Subud Vision - Feedback
A response to Andrew
Hi Andrew. You wrote about looking for a way of integrating the views of those Subud people who cling to Bapak's words in describing the latihan (I like Dirk Campbell's nickname, "Bapakists") and those who are agnostic, skeptical or out of tune with Bapak's descriptions ("latihanists"). Many of the latter yearn to see Subud opened up to others of a questioning mindset.
This is an ongoing and burning question for me, because although I can appreciate a fair amount of what Bapak said (which helps me to understand "Bapakists") I have many friends and work contacts who are actively looking for some direct transpersonal experience (hungry for the latihan?) but get immediately turned off by existing Subud pamphlets and websites. I discuss this in my article "Beyond Words and Images", and am in ongoing discussion with the WSA and ISC teams - who are very willing to discover and to understand members' views about our public interface.
(I'm hoping that the current ISC review of Subud's public websites will take these views on board.)
I accept your invitation to continue this discussion elsewhere - perhaps as feedback under my related article ...
The problems for "Bapakists"
(if I've understood them)
1> If we leave out Bapak's way of explaining the latihan, using words like God and soul, how else can we convincingly explain it? (Sjahari Holland's article makes this case strongly. My "Alternative Introduction" might point to a solution, but something much briefer is needed)
2> If we say, for example, latihan is a moving meditation, or a form of spontaneous Qi Kung aren't we just fudging it and making it sound like something else that's already available?
3> It seems to be very hard for members to imagine how alienating our standard way of describing the latihan (using terms like "Grace and Power of Almighty God") can be for people with diverse religious backgrounds.
4> Many Subud members find it really hard to imagine someone wanting to experience latihan who doesn't share their belief in a personal God.
David Week's image might be helpful here: Bapak's talks, advice, explanations can be viewed as one petal on the Subud flower, rather than as its centre. The centre then becomes "empty" of bias, like a university in which all views are of interest, while questions and discussion are welcomed as healthy
I passionately want Subud to hold together - to find a way of encompassing our diverse ideas rather than polarising.
Discuss ... ?
I hear your heartfelt concern that Subud hold together - that we find a "way of encompassing our diverse ideas rather than polarising".
(Michael Irwin also had a strong reaction to my suggestion that, unless the people who revere Bapak are willing to change, then a schism is probably the best outcome.)
I feel very sad when I hear how when you have the opportunity to introduce new people to the latihan, they get turned off by Subud's "official" literature. What a God damn shame!
I have read your article "Beyond Words and Images" and really find nothing to argue about. I made my own suggestions on the feedback page to Sjahari Hollands' article "Do We Really Need a New Explanation of the Latihan" and David Weeks has written at length about how to talk about Subud to the outside world in his article "Clear the Path to the Latihan." I think all this is great stuff.
I really hope your ongoing discussions about this with the WSA/ISC teams bear fruit. I am sorry but I have doubts about what will happen. The draft guidleines that ISC has distributed caution that any description about Subud on a website may be read by government officials and businessmen who need to know who and what Subud is in concrete terms and it is best to avoid anything that smacks of a cult.
I wonder if the WSA/ISC team feel constrained to make their suggestion in these terms because it deals with "committee" business. If they were to suggest how to describe the latihan and Subud to applicants, I wonder if this would be seen as trespassing on "helper" business.
Here in Canada, the National Committee earlier in 2007 asked the National Helpers to draft a new pamphlet to explain Subud and the result is a text that begins by explaining Susila, Budhi and Dharma, replete with references to "God's will", "the path that leads to God", and "the will of God Himself" and later goes on to talk about "our duty to worship God" as an aim of Subud.
There was some discussion about this, and lots of Bapak quotes were offered, such as the following "That is the meaning of Subud. By worshipping God through the latihan, we hope to become human beings who really serve Him and obey His command."
One of our regional chairs wrote ".. we need not assume that our own filters are mirrored in Bapak's talks ... I'd like to see people stop splitting hairs about words, and go back to reading, listening and viewing the 1300 talks that have been given to us about what Subud is, because every time you do, you see something new there .."
Eventually, no changes were made and the National Chair went ahead on his own and told our webmaster to post it. Not that I didn't get my two cents in. But it didn't seem to make any difference, and I just ended up feeling discouraged.
The webmaster (who is also the regional chair I just quoted) took the liberty of adding a whole raft of other explanations of Subud. Any newcomer now has a ton of material to wade through. All of it full of references to God.
What did I learn from this?
1. Many people are comfortable with and attached to the words and terms that Bapak used (and reading Bapak' talks is an important part of the Subud experience for many). I really don't think they see things as a new person might looking at Subud from the outside.
2. There is precious little appetite or capacity (in this corner of the Subud world) for disagreement, for process - for hearing each other out and going somewhere new together, for making changes).
3. People doing Subud jobs often have the latitude to do whatever they want, and there seems to be nothing stopping them from doing what they think is right.
It seems I am always ending up in my postings on Subudvision talking about where things are now and how and whether changes can be made. For some reason, I gravitate to talking about process.
I think we need to be grounded and look at the possibility of making changes in Subud. I gave one snapshot above of how Subud Canada decided (or didn't decide) to post a pamplet for newcomers, and I don't think it is very encouraging.
Going back to the post that Michael Irwin (and you) reacted to, my starting point before I made the suggestion about a schism was this:
"I think Subud culture actually discourages members and groups from taking responsibility for themselves, let alone beginning a "Truth & Reconciliation" process whereby people can start to move in this direction. I can't imagine how sitting on the sidelines and watching helpers test these questions would get us anywhere."
I am not trying to bring everyone down, but we do need to look at this, otherwise I fear we are diverting ourselves if we only talk about alternative scenarios like the suggestions that Michael Irwin made. Not that this isn't useful, we need to imagine how things could be different because it can animate us and hopefully give us a common goal.
But we also need to be grounded. I think that change in organizations and cultures is often hard to bring about and usually occurs incrementally. And that is at the best of times. I look at where Subud is now and try to imagine how we can move, and what small steps are possible and realistic. God help me, I am not getting very far.
For instance, from reading Subudtalk I think that helper behavior is one of the biggest problems in the Subud world. There are lots of stories and I have my own. One of the discussion forums at the Innsbruck World Congress (the first World Congress that I attended) talked about helper issues and made some recommendations. But I doubt if this has filtered down to the helpers in Canada. Not that helpers at any level have to do what was suggested in Innsbruck, but surely they should know about it so they can talk and test about it for themselves?
Why can't there be an online forum or some way to share how different groups and helpers are working through this. Why is there no follow-up, no process? The International Helpers don't seem to be promoting this or are they? Does nobody care or respect the time and energy that was invested at Innsbruck?
Otherwise, will people go to the next World Congress and repeat this process all over again?
I don't know about you but I can only go around the track so many times before I start to feel it's a waste of time.
That is why I suggest that leaving and starting another group might be the best way to go. Saying this actually makes me feel hopeful.
Like yourself, I am in my mid-50's. I feel I have only so much time and energy left in this lifetime, and I want to spend it where I feel it makes a difference. I do not want to feel I am wasting it.
The latihan does not belong to the Subud organization. I feel it is too precious to waste on this nonsense.
Thank you for your invitation to respond. I really wish I could be more positive and affirming.
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