“Something New Has Been Born”
Here is what remains clear in my recollection. (Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals):
On a weekend of late January, in 1987, some five months before Bapak’s death, an Asian zone helper’s gathering was held in St. John’s College, Sydney. There were about 60 participants from around the region. I was one. The three-day event, an attempt to calm a sea of issues that Subud apparently faced, was a dawn to midnight, almost frenetic working session of testing, latihan and discussion. The sixty participants were divided into three working groups of twenty, men and women. ‘Result orientated,’ I guess you would call it nowadays. By late afternoon Sunday, the final day, we were truly exhausted by our efforts and likely not much wiser for them. However, we were enjoined to summarize our results and recommendations as best we could for the record. Sometime about 3 o’clock in the afternoon my group sat in a circle at the far end of the upstairs hall of St. Johns, while the other two groups, also consisting of twenty helpers, met elsewhere. Raymond Van Sommers was our group leader. Once we were seated Raymond took out a small note pad, and a pen, and poising it above the pad, said, “Is there anything to report?” We sat reflectively.
It was then that I noticed a blue light appear over the shoulder of someone about three or four seats away from me, and no sooner was it noticed than it sped around the entire circle uniting us all in a flash of pale, electric blue. The change was instantaneous; a total alteration of state in which much of the territories
of personal self were lost. I merged in a total sympathetic ‘one-ness’ with the inner feelings of all of those men and women with whom I was sitting. There was no longer me and them. There was only ‘we’, as one. This I will insist was a mutual condition enjoyed by all. The very first thought which moved through my mind as this unexpected grace settled on us was: “Our struggle this weekend had been vain and pointless, for this, now given effortlessly, is what we sought, this, coming unbidden, beyond expectation, the truth: that we are one, one family, one life. This is the essence. This is Subud.”
Not one of us spoke for there was nothing to say, and, most interesting, no reason to speak for we were all in perfect communion; our inner borders had vanished, as had our desires to be smart, cute or anything else. Raymond’s question, however, still hovered in the air and someone answered from within this blue mist: ”I think something new has been born”. As a chorus we hummed our approval and Raymond dutifully jotted it upon his notepad.
And that was the end of it. No more could be said. No more words would be jotted upon that pad. It was the best we could do. We sat still, simply resting in
the delicious and utterly peaceful warmth of this remarkable feeling.
Despite any claims to the contrary that might arise from anyone else present at this ‘occurrence,’ I will here insist that we all did experience what I described above. I say this because I was ‘them’ and ‘they’ I. Any difference of opinion on this I will insist are cases of stolen memories. It is that understanding I require of readers in continuing to apply ‘benefit of doubt’ to this story as I proceed.
It was then, as we luxuriated in this state, that someone appeared at the far doorway, holding up a tape recorder. “Do you need one of these?” they said. We were as one body turned, and a little confused by the question having, as one body, no idea what they could possibly mean. “What for?” we asked, innocently fascinated. “Well, some of us are finding we have so much to report that it is quicker to record our comments and recommendations.“ We all, simultaneously, found this thought comical, and as one, could not restrain a smile at the thought of putting ‘this’ on tape. It could not be put into words.
It was everything, finished, the goal of ‘Subud’ made life, realized. What could we say? “Thank you, that’s all right,” one of our mouths responded politely, and they left. We now knew that we were alone in this experience, or so it would seem. Only the mad creatures that we had been four minutes ago would be trying to solve the mystery with tape recorders. We floated, now the newborn of a future world, downstairs, many still shoeless in that lovely summer heat. It was time for the finally assembly of all the groups together and soon we composed a circle of about 60 persons.
Each group gave a mercifully truncated version of their recommendations. Raymond dutifully read, “Something new has been born,“ and sat down again, no one questioning his extreme brevity. Then came the next ‘event’. The chairlady,
sitting a few seats away from me, thanked everyone, and pointed out that many would shortly have to be leaving for their homes elsewhere in Australia and overseas. We were all seated. She said, “Would anyone like to do this again?“ In my understanding, and perhaps in the brains of the others smitten with the utter grace that had happened upstairs, she was speaking of that blue magic we were feeling… and indeed upon those words she stood up. As she stood, as if by prior agreement, all of us were drawn up like 60 puppets on strings, standing spontaneously as one, and as we did so I saw fly, once again, the blue vaporous flash that had licked over our smaller group in the hall only a while earlier, now linking everyonein this much larger circle: now one family, one feeling, one inner, inseparable.
The feeling was not to be described when I was feeling it, so it is pointless to try and give it words now - when I am not. We might as well have all been turned into apple trees. But I trust somewhere in our experience of the Great Life we all know what I am trying to describe here. As we then made to part from one another, it became clear that the usual social graces of hugs and goodbyes had no tangible context anymore. We could not separate, no matter if we left the room, or even the planet, we were still one, uniquely close, inseparable within. There were, I now saw, lights in the faces of many.
For example, I will mention Harold Temple: a regimented bastion of the working helper, a fount of fortitude and strong belief, and a man whose face was usually somewhat dark and touched with concern. One eye was afflicted with a tick that almost permanently fluttered from some deep inner tension. That ‘Harold,’ in this moment, was gone. The man who turned to me had a face shining in a clear yellow light that literally bloomed and streamed from his cheeks and brow. His usually dark, in-turned expression was now utterly open, transformed by this wondrous, palpable love that poured off him like water. The tick had vanished and his eyes were deep, quiet and clear, his look into me instantly conveying a beautiful grace that struck me so as to nearly burst tears from my eyes. I could actually hear his inner calling out to God in gratitude. Transformations of this kind were on the faces of many as I looked about. And there were no words for it. We could not have said what was happening to us.
As many left, I waited outside for my lift. I sat on a bench next to a tree outside the entrance. Someone sat next to me I recall. I have forgotten whom and would like to know. We had our shoes off. It was then that the first ‘miracle’ occurred. Several of us had habitually used this bench to sit and smoke between the sessions. There were always tiny ants coming from the trees. Thousands of them. They had always been annoying and would have to be constantly brushed off one’s feet while sitting here. This time, as we sat, bare footed, and in the ‘newborn’ world, we noticed something. The ants refused to come closer than two inches from our feet and would divert as if they had met with a force field. Like a couple of idiots we were fascinated by this and moved our feet right into the streaming path of the ants. Again they diverted, forming a path as if hitting this force field around our feet. Like a couple of nitwits, we now fully employed ourselves at playing with this ‘force field’, watching them hit the invisible barriers. Such was the ‘miracle of the ants.’
I was to spend the next two days in Sydney before returning by train to Adelaide. My first night would be with my dear friends Karen and Dennis. Dennis was a painter moved by wonderful dark shadows he brought into a compelling reality upon the canvas. The helpers in their wisdom had recently suggested he choose between hash and Subud membership. Karen, a woman of remarkable passion and a truly gifted singer, had continued in the group. She and Dennis had made spaghetti for dinner. This spaghetti was like no spaghetti I had ever tasted. I could not believe anything could be so delicious or that my friends had been able to steal this formula from the angels. It was rapturous. Later I was to realise that I was actually ‘stoned’. Not that I had smoked anything, but Dennis had, and that was enough, for I was ‘with’ him. I delighted at their disparaging comments about Subud that night, a voice saying “Nothing of this matters, for all is done of God, and of nothing else is anything done”.
I said that all would soon change utterly in Subud and a new reality of the latihan was soon to come to us. They laughed playfully at my evangelical confidence. I was certainly charismatic if nothing else, and spent the evening enjoying their playful warmth. I could not sleep. There was no tiredness in me. Not a speck. About 11, after Dennis retired, Karen came out and sat with me, taking a glass of good Australian red. As she drank I became drunk. It was delightful. I was clearly uniting with the conditions of those around me. And no hangover. She went to bed, the ‘drunkenness’ leaving the room with her, and I sat. No sleep would come, nor boredom. Just sitting and breathing was interesting. Till morning.
The next day I was to spend the night with my other old Sydney friends, Robin and Ruth. Robin and I had discovered and joined Subud together, and had been opened together. Something bonded us within, although we had little worldly traffic with one another, living a thousand kilometres apart. I spent that day observing - watching, and beginning to realise that instead of my thinking and feelings returning to the chaos and buzz that would normally have characterized them, somehow they were deepening in their quiet. I was now able to see and understand things in a way I had never experienced before: truly ‘see’ the conditions of those around me. But unable to speak, unable to help; yet indeed, I saw. I was somewhat experienced in ‘crisis’ and my expectation was that this state would deteriorate and I would soon return to normal. However, this was not happening. If anything, I sensed, it seem to go deeper or penetrate other parts of myself.
1987 was a time when the struggles and confusions of Darling Harbour still festered, particularly among those Sydney members who were necessarily close to its fomentations. Robin was, like many, annoyed with the goings on. That evening after dinner, sitting on the couch, me opposite him on the lounge chair, he began to assail me with his concerns. This went on for an extraordinarily long time and was not really characteristic of him. I just listened, unable to speak, and, in a way, not really understanding.
After a while the youngest of his two boys, Mathew, (maybe he was eight or nine months old), began to cry. Or it might seem to be a cry. I actually heard no cry as such, but the clear and perfectly pronounced word “Ayah”, meaning, I knew, ‘father’. It was repeated over and over, stridently, evenly, loudly, and demandingly by
this baby boy. He was upstairs with his mother, Ruth. Robin continued to talk as if oblivious to the crying. Finally, Ruth brought Mathew down, planning to calm him, and sat next to Robin on the couch. Mathew kept up his calling relentlessly with no change in tone or pace.
What happened next was an experience that will never leave me. Mathew, sitting on Ruth’s lap was looking at his father intently, and, from my perspective, calling out to him, indeed saying “Ayah”, “Father”. This might not be that remarkable, but then the child suddenly turned to me full face. I found myself looking into the eyes of a vast being of tremendous maturity and depth who then spoke to me saying, “Wake up my father! He is asleep! Wake him up!” Utterly shocked that a baby was talking to me, I was forced to realise that I was not in the world as I had always known it. I had become conscious at a level I did not know existed for these human creatures that we are. Mathew and I were talking. Impossible! But as I turned and looked at his father I now saw that what the child was saying was true. Robin was talking in his sleep, with his eyes open! He was a zombie! Not with us! Asleep! And now that I saw what the child saw my heart thumped in fear at this new view of things. I cannot now begin to explain this fear we held for Robin, knowing that this is not such an uncommon condition for most of us, and knowing further that only those who have experienced what I am describing will have any sense of its significance.
Robin reached over and took Mathew up, as any of us would, and held and played with him, raising him in the air, chuckling to him and so forth, but to no avail. The calling continued, seemingly even more desperate and fearful for his father’s state. Giving up, Robin returned Mathew to his mother and she took him upstairs, the baby still calling out steadily and leaving me with the job of fulfilling his request.
I spoke for the first time that evening. “Does Mathew usually do this? “ Robin seemed shaken. “No. Never. He is never like this.” ”Well”, I said. “Perhaps we should do what Bapak suggests: when a boy child is upset the father can do latihan nearby till his normal state is restored.” Robin agreed enthusiastically to the idea and suggested we could do latihan in the front room. It was near midnight. We began latihan. It was with that innocent beginning that all would end for me. We could still hear Mathew calling, but within minutes of starting the latihan, if not within seconds, he abruptly stopped. And not another word from him.
We continued our latihan and starting from this position of extreme inner quiet that had developed, I was ripe, I suppose, for what then happened. It began with a powerful tingling of the kundalini in the base of my spine, a coarse electrical like vibration. Suddenly I felt a rushing sensation as this vibration moved upwards into the next ‘chakra’ (that will have to be the word) and I was taken along with it, feeling my ‘head’ burst through some kind of ‘ceiling’ and the vibration becoming now refined, sweet, zinging. This then happened again, and again, each time finer and more exquisite, and accompanied now by a feeling of unthinkable movement through vast space at speeds that would have to be cited as finally reaching light years per second, and very real as such. Much more real than flying or any type of movement on this earth, or that I had experienced as a pilot. This happened five times: the breaking through ceilings and the refining on this ‘trip’.
It shot me off into a to a very distant part of the universe. As I sped away I was ‘informed’ about what was going on. I was terrified for I knew very well that I had died and was returning to the ‘origin’. I saw the distance back to ‘earth’, to my family, to my children. It was so utterly vast that there would be no hope of return. I cannot now explain this except to say this ‘seeing’ was with my inner eyes. I also ‘knew’ as I was ‘travelling’ that I was taking my body and the earth ‘with me’ to this distant place. I felt an anguished snap in my heart, thinking I would never see my children again. On the ‘fifth floor’ and at a distance I fully experienced as literally light years from the earth this incredible elevator came to a slamming halt. I still had my eyes closed. And this ‘I’ who now writes this story was but a tiny squeaking mass of terror and awe crumpled up pathetically somewhere near my left ear hole.
There was a vast presence, a sense of consciousness and ‘being’ previously unimaginable to me. I asked, again with my eyes still closed, “Where am I?” Said a voice very clearly, “Your head is beneath the footstool of the Lord” and as I stood in this space I knew this was true. I knew then that I had awakened from a dream, from the dream of life; knew that I had been asleep all this ‘life’ and all that had transpired back there on earth, had been nothing more than a dream. This was reality, this was Awake. The dream was over. No other description gives meaning to this, I had