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Stairway to Subud - Book Review
Geoffrey Armes

Stairway to Subud, by Anthony Bright-Paul

This book gives an excellent exegesis as it were of 4th way (in particular), Vedanta and Sufi thought as methods of spiritual inquiry that inexorably show a need for the intervention of some kind of higher experience. The philosophy itself indicates the requirement of something like the latihan, that is the training received by Subud members.

Built around the author’s own experiences as a young‚ seeker in the nineteen-fifties, the book gives us an excellent snapshot of a certain segment of the beat generation in search of truth in action.

Intellectually sound, this book isn’t a tract aimed at converting the uninitiated to the author’s viewpoint, and is all the more pleasurable to read for that. However, the middle becomes bogged down with perhaps too many stories of openings; and the experiences of Subud members, and segues to an inexplicable memoir of real estate dealing in California during the early sixties. This is interesting as document of an America that seems to have irrevocably changed, but meanders until getting back on track with a discussion of the author’s changed relationship with his former spiritual teacher JG Bennett following the opening of both of them to the Subud latihan. In fact this is one way the book can be read: as a letter of reconciliation to an old teacher and friend.

The writing style is solid, while never excessively poetic, which is exactly what’s needed with this subject matter, in that one wants to be swayed by the material itself, not the author’s eloquence.