SICA-USA Musings from the Chair: What Is Culture?

by | Nov 28, 2022 | 3 comments

A few months ago, Paul Nelson, Chair of SICA-USA, stepped down. It was my pleasure to test about becoming Chair. Yes! was the receiving for everyone testing. And the existing board members voted me in. How lucky am I? I am grateful to Paul for all the wonderful work which helped to point SICA-USA on its present course. I believe one of the reasons that SICA-USA, maybe SICA around the world, seems to be relegated to artists is the nebulous definition of Culture. However, Bapak explained the meaning when it was formed and in talks around culture. In 1998, Ibu Rahayu clarified:

A soul that is growing, a soul that is alive, will produce some form of human culture. This culture is extremely broad. It covers the culture of life, as well as the culture of religion, and the culture of each person’s individual nature.

                                                                                                Ibu Rahayu: Code Number: 98 DPS 3 This allows us to understand that culture is in everyone of us. The artists of all societies are the most obvious expression of culture. However, what Bapak and Ibu seem to intimate is that as we come more and more alive we will come to clarity that everyone is making and expressing culture. So, I have asked the board to galvanize around the question: What is Culture? My hope is that through workshops, projects, and input from all of you exploring this question, SICA-USA will clarify its purpose as stated by Bapak that “SICA is for the future of SUBUD.” In the excerpt above there are three distinct cultures connotated. Culture of Life, Culture of Religion, and Culture of a Person’s Individual Nature. I think of them as if they are a three-dimensional mandala. Or sort of like nesting dolls. The most inner one is the Person’s Individual Nature, then the Religion (or as I interpret that, as a Culture of a System of Belief), and then the overall Life in its most wide and deep expression. One could also think of them in the same form as the rings in the Subud symbol. No hierarchy but all connected. And, just to throw a monkey wrench in, the Culture of Life could be the inner most and personal nature could be outermost. Or any of the Cultures could lead with its reverberations into the other two. It is clear for me, that as we move in one sphere, the others are always affected and we in turn are effected. I was unable to attend Menucha 2022, but three Board Members, Fayra Teeters, Lawrence Pevec, and Kristiana Kalab offered workshops they created from their own delving around SICA-USA’s search for a ‘culture’ definition. It so happens, I noticed that each workshop addressed a different sphere of culture. As I saw it: Fayra was leading with the Culture of Life, Lawrence led with Culture of Systems of Belief, and Kristiana the Culture of the Person’s Individual Nature. Remember where one is present, all are present. Fayra’s Workshop, Cultural Archetypes Channeled through the Latihan: Bringing Inner Awareness into the Outer World in Subud, embodied archetype and a clarity of where the Culture of Life comes alive. She coached participants to free their bodies to express innate responses. She helped participants explore the connectedness of their inner nature with the archetypes, mainly using the pantheon of Commedia del’Arte (with a few additions). Archetypes are universal ideals that live in a metaphoric world and when we dip into them we are identifying with the Life that is abundantly around us in its most iconic representations. As our souls become more alive, we become more aware of the ideals. As we explore those ideals, we come to know our natures in a way that is based on the wide and deep structure of Life itself. Fayra identified take away lessons which are universally applicable to life:

  • be careful not to rush through key transitions
  • build pauses into movement to allow chances to regroup, recover, and pace one’s self
  • non-judgemental & neutral watching from the sidelines is perfectly acceptable; it allows one to continue explorations introspectively
  • after extending energy for the good of mankind, be especially kind to one’s self
  • observing other’s explorations is a joy to behold
  • find ways to continue the Wonder in daily life
  • fully commit and allow the energy to flow through one’s self as a vessel of culture
  • when the “I” judges something/one, a chasm is created between my/me and the judged
  • the point of any cultural endeavor is to bridge gaps, not create them

Lawrence’s workshop, Subud and Symbolism, starts in the Culture of Systems of Belief (of which religion is one, science another, etc) Lawrence used a process he developed and calls the Culture Holarchy. From Lawrence, “The goal was to visualize one’s lifetime of cultural influences, from birth to old age, as a holon of individual elements that are both parts and wholes. I used the Subud Symbol, Bapak’s life forces holon, as a template to show the complexity of our relationship to culture.” From my own experience of going through the process, this involved identifying influences and important moments of my life from birth to the present. I became fully conscious of how those influences created a system of belief which had become the core modus operandi in my life. I also noticed changes brought about by my years in the Latihan, my education in psychology and mythology and how my system of belief has transformed me; how I became who I am today (which is an ongoing project, of course). Kristiana’a workshop, A Physical Storytelling, used Culture of the Person’s Individual Nature as the start point. Kristiana is involved in Playback Theatre and brought some of the techniques to Menucha. Playback is often referred to a ‘theatre of compassion’. An Individual participant speaks his/her/their story. Other participants enacted the story. They are directed by the participant whose story it is, and Kristiana. This enables the original participant the opportunity to perceive it differently, change the story, or resolve the story with an alternate ending. Sometimes giving one’s story a little distance, we can find compassion for ourselves and for the other(s) in the original story. Very powerful work. From Kristiana: “Witness for yourself that ‘the shortest distance between two people is a story.’ …Here is an opportunity to shift our focus to the ordinary moments in our lives that are precious — and worthy of attention and empathy.” Because of an agreement of privacy among the participants, Kristiana did not share specifics, however she did end this way: “there was a feeling of light heartedness amongst the participants at the conclusion of the workshop and several expressed how grateful they were that they chose to come.” This is a wonderful example of discovering and transforming one’s personal story which expresses one’s nature in what words were used to tell the story, in the perspectives of the story, and in the choice of what events constitute the story. All a personal choice from the individual nature. So, here are my musings around What is Culture? and my perspectives of the workshops at Menucha through the writings and eyes of the workshop leaders. I am thrilled to be walking, skipping, dancing, trudging down this path of SICA-USA with each of them and all of you. In addition. I would like to acknowledge our beautiful new banner which was designed and put together by Lawrence Pevec and has a most gorgeous piece of artwork by Robert Mertens. (see pic) Robert’s image embodies our movement forward. It holds the mystery around What is Culture? while also inspiring an answer which may provoke you to delve into the question further. And finally, I entreat your comments, inspirations, and participation in SICA-USA. We need more board members, more projects to support, donations (money, time, interviews for the blog, airline miles for our travel, interest, discussions, suggestions, so many ways to contribute). I thank everyone who has contributed to SICA-USA and those stalwarts who tithe automatically to us every month. Your contributions allow us to move forward. I wish you a beautiful holiday season filled with gratitude, forgiveness, and blessings. Alive in culture, Rosana Schutte Chair, SICA-USA


  1. Bernard Leach once maintained that if a number of potters were to each make a tea bowl. The one potter in a quiet state would make a pot that 8 out of 10 critics would involuntarily choose as being the best, and not know why. Go figure!

  2. I don’t see a Mertens pic.

    Now pic is there!!

  3. “We’re all of us children in a vast kindergarten trying to spell God’s name with the wrong alphabet blocks!” — Tennessee Williams: ‘Suddenly, Last Summer’

    How blessed & lucky we are as Subud to know at least we are playing with the right alphabet blocks 🙂


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subud Symbol

SICA-USA, the Subud International Cultural Association is the Cultural wing of SUBUD USA.

Sign up for the SICA-USA Mailing List


Join the SICA-USA Group on Facebook