In the late 1980’s I was working as the Director of Subud USA, a small spiritual organization. One afternoon I felt a headache coming on. It started to feel like a migraine so I left work about an hour early. It hung on overnight but the next day I went to work anyway. I left early again as it got worse in the afternoon. I went to bed with my head still throbbing. Around 4 AM I had an intense, lucid dream. That broke the headache and here is the dream:
Driving north through California, in an invisible car, I saw Mt. Shasta on the left. It was stunning, rugged and snow covered. The mountain was almost pyramid in shape with sunset colored clouds throughout the sky. As I moved past the mountain I noticed that there was no snow on the north slope, which seemed a bit strange.
Next I was walking up a hill where I met a man and a woman. Their style of dress, hair and manner of speaking were like people from the 1950’s. They commented that this is the view of Los Angeles that all the postcards have. I turn around and see Mt. Shasta in back of two huge, stepped pyramids. In front of the pyramids is a road lined by giant palm trees.
The three of us begin to walk up the hill again, but it has changed into another stepped pyramid. Near the top we walk into a chamber where a 4th man joins us. He is also in 1950’s attire. The woman points out the sun calendar and then points to a symbol called “HALOS” which she says is going to happen any moment. I look at the symbols and say “she’s right, it is due any second.”
The woman finds some things and says we must put them on if we are to be protected. They are a pair of sunglasses, a scarf/bandana and a hoop with a bell on it that we placed around our ear. Then we are supposed to lie down on the moist earth, not in the shade, but in the direct light of the sun. I ask her if she’s sure this will work, “we look more like some people from the Mission (district of San Francisco) than that we are protected from anything.” She says she’s sure and we lay down on the ground just as the sun begins to brighten in intensity 2–3 times its normal light. This lasts for several seconds and then recedes. But we all understand that the electromagnetic and chemical structure of all things on Earth has been permanently changed.
We look out at Los Angeles below us and hear cries of panic and an explosion or two from gas lines near the freeway. We walk back into the pyramid, somewhat stunned but also full of understanding, that of course, that was how it was supposed to happen. Inside the pyramid we realize we are all changed and possessed by the spirit of CHIEF MANU, whose force ruled the pyramid, and for whom the pyramid had been built. This power actually takes over my body and forces me to pick up a gun and shoot one of the men. The other man yells at me to throw him the gun, and because I feel guilty for shooting the man, even though I had no power to control the act, I throw him the gun. The man then says he is going to shoot me but when he picks up the gun his own arm is possessed by the force which makes him shoot himself.
The woman and I are left looking at each other, somewhat surprised, but also knowing that all of this was meant to be, it was planned long ago. We could feel the presence of CHIEF MANU, and understood that this was a change that would affect the world entirely.
The scene then changed to Greece and the Mediterranean Sea, where Chief Manu was to teach me some lesson. But then my alarm went off and I awoke, remembering the intensity of the light of the sun.
When I got to work I decided to write the dream down since it was still a vivid memory. I had never remembered a dream like this one. These were the days before the internet but some of our computer engineer members had devised a messaging system through MCI mail that functioned like an internet chat group does today. We were able to communicate with our Board of Directors and membership in the United States in an inexpensive way through this system.
Once I finished writing the dream I sent it out to an informal group on the chat group “Starcomm” to see if anyone knew anything about this force of Manu that had penetrated my dream. There was no such thing as Google or the search function back then. Unfortunately no one knew much about Manu but they were all intrigued by the dream and thought it was important somehow. A few days later I went to the Theosophy library that was near my home in Seattle. I looked up Manu and learned that in the Hindu and Vedic tradition there was always a Manu that presided over the Earth for long periods of time. Manu was sometimes considered the first man, like Adam. He also was a bit like Noah and the story goes that a fish, to whom Manu had done a kindness, warned him of an upcoming flood. Manu built a boat and saved life from extinction. Manu was also sometimes thought of as the “Hand of God”. And the first known written laws were written by Manu and are known as the Manusmriti. However none of this information really helped me figure out what the dream might mean other than the powerful force might be the “Hand of God” in some fashion.
So I forgot about the dream until a few months later when an unusual letter arrived at work. It was a short letter inviting me to Malaysia because they had heard of my dream and were holding a conference on the topic of “Doomsday, Are We Facing the End Times?” I did not recognize the name of the writer or the group they represented which was GPDC, the Golden Path Development Center.
After a week or so I decided to call them. It turned out GPDC was part of the Subud group in Kuala Lumpur. They had spun off their own group but also did the spiritual meditation of Subud too. A Subud member had forwarded them my dream which contained some similar information that they had received in their meditations. Now I understood. However after a few years of working in non-profits and spending my other time in a modern dance company, doing performance art, an independent film and painting, I didn’t have any extra money to travel. No problem, they said they would forward me a plane ticket and arrange a place to stay with one of their leaders.
On the way to Kuala Lumpur I had an overnight stay at a hotel near the Tokyo airport. About 3:30 in the morning I was jolted awake and nearly thrown out of bed by an earthquake. It was one of the strongest I have ever felt and I grew up in California along an earthquake fault. There was still electricity so I turned on the television to see if there was any news about the quake. Nothing. I put on some clothes and went downstairs to see if there was any information or panic from the other guests. Again, nothing, everything was normal. Finally I found an employee who spoke English and he just said “oh we get those all the time, that was a small one, no worry!” Wow, my trip was off to a great start.
When I arrived in Malaysia a driver held up my name on a placard to meet me. I was escorted to a Mercedes and taken to the home of Ricky L. in Kuala Lumpur. He was very friendly, invited me in and showed me to my room. To my great surprise and comfort there was another Subud member from England who had already arrived. Michael Leach was his name and he had received the same invitation because he was Chairman of Subud England. He knew about as much as I did about the people of GPDC but at least we had each other to express our questions about the somewhat mysterious group and upcoming conference.
After a bit of rest our host asked us if we would like Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. I did not know much about Malaysia and especially did not know KFC had thousands of restaurants in Asia. I really didn’t want it for dinner but to be polite I agreed and also to see if the food was better or worse than in the US. It was better. After dinner our hosts took us to old town where we could get a feeling for old Malaysia. That was nice. Over the next few days I was really surprised to see how modern Kuala Lumpur had become in just a few decades.
The Doomsday conference was a week away so in the mean time our hosts gave us a tour of several parts of the country including Malacca, a seaside town with historic architecture. I love to swim so we stopped at the beach. I wondered why so few were in the water until I jumped in. The water was warm as bathwater. It did nothing to cool me off in the hot, humid tropical air. We then drove up into the cooler, jungle mountains where we stayed at a casino. The Chinese love to gamble. I don’t enjoy gambling but I enjoyed watching our hosts play. It is quite a diverse society, with Chinese, Indians and Malay people mostly interacting well even though the Chinese are dominant economically.
A highlight of the journey for me was a trip to a Taoist temple where I was initiated into Taoism. It was a brief and subtle ceremony but towards the end, with my eyes closed I felt my inner being floating around. When I opened my eyes I realized my inner movement was mirroring the flame flickering before me on a candle.
When the conference on “Doomsday, Are We Facing the End Times?” began we drove to a large orphanage on the outskirts of the city. Hundreds of people were there, including many children from the orphanage school. Among the presenters were the Brahma Kumari nuns, all dressed in white. They told a Hindu prophecy that included a nuclear war but also said this was simply the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new, Golden Age. This became a common theme as Christians, Muslims and Buddhists presented their speeches. Prophecies of floods, droughts, earthquakes and diseases were included in stories of the end of a cycle that we were living through. Personally these never made much sense to me since they were always a part of the history of the Earth. But now, with climate change occurring all around us, the magnitude of change due to floods and droughts make more sense. They are part of everyday life and getting worse.
I told the story of my dream to a fascinated audience. I think some of them were surprised that a white man could have such an unusual dream. I did not have the usual prophecies to talk about, only the power of a force stronger than anything I had experienced or imagined. The fact that the Hindu prophecy of a new Manu, born of the sun god, was supposed to happen millions of years from now didn’t matter. Dream time is a sacred time and does not always match our linear sense of Earth time. Perhaps an instant in a dream where the sun increases in intensity could be 100 years in Earth time. We experience global warming with record setting temperatures almost every year now. And in the past 25 years since the conference, more than 2 billion more people on our small planet are squeezing out habitat of wildlife whose numbers have fallen by half. Considering the bleak topic the conference had been a joyful day. Lots of smiles, appreciation and warmth as the interfaith gathering proved that diverse religious perspectives could coexist in harmony and tolerance with one another.
The next day I said farewell to my new friends in Malaysia. I had to admit I had a surprisingly good time. I love travelling and this had been a very special trip.
Since I was in Asia I had decided, at my own expense, to go to Indonesia, the spiritual birthplace of Subud (short for Susila Budhi Dharma). When I got off the plane in Jakarta I did the customary taxi bargaining and was off to Wisma Subud, a compound in Cilandak in the suburbs of Jakarta. A few miles into the taxi ride I saw what I thought were sparks coming out of the steering wheel. Then flames began and the driver started waving a rag at the flames while we were going about 50 miles per hour down the road. I feared the car might explode at any moment. The driver pulled over and stopped, poured some water on the flames and soon the fire was out. My heart finally started to slow down its rapid pace. Then the driver had difficulty starting the car and motioned to the crowds of people around us to help him push start the car. I definitely felt that I was in the third world. After the car started people began yelling at the driver to throw them some money. He looked at me and I said I had no money; I hadn’t had time to exchange any travelers checks yet. He just ignored the angry, growing crowd. The noise grew so loud I thought there was going to be a riot. We were surrounded by poor people in the slums of Jakarta. Fortunately he sped up and the crowd parted. We were off with a few hundred unhappy people left behind. What a contrast to polite, calm Malaysia.
When I arrived at the Subud compound they had lost my reservation. There was one room left, without air conditioning. I took it. Jakarta is the hottest place I have ever been, very humid and no tropical breezes stirred. Ugh. I ventured down to the compound’s café, both to see if there was anyone I knew and to get something to eat. There were a few dozen people there but no one I knew. The place was a little rundown and seemed to be past its heyday in the 1950’s and 60’s when celebrities such as the actress Eva Bartok stayed there.
Perhaps because it was so hot there was a tired and sad feeling about the place. Yet maybe the problem could have been that the founder, Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, affectionately known as Bapak (grandfather) had passed away in 1987 and there was still some question of what would become of Subud. I never thought it would disappear but some people had looked upon Bapak for guidance instead of standing on their own two feet and following their inner voice as Bapak had repeatedly told them to do. Bapak was modest and never claimed to be a guru in the Eastern tradition. He said the latihan (training) would guide any individual to their own truth, independent of religion or upbringing. I liked that, there were few rules and a great tolerance for diversity.
I was never drawn to the Javanese customs some Westerners adopted. Yet when I first joined in the 1970’s I did do Ramadan once or twice while I was still seeking direction in my life. Towards the end of one Ramadan I had a dream where Bapak told me “to move someplace beautiful and work”. It was very simple and direct. Within a few months I moved to Santa Cruz, California, had enrolled in a Jesuit/free thinking college called New College of California (where Sally Stanford, a former madam and Mayor of Sausalito was a college trustee) and began a 2 year internship at a food cooperative in Santa Cruz where I eventually learned every job that a business like that needed doing. I loved it, I had finally found direction and life became both fulfilling and full of grace. I was drawn to mystical Christianity and a life of love and service. I tried going to a Catholic church but the constant ranting about sin really did not resonate with me.
The next day in Indonesia a heat headache kept me in bed most of the day. By afternoon thundershowers broke the tension and I began to feel a bit better. I decided to walk to the post office and send off some letters. The crowds were insane. The street lights changed and suddenly hundreds of people chaotically crossed the road in all directions. The post office had no lines, just dozens of people pushing and shoving to get to the front desk to do their business. This was not for me. I decided I was ready to leave as soon as possible and booked a flight to see the old capital in a much smaller city, Jogjakarta on the south side of Java.
Arriving in Jogjakarta I felt the tension just falling out of me. I could finally relax and start a brief holiday. I had surprisingly met a friend from San Francisco in Jakarta and we met up in Jogjakarta. We played tourist and went out to see Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple that had been recently restored. It was partly designed as a stepped pyramid and reminded me a bit of the pyramid in my dream. We also visited a batik factory where I purchased one of Vishnu riding Garuda, a mythical eagle-like bird. We toured the ancient King’s palace and then rested while watching a Wayang shadow puppet show. I fell fast asleep and hardly remember the performance. We dined in an ordinary Indonesian restaurant and had a delicious meal. Feeling rested and happy I spontaneously decided to go to Bali to continue the adventure.
Once in Bali I went to a hotel suggested by one of the Subud people. It was comfortable, right on the beach and unpretentious. Shooing away the ladies on the beach constantly wanting to “give me a massage” I thought I would do something new and went parasailing. What fun! It was just scary enough to get the adrenaline flowing but safe enough to enjoy flying through the air towed by a speedboat. I landed safely with a big smile on my face.
I quickly tired of the beach scene and headed up into the mountains to Ubud, the cultural center of Bali and home of a thriving arts and crafts movement. What a beautiful place it was. I’ve heard it has changed a lot with many hotels now but back in 1989 it was a mix of several villages dominated by normal Balinese life. Bali is one of the few Hindu parts of mostly Islamic Indonesia. As an island it had its own separate culture for thousands of years and was not affected by the 14th century Islamic move into most of Indonesia. Balinese Hinduism, with roots in Indian Hinduism and Buddhism, also combined the animistic traditions of the locals. The wood carvings were especially appealing to me. I met a local sculptor with whom I chatted through an interpreter. I ended up buying a round carving of Rama and Sita that was stunning. I gave it to my parents as an anniversary present. I also bought a small painting of the rice farmers, very simple but done with real skill and feeling. It was still hot in Ubud but not like Jakarta. A mid-day rest was certainly appropriate and it felt good to get out of the blazing heat and humidity. Later one of the locals took me on a walk to see the elephant cave temple, Goa Gajah, first built in the 11th century. Then we walked down to the creek where the local boys bathed and cooled off in the jungle shade. The water was crystal clear and it felt good to splash in the water. But I was also glad that I had a typhoid shot before I came to Asia, just in case the water had bacteria that I was not used to.
My last evening in Bali arrived far too soon. I was lying on the hotel bed thinking that I could live here in this village. The people were friendly, food was inexpensive yet plentiful, and the appreciation for nature and beauty permeated everything. The intense green color of the rice terraces nearly made me cry. A young American man I had met in town came to say goodbye. I invited him in as we had shared a few walks to temples and a meal or two at the village food stalls. We had good conversations about art, various philosophies and the local culture. He was a typical traveler, somewhat lost and not knowing what to do with his life. So he drifted around Asia where it was cheap and he could have adventures away from the materialism of modern America. We went for a brief swim in the hotel pool and then I needed to get packed up for an early morning ride to the airport.
I had one more stop before heading home to Seattle and that was back to Japan. Subud’s International Office was in Tokyo (it changed every 4 years) and I decided to meet with the office staff and spend a couple days in Tokyo. There was nothing really urgent to meet about, we were current in our pledge of money to the organization but it was more a gesture of goodwill. This time Tokyo was kinder and a more interesting place to be. I really enjoyed meeting the Subud people. The International Chairman was a Japanese man who had converted to Islam, something quite rare in Japan. I appreciated the Sufi mystics such as Rumi but that was about all I knew about the religion.
After a short meeting with the International Committee we had the best sushi meal I have ever experienced. The fish was so fresh and very different from what I had eaten in Seattle or San Francisco. I loved the subway system. For a big city it was easy to walk around or take the subway to wherever one needed to go. I went to a temple with a lovely Japanese garden. My uncle worked at the Academy of Sciences Library across the street from the Japanese Gardens in San Francisco. He would get us tickets to the Planetarium in the same building as the Library so we went to Gardens frequently when I was a child. And I made a couple Japanese gardens at home when I was both a child and a teenager in the Bay Area. I even won a prize from Sunset Magazine for one of the gardens. So I have a great appreciation for the Japanese aesthetic.
On my last day in Tokyo I went to the Harajuku district, known as the center of youth culture and fashion in Japan. I was just enjoying wandering around when a woman with a microphone stopped me on the street and asked me something in Japanese. I looked at her blankly and said “I only speak English, sorry”. She smiled and laughed and then said in English “do you want to taste some eggs?” I thought I misheard her and asked her to please repeat the question. It was the same question, I heard correctly and she pointed uphill to a group of people under a canvas roof. I thought why not; let’s go see what is going on. So she escorted me upstairs to the small group where it looked like they had several women cooking. However it turned out they did not want me to taste some eggs, rather they wanted me to cook some eggs. There was a large television camera pointed at the cooks and gradually I figured out that they were filming a commercial for the gas company. There were lots of smiles and laughter as I began the process of cooking an omelet. After I was done there was applause and then the other ladies began cooking. It turned out that I was in a cooking contest and was about to be humiliated! However, when they were all finished and even though I could tell that the ladies had made much better omelets, I was awarded 1st place! I think they were so stunned that a white man could cook that they gave me the prize. I was awarded a small, pink coffee maker and they all applauded as I held it up for the camera. This was so funny I was laughing all the way down the stairs and thought, what a fitting end to very unusual journey. When I returned home that evening my hosts told me they had seen me on TV and could not believe that in a city as large as Tokyo it would be me that would be on television and win first prize. We all laughed and soon I was on my way home.
Copyright 2014 Writers Guild of America, West 2014, Registration Number 1755726