Subud Vision - Feedback

Marius Kahan - Subud and the Art of Automobile Maintenance

Take the next step?. From David W, September 9, 2010. Time 20:57

Hi Marius

I like your generally iconoclastic view. The old religions told people not to worship idols. Good advice for communities, in my view.

But I don't feel you take the final step. You write:

"In my opinion the latihan is exactly that; a power source, pure energy — super-consciousness if you will."

But the question is: what kind of being discerns what is "pure energy" and "super-conscious", over and above the perceptions of his (non-Subud) fellows. A super-being?

And if this community of 10,000 or so has such access, and such fortune... why the mediocrity. Why the averageness, or even, in some cases, the sub-averageness?

I really admired the Master of the Dominican Order when I read a talk of his, in which he said, quote: "Christians are not usually much better than other people. Jesus came to call sinners and not the just, and in this he continues to be highly successful."

I think if Subud portrayed itself as not more fortunate, but less fortunate, than others, it would improve 300%.

Perhaps the LK (latihan kejiwaan) is like Vitamin 7. Most people in the world have the natural ability to generate Vitamin 7. A rare few, due to historical circumstance, perhaps, lack that ability. Come those rare few, then, to Subud, to get your natural supplement.

I am reminded of a story I heard about caffeine. Apparently, caffeine is addictive. If you are a coffee drinker, since you are not drinking coffee while you are asleep, you go into withdrawal overnight. In the morning, you brew your first cup, and think you are getting a "lift" from the coffee. But in fact you are just returning to normal: the unaddicted state that most people feel all the time.

So, let me ask you: From an external view (evidence) is Subud really a community of the super-conscious? For me, I would have to say, honestly not.

From an internal point of view, what is the source of your belief that you have something that other people lack? More generally, what is the source of the belief "I have, and they have not"?

The final step in iconoclasm I'm suggesting might be interesting is to drop the claim to have, access or be anything special at all, since there is no evidence—either objectively, or from what we know of human psychology—that this is a true or good kind of belief.

From Merin Nielsen, September 10, 2010. Time 12:26

Hi, Marius,

You wrote: "I believe that Subud still has the potential to present itself as having the genuine article in the latihan"

I agree with David. I think any wish to spread Subud would represent arrogance, by presupposing that we have something (access to the latihan) which other people 'should' also have -- implying that we see ourselves as better off than them. But it's inappropriate to decide what other people need, and very conceited to maintain the judgement that they would be better off if they were more like us, as latihan practitioners. Instead of any emphasis on spreading the latihan, we should be prepared to simply make it available -- as something that we individually seem to find benefit from, and as something that others MIGHT WISH to try -- but not as something that 'would' benefit them.

When we find something personally beneficial, it's good to let our fellow human beings have access to it if possible, just in case they too might appreciate it! Then if more people chose to practise the latihan as members of Subud, sure, it would automatically spread, but not because of any attempts to spread it -- which would amount to a sort of cult mentality. The latihan should be free to be shared, not because it supposedly 'improves' anyone or anything, but simply because other people might also be glad to experience it. Meanwhile, as you indicate, we could make it far more available than we do -- by detaching religiosity from it. As things are, by officially and unofficially linking the latihan with Bapak and his talks, we effectively deny other people access to this exercise that we are glad to have, much more than we allow access to it. This is hardly an expression of fellowship.

From Sahlan Diver, September 10, 2010. Time 12:57


While broadly agreeing with you, and also sharing Marius's desire to see the latihan more widespread, I think Subud will need to do more than "remove religiosity".

Imaginary conversation:

Enquirer: Sounds like you highly recommend the latihan as something I should consider trying, but what's this "Subud" I have to join?

Member: Don't worry, it's nothing like a cult or religion.

Enquirer; Where does the funny name come from?

Member: It's a contraction of 3 sanskrit words - Susila meaning....Budhi meaning ... etc

Enquirer: So I have to subscribe to your religious-sounding ideals then?

Member: Don't worry it's optional.

Enquirer: if it's optional, why do you consider it important enough to use it as your organisation's name?
And how did you decide on the name, anyway?

Member: Our founder told us to use it?

Enquirer: And did he tell you to use your strange symbol as well?

Mmeber: Yes he did. Unlike the name, which is made up, he received the symbol direct from God. It symbolises the seven forces and the seven levels for each force that we progress through in the latihan, but don't worry you don't have to believe it at first. Maybe you'll come to understand after you have practised the latihan for some time.

Enquirer: it's starting to sound like a cult to me, with allegiance to the ideas of the founder expected as the norm. I'm not sure I want to sign up to a funny name and some funny ideas. Wny can't I just do the latihan without belonging to Subud?

(End of conversation)

I very much doubt whether Subud is capable of breaking sufficiently from the teachings of its founder, so it will, by its nature always work against any otherwise well-intentioned attempt to portray itself as offering a wholly individual experience through the latihan. Seems to me the only option is to start a neutral latihan organisation learning from the mistakes of the past. Maybe the best way for this to happen is for an umbrella association of neutral latihan groups, which would offer support without being "in charge", i.e. the member latihan groups or latihan organisations would be merely affiliates. What they would have in common would be a desire to offer the latihan without any associated dogma. As one of our authors, Deanna Kemler suggests, Subud offers a dogma about not having a dogma, and therein lies the problem,


From Merin Nielsen, September 11, 2010. Time 7:56

Hi, Sahlan,

If I had the opportunity to join a religiously neutral latihan organisation, then, for the sake of continuing to practise the latihan with others, I would. There are three reasons why I find it good to practise in the company of a variety of other people. First; I am more motivated to practise regularly (rather than neglect it - much the same as for working out at the gym or sticking to a healthy diet), Second; it seems more psychologically prudent or 'grounding' or 'hygienic' to practise the latihan in company (rather than risk drifting off with it, over the long term, into nether-regions of introspective imagination). And third; it feels as though I'm then not being so selfish by restricting access to this thing, which I happen to like, to such a very small circle of acquaintances.


From Sahlan Diver, September 11, 2010. Time 9:49


I agree wih your summing up.

I disagree with those people who suggest we can just split up into independent groups without any kind of supporting organisation and the latihan will somehow magically spread and survive that way. Even if some such groups do well, inevitably over time people become old and infirm, or move house to another place, or lose interest, and below a certain critical mass of people, a group will just cease to exist. Then there is nothing left to provide any continuity.

I can understand people being anti organisation, because the organisational model for Subud has been over-bearing, inefficient and ultimately ineffectual. Also they are understandably wary that a new, replacement organisation might attempt to be more controlling. But organisation can be used by mutual agreement to maintain good practise, by only allowing membership to groups who sign up to an agreed set of principles:

For example, some good practise rules would include
1) (Taking up on David's post) In publicity and promotion, no special claims for the nature or the efficacy of the latihan, that can't be proved.
2) Similarly, by extension, if cultural, enterprise or charitable activities are associated with the group, no claims or propaganda that these are somehow advantaged or of a special nature due to the influence of the latihan.
3) No promotion of any particular relious, philosphical or psychological outlook as being necessary to get more benefit out of the latihan.


From Marius Kahan, September 12, 2010. Time 22:29

Thanks for the feedback everybody. Somewhere in this posting I will meander towards answering the questions raised, so please bear with me. My inner universe constantly in a state of flux and my perception is that the latihan itself has engendered this fluidity. By contrast I meet many people for whom the latihan seems to reinforce their fixed ideas.

I sometimes speculate that there may be one or more spiritual interlopers – forces that impersonate the latihan – or that in latihan some people simply ‘surrender’ to something innate that comes from their subconscious and leads them to prance about the room. Or that ‘the latihan’ could be a stimulant that animates whatever force corresponds to one’s current level, be that vegetable, human, dolphin, television or space shuttle.

Regardless of such idle musings, in the latihan I sense an energy that, to use a convenient shorthand, I would characterise as ‘divine’ and this has been the catalyst in a process that might otherwise be called therapy. It has shone a light on parts of myself that had cleverly conspired to remain hidden from conscious awareness. Yet this very process, powered as it seems to be by the latihan, now seems to be driving me away from Subud.

Analogously, I might describe the latihan as a torch that illuminates both my ‘inner space’ and the path ahead. So when I see Subud members, switched-off torch in hand, asking a little old Indonesian lady for directions, I do despair a little. Especially when she says “Visit this repository of old, tried and ‘tested’ ideas and adopt them,” when in fact she should be saying “turn your bloody torch on!”

Hopefully that answers the question “So, let me ask you: From an external view (evidence) is Subud really a community of the super-conscious?” I’ve mentioned in previous articles that the world at large seems to do rather better than Subud and indeed, for me, Subud as a whole is not, and likely cannot become, superconscious.

To the second question “From an internal point of view, what is the source of your belief that you have something that other people lack? More generally, what is the source of the belief “I have, and they have not”?

I see the latihan and Subud as two quite separate things that happen to coincide in an organisation that represents an almost infinitesimal sample of humanity – so how can the latihan possibly be exclusive to Subud? I don’t believe that I have something that all other people lack. By my reckoning I don’t even have the latihan – the latihan has me.

I indicated that I believe that the latihan is of the same stuff that is available elsewhere, although saying that we have a ‘derestricted’ version suggests that I think that the latihan is better. That’s not the case though – what I wanted to get across is that religion suffers under the burden of fanciful notions such as heaven and hell, as well as some extremely dubious practices that were commonplace in history – I’ve actually had an Alpha-Christian tell me that old-testament stoning was in accordance with the will of God.

My point was that Subud is in danger of similarly burdening the latihan with ideas, many of which are based on religious notions that, to me, seem absurd and childish. However, I’ve since changed my view. I now believe that Subud has already attached such a plethora of religious and superstitious ideas to the latihan that there’s no way back.

But what about the ultimate challenge – “The final step in iconoclasm I’m suggesting might be interesting is to drop the claim to have, access or be anything special at all, since there is no evidence – either objectively, or from what we know of human psychology – that this is a true or good kind of belief.”

You’ve got me! What can I say? My view is that this force is something special and I can only concede that this specialness is absolutely subjective. To draw another analogy, I love Latin-jazz music and Italian cars. When I listen to good Latin-jazz its essential coolness imbues me with a sense of utter ‘hipness’. And when I drive an Alfa Romeo there’s a je ne sais quoi to the sense of automotive mastery I feel when taking on a twisty mountain road – but it’s the car that’s special, not me. Yet I’ve come across people who characterise Latin-jazz as elevator music and others who laugh openly and ask if I’m a masochist when I say that I drive an Alfa.

So my points are two: First of all, the things I love, which include the latihan, make me feel special, not because I’m special (I’m not) but because they are, in my universe at least. Secondly, just because I love something, that doesn’t mean I automatically assume that everybody else will. So I don’t talk about Latin-jazz or cars to just anyone – but if someone starts talking about their interest in jazz and I discover that they’ve never heard of Stan Getz, I naturally point them in that direction and hope that it will enrich their life.

I generally keep tight-lipped about the latihan too but, for example, I once met someone on a plane who, totally out of left-field, asked my opinion on matters metaphysical. After a long conversation, I told them about a little known group called Subud, issued all the appropriate disclaimers and that was an end to it. Or so I thought – but a couple of years later, I heard that this person had sought out Subud and been opened.

I’m pretty certain that there are powerful elements within Subud who would actively oppose any attempt to ‘fix’ it, and that they would likely succeed. Nevertheless, I am certain that whatever I believe the latihan to be, it’s not Subud and Subud isn’t it.

What if the latihan itself is limited? Are there really only seven levels or forces? Why stop at seven? What about 27? Are we really destined only to evolve to the level of a ‘true human being’ – or will our spiritual journey lead us towards unimagined wonders as we traverse the infinite? The collective Subud imagination seems so limited to me.

I think I’m beginning to understand philosophy’s contempt for religious notions; I think it stems from the fact that ‘faith’ relieves people of responsibility and removes any need to ask the hard questions or address the paradoxes these might throw up. The sense I get from most Subud members is that this suits them very well and that it’s easy to reject philosophical notions as the preserve of people who ‘think too much’. But that’s what philosophy is about – thinking. More people in Subud should try it!

From Philip Quackenbush, September 13, 2010. Time 2:30

I think that one of the major problems with the Subud organization is its lack of knowing what the latihan is. How can you explain something to somebody if you don't know what it is you're explaining? I agree with Marius that the latihan is not Subud and Subud is not the latihan, but what is the latihan? In order to find out what something is, it's usually necessary to examine it both externally and internally. In the case of Subud, that means leaving the latihan for long enough to get a viewpoint from "outside" the box to find out what's printed on the label and whether it's strong enough to survive shipping, etc. One thing I've discovered from "doing" intermittent latihans for the last few years instead of addictively attending as many group latihans as possible, as I did for a couple of decades at least, is that it exists in everyone as a natural biological function, and has been suppressed, probably over many lifetimes, if you believe in that sort of thing, so that those who have created religions and political systems can more easily manipulate the rest of us. The way the human body is constructed, as evidenced by numerous research projects in current science, allows it to accumulate experience and store it not only in the brain but on a cellular level. When people get caught up in their thoughts, which the vast majority of people do, they lose track of what their body is telling them. So, "surrender", then, actually consists not of surrendering to some external or internal "God", but in re-accessing the information contained within the body, not just the brain, through relaxation. Remember that one word that the founder used to say before saying begin? "Relax". How many "helpers" do the same? For a more scientific view of the latihan, I suggest reading the "ancient" book, "The Relaxation Response", by Herbert Benson, who may have never been formally "opened", but in my opinion knew more about it than many Subud members.

Peace, Philip

From Merin Nielsen, September 13, 2010. Time 3:51

Hi, Philip,

You wrote: "How can you explain something to somebody if you don't know what it is you're explaining?"

You have certain ideas about the latihan's mechanism and/or origins, and good on you for that, but your explanation is unconvincing, and many people have quite contrasting ideas. Getting general agreement on this seems impossible. In any case, I think making the latihan readily available does not require any formal or consistent account of how it comes to be appreciated by individual practitioners.

Cheers, Merin

From Marius Kahan, September 13, 2010. Time 9:0

It's an interesting one, this, because I know what I think the latihan is and yet my view can only be subjective (and may be wrong) because it's an inner experience with no scale against which to measure it.

Maybe everybody gets exactly the same thing internally as I do but it manifests differently outwardly, just as striking a bell, a temple block, a vibraphone and someone's front door with a wooden mallet gives a diffferent sound in each case. But I can only speculate.

Much like 'God'. If someone asks me if I believe in God these days, I tell them that I can't answer the question, because whatever they mean by 'God', I don't believe in it, because it's their idea and I have no way to know what their idea is. If I have time, I'll offer to expound - and warn that the process takes me about 15 minutes. It turns out that this extended answer is an efficient way to prevent further questions.


From Sahlan Diver, September 13, 2010. Time 9:6

There are many members who don't believe we should have a problem saying what the latihan is, because they say we have Bapak's explanations. They don't see it as being a problem now or ever.

The problem is that Bapak's explanations are "authoritative" explanations, in the sense that they rely on the assumed authority of one man to have special knowledge and understanding not granted to the rest of us.

Giving a person authoriy in this way is a hallmark of cults, sects and religions. This is reinforced when Bapak's words are not just relied on for explanations and advice about the latihan per se, but also for general advice on how to live your life ( fasting, prihatin, sexual relations, developing ones talents, and so on ). His religious authority is then further reinforced by attitudes of reverence, especially when this leads to members resisting any change from or discussion about the procedures he laid down.

This makes it very difficult to separate out the latihan from Subud the religion, and we have to ask ourselves, in the modern world, how likely is it that people are going to in any significant number, accept a new religion, especially one like Subud, which is noticeably uptight and priggish towards dissent from the party line.

So, if you then separate the latihan from Bapak's explanations, in an attempt to make it more widely acceptable, how do you explain it? The answer is you can't and therefore you don't. We should maybe think of it like homeopathy. Practitioners are convinced it is of benefit, but nobody knows how exactly it works, but that doesn't stop people talking about it or promoting it,


From Marius Kahan, September 13, 2010. Time 10:11

Amen to that! (Sorry about the religious choice of words). I think that your explanation sums up my own unarticulated feelings very neatly.

An interesting footnote on homeopathy is that the (as far as I know only) researcher who subjected homeopathy to serious scientific scrutiny found a statistical correlation between treatments and cures. Further research revealed that, depending on its preparation, homeopathically prepared water exhibits specific characteristics that untreated water does not. He lost his job and was thrown out of the scientific establishment. Are we seeing parallels in Subud?

From Andrew Hall, September 13, 2010. Time 16:30


I am enjoying this discussion thread sparked by your article.

I want to offer my take on your comments about "philosophy’s contempt for religious notions" because religious faith "relieves people of responsibility and removes any need to ask the hard questions or address the paradoxes these might throw up." You then identify these attributes with most Subud members because "it’s easy to reject philosophical notions as the preserve of people who ‘think too much’".

As someone who likes to think, I describe the latihan as opening or surrendering myself to what I am comfortable calling "divine energy" (a term you also use). I freely and vigorously acknowledge this term "divine energy" is a metaphor, a sign pointing to something else, something hard to define, outside of my awareness. I think Merin would call it a fuzzy notion and it is exactly that because it has to be fuzzy. But to me that doesn't make it less real.

It is something I experience and words have their limit in describing it. Far from being a problem or lack, I think metaphorical language is like poetry (or maybe jazz??). It gives us a way of talking about or experiencing something like the divine or love, that is limited and misunderstood if it is limited to rational argument.

I could just as easily call "divine energy" the "infinite universe" or "creative spirit" since these are also terms that are fuzzy and open ended enough for me.

I view religious terms like God in the same way. To me, they are metaphors, clothed in stories or mythologies that point to something hidden beyond our normal awareness. That doesn't mean I think they are unreal or just a fanciful notion. I think they can carry enormous psychic power and can have unlimted depth.

It probably sounds very arrogant but I more and more regard the idea that religious terms are rationally demonstrable and true as a terrrible dead end in Western culture. I can remember the coverage I used to see in Time magazine about the historical Jesus, as if this somehow made Christian faith more respectable because there was something "real" to hang it on. I now regard this as missing the point entirely.

If I am a Christian, it is because there is something in the Christian mythology that attracts and inspires me and rings true to me, and whether or not the myth has historical validity is to me only a curiosity.

Finally, I think religious faith is perverted if it demands or promises certainty, the kind of certainty that rational argument and proof pretends that rationality and only rationality can deliver to the perennial questions and uncertaintites that we humans wonder about.

Like you, I think religious certainty in Subud is just as much a dead end as it is anywhere else, but I think religious metaphor may be useful for people if they understand that it need not and should not trespasss or limit rational argument. Similarly, I think rational discourse is going where it does not belong when it tries to discredit or dismiss religion, and poetry and metaphor, as useless (and fuzzy) superstitions.

I think metaphor and rationality are different modes of being and both are valid and useful in helping human understanding "grow without ceasing".

Andrew Hall

From Marius Kahan, September 13, 2010. Time 17:18

Hi Andrew, and thanks for your comments. I'm enjoying this discussion too; in many ways I feel that all the contributors are essentially on the same page (or at least in the same chapter), with each viewpoint highlighting a particular facet of the issue - metaphorically speaking, of course.

Metaphor and rationality are, in my view too, both essential elements of the whole picture, just as, respectively, heart and mind are necessary to the complete human animal.

But as someone who loves both art and science, I suppose that for me it breaks down like this: If someone's interested in the spiritual side I will generally talk in fairly poetic terms about beauty and nature and the human condition.

But I have no time for the absurd fundamentalism that says "do this, or you're bound for the eternal satanic fry-up". When confronted with rigid views like that, I fall back on the rational protocols of logic and demonstrable facts, because it's the approach best suited to making a sound point. Actually, since meeting the Alpha-Christian I referred to above, I usually don't even bother, preferring to change the subject.

Which is, of course, my problem with Subud. I just can't be bothered to argue with fundamentalists any more.

From Philip Quackenbush, September 14, 2010. Time 8:9

Well, Merin,

I did point out that the latihan being a natural biological function was only one thing I've observed, so a rundown of several explanations besides those of the founder (which, for anyone paying attention, often contradict each other) might give an enquirer a more panoramic view of the possibilities he or she might encounter in re-acquainting hir with the process, which generally seems to become a laid-aside or suppressed function in early childhood as the child encounters social and even physical restrictions on hir behavior. I remember my ex, a sometime Subud member who, as far as I know, no longer practices the latihan, saying at one point in our marriage that she wanted our kids to be able to freely go through the childhood fantasies, etc., that are often squelched by parents, teachers, etc., and so I probably went too far into the hands off route when they were growing up and may have needed a bit more adult guidance, but they seem to have turned out fine (well, a little rough around the edges, maybe, but a little sandpaper [a metaphor for life experiences not necessarily including the latihan, which they don't formally practice, either, IMO probably a wise decision staying away from "that bunch of weird people"] might take care of that).

Peace, Philip

From Andrew Hall, September 14, 2010. Time 14:28


I sympathize with your frustration and lack of patience when talking to religious fundamentalists, including the Subud fundamentalists.

As someone who grew up in a fundamentalist church, I am pretty familiar with these ways of thinking and the trap these people get caught in - the rigidity, the following the party line, the parading of correct responses, the way certain things are avoided, the condescension, the awful, awful ways their moral superiority is used to play one-up-manship over and control others (I could go on). I think the refusal to listen, to admit uncertainty, to laugh about sacred cows, is all due to fear.

Still, it's tough to take. I usually end up saying something insulting like "I suppose you also think the earth is flat." ;-)

In the Subud context, I think one way to confront people with the Subud contradiction - Subud is not a religion but just acts like one - is to ask that every Subud hall post a notice inside their front door with the following declaration:

1. We respect the religious and spiritual beliefs and values of others. We do not attempt to convert others to follow any specific belief system.

2. We are each responsible for ourelves and for what we experience. We do not surrender this responsibility to others nor do we take on responsibility for others.


From Bronte, October 15, 2010. Time 9:50

Well it is all a matter of "What Is Subud?" Isn't it?
Books have been written on the subject! (Well A Book has!)
One friend, opened years ago but who never ever following Subud, says the latihan is just "Chi energy manifesting", which always seemed dismissive and narrow from my perspective, and another says it is "The awakening of the Kundalini." (That I believe is part of it anyway)

Today I was present at a min-seminar about life energies and the alternate attitudes to life. It is the sort of thing some Theosophists like to explore too, and it was there that the seminar was held.
One part of the beliefs of some people who were presenting at this meeting is that they can go into a different spiritual "place" and imagine a person is healed, and they are, even of Cancer, or a broken leg. (Mary McKillop where are you?)
Then someone talked briefly about the "matrix" energy in which we all live, and the various other words used not by mystics but by scientists to describe the content of the nothing-ness in the space that we all exist in, beside the air we breath.
Perhaps this is what we, in Subud, have made a Big Issue of, in our own way, or rather, in Bapak's Way.
Now some of us might come to realise that Subud is nothing new (Bapak said that anyway, in my presence once too.)
We have something that no one is going to fully enclose or control or restrict, or understand, it seems. Of course the Subd orgqnisation is still trying very hard to do just that.
It is still worthwhile doing, the latihan.
But not Subud. That is worn out I think.
(See my comment elsewhere this month on that.)
So, latihan may connect us with a much needed part of life.
I think so. I hope the Subud organisation will stop being a barrier to having many more people make this connection with life, as it certainly is now from any angle where I can view it.

The world as I see it needs a new enlivening, but not a new religion, and the latihan of Subud may yet prove to be IT!

From Michael Irwin, September 14, 2010. Time 20:7

Andrew wrote: "I freely and vigorously acknowledge this term "divine energy" is a metaphor"

I agree but some people don't understand metaphor so communication is limited.

Someone mentioned 'certainty. Unfortunately, I can't remember where. The point for me is that in varying degrees people crave certainty. Fundamentalists can't live peacefully without it, so they create it by being literal and not wishing to see metaphor as merely referring to something indescribable. Over time, the need for certainty has warped the social profile of Subud membership, leaving those requiring certainty to dominate. Offering uncertainty is absolutely the one thing they don't want to hear.

Having moved from wanting certainty to being willing to live with uncertainty has proven difficult for me and now that I live with uncertainty I have to admit that the discipline to keep it up is very hard.

From Merin Nielsen, September 15, 2010. Time 5:28

Hi, Michael,

You wrote: "The point for me is that in varying degrees people crave certainty. Fundamentalists can't live peacefully without it, so they create it by being literal and not wishing to see metaphor as merely referring to something indescribable. Over time, the need for certainty has warped the social profile of Subud membership, leaving those requiring certainty to dominate. Offering uncertainty is absolutely the one thing they don't want to hear."

'Crave certainty' and 'requiring certainty' and 'offering certainty' are interesting phrases. The personal context is quite distinct from any institutional context. I try not to use fuzzy metaphors, and am pretty certain about my personal opinions on spirituality, the latihan, life after death and so on. However, if I keep these views to myself, then generally people would not count me as a fundamentalist. So, apparently, a feeling of personal certainty about one's own perspective does not in itself make one a fundamentalist.

Fundamentalism -- as the problem we're discussing -- exists when, in an institutional context, some specific opinion about largely untestable matters (usually but not necessarily relating to spirituality) is proselytised as THE certain -- and hence the only sensible or reasonable -- perspective. (This may concern a particular institution, such as Subud, or even the institution of society as a whole.)

Thus, I don't think failure to recognise metaphor is the real issue. While it seems that fundamentalism tends not to employ much metaphorical language, absence of metaphorical language does not indicate non-fundamentalism. And while fundamentalism tends to entertain certainty, not entertaining certainty does not indicate non-fundamentalism.

However, the "assertion" of certainty, in a proselytising way, appears to be definitional. This is where 'crave' and 'requiring' and 'offering' are relevant. For me, the big question becomes why fundamentalists seemingly feel the need to engage in this, as if wanting the respective institution to harbour just the one specific point of view -- concerning the particular, more or less untestable matters.

(Below is a rhyme that I want to show off, which I made up while on a long drive somewhere, years ago.

Once I met a metaphor for which I felt so sad, because there was no better form of meaning to be had. Yet before the metaphor could semaphore its wishes, they took its flags for tea towels, and made it dry the dishes. I’m sure one could not get a more resourceful kitchen drip, but I never saw a wetter floor on which a tongue might slip. )

From Andrew Hall, September 15, 2010. Time 14:59


I would like to offer a few comments.

On the use of metaphor, you say you try not to use "fuzzy metaphors". Aren't all metaphors fuzzy? I think that is what defines a metaphor and makes metaphor useful. They are suggestive and open-ended and that ambiguity engages the imagination.

I suppose an analogy would be a humorous joke. It works like a metaphor because the meaning of the joke catches you unaware. When you have to explain the joke, or paraphrase it, then it loses something of its power.

Language, the words we use, are like the bricks that can be pieced together to build a structure. But to stand back and see the structure as a whole, see the context that lies outside the structure, then I think we need metaphor.

Not to dismiss the value of rational, logical thought, not at all, but it has its limits. It cannot do for us what metaphor can. I think both modes of appreciation, metaphor and rationality, are necessary and good.

To me, fundamentalism is about two things - failing to appreciate the power of metaphor, and insisting on literal truth. I think they are linked. And I think that the second, the insistence on literal truth, is about certainty.

Put another way, I think the issue may be the refusal to entertain or allow, or admit, uncertainty. On that basis, I think fundamentalists may be as distrustful of "fuzzy" metaphors as you seem to be.

I think that certainty is an illusion. How can we humans with our limited language and limited consciousness have the conceit that our thoughts and assertions capture or are adequate to circumscribe the mystery of Nature.

We can never possess the Truth, we can only pursue it. I think that religious faith makes sense to me in this context.

Take care,

From Michael Irwin, September 15, 2010. Time 19:56

Merin wrote: "Thus, I don't think failure to recognise metaphor is the real issue. While it seems that fundamentalism tends not to employ much metaphorical language,..."

While agreeing with most of the rest of the writing from which this quote is taken, I don't agree with the idea that fundamentalists do not employ much metaphorical language. Take the simplest: God. The word God is a place holder for what the Hindu's might call the ineffable. But the fundamentalist would have none of that thinking because then the reality and the nature of reality of God would be in question. While using 'God' they fail to see that it stands for something indescribable and would refuse to use it as a metaphor. Your statement implies that if the fundamentalists don't see the use of the word 'God' as a metaphor then it isn't a metaphor. I could never convince them otherwise but I won't accept the idea that if somebody else doesn't see the word as a metaphor then it isn't one. It isn't to 'them'.

From Merin Nielsen, September 16, 2010. Time 0:31

Hi, Andrew,

Philosophers tend to concur that all language, every bit of it, is actually metaphorical. Still, I'd say there's a fair distinction between intended and unintended metaphor, in that a speaker may or may not deliberately resort to description by analogy. If the speaker uses metaphor deliberately, this shows that he or she is aware that the listeners might have different "linguistic world-maps", and is taking into account the possibility of perspectives being non-isomorphic. On the other hand, the speaker might simply assume that the listeners are all 'on the same page' as himself or herself in this regard, and not bother to seek or employ description by analogy. (Analogies typically 'refer' the listener to elements of reality that are more basic, and thus more likely to be common to everybody's linguistic world-maps. Whenever the linguistic world-maps of a bunch of people are 'in-synch', then overt metaphors are much less needed, and the language tends to be called 'normative'.)

Accordingly, I think use of metaphor is in principle completely rational. In practice, however, some metaphors are fuzzier than others, and especially fuzzy metaphors may be employed for more than one reason: Firstly, perhaps because there's no other analogy available that seems more likely to be comprehended; or secondly, perhaps because the speaker does not want his or her language to be transparent or exposed to direct scrutiny. This might occur when the speaker wishes primarily to persuade, rather than to inform -- attempting to overwhelm the listeners' linguistic world-maps with non-normative terms that are presented as if they were normative. This can effectively 'force' the respective world-map elements into place, even potentially at the expense of compromising the overall coherence and structural integrity of everyone's world-maps.

I'd guess that, deep down, this is roughly what fundamentalism is about -- forcing the conformity of people's perspectives by imposing 'supposedly normative' elements (equating to certainty) upon them, whereby the shared normativity gets covertly modified. For people who are impressionable (often younger people), their world-maps more readily fall into line with that of the speaker. For other people, too much re-alignment would be needed in order to incorporate the speaker's linguistic references -- which amounts to an uncomfortable 'warping' of their perspective on reality -- and so they tend to less readily accept the world-map 'connections' that the speaker is imposing.

Note that none of this happens if the speaker admits up front to using metaphorical language, because then there is no overwhelming or forcing of normativity -- the listeners are conscious of checking out the compatibility between the speaker's world-map connections and their own. It's an 'open' process of interaction in which any sense of certainty does not play a direct role. AFTER this interaction process, every listener may go away and compare the metaphorical content with that of their own linguistic world-maps, and will either make corresponding modifications or not -- perhaps arriving at new personal certainties, or new personal "possiblies" or perhaps neither.

You wrote: "I think that certainty is an illusion."

I agree to the extent that "certainty", just like every concept, is itself really a metaphor. (It might mean something like "enough sureness to act upon".) As such, it's nonetheless a useful word.

Hi, Michael,

You're quite right -- 'God' is just about the fuzziest of all metaphors, and is the focus of much fundamentalism, but what I meant is what you have surmised -- that fundamentalism tends to interpret language in what would usually be called a literalist way. So you and I are taking 'metaphor' in different senses: I prefer to call a linguistic device 'metaphorical' if it is patently intended as a sort of descriptive analogy by the speaker; whereas your definition hinges on the listener.

Cheers, Merin

From Merin Nielsen, September 16, 2010. Time 0:45

P.S. I suspect that once some element or connection has been 'anchored' or has firmly consolidated its normative place within the collective linguistic world-map, then it tends to be no longer perceived as intrinsically metaphorical.

From Philip Quackenbush, September 16, 2010. Time 5:38

Hi, guys,

Don't want to butt in on your three or four-way discussion too much, but a couple of points may be in order on the subject of certainty, which I think are of fundamental importance (that may be as close as I get these days to my usual puns on this site any more). I think it was Ramana Maharshi who said that the entire Vedanta (the last section of the Upanishads, the main scripture of the Hindus that sets out to try to explain some "ways" to "God") is contained, or summed up in the two phrases in the Bible, "The Lord thy God is One" and "Be still, and know that I am God". As corollaries to those, one could add those in the NT, where "Jesus" is reported to have said, "The Father is in me, and I in the Father" and in another separate passage "I am in you and you are in me" (and the equation or congruence is expressed in the OT as "I AM that I AM"). In my opinion, until one understands that that means that everyone and everything is God, with the one proviso that we are a part of God, but God is not a part of us except as the Whole, and hopefully eventually directly experiences that, all we can be certain of is that we exist (but if we are in God, and God in us, then only God exists (as Rochanawati was indicating in her prayer mantra, "God, only God"), therefore we don't exist, except as reflections or dreams of God. Get the logic of that? So, a fundamentalist makes the fundamental mistake of putting God somewhere "out there" (or "in t/here" in some cases), as opposed to everywhere and everywhen.

How does all this relate to metaphors? Well, my online dictionary (Oxford something or other, I think) indeed says that metaphors are "a thing regarded as a symbol of something else", which is exactly what words are (when they get to the level of "poetic" metaphor, then they become symbols about symbols or symbols about symbols about symbols).The interesting thing to me is that the Koran specifically states that passages in it are symbolic (i.e., metaphors; as far as I know the Bible doesn't so stat) but Islamic fundamentalists, like their Christian and Jewish fundamentalist or extreme Orthodox counterparts, take everything literally, not realizing that words are not literal to begin with. The word "tree" is not the tree, or anything approaching it, except perhaps as a mark on what used to be part of a tree, and does anyone, including fundamentalists, go into a restaurant to eat the menu? This, IMO, is not just a problem in Subud, it is a major problem in the world at large, as evidenced by the religiously-based wars (certainly the vast majority of wars) throughout history and prehistory. Only by changing a separatist mentality to the realization that all is One (and so, what you do to any other self you do to your "own" self [the Golden Rule transmuted to platinum]; we live in a holographic universe where everything effects everything else (for a graphic illustration or two of how it all works, check out the physicist Milo Wolff's website), as quantum physics discloses (what the Buddha called "dependent origination") will it ever be possible to have true harmony and peace on this planet.

Sorry about all the parenthetical asides. Try reading through this post, ignoring the subplots, now that you now the details. Enjoy.

Peace, Philip

From Merin Nielsen, September 16, 2010. Time 6:20

Hi, Philip,

You wrote: "all we can be certain of is that we exist"

But 'certain' need not imply "logically impossible to be otherwise". It should mean something slightly fuzzier. Similarly, "all is One" must mean something like "all is interconnected" (in order for 'all' to refer to things).

Cheers, Merin

From Andrew Hall, September 16, 2010. Time 18:19

Hi Merin,

I appreciate what I see as your very considered reply.

I like your point that metaphor can be deliberately intended to be inscrutable and used to persuade (or coerce) rather than inform, and that letting people know upfront you are using a metaphor is the way to avoid overwhelming or forcing "normativity."

I am not used to some of your terms, like normativity, although I think I know what they mean. My bent is to use more colorful language, something like - religious fundamentalism uses language to project its fascist values - an idealized past, a rejection and distrust of thinking and a suspicion of the intellect that restricts the faithful to a certain vocabulary and set of ideas, a demand for obedience and consensus and harmony that avoids disagreement and differences, no room for individual choice or decision-making as all decisions are made by the leadership, a promise of identity as a member of the group, clear identification of an enemy or enemies (the nafsu and the intellect??), the promise of redemption from one's own shotcomings and favour with God that is repeatedly linked to the afterlife where big things are promised and hinted at.

I guess my way to reject this mind control, is to turn and take solace in the trackless path towards the Sublime.


From Philip Quackenbush, September 16, 2010. Time 19:25

Hi, Merin,

How do you pronounce that, BTW? Murr-IN, MARE-in, Mare-AHN (the French IN), or what? Your last name would suggest Scandinavian pronunciation, and the Swedes have sixteen vowels, as opposed to English's modicum of eight, and Italian and Japanese's paucity of five, so I was just wondering.

Your comment is a perfect illustration of the limitation of words to communicate. The certainty that I exist arises not from the thought that I do (or the fact that I think, as Descartes erred in stating), but in a feeling, which can be fuzzy or sharply "defined" or some other equally limited descriptor which, like trying to define (or "explain") a single a fly, as C.S, Lewis once pointed out, goes beyond anyone's abilities in an entire lifetime (not that it matters; it doesn't: life just happens, as an email I got from a "member" of a non-dual discussion group I'll be attending later instead of Thor's day knight latihan [usually more "real", if I do say so myself] today pointed out).

And yes, all is One does necessarily infer that all is connected, but that's just one inference. In fact, the Oneness of everything and everytime has infinite inferences (and infinite consequences, turning the "known world" upside down, so to speak), because, instead of looking at the world from a perspective of one of the Whole's parts and trying to analyze Its parts, one starts with the Whole and looks for how it is functioning as "personal" experiences, without judgment, just letting the experiences happen (as in latihan, one might say, but it's "bringing the latihan into the world" Big Time, IMO). Again, I would refer you to Milo Wolff's webpage to see a couple of graphic descriptions of how the universe works to bring about what is experienced, where he solves most, and possibly all of the so-called paradoxes of quantum mechanics (I'm not a physicist, so I can't say for sure, but it sure looks like it to me). Enjoy,

Peace, Philip

From Merin Nielsen, September 17, 2010. Time 12:12

Hi, Philip,

I've looked at a few pages of Milo Wolff's self-published books. I don't think he's genuine. There's a review of his first book in New Scientist magazine, 15th February 1992 - not encouraging.

My name has stress on the first syllable. By the way, English uses 12 distinct vowel sounds along with 8 diphthongs.

Cheers, Merin

From Philip Quackenbush, September 17, 2010. Time 23:14

Hi, Merin,

Well, until something better comes to my attention, I found Wolff's material enlightening, though I've heard some Russian scientists have gone "deeper" into another form of energy than the so-called four forces of electromagnetism, playing around with "home-made" pyramids and such for something to do after the Soviet Onion collapsed, coming up with some far-out effects, including healing of premature babies' problems and decrease in aggression of criminals in prison, making frogs give birth to salamanders, etc. If cosmologists are now admitting that we don't know anything about at least 90 to 95% of the universe except that it exists, then I'd say we still have a lot to learn. Any time you deal with scientists, you have to take into account the way they defend their turf. The billiard ball model of the atom is still prominent in physics, despite being thoroughly "disproved" through numerous experiments, for example.

The most egregious examples of that phenomenon have to be found in religion, though, where, for example, an Australian Bible scholar managed to decode the New Testament according to a system found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and found a "secret" life of "Jesus" that was so disturbing to the standard doctrines ("Jesus" didn't die on the cross and didn't actually walk on water or convert water into wine, for example) that she was attacked from all sides, including Jewish rabbis, because it disclosed a part of Jewish history that wasn't too pleasant to look at.

I find it hard to come up with 8 vowels in English, much less 12 (easy to come up with 12 in French, if I remember mine sufficiently), but if you go through the spectrum from Oxford to Oz and back again via Tennessee and/or Kentucky dialect (which some linguists equate with Shakespearean English) and Eliza Doolittle, you could be right, especially if that includes Glaswegian, which a movie I once saw needed English subtitles to understand. A local language prof at U Dub here was the authority I was referencing. She was lecturing on the way babies learn a language and how it affects their abilities to speak other languages later in life. Fascinating. Enjoy.

Peace, Philip

From Michael Irwin, September 17, 2010. Time 23:30

Thor's day knight!!! Tut, Tut, King that is.

From Philip Quackenbush, September 18, 2010. Time 13:49

Hey, Michael,

I guess you don't have enough Scandal navy yams in your neck of the woods to celebrate Woden's Day and Thor's day. But, then, if we changed it all to Firstday, Secondday, etc., it would lose a bit of je ne sais quoi, (Elliot) Ness' Pa?

It would be even harder than trying to get the Subud organization to change the cultish language of latihan kedjiwaan to something else that doesn't have the questionable odor of that indefinable and possibly nonexistent "spirituality" about it, like Rajneesh's name for it, "swing and let go", or whatever it was, after he was "opened" by a woman and incorporated it into his cult, modifying it to the extent that men and women do it together, like they do in the Roman Catholic services in Indonesia and elsewhere (and on Christian TV of a certain stripe, from what I've seen), from what I hear. Enjoy.

Peace, Philip

From rochanah, September 18, 2010. Time 17:13


From rochanah, September 18, 2010. Time 17:22

Just interesting: Just read Mario Vargas Llosa's "LITUMA EN LOS ANDES", in Spanish; so I have to paraphrase rather than copy the exact quotes. But one of the characters is a "bruja" who describes a form of dance and intoxication which very well describes the "latihan". The Bruja is more in touch with the "dark side" but does describe getting in touch with the inner self, the infinite, etc. through this type of dance which requires a "letting go", etc.

From Philip Quackenbush, September 19, 2010. Time 2:46

Hi, Rochanah,

Long time no hear from. Glad to know you're still kicking. I'm reading a couple of novels myself to get some ideas, because I'm writing one myself. Yes, the chied characteristic of the latihan is letting go, relaxation, whatever you want to call it, surrender, etc. That's what allows what Jung calls the collective unconscious to break through the usual clamp-down on behavior of the mind-body complex to allow the "spirit", oversoul, whatever, to break through or become active in one's life (through the activation of the pineal gland, by the way, which is graphically represented at the Vatican by the largest external sculpture there of a pine cone; that's why some people have difficulty "receiving" it, because it's become somewhat calcified). It's a change in the physiology, as I've stated many times, but there hasn't been enough research done on the phenomenon yet to put a scientific stamp on it, which is a pity, because it would allow people who are otherwise unable to accept such phenomena to allow themselves access to it, and eventually live from it ('live the latihan", as a Subudnik might say). That integration can take months, years, or even lifetimes, but whether it's achieved through Zen meditation, the "right" kind of drugs (brujos, as I recall, often use them to alter their state), or what Subud calls the latihan doesn't really matter. It's the next stage of evolution of human society, IMO, and it will happen and is happening no matter how close to the vest the Subud organization through its cultish behaviors and elitist attitudes continues to hold its supposedly-new "gift" by requiring enquirers to go through a waiting period and possible refusal to "give" it to them. Would the average mother refuse to give her baby food?Enjoy.

Peace, Philip

From Marius, September 19, 2010. Time 14:8

Crikey! I don’t take the remotest bit of credit for it, but I’m blown away by the scope of discussion provoked by the early feedback to my article. After the discussion got bumped to a second page I stopped receiving notifications as a result of which I had no idea how much further it had gone, so I’m weighing in a little late.

Before going any further, a propos Thor’s Day, I just thought I’d mention that in Portuguese the days of the week are numerical, apart from Sunday (domingo, counted as the first day) and Saturday (sábado, the Sabbath). Monday is segunda, then it’s terça, quarta, quinta and sexta. So if you ever want to threaten someone Portuguese, it won’t carry much weight to tell them that their days are numbered.

Anyway, fundamentalism and metaphor – I’ve noted a huge amount of trite metaphor in use by Christian fundamentalists, very often without any discernible parallel to reality (whatever that is) – you know, stuff like: ‘people are like tea bags – you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are’ or ‘forbidden fruit creates many jams’. Honestly, I could vomit.

Merin’s summary of linguistic world-maps and normative language was brilliant, but once we get into the purest notions of words as symbols then none of us really has a clue what’s going on in anyone else’s head. The mechanics of language – encoding an idea into words and vibrating the vocal chords with exhaled air while manipulating tongue and lips to generate representative sound waves, and these waves causing resonances in the eardrums of someone else in order to trigger chemical messages in their brain which then are decoded back into words and interpreted by the peculiarities of their psychology – are indeed clever and useful, but like an internet chat room, you don’t know what the person on the other end actually looks like. Is there an empirical way to describe the colour blue (other than in Photoshop)?

People far cleverer than I have devised linguistic structures that afford levels of precision that go some way towards allowing a degree of certainty, but it can all fall apart; Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky for example all started out apparently holding the same ideals, but look how they ended up (BTW, I am aware of the weaknesses of this example before you rip it apart – I’m using it fuzzily). So what are the odds that we are ever really on the exact same page as anyone else? I would suggest that in the end we are all islands, so to compensate we have these handy emotional and spiritual modes of being that enable us to experience what I suppose we would call intimacy.

But as far as certainty is concerned, I find it overrated. Far from being a difficult state to maintain I find the uncertainty that life has imposed on me highly liberating – of that I am certain. It’s refreshing to know that I am a microbe on a speck of dust because it means, among other things, that whatever I choose to believe (and all beliefs are choices in the end) is unlikely to be of great consequence to the supreme conscious force in which I do believe. It also means that whatever I want to achieve, no matter how difficult a goal may look, it’s actually something really tiny. What will be will be, and I have precious little control over that.

That obviously raises the spectre of free will. Do we have it? I’m not even sure of that, another uncertainty that, at the very least, lets me off the hook. If we have free will, I can honestly say that I have pursued my aims honestly, done the best I could and that my numerous fails result from forces that acted upon and formed the growing Marius. If we don’t – well then, nothing’s my fault, is it? I find this extremely acceptable as it gives me a really strong sense that no matter how noisily my ego tries to express itself, there’s a part of me that knows, absolutely, that it’s a trivial little show-off. And this entire perspective (which might be so much garbage to someone else, and I’m fine with that) is courtesy of the latihan, which is why I think it’s something pretty special – because it’s given me something to live by. The problem with fundamentalism is that it doesn’t allow for a big, big universe, only for a teeny-weeny universe of fixed ideas and judgement.

As for Milo Wolff goes, the quantum world is chock-full of physicists who have some extremely wacky ideas, but if you can think at the levels these guys do then I imagine it opens up some pretty far-out possibilities. Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum theory famously said “you are not thinking, you are merely being logical”; these are very clever guys and I would not care to speculate whether they are right or wrong (if such absolutes even exist). Another Bohr quote I really like is “we are all agreed that your theory is crazy; the question which divides us is whether or not it is crazy enough to stand a chance of being correct – my feeling is that it is not.”

In the world of quantum mechanics it has been proven that a particle can be in two places at once, that a photon behaves completely randomly when it hits a pane of glass – sometimes passing through, sometimes being reflected, with no discernable pattern (Niels Bohr again “prediction is difficult – especially about the future”). The entire universe is founded on uncertainty, in other words, with these uncertainties condensing into predictable physical laws to give us useful material forces such as gravity and magnetism.

I think that the universe supports me in my sincerely held belief (not that I’m certain of it) that the spiritual quest is a search for the kind of uncertainty that allows for any and all possibilities. Fundamentalists can’t cope with that idea, so they invent certainties and are then obliged to try to impose these on others so that they don’t have to deal with the spanner of having free-thinkers in the works. So at one end of the scale we have Fox News and at the other – well, conversations like this. So, to wrap up, my concern for Subud is that it’s getting more and more like Fox News (metaphorically speaking).

A final question. Rochanah, when you wrote, in your first posting ‘test’ – was that a suggestion for getting to the core of the matter or just to see if your posts were making it to the page? Just curious...


From Merin Nielsen, September 20, 2010. Time 13:47

Some people say the story of Christ and the loaves & fishes is metaphorical. Others say it's about an actual miracle. One morning earlier this year, I was at a table with three other Subud blokes, one of whom started telling us about the apparent miracle on some special occasion in Cilandak (Bapak's birthday?) when there were too many guests for the amount of rice being prepared, but no matter how much was taken from the pot, the amount of rice didn't diminish. I can't recall the details, but it's one of those tales that does the rounds. Anyway, I'd heard it before, but wouldn't have minded hearing it again except for the way it seemed to be introduced -- with a sense of awe. I could have let it slide, but it felt dishonest to let this sort of fundamentalism propagate, so I spoke up in a scoffing way. Sorry, but I had to scoff that the story resembled the miracle of the loaves & fishes, and really should not be taken as literally true. Within a minute, I was defending myself against accusations of intolerance and rudeness. What happened? I wasn't willing to accept that stuff as normative in Subud, which amounted to me rocking the boat.

From Sahlan Diver, September 20, 2010. Time 15:17

I did an Internet search on "rice pot miracle", Unfortunately there is a brand of pot known as the "Miracle Rice Pot", (!) so this obscured the results somewhat, but I did find this story from Cuba:

relating to never-ending salad leaves and tomoatoes.

I wouldn't be surprised if a more intense search were done that more examples might be found.

This could show one of the following:
1) Such miracles are not uncommon and are no indication of the special status of the people involved.
2) People are more gullible and open to suggestion in times of stress than we allow for.
3) The Cuban story and/or the Bapak story is a fabrication or exaggeration.

No doubt by telling the Bapak story the proponents think they are doing Subud a favour by strengthening the faithful. But it is just this sort of religious wonderment that is likely to put off our chief prospective market, i.e. those looking for an individual spiritual experience free from dogma and veneration.

Another story I heard was of someone travelling to a Congress who got stuck at an airport where she didn't speak the local language and her money was stolen also. She closed her eyes and prayed for help, and just as she opened her eyes there standing in front of her was a member whom she hadn't seen for years. "Proof of God's guidance." Am I, like Merin, going to be sceptical of this Subud story, I hear you asking? No, I am not, because it is not a Subud story - it is a Jehovah's witness one,


From Philip Quackenbush, September 20, 2010. Time 15:37

Hi, Merin,

Well, I suppose these stories of "miracles" have to some extent, at least, been propagated by the founder himself. I remember one lecture I heard him give in which he "casually" mentioned walking on water after his "ball of light" experience, or at least at sometime in that same general area (his back yard, perhaps). The story of "Jesus" walking on water in the decoded New Testament (the result of twenty years of research by an Australian biblical scholar) is a result of the history of his life being put in code to prevent the ruling Romans from coming down hard on the Jews for their anti-Roman activities in which "Jesus", as a zealot, was involved (and perhaps the traditional Jews for coming down on the exiled Essenes). His "walking on water" was a mere local euphemism for walking out on the wharf (at Qumran where he was actually born, not in Bethlehem) onto the Dead Sea. HIs changing water into wine, another "miracle", was a euphemism for allowing water baptism initiates at the wedding to participate in the wine ceremony, which was only usually allowed to the "higher" initiates. The New Testament seen in the light of the decoded version, gives a more complete history of "Jesus'" life, including who sat where at the "Last Supper" and an account down to the last minute, in some cases, of what happened, as well as where he was "buried" (he was actually buried, according to three other sources I've run into, in Old Town Srinagar, in Pakistan, at the age of 120). Another "miracle" (sort of), connected with the founder, was related to me by an eye-witness member decades ago, who saw a bunch of lights hovering over or around the Cilandak compound during one of the founder's birthdays. When she asked one of the locals what they were, the answer given was that they were there to celebrate (or honor) his birthday, and that it happened every year. Connected with that could be a "receiving" of another member when he asked during one latihan if the latihan was from UFO's and got the immediate response, "Of course." In my opinion, none of this matters, because as the Indian gurus usually tell their chelas, all these "siddhis" ("spiritual" abilities or effects) are of no real importance, because they're just distractions (of which there are probably millions for each person)
from the ultimate goal of reunion or realization of the All. Enjoy.

Peace, Philip

From Marius, September 20, 2010. Time 23:45

I'm firmly with the sceptics here, as are most people whose opinion I respect. I don't believe in physical miracles and they've never been, to my knowledge, proven to exist.

I find the famous rice story disquieting because it strongly suggests that people in Subud are gullible and / or confabulatory (if that's even an adjective) – or, more disturbingly, liars. Or perhaps things like this do happen. In which case, would you still feel hungry afterwards, as with Chinese food?

I've had a handful of pretty far-out experiences through the latihan but these are distinguished from stories of regenerative rice and suchlike by the fact that they have all taken place on an inner plane and as such are relevant only to my process. I've even experienced a handful of surprising coincidences in the outer world that have given me pause but I don't have a great and terrible need to tell everybody about them. It seems that doing so takes from these events any power they may have had, although I'm not sure why.

I'd like to think that I am, normally, reasonably rational (by my standards, it must be said) and I like the scientific and logical standards demanded by the secular world; it helps keep in check the bizarre claims of pretty much anything that could be placed loosely in the ‘alternative / new age’ section of life's supermarket.

Having said that I have experienced the way that life can sometimes proceed in a harmonious way that seems to go beyond fortunate happenstance – and I can only attribute that to the influence of a greater, hyperconscious whole. But that's just my experience and, in direct opposition to what I wrote a couple of paragraphs ago, I have now told you about it. I do so only to make the point that I do believe that the latihan can deliver on certain promises made for it in terms of one's spiritual growth. That's why, going back to the original comments made on my article, I don't consider it arrogant in the least to believe that the latihan (or any other spiritual connection) is special, as long as I don't make the assumption that I become special by proxy as a result of the fact that I am a practitioner – or that people outside Subud are in any way ‘less than’.

Out of interest, would anyone care to comment on friends in and out of Subud? My wider circle of friends is composed of all shades of people, from dropout musicians to self-made millionaires, and few of them even know Subud exists. I ask because it has always looked to me as if people in Subud who avoid the ‘outside world’ (I'd have thought, rather, that it is Subud members who are the outsiders) are far more prone to the sort of fundamentalism under discussion. Does anyone concur? And is there a term for this syndrome?

From Sahlan Diver, September 21, 2010. Time 0:5

Not commenting on Marius's post, but referring back to the original rice story, there is a paradox.

The story tellers presumably used the "miracle" as evidence that Bapak had special spiritual authority. However if you believe that then you also have to believe as authoritative the talk in which Bapak said that although there were miracles at the time of Christ, nowadays there will no longer be any such miracles. Thus the miracle is nullified as not actually having happened,


From rocohanah, September 21, 2010. Time 1:36

MIRACLE RICE : Never happened. Instead I will tell you another Bapak story: in the early days of Subud some of our "spiritual guys" would be "in latihan" all day and when their wives would suggest they get a job, they would utter "god will provide"; to which B. said something like : "There is no spiritual rice, if you want to eat, you have to work."

Merin: how old were those Subud blokes you mentioned above? or how long ago did that conversation occur? I can hardly believe that there are still people in Subud who would actually believe stories like that...

And "test" was definitely to make sure I was still allowed to post here. :-)

From rochanah, September 21, 2010. Time 1:39


From Merin Nielsen, September 21, 2010. Time 2:3

Hi, Rochanah,

You asked how old: in their 40s or 50s, like me. It's not so hard to believe there are "still" people in Subud believing miracle stories, as they represent those most likely to stay!

Cheers, Merin

From Marius, September 21, 2010. Time 9:54

I'm with you there, Philip - quite the opposite of naïve, I would have thought. Sticking my neck out, I'd go as far as to say that if the latihan's anything, it's detergent that, over time, reveals that we're a community of equals. How could it be otherwise when (metaphorically) we are droplets in the spray that will eventually rejoin the ocean?

Which brings me to another thing I'd be interested to know - what are people's views on the afterlife? One of the things I am glad of is that over years of doing the latihan, my thinking has been repositioned to the point that I find 'heaven' and 'hell' rather naïve and antiquated constructs. So much for what it isn't; as for what it is, I really can't say - I haven't been there yet (as far as I know).
Cheers, Marius

From Marius, September 21, 2010. Time 10:33

OK, so, that's weird...I posted the above in response to a post by Philip, but his post has disappeared and orphaned mine along with it...

From webmaster, September 21, 2010. Time 11:10

The post referred to contained deliberate mis-spellings.

The poster had been warned several times before that deliberate mis-spellings violate our conditions for acceptance of posts. The post was therefore removed soon after placement.

From Marius, September 21, 2010. Time 11:33

Ah - thanks for that, now I understand. It took me several reads before I picked up on what was meant by the mis-spelling in question and I'm a native speaker. Philip, could you maybe redo the post, as I thought it made a cogent point nonetheless.

From Philip Quackenbush, September 22, 2010. Time 2:17

Hi, Marius,

I generally dump the postings I make to Subud Vision, because of the assumption that I can read them any time in the archives of the site. However, I found that I couldn't retrieve the post in question on my computer for "correction", because my "history" function sent me to a new page, and I haven't yet installed a backup hard drive that would save every keystroke I make (a Big Brother of one's own making). Therefore, unless the webmaster is willing to send me a copy of the offending post for correction, or somebody else who has it archived before it was removed can send a copy to me for editing or edit it his or her self eand re-post it, I'm afraid it's toast. I should say before I sign off that this discussion has gotten rather lively recently, so I can understand the frustration of the webmaster in reading it all and adhering to the new posting rules, so I'll do my best to not transgress them in the future. Enjoy.

Peace, Philip

From Stefan, February 17, 2011. Time 13:50

Great article Marius and I'm inspired by a lot of the discussion. I think the concept Merin introduces of "normative" sums up a common cause between all contributors. However much we differ on the details we all want to liberate the latihan from normative assumptions, language and metaphors. Some of us recommend relinquishing certainties. By implication we should make no claims whatsoever about the latihan. Others would say it's OK to share personal stories, feelings or fuzzy metaphors about the latihan so long as there is no suggestion that these are literal truths.

We all agree that we don't want to be represented by formulaic words. The way to demonstrate this is not by suppressing personal stories, feelings and metaphors about the latihan but by ensuring that a diversity of these are readily accessible to any enquirer and stating clearly that these are all personal and subjective. I like the analogy Marius makes with music. It's fine to talk about a personal response to a piece of music because everybody knows that someone else's response may be entirely different. Why not describe latihan in this way - like a series of music reviews?

David suggests latihan is like vitamin K - a supplement for people who are lacking something. Great. Print that. Philip views it as one manifestation of an inherent relaxation response in all humans and recommends that practitioners make a point of making an objective "outside" assessment as well as a subjective "inside" one. Wonderful. Print that. Sjahari wonders if the latihan is the same or different from spontaneous movements. sounds and positive feelings he experiences in improvisation sessions outside of Subud. Print that question - questions are as descriptive and valuable as statements. So "the latihan" is described like Prospro's island in which different people discover entirely different challenges, treasures and personal insights. And those who find nothing of particular value are given airspace too. A spectrum of individual voices, with questions, ambivalences and uncertainties will help engender tolerance for uncertainty and for widely differing individual feelings, questions, views and discussions. This will be more colourful and sustainable than trying to establish a new network in which personal stories are absent. The intention would simply be to avoid making any particular personal view - even the view that everything is uncertain - into a dogma or an official line.

Add Feedback to this page / Communicate with us

Use the form below to

Very sorry but feedback forms now permanently closed on the Subud Vision site