After the first few latihans, most trainees report that they observe a sense of deep relaxation and well-being. Both during and after the latihan, they experience an exceptionally clear state of consciousness that persists for one or two hours. These effects are very different from those obtained in voluntary relaxation exercises, which usually produce drowsiness and contentment rather than a state of vivid consciousness. Again, many trainees report that, although they may arrive at the latihan tired and out of temper, they invariably experience a reversal of state and leave the room fresh and cheerful. Such results are to be expected from mild physical exercises that can restore a normal blood circulation after a prolonged period of mental effort, or other sedentary work. Nevertheless, there is a quality that distinguishes the latihan from relaxation exercises and gymnastics, and also from breathing exercises or the use of special postures such as those practised in Hatha Yoga. This quality consists in the progressive character of the latihan. So long as the process is not interfered with by any effort of attention, expectation of results or anxiety of any kind, the latihan progressively changes its action, as if some inner energy were opening for itself ever new channels through which to flow. Trainees often show surprise at the sense of novelty and unexpectedness that accompanies almost every latihan. This is characteristic of "working from within," which reproduces in the outer parts of the self the changes that are taking place in the essence.
One difficulty that was encountered at first by many trainees, but now is gradually disappearing, is in understanding what is meant by "not thinking." The effort to exclude thoughts is no different from the effort to keep attention upon a single idea or image. The psychological experiment "How long can you not think about a white elephant?" illustrates the point. So long as one tries to keep the image or thought of a white elephant out of one's attention, it constantly recurs. If one ceases to try, the image soon disappears—"we forget about it." Thus all that commonly passes for "meditation" and "concentration" is a form of exclusion and is really negative. It closes the channels through which influences of the higher centres should flow. Only in rare cases is true meditation as a prolonged state of complete openness and freedom every attained, even by those who devote their lives to the practice.
With the latihan, exclusion of any kind is a barrier. Those who try to hold their thoughts upon any idea—even that of worship—obstruct the exercise. Since the inner force is present from the moment of opening, such an effort is a "kick against the pricks," and those trainees who make it, often complain that the day after the latihan they feel ill or exhausted. Those complaints are an indication that the advice "not to think" has been misunderstood. Such effects in the latihan are mainly responsible for the negative reactions of about one in ten of those who are opened.
The preliminary stage of the latihan may last from one to six months. During this time the effects are mostly transient, and the trainees experience chiefly a sense of well-being that is due to an improvement in the instinctive bodily functions. Even where there are strong emotional reactions, these are usually due, when positive, to the release of tensions in the organism, and when negative, to the resistance of some bodily habit to the inward Power. Pak Subuh has compared this stage to that of a child's first visit to the kindergarten where it is shown the various implements and toys—but has not begun to use them. In order to understand the further process a little better, it is necessary to return to the theme of the last chapter.
The Primal Essence is the vivifying power by which all existence is sustained. It is the link between the powers of the seven levels of Being. All creation is pervaded by three powers or "Cosmic Impulses."* These in Subud terminology are:
The Seven Powers that together make the totality of all Existence.
The Great Life Force that is the Essence of all essences.
The Holy Spirit that is the Power of God enveloping the world.
The Subud contact is made by the Holy Spirit that descends upon the soul of man who is opened to receive it. When the soul is opened, it becomes a receptacle or a channel for the great life force. Through this force, an action is initiated that brings to life all parts of man on all levels, and brings him eventually to the true human soul.
Since there are four lower powers, there are four stages of purification or preparation. These can be represented by the diagram below.
In the diagram, the four circles represent the four lower powers: material, vegetable, animal and human. They also stand for the physical organism, the feelings or passions, the understanding or intellect, and the true self of man, or consciousness. The four circles are also described as four "bodies," but these must be understand as essences. Thus the material body is not the same as the physical organism, but the life force that regenerates the organism and is the seat of the true bodily consciousness or sensation.
The point in the centre represents the Spirit, which is the point of contact at which the Great Life Force enters.
In the latihan, channels are opened by which the life force
or life-giving energy flows from the spirit into the physical organism, and regenerates or "reconnects" it. It is the beginning of this regeneration that is experienced by the trainee as a sense of relaxation, accompanied by a vivid consciousness of being "present" in his body.
The life force is unable to flow freely through the organism so long as there are diseased conditions. These vary from recognized pathological states to hidden tensions and trivial physical habits. The life force releases the tensions and so produces the spontaneous movements that occur in the latihan. Herein lie the value and power of "working from within." The trainee himself could not possibly know the movements that he requires—on the contrary, they are movements that he would usually avoid—just because of the tensions that they they release. Often movements deliberately made to release tensions are very painful, for example, when nerves are affected as in sciatica, or in the many forms of rheumatism and arthritis, where the tensions affect not only the nerves, but also the blood circulation and the activity of the lymph glands. Very often it is observed in the latihan that trainees suffering from such complaints make movements that would be agonizingly painful if produced intentionally by force, and afterwards report that they felt no pain at all.
Not all the movements in the latihan are externally visible. Sometimes they are felt like an inner vibration accompanied by a strong sensation of one or other limb or organ. Often again they are so fine as to be unobserved even by the trainee himself. The whole process is one of cleansing of the organism so that the life force can enter. This leads to a general state of bodily health.
When the first "essence-body" begins to take shape in man, his physical organism is brought to life. This also means that it becomes "his" own body. So long as the life force has not entered it, the body has no contact with the spirit. It has no master, and the master—that is, the spirit—has no body. This is a strange saying that cannot readily be understood with the mind. But the Subud trainee comes to recognize the truth of it. He realized that his hands, his eyes, and all his limbs and organs do not belong to "him" except when the life force is present in him. It can make its home in him only when the body is purified of its defects.
Since the purification proceeds by stages, it can happen that a trainee starts by discovering that one of his limbs or organs has come to life. He recognizes that it is "his own" in a real sense, the very possibility of which he had never previously imagined. When the process is complete, then the essence-body fills the physical body with life and brings it into submission to the spirit.
This is the true meaning of the resurrection of the body and of the words of the Apostle: "it is raised a spiritual body..." The resurrection of the body must be completed in this temporal life, if it is to be an eternal reality. This is the first stage of the "completion" of man.
The second stage is the purification of the feelings, symbolized in the diagram by the arrow that goes from the first to the second circle. To this and the succeeding stages, we shall return in the next chapter.
The first and most obvious change produced by the latihan is an increase in physical energy and the ability to do work. When Subud first came to Coombe Springs heavy new burdens were placed on an already over worked household. A small number of men—resident students of the Institute—had set themselves to complete the New Hall several months ahead of schedule to make it available for the latihan. Visitors began to arrive from all parts of the world, and all required help which no one was qualified to give them. Moreover, in place of regular study groups held on Saturdays and Sundays with relatively quiet evenings during the week, two or three hundred people were arriving nearly every night for the latihan and turning the house upside down. Under such conditions one might have expected frayed tempers and physical collapse. In the event, not only was the burden carried, but there was an all-round improvement in health and vigour, and the house became quieter than ever before, notwithstanding the avalanche of trainees that descended upon it five nights in the week.
Very soon trainees began to report, with some surprise and diffidence, that they were observing that various complaints had disappeared. Often these were minor chronic conditions of the kind that people get used to without ceasing to be troubled by them. Since the symptoms usually come and go, it is not at once obvious that they have disappeared for good. It was, therefore, not for several months that it became certain that permanent improvements in health had occurred to at least a hundred of the trainees. Typical conditions cured in this way include various skin troubles, colitis, gout, haemorrhoids, lumbago, migraines and insomnia. Only the person concerned can be really sure that something has changed, and people are often inclined to be over-hasty in reporting an improvement. Nevertheless, after some ten months, it is no longer to be doubted that there has been a noticeable improvement in health among the trainees.
There is something much more telling than all these reports, and that is the quite obvious change in appearance that comes when people are really opened. The impression made upon Mary Cornelius after seven years has already been reported. It happens constantly that people are startled to see a friend's face looking years younger and more beautiful after the latihan. Not only do the trainees themselves feel younger and full of energy, but they are seen by their friends to be so. The presence of the Great Life Force makes itself visibly apparent. The body that is rejuvenated from within, acquires a finer texture of complexion and more harmonious movements and gestures.
Nevertheless, it must not be thought that everything is plain sailing. From the first, we observed that some of the trainees began to make very violent movements and to give vent to loud, harsh sounds. The forms of sounds and movements fall into a limited number of classes, from observation of which we have learned to recognize various traits of character that are being eliminated or purified. The purification itself requires that what is inside should come outside. The results can be very disconcerting. A mild, reserved person becomes for a time aggressive and even violent. Tendencies towards jealousy, fear, worry, inner criticism of others, self-importance and the like leave their traces in the physical organism. When the life force enters, these tendencies are driven to the surface, and the overt behaviour is at once affected. In consequence of all this, we have had many difficult moments—especially when a hundred or more people were passing through similar crises. Such crises are usually of short duration, and once they are understood no one is disturbed by them.
The same applies to the crises that occur in sick people. In the course of eliminating the poisons, their symptoms are sometimes aggravated. When this occurs it is a good indication that the latihan is working in the organism. Even with people who are not sick, latent traces of old illnesses are soon brought to the surface. I myself within the first three months (January to March 1957) twice passed through two or three unpleasant days when symptoms of dysentery and tuberculosis flared up in me. I suffered a severe attack of dysentery in 1919, and contracted tuberculosis in 1935: though both had been "cured" I had always been aware that I had weak spots in consequence. After the two crises (about three weeks apart), I felt sure that the last traces of these old illnesses had been eliminated. Later, I had positive evidence that this had in fact occurred. This helped me to give confidence to others who were disconcerted to find they had to "get worse before they got better."
Subud is not easy to understand, because we are not accustomed to "working from within." Most human activity consists in trying to "do" something to get what one wants. If the results are contrary to expectation we either give up or try again. We work "from the outside upon the outside." Unavoidably, we overlook many factors, and some we could not discover if we tried, because they are in the "invisible" world. This is why human "doing" is so hazardous. When the working is from within, there is no "doing"—but we have to adapt ourselves to the results. This is possible, for we can see the results and we can (if we have been trained to do so) also see ourselves. Therefore working from within is really much less uncertain and hazardous than working from outside. The most difficult part—the adjustment of the visible process to the invisible pattern—is done for us.
The situation just described may seem strange and even fantastic, and yet we can confirm from our own experience that is possible to live so that we adapt ourselves to results and do not waste our time trying to create causes that are beyond our power to control.
A very simple example is the treatment of diabetes. Some people cannot regulate their sugar metabolism. They must either avoid carbohydrates, or take insulin injections, or both. Doctors know the facts, and can keep people in normal health for many years, but medical science does not know the causes of diabetes, beyond the observation that it tends to attack people of a particular temperament, and is aggravated by emotional disturbances. Diabetes is really due to a psychic injury, and the effects on the body are secondary; there are therefore many ways in which diabetes can be contracted. Doctors do not know how to deal with the psychic injury, and therefore regard diabetes as "incurable." They can only alleviate the symptoms by regulating the sugar metabolism.
In the latihan, the psychic injury itself is healed. We have observed numerous cases of diabetics who after starting the latihan have been able progressively to reduce their insulin doses. The improvement has continued over a period of months. I am told that diabetes is prevalent in the overcrowded city of Djakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and that several cases of complete cure have been observed. Patients have not only discontinued insulin but ceased to need their sugar intake. This illustrates what I mean by "dealing with results" and not attempting to create or destroy causes.
It is scarcely necessary, at this stage, to correct the false impression newspaper readers may have formed that Pak Subuh is a "spiritual healer" and that Coombe Springs is a "Nature Cure Centre." It is a fact that illnesses, some of them serious, have been cured through the latihan, but this occurs only in so far as it is necessary for the spiritual development of the trainees concerned. There can, therefore, never be any assurance that any particular sick person will be cured of his disease, or, if he is to be cured, that it will happen within a short space of time.
I do not propose to cite any case histories. This is a matter for doctors, and even for them it is seldom possible to assert definitely that a condition would not have improved without the help of Subud. My own view is that the general effect of the latihan upon the human organism has already been clearly established. It is brought to life, rejuvenated in all its functions—including the sexual function—and it acquires a higher resistance to infection and overstrain that it had before. Where there is a pathological condition, no improvement is observed until the psychic state is changed. When calmness and confidence are restored the natural regenerative functions of the organism can begin to assert themselves. This is enough to account for most of the cases of "healing" that we have observed.
Hence it may be said that Subud is likely to be of special value in connection with psychosomatic illness; that is, all forms of disease where the root of the trouble likes not in some infection or lesion in the body itself, but in a psychic disturbance of which the patient is often not aware. Doctors say that this kind of illness is likely to be the greatest medical problem of the future, when specific remedies will have been found for most infectious and deficiency diseases, but true health will still depend—as it always has—upon the psychic state of the patient. One need not be a doctor to recognize the truth of the saying, "There's none so ill as he who won't be cured."
It seems to me that there is an immense scope for Subud in medical practice, even if it is looked upon as no more than a means whereby a normal psychic condition can be restored. Pak Subuh himself has repudiated all suggestions that the latihan works miracles against the laws of nature. Nor is it the kind of magic depending upon the lower powers of the soul (material, vegetable and animal) which is used unwittingly in nearly all healing by touch or prayer. It is the awakening of the higher powers of the soul that brings about the "normalization" of the whole being, starting with the physical organism.
Pak Subuh has emphasized that he wishes to do nothing without the co-operation of the medical profession. It has been wrongly stated that Miss Bartok rejected the advice of her doctors when she came to the latihan. In fact, her own doctor, though frankly sceptical, said that he saw no harm in it, because in any case she needed a rest and to have her confidence restored before undergoing the operation.
In July 1957, the whole position was placed before a group of doctors who were interested in Subud from the spiritual standpoint, and they agreed that the best course would be to open a nursing home under medical supervision and with a fully qualified nursing staff, to which patients could be sent. This would enable a serious experiment to be made that could within a few years enable the benefits of Subud to be assessed objectively.
Thanks to the generosity of a small group of people, all former pupils of Gurdjieff, it has been possible to buy and equip a nursing home at Brookhurst Grange in Surrey. This was duly registered with the Surrey County Council, and opened to receive patients on the 1st February, 1958. It would clearly be quite inappropriate to attempt at this stage to forecast what this experiment will lead to. Pak Subuh has made it clear that his interest lies, first, in convincing the medical profession that there is no suggestion of substituting the latihan for normal medical treatment and, second, in demonstrating that the benefit of any form of medical treatment is enhanced by the change in the psychic state of the patient. A well-known difficulty in assessing such cases arises from the fact that almost any stimulus that arouses interest and renews hope and confidence in the patient will result in alleviation of the symptoms and sometimes an apparent "cure." Only rarely do permanent cures come about through such means. Many months must pass before we shall know very much more than has been written in this chapter.
Each stage of development reproduces in itself the seven stages of cosmic completion. Thus, although in the first stage it is only the first or natural body that is transformed, the process is experienced also in all other parts of man. The pure, natural body of man does not respond to negative impulses. The vivification of the limbs and organs of the body makes them sensitive to the quality of the impulses that act upon them.
The sense of relaxation and physical awareness already described is followed by the observation that small, but undesirable, bodily habits lose their hold and disappear by themselves. These are connected with the material forces, and certainly time and patience are required before the body is liberated from all the satanical forces that oppress it. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that nothing in the latihan happens against our own will. Once Pak Subuh was asked how it was that certain bad habits persisted in someone who had followed the latihan for a long time. He smiled and said, "Because he himself does not wish to be free from them. He wishes for spiritual development, but he does not want to change. Later he will see for himself, and then he will begin to wish to change."
The second stage is connected with food and breath. Trainees find that they eat more in accordance with their needs and less according to their appetite. Those accustomed to alcoholic drinks find that their need and desire for alcohol steadily diminishes. Those with irregularities of breathing—such as asthmatics—begin to observe alleviation of their symptoms. At the same time, trainees become more sensitive to the quality of food. They eat less, but it matters more to them whether the food is well prepared or not. In this connection, Pak Subuh has laid emphasis on the great responsibility that attaches to the preparation of food. "Rightly speaking, the cook should be himself or herself in a state of purity—then the food will also be pure, and people will be made happy by eating it."
There is a further stage in which the eyes really begin to see and the ears to hear, when the hands really touch the instruments they use. This quickening of the senses is something unmistakable which scores of people have observed without being told to expect it. At first, the experience is transient, but slowly the new "natural body" enters into the old body and the sense of "seeing with one's own eyes" becomes an established fact.
When the organs and limbs are filled with the new life, they begin to obey the voice of conscience, and not that of our own self-will. Thus trainees begin to notice that when unpleasant or malicious thoughts arise in their minds, to which they would habitually give expression, the words stop in their throats and the expression of their face changes by itself. It is chiefly due to this, that friends remark upon the alteration in the appearance of those who follow the latihan.
The positive results described in the last section are by no means the most obvious consequences of the latihan. There are also negative manifestations, due to the elimination of impurities, or as it is sometimes called, "throwing out." The physical organism of man is like a sponge that absorbs all kinds of influences from the moment of birth. Unless he is able to come under the law of "working from within," the traces of all these influences accumulate in him, and enter his "personality."
There are, undoubtedly, some very fine sensitive substances that absorb and store up all these influences, and are responsible, among other things, for the phenomenon of memory, that strange and important property of the great life force. I have called them elsewhere the "sensitive energies." These energies thus become tainted with all the bad habits of movement, instinct, feeling and thought that are formed in the personality. In the latihan, the far higher energy that is released from the higher centres seeks to fill the organism with new life. It is obstructed by the tainted sensitive energy, which it drives to the surface. The result is that memories lost in the subconsciousness and habits that are suppressed in the external behaviour all begin to produce visible reactions. Put simply, the trainees begin (a) to see themselves as they really are, and (b) to show themselves to others also in their true character.
This produces, in the early stages of the latihan, situations that can be difficult or embarrassing. It has been observed that in every centre where Subud has started, there has been a period when every kind of personal misunderstanding has run riot. People have quarrelled, and disagreed on all kinds of practical issues that ordinarily would be settled without trouble. Doubts, suspicions, jealousy, impatience, wounded vanity—in fact the whole gamut of unpleasant and negative emotions are brought to the surface. Among people accustomed to self-observation, such consequences cause neither surprise nor consternation. Indeed, they are a clear proof that the action of the latihan is a genuine purification.
There is no doubt that the elimination is not merely a change of state, but the effective removal of "psychic toxins." The elimination is experienced by the trainee himself as producing a state of inner cleanness. Trainees remark upon the sense of being inwardly clean that they enjoy after the latihan. But while the poison goes out of the trainee, it can enter into another person whose purification is further advanced, and is therefore more sensitive.
This can result in very unpleasant experiences for the helpers, who are sometimes even physically sick as a result of some uncleanness that has been eliminated by another. Another strange, but unquestionably objective, proof that an actual substance is eliminated is the foetid odour that is often observed in the vicinity of a trainee who is eliminating some unpleasant habit. The odour is perceived by all the helpers present, and it suddenly disappears when the elimination has occurred.
The absorption by one person of the poisons eliminated by another has results that, at first, were very disconcerting. We found that we experienced various negative states without being able to trace their origin. Later it was explained to us by the Indonesian helpers that we were picking these up from other people, and that we could easily get rid of the poison if we were to do a latihan by ourselves or with the other helpers.
For me personally, this threw light upon a problem that had vexed me for years. I had observed that when I was sitting in front of a group of students following Gurdjieff's exercises, I very often found myself with a headache, or very exhausted and sometimes physically sick. I had asked other people who were instructing groups, and found that they had the same experience, but ascribed it to their own weakness, being confident that when they could be more fully conscious and stronger in themselves they would cease to be affected. However, as far as I was concerned, this trouble, instead of improving, grew steadily worse, until I came to dread the days when I had to instruct groups or give general talks.
Very soon after the coming to the latihan, I understood for myself exactly what had been happening, and found the way to cleanse myself of the poisons that I had been absorbing. This was for me a real blessing, for I have since been obliged constantly to be with people in whom some kind of elimination was occurring, and have never suffered in the way I did before. Trainees who in the course of their work have to meet sick, mentally disturbed, nervous, angry or simply negative people, have reported the immense benefit it has been to them to be able to "clean themselves out" by a latihan at the end of such meetings.
All the experiences described in this chapter refer to the first stage of purification, by which the natural body of man is brought to life and filled with the Great Life Force. This is what I understand by the resurrection of the body, for it means that within the mortal perishable body is formed a second body that does not perish when the physical body dies.