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Deanna Koontz - Subud: the Tribe

Change the way helpers are tested in. From Sahlan Diver, August 2, 2007. Time 19:49


I am re-reading your article and just came across a gem of an idea buried amongst the wealth of other interesting comment.

May I introduce the context of your idea in my own words: The helpers are not supposed to be hierarchical. Bapak himself said there should be no difference of authority between group, regional, national and zonal helpers, just a difference of responsibility. If anything he seemed to give higher kudos to the group helpers, since he said they had the bigger task of dealing directly with the members.

Despite this clear intention of Bapak, which no doubt most members would be pleased to endorse, the helpers can appear to be a hierarchy. You remark in your article on the fact that helpers always seem to be tested in by a higher authority e.g. incoming international helpers are tested in by the outgoing ones, incoming national helpers are tested in by the outgoing ones, new helper appointments from the membership are tested in by the group helpers, and so on.

Your very simple idea, which I have never heard suggested before is "If they were tested in from below things might be different.."

So what we would be saying here is, taking the group level as an example, all the group members would test in new helpers. This would no longer be done by just the helpers.

Some people might query whether the collective receiving would be as good. I see no reason why not, because of another principle, also established by Bapak: being a helper is not intended to be a spiritual promotion, it is a duty. If it is not a sign of promotion, then there is no reason why an ordinary member's receiving can't be as good as, or maybe often better than a helper's, so in theory there would be no loss of testing quality through extending the testing to the whole group.

This simple change of procedure should do much to remove feelings that the helpers are a separate priveleged group or clique, who maybe always seem to test in helpers of like mindset to themselves.

But we may need to go further. In the Subud Vision articles there are some authors who are unhappy with the use of testing to choose "officials". They say it disenfranchises the members and turns Subud into a theocracy. Their complaint may not only be directed at electing the committee this way, but also the helpers. However, while electing the committee by vote is not problematic, doing the same for the helpers is maybe not such a good idea, since the helper has a kejiwaan function and kejiwaan suitability can only be revealed by testing, not just decided with the mind. On the other hand helpers also need other qualities such as people skills and one doesn't need testing to assess who is going to handle that aspect of the job well or not.

So coming back to your idea, I propose group helper appointment procedure should be changed and should be done as follows:

1) All the members in the group are allowed to take part in testing new helper candidates

2) After testing, the members vote. Their vote will be informed by both the testing kejiwaan results, and by their own judgement of the suitability of the person's other qualities such as personality, people skills, and so on.

From Jonathan w. Koonyz, September 23, 2007. Time 23:46

This comment is about Sahlan's last comment on Deanna's article.

I found much to disagree with in your earlier comments on Deanna's article. I also did not like her response and your response to her response. Both of you give too much weight to the mind and not enough to the heart.

But, somehow, Sahlan, you managed to hit the nail right squarely on the head in your last note. Bapak did, indeed, encourage the idea of authority coming from below. It is, indeed, customary in much of Subud for authority to flow down from persons we think of as being higher than we. Regional helpers expect to open people even though local helpers are present. This is not right, and it did not happen, ever, not even one time, when I was the local helper. Regional helpers kow tow to national helpers, and all heads bow in reverence to internationals.

Sahlan, please take the ideas in this note as far as you can, perhaps for an article in the new book. I will write one if you do not, but I would like to see it from you.


From Sahlan Diver, September 24, 2007. Time 8:27


The problem you mention of national helpers assuming an authority over regional helpers, and regional assuming authority over local, is no doubt something that happens and should be tackled where it does happen - I have certainly observed the problem on occasions - but I am not convinced it is an endemic problem. For example on moving to Ireland from England many years ago, one thing that impressed me about the new country was the good way that the helper work was conducted without any undue feelings of authority.

But, even in countries where the helpers might conduct themselves well, there is still a break in authority between themselves and the members when it comes to choosing new helpers. Actually "authority" is perhaps not the best word to use here, as it can imply superiority: "responsibility" would be a better word. What I found novel in Deanna's article was the idea that the group helpers should not be the only ones with the responsibility to choose other group helpers, but this should be done by the non-helper members as well. This would remove any tendency towards cliquism and would be more likely to produce a set of helpers that the group were happy with.

You say I give too much weight to the mind and not enough to the heart, but in fact my suggestion tries to balance the heart and mind with the kejiwaan. I suggest members vote new helpers in based on two factors:

1) their heart and mind assessment of the suitability of the prospective helper's personality, skills at dealing with people etc etc

2) their experience of taking part in testing about the prospective helper's suitability

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