Lord of the Dance
In the 70’s there was quite a bit of disharmony amongst the men in Subud Holland. Many were trying to follow Bapak’s advice to start up enterprises, but working together harmoniously proved to be not always that easy.
During this episode Bapak visited Holland on one of his world tours. One evening in the large hall of the Rotterdam Hilton Hotel, after the ladies latihan, it was the men’s turn. Bapak sat on a stage with Sharif beside
him. After the familiar words ‘Begin please,’ spoken by Bapak, we started our latihan. Then something unusual happened. Instead of the expected 30 minutes latihan, to our surprise, after ten minutes, we heard Bapak say, ‘Finish’.
‘Odd’, I thought. What followed was even odder. I could not believe my ears when I heard Sharif translate, ‘Bapak would like the men to dance with each other.’ My first response was probably the same as that of the rest of us, thinking, ‘Surely, I must have misheard this, he must have said something else,’ because nobody moved. We just stood there staring at the stage.
Then Bapak, with a huge smile on his face, took the microphone in his hand and shouted in English, ‘Dance, dance!’ I never forgot the embarrassment of that moment. I think that most of us would have preferred him to have said, ‘Now jump into the river Meuse.’ Dutch men are not the greatest of dancers at any time, and certainly not when they are forced to dance with each other. Reluctantly, we then started to dance, some in small circles of three or four, others in larger circles. There were even some pairs doing a sort of waltz. All of this was in a state of latihan.
Bapak was having the time of his life. He was laughing all the time, overseeing the spectacle and pointing out to Sharif the men he seemed
to find particularly hilarious. I remember that the first ten minutes were
actually quite painful, like some sort of inner torture or purification. After a while it became easier and we all seemed to relax more. By the time Bapak said ‘Finish’ I actually had started to enjoy it and wouldn’t have minded going on a bit longer. By that time, I had become aware of the total change of atmosphere in the hall and the different way I felt about my brothers. My chest felt wide open and we all felt as one. How amazing! Bapak gave us a fatherly smile before he left.
When we came out of the hall we poured into the foyer where the ladies had been waiting for us. They all stared at us as we walked in. Then one of the ladies said, ‘What has he done with you? You're radiant!’
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Best ever latihan
A recent Reminders newsletter reminded me of a special circumstance in
starting the San Jose group in the early 70's. We had only about eight members and only two of us men were helpers. When at Wisma Subud I had
asked Mas Darto about it and he had been quite encouraging. In testing with the regional helpers I was asked to test "How is my feeling toward my fellow
helper". It was a total surprise to receive prostrating myself at his feet in
prayer. I was so surprised that I just stood there without following the
receiving. When asked, I told the story. Surprisingly no-one asked why I didn't follow the receiving, which I felt bad about.
A few months after setting up the center another unusual thing happened. It
was a Friday night and I had planned to visit a girlfriend after latihan. We
did our latihan and after a quiet time a member who hadn't received
anything spoke up. This member lived 50 miles away and was disappointed in this latihan as well as the others he had participated in. After he spoke the
other two men said that they were also disappointed with the latihan and
wanted to do another one. There was even some anger in the voices. The
first fellow said he really expected something special and if what he had
experienced was this supposed great latihan he was going to quit. So we
followed silence with another latihan, but this latihan was the best any of
us had ever had.
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Three years before I was opened, while sharing a flat in Hampstead with J, I saw Jesus walk through the wall one Sunday morning. He beckoned me to follow him and then he walked through the other wall. I thought, “Geez, if I
were religious I’d say I’ve seen the light!” but in fact I was more or less an atheist, a secular Jew and a former Gurdjieff applicant. This Jesus I saw had a similar look to both J& I: hooded eyes, a long nose and large ears.
Soon after that experience, J and I went our separate ways and I caught a boat to Holland where I soon connected with a Dutchman named F who had been opened and had lived at Coombe Springs. In F I saw that archetypal look once again, that look I associated with Jesus, and it was F who told me about Subud. I wanted it, but was too restless to wait around Amsterdam for three months waiting to be opened, so I headed for Spain. There, on a small island, I came across references to the latihan, and several of the people living there at that time turned up later in Subud.
While I’d been an applicant in the Gurdjieff work, I’d seen a book about Subud, but when I asked, they’d said it was a cranky offshoot of The Work (Gurdjieff teaching) and dismissed it. One of the reasons I didn’t go ahead
with the Gurdjieff work was because it was too ‘mindy’ for me. Now here I was, in 1966, back in London and a girlfriend who worked in a
book store asked whether there was a book I wanted. I said “Concerning Subud” by John Bennett. She found it for me and as soon as I read the sleeve notes I knew for certain that Subud was for me. That very day I bumped into a Canadian friend who’d just been opened and he told me where to go to find the latihan. It was an old Huguenot church in Monmouth Street which turned out to be the area where I used to walk when I was seventeen, feeling lost and searching for something.
While I was an applicant, I bumped into my old flatmate J again and when I enthusiastically started to tell him about Subud, he told me he’d been a helper for two years. I then moved in with him again, and the latihan started
spontaneously in me during that time before my official opening.
After I was opened, I was walking through Kensington Gardens when who
should I see as I approached a park bench, but Gurdjieff himself! I
knew that he had died years before and somehow I knew that he knew he
was dead. He looked at me and knew me, but seeing his ghost sitting there
on a park bench like that thoroughly spooked me and I hurried past, gaze averted.
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During Bapak’s 1970 tour of England, in the group latihan, I was having a strong experience in which I was being crucified. My eyes were open and I looked at Bapak who was doing latihan with us. He glanced at me and with that glance, he released me from the cross. This felt inwardly like proof of the high level that he, Bapak, was coming from. I’d been raised to be an atheist and now here was the proof of the Power of God. For me, only God has the authority to release us.
(Many years later I received that I had been one of the other men crucified with Jesus.) It was during that visit that somebody in Bapak’s party put an
Australian two dollar note in my bag. My inner told me that this was
directed by Bapak and I treated it like a sign.
Like a Guardian Angel, the Dutch brother who’d introduced me to Subud in the 60s, came back into my life again in 1972 when I was going through a period of strong purification and suffering. He arrived in my London group for latihan and soon after, gave me a ticket to Indonesia thus significantly changing the course of my life. I never returned to England to live, because after a year in Cilandak,I emigrated to Australia on Bapak’s advice. When I landed in Australia, that mysterious two dollar note was still in my possession.
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Pillar of Light
(Written in Bangalore, India, while attending a World Subud Council meeting some years back.)
I always find I am ‘rewarded’ intangibly – spiritually – for making the effort to travel and attend international gatherings.
First, in this particular latihan, I was brought to what felt like an ‘asking place’. There I asked of God whatever it takes for the latihan to spread throughout the world. I asked this on behalf of myself and another.
Then I was moved face down to the floor and stretched out. I felt as if I was being stretched out over the whole globe to the size of the earth, and I cry out. I feel as if I am being used to intercede and protect – my body protecting the whole world. It crosses my mind that I am perhaps being shown what an angel is.
Then with great economy of gesture I was turned on my back,
still on the floor, with arms spread out like the crucifixion. I experienced the
CONTENT of Christ calling out to God begging for Mercy on humanity – Christ’s intervention.
Still on my back, a ball of light came down from above and entered me. It was within me – I have no words – although it was heavy, as if I was holding the whole world within; and then I received the words, ‘This is Bapak’, which I speak aloud. Needless to say, this was all so solemn and true.
Then, moved to sit cross-legged on the floor (again, economy of
movement); tapping left hand on the earth; and right hand up in the air I
realize this is like the Buddha; I wonder where I am, and feel I am above the
earth – floating, detached. Below me, circling the earth, are the ‘wheels of karma’; they rotate about the earth faster and faster. Then, one soul enters into the field of time, and I think this is the Dalai Lama, but it seems he was overshadowed and overpowered by the present world condition – forces of turmoil and darkness.
Then, a brilliant, incredibly bright and intense pillar of spiritual light – stretching (I felt) from ‘Heaven’ (or as high as I am able to grasp) to Earth. I have never seen this before. From it waves of white energy sweeping out, blasting, purifying outward. I wonder, “What is it? Do I stand in it?’
When I finally open my eyes, Rahayu is there immediately before me, seated. I began to weep with gratitude for this experience.
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Too Close to Ibu
Like so many Subud members, I really love Ibu Rahayu. Many years ago, Ibu was attending our National Congress and she was going to give some talks. I had been busy that day so I had to rush in order to be in time for the talk. When I arrived in the hall, she had already started. I looked for a place to sit but there were no seats left except for an empty chair not far from the podium and not far from where Ibu was sitting. The previous day Ibu Ismana had been sitting there, making notes. Ibu Ismana was nowhere to be seen this time, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can sit there, I would like to sit down and nobody is using this chair. Also, it would be really nice to sit so close to Ibu Rahayu.’ I tried to feel in myself if I was doing the right thing, sensing a mild feeling of inappropriateness, it could be that Ibu Ismana would come later of course.
I decided to go for the chair and sat down. I pretty soon relaxed, closed my eyes, and started to submerge in the strong feeling of latihan which accompanied Ibu Rahayu’s words. ‘Gosh’, I thought after a while, ‘Maybe it’s because I am sitting so close to Ibu, but this feeling is really powerful.’
It got stronger and stronger, to the point that I could feel that my inner wanted to leave my body. By that time my ‘I’ seemed to have virtually disappeared. All I felt was emptiness and this overwhelming feeling of latihan. I started to panic; maybe I was dying. So I prayed ‘Please God, don’t let me leave my body, I don’t want to die yet, I want to look after my wife and children.’ Then everything became quiet, even Ibu Rahayu’s words had stopped coming. I opened my eyes and there was Ibu sitting on the podium with Raymond Lee and Muti sitting next to her. Everything seemed normal, except that Ibu had stopped talking.
After a while Ibu spoke again, and Raymond translated, ‘Ibu Rahayu felt that her talk was going too high for some of you, that’s why she stopped. She doesn’t want anyone to go into crisis.’ Then she continued her talk. ’Oops,’ I thought, and looked around sheepishly to see if anyone was staring at me, but luckily no one was!
I remember that when I drove home after the talk, I felt very clean and uplifted as if I was in a higher place than I normal. Two days later Ibu gave another talk. This time I made sure that I wasn’t sitting too close to her!
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Declaration of Intent
Prior to commencing the Fast of the Holy Month, it is the custom to finish one’s prayers with a Declaration of Intent to observe the Fast. I used to have experiences immediately I surrendered my intention to fast in Ramadhan. This happened for a number of years, and then stopped. The experiences varied greatly and were not necessarily related to the Fast, as this one shows.
Suddenly I found myself a few yards above a forest with dense and tropical foliage, unlike any forest I had ever seen. About 30 yards in front of me was a swampy lake, about 200 yards in diameter. A number of small islands, and clumps of vegetation of various sizes, and floating plants broke the lake’s surface. I was immediately struck by the humidity, by wisps of steam or vapors rising from the water and vegetation, and also by a difficulty in breathing so that I automatically opened my throat and nostrils.
At first, I saw no sign of life as I gazed over this primal expanse, until a movement caught my eye. About 60 yards in front of me and slightly to my right, what I had at first taken for a log next to a clump of trees, or some other inanimate part of the setting, was actually moving. It was a very large and bulky animal with a long neck extending right up to the treetops. The movement attracting my attention was the slender branches in the upper tree springing back as several clumps of greenery were torn from them. The
animal moved backwards as the vegetation it had been tugging on was pulled free, stepping onto slightly higher ground so that its belly and the top of its legs became visible, the rest of them being still submerged. With the leafy fronds hanging from either side of its mouth, it stood chewing contentedly on it’s picking with head raised high in the air.
With a shock of recognition, I realized I was looking at a Brontosaurus type of dinosaur. Its body was the same build as a rhinoceros or hippopotamus, although on a much greater scale. But it had a very long neck – even longer than its huge body – enabling it to reach into the very tops of trees, and which narrowed to a very small head. I had a clear sense of the very limited intelligence of the creature. It seemed barely conscious, almost wholly instinctual, and driven by what must have been the overwhelming task of feeding its vast bulk on the plentiful vegetation. As I took this in I also had a sense of finding it difficult to breath. My own need for oxygen made me wonder whether there had been much oxygen in the atmosphere back at this stage of life on earth.
Such experiences ‘in the jiwa’ can carry an immediate understanding of what one is shown, e.g., the experience conveyed an understanding that the vast bulk of its body led it to feed by standing in water whenever it could because buoyancy made it less tiring. Also it ate with its head held high and neck fully extended as this facilitated the uninterrupted passage of food down its long gullet. (I later checked books to see if these ‘facts’ were known or supposed, but found nothing in support. Also, one may ask if this experience took place ‘in the jiwa’ how come I experienced difficulty breathing? I don’t pretend to know. I’m just relating an experience – maybe I was being shown that the oxygen content was still not high at that stage of evolution?)
Although it seemed longer, the experience probably lasted only a few seconds of our time.
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