Beatnik religious pursuits part 1, Subud

Although a number of famous American beatnik writers made Buddhism the focus of their spiritual quests, with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac being the most notable among them, this certainly wasn’t the only avenue of religious pursuit to be explored by the European-wing of post-war drop-out youth. A good number of European beatniks wanted to come into knowledge of God. As a consequence one of the things that came up in conversation as they sat around getting stoned was Subud, a syncretistic movement that can be traced back to the mystical ecstasies a Javanese man called Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo experienced in 1925. After taking on an institutionalised form and acquiring the name Subud around 1947, the movement was brought to Europe in the 1950s. Thus by the 1960s some beatniks – including my mother Julia Callan-Thompson – had involved themselves with Subud.
Regardless of whether or not the word Subud was chosen for its similarity to founder Pak Subuh’s name, it is usually explained by initiates as being derived from the abbreviation of three Sanskrit words: Susila, Budhi, and Dharma. Susila requires that followers lead a life in accord with the Will of God. Budhi represents the inner force to be found within all men and women. Dharma indicates submission and surrender to God. Subud attracted my mother and 1965 marks the onset of her seven year flirtation with the movement. Subud’s proponents claimed it wasn’t a religion but to non-initiates like me it appears to most closely approximate a cross between Islam in its heretical Sufi form and Buddhism in its Zen manifestations. Thus the term Subud is perhaps most easily explained as a contraction of Sufism and Buddhism, even if this definition will be found wanting by converts.
In Subud the specific spiritual practice of its initiates was called the latihan, which entailed spontaneously achieved contact with God. Initially someone who has already established contact with God’s power transmits this experience across to the new human receiver. Experienced devotees are able to do latihan alone, although the number of sessions per week is stringently restricted. Perhaps unconsciously revealing the Islamic roots of Subud, contact with God through latihan is described as an act of submission, which can be halted by human acts of will and volition – but never initiated by such means.
That said, my mother’s circle believed that drugs were of huge assistance in achieving these higher states of consciousness. One of the things my mother liked about Subud was the value it placed on the teachings of all the great world religions. In this Subud, like political doctrines such as Bolshevism, was entrist; but for my mother the opportunism that I might read into a stance of tactical pantheism was of absolutely no significance, since it was a theological position that opened up the beginnings of a rapprochement with a Catholic upbringing from which she felt estranged.
I’m not particularly sympathetic to the ‘new’ religious movements with which my mother involved herself; Subud, followed by seven years of deep immersion in Divine Light Mission activities. However, in a comment appended to an earlier blog on this site, I invoked the famous quote from Marx about religion: “‘Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.” Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.
I went on to say: “Marx is clearly talking about organised religion not other states of consciousness, and mysticism can be about either one of these, or both! But when mystical experiences are enjoyed away from organised religion, they enable us to experience at a higher level the states of consciousness enjoyed by man in primitive communist societies. The idea that mature communism is only going to replicate at a higher level the modes of social organisation found in primitive communism is clearly ludicrous, it must also be about regaining lost states of consciousness. Anything less would be a failure to break with bourgeois modes of thought and shallow rationalism.”
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-06-18 02:21:08 +0000

What a kawinkidink. Currently exploring the themes of higher states of consciousness and religion – how the latter can be used to “negate” the former, that is. Such has been the case with a handful of “transcendent beings” that I used to “know”. Meaning they’ve “regressed”, and religion is to blame – their deliberate embracement of religion, more specifically. Suum cuique, and I may be “unbalanced”, but I’m damn grateful that I’m not a slave to any institution, including a church…
As Salamu Alaykum!

Comment by Time on 2009-06-18 02:46:49 +0000

I love your mum…

Comment by Janet Horne on 2009-06-18 12:11:29 +0000

It’s a bonnie fire!!!!

Comment by Tina Small on 2009-06-18 17:39:46 +0000

Don’t forget about the Tamils!

Comment by Jack Kerouac on 2009-06-18 21:35:35 +0000

Looking back on my life from the perspective of having been dead for 40 odd years, I think all the Zen stuff I went for was a mistake. I’m much more into alchemy these days… not just to turn base metals into gold but to turn base souls into higher beings and also to raise the dead.

Comment by Lama Ping Pong on 2009-06-18 22:22:54 +0000

This is not the road to enlightenment, don’t waste your time and money on this kids, only I can give you the real experience of God!

Comment by Billy Butler (not William Butler Yeats) on 2009-06-18 23:11:03 +0000

Well I believe that I’m on the right track… and that ain’t got nothing to do with the best lacking all conviction and the worst being filled with a passionate intensity. You can ask my big brother Jerry if you like. Mr Yeats just don’t give us a good Impression!

Comment by Rick Terror on 2009-06-19 00:12:09 +0000

Ten years from Jun 18, 1999 carnival against global capitalism.
I was there and I would have stayed in london if my socialist wanker cousin couldn’t insisted in going back to Sheffield that afternoon.
I was 5 days in the country and not really sure of how to do it, but dying to stay. I met this lovely blonde that I knew was crazy for me…
If now, I wouldn’t hesitate. Time travel, I need you desperately!
I have always believed that there were hell of a parties that night…
Where were you, folks?

Comment by Aleister Crowley on 2009-06-19 03:54:25 +0000

Let them eat communion wafers!

Comment by Prince Albrecht of Bavaria on 2009-06-19 04:06:29 +0000

When you learn who is the King of England, Scotland, Ireland and France, then you realise that an institution headed by the imposter calling herself Elizabeth II cannot possibly be a vehicle for religious enlightenment. I say take a dump on the so called Church of England!

Comment by Belle de Jour on 2009-06-19 06:38:16 +0000

Sex magick is the route to real insight.

Comment by Kernow AAA on 2009-06-19 07:26:10 +0000

Is your blog available in Space Cornish?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-06-19 10:13:36 +0000

Rick, you’re not the only one who missed the J18 stuff. I was in a hospital about a mile from where it was all happening, but if you didn’t look at the news media you’d have had no idea at all. No evidence of it whatsoever, even just outside the City itself and still in inner London… Strange!

Comment by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo on 2009-06-19 10:45:58 +0000

Toot toot!

Comment by Melonely on 2009-06-19 11:43:00 +0000

and what is the place of autoerotism is sexual magick?

Comment by Rick Terror on 2009-06-19 15:14:44 +0000

Yeah, Stewart. Days later we absolutely noticed that it was not “big news” at all. Only the few people connected to internet back then got some sense of was happened.
I based on imagination the fact that I met you in that day, for one of my novels. The insights you gave me, and the visit to the Invisible College, while all the fun was out there, was the begining of my contibution to the Great Confusion later on.
I also have taken due note that just a couple of minds situated this event as the beginning of anti-globalization protests, being “Seattle” the darling of the news, with the spectacular black block as the diva.
The excelent articles at, vanished too (or at least I never could retrieve them).
But is interesting that part of it was like in a dream, for the same reason of its “dissappeareance”.
Weren’t a lot of cameras neither, definetely not video cameras; the thing had a very strong anti-camera element. Of course that’s wicked too!

Comment by Rick Terror on 2009-06-19 15:18:28 +0000

Melonely: The place of auto-erotism in sexual Magick is not little.
But what it is, I leave it to Mr.___ and Mistress___, that are about to appear here to explain for you.

Comment by Mr.Harold Pinter and Mistress __ on 2009-06-19 15:53:19 +0000

O Buddha by Harold Pinter & Mistress
O Buddha,
@Harold Pinter

Comment by Mistress Hermeneutics on 2009-06-19 17:19:06 +0000

I quite object to poetry that comes out of (sexual) collaboration being only credited to the male participant. I will nevertheless be implementing the spiritual qualities of such poetic reverie throughout the weekend for the purposes of research.

Comment by Harold Pinter on 2009-06-19 19:04:42 +0000


Comment by Sri Yukteswar Giri on 2009-06-19 19:37:12 +0000

It’s the End of the Age of Divinity!!!!

Comment by Harold Pinter on 2009-06-20 09:22:27 +0000

it’s the end. Trippy, new posts pls.
@Harold Pinter

Comment by Annie Besant on 2009-06-20 10:24:34 +0000

..and when they do credit a woman her name will invariably follow the man’s… bunch of fucking paedo masons if u ask me … that means u too Pinter u prick

Comment by Madame Blavatsky on 2009-06-20 22:12:38 +0000

Well said, Annie, but don’t forget to redirect all the credits to me, the ultimate Suprema with the transparent eyes. Look at me eyes, look at me yes, baby…

Comment by Bron on 2009-07-05 08:16:30 +0000

If only the funny peculiar things I have heard about Subud were true.

  1. Subud is the Religion of Sex –Ha?
    I know the founder recommended haveing a spouse – but….
  2. Subud latihan is an awakening of the Kundalini –
    Well, that’s another story, if not history, or her story
  3. Subud advice was that all drug taking impeded the latihan, and awareness of the real self, making the response limited to the qualities of a vegetable- So all drug taking is just vegetating, by Subud descriptions…..
    Oh – that’s enough!
    48 years of Subud persuades me that there’s more to this than meets the I! Or meets the You, or the Ewe.
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