Subud Vision - Discussion

Dirk Campbell - Subud and Psychology

Psychology can be helpful.. From Stefan Freedman, July 7, 2007. Time 13:22

I was drawn to psychology at a very early age (14 years old) because I was so troubled and mixed up. Feelings and impulses at war with each other, mind like a rummage sale, nights full of wakefulness and terrifying dreams. It was Bennett's "A Spiritual Psychology" more than any of the books specifically on Subud that drew me to try the latihan and I had thought of myself as an unusual (possibly defective) Subud member, because my passion for psychology continued after being opened. After 37 years of regular latihans, I'm still learning and (I believe) benefitting from reading other peoples life experiences, and how they move towards wholeness and integration.

I'm very heartened that Dirk challenges the idea that we "shouldn't" need psychology if we follow the latihan. I was open to the possibility that surrender was all we need, but, like Dirk, have observed that for almost all Subud members, the signs of emotional and psychological conflicts persist after many years of trying to surrender. In some, the need seems very acute for tools to help the individual understand and navigate the storms of relationship, emotion and our human psychology.

I would not propose (and neither does Dirk) that a Subud member "should" study psychology, but I would be very pleased to see a recognition that it could be helpful to a Subud member and is not necessarily a distraction arising "from the nafsu". Psychosynthesis is an example of a psychological model which respects the unknowable and mystical dimension of experience. Assegioli, it's founder. wrote an introduction which could almost be an introduction to the latihan.

Thank you, Dirk

From Dirk Campbell, July 7, 2007. Time 14:23

Ah, so that’s why you’ve always been so emotionally mature, Stefan (in marked contrast to myself!) - I have often wondered.

While not proposing that Subud members study psychology, I certainly do propose in my article – though perhaps not emphatically enough - that the general contemporary psychological model be incorporated into the Subud as a replacement for the rather less functional Javanese one. My point is that the discoveries of psychology, particularly since the 1960s, are more effective than the traditional oriental models, do not conflict with spirituality and are, in any case, gaining currency within Subud. So why keep the barriers up?

From peter grebot, August 21, 2007. Time 22:44

I'm was heartened to hear your comments about the benefits psychology/psychotherapy can offer as a useful addition to the laithan. I think this attitude of "just" trusting in God (whoever/whatever that might mean) which a lot of members have, actually seems (to me) to make their minds and mental processes quite lazy. There's a well known saying that goes something like; Help me change what I can change, accept what I can't and give me the ability to discern between the two. It's this discernment that I find so lacking in members, as if exercising some of our faculties would somehow be a betrayal of our spiritual credentials (I very much support and am open to this current initiative to have more meaningful dialoge between members). I think what therapy can do is to clear some of our emotional/mental blocks which might then help us be more "avaliable" to receiving the Latihan. As a practicing psyhotherapist myself I do feel that ultimately the work is spiritual in nature and supports people being greater than "just their problem". What's wrong with trusting in God but tying your camel to a palm tree anyway?!

From David Week, August 21, 2007. Time 23:24

And lets not forget that the word "psychology" derives from psyche = soul. I suspect that the division between "soul" and "mind" is more a political one, a compromise between the religious authority and scientific authority about what they label their respective claims. Best, David

From David Week, September 19, 2007. Time 7:31

I found this quote. It appears the Sufis agree with Dirk :-)

“As Hazrat Inayat Khan says in no uncertain terms in The Inner Life, a person needs to be whole to take the journey. The point of this is to get your basic self in tune with your higher self. We are talking here about wounded psyches, fractured consciousness and dysfunction. Without addressing these issues, a person can become quite advanced in many ways, and yet at a certain point find it necessary to self-destruct because she/he has not made a true accommodation in her/himself to sustain realization. Many of us started on the path even sneering at the psychological aspect of things, but had to go back to do such things as address our inner child, align the three selves, do a 12 step program, or some form of individual or group therapy.”

From Mike Higgins, September 21, 2007. Time 3:30

My question for those who believe that the latihan cannot affect psychological change is: what then is the point of it? what do you expect it to do for you?

From David Week, September 21, 2007. Time 4:2

Hi Mike:

I think the point of Dirk's article, and personal story, is not "the latihan cannot effect psychological change", but rather: it can't by itself effect change. Dirk's experience is that he didn't make what he felt was progress until he undertook psychological work on himself, in parallel with the latihan.

One view I've come to over the years (I confess to holding many, not all consistent with each other) is that during most of our waking lives we are goal-driven and outcome-oriented, and that for an hour a week to completely cease in our endless striving for progress, improvement, development, or what have you, might be important, even cenral. To ask of it, "what's the benefit, what's the outcome, where's the progress", might then be to miss the point.

The closest parallel I can think of to this is music. If someone asks of people lost in playing music: what's the point, or what's the benefit?... it's just the wrong question.

That makes music no less wholly human, endlessly mysterious, and universal.



From Mike Higgins, September 21, 2007. Time 5:12

Thank you, David. I wasn't trying to put anyone on the spot, I frequently ask myself the same questions, which is why I'd like to hear other people's answers to them.

"that for an hour a week to completely cease in our endless striving for progress, improvement, development, or what have you, might be important, even central."

But that's just it, do people give up their expectations when they come to the latihan? Or is it just a more exotic self improvement method? I'm actually a little confused about this, the whole idea of "spiritual progress" seems misty to me. Sometimes I think I've caught a glimpse of the "promised land" and other times I think it's just a mirage.

From David Week, September 21, 2007. Time 11:43

Hi Mike: I never found the idea of "spiritual progress" intuitively appealing. It seems to me that either people work to resolve their ethical weaknesses and character flaws (as they define them), in which case it's just regular-old growing up, and become a better person or they don't. "Spiritual progress" I identify with that kind of climbing up invisible spiritual ranks, beloved by the Theosophists, esoteric men's clubs, and spiritual materialists everywhere. The idea of seeing the latihan as part of a path/discipline of personal development or improvement seems a respectable one. All I expect is if that's what it is, let's see some positive changes. I get kind of fidgety when I hear talk of spiritual development, when there is no sign of any change at all, or even evidence of ongoing flaky behaviour. I realise now that I'm pretty fond of my music metaphor for latihan, because it fits better with the evidence as I know it. Best, David

PS: I've always loved this statement, by the former Master of the Dominican Order: "But Christians are not usually much better than other people. Jesus came to call sinners and not the just, and in this he continues to be highly successful." I like the idea that spirituality is not about becoming perfect, but about coping better with the rough-and-tumble reality of our lives, and our endless capacity to screw up and make fools of ourselves.

From Mike Higgins, September 23, 2007. Time 7:26

For sure, David, that would be perfect on the Subud brochure, "The Latihan: The Art of Getting Lost - Learn to Lose your Self Completely!" (LOL)

This is an interesting discussion. Maybe we could continue it at Subud Life? I know that you are a member of that forum (as is Merin). I am "green lore" over there... my secret identity is revealed! -{ :?o )

From Lilliana Gibbs, September 23, 2007. Time 10:17

I think this 'Subud is all you need' emerged from a time when there was precious little available in terms of readable books, ideas, workshops etc. connected to psychology. I think there was fear there too, with a perception that people who needed psychological help were in big trouble, and what was on offer was unlikely to really help them (Think COCKOOS NEST).

I do rememember my Dad's enthusiasm about IM OK, YOUR OK, a trail-blazing book in the 1970's. My generation (now in our 50's) has been widely exposed to accessible psychology, and personal development is normal for many of us.

Bapak said something like, 'its not enough to just experience something, you also need to understand it'. This I know, my experience of the latihan is deepened the more I understand about myself.

Feelings can be very uncomfortable, painful or distressing, but they offer a pathway to understanding. It may be easier to stop exploring – 'if it feels bad, don't do it'. But courage, support and understanding combined with the power of the latihan can really help to shift old patterns and promote change.

Winston Churchill said 'When going through hell, keep going'. I don't much like the alternative.

From Dirk Campbell, October 9, 2007. Time 21:32

Thanks Mike Higgins for asking the key question: if the latihan does not change you, what's the point of it?

When I applied to join Subud I was told that the latihan could change me, but I was not to expect anything otherwise it wouldn't work! Maybe applicants are still being told that today. Really such things are embarrassingly similar to religious doctrines requiring a 'leap of faith'. Similar formulae I have heard or read are 'Don't believe anything I say, verify it for yourself', and 'You will only know the benefit of the latihan when you die'. But the human brain is incapable of suspending its response and remaining engaged at the same time; it cannot act on a postulate without having first accepted it. Consequently Subud members accept that the latihan by itself will bring about change - if done properly. The corollary: 'if it hasn't changed you, then you aren't doing it properly'. Or: 'it is changing you but you're not aware of it.'

Bapak made the claim about change in a number of different ways. His most oft-repeated claim, however, was not about change per se; it was his definition of the latihan as 'a receiving of guidance and direction from the power of God'. I don't know anything about the power of God, but I have certainly had 'guidance and direction' in the latihan. Unfortunately I have never been able to make much practical use of it.

Idries Shah often made the point that it is a waste of time approaching a spiritual path if you are unequipped to gain anything from it. In the first edition of 'The Path of Subud', Husein Rofé quoted Bapak as saying that 95% of those who came to Subud would not be able to benefit from it. (This rather significant piece of information was expunged from later editions.)

With reference to definitions of latihan above as a means of relaxing or losing yourself, there are any number of more efficient ways to achieve those things, if that's what you're after. I would think the latihan needs a better definition than that. Bapak's most frequently-stated one seems pretty good to me, although for general purposes I would prefer it as 'guidance and direction from within our being.' Even if the latihan doesn't change you, that would seem a worthwhile reason for doing it.

From Mike Higgins, October 10, 2007. Time 6:21

"In the first edition of 'The Path of Subud', Husein Rofé quoted Bapak as saying that 95% of those who came to Subud would not be able to benefit from it."

Thank you for that, Dirk, very interesting. That would imply that only about 1 out of every 20 people who come into Subud will stick around.

"I have certainly had 'guidance and direction' in the latihan. Unfortunately I have never been able to make much practical use of it."

Yes, I understand, if I were to make a list of the most practical ways to spend 3+ hours of my time each week, going to latihan would probably not be on it. Plus I'm becoming more and more convinced that the latihan state of consciousness is always available to me, just a breath away so to speak, and I don't have to go anywhere or do anything special to accept it. But no strain, no gain, right? -{ :? )

From David Week, October 11, 2007. Time 4:31

Hi guys.

So, of the 100% of people that come to Subud, 95% aren't qualifed, which leaves 5% who can benefit.

However, my sense of the stats is that it's more like 99% who leave. We can explain the gap by invoking another principle: that true spiritual paths have a graduation point, and this is what distinguishes them from cults, which dont't.

So this would give the overall stats as follows:

total applicants : 100%

qualified to benefit : 5%, of which...

graduate : 4%

fail to graduate : 1%

Whaddayathink? :-)


From Philip Quackenbush, October 11, 2007. Time 10:38

I Agree pretty much totally, David. Zen masters appoint their successors by testing (and it's not by SUB"testing", either), I've heard there's a government bureau in India that decides who's a genuine guru and who's a farce, Roman Catholic saints have to go through a rigorous qualification procedure these days, etc., etc., whereas the SUBcult assumes that the "latihan" is an endless process that keeps you bopping away forever after death (BS even said so in at least one of his "explanations" that I attended decades ago). In general, most religions seem to have a graduation point or even a ceremony signifying that the student is enlightened, and thus qualified to either leave or teach. Not so in the SUBcult. In California it used to be if you didn't graduate from high school by a certain age, you were kicked out of the school system as a burden on the taxpayer. Nisargadatta Maharaj was one guru who used to kick his students out swiftly and regularly, usually after about two or three weeks if they failed to "get it." I'd say the vast majority of SUBcult members that stay in the cult are "feel-gooders," because the alpha state of consciousness in "latihan" is quite relaxing after a day or so of solid beta except for sleeping. If there's such a thing as "spiritual progress," feeling good is not necessarily any indication that transformation is taking place; the exact opposite could be the case. I'd say beware of any institution that promotes belief over questioning.

Peace, Philip

From Mike Higgins, October 11, 2007. Time 21:18

"In general, most religions seem to have a graduation point or even a ceremony signifying that the student is enlightened, and thus qualified to either leave or teach."

Yes, but there's a lot of politics involved in these decisions, people "graduate" or are promoted to positions of spiritual authority for reasons other than the right ones. So the problems we're discussing are certainly not unique to Subud. The obvious difference is, the latihan is supposed to be our spiritual teacher. Which means we each have to be objective enough to decide when we've "had enough", when we've gone as far as we can go with this vehicle (the latihan). When I hear a story about someone who has practiced the latihan for years to little or no effect, I have a hard time believing their dedication is warranted. It is said that, "the fool who persists in his folly shall become wise." I have my doubts.

From Philip Quackenbush, October 11, 2007. Time 22:9

Yes, Mike. As I've said elsewhere, the only reason I continue to go to group "latihan" is because the venue is close (my apartment's too crowded for easy practice) and because, over the decades, I've met people in the cult that I like, and the cult has been a big part of my social life. When I realized that overindulgence in the "latihan" (mine are about a minute or so now) was actually harmful mentally (and occasionally even physically), it became a secondary activity of little consequence or use to me except for its quick adjustment of energies that result in greater physical health and mental clarity for a short while. Otherwise, I would have bolted (sorry, Marcus) for the exit long ago.

Peace, Philip

From Dirk Campbell, October 11, 2007. Time 22:46

Just a small point: Bapak was recorded by Rofé as saying that 95% of people that came to Subud would not benefit from it. The quote does not necessarily imply that 95% of people who come to Subud will leave, as is assumed in posts above. Many people who benefit from Subud leave. The quote could also be taken to mean that of the people who stay in Subud, only 5% are benefiting.

Add Feedback to this page / Communicate with us

Use the form below to

Very sorry but feedback forms now permanently closed on the Subud Vision site