Expelled from school, he spent his days in seclusion reading books supplied him by his eldest brother on economics, sociology and “revolutionary theories” (Ibid. :2).3 However, when the Dutch abandoned the Indies and young Hardjanto lighted with hope of joining the nationalist struggle in the Indonesian army organized by the Japanese in 1943, his impulse was blocked, according to the comrades of his youth, by his anxious mother.4 Soon even his image of the glorious role of the nationalists in the Japanese administration of the Indies was perverted by circumstances. As the “liberators” became more and more oppressive, his early autobiography tells us, Hardjanto lost hope in the theories whose leading exponents were impotent to feed the starving and free the conscripted:
Many of my [Indonesian] nationalist idols left their revolutionary theories and became opportunists. I was disappointed and disillusioned. I realized the weakness of man’s character and knowledge if he was confused with the cruel, bare fact: THE JAPANESE SAMURAI! (Ibid. :2).
Thus, as oppression and natural calamities set Javanese society “loose from its moorings” (Anderson 1972b:ll), Hardjanto lost his grip on the intellectual structure that had supported his hopes.5
In his confusion the youth was visited by an elderly friend. As he tells us in his autobiography, it was a visit which cleared his confusion and revealed to him his destined path:
[The old friend] revealed his experience during the years that we had not met and then HE GAVE A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF MY EXPERIENCES WITHOUT THE EXCEPTION OF THE MOST PERSONAL PARTS OF IT. Truly this man possessed the just, clear vision of Hyang Vishnu and even the knowledge of all the books that were written was not able to give me the power as exhibited by my old friend.
After a while of the deepest silence, he proposed to take a walk. We both left [the] house. When we arrived at the middle of the town, a sudden storm surprised us. We took our refuge to one of the Chinese houses. And after waiting there for a moment my friend murmured:
“Wind and rain, be still!” Suddenly there was a great calm! I was very amazed! Here before my eyes I saw one who was able to give a full demonstration of the truth of the miracles of the old prophets and avatars. The spiritual power of Ismaya was not a mere fantasy existing in the mind of the dalang and superstitious, backward peoples. It was a reality! The glass-house of my materialistic theories was annihilated in a moment. From that time… I always looked for a Guru to be initiated and I became an earnest seeker for the eternal truth. (“Spiritual Message” 1953: 2)
hereafter Hardjanto apprenticed himself to several gurus, all of them Muslims. For the young apprentice the Islamic medium of his exercises presented no immediate problem. He had thought of his early spiritual training from his family as Islamic: he had not learned to distinguish the traditions to which belong visits to the mosque and treks to the mountain abodes of spirits. He saw his apprenticeship as a return to the spiritual world to which he had been introduced as a small child–a world populated by the spirits of the heroes, saints and gods of Majapahit, Demak and Muslim Mataram.
By his own admission and by the report of a cousin who later became his pupil, he was an exceptionally talented student and readily absorbed the teachings of one guru after another. One, he said, was an expert in invulnerability, another a clairvoyant with the ability to heal. It was one he called his “own uncle,” however, who was able to impart to him over years of apprenticeship the ways to ultimate knowledge of the divine.6 He called that knowledge “wali consciousness,” that is, knowledge such as held by the legendary Muslim “saints” (walis) who spread Islam in Java in the sixteenth century. Now the walis are variously remembered today; their attributes change as the lives of those who repeat their stories change.7 Historians, like Johns (1961), tell us that the wali legends grew up around recollections of the lives of certain mystics, “sufis,” who accepted the faith of the Prophet. For Hardjanto the walis were indeed masters of the supernatural, but not mere legendary figments of the imagination. For him the essential beings of those ancient mystics, their “consciousnesses,” were alive and present in the very persons of his “uncle” and his “uncle’s” colleagues. Thus he called his “uncle,” the greatest of his masters, a “wali.” In a letter he discussed his master’s credentials and his intended role as a recipient of the master’s knowledge as follows:
When I was a boy there were in Solo three bearers of wali-consciousness, three walis. The head of the walis was my own uncle. The second in the hierarchy of walis was Imam Ma’sum whose home was on the Dieng Plateau. Kiai Ambiya from Blitar was third in the hierarchy. The wali consciousness is transferred from generation to generation. Whether or not the transfer occurs, however, depends upon there being someone talented enough to receive it. This is why I was sought out by the walis and taken on as an apprentice by my uncle.8
Hardjanto entered into an apprenticeship with the uncle intent on assuming the charge that his uncle was preparing to give him: to carry the teachings of the Muslim saints forward into his own generation.
Hardjanto’s anecdotes about his apprenticeship with his “uncle,” the “wali,” do not permit me to establish just where and how it all passed. Most likely he spent a period in service to the master at his residence. But at some point, probably in the late 1940s, he went back, reportedly at his “uncle’s” behest, to a small island in the Solo River that he suggested had been his place of seclusion since he embarked on his spiritual quest.9 On the island he resumed alone the ascetic exercises through which he sought enlightment.
Nusupan, as the island was called, had been a place busy with trade in the days of Solo River commerce. Now that roads and railroads carry commercial traffic, only a few farmers make a meager living from the island. Hardjanto had a small piece of land bordering the graves that he identified for me as the resting places of a Madurese nobleman and two Chinese generals. Their story is recorded in a pamphlet entitled, “Ziarah Ke Nusupan” (“Pilgrimage to Nusupan’) compiled by Hardjanto’ s associates in 1958.10 As the story goes, the Madurese nobleman, “Tohjoyo,” was popularly known as “Jurang Bali” because he plied the waters between Java and Bali. In the course of his ventures, Tohjoyo met the two Chinese generals Hauw Sian Biauw and Hauw It Yan. According to legend the generals had left their native China at the instigation of a mysterious voice which warned:
“If you want to continue your struggle to pacify the world (mamayu-ayuning buwana) you must leave China for the Islands (Nusantara).” The Chinese generals found that Tohjoyo too shared their objectives, so they joined forces with him. When Kartasura lay in ruins (1741) the three sailed up the Solo River and with Tohjoyo’s navy subdued the enemies of the king. For their service King Pakubuwono II gave Tohjoyo (whom Hardjanto claims as an ancestor) the title Raden Tumenggung Panji Pusponegoro, and the king gave the Chinese generals the titles Tumenggung Setyonegoro and Tumenggung Joyonegoro. Near their graves stands the beringin tree that sheltered Tohjoyo’s tapas (his exercises in asceticism) in the last years of his life. At the graves of these heroes and among the vine-like roots of the legendary beringin tree Hardjanto performed the spiritual exercises that were his chosen path to knowledge of the divine.
hile Hardjanto secluded himself the revolution raged around him. The Japanese had abandoned the Indies and in 1945 his countrymen had begun fighting to defend their newly declared Independence. Though he remained secluded he was learning how to acquire the secret weaponry of his people: invulnerability, the power to deliver supernatural assaults, the power to disappear and appear several places at once, and the power to control the elements, water, fire, and earth.
He was one of many youths and older men, too, who, as Soejatno (1974:101-103) tells us, sought out teachers of these ancient “sciences” to equip themselves for survival and for the restoration of order as the colonial order disintegrated around them. The signs of cosmic dissolution, of the Jaman Edan, were apparent: famine, sickness, rulers fallen, bureaucrats compromised, families broken by war and poverty (cf. Anderson l972b:10-15). As often before in such periods of turmoil the seekers of supernatural power and seekers of the transcendent order of tutelary institutions swelled in number. In such times as these santris (students) and their kiyais (masters) moved out of isolation and sought to spread their teachings and apply their skills in the convulsing society (Ibid.:9). Many passed in and out of the kiyais’ tutelage, acquiring only sufficient supernatural skills to serve them in battle. Others formed battalions under the direction of their kiyais (Soejatno 1974:101-103). But Hardjanto had made a total commitment to achieving oneness with the divine. Only in the retreat from mundane life upon which he had just embarked could he achieve that goal. From his “Spiritual Message” it is clear why he pursued it: if he were to achieve his goal he was convinced he would have the singularly effective means of reestablishing the proper order of the world.
The lesser skills that Hardjanto acquired along the way were nonetheless useful to his boyhood friends in the Student Army (Tentara Pelajar) when active fighting reached Surakarta in 1948. I met several of these friends years later when they stopped by Hardjanto’s place in Solo. They told me that they hid with him on Nusupan between missions in the occupied city across the river and received instructions from him in the science of invulnerability. One of these comrades of old even attributed to Hardjanto the Biblical feat of parting the waters of the Solo River to let a tribe of rebellious youths escape from pursuing Dutchmen.11 After the second Dutch military action in Surakarta in 1948 Hardjanto resumed his seclusion and focused his energies on the realization of “wali consciousness.” He described his life on Nusupan and how the society around about viewed him in his 1953 message:
“Now I have been living in a cottage on an island in the Bengawan Solo. One believes that I can do wonderful deeds, another is skeptical. One who does not like me declares me for mad. Another who is envious makes fun of me at my back. I myself do not bother about what others think of me, for I have only one device: “Man is what he is conscious of.” (“Spiritual Message” 1953: 2).
Hardjanto gained some renown for his deeds in the revolution and those who hoped he might use his powers to help them sought out the ascetic of Nusupan. Hardjanto’s cousin who was not so successful nor so diligent in asceticism periodically joined him at the island retreat. According to the cousin a few other young men together performed exercises in asceticism at the graves, immersed themselves in the cold river at midnight (kungkum, a kind of tapa popular in Solo), and shared the shelter of his bamboo shack. But Hardjanto, the cousin conceded, was the farthest advanced. It was to his retreat, his pertapaan, that the comrades came to continue their spiritual quest. And it was he, at the age of twenty-seven, who received from his “uncle,” “the last head of walis,” the final initiation into the secrets of divine consciousness.
By then he said he knew that the walis had singled him out for an especially difficult task. It was to be his duty to bring about a renaissance of Islam by developing a teaching that demonstrated the “meeting point” of Hindu and Sufi mystical knowledge. He had come to the climax of his spiritual training; he held, so he believed, the key to cosmic consciousness. But when he began to translate the ineffable that others might follow his path, the vocabulary of Islamic mysticism was nowhere evident. Thus a few months after his initiation he started to chart a course of his own. For forty days he went into absolute seclusion to fast and meditate, and when he emerged from his tapa he took the extraordinary step of recording the knowledge gained through his ecstatic experiences in an English-language tract for all to read.12 That document was the “Spiritual Message of Indonesia to the World,” from which I have already excerpted parts of the autobiographical introduction. In the introduction he looked back on his early life that had so recently climaxed in his initiation and experience of “wali consciousness,” of enlightment. Then he looked forward, setting out in the text his new understanding of divine knowledge. He identified that knowledge, however, not as the truth of the Prophet Muhammad, but as “Wisdom Philosophy,” the teachings of the “prophets and avatars of Indonesia.” Many a Javanese counted the prophets of Islam among the spirit denizens of their own land, but Hardjanto was not referring to the Koranic hosts. The “prophets and avatars” to whom the “Spiritual Message” referred were none of them Muslim. Rather they were the last of the great Javanese court poets, Ronggowarsito, and the heroes of the Indic shadow plays: Semar, the guardian of Java (as he was cast, the manifestation of “Hyang (Holy) Ismaya”); the Pandawas and “Batara Kreshna,” the Krishna avatar of “Hyang Vishnu.”13 For this knowledge of the Indic spirits he proposed an institutional innovation as striking as the new, popular mode in which he presented his teachings: a “SaptaGama Super Institute,” conceived along the lines of a modern, formal organization that was to serve as the “Center of a World Society.”
With this supernaturally inspired plan in hand, Hardjanto reentered society in order to reshape it: He left Nusupan to forward his proposal to UNESCO. The period of his seclusion in search of power, his Wanaprasta, had ended.
The ripening contradictions in late colonial Java were experienced by a youth well-placed in that society as tensions which propelled him out of society.
The tensions which Hardjanto experienced as a youth were inherent in the position of his family in the system of indirect rule. In order to be placed well in the system Javanese had to expose themselves extensively to Dutch culture. Advancement required Dutch education; higher education for the professions was entirely in Dutch; and the upper echelon of native bureaucrats associated with Dutch civil servants in their work. There was the temptation to identify with Dutch culture and accept Dutch values since its purveyors were politically dominant and socially superior. Javanese who had extensive Dutch education found themselves in the uncomfortable position of accepting Dutch assessments of their mother culture as inferior, tradition-bound and laden with superstitions, and a “borrower” culture barren of innovations. The burden of accepting such a negative image of the culture with which the Javanese bureaucrats were always at least racially identified–no matter how complete their acquisition of Dutch culture–is shown in Hardjanto’s joy at discovering an affirmation of Javanese traditions. The “old friend’s demonstration of supernatural force” strikes Hardjanto as an exquisite retort of the Dutch who denegrated his childhood beliefs as the “fantasy” of “superstitious and backward people.”
For civil servants in the Principalities the contradiction between pride in Javanese culture and assimilation of Dutch values was especially poignant because their status and privileges derived from both Javanese and Dutch political systems. They had to juggle both cultures in their daily work. They were less able than bureaucrats and professionals in areas directly administered by the Dutch to shed Javanese culture in order to minimize cultural discordance.
Those satisfied with their positions in the system of indirect rule found ways of adjusting culturally. However, in the late 1930s when Hardjanto was going to school, those irritated by the limitations on advancement of natives in the colonial system were becoming increasingly frustrated. The political activism that grew out of the liberal policies of the ethical period had provoked a conservative and racist reaction among Dutch in the Indies. The institutions set up by the Dutch to air and alleviate native grievances in the l920s and early 30s had disappointed Indonesian hopes. The tensions created in his own life by his abrupt weaning from his mother culture and by his relationships with Dutch teachers and classmates at school were dramatized and aggrandized on the national scene by Nationalist protests. Those tensions motivated his reckless “protest” against the Dutch school and propelled him into a career in which he sought to reaffirm the Javanese heritage before the world.
If the tensions that motivated his career were typical of the class into which he was born, the means he chose of resolving those tensions were not. The nationalist leaders whom he admired had gone on to higher education and learned professions. His own siblings became professionals too. Hardjanto, who saw his elder brothers occupy his parents’ attention with their academic and professional successes, emulated their intellectuality but applied it in a distinctive and flamboyant manner. He gave vent to the frustrations which other boys learned to suppress. His protest against the priest reverberated faintly with nationalists’ protests, but the expulsion his protest brought prevented him from developing along the pattern of the secular nationalist leaders of the day. Sheltered by his indulgent parents, he wandered off into the world of ideas led only by his own intuition. Bruised by his encounter with Dutch society but equipped with a rudimentary knowledge of it, he found his way back to the “prophets and avatars of Indonesia.”
It was certainly far from uncommon for civil servants and professionals in the principalities to turn to mysticism. Most of the mystical groups which emerged in Java in the twentieth century originated in Yogyakarta and Surakarta. However, the colonial bureaucrats’ spiritual quest was the quest for tranquility. Moments of meditative quiet provided release from the tensions of the work-a-day world. Calm and collected, the bureaucrat served the state all the better.
Hardjanto, in contrast, set out on a quest for supernatural power. His interests in mysticism, unusual for his class, were born of the tumultuous times in which he matured. He invested little in the colonial system and quickly renounced his investment and potentials. He wanted only to resist the colonizers. For the young Indonesian who despaired of his country’s physical might, supernatural power held out hope of victory.
The Revolution ended before Hardjanto received his initiation into full divine consciousness. He had served the Revolution with the miraculous powers he had already acquired. Yet the post-war world was still imperfect. Indonesia had yet to realize her national identity and the world had yet to appreciate it. To this post-war world Hardjanto at last presented the fruits of his spiritual quest. To its needs his knowledge was addressed. For Hardjanto the divine consciousness from which flowed supernatural power held hope of more than mere victory on the battlefield. That knowledge–like knowledge of atomic power–had potentially peaceful uses. In his “Principles of Sapta-Gama Super Institute as the Center of a World Society” he offered that knowledge to the world as a path to peace. Only in divine consciousness, universally realized, would there be true harmony. According to his plan each person would realize the divine consciousness, bringing about world peace, and the Sapta-Gama Super Institute, as guide to divine consciousness, would become the center for a “World Society.” Admiration and appreciation of the world would salve the sense of inferiority which ached in the hearts of the colonized people. Solo would again be the exemplary center of the divine order.14
He realized, however, that he could not win the respect of the western world without somehow making cosmic consciousness scientifically plausible. A stunning demonstration of supernatural power might turn heads, but not arouse the emulation of the West. Here his familiarity with both western learning and Eastern lore was an asset. He knew enough of Western thought to address it, to explicate for scholars (sarjana) the esoteric knowledge of the spiritualist (sujana). He knew enough about society, moreover, to reach out for modern institutional means of involving people in the pursuit of knowledge which he held. Thus the painful dual cultural experience and the traumatic social revolution which propelled him out of the normal life course for a child of a Javanese bureaucrat, also supplied him with the materials for his future contribution to society.
- Hardjanto’s pride in his naughtiness as a boy should be placed in the context of Javanese tales about the heroes Sunan Kalijaga, Ken Angrok and Jakawana, who all were profligate youths (cf. Moertono 1968:100; Geertz 1968:25). The youthful misbehavior of such heroes is an early sign of their tremendous spiritual powers, which they later direct to higher purposes. Moertono relates these stories to the belief that the avatar of Vishnu, Krishna (Krsna), spent his youth in “lust and abandon” (1968:100). Though Hardjanto, demurely, failed to mention the parallel between his own early life and that of the avatar Krishna, it is one that I think he (as a self-styled helpmate of Vishnu) would have us appreciate. He has collected certain heirlooms (pusaka) of the kind that the next incarnation of Vishnu, the Kalki Avatar, is supposed to possess and be identified by.
- R. N. Pradjapangarsa was a panewu (an administrator ranking below a patih) in charge of household affairs in the palace of the Susuhunan of Surakarta. R. N. Pradjapangarsa enjoyed a large income from his position and investments.
- Hardjanto’s eldest brother is a professor of sociology and politics. Hardjanto is the youngest of five brothers, one of whom died in infancy. He has two sisters.
- The Indonesian Volunteer’s Corps (Peta) was organized by the Japanese in late 1943, a year and a half after the Japanese occupied the Indies (in March 1942).
- In Java in a Time of Revolution (1972:10-15) Benedict Anderson describes how the calamities of the Japanese occupation were assimilated to the Javanese concept of a period of cyclically recurring social disintegration (the Jaman Edan)
- “The last of the walis,” Hardjanto wrote in a 1974 letter, “was my own third degree uncle.” It is not clear to me what Hardjanto meant by a “third degree uncle.” It is possible that the reference is to a blood relative. Sartono (1973:75-76) has noted that most gurus of nineteenth century messianic movements recruited their pupils from among kin. However, it is also possible that the kinship term for Hardjanto’s guru denoted a purely spiritual or affective tie. The reader will note in subsequent pages that Hardjanto claimed descent from several spirits with whom he trafficked.
- A hagiography of the Javanese Muslim saints is to be found in Rinkes (1909) and in Lekkerkerker (1938:313). See also Geertz (1968:25-29) for the story of the wali Sunan Kali Jogo, and Johns (1961:46-48) for the story of the heretic Syech Siti Jenar, of whom Hardjanto considers himself a spiritual descendant.
- Although Hardjanto speaks of the “bearers of wali-consciousness” as “walis,” he has clarified that usage as follows: “There is no incarnation of the Wali Sanga. What has been actually taking place is the handing down from generation to generation of three stages of direct knowledge: a. CHAS b. CHAWAS c. CHAWASUL-CHAWAS, the perfect mastery of which justifies the right to act as a. wali chas, b. wali qutub, c. wali ollah…” (correspondence with author, 1974).
- In a conversation about his life on the island Hardjanto once said that he spent fifteen years there. Since he left the place for good in 1958, that would mean that he first went to the island in 1943. However, fifteen is a nice round number and it is likely that he did not intend it to be understood as a precise figure. His autobiography tells us that in 1943 (that is when the Student Army was formed during Occupation) he was still in his nationalist-materialist phase. His conversion during the meeting with the old man could not have occurred before 1944, if the author recreated the circumstances of his conversation accurately. If so, in 1944 and 1945 Hardjanto was just embarking on his quest. That quest required him, as he elsewhere averred, to travel to the abodes of his gurus. Like other students of Java’s occult lore he also made treks during his period of apprenticeship to the abodes of spirits: to mountain peaks, to caves, to distant graves and enchanted springs. We might nonetheless understand him to mean by his assertion that he spent fifteen years on Nusupan, that he went to the island for solitude from the very beginning of his quest, or even before. I do not find it impossible to imagine that the rampant materialist adopted much of the style of the ascetic (a pattern widely known and practiced) before his metamorphosis into a spiritualist. We shall learn, too, in chapter 2.12, that after Hardjanto finished his apprenticeship but before he left the island for good, he ran several projects that required his periodic absence from the island. The reports of his comrades, pupils and neighboring cottagers on the island allow me to establish, nonetheless, that he spent a good deal of time on the island from the late 1940s to 1958. We might thus best interpret his fifteen year “stay” on the island as a period of rather steadfast world rejection of approximately that length, during which time the island served as his base.
- The legend of the spirits of Nusupan is recorded in the pamphlet, “Ziarah Ke Nusupan,” published by the Akademi Metaphysika Saptagama Surakarta, in 1958. The story is also told in Republic (8 July 1958:3), a paper published by Indonesian Chinese.
- Hardjanto told a Harian Kami reporter that he was stationed as a “defender” (penolak bala) of the Fifth and Seventeenth Battalions of the Republican army during the Second Clash with the Dutch in Solo in 1948 (Harian Kami, 16 Nov. 1971). Several of Hardjanto’s friends from school and from the war years repeated the story that the famous Republican General Slamet Rijadi learned invulnerability from Hardjanto. Hardjanto said that Slamet Rijadi was a friend from before the war.
- The forty day seclusion was probably not, as one from a Christian background might suppose, patterned on the story of the Christ’s retreat to the wilderness. Hardjanto certainly knew that story from his days in the Catholic school. However Javanese culture is the more likely inspiration. Forty days is one of the periods–the most lengthy and therefore the most arduous–for which tapas are assigned in Java. Moertono notes that the forty day period has a “special sense of finality” since the first phase of commemoration of the dead ends forty days after a death (1968:56).
- Among the “prophets” I should perhaps include Mangku Negara IV, head of one of the principalities centered in Solo in the nineteenth century. Although the “Spiritual Message” did not mention him by name, it quoted from his famous didactic poem, the Wedatama.
- The traditional kingdoms were thought of as models of the divine order and their capitals as the “exemplary centers” thereof (see Geertz 1968:36). Surakarta means the “divine order:” In Old Javanese sura means “divine” and Karta comes from the Old Javanese krta meaning “cosmic order.”