Subud Vision - Discussion

David Week - History and Myth

The martial arts lineage. From Edward Fido, December 29, 2007. Time 6:18

An interesting article David.

Like Michael Rogge's it seems to be inquiring about the provenance of Subud.

Given the Javanese tradition of allegory it's a big ask.

The martial arts - as associated with kingship and the warrior caste - also have a long history in Ancient India. Buddha himself was a member of the warrior caste (a Kshaitrya) and Bodhidharma, who took Dhayana/Chan/Zen to China, is supposed to have been a martial artist.

In Ancient India most occupations and what was associated with them were in the process of becoming both sacred and hereditary.

If Subud comes from a similar tradition in Java as the Japanese martial arts do in that country it won't faze me.

Pak Subuh also claimed descent from Abdul Qadir al Gilani, a great historic Sufi and titular founder of the Qadiri Order. Many, if not all, the great historic Sufis claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad, and, especially in the Shi'ite world, possessing certain powers is often considered to be the result as much of such descent as anything else.

Gilani was once stated by a Western writer (sorry I forget his name) to have possessed 'marked hypnotic powers'.

This raises the tantalising question: is Subud transmitted at the opening through the new member in a manner similar to hypnotism?

Pak Subuh's voice was supposed to calm you down. Is that similar to the way someone like Jon Kabat-Zin (a teacher of meditation in the medical context) prepares people to relax?

There are supposed to be forms of mass hypnotism known in the East for centuries which neither put you to sleep nor make you feel you've lost control which certain gurus use to induce ecstatic states in their followers.

Sufis talk about the science of "hals" or states. These are considered wonderful and sacred but there is no denial they work through the normal bodily framework.

One of the legitimate questions to ask is 'How does the latihan happen in the body'?

I think we have to be fairly open minded about this.

To really be accepted in the West the latihan - like meditation - may need to be physically monitored with appropriate equipment to see what functional changes occur in the brain.

Otherwise all we have are rather waffly 'explanations'.

From David W, December 29, 2007. Time 16:42

Hi Edward

More later, but for the time being, what do you think of this: "Dr. Yan Xin, a Chinese Qigong master known to most of the over one billion people in China, gave a talk in San Francisco in 1991. Seventeen hundred devotees, most of them Chinese, showed up at the Masonic auditorium to listen to Yan. The San Francisco Chronicle on may, 16 1991 reported that 'minutes into his talk, several began experiencing what Yan Xin calls spontaneous movements.' The Chronicle reporter said that 'before long, the scene resembled a Pentecostal prayer meeting with many people waving their arms and making unintelligible sounds.' Yan told his audience, 'Those who are sensitive might start having some strong physical sensations - or start laughing or crying. Don't worry. This is quite normal.' "



From Edward Fido, December 30, 2007. Time 6:37

Hi David,

I have no problem believing what was described happened.

My query would be 'How?'. What caused these phenomena to happen?

One of the main themes in the Subud story is that the phenomenon we call the latihan came directly from God.

We have Pak Subuh's accounts and explanations, which I do not automatically discount as mere exotica.

In most religious or spiritual traditions - Vipassana and Sufism for instance - it is the tradition itself and its lineage (from the Buddha or one of the great Sufi saints who claim a sisila or chain going back to the Prophet).

Is or isn't there a tradition, tradition(s) or chain?

What do we rely upon in Subud to guarantee we are spiritually safe?

To my mind this is not a merely intellectual question. I don't necessarily want to read a learned tome. Having read many in my time they don't satisfy. But I'm not sure that, in emulating St Thomas, you; Michael Rogge or anyone else is doing anything wicked or anti-Subud.

From Sahlan Diver, December 31, 2007. Time 14:7

In 1974, I was on a daytrip visit to the Cheltenham Subud House in England. Myself and some other members were watching a TV program about a branch of Christianity (I think from Canada) where people spontaneously "received in tongues". What we saw was a mixed congregation standing up in their church pews, singing, chanting and waving their arms around in a manner that, apart from the fact the congregation was mixed sex and they weren't walking around, was incredibly similar looking to a Subud latihan. Of course, outer form doesn't guarantee inner content, but very interesting nonetheless.

From Merin Nielsen, December 31, 2007. Time 14:50

Hi, Sahlan,

Have you heard of the 1994 "Toronto Blessing" as per the Wikipedia entry?


From Sahlan Diver, December 31, 2007. Time 15:21


If the date in the wikipedia entry is correct then it wasn't the Toronto Blessing. For various personal reaaosn, I know for a fact the date of the TV program I saw in Cheltenham was 1974.

However what I saw does sound very similar to the Toronto Blessing and it was a movement associated with Christianity. It might have been a branch of the "charismatic movement"


From Merin Nielsen, January 1, 2008. Time 12:31

There's much Christian material on the internet that denounces the Toronto Blessing, including by comparison with Kundalini. However, the Wikipedia entry for Kundalini is interesting for comparison with latihan, especially the last few paragraphs.

From David W, January 2, 2008. Time 13:14

Hi all


To get a really good overview of the Toronto Blessing, go to this page:

which is a scanned book called "Embodying the Spirit: New Perspectives on North American revivalism". Hit the "Preview this book" button. Scroll down to page 253, a paper called "God is Not a Gentleman!": The Sociology of the Toronto Blessing.

What I conclude is that the Toronto Blessing is not the latihan. However, what reading this description reminded me is:

(a) spontaneous body-movement experiences are not the unique province of Subud

(b) people have to believe in it, for it to happen (think of the "opening statement" in that light)

(c) like Subud, the Toronto people believe that these movements are caused by God.

For a nice table of other "similar" experiences, there is a table on this page:

Be warned, the graphics are horrible, and the evangelism may be hard to take. Just scroll down to the table, or search for "Subud"--it's the second hit.


Going back to Edward's original post, it also raised the following questions:

(a) is the opening a product of a process similar to hypnotic suggestion?

(b) is the character of the experience (e.g. type of movements) affected by belief and other people?

This is a Catholic article which considers a number of movements, including the Toronto Blessing, Subud, Sai Baba and hypnotism:

It concludes: "The urge to identify the manifestations with God, Qi kundalini, or enlightenment is due to several factors: (1) the setting in which one has the experience; (2) the strength of one's desire to have the experience, one's belief that such an experience is essential to one's spiritual advancement, one's acceptance of the preacher/guru/seminar leader as one who can provide the experience, and one's expectation of having the experience; (3) the emotional level within the setting; and (4) the suggestions made by the authority figure(s) before and during the experience."

They hypnosis angle is explored further, here:

One might argue with (4) "the suggestions made by the authority figure(s) before and during the experience", since the authority figure is not there making suggestions. However, talk to any psychologist, and they'll affirm that you are still following suggestions your parents made (you have internalised them) years after they are dead. (Consider the habit of calling Pak Subuh "Father" in this light.) (Consider the attachment that people have to "Father" in this light.)

Consider this, from Raymond van Sommers' book, p79

"Another time Bapak told an Islamic visitor that I said ‘Allah’ in my latihan. I had some doubt about this at the time, but in my next latihan I found myself repeating ‘Allah, Allah’ in a loud voice! I had no way of knowing if I had been influenced by Bapak’s remark, but the exclamation continued from that time on to be a part of my latihan."

And consider this page, on the "Ideomotor Effect", which Ryan's Anti-Subud site points to:

The ideomotor effect is ""influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition". Read the section "A Video Demonstration". It's truly astounding how easy it is to get people to "experience" things through suggestion, without ANY kind of trance state at all. This tells me that we though hypnotic trance states and techniques might assist suggestion, they are not necessary.


From the above, we could frame the hypothesis: the latihan is not unique, the latihan is not supernatural, Subud is not unique, in fact that both Subud and the latihan are both representative of human processes that are being replicated and acted out in a thousand, million, or billion variants all around the world.


"Religion didn't begin to wither away during the twentieth century, as some academic experts had prophesied. Far from it. And the new century will probably see religion explode—in both intensity and variety. New religions are springing up everywhere. Old ones are mutating with Darwinian restlessness."

You can read the whole of the article here:

In it, NRM expert Eileen Barker is quoted as follows:

"Speaking at one of the conference sessions, Barker emphatically reminded her audience of "just how very ordinary the people in the cult scene are." When I asked her later about this remark, she elaborated. 'New religious movements aren't always as exotic as they are made out to be" she said. Or, indeed, as they themselves would make themselves out to be. They're interesting in that they're offering something that, they claim, quite often correctly, isn't on sale in the general mainstream religions. So almost by definition there's a sort of curiosity value about them. They're comparatively easy to study—I knew pretty well all of the Moonies in Britain by the time I completed my study of them. They're interesting because you can see a whole lot of social processes going on: conversion, leaving, bureaucratization, leadership squabbles, ways in which authority is used, ways in which people can change, the difference that people born into a religion can make.' "


Now, if we follow the above train of thought, where might it lead. The standard answer might be that finally you end up not believing in the latihan or in Subud, and then you leave. Where it might be leading me, though, is to a different place, and that is Subud without beliefs.

If, as I said above, you have to BELIEVE in the latihan to be opened, what happens in Subud without beliefs? I think a number of people on these pages find that they were opened with belief, and then they lost beliefs, and yet they continue. So belief MAY be necessary for opening... but not continuing.

Here’s another question about belief: is it necessary to get some kind of “benefit”. I’m thinking here of the placebo affect, and the nocebo affect (it’s opposite: ill effects from belief.) We know these exists. I saw somewhere an estimate from a credible source that 30% of medical health benefits might be accounted for by the placebo affect. If some of the “benefits” of Subud, and charismatic movements (I’m thinking of Lester here) revolve around belief in the movement... and to phrase it in the most paradoxical way: can one experience placebo effects without belief? Obvious answer, no. But I paradoxically believe otherwise :-)

But then people might ask, but WHY continue? That’s a good question. There are two parts:

- Why do anything like this at all? That’s a good question. What are all these thousands of movements and practices “doing”? Personally, the beliefs are something I can do without, and in fact can’t sustain. But if we separate the beliefs from the communities and practices, the community and practice still have value. What value? I don’t know.

- Why do this particular one? I think that people who lose faith and don’t continue fall into one of two categories: (a) those that needed faith to continue (and I know many people that say that if they stopped thinking that the latihan was from God, they would stop doing latihan—so much for “experience”; and (b) those that think that if Subud isn’t IT, then something else might be IT, and go off looking for that IT.

The latter question I have pretty well pegged. I don’t think that my children are IT. They’re uniquely important and distinctive... to me. But at the same time I know that they’re not unique from any external, absolute or global perspective. (Parents who do think that, are usually considered to have and create problems.) They’re not unique to other parents... for them it’s THEIR children who are unique. Knowing this doesn’t lead me to be less than engaged with my children, to give up on parenting or loving, or to go wandering away looking for other children. And the same for Subud.

That last point has radical implications for the ideas of schism, and of Subud growth.


But that leaves: Why do anything like this at all? What are all these thousands of movements and practices “doing”? I understand as a parent nurturing children: both personally, and objectively. I have no idea, yet, in the case of Subud and it’s ten thousand siblings.

From Hassanah Briedis, January 3, 2008. Time 1:27

David, thanks for this discussion and your thoughts about the nature of the latihan. It's an intriguing subject, as is all speculation about 'spiritual' phenomena. I think the most likely explanation for the transmission of the latihan experience is in the general area of hypnotic suggestion, for exactly the reasons you point out.

In my own case, I started doing latihan spontaneously when I was 14, and continued doing it alone without any idea of what I was doing, for about a year, until the family realized what was happening. That would seem to go against our argument, but I remember looking into my mother's bedroom one day and watching her hanging curtains whilst doing the latihan. I think I probably wanted to emulate her, and also I resented her going off to latihan twice a week, so perhaps I wanted to go with her, as it were. If it wasn't psychological, then it must have seeped into me magically, like the green smoke in "The Ten Commandments" and switched on my inner. Is there any middle road there?


From Philip Quackenbush, January 3, 2008. Time 9:47

Hi, David,

You said:

"To get a really good overview of the Toronto Blessing, go to this page:

which is a scanned book called "Embodying the Spirit: New Perspectives on North American revivalism". Hit the "Preview this book" button. Scroll down to page 253, a paper called "God is Not a Gentleman!": The Sociology of the Toronto Blessing.

What I conclude is that the Toronto Blessing is not the latihan. However, what reading this description reminded me is:

(a) spontaneous body-movement experiences are not the unique province of Subud

(b) people have to believe in it, for it to happen (think of the "opening statement" in that light)

(c) like Subud, the Toronto people believe that these movements are caused by God."

Well, a description is not the actual event. I noted that Benny Hinn is an exponent of the Toronto blessing, and I've seen him doing his thing on TV, and the reactions of the people "knocked down" by him (admittedly, a different form of "transmission" than we're familiar with at a Subud "opening") definitely look and sound to me like a "latihan", their movements and vocalizations mainly on the floor, like many of us experienced in the early days of the "latihan" being brought to the West, so maybe its not as "advanced" a group "latihan" in his congregations (see Sumarah's or Pangestu's sites for a comparison on that), but it definitely seems to be the same process with a Christian, or maybe a mock Christian overlay, since many televangelists have been exposed as perpetrating hoaxes, among them Benny Hinn on CBC. But I agree with a) and c) above, just seriously question b), since it's my contention that Buddhists, who don't believe in any of the "doctrines that aren't doctrines" given in Bung Subuh's "explanations" still can "get it", as well as people like Jiddu Krishnamurti (admittedly there are probably few like him) who once stated, "I don't believe in anything."

Peace, Philip

From Andrew Hall, January 3, 2008. Time 15:41

Hello to all,

Very interesting points being raised.

What is "belief"? Because of my religious upbringing, I usually associate belief with guilt - I was supposed to believe that the Bible was literally the word of God, and arguments and questions were not at all welcome, almost in a taboo sense.

When I first read Bapak's words that ""Every person will find the right way towards God for himself, and what may be the right way for one may be completely wrong for another. Therefore you must not suppose that you have to follow or become like Muhammad Subuh..." I really felt it gave me permission to breathe. I interpreted it, rightly or wrongly, as saying there is no one-size-fits-all "belief" in Subud.

I now think I never fully appreciated the difference between using my mind to talk and think about spiritual matters, as compared to actually doing a spiritual practice, like prayer or the latihan, where I think the mind is peripherally involved. (I think my mind is still involved, because it is part of who I am and I think I "receive" in my mind, just as I receive in my body.)

Nevertheless, belief is still a very problematic word for me. I can't help but wince when I hear it because it still reminds me of having to keep quiet about something that I wanted to be free to talk about.

I even dislike seeing the phrase "Subud without beliefs" because that smacks of a dictum. If we have to use the word belief, I would prefer "Subud open to all beliefs" (even the belief that there are no beliefs!).

I also don't feel comfortable with saying that Subud exists without beliefs because I'm not sure that is ever true. I think we are surrounded by our beliefs. The Catholic article that David refers to talks about "the strength of one's desire to have the experience, one's belief that such an experience is essential to one's spiritual advancement, one's acceptance of the preacher/guru/seminar leader as one who can provide the experience, and one's expectation of having the experience;"

Instead of belief, I prefer to use the words "intention" and "desire" because I feel these words recognize that we are talking about psychological mechanisms within the individual.

That doesn't make them any less important! Far from it. I don't think it is possible for me to pursue a spiritual practice unless I have the intention and desire to do so. I think that intention and desire are very key.

I think it is valuable to become more conscious of and discover what our unconscious and assumed "beliefs", expectations, intentions and desires are. They are us.

Sorry for sounding so preachy. Guess I'm still a Baptist under the skin.

Regards to all,


From Philip Quackenbush, January 3, 2008. Time 22:27

Hi, Hassanah and Andrew,

Amid all these histories, speculations and experiences relating to the "latihan" is a missing factor: a scientific, falsifiable description of what it is. That doesn't mean that it can't continue to be useful to people, since we still don't have a full description of what electricity is (IMO because it may be a basic functioning of the universe and therefore not completely accessible, since the part can't "know" the whole), but most people use it every day.

But without a solid description of a phenomenon of some sort, we're probably just whistling in the dark. It's gratifying to see some scientists gradually exploring such phenomena, but, if there's anything unique about the "latihan" (and IMO, there probably isn't, except for the way it's practiced in the organization, i.e., men and women separately, indoors, etc.), the question really can't be decided or even approached really rationally until such studies are done on it.

As I mentioned elsewhere, though, since it's addictive, practitioners are not likely to fade away until such studies are done, but calling it the "latihan" may if the organization continues to fade away, as the demographics seem to indicate it will without some "kick in the pants" to stimulate further growth of the SUBpopulation.

Peace, Philip

From Donal H. Wolfraim, November 26, 2010. Time 16:33

I am a Subud member opened in Toronto Canada in 1976.
I have read your articles with great interest, particularly those describing the historic relationship that exists between Subud and the Martial Arts.

The question I have is this: What exactly is being opened during an opening? Based on the information provided in your articles I have come to the conclusion that it is the Chakras that are being opened by helpers who have previously had the same experience.

If that is the case, why is it being kept such a secret from individuals interested in being opened? The explanation I received was not based on fact but rather a mystical interpretation that was both misleading and confusing.

I would really like to have your comments regarding the above'


Donald H. Wolfraim Ph.D.
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

From Philip Quackenbush, November 27, 2010. Time 2:46

Hi, Donald,

First, let me say that I was intrigued enough by the comparison between the dates of the last (mine) comment on this page and yours. It's been almost two years, and there has been no further comment or information added to the page. This suggests to me a few things:

1) The shrinkage of the Subud org globally, or
2) The lack of much interest in determining the nature of the latihan, possibly because
a) people are fearful of what they might find that might destroy or alter their "faith"
b) complacency
c) lack of time or interest in the subject, despite the possible fact that the "latihan" may be, or possibly is, fundamental to what happens in one's life.
d) that members of the org who suggest that finding out what the "latihan" is is not possible may be "right," in that, if it is both a universal phenomenon, in the sense that it's either accesssible to anyone and everyone and in the sense that it may be an unalterable fact of the cosmos (God, for some), or the One, then it may be like attempting to look at one's face without a mirror.

However, I've been attending a non-dual discussion group that I go to on alternate Thursdays in preference to Thursday night group "latihans", and part of the discussion has centered around the nature of attention, since some of the members of the discussion group are ex-Gurdjieffian's and believe in the possibility of directing one's attention in two "directions" at once (which I don't, BTW, realizing that attention is a quantum phenomenon like everything else and nothing can be simultaneous in either the Einsteinian universe or the quantum universe, including the "direction" of on'es attention. The reason I'm pointing all this out is that belief is virtually central to what happens in one's life, and whatever one believes the "latihan" to be, if it's "practiced" regularly, can have a profound effect on what happens to one during said lifetime.

I happen to agree with your basic assessment stated above, but, having "tested" what it would be like to do "latihan" with "Jesus" and "receiving" an "opening" of the heart chakra (which, BTW, can close again, because nothing in the universe stays the same for even a picosecond), it may not be the whole story. Once the chakras have been "opened", though, then what? Life goes on, does it not?

Peace, Philip

Discussion continued on this page