Subud Vision - Discussion

Rosalind Priestley - Will the Real Bapak Please Stand Up

We cannot know the real Rosalind Priestley. From Chan Rasjid, January 14, 2011. Time 16:44


What I see after a reading your article is that, first and foremost, it expresses knowledge 'from-the-mind'.
I expect this would elicit immediate reactions from many that I am from the 'Bapak-says-camp'. I indeed can be slotted into that camp which believes in Bapak. I have my reasons to and, at this moment of writing, is unaware that it simply is because Bapak said so.

When we are first born, we learn about the 'real' world around us - react to it, to adapt to it and to communicate to those around us. So if we trace the reality of our adult knowledge, it is not too different from 'I-hear-or-read-someone-said-so' - nearly every iota of knowledge that an ordinary person has is of this nature; even 'original-research' done through empirical investigations are of no exceptions as the basis is from an acquired sets of logic rules. Bapak described this form of knowledge as from the 'heart and mind'. In general Man do not have original knowledge. Most of the things people normally say do not differ in much from words prefaced with "Bapak says ..." - their essences have origins that usually do not trace from our 'true' self.

If the real Rosalind Priestley stands up, not many can know her. If the real Bapak stands up, the situation is rather similar - not many people can know him. We may ask a worldly question and, no matter how difficult, an answer could usually be found in the end. But ask a question about the nature of life and death, it 'breaches-the-profound' - and everything said can rightly be called a personal opinion; but the 'spiritual significance' of words of people may differ very much; it all depends on the persons spiritual experience, not how much a person thinks about a problem or how many book references have been quoted, but more related to the person's total amount of attentiveness spent in life to living. The more we think and read books to search for an answer, the less 'attentiveness' we spend on 'living' - we acquire more knowledge of the heart-and-mind and less about the true spiritual world.

It is not without reason that Bapak stressed that the heart and mind should be directed properly - that is to worldly pursuits. Directing the heart and mind to questions about human nature is the same as trying to delve into the meaning of life and depth through thinking - the answer can never be found as it is beyond the realm of the heart and mind.

As not many of us can see into the future, it is difficult to say whether if Subud keeps going in 'this-same-manner' it will simply die away.

Chan Rasjid,

From Rosalind, January 14, 2011. Time 20:32

Dear Rasjid,

I'm not sure how what you are saying differs from what I am saying. My point is that all opinions of Bapak are a matter of personal judgement. Perhaps you are suggesting that someone, such as yourself, has the spiritual experience to set himself above other individuals and judge their capacity to judge. I don't see how anyone can claim that kind of superiority and authority. We would not relinquish our right to make our own decisions in any other area of our lives, so why would we uniquely do this when forming an impression of a spiritual leader? We have an obligation to ourselves to examine all questions carefully and make our assessments based on what we can learn from every part of ourselves: mind, heart, intuition, inner feeling, as well as from any outside sources that are available. No one can tell us we are wrong, because no one is walking in our shoes. For some people, the figure of Bapak has great importance and what he said was highly significant. For others, what he had to say created serious problems, and they would have been more comfortable in Subud without the presence of a 'teacher'. That's how it is. Subud has lost a lot of members because of Bapak. Maybe it's time to recognize that fact and explicitly offer members a real freedom of belief where Bapak and his teachings are concerned.

All the best,


From Michael Irwin, January 16, 2011. Time 23:54

From the list of opinions at the start of Rosalind's article I would say that the article is not about who or what Bapak was but rather who or what he was as perceived to be by different people. The title is intentionally provocative but also intentionally not answered. The point to me is that there exists a dominant view of Bapak within the body of Subud members that is paraded as the true Bapak so that those who hold a different views are sat upon. And that is not good.

From Marcus Bolt, January 18, 2011. Time 16:33

Dear Chan Rasjid

You write: 'What I see after a reading your article is that, first and foremost, it expresses knowledge 'from-the-mind'.

Having been in Subud for 42 years, I am well aware that this type of comment is the most employed Subud put-down for any statement that deviates even slightly from the embedded belief system, despite the fact it is utter nonsense.

What else could one express in words, either written or spoken, apart from 'knowledge of the mind'? Even the most way out 'spiritual' experience has to be interpreted in the mind, thereby becoming 'knowledge', and then filtered through the layers of one's inured culture in order to be 'expressed'. The soul does not have language, has no fingers to type, or vocal chords to speak. It can only 'express' itself in this realm by using its allocated human mind and the apposite worldly tools.

This applied to Bapak as well, as can be seen from the frequent factual mistakes he made in his talks and how the 'spiritual knowledge' he imparted is highly coloured by his Indonesian Muslim background.

And he knew this, saying many times that we must 'receive for ourselves', 'follow the path of our own true self' and ' should never believe what Bapak tells you if you haven’t yet experienced it for yourselves; that would be very harmful to you...'.

Furthermore, I have thoroughly read (and appreciated) Rosalind Priestley's article, but can nowhere find a passage where she 'asks a question about the nature of life and death', to quote you, for example. Her article is a well-reasoned one, her argument based solely on her interpretation of personal experiencing. You may disagree with her because your experiencing is different, and you may come up with equally well-reasoned counter arguments, but you cannot dismiss it out of hand by claiming it is has no value because it 'comes from the mind'. That is a meaningless statement.

I have also read all 22 Volumes of the retranslated Bapak Talks (as well as reading the books and the Pewartas and attending many Bapak talks) but nowhere can I find a passage where Bapak says we may not have personal opinions about him, or anyone else for that matter, or that we must not 'Direct(ing) the heart and mind to questions about human nature.' to quote you again.

I say this because that is exactly where the latihan has led me over 42 years, through studying psychotherapy and writing intrinsically about human nature. (And quite honestly, if I were clever enough, I would write a book comparing the similarities between the messages of Freud, Jung and Adler et al with Bapak's and other spiritual leaders - and perhaps someday someone will, thus creating the 'psychology of the soul' Bapak predicted would one day appear.

So, are you going to hit me with the 'all from the mind' jibe, when I tell you this is the result of 42 years of latihan for me, simply because I don't happen to have had the kind of Bapak-centric Subud experience you've had?

I enjoy polemic and 'creative thinking', because the latihan has cleaned up my mind over 42 years, and it's now a lot sharper than it was and those 'Aha!' moments ARE my receiving. In fact, Bapak often stated (somewhat platitudinously, as it it's pretty obvious) that 'It's better to have a clever servant than a stupid one'.

Best wishes


From Andrew Hall, January 27, 2011. Time 17:4

I would like to offer my own perspective on the significance of what Bapak said and how we can understand it.

I think the issue is "certainty." For some, what Bapak says gives them a certainty about the uncertainties in life, and for sure there are lots of uncertainties and ambiguities facing us as individuals and in our groups.

What I now think and feel is that certainty, including certainty about Bapak and what he said, is not helpful to my own growing understanding and transformation.

To me, the latihan is about allowing the energies of the Invisible into my life. At this point, what Bapak says is not helpful to this process.

I am also puzzled how someone like Chan Rasjad can argue that what Bapak says is significant then go on to critize someone for using their heart and mind. Do we not use our hearts and minds when we read something? How else can we understand and appreciate what is written?

When I read something, beyond reading the words, my imagination and emotions can be engaged to a greater or lesser extent. Sometimes I am struck by something and I experience this as profound. This is a visceral feeling, that is I experience it physically, inside my chest.

When I read Bapak, I can experience a range of reactions. Sometimes I feel compassion and love, I feel uplifted, and sometimes I feel fear, I feel diminished. And sometimes I do experience something profound, similar to what I can feel when reading certain scriptures in the Bible.

Because of the range of my own reactions and because I understand that Bapak is sometimes repeating Javanese folklore and beliefs, I can no longer accept everything that Bapak says as received from God. I see Bapak very much as a man of his time and place, just like myself and everyone else for that matter.

Andrew Hall

From stefan, February 13, 2011. Time 14:59

In my experience those who want to "stick with Bapak" are hoping to maintain an authentic Subud. The concern is that if we dispense with Bapak's guidelines then we don't know what chaos might develop. Mixed latihans? Children being opened? Social drinking or recreational drug before latihan? Other practices or theories mixed in? Certain dominant individuals putting their stamp on it?

And the elderly Ibu Rahayu is still cherished as a figurehead, to keep a degree of cohesion, peace and unity among our widely spread membership.

Unfortunately this has engendered a conformity culture, maintained - as Marcus points out - by dismissing or excluding those who fail to play along. Tragically this means that many people who praciced the latihan to develop as individuals then felt criticised for expressing individuality and left their groups. We get very few new members because people seeking a spiritual source that requires no priest or intermediary - such as the latihan - cannot recognise it because of Subud's genuinely well intentioned culture of Bapakism. We want cohesion but strangle ourselves in the process.


From marcus Bolt, February 13, 2011. Time 16:20

Hi Stefan

As ever, a balanced view from you (are you a Libra, by any chance ;-D ?)

You quoted me when you wrote: "Unfortunately this has engendered a conformity culture, maintained - as Marcus points out - by dismissing or excluding those who fail to play along."

I realise I may have got this wrong. No dismissal or exclusion is actually done by conformists to non-conformists, simply because it isn't necessary. Those 'who fail to play along' dismiss and exclude themselves because 'conformity', by its insidious, tribal nature, is just that. It cannot possibly embrace anything outside of its conformity parameters.

In the same way, one couldn't pop down to the local Man Utd supporters club, state that Arsenal are an equally good team and expect to be warmly embraced and treated to a pint of beer. One would simply be met with quizical looks, turned backs and under-the-breath murmurs of 'Nutter'.

That Subud has come to this - a cozy club for conformists instead of an all-embracing, 'for all of mankind', totally open organisation - is the evil, not the dismissiveness or exclusion per se.

From rochanah, February 13, 2011. Time 23:14

well, how boring! I completely agree with the 3 messages above. :-)

From manuel urrejola, August 17, 2011. Time 0:39

The real Bapak is standing already¡¡ You don´t need to ask him to do so.
Bapak was Bapak.What does this mean? It means precisely that: he was-or he is- what he was, what Almighty God wanted him to be.(Sorry if someone gets offended for my involving the Creator in my argument)
He said he was a messenger, but he also said we were.He said we shouldn´t follow him but rather follow our own receiving, (but, of course, it´s easier for our childish nature to follow a "lider" than to follow ourselves)
My feeling is that he was very honest with us and he said the truth.He said he once was called to the throne of God and I belive he was.
I say, if someone supposses Bapak didn´t say the truth, it doesn´t make any sense for that person to remain in Subud one more minute,does it?

From Rosalind, August 17, 2011. Time 3:12

From stefanfreedman, August 17, 2011. Time 14:28

Hi Manuel. As you point out, Subud's founder, Bapak, said we shouldn´t follow him but rather follow our own receiving. That's a vital point.

When you add "if someone supposses Bapak didn´t say the truth, it doesn´t make any sense for that person to remain in Subud one more minute" it seems to contradict what you just said, doesn't it?

Bapak didn't ask us to believe a-priori or "have faith" in HIM, because - as he said - we live in "an age of proof". The latihan's unexpected nature is that it can be received by an individual regardless of what they believe. It's OK (according to Bapak) to be a scientist approaching Subud as an experiment, keeping questions and doubts open.

From marcus Bolt, August 17, 2011. Time 15:4


"When Prophet Muhammad later spoke of this experience, people said he was lying. And of course, for them and for us, it is still a lie: because we have never seen that tree. For Prophet Muhammad, however, it was no lie. It was a real experience. Bapak says that this is right. If Bapak, were to tell us a hundred times that sugar is sweet and if we still had never tasted sugar, we would never be able to believe Bapak. We are bound to feel that Bapak is telling a lie because we simply can't conceive of it. Indeed, we should only believe what we can vouch for from our own experience." 80 JKT 5

According to this quote from Bapak, it is quite correct to disbelieve a spiritual statement from him (or anyone) unless one has experienced it oneself.

You may have visited the 'throne of God' – I most certainly haven't – so I have no problem with suspending belief and remaining a Subud member.

I think you're getting mixed up with 'faith', which is, by definition, 'a belief in that which cannot be proven' and is an essential need for some people.

No one suggested I should 'believe in' Bapak when I was opened and his talks only exhort us to believe in the latihan. So, 42 years later, I respect him, but am only able to 'vouch for my own experience'.


From manuel, August 17, 2011. Time 16:5

My dear brothers, I plainly agree with what you say above.
I believe you are struggling hard to break something you believe it´s a distortion of Subud´s purpose.
Well, that´s a very good intention.I agree very much with the concept-so repeated by Bapak himself- that Subud is no more in the age of "belief" , but in the age of proofs.
But, suposing I was a climber and I very much wanted to reach the Everest, I would certainly enjoy the stories of someone who already was there¡¡ Maybe I would like to see his fotos and attend to his talks. That´s quite normal, ¿isn´t it?
The bad thing would be if , by placing my faith in that man I gave up my wish to try it myself¡¡
I really admire Bapak and enjoy his talks. It doesn´t bother me at all his javanese or islamic terminology.But I accept what you say: if that bothers you I would happily put Bapak
asside in our convesations.No problem¡¡

From stefanfreedman, August 17, 2011. Time 17:35

Dear Manuel,
I like your way of putting it. I'm very happy when people enjoy Bapak's talks and are open minded - as I think you are - about whether other people will find them valuable or not. Good to hear your "voice" in this exchange.

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