God’s Chosen People – The Way of Subud

Considering Reich’s work it is interesting now to look at the influence of Muhammed Subuh. He was born and lived in Indonesia, working as an accountant for many years. His main interest in life was to seek out some of the many gurus in his country, and attempt a deeper awareness of life’s mysteries and the nature of God. In his late twenties, in the year 1925, he experienced a vision while out walking. It seemed to him that a ball of light or fire rushed across the sky and descended on his head. He began to shake and tremble, and felt a powerful and divine energy had begun to work in his being. On reaching home he opened himself to the influence of this power and found spontaneous movements and experiences occurred. From that time onwards he frequently ‘opened’ himself to what he felt to come from God, and found that each time movements, sounds, and a wide variety of inner experience arose. He observed that the movements and experiences were ways in which his being was gradually cleansed and made whole. It was as if some influence were gradually guiding him through experiences in a direction he could not preconceive, but IT could. Also, his physical health improved, his experiences educated him regarding his and other peoples life on Earth, and he found his intuitive faculties enormously enlarged. Often he could also be instrumental in helping other people to experience healing. The film star Eva Bartok told her story in the newspapers at the time of her own healing in connection with Pak Subuh and her baby.

By 1932 Pak Subuh had discovered that other people who relaxed in his presence could also receive the same experience and be led through cleansing and integration. Groups of people in Indonesia began to practice this ‘opening’ to what they felt to be the grace of God working in their lives. The manner of these group experiences is like that described under Shaktipat. People found their bodies making spontaneous movements; they experienced themselves in a wide variety of ways, were led through catharsis and great inspirational insights. Like the Pentecostal approach, there was a tendency toward remaining on the symbolic level, and editing all but the transcendental.

The experience of being moved from within was called ‘Latihan’, which in Indonesian means to be moved, cleansed and disciplined by the power of God. But until 1957 comparatively few people were in these groups doing latihan. Those who were had mostly been using latihan several times a week for many years. Sometimes the length of practice was ten or fifteen years. These practitioners had found that their nature and body had been gradually changed by the practice. Their awareness and sympathies had widened. Problems had shifted, and in general they felt more in touch with the force or meaning behind their existence. At this point a European working in Indonesia – Rofe – asked to be introduced to the latihan. Rofe taught it to people in England who started an international centre at Coombe Springs. From there the practice went world-wide, and at one time the followers numbers were claimed to be 200,000. People of all nationalities, religious belief, political views and social status found they could experience the latihan. The lives of many were deeply changed by it.

If we are to understand how modern men and women relate to homeostasis there are things we must be aware of in regard to the latihan, and the organisation named Subud. J.P. Barter, for instance, writing about his involvement in the latihan says, “We do not know for any certainty why the force which is received in Subud has been made uniquely available to mankind today rather than at some earlier period in history.” The statement is typical of the sort of historical blindness and spiritual pomposity that is common in the practice. Pak Subuh states that the experience is unique to him and new in the world. When I myself started a homeostasis group many years ago, based on Reichian work and Mesmer’s groups, a spy was sent from a Subud group in a nearby town to find out where or how I had stolen their latihan! That people like J.G. Bennet, a well educated man, and Barter, bright enough to write an orderly account of Subud, can accept such statements is a warning that the Western mind, in attempting to re-establish connection with the deeper layers of the psyche, can often revert to primitive attitudes, ignoring or discarding information and lessons learned through hard experience.


-Michael Rogge 2012-03-13 10:19:50

I took this photograph of Pak Subuh in Tokyo in 1959. It is displayed in the wrong dimensions. Although I’m a member of Subud for 55 years and helped to introduce it in the West, I have always had second thoughts about its Muslim leanings and the way it was explained. I have tried to universalize its message in vain, though.

    -Tony Crisp 2012-03-14 14:26:56

    Michael – Thank you for your thoughts that I find very interesting and near to my own. Not that I had difficulty with the Muslim aspect of it, my difficulty was that I had experienced exactly the same phenomena 17 or more years before joining Subud, and in trying to explain how it was universal in nature I met with complete denial.

    I couldn’t find the photo you mentioned, though I visited your very interesting site.


-nigel ross 2011-06-08 17:23:27

Pak Subuh introduced my father to the latihan.
My father died shortly afterwards. He was a fit man in his thirties . Subud and Bapak himself sanctioned a cover-up and they somehow avoided a scandal that would have finished them .

    -Tony Crisp 2011-06-14 13:45:52

    Nigel – Thank you for your interesting post. If you have any more information I would be interested in receiving it. If you do not want it on the posts, write to me at tony.dreamhawk@gmail.com.


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