Subud Vision - Discussion

Merin Nielsen - Genuinely Open

Offer Latihan Free From Trappings? From Stefan, January 3, 2008. Time 17:51

Offer Latihan Free From Trappings?

Hi Merin,

Rereading your article I find myself agreeing with almost everything. Only thing I'm still unsettled about is whether it's honest (or advisable) to describe the latihan simply as "an exercise that might be spiritually healthy."

In favour:-

I've just been leading a dance residential and took part in early morning Tai Chi sessions that one of our caterers offered. Some of those who came along were regular practitioners, most - like me - were checking it out. No applicant meetings, no philosophy, no enrolment or commitment required. Just try it and see.

I'd like to see the latihan made as easily available and free from baggage as that.

Two reservations:-

1) But it may not be comparable because the latihan can initiate a process akin to "detox". I heard from a friend who was opened last year that her first experience was excruciatingly intense, though she decided it was valuable and continued. At Ascot one young member told me she's stopped telling friends about Subud because "two of them joined and both went into crisis". I asked if they had support from the group or the helpers and she said something like "Not really. Her friends just couldn't cope with it and stopped coming". I don't know what to make of this as it's beyond my first-hand experience.

Is it then advisable to have some preparation, and support in place? Shouldn't people thinking of trying it know that for some very little apparently happens for a time while for others, latihan can leave them feeling open to the point of vulnerability?

2) If latihan is "an exercise which is spiritually healthy", what is there to distinguish it from thousands of others? In my (still limited) experience the latihan has a quality which vividly distinguishes it for me.

However - I'm arguing both sides now - this second reservation is one I might be able to release. Better, I think, to claim less and invite people to draw their own conclusions after having direct experience.


From Merin Nielsen, January 4, 2008. Time 1:8

Hi, Stefan,

I think there must be some formal arrangement for applicants to be told about the range of possible effects (or non-effects) of practising latihan, and perhaps how best to respond to any undesirable effects. For this practical purpose, as well as for helpers to get to know the applicant before opening, it seems that a waiting period is needed, though I reckon that something less than a month should do.



From David W, January 4, 2008. Time 1:58

Hi Stefan

You write: "...what is there to distinguish it from thousands of others? In my (still limited) experience the latihan has a quality which vividly distinguishes it for me."

The key could be in those two little words "for me". We know that something like 95-99% of applicants, having "tasted" the latihan, move on within two years. It may be, as one person has put it, that "Subud is not for everyone." In that case, any description of what vividly distinguishes the latihan "for you" has to say something about you, as much as it says something about the latihan.



From Hassanah Briedis, January 5, 2008. Time 10:41

Hi, this subject of the intense effect after being opened, which for many people proves too much to cope with - I would relate this topic to that of my article on the latihan and dissociation and mental illness. If, as I suggest, the latihan opens the door to the unconscious, it makes sense that all kinds of unresolved baggage pours out after the opening. One of the reasons that new members can't cope with this is because the latihan experience isn't presented to them in this way, and they try to fit their chaotic emotional experiences into a spiritual mould. The helper system reinforces this perception, and so a tremendously valuable opportunity to lay old ghosts to rest is lost.

It may be thought that people should be able to see if their experiences are psychological, but truth is, most don't. The unconscious presents its material through symbol, metaphor, images, and so on. Rarely does it spell things out in rational language. It's up to us to translate the language of the inner.

I'm finally getting the time to look in on other feedback pages, and greatly enjoying the discussions taking place. So far I've been surprised to discover how many discussions are linked to my article on the nature of the latihan itself.

Best wishes, Hassanah Briedis

From Stefan, January 5, 2008. Time 12:13

Hi all,

Hassanah, I'm also enjoying this (long overdue) discussion about the nature of the latihan.

You say "the latihan opens the door to the unconscious, it makes sense that all kinds of unresolved baggage pours out after the opening.". I agree that this is a key element. I also agree that it's sorely missing in our current descriptions. I think Dirk's article about psychology shows good reasons for describing the latihan's action in this way. John G Bennett's brilliant book A Spiritual Psychology, written after 7 years of latihan when he was still very engaged by it, explores this ground in depth. (A shame it's now out of print). This book, more than any Intro. to Subud book, convinced me when I came across it in my local library.

Two thoughts:

1> If I look at David's point, he might argue that this is just be an expression of your personal latihan rather than a general truth (please correct me David if I've misapplied what you wrote). I would like to sound Subud people out because I speculate that this unconscious release may be an aspect of the latihan experience shared by many, though it's rarely alluded to.

2> Your description of latihan sounds like dabbling with Pandora's demons ("Don't go there!!!") but is compatible with a spiritual interpretation. For example, psychosynthesis is a respected psychological approach that recognises both the need to release unconscious blocks and also the innate transcendent faculty of humans. Don't we need a Subud description that integrates these two elements?

Merin, you agree that a potential latihaner should be made aware of possible effects (and I agree that 3 months is way too long). Would all this be going too far? If so, what would your briefing be?

In psychosynthesis there is a respect for the individual's own potential to attune to a guiding intuition, whether they picture it as within themself, God, Goddess or Ganesh.

I bet that most of those who persist with the latihan experience something that could be called transpersonal (healing? guiding? God? but these words are sadly lame because of overuse). I don't agree with David that because those who leave may not have felt this that those who remain can't describe the transpersonal aspect of Subud as something many members experience and value.

Of course it would be foolish to give the impression that people's experiences will be the same. We can more or less guarantee it will be "original". This individual response (within a group setting) is the most exciting thing about Subud, but surely we still need to say SOMETHING about the latihan's potential effects?


From Hassanah Briedis, January 5, 2008. Time 13:16

Hi Stefan, “Pandora’s demons” . . . I’m making a guess that you’re referring to descriptions that inspect the latihan totally outside the normal Subud context, especially outside its usual spiritual context. But you are absolutely right, and I’m so glad you make the point – that we need to integrate the psychological component of the latihan experience with the transcendent, self-healing, self-realizing drive of the human being. Instead of seeing the two as competing or mutually exclusive.

And yes, in any discussion of a Subud description, we have to include how the latihan is to be presented to potential applicants. So how can these ideas be integrated? One way is to stop negatively compartmentalizing human development into physical, psychological and spiritual. To be up front about the fact that entering into a method of self-development (ie, joining Subud) will stimulate development across a range of experience. Acknowledge the emotional as emotional, instead of trying to dress it up as purification, cleansing, picking up others’ forces, etc. Your emotional response to things is about your stuff, and needs to be worked on (if you so choose).

Purification is a fancy way of describing a psychological process of encountering one’s shadows and unresolved mess. Perhaps in Javanese culture, everyone understands that, but in western culture, it needs to be put in language that westerners understand. So much time has been wasted because people have not understood the process involved in what Subud has called ‘purification’.

As for spiritual development, well, that could do with some updating of language and terminology too. Lots of discussion there as well.

How much of this ‘psychological’ aspect to tell a newcomer? Why not be open about it? If he/she is likely to experience upset and confusion, give them the tools to be able to deal effectively with the process, so that they can get the most benefit from a ‘clearing out’ that the system obviously wants to do.

Best, Hassanah

From Merin Nielsen, January 5, 2008. Time 15:3

Hi, Stefan,

>> Would all this [referring to psychology] be going too far? If so, what would your briefing be?

With regard to possible undesirable effects of the latihan, it's hard to say exactly how much psychology should or could reasonably be included in explanations to applicants or other inquirers. Subud members, especially helpers, could certainly do with official encouragement to (voluntarily?) accept education about psychological factors, and must be prepared to address these issues with potential latihaners on a personal, realistic basis. But how much encouragement and how much education are optimal; what forms of psychology are suitable to incorporate; how should the topic generally be introduced; and how will the prospective processes of encouragement and education be administered?

I don't know. I hope initiatives like those of Hanna Thomas and Hassanah Briedis will draw useful conclusions and be taken very seriously.



From Hassanah Briedis, January 6, 2008. Time 3:31

Hi Merin, I understand your questions about how and in what terms to introduce the psychological aspect of the latihan process to newcomers. But for those who work in that area, it's not so difficult. We constantly have to find 'user-friendly' terms and phrases to present complex psychological processes. Perhaps if Subud as an organization does come to an understanding about this, the people who have to write up the texts will bring in qualified people in their region to advise in the copy-writing. And local helpers would need to be given some training in how to talk about it.


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