Subud Vision - Discussion

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 1013, 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.


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