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Rosalind Priestley - The Case for Not Having Helpers

A Report from a group meeting that discussed Rosalind's article. From haskeladamson, August 19, 2007. Time 14:28

Notes of a meeting held at Loudwater Farm 16/8/07 to discuss the article "The Case for not having Helpers" written by Rosalind Priestley, taken from the Subud Vision web site. Six people attended the meeting from the local group plus one visitor.

We began by reading some of the text to remind us of the points raised. The first point that stimulated debate was the assertion that "helpers constitute an inner circle in the group".

La: said that in organisational terms any division with exclusive parts are bound to create feelings of 'them and us' and resentment. The subject of exclusivity related to helper activities such as helper latihans, talking to applicants, testing , attending openings.

Rd: said that in 1983, Bapak stated {do you want to check the reference for me Rd} in a talk at Anugraha, that all members Latihaning for seven years or more should automatically be helpers. So after seven years he tested with his group helpers who felt it wasn't right yet. Since then he has tested every few years for the last 24 years and was made a candidate helper two years ago. Rd feels patronised by the helpers in the group. He did test with another group once and they felt it was fine for him to be a helper but they did not want to upset the helpers in the home group by making him a helper then and there. Rd feels like he could have become a helper years ago if he had made a bigger effort to fit into the clique, but preferred to remain true to his own personality. Rd then said that this is an individual case and doesn't feel this is a reason to get rid of helpers altogether.

Ra: replied that Rd should have talked to the regional and national helpers about this situation and should have shared the results of the testing done -with the group he had visited- with his own group.

Others felt that the responsibility for this situation lay more than equally with Rd's helper group.

La: felt that helpers groups could share out responsibilities in their groups more evenly and not have older members take on, or remain in leadership roles.

Rd: felt that general group testing was sometimes more like programming when a series of questions was asked with insufficient time for reflection and for communicating receivings. Rapid fire questions resulted in the question seeming to have more potency than the receiving. The result could be seen as more teaching\preaching than testing.

The discussion came back to the idea of allowing all members to take on helper roles as far as they felt able and comfortable.

Ra: felt that the experience of helpers was needed to cope with difficult openings/ testing.

El: felt that the idea that members could not handle the' dark side' of certain latihans seemed to have created sufficient reason for them to form an exclusive group, as they have begun to believe that only they can take the negative emitted energies of the members.

El: thought that in an all helper model of a group new members and old could have the option of attending those sessions they felt comfortable with. New members could be included in extra latihan activity at their own pace, but at least they would be included.

A question was asked, " What is the aim of the fortnightly helpers latihan?" answer from a helper, ' To learn to work together , and to grow so as to be able to help members.'

El : asked why not work with the members from the start. That if helper latihans were changed to a regular latihan night then all the group could come together discuss and test about issues affecting the group after the latihan. The organisational side of helpers work could be shared out then, and all members could benefit from testing experience and the bonding that helpers express they get from their helper latihans. Kejiwaan days are held maybe once/twice a year for members whilst helpers meet fortnightly to practise their testing capabilities

Da: said that often not many helpers attended group latihan on a thursday night because there would be a helpers latihan on the friday night. If the helpers role is to help the members why do they prioritise the helpers latihan. Although he had personally benefited from supportive latihans over the years and had been a helper felt that his image of the helpers was of a self-serving group.

Four of those present ( the non-helpers )also felt benefit of support of individual helpers but antagonistic towards them as an institution.

Ra: denied the helpers were self-serving, and it was understood by all that the helpers dedicate much time and effort to their roles , but the feeling of some of those present was critical of the present situation in subud regarding local helper groups

Nd: said there was always going to be hierarchies in groups whether you institutionalised them or not

La: replied that by removing exclusivity of experiences in certain gatherings you at least were working against the imposition of hierarchies.

El: felt that a combination of newly opened members alongside older members could be better for talking to applicants.

El: Why do the helpers choose the new helpers for the group? if their role is to help the members, why arn't the new helpers tested in in front of the members.

Da: The first criteria of a helper are to be loved and respected by the group so shouldn't the group be involved in the appointment process, especially if the appointment is for life.

Ra: suggested that limited terms for group helpers could be advantageous.

At the end of the meeting a consensus was agreed that we wanted to invite the group helpers and members to come to a meeting to discuss the helper / member relationship.

Although much criticism was laid at the helper system, the feeling of the meeting was positive in that we felt able to express our views openly and honestly, in a group situation. The participants wanted to work towards solutions that will bring us close together as a group.

From Stefan, February 6, 2008. Time 12:47

Hello Haskel,

Interesting report. Very heartened to hear that a group who've been through a lot of trauma are coming together to discuss helper/member and other issues openly.

I'd like to picture what a Subud group would be like if there were no helpers. Rosalind suggests that all members are offered an opportunity to improve communication skills (such as learning NVC aka Compassionate Communication)

This would be a dream-come-true for me, but I'm wondering what happens with those who don't care to learn. I don't want to make such a thing a condition for doing latihan. If a significant number of people voluntarily improve these skills, everyone will start to benefit (I hope).

So I'm picturing then that any member can talk with enquirers. That any member can be present during group testing. That individual members have the right to choose who they approach to talk or to test with.

Since unskillful communications and conflicts are bound to arise sometimes, there needs to be some mediation plan. At the moment - with varying degrees of success - regional helpers can be called upon, and then national etc to resolve disputes. In a helper-free Subud, would we identify effective mentors? How can we avoid creating a power elite?

International helpers do a lot of nwork in countries where groups are new, struggling etc, and recently the idea is being tried of recruiting "helpers without borders" who can live for awhile in an area where a new group is founded until the latihan gets established. I think this role needs to continue, even in a helper-free Subud.

How do others picture Subud without helpers working in practice? (this overlaps with the challenge to "design your ideal Subud group)


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