INTERVIEWQuestions & Answers
Q.: Mr. Stiennon, my first question will be direct: what are the links between Phosphenism and the Subud movement?
A. : Look, the answer is simple, we have no connection with the Subud movement.
Q.: Yet Dr. Lefebure refers to it in his books, and the title of one of them is “Subud Initiation or Transmission of the Great Life Force”.
A.: Yes, indeed. But, nevertheless, we have no relation to the Subud movement. Since Dr. Lefebure passed away, I have never sought contact with this movement.
Q.: That’s rather strange, because really, from the books, any reader would be led to think that there is a direct link and even that you are advertising this movement.
A.: I don’t advertise this movement at all. The past is the past, and I’ll explain. But first let me be clear. You’re in my house and you don’t see any altars or pictures in memory of Dr. Lefebure. I am clothed and I live like everyone else. Only a few friends you may have met are there, some of whom help me from time to time so that the Phosphenism does not disappear.
As the director of Éditions Phosphénisme and Dr. Lefebure’s School, I do not support and do not wish to have any relationship with a movement that could be qualified as a sect.
Everyone is free of his or her choices or convictions of thought. Moreover, the ancient meaning of sect, meant school of thought, hence the sect of Christians, Essenes, Gnostics, etc…
The Subud association was qualified as a sect in 1995 in a parliamentary report. A movement is classified as a “sect” because of certain behaviors. The number of complaints filed against it and the method used to recruit its members are taken into account. I think that these two criteria are very clear. The third criterion relates to the fiscal order. Indeed, many of these organizations evade VAT…
Everyone has the right to make mistakes, and it is also possible that members may behave in a deviant manner. Everything is debatable and I am not here to debate or polemicize. I just want to tell you my position here. To avoid prosecution, many “gurus” and/or authors go abroad to spread their good word from abroad.
All those who practiced in France the day before yesterday first went mainly to French Canada, then following new legal problems, they went to South America. One can practically say that a real paradise for sects reigns there. Phosphenism remains in France and does not appear in any parliamentary report. So, when I see that certain narrow-minded individuals think that Phosphenism is a sect, I encourage them to consult the various reports as well as the list of sectarian movements.
The classification of the Subud movement as a sect was made after the death of its founder in 1987. In Asia, spirituality is different and what seems normal to them is not normal to us. India itself is beginning to imprison false Saddhus, and the rationalist movement is trying to fight illiteracy. I’m not going to repeat the history and all the debates.
Q.: No, you are clear and I have indeed seen that you are not on any report.
A.: Yes, and to tell you the relations I had with the Subud movement?
Q. : Have you had any?
A.: Yes, I was visited by a gentleman who introduced himself as the president of the Subud movement in the 1990s. As Dr. Lefebure very often mentioned his initiation by Pak Subuh, I welcomed him with respect. One must welcome anyone with respect. But, it lasted a very short time. My interlocutor very quickly became disrespectful and obnoxious. He asked me to stop mentioning the Subud movement in my advertisements.
Q.: Really? I would have thought the opposite because indirectly Dr. Lefebure is giving them quite a publicity.
A.: Yes, you can see it that way. But, that was not the case. Given the superior tone of voice and the comminatory orders that this person, whom I was welcoming in a friendly manner, claimed to be giving me, it quickly turned out to be a short story. He was one of the rare individuals who pushed me to get carried away and he very quickly understood that it was better to leave my office. I didn’t accept that someone came to my house, disrespected me and gave me orders on top of that. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Subud Movement in this case.
Q.: Strange reaction from him to listen to you.
A.: Absolutely. But let me clarify. Dr. Lefebure received two initiations. The studies he had followed led him to wonder about the physiological and neurophysiological impact of his experiments following the transmission of powers by the Zoroastrian Arthème Galip and by Pak Subuh. He understood that there was a physiological reality. He therefore wondered about the modalities of this power transmission procedure.
Q.: In a way, he is right. If there is a physiological effect and an impact on consciousness, we need to study both consciousness and the mechanisms by which this effect occurs.
A.: Dr. Lefebure was still a physician with a passion for spirituality and therefore had a scientific background and reasoning.
Q.: You only have to read his books, which are not common, to realize this. Their level is a bit of a headache, and you really have to hold on to them to continue?
A.: Exactly, and that is what indirectly slowed down and certainly still slows down its diffusion today. Dr. Lefebure thought by doing this he was explaining so-called initiatory phenomena. From now on, neuroscience laboratories are conducting studies with equipment that is very different from his own. In his time, nobody was interested in this. He therefore established his protocols himself.
Q.: The book on cervoscopy is certainly fascinating, but it is undrinkable, no publisher would try to offer it on the market of spirituality.
A.: Just like “Pietro’s Initiation”. But as Dr. Lefebure says in “Subud Initiation,” he studied the transmission of Pak Subuh, when he met him, there was no teaching, no dogma. It was an experience to be lived, to be carried by it, and to be nurtured. For a scientist this is the ideal. There are no abracadabrasive explanations, no mantras, no possible suggestions. It is a pure initiation. Pak Subuh’s way of doing things led Dr. Lefebure to study in greater depth the particular swings of Pak Subuh during the Latihan.
Unable to verify the effects produced by these swings with the help of an encephalogram, he studied them via phosphenes. He therefore noticed the relationship between the swaying of the phosphene and the swaying of the head, the incidence of rhythmic frequencies, etc. He was able to study the effects produced by these swayings with the help of an encephalogram.
Q.: You really had to think about it, and it’s true that now, thanks to Dr. Lefebure, I can see the links between the swaying of the head or body of certain rabbis, Sufis, llamas, African sorcerers, etc., and I now make the link with the natural swaying of the body or head of our children in their games, or with toys, nursery rhymes, the rhythm of the Psalms, of the different recitations of the religions of the Book. It’s very striking.
A.: Yes, it was there before our eyes, and Dr. Lefebure was the only one to my knowledge who said that it was the key to altered states of consciousness and the transmission of certain powers as an initiatory force that he called the “Subud Effect”. He was not going to call it otherwise, and out of honesty he named it after the movement that at the time was transmitting this spiritual technique. He discovered, as I told you, that these techniques were universal.
Q.: Now, I must say that I haven’t found any author or book that talks about this way of doing things. Is Phosphenism the only place where such practices are taught?
A.: Yes, we do not try to resell great philosophical discourses, nor do we ask to become vegetarian, nor do we ask to leave our families, nor do we ask for donations (although they are welcome – laugh). Nor do I sell the initiatory transmission. I could, it would make me famous. But I prefer that students develop this form of rhythm in themselves. This prevents them from becoming dependent or influenced and also from falling into excesses.
Q.: I didn’t see in your publications that you were selling initiation, but you could indeed do so.
A.: It would be a big money-maker though, and I’ve often been offered money for it. It is not innocent to receive an initiation transmission. I know it’s very fashionable, but as far as I’m concerned I’ve chosen the mode that’s safe for the trainees; and teaching them the exercises to do to maintain the rhythm prevents them from being subordinated.
Q.: I’m attracted to you. I know some Indian masters call it Guru Diksha or Shaktipata.
A.: And in Islam it’s called Barakha. It’s an old mode of transmission that existed among the Zoroastrians. François Brousse received a very strong transmission of power from Casrojan Ali, but since he knew nothing about the procedure and neurophysiological explanations, he ended up believing that he was a very great follower. He went off the rails.
It is very often that after the reception of this phenomenon individuals take on a superior air when they have only received the first fruits and all that remains for them to do. It is understandable that the sectarian phenomenon can start from there. It is not only the Kriya Yoga masters or siddhas yogis who know how to transmit this force.
Q.: Yes indeed.
A.: I am not criticizing the method of transmission. I am pointing out that it can lead to abuse of weakness. Indeed, the veneration and the abandonment of all will (which is proper to the monk or nun for asceticism) can quickly lead to deviations. The sums at stake are very quickly colossal and the interest takes precedence. The error is to believe that all those who transmit this force to you are immediately superior beings. One must be wary of this.
As I said before, in India it is different. We are in France, in the 21st century. If there are complaints, we must ask ourselves. And we have to get out of this cult of the personality that makes us believe that the other will do everything for us. This is not peculiar to spirituality; it exists in business, economics and politics. Humans quickly abandon their will and their judgment.
But I am not worried about the Phosphenists, they have an explanation that uses rational bases for the phenomena experienced. They are therefore in principle not very manipulable. If they study yogas, Buddhism, African cults, shamanism, etc., which is their right (laughter), they quickly know how to spot the implications of rhythms and other practices. They make “Ah interesting” and think back to the teachings of Phosphenism. They also know how to keep a critical mind. I don’t impose any credo on them.
I don’t have an infused science. Everything evolves, everything must be questioned at any time. We live in a world of hypotheses. But the important thing is the experimental basis. I always impose this reasoning on myself, because it is necessary to doubt in order to move forward, to question what has been learned and to test on oneself.
Q.: Well, it was very interesting to have your position and that you were intimately involved, although sometimes I’m a little lost in all the relationships and explanations. But, I’m working a little bit on the different topics.
A.: Finally, I wouldn’t want people to think that I’m criticizing sincere practitioners of Subud or any other movement. I’m just stating my position and reaffirming that I don’t want to be assimilated with the notion of a sect. I don’t like abuses of weakness, abuses at all. I don’t know enough about the current Subud movement. I simply rely on the parliamentary reports and I do not have to advise or advise against joining various movements or to invite to do Kundalini Yoga or other.
I’m just saying, stay alert, and if it’s in a parliamentary report, ask yourself. I had a very bad encounter with a person who claimed to be president of Subud for France. That’s the only relationship I’ve had with that movement, and it was very bad, as I just recounted. Dr. Lefebure transmitted a method which, even if you are an atheist or follower of any religion, allows you to understand and use exercises with explanations in cerebral neurophysiology.
It is an invaluable resource. Spirituality is not exempt from swindles and lies. Do not sign a blank check under the pretext of spirituality. Your neighbor can be a dangerous criminal and you are with him every day. There will always be unsavoury people. It is up to the movements to clean up internally. But sometimes there are power struggles, family lineages, racial considerations, never forget that.
Q.: Thank you, I hear that you remain tolerant and open. I appreciate that.