I want to tell you about the death of my sister, Sally. Sally was eleven years my senior. My half sister really. We shared the same father but not the same mother. And I adored her.
Sally was an incredibly talented artist — but a burdened human being. She could make everyone else laugh, but could not get rid of her own heavy heart. She could really listen when you needed someone to listen, but I don’t know if anyone really listened to her. Or even if she could listen to herself. I really don’t know all that she went through.
I know that as a young woman, she had debated and debated whether to sleep with a man she’d fallen in love with before they could get married. (People did that back then.) It was during WW II. She was in her twenties and was in London working for the Office of War Information - doing radio communications work. He was an RAF pilot. She decided yes, be with him, and they spent a wonderful night together. The next day, he did not return from his mission. Killed in action. She never quite got over it. She thought it was her fault somehow.
I don’t think it was the first awful thing that happened to Sally. But I think it deeply wounded her in a place that was somehow already wounded.
She went from man to man after that. She was always going to get married, but then would break off the relationship. She had abortions, and tried several times to kill herself. I was really not aware of any of this until I was an adult. She was the only other artistic person in the family, and so I felt very close to her. She encouraged the artist in me. And she taught me how to draw. (She herself went to Parsons School of Design and worked as a Fashion Illustrator.) It wasn’t till I was out of college that I began to have any clue about what she’d been through or how difficult her life was.
That’s when she made yet another very serious suicide attempt. We didn’t know at first. The doctors were saying it was some serious liver condition with some very long name. It was only later we found out she had swallowed cleaning fluid in the hopes of dying. She was subsequently institutionalized. Her elder brother and his wife went to court to seek legal custody so she could be in an institution near them. I visited her there once. It was a terrible place. I thought it was awful that she was there. But I couldn’t spend more time with her. The institution was on the east coast, and I was on the west. She was there for maybe four years. When she got out, she went to live with an aunt in Greenville, South Carolina. There she met an old boyfriend, and at the age of 47, married him.
But on the night of her wedding, she became very ill. She threw up in the john. And he walked out on her. She was subsequently diagnosed with cancer of the colon. Although they caught it in time, it seemed she had no wish to try to get better, and refused any surgery.
I was in Subud by then. That summer, I went to visit her. I felt so strongly to tell her about Subud and even felt to encourage her to get opened. I was not yet a helper and questioned this feeling to almost push her towards Subud. I would test in the john. No, no, go ahead. Push.
So I gave her things to read and then scrounged up some Subud members in South Carolina for a latihan so Sally could be opened. Off we went in a car to find this woman’s house out in the country. But as we drove, Sally asked if it would be OK if she just sat outside the latihan. Well of course. Just sit quietly, I said. So I and this other woman who professed to be a helper but seemed to spend most of her time doing Scientology rather than Subud, did latihan in one room, and Sally waited in the woman's kitchen.
I was so aware of my longing for Sally to have the blessing of the latihan that I had great difficulty letting go of this awareness in my latihan. I begged forgiveness of the Almighty that I couldn't be in a more surrendered way. I will just have to accept that this is how it is, I decided reluctantly. I'm just not good at this surrendering.
On the way home, Sally confided that she had felt her tumor move during the latihan! I was astounded! I felt so hopeful, but I could not stay in South Carolina, and the woman helper I had found did not follow up as she had promised.
So Sally experienced the latihan just that once while sitting in the next room.
Months and months later, in November, it was Ramadan. I was living in Bolinas, California, a tiny village on the coast in Marin County. My husband, Alan, had left me, and I wasn't sure where my own life was headed. It was around two in the morning, and I was boiling a kettle of water for coffee. Suddenly, I had a spontaneous daydream-latihan experience.
This was my “daydream”:
I was at Siti Rohana's house in Mill Valley when there was a knock at the door. Rather than sit while Rohana opened the door — I mean, it was her house — I went to the door and opened it. Sally was standing outside. She was wearing traveling clothes, the way people used to dress up to take a trip. She was wearing a hat, a suit, and carrying a purse. She looked very happy. I was ecstatic.
"Sally!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
"I just passed on!" she burbled happily. (We were both burbling like two college chums meeting after some years and squealing in delighted high voices with each other)
"Great!" I exclaimed. "How perfect that you should come here because Rohana's a helper and she can open you." And then I turned to Rohana to introduce Sally.
"Rohana! Look who's here. It's my sister, Sally, and she's come here to be opened!" And then I suddenly wondered if you could open someone who'd passed on.
Right then the day-dream stopped, and I found myself saying out loud, "Just say Allah, Sally. Just say, Allah."
I was quite shaken. Had my sister just passed on? Oh, it couldn’t be that I had experienced my sister's passing, I thought. I’m not a helper. I’m not anybody. It must be a sign that I should call Sally in the morning to tell her not to be afraid to pray to God. I knew she had no wish to be a hypocrite, to be someone who wonders about whether God exists, and then, at the last minute, prays just in case. But I also knew that was just her own head-trip. So I planned to tell her to not feel shy to pray. I’d tell her it’s really OK to say something like: "Dear whoever you are, if you're there, help me now." Like that. That would be just as good I felt.
I noted the time.
The next morning, when I called, Sally had indeed passed on at exactly the time I had that day-dream latihan
A week or so after that, at the end of Ramadan, I was doing latihan with the group in Marin. One of my Subud sisters who was usually always present was not there this time. Rosina was pregnant with her first child, and the last 100 days of her pregnancy had begun. So she was not at latihan.
In my latihan, I suddenly saw my sister Sally walking with Ibu Siti Sumari, Bapak's former wife. Sally was holding a parasol for Ibu -- like the ladies did with Ibu in Cilandak when Ibu would go to latihan from the Big House. And
they were just strolling and chatting. And Sally was so alive and so happy! And I was in Marin and somehow seeing all this with my eyes shut. And the tears rolled down my cheeks. And I kept saying something that I didn't
understand until later.
I kept saying over and over as three separate 'words' :
And then, while I was still seeing Ibu walk with Sally, I saw Ibu suddenly be in front of Rosina. Ibu reached out to pat Rosina’s belly. "And how is Rosalind?" Ibu asked.
That was it. I have to tell you that at that time, Rosina was absolutely convinced that her baby was going to be a boy named Maxwell. I had no idea what the child was to be called if it were a girl.
After latihan, I asked Rohana if she knew what Rosina’s baby was to be called if it were a girl.
"Rosalind," she said.
And indeed, three months later, Rosalind was born.
Miracle! Miracle! That's what I had been saying. And just in case I might doubt what I was seeing about the next world—that Sally was there and in a wonderful place and with Ibu—I was given proof in this world. I was shown the child that was to come and the name of the child.
So . . . it is a miraculous place we go to. Even with less than one latihan.
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Tonight I did latihan and it was surprisingly deep and strong. In particular, there was a pulse or vibration in my hips. I have experienced this pulse in many parts of my body but never before in my hips.
When I got home there was a message to say that R, a Subud brother and helper, was in hospital for an emergency operation and would we all do latihan for him.
This was a shock because R. is a robust, healthy person and it was an indication of how illness or misfortune can suddenly strike any of us at any time.
I rang someone to ask what had happened to R and I was told that he had suddenly been afflicted with a blockage in his bowels. I immediately thought of the pulse in my hips.
Later a message came from R's wife to say that he had come through the operation OK and thanking all who had done latihan for him while the operation was going on.
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Not long after I was opened I was awakened in the middle of the night. On the wall by the side of my bed was a circle of brightly coloured light about 50 cm in diameter. The image was a picture of a woman wearing a sarong, jacket and a kind of sash across her chest. Strangely, she seemed to be able to see me. I looked away and then back at the picture. It was still there and she smiled and made a gesture of acknowledgement towards me before the picture vanished. I was opened in 1962 and at that time there were few Subud publications describing experiences of this kind and I was shocked by this event and did not mention it to anyone else for some time.
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Some years later I was fasting during the month of Ramadan and went to the group latihan in Manchester. At the start of latihan I quietened myself in the normal way but felt no change in my inner state nor did I experience any vibrations in my body. This persisted for the whole latihan. At the end of the latihan, feeling nervous that the latihan had left me, I started to pray the Islamic prayer, the Fatihah – which means ‘The Opening.’ When I got to the line, ‘To Thee alone we surrender,’ my inner being began to shake as though with fear. I continued with the line, ‘Guide us to the straight path.’ At this point with my closed eyes I saw an aperture above my head. Behind this was a blue-white light of brilliant intensity like the light of welding torch. If I had looked at this light with my opened eyes it would certainly have destroyed my sight. A part of this light then detached itself and curved down striking me on the head and burning its way through my body. It was exactly the same as the vibration of the latihan but experienced with extreme intensity. The helper then said ‘Finish!’ and my state returned to normal.
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One year during the month of Ramadan when I was fasting, I stayed up in the early hours of the morning with my wife Rohana. This was on the 27th night of the fast (one of the traditional Nights of Power when God’s Mercy descends on the earth) and so we were saying a zikkir (a repeated prayer). After some time we felt the atmosphere change and a cool clean force descended into the room. In the distance we could hear the sound of heavenly singing although there were no choirs outside in the streets of our village at that time of night or car radios playing. We both heard this distinctly and after a time the force withdrew.
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About three years ago, I started to say the word ‘Choose’ in latihan. I didn’t pay any particular attention to this as I say many things in latihan spontaneously that I don’t understand. However, the instruction persisted at every latihan and I wondered if it was connected with the fact that I intended to buy a new car. However, after some weeks I asked in the latihan what it was that I should choose. Immediately my mind became quiet and empty, my feelings peaceful and my inner self filled with the vibration of the latihan. My mouth opened and I said: ‘Choose this.’ For the last three years I have been trying to keep returning to this state. At Congress last year I had been fasting in Ramadan and went to latihan in the large dome in the school grounds. Although it was the 27th night of Ramadan I had no expectation that anything unusual would happen as I was aware that others at Congress were fasting longer and performing the formal Islamic prayers more conscientiously than I was. After about twenty minutes I found myself alone in a vast empty space wider than anything existing in this world. In this space a voice spoke inside myself. It said: ‘Whenever you meet anyone say inside yourself: ‘As-salaam aleikum’ (Peace be upon you). Then I returned to my normal state in latihan. I have not mentioned this experience to anyone as I thought it would be seen as an Islamic experience. My understanding was different. I felt that if I want to choose the latihan state I experienced in my test in latihan, I have to relate to everyone from a state that is focussed on Almighty God not as a person to person relationship. This seemed quite pertinent as I had been feeling irritated by the behaviour of a number of people at Congress.
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