I had read that as a Subud member my latihan would affect my ancestors for seven generations back. Other than being greeted by images of European looking people a in a latihan shortly after I was opened, I didn’t really have much of an idea of what that meant – not, that is, until my paternal grandmother died. Upon my grandmother’s death, I found out that I had a whole bunch of ancestors that I was clueless about.
My father has always told me that we can tell that we have Native American ancestry because we have orange ear wax, and other earwax is golden. I haven’t checked people’s earwax to find out if this is the case, but in any event my dad and aunt look Native American. Their manner has a quality that feels Native American. They’ve always lived close to the land and love it in a way that is precious to me. I have felt a kinship with Native American values on the inside, but on the outside I look to be a fair-skinned European. The only thing that distinguishes me from the blue-eyed redheads and blondes of my mother’s side of the family is that I have my father’s dark, straight hair and my eyes are hazel.
My father’s side of the family is interested in genealogy and they know a lot about everyone except my great-grandfather, who is the big
family secret. My great- grandfather is said to have been full-blooded Native American and conceived a child out-of-wedlock with my great grandmother. Because the child was born out-of-wedlock, the married sister raised the child.
No one knows the name or the tribal heritage of the Native American great
grandfather. If this story is accurate, I would presumably be 1/8th American Indian and 7/8th Northern European. In any event, I was soon to discover that it didn’t really matter that I had no clue about my American Indian ancestors. They knew me. So here is how this discovery came about.
My husband picks up the phone one evening and hears in a casual conversational tone the words, “Well, she packed it in about six o’clock.” My husband makes the brilliant guess that it is probably my father’s voice and that someone has died. I phone my dad and I agree to fly out and sing “Amazing Grace” in harmony with my two aunts for my grandmother’s funeral. I then phone my Subud sisters to request a latihan on behalf of my grandmother, as is the custom at our Subud center. The next evening, we are gathered to do a latihan on behalf of my grandmother. The word “begin” is barely spoken, and boom, I am down on my knees bowing and chanting in some American Indian tongue. I feel the gentleness of my grandmother’s spirit. Afterwards, a sister comments that my grandmother can go anywhere she wants.
I contract some sort of flu on the plane and arrive at the farmhouse of relatives that I have not seen in twenty years. At this moment of reunion, I throw up on the lawn. Fortunately, a medical doctor and three nurses are inside, and they
happily greet me and swipe my wrist with some magical drug that takes away my nausea. Their manner is so casual and cheerful. A little stomach flu
is nothing to fuss about. I am in the nest of my kin.
The next day, thanks to the little swipe on my wrist of the miracle drug, I sing “Amazing Grace” in three-part harmony with my aunts at my grandmother’s funeral. Draped over my grandmother’s casket is a large white afghan, in which she had crocheted the Lord’s Prayer in perfect stitches. The blue ribbon that came with the white baby blanket that she sent at our daughter’s birth meant that the blanket had won first prize at the County Fair. My sister-in-law says that she has stored enough of those white baby blankets that my grandmother crocheted that she can supply future generations too. I recall that Bapak had said that we receive the latihan if we have an ancestor who truly worshipped God. I suspect that I received the latihan because of this grandmother.
Upon my return home, my latihans continue with the Native American theme. I chant in deep tones. I have latihans around various Native American people’s experiences, and I write down some of the words that I speak and chant in latihan. I search on the internet, and I get some matches with Shoshone. I test with a helper and she receives that I have American Indian ancestry from several tribes.
One evening, I am standing in latihan in a state of deep, luscious peace. An American Indian man holding a large medicine shield with four feathers draping down from it stands above me to one side. Golden light pours through the medicine shield into me. Throughout the whole latihan, light pours into me from the medicine shield.
The next day, I meet with an acquaintance who has some psychic abilities. He comments to me, “You have an eagle in golden light on your forehead”. He has no knowledge of my personal life or Subud experiences. He makes
another comment which happens to be accurate, which is that I should get the
tires changed on my car. I can’t see anything on my forehead.
On another day, I am at the carwash, and one of the workers looks towards me and comments to another worker, “Creo que es una águila porque es muy grande,” which translates as “I think she is an eagle because she is very big.”
Physically, I am rather small of stature, so, once again, someone is
seeing something that is not visible to me.
I wish I knew something about what these latihans mean. I test with a helper and she receives that the shaman was someone that my ancestors worshipped and my ancestors sent him on my behalf. Wow! My ancestors know me and are looking after me.
The Native American latihans continue. On one evening I experience being shot by an arrow. I feel the arrow go right into my chest. On another evening, I see an entire family laid out in white ceremonial calf-skin robes. They are all dead, including the children. I cry and cry. I seem to be processing traumatic events that happened to people.
The Native American chanting during latihan causes an expansion of my vocal range. Normally, I am a soprano. Now my vocal range extends to a complete octave below middle C. I guess this is one of those unexpected perks from being steadfast in attending latihan.
One day a helper receives that God would like me to pray “for my ancestors to be forgiven back to the beginning of my line.” How far is back to the beginning of my line? What have I or my ancestors done to deserve such generosity? I take on a larger role in Subud, and so I feel like I am giving back enough to make the prayer. One day I pray for my ancestors to be forgiven back to the beginning of my line while driving to visit a Subud sister. When I arrive, she says, “Your ancestors are here.They are singing.” More specifically, my Native American ancestors are chanting.
Eventually, after two years, the Native American latihans stopped and the content of my latihan changed. Perhaps someday when I “pack it in” and go home, I’ll get to meet them. If they are anything like my kin on the good red road, they’ll be friendly and not care one whit how I show up. I’ll be welcomed, and of course, there will be singing, maybe on both the blue and red roads.
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The older I get the more I realise that I should have invested much more time and energy in my family. In the end, they're the ones you're inwardly closest to, much more than we often realise. About two years ago I seemed to be getting the message to really pray for my father (who died many years ago), my oldest brother and a male cousin (who I haven't seen for years and who I don't like at all). I kept praying for my father, but after a while I gave up doing this for my brother and my cousin, thinking it was enough. As soon as I'd stopped praying for them I had a terrifying dream. In the dream I saw both of them falling in what seemed a bottomless pit, they kept falling, going down at great speed, while screaming for help, going nearly mad with fear and agony. At the same time I was feeling that I’d let them down. I was pretty shaken up by this dream so I resumed praying for them.
Recently several members of our family have noticed a change in my oldest brother. While before he had been an atheist, he has started to talk about God and the Hereafter in a way he's never done before and it is clear that he has started to doubt his atheist beliefs. Perhaps this would have happened anyway, but maybe my prayers have helped too.
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Father and Son
In 1994, it fell to me as a regional helper to arrange matters for a helper weekend gathering to be held in six weeks’ time. As I recall, the main requirement was to hire a second hall nearby, so that there would be enough
room for the numbers expected. That went smoothly, and it was an occasion to
look forward to.
For some inexplicable reason, however, I wasn't. In fact, in the week prior to the event I was filled with sadness, a sadness that just would not shift. Well, the event duly began, and the Saturday was, for me, busy and revealing. The testing was important for me personally, as my attitude to life evidently was that I didn't want to be on the planet! - and then I understood that that was inappropriate, and that God had put me here - of course, all of us here - for a reason.
That evening, there was a selamatan. My father was a group helper, and in fact at one point in the seventies we two were the only active men helpers in our group. We were very close, both as father and son, and as group helpers. That evening at the selamatan, we were physically close too, as he animatedly shared with me, his face inches from mine, his latest ideas and enthusiasm for projects in Vietnam. He seemed bursting with life.
The next morning about 7, one of my sisters, still living at home, called me: "Dad just died", she said quietly, "Come over if you feel like it". He had passed away peacefully, around 6am or so, from a heart attack. Then I understood the sadness, the 'not looking forward'...and my inner, prepared as
it must have been, felt no trauma, no disturbance. My wife and I went for a
walk, then headed off to Dad's home. I won't share many details, but I will
share two wonderful experiences. The night after dad passed away, dad's beaming face came to me in a dream, and then he was gone. Some months later, I received a phone call from a dear Subud brother. He told me: "Ramdhan asked me to tell you that he loved you". I knew that, of course, but what a blessing ... Thanks, Dad.
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Father and Daughter
I was touched to read the recent piece about my father, Abdullah Pope. Just a
week before Abdullah passed away, I had an experience where I was
sitting with him in a cafe in the most beautiful building and landscape. The
colours and landscape were incredible - unlike anything in this world - and he
and I were drinking cappuccino (something he really liked). The atmosphere was so light and there were many people there who I recognized as Subud members who had already passed away. When Abdullah died a week later, I could feel him surrounded by the many Subud brothers and sisters who were already there, and I felt his great joy to see them all again.
How very blessed we are to have the latihan! These connections that we often feel in Subud remind me of the following extract from the book ‘An
'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." So he said, "This is so thrilling. This is 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."
'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 sometimes have for our own blood sisters and brothers.'
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I was touched by the recent contributions about the influence of
our ancestors, and I write this for posterity as this explanation from Bapak may
die with me if I do not record it now. It is well over fifty years since I heard
this explanation, yet it is hard to forget.
My dear Subud brother and sister Ronald and Rosetta Jayatilleke lost their second son at a young age from a freak car accident. This had an enormous effect on the parents and also on the many Subud members who were close
to the family. Eventually, Ronald travelled to Indonesia and on his return
shared the following.
Bapak had asked his audience to imagine a stream of water flowing downstream and a coloured dye being put into the stream at one point.
The coloured dye represents the grace of God (the latihan), and it must flow
backwards for seven generations and forwards for seven generations. This, Bapak explained, is why Subud is sometimes very difficult.
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Native American Connections
An Italian Subud brother used to tell us about experiences he'd had involving Native Americans. He had received that he'd been a powerful Red Indian shaman in pre-Colombian times in North America. He'd asked Bapak about this and Bapak had confirmed that these receivings were true.
Once, when I was staying with this brother, he'd employed a -non-Subud-photographer to do some work for him related to his business. I'd noticed that this - very friendly- man kept looking around me, and around the other Subud people that were there, in a peculiar way as if he could see something that we couldn't see.
One day, the photographer asked my friend if he could have a word with him. It appeared that this photographer was a psychic and he asked the Subud brother if he believed in the supernatural. When my friend confirmed this the photographer asked him if he wanted to know something that he could se about him. 'Go ahead' said my friend. The psychic then told him that he kept seeing all these Red Indians around him.
Later, my friend asked Bapak where he should live and Bapak told him 'Canada', which was the country where he had lived as a Red Indian hundreds
of years before. On his first visit he was in Vancouver sitting somewhere
overlooking the harbour when a Red Indian came up to him and started to talk to him. The peculiar thing was that straight from the beginning the Indian spoke about 'we', treating my friend as if he was an Indian too. 'Look,' he said to him 'This is what the white man has made,’ pointing at oil refineries and other polluting industrial plants in the distance.
They became friends and later when he went back to Italy (he didn't manage to get into Canada in the end) they kept writing each other and the Indian sent him typical Indian gifts like a peace pipe, etc.
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In February 2001 I went to Kalimantan in order to help prepare for congress and plan child projects. I had been in Subud for about eight months by then. Maxwell, a young volunteer from England, had also arrived.
We did not know at that time how violent the situation had become in the Indonesian part of Kalimantan. We soon found out that the headhunting had begun because the hotel we were staying in already had many visitors from other parts of Kalimantan, all trying to get away from the violence. By the second day of our stay, a procession passed by the hotel which was situated in the main street of Palangka Raya. In front, three men were walking with long sticks with real heads on top. It was a gruesome sight. Everybody stayed inside and only went out to buy food.
The day after the procession I was sitting playing the guitar and singing. All of a sudden three men came into the hotel by the back door. They were dressed as Dayak warriors, almost naked and painted and armed with long knives, machete-like. One of them came straight to me. I was the only white person there at that moment. He put a long curved knife to my throat and held it there. My eyes went wide with shock and all I could think of was something Muchtar Martins had written about Kalimantan and how the djinns would bow to Bapak. So I looked him in the eyes and inside I was saying, ”I am Bapak´s child, I am Bapak´s child.” I held my left hand up and said one of the few Indonesian words I knew:” Tengan, tengan!” Take it easy, take it easy! It all happened in a split second, and the man took the knife away from
me and the three of them left the hotel. As soon as they were out,
the hotel personnel (Dayak people, just as shocked as we) ran to all the
doors and shut them with locks and chains.
It was strange that although still in shock I had lost all fear and walked about the streets when I needed to, to e-mail the Danish embassy, to buy food and so on. The embassy advised that there was no way to get away from Kalimantan then, no boats, no planes. We had to stay put. Even the police were staying inside, the army did not show and the Subud people stayed in Rungan Sari. Rumours of black magic were flying about. Walking the streets in Palangka
Raya I could see burning houses, but the houses with black and red flags on were Dayak houses, and so not to be burnt down. Once in a while I would pass those crazy-looking half- naked painted people with their long knives and crazed eyes, although they did me no harm.
It took several weeks before anybody could get out of there. After three weeks Vivianna (Bulow-Huebe), my Swedish friend from Jakarta, sent me money through an Indonesian family so I could finally get away. I then flew to Jakarta and spent three weeks with Vivianna in Pamulang.
Naturally enough, there was indecision about the upcoming Congress. People were scared and many did not dare come to Kalimantan after 400 Madura people had lost their heads.
That said, many people still wanted the Congress to be held in Palangka Raya, and I felt certain after what had happened to me that it would be fine and safe to have the Congress there.
On Ibu Rahayu´s birthday the decision had to be announced. Lots of people were gathered in Bapak´s house in Pamulang to celebrate with Ibu and to hear the final decision.
While Ibu was talking I looked up and there, at the banister, above us, I ”saw” Bapak standing there looking down at us. He had his Indonesian hat on. He took it off and behind him were mountains with blood and tears streaming down from them. He collected all the tears and all the blood in his hat, shook it and put the hat back on. Ibu was saying: ”The International Congress will be held in Bali.”
Some people were crying, others were happy. Ibu had to do what was good for everybody.
Above us I ”saw” Bapak shake his head sadly but lovingly. ”Lack of courage,” he said. “Lack of courage in the Subud people.”
Later, on one of the last days of the Bali Congress, with lots of testing sessions going on, an international helper from Africa, told me: ”I just had this receiving. It was good that we had the congress in Bali. Bali was very, very low and in danger, but now it has been lifted up”. He was relieved
because he had felt very sad about moving the Congress from Kalimantan to Bali.
The following summer I went back to Kalimantan. There was a peace gathering, and Hamid Camp and I had been invited to play music there. I
saw all my friends from Palangka Raya again, and it was a very happy
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I dreamed that I found myself in a subterranean system of shallow water channels. I came upon one that forked into two channels, and chose the left one. I walked along this watery path awhile, then arrived at a lake. I dived in, and all of a sudden I went deeper and deeper. I assumed that I would drown, then instantly realised that I was not in water, but in something very calming, blissful and safe. I felt I could be there forever. Then I woke up, with a peaceful feeling.
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