This is a story that Muftiah Weinstein told me. God rest her soul. She went Home, so she ain’t gonna tell it for herself. Anyway, she said one time, many years ago, they were in San Francisco, and in those days there were just little groups of people. Subud itself was little and Bapak stayed in people’s houses, and people gathered around and sat on couches. It wasn’t like a formal thing, as it got to be later. So it was kind of friendly and cozy, and they were staying at a small house in San Francisco. Bapak was in his bedroom. People were chatting, just hanging out smoking. Everybody smoked in those days, drinking coffee, having a good time.
Varindra Vittachi came running out of the bedroom, and he said, “Oh, I have the most wonderful story to tell.” He said, “Bapak told me I could tell you this. It’s so thrilling – the best story.” He said Bapak was talking about us - the people who are the pioneers of Subud - and he said, “The pioneers are the same people who always come when the prophet comes, so we were all together during the time of Abraham, during the time of Moses, during the time of Jesus, during the time of Muhammad, and here we are now, all together again.” It was thrilling because it explains why we have this love for one another, this depth of feeling for one another that’s stronger than the feelings we have for our own blood sisters and brothers.
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Olivia arrived in San Francisco on March 16 1958, which, she found out later, was just one week after Bennett arrived. She met “Nick the Greek” ( John Panopoulos), who had already heard about Subud from Tommy Tarantino (now Rasjad). In October, she called the Subud contact number she had been given, and made a date for Tuesday around 3 pm. She had Bennett’s book, ‘Concerning Subud,‘ with her; when she had first opened the book and read the second paragraph, a huge gong went off inside her, “This is it,” she had felt.
She was given an address to go to, an old NY style brownstone building owned by Sylvia Hammond. Luthfi and Irene James – whom Bapak had sent from Germany to start Subud in San Francisco - were given the downstairs apartment, and once a week they would hold candidate meetings in the drawing room.
As usual at these meetings, Luthfi, Irene and George (Fields) sat in the front, and the applicants made up the audience, with Luthfi as the main speaker. When he spoke his eyes vibrated rapidly from right to left, and the latihan would settle over the room. George spoke from the latihan, and his voice would change into a deep rumbling tone. They truly represented Bapak, and Olivia found that it was the same experience with them that she would later have when in the presence of Bapak. Olivia was opened in January 1959 by Irene James at the same time as Istiharoh Glasgow (then Linda), and four others.
One day, during her first year in Subud, Olivia was walking down the street in North Beach in 1958 with Eric North, a huge man who lived in a warehouse and threw parties every weekend - a very well known guy - and with another woman who also came to Subud eventually. Eric said, “I have to go to my shrink, want to come?” Well, sure, thought Olivia.
Eric knocked at a door on a diagonal corner. The door was answered by a little Chinaman in a suit and tie. (It was Sam Tio (Husain) Chung, she learned later) They were welcomed into a small living room. “I’ll get my wife, and you can stay with her while I do a session,” he said. Barbara, his wife, a big white woman, took her into a back bedroom, where there were two babies, who she put to bed. Then they sat together and had coffee in the kitchen and Olivia began to feel a warm vibration while Barbara talked. “I’ve met a real woman for the first time,” felt Olivia.
Six months later at the James house, while Olivia was waiting for a special Latihan with Irene, the phone rang. Luthfi answered, and said “Come over, Barbara,” and before long Barbara turned up to join in the special latihan. Barbara turned out to be Lusijah Chung, who, unknown to Olivia, had already been a Subud member at the time that Olivia was in her kitchen. Only now did Olivia understand that the warm vibration she had felt coming from Barbara at their first meeting was the latihan. "Did you recognize me?" she asked Barbara. “Not until we began the latihan," was the reply.
(Husain Chung was a renowned pioneer of psychodrama, who also brought many people to Subud.. He is the author of the recently published book God The Therapist - Ed.)
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In August 1958, I was in Switzerland with my mother and my three year old daughter. At the time I myself was ill and felt that I didn’t want to live anymore, and yet I knew that my very young daughter needed her mother. My own mother always wanted to help me, so she drew my attention to an article about Bapak and the actress Eva Bartok in "Paris Match" magazine. But I did not really take care for the article, even though Miss Bartok had gone to Coombe Springs, home of J.G. Bennett, seeking a cure from cancer.
Lying on my bed, for the first time of my life, I prayed to God and asked, “Although I have no father on this earth, do I have one in the sky?” To my amazement, the answer came down in the form of great strength and light, and I promised God that I would go to Coombe Springs even though I knew nothing about Subud. And I recovered from my sickness.
We returned home to Mulhouse in France, and, because my husband did not want to pay, my mother wrote to England and paid my travel expenses. At that time I was not working, so had no money of my own.
I left France for England in November for a ten day stay, and the moment I stepped aboard the ship I felt a sort of big warm hand supporting my back; it stayed there all the time from then on, right up until my opening.
The weather was very cold at Coombe and I was very thin because I had been so ill before. There was no heating in my room, and there were about twenty empty whiskey bottles under my bed. Around the inside of the bath there was a thick dark line such as I had never in my life seen before. Fortunately, the shower was clean and warm and of course the supporting hand on my back was always there.
Olga de Nottbeck was very, very kind. She received me and explained Subud to me in French, although it was as if she was reciting something she could not really understand.
The helpers asked me if I had my husband’s permission to be opened, and I said no, I had not known I would need it. As a result, they told me they were not sure they could open me. I explained that, because of my financial and family situation, there was no way I could return at a later date.
In the evening I heard the men doing latihan; it was as if they were completely mad! Fortunately there was always this hand at my back to support me. About two or thee days after I arrived, the helpers told me they would in fact open me.
In an otherwise empty room with just Mariam Kibble and Olga de Nottbeck, I found myself following Mariam's song up through the clouds, up, up into the sky and suddenly I fell to my knees and began to cry and cry and cry. Afterwards, I went to Olga's study and said, "I came here to find peace, but here I am crying and crying all the time." Olga replied, "You are very fortunate and blessed; myself, I have never received anything!" Since she was a helper I was very surprised at this.
I cried non-stop for three days and nights, just didn’t sleep anymore. Strange things happened during these nights - a cat crying throughout the night at my
door, for example – and I was very afraid. I also had a piece of good fortune though: a lady who had a room at Coombe but was living in London, lent me her room where there was a little heating.
After those three days of crying, I reached a sort of deeply calm, light state of well-being, which continued until I returned to France, even though I still did not sleep during all this time.
I felt that my daughter was always near me and could not understand why my husband was not. The other funny thing was that I could understand whatever people were thinking, but it did not disturb me in any way; I just let it be. (This continued for a while even when I was at home.)
The first thing I received at this time, was that basically everything in the New Testament was the Truth, even though I’d never really read it. I was so sure of the truth of this receiving that I remember writing to a friend at the time telling her of my conviction.
The second thing I saw was the blessing of God falling constantly on the earth like very fine rain. I could see that it falls, as the New Testament says, "On both the good and the bad," but the bad are not able to receive it.
During my journey back to France other things happened that I am not yet ready to speak of. Back home, I found that every time I opened the New Testament, the latihan would immediately start and only stop when I closed the book. So I finally read the entire New Testament from beginning to end, accompanied by the latihan, with the result that it is now inside me and I don’t need to read it anymore except when I want to know the precise words - for example when I want to share them with someone else. But even if I know inside me everything that is in the New Testament, I cannot claim that I am always able to put it into practice in my everyday life.
Another striking thing when I returned home was that, much to my surprise, my daughter would obey me and run to do whatever I asked of her!
As for my mother, she felt I was mad; nevertheless she asked to be opened during the U.K. Congress in 1959 when Bapak was there, although it was not good for us to do lathan together. My husband never asked to be opened.
Soon after returning from Coombe Springs, I visited my Grandfather’s second cousin in order to tell him about Subud. He was old and retired, but he had been a Professor at Strasbourg University where he taught Lutheran Religion and had written many books about Jésus Christ. As soon as I began to tell him about my new experience in Subud, however, he immediately became very angry. It was as he was a devil in a box. "What have you done?” he said, “What is that?” . . . and so on. He was really terribly angry. I had to leave him, but, needless to say, I was very sad; I just could not understand why he was like that.
About one month later, because I loved him very much, I visited him again. This time I did not speak about Subud, but he himself began to do so. He said, "You have changed a lot, and you must never stop doing latihan, never. You will really be a great help for your family." (At that time, I could not understand how I could help my family)
I asked him, "And what about you, Uncle Jean?" He answered: "For me it is too late, it will be for another life." In other words, he put his trust in reincarnation, and I was really sorry about that. I never saw him again because he died a month and a half later. I always remember him and pray for him. He was good for me. the only person on my father’s side of the family who recognised that Subud was good and that I was not a "bad girl."
There was no Subud group in Mulhouse where I lived, although later on there was one in Paris. That was a good distance away, however, so it was rare to be able to attend group latihan. In fact, there has never been a group in Alsace (Eastern France), so I was very fortunate to receive so much. Because of that, and also because of my promise to God, I will never stop doing latihan.
In 1958, the author of this account wrote to Bapak to thank him for all the blessings that she received as a result of his bringing the latihan to the West. She still treasures his reply, which reads as follows:
My Dear Daughter,
Your letter which was sent on 18th December 1958 is received by Bapak in good order.
Bapak also is grateful to God the Almighty, that you have received God’s gift for this is His will.
May God’s gift to you always be possessed by you, and may this will be a guidance to you for the true way of life.
Bapak ends this letter with the hope that by receiving this letter you will be blessed.
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I was sitting with another brother in the small reception room of Bapak’s old house in Semarang when the maid came in with some tea for us on a tray. Suddenly everything went into slow motion, and all the mundane surroundings of the room, all sights and sounds, were wrapped in a heavenly inner swaying, the bliss and lightness of which I had never experienced before or since. It seemed as if I was given a tiny taste of the origin of the Subud latihan. I remember Bapak saying something about Heaven and slow motion, e.g. angels dancing in slow motion or something like that, also the connection with Javanese classical dancing which has all these very slow movements. As often, my lower forces wanted to prolong the experience, or at least have a recurrence, but it never happened again quite like that.
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I was lucky enough to be around Adji (Bapak’s grandson) for many years, and he was always so generous with his sharing of advice and experiences with Bapak. For example: 1) "Guilt is the glue that binds us to our mistakes". Bapak made a clear distinction between pure and spontaneous regret for mistakes and the darker thing we call guilt, which is more like a part of the mistake itself. 2) Adji once asked Bapak what we should do if we feel we have sinned or made a mistake before God. Bapak said "Well, suppose your father lends you a table, and you break one of the legs, what would you do? Adji replied, "I would repair it". Bapak: "Is that all?" Adji: silence, couldn't add anything. Bapak: "You make it better than it was before".
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Alone at home on Easter Sunday I had a very strong spontaneous latihan. All of a sudden, Jesus Christ was there before me, in the position of being on the cross. Our foreheads met and I had to raise my arms and hold His hands in mine. Then we parted and I moved to take the wreath off His head and I placed it on mine. I wanted Him to look me in the eye but He did not, and I realized He is dead.
Then the happenings of Christ's sufferings started to happen backwards time-wise, but only glimpses: pictures like Him dragging the cross on the street, and a drop of His blood hitting the stone road, and I see it hit the ground in slow motion... I saw the nails go through his body. I had to say out loud: "I was there!" - and when I did, an overwhelmingly strong feeling of pain and grief came over me. I felt His suffering and I wanted to die instead of Him. I was crying hard and I kept saying that I was there.
When the latihan was over, I walked up to the bookshelf and took the Bible in my hands, I have had it since '93, since when I have consulted it maybe five times. A paper fell out of it, I can't remember when and from where I got it and placed it in the Bible. It contained actual messages of Jesus, the main sentence being: "It has come from me." I just opened the Bible, and it opened at Paul's Letter to the Romans 8.
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