Concerning Subud

Chapter 5

The Latihan

1. The Meaning of 'Latihan'

The Indonesian word latihan cannot adequately be translated into English. Its root—latih—conveys the notion of becoming familiar with something, to assimilate and take it into oneself. The nearest equivalent is probably training. The common translation "exercise" is misleading in so far as it is associated with the idea of some set form of work such as physical, mental exercise or religious exercise. All these relate to the "working from without" that is the exact opposite of the latihan. After the initial act of will by which we submit to the process, the training received in the latihan does not come from any intentional action of our own. In the latihan, we are gradually pervaded and permeated with the life force that flows into us from our own awakened soul.

Although latihan is a training of the whole man, it is not undertaken for the sake of the result. Pak Subuh insists that the true meaning of the latihan is worship of God. The training is the result of worship, but it is worship that is essential; the result is incidental. The phrase "worship of God" requires explanation, especially in these days when so many people have revolted against religion because they imagine that worship is incompatible with any acceptable conception of Deity. They argue that a God who demands worship of His creatures is an anthropomorphic conception; a relic of tribal theology, when God was pictured as a King reigning in the heavens and, in His demands, little different from a human tyrant. "For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third or fourth generation of them that hate Me." When we read such passages we must remember that they belong to the Hemitheandric Epoch, whose Master Idea was that of human dependence upon Heroic help. With each succeeding lesson, infant humanity has gained a deeper realization of the meaning of Deity. If we no longer entertain such naively anthropomorphic conceptions of the Creator, it does not follow that worship has ceased to have a meaning. It has already long been clear to theologians that God does not demand worship because He needs it or desires it, but because it is the means whereby the soul of man can return to the Source from which it came. It is also well understood that worship is the state or condition in which man stands in the presence of his Creator: it is the recognition or awareness that there is an immense Power that is greater than all other powers, and that this Power is benevolent towards all creatures, including man.


What is not so well understood, even by theologians, is that the state or condition of worship cannot be reached by the temporal instruments of man—that is, by the lower centres. We may with our minds and feelings, and even with our bodies, wish to worship God, but these are merely instruments; they cannot be the worshipper himself. Worship is a power exclusive to the soul of man, for it is only in the soul that there can be a direct consciousness of the Power and Love of God. Worship cannot originate in the mind or the heart, however much we may know with our minds that worship is necessary and feel with our hearts the desire to worship. True worship is the conscious acceptance of the condition we shall be in at the moment of death when our personal will is taken from us.

A simple observation can convince anyone of the truth of this apparently hard saying. Sometimes in the presence of a great natural phenomenon such as a mighty storm at sea or even a great range of mountains white with snow, the sense of our own nothingness in comparison with the powers of nature overwhelms us, and we experience a state of awe that is at the same time filled with peace and thankfulness that such great things should be revealed to us. It is easy to verify that such an experience does not originate in the mind or feelings, nor is it the result of our own desire to admire or "worship" nature. If we begin to "think about" the experience into which we have been lifted, we fall back at once into our ordinary state; likewise, if we begin to enjoy the state, it changes into something personal and false. If earthly nature can lift us to an intensity of experience that is beyond the mind and the feelings, how much more should we expect that worship of God should be a condition entirely beyond the reach of our ordinary functions.

It does not follow that in the latihan the body, feelings and mind have no part to play, but they are the instruments, not the actor. When, and only when, the higher centres are awakened, an action begins in the lower centres that eventually brings them into harmony with the higher centres. This is the "training" to which the word latihan refers. When all the organs and their functions are trained to be receptive to the fine influences and impulses that proceed from conscience in the depths of the soul, then all participates in worship. True worship comes from the whole man from his highest soul powers to the skin and bone of his body. Worship is training, but it is a training that comes wholly from within.

Religious people tend to assume that, if their minds and feelings are active in worship, then their soul is worshipping also. They refer to mind and feeling as "powers of the soul" and this leads to the error of supposing that the soul must be awake whenever the powers are exercised.


The truth is that whenever worship originates in and is directed by our own will, it can only be worship by and of the instruments, not worship by and of the soul. This is a hard saying, but unless it is understood, the defects of human worship can never be grasped.

2. Approach to Subud

Since we cannot of our own will initiate the "working from within" of the Subud latihan, the question naturally rises, "What then is the role of our own will, of our own power of choice and of our ability to make efforts?" The answer to this question must be understood by everyone who wishes to approach Subud rightly. We cannot do anything, but we can ask. To ask is to to commit oneself to the results that will follow if we receive what we ask for. Thus, to ask should be a responsible exercise of the freedom of choice that is man's most precious gift. In order to ask responsibly, we should at least know what we are asking for and be able to foresee and understand the consequences of receiving it. But who are "we" that ask? The ordinary man is not one. He exists on various levels, but is aware only of two: that of material objects and that of his thoughts and feelings. On each level he has different functions that are only loosely connected with one another. He is a multiplicity of selves, a succession of states, a being who does not and cannot know himself. There is no "I" that rules over the many selves, for the "I" that should be the ruler lies unborn in the depths of his unawakened essence. Since at any given moment one of the many selves that make up our personality is uppermost, that single self can ask. Later, another self may repudiate the asking, if its needs and wishes lie in quite a different direction. Those who do not understand this, and who trust themselves and believe that whatever they say and do comes from the whole of their being, may not feel the incongruity of asking from some transient, superficial self for the awakening of their innermost soul. Those who have begun to understand their true situation are likely to be very diffident in asking and to doubt whether their power of choice can extend to so momentous a decision.

To protect those who with the impulsiveness of ignorance are ready to ask for what they cannot understand, and to give confidence to those who have realized something of their own limitations, the approach to Subud is made subject to a period of probation. Under special conditions—as in the case of people coming from afar with little time to make the contact—the probation may be reduced to a nominal period of waiting. Nevertheless, the principle is unaffected: it is that one must first ask oneself the question whether one truly wishes to receive, and only after receiving from oneself an affirmative answer, to ask from another that the contact should be given.


Let us suppose that William Jones enquires about Subud, having read in the papers or heard from friends an account that is almost certainly misleading in many aspects. After sundry attempts he finally receives explanations of the kind given in this book. It is impressed upon him that Subud is not a kind of faith healing nor a system of mental or spiritual exercises. If, after various misunderstandings are cleared away, William still wishes to enter Subud, he places his name on the probation list, which entitles him to put any question he wishes and to receive answers, even if these involve Subud members in speaking about their own personal experiences in the latihan.

Here it is necessary to explain why such answers can be given freely, whereas it is usually understood that schools possessing knowledge of spiritual methods are very careful in selecting those to whom these methods should be transmitted. Herein lies one cardinal difference between working from without and working from within. The effect of spiritual exercises should be to break down the crust of illusions and bad habits that separates the personality from the essence. This often requires a powerful action that can be very disturbing to the psyche. Again it is sometimes necessary to awaken a particular function by forcing it to attain—for a time—a high degree of activity. Unless great care is taken this may disturb the working of other functions.

Breathing exercises provide an example of the dangers. The human organism is so constituted that there is a delicate instinctive balance between the rate of breathing, the speed and volume of the pulse, and the discharge into the blood of hormones and other substances known and still unknown to science. The respiration is also closely related to the rhythms of the brain and nervous system. If the rate and pattern of breathing are intentionally altered, all the other functions connected with it must be adjusted, or harm to the organism will result. But those who teach the so-called Pranayama, or the control of breathing practised by Yogis, seldom know about all these connections. Therefore in true Yogi schools—which it must be said western students scarcely ever come in contact—the secrets of Pranayama are carefully guarded. The most powerful exercises are never taught except by specially selected disciples, who must remain under the close supervision of a guru. The same applies to mental and religious exercises. Many a yogi and many a monk has died prematurely or lost his reason through following such exercises without an experienced and responsible guide.

The reason for these precautions can be understood at once if we recollect that all exercises are standardized whereas man is not standardized. The only safeguard against the dangers is secrecy, and there is no other motive for secrecy except to protect people from forces that they do not understand and cannot direct.


It is entirely different with "working from within." First of all, there can be no imitation, no stealing of ideas and methods before the pupil is ready. Since the work proceeds from within and adapts itself to the needs of each person, there is no need for secrecy; and there is no need for precautions, except to ensure that the seeker abstain from introducing his own ideas and bringing his own wishes, his own will into operation. If he were to do so, he would expose himself to a mixed action that comes partly from his own soul and partly from his self-will, and that would create a danger; but it is not a danger that can be averted by secrecy. On the contrary, the more people know about the experiences of others, the less are they likely to mistake their own self-will for the Will of God. Therefore, in Subud, everyone is free to speak of their own experiences and of what they receive in and from the latihan. Since no one can induce for himself the action of the latihan, whatever may be told remains "outside." Nevertheless, it enables those who wish to approach Subud to understand what is needed before they ask to be admitted.

The need can be stated very simply. We ask that we should be put in contact with the Holy Power that gives Life to the soul of man. We recognize that the contact must be made beyond ourselves—not "beyond" in the sense of outside—but beyond our minds and feelings, in the higher, the eternal part of ourselves. Since we are imprisoned in the lower, temporal part of our nature, we cannot, of our own will, reach the place where the contact is to be made, and therefore we must ask for help. This asking is an act of our own, and we can only make it with that part of us which is aware of what it means. That is, for nearly all people, their personality, since the essence is still asleep. Thus, our asking is inevitably incomplete. The latihan itself is the means whereby the incomplete, imperfect asking can be completed and made perfect.

If all this can be made more or less clear to our William Jones, he sees that he must ask not for results, but for the opening of possibilities. He does not ask because he understands what he wants, but because he realizes that he does not understand.

3. The Opening

It seems to me that the easiest way to understand the "opening" is to compare it with Christian Baptism. The mystery of baptism is that the child is received into the number of Christ's flock without understanding or even being aware of what is being done for it. Even in adult baptism the mystery remains, for it implies a profound change of the entire nature, of which the person received into baptism can only be dimly aware.


In baptism, the question is put and answered, not by the child but by the godparents who stand as witnesses. They are presumed already to have experienced the inward change that comes from the awaking of the soul's powers, and when they ask for baptism on behalf of the child they bear witness to the truth and reality of the transformation. Unfortunately, baptism, this holy symbol of the Christian faith, has lost nearly all its meaning, so that even sincere Christians do not understand their responsibilities. The very form of the Christian service suggests "working from without," since the godparents are enjoined to see that the child is taught the Creed and the Commandments, and is brought to the bishop for confirmation. Thus what is, in reality, solely a matter of faith in the Grace of God is made to appear as a promise to fulfil certain external obligations.

Those who have received the latihan come to understand from their own experience the meaning of faith and of Grace, and if they belong to the Christian profession, they find that all the Sacraments of their religion acquire a new depth and a new power. If they are called upon to be godparents, they see for themselves that the moment of baptism is indeed a moment of opening, when the Holy Spirit enters and gives birth to the new man.

In Subud the opening is performed without ceremony and without any kind of ritual. The trainees stand—or, if they are aged or infirm, sit—and the man or woman who is to open them reminds them that they have come because they wish to find the way to the true worship of God.

Many people have asked how the opening is "done." The answer is that nothing at all is done, either by those who receive the contact or by those who are witnesses. Faith cannot be transmitted from one person to another. But the "witness" has been accepted by God as an instrument, and the faith which has been been given to him makes the contact possible for the other.

Although the contact itself is made not in time, but in eternity, the latihan itself lasts for half an hour or more. This makes it possible for the inner working to begin, even though most of those who receive the contact are at first aware of nothing at all. When there are physical sensations and movements, or new states of feeling, the newcomer recognizes that "something" has happened, but the true nature of this something cannot be grasped at all.


When the opening is completed, many trainees enjoy a feeling of deep relaxation and peace, and realize with astonishment that they have been more fully conscious of themselves, for a longer time and in a more continuous state, than is possible by any effort of attention that they are capable of making.

There are a few, very few, whose experience is much stronger and deeper, and who have no doubt from the first that they have been in the presence of a Holy Power. There are also many trainees who at first experience little or nothing and are disappointed that "nothing seems to have happened." To such, patience is advised and persistence, for our practical experience has shown that not one in a hundred who persists with the latihan fails, within two or three months, to become aware of a new force working in him, and sees results that convince him that something has occurred that has not come from his own thought, feeling or desire.

Some experiences of the opening are definitely unfavorable or painful. Some trainees are convinced that there is indeed a force, but an evil one. Others are simply afraid. Others again feel resentful or suspicious, or simply are embarrassed, and do not wish to continue. Those who have seen much of Subud and its action on many people, recognize that these are all reactions of the personality which soon cease to trouble those who can bring themselves to persist. Since everyone sooner or later, encounters difficulties due to the reactions of the personality, the act of will that consists in choosing to continue, has to be repeated. This is indeed important, for it makes it clear that the transformation of man does not take place against his own will or without his consent. Indeed, Subud demonstrates in the most practical manner what St. Augustine and other theologians have taught about Grace and the human will.

4. Helpers

Those trainees who have had enough experience to recognize, if not to understand, the action of the latihan can become "helpers" to those who are still at the beginning. The role of helpers is very important. It is they who can answer the questions of probationers from their own experience. They can also reassure those who are beset by fears and misgivings in the early stages. Helpers also have a part to play in the latihan itself. They are chosen by Pak Subuh himself or by his appointed representatives, and they are permitted to do the latihan more frequently and to receive explanations that will help them to fulfil their duties.


It is a principle of all true spiritual work that he who has received must repay, but this can be done only by helping one's neighbour. The work of a helper is onerous, for he has to bear the burdens of others. This burden-bearing is not a matter only of giving time and attention to the work, but of being ready to take upon oneself the inner state of other people. The helper is more open and more sensitive than those who are still wholly imprisoned in their personalities and in their physical natures. The latter are in process of throwing out the poisons that have accumulated as a result of their past lives, and these poisons enter—in part at least—into more sensitive people in their vicinity, namely the helpers. This can produce very painful or unpleasant experiences. One of the reasons why the helpers are permitted to do the latihan more often is that they can thereby throw out again, or "cleanse" themselves of, the impurities or poisons they have picked up.

Those trainees who become helpers are soon aware that Subud is not a short cut to an easy life, but rather the acceptance of a heavy burden. Gurdjieff's famous formula, "self-perfecting by way of conscious labour and intentional suffering," is indeed applicable to Subud. As with many other such formulae, the real meaning of what Gurdjieff taught only becomes apparent when a person experiences for himself the inner working, and sees the true nature of human freedom. He is then liberated from the illusion of "doing," but understands that it is open to him to accept or reject a burden that no one obliges him to bear. His acceptance of the burden involves him in "conscious labour and intentional suffering." The suffering is not of the soul, that is his "I" or true self, but of the instruments, that is the body, the feelings and the mind. Furthermore, this suffering is necessary for his own purification and completion. It is effectual in this only because it is "conscious and intentional;" that is, accepted by his own free will. Such suffering is compatible with a deep and enduring happiness. Indeed, those who have been privileged to act as helpers are all agreed that they experience a sense of unfailing joy, that comes from realizing that what they are doing is best for themselves.

The role of the helpers in the latihan requires that they should be able to preserve their own state of conscious surrender to the inward working of the latihan, while at the same time keeping some contact with what is happening to those around him. This is accomplished, not by letting one's attention flow outwards towards others, but by intensifying one's own surrender. It is by no means easy to find the inner balance between one's own worship and "concern" (in the Quaker sense) with those about one.


One learns in the latihan that the two commandments of Jesus—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind" and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself"—have a very precise and literal meaning. The helpers begin to see that it is in our power to fulfil these commandments providing we do not attempt to "do" anything from our own will. Those who wish to help their neighbours from their own strength and their own understanding shut themselves off from the very possibility of helping anyone.
5. Openers

The "contact" was first received by Pak Subuh himself. Later he transmitted it to others. When these in their turn had reached a stage of clear conviction as to the reality of the contact and had been strengthened by the latihan to the point where they could bear the forces involved, they could become in their turn "openers."

When Pak Subuh came to England he soon designated a small number of men and women as being qualified to act as openers. As I was one of these, I can give some account of the opening as it is experienced by those who are witnesses for the newcomer.

Those who come to the latihan often ask, "What is it that Pak Subuh does? Does he pray for us? Or has he a power that he directs towards us?" Some think that some kind of hypnotic influence is at work, or even that it is a form of magic. No one who himself has acted as opener can have any doubts on the matter. We do nothing whatever to the people, or even for them. The opener enters the latihan exactly as if he were alone in the room. Indeed the sense of being alone in the presence of a great Power is the strongest and clearest element of the whole experience. It is that Power that gives new life to the soul, and not ourselves, nor anything that we do. Pak Subuh says that the witness must have true faith, but I am bound to say that I, for one, am aware of nothing in myself, not even faith. I can say, however, that I have been aware, without any doubt, of the presence of angels during the latihan.

For a time one may cease to be aware of the presence of the others, but there comes a moment when one is conscious of participating in their experience. One knows when someone is being disturbed by his thoughts or his feelings, or whether he is obstructing the process by trying to do something of his own. Those who feel that they "ought" to be doing something to co-operate with the process communicate their anxiety to the openers.


Sometimes there is a feeling of great heaviness, due to the presence of one or more people who are weighed down by their own personality.

A most extraordinary moment of the latihan comes when one is aware that the contact has been made. It is as though the heat of the human passions is quenched for a moment, and the coating of the personality is pierced so that a new life can begin to flow. One is then aware of the presence of a very fine substance or energy that itself is conscious. It would not be appropriate to describe this energy as a "suprasensible light." This energy envelops us all and makes it possible to participate in the inner experience of others.

The burden upon those who open is heavy, for they are bound to absorb some of the passions or poisons that are driven out of a person at the moment that the contact is made. Sometimes one feels ill for several days afterwards. In the case of one man who rashly took upon himself to open more people in a given period of time than Pak Subuh had authorized, several months of ill-health were the penalty he had to pay. This alone places a limit upon the transmission of the contact. Generally the burden is greatly lightened when two or more act as "witnesses" in the opening. Indeed, Pak Subuh lays down as a general rule that one should open while a second stands beside him to share the burden. Nevertheless, when the need arises, all limitations are swept away. Recently, three hundred and twenty-six men and women were opened in Ceylon within three weeks by one man and one woman with the help of two Ceylonese who had themselves been opened during a brief visit to Coombe Springs.

6. Conditions of the Latihan

The Subud latihan is invariably arranged separately for men and women. Men are opened by men and women by women. Not only are the men's and women's latihan separate, but it is recommended that while the state of openness persists—which may be for one or two hours after the latihan—men and women should as far as possible remain apart. An obvious justification for this rule is that, when open, men and women are in a sensitive state and can readily be influenced by one another. There is a deeper reason connected with the very nature of man. In effect, it means that in the spiritual life it is necessary to accept a strict discipline in regard to the relations between the sexes, for the very reason that deep and strong forces are aroused when the soul of man is given a new life. These forces are necessary, but they cannot be regulated by the human personality. They belong to the essence, and only an awakened essence can direct them aright.


The latihan can be made at any time, but usually not more than thrice a week in the early stages. Some twelve to twenty sessions are usually required before the process is well established. There are, however, great differences between individuals, some receiving almost at once, others requiring many months or even years to become conscious that a new force is working in them.

It is most important that trainees should understand that they are completely free in the latihan. It begins in them because they ask for it, and it stops when they ask it to stop. Moreover, there is never any loss of consciousness or of the power of choice. It is only when the trainees try to play tricks with the latihan, whether by forcing the pace, by imitating others, or by thinking that they already understand what is still a mystery for them, that they can bring trouble on themselves. Whoever enters the latihan and continues with patience and sincerity, experiences no disturbance. Nevertheless, as I said previously, many trainees imagine that they are being acted upon by Pak Subuh or whoever may open them, that they are being hypnotized or that they are the victims of hallucination. Such notions can easily be dispelled by the simple test that any trainee can apply of seeing whether or not he is free at any moment he chooses to stop the latihan and walk out of the room. Still more cogent for those who understand something of the meaning of will and consciousness, is the observation that one remains at all times fully conscious of oneself—even if one ceases to be aware of one's surroundings. Since one effect of the latihan is to bring to the surface of one's consciousness states of mind usually buried in the subconsciousness, people with hidden fears find themselves afraid, those with concealed suspicions become overtly suspicious, those rooted in self concern become become obsessed with the idea that they are doing better or receiving more than they are. All such effects create problems and embarrassments and put people in need of help from those with greater experience.

Usually, after a few months, such difficulties have been overcome and trainees understand clearly that their freedom of choice is never for a moment removed from them and that there is no danger at any time of losing consciousness. They also become convinced that the action in the latihan comes from within themselves, and not from any other person. When this stage is reached, people are authorized to continue the latihan alone in their own homes. Usually, they can then become helpers for others.

In this chapter, I have described the latihan, but not its effects. In later chapters, I shall give examples of the manner in which the latihan works in people of different types and conditions.


There is no "normal" latihan. This is disconcerting for those who are accustomed to base their judgments on comparisons with some accepted standard or norm. They want to ask the question: "Am I getting on better or worse than the others?" But this question, which is intelligible as applied to working from without, has no meaning when we enter the process of working from within. Since there are no standards, there can be no "rate of progress." Each trainee is what he is, and his inner development must follow his own laws. The uniqueness of the human soul is part of its dignity, and those who seek for comparisons or external tests of their progress belittle the soul as much as those who imagine that it can be changed against its will.

7. Worship and Magic

The latihan cannot be rightly understood unless we clearly distinguish between magic and worship. Magic is a real power, and so far from belonging to a dead past, it has never been as widely practised as at the present time, although it is called by other names.

Magic is the use of the forces that act upon man through the lower parts of his nature. There are four such forces:

1. The Material forces. These come from the attraction exerted upon man by the energies of the material world. They are properly called "Satanic Forces" and those who employ them are "Black Magicians."

2. The Vegetable forces. These act upon man through his instincts. They are natural forces, and those who use them are called "Red Magicians."

3. The Animal forces. These act through the emotions and passions of man, and those who are able to manipulate these forces are called "Yellow Magicians."

4. The Human forces that act through the nature of man himself. Those who are able to use these forces are called "White Magicians."

In all magic without exception the action is by one man upon other men. The human will is the directive influence, and the power to use it in this way depends upon special training and special knowledge. This knowledge is not "occult" or "transcendental," for the lower forces are within range of our ordinary human understanding, and their laws can be discovered by observation and experiment.


Magic always requires a surrender of freedom. The magician acquires a special influence over his clients. If he is a "white" magician, his influence can be beneficial—upon the human level. If he is a black magician, the soul of his client is brought under the domination of Satanic forces, and any benefits he may receive are only on the level of material things.

To understand magic, we do not need to study the customs of savage tribes with their "medicine men" and "witch doctors." Magic is practised currently in all civilized countries. It must be said—without any wish to cause offence—that nearly all advertisement is a form of black magic. It acts upon people to take away their own judgment and initiative and induce them to act under the dictates of the magician—that is, the advertising expert. Advertising makes use of the suggestibility inherent in all people that arises from their attachment to material possessions and all that belongs to this earthly life. The essence of black magic is that it promises "something for nothing"—usually in the form of "happiness." True happiness can be achieved only by the purification of our nature, that is, through suffering. But people are made to believe that they will be happier if they have one or another material possession, or if they can be saved effort or trouble by the use of some "labour-saving" device, or that they can have health by using some remedy that will make it unnecessary to change their own bad habits.

When objectively analysed, all such means of influencing people correspond to the definition of black magic. The same is true of all the political and other propaganda that relies upon the desire of people to have more money, and easier life, and more personal security. All political parties in all countries rely upon black magic to secure the support of the electorate. Even those who sense and become sincerely aware that such methods of influencing people are satanical, cannot easily free themselves from their toils, because we are living in an age when black magic is the greatest force in the life of man.

Red magic is much less common than black. It comprises all kinds of hypnotism and suggestion that act upon people primarily through the nervous system and the blood. It also includes the use of "magnetic" powers. Most of the psychiatric techniques, including psychoanalysis, belong to the category of red magic. Here it must be emphasized that the sincere aim of the red magician may be to benefit his client, and that good results can be obtained by these means. They have, however, one common and fundamental defect—that they transfer the initiative from the patient to the practitioner, who afterwards finds it very hard to restore the freedom he has taken away.


Yellow magic comprises all forms of spiritualism as well as spiritual healing, clairvoyance, telepathy and other faculties studied by psychical research workers. The animal forces are much more subtle than those of the material and vegetable worlds, and they can penetrate into different levels of consciousness. Nevertheless, they are lower than the true human forces, and they cannot raise man to a higher level of being. When they are used to attain definite aims, they require the transfer of initiative from the client to the medium or clairvoyant. The latter, in his or her turn, comes under the influence of the animal forces only at the price of a loss of conscious control. This is called "trance" or sometimes "ecstasy," but all such states are tainted with magic inasmuch as they involve surrender of human freedom to a sub-human force.

White magic, properly speaking, comprises all forms of "working from without" that are directed towards the improvement of man's nature. The spiritual guide or teacher is a white magician. He helps his pupils to acquire control over their own human and sub-human forces, but since they more or less depend upon him and his initiative, the relationship is still that of magic. The really good white magician takes every opportunity of throwing his pupils or clients back upon their own initiative, and refuses to take away their freedom even if they wish to lay it in his hands. Thus the teacher becomes a true spiritual guide only when he ceases to be a magician. He may find it necessary to use magic up to a point, in order to help people who cannot help themselves, but as soon as he gives even the smallest help beyond what is indispensable his white magic becomes a destructive influence that arrests the progress of the soul.

It will be clear now that all forms of magic are essentially opposed to the true worship of God. Worship is a state of complete freedom and full consciousness, in which the soul is aware only of the Power of the Holy Spirit. No lower power can come between the soul and the Holy Spirit, and yet all the lower powers are themselves brought into harmony with the soul that turns towards its Maker. This comes about through the vivifying power of the Great Life Force that flows back towards its Source in and through the act of worship. It soon becomes evident to all trainees that in the latihan there is no diminution of freedom or loss of consciousness. In so far as we are aware of the existence of others, they enter our consciousness as beings passing through the same process in ourselves. If they appear to us to be influencing us or influenced by us, the latihan itself either stops or loses its power. We can thus verify in the most direct manner that there is no magic in the latihan. The ideal state of man is to live wholly without magic. This is non-identification or non-attachment—that is, complete freedom and full consciousness. It is theoretically possible to go by way of magic to attain freedom from magic, providing we fully understand at all times that magic is the use of the lower powers of the human essence. It is better, if we can find the way, to dispense with magic altogether.


Copyright© 2007, Undiscovered Worlds Press