Subud Vision - Feedback

Marcus Bolt - Process Not Prozac

Inadequately trained helpers. From Sahlan Diver, September 26, 2007. Time 20:58

You use the phrase in your article "inadequately trained helpers". I wonder what you would consider would be the main differences between such and an "adequately trained" helper. Is the problem with helpers mainly training? If so, who should devise and give the improved training and what form would it take?

From marcus Bolt, September 28, 2007. Time 15:46

Good question, Sahlan, and one I can only answer with an example. At a recent group meeting, my daughter broke down in tears of sadness and frustration, because she felt no one was doing anything about, or addressing the fact that 'two of most important males in my life can't do latihan at this group'. She was referring to the fact that I cannot go to my old group because of the way I was thrown out as caretaker and that her partner recently tested that it was the right time to become a candidate helper, but at a later meeting, masterminded by someone with an axe to grind, a retest overturned the result. Consequently, my daughter's partner stormed out.

So, there's a stand-off (mine's been going on for two years, the other for two weeks) and the group helpers just don't know what to do, preferring to bury their heads in the sand. They are basically terrified of confrontation.

Now these kinds of negative outcomes to basic human relationship problems are not because the helpers are bad people per se (although there is often a touch of 'I am the older member and Bapak appointed helper, ergo I must be right' which certainly inflames some situations) but, because in the areas of conflict resolution and mediation, most helpers are often unaware of and untrained in even the most basic techniques such as listening, supporting, empathising etc - and have poor social and relationship skills to boot. And I'm afraid the current Subud techniques of merely testing attitudes and 'how should I be' just do not work in virtually every case. They may appear to on the surface (achieving that tranquil harmonious, lobotomised state), but are forced deeper deeper, until airing the problem just makes one look like a rebellious nutter. That's when people leave out of sheer frustration, because no one's listening.

However, having addressed this, it does occur to me that as there are quite a few psychotherapists and councellors within the organisation, it would not be too difficult to formulate an intro-level programme (both theoretical and experiential) that would help the helpers to become a little more congruent, a little more empathetic, a little more capable in carrying out their duties. Could be a six month course to be undertaken during the candidacy period, say.

But I'd start with changing their name. Bapak originally referred to them as 'assistants', rather than helpers. 'Bapak's little helpers' conjures up weirdly gnomic images beavering away in grottoes.

From Sahlan Diver, September 28, 2007. Time 16:36

So it seems you would be in agreement with two points made in my own articles.

1) That helpers need training in people skills, though you are much more specific on the details than I was (psychology is not my area)

2) That just testing attitudes cannot always be helpful, as I point out in my "50/50 rule" article -- Why should we assume both sides are to blame? If one side insists on continuing to behave wrongly out of prejudice or for whatever reason, what use will be the other side trying to improve their attitude, assuming there was anything wrong with their attitude in the first place?

Since I wrote my article I have become enthusiastic about a further reform to the helper system, proposed in Deanna Kemler's article -- that the helpers are chosen by vote of the group as a whole, not just by the group helpers. Testing the person's suitability would still play a part, as it is a kejiwaan role, but the testing would be done and witnessed by anyone in the group who wished to take part. This simple change would empower the helpers, through the group having a due input into the process, and it would also help towards eliminating those occasional incidents of apparent helper cliquishness that can do so much damage.

From Bronte, September 29, 2007. Time 1:39

Has it ever occurred to any of the "Bapak appointed helpers", which I was too, that helpers are not meant to sort out people's lives or difficulties?

We, or should I say "They", have the role of ensuring that people can "do the latihan". Can anyone disagree with that?

Everything else can be dealt with by other people, with worldly skills in counselling, organising, caring and so on.

Perhaps those who block members from participating in latihan should, for the time being at least, "get out of the kitchen".

I was made to, because they don't approve of me, and because I had the audacity to suggest that one helper had caused many, if not most, people in Subud here to leave Subud.

And so it goes. Or rather, and so back, and back it goes.

until all Subud disappears....

From Sahlan Diver, September 29, 2007. Time 10:27

Agreed. If helpers only had to ensure we could do the latihan, there wouldn't be much opportunity for trouble. Most of us get on with the latihan fine once we've started to receive. But helpers do testing for members, on personal matters, for choosing new helpers, and so on, and this is where many have shown themselves to be severely lacking in the requisite mix of skills. This is a problem area that Subud needs to pay attention to and improve for everyone's benefit.

From Quackenbush, September 29, 2007. Time 19:33

Whoa! This forum, unlike SUBtalk, which I have participated in for several years, has a broader range of opinions and experiences. There seems to be a greater degree of harmony within the group I belong to, but that could be surface appearance only, since I stopped being a "helper" five or six years ago, but I can't help but recall one incident in which I was talking to a fairly new "helper" recently who let me know in no uncertain terms that "God" would punish me for what I had just said about Bung Subuh (or BS, as I prefer to refer to him, considering the huge amount of falsifiable BS that escaped his lips during his "explanations"). I'm not sure how long he might hold a grudge, but I seem to have had a "normal" encounter with him more recently. This sort of attitude, however, could certainly be offputting to any new applicant or member that encountered it, and could just as certainly lead to a more entrenched clique of "Godders" (as a recently-deceased member of long experience in Indonesia where he observed far more egregious examples often referred to such members) that might be more likely to try to exclude members from "latihan" on even lesser grounds. Instituting Deanna's suggestion might be a solution, or at least a beginning of one, but I'm not sure how long that might take on a global basis, given the current state of affairs at the "top." In any case, SUBhelpers need to have some people skills to deal with the more radical examples of behavior encountered in a group. When one person trashed the entire bottom floor of the SUBhouse here in a psychopathic fit of some sort, the proper authorities were called to take him away for observation, at least in that case. I'm not sure if the cost of repairs was ever recovered, having left the group for a couple of years shortly after that event.

Peace, Philip

From Sahlan Diver, September 29, 2007. Time 20:2


You say, regarding a proposal for helper reform "...but I'm not sure how long that might take on a global basis, given the current state of affairs at the top...".

In my "Blueprint for Change" article I cast doubt on the effectiveness of initiating reform "from the top". This has nothing to do with whether the current people at the top are good people or not, but has everything to do with the difficulty of obtaining consensus on major reforms from a body of people who meet infrequently and who also come from many different cultures and societies.

Much better if reforms are introduced at the bottom level and then spread upwards. It is relatively easy, for example, for a local Subud group to change its helper system, and a further advantage is that it can do this on an experimental basis - if the new system works, then others can see that it works and think about adopting it themselves; if it doesn't work then there has been no widespread cost, in terms of effort, in implementing it and they can revert to the old way, or, better, experiment further with the idea, learning from each experiment as they go along.

From Philip Quackenbush, September 29, 2007. Time 22:6



I wasn't suggesting that reforms be initiated from the top, but given the long-held attitude by members of looking to the "top" for "rules" instead of using their "thinking minds" when appropriate to approach a subject for resolution, I was wondering how much a damping or nullification effect testing might have on reform, even in the local groups. It's certainly produced that effect in local group discussions here to the point that I've no longer attended many of them, because they often are the same old chant that us oldtimers have heard for Lo! unto 40 or 50 years now. When the master disc is destroyed, it's not possible to make a clear copy from the overplayed wax reproduction. Time for a new, quality performance to be recorded in its stead. Goodbye, Jascha. Hello, Itzak.

Peace, Philip

From Sahlan Diver, September 30, 2007. Time 10:50


Thank you for the clarification.

Interesting your use of the phrase "opinionated testing". Recently there was a special group test evening on the subject of "Peace", apparently inspired by some questions that came from World Congress. A worthy subject, but unfortunately it was clear in advance that the questions were predicated on some highly questionable and naive assumptions about the nature of peace and conflict. Myself and one other had serious doubts about the value of the questions, but the testing went ahead anyway. A total waste of two hours.

In these situations, the prevailing culture is that it doesn't matter if the questions are flawed -- the receiving will sort it all out anyway. There is a reluctance to discuss in advance because of ingrained fear of interference from the mind. The fallacy of this way of thinking, which is never addressed, is of course that the original questions came from someone's mind anyway!

The result is that people rush into tests without properly considering the implications of what they are testing, and therefore it is not surprising in such circumstances that prejudice will influence the questions and thereby the result. There has been no advance discussion that might have served to confront people with any mistaken assumptions. One can receive a latihan movement for almost anything, so a feeling or a movement in response to a nonsensical or flawed question should not be taken to be an insightful receiving.

The other interesting phrase you use is "same old chant (and cant) that us oldtimers have heard for Lo! unto 40 or 50 years now". There has been some discussion on this web site recently about the value of getting input from the younger members. The older members have one advantage over the younger ones, which is precisely what you say -- we have seen the same old thing going round in circles for years -- time to break the habit and do something new.


From David Week, September 30, 2007. Time 13:20

Hi Philip, Sahlan

It seems to me self-evident that human knowledge enters into testing. If we test "How is it if Sahlan moves to Afghanistan," and think that Afghanistan is a town in New York state, we are likely to get unreliable answers. Many helpers now refuse to test questions until they are "fully researched".

The big question, for me, is whether testing is seen as accessing another form of human knowledge--the answers come from the testers by natural means, and are as limited as any other human knowledge--or are considered to be divine answers via supernatural means: divination.

First, we know from reading Pak Subuh's talks, which he described as "received", that they are full of errors of fact and failures of prediction.

Second, we know that divination is condemned by the major religions, including Islam. For instance:

My interpretation is that as social systems, these religions contain prohibitions against damaging social practices, and that divination--like drugs and gambling--is included in this category.

Third, we have our own extensive direct experience of "testing gone wrong".

In my view, as long as testing is seen as knowledge obtained from a divine source, it will wreak havoc in Subud governance, and give rise to conflict between members.



From Sahlan Diver, September 30, 2007. Time 15:8


I suppose there are two logically distinct issues here:

1) Deciding when is it appropriate to test (as discussed in your feedback)

2) Taking sufficient care, when we do test, that the questions are meaningful, sufficiently unambiguous, and do not prejudge the result. (as discussed in my feedback)

However, although the issues are logically separate, in practise they are linked, because sufficient attention to the second issue may cause us to realise that testing for any particular matter is either not appropriate or not likely to be useful.

For the record, I myself am not against testing, I am just against "careless testing", which can be particularly dangerous when it is used to give members a summary moral authority to act on an important and far-reaching issue. The way that Luthfi O'Meagher was ousted as MD of Anugraha, against what would have been the better advice of the financial institutions, comes to mind as an example of the danger of supposed kejiwaan-based authority.

You say: "It seems to me self-evident that human knowledge enters into testing." I would say you are one of the exceptions. The recent experience I had with the peace testing, and other tests I have heard or read about being done during recent years, are enough to show me that the practise is still widespread of reaching for simplistic answers in testing without carefully considering either the appropriateness and accuracy of the questions being asked or the complexity of the situation being asked about.


From David Week, October 5, 2007. Time 15:50

Hi Sahlan

I think that there are in fact three issues. You mention (1) whether to test, (2) how to test. The third is (3) how to treat the outcome. This is where the "theory of testing" comes into play: what one imagines testing to be. How people respond will be different if they interpret the result as a divine message, a mini-revelation, than if they interpret it as a human experience, as finite and fallible as any other.



From Sahlan Diver, October 5, 2007. Time 16:33


My guess is that the majority of members who favour testing probably see it as a kind of guidance from a divine or "higher" level, but a guidance which is filtered through our individual ability to receive it, and which can therefore vary from quite accurate down to distorted by the person's state or imagination and therefore misleading or wrong. That is, after all, one reason why it is advised to test with a number of people, as a check.

Of course a group of people testing can have dangers of its own, where peer pressure can influence people towards a certain conclusion from the testing results, particularly when people are asked to discuss their receivings afterwards. I wonder if this is less the case for personal testing, where participants retain a degree of healthy disinterest in the result for the person being tested, than for testing about new helpers, new chairs, countries for holding World Congresses and so on, where vested interests and prejudices can be high.


From David Week, October 5, 2007. Time 20:52

Hi Sahlan

This is the standard Subud "we have no teaching" theology: first, that the latihan is divine revelation, and second that we are polluted by "dirt", which prevents us from receiving this revelation. The latihan cleans out the dirt over time, allowing us--in this theology--to acquire perfect knowledge of divine will. Following from this too comes the notion that some people are cleaner than others, and are more able to receive this divine revelation: a divinely ordained spiritual hierarchy.

William James defined truth as "what is good to believe": what leads people to act in a good way. The problem I have with this belief system is that it does the opposite: the belief that God is whispering in your ear in fact opens the door to people acting very badly. Luthfi O'Meagher reported that John Pitman FCA, the licensed insolvency practitioner who served as a financial director of Anugraha, said to him: "You know the Subud people are worse than the rogues that I have to deal with. They go into these things without looking into them properly; they renege on agreements at the drop of a hat; and if you ask them why they do it, they tell you God told them to do it. A lethal cocktail of ignorance, arrogance, and religious fanaticism."

One might also ask: wherefrom comes the desire for such perfect knowledge?

So let me propose a paradox: if it's not true that the results of testing come from God, then certainly we shouldn't believe it to be so. But even if they do, we also should not believe it to be so, because such beliefs lead us into temptation.


From Mike Higgins, October 5, 2007. Time 21:48

David said: 'Many helpers now refuse to test questions until they are "fully researched".'

That's an important point, David. If you don't know what you're looking for, you won't know if you find it.

I consider testing to be a form of dowsing. It is unproductive or counterproductive to dowse for general information or specific information that one cannot verify. For example, if one is seeking concrete information such as an underground source of water or an item one has lost, one will know when one has found it, the answer is definite. However, if you dowse for answers that are best found by logical thought rather than by intuition, you are likely to receive gobbledy-gook answers that cannot be fathomed. It would be like consulting a psychic about a serious medical problem.

To receive accurate answers, one must know the subject about which one is asking. I knew of a lady who had been a medical lab technician and was a very good dowser. Consequently, she was particularly good at dowsing for medical data. Her analysis of blood samples (via dowsing) was more consistently accurate and detailed than the medical laboratory's analysis of them! Also, it probably helped that she did not know the people whose blood she was

analysing; no personal opinion of them to get in the way.

As to where the dowser's (and Subud tester's) answers come from, well, that depends, my experience says: either from the individual's subconscious or superconscious mind depending upon their state of development - with most people, from the subconscious, which is rather unreliable. A weak radio receiver will only pick up radio signals nearby, a stronger one can pick up signals from the other side of the world or even from outer space {where mine tend to come from -{ ;? )]. And just as weather conditions can impede radio reception, physical and psychological conditions can interfere with intuitive reception, i.e., accurate dowsing and receiving.

From marcus Bolt, October 5, 2007. Time 21:52

Hi David and Sahlan

That's interesting you mention 'polluted by dirt' and 'some people are cleaner than others'. This is clearly stated by Bapak, almost exactly as that, in Bapak's Talks Volume 1, talks 10–13, which I happened to read over the last few nights.

The talks were particularly poignant for me, because I have also just finished reading Roddy Doyle's masterpiece 'Paula Spencer', about a recovering alcoholic.

I felt, mainly because of, I guess, my Subud indoctrination, a deep empathy with the main character. She is locked in a constant battle... as she dries out, she needs desperately to maintain her sense of self-worth and self-confidence, finding it in simple things such as working as a cleaner and being able to keep her fridge stocked for two of her kids still living at home.

However, and here's the rub, the clearer and cleaner she gets, the more she remembers the awful things she did (for example, she remembers her 4 year old standing outside the pub on a freezing night in only his shirt because she's forgotten about him)... the more her sense of self-worth is undermined, putting pressure on to drink again. We Subuds would recognise the pressure of the lower force driven nafsu (ha ha).

Dirk touched on this succinctly in his article.

I also felt my burgeoning sense of self-worth totally undermined by the talks I read. Some people I know in Subud actually thrive on this stuff (masochists?)

I fit was God speaking, I'm in dead trouble.


From Mike Higgins, October 5, 2007. Time 22:38

Marcus, Your true self is beyond defilement, it cannot be polluted. Identify with THAT and overlook the rest....

From Mike Higgins, October 5, 2007. Time 22:43

"Identify with THAT and overlook the rest"

That should be: "give up/forgive the rest", it's just excess baggage.

From Bronte, October 6, 2007. Time 0:30

Well the discussion here certainly is addressing the issue of "testing or Testosis"!

Obviously, for all discussing it here, it is a DISEASE.

But Bapak offerred us this practice to help us.

So surely we - or you, who are still "In Subud", not just out here "on the fringes", need to find the way to do testing that is relevant to the latihan, and to life, and not use it as dowsing.

If any who have experienced a period of religious belief in their lives were also to have practiced the Task, or the Duty, of Praying to God, and maybe all here have, then surely the comparison between that and testing would be a good starting point.

It seems to me testing is more about submitting the need to a higher Power, God, for want of any other, than getting the answer we want immediately. And often these "Instant Answers" are about as helpful as Instant Soup is nourishing. They lack the substance and nourishment of something that is allowed to take time to prepare and consume. They are frequently shallow and inadequate.

So we probably should try to avoid testing about things not pertaining to the spiritual needs, and even then be prepared to act on a belief in what is good and right, rather than some of the alien indications some have received.

So, when I was "Forced" to test whether I was meant to sort out the conflicts here, and received "No. I need help myself", time has proved it correct. But no one has sorted the problems either. SO maybe testing should not even have been done. It was a wilful thing, at the behest of the very angry National VIP who insisted on it, and it did no one any good.

How very often is that the case! So when in doubt, don't!

From Sahlan Diver, October 6, 2007. Time 1:40

Marcus and David,

Just for the record, the words "polluted" and "dirt" were used by David, not by myself. I was certainly not trying to suggest above that there is a hierarchy of receiving ability in Subud with some people able to receive consistently better than others because they are higher up on some sort of purification or dirt-cleansing scale.

I can see, re-reading my words, how they could be construed as making such a suggestion, but such a misconstruction never occurred to me even as a remote possibility, because I have done a lot of testing in my 35 years in Subud with a lot of people in a lot of different situations, and the norm in my experience is that members accept that sometimes they feel they receive clearly for tests, at other times not at all. How many people exist in Subud who would subscribe to the idea that they are at a certain level of a divinely ordained hierarchy which therefore gives them a consistent percentage certainty rate in their testing? None, as far as I know.

2) I wrote the review of Luthfi O'Meagher's "The Governance", so I know of John Pitman's observations, quoted in that work. But the fact that there are people in Subud who have used either testing, or their non-tested but stated "receivings", unscrupulously or carelessly, does not imply the rest of us should summarily abandon testing -- we don't stop using money in society just because some people violently rob banks in order to steal it. And just as there are also good and bad ways of managing money legitimately, so there are surely good and bad ways of putting the tool of testing to use.


From Walter Segall, October 6, 2007. Time 16:53

I read some of the criticism of helpers, and I realized that we put too much strain on the helpers. Members pester the helpers when they should be going to doctors, psychotherapists, business consultants, advice-to-the-lovelorn columns, or lawyers for advice which the helpers are really not qualified to give. We rely too much upon our jiwa and not enough upon the brains which hell-Loving gave us.

From Mike Higgins, October 7, 2007. Time 22:35

Bronte said: "So we probably should try to avoid testing about things not pertaining to the spiritual needs."

Most testing seems to be about wordly matters ("Would this person be a good chairperson?" "Is this the right work for me?" - etc.) rather than about spiritual needs ("What attitude should I take towards this matter?" "How should I respond or act towards so & so?" - etc.) So apparently most Subud members either don't agree with you or know what "spiritual needs" means, Bronte. I suppose that means they have Testosis? What is the cure for it, is there a vaccine?

From Sahlan Diver, October 7, 2007. Time 22:51

Leaving aside the official uses of testing for chairpeople, world congress location and so on, wouldn't we need to conduct a survey to know what sort of questions are mostly asked in testing? Mike mentions useful attitude tests and suggests these are not done as much as some other kinds of tests. My own experience is different, in fact of being involved in a very high proportion of such tests either for myself or for others.

A suggestion I made in a response to Bronte's article was that we needed a handbook of testing, so that useful test questions could be written down and passed on. This suggestion is usually ignored on the grounds that the helpers need to "receive" on the spot what is appropriate. Admittedly, helpers by doing this sometimes come up with tests that are original and apposite, but there are also many occasions when the tests asked are not at all, original, are clearly drawn from a helper's past experience, but are no less appropriate.

From haskel adamson, October 8, 2007. Time 1:40

Hi, reading your letters reminded me that i'd written a letter to the national helpers in July this year but didn't send it; so i just sent it now and added it here for you to read. I wrote it inspired by reading subud vision articles.

Dear Helpers,

I am writing to you about the method used at congress for members testing for official posts. A few years ago, i sat in the front row as a trustee whilst the national helpers tested two candidates for the post of national chair. After testing the helpers conferred together and then went and congratulated the successful applicant. Applause came from the audience of delegates and shortly afterwards a vote was taken and the new chair elected. I believe that this is the standard way of electing members now.

What got me thinking about this way of decision making was that in witnessing the candidates receiving, my feeling was contrary to the national helpers.

As a trustee i wasn't a delegate entitled to vote. But if i was a delegate would i have been happy about this situation?

Subud proclaims itself as a democratic organisation and i value this. Before the vote was taken though the national helpers had already crowded around one of the applicants and congratulated her. Although the delegates are entitled to vote any way they choose, it would have taken something extraordinary for the delegates to have gone against the decision of the national helpers. Harmony and concensus are considered extremely fundamental to decision making in Subud. So my question to the national helpers is; do you think this process is in line with democratically electing members and are you happy with your role of choosing officials? I can not see how we justify our present decision making methods when you look at our stated democratic methods published in our constitution. The USSR politburo seems the closest comparable organisation, where they give the party, a choice of one candidate.

A suggestion for one alternative might be that the helpers witness the testing with the candidates in front of the delegates/members and then leave the decision making up to the delegates. As a preliminary the helpers could see their role as being to help the delegates to be in a more surrendered state. The delegates can then make their own decision on which candidate to choose based on witnessing this receiving and maybe on knowing a little about each candidate and their background that would suggest their capacity for the job.

Best wishes

Haskel (there are no concrete rules in subud) Adamson

What did Bapak do?. From Bronte, October 8, 2007. Time 4:9

While may people might want to record their own questions which they test from time to time, some history might prove relevant.

No, not my history, in all it's shade of black, grey and, for those I upset most, red. I mean, "Bapak said" type of history.

What did Bapak test, and how?

Some oldies remaining from the Halcyon Days (?) of Bapak's existence might like to report what they saw and heard. We could all have a bit of a chew on that, and see it we find something we missed before.

Some has already been written, of course, and we are expected, by the more devoted followers of Bapakism, to do exactly what Bapak did.

That's a problem, because he gave me the impression he wanted us to find out how to do what we beleived is right, and, as David Week might well point out, that is not always the same as Bapak's advice on various subjects.

But I ask that the comparison between prayer, as practiced by many (all?) religions, and testing, as referred to by Bapak in particular, be kept more in mind in doing testing today.

Then we might not need to have some of the hostile and hurtful, or even useless, responses to Testing. And some of the time it might not even qualify as Testosis, for which the vaccine may well be doing more latihan and less testing.


From Hassanah Briedis, October 8, 2007. Time 9:43

Sahlan attempts a definition of testing that extends past the idea of it being a pure form of God’s guidance :

“guidance which is filtered through our individual ability to receive it, and which can therefore vary . . .”

I would suggest that it is : guidance filtered through the Self – rather than through our ability to receive it. It may seem the same thing, but isn’t.

Staying with the metaphor of filtering through something : The first, Sahlan’s metaphor: A liquid filtered through systems which have differing abilities to filter it, will come out still as the same liquid, but with different amounts of the particles in it, so will look similar but different to varying degrees.

The second, Hassanah’s metaphor : a liquid filtered through systems that alter the composition of the liquid, as each system has components of its own that are added to the original. Thus the liquid that emerges will have significant differences of composition, appearance and usability.

All of that supposes that the original liquid comes from an external source which passes through our systems. In my view, it doesn’t. The ‘substance’ (to stay with the metaphor) arises from within our own systems, or is an integral component of our own Selfhood. I suppose in a Buddhist view (?) that would be “the God Within” paradigm. If seen that way, it is more understandable that the results of testing can be so varied. If there is one God, and one truth (in a given situation), why do we receive different things? I think it’s possible that when we test, we draw on all the inner resources, knowledge, past experience and beliefs that we have at our disposal.

Hassanah Briedis

From Raymond Foster, October 8, 2007. Time 15:0

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Hassanah. It seems to me self-evident that any meaningful answer to testing (or prayer) can come only from the highest part of one's own self, and this 'highest part' is what varies from person to person.


From Walter Segall, October 8, 2007. Time 15:36

A while back I made a joke about how a group of helpers left Subud House in NYC (on 29th St.) to walk up to 42nd St, and that it took them almost three hours because at every corner they had to test whether it was in accord with The Will of Hashem for them to cross the street.

The fact of the matter is that every time we test we are bothering The All-Loving, and when we test on any question which we can make decision with our thinking minds we may be bothering the All-Powerful at a time when we don't really need to do so.

From Bronte, October 9, 2007. Time 1:55

I am getting the impression that the only conclusion to be drawn from this "debate" about testing is that we shouldn't we mustn't, it's no use, and it's a stupid idea and will usually be a wrong result, the wrong time and place, and a waste of God's time, not to mention our own.

Well, excuse me if I ignore that conclusion.

From Michael Irwin, October 9, 2007. Time 3:51

This is a response to Haskel Adamson comment on October 8, 2007. Time 1:40 in the feedback set for Marcus Bolt’s article, Process Not Prozac

Have you read the four pieces published as one article here called "Testing the Committee" by Michael Irwin, Rosalind Priestley, Sahlan Diver and David Week? How would you compare what you want with what is proposed in those pieces?

Should you make your additional feedback as comment on those pieces?

Michael Irwin

From Walter Segall, October 9, 2007. Time 15:30

It isn't that we shouldn't test. We should only test those questions which are appropriate for testing. We should only test those questions for which using our thinking mind results in conflict, frustration, or ambiguity.

Of course testing may only give us more ambiguity, but HaShem never promised us an easy path in this world.

By the way: I was typing a message here, the other day, and someone bothered me, and I said, "Go to hell!", and I typed a reference to the All-Loving as being the "hell-Loving". I can't believe I did that!


Could, rather than should. From Philip Quackenbush, November 14, 2007. Time 20:17

Having recently returned from this year's Menucha "kedjiwaan" gathering, I made the decision to be tested, hopefully tonight, for re-instatement as a local "helper," because I realize there is still some hope for the Subud organization to survive and thrive if it is structurally changed, and I feel I can best serve that restructuring by being a "helper" in the local group and monitoring the questions put during the "testing" procedure for any whiff of the statement or other indication of what one "should" do, rather than "could" do, since a fairly definite consensus seemed to be arrived at, with the possible exception of a person present whom I have observed to have been positioned in the organisation as a virtually "permanent" national "helper" and perhaps one or two others present at the gathering that the core of the dissension in Subud seems to originate with the attitude that one "should" do this or that, which is commonly enunciated in "testing" by such questions as "how would 'God' have me be in relation to ___" or "how should I be towards ___ according to 'God's' will."

This series of formulaic questions are so ingrained in the "testing" process that I don't expect it to be a very easy task to reform them to reflect a non-judgmental attitude in the questions being "tested," but I'm willing to do what I can to effect that reform. A possible reframing of the above questions might then be: How could I act in (such and such a case) to best acheive a resolution of the perceived problem or challenge? Such framing could be revised to fit the circumstances, and I'm open to suggestions, but it requires a greater attention to what is being said in the "testing" questions than I've generally observed to be the case (which might help in reducing the number of "unconscious" "helpers" that seem to live in a continuous state of trance if adhered to as a general principle).

After all, IMO, "helpers" are supposed to serve the members (yes, I'm aware that that is generally stated as "helping 'Bapak' instead, but helping his "mission" of spreading the availability of the latihan to any who ask to be "opened" entails allowing the members to "receive" the "latihan" in a way that is best able to serve their needs and that of their individual "worlds" that make up the greater world we all live in, which, IMO, doesn't require any "helper" to assume that the "word of 'God'" is being "received" through him or her and requires, in turn, that that "receiving" be followed, something implied in the attitude of "following the will of 'God' ".

Peace, Philip

From David Week, November 14, 2007. Time 22:35


I agree with most of what you say.

The belief that testing consists of "guidance from God" is a human belief, and with all human beliefs, one can ask: what's the basis for the belief? Prima facie, this is a question of faith, rather than empirical evidence. Then the question is: what motivates that faith?

Life is full of difficult questions and difficult choices. This makes us anxious. The belief that God is talking to you, either through testing or prayer, helps quell that anxiety through the idea that (a) there is one "right" choice, (b) a Supreme Intelligence knows what that choice is, and (c) if asked, the Supreme Intelligence will tell you what the answer is. Whew! Life solved!

The dark side of this model is that when people think that they are doing "God's Will", normal restraints on behaviour may be lifted. After all, if the Supreme Intelligence has advised you of "the" right thing, all obstacles need to be removed one way or the other. Other humans who appear to be in the way must be in league with the Devil (or the nafsu).

In most modern forms of religiosity, "God's Will" means to obey some general rules for living. Love your neighbour. Love your enemy. Don't steal. Don't worship idols. Within those rules, these religions quite explicitly teach that God makes people free. God is not a micromanager. He is silent on choices outside these general rules. They are yours. I thnk these modern forms successfully avoid the dark side.

It seems to me that the idea that testing provides answers from God on what to do is a reference back to an earlier form of religiosity: divination. The religiosity of Java is full of such divination, including the practice of "tayuh", in which the mystical practitioner asks a question, enters into spiritual practice, and waits for an answer from Gusti.

I don't doubt that such an answer may well come. I don't doubt that it may well be useful and insightful. What I do doubt is the human motive in ascribing such an answer to God: that's a human decision to do so, not a divine one. That ascription, in my view, is based ultimately on fear, on avoidance of anxiety. As a T-Shirt I once saw said: "I've outsourced my responsibility."

I think it's far better to just take 100% responsibility for one's decisions, including the quality of one's perceptions and knowledge, whether those arise from testing or otherwise. To say "This perception of mine comes from God", is to claim that one has personal knowledge of what God is and isn't up to. That's not so good from a religious perspective, and it's not so good from a psychological perspective either.



From Philip Quackenbush, November 15, 2007. Time 10:20

Hi, David,

I remember often telling people during "testing" that I participated in as a "helper" to take full responsibility for their decisions resulting from the "test." Maybe I won't have to do that now. When I went to the SUBhouse tonight, nobody was there. I could find no posted times for "helper" or "helper"/committee latihans, though they have occurred always on Wednesday nights in the past. I suspect that only having one helper (on each side?) may have something to do with it, though there are now at least a couple of candidate "helpers" on both the male and female sides that attended the Menucha gathering. So putting my name up for a "helper" returnee status may be too difficult to contemplate for someone as lazy as I tend to be (speaking of responsibility!). Could this be a factor in the apparent decline of the org? Entirely possible, IMO. Maybe paid "helpers" (other than the Royal Family, as one member revealed to me they're known as in Indonesia), as Bung Subuh sometimes suggested that there be, might be encouraged to be more diligent, but where's the money to come from? I also keep in mind that SRW once said that, ideally, all members should be helpers. The corollary of that, of course, is that then "helpers" are superfluous, having been superseded by the members themselves, but I'm not sure that she thought of that. Why not no "helpers" to start with, since any member can theoretically, at least, "open" anyone else (and many do so, with or without the blessing of the SUBorg) and any member in the cult long enough will know the ropes to tell newcomers, including the "rules that are not rules." I suspect that "testing" via phone or chatline will become the norm in the near future, anyway, being far more efficient, as in my experience kinesiological testing is, as well, so how will the controlling personalities manage to control that? Just some random speculations thrown into the campfire to see them go up in colorful flames.

Peace, Philip

From Philip Quackenbush, November 16, 2007. Time 8:44

David wrote:

It seems to me that the idea that testing provides answers from God on what to do is a reference back to an earlier form of religiosity: divination. The religiosity of Java is full of such divination, including the practice of "tayuh", in which the mystical practitioner asks a question, enters into spiritual practice, and waits for an answer from Gusti.


I just reread your feedback to my post.

The labels may be different but I see no difference in this description and what "testing" is generally assumed to be.


D: I think it's far better to just take 100% responsibility for one's decisions, including the quality of one's perceptions and knowledge, whether those arise from testing or otherwise. To say "This perception of mine comes from God", is to claim that one has personal knowledge of what God is and isn't up to. That's not so good from a religious perspective, and it's not so good from a psychological perspective either.


For what it's worth, my current take on "testing", which could change tomorrow if a better one based on more accurate data comes into my consciousness, is that the "latihan" comes on during "surrender" of the central nervous system's "oversight" ("will" or intent) functions to allow the autonomic nervous system to balance the unbalanced factors that have assaulted the person during his waking consciousness to provide more efficient reversion to homeostasis, and "correct" answers are the result of cognition of either the individual's entire subconscious (or whatever's available of that) or access to what Jung called the collective unconscious through relaxation of that "oversight", when it's "operating" effectively. The wording of the questions is of paramount importance, then, since the evidence points to the subconscious taking everything "literally."

No gods involved, necessarily, almighty or otherwise, please. To paraphrase what Mansur Medeiros (RIP) often used to say in analyzing the publications from SPI according to his knowledge gleaned from various sources, if the often clearly incorrect information that the talks in the Blue Books was the best that the Talker's "God" could come up with, "He" must have been almighty ignorant. I wouldn't trust such a "God" to even do my laundry, if he didn't have the intelligence to separate the socks into pairs. I think that anyone's "receiving" can probably only include the information that one has encountered during one's lifetime. So, the Talker in the Blue Books ideally should have had better and better wisdom to disclose to the members as he got older, but IMO there was some evidence of a continual decline instead (which may have resulted from an increasing anoxia; I understand that his breathing became less and less towards the end of his life [emphysema from an earlier smoking habit, perhaps?]. Rather sad, actually.

According to the above view of the "latihan", then, a good night's sleep is probably just as effective in bettering one's life as the "latihan", but access to the subconscious during waking can have some additional value to the exercitant if he or she applies what "comes up" in his or her life in a way that proves useful.

Peace, Philip

From Edward Fido, December 1, 2007. Time 6:0

Hi Marcus,

The books you and Dirk Campbell did of those funny cartoons were a godsend when I finally saw them.

It seems to me most Subud Groups and individuals have pretty large, almost totally unintegrated Shadows.

Most comment on this, uptil fairly recently, has been of the "I saw something nasty in the woodshed" a la Cold Comfort Farm.

You have been very radical to take the steps you did towards wholeness and reconciliation.

Until people like you, who feel alienated, pist off etc., have the guts to integrate all their life experience, both good and bad, into themselves thereby becoming whole, Subud as it is today will lie groaning in pain like some vast wounded parody of the Fisher King, who can see, but not participate in, the joyful essence of life.

It takes guts. God bless you!

From Stefan, January 3, 2008. Time 17:3

I'm enjoying the conflab about testing. My worst experiences of testing were long ago in a large group where some of the helpers liked to "advise". This was where I learned to give myself the right to choose which helpers to test with. In those days, before I became a helper, members often approached me then to test with them rather than take the lottery of testing with the helpers' group. I was more active as an unauthorised "co-tester" than after I became "one of that lot"!

Being somewhat stubborn I reserve testing for when I'm really stuck and have been stuck for a while. Either facing a decision, or battling with disturbed feelings I haven't been able to resolve. In these "last resort" instances I've been surprised by testing sessions in several ways.

Firstly (I'm generalising from about 9 occasions over 37 years), the "clearing" effect of latihan seems to be intensified, in that I feel a sense of letting go of a great weight. I would say this goes beyond the therapeutic effect of verbalising an issue, since some of these were themes I'd already discussed in full with friends (or co-counsellors)

Secondly, though I could have tested on my own, I felt the benefit of having a group latihan first, a dedicated time, space and a support group. I find that my receiving for myself goes deeper than the words I can find afterwards and seems like a pledge to release pre-formed opinions and be open to whatever new clarity may arise - even if it arrives gradually

Thirdly, and this fascinates me, those testing with me have usually said quite contrasting things one from another. Sometime's they're a bit apologetic because the link isn't apparent to those not in the know, whereas to me it seems clear that they are describing different aspects of the same scenario, and creating a kind of holographic picture which throws light on the subject.


From Philip Quackenbush, January 3, 2008. Time 23:35

Hi, Y'all,

Having more or less reread this entire feedback page (maybe I should have reread the entire article as well), it occurred to me that one of the real problems with the "testing" process could simply be that there are not enough "helpers", as Hanafi Houbart, I believe it was, suggested a while back on Subudtalk. The founder of the cult suggested that there be a ratio of one "helper" for every 10 members. If this is "correct", then the organization, in general, is in big trouble, because the dwindling membership on a group level puts the members in a Catch-22 situation where there often aren't even enough members to have a "helper's" group and form a separate committee.

The easy solution to that situation, it seems to me, is to allow the rest of the membership to take over some of the "helpers' " responsibilities, for example, "explaining" the "latihan" and organization to applicants and "starting" a "latihan" when no "helper" is present. In our local group when I was the lone male "helper," other members were welcome to participate in applicant meetings and I assume that, when I wasn't around, the group "latihan" somehow proceeded without me. I know that it has on the women's side when "helpers" have been absent. They just posted a notice on the door.

In a much larger group, such as the one SF used to be when I was first "opened", with 180 people regularly doing "latihan", it would be possible for "helpers" to have their own "helpers" and for the members to choose with whom to "test", but there may be only three or four groups of that size left in the world now.

When I was an organist in a Lutheran church, I found out that they form a new congregation when the congregation gets too large for whatever they consider an effective size to be. I don't know if the SUBorg has ever really considered that as a possible policy parameter, but it seems a moot question at the moment, since there aren't that many groups that are that large. It seems to me that that's one of the major factors driving the large percentage of members to attend congresses: c. 25% in the US.

IMO, more flexibility is needed towards the "rules that aren't rules." The common refusal to think about things that need to be thought about in the cult seems to be a common factor in most cults because of their attitude of getting their guidance from "above." I remember when the SF SUBgroup was looking for a "house" and looked at the Hari Krishna hall, which was practically sterile and shining on the first floor where they held their services, but an absolute pigpen where they lived on the floor above. Ignorance is bliss, apparently, as someone once noted.

Peace, Philip

Peace, Philip

From Phillip Jones, September 22, 2015. Time 18:35

Let me introduce myself. I was opened in 1986 in Auckland, NZ. I discovered SUBUD through an acting tutor. In my early years (as far back as I can remember) I was angry with God for sending me to this world. I used to berate God (God is not a 'he' by the way, so stop using 'Him' as an official title as it belittles and denigrates the female aspect) and scream at God like a spoilt little child who can't get his way. God, very rightly, ignored me. So I took it on myself to send myself back, God be damned I thought. I am my own master and I decide what happens, not God. I will not go into the details of my suicide (I was 19 at the time and not a member of SUBUD) but needless to say I left my body with great jubilation and the knowledge that I will not have to live with the lower forces that embrace most of the beings on this planet. What ugly creatures humans were to me back then. I travelled in what felt like an upward direction in a shaft of light. There were faces (ancestors or past lives maybe) screaming at me to go back but I was free and nothing was going to send me back. All of a sudden my ascending stopped and I looked up to see a cosmic sized foot blocking my way. I knew it was God's foot. I swore at the foot, tried to beat it, called it all the terrible names I could muster so it would get out of my way. Then I heard a voice (this is the only time in my life I have ever heard a voice speak in my head), it said 'Now is not the time.' I cannot describe this voice as there are no words to explain the power of it. I still argued and berated it but the voice kept saying its only line: 'Now is not the time'. I told God I would wait forever as I would not go back there. Eventually my Father woke me up to go to work and I realised I had returned to, what for me, was Hell. God sent me back because I had not learnt to be humble and as hard as it was for me to accept I eventually did and realised it was not my decision as to when I leave this life. At the age of 26 I found SUBUD. It seemed to me that these people were like me, having a direct experience of God and needing it as much as food and water. But, alas, I came across people who were still searching with their mind and unable to shut it down to exprience God directly. The so called 'Helpers' were mostly a hindrance to the contact as they put 'rules' around behaviour and 'Testing' etc. What a joke I found them to be in the main. The latihan itself was an extension of my own receiving before I was (sic) 'opened' and still is to this day. In the last 30 years I have had very little to do with the SUBUD organisation and feel let down by it. I am always amazed how little some members have progressed and yet these are the ones who want to tie the experience down to earthly matters and dogmatise the experience. Maybe if they shouted at God a bit more and stopped pontificating and quoting Bapak then God would listen to them. At least God would know they truly believe and want the contact more than anything else. I tell this story only to explain that the latihan is only an extension of one's own personal God experience and was there before you joined SUBUD. Bapak showed you the way to open up but not many have taken it. Peace and Love to you all and may God bless you with a deep and personal understanding of the soul and it's never ending journey back to the source.

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