Moments of Truth
STORIES OF A DOCTOR IN SUBUD
by Rachman Mitchell
Published by BALBOA PRESS (Hay House Publishing) Distributed by Susila Dharma International
When ‘Moments of Truth’ by Rachman Mitchell was first published, I bought a copy in Freiburg, Germany, at a Subud World Congress. Subud is an international spiritual movement which is based on the activation of the spiritual and physical being of an individual. Two years later the review had not been written but one comment from a young would-be reviewer served to prod me into action. ‘Oh yes, it is good! Like sitting in the room with Rachman and having a conversation with him.’ How true! Absolutely on the mark!
Unlike other autobiographies published of life in Subud, ‘Moments of Truth’ is based on changes of understanding which came to the writer which he recounts in each chapter of this book. Of course, many who practice the Subud exercise gain understanding of their being and spiritual growth although few are able to point out or remember the occasions and events which activated such changes. In this volume, a quietness and a sense of personal responsibility to a life’s path is shared.
Starting with his childhood and schooldays in Sussex to his entry into Subud in the 1950s, Rachman Mitchell recounts how he came to be opened at Coombe Springs, which was the home of the Gurdjieff movement. He had spent a year in Coombe Springs at the time the founder of Subud, Muhammad Subuh, stayed in England as a guest of the leader of the Gurdjieff movement. It gave the writer the opportunity to get to know Muhammad Subuh’s entourage. In fact, if one is interested in following the growth of the Subud movement, this might be an introduction. Not so much the history of Subud but witnessing how an individual member follows in the footsteps of his own personal exercise which becomes known to him through regular practice.
As with a lot of Subud pioneers, Dr. Mitchell took his family to live in the Cilandak (Jakarta) compound set up by the Founder who came to be known as Bapak, meaning ‘Father’. This is a respectful address used in Indonesia, which was the Founder’s birthplace. Later Dr. Mitchell was appointed to be the Muhammad Subuh’s physician. In the book, he writes only of what he witnesses, what he understands of Subud in a very modest but truthful way. It is like a quiet serenade to Subud and the Subud life. If he witnesses personal disasters as happens in every expat’s life, let alone a pioneer’s life, he hardly seems to resent such events, except where there is a deep personal lesson to be learned.
The father of six children, he finds himself forced to live in the Middle East to earn enough funds to pay for school fees. Even there, his Subud exercise never ceases to stop teaching him. He discovers it is OK to be angry. He did not like the Saudi Arabian society he was living in. He hated it’s attitude to women, especially, in his view, the treatment of ‘foreign women’. He hated it for what he saw as hypocrisy which he writes, oozes out of the seams of the society. He hated its lack of real empathy with its prescriptive interpretation of Islam. ‘It took me a long time to acknowledge the truth that living there was bad for me’, he finally concluded. He later moved to the Yemen to work for an oil company.
He now lives in Australia with his wife Rohana. Even there, in retirement, he has found time to work as a ‘street doctor’ to the homeless and people broken by drugs – people who never visit medical surgeries but need medical care. With other colleagues, bus services are organised to locate patients and give treatment and advice. Although I have read many Subud autobiographies this is one of the few I found memorable in that it shares a sense of humility and humanity.
Katharine (May 2022)