|REFLECTIONS ON SUBUD, part 2|
|COMMENTARY by Husein Rofé|
SUSILA BUDHI DHARMA
by R.M. Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo
We have noted how material forces are related to thoughtprocesses, and how vegetable essences are in harmony with our feelings. The animal instincts affect our being more deeply and powerfully, since they provide that motor energy which stimulates us to action. The direction which that action takes may be detrimental to essential interests of the individual, whether spiritual or material; for this reason, many groups recommend a vegetarian diet to seekers.
This has many advantages, but weakens the urge to all action, including the drive to accomplish praiseworthy aims; what is important is the mastery of energies, not a wilful weakening of disturbing elements in ourselves. It has also been noted how eating is a sacrament, as a result of which there is an association between the essences of eater and eaten, with beneficial consequences for the fate of the sacrificed soul. We should not deny such a blessing to the animal energies because we fear that they will come to dominate our being.
Persons who do not understand the deeper significance behind the ancient counsels about vegetarian diets have endeavoured to rationalize such principles according to their tender feelings, and have evolved the idea that it is cruel and sinful for man to eat meat. Originally, such concepts were not developed from a sense of pity for animals as such, but were connected with theories of metempsychosis, and the fear of breakfasting on the carcass of a venerable ancestor.
We see how the mind is an invalid instrument for the comprehension of spiritual principles, unless suffused with enlightenment: if the soul is subject to transmigration, it is a quasi-eternal factor, and will not be affected by the devouring of the body (or if it is, then, as we have said, the soul of an animal, believed to have degenerated from a human state, can only stand to gain by nourishing the descendants of its former human condition !)
Human souls are not always present in human bodies, and it is precisely because an animal soul is more often present that people have taught how the soul may later return to earth to take up residence in an animal body. True human souls are relatively rare in this world, despite the number of men that people the earth: the eternal factor in most of us is unable to function except in the material, vegetable, or perhaps animal realms of Spirit. In exceptional cases, souls which have already completed the cycle of human evolution, and passed beyond it, take human bodies: these are angels or gods in human form. Unlike younger souls, they incarnate on earth of their own free-will, to perform a Divine mission, and not because such a fate is indispensable to their own interests.
When the soul in an individual is an animal one (the case of a no. 3 man), or when a more advanced soul has become identified with the animal factors within man, the individual in question may prefer the society of animals to that of his fellow human-beings. Racial prejudice often colours his outlook, and this is because the consciousness of union with the family is essentially related to the animal level.
It must here be emphasized that, when speaking of these levels, we are not comparing human beings to the animals around us, but are relating certain qualities in man's nature to the corresponding essences present in the other forms of life mentioned.
The family is a unit based on procreation and perpetuation, and as man is ideally the channel for the quickening of the spiritual energies in woman, most societies are patrilineal. It is a blessing to be survived by male progeny, since we cannot expect to subsist as complete beings in another realm unless we have left behind a part of ourselves in this one. It has also been indicated that our descendants, who evolve their own eternal condition, can also modify our fate when we no longer live in this world with the chance to purify ourselves by conscious striving.
Where there is strong identification with the family, the protective instincts assert themselves, as they do also in animals if their young are menaced. Such identification leads us to seek the furtherance of our own family's social standing, to ensure our children a better chance of survival and the opportunity to acquire wives of more noble descent. The ultimate result of emphasis on one human unit must be conflict with other units striving towards similar privileges.
As society evolves, our family loyalties extend their horizons; they encompass, in lesser degree, the race to which we belong, since here also we are conscious of descent from a common ancestor. Such an attitude must carry the germs of racial exclusiveness and war, for it promotes a society based on blood relations. This is the consequence of an immature and underdeveloped instinct: it has failed to evolve to the point where all human beings are recognized in practice as the descendants of a single common ancestor.
Failure may be the consequence of external differences, the practices, customs and taboos of one group which are alien to others that have evolved in other circumstances and different environments. We feel a bond of comprehension and confidence when among members of our own race; the stranger walking in our midst has unfamiliar habits, unknown origins. He fails to respect our taboos, and thus implies a threat to the traditions which have conditioned our own society. We do not understand, and therefore we fear; what we fear, we hate; what we hate, we try to suppress.
The eventual consequence to human society of the development of groups based on the family is of course the familiar spectacle of power blocs: kingdoms ceaselessly committed to strengthening themselves because of the fear of their rivals who are doing the same. As long as man cannot see beyond family loyalties, as long as he cannot recognize in himself (and surmount) the promptings of the animal energies from which he derives his strength, we need not nurse the illusion that there will one day be peace on earth, for such a society has war at its roots, and war is the law of the animal world.
Self-sacrifice in the interest of the group is no monopoly of mankind: monkeys and elephants will risk their own lives to protect members of their tribe, but will fiercely repel intruders. Self-integration alone can show the way to liberation from the bondage of man to similar instincts, for he must learn to give greater weight to the ties of Spirit than to those of blood.
Peace in the world can only come through the efforts of individuals to master themselves. Until such integration has taken place, the familiar slogan of the animal instincts will continue to sound: "Right or wrong, my country". Compared with the materialism of the first level, such an attitude is very evolved, since it implies the willingness to sacrifice the instinct of acquisitiveness for the interest of the group; but man must leave behind the loyalties of nationalism if he is to manifest that for which he was created.
When the animal soul dominates a given individual, it will forcibly condition him in such a way that he cannot realize loftier ideals in practice, for Self-integration as a complete human being is still merely a hope for the future. Meanwhile, a conscious animal soul realizes affinity with the animal kingdom, and must die as such before metamorphosis to a higher state can occur.
Certain human cultures indicate this feeling of unity with the animal world: it is a well-known phenomenon of totemism that certain tribes will insist to anthropologists that they actually are buffaloes (or other animals), and that they will be gathered up to the buffaloes when they die. They relate that their departed ancestors visit them in the form of buffaloes! Such a fate is preferable to those of souls drawn to a realm of death, or to that of the plant essences, but it is not the end for which man was created. If he can purify himself from identification with such forces, his subsequent destiny will belong to a much vaster and nobler realm.
It has been mentioned that human souls (or those higher still) may still be more or less controlled by the animal instincts, owing to imperfect integration. We are often astonished to note how noble individuals yield to the baser passions in moments of temptation. Variations in diet will not solve our problem; as long as we do not face the cause within ourselves, we merely supplant the instinct of the beast by that of the tree! We still have to develop true human instincts, and knowledge of the Self: this is to be done by observing and classifying the phenomena of the not-Self. As we gain in skill, it will be easier for us to understand the sources of our motives, the origins of our desires.
Most desires belong to the animal realm, since the evolved human being is emancipated form personal preference, and strives to follow the Divine will; he is not identified with the desires which arise within, but canalizes them and neutralizes their power. We see therefore that strong desires and powerful wills are not necessarily the correct motive forces to direct our spiritual strivings: animal energies will not subject animal desire! Instead, they will strengthen the very impulses which require to be tamed. When this has become clear, we have truly understood that Self-realization is dependent on Divine Grace and Compassion more than on individual effort.
It is the nature of the animal energies to assert themselves forcibly, and those identified with such instincts tend to impel themselves heedlessly along the most detrimental paths, with little, if any, consciousness of what they are doing. We can only stand aside and contemplate such sad spectacles, in full knowledge of the catastrophic consequences which are bound to manifest unless Divine Mercy deflects them in time by some blow which stuns with sufficient strength to bring the riderless steed to a sudden halt, and forces a reappraisal.
Animal energies sweep those in their power along paths which are in the interests of these energies; there is no consciousness of damage which may be caused to the human qualities involved. As in the case of identification with matter, we see how a measure of worldly satisfaction is obtained at a high price; but now the motive is power and not money!
How many public figures in the grip of their own passions are swept headlong to destruction and an ignominious death after having achieved a measure of worldly renown! Identification is such that there is no innate power at the disposal of such people to avert their own doom, even when they sense its imminency. The very origin of such misfortune is rarely suspected, and they frequently attribute their reversal to an unkind fate, or, at best, to their errors of judgement. The assuaging of insistent desire has become the paramount purpose of their existence.
Procreation is normally an apparently accidental consequence of yielding to animal desires. Few people even suspect that such an act can take place when there is dis-identification from such appetites. It is certain that children conceived under the dictates of desire will themselves find it very hard to control their own subsequent passions; and we learn therefore that mastery of the animal instincts may give us the chance to bring nobler souls into the world as our children.
Such a blessing will only be possible if we marry our spiritual affinities; we should not be guided exclusively by physical attraction, emotional, or intellectual considerations in making such a choice, any more than we ought to choose our partners for political or economic ends. Once we are no longer subject to the beast in ourselves, sexual relations with our partners will take on a new meaning, transcending the physical act.
It is clear therefore that those who wish to contribute towards the peace and harmony of centuries to come should pay great attention to the manner in which they produce their own offspring; they will be truly responsible for qualities which manifest several generations hence, in the children upon whom their sins will be visited. To those who may be agitated by such a thought, and ask how it is possible for God to allow children to be born with such handicaps, we reply that the vehicle for the unborn child to inhabit is a body conditioned by the parents, an exteriorization of elements present in themselves. The type of soul which will be attracted to a given family depends on qualities present there; the grade of the wine is in relation to the nature of the bottles. Is God unjust because brambles cannot yield peaches? The qualities in the children are largely the consequence of those of the ancestors, and not a matter which involves Divine responsibility. It is up to us to cleanse ourselves, to achieve freedom from the dominion of this world, so that we may be blessed by both ancestors and descendants, who will profit from our endeavour.
A diet including a liberal quantity of animal sustenance stimulates us to more enterprise than is typical of vegetarians, especially those whose ancestors have also avoided meat. We note that an animal diet may come from fish, flesh or fowl; the nature of the stimulus will vary in each case, since these creatures exist respectively in the water, on the land and in the air. The environment of fish may further be static, lakes and ponds, or mobile, such as rivers and seas; it may be salt or fresh water, and again, we find that some fish are fertilized in the sea and spawn in rivers. These struggle with great courage and persistence in the face of heavy odds, swimming against the current and leaping over obstacles.
Similar qualities, patience and a willingness to seek new environments, or to found a suitable home for the children, are reflected in those who commonly eat such food. It is also a characteristic of many fish to dart suddenly from place to place, and similar restlessness and bustle are found in races where fish is a principle article of the diet. (Note: Many of the most frequently eaten fishes are gregarious, swimming in schools. These do not venture afield alone.)
Since fishes live in water, the element related to the feelings, such a diet accentuates any tendency for the emotions to change rapidly. While activity and industry are characteristic, perseverance is not, since it is natural to the fishes to be constantly on the move. Of course, those which inhabit rivers are more enterprising than the denizens of ponds.
When the destiny is subject to frequent removals, adaptability increases and there is greater confidence to face the unknown. Such a diet increases the willingness to travel far afield in search of new and more congenial situations; but although these qualities are often useful to man, they should not control him to the extent that they deny the possibility of self-assertion in uncongenial environment. He must learn to distinguish between instincts identified with the diet, and the deeper essential requirements of his own destiny. If he is too much swayed by such stimuli, he loses the capacity to recognize his own best interests, and may easily engage in a succession of frenzied and unprofitable undertakings.
The essences present in poultry are different in many respects. Although hens are attached for a short time to their offspring, (unlike most fishes which merely produce them regardless of the future) they too lay eggs. The position is intermediate between that of fish and mammals, where there is a closer sense of relationship, as the young are suckled by the mother.
The hen is naturally gregarious; after having spent the day scratching for food, she desires to roost in company, and, although she prefers a particular perch, memory is not always good enough for it to be located. Little discrimination is shown by either sex in the choice of mating partners, and unions with children or parents are not uncommon, while ties do not last long.
Somewhat analogical impulses may develop in those whose diet is largely composed of chicken. Such people are particularly irked by solitude, lack continuity in the affections, and direct their attention to the interests of the moment. They easily forget those who have meant much to them in the past.
The more complicated the diet, the more difficult it is for one to distinguish between all the various forces operative within him. Naturally, when many varieties of animal food are involved, and where canned products facilitate the simultaneous absorption of essences from different parts of the globe, it becomes much harder to understand one's inner nature. We have however seen that a vegetarian diet, while resulting in calmer feelings, tends to deprive man of the necessary stimulus to activities which may be advantageous.
Those predominantly carnivorous, on the other hand, suffer from uncontrollable desires, while their animal instincts are to the fore, and this state makes the task of achieving Self-awareness a harder one. There is a strong desire for results: they are anxious to make determined, even violent efforts to attain the objective; they seek above all to be up and doing, to fight and win, to obtain quick results and surpass their colleagues.
Until these instincts are controlled, this very attitude will prove a brake to progress, since the forces asserting themselves are those which need to be quiescent for the emergence of true human qualities under harmonious conditions. If the animal instincts pervade the consciousness to a great degree, judgement is impaired, since it becomes conditioned by this very identification; hence, we easily reject what we most need.
Nowadays, it is common to assume that spirituality is a prerogative of the East. The soul within man does not recognize differences of West and East, but the variety of the diet, and the greater amount of animal food absorbed owing to more advantageous circumstances, produces more disturbed feelings in the Occidental, and renders his task harder. We may relate the need for a greater intake of calories to the severity of the climate, which demands a fiercer struggle for existence, and so we see that there is an inter-action between the climatic and dietetic factors in conditioning individuals and races. Economic depression influences the quality of the feelings, as the poor cannot afford to eat meat every day.
While it is essential to realize the number of obstacles on the path, and to recognize that the rich and varied diet of the city dweller is ever creating new inner disturbances to be surmounted, we must never lose sight of the fact that salvation is of God; that, when the Divine is operative within us, the potentiality of victory is also present, however discouraging the results may appear over the years. It is quite normal for people to feel troubled by months spent apparently marking time, and to wonder whether this does not in fact mean that their condition is retrograde; at all events, the very habit of years of practice inclines us to persevere, if only from the fear of facing the possibility that we have wasted many valuable years.
Surrender to animal instincts is largely the consequence of our own indifference: there are times when we wonder whether it is worth the struggle of continuing to deny to our desires the indulgences of yore, and in moments of despair, we yield to temptation and persuade ourselves that no serious harm is being done. While this progressive surrender to the animal instincts constantly whittles away the chances of manifesting the highest within us, something at least has been achieved if we can realize what it is which prevents us from occupying higher stations.
To recognize sin as such, and to endeavour to cleanse ourselves and to merit the eventual descent of such Grace from Above as can alone make us whole, is a state far more promising than the bestial condition of those who live for the satisfaction of their passions and believe their conduct to be quite justifiable. Those who die while identified with such qualities will of course continue their existence as souls demoted to the realm of the beasts; this state is however vastly preferable to the much lower sphere of inert matter, for existence in a cloud of passion is certainly better than total darkness.
In many parts of Asia, the flesh of the goat is regularly eaten by those who can altord it. This animal is to us a symbol of lust and foolishness, and a man conditioned by such qualities will tend to ephemeral promiscuous relations, being constantly troubled at the thought of having to sleep alone. The transient satisfaction ensuing from such liaisons is obtained at the expense of greater joys, which those who remain in such a state will never know.
They are conditioned by forces which cause them to feel the need for the release of physical energies, and the very sensation of physical well-being which they obtain appears to them as sufficient proof that their behaviour is both healthy ancl correct. It often requires a lifetime of indulgence for them to recognize something of the harm that has been done, and this leaves little possibility of repairing the damage; hence, Prophets remind us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth.
The relationship between animal instincts and gregariousness has already been noted; flocks of sheep and goats require the constant attentions of the shepherd and his dog, since they so easily stray, and once they have done so, they have little ability to find their way back again. Those who are conditioned by such energies will always be followers and imitators, never leaders or initiators, since they have no self-reliance, and instinctively sense the need of discipline. Having appointed others in authority over themselves, however, they soon resent their control, owing to their own very inability to keep to prescribed paths. Where such qualities control intellectuals, they devote years of their lives to mental meandering in fields of unreality, and labour to achieve what can interest none but themselves.
The flesh of the pig is prohibited by Islam and Judaism, and was, until fairly recently, disapproved of in Japan. The pig is attracted to dirt, and its habits denote unashamed enjoyment of physical comforts. Its nature is so generally decried that in most parts of the world, it is a serious insult to compare a man to a pig. We recognize the animal qualities in our fellow-men precisely when we give such names as "swine" and "old goat". Many are however flattered to be compared to bulls, symbols of stability, and incidentally chosen by the English as expressive of their own national character!
Because identical energies operate differently in man and animals, the affinity of the pig with dirt shows itself in human beings as the love of material possessions, and these qualities incline man to devote his life to matters which may later cause degeneration to a condition far below the state of a hog.
Beef is one of the least pernicious types of animal food. It is prohibited to orthodox Hindus precisely because of their respect for the cow, which provides so much else of benefit to mankind. The bull, apart from being a symbol of strength and stability, also stands for conservation of energy, patience and perseverance. It mates at specific seasons, and not indiscriminately in response to uncontrollable urges, as do so many other animals. Hence, such a diet will have more beneficial consequences than that of such animals as have just been listed; but it is not fitting that evolved man should worship any aspect of the animal kingdom, nor ought he to be identified with such qualities, however praiseworthy they may be in their own realm; he belongs to a nobler form of creation, and ought therefore to acquire liberation from all animal conditioning, whether detrimental or otherwise.
These examples may suffice to illustrate the manner in which various forms of animal life may stimulate similar energies in man, and the interested reader who wishes to seek out for himself further examples has only to consider the habit and mode of life of the animal concerned, and transpose such qualities in terms of human relationships. This has already been attempted in many cultures, especially in relation to the signs of the zodiac, which indicates that the question of animal tendencies operating in man may be a much deeper subject than the mere question of essences absorbed in food; for several individuals of a given family will not necessarily behave in the same manner even when they have been subjected to identical diet over a long period.
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© Michael Rogge, 1959
Brought on Internet on 1st of March 2001. Revised: 26th December 2001
| Javanese mysticism |
| Introduction to Subud |
| Precepts for living |
| Reflections on Subud: Appendix B | | Javanese mystical texts |