Of Mice, Cats, Dogs and the Subud Way

by Sahlan Diver

(Note: The opinions expressed in any Subud Vision editorial are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other Subud Vision editors)

Subud Vision editor, Stefan Freedman, once wrote (in the UK Subud Journal) that Subud members can be compared to dogs and cats. The dogs are the ones who stick (doggedly) to what they consider to be Bapak’s legacy, while the cats, being independent minded, want flexibility and change. I considered Stefan’s model to be flawed but one that could be made almost perfect by the addition of mice. Mice are the majority of Subud members. They are ‘mice’ in the sense that they are only there for the latihan (which is fine) or they don’t like to get involved in arguments, or they don’t feel they have anything to contribute to discussions about Subud. The mouse majority just want a quiet life, they side with the dogs, who thereby acquire pack-leader/top-dog status and shape the org, cats become very much the minority and, voila, you have a situation which guarantees Subud will never change.


By describing the majority of Subud members as mice my intention is not to insult them. As another Subud Vision editor puts it (continuing the rodent theme):

This isn't to say that many of these ‘mice’ aren't interested, dynamic people in their own lives. They just don’t give a rat’s furry ass about the Subud organization. They feel they have better places to focus their energies. If you talk to them privately, they often fully agree with many of the complaints voiced on Subud Vision, but they have assessed that’s it is just too much of a struggle to try to change things. Given that they’ve already decided not to get involved, there seems to be little point in reading the articles. Best not think about it.

This week a long-time Subud member was pointing out to me what he saw as a puzzling anomaly between Subud’s claim to be spiritual and the sheer rudeness and unpleasantness of some Subud members towards each other at meetings, which he felt went way beyond what would normally be regarded as acceptable behaviour. As an admitted perpetrator myself, I was able to offer an explanation for the phenomenon. It arises out of constant frustration. If a Subud member is a ‘cat’ they will find it almost impossible to get a hearing. The ‘mice’ don't want to get involved in argumentative discussion, and the ‘dogs’ will use convenient strictures (see my article on Brainwashing in this issue) to summarily brush aside your ideas.

It’s very easy in Subud to feel like a number, welcome not for what you individually have to offer, but only to the extent that you play the game, so I think it’s not the least bit surprising that Subud’s lack of respect for the individual is oft-times mirrored by a lack of respect between members in meetings. In fact I’d go so far as to say that the undeniable benefits of the latihan may be more than negated by the fundamental, apparently incurable flaws in the philosophy and procedures of the organisation that is Subud. This also explains why the great majority of new members with enthusiasm for the latihan, who initially experience Subud as being all-things-wonderful, eventually leave. As the latihan becomes more routine and the novelty wears off, the ‘Subud Way’ of doing things becomes more noticeable and more difficult to tolerate. Unless we can change, we give people only one other Way to follow — Find the Exit.

Click here if you are interested in reading the other editorials, or sending feedback on any editorial.