Concerning Subud

Chapter 9

The Potentialities of Subud

1. The Real Miracle of Subud

Amidst the welter of impressions engendered by Subud and its action upon people, two clearly established facts stand out as supremely significant. One is the reality of the contact, and the other its independence of any particular person—including Pak Subuh himself. Since I myself did not believe that such an effect was possible, and nothing that I had ever heard or read about suggested that anything similar has occurred before in known human history, I was for some time sceptical as to its reality. When I saw for myself that more than a thousand people were able to receive the contact merely by asking for it, I was obliged to accept that a miracle had happened. By 'miracle' I understand the direct intervention of the Power of the Holy Spirit in human life, in such a manner as to make possible an event that does not violate the laws of nature and yet could not be brought about by any natural agency, including the will of man himself. There is, I believe, another characteristic of miracles that is commonly overlooked—that is, their perfect timeliness. Miracles do not occur either capriciously without apparent rhyme or reason, nor do they occur just when someone happens to want them or look for them. They occur only when they are necessary for the renewal of human faith. I believe that isolated or sporadic miracles have occurred and still do occur, and that they are always timely and effectual. Mass miracles of the kind attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux must surely have been the work of mass suggestion, and should be discounted.

The miracle of Subud is neither isolated nor is it explicable by the power of suggestion acting upon a crowd. It came to me when I was alone and completely sceptical as to the possibility of any essential change in human nature otherwise than by conscious labour and intentional suffering. It required the cumulative evidence of nearly two months' constant practice of the latihan to convince me that a miracle had really occurred.


Those who shared the experiment with me during the months before Pak Subuh came to England were men and women who for long years had been trained in impartial self-observation, and were so well aware of the immense difficulty of an authentic inner transformation that they had even become doubtful whether it was possible to follow Gurdjieff's system without his personal help and guidance. We were convinced by the latihan against our own firmly established belief that there is no easy way to develop the potentialities latent in man. This does not mean that we doubted the possibility, or that we did not believe that the possibility itself is given to us by the Will of God. We doubted only that we could hope to find a means that would really work for us such as we were.

Even when we saw for ourselves that Subud worked in us, we were still so presumptious as to think that it must require preparation, and that only those could receive it who had already gone a long way towards realizing their own nothingness and were ready to ask for help without expecting any easy way out. Once again, we found that the miracle was far greater than we had imagined possible. Within two months of Pak Subuh's arrival more than five hundred men and women had asked for and received the contact. Among them some, with little or no experience of the spiritual search, made progress that was clearer and more rapid than that of others with every apparent advantage of preparation, combined with greater intellectual powers and more energy and determination. All our preconceived plans for the gradual introduction of Subud, starting with a few carefully chosen and serious people, went by the board.

What occurred was an explosion of the very kind that I had learned to expect as the first stage of any great step forward in natural or human evolution. I could see moreover, that there was no suspension of the natural order. The powers that I could see emerging in so many people were those that I already knew to be latent in the very nature of man. The miracle was that the process should be set in train so surely and so easily just for the asking. Moreover, I soon realized that my early scruples were unfounded. There is in Subud no question of 'something for nothing,' nor any violation of the principle that everything worth having must be paid for. One has to sacrifice and to suffer—but it is consciously and intentionally that one does so, because one sees where one is going and what has to be done.* There are great burdens to be borne, but one sees the reason for them, and one is given the strength to carry them.

* In the last part of All and Everything, with the title "Life is Real Only Then, When I Am," that Gurdjieff wrote in 1933, he refers to the difference between 'voluntary' and 'intentional' suffering. It is not voluntary self-imposed suffering that is required, but intentionally to submit oneself to a process in which suffering is inevitable.


The miracle is thus the total one—that a new possibility has been opened for mankind that is beyond our power to understand, and that we could never have discovered for ourselves. Isolated cases could have been explained away. the fulfilment of prophecies and the realization of predictions carry little weight with the sceptical. The instances of healing of disease that we have so far observed have little evidential value. The strange confluence of people from all over the world may be no more than a coincidence. The fact that remains incontestible is that within eight months more than a thousand men and women have found a new force working in them, the power and the beneficence of which they cannot doubt. They have seen, moreover, that this force is quite independent of the presence of Pak Subuh himself, and that it works in all people who ask for it, and who can find the way to put aside the obstruction of their own thoughts and imaginations.

2. The Visible Evidence

In Chapter 7, I have tried to describe some of the inner changes that occur in the trainees. There are also changes in the outer life that can be observed and verified by others. After the first influx of people who had been prepared for Subud by study of Gurdjieff's system, a new flow began of people attracted chiefly by manifest changes for the better in their relations and friends. A group of examples comprising at least two score of people is particularly significant. Among those who had been members of groups following Gurdjieff's system were many whose husbands or wives or parents or children had been hostile to the work, and painful situations had arisen, in which jealousy and a sense of injustice at being deprived of companionship had embittered family relationships. We observed with real surprise that within one or two months of the coming of Subud, these 'recalcitrant' relatives were asking to come to the latihan because they observed such unmistakable improvements in those who had come.

A second group of examples can be taken from a number of mentally or emotionally unstable men and women who came to Subud, and were admitted with some reluctance and trepidation on the part of all but Pak Subuh himself and his Indonesian helpers. We feared that the stimulus of the latihan might result in over-excitement, in outbreaks of manic conditions or of hysteria. The very opposite occurred. Although the response was by no means always the same, in the majority of cases the latihan calmed the excitable and brought about a marked improvement in sufferers from mild schizophrenia and manic-depressive states.


On the other hand it also happened that some people outwardly normal and apparently stable began in the latihan to show symptoms of deep-seated disturbance. The effect of the latihan appeared similar to that of a well-conducted psycho-analysis, without the grave disadvantages of the latter that a large proportion of patients remain dependent upon the analyst. The potentialities of Subud in helping psychopathic conditions are still almost wholly unexplored. I am concerned here only with the impression made upon people who have seen their friends and relations, previously disturbed, made calm and able to meet life with more confidence than ever before.

One interesting suggestion here comes from Java. This is the possibility of rehabilitating criminals. We have no direct evidence in England, but we have heard of several cases in Indonesia where criminals, including more than one professional murderer, have come to to the latihan and have been completely liberated from the impulses to steal, rob or murder. Since the criminal's problem is usually not absence of desire to change, but the inability to persist in the face of temptation, there is no reason why he should not ask for and receive the latihan and find therefrom the strength that he lacks.

3. Subud and the Family

The degeneration of family life is one of the distressing symptoms of our modern world. The increasing incidence of divorce—0.2 per cent in 1911 to 6.7 per cent in 1954—is of less importance than the far greater proportion of 'unhappy' marriages which 'somehow or other' are kept going. The isolation of young married couples from the parental hearth leads to the breakdown of the family unit, which should comprise three generations. It is true that many old people are given homes by their married children—but this seldom repairs the family unity which has been broken. Anyone with long experience of helping people with their personal problems, as I have had for nearly thirty years, knows that the tensions of married life are the main cause of all psychological disturbances, whether in the parents themselves or by a delayed action upon the children.

Therefore any means whereby a real help can be brought to a disturbed family should be regarded as a major blessing for mankind. To facilitate the dissolution of marriages that fail is merely to admit a deeper spiritual failure. No evil is cured by alleviating its consequences. Help can come only from within—that is, by the awakening of the soul to the reality of the bond between the sexes.


One of the palpable benefits of the latihan has been in the help it has given to scores of married couples in varying degrees of distress. We have even observed several instances of actual separation where without any external pressure or persuasion a wife has returned to her husband or a husband to his wife. Certainly, so long as the purification is still in the first stage, the difficulties do not disappear. The change of inner attitude has, however, in nearly all cases been sufficiently definite and permanent to enable those difficulties to be faced as they never were faced before by the people concerned.

The benefits of the latihan are equally evident in happy marriages. Even at best there cannot be complete compatibility between two incomplete people. Pak Subuh has said that every women has seven needs that she looks to her husband to satisfy. These correspond to the seven basic qualities in every human essence. No ordinary husband can satisfy all the seven needs. It is indeed a fortunate couple who can find two points of true mutual completion. In the latihan, latent qualities are developed in the husband so that he and his wife become more fully partners of one another in all that they need. An exclusive mutual attraction between husband and wife takes the place of the undiscriminating sexual impulse. This creates a force that can overcome all difficulties.

When the second stage of purification is reached, the sexual relation itself is completely transformed. It is liberated from passion and desire and becomes instead the fulfilment of the need for mutual completion.

All these are results that we have actually observed, and they have given us confidence that the progress of Subud can do more than any other factor to restore the sexual relationship to its true position in human life.

Not all married couples are compatible in essence. Where there is real incompatibility there cannot be true marriage. On the whole, such cases are rare, for the potentialities of each essence are exceedingly great, and a given man or a given women may hope to find a true partner within a very wide range of essences. Incompatibilities of personality are far more frequent than those of essence, but even where a really painful or unpleasant tension exists between two personalities, the purification of the feelings can uncover the essence-possibilities of a successful union. Properly speaking, therefore, divorce should be reserved for cases of proved incompatibility of essences, and not based upon an artificial code of marital behaviour.


Adultery and desertion are not sufficient grounds for divorce, nor are their absence any assurance of a true marriage. It will be a long time before these fundamental principles are understood and acted upon. Meanwhile we can look to Subud as a very present help for all married couples. This is important not only for the man and wife, but even more so for their descendants. Subud is a frontier at which the past is arrested, and it can make possible a fresh beginning in almost every kind of human trouble.

4. Subud and Society

Social problems are mainly connected with motives. Difficulties arise because people's motives are not pure, and so they suspect one another. Moreover, through the operation of various kinds of magic, imaginary motives are created. People come to believe that many things are indispensable for their happiness that are not only useless but often causes of the very unhappiness or unrest of which they complain. Fear, suspicion, jealousy, false pride, ambition, greed, indifference to the sufferings of others and the other evil forces in human life, distort all motives and bring about the degeneration of every attempt to create a normal, harmonious human society. The sacred impulses that are really present in all men include kindliness, good will, the desire to serve and to help one another. The two kinds of motives become mixed, and so, when men wish to establish an ideal society they usually end by shooting people—to make a better world. Even when there is no shooting, the promised ideal society turns either into a tyranny of well-meaning busybodies, or into an instrument for depriving men of self-reliance and the capacity for independent initiative and judgment and of the desire to work hard to supply their real needs.

This is not intended as a criticism of the modern world or a denial of human progress. In every past Epoch it has been the same. The same evil forces that destroyed the heroic age—the Hemitheandric Epoch—led the Megalanthropic Epoch into useless wars, revolution and spiritual degeneration. And yet, in many deeply significant ways, mankind in the twentieth century is more enlightened and enjoys a better social order than in former times. Only, as I showed in the introduction, we are seriously threatened by the growing power of the external material forces, and if progress is to be maintained and stabilized, a general spiritual awakening is indispensable. The outer world forces have grown so powerful that fear, suspicion, greed and the rest have a greater potency for destruction than ever before.


The only way out—as indeed is widely recognized by serious people all over the world—is the purification of motives. It need hardly be said that this cannot be achieved by advice, or threats, or good example, or by any kind of organized activity.* The only test is whether a proposed means does actually work in practice. When this is applied to Subud, we find most hopeful indications. For more than twelve years we have at Coombe Springs experimented with a loose form of community in which fifty or more people of diverse interests, ages, education, social status and even of different races and creeds have lived and worked together. Thanks to the discipline of self-observation and personal effort, as well as the spiritual exercises we had received from Gurdjieff, we were able to surmount many of the difficulties that arise from 'mixed motives.' But it could not be said that a real harmony was ever achieved. Moreover, as always in such communities that are based on 'working from without' the whole structure was too dependent upon me personally, as the supposed 'leader' or 'teacher' of the groups.

When Subud came to England, the conflicts and misunderstandings described in Chapter 3 threatened considerable disruption. In the early stages, the latihan, so far from helping, brought the negative forces to the surface and made matters outwardly worse. Within six or seven months, there was an unmistakable transformation. We can see the early beginnings of a future society in which each member accepts and takes responsibility for himself, and at the same time is able to respect the views of other people and work harmoniously with them.

Subud has been with us for only ten months, and it is too early to expect results that would be obvious to any casual observer. But to those of us who have watched the whole process over many years, there can be no doubt that Subud is a social force that can work the miracle for which we are all waiting: to make it possible for mankind to make full use of all the marvellous achievements of modern science and technology without destroying everything—including mankind itself—through the scourge of 'mixed motives.' The ideal society cannot be based upon leadership, for this implies dependence of the many upon the few, St. Paul's analogy of the human organism still remaining the truest picture. Only when each member is ready to accept his own place and fill it, can there be an organic society.

* Such as public education, youth movements, religious revivals, welfare organizations or societies for the promotion of good will and international brotherhood.


But so long as motives remain attached to earthly interests, the acceptance of one's place degenerates into slavery. It is hard to represent to oneself how all human relationships could be transformed if the effect that we have seen among a few hundred were to be shared by millions. This is no longer an abstract ideal, but a practical possibility. It will be a society in which guidance will take the place of leadership, in which authority will be looked upon as a burden to be borne rather than an ambition to be attained, and in which the desire to occupy a place for which one is not fitted will give way to the realization that everyone can have what is most precious in human life—contentment and security and the assurance of eternal welfare. In such a society all the outer-world achievements of mankind can be a blessing, and there will be no need to preach, like Gandhi, a return to the 'home-spun' life of the past.

5. Subud and Religion

With all its extraordinary power for good, Subud cannot achieve its object unless it is brought into the established religious life of mankind. Pak Subuh has repeatedly insisted that Subud is not a new religion, and that it offers no new dogma, no new forms of worship, no new church. If Subud had appeared as a movement of renewal within the Church—like the Franciscan Order or the Society of Jesus—it would have presented no special problems. The complete submission to the authority of the Church that characterized a St. Francis or a St. Ignatius would have assured the acceptance of so manifestly sincere a contribution to piety and faith.

Had Pak Subuh himself consented to remain no more than a pious Moslem, he would undoubtedly have been accepted by the Ulema of Java as a man through whom trust in God could have been restored, and religion given a renewed strength among the Moslems of the Malayan Archipelago. It is chiefly, perhaps solely, his catholicism that has so far impeded the acceptance of Subud as a movement of Islamic revival among his own people.

It must be difficult to accept the thesis that there can be a revival of religious faith, the source of which is outside a church, without fear of disturbance of dogma or authority within the church. Lay movements of reform, even when held within the framework of established religion, have often proved dangerous, and have led to schisms and heresies. The very notion of a world-wide religious revival suggests eclectism of the kind that reduces religion to a system of universal morality, and faith to a colourless theism


It has been amply demonstrated that true religion cannot be restored by any form of propaganda or mass suggestion. The immense and sincere efforts that have been made by the Christian churches since the end of the war have done little to restore faith. The Islamic revival that is an unmistakable fact for anyone who has travelled in South West Asia has brought fanaticism in place of faith, and has utterly failed to come to terms with the realities of the modern world. I have no first-hand knowledge of the revival of Buddhism in the Far East, but competent observers have told me that little has been accomplished—chiefly owing to the obscurantism of the Buddhist monks, except perhaps in Burma, where the Satipatthana movement has become a real force. Even so, this system of organized meditation is rather a method of 'working from without' than a way to the renewal of religious faith.

All this is the more remarkable in that the need for religion is deeply felt throughout the world. The materialism in which the Megalanthropic Epoch has foundered is now discredited, even among many of the natural scientists who were its chief exponents and prophets. The world is waiting for something, but for the most part has no idea what to expect or what to hope for.

We have therefore to face the question whether Subud can fulfil men's hopes and allay their fears. I think the answer chiefly depends upon whether or not Subud can be accepted by religious leaders as a means bestowed upon mankind for the restoration of true worship of God; a way that can be followed without sacrifice of any of the specific dogmas of any religious community, and without diminution of the authority which the Church must maintain and preserve if it is to fulfil its function.

It seems to me that if Subud is rightly understood, it can be accepted by everyone who believes in God and is ready to put his trust in Him alone. The sacred impulses of sincerity, trust in God, surrender of one's own self-will and patience in waiting for God to fulfil His times and seasons, are the foundation of all religious worship. Whoever enters the Presence of God with these gifts will not be deceived. They are all that is asked for in the latihan.

Only the practical test counts. Those who have followed the latihan confirm that so far from being separated from their own confession, they are brought closer to it, and find a new depth and significance in their religious observances.


Not only this, but they find that, where previously they were troubled by doubts and scruples concerning some article of faith, they now see that these doubts and scruples were grounded in human thought, and that they can accept literally the truth of their confession. Thus one man recently told me that he found himself in the latihan repeating the Apostles' Creed and seeing for himself that every word he was uttering was true. This had astonished him, for he had previously rejected the Creed as being incompatible with a rational Christianity.

There is, in every great religion, a vast positive content expressed in the form of dogma or teaching. The mind of man cannot understand the dogma, for it belongs to the higher regions of the soul that are inaccessible to thought. Therefore, people either believe or refuse to believe, in both cases without understanding what it is that they accept or reject. When the soul is awakened, it begins to see what the mind cannot think about, and then it knows that what the mind could not grasp is true and necessary for salvation. Tertullian's saying, Credibile est, quia ineptum est, et certum est, quia impossibile ceases to be a paradox for those who follow the latihan.

The positive content of religious dogma is never lost in the latihan. There is, however, a negative content that consists in denying and rejecting the truth of other faiths. This is not religion, but fanaticism or narrow-mindedness. This disappears with the latihan as the trainee sees that all positive religious beliefs are compatible, and that all apparent contradictions spring not from the soul but from the mind, if not indeed from the lower nature of man. So long as the denial and rejection of heresy are thought to be essential to true religious faith, there is certainly a stumbling block.

It is a sign of the times and foretaste of what is prepared for man in the next Epoch—if he will accept it—that religious intolerance is much less prevalent today than in former times. People do not wish to go by the way of denial and rejection, and it is a great merit in the priesthood that they recognize that intolerance has grown much weaker during the present century. Men of all religions are now more ready to accept that Revelations of the Divine Purpose must have reached others who may be outside the community to which they happen to belong. I myself have no doubt that it is literally true—as Pak Subuh says—that through Subud a Christian will become a better, more conscious Christian with his faith more firmly grounded than ever before.


The deadly enemy of mankind is materialism, which really means belief in this visible world and rejection of other worlds and other possibilities. Materialism is an invidious satanic enemy, and the mind of man cannot follow all its manoevres. Subud is a most powerful weapon against materialism, for it enables people to see beyond it. No earthly weapon can avail, because the material forces do in fact dominate the earthly life, and those who see with earthly eyes only are fully justified in asserting that they can find no evidence of a world that is beyond matter. Materialism cannot be combated with its own weapons, nor upon its own terrain. Like Briareus, it thrives and its arms multiply so long as it can keep its feet upon this earth. When it is lifted above the earth, it weakens and finally succumbs.

The way of deliverance from materialism is the first contribution that Subud has to make to the restoration of faith. The second is the direct conviction that comes to those who follow the latihan that the religious experience is real. This conviction is very rare in the modern world, and even among those who are called to the priesthood it is seldom stable and permanent. This is the cause of acute anguish to many, and in fact several ordained priests have come to Subud in the despairing hope of rediscovering their lost faith, and have not gone away disappointed. The third gift of Subud is trust in God. When this comes to man, his life is transformed. It is even rarer than faith in the reality of religious experience, for many who have the latter continue to suffer from anxiety and doubt as to the fulfilment of Divine Purpose. When there is trust in God, religion is restored to its rightful place as the supreme human concern.

Since these great gifts—liberation from materialism, conviction of the reality of religious experience and trust in God—can be received without sacrificing one jot or tittle of the dogmas of one's own faith, it seems to me that the leaders of religion throughout the world must eventually welcome Subud as the answer to the universal prayer, "Oh God, make speed to save us!"

I am not foolish enough to suppose that my writings will carry conviction to those who have not experienced Subud, nor do I expect that the acceptance of Subud by the churches will come quickly. But I believe that it may come, because I am sure that this is the Will of God.

6. The Expansive Power of Subud

We come now to the kernel of the matter: that which distinguishes Subud from any other spiritual gift that has previously been known on the earth.


This is the power of expansion that comes from the mode of transmission of the contact. Subud is the manifestation of one of the grand laws of nature that has hitherto been known only in physics and biology. This is now familiar even to laymen as the Law of Chain Reaction, or self-accelerating explosion. It is simply illustrated by the growth of the rabbit population of Australia, or the spread of bracken in Britain. In both cases, a few individuals were imported into a new country where the conditions of existence—soil and nutrients—were wholly favourable. There were few carnivorous animals to keep down the rabbits, and as each mother rabbit can have several litters of half a dozen or more in a year, a pair of rabbits could produce, say, a thousand million descendants in ten years. This happens because each pair born can be the start of a new chain. Even with immense wastage, the rate of growth is prodigious, and, as everyone knows, the whole agriculture of Australia was threatened by the chain-reacting rabbits. Similarly bracken, unknown in England in the eighteenth century, now covers more than half of the common land of the country.

Another example is the chain reaction in nuclear physics that now holds the entire population of the world in suspense. The discovery barely twenty years ago that certain heavy atoms would explode when bombarded with neutrons, and in doing so produced more neutrons that could explode other atoms, has changed the course of human history. The devastating power of the nuclear chain reaction comes from the speed with which the chain renews itself, each generation occupying less than a ten thousand millionth of a second.*

If we compare nuclear fission with the conventional explosion, we can see that the latter follows a different law. There is also an exceedingly rapid reaction, but not self-acceleration. The explosion wave is propagated from a centre, and as it moves outwards, its energy is dispersed over a wider and wider radius, and its intensity is correspondingly diminished. All such processes follow what is called the Inverse Square Law. This governs all actions that expand outwards from a centre. It is well known in physics. A less exact form of the law governs the spread of new characters in a biological genus. There is yet another law that operates when the expansive process actually produces factors that resist its own development. This is called in economics the Law of Diminishing Returns, or the principle of saturation.

All these laws are to be found working—though not in an exact numerical form—in the spread of ideas and spiritual forces. Let us take the case of a reformer with an immense influence upon his immediate followers. Communicating his zeal to them, he initiates an explosion that soon passes beyond the limits of personal contact with the reformer himself.

* N.B.—All figures are given from memory, as I am writing without access to books of reference. I am only concerned to remind the reader of the principle of the chain reaction.


At second hand, his preaching has less power, and it is transmitted less exactly. The intensity diminishes with distance from the source. Moreover, compromises and misunderstandings are inevitable, and the version of his message that reaches distant places is very unlike the original. Still greater is the diminution and distortion that occur as the message passes through time from generation to generation. Only an initial impulse of immense power can spread, by expansion, through many countries and peoples. The loss of intensity and ultimate loss of content are both inherent in the method of transmission from one man to other men. The source is limited and the channels are obstructed, the flow is uncertain, and finally comes to a stop.

All movements of spiritual regeneration within the last five thousand years have developed according to these two laws, and the utmost that might be hoped for is that a fresh impulse might come, strong enough to spread widely and affect a sufficiently large number of people to produce a new force in the world.

With Subud, none of these limitations apply. Not being transmitted from person to person by any outward means of communication, but by direct contact with the Source, it does not suffer diminution or distortion. Since the contact can be given many times over by everyone in whom it is fully established, it does not depend upon proximity to the centre from which it originates. It may by now have occurred to the reader that Subud could be described as a 'spiritual chain reaction,' and this would be an accurate observation. The power of expansion of Subud is unlimited because it is not transmitted through a limited channel—that is, through a human being. It can, given suitable conditions, develop at an ever accelerated pace. For example, in England after three months, fourteen people, seven men and seven women, had been authorized to give the contact. One of these, Bulbul Arnold, gave it in Ceylon to one hundred and four women in three weeks. Gurdjieff's Ashiata Shiemash required that each all-the-rights-possessing brother of his brotherhood should be able to open the conscience of a hundred others, and each of these in turn should be able to open a hundred more. I remember, when I first read this chapter, making the calculation that even if only four in each hundred acquired the power of transmission and each required one year to transmit it to a hundred others, the whole of mankind could receive it within eighteen years.


I was naturally deeply interested when Pak Subuh told us that, if mankind would receive it, Subud could reach the whole world within eighteen years, and that it had been revealed to him that his missionary journeys would continue for the same length of time.

The essence of the chain reaction is that the whole force is transmitted without change or diminution at each step. The tenth generation of rabbits has the same fecundity as the first. The ten thousand millionth atom to undergo nuclear fission produces the same excess of neutrons as the first. When this happens, distance from the point of origin no longer has any importance. Each point of contact becomes a new centre of expansion with exactly the same power as the first. This is possible because the power is not human and does not pass through a human channel.

If Subud has the property that we believe—of giving a direct contact with the Great Life Force by which all existence is sustained—then it can develop without limit and without diminution, and it can do so very rapidly. The only limits to a chain reaction are the exhaustion of suitable 'fissionable' material within reach of the reaction. With Subud this could include the majority of all people living on the earth.

In such an idea, there is a vast satisfaction. We are reminded of Milton's description of the war between the powers of light and darkness, in which each of the Satanic weapons was matched by an equal but purer angelic power. There is a strange justice in the possibility that the perils into which the material chain reaction has plunged mankind should be averted by another chain reaction—but this time in the spiritual and inner life of man.

7. The Ordinary Man

Subud does not make its appeal to the intellectuals or to those who are in search of some esoteric teaching. It could well be called the 'Way of the Ordinary Man.' It makes no demand beyond what is expressed in the phrase 'ask and it shall be given you.' Such asking does not presuppose any special preparation nor even any special qualities. The scientist or philosopher has no advantage over the mechanic or the bus conductor, but it is also true that he is at no disadvantage. When we look at those who come to the latihan we echo the words


"Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons." Sometimes we are tempted to go further and say "I thank Thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes."

The future of the world depends upon the ordinary man. He along can change the course of history; not the great thinkers nor the powerful rulers of the world. These have had their day. The ordinary man is helpless so long as he remains subject to the power of mass suggestion and depends upon external supports in all that he does in life. But throughout the world, the ordinary man is in revolt. His revolt is not political or social.

There is little danger of revolution and indeed that is not even a great danger of war. The revolt is not directed against injustice and oppression, but against the stupidity of life. The ordinary man has asked to be shown the meaning of his existence and he has been given a television set. He knows better than his leaders that no real problems are being solved and he is not too proud to ask for help without insisting upon scientific or religious 'orthodoxy' in the source from which it may come.

The help must be simple and effective and these are two of the greatest merits of Subud. We may, therefore, expect that as Subud becomes accessible to the ordinary people in all countries it will appeal to them first.

Here I can report a conversation of Pak Subuh with a small group of influential people in Germany who argued that he should, in the initial stages, restrict the transmission of Subud to those who could 'influence the masses.' They said that such recognized leaders would not wish to share in the latihan with common people lacking in education, but that these latter would quickly follow a lead. They assured Pak Subuh that there was a widespread feeling in Germany that some new spiritual revival must come; and, providing Subud carried the seal of approval of well-known names, it might spread all over Germany like wild-fire.

Pak Subuh replied that he was in any case debarred from rejecting anyone who might come, but that even if this were not so, Subud must rise upon the foundation of the ordinary people. He said that when he was thirty six years old he had been invited by one of the Rajas of Java to become his adviser in the reorganization of his state. Pak Subuh had refused on the ground that this might separate him from the ordinary people.


The world today needs above all that the ordinary people of every race and nation should regain faith in the Wisdom and Power of God and that trust in Providence should be restored. In this way alone, can the 'inner-world forces' be brought into equilibrium with the 'outer-world forces.' We should therefore, welcome above all else a way and a method that is open to all who ask for it and which can be followed in all conditions of life. Subud requires only helpers who are prepared to carry the burden of transmitting the contact and places in which the latihan can be practised. Its chain reaction will enable it to keep pace with any demand.

8. Concluding Remarks

I must end as I began, with apologies. I am far too busy to write this book as it should be written, with careful selection of the almost unlimited material at my disposal. Some of my examples have been weak, and some of the discussion irrelevant, but I have written as I could. As a child of six recently said to his mother—a Subud member from the start who apologized for some omission—"I know you do your best, Mummy, and I think you are very successful." I hope the reader will be equally indulgent.

I will try to summarize my own impressions and convictions. Firstly, Subud does work. I have not been writing about some ingenious theory as to how mankind could be saved, but about a process that I see working from day to day. Secondly, Subud is supremely easy to enter. It is only required that one should receive the necessary explanations, wait three months and then ask. Everyone that sincerely asks can receive the contact. Thirdly, Subud gives positive results in every sphere of human life; in physical health, in family and social relationships and, most significantly, in the spiritual and religious experience of man. Fourthly, Subud is open to all without restrictions of race, creed or condition. It requires no preparation and no special qualifications. Fifthly, Subud has an unlimited capacity for expansion, and its rate of progress will be limited only by the number of people who ask for the contact.

These are practical points that matter for any earthly undertaking. Subud is more than an earthly undertaking—it is the way to Abodes that are far higher than the earth, and Abodes, moreover, to which we human beings rightly belong.

Subud will expand just as fast as it is God's Will that it should do so. It it is to move very rapidly, indications will be sent that will attract the interests and hopes of many people. If the process is to go slowly, it will pass from friend to friend, from parents to children, until its value is demonstrated by results that cannot be denied. A philosophy is tested by its consistency and adequacy; a moral teaching, by its conformity with our intuitions of right and wrong; a religious dogma, by its power to establish and hold the faith of millions. But a process can be tested only by results. Subud is a process, and it must submit to the ultimate test: "By their fruits ye shall know them—do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?"

Pak Subuh and Ibu at Coombe Springs circa 1959


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