John G. Bennett - Subud


In 1956, Bennett was introduced to Subud, a spiritual movement originating in Java. For a number of reasons, Bennett felt that Gurdjieff had expected the arrival of a teaching from Indonesia, and in spite of deep reservations, Bennett was 'opened' by Husein Rofe in November of that year.

Bennett regarded the latihan, the spiritual exercise of Subud, as being akin to what the mystics call diffuse contemplation. He also felt that it had the power of awakening conscience, the organ that Gurdjieff regarded as necessary for salvation. An invitation was sent to the movement's founder, Muhammad (Pak) Subuh to come to England. Pak Subuh came to Coombe Springs where all of Bennett's pupils were given the opportunity to be 'opened'.

It was a highly explosive event that included the miraculous cure of the film star, Eva Bartok, and, subsequently, the violent death of one of Bennett's pupils. In an extraordinarily short time, Bennett found himself instrumental in spreading Subud all over the world. He traveled extensively to spread the Subud message, sometimes in the company of Pak Subuh. Bennett translated Pak Subuh's lectures into various languages, and his own introductory book, 'Concerning Subud', sold thousands of copies worldwide.

Bennett's heavy involvement in Subud meant a gradual fading away of the work-group activities and exercises that had been practised until the advent of Subud. The meeting hall was left without its intended viewers' balcony and its striking pentagonal floor was filled in to allow for latihans. Its original purpose was not to be fulfilled for many years.

Some of Bennett's pupils were dismayed. Subud seemed to some to be the antithesis of Gurdjieff's methods for spiritual awakening, and Bennett's enthusiasm for it served to deepen the divisions within the Gurdjieff groups. Many people left the Coombe Springs groups, but others came in large numbers, and for several years Coombe Springs was the headquarters of the Subud movement in Europe, attracting serious seekers and sensation seekers.

In 1958, monks from the Benedictine Abbey of St. Wandrille, interested in Subud, contacted Bennett who, the following year, made the first of many visits which brought him into close contact with the Catholic Church. Pere Bescond was the first monk to be 'opened', followed by many others. It was at St. Wandrille that Bennett had a deep experience of the destined unification of Islam and Christianity. This possibility had haunted him for a long time and he had given it philosophical expression, through his concept of essential will, in The Dramatic Universe. Soon after, he entered the Catholic Church.

By 1960, Bennett had come to the conclusion that the practice of 'latihan' alone was inadequate, and he resumed the work that he had learned from Gurdjieff. By 1962, after devoting himself selflessly to its growth and expansion, Bennett left the Subud organization, feeling that a return to the Gurdjieff method was necessary.

Although he maintained to the end of his life that he had derived great benefit from Subud, it was now the turn of Subud members to be dismayed, and many turned against him.

Meanwhile the Institute had been largely given over to Subud to the extent, at one time, of instigating a move to forbid the sale of Gurdjieff's books at Coombe Springs. In spite of this, Bennett reinstated lecture courses on psychokinetics, an action that led to increasing conflict among the membership.

A battle of power ensued in 1962 that resulted in Subud acquiring its own organization and Bennett resigning from the Subud brotherhood and his role as leader of the Coombe Springs Community and Director of Research of the Institute.

From 1963, the pattern of exercises that were subsequently followed at Coombe Springs combined the latihan with different techniques such as the Gurdjieff movements. The meeting hall was completed with the fitting of a balcony for viewers and an external access through stairs for spectators. Lectures were held on topics ranging from Sufism to Synchronicity, and Bennett resumed work on the final volumes of his "personal whim", the epic 'The Dramatic Universe', which he had been working on for more than ten years, constantly writing, revising and re-writing.

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