Pak Subuh – God’s Chosen People


Chapter Ten

It is interesting 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 holy men 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 in Christianity. 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 yhis practice 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 , but in later years said latihan was not unique experience.

When I myself started a similar 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.

I see the Latihan, Pentecostal experience, Mesmers groups and the enormous critcism aimed at them, enough in the case of Wilhelm Reich to land him in prison, as explainable by modern scientific research. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration obtained an injunction against the interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and associated literature, believing they were dealing with a “fraud of the first magnitude”. Charged with contempt in 1956 for having violated the injunction, Reich was sentenced to two years imprisonment, and that summer over six tons of his publications were burned by order of the court. He died in prison of heart failure just over a year later, days before he was due to apply for parole. This resulted in a real witch hunt – all arising from the enormous misunderstanding of human nature. I tend to wonder whether his death was the way governments get rid of ‘troublemakers’.

The scientific research is as follows: In 1937, through the use of the electroencephalograph EEG measuring tiny electrical brain impulses, Loomis and his associates discovered that the form of brain-waves change with the onset of sleep. The next leap forward in understanding came when Aserinsky and Kleitman found rapid eye movements REM in 1953. In 1957 the REM were linked with dreaming. This defined sleep into two different observable states, REM sleep, and NREM non rapid eye movement, pronounced non-REM sleep.

Later sleep paralysis was discovered – the fact that voluntary movements are inhibited during periods of the dream process explains sleep paralysis. All brain signals to the voluntary muscles are stopped. Therefore if we become slightly awake and attempt to move at that time we feel paralysed. This is not sensed as a problem if we are unconsciously involved in a dream. While dreaming another level of will takes control of the body, so any sounds or movements made are not from ones conscious will.

So, in life and sleep we have two powerful actions working in us. The first is our waking experience based on having a body, its limitations, vulnerabilities and a particular gender. Our second is the power that gave us life and continues to express as dreams, in our breathing and heartbeat – our life. This I have given the description as the Life Will.

While we sleep our conscious self is largely or totally unconscious, and while we dream our voluntary muscles are paralysed – therefore another will or motivating force moves our body. So we have a Conscious Will, and what I will call a Life Will. The first one we have experience of as we can move our arm or speak in everyday activities; but the second will takes over when we sleep. See Sleep Paralysis

This Life will can move us to speak, to move our body, and in fact do things that we cannot do with our Conscious Will and in fact runs all our important life processes like heart beat, digestion and also dreams.

For simplicity I have called this experience, of what is actually ‘waking lucid dreaming’, ‘LifeStream’ and Opening to Life. Also see Waking Lucid Dreaming that explains in more detail how the Pentecostal experience and also Subud are explainable as fundamental life processes.

See For Yourself 

A method that is a mild introduction to movements not arising from ones conscious will is Arm Circling. This is a useful technique to learn the first stages of allowing your inner being to express spontaneously. It is a way of gradually loosening tensions and blockages, but must be practiced several times to really feel your way into it.

It is good to try a preparatory exercise first, one to give you a direct experience of spontaneous movement.

But it is good to get the feel of something that is easy to do first. A simple way you might be able to learn the beginnings of this it may help to first learn how to yawn spontaneously. You can do this by acting out a few yawns till they come spontaneously. Let them come and let the rest of your body join in if an urge to stretch comes. This is to learn how to recognise and allow your body and feelings to express spontaneously. When you can allow spontaneous yawns and stretches, then try the arm circling.

Spontaneous Arm Movement

This is a simple and enjoyable technique which gives a direct experience of spontaneous movement. You need to stand about a foot away from a wall, side on. Start with your right side. You are going to lift your right arm sideways, but because you are near the wall you will only manage to lift it part of the way. So when the back of your hand touches the wall, press it hard against the wall as if trying to complete the movement of lifting the arm. Using a reasonable amount of effort stay with the hand pressing against the wall for about twenty seconds. Then move so you face away from the wall, and with eyes closed relax your arm and be aware of what happens. Try it before reading on, and use the left arm afterwards.

For some people nothing happens. In which case I suggest you loosen your arms by consciously moving them to get your blood circulating, then try again.

What we have done is to attempt to make a movement. Because the wall prevented this, the body was not able to complete the movement you asked it to make. Therefore a muscular charge built up in the deltoid muscle. When you stepped away from the wall the arm, if relaxed, was then free to complete the movement. So possibly your arm rose from your side as if weightless, thus discharging its energy. Some people need several tries before they can find the right body feeling to allow the arm its movement. It is easy to prevent it moving because the impulse is quite a subtle one. The point of the exercise however, is to learn a relationship with oneself in which a subtle impulse can express. The movement the arm makes, and how it feels to experience an un-willed movement, is so similar to LifeStream we are thus provided with an experimental experience of the real thing. Therefore it is helpful either to practice the technique until you can do it, or use it a number of times to establish your relationship with the feeling of it. This sense of allowing movement can then be used in LifeStream itself.

Arm Circling Movement

For the next exercise you need sufficient floor space to move easily, or even lie full length if necessary. It also helps to have loose clothing.. You start by standing in the middle of your floor space, giving yourself time to explore what you feel and experience. Start by circling your arms. Take the arms above the head, down to the lower front of the body fairly slowly, with the arms fully extended, then upward crossing the front of the trunk. In the full movement the hands are then forming wide circles that cross the front of your body. This arm circling is simply to help you learn how to allow spontaneous movement. It is a way of working with the natural forces within you.

So, as you are circling your arms with eyes closed, bring your awareness to the shapes your hands are making in space. As you become aware of the shapes the hands are carving in space, watch what feelings you have as to how you would like to move. Give yourself permission to doodle, to make any sort of shapes your feelings or body incline you to. Allow any sort of posture or movement, as active or quiet as you like.

If they arise, allow sounds to accompany the movements, and allow whatever feelings accompany them. Hold the attitude that what you are doing doesn’t have to make sense. Nor does it have to comply with what other people might expect of you. Realise that you are allowing another part of yourself, perhaps a non verbal part, or a facet unknown to the rational mind, to express.

With a non critical watching attitude, relax and let your body and feeling sense direct what happens. There is no need to fiercely concentrate in order to wipe the mind clear of other influences. But you may need to relax the part of the mind that always needs to know beforehand what you are going to do.

This is not like creative dance, in which there may exist a need to produce something pleasing for others to watch. With this exercise you need an open area in which your inner being can make its own adjustments, and movement and feeling has a chance to express outside of rational criticism, self decision and demands of everyday life.

Give yourself at least fifteen minutes in which to explore what spontaneous movements and feelings emerge

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