offshoot.

SJ: As an interested member I would want to know what it was that you did to me in this process. How do you go about opening someone? What does this mean? And what are you opening? Is it the mind? Is it the emotions? Is it something else? What? And how exactly do you do this? I know what it means to open a can of soup, or to open a door, but I have no idea what it means to open another person.

DW: It’s a process of induction that begins by hanging around outside the hall for a couple of months, and then proceeds inside the hall. Although there is a notional, ceremonial “opening”, some people feel nothing at this point. Others may feel it well before this point. The process of induction has to be understood in terms of the instruction to put yourself into a very receptive and open state. In this state, you learn to do the latihan from other practitioners.

Like a musical instrument, the fact that you learn from others, doesn’t mean that you are in any sense constrained to copying them. And just as you may learn jazz improvisation by playing jazz with others, in the case of the latihan, you already know the mechanics: it’s your own being. What’s being learned then, is the improvisation, not the mechanics of being human.

However, we do know that various movements and sounds from one practitioner do influence another. An example is the common transfer of the word “Allah”, which — contrary to Subud myth — is neither the oldest word for God, nor the first word that babies utter.

Note: If standard Subud theory invokes an animist “Great Life Force” as a supernatural explanation for the induction process. Practitioners are very reluctant to test this theory out, though it would be simple to do. Simply isolate the applicant from any visual or auditory contact with the latihan, and see if this GLF passes through walls. If it does, go collect Nobel Prize. If it doesn’t, revise theory of GLF so it doesn’t pass through plasterboard. Or consider alternatives.

SJ: Next you say that the person is being opened to a “universal energy”. Is this what people often refer to as “God”?

DW: In talking about “universal energy”, I am just re-iterating the animist worldview of the Chinese, Indians and Javanese. I am just providing historical background: most people like to have little bit of history. I’m not suggesting you adopt it.

And no, qi or tenaga dalam is not God. God is the language of the religions of the Abramic tradition. Qi, prana, tenaga dalam, life force, great life force, shaktipat -- call it what you will -- is the language and worldview of very different Eastern traditions. The worldviews are incommensurable.

SJ: Your final statement in this “explanation” is that the practitioner begins to move spontaneously. Now I am involved in a number of different exercises where I move spontaneously. I do this sort of thing every day as part of my dance practice. Is there any difference between what I do already and this? If so, what is the difference?

DW: I don’t know. I don’t do those practices. However, happy to engage in an open-minded spirit of enquiry to find out. Certainly, people who do both latihan and spontaneous qigong report that it’s exactly the same, or almost exactly the same. This tells us that making such comparisons is certainly possible.

Since current practitioners tend to be ideologically biased, probably the best way to find out would be to introduce dance practitioners to the latihan, sans any ideological induction. Then we can find out if they experience any difference.

SJ: And also, what exactly do you mean by this word spontaneous? My wife is a very spontaneous person. She is always saying the first thing that comes in her mind. Is this the same thing? Is it different in any way from the ordinary spontaneous actions of every day life? If so. How and in what way is it different?”

DW: The word “spontaneous”, in English, means “performed or occurring as a result of a sudden inner impulse or inclination and without premeditation or external stimulus.” Note the “without external stimulus”. If your wife really utters things without any connection to what is going on around her, she sounds like she might have Tourette’s Syndrome!

For the same reason, I have to warn you, that if you practice latihan in a social setting, people may suspect you of having a mental illness. That’s why it’s best done out of public view.

SJ: And finally. What is the big deal about moving spontaneously? Why is it a desirable thing to do?

DW: In the first place, the “latihan” is an exercise -- it’s practice. It’s not “the real thing”. The “real thing” is life. What we know from how we do activities like playing the piano, or golf, or tennis, is that first we do it badly; then, we engage ourselves in a program of study, and do things mechanistically and reflectively: like playing scales. Eventually, our practice becomes natural and spontaneous, and even creative. This state some psychologists call the state of “flow”.

The latihan is just an exercise in flow. Why is it a good idea? Because culture tends to condition to function in overly reactive and mentalistic modes, and to forget how to be in flow. Thus, in many aspects of our life -- being with others, working, sex, eating -- we lose the capacity to be in flow. Latihan is an exercise in pure flow.

A warning: just practicing being in pure flow will not by itself get you anywhere. You still need that outer training. For instance, if you want to develop ethical flow, where you naturally and spontaneously treat people well, you need an outer ethical framework, as well as this practice in flow: just as it is with learning to play a musical instrument.

For this reason, I believe, Subuh always advised that people adopt the framework of a religion, as well as their latihan practice, to develop ethical flow. Unfortunately, many have not done so. The results that we see today -- perhaps predictably -- is many people complaining that nothing changes, they don’t progress, and that Subud people treat each other very badly.

SJ: You state that the purpose of the latihan connected to “doing the right thing”. How is this anything more than a rephrasing of everything Bapak talked about under the general heading of “susila”?

DW: I’m not saying its not. I’m an American. You’re a Canadian. Why don’t we just speak in English? “Susila” is a word with a deep roots in the Hindu-Buddhist tradition, and I think it’s much better not to bandy the term about without an in depth understanding of what it means within that tradition. Best we stick with what we know, and not to dabble in other traditions unless we’re going to get serious about them.

SJ: You also talk about avoiding the “base impulses”. How are the base impulses different in any essential way from the impulses that Bapak talked about under the general heading of the “nafsu”?

DW: In that case, I have studied the issue, and can say definitively “no”. Using the triune model of the brain (I understand that this has limitations), I’m talking about impulses that come from the older reptilian and mammalian parts of our make-up: impulses such as sexual response, anger, aggression, fear, hunger, and so forth. The nafsu do not map onto these. They only come in four varieties, each of which has a its own colour: red, black, yellow and white, from memory. Nothing in our understanding of human emotion or physiology suggests these four varieties, and especially not colours.

Now, I’d like to ask you some questions about the consistency and completeness of Subuh’s model.

(a) You are a medical doctor, and you have initiated some debates within SIHA about the appropriateness of SIHA pushing “alternative” medicine. As I understand it, you are concerned about the validity of these alternative “modalities”. Given that, how do you support the use of Subuh’s model, in which all matter is made of four elements: earth, air, fire and water, an Aristotelian model which has long been abandoned?

(b) How do you support the nafsu explanation of human drives or emotions, which similarly have no basis in our current understanding of the human organism, and in fact have the same “colours” as the four humours of Medieval physiology?

Note: Most likely the nafsu model -- from the Arabic nafs -- came to Java with Islam. Islamic medicine of the period followed the Greek model of the humours. I can find out if you like.

(c) The Islamic model of the human beings posits a lower self (the nafs) and a higher self (the roh). Onto this model, Subuh attaches the Hindu jiva (divine essence) and sukma (astral bodies, or “birth siblings”.) Of all of these candidates for the English term “soul”, which one do you mean when you say “soul”: Roh, jiva, or sukma? Please explain.

(d) Your explanations have a big role for the “soul”. But the “soul” only plays a role in the Abrahamic religions. If you have an applicant from the other 50% of the world -- say a Buddhist or a Confucian -- what are you going to say? Convert?

(e) In the Abrahamic religions, souls do not have professions like “banker” or “architect”, or any of the other “inner talents” that Subuh used to assign to people. In fact, this idea of an inbuilt professional capacity is not an Abrahamic idea at all, but a Hindu one. It’s the basis of the caste system. What are you going to say to followers of the Abrahamic religions who take objection of this innovation glommed onto their religion? Maybe Jesus got it wrong? Maybe the Qur’an is “incomplete”?

(f) The majority of people in the world (including contemporary Javanese and Indians) find the caste system repellent. Do you propose that they need to revise their views? To put a finer point on it: children in Canada and Australia and the United States are told, “You can be anything you put your mind to”. Do you propose to teach them instead (as certain Subud children have been told): “You can only be one thing: Ibu Rahayu says your inner talent is ‘banker’.” And do you propose that we dismantle all of that educational and social apparatus aimed at maximising the opportunity of every child to choose their future, and instead, say, have them “tested” at birth for their “inner talent”, in the same way they get “tested” for their “right name”?

(g) People expert in human development (counselling, coaching, career development, organisational psychology, and so forth) including long-time Subud members, do not believe that people possess an “inner talent”, any more than they believe that matter is composed of four Greek elements. Rather, the modern view is that a human being has a complex and dynamic set of capacities, most of them developed through learning -- both formal and informal -- not genetics, and that Subuh’s simplistic model of an inbuilt “inner talent” is not only wrong, but because it is wrong, potentially damaging. Why would we adopt the human capacity model of Subuh, over a modern, well-researched model?

(h) Some members believe that Subuh’s talks represent the views and opinions of an intelligent, charismatic man, but views which are nonetheless a reflection of his era, culture and education. As such, they are as limited and as inappropriate to our current context as any knowledge from that time and place. Other members believe that Subud’s talks represent some kind of divine “revelation”. Do you consider Subuh’s talks to constitute “revelation” in any way, shape or form?

I look forward to your clarifications.

Best wishes, David


From David Week, April 27, 2008. Time 15:32

Hi Merin

On the Egyptian/Greek soul question...

"The belief that the soul continues in existence after the dissolution of the body is ... speculation ... nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture ... The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended" (Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1941, Vol. VI, "Immortality of the Soul," pp. 564, 566).

Greek Soul:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ancient-soul/

Egyptian Soul:
http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/kunoichi/themestream/egypt_soul.html

And one more view:
Strictly speaking, then, for Christianity the soul is not immortal. It dies with the body and is resurrected at the end of time. Hence the connections drawn between any presumed body/soul duality in Plato or Aristotle and the Christian view of afterlife via resurrection must be faulty. Connections between immortality of soul and other religious views, however, are quite strong. Indeed, discussions of the transmigration of souls (or reincarnation) significantly predate Plato. Empedocles of Acragas, who was born in the early fifth century B.C.E., was known to have said: "For I have already been once a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird, and a leaping journeying fish" (Kirk, Raven, and Schofield, p. 319). Xenophanes reports that Pythagoras held similar views, leading to an argument against mistreating any living thing as it may contain the soul of a loved one (p. 219). Herodotus claims that the first people to postulate "the doctrine that the soul of man is immortal" were the Egyptians (p. 219). It is not clear, however, that the Egyptians really were the origin of the immortal soul view, and it is even less likely that they originated a view of reincarnation. Beliefs in the transmigration of souls probably originated in the East and eventually made their way to the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and so on.
http://science.jrank.org/pages/7782/Immortality-Afterlife.html

Best

David


From Michael Irwin, April 27, 2008. Time 22:58

DW: The latihan is just an exercise in flow.

MI: Now all I have to do is figure out what ‘flow’ is.

DW: Subuh always advised that people adopt the framework of a religion, as well as their latihan practice, to develop ethical flow. Unfortunately, many have not done so.

MI: Unfortunate too, that many who adopt also don’t develop ‘ethical flow’.

DW: Best we stick with what we know, and not to dabble in other traditions unless we’re going to get serious about them.

MI: Well, I better get back to my Bible.


From bronte, April 28, 2008. Time 1:5

"Well, I better get back to my Bible."

Mine Got@!
We are back to Square 1.
Subud can pack it's bags and go home!
Or at least I can.
And lot's of people wish I would.
But I never noticed that people were able to DO what the Bible, or any other religious book for that matter, actually TOLD them to DO!
Some try, but the rest of us just remain Very Trying!


From Philip Quackenbush, April 28, 2008. Time 16:17

Hi, David, Michael, and Bronte,

DW: In the first place, the “latihan” is an exercise -- it’s practice. It’s not “the real thing”. The “real thing” is life. What we know from how we do activities like playing the piano, or golf, or tennis, is that first we do it badly; then, we engage ourselves in a program of study, and do things mechanistically and reflectively: like playing scales. Eventually, our practice becomes natural and spontaneous, and even creative. This state some psychologists call the state of “flow”.

The latihan is just an exercise in flow. Why is it a good idea? Because culture tends to condition to function in overly reactive and mentalistic modes, and to forget how to be in flow. Thus, in many aspects of our life -- being with others, working, sex, eating -- we lose the capacity to be in flow. Latihan is an exercise in pure flow.

A warning: just practicing being in pure flow will not by itself get you anywhere. You still need that outer training. For instance, if you want to develop ethical flow, where you naturally and spontaneously treat people well, you need an outer ethical framework, as well as this practice in flow: just as it is with learning to play a musical instrument.

For this reason, I believe, Subuh always advised that people adopt the framework of a religion, as well as their latihan practice, to develop ethical flow. Unfortunately, many have not done so. The results that we see today -- perhaps predictably -- is many people complaining that nothing changes, they don’t progress, and that Subud people treat each other very badly.

MI: Now all I have to do is figure out what ‘flow’ is.

DW: Subuh always advised that people adopt the framework of a religion, as well as their latihan practice, to develop ethical flow. Unfortunately, many have not done so.

MI: Unfortunate too, that many who adopt also don’t develop ‘ethical flow’.

DW: Best we stick with what we know, and not to dabble in other traditions unless we’re going to get serious about them.

MI: Well, I better get back to my Bible.

Bronte:

Mine Got@!
We are back to Square 1.
Subud can pack it's bags and go home!
Or at least I can.
And lot's of people wish I would.
But I never noticed that people were able to DO what the Bible, or any other religious book for that matter, actually TOLD them to DO!
Some try, but the rest of us just remain Very Trying!

PQ: Well, since the "latihan" is an exercise in flowing "meditation" (despite all assertions to the contrary that it is not meditation), and the general purpose of meditation is to get "enlightened", or in synch with the Source (philosophically speaking: "God" for those in the Abrahamic religions; "Great Spirit" to the Native Americans, etc.), there is a basic conflict between the fundamentalist, literalist view of religions and meditative or contemplative practices such as the "latihan" that remove the necessity of following "The Word", if one becomes sufficiently "advanced" in their practice. Thus, the inherent problem of following two masters, the "outer" written word of the Bible, Quran, Buddha's teachings, what have you, and the "inner" experience that comes from such practices.

There is the symbolic or direct instruction in most religions, however, referring to the "Kingdom of heaven within you" or Islamic "paradise" or "nirvana", etc. that a follower of the written words (or cultural traditions for those non-literate religions) can eventually recognize for the "finger pointing at the moon" that they are. But most people will probably require the crutch of their religion to remain stable enough in their approach to life to get to the point where they can give up their beliefs to face Reality as it Is; hence the attempt of Muhammad Subuh, as I see it, to keep members from "falling off the deep end" before they're ready for such an all-encompassing way of life that discards all beliefs, if ever.

Unfortunately, a close reading of the "explanations" reveals a steady deterioration of Subuh's own rational faculties and increasing megalomania, IMO, and, as a result, we have a classic case of the "blind leading the blind". Better, then, IMO, to stick to his earlier "explanations" where he simply said to follow one's "latihan" until all becomes clear, and ignore all the gobbledegook that followed later.

Thus, IMO, the first volume of the "Blue Bible" is more than sufficient to "explain" the Subud "world" that one enters into upon taking up the practice of the "latihan", especially since it contains the most accurate translations and not the attempted "cover-ups" and lack of understandings of many referents seen in later lectures done by the current "team."

Peace, Philip


From bronte, April 29, 2008. Time 1:20

Thanks for all the explanation about "flow"
My urologist is concerned about that too.

I am concerned that any involvement I have with Subud is connected with the "Flow" of my life.
And as far as I can see, it is, and should be, no matter that I am an "isolated" member.
The practice offered to people who come to Subud is certainly able to be isolated from everyday life. And for many observers, that is all they see. So they see nothing of value. So no new people come and stay.

But for me, and I suspect lots of others too, occasionally, if not frequently, that latihan experience is able to participate in my moment by moment activities.
Now how many people, writing to this site, such as yourself and David W, actually feel latihan while writing here. Even I find it a little light on as I try to be aware of it.
Now perhaps the pianist as he/she plays, or the soldier as he(usually) gets out there to kill the enemy (well! That's his job!) can possibly feel the latihan as the task progresses. Perhaps not.
But if latihan is so separate from life that it does not, or rather, can not, participate in every breath we take, then it is not really relevant.
I believe all religion actually leads people to that much connection with their "God" or "Spirit", and some people in Subud would definitely claim that for them, that is how it is.
And if so, then it is all worthwhile, and the group latihans, when all other life activities are temporarily put aside, are a necessary extra to what is actually a different way of living for all "true believers".

Now some of my writing is definitely was accompanied by my feeling of latihan. But I doubt it will be greeted by all as "being Subud".

Those people who "feel good" when I am present at their spiritual meetings don't know, and neither do I really, that there is an influence we are sharing that comes "from the latihan", no matter how degenerate/imperfect I may be. Latihan, despite the silly non-English name, I regard as a "pure thing", and it is of benefit to all, eventually.

Please forgive the weirdness of this writing. I have seldom been so involved with my latihan as I write as I have today.
Peace
Bronte


From David Week, April 29, 2008. Time 2:44

Hi Michael

You can find 'flow' described here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)

Best

David


From Merin Nielsen, April 29, 2008. Time 3:11

Hi, Philip,

You say that latihan is a kind of meditation, and that the general purpose of meditation is to get "enlightened", or in synch with the Source. You also say that meditative practices remove the necessity of following any "outer" guidance in the form of words. I find this perplexing because the concepts of getting enlightened and of synchronising with the Source appear to be forms of wordy guidance. They both 'teach' that there is some 'spiritual goal' to be achieved, but is this notion useful in relation to the latihan, or is it essentially another form of 'crutch'?

Hi, Bronte,

You use the term latihan in an interesting way. In Indonesian it means 'exercise', and in the Subud context I take it to mean the actual practice for which we set time aside, separate from our everyday activities. So when you discuss the presence of the 'latihan experience' throughout everyday activities, I take you to mean some particular feeling (of 'inner connection' or 'flow' perhaps?) that you also have when undertaking the actual exercise. You refer to this as a "pure thing" that influences people, but would you be prepared to explore more direct descriptions or more informative labels, rather than always calling it just 'exercise'?

Hi, David,

You explain why the exercise is a good idea -- since it helps restore the capacity for 'flow' -- if the flow itself is desirable. You describe the flow as representing unreflective naturalness, 'high immediacy', fluidity of being and spontaneously 'doing the right thing' among one's activities, without their being distorted by base impulses or reflective thinking. This sure sounds desirable, but you also indicate that 'doing the right thing' is developed in relation to outer training, determined according to the adopted framework upon which one focusses. But are there any criteria for the rightness of frameworks, or can 'the right framework' (on a case by case basis) be selected naturally and spontaneously?

Regards,
Merin


From bronteb, April 29, 2008. Time 4:42

Merin
I hope there will be another few people who can refer to this experience more convincingly than I have.
It is real for me, but a little scarce. And it is a little demanding, because it is not spontaneously an awareness of a feeling in me of "containment" or "centrenesss" these being the first two words that seem to fit, but something I must "call on" or think of, rather than being spontaneous.

When I was in the army, as a young man, I did, a few times, deliberately stop, and became "quiet" for a little while, (I never was in battle) occasionally, and a particular time comes to mind that is not relevant to army particularly, or any other time or place. Before a meal, a few moments of "quiet" occasionally led me to eat less, and more slowly. This anyone can do. But I was then fairly new in Subud, and very convinced of all it's reality, and felt it helped me to have the "right attitude" to food. I think my convictions about Subud earned me the accusations of being too arrogant and self righteous from the people who formed group 2 here, who never seem to do any more than 20 minute latihans, which my experiences always showed me was inadequate.
Things are different now. I have put on weight too much, so latihan did not stop that. Ideally, it might have, along with other influences.
But another example I give of "feeling & being in latihan" at a meeting with some friends, and finding spontaneously useful comments to make, which sort of "broke out" of my silence on that occasion.

There are too few people participating in this talk-fest which is SubudVision. I wish a few more would come on and comment on this issue.
Peace.
Bronte


From Philip Quackenbush, April 29, 2008. Time 6:48

Hi, Merin,

You said:

You say that latihan is a kind of meditation, and that the general purpose of meditation is to get "enlightened", or in synch with the Source. You also say that meditative practices remove the necessity of following any "outer" guidance in the form of words. I find this perplexing because the concepts of getting enlightened and of synchronising with the Source appear to be forms of wordy guidance. They both 'teach' that there is some 'spiritual goal' to be achieved, but is this notion useful in relation to the latihan, or is it essentially another form of 'crutch'?

Well, whether one is seeking to get "out of" the ego's mental traps via Zen's "gateless gate" or Christianity's "narrow way" or some other pointed-at "path," there always seems to be the paradox that, to "get there", you usually have to use words to indicate how. The oft-heard admonition to "let go" or "surrender", as heard in Subud and many other "methods", can lead one towards the "goal-less" goal, but for most people, the way out of the labyrinth of the trillions of deceptions that the mental matrix of the ego has to keep one under its control requires some sort of framework to ferret out those deceptions and start to live in the moment, or Reality, without any concepts or beliefs to hinder that state, which they invariably will.

If you believe that you are in charge of your thoughts, try a little experiment: Tell yourself that you won't have any thoughts for two hours and see how long you can keep yourself from having any. Only when you can control the flow of thoughts and their resultant emotions can you be said to be free of their choke-hold. Thinking should be a tool, IMO, and not a slave-master. IMO, the practice of "latihan" without adherence to any attached beliefs as to what it is or what it can do is one route to that freedom.

My freedom from thoughts or being able to direct them is still rather limited, but it seems to be connected with the breath, which is one aspect of virtually any "program" that anyone can name that is by necessity included (on pain of death if it's stopped) to attain that freedom, so I think that the Buddhist practice of watching the breath may have a lot of merit in that respect. One can watch one's breath in "latihan" without interfering with the process, I've found, and concentration of one's attention on the breath can stop thought and with it, the memeplexes that are one's beliefs, if only for an instant or a few seconds. That may allow one enough time to "change one's mind". This doesn't mean that I "will" my attention to go to the breath during "latihan", nor am I suggesting that anyone do so, but it could be useful to note what happens in "latihan" when "it" directs one's attention there.

The form of scientifically-based meditation I've taken up recently (I haven't "given up" the "latihan", nor do I "mix" it with the "latihan") involves an audio program and "forces" the brain to function more holistically in all of its brain-wave phases (beta, alpha, theta, and delta) as one remains conscious. As I said, I'll report what the results are here after doing it a while (supposedly eight weeks of daily (5 to 8 days) will complete the program and only bimonthly "check-ins" will maintain the results permanently. Guaranteed or money back. Can Subud say the same? So far, after a little over a week of listening, I've noticed greater bilateral functionality (I can use my right hand with almost as much skill in some cases as my left, which is my "dominant" hand), have more energy and need less sleep (5-6 hours instead of 6-7), and seem to be able to express myself musically and in writing more easily and effectively (I'll let others judge as to the last).

Peace, Philip


From Philip Quackenbush, April 29, 2008. Time 6:56

Hi, Merin,

I said,

"Tell yourself that you won't have any thoughts for two hours and see how long you can keep yourself from having any."

Uh, I hope you don't try that while you're shaving or driving (though it's great during sex). Could be dangerous.

Peace, Philip


From Merin Nielsen, April 29, 2008. Time 7:38

Hi, Philip,

In your paragraph about the scientifically-based meditation that you're trying, the prospective effects sound quite desirable, but I just wonder if they represent distinctively 'spiritual goals'. What I'm getting at is whether such things as 'spiritual goals', like 'enlightenment' or 'synchronising with the Source', exist as real phenomena. In another paragraph, you mention "paths" like Zen's "gateless gate", Christianity's "narrow way", the "goal-less goal", the "way out" of the labyrinth of deceptions maintained by the ego's mental matrix, and an 'unhindered' state of living in Reality. Assuming that they are real, are such goals 'spiritual' somehow, or are they simply, naturally desirable for everyday reasons?

Regards,
Merin


From stefan, April 29, 2008. Time 7:42

Hi Bronte,

I always enjoy hearing your "voice" on these pages, with your ironic humour and for your willingness to share personal experiences.

When you say:
"another exampe I give of feeling & being in latihan at a meeting with some friends, and finding spontaneously useful comments to make, which sort of broke out of my silence on that occassion"
I think I know what you mean. One of the values I place on latihan is the way it's become integrated into my daily life. On a good day I feel as if my cooking, or a massage I'm giving or my choreography is coming from the same effortless creative energy that I sometimes access in latihan. This feels like a "grace".

Isn't this the same thing that David describes as "flow"?
(Not unique to latihaners) I like the analogy of a jazz musician, whose training provides a foundation for improvising in a real band. I also like having a way to describe latihan without needing to use faith words such as worship or God.

If all descriptions of Subud talked about "flow" or "chi" I'd be wanting alternative ones that mentioned God. What I need is diversity and freedom of interpretation. What I find stifling is any standardisation. That's why I enjoy all the voices on this site, and all the unresolved issues. I'd be disappointed if we all came to an agreement and issued "the new Truth" about Subud.

Stefan


From David Week, April 29, 2008. Time 8:15

Hi Merin

"You explain why the exercise is a good idea -- since it helps restore the capacity for 'flow' -- if the flow itself is desirable. You describe the flow as representing unreflective naturalness, 'high immediacy', fluidity of being and spontaneously 'doing the right thing' among one's activities, without their being distorted by base impulses or reflective thinking. This sure sounds desirable, but you also indicate that 'doing the right thing' is developed in relation to outer training, determined according to the adopted framework upon which one focusses. But are there any criteria for the rightness of frameworks, or can 'the right framework' (on a case by case basis) be selected naturally and spontaneously?"

Yes--but only among frameworks that you have access to, in other words to ones that you know. Let's say that Christianity offers a toolset, and Zen, and Aristotle, and suburban America. And you are conversant with all of these. When something happens can you select the correct tool from the right toolset? I think so. I hesitate to use the word "in my experience", because of its funny Subud connotations... but in this case in my experience, too. But where in order to get it "right" you have to be familiar with not just the tools, but the context. In Pak Subuh's lectures, he thought you could go to Dayaks and--without knowing anything about them--just do the right thing, just fit in by "receiving". Neither he nor his followers were able to do that.

"Flow" is not a substitute for experience and understanding gained through living and learning.

Best

David


From Merin Nielsen, April 29, 2008. Time 12:58

Hi, David,

Okay, but when it comes to 'doing the right thing', only a given framework makes it 'the right' thing to do. So, what about when it comes to comparing and selecting between frameworks in which to develop competence? It would seem that the 'right' framework gets selected, spontaneously or otherwise, on some basis other than that of any framework.

Likewise, there appears to be no toolset available, with which one could be familiar, to guide the selection of the right toolset to employ with respect to any situation. If the capacity to spontaneously 'do the right thing' is developed through familiarity with a context-dependent toolset, then on what grounds may one 'select the right toolset'? Do we each inherently possess some 'master toolset' / 'meta-framework' performing this function, or is it here that reflective thinking necessarily plays a role?

Regards,
Merin


From David Week, April 29, 2008. Time 14:39

Hi Merin

"Likewise, there appears to be no toolset available, with which one could be familiar, to guide the selection of the right toolset to employ with respect to any situation. If the capacity to spontaneously 'do the right thing' is developed through familiarity with a context-dependent toolset, then on what grounds may one 'select the right toolset'? Do we each inherently possess some 'master toolset' / 'meta-framework' performing this function, or is it here that reflective thinking necessarily plays a role?"

Well, if we take continental philosophy as a guide, there is a 'master toolset', in the sense that each of us has a background framework which is so much part of who we are, that we rarely become aware of it (usually only when it is about to change.) But a better name for that that frame is 'the background', rather than any kind of master meta-frame. The background is: (a) always shared, (b) always historical, (c) always perspectival. Another name for it is "our shared practices". How do you know that incest is wrong? Because of shared practices. Is incest always wrong? No: in some cultures it's not. At some times in our own history it's not been wrong. So all our judgment not only of what is write or wrong, but also what's what and how things work, comes from this shared background. How do you know that a hammer is for hammering? Predicate logic? I don't think so.

So the background is highly situated, and highly relativistic--but that doesn't make it arbitrary: not at all. It's the set of shared practices, including linguistic practices, that we've evolved which allow us to makes sense of the world, and to live in the world. Nothing arbitrary about that!

But I do remember Hubert Dreyfus talking about a student who finally got the point that what all that means is that there is nothing more permanent or stable against which to judge or understand things than our shared social practices--and who then went out into the hall and threw up. And I also remember a passage in Descartes where he describes the nauseous anxiety that grips him when he things of the possibility that there may be no firm footing beneath him.

On the other hand, the Buddhists would say: get used to it. That's the way it is. And once you understand that, you'll realise that it's just fine.

Best

David

PS: There are two terms which are useful here. One is the idea of the "Archimedian point". The idea here is there is no point outside the world, from which you can look at the world. You are always in the world, and surveying from some point within it. Where you are, shapes what you see. The desire for an "Archimedian point", on the other hand, drives us to imagine that there is something outside our embodied being in the world, from which we can finally see it "as it really is." That might be Reason, or Nature, or God, or the Source. But that seems to be just a fantasy driven by a fear of groundlessness.

The other term is "incommensurability". It refers to the relationship between two fully formed worlds: say of Zulu magic, and Western science. You can compare them, but only from within one or the other. If you think that you've found a place from which you can compare the two "at arms length", all you've done is found yet a third world. To say that two worlds or backgrounds are "incommensurable" is to say that there is no unworldly measure or standard by which we can compare them. We can only measure them against the background of yet some other world.

Hope this makes some kind of sense!


From Philip Quackenbush, April 29, 2008. Time 16:44

Hi, Merin,

You asked:

"In your paragraph about the scientifically-based meditation that you're trying, the prospective effects sound quite desirable, but I just wonder if they represent distinctively 'spiritual goals'."

What is "spiritual", anyway? It's a label that's been applied to far too many phenomena or imagined phenomena. That's why I always prefer to put the word in quotes. The effects I cited in my own case could be labeled as "spiritual" and well might be in an earlier era, but science has explained them in physiological terms, so there's no necessity, IMO, to go to the woowoo word, "spiritual", in this case, to describe them.

"What I'm getting at is whether such things as 'spiritual goals', like 'enlightenment' or 'synchronising with the Source', exist as real phenomena."

That would depend on what you categorize as "real phenomena". Again, I've put those words in quotes because they're what people have reference to from commonly-used or studied systems of thought, such as Buddhism or philosophy. The phenomena themselves are, or supposedly are, experiential, and therefore may vary widely from individual to individual, and are largely anecdotal until put under scientific scrutiny, which, in the case of the "latihan," has seldom been done (and even then remain somewhat anecdotal, since they are probably not statistically very significant or easily replicable). Your experience of the color blue, for example, may differ from mine, and there's no way to know other than to probably put us in a lab and measure our responses to various light frequencies (and that would only be one aspect of our experience, leaving out the subjective aspects). And, of course, neither of us would likely be able to describe to a blind person the difference between aquamarine blue and turquoise, any more than we could to a sighted person without showing them a chart of the designated colors, which any of the people involved might not have a memory for, anyway (there have been found to be millions of distinguishable, mostly-unnamed, shades of green, for example).

" In another paragraph, you mention "paths" like Zen's "gateless gate", Christianity's "narrow way", the "goal-less goal", the "way out" of the labyrinth of deceptions maintained by the ego's mental matrix, and an 'unhindered' state of living in Reality. Assuming that they are real, are such goals 'spiritual' somehow, or are they simply, naturally desirable for everyday reasons?"

Again, that's up to the individual to decide whether they are desirable for whatever reason. I'm simply doing the best I can to describe my experience and suggest possible access to such in words, which is the worst form of communication available to us, but which is the only one available on this forum (I think, unless the editors have a way of placing attachments of photos or videos, for example; maybe we all need to find out how to do U-Tube entries and links to them).

Peace, Philip


From Philip Quackenbush, April 29, 2008. Time 16:55

David said,

"....the Buddhists would say: get used to it. That's the way it is. And once you understand that, you'll realise that it's just fine."

Actually, sometimes it's pretty coarse. And that's just fine, too (on another scale; fine sandpaper is pretty coarse compared to, say, #400 emery paper).

Peace, Philip


From David Week, April 30, 2008. Time 2:46

Hi Merin

I agree with Philip. What is a "spiritual goal". Please define.

Best

David


From bronte, April 30, 2008. Time 5:11

All this talk about what is and what is perceived reminds me of the dilemma of "being awake"

If i want to persuade (?) some children of a friend of mine that they are actually "being asleep" because they watch lots of TV, and spend much of their time playing computer games, do I simply tell them it is stupid?
No
Do I ask them what alternative things they might be doing?
Do i ask them if they feel they are "in control" of themselves, or being controlled by others?
Time will tell.
These unusual kids actually belied in NOT going to school! And they manage it too, by being home educated.

We, the people who "joined Subud" stepped into a "spiritual world" which includes people, and beliefs, about "waking up", or "becoming aware”, or "being saved".
As such, we admitted, by default, that we are "asleep", "unaware" "unsaved".
OK, no one writing here has admitted these things that i have noticed.
But "spirituality" seems to me to have lots to do with becoming aware, awake, or something like that, which admits, in my view, two main things.
The first is that there is something more than our normal or usual lives to which we can become aware. Natural laws fall into that category.
The second is that we may, or do, need to be "saved" from ourselves. Our unconsciously harmful behaviour, our failure to do what is best for us, and for the people around us.
All the materialistic thinking, science not withstanding, has only reached out towards this awakeness.
Religion, mysticism, Subud(?) all claim, more or less, to start from the other side. Awareness, wakefulness, being alive.
Do we want to become alive?
Or are we happy to watch TV, play Nintendo, and accept that the world is really as we see it, each in his own small corner, and all is right with the world?
I don't think I ever did.
And I still believe the latihan of Subud, if not some of it's kindred practices (really?) are what we all need in order to wake up.
I hope you do not find me to have been TOO divergent from the point here.
Love,(Oh, I forgot that's not allowed in Subud. Probably gets about a 000001% reference in all Subud literature. And Bapak once said something about the emphasis on love being a feminine thing, the Christian way....... Oh well......)
Bronte
PS Some wrong things don't work. The results speak for themselves, eventually.
Finding which things are wrong because they don't work is really quite a task. I'd include a huge number of man-made laws in that category. And religious guidance that is wrong simply must fall apart, the sooner the better.


From Philip Quackenbush, April 30, 2008. Time 6:3

Good points, Bronte,

However, being awake is simply that; there's nothing "higher" or "lower" about awareness. Either (I am or) you're awake (i.e. aware of something) or (I'm not or) you aren't. The suffering around awareness comes when you (or I) want to be aware of something that you (or I) aren't aware of. But that's basically impossible, because, if (I'm not or) you aren't aware of something, it's because (I'm not or) you're not aware of it, and as soon as you (or I) become aware of not being aware of something, the moment is past to be aware of it as it was in that particular time/space moment. When the opportunity is present to direct (my or) your awareness towards something specific and you (or I) have the biochemical energy available to do so (i.e, your [or my] nervous system is firing on enough cylinders to allow that to happen), fine; but don't beat yourself up if you can't do that all the time [I try not to], because the brain has to rest, so it goes out of beta rhythm into slower ones, like alpha and theta, which don't allow for that much "willpower" [a Subud trance being usually alpha, which is highly suggestible, and therefore not recommended to remain in during listening to "explanations" by anybody, if you {or others} want to be able to discriminate about what's being said; virtually the same trance state as what is seen in those kids watching TV {which is why advertisers really don't have to use subliminal advertising to sell their stuff; it would only put them deeper into trance}, which is why Subud members like it so much]).

Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit, once wrote that the basic criterion for "spirituality" was awareness. When asked what he meant by that, he said, "Awareness, awareness, awareness." I've found that the basic criterion for awareness is health, which Da Boo Da said was the greatest of treasures. When I'm feeling good (i.e., healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally, though the three are not really seperable), my "awareness quotient" seems to go up compared to when I'm feeling ill or angry or fatigued. I think that the basic criterion for when a person is at least beginning to be "enlightened" is when that person realizes that this location and this moment is all there is and acts accordingly. All you (or I) can be conscious of is what you're (or I am) conscious of; that's your (or my) reality, so you (and I) might as well accept it and be happy with it, cuz there isn't anything else for you (or me).

Peace, Philip


From Merin Nielsen, April 30, 2008. Time 9:41

Hi, David,

>> .................... Hope this makes some kind of sense!

Yes, it's all good -- the background of shared social practices / the Archimedeam Point / the incommensurability. But I have another query. Can one 'flow' in terms of acting in accord with shared social practices?

Hi, Philip,

>> What is "spiritual", anyway? ........... ETC..........

I like those answers, thank-you.

Hi, David,

>> I agree with Philip. What is a "spiritual goal". Please define.

I too agree with Philip. I introduced the term in response to Philip's impressive list of phenomena that are usually labelled 'spiritual' -- though not by Philip. I like your definition of an imaginary "something outside our embodied being in the world, from which we can finally see it 'as it really is'."

Hi, Bronte,

>> ....... But "spirituality" seems to me to have lots to do with becoming aware, awake, or something like that, which admits, in my view, two main things. The first is that there is something more than our normal or usual lives to which we can become aware. Natural laws fall into that category. The second is that we may, or do, need to be "saved" from ourselves. Our unconciously harmful behviour, our failure to do what is best for us, and for the people around us.

I think there's something very important to what you say, but I think it's not 'spiritual'. I see it differently -- As we grow up, we might develop an uncomfortable realisation that there's much about ourselves that's invisible, perplexing and generally problematic. We might also come to detect the existence of some possibility to remedy this discomfort by discovering what's hidden. Finally, we might set out to do so by undertaking this or that practice or discipline.

Hi, Philip,

>> ............. I think that the basic criterion for when a person is at least beginning to be "enlightened" is when that person realizes that this location and this moment is all there is and acts accordingly.

But providing that allows pursuing long term goals.

I notice the Jesuits are at it again. Philip Kapleau tells this story in "The Three Pillars of Zen":

One day a man of the people said to the Zen master Ikkyu: “Master,will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?”
Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word “Attention.”
“Is that all?” asked the man. “Will you not add something more?”
Ikkyu then wrote twice running: “Attention. Attention.”
“Well,” remarked the man rather irritably, “I really don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.”
Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: “Attention. Attention. Attention.”
Half angered, the man declared: “What does that word attention mean anyway?”
And Ikkyu answered, gently: “Attention means attention.”

Cheers,
Merin


From David Week, April 30, 2008. Time 10:6

Hi Merin

"Yes, it's all good -- the background of shared social practices / the Archimedeam Point / the incommensurability. But I have another query. Can one 'flow' in terms of acting in accord with shared social practices?"

Of course -- in fact only in that way. Imagine the baseball player who thinks he's in flow, but the audience think he's an a state of flow; the pianist which hears the audience thinks is cacophany; the speaker who imagines he is flow but bores his audience to tears... Now, there are revolutionary players, and pianists, and speakers; but even their revolution is intimately related to the shared social practices.

From this I exempt the latihan, which is not real flow: just practice flow.

"But providing that allows pursuing long term goals."

The Shakers had this saying: "Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as you would if you knew you must die tomorrow."

David


From Merin Nielsen, April 30, 2008. Time 10:32

Hi, David,

Thanks -- the concepts are getting clearer. However, can one flow in terms of reflective thinking, as a shared social practice? What is the status of reflective thinking in this respect?

Regards,
Merin


From bronte, April 30, 2008. Time 12:57

Again, all theory.
We, supposedly "have" the latihan.

In the other world out there, where devoted believers do what Bapak advised, religiously, and unquestioningly, there is something I believe is called "The World Latihan"
I NEVER do it.
I just don't believe in it.
But should I?
I don't believe in or practice fasting, or ramadan, or any of that stuff that derives from non-Christian religions, mainly, and never managed to do much of what I learnt in the Christian faith either, but that is another matter.
But, when I manage to, I do the latihan, alone per-force.
Now, if we all share that principle, why do we no just agree to do a latihan, for a specific purpose, at a set time, and find out, by experiment, if there is a difference between, say, typing away here to express our views while we maintain a remembrance of and, hopefully, a connection to, latihan, and doing it all without the latihan.
If this site is about anything, it is, I believe, about finding a way forward for Subud. And some people actually believe there is a way forward, even if it is only the youngsters (David- your children's peers?) who can't wait for us oldies to die off and get out of the way so they can get on with latihan without all the baggage they see hanging around our necks.
So what shall the experiment be?


From David Week, April 30, 2008. Time 15:51

Hi Bronte

Not perforce. By choice.

Best

David


From Philip Quackenbush, April 30, 2008. Time 16:55

Hi, Merin,

>PQ: ............. I think that the basic criterion for when a person is at least beginning to be "enlightened" is when that person realizes that this location and this moment is all there is and acts accordingly.

MN: But providing that allows pursuing long term goals.

PQ: Well, yes. You can't just sit in (or move in) an alpha or theta trance and expect to get much done in the beta-oriented whirl. However, I've noted that one's motivation is key. One can exist in a state of "surrender to 'God'" (as it's generally called in Subud [I prefer the idea of opening myself "wider" to what the Source, or universe "wants", "needs", or "requires", because IMO we're all part of that Source, which is All There Is, and suffering results from pursuing our personal, or egoic desires {goals} to the exclusion of whatever promptings or "indications" one gets from that "collective unconscious", in Jungian terms {why not simply call it the collective consciousness?; just because humans are generally not fully, or even partially cognizant of it doesn't mean such a universal consciousness isn't there and producing what we regard as our own motivations anyway: examined carefully, then, it seems that free will is an illusion, and only the will of the Whole exists ((from both a philosophical and experiential viewpoint)), so why not "give in" to that apparent fact and live one's life accordingly? - I've found recently that life for me is a lot more enjoyable when I do}]).

Of course, from an Islamic viewpoint (and, one presumes, from the viewpoint of any theology that presumes a "creator"), what I've just said parenthetically is "unlawful", since "Allah" is supposedly separate from "his" creation. IMO, anything which seems to produce separation of or from the Whole is illusory (but from a practical standpoint, one must see a chair, for example, as a series of components in order to build one). It is only recently, in quantum physics, chaos theory, and microbiology, that scientific thinking seems to be supporting the non-separation view of the universe, but most scientists are still thinking in terms of Newtonian "absolutes" (85%, according to a survey done not long ago; hard to get out of "bad habits").

MN: I notice the Jesuits are at it again. Philip Kapleau tells this story in "The Three Pillars of Zen":

PQ: That's the story that de Mello recounts, which I didn't quote very accurately. Since he lived in India for much of his life, he picked up rots and rots of such tales. A lot of their origins are lost in the fog of pre-history. (the tale about the man, his son, the horse and the conscripting army generally thought to be Chinese I heard as a tale from a Native American that got it from his grandmother). However, for having the effrontery to introduce them in his books, I heard that de Mello had the distinction of being excommunicated posthumously (shouldn't mess with the powerful, successful cults [in such a messe, as the French say], particularly when the head of the modernized virgin of the Inquisition was the current Pope).

Peace, Philip


From Philip Quackenbush, April 30, 2008. Time 17:23

Bronte: We, supposedly "have" the latihan.

In the other world out there, where devoted believers do what Bapak advised, religiously, and unquestioningly, there is something I believe is called "The World Latihan"
I NEVER do it.
I just don't believe in it.
But should I?
I don't believe in or practice fasting, or ramadan, or any of that stuff that derives from non-Christian religions, mainly, and never managed to do much of what I learnt in the Christian faith either, but that is another matter.
But, when I manage to, I do the latihan, alone per-force.
Now, if we all share that principle, why do we no just agree to do a latihan, for a specific purpose, at a set time, and find out, by experiment, if there is a difference between, say, typing away here to express our views while we maintain a remenbrance of and, hopefully, a connection to, latihan, and doing it all without the latihan.

PQ: Well, that's one approach, but not a very controlled experiment, unfortunately. I remember a time when we all got together as "helpers" in the hospital chapel to do "latihan" for a kid undergoing brain surgery. The consensus in our post-trance (or residual trance, perhaps) after hearing that the operation was successful seemed to be that our "latihan" somehow influenced the surgical team and the patient for the better. Rotsa ruck measuring that (visions of "helpers" doing "latihan" with EEG wires dangling from their heads while videotaping the operation with time cues for correspondences, if any)!

The "latihan" seems to be, and may always remain, a subjective phenomenon, that is, it may continue to be whatever the individual thinks it is (beliefs being simply habitual memeplexes, usually unexamined). It may be possible (and probably is) to devise controlled experiments that can show what effect a given person's (or group's) "latihan" has on a specific situation, but given the general intransigence of most members I've encountered to such an idea, I don't expect it any time soon. However, I'm quite sure it has some effect: a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil or China may have been the tipping factor in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The whole of chaos theory developed from the desire of a meteorologist to be able to predict weather patterns, and his computer showed him that the universe is very complex, though patterned, and there are too many factors involved in the weather to give a prediction with much accuracy: with current technology, it would take a computer the size of the entire Earth to predict it with accuracy even a day in advance.

Peace, Philip


From Merin Nielsen, May 1, 2008. Time 3:26

Hi, David,

Afterthoughts... there's the venerable distinction between knowing 'that' and knowing 'how'. Perhaps tool acquisition matches the former, somehow, while performing with flow matches the latter. Accordingly, maybe reflective thinking is correctly associated with learning.

Earlier, I asked whether one could flow with respect to socially shared practices. Given any SSP, then okay, one may learn it -- acquiring the tools to perform it -- and subsequently perhaps perform it with flow. What I really meant to ask about was more like how one navigates among SSPs in the first place. Can this navigation incorporate flow?

Regards,
Merin


From Merin Nielsen, May 1, 2008. Time 3:43

Hi, Philip,

>>......... [I prefer the idea of opening myself "wider" to what the Source, or universe "wants", "needs", or "requires", because IMO we're all part of that Source, which is All There Is, and suffering results from pursuing our personal, or egoic desires {goals} to the exclusion of whatever promptings or "indications" one gets from that "collective unconscious", in Jungian terms {why not simply call it the collective consciousness?; just because humans are generally not fully, or even partially cognizant of it doesn't mean such a universal consciousness isn't there and producing what we regard as our own motivations anyway: examined carefully, then, it seems that free will is an illusion........

I don't feel any need of envisaging anything TO WHICH to 'open myself wider'. I find that recognising the illusoriness of free will is effective enough.

Regards,
Merin


From David Week, May 1, 2008. Time 4:37

Hi Philip

If The Source is All There Is, then there is no way to be closed or disconnected from it. And your ego is part of It too.

Hi Merin

The Buddhists would say that every thing and thought is illusory, but that illusions are to be neither shied away from nor clung to.

Best

David


From Philip Quackenbush, May 1, 2008. Time 4:47

MN: I don't feel any need of envisaging anything TO WHICH to 'open myself wider'. I find that recognising the illusoriness of free will is effective enough.

PQ: Agreed. But how did you recognise the illusion? And was it an intellectual or experiental (besides being intellectual) recognition? Guys like Chuang-tse and Huang Po may have left descriptions of their process, but it might be helpful to others if you could put your recognition in a personal, contemporary context. And it might also be helpful to give some idea about how that change of perception effects your actions in the whirl.

For me, the ego is still actively trying to keep away from being in the moment with various distractions, but one technique I've found to be useful is the subvocal (yet to be done vocally in case the ego gets too uppity) command "Be STILL (to the body/mind) and know that I AM your Source" (kinda puts the "fear of 'God'" into the ego, cuz it knows that its temporary existence is dependent on the Source allowing it to manifest, and so it shuts up [for a while, anyway]).

Peace, Philip


From Philip Quackenbush, May 1, 2008. Time 4:53

Hi Philip

If The Source is All There Is, then there is no way to be closed or disconnected from it. And your ego is part of It too.

Q:Perzackly.

Hi Merin

The Buddhists would say that every thing and thought is illusory, but that illusions are to be neither shied away from nor clung to.

Q: That, too. Living that way is where the "practice" comes in, innit.

Best

David

Peace, Philip


From Philip Quackenbush, May 1, 2008. Time 5:0

DW: If The Source is All There Is, then there is no way to be closed or disconnected from it. And your ego is part of It too.

Cue: The ol' "closer than your jug (you, Lars [yes, you])", innit?

Piece (of my mind, which I'm out of at the moment; back in five minutes), Philip


From Michael Irwin, May 1, 2008. Time 21:22

David: “Hi Michael You can find 'flow' described here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)”

I know what the definition of ‘flow’ is. I have seldom experienced it in connection with the latihan. It seems to me that it is an entirely outer-world state.

I was playing with the word ‘flow’ as with my reference to going back to the Bible and the unethical flow of some people who have a religion. Actually I thought you had made a mistake there and that what you wrote was not actually what you meant. The whole post was mild irony as was Bronte’s reference to his urologist. I found its being taken seriously mildly unsettling.

You referred to the Buddhist (I think) fear of groundlessness and getting used to it. That is the perception I am becoming acclimatized to. Well put.

Considering the amount of ink your reference to ‘flow’ produced I think that my quip about flow was justified.

Philip: “One can watch one's breath in "latihan" without interfering with the process” That discovery for me applies to the whole body. Just watching it does not seem to interfere with the presence of the void.

Bronte: "”The World Latihan" I NEVER do it. I just don't believe in it. But should I?” I have never done it.” I think it is just magical thinking. I have said so often. I definitely don’t think that the various levels of the org should support it by publishing the times.


From stefan, May 1, 2008. Time 22:32

Recapping and then moving onward (I hope)...

I tried introducing Subud at a workshop in an experiential way, offering people a taste of moving with eyes closed while "following" and then of spontaneous singing arising effortlessly from silence. I explained that although this was not the same as doing latihan it could provide some hint of what it is like.

Sjahari commented that the explanations I offered didn't answer some of the questions that Bapak addressed (such as where the latihan is from), while David pointed out that even though my explanations were free from the word "God" they still contained claims that he felt couldn't be substantiated, and references to "inner self" that were not of interest to the public.

Having read the discussion that follows we're still no nearer to finding a generally acceptable contemporary description of the Subud latihan, so why not approach it the other way round, and say something like:

In the view of some participants, the latihan meets their desire for a direct experience of "God" or "inner guidance".
For others it provides an experience of integration, giving a sense of being restored. The experience varies widely from person to person, and for each individual over time. (and some find very little in it) Reports include experiencing challenge, purification, personal growth, moments of insight, spontaneity or deep stillness.

By saying "in the view of some participants" there is no attempt to provide evidence, simply a report about what users tend to say about it. This contrasts with the current explanations by providing a diversity of views, rather than one.

It could easily be broadened further - this is not an end product but a quick sketch of an approach to describing the latihan. Don't try to describe "it". We still all disagree about "it", but we can describe what a spectrum of latihaners say.

Stefan


From sjahari, May 1, 2008. Time 22:38

Reality Check:

It is difficult for me to keep up to all the complexities that have emerged under this discussion.

I would like to make a reality check at this point. I am wondering how many people have come into Subud through listening to the various theories proposed here. How many people have the writers brought into subud? 


In my experience the people who tend to bring others into subud are generally not deep philosophical thinkers.
They usually bring two aspects:

1. A deep personal connection.
2. An explanation of the latihan that more or less conforms to the one that Bapak presented to us. ( This is not emphasized or presented as a religious “ truth” but simply as a background.
3. sharing of who Bapak was. (as a person and not as a guru or god)

I think the recent article in the Subud Voice about Hussein Chung was very instructive in this regard. He brings people to Subud through demonstrative and shared action. By experiencing his work people actually begin to get an experience of the latihan itself. ANd this is what brings them in.

David has asked me how I can justify using Bapak’s explanations, so I will give a partial answer.

Subud is not a religion. It is not a belief system. Subud is simply the group of people who do the latihan. How people choose to understand and relate to the latihan is completely up to them. As we have seen in this forum people have a multitude of different beliefs and language systems which they like to use in order to understand the experience they are having in the latihan.

As the originator of Subud, Bapak, also offered a language and model with which people could understand their experience.

My position is as follows.

1. Anyone is free to use whatever language or belief system or model they want to use in order to understand for themselves their experience in the latihan. 


2. Any subud member is free to talk to new members as much as he likes, or to anyone at all in subud to present and discuss his personal belief system.

3. We need to have in subud a group of people (currently called helpers) to whom we as an organization entrust the responsibility of formally explaining subud to new people, and introducing them to the practice.

4. I firmly believe that the FORMAL l explanation of the latihan and the practice of subud given by helpers should be more or less consistent across the subud world.

5 I DO NOT AGREE that this group (currently called helpers ) can have carte blance to present to new members any kind of explanation that they personally believe in as being the core and basis and aim of subud.

6. I DO NOT AGREE that a new member coming to meet with the helpers could be told in one subud group that Subud is a channeling from a spiritual entity from another galaxy, and be told in another group that the latihan is actually a specialized secret training in an ancient Javanese martial art. etc. etc. 


7. Bapak’s explanations are NOt intended to be a dogmatic depiction of reality and should not be presented as such and either supported or opposed on that basis. They are a TOOL and a SUPPORT which may be helpful to individuals in order to give a language to and an understanding of certain experiences they are going through as a result of doing the latihan. They have no other purpose or intention. 


8. You have asked me how I can support the use of the model of the four elements. My answer: It is not at all appropriate to try and convince people of the dogma that all of matter is made of the four elements. However, it MIGHT be very helpful for a helper to use such an analogy in offering assistance to a member who is attempting to understand a spiritual experience received in the latihan state.

Such an explanation might begin with something to the effect that “when he explained the latihan to us, Bapak indicated that it can be helpful to think of the universe as consisting of the four basic elements. These can be present in us in different proportions and lead to different feeling states. . . etc. etc. “ No helper should be prohibited from offering this kind of assistance to a member simply because the idea of the four elements is an ancient one. 

The same general answer could be modified for all the rest of the questions you have asked.

best wishes
Sjahari


From sjahari, May 1, 2008. Time 23:10

It looks like Stefan and I posted at almost exactly the same time.

Stefan suggests that we tell new people about the broad ranges of experiences and beliefs that people have. I agree. ( In fact I think this is more or less what is happening now in most helpers groups. )

And at the same time I also feel it is absolutely essential that new people interested in Subud deserve to be told how the latihan arose. They deserve to know who the founder of Subud was. And they also deserve to know the explanation that the founder gave about what the latihan is and what its purpose is.

They deserve to be introduced to the huge treasure available in Bapak’s talks which can really help people to understand and process the experiences they are having in latihan.

Finally, I think it is a great idea to use an experiential method such as Stefan used in his workshop to give interested people a sense of what the latihan is all about. I would like to see this idea developed more. Maybe Stefan could offer some workshops on this technique in subud settings.

Sjahari


From David Week, May 2, 2008. Time 0:23

Hi Sjahari

You again reiterate your own position, which appears to me to be no more than the conventional position.

Subuh said that if Subud failed to grow, it would be the fault of the helpers. Subud has failed to grow. Therefore we should not model future behaviour on what the helpers are doing.

Subuh also said that Subud would not grow unless people spoke from their own experience. That's what people are seeking to do here, an activity which you constantly struggle against in favour of The Imitation of Bapak.

You suggest that people should not be told that the latihan is the channeling of a spiritual entity from another galaxy. Neither should they be told that it is a receiving of the Great Life Force, whatever that's supposed to be.

You talk about what -- "in your experience" -- brings people to Subud. What we know as a matter of fact is that most people that come to Subud leave again in about two years. We know that after the population explosion of the 50s and 60s, few people come, leaving us with an aging, stagnant population. And we know that trick is not in the coming, but in having something worthwhile to stay for. That something appears to be lacking.

You say that people have been inspired by Subuh's talks. That's no longer the case. At the Ascot gathering, a Bob Dylan cover band drew 10 times as many people as a playing of a Bapak DVD. In New York, the Bapak literaure is unread. And Subud young people have spoken on lists, about what is wrong with it.

You say that people should communicate "Bapak the man". To do that, they'd have to know Bapak the man. You don't. Few people do. And as Subud was originally formulated (by "Bapak the man") it's not supposed to be about "Bapak the man". The personality cult is a later, and most unfortunate, addition.

I've kept 10 people in Subud over the last two years, who said otherwise they would have left. What's your count?

Reality check: let's see some evidence. (I recall you saying that no-one in your Vancouver group was under 70?)

Best

David


From Philip Quackenbush, May 2, 2008. Time 6:25

Hi, Michael,

Philip: “One can watch one's breath in "latihan" without interfering with the process” That discovery for me applies to the whole body. Just watching it does not seem to interfere with the presence of the void.

Right. But if there's too much void present, it's better to use the loo.

Peace, Philip


From Philip Quackenbush, May 2, 2008. Time 7:11

Sjahari wrote:

"I think the recent article in the Subud Voice about Hussein Chung was very instructive in this regard. He brings people to Subud through demonstrative and shared action. By experiencing his work people actually begin to get an experience of the latihan itself. ANd this is what brings them in."

I haven't read the article, but from what you say, I'm wondering if he hasn't already brought more people to the "latihan" than any other member (possibly even including the founder). I remember when I was in the San Francisco group and had to go to Palo Alto for group "latihan" or not get any for a while, that it seemed like almost every member there had come to the group through him. I also remember a member who for a long time was my best friend in the org. (I believe he's dead now, or at least left the org. several years ago) who was "opened" by him before he became a Subud member at a formal "opening" by simply hanging around him.

I also remember the story about the founder's jealousy becoming manifest (as it did with Richard Engels) when Chung went to Cilandak and he seemed to be getting too popular with the crowd there, so, as related by Mansur Medeiros on Subudtalk, as I remember it, they were all sitting around buddy-buddy in the big "latihan" hall talking about "soul" levels and Subuh said that Chung didn't have one. A put-down comparable to the time a regional "helper" tried to get me kicked out of "helperdom" by suggesting that they test (without ever asking me) whether I should continue, since he'd heard something I said that he didn't agree with, and then writing to me to say that it was "received" that I resign. What he didn't say that it was only his "receiving", not that of the other regional "helpers." I had to mention it at a national congress to get it resolved, at which point the national "helpers" considered kicking him out!

It's scenarios like this that make it a very reasonable thing, IMO, to eliminate "helpers" entirely from the organization, as I think Rosalind has suggested in another article. Simply having members (more than one, of course) that one feels comfortable with explaining what the latihan is from their perspective and how the organization works should be sufficient for an applicant to decide whether the cult is what they want to join or not, keeping in mind that the founder said that three months was the maximum time an applicant should have to wait before being "opened", their waiting that long already a test of their sincerity, which is all that is required. IMO, the standard opening could also easily be ditched and replaced by an abbreviated one that simply says something like "Close your eyes and pay no attention to what's happening around you. If spontaneous movement arises, do not resist or force it, but simply follow whatever occurs. We will begin now."

Peace, Philip


From Merin Nielsen, May 3, 2008. Time 8:24

Hi, Philip,

You wrote:
>> ... But how did you recognise the illusion [of free will]? ..... And it might also be helpful to give some idea about how that change of perception effects your actions in the whirl.

Every motivation is either caused or uncaused, and neither case matches what free will is supposed to be, so it's impossible. How my actions have been affected, I can't say for sure, because analysing them from this side is too difficult.

Regards,
Merin


From Philip Quackenbush, May 3, 2008. Time 10:24

>> PQ... But how did you recognise the illusion [of free will]? ..... And it might also be helpful to give some idea about how that change of perception effects your actions in the whirl.

MN: Every motivation is either caused or uncaused, and neither case matches what free will is supposed to be, so it's impossible. How my actions have been affected, I can't say for sure, because analysing them from this side is too difficult.

Well, I don't see anything that's uncaused, though the causative factors may be extremely complex (what in Buddhism is called dependent origination - everything that happens is dependent upon everything else that happens, not just one "cause"). It may, then, be an unfair question to ask how your actions have been affected, since recognizing the illusion of free will is only one item in the vast mix of "causes". In my case, though, it has left me free to be a slave to whatever happens and be happy with it, because that recognition means that what I do is ultimately not my responsibility (though I still act as if it is; otherwise of what use is my existence other than an entertainment for the Source, which may be all that it is?

If I tell "God" why I'm doing what I'm doing, s/he/it can have big laugh at my ignorance, so I'd rather not spoil my own fun by assuming or even worse, believing, s/he/it exists and would have me do otherwise, although s/he/it seems to exist, since accepting his/her/its (perhaps the universal consciousness', as I expressed earlier) motivation and "universal knowledge" seems to result in a freer and happier lifestyle.

Peace, Philip


From Stefan, May 5, 2008. Time 10:51

Sjahari:
Stefan suggests that we tell new people about the broad ranges of experiences and beliefs that people have. I agree. ( In fact I think this is more or less what is happening now in most helpers groups. )

Stefan:
This is a KEY factor in demonstrating that Subud isn't a cult or a religion. But I don't share your confidence that this is happening now in most helpers groups. A friend of mine who became an applicant was put off by a dogmatic helper. Another got opened but only just about survived the applicant meetings because of my reassurances that she didn't have to agree with everything the helpers wanted her to believe.

Shahari
And at the same time I also feel it is absolutely essential that new people interested in Subud deserve to be told how the latihan arose. They deserve to know who the founder of Subud was. And they also deserve to know the explanation that the founder gave about what the latihan is and what its purpose is.

Stefan
It would be odd not to mention the founder and a brief précis of his explanations. But suppose you're hearing about an organisation such as Oxfam or the United Nations. How much would you want to hear at the outset about the founder. Isn't it more interesting to hear about current plans, projects and what's happening now?

Sjahari:
They deserve to be introduced to the huge treasure available in Bapak’s talks which can really help people to understand and process the experiences they are having in latihan.

Stefan:
Depending on the individual the Bapak talks they meet might either clarify the latihan process or create dissonance and confusion. You'd probably advise the reader or listener to listen receptively without thinking about the ideas, but in view of public knowledge about the way messages can easily be absorbed by the unconscious this advice would put many people on their guard.

Secondly, there's such an overwhelmingly "huge treasure" of talks. I've only read 10%. Are we prompting an applicant to wade through them all?

Thirdly, how can we square this approach with "Subud is simple, open-to-all, experience-based and has no dogma?"

Sjahari
Finally, I think it is a great idea to use an experiential method such as Stefan used in his workshop to give interested people a sense of what the latihan is all about. I would like to see this idea developed more. Maybe Stefan could offer some workshops on this technique in subud settings.

Stefan
Thank you

David (responding to Sjahari)
You again reiterate your own position, which appears to me to be no more than the conventional position.

Stefan
The conventional "Bapakist" approach doesn't give airtime to diverse individual accounts of the latihan or to developing experiencial ways of introducing Subud in public. I find Sjahari's views far more nuanced and adventurous than that.

David:
Subuh also said that Subud would not grow unless people spoke from their own experience. That's what people are seeking to do here, an activity which you constantly struggle against in favour of The Imitation of Bapak.

Stefan:
It seems to me that Sjahari is not asking people to imitate Bapak but rather to give full value to Bapak's explanations in addition to speaking from personal experience

David:
You talk about what -- "in your experience" -- brings people to Subud. What we know as a matter of fact is that most people that come to Subud leave again in about two years. We know that after the population explosion of the 50s and 60s, few people come, leaving us with an aging, stagnant population. And we know that trick is not in the coming, but in having something worthwhile to stay for. That something appears to be lacking.

Stefan:
There's a tension among people who treasure the latihan. Some also treasure Bapak's words, while others find them either offensive, outdated or distracting. If we want people coming into Subud to find open-mindedness, it won't come about by bashing Bapak.

Those who currently promote and quote Bapak will need to go lightly, and acknowledge that not everyone who is drawn to latihan shares their enthusiasm for Bapak's talks. Far from it, some may find them to be a major obstacle.

Those who want to challenge Subud's cult-like tendency to deify the founder and his words will need to either form a new organisation, or to develop compassion for people who hold very different views to their own. Where the power is in the hands of "Bapakists" I'm all for challenging this imbalance, so that Subud can become a more democratic organisation. At the same time, it's not about one view replacing another, but about enabling peoples different choices and voices to coexist.

Stefan


From Philip Quackenbush, May 6, 2008. Time 6:26

Hi, Stefan,

You said,

"It seems to me that Sjahari is not asking people to imitate Bapak but rather to give full value to Bapak's explanations in addition to speaking from personal experience"

That would be a valid argument if we could know what he actually said, but most of the translations are so bad, even ludicrous, most of them being translated by people who are not native English speakers (the first rule of professional translating, the non-English translations usually based upon the English ones), and with little or no knowledge of the Javanese culture on which they are mainly based, and the non sequiturs are so numerous that it sometimes seems as if the speaker was purposely avoiding making sense (maybe he was, if the frequent adjurations by our "betters" to not think about them means anything). The habit that some members have of listening to or reading them in trance can further obscure any attempt at presenting them to an applicant with any clarity.

Peace, Philip


From Merin Nielsen, May 18, 2008. Time 12:22

Sjahari wrote:
>> And at the same time I also feel it is absolutely essential that new people interested in Subud deserve to be told how the latihan arose. They deserve to know who the founder of Subud was. And they also deserve to know the explanation that the founder gave about what the latihan is and what its purpose is. ... They deserve to be introduced to the huge treasure available in Bapak’s talks which can really help people to understand and process the experiences they are having in latihan.

(At latihan premises somewhere, after an explanation of the latihan has been given...)

Scenario 1
APPLICANT: Well, that all sounds great, thanks.
HELPER: You know, there are other quite different latihan explanations available.
APPLICANT: Oh, no thanks, your explanation was totally fine for me. I’m in.

Scenario 2
APPLICANT: Hmm, all of that doesn’t really convince me that I should join up.
HELPER: You know, there are other quite different latihan explanations available.
APPLICANT: Oh, okay, I might be interested in checking them out, just in case.
HELPER: Sure, well, there’s the explanation of Subud’s founder, and then there’s the explanation of Charlie sitting over there, or there’s one by a Subud member named David, which is available on the internet.
APPLICANT: Any recommendations?
HELPER: Personally, I reckon Charlie’s explanation is very cool and interesting. David’s is a bit dry and uninspiring, and I have to admit that the founder’s explanation is basically rubbish, as far as I’m concerned.
APPLICANT: Fine then, I’ll talk with Charlie, shall I?
HELPER: Yeah, he’ll be happy to help you.

Scenario 3
APPLICANT: Hmm, all of that doesn’t really convince me that I should join up.
HELPER: You know, there are other quite different latihan explanations available.
APPLICANT: Oh, okay, I might be interested in checking them out, just in case.
HELPER: Actually, you deserve to hear about the founder’s explanation.
APPLICANT: It’s good, huh?
HELPER: Um, speaking from personal experience, I don’t think much of it, but you deserve to hear about it.
APPLICANT: Why is that, if you don’t think much of it? You already told me about Subud’s founder. But now, are you really saying that the founder’s explanation deserves to be heard about?
HELPER: Well, yes, I suppose so.
APPLICANT: So the founder is treated as a teacher, huh? I thought you said this wasn’t a religion. Thanks for your time, but I’m outta here.

So is there anything else that this helper ought to have said?


From bronte, May 18, 2008. Time 14:50

One thing that I think should be said Merin, is that the experience is going to be their own, not someone else's.

In religion, people are told that they have their own personal realationship to God, sometimes, if not usually.
But they are also, usually, told that they have to do, say, and believe what the others in that religion do.
In Subud, I would claim that the individual must always wait for the experience that is real to them before attaching, or re-attaching, the words which were used to describe what they/we might expect of Subud.
Hence, for me, it is possible for an atheist to experience latihan. In our case, in this town, the atheist I am thinking of, named John (no surnames!) left as soon as he was told, or perhaps reminded, that Subud people usually (always?) believe in God. But he admitted, and we mostly knew, that his latihan was strong and free, and he was a very active member for years.
As to what I tell people, that is another thing. I am ashamed of the Subud I know, and won't give it's name to people who know I am "into something ", yet I claim it is real, effective for me (but not too effective), and independent of the others in it, even if I want to be inter-dependent with them. As to the explanations of why people who are skeptical of Subud, like so many writing here, they still beleive in or practice "the latihan" to some degree, and that is the only thing they, or we, can tell anybody. Just get a few of the other contributors to explain why they are still in Subud.
I got one to tell me, and what he wrote was very inspiring.
If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you.
Why else do some of my friends ask me to open them?
Go see the film "Camp"!
Then tell me it is a problem to offer Subud to new people. Do you believe in yourself at all?
I do. Just no where near enough.
And I don't believe in all the people I know in Subud.
I find I can't give or recieve the trust I look for, or expect, because "we" cannot be judged by onlookers for a reputation of loving each other, as Jesus supposedly said was the distinguidhing mark of his disciples.
So what is our distinguishing mark?
Next question please.


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