By Reynold Ruslan Feldman, Boulder, Colorado Regional Helper, Subud Rocky Mountains
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is a brief report of my impressions from this gathering of helpers from around the country. Somewhere between 80 and 100 helpers—local, regional, national, and international (3)—came together at the spacious headquarters of Public Radio Station KVIE in California’s capital. Things started with a latihan Friday afternoon, March 6th, and concluded in my case with a latihan before lunch on Sunday, March 8th. In between we did virtually continual latihans and took part in either whole-group or small-group (6-8 people each) testing-cum-discussion sessions. There was one final post-lunch latihan on Sunday that I missed because of my flight-departure schedule. In the early days Bapak used the Indonesian term asuhan to describe an intense Subud workshop of several days where the content was primarily latihan and testing. With 15-to-20 hours spent in a latihan state over the three days, this gathering was definitely an asuhan.
Partial exceptions were Friday night, when the three His talked about their recent trip to Indonesia, and Saturday night. Concerning the latter, after Rosanna Schutte’s exceptional rendition of Hamid Camp’s song “The Highway Is Here,” which served to call us to order, we had an evening of stories about our spiritual experiences. About 15 people shared. I remember one woman whom I didn’t know tell of her having had an experience of going up into space with Bapak her guide and looking back on a marble-sized earth. This example will give you a feel for the types of stories shared. Although I didn’t know that woman, I probably knew 30-40% of those present by name, doubtless a benefit of 54 years in Subud in different groups, regions, and countries. As a result, I enjoyed catching up with people at the catered meals or coffee breaks. Some I hadn’t seen for decades, but it was as if we had last been together yesterday and could continue the conversation seamlessly. I attribute that sort of thing to the kind of inner connection we seem to have with each other such that time and distance have less of an impact. Laura Lathrop and I were the only individuals from the Rocky Mountain Region, and although I imagine the ladies had testing and discussion sessions similar to ours, I can’t say for sure.
Other than latihans, our sessions focused on several themes or activities. One concerned what it means to be Bapak’s helper today versus in the days when he was alive. (He died on June 23, 1987, at age 86.) Our men’s group as a whole tested this question as follows: What did it mean to be Bapak’s helper in 1985? And what does it mean to be Bapak’s helper in 2015? The results were fairly dramatic, so I urge helpers in this region to test these questions for themselves. We also got into a discussion concerning which Bapak we are talking about—the “small” Bapak, i.e., the Javanese man born in 1901, or the “big” Bapak, who was some kind of representative of the Great Life Force. Which Bapak one was working for made a difference. I explained that the Indonesian word for “helper,” pembantu-pelatih, literally means “assistant trainer” or “helping trainer.” So it makes a difference whether the trainer one is helping is Pak Subuh or God.
People in the large group expressed their various needs or hopes concerning the gathering. Some wanted to do personal testing, since growing into their best selves would positively impact their job as helpers. Others wanted to test their strengths and weaknesses as helpers. Still others wanted to discuss the issue of homosexuality and Subud as brought up by the recent brouhaha in Lewes, England. Each small group seemed to create a testing agenda based on the interests of the participants. One of the ones I was in focused on homosexuality. The matter came up because the three American International Helpers present—Sharif Harris, Susanna Renna, and Miriam Ramsey—had all recently returned from nine days with Ibu Rahayu at the World Subud Center, Wisma Subud, in Jakarta, Indonesia. All three reported that the current Helpers Handbook was being discontinued because of inaccuracies, not to mention legal issues. Apparently, this Handbook never existed in Indonesia and was frequently based on excerpts from Bapak’s letters, often taken out of context and in some cases mistranslated. Instead, there will be a single short booklet with guidelines for helpers. This work would not mention homosexuality, which is legal in some countries where Subud is practiced and illegal in others. Once completed in Indonesian with assurances that it represents Bapak’s actual views (based on talks versus letters), it will be translated into all the major Subud languages and made available to helpers internationally.
The IHs reported that a Western Subud member, a man, had written Ibu to ask why he was gay. Ibu replied that she didn’t know and that it was “God’s secret.” She went on to tell the 18 IHs that while the kejiwaan is “flexible,” human laws are rigid, so it was better just to respect the local laws and allow the spiritual side to take care of itself. From what the IHs said, it sounded a lot like Jesus’ advice to render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s and onto God what is God’s. In testing about homosexuality in our group, we asked about what our current attitude towards homosexual brothers was and how it should be. Happily, mine was fine, as God would have it.
Ibu was also asked about transgendered members. Her response is that they could chose to do latihan with whichever gender felt closer to their understanding of themselves.
For those readers unfamiliar with the Lewes matter, Lewes, East Sussex, England, near the beach-resort town of Brighton, has a large, active, affluent Subud group with some internationally known members like Sharif and Tuti Horthy, Sjarifin Gardiner, the Andersons, and others. The group owns a historic downtown Subud house; a group of members own and run a four-star hotel; and another Subud-related group had bid on a large piece of municipal property to do a multi-building state-of-the-art public project. As it happened, Subud’s beat out several other proposals and won. However, a principal in the second-place group, upset that his group had lost, did research on Subud, put together selected texts implying that Subud was anti-gay (something that is illegal in England), and tried to get the City of Lewes to reverse its decision. Further, the story was picked up not only by the local newspaper but was a lead story in the U.K.’s main publication catering to the LGBTS community. Fortunately, the Subud members in Lewes have a stellar reputation, plus Kenneth Clark, an attorney (as well as a U.S. national helper with a British wife), helped persuade the Lewes City Council to reaffirm its original decision. Meantime, Subud USA and Subud UK have scrapped the Helpers Handbook, which now, since Ibu Rahayu’s statement, will be taken out of circulation everywhere.
Finally, the Regional Helpers in attendance, including yours truly, took part in a 90-minute outdoor session (it was in the 70s and sunny the whole time, with rose bushes gloriously in bloom). The NHs assured us that they were looking for the best ways to support the various regions. A co-ed pair of NHs is assigned to each region. In our case the two are Marius Harold from Portland, Oregon, and Lianne Card from Seattle. I reported that to date both have been in the region several times and have participated in several of the Regional Council’s monthly conference call. I mentioned that our region has, in addition to a Council comprised of all interested members, five (soon to be six) RHs and a well-organized Committee ably led by Roland Evans (Chair), Cedar Barstow (Vice Chair)—both of Boulder—and Eli Dokson (Treasurer), Crestone. I also expressed the hope that all groups in the region would soon have committee and helpers meetings, discussions, and testing together regularly and holding periodic group meetings as well, something considered a best group practice in Subud but not done by all the groups in our region. As in other regions, money, or its lack, is a problem for us in the Rocky Mountains, to the extent that we barely make our $500 monthly commitment to Subud USA, with funds for helper travel to strengthen groups and individual members not yet available. The Regional Committee has recently set up and has begun implementing an educational fundraising program, since such funds as are received come from a small fraction of the total membership.
Most of what happened at the Gathering is beyond my ability to convey, except to say that lots of strong receiving took place, and I am hoping that all of us who attended will be able to serve our groups or regions or country better in the future. I felt a maturity manifesting in the helpers that I hadn’t always noticed in the past. The NHs who ran the sessions, finally, did an excellent job. I was proud of their maturity and professionalism.
Thanks finally to Subud Boulder, Subud Rocky Mountain Region, and one fellow RH who found the resources to enable me to attend this gathering. I hope their generosity will bear fruit.
Reynold Ruslan (“Ren”)Feldman
Regional Helper – Subud Rocky Mountain Region March 11, 2015
By Reynold Ruslan Feldman, Boulder, Colorado Regional Helper, Subud Rocky Mountains