Towards Spiritual Maturity

By Stefan Freedman

The Problem:

It is difficult for most Subud members to talk about the latihan in a way that connects with young people. The new millennium has seen a surge of interest in spiritual practice. But young people are bypassing Subud because today’s spiritual seekers have different priorities from those in the past.

The Solution:

Catch up with new literature relating to spiritual development in order to communicate more clearly about the process we experience in the latihan.

The Details:

Gurdjieff’s students wanted to awaken from an automatic, conditioned half-life to a deeper experience of consciousness. This meshed very well with the way Subud was perceived in the 1950s: a direct link with the Great Life Force (as John Bennett sometimes explained it). In the 1960s and 70s, a lot of Westerners were looking for self-directed ways to expand consciousness. Subud, as a spiritual exercise open to people of all beliefs, was perfect for some of them.

There are some terrific books around on spiritual intelligence, spiritual maturity, etc. These show me that my own journey over several decades mirrors the development path many non-Subud people are charting. Most people now who are spiritually orientated are getting passionate about the environment, about understanding between different peoples and faiths. In general the aim is integration (of mental, emotional and intuitive development). Communicating honestly, listening to feedback, developing flexibility. Inclusiveness and diversity are keynotes. Some Buddhist ideas are being absorbed into multi-faith and secular circles: notably, mindfulness (being centred and inwardly aware during everyday actions) and developing inner peace.

Though not all seen as end-points for a spiritual journey, these are widely accepted indications that a spiritual maturing is in process. Read any of Bapak’s talks and you’ll find that inner peace, mindfulness and balancing inner development with compassionate actions are all strongly present. The basis and aims Subud’s founder set out in the 1950s are contemporary and relevant today, but only if expressed in a contemporary way. The old translations unfortunately have a ‘period’ resonance.

Outside the largest London group a sign advertises times of ‘worship’. The promise which drew many people to Subud was of an inner development path which fosters individuality. But religious terms suggest a path of conformity. For freethinking people this is a turn off. And for religious people too, since there are hundreds of well known religions which already meet this need.

My experience of Subud over thirty-eight years has been about discovering what is hidden and beginning to integrate it, finding courage and stretching all of my capacities. When I hear Subud described using the same familiar terms — and especially when many members use the same pattern of words — I can’t find any sense of Subud as something relevant for today. This impression is exaggerated by the fact that many helpers (our ‘reps’) are not apparently interested in current issues — the very issues which spiritually inclined young people are passionate to explore. So please, dear fellow members, recommend books and articles to one another. This will enable us to embrace the language and questions of young people today.