Concerning Subud


The main house—now demolished—at Coombe Springs, circa 1959

Working on this book, I have sometimes felt like a traveller who discourses on the affairs of a country in which he has spent seven days as a tourist. Subud is new to me as it is to all western countries. My personal contact is less than eighteen months old. I agreed to write Concerning Subud partly to correct many false impressions that have been formed from newspaper articles, and partly because the obligation to share with others what we ourselves value can only be discharged if we are ready to disclose our experiences. It is easy to shelter behind theories and what other people may have said or written, but this does not pay our own debt.

The obligation to make public one's own—very often private—reasons for following a certain course of action, has a salutary effect in making one answer the question "What really are my convictions in this matter?" I have set down my own conclusions, and some of the considerations which have led me to them; others, indeed the most cogent, cannot be expressed in words.

For example, I have quoted various indications which seem to me to show that the coming of Subud has been predicted and expected for a long time. In this I have drawn on my own memories. I had no time to undertake proper researches, and in any case my task is not to produce objective evidence but to show why I myself have been convinced. I have been told that there have been indications, far more specific and definite than I could know of, that Subud was to come to the world when and as it did come. Belief in the 'End of the Age' is widespread, it is shared by Arabs and Jews, by Buddhists and Lamaists, South American Indians and by many African tribes. Students of astrology connect this with the beginning of what they call the Aquarian Age.


I must confess that I have never understood astrology, and do not even know the signs of the Zodiac. Dislike of astrology is one of the last creaking remnants of my scientific training, and I could not bring myself even to ask friends who are versed in this science to tell my why they have believed that some very great event was to occur in this sixth decade of the twentieth century.

Since 1920, I have been interested in Gurdjieff's system, and am even bold enough to believe that I have helped to spread his teaching in various parts of the world. In 1949 he nominated me as his 'representative for England' and, before he died, told me that he counted upon me alone to ensure that his work was not lost. But I can also say that I knew Gurdjieff well enough to realize that he had told perhaps fifty other people the same thing, and none could ever guess what he really intended. In this book I have set down my reasons for believing that Gurdjieff expected the coming of Subud after his death, and that in his book All and Everything he had drawn the portrait of Pak Subuh in his legendary Messenger from Above, Ashiata Shiemash. Many will disagree with this interpretation. They have as much right to their opinions as I have, and among them are some of those who have spent more time with Gurdjieff than I ever did. It does not really matter whether I am 'right' or 'wrong' in my interpretation; what does concern me is that I sincerely believe that the work of Gurdjieff can be regarded as conscious and intentional preparation for the coming of Subud, and moreover that Gurdjieff's life and work do not make sense at all unless they are regarded as a preparation for something that was yet to come. I am told that Dr. Maurice Nicoll shortly before his death said to his nearest pupils, "I believe that the real Teacher has not yet come."

It is, of course, a far cry from all this to the specific suggestion that Pak Subuh may be the Messenger for whom mankind is waiting. Indeed, the question for me has long since become irrelevant. It was only in my first contacts with Subud that I felt the need for assurance that I was not breaking away from a teaching that I had followed for thirty-five years.


When I began to experience for myself the working of Subud, the results were so astonishing and so certainly right, that it would no longer have deterred me if Subud had been repudiated by Gurdjieff himself, though I might have felt distressed by a cleavage between the main two sources from which I had received help. As it happened, the exact opposite occurred. The more I found in Subud, the clearer did I become as to the inner meaning of what Gurdjieff had taught. I have not encountered any experience in Subud that I could not understand better with the help of Gurdjieff's system, and I have also found that all that Gurdjieff showed to be necessary for the development of man becomes possible and sometimes even easy with the help of Subud. It would, however be quite wrong to refer to Subud as a 'continuation' of Gurdjieff's work, or to Pak Subuh as Gurdjieff's 'successor.' Gurdjieff was unique and incomprehensible—he could not have a successor. His work was the preparation for something completely different from anything he did or could have done himself. Subud is a new force in the world: it is no more to be identified with Gurdjieff than it is with Nakshi Sufism or Zen Buddhism, both of which also contain valid teaching and sound practical methods, but lack direct contact with the Source.

There is no suggestion of any exclusive connection between Gurdjieff and Subud. I happen to be more familiar with his teaching than with others, but I know enough of the work of Alice Bailey to be convinced that her source, the Thibetan, was aware of the coming of Subud. The Avatar of Synthesis, described in the Reappearance of Christ and elsewhere, must refer to Subud. It is hard even to entertain the notion that a prodigious event has now occurred on the earth. The external evidence is meagre, but it has ever been so in the past.


As Albert Schweitzer wrote in his Quest of the Historical Jesus,
"What this something is, which shall bring new life and new regulative principles to coming centuries, we do not know. We can only dimly divine that it will be the mighty deed of some mighty original genius, whose truth and rightness will be proved by the fact that we, working at our poor half thing, will oppose him might and main—we who imagine that we long for nothing more eagerly than a genius powerful enough to open up with authority a new path for the world, seeing that we cannot succeed in moving it forward along the track which we have so laboriously prepared."

In my opinion, the true significance of Subud is not to be sought in its connection with special ways or methods of self-development, but in the possibility it opens to us all of witnessing a return of religious faith in the world. Since Subud has no distinctive dogma, and Pak Subuh himself repudiates any suggestion that Subud is either a substitute for religion or itself a new religion, it can be followed by those who seek to deepen their faith in Divine Providence irrespective of their specific beliefs or professions. When it is really understood that Subud does not undermine a single article of the Christian faith, but gives Christians a new understanding and a new force in their own worship, it can do for the Church what no amount of propaganda or pressure could ever do—that is, deliver it from the prevalent empty worship which comes from the intellect and the emotions, and thereby restore the true worship of the soul. The same applies to Islam and the mosque, and to Judaism and the synagogue.

Men of all religions have succumbed to the spirit of the old Epoch, and have sought to worship God with mind, emotion and body—the same instruments that they use for the study of natural phenomena, or for doing their business—and the inevitable result has been the disappearance of true religion. When people come to understand, not only that worship must come from the awakened soul and from the conscience of man, but that means are to hand whereby the soul can indeed be awakened, we may expect changes so far-reaching and so rapid that within our present generation we may witness the birth of a new world.


My qualifications to write about Subud are meagre, but as no one is in a much better position, I have accepted the task. I owe very much to Pak Subuh—he has told me many things concerning himself and his work and about the future of Subud about which I cannot write. I hope, however, that by setting down my own impressions and interpretations and by abstaining from giving incomplete quotations from unpublished material, I may have succeeded in making it plain that no one except myself is responsible for the opinions and conclusions expressed in this book. It would have been easier to write had the second volume of The Dramatic Universe been published earlier, because, although this was already written before I met Subud, the conclusions reached in it are fully in accord with those in the last chapters of this book. The final revision has been delayed by the coming of Subud, which has brought with it so many new tasks and so many new problems that it seems impossible to accomplish all that needs to be done.

I believe that a great blessing has come to mankind, not through the mighty deed of some mighty original genius, but by the will of God, and because of this belief I have been prepared to set down my own experience for the benefit of others. I have written only what I believe to be right—not what I assert to be true. If in doing so I have offended any susceptibilities, I hope I may be forgiven.

J. G. Bennett,
Coombe Springs

February 1958


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