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One man’s personal search for spiritual reality begins in Africa with a concern for conservation. By accident he discovers the original human “instinct” which seems to know the solution to problems, and recognises this as the stirrings of the soul, for so long overlooked and rusty with disuse. Following this discovery his search leads him to recognise the natural laws and instincts of nature as they affect the human condition, and gain an insight into the inner nature of the various religions and “ways” of the world. Finally he recognises Subud as a direct way of bringing the soul to awareness, and setting it on a truly spiritual course, prompting him to describe the soul’s experiences in the light of Spirit.

List of Contents


Ancient Instinct and the World's Needs


1: Zen and the Green Man

A Personal Search for Susila Budhi Dharma

Instinctive Solutions not Readily Accepted

Natural Instincts of the Non-human World

Mankind Influenced by the Life Forces of Nature

The Soul has a Choice of Directions

The Real Meaning of "Soul"

Religious Attitudes towards Soul and Spirit

Varying Spiritual "Levels" of Religions

The Influence of Plants on People

Spiritual Nature of Plants

Personal "Shadow" and the True Path

Religious Convention and the Spiritual Search

The Influence of Plant Life on Religious Feeling

Conservation is for "Haves", not for "Have-nots"

"Plant Religion" in Pre-Industrial Times

Religious Development seen as Spiritual Decay

Symbolism of the Green Man

Experiencing Spiritual Levels

Spiritual Characteristics of Animals

Ancient Guidance for Buddhist Monks

Ancient Guidance for Christian Disciples

Seeking Spiritual Guidance for Today

Ancient Legends Offering Clues

The Great Divide : Conflicting Attitudes  

Direct Action, or Humble Submission?

Four Ways, and a Fifth Way?

A Finer than Human Agency

Ancient Hindu Advice on Seeking a True Teacher

The Path of Susila Budhi Dharma

Possibilities of Zen as a "Plant Religion"

Direct Action Without "Will"

Chasing Symbols


2: In Search of Wholeness

Soul Contents Include Bad as well as Good

Accepting the Shadow

Astrology and the Threefold Cycle

New-found Freedom

A Return to "Instinct”

A Plethora of Systems and Techniques

The Personal and the Collective Unconscious

The Collective Self

The Zen Search for Spontaneity

Analysis Precludes Wholeness

The Need for Symbols to Express Reality

Accepting "Self" as All-Inclusive

The Limitations of Yoga

The Will of the Yogi Creating an Obstacle

Danger of Creating a False Soul

The Distinction between Heart and Mind

Cultural and Racial Preconceptions

Characteristics Corresponding to Inner Passions

Seeking a Catalyst to Start the Reaction

The "Impossible Necessity" of Stopping Thoughts

Recapturing Miraculous Spontaneity

Seed of the Inner Self

A New-born Child Possesses Wisdom

Growing Physically; Sinking Spiritually

Awareness of Soul Becomes Blotted Out

Descending and Ascending Souls

The Burden of Death

Need to Re-open a Spiritual Channel


3: The Cycle of Nature

Reincarnation: Fact or Fiction?

Reincarnation Affecting Souls Untouched by Spirit

World Beliefs and Life After Death

What Part of Me Lives On After Death?

The Fate of the Disembodied Soul

An Encounter Between Soul and Spirit

An Introduction to Spirit

Thoughts and Feelings as a Hindrance

Fear of the Spiritual Unknown

A New Spiritual Centre of Gravity

Changing Levels of Understanding

Awakening : the Birth of a Spiritual Child

Passions of Nature Acting as a Barrier

Reclusive Attitudes No Longer Appropriate

A Rebirth to be Avoided

An Inside View of the Forces of Nature

The Structure of the Inner Self

Escaping the Influence of Lower Forces

The Effect of Inappropriate Influences

A World-Embracing Mantle of Power

The Inner World of Plants

Mineral Instincts – the Forces of Materiality

The Human Life Force Cannot Act Alone

A Universal Mandala

The Long Path of Purification

Development of a True Culture


4. Stilling The Passions

The Misleading Light of Lucifer

A Personal Family of Souls

The Coloured Brothers of Passion

Aiming For the Truly Human Level

The Interdependence of Life Forms

The Need to Return to the Spiritual Source

Mistaken Use of Ritual

Ancient Wisdom De-Mystified

A Summary of the Spiritual Journey

Messengers of God and the Great Life Force

A Centre of Consciousness

A World Teacher to Start a Chain Reaction

The Contact : Opening the Soul

Allowing the Newly Opened Soul to Exercise

Subud is Not a Teaching

The Way of Reality

The Soul as Helmsman of the Psyche

Seduced by "Speaking in Tongues"

Consciousness is the Key

Working With the Opened Soul

Subud is Ourselves


5. The World Unified

The Nature of Subud

The Need for Patience, Sincerity, and Submission

Receiving the Latihan Kejiwaan

Acceptance of One's Own Contents

The Nature of "Passions"

Spiritual Vibrations and Inner Movement

Penetration of the Inner Feelings

Holding Imagination at Bay

Inner Smells : Incense and Burning Rubbish

The Way of Death

The Occult must be Left Behind

Spiritual Greenness

The Necessity of Conscious Awareness

Through Dreams and Mythological Images

Accumulated Faults and the Laws of Karma

The Process of Purification

The Spiritual Necessity of Purification

Spiritual Education

Repentance and Atonement

Experiencing the Practical Workings of Purgatory

Climbing Back Through Nature

Spiritual Crisis

Rungs in the Ladder

The Uphill Path

Successive Layers of Soul

Stressful Experiences

Material Passions Lending Strength

The Unencumbered Soul

Gaining and Losing Wisdom

Slow Passage Through the Plant Kingdom

The Green Man as Gatekeeper

Loss of Material Security

The Dawning of Understanding

A Time to Perceive Unity

Allowing Nature to Fall into Place

All Things Work Together For Good

The Last Chance?



Greening of the Soul

Ancient Instinct and the World’s Needs

    Amidst those dreary miles of thorny thickets
    jacketing parched plains and searing river valleys
    of Capricorn in Africa,
    sequestered haunts of antelope and leopard
    where paths are few and people seldom venture,
    a welcoming sight among repelling thorns:
    the mupangara bush with tassels pink and yellow
    to decorate the hats of chiefs.

As a young forester new to the African bush poetic sentiments sometimes vied to override more practical needs. Landmarks, even distinctive trees and bushes such as the pretty mupangara (Dichrostachys glomerata) were few, and this could be a problem. I soon discovered that the best way not to become lost or start walking in circles, was to adopt an attitude of patient confidence – a kind of submission to an unseen guiding hand. This attitude, I found, would always steer me where I wanted to go, without having constantly to be thinking about direction. Later on, I found that it worked equally well in dense rainforest; and later on still, that it worked in urban surroundings too, even in strange cities.

That I had "discovered" some sort of instinct, I had no doubt. But was it a truly human instinct, or an animal instinct, or even a plant instinct? I had no doubt too that this guidance – so faint and rusty with disuse – was the same guidance that allowed man at the dawn of time – or even hunter-gatherers of the present day – to roam the earth in search of food, and then to find the way back home. Only very slowly did it dawn on me that this gentle nudging could possibly be a stirring of the soul, for so long suppressed. And if this soul could really come to awareness, and if the soul knew what needed to be known, then not only personal  problems but the major problems facing the world – problems of natural resources, of good stewardship, of good relations – could soon belong to the past.

Several years later an English farmer asked Pak Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, the founder of Subud, whether he considered that a general return to organic farming methods was necessary. His reply was: "Simply follow the latihan kejiwaan (the actions of your awakened soul), and after a while, if you are a farmer, you will automatically know what to do, and what the earth's needs are". By that time, I knew what he meant; but both before then and since, numerous instances have cropped up of spontaneous, instant knowledge regarding "the right thing to do", with plants, with animals, with things, with oneself. It is usually a case, not of realising what needs to be done, but of simply "doing" it. Anything else is not truly instinctive. But in my experience the process never really gets beyond the personal, initial stage. Something happens to block the action, to prevent the ball rolling, almost as though some malicious, destructive force is at work.

Instinctive Solutions not Readily Accepted

This obstructive force, if that is what it is, usually seems to operate through the agency of people – ordinary, fair-minded, well meaning and not at all malicious people – but who (needless perhaps to say) are not themselves motivated by any spontaneous movement from within. Actions which apparently arise from "the soul" are actions which you just know are right, and it seems to me that a seemingly unintended but wholly non-instinctive blocking process comes into play as a result. This is hardly surprising, for it is exactly what occurs over the long-term as a normal part of human development. Soul instinct, we could say, is what motivates a new-born child, and is therefore something which we are expected to grow out of. We are conditioned to lose it. A very young child is filled with a brand of wisdom quite unknown and unsuspected by adults. As our brains develop, our mind soon discovers that it knows best what it wants, and that it is powerful enough to overrule the instinctual opposition. Parents encourage their young child to discard instinctive behaviour and quite unconsciously work to discourage it's return.

Nations are run by the keenest brains, pitting their separate wits one against the other. Whoever heard of a parliament of instinct, or a soul-motivated government? A religiously motivated government is not at all the same thing. Plant instinct produces forest and fen; animal instinct produces a rhythmic balance of populations; material instinct holds the whole together and keeps the earth in orbit. All these are linked and interdependent, so much is obvious. But as for human instinct – that was left behind in Eden, the babyhood of humankind. Human brains, as I say, have taken over the function of instinct, and brains are not linked to these basics, these non-thinking processes. Thinking and non-thinking, it seems, just will not mix.

But now I know that these two irreconcilables can be reconciled, and it has taken me the best part of a lifetime to come to the understanding. Starting from the outcome, looking at the whole question from the standpoint of soul, there is nothing to debate, nothing to argue about. But starting from the standpoint of thought, the questions, answers and arguments of this day and age seem endless. Brains are never satisfied or willing to stand aside to allow some other faculty to take the stage. Without the modifying influence of instinct, I fear, our clever human brains can be seen as an enemy of the earth!

Natural Instincts of the Non-human World

It is not exactly a "spiritual" thing, this instinct, this dhyana; but, as the brain will not allow it to function, it cannot be recaptured in this life (apart perhaps from the odd flash of insight) except through truly spiritual means. Given those means it becomes, as it were, an incidental but wholly necessary bonus to be acquired along the spiritual path. The interlinking of underlying instinct, of things, of plants, of animals, does not leave out the human element. Brains or no brains, despite our own instincts being set permanently on "hold", these lowly instincts have a powerful effect upon our actions whether we know it or not, but with quite unexpected results.

Perhaps people of the Far East have been more acutely aware than westerners of this spiritual dimension, and in particular of the plant instinct, or plant essence, playing its part in human affairs. There are, for example, the centuries-old crafts of ikebana and bonsai; the theme of both these is concerned with our inner nature. Bonsai, the cultivation of artificially dwarfed trees, could be thought of as an expression of the soul's impoverishment, its frustrated nature; a lament, certainly, for a long-lost human spiritual condition. Ikebana, on the other hand – arranging flowers or vegetation so that they seem in tune with the inner feelings – is expressive of striving. Like bonsai it acknowledges the lowly position at present occupied by the soul, and expresses the desirability of improvement. The implication seems to be that, from the human viewpoint, the plant instincts represent a step up in the spiritual order of things.

Ikebana holds the key
To appreciating where we stand
Within the world of wealth: though we seem free
To hold the pilgrim's latchkey in our hand
And stay or go at will, manipulate our destiny.

Enslaved by things, materiality,
In spiritual terms we stand beneath the flowers,
Caught by the thorns beneath the forest canopy.
So humble flowers can raise this soul of ours
Arranged as shin, soe, hikae, these three.

Hikae, the world, the solid rocky earth,
And on this world the soe, humanity,
And overhead the path to heaven, new birth
Shin represents the way to immortality
To stir some memory of the soul's true worth.

The Interdependence of Life Forms

To anyone acquainted with the reality of Susila Budhi Dharma, it becomes plain that one's personal spiritual growth cannot ignore, but on the contrary must include, everything that has already been imbibed since one's own birth; since the birth of civilisation and before: one's capacity for comfort, for industry, for relationships. Man was appointed to have dominion over the earth. But whilst human dominion stems from a spiritual level actually below that of the animals and plants, as by and large it does, any world changes in which man has taken a hand are liable to prove changes for the worse. The downward spiral that ensues may gather momentum and hurtle us all to destruction, unless some benign force more powerful than the normal spiritual mechanism of the world is able to intervene.

Glossary Preamble

About Words

As the Hindu Teaching has it:

Our minds are in confusion over matters of the soul because of the endless contradictions of our teachers – because of the imperfection of words.

Sometimes an unfamilar word or phrase can make more sense than a familiar one, simply because we are trying to describe some new or unfamiliar concept. If we use a familiar description, the implication is that we already understand whatever is being described. In Greening of the Soul I have borrowed words from various sources because English words cannot adequately describe the issues raised. Probably, neither can words borrowed from the Sanskrit, from Sufi tradition, from Javan mythology, from Arabic, from Moslem or Hindu or Buddhist or Christian tradition, or any other source, do any better. Religious emotion can serve no purpose; passions and desires will prove counter-productive. Modern psychological terms too are out of place: spiritual experience is not be arrived at through exploring the layers of mind. The point is, spiritual matters have no solid, material basis which can be analysed or made logical, and the path of Susila Budhi Dharma is indeed a spiritual one, though it applies to us here and now, living in our own real, solidly material bodies.

         It may well be that my choice of descriptive words in this book will seem offensive or aggravating to some readers, for various reasons. My own experience in Subud has shown me that this is likely. Intellectual people in particular do tend to suppose that because a word has a certain origin, it can have no meaning beyond its own cultural ambience, its own world view, its own religious or philosophical background. The solution is simple: If a word offends you, pluck it out, or, at least, change it for one that you prefer. Words are just words.

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