The latihan is the reappearance of a primordial Power hidden within human beings and all creatures. This Power manifests itself in spontaneous bodily movements and utterances, a mood of tranquility and joy, clarity of awareness, and love for the Divine. It works progressively to cleanse and harmonize the conflicting elements of our being, to heal and to illuminate. Its essential nature is celebration and praise. It makes possible an increasingly profound realization of the Wisdom from which we ultimately spring and in which all things are embraced.
The term ‘latihan’ literally means exercise, and the latihan is in fact a spiritual exercise or practice but because it is entirely spontaneous it follows no pre-existing plan, and so cannot be either studied or taught. It cannot be directed or forced in any way, but is simply received, as a life and movement arising from the very centre of our being, in whatever forms are appropriate for the particular nature and condition of each one of us. Since the action of the latihan is cathartic as well as illuminating, its manifestations may occasionally be grotesque or unpleasant; more usually they are enjoyable, and at times they are of an extraordinary beauty but because these manifestations are simply the means by which we are gradually transformed, they are all to be accepted with gratitude and experienced with objectivity and detachment.
Below is a copy of the introduction to the book “Antidote – Experience of a Spiritual Energy”; Salamah Pope (editor). It might provide an overview as to what the Latihan / Subud is, and is not.
Introduction – Antidote
As a whole Subud has, you might say, four ‘parts’. The core and essence of it is the latihan, the spiritual training itself. Around this is wrapped an organisation, and then come the business enterprises. Finally there are the tangible fruits of the other three, which include cultural, humanitarian and philanthropic projects.
The latihan is the sine qua non of Subud; without it there would be no organisation. no enterprises, no welfare projects, nothing. What the latihan is, then, is the crucial question – and Subud being what it is, there is no definitive description.
To many, the latihan is a miraculously fine and gentle energy, with which we are put into contact by being ‘opened’ to it, thus ‘joining’ Subud. The energy itself does the training; all we have to do is to relax and receive it in ourselves, and allow it to work us over. Then, gradually, it trains us: purifies us, puts us in touch with our own nature, our own authentic inner Self: and brings us spiritual comfort, guidance for our life, and an inward security.
There are no words in the training, no teaching, no exercises, no rules and no rituals. Nothing except the feeling, the experience, of a gentle vibration inducing movements and sounds in us. The latihan thus seems to be some kind of super-human or divine force, and many people eventually come to believe it to be the power of God. I could be wrong with this label, but I cannot doubt the experience of this fine energy working in me, in my body, that – given the chance – dispels evils great and small, erases bad feelings and anti-social thoughts and dissipates tensions, stress, human conflicts, illness, and so on.
The snag lies in the phrase ‘given the chance’. The energy is so gentle (usually) and so fine that we have to be openly receptive, and actively consent to its working in us before it does so. We have also to allow ourselves to respond to its prompting. If we do this, if we submit ourselves to its purposes, rather than our own, then it works in us. It opens the unconscious mind and gradually proceeds to clean, heal and re-form its contents. The most constructive attitude towards the energy is probably expressed in the old saying from the Bible, ‘Thy Will, Lord, not mine’, and in Islam as the admonition ‘Surrender to the Will of God’.
What actually happens is that men, or women (the sexes follow the training in separate rooms) may sing or dance, shout or cry, pray or even laugh aloud. There is no compulsion, though; no hysteria or trance is involved. No emotional highs (or, rarely, at any rate) either; this energy seems to work from behind, as it were, the human heart and mind. If I ever feel that the latihan is nudging me too hard or too fast or in a direction I cannot tolerate, I open my eyes and stop being moved by it. It is as simple as that.
In short, if one does not willingly consent and surrender to this force, nothing happens. If one does, then anything may. And no-one can tell beforehand what an individual will receive or feel or be ‘made’ to do: because we are moved from within, by a Power beyond our understanding, which time has shown knows better than we do what we need and what we ought to be doing.
So everyone’s experience of the latihan is different, and unique, because each and every one of us is different and unique. To each, this spiritual energy, be it given the names the Power of God, the Spirit, or the Great Life Force, gives what he or she needs. There are thus, as I said, no instructions, no directions from anyone. Only God knows what is right for you and me, and once the contact with His power has been made, we need no teaching from any human man or woman.
There are ‘helpers’, in Subud, but they are not a priestly caste or a body of spiritually enlightened people: they are merely men and women who, by virtue of their longer experience of the latihan and their commitment to ,decent (conventional, moral, if you wish) way of life, have been delegated to perform certain necessary functions. Subud is, above all, a democratic institution. Some of the helpers may be more spiritually evolved or purified than some of the other members – but then again they may not, and no-one can tell. It is quite on the cards, therefore, that some new members may receive better and be more ‘advanced’ than some of the helpers. And ‘advanced’, I venture to say, may well lie only in a person’s ability to experience and follow the inward guidance of this spiritual energy.
Purity has gone out of style these days: it is old-fashioned, discarded. almost a dirty word; but on it depends our ability to follow, and our ability to receive, direct guidance from the power of God in the latihan. Hand in hand, therefore, with the spiritual training in Subud goes the personal effort to keep to the traditional morality of one’s own religion or personal beliefs
Subud itself is not a religion. It has been labelled a sect, a cult, an esoteric group and so on. But all it is is solely a means of receiving Grace and a consequent process. Yet through the latihan we are brought into contact with a divine spirit or natural energy that is greater, wiser and more conscious than we are. Whether we name this God, or Allah, Brahman, Buddha, Christ, Mahadeva or Yahveh is immaterial The religions of the world, to me, are all different paths up the mountain.
The energy that we receive in the latihan simply gives us the power and the strength to follow better whichsoever of those paths we choose; it is, I believe, the experiential ‘juice’, the inner reality, behind and within all of them. Nor do I think that the Subud latihan is unique. There seems to be a general out-pouring of the Spirit today; and, to me, the spiritual training that one gets in Subud seems merely to provide the easiest, the simplest and the most direct way of contacting that spiritual energy, the presence of the Spirit, in my daily life.
In these apocalyptic times, I therefore believe that we ordinary people have been granted a new dispensation, a divine light in the world’s present darkness. For an old atheist this may be a rash statement. In the final assessment all I can say is that I know, for myself, that the Subud latihan works, and changes things profoundly; and that I am convinced, now, of the existence of an Ultimate Arbiter of Justice, and that a new way of accessing this power which passeth all understanding has been granted to us today. For those who wish to join us, and benefit from the experience of the spiritual training in Subud, you will probably find a telephone number under ‘Subud’ in the directories of most of the major cities of the world; (there are active Subud members in about 70 countries.)