A Different Kind of Testing

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)

Last summer, I was talking after latihan about a Subud man who had died some time ago. I said that I thought of the man as having been successful in his work, using his undoubted talents. This surprised someone, who clearly had a different view of the man, as a bit of a talker who probably hadn’t achieved very much in his life. The difference was that I knew the man 30 years ago, the other person knew him only much more recently. What was it that had happened between now and then to give each of us such an entirely different impression? The answer is simple: the man claimed he had a sudden receiving on a matter that could change the world. He became obsessed with the idea, promoting and talking about his receiving at any opportunity, such that people would take steps to avoid him if they saw him in the distance at a Subud gathering.

There is nothing wrong with claiming to have received something. Subud members undoubtedly do have unusual and unexpected receivings that prove to be genuine, not imagination. Neither is there anything wrong, as in this case of this man, with receiving on an issue that is way outside the area of one’s expertise – the receiving may be an indication of a latent skill or talent that is ripe for development.

What is wrong is when the receiving relates to a wordly matter and we don’t take the necessary steps to check our receiving against reality. The man wrote down his receiving and circulated articles about it. Reading the articles, it was not difficult to see that his scheme was unworkable and full of fallacies, but the real tragedy is (and I didn’t know this until after the man died) his "receiving" was neither new, nor original. In fact it was old-hat, an idea that had been widely discussed for decades by experts in the field, had web sites dedicated to it, was highly controversial, and certainly not the cut-and-dried certainty or easily put-into-practise, save-the-world scheme that the man had imagined it to be.



The reader may be wondering, since I knew the man, why I didn’t point out the weaknesses in his proposals. The answer is that I may have got the kind of response from him that we once got from some Subud members about the “Subud Vision” project – “you’re all in the head”, “I don’t like what you are saying. It has a bad feeling because I feel disturbed by it, whereas before I felt peaceful”, “you may think you are very clever, but you obviously haven’t received much development in your latihan because I am following higher-level inspiration, while you are just nit-picking detail”.

Thankfully, since that time, we received much quality comment on the articles in the web site's feedback pages. One could say that if the only opposition to change were the minority, as described, there would be little to be concerned about. Unfortunately there is a much bigger obstacle in terms of the prevailing ingrained Subud culture. I would like to quote from a letter I received:

"In the first instance [our performances] should be to our Subud brothers and sisters because it is in getting their goodwill behind us that we can go ahead to the general public"

The context is a discussion about whether to take a band to a major festival or whether to just put it together for World Congress. The letter is not recent - it was written 32 years ago. The whole letter is interesting as an historical study because it shows that the idea of support through good feelings being the most important thing for the success of our ventures has antecedents that go back a long way. We are still stuck in the same bad habit of thought all these years later. Just a few months ago I saw a Subud enterprise venture appealing for £100,000+ of investment primarily on the basis that the organising team shared a great feeling.

So it is about time, before it is too late, that we re-examine the fundamental assumptions that have constrained and determined our actions for decades. We wouldn’t want Subud to come to the end of its life and opportunity like that man I talked about, blindly stumbling on, unwilling to measure itself against anything else, convinced it is following an unassailable path of rightness, and that the warning bells sounded by some of its own members were merely examples of egotistical deviant behaviour by undesirables and unfortunates.

Bapak was fond of saying that we could test things from the point of view of the kejiwaan. It is about time we also started to test our supposedly kejiwaan-driven assumptions according to the standards of the real world.

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