Subud Vision - Feedback

Max MacArthur - My Non-Opening

I had a slow start too. From Marius Kahan, May 3, 2009. Time 19:2

Hi Max,

This is totally off-the-cuff and not particularly well thought through, but I wanted to respond speedily rather than necessarily with the best constructed and coherent comments.

In my view, one big difference between Subud today and Subud when I was opened over 30 years ago (not trying to sound like an ‘old hand’ or establish any credentials here, just telling it as I see it) is that there was an unspoken pressure to conform - not conspiratorially you understand, but just as a result of a general acceptance of the way things were, probably informed by so many generations of religious belief. This made it much harder to ask the questions you are asking. I sorely wish that I had.

I waited 5 years for anything significant to occur, and there were a couple of occasions when I sat in the corner of the Latihan hall and wept quiet tears of frustration (and probably envy). I knew one stalwart member who was a source of support at the time who had not moved or uttered a sound until 8 years after his opening. He seemed to me the very embodiment of what I hoped the Latihan might one day do for me.

All the talk of patience and surrender was of little practical help to me, and if I were able to put my finger on any one thing that might have held me back, it would be that I had a certain expectation of the Latihan - inevitably, because I had been ‘sold’ it by people who were clearly experiencing something that was, for them, life-enhancing. My expectations were as far out of line with my first ‘real’ Latihan as they could possibly be.

I would be lying if I said that I felt absolutely nothing, but my early experiences in Latihan were few and far between, and entirely ‘in my head’ as against my body. They weren’t all that dissimilar from a meditation experience I’d had before joining Subud, so one could speculate that I felt these things simply by dint of being quiet inside (insofar as I could manage that - which was not much, to be honest). A quiet mind does help with receiving, as does the realisation that we don’t ‘do’ Latihan, it is ‘done’ to us - but again there is a chicken and egg situation here, in that if one has never felt these things, they’re kinda’ tricky to induce out of thin air. Anyway, in the interests of transparency I’ll tell you what kicked it off for me.

I grew up a confirmed, card-carrying atheist, and I came to Subud following a quest triggered by a blissful experience on acid. Everything else on the spiritual menu (I checked out just about everything) looked overblown and laden with mythology and / or demands for money, while Subud seemed ‘clean’. After five years I decided that enough was enough and resolved to quit Subud. I went back to my original source of inspiration in the form of psychedelic consciousness enhancement in the form of a handful of psilocybin mushrooms. I played the same Santana album that had been the soundtrack to my first experience but I felt nothing, save that Santana didn’t seem any longer to be the musical and spiritual giant I had previously held him to be. So I went downstairs and sat with my wife while she watched some TV (Fawlty Towers as I recall) - even that didn’t make me laugh.

In the midst of this confusion and depression, my arms suddenly flew into the air unbidden and I received - really received - that I should go back up to the study and do Latihan. As I closed the study door behind me… well, words can’t do justice, but that was my first ‘real’ Latihan, and it was authentically mind-blowing. Thankfully it has continued to this day, sometimes super-powerful like that night (not often though) sometimes like a gentle breeze or a fresh stream - but always, well, tangible, if one can say that about something spiritual.

Now I’m not advocating using psychedelics, I’m just saying that there really are no set rules or formulae - where and why it starts for people is a mystery but some of us have to wait, it seems, until we find the right door. Subud is a bit of an anomaly because it doesn’t offer an official mythology - and if you’ve visited Subud Vision, you’ll notice that a lot of people are concerned that this lack of a belief system is causing something to rise up in its place.

In conclusion, all I can say is that the Latihan is not logical - it’s about ‘God’ whatever you perceive that to be, and as such it’s beyond the scope of human reason. What it does, when it does it, and why it does it when it does are, I fear, questions with no answers. I can heartily recommend sticking with it - most people who do ultimately seem to find fulfilment of one sort or another - but with no expectations either in or out of the Latihan hall.

Hope that helps,


From Max MacArthur, May 10, 2009. Time 0:29

Dear Marius

First of all thank you for your encouraging feedback. Well, it was at once encouraging and discouraging; encouraging because you took 5 years to be opened, and discouraging because you took 5 years to be opened!

I was very moved by your feedback and although I cannot relate to drug taking because I've never done it, I was especially touched by the detail you provided about your circumstances. For example, I can identify with you about the re-playing of your Santana album and feeling nothing. I have revisited some such landmarks in my life, only to find that the "fire" was no longer there. I was left wondering what the magic was all about in the first place!
I had changed.

After reading your very kind feedback, what mystifies me still is why you persevered for 5 years when nothing or very little happened in your latihans. Were there other compelling attractions that made you come back week after week, month after month, for 5 years in doing the group latihan? Did they serve such fantastic coffee?

I hope the latihan is the outward manifestation of an inner change in a person. If it isn't, it wouldn't sustain my interest even if it were full of spectacular miracles. As a newcomer I keep my eyes and ears very open to watch and learn.

Are you able to put in words what your latihans do for you? In other words, why do you continue with it, if you do? Or is this question against Subud protocol?

I am deeply grateful to your posting, as I am with the others, because of the trouble you ahve taken to reach out to me.


Discussion with other contributors on this page

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