Several years ago a couple in our Subud group had moved into their dream house up on the mesa in one of the canyons. We were all invited to their open house. As soon as I entered their home I felt and heard "Fire". I asked the brother concerned, "Aren't you concerned about fire in this location?" He said, "This part of the mesa hasn't burned in over fifty years".
Two years later fire swept through the region and their home burned to the ground with nothing left - nothing except a small clay sculpture of Bapak's head, done by a member of the group. It was found among the ashes.
Another Subud member had a similar misfortune and also found their photo of Bapak unharmed by the fire.
- - - - -
Clear and Simple
In a dream Bapak was holding up cards in his hand as though he was playing cards with someone. He asked me to repeat after him a sentence in Indonesian. When he finished the sentence, I was thinking, Bapak, I can't speak Indonesian. He said to me, "Repeat".
To my surprise, I was able to say word for word and finish what Bapak had said. And when I was repeating what Bapak had said, it seemed to just flow along like a beautiful little stream, clear and simple.
- - - - -
I was sitting quietly in my room at around 11 a.m. during a Ramadan I spent in Tahiti, when an old man appeared in front of me. He was missing the two front upper teeth, and generally looked like someone who had seen better days. Although not Polynesian, I felt he was from Tahiti. He stood looking sternly at me while waving his index finger in the classic admonishing gesture, rapidly and repeatedly moving the whole of his forearm from the elbow and waving the finger at me in an accusatory manner. He appeared to be talking but I was unable to hear his voice. After a few seconds he disappeared, leaving me in no doubt as to his meaning.
I sat wondering: “Why is he berating me so severely? Is it because of something I’ve done, or is he warning me?”
Suddenly the phone rang. It was the wife of a new friend, someone I’d met only a week ago on arriving in Tahiti, and although her husband was working she invited me to lunch. I politely declined. In my feelings I felt that the man admonishing me was her father, advising me not to go, and in truth I would not have gone whether he had appeared or not, for to do so would not have been appropriate for several reasons, quite aside from the fact I was fasting.
Subsequently I visited their place several times when they were both at home. On one occasion we went upstairs to see something in the study, and on a dresser at the top landing were several photographs. One was of the man I had seen, looking youthful and handsome and healthy. I enquired, “That’s a fine looking man – is he your father?”
“Yes,” she replied, “I keep this one because I only knew him when he was older, missing his front teeth. That’s what happens when they smoke opium.”
It is noteworthy that the man remained old after death. By contrast, those Subud people I have come across after death have all returned to a physical appearance as in the prime of life.
- - - - -
Helping a Friend
I had a friend who had been brought up as a Muslim and lived in London. I would visit him every so often when I lived in Oxford. He was married and both he and his wife were in Subud. We would just hang out, finding it easy to enjoy each other’s company without doing very much except talking about Islam and Subud. Sometimes we went to the Regent’s Park Mosque. He once told me about a number of things he had done in the past that he was very ashamed of and said I was the only person he had ever told these things to. One weekend when I was visiting he asked me to test about his latihan. During the test I received that in his latihan he was very angry with God whom he blamed for giving him a bad fate. When I told him this he said it was true. I told him it was purification and he should just let it go on until his latihan changed by itself. However he told me he felt too guilty to let these feelings out. I again encouraged him to express what he received in the latihan. At the time I had been in Subud about 5 years and wasn’t yet a helper and I didn’t really know what to advise or how to help him other than this.
After I left Oxford I wrote to him asking how he was but it was his wife who replied saying that my friend had died of a heart attack.
A few years later I moved to Bangkok, where there was a small Subud group that I attended regularly. Probably I had been living in Bangkok at least ten years when I started calling out my friend’s name in the latihan as if encouraging him. I felt he was in a state of despair in the afterlife. This went on for a number of weeks and then it stopped.
During latihan some weeks later the atmosphere suddenly changed and I had a vision of a group of males sitting in a semi-circle, although I could only see them from behind. I felt they were waiting for someone to arrive (perhaps Bapak). Then one of them turned round and I saw that it was my friend. He smiled at me and I knew he was now okay.
I thought we could only help family members in the afterlife through our latihan and so I wrote to Ibu Rahayu asking her if it was possible to help friends. She said it was, especially if the friend had received the latihan and she said she prayed that this experience would not burden my latihan.
- - - - -
So Much Love
When I was young, I lived near a street called Y Street and it was shaped like a Y. Anyway, years later I had a dream that I was walking down Y Street and all of a sudden Jesus was there on the footpath. He said, "All that is hoped and expected of you is to try to behave yourself."
He said I was very much loved by God, by Bapak, Mother Mary and Himself. Then at that moment I felt very sad and said, "It is too hard down here" and I began to cry. He said He is never far from me and that He loves me.
Then the dream ended.
- - - - -
An Early Pioneer
When I was 23 years old I had my first spiritual intimations in an unexpected manner. Sitting in the lunchroom of our bank office in Hong Kong in 1953, I was suddenly overwhelmed by an inner feeling that grew more and more – finally encompassing me completely. It was as if a heavenly light radiated through my whole being. It felt like a blessing, although I should not analyse what was happening - only submit to it. I had the feeling that if I were in a dark room I would illuminate it. The experience faded after a while, but returned a number of times. Walking down the street it would suddenly encompass me. It was as if I were dancing in slow motion in a crowd. As I had a deep interest in Oriental philosophy I could recognize what was happening to me. I knew that I could not control the light and wondered in what manner I could evoke it.
When I received a request from a missionary to make a documentary about her gospel boat in a typhoon shelter, I seized upon the opportunity to make a version embodying my own experiences. In the film I had a fisherboy have experiences like my own after the loss of a friend. I satisfied the missionary with a Christian narration print. (See video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA_FqFU0wcM.)
The urge arose in me also to sound out other people in the British colony who might have had a similar experience. I sent a letter to the editor of the South China Morning Post to that effect. Just a few readers responded, among whom was the Commissioner of Police, an important authority in the colony. He was interested in forming a workgroup under J.G. Bennett and asked me to serve as a front as he could not expose his spiritual interests to the public. I was not too enthusiast about the idea of mental disciplinary Gurdjief work under Bennett.
Another letter interested me far more. It came from a Husein RofÈ who happened to be stranded in Hong Kong, not being able to return to Indonesia anymore. He talked about an Indonesian guru who had unique powers and whose exercise led to a similar experience as I had had. He opened me, but the inner experiences were gone and did not return. The latihan gave me something different, though, and the divine experiences of my youth returned some fifty years later by way of inner surrender and submission at home.
I had followed the latihan in Hong Kong for barely four months that it was proposed that Bapak be invited to visit the colony on what would have been his first trip abroad. RofÈ had already ‘converted’ a number of guests in his hotel to Subud, as well as the Indonesian consul, whose sick child he had healed. RofÈ often practised healing. However, Subud headquarters were being transferred from Yogyakarta to Jakarta at that time, and Bapak was needed there. Instead, Bapak invited me to stay for a month as his guest in Indonesia, where I could stay with the father of Icksan Ahmad.
In May 1955, therefore, at Ramadan, I flew to Indonesia, taking with me a suitcase full of Theosophical books to question the great master about – although I never did I was not a bibit (young rice plant) they could be proud of it seems; I was thinking too much, they said, so did not make much progress. When I left Indonesia after a side trip to Bali, my suitcase with philosophical books had remained closed. Yet when I left I felt light, as if floating on wings, full of expectations. Bapak had advised me to have Prio Hartono invited to the next country I would be stationed in, which was Canada then, but later changed to Japan. During a stopover in Beirut a merchant said, 'You are a good person.' Was he feeling my glow, or did he say that to everybody?
Next came Cairo, where I wanted to make a film of the Al Aqsa mosque, but instead was chased by an angry mob of students. My guide managed to whisk me away behind a gate and saved me from being beaten up, and I saw this as a sign that I was being protected.
In Europe I tried to convince people of the gift Bapak had brought to the world, but nobody was impressed. It did not help that I could not open people, not yet being appointed a helper. After touring Europe I wanted to make a last call on a good friend in Hamburg, Germany, although at that time – 1955 - the roads were primitive and in bad shape and the tyres of my rented car were bald. On the way it started to rain and the brick paving of the road lined with trees became as slippery as ice. I could feel myself losing control of the car, so that I had a choice: either driving into an opposing car or into a tree at the roadside. I chose the latter option, and a calm came over me. I braced myself, leaning with my bent arm against the steering wheel, as the car hit the tree, overturned and tumbled down from the dyke into the meadow below. Upside down, I checked and found that I had survived unscathed so that I managed to wind down the window and slide out of the flattened vehicle. Cars had stopped along the road, the passengers concerned whether the driver was still alive. They found him standing alive and kicking in front of them after a miraculous escape .
I had kept my visit to a guru in Indonesia a secret from my bank, but they came to know about it anyhow through the bamboo telephone. It caused them to decide to send me to the Far East yet again, this time to Japan. Another great adventure!
- - - - -
The Month of the Ancestors
The Month of the Ancestors is celebrated in Islam, and although I am not a Moslem, I pay close attention to my ancestors, because they talk to me. Not often, but on important matters.
My first such communication came from my mother, two weeks after she died. I had been opened in Subud for about 6 months when she fell, hit her head and had a cerebral haemorrhage. She slipped into a coma and died 10 days later. I was bereft, and felt that I should leave Subud and return to the family fold, as there was some conflict between these two elements of my life. However, my mother sent a message to me. It happened like this.
One day a man at work, whom I only knew slightly, approached me and asked me if I was alright. I said I was OK, but sad because my mother had just died. He said, ’Ah, then I have a message for you’. For the past two weeks, whenever his mind was quiet, he kept hearing the name Vivienne (which is my name) repeated over and over again. Seeking to understand this, he visited a spiritualist church, something he had never done before. The medium said that there was a message ‘from the other side’ and it was intended for someone called Vivienne. As I was the only Vivienne he knew, he passed the message to me. It came in the form of a rune, which are symbols that were used in ancient
Scandinavian writing. He simply gave me the rune and I went to look up the meaning. This was in the days before Google, and I only had access to one book on the subject. The rune I was given was that of the Spiritual Warrior and its meaning was that my spiritual path was the most important work of my life. My mother was telling me of the crucial importance of staying with the latihan, at a time when, in my grief at her death, I might have chosen to return to a more traditional life. Looking back on my life now, I am beyond grateful to the latihan for what it has given me, and so grateful that I did not give it up. My mother had guided me at a crucial decision point in my life.
Since then there have been more communications, perhaps ten in all. At first they came from people that I knew who had died fairly recently, like my mother, uncle and grandmother. Sometimes the purpose was to help me; at other times it was to ask me to help them. Then one day, my long- ago ancestors contacted me. This is how it happened.
I was attending the 2-week long Yes Quest in 7 Circles in California. One of the first exercises we did was to draw a picture of what was in our heart. I drew my husband, children, parents ... then surprisingly, a long line of faceless people, disappearing into the distance. I realised that these were my ancestors, whose faces I had never seen, but who were part of my makeup, my being. I had never really given much thought to my ancestors before. Two nights later I had a dream. I saw my ancestors, and their condition was terrible. They were thin and stooped, worn down by the harshness of their work, poor health and poor nutrition. I come from a long line of people who have worked with wood, and these faceless figures carried long saws draped around their necks. Then the dream scene changed and I was building a bridge to cross over a river. As a person from a technological age, I was equipped with a device, that with a few clicks, quickly put in place a sturdy bridge. Then I realised it was slightly in the wrong place and needed to be moved. This was easily done, because the foundations of the structure was very strong. A few more clicks and it was finished.
The meaning of this dream to me was that the labour and sacrifices of my ancestors had created the conditions for my life, which was easy and comfortable as a result. Firstly, I have the latihan. I understand that Bapak said we come to the latihan as a result of the piety and worship shown by an ancestor. Secondly, as a person born in a technological age, I could effortlessly do things that would have taken huge effort in my ancestors’ time. Their work, done in very difficult circumstances, is the origin of the technology we enjoy and take for granted. My ancestors’ contribution has created the firm foundation of my life. Now, with the latihan and the advantages of the times in which I live, I can be a bridge to take them to a better place, a better condition. They were asking me to remember them, honour them and help them. I can provide the bridge which can help them out of their suffering.
So, yes, I pray for them regularly, and and make the Month of the Ancestors a special time in my year. I remember and honour them, both those I knew, and those who are lost in the mists of time.There is much mutual help that we provide to each other.
- - - - -
Wanting to Help
Last week’s contributor wrote, ‘They were asking me to remember them, honour them and help them. I can provide the bridge which can help them out of their suffering.’
The Month of the Ancestors, and particularly Laylat al-Baraa' halfway through Sha'ban, the month before Ramadan is clearly a reality.
I too had a dream, where I felt a wish to help my first husband Rashid, who died aged 29, and asked how. The answer was, 'He needs to go back'. I woke up seeing this as a clear indication to remember, with others concerned, the passing of my husband Rashid forty years ago in 1977. Accordingly, I posted some pictures on Facebook to invite others to join us in remembering him and send prayers and messages: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=260638144384153&id=100013139082078 .
The responses were encouraging, but I was too satisfied with this until Rashid came to me in another (guilt) dream to spur me on to actually book the Subud Hall for the event, on the anniversary of his death, May 12th, and invite people to come and talk about him. It wasn't until I invited our Muslim friend, Muhammad Ridhwan Is'harc, and he told me he might not be able to come because he would be busy on Laylat al-Baraa' with prayers and Qur'an recitations, that I realised the full significance of the date this year. In other years, the Muslim date would not have coincided with the anniversary, as the two calendars are different. In the event, however, Laylat al-Baraa' turned out to coincide with 11th May this year, and we were delighted that Muhammad Ridwhan and Istafiah, his wife, were able to attend our memorial selamatan and pray with us.
After 40 years, in which some have passed on themselves and others moved to faraway places, it was difficult to contact people and even to remember who had known Rashid. Even so, six of our old friends turned out to be able and happy to come to the selamatan and Rashid's and my three children, not in Subud now, were very grateful for the chance to meet up and hear more about their father from people who had known him, some of whom they barely remembered and some they knew as Subud uncles in their childhood. We were all deeply moved by the occasion and came away with a range of emotions, from relief and laughter to grief, some with headaches.
Shortly after the event I had another dream about meeting my family at an airport. I turned up first, unsure of whether anyone else would join me, and worried about my paperwork, but my daughter arrived, very tall and fully grown up, and said, 'Daddy's here, I hugged him. Can you smell anything?' As I hugged her I smelled a sweet smell with a hint of something off. Then Rashid appeared, wearing a full-length shirt known in Egypt as a galabiya, and I hugged him, smelling again the sweet smell. My current husband was there too, so I was relieved when Rashid took me towards his male relatives, who were discussing business, and got distracted, so that I was able to wake up.
Dreams have often shown me, in advance and in retrospect, important events in my family life and I take them very seriously, but rarely has one been as clear and executable as this set of dreams turned out to be. Rashid did 'go back' to meet us after the selamatan and I hope and trust that our prayers did build a bridge for him and all of us to move on.
- - - - -
River of Souls
Last week’s edition reminded me of a receiving I had recently during a latihan in Indonesia: I saw a river of golden souls ascending, with an understanding that these were people I had helped somehow during a long sojourn on earth.
What I received was so wonderful that it was, and is, hard for me to believe, though I certainly want it to be true and felt it was an answer I had long sought and was finally given from Above in a way that was convincing to me.
- - - - -
Being a Bridge
I too had a latihan experience where I was made to lie down on the floor and felt my ancestors’ feet going over my spine as if I was a bridge for them.
One thing that particularly interested me in Vivienne’s account was her awareness that her ancestors had carpenters’ saws around their necks. I couldn’t envisage this as I thought saws to be rigid items that would not drape over people’s necks. But when I discussed with this my husband, who is very knowledgeable about carpentry and woodwork, he referred me to a Google website called ‘Vincent Van Gogh’s carpenters’ images,’ and there you can see a carpenter from the nineteenth century with saws in holsters slung over his shoulders. One would be a ripsaw and the other a cross-cut saw. This seems to confirm Vivienne’s experience.
- - - - -
Crossing the Bridge
Reminds me of a dream I had once in which I had to lead a group of male ancestors in old-fashioned clothes across a bridge in a barren landscape. They had to follow me but when we came to the bridge most of them were too scared to cross it; only a few were able to come with me to the other side where a much better 'life' waited for them. The ones who stayed behind did this because their faith in God wasn't very strong.
As it happens, during a recent visit to the country of my birth, I took on the job of restoring the graves of my grandmother and my sister - a fair bit of work. While at the cemetery, I discovered the neglected grave of another family member, so I put a plant there too. I was praying for them all the time; in fact, I don't think I've ever prayed so much in my life!
How fitting that this happened during the Month of the Ancestors.
I heard two further stories here in the Netherlands from Subud brothers, both of which happened during this Ancestor month.
One man’s father had died last year and last week he had this special dream in which he was at the steering wheel of a car he was driving with his father (who was not in Subud) sitting next to him. He felt that the dream meant that he was 'spiritually' helping his father and taking the lead.
Another brother had been feeling an unusual attraction to a church building which belonged to a particular Christian denomination. He started to read about them and found that he felt really at home with their beliefs. He also discovered that his grandfather had built this church and that many of his relatives, including his parents and grandparents, had belonged to this church, got married there and had had funeral services, etc, there too. We tested with him how it would be to get christened there and join this community. It felt very spiritual and there was also a feeling that it would mean a lot to his ancestors.
- - - - -
The Little Things Are The Big Things
It was two years since my mother’s sudden, early death, and although I had been deeply sad at the time, I had now adjusted. After all, life goes on.
One day I was at work and felt a need to go somewhere quiet for lunch. Nearby was a beautiful, quiet Japanese garden so I went there to eat my sandwiches. As I sat quietly, just enjoying the stillness, my mother’s life started playing back to me in a kind of a vision.
These were not memories, and I was not thinking of my mother before the experience began. Small scenes from her life came to me in a constant stream. I was in some of the scenes, so the perspective was that of a third party watching my mother’s life.
I saw the big events such as becoming a nurse, getting married, the financial strains she and my father faced at times. But what I mostly saw were the day-to-day small acts of love, kindness, perseverance and constancy. Like cooking dinner for a husband and four children countless times over the years, being there for us all, even when she was tired or dispirited herself. I forget all the details of this receiving, but the overall message was clear. It was telling me that the small things we do every day are the most important. Are we kind or cruel, generous or mean, forgiving or wanting to be right? I had never thought that the small interactions of each day were important, I thought life was about achieving something, making a difference. I had to refocus, recognising the crucial importance of the daily choices we make about how we treat each other.
That evening I went to latihan. I didn’t mention my experience to anyone. Then someone told me that that day was All Souls Day. I hadn’t heard of that before, it wasn’t part of my religious upbringing. I asked about it and was told that it was the day to remember the dead and that on this day souls may return to Earth.
I was so grateful that my mother was, in some way, still guiding me from beyond death, as she had guided her headstrong daughter during her life.
- - - - -
Some time ago I had a dream in which my aunt, whom I haven't seen for over 20 years appeared. In the dream she expressed how sad she felt that my mother and she had fallen out and how much she would like to have contact with my mother again. Both women are in their 80s and they used to get on well. Not long afterwards my mother had a similar dream in which this aunt, who was her sister in law, appeared with the same message. My mother found it hard to contact her because of things which had happened in the past. I suggested that we both prayed for this situation to be solved in the right way. So for several months we regularly prayed. One day my mother and my aunt 'accidently' bumped into each other at a shopping mall. They hugged each other and there were tears. This was 3 months ago and ever since they see each other regularly and speak to each other on the phone nearly every day. They both feel so happy and blessed with this renewed contact.
- - - - -