Subud Vision - Discussion
Hassanah Briedis - The Latihan of Subud, Dissociation and the Neurology of Spiritual Experience
Subud and Mental Health. From Edward Fido, November 29, 2007. Time 6:54
Interesting and extremely brave article there, Hassanah.
My experience in my past life as a Subud member is that, not only did most Helpers not know anything about mental illness, the brain and how it is effected by same, a lot of them were quite eccentric personality wise. Quite possibly "nuts" in my nonclinical opinion. How could they possibly assist anyone else?
Pak Subuh himself was quite succinct about mental illness and his advice to Subud members on same. I must say I thought it, especially the way it was brought out as gospel in many cases, downright bloody disastrous.
You were, I consider, extremely fortunate to be where you were when what you detail happened to you. I could tell you some real horror stories from many places. Because real people are or were involved I obviously cannot.
Nutty Helpers, believing in what is equivalent to the medical science of the Middle Ages (humours, leeches etc) have been quite a problem in various parts of this country and abroad to my knowledge.
Most traditional religions/spiritualities: Buddhism, Yoga and Sufism, for example, have been up to speed with the medicine and science of their time.
The Dalai Lama once convened a group of scientists working in mental health on the matter. I believe a book came out of it.
As I say, I admire your honesty and courage. I would be even happier if you were a medical doctor or medical scientist working in this field because I would really value a comment from someone at the cutting edge of research here.
I have not read any of the other reviews because I know a few of the people and have a rough idea of what they might say so thought it best commenting raw.
When I consider the work done by someone like Jon Kabat-Zinn (a practitioner of Zen and medical scientist) in terms of stress reduction, mental health etc and I think of the basic scientific and medical ignorance of some of the Subud Old Timers still around detailing what happened in Cilandak 40+ years ago or Javanese jamus etc. I know there is something radically wrong.
I believe one of the great cure alls for all ailments amongst Subud members up here is colonic irrigation.
I rest my case.
All I can say in terms of Subud in regard to mental health is what the Duke of Wellington is reported to have said of his troops:
"I don't know about the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me!"
From Hassanah Briedis, November 29, 2007. Time 7:6
Thank you for your response Edward. I appreciate feedback on the article and the issues involved. In fact the other responses are very interesting to read, and I recommend them. Some people have found the information about dissociation very validating of their experience.
Good to hear from you, and best regards, Hassanah
From Edward Fido, November 30, 2007. Time 1:25
Actually, having read the comments, Hassanah, many, but not all by the usual suspects, I am even more impressed by your bravery in going through your ordeal as you felt led and the fact that this bravery actually paid off.
Comments by some that helpers who don't know what's going on when someone is going through dissociation or other psychological problems, rather than a purely spiritual crisis, should be sacked seem to be pretty wide of the mark, because it would probably mean most helpers being given an immediate dismissal notice.
One thing most of us who joined in the Dark Ages didn't realise was that the sheer intensity of the latihan could precipitate anything. It was a basically uncharted sea.
Most traditional spiritual paths - Sufism for example - or religions - Buddhism for one - do have a "healing" element in them but it is not emphasised at the expense of the whole.
My gut feeling is that, if something goes wrong with one's mental health, or if one realises at some stage one carries a deep emotional scar which is poisoning one, that is a sign that the Almighty is opening a way to help, or, possibly a total cure and personal reintegration after a seeming breakdown, crisis, whatever.
But it is not easy and I think it would be difficult to replicate the sensibility and support of the Melbourne Helpers and Group at the time you went through your ordeal.
I am always glad to hear something good happening to people after ordeals.
With my best wishes and regards,
From Philip Quackenbush, November 30, 2007. Time 18:44
I (re-?)read your article and the comments given so far last night, and felt I had to mention a few points that I've come across both in and out of Subud that may have relevance.
First of all, in my experience, it's difficult to take an objective viewpoint of the "latihan" unless one gets "outside" the "system", so I tend to take with a bucket of salt any comments that come from someone who hasn't spent considerable time NOT doing the "latihan" and looking at it from a non-dissociated state, which, IMO, the "latihan" definitely is, despite all protestations to the contrary. It wasn't until I had spent three or four years away from the "latihan" that I was able to realize some of the nonsense that was part and parcel of the mystique surrounding the phenomena.
In terms of physiology, I now regard the "latihan" as being very likely a function of the autonomic nervous system being allowed to balance the distortions that come from "commands" handed down to it from the neocortex through the midbrain, which is where the "surrender" aspect comes in: letting go of the ideas and obsessions that develop as data flood the organism and are processed by the brain(s) (according to the recent book written after the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know, there are 4 billion bits of incoming information per second to the brain, out of which we only become conscious, at best, of about 2 thousand). This is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness, the strength lying in the mental, physical, and emotional balance that potentially can be achieved through its practice, the weakness lying in the fact that it is an alpha or even delta state (measured as alpha in an early EEG study that I heard about from several sources, but don't have the original documentation for, since I heard about it originally several decades ago and was a "true believer" at the time, having little interest in anything that wasn't seen as the Party Line), which alone puts it in the realm of self-hypnosis, something confirmed by a member I met once in Portland who was studying to be a hypnotherapist, who called bung Subuh the greatest hypnotist she'd ever seen. Given that weakness, great care must be exercised in its practice to avoid any suggestions that may be given about it to members or others while in such a suggestible state, as perhaps most egregiously seen in the "explanations" that have been taped and published, which are usually listened to or read in such a state, many questions given in "testing" stated in such a way as to contain the suggested answer to be "received." At the last Menucha "spiritual" retreat in Oregon, the dominant recognition seemed to be that such "test" questions needed to be eliminated, all "shoulds" perhaps changed to "coulds."
While these impressions of mine obviously need to be confirmed or denied by falsifiable experimentation, something apparently anathema to those who would have Subud remain a closed society of the "chosen", other studies of similar (or the same by a different name) phenomena, some of which you've cited, would seem to confirm them.
So, while I have changed my opinion of the Subud "latihan" sufficiently to volunteer to work as a local "helper" again, if I do so (the decision has been passed on to the regional "helpers" to resolve the local indecision), it will be with these realizations kept in mind. Since bung Subuh often stated that his "mission" was to allow all who asked for it to experience the "latihan," all "helpers" would do well to put that as their top priority and never seek to deny the "latihan" to those who ask for it over offering it freely it to all who ask (and qualify as not mentally disabled) while giving due regard to the findings of science that relate to the phenomenon that can effect both a member's ability to experience it and what they experience both "in" the "latihan" and "out" of it (at least for those who don't live in a constant alpha state). Barring that shift in attitude, it's likely that the organization will eventually fade away, like MacArthur's "old soldiers", though the "latihan", by whatever name it assumes, since everyone "receives" it during sleep or homeostasis could not be maintained and death would eventually result (though there seems to be some benefit in "receiving" it while awake), will march on, as it has in most animal specie, if not all of them.
From Edward Fido, December 1, 2007. Time 1:26
Dear Hassanah and Philip,
I hope you won't mind if I comment on Philip's comments, Hassanah, just from my own viewpoint, because I think that you and he, by mentioning the actual workings of the brain and modern (as against traditional Javanese) psychology have, in my humble opinion, blown up one of the sacred cows of Subud which, I suspect, both the Almighty and Pak Subuh would have approved of. My only comment is I wish this had happened aeons ago.
As someone who is currently, by free choice, officially outside the Subud Brotherhood, Philip, I have found it a wonderful time to confront some of the things that sapped the guts out of my life.
At various times in my thirty-five "odd" active years of membership, particularly up here in beautiful Brisbane, I have had the desire to leave. Rather cathartic experiences in around 2003 eventually convinced me to do so. I am delighted to be having "time out".
My own qualifications, proudest of which I am of the old BA (Melbourne), are basically all in the humanities or social sciences. So I am not a scientist. But a foundation in the Classics (Latin and Greek) under the Jesuits and some study of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit and the History and Culture of East and West and the traditional relationship between religion/spirituality/medicine and healing left me feeling that "we" in Subud had missed the boat aeons ago.
In retrospect, the only "mental problem" I had as a young man was a mild anxiety, then easily treatable with talk therapy and relaxation exercises, at university. Quite common at university in the late 60s I believe.
I joined Subud in Melbourne in 1969 and had been fairly active since including making three "pilgrimages" to the fabled Cilandak in the mid 70s.
Having spent my first 10 years in the country which gave Indonesia, or specifically Java, the bases of most of its nonanimist language and religions, I was never a Java worshipper. Lovely people but just people.
Fast forward. It was only after watching the results of the brain scan of a depressed person on TV and hearing the comments of my wife, a qualified and highly experienced nurse, that I realised that there is a physical basis to mental illness. Too much Subud and study in the Humanities, I'm afraid.
Brain and physical scans of yogis, Sufis and Buddhist meditators have continued for a number of years.
The question of whether Subud is, as you say, possibly open to hypnotic type influences, is a fair one. Many Sufis specialise in "hals" or certain states which can be precipitated. Would this somehow "invalidate" some Subud experiences?
Subud is not, or should not be, in my opinion, some sort of outdated, hierarchical, fringe cult. I fear it has, in many ways, become that.
Subud is really about its members. It needs to come out of the mystic Javanese laager into the modern world. If it has any value, it will survive. If it is just bogus spirituality led by a core of exGurdjieff loudmouthed nutters it deserves to sink.
Once again my gratitude and good wishes to you both for your intelligence, knowledge, insight and, above all, honesty.
With best wishes,
From Hassanah Briedis, December 2, 2007. Time 9:14
Hi Phillip, thanks for your interesting comments. It's great to have a proposal or hypothesis put forward about the possible neurological basis of the latihan. If as you say the latihan is a process that is directed from the autonomic nervous system, then it isn't dissociation. Dissociation as a process involves networks across the brain, in the cortex and limbic system. It involves a de-coupling of the normally integrated system of memory, self-identity, consciousness and sensory perceptions, all of which are neo-cortical and/or limbic functions.
Our autonomic nervous system is not something that we can consciously control, so I find it hard to imagine that we could therefore choose to activate the brain-stem in order to go into a latihan state. The fact that we CAN choose to go into latihan would seem to confirm that it is a process linked into the higher functions of the brain.
All that being said, I am delighted to entertain other options and processes, as we investigate this phenomenon.
I agree with your comment about the suggestible state that people seem to be in when in a 'latihan' state, and the great caution that should be practised by people in positions of power. Of course we don't always see that, because people in those positions believe very strongly in the rightness of their own approach. I also found your report about 'Bapak being a great hypnotist' very interesting. It's quite scary really, to think of us all sitting there in a totally susceptible state, as if drugged out of our minds with suspension of all rational thought!!
Best for now, Hassanah
From Philip Quackenbush, December 2, 2007. Time 18:46
Reading your reply to my post, I was wondering about a couple of things. First, if the "latihan" is not, per se, what it clinically described as dissociation, but still involves spontaneous movement (of the the body [cerebellar], the emotions [limbic], and thoughts [cortical], then it would be a worthwhile study to examine what does happen to produce the feelings of spontaneity ("surrender" being the ego's intent [and has the "ego" been found in brain functions yet?] that seems to precipitate that "spontaneity").
I suspect, having done some taiji and qigong as well as the "latihan" and having found them to be, affectively, virtually the same in the "free" "form" of the Chinese-type practices except for the suggested venue in Subud of restricting its practice to indoors with the sexes separated and the possible Chinese restriction of sticking to the forms one has learned in the "receiving" state (even in the case of the "latihan", suspecting that a person only "receives" in relation to past experiences), that similar or the same patterns of brain function will be found in both practices once a few appropriate Subud volunteers can be found to undergo examination.
In that regard, I would volunteer to be examined, having reached a point in my "latihan" where I'm in a quiet state (no movement), where I could be stuck in a scanning tunnel, as well as a movement phase, if a nearby facility could be found for it (possibly the U of WA medical center, where they have been doing accupuncture studies to test the validity for inclusion in standard medical protocol (something already a standard in China, apparently). However, in terms of someone who has done both "latihan" and "free" taiji and qigong practices, it might be well to test, or at least interview, others who have "received" the "latihan" after practicing taiji and/or qigong (taiji being one of many forms of qigong, at base), as well as before, as is the case with me.
Considering bung Subuh's admonition to not do "latihan" in the presence of those who haven't been "opened", it might be a good idea to inform the technicians involved that they may be inducted in the "field" generated by the "latihan" practitioner(s), in case they have reservations about it. This seems to me to be a question of sensitivity, actually, and adults are not as sensitive to such things as children, apparently (because of thinner skulls, perhaps? Acoustic neuromas in cell-phone users have been found to be more likely in children exposed to the microwave radiation, though cancer usually requires about ten years to develop, so the effects are not seen until they're adults, usually, by which time the "guinea pigs" have doubled or tripled, as they have every ten years since the introduction of cell phones).
> Our autonomic nervous system is not something that we can consciously control, so I find it hard to imagine that we could therefore choose to activate the brain-stem in order to go into a latihan state. The fact that we CAN choose to go into latihan would seem to confirm that it is a process linked into the higher functions of the brain.
Isn't the brain stem "active" all the time? Otherwise the muscles would not remain in tonus (or continue to contract and relax in the case of the heart, etc.), would they? I'm suggesting that the frontal lobe decision to "go into latihan" simply involves the "surrender" of its dominance in directing movements that the brain stem usually carries out according to the person's intent that is formed in the frontal lobe(s) (once the pattern of that "surrender" is well-established as a [series?] of neural pathways, it becomes possible to "go into latihan" virtually instantly. For me now, it's like turning on an "inner" light switch in a circuit that has several sites, like a multiple throw switch at both ends of a room) . This would allow the muscles and other organs directed by the autonomic nervous system to function more freely, according to the signals received from the organs themselves, without the interference of the habitual thought patterns and emotions connected with them, IMO, that can result in somatic and psychosomatic disorders.
While the frontal lobe's power of decision-making was, no doubt, an evolutionary advantage to primitive humans, its expansion into the realms of philosophy, "religion" and science, when such concerns dominate the modern human's thought processes and emotions, can put a burden of stressors on the body that easily lead to disease through the overstimulation of cortisol release, for example.
IMO, then, the "latihan" offers a way to release or at least mitigate those stress patterns. Whether it is actually a form of "worship of God" I leave to those who may choose to believe in such things, but IMO, the culturally-originated "doctrines that aren't doctrines" must be eliminated from the practice as presented to enquirers or its wider dissemination to "all of humankind" through the Subud organization will become impossible, since there are at least as many people in the world that don't believe in "God" as do, if not more. The simplest exposition of the alternate point of view I've seen was that of the physicist Stephen Hawking, who remarked that, while we haven't been able to prove that "God" does or doesn't exist, we have been able to prove that He's not necessary.
From Raymond Foster, December 3, 2007. Time 10:17
Hello Hassanah, Edward, Philip et al
The psychological approach is always interesting, but somewhat baffling to a non-intellectual person like myself. We all know only too well that the brain (along with thoughts, beliefs and all psychiatric developments) is fated to die when the body dies. Similarly the contents of the soul must die, each death in its way a 'purification'. But the value of the latihan surely is that it allows the contents of the soul to die in a continual process without incurring the death of the physical body. In this the latihan is unique and quite unlike any of the religions. This too of course is why susila budhi dharma is sometimes called 'the way of death'.
And Philip, while I think of it: of course Bapak said some daft things, don't we all; but after being on the receiving end of his awesome power of love, we are all very willing to make due allowances.
From Hassanah Briedis, December 3, 2007. Time 11:32
Hi Philip, it's great to have you engaging in this discussion - thanks! You are approaching it in the context I've been trying to communicate - as a neurological issue, not a spiritual one.
Taking your post step by step : the neo-cortex is responsible for thinking processes, yes. Limbic system involves emotions, yes, but so does the cortex. The brain stem (including cerebellum)involves autonomic function (ie, completely automatic), not conscious body movements. So your three part division of the brain is not quite correct. But your question about what might produce the feeling of spontaneity is a really inspired question. It's something I didn't address in my article. I'd like to come back to that later, or in another post if this one is too long.
Next para: it has also been my experience that other spiritual systems seem to have exercises that are almost identical to the latihan. This belief that we have something unique, is I think a myth. For that reason I wouldn't be worried about doing latihan in a research setting. I don't any longer believe that it is going to 'open' the technician if the person has no interest in it. I might be wrong of course, but I say that based on years of experience out in the real world, sharing 'latihan-like' states. It would be great to undertake some genuine research, if and when some of you could set it up in collaboration with some qualified researchers.
About the brain stem again, in your later paragraph, I don't think the process you describe is possible, for the reasons explained above. However, I'm very interested in what the process might be that we call 'surrender'. As it includes the overriding of thinking and feeling, I thought it would probably have to be some form of dissociation. But I agree that the pathway to effect this would become very well worn, and can be turned on very easily.
Enjoy this discussion, happy to continue, but I have to go now. Best, Hassanah
From Philip Quackenbush, December 3, 2007. Time 23:43
A brief reply to your last post: If the brain stem isn't at least partially controllable by the neocortex, then what is the mechanism for effective biofeedback, which can slow heart rate (or stop it as in the case of some yogis), reduce blood pressure, etc.?
Perhaps the mechanism of "surrender", etc., isn't fully understood yet; after all, the brain IS the most complex structure in the known universe. However, you may have heard of the machine manufactured in California that destroys tumors cell by cell without surgery, using a combination of imaging and radiation, even on moving objects, like breathing lungs. I see the possibility that individual cells and cell groupings in the brain can be examined and even stimulated in much the same manner (but the machine in question costs about 4 million US dollars, so is probably beyond the reach of most hospitals and research facilities!). If that guy in Wisconsin (is it?) can sell helmets that give people "spiritual" experiences, maybe Subud can "sell" the "latihan" (I understand that a place in New Zealand does for 250 NZ dolllars, available online, if I remember correctly).
From Hassanah Briedis, December 4, 2007. Time 7:21
Hi Philip, re-reading your comments I focussed on the following sentence : "This would allow the muscles and other organs directed by the autonomic nervous system to function more freely, according to the signals received from the organs themselves, without the interference of the habitual thought patterns and emotions connected with them . . ."
I see your point, and it sounds compelling. It's an aspect of the experience that I haven't given any thought to, so I have to get my brain around the possibilities. I'm still not convinced that this is actually the physiological process, because the physical movements of the body are not controlled from the autonomic nervous system, only the automatic functions that we cannot control, such as a muscles spasm, a nervous twitch, the leg 'going to sleep' and other automatic things. I don't know, but I suspect, that the movements in the latihan, even though they FEEL automatic, are still being directed by the cortex.
Everything else I've researched so far about the link between spiritual experience and brain function suggests that experiences that we think of as 'spiritual', because they are 'numinous', other-worldly, paranormal, etc., are generated by the neo-cortex after being prepped by the limbic system.
However, I am most interested in your way of thinking, but we need to back it up with neurological facts. Can you tell me more about biofeedback? Is it biofeedback that gave you this idea about the latihan?
I'll look further into the brainstem idea. Cheers for now, Hassanah
From Philip Quackenbush, December 4, 2007. Time 8:39
I'm not sure if it was biofeedback per se that gave me the idea of the "line of command", but biofeedback may have something to do with it. Biofeedback is generally accomplished from intentionally directing your body to produce functions that are usually unconscious or automatic, such as blood pressure, heart rate, etc., to change according to readouts on equipment. I've never tried it, but I imagine it has something to do with how one feels during the procedure. Doctors will tell you that there's no symptoms to high blood pressure, but I know how I feel when it's high and when it's low. While I'm not sure of the neurological mechanism involved (nor are the biofeedback proponents, either, to my knowledge, but it suggests that other "willed" functions can be changed as well, such as brain waves going from beta to alpha to delta and even theta or hyper-beta (above, say, 20 cps, that might provide hyperalertness, like a heavy jolt from caffeine, maybe?). This evening in "latihan" it occurred to me that my theory could be "tested", but I immediately rejected that idea, because so much "receiving" has proven to be wrong through later experience and fact checking and, if the equipment is available to find the neural pathways that are involved, the results could be much more accurate. After all, we all know what a disaster dowsing for dollars in SUB"enterprises" has been.
However, after that, while still "in" "latihan", it occurred to me that it was important to remember that what became Subud started out as a sort of martial arts club, but everything in Indonesia seems to have a "spiritual" dimension tacked onto it. So, IMO, what may have happened when the club was winning all the matches against others was that their "latihan", containing spontaneous moves in the "training," had been already "put in the grooves", so to speak, and merely had to be called up during the matches, as some members have recounted experiencing spontaneous reactions during situations that corresponded to moves "learned" in "latihan" that may have been useful in their work or saved their lives. IMO, time is a mental construct (physicists, for example, have identified particles that can only be explained as traveling "backwards" in time), and such "training" can occur outside the mental limitations of the conscious mind (perhaps in the subconscious or the fabled collective unconscious [I hesitate to say superconscious, since IMO that's a mere mental construct, as well]), therefore allowing the Speedy Gonzales's of the world to arrive before they've left, or a SUBmember to react to something before it happens.
Part of the problem in establishing neural pathways for various functions could be that they may be hormonally controlled or have something to do with accupuncture meridians or even electron tunneling over a network of widely-spaced synapses, which would be instantaneous (or light speed, which is virtually the same thing within the body), instead. Even what is known so far about the brain is extremely complex. I remember a highly-complex chart (that was simplified from the actual pathways) of visual functions in a book by Francis Crick. There could be billions of feedback loops involved. Sigh...
Enough speculation for now,
From Mike Higgins, December 13, 2007. Time 21:44
Philip, I think you may correct that the Latihan involves a simple biofeedback mechanism. Most people are not consciously aware of how habitually tense they are, how rigid their psychic defenses are. Relaxing those defenses just a little can have profound effects. And like anything else, the more one practices meditation/biofeedback, the more proficient one becomes at it.
From Philip Quackenbush, December 14, 2007. Time 21:7
There was a recent Scientific American article that basically claimed, from recent research, that's it's possible to become an expert in anything by doing it assiduously, preferably with support from your friends ("I get a little help from my friends") for 10 years. But what expertise is it to simply "surrender" in "latihan" for 10, 20, 30, or even 40 or 50 years with no purpose in mind in doing so? IMO, we have to get past the attitude fostered by "explanations" of the founder of the organization that the "latihan" can't be used, that we're being used by "God" instead. What is the "following" of certain changes in attitude "gained" in the "latihan" or ideas or "visions" that may pop into our heads other than using it? What is "testing" other than using it (though IMO, "testing" is more often than not a crap shoot, after witnessing it as a "helper" for 20 years, not to mention 24 more as an "ordinary" member, a distinction, IMO, that needs to stop existing).
From Hassanah Briedis, December 15, 2007. Time 7:59
Hi Philip and Mike,
I’ve had a look at biofeedback on the net, thanks for directing me to the subject, as I’ve heard about it from patients at the hospital but had never looked into it. It makes sense at a basic level, that being more aware of one’s stress markers and then applying appropriate relaxation techniques would help reduce the stress responses.
Mike, you say the latihan probably involves some kind of biofeedback mechanism, but I would suggest that this is too vague a statement, since biofeedback is a technique using mechanical equipment. So perhaps we need some more specific terminology!
My question to you Philip would be – in what way do you think that the biofeedback procedure helps to explain the latihan? It seems to me that what biofeedback practitioners do with their clients is to measure certain autonomic responses and then make them aware of what is happening, so that the client can learn to relax and thereby alter that stress pattern. The common thread there, in respect to the latihan, is that we do intentionally relax and ‘let go’, to begin. And then during the latihan, quite often we will notice that we’ve tensed up, and will consciously relax back into a ‘good’ latihan state again. That could be said to be similar to biofeedback techniques, but it does not address the neurobiological state of actually being in latihan. I find it hard to see how the actual latihan state can be described as a ‘biofeedback loop’. But still open to further suggestions!
I believe that it’s a red herring to concentrate on the brain stem for explanations of the latihan – it just doesn’t make sense. All neurotheology research into spiritual phenomena has found such phenomena being registered in the cortex, particularly the temporal lobes. I think a connection between spiritual phenomena and dissociation is far more likely to provide answers, but – it’s early days, and I’m always interested in other ideas.
From Mike Higgins, December 15, 2007. Time 8:52
"Mike, you say the latihan probably involves some kind of biofeedback mechanism, but I would suggest that this is too vague a statement, since biofeedback is a technique using mechanical equipment."
Biofeedback training doesn't require mechanical equipment, although most people may need it to produce specific results, e.g., lower their blood pressure significantly. I knew someone who worked at the Menninger Foundation at the time they conducted biofeedback studies with Swami Rama (an Indian yogi). Under controlled laboratory conditions, he demonstrated the ability to stop his heart (actually speed it up to the point where it defibrillated and could no longer pump blood), change his brainwaves at will, produce a temperature difference of a few degrees between two points a few millimeters apart on his hand, and control other "unconscious" autonomic functions that scientists had believed could not be consciously controlled. I believe he said it was done via breath control (pranayama) and mental visualization. So autonomic nervous system functions can be controlled or at least influenced by higher brain functions, and I can imagine this occurring in the latihan (even if only in a rudimentary form). But science cannot explain consciousness, only measure it's effects.
From Hassanah Briedis, December 15, 2007. Time 9:23
Yes, I know of the swami experiments, which clearly are controlled through yogi techniques. But what evidence do you have that the latihan uses such techniques, in any form?
I've always understood the latihan to be quite the opposite—a 'sliding' as it were, into a different state of consciousness, rather than a willed control of the body's state. That is why my model of dissociation fits the facts as we know them about the latihan and how we 'go into it'.
I wonder if you would like to address the issue of dissociation, as this is the central point of my article? I understand that Philip has focussed on biofeedback, but as I've said above, this doesn't answer the issue of the latihan state. Any further thoughts?
From Philip Quackenbush, December 15, 2007. Time 19:46
> My question to you Philip would be – in what way do you think that the biofeedback procedure helps to explain the latihan? It seems to me that what biofeedback practitioners do with their clients is to measure certain autonomic responses and then make them aware of what is happening, so that the client can learn to relax and thereby alter that stress pattern. The common thread there, in respect to the latihan, is that we do intentionally relax and ‘let go’, to begin. And then during the latihan, quite often we will notice that we’ve tensed up, and will consciously relax back into a ‘good’ latihan state again. That could be said to be similar to biofeedback techniques, but it does not address the neurobiological state of actually being in latihan. I find it hard to see how the actual latihan state can be described as a ‘biofeedback loop’.
I'm not sure the mechanism of the "latihan" will ever be known until it's put under the 'scope. Crick's book made me aware of the huge number of feedback loops within the brain, and other books that they exist between various parts of the brain, as well, making it possible to come up with a visual image or identify the location, timbre, pitch, and rhythmic patterns of sounds from cobbling together various neural groupings in highly disparate parts of the brain, for example. While so-called "spiritual" experiences may be associated with the shut-down of temporal lobe function(s) (a sense of "self", etc.), experiments in music have shown the involvement of almost the entire brain in processing the data and motor skills involved in the performer or listener. I suspect that much more than the temporal lobe is involved in moving meditations such as the "latihan", as well. And I don't see how the brain stem can be not involved, since the cerebellum is traditionally connected with movement and contains 80% of the neurons, particularly since most "latihan" movements seem to be repetitive, which would use the timing function of the cerebellum. I also suspect that, even in non-moving "latihans" there would be cerebellar involvement with lesser intensity, or firing of neurons. But only a fMRI would probably be able to pinpoint the locations of the specific neurons or neuron bundles involved, and their crosstalk. As far as dissociation is concerned, it would probably be a question of which functions were shut down more than which ones were firing, but you're the scientist, I'm just an interested observer.
One practitioner of the "latihan" who recently died conclude the "latihan" was a form of Benson's "Relaxation Response," which I would agree with, except that most forms that I'm familiar with don't involve spontaneous movement, though Benson doesn't preclude that. For the millions, perhaps billions, of people who can't get with the idea that "God" exists or has anything to do with such phenomena (including me; I was an agnostic when I joined the cult, but I'm a practicing atheist now, having "proved" to my satisfaction that the spontaneous movements in the "latihan" are simply the ideomotor effect, or chemical movements in the body writ large), Benson's approach doesn't require any beliefs to work.
> I know of the swami experiments, which clearly are controlled through yogi techniques. But what evidence do you have that the latihan uses such techniques, in any form?
I've always understood the latihan to be quite the opposite — a 'sliding' as it were, into a different state of consciousness, rather than a willed control of the body's state. That is why my model of dissociation fits the facts as we know them about the latihan and how we 'go into it'.
Buddhist walking meditation is similar to the "latihan" in that being mindful of each step one takes takes the mind off the usual chattering of the ego. This happens also in the "latihan", but the movements are spontaneous and can draw the attention to them and away from the chattering, which is the same with the Buddhist version when the body is just allowed to walk with no intention behind it.
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