COMMENTARY by Husein Rofé
on the
by R.M. Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo

Chapter III


We have discussed in some detail the manner in which the material essences condition man chiefly through their affinity with his thought, and an allusion has been made to the fact that vegetable factors are related rather to the feelings, and principally assimilated as daily nourishment. These have a more complicated nature than the material qualities, as they represent a higher form of consciousness: their condition is very different, since rudimentary discrimination and the perpetuation of the species are present, while they develop through various stages in the life of the plant, from seed to flower or, fruit.

The analogy beween feelings and the element water has already been pointed out. We know that the greater part of the plant consists of water, and that, while its existence is grounded in the soil, it also requires to be frequently irrigated in order to survive. There is a mystical parallel between the duality of the unborn child and its mother, and the vegetation rooted in Mother Earth. (Note: See H.Bachofen: Das Mutterrecht.) The existence is a dependent one, and mobility is very restricted. Reproduction is often possible only through the cooperation of higher, animal forms of life, which afford us an illustration of the essences of one kingdom instinctively aiding lower forms to evolve.

Since the mineral, vegetable and animal realms reflect aspects present in the fourfold psychic complex of man, we may gain valuable information about our own being by studying the qualities present in these kingdoms of Nature. Our physical energies are also derived,from vegetable and animal foods, which help to build the body even before birth. Our daily work, our meals and our sex relations are sacraments, since they represent points of contact with the four factors 'outside' ourselves.

We have seen how misuse of material tools can lead to illness, and other forms of sickness develop from inharmonious diet, when our relations with the vegetable kingdom are unbalanced.

Once man has learnt to separate feeling from thought and to perceive sensations clearly, he becomes aware of the interaction between his feelings and the qualities of the plants on which he feeds. Even without such development, we all know, through taste, the qualities such as sweetness and bitterness, which are present in food. As perceived externally, a vegetable or a fruit is a form containing a certain combination of vegetable and mineral essences. The varieties of taste permit the harmonious interaction of these qualities, which occurs during eating and digestion., Our digestive apparatus has in fact been given to us for this purpose. It enables us to assimilate these qualities and canalize them appropriately. By eating, one co-operates, consciously or otherwise, with the evolution of the plant kingdom, and thus affords the fruit and vegetable essences a unique opportunity of development. They even experience rudimentary sensations of well-being in such circumstances.

Man is not always able to fulfil this mission adequately, since, just as in the case of the material realm already described, he may fall under the domination of those very essences which he ought to be able to elevate. Perhaps the most concrete example is seen among alcoholics. If their state is not the result of conditioning through essences in the plant, what then is it? Such preparations as hashish, opium, kif and marijuana afford further illustrations.

Plants have been used at different times in history for the purpose of inducing certain psychic states; it is well to remember however that these cannot lead man to what is higher than the stimulant. Certain plants may confer new awareness in the realms of material or vegetable essences. This only represents a condition of upliftment in the case of a no. 1 man, whose soul is identified with the forces of matter. Such practices awaken the two lower centres in man. The action is generally harmful since there should be control over lower centres before they are stimulated.

Drug addicts are in a similar state (of identification with vegetable forces) to such conditions as we discussed in the last chapter about those affected by materialism. In both cases, accessories intended to help us reach the highest, may, if wrongly integrated, represent obstacles on our path. For the vegetable essences in man to serve him aright, they must be harmonized with those in the environment. To reach his heaven, man must help them to reach theirs. Otherwise he will be questioned after death about his failure to return the essences to their origins.

Spiritual laws are not easily comprehensible to the mind. We have mentioned how the man who lives correctly in relation to the material forces will not suffer want, since the affirmation of the Self within will attract what is required from without. Similarly, when there is a correct relationship with the vegetable essences, these are attracted in a like manner, and one is unlikely to suffer starvation, whatever the mode of living pursued.

By entering into the nature of cereals and other plants, we can find out the sort of conditioning that will be produced in those who feed on them regularly. However strange the idea of "entering into the nature of a plant" may sound to some, the expression is often used by painters and poets, who tell us that, to portray a plant, they have first, in some sense, to become that plant, in order to understand it. They have those developed feelings which we shall need to acquire if they are atrophied in us; such persons have been so conditioned by their profession that they are more sensitive to psychic emanations than are those whose daily work is based on mental concentration. (Note: Man should learn to feel what foods he needs in order to maintain the correct chemical balance in the body. See D.C.Jarvis: Folk-Medicine)

It is not an easy matter to recognize the particular stimulus of any given plant, owing to the variety of our diet. We can more easily note the effect on a given race of staple articles which have been customary food for centuries. In general, the cereals rice, wheat, maize and millet are eaten by the yellow, white, red and black races. The rice-plant is short-lived and requires much water, while its stalk is slender and frail.

Races which derive their nourishment largely from rice tend to show well-developed feelings, but to lack perseverance. Their easy discouragement is analogical to the withering of the plant in the absence of water; and (since feeling represents water in man's psychic nature), such people like to be praised and are very sensitive to slights. There is scope for interesting ethno-psychological research here, in the study of the character of the rice-eating races, and many others, but it is not a subject which requires a digression in this work. When we compare the wheat plant, we see that it thrusts up a taller, firmer and sturdier stalk, and is able to survive ruder climates and less clement conditions.

As we acquire more understanding of the relationship between character and diet, we realize to what extent our instincts are affected by the surrounding earth and its fruits. Then arises the question whether the inner nature can be modified by varying the diet, or in fact by periods of total abstinence from nourishment.

Certainly, since food interacts with feeling, attention to diet may modify our degree of sensitivity. Fasting reduces the vegetable and animal stimuli for a time. Such practice often produces a more acute intuition, clearer inner vision, but should not be undertaken to excess. Man is a compound being, and his qualities must be developed harmoniously, not one at the expense of another; we must remember that the physical vehicle can suffer from protracted fasting, and that damage to one part is felt by the whole, so that we are later obliged to correct the results of our errors.

True fasting should itself be undertaken in response to inner indications, and at such times no hardship is felt. We have already discussed why it is not desirable to exert the will unduly to silence the appetites. Ideally, it may be repeated, we should strengthen ourselves so as to be able to absorb any nourishment (even poison) with impunity, rather than seek to avoid many types of food because we fear the consequences. Too much preoccupation with diet may lead to hypochondria!

The flora of most lands is richly varied, and so extreme dietary conditioning is rare among most civilized peoples. Even apparently similar plants may have very different qualities. We see that both dates and coconuts grow on palm stems, with a dominating and sturdy trunk in common. Nevertheless the fruit is of a very different type, although the former can be harvested where little else will grow. Perennial plants develop a similar fruitfulness in man, and this manifests as a tendency to give advice and assistance to his fellows. A more cheerful disposition is evident among people who feed principally on vegetables and fruits exposed to much sunlight, while those who have to inhabit less hospitable regions feel the beneficial effects of "bottled sunshine". Root vegetables which develop chiefly in the dark predispose their consumers to a materialistic outlook.

The feelings must be cultivated for man to assess correctly the nature of the forces which surround him and build his body; he thus realizes the consequences of the stimuli to which he exposes himself, and is in a better position to analyse his own attitudes. Origins of decisions are recognized, and we learn to distinguish, for example, between resignation which derives from enlightenment and that which is merely a reflection of the customary diet. Once we are in a position to understand better the sources of our viewpoints, we shall no longer take pride in attitudes conditioned by our last meal. Rather will we gain added awareness of the number of handicaps which prevent us from expressing the highest potentialities in ourselves. We shall seek to overcome that easy acquiescence in unfavourable circumstances that always threatens exploitation and eventual servitude.

The humble villager has calmer feelings than the townsman, as he is accustomed to a much simpler diet. Variety in foodstuffs tends to evoke greater confusion in the consciousness' since many essences of conflicting qualities are simultaneously present. Thus the country people find it easier to devote themselves to spiritual culture: their inner life does not represent a battleground of clashing emotions. While city-dwellers are less inclined to take up such disciplines, and are less receptive to them when they do begin, they stand to profit more thereby, as they have more complicated work to perform.

All religious experience belongs to the domain of feeling, and when the inner state is a whirl of confusion, the very foundations for such experience are absent, and new organs have to grow before there can be perception. It is for this reason, not because of greater "suggestibility", that the country people obtain more rapid results. Once the path is at their disposal, their instinctive understanding is more rapid.

As far as normal social existence is concerned, a very large number of people achieve success and renown in their enterprises without ever having given time or thought to spiritual considerations. This is evidence of capacity to order material affairs, and it has been shown how such ability merely requires an educated mind in harmony with the material universe. Intelligence can be developed quite independently of spiritual qualities, and in fact, those who think most deeply are often among the least spiritual, in the sense that their organs of intuitive apprehension have usually remained stunted from disuse.

Intuitive guidance is not essential for success in worldly matters, though it is then usually subconsciously present if not deliberately cultivated. We have emphasized that spiritual training only reveals what is in us already, and if the hereditary qualities are good, they may often assert themselves under harmonious circumstances, without any particular intent on the part of their possessor. Nevertheless, we then have no possibility of calling on our intuition if in need of its aid, and must allow it to manifest in its own time. When it does so, it heightens such in tellectual talents as are present, and therefore one should not maintain that it is not required by those who already have capable brains. It is of particular value in times of environmental reverses, and can direct activity in such a way that the life is not at the mercy of the surroundings. Rather than be obliged to follow the tendencies of the epoch, swept along by the stream, we may acquire the power to step aside, and then ourselves give new direction to the trend of the time.

Each of us has his own particular gifts and aptitudes, and we must discover these, the earlier the better, so as to be able to follow our own true path rather than imitate the ideals of others or be persuaded to pursue careers which have nothing in common with our basic instincts. Vocational guidance can be obtained by spiritual discipline, and in cases where a wrong path is being followed, the new impulse may provoke a serious deflection of the destiny, since it becomes clearly realized that there is no inner response to the employment, while new and fascinating aptitudes are discovered within for the first time.

If these are recognized and acted upon while one is still young, it will not be necessary to spend a lifetime in bondage to an irksome occupation merely in order to acquire a guarantee of subsequent security. The selection of a profession exclusively on the basis of the amount of income it will yield, without consideration of its suitability to the individual case, is unlikely to yield much future happiness. If the true inner aptitudes are recognized in time, it will be possible to find employment where they can be expressed, and the very pleasure that will be taken in work, on account of this harmony, will contribute towards a satisfactory income and success.

Prompting to work should come from within: we need not busy ourselves merely so as to be occupied. Less work may produce more impressive results, if undertaken under the guidance of inspiration. There is then more leisure time, and this can be used for further spiritual culture; therefore, to those who argue that there is insufficient time, we reply that the time required for development becomes of itself available once the path is trodden.

Those who do not understand the nature of such an existence, when (eventually) all action is the response to inner prompting, qualify its exponents as lazy, unless they have an opportunity to see how much is achieved in a short time when the work is undertaken. There is little understanding in the West today of the creative value of relaxation: people have a fear of inactivity, a constant urge to be "up and doing", which causes energies to be unprofitably expended merely for the sake of not appearing idle, whether to others or to one's own conscience. It is not generally realized that the conservation of energy, coupled with the ability to relax truly and direct the attention inwards, is a source of greater and more profitable achievement: force is not then scattered on irrelevancies in such a way as to be inadequate when required for more serious activities. Work has to be adjusted to inner capacity, not vice versa. When this is done, it does not have adverse effects on health.

We must therefore learn to be satisfied with such success as is commensurate with our inner capacity. This is only possible when we are aware of the extent of that capacity; as, in order not to strive frantically beyond the limits of possibility, we must have some idea of what we can, and what we cannot, achieve.

Once the feelings are well under control, and no longer merely reflect the vegetable essences which nourish us, or other environmental influences, we need not be jealous of the different achievements of others, but shall be able to adapt our own mode of livelihood to our peculiar needs and capacities. Our work will then be performed without endangering health or happiness.

It has been mentioned that the material realm (as seen from within) has a richness and variety of experience analogous to the life of man on earth. This is even more true of the vegetable sphere, where feeling is present. Plants can know pleasure and pain, and we shall ourselves perceive this when we understand the nature of these essences, and can discriminate between the centres within ourselves.

End of Chapter 3 (of 5)
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© Michael Rogge, 1959

Brought on Internet on 26th of February 2001, revised 26th December 2001

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