Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Latihan: an inner awakening

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“When you come to zero, when you come to the nothingness, at that moment there is a vibration.” *

Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo

The latihan, the central experiential practice of Subud, is an awakening of a capacity that all human beings possess: to come to a place free from those worldly influences that distract the mind and feelings, disturbing an overall sense of equanimity. In letting go, or surrendering in the latihan, it is possible to be aware of and feel the 'sound of silence'** that is the universal vibration of life.
Freed from the turbulence of day-to-day thoughts and feelings, it is possible to become aware of an inner spiritual intelligence that guides our experience in the latihan, as well as in our daily lives. And those who practise the latihan may discover their own truth and understanding, which enable them to develop their individual human potential.
Since the latihan is a process of spontaneous inner receiving it is different for everyone, and often changes with each latihan. In letting go and allowing the subtle energy within to move through us, we are better able to follow our inner guidance, which varies from physical movements and sounds, to inner sensations and understanding. It is possible, in this state of quiet acceptance, to feel a deeper connection with the whole.
In Muhammad Subuh’s words: "Clearly the only thing that separates one person from another, especially when they are not related, is the ego. If it is the soul that is working, there is no separation." ***


Practising the latihan

In Subud, people meet to practise the latihan in a local venue, men and women separately, with each latihan being approximately 30 minutes. There is usually a preparation period of up to three months before a person comes to their first latihan, which is known as the ‘opening’. Many people find this period useful, as it is can be a time of subtle change, creating an inner readiness to experience the latihan.


Meaning of the word latihan

The word latihan, short for latihan kejiwaan [Indonesian], translates literally as spiritual training. Since the experience of the latihan is unique for each person, people in Subud often have different ways of describing their own experience of the process and the impact it has on their individual lives.


What people say about the latihan

Here are a few words from people who practise the latihan in Subud, which illustrate the differences in personal experience of the latihan:
The latihan is the core of my life. It has led me by the hand and shown me who I really am.
Being someone with a well-trained critical mind, the latihan has helped me to know the forces behind my thoughts and emotions and enabled me to live in greater harmony with this tough world we live in.
The latihan itself has been an incredible journey encompassing every experience in life - a very powerful feeling of space, depth and joy.
For me, what sets the latihan apart from any other spiritual practice is that it's not about trying to leave a part of you behind in order to feel some kind of 'out-of-this-world' enlightenment. The beauty and intricacy of the experiences I've had during latihan come about because something (which I like to call 'God') is making every part of me - mind, body, heart and soul - come alive. In other words, I'm being trained to become my truest, fullest self, for both this world and whatever comes after.
The latihan helps me get closer to my true self, as it fine-tunes my intuition.
Over the years the latihan has become an invaluable life tool - the regular practice of tuning into my inner awareness provides an essential balance to my thinking, feeling and being. To sense inwardly, as well as outwardly, the dynamics of relationships, of my work, and my sense of self. The latihan broadens my awareness and deepens my understanding of the stuff of life.
After doing the latihan since July 1966, I have no doubts about it. I’ve learned to accept my faults, learned to laugh, have a clean calm feeling inside and my heart has been opened.
I hoped the latihan would enable me to become more 'spiritual' and wise. Oddly enough it did something different. I slowly became more practical, and also more connected with my body and emotions. I now see this as a sort of foundation level, which had been missing on my journey towards wholeness.
It's like learning to dance a new dance with life. I used to live in narrow field enclosed by walls and knock my head on the walls thinking: that's it, that's what life is about. Latihan has reopened a sense of discovery and unexplored possibilities in me. I now have discovered a door, and behind it a peaceful lake and some fields of joy. It's not all sorted for sure - there are always new walls! But I have scope for action rather then just knocking my head on the next wall... and I know there are beautiful spots on the way.
It frees you up to live – and shine your colours in the world!
My practice of the latihan has been like having access to my own personal doorway to a world where the mystery of my deepest self lies, connected to God, to other people and other beings. I make the effort to go and open the door twice a week and get something different at every visit – sometimes nothing more useful that a little peace of mind, and at other times a pure feeling of grace or contrition or awe. I try to live up to the knowledge I have gained of who my deepest self is and can be like in my regular life, and am amazed that the door has never ever been shut when I reached for it.
When I attended my first latihan, at a time of depression, I was frightened that I was going to be taken over by something out of my control. Instead I experienced a sense of joy that I recognised as being my own true self. It was truly an unexpected gift and I went home happy for the first time in months. That was 34 years ago. When things are difficult and I feel doubts, I still remember that experience as a touchstone.

* Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 17 January 1981 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reference 81 JKT 2
** "... When you come to the place where you are completely free from all the material influences ... then you will feel the sound of the silence: the vibration of life which is the Adil Ilham ..."
~ Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 17 January 1981 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Reference 81 JKT 2
*** Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 31 July 1966 in Cilandak, Indonesia. Reference: 63 TJK 2


Some Links on "Secret" Societies

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A secret society is a social organization which requires its members to conceal certain activities—such as rites of initiation or club ceremonies—from outsiders. Members may be required to conceal or deny their membership, and are often sworn to hold the society's secrets by an oath. The term "secret society" is often used to describe fraternal organizations that may have secret ceremonies, but is also commonly applied to organizations ranging from the common and innocuous (collegiate fraternities) to mythical organizations described in conspiracy theories as immensely powerful, with self-serving financial or political agendas, global reach, and often satanic beliefs.


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Monday, 17 February 2014

There Is a Paranormal Activity Lab at the University of Virginia

Respected scientists are lending credibility to parapsychological research.

 P. Morrissey/flickr
The market for stories of paranormal academe is a rich one. There’s Heidi Julavits’s widely acclaimed 2012 novel The Vanishers, which takes place at a New England college for aspiring Sylvia Brownes. And, of course, there’s Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters—Marvel’s take on Andover or Choate—where teachers read minds and students pass like ghosts through ivy-covered walls.
The Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine is decidedly less fantastic than either Julavits’s or Marvel’s creations, but it's nevertheless a fascinating place. Founded in 1967 by Dr. Ian Stevenson—originally as the Division of Personality Studies—its mission is “the scientific empirical investigation of phenomena that suggest that currently accepted scientific assumptions and theories about the nature of mind or consciousness, and its relation to matter, may be incomplete.”
What sorts of “phenomena” qualify? Largely your typical catalog of Forteana: ESP, poltergeists, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, “claimed memories of past lives.” So yes: In 2014, there is a center for paranormal research at a totally legitimate (and respected) American institution of higher learning. But unlike the X-Mansion, or other fictional psy-schools, DOPS doesn’t employ any practicing psychics. The teachers can’t read minds, and the students don’t walk through walls. DOPS is home to a small group of hardworking, impressively credentialed scientists with minds for stats and figures.
Dr. Jim Tucker, a Bonner-Lowry Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, is one such scientist. With a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Dr. Tucker arrived in Charlottesville to complete his postgraduate training at UVA’s Health Services Center in 1986. After a few years running a private psychiatric practice (still in Charlottesville), Dr. Tucker returned to UVA to work under Dr. Stevenson and carry out research on the possibility of life after death.
Tucker, who is a certified child psychiatrist, primarily works with children who’ve reported memories that are not their own—oftentimes linked to real-life individuals who lived decades in the past and thousands of miles away. To Tucker, these findings suggest the plausibility of “survival of personality after death”—something like a law of conservation of energy applied to human consciousness. Reincarnation, to the layperson.
“The main effort is to document as carefully as possible what the child says and determine how well that matches with a deceased person,” he told me. “And in the strongest cases, those similarities can be quite compelling.”
The cases Tucker refers to are indeed quite compelling. In an interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin earlier this month, he talked about James Leininger, a Louisiana boy who reported memories of flying a fighter jet in World War II. At around age 2, James experienced terrible nightmares, almost nightly, of violent plane crashes. During the day, he relayed extremely vivid memories of this supposed Air Force career. He recalled the name of a real aircraft carrier stationed in the Pacific during World War II (“Natoma”). He claimed to have a friend on the boat named Jack Larsen. He had memory of being shot down by the Japanese and dying near Iwo Jima.
The USS Natoma Bay lost only one pilot at Iwo Jima, a man named James Huston, and he died in a crash that matched Leininger’s description almost exactly: “Hit in the engine, exploding into fire, crashing into the water and quickly sinking,” Tucker said. “And when that happened, the pilot of the plane next to his was Jack Larsen.”
Spooky, right? Surely little James was merely parroting information he had absorbed elsewhere. “Children’s brains are like sponges,” the saying goes, but Tucker’s findings suggest something more profound at work. For one thing, James Huston is simply not a well known person. A cursory Google search of his name reveals only press related to Leininger’s claims. It’s hard to say how Leininger or his parents could have possibly known anything about Huston before the nightmares began.
Huston’s story is so obscure that it took Leininger’s father three to four years to track down his information. James Huston was killed more than fifty years before James Leininger’s birth, and came from Pennsylvania—more than a thousand miles from the Leininger family home in Louisiana. What’s more, James Leininger was only two years old when he first reported memories of Huston’s fiery death.
“It seems absolutely impossible that he could have somehow gained this information as a 2-year-old through some sort of normal means,” Tucker told NPR.
DOPS-affiliated doctors and scientists have reviewed and analyzed thousands of cases like Leininger’s. Before his retirement in 2002 and later death in 2007, Dr. Ian Stevenson logged more than 2,500 cases, publishing his analyses in a number of scholarly texts from 1969 onward. Today, DOPS inputs findings and patient profiles into an electronic database from which analysts can discern patterns that might explain why certain individuals are susceptible to believing they possess memories from past lives. Tucker and his colleagues believe such information could explain a number of psychiatric conditions as well; among them phobias, philias, or certain personality traits that cannot otherwise be attributed to environment or heredity.
There are, of course, those in the scientific community who are skeptical of the research carried out at DOPS and critical of the legacy of Dr. Stevenson. And there are those who are, perhaps rightly, suspicious of how DOPS has sustained itself financially through the years. Chester Carlson, the inventor of xerography, bequeathed a million dollars to DOPS upon his death in 1968, presumably at the request of his wife, known for her avid interest in the paranormal.
Stevenson and his contemporaries have their legitimate allies too. Max Planck, the father of quantum physics, saw merit in the possibility of a physical realm derived from the non-physical (“consciousness”). In his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World, astrophysicist Carl Sagan, a known advocate of scientific skepticism, said that the phenomenon of children reporting “details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation” is an area of parapsychological research deserving of “serious study.”
Yet Stevenson is perhaps most respected not for his findings, but his methods. In a 1977 article published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, acclaimed American psychiatrist Harold Lief praised Stevenson’s overall approach to data collection.
“While I withhold final judgment on the content and conclusions of my friend’s study of telepathy, xenoglossy, and reincarnation, I am a ‘true believer’ in his methods of investigation. Stevenson’s writing and research reports are work of a man who is methodical and thorough in his data collection and clear and lucid in their analysis and presentation.”
“I’m happy to say [Stevenson’s work is] all complete and utter nonsense,” wrote Scientific American’s Jesse Bering, a research psychologist who pens the magazine’s behavioral science blog. “The trouble is, it’s not entirely apparent to me that it is. So why aren’t scientists taking Stevenson’s data more seriously?”
Bering claims current models for understanding brain function don’t allow for consideration of non-materialist data like those mined at DOPS. He asks: “But does our refusal to even look at his findings, let alone debate them, come down to our fear of being wrong?”
Stevenson’s most famous words have become somewhat of a rallying cry for paranormal enthusiasts the world over: “The wish not to believe can influence as strongly as the wish to believe.” But for Tucker, who is considered Stevenson’s protégé of sorts, delving into the paranormal has little to do with “believing” in anything at all.
“It’s certainly not to promote a belief or belief system,” he told me. “I didn’t come to [the field] with any sort of dogma.” He, like Harold Lief, was attracted to Stevenson’s methods.
“For me, I was interested in this effort for an analytic approach to studying survival of personality after death. The goal for me, personally, is to determine what evidence there is for the idea that some individuals can survive death.”
The information being collected at DOPS is certainly unusual. But overall, the organization functions no differently than your garden-variety scientific research outfit. If Dr. Jim Tucker is any indication, the groundwork of strict adherence to scientific method laid down by Dr. Stevenson is still firmly in place. And according to Tucker, the essential motivation of scientists at DOPS is the same as that at NASA, WHO, and other institutions devoted to scientific inquiry: “We’re just trying to find the truth.”

Friday, 14 February 2014

Subjective spiritual experiences can be studied objectively

February 11, 2014

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Monday, 3 February 2014

Brilliant arguments in favor of "no free will"

January 31, 2014

By Brian Hines, Church of the Churchless

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