Subud Vision - Discussion
David Week - Seven Questions about Subud Culture
ethical life??. From steven somsen, September 6, 2009. Time 12:43
Excellent article David.
You wrote it long ago but here is still some feedback:
I have a problem with the term "ethical life" (but also with "The will of God") which has the sound of "rules/principles". It's so easily understood as something outside of me and then creates conflict. I would say: endeavor to live honestly, courageously, from an open heart according not to your wanting/not-wanting but according to your light, to what you feel is truly right, whatever the consequences.
I remember that once - during my (too long) childhood in Subud - even testing became a weapon to beat myself up.
This distrust of myself was so easily fed by bapak saying not to trust the heart and mind.
From David W, September 6, 2009. Time 22:45
Hi Steven. Yes... I'm just trying to find a non-religious equivalent that "will of God" people might understand. As I see it, most people (bar a few psychopaths) are trying to do the best they can most of the time, and everybody messes up from time to time.
I agree with your formulation: honestly, courageously. I remember one Buddhist aphorism I like too: "Never do anything you wouldn't want to tell your children about."
I think the basic picture of the world as "satanic" is a pretty sick one. Lower forces. Distrust of the heart and mind. Paranoid.
From Michael Rogge, November 25, 2009. Time 15:14
I wonder whether there is such thing as the 'Will of God'.
My feeling is that God is not interfering and leaves our present reality's chain of events running. The die was cast pre-Big Bang. Thereafter all had to develop on its own in free choice/coincidence. On a personal level it is up to us to make a choice for better or worse without being prompted. The clearer one's mind becomes in receiving, the better one's personal choice.
From Philip Quackenbush, November 26, 2009. Time 23:50
This "will of God" question is a major stumbling block or ethical challenge for most people. I know it was for me, until I (hopefully) got rid of the cognitive dissonance that results from assuming that "God's will" is something separate from our own (assuming that we actually have one, which is another question that I'm not gonna get into here). My current logic on the matter goes something like this (supported, if it matters, by my "receiving" in "latihan" several years ago that "God's will" was my will): My concept of "God" is that It is All That Is, something that's not open for debate if "He" (absurd for those who know that she is black) is described as omnipresent (not to mention omnipotent and omniscient, which brings up a couple of other kettles of usually rotting fish). Therefore, if we exist, we exist as a part of It. If we accept the view of David Bohm, the protegé of Einstein who is considered by many to be one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, that we live in a holographic (although I think he preferred the term holonomic) universe (which I do), then all of All That Is is in every "part" of Its Whole. Again, assuming that It has a will and is not just mechanically reacting to It's own laws that are inherently a part of Its nature, Its will is expressed in every "part" of It. Therefore, my will is "God's" will, and there is nothing I can do that is not Its will or "allowed" by It, no matter how great or stupid or horrendous it may appear to myself or others; i.e., I have total "free will" because I (and the rest of the universe) am It and my part of the universe is aware enough of itself to initiate actions that, by that logic, are the will of It ("God"). If that doesn't confuse you, it may liberate you to some degree.
I haven't read the rest of your seven questions, David. I think that's enough nattering from me for the moment (something to be thankful for for those celebrating Thanksgiving here today).
From Michael Irwin, November 27, 2009. Time 0:36
Michael Rogge: "I wonder whether there is such thing as the 'Will of God'.
My feeling is that God is not interfering and leaves our present reality's chain of events running. The die was cast pre-Big Bang...."
I find the phrase 'Will of God' meaningless. For me the creator (if there is one) set the rules pre-Big Bang and the rules include us. We glimpse them in ideas like gravity, electro-magnetism, weak and strong atomic forces and cosmological constants. All I see from the forward edge of science is a decreasing sense that we control anything including ourselves. For me free will for humans is a dead duck. I'm just along for the ride (already planned if every single detail of the forces at work on it were known) trying to enjoy it and hoping that in my case it doesn't include a disaster. I don't even think I can decide on my attitude. That is different from controlling it because the forces that I think I might employ to control it are themselves built in.
From David W, November 29, 2009. Time 13:55
It was towards the beginning of the Enlightenment, at the birth of the Newtonian "clockwork universe", that the immanent God was banished, and the transcendent lawmaker put in its place. There are also roots of this distinction in the tension between the old Jewish God, who talked to his people, and guided them and punished them, and the abstract God of Plato, who was perfect and timeless and principled, which infused Christianity later.
So everything around us, is in a sense, the result of this change in belief. Before the Enlightenment, every event: a bird dropping from the sky, unseasonal rain, a withered crop, a sudden disease... these were all signs, all communications from a deity that had to be interpreted to "divine" their meaning.
With the Enlightenment, that all changed. The universe was governed by law, not divine intervention. The task of the good follower was to figure out what those laws were. Hence we have computers and airplanes (based on our search for those laws), instead of oracles and soothsayers (based on trying to decipher the message of the moment.)
Much of Subud seems to be rooted in a desire to return to those pre-Enlightenment forms of religion. So too, Evangelical and Charismatic Christianity. These fundamentalisms, in which the Good Father returns to instruct and direct his children on every matter from sex to work to eating habits... I've heard them explained as one way of banishing existential anxiety. They are different forms of coping with the radical uncertainty of our age.
What I like about Zen is that it seems to adopt a different tack: not to attempt to dispel that uncertainty, but rather to accept it, to simply let it be. I think a Zen interpretation of "spiritual exercise" is not about the Charismatics' "being guided by God's Power", but of letting go of illusions about or grasping for any kind of power.
There are forms of Christianity which seems to paint a similar picture. Maybe Eckhart. Some modern writers. These Christians aren't all that interested in God as Power, there to move limbs, solve problems, smite enemies, bless businesses and the like. Rather, God is what's left when you stop obsessing about stuff like that. Such a god (loss of caps intentional) has no "Will"; is not described as "Almighty", and not modeled on a feudal lord. Such a god is also nameless, and therefore isn't even referred to directly.
From Michael Rogge, November 30, 2009. Time 11:41
Thanks for the historical overview. I do not rule out God, though. For me it is an impersonal Divine root one can tune in to as it permeates our existence, in fact, holographically, it mirrors in our soul. Its influence or workings are beyond our reason.
From Walter Segall, November 30, 2009. Time 15:1
We find that many of our Subud members do indeed have an irrational belief in testing and in their receivings, but I suspect that most Subud members are rational and reasonable people who nowadays use their minds for figuring out most of the courses of action to take in their lives, and resort to the spiritual processes of Subud only when they find something that cannot be resolved using the mind.
I may be wrong.
From Sahlan Diver, November 30, 2009. Time 15:18
Contrast Philip, Michael Irwin, Michael Rogge and David's comments with the common Subud test:
"Is it in accordance with God's will that I do < some action >"
Helpers and members have generally accepted this test without having a problem over the wording. The point I wish to make is not whether the views stated by David about the spiritual are correct or the views of those who see God as being a power with a Will are correct, but that in Subud we have a form of questioning which is very much tied to a one-sided spiritual viewpoint. This is further evidence that Subud members do in fact operate within Subud on the basis of a belief system (for which I could produce other examples, but I won't here as I am currently writing an article which tabulates all the Subud beliefs),
From David W, December 1, 2009. Time 13:45
I didn't rule out God. All I'm really saying is that the God of the Protestants was a non-interfering God, and supplanted the God of the Catholics that ruled beforehand.
From Andrew hall, December 1, 2009. Time 17:8
About the common test questions ""Is it in accordance with God's will.." or "Is it correct...", I really have problems with this wording.
I much prefer praying for guidance because:
1. it doesn't depend on what is immediately received
2. the prayer can be phrased in words that empower, "Please help me make a decision about..." or "Please help me understand.."
The only questions I am really comfortable with testing are "What is my attitude..." and "What could my attitude be.." These kinds of tests I have often, not always, found valuable.
The experience of others could well be different.
From Sahlan Diver, December 1, 2009. Time 17:38
I don't have a problem with an individual having a belief in God's will, but it surely raises some interesting testing quandries. Suppose you are in a group of 3 helpers and two agree to test with a member : Is it God's will that he do
Also let's say people are in the habit of testing if it is God's will that they do something, but the spiritual reality is they have got it wrong, there is either no God in that sense, or even if there is, that God doesn't have a will that people take one action over the other. Are all those receivings then nonsense?
It's like when people test the male and female side of their natures. This is a concept popular in psychology, but suppose this division is too crude a concept. Will the test results be as meaningless and fanciful as the theory the testing is base on may be?
The worse testing session I attended was two hours based on tests suggested by some women who had talked about a peace initiative at the last World Congress. The questions were presented to us as if the thoughts of these women on peace matters were irrefutably correct and all we had to do was ask the questions and see what the correct spiritual response should be. Myself and another member there thought that the ideas we were testing about were naive, simplistic and in some cases wrong, so it was two hours of wasted testing inspired by someone else's funny ideas. Do you see what I am getting at here, what happens when tests are asked on the basis of our own funny ideas? It seems we need to be very careful with our phrasing so that our tests do not depend on the untested assumptions we are making before doing the test,
From David W, December 1, 2009. Time 21:35
In defense of psychology: the idea that people have a male and female side of their nature might have been popular 50 years ago, but this is now seen as unscientific, and entwined with cultural beliefs in fixed or essential gender roles. It remains a popular metaphor for some.
I think it would be more accurate to say that it remains a popular concept, but not one that has any support from psychology.
On your comment on the peace testing: I have many such examples. I eventually stopped going to "kejiwaan" days when I started to experience these activities as positively delusional, and ethically and psychologically unhealthy. How does a Hindu pray? How does an Englishman laugh? Crude stereotyping; magical thinking; desire for power through magical knowledge, not attained by the hard labour of actually finding out.
Here's an exercise (proposed by the English psychologist Richard Wiseman). Are you unclear about a decision you face? Make a choice one way or another. Then, take a concrete action that arises from that choice: say, writing out in full your resignation letter. But don't send it. See how you feel. You will then have a better sense of whether this is a good idea or not. Wiseman describes this as a way of improving your intuition.
But let's say the outcome of the same exercise were then characterised as 'the will of God'. This then implies that the creator of the universe has a personal interest in your employent situation, and--more importantly--that your next action (in, say, resigning) is not an act of your own will, but the will of this creator. This seems to me to be a radical abandonment of personal responsibility.
Of course, testing, in this model, can be 'wrong': if the testers are not sufficiently 'pure' to 'receive' the right answer.
This model of human life suggests two kinds of people:
- those who are not acting of their own accord, but are acting as agents of the will of the divine ruler, (i.e. the radically irresponsible) and
- those who are unclean.
I don't want to live in a world which divides the world into irresponsible people and dirty people; nor do I savour the company of people who think this way. It seems like a relic of dark ages past. Once one believes this, it's hard to see how can one avoid thinking:
- God supports some people (his followers) more than others
- some people are cleaner than others.
Indeed, such thinking seems commonplace in Subuh's talks, in which he starts enterprises, clearfells ancient forests, and stands over his followers because God is on his side, and he is purer, having been purified for 1000 nights by his celestial ally. And Subuh's followers typically dismiss criticisms of their behaviour, by claiming that the critics are controlled by 'lower forces', i.e. that they are impure and unclean.
From Andrew Hall, December 1, 2009. Time 21:38
I did not make my point very clear. I don't agree that we can test the will of God. Period.
I will not participate in testing these types of questions.
God may have a Will but I don't feel privy to it, it's certainly beyond my ken, so any receiving I have is liable to be more about my own predelictions and fanciful notions.
The very idea that we can stand in a circle and ask to receive the Will of God just doesn't work for me anymore.
I think it's very presumptuous and conceited for any of us to claim we know or can know, whether through testing or anything else, the Will of God.
As for your other points:
- testing the female and male sides of our nature, I think it really depends on whether people want to test this. Is it true or "too crude a concept" as you put it? To my mind, these are all concepts, all words, all with limitations. They can be useful ideas if they help us make sense of our multi-layered psyches, but I don't think any idea or concept is the last word on anything.
- I don't think anyone should participate in testing they feel is naive and simplistic and wrong-headed. I think the distinction is that people need to be open if they are going to receive. There should be no coercion, either self imposed or external. Otherwise, I think the testing will certainly not work.
- My original point is that I prefer to measure testing and any other spiritual practice in terms of does it empower me as an individual. I now think that testing about God's Will does not do this.
But then it's only my own opinion.
From Sahlan Diver, December 1, 2009. Time 23:0
DW: I think it would be more accurate to say that it remains a popular concept, but not one that has any support from psychology.
SD: So this turns out to be a perfect example. I am not into pyschology so I wasn't aware of the history of this particular idea, and if David is right then it seems that the people who test their male and female nature also aren't aware that the original idea has moved on. They test about something they believe to be an absolute reality, but which is in fact a concept that is somewhat imprecise and open to question, so what are they actually receiving? There is a well known saying in the field of computing "garbage in, garbage out". Is it the same in testing? That the testing will give you anything, it's just that if the original question is fanciful, the receiving and/or your interpretation of it can only be fanciful also?
From steven somsen, December 1, 2009. Time 23:44
David you say: "the idea that people have a male and female side of their nature might have been popular 50 years ago, but this is now seen as unscientific, and entwined with cultural beliefs in fixed or essential gender roles."
I wouldn't be so sure of that David.
For me it's ALL projections on a blank screen, yes projections full of timebound cultural beliefs.
Not such a perfect example Sahlan I would say.
From Michael Irwin, December 2, 2009. Time 0:13
DW: "...this seems to me to be a radical abandonment of personal responsibility.
I don't want to live in a world which divides the world into irresponsible people and dirty people"
MI: David, you made my day!
AH: "I don't agree that we can test the will of God. Period.
I will not participate in testing these types of questions
- I don't think anyone should participate in testing they feel is naive and simplistic and wrong-headed. I think the distinction is that people need to be open if they are going to receive. There should be no coercion, either self imposed or external. Otherwise, I think the testing will certainly not work."
MI: I'm left hanging. I don't know what you mean. What are the conditions for testing to 'work'? Do they involve framing questions? If so, what classes of questions make sense to you? What do you mean by coercion? If there was some requirement in you to test wouldn't that requirement be a 'coercion'? If you didn't have that requirement why would you bother testing?
AH: "...people need to be open if they are going to receive."
MI:That looks to me like a description of the latihan. Doesn't that mean that for you testing is just doing the latihan? I would agree with that but adding the idea that a question needs to be answered to make it a test simply defeats the idea that it is a latihan. Possibilities have been closed off. That, in turn, means that testing is not only irrelevant to but destructive of the latihan.
About the common test questions "Is it in accordance with God's will.." or "Is it correct...", I really have problems with this wording.
I much prefer praying for guidance because:
1. it doesn't depend on what is immediately received"
MI: Excuse me but what if you received was a non-sequitur, an irrelevant answer. For instance if you asked whether to eat an orange or not and were told to climb a mountain doesn't that mean that the answer does depend upon the question? Or would you make the answer suitable by making the mountain into a metaphor along with the 'to eat or not' which could not be known unless you actually climbed the mountain? We humans can justify anything.
AH: "2. '...the prayer can be phrased in words that empower, "Please help me make a decision about..." or "Please help me understand.."'
MI: What do you mean by empower? Are you feeling powerless but don't like it? By what means does prayer empower? Isn't deciding to pray a form of magic to make you feel better? Isn't being powerless the sought after state in the latihan? In fact, if you ask the questions you pose aren't you actually saying that you don't trust "God" to know your state and "He" has decided not to do anything for you? "He" is supposed to be all-knowing, isn't he? In fact isn't praying - and testing for that matter - an indication that "God" isn't about to tell you because otherwise "He" would already have done so? Above you wrote "I don't agree that we can test the will of God." Isn't the very act of testing or praying, testing the will of God, that is, probing what is meant for you rather than just accepting. You will note that all my references above to 'God' are an attempt to frame the question in your terms. Any interest that the creator of the universe has in me, by my lights, is only as an example among trillions of how the universe 'He' created worked out.
AH: "I am really comfortable with testing are "What is my attitude..." and "What could my attitude be..""
MI: I used to take that position. Do you actually have any control over your attitude apart from the fact that you think you do? Isn't your attitude the result of of an endless list like: circumstances, character, genetic tendencies, emotions, beliefs, culture - even your belief that you can change your attitude? So what is gained by testing about it?
In case you think I think all helper work with individuals depends upon testing, I would disagree. I think that working with someone who is having difficulties could be aided by interspersed short latihans without specific questions - in other words, without 'testing'.
From stefanfreedman, February 7, 2012. Time 0:0
Just revisited this article. Very rich, insightful and worthwhile study of ways in which we (Subud)limit ourselves and what we can do to remedy this.
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