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Leonard Priestley - Belief and Unbelief
belief language and Subud. From sjahari, July 16, 2008. Time 5:53
I have been reading with interest your article on Belief and Unbelief.
Although the first section of the article is problematic for me, From about the sixth paragraph on I am in complete agreement with you, and I find your discussion very interesting.
And my reading of Bapak’s talks indicates to me that he too is in complete agreement as well to those ideas.
The latihan can give a person an experience of the mystery and unknowable beneficience that we cannot define. Traditionally when they have had experiences of this nature human beings in western society have used the term “God” as a means of communicating this experience and using language to express something about it.
The term “God” when used in this way and for this purpose is totally different from the kinds of specific meanings that have been used in the various Abrahamic religions, and which you discuss in the first few paragraphs. There you have referred for example to the notion of an angry vengeful God; heaven and hell and favouritism and punishments, And so on.
When used in Subud and in reference to the latihan the term God is not being used in this way. Nor did Bapak use the term in this way. I am sure you are aware of the multiple instances in which Bapak specifically explains how mistaken such notions are. He did this over and over and over in his talks and in the testing he carried out.
Where I am in disagreement with you is in your first three or four paragraphs where you make unsupported assertions about “widespread beliefs” in Subud. You provide no evidence for these assertions at all, and therefore it is simply your own experience and opinion from which you base these claims.. It would seem to be that this is what you have run across in your own group. This is not my experience in subud and I question these assertions.
The beliefs you attribute to the members you classify as the “believers” in Subud are not in my opinon widespread, if in fact they exist at all. My friends and fellow subud members around here certainly do not have them, nor do I. And in fact if a subud member were to hold to such a belief system I would really have to question whether or not he/she had any kind of understanding about what the latihan actually is. And I would wonder if they had experienced it, or read any of Bapak’s talks. I would seriously doubt that they had.
Unfortunately what this does is to begin the article on a negative note, which in a way sets a lower tone for an article that in most other ways could be very very helpful.
An article like this would be good for helpers to read so as to be able to better communicate to people what we are actually getting at in Subud. However, I think it would be better to assume that most people in subud do accept and do approach Subud in this kind of a way.
I am also interested in another issue which is related to belief, but is not the same at all. That is the issue of Faith. Your article does not discuss faith, and faith is a totally different thing.
I also think that it is very interesting to look at another question: what is the attitude to bring to the latihan? What is the point of view to bring to it so as to fully experience it?.
The “God” language in Bapak’s opening statement is trying to get at this in my view. I think you are mistaken in thinking that it is about getting people to believe in certain things or religious ideas. No. Its not about what is in their minds at all. It is about what experiential state of body, mind and soul, to be in when we stand, close our eyes and prepare to receive the latihan.
The ”God” language that Bapak uses, combined with the understanding of the fact that such “God” language refers to something indefinable but also beneficient and supportive, can help people to reach the initial inner state of submission and acceptance which is essential in order that the latihan can be experienced and felt and received fully.
I will leave it there. Interested in your response.
From Leonard Priestley, August 2, 2008. Time 21:48
Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you generally liked the article.
Actually, the only "widespread beliefs" referred to in the article are the belief "that it is not necessary to believe anything to be in Subud", and the belief "that belief is a Good Thing". The belief in a vengeful God is one that I introduce not as a belief widespread in Subud, but as the kind of belief that can turn people against theism of any kind. I think it's likely that some Subud members accept the doctrine of eternal damnation, but I think many do not. Since at present there's no way of knowing how many members hold any of the various kinds of belief and disbelief that I discuss, I thought it best in each case simply to say "some". But I did go so far as to suggest that members' conception of God is "often" quite vague. And as I hope is clear by the end of the article, I think there's wisdom in not having any very definite conception of God.
Like you, I distinguish between belief and faith. I recognize that people can mean many different things when they talk about faith, and my own use of the term may be idiosyncratic. I'm inclined to use it for something very deep within me which comes into my consciousness through the latihan (and maybe not only in that way), and in which I find complete affirmation of every part of my life, and a quiet confidence, as unshakeable as bedrock, in the face of death. A very difficult and important subject; maybe some day....
I should think you're right about the intention of the God talk in the opening statement. But it does assume a basically theistic view: "You know that the One Almighty God is the Creator of the whole universe...." I can imagine a non-theist having some trouble with it. And the declaration that the applicant is to make before the opening statement is read is explicitly about belief: "I believe in the One Almighty God and I wish to worship only God." One can hardly avoid getting the impression that belief is important in Subud. Bapak was quite clear that the wording of these statements can be modified, and that the declaration can even be omitted entirely, and that is certainly evidence of the flexibility and tolerance at the heart of Subud. But the fact remains that these theistic statements are the norm, and anything else will naturally be perceived as an exceptional accommodation to the requirements (or limitations) of a particular person.
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