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Deanna Koontz - Subud: the Tribe

Rejecting God's will. From Sahlan Diver, July 10, 2007. Time 14:17


Reading your article and the parts of other Subud Vision articles that touch on similar themes, I came to a sudden realisation of how ideas that originate from specific religions have become subtly subsumed into Subud thinking as being a necessary and proven part of the "Subud way". Were such ideas merely a matter of personal philosophy this would, maybe, not be a problem, but they do become a problem when used to exert peer pressure that stymies the way we act.

The example that comes most vividly to mind is the "God's will" concept. This is invariably wheeled out every time someone proposes a radical change, such as, for example, that we should go in for all-out publicity of the existence and availability of the latihan. The implication is that the proposer is getting ahead of themself, trying to "go faster than God", that they are showing spiritual impatience and arrogance etc etc.

As you astutely observe in your article, peer pressure and the power of tribal thinking in Subud is sufficient to guarantee the success of such a pronouncent as "it's not yet God's will" in its intention of stifling any debate. Looked at in the cold light of day, such a pronouncement is enormously presumptuous. It assumes that the speaker has special and certain knowledge of God's will. However, there is a deeper reason why such a pronouncement is inappropriate.

The concept of "God's will" is a concept that is strong in some religions. Many Christians, I believe, have the concept of a personal God, who is there to give the yes and no as to how they should act. Excuse me if I am not fully accurate, I am not trying to make a point about Christianity, merely to point out that the "God's will" concept was not invented by Subud, but comes from elsewhere, and should not, therefore, be promoted by Subud members as a concept that we are duty-bound to agree with, since Subud is supposedly neutral when it comes to religious dogma.

For the record, I no longer subscribe to this God's will concept. My own philosophy is now that implied by the "man drowning in the flood" example given at the end of Dirk Campbell's article -- "God" has given us the tools for life: heart and mind, lower forces etc, and now, as Bapak would say, we have also been given the latihan -- all we have to do is put it all into practise in the best possible way.

Therefore, if, in future, I propose that the latihan should be vigorously promoted using the tools of modern publicity, and someone says "it's not yet God's will", I will merely counter by saying that is an idea from religion which I happen not to agree with and they should not imply that to be a good Subud member the idea must become part of my personal philosophy.

From Deanna Koontz, July 10, 2007. Time 16:37

Thanks very much for your feedback. I am glad to know that my thoughts helped bring you to the point where you intend to speak your truth about the idea of "God's will" and its relation to the idea of advertising Subud's existence. I hope you are able to follow through on that intention. For myself, I know that, in a situation where no clear public space has been made to air differing understandings, I find it very difficult to actually act on such intentions. If you should find yourself in that situation, I would suggest simply asking questions about what has been said, what the underlying assumptions are and so on. It is easier to do in that situation than clearly stating your own truth. And, in a way, I think it may be getting closer to the root of the problem. I don't think, at this point, that the primary problem is that some people feel it is not God's will to advertise and others feel differently. Rather, the problem is that there is no space for questioning and no true sacred conversation about how Subud does things.

I find that asking questions, if you do it in the right way, can be very effective in opening up sacred conversation. The right way is to ask and truly be open to what you will hear. Really attend to the other person and let what they say enter your heart. Hear it not only as an expression of their mind, but as an expression of who they are, fears and all. The point of asking these questions is not to elicit information or to solve the immediate problem, but to open up what has been closed down, to untangle inner knots of fear, to set conditions for people to feel accepted and begin to heal. This questioning won't lead to immediate answers about whether or not to advertise or questions about God's will, but it will begin to change Subud's culture and its people to the point where, if you do end up advertising, you might be able to better serve and retain new members.

Again, thanks for your comments!

From Sahlan Diver, July 10, 2007. Time 21:26


Just as you, quite rightly, don't want to feel obliged to ascribe to a fixed religious philosophy in Subud, so I, as a person who, unlike yourself, is not at all interested in any religion, don't want to feel obliged to get involved in any "sacred conversations", as you put it.

Once someone starts to imply that the only sort of conversation that is worthy or valuable in Subud is a "sacred" one, it feels to me like another variation of a religious attitude that I am expected to ascribe to. I would be quite happy in fact to have an entirely non-sacred, plain ordinary, straight from the head, conversation about a matter like to best way to promote and spread the latihan. If someone then says to me that they cannot accept my argument, because it is against their personal understanding of "God's will", that is fine, I have no objection to that, even though I would disagree with their viewpoint. What I object to is the way such concepts, which have their origin in one or more religions, are so often pushed as being "Subud" concepts that are part of the "Subud way" of doing things. Similar, in fact, to that appalling incident you describe in your article, where the international helper implied there was something amiss with the person who was unable to receive that they had "a personal relationship with Bapak."

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