Subud. Once a very secretive New Age cult, Subud is now expanding and becoming more open, and no longer hides its teachings behind password-protected web sites. (A cynic would say they've realised they don't need to – people will fall for anything.) Subud was founded in the 1920s in Java, Indonesia by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (b. 1901, d. 1987), who is normally called Bapak ("Father") by Subud members. There are a little over 200 members in NZ (as of mid 2007), with about 90 in Christchurch led by Hammond Peek; most of the rest in Auckland. There are perhaps 10,000 members worldwide.
The name Subud comes from the three words Susila ("the good character of man in accordance with the will of God"), Budhi ("the force of the inner self within man"), and Dharma ("surrender, trust and sincerity towards God"), and is not related to Subuh ("dawn"). The founder expected members to pay 3-5% of their income to the cult (but they can also have many supposed financial crises to respond to each year) and expected members' enterprises (businesses) to pay 25%. These are not enforced – indeed, most Subud members have not heard of those figures, perhaps indicating that Subud's teaching that Subud has no teaching is working – the members have never been taught what their founder said. (Hiding of origins is actually a big problem in many cults, but most don't have self-contradiction at their core.)
The founder's daughter took over leadership when her father died. From Indonesia she picks names for many children and some adults, which helps reinforce group identity (another sign Subud is a cult). This leader is considered to have all the power of her father, who proclaimed himself to be a Christ-like/Muhammad-like figure and was believed by some to be the second coming of Christ. [Can anyone see anything wrong with that belief? Hint: He's now dead. - Editor.]
Central to Subud practice is the latihan – an occult activity like transcendental meditation which according to Dr Stephen Urlich, a Christchurch scientist who wrote an article published in a journal of the American Psychological Association, involves “uninhibited weeping, shouting, writhing, moaning and speaking in tongues” and that “Laughing, jumping and dancing can occur”. Compare this with Kundalini. A Christian perspective is that this activity involves channeling demons that masqerade as either angels of light, the Holy Spirit, or even Christ himself to reveal supposed truth to the Subud member. Nasty. Some Subud members call the latihan "getting opened" which is appropriate for an activity that involves opening oneself to demonic manipulation. Subud has been known to practice strong relationship control, and in a 1964 study cited by Dr Urlich, 24 cases linked Subud to "schizophrenic episodes requiring hospitalisation". This has been referred to as "Subud Syndrome" by a Subud supporting correspondent, who attempted to play it down by implying it was nothing special because "all religious experience can become traumatic for vulnerable people". This is not true of most religious experience and is strong evidence of cultic practice when it occurs.
Like many New Age groups and practices, Subud in particular appears to primarily appeal to those for whom rational thought is not a high priority, meaning that feelings are far more important to them than clear logical thought is. (For example, one Subud member has emailed us claiming black and white can be the same thing because they're both colours.) This combined with the experiences of the Latihan means that it can be very hard to convince a Subud member just how bad it is - they feel it is right, therefore as far as they are concerned it is. Subud is here rated Danger for its heavily New Age theology, its very occult practices, its strongly self-contradictory teachings, and its risk of psychological damage.
Printed on 12 March 2014 at www.cults.co.nz.