The Green Man

Ray Douglas

If you feel secure on the ladder of life; if you are happy with your religious allegiances; if your religion is the only true religion; if you are a hawk, or a dove; if you have political opinions; if you consider yourself superior to Satan: You Must Not Read This!

As though poised midway between heaven and hell, the Green Man is a god-demon. He is a wholly masculine concept representing the spiritual power of the plant kingdom; there is no "Green Woman". He bridges the gap between the ancient gods and goddesses of forest and field, and the era of religious thought based on a more truly spiritual understanding—as distinct from merely a religious set of beliefs. But only when both these modes of thinking have run their natural course can his true nature be seen. The old pagan understanding of nature had to acknowledge an eternal life cycle: coming into being, flourishing, fruiting, dying down and disappearing, only to be reborn again and again—rebirth into the same situation as before, the same status for people on earth, repeated over and over. The great world religions brought hope of rebirth into a higher condition, a higher spiritual life form, offering a chance to leave behind the repetitive cycle of nature. The Green Man links these two understandings. The old nature gods like Pan and Faunus concerned themselves with flocks, herds and crops. The Green Man, though as forest guardian he represents the plant life force of the earth, has no interest in these things; he relates solely to human welfare.

Like the history of human development in microcosm, one's individual spiritual progress from birth onwards involves a trip through progressively thicker layers of materiality towards the adulthood of civilisation. This is what should happen. When the learning process involving the absorption of materiality is complete, at the end of a journey to the very gates of the underworld, the ancient gods and goddesses of nature will have ceded their power to the Green Man. He it is who can introduce the soul to its next stage on the journey of life. This is when world religions appear and appeal to the individual, explaining by way of symbols something of spiritual truth, a time in human development when a way back up the spiritual ladder is possible, involving a guided climb through the Green Man's kingdom, through the animal kingdom, finally to reach the human point of birth—now the point of rebirth—where it is possible in the Christian terminology to become again like a little child, and further progress should be heavenwards.

The Green Man stands at the gateway of the great divide between the kingdoms of animals and plants, and the alluring world of materiality. Like Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doorways, he guards this gate and looks both ways at once. To a young, developing, descending soul he holds the key to materiality: treasures, power, luxury, magic, and the illusory paradise sought by so many. In this role he looks like a god but is really a demon, for of course the material zone is the realm of Satan. To the matured soul having reached the lowest gate and seeking at last to ascend and by atonement escape the endless cycle of natural becoming, he threatens the loss of wealth, comfort and security, indicating only the wild and scarcely trodden forest path. In this role he looks like a demon but is really a god, for he stands, as it were, on the first rung of the ladder to heaven. In this role he is the highest and most enduring of all gods and goddesses of nature.


But religious symbolism can readily be taken too literally, and religious devotees can become trapped within the kingdom of the Green Man. There are people—indeed, whole races of mankind—who, at the level of the passions that habitually fill the developing, descending soul, bear an uncannily close relationship with the plant kingdom. It is almost as though their own instincts have an affinity with the natural instincts of plants. Though they may seem to us to live their lives in slow motion, plants in their own instincts are ruthlessly fierce and aggressively competitive; they have to be in order to survive the pitiless cut-and-thrust of their natural world. But when looked at from a broader perspective plants may seem peaceful and patient, and these seemingly contradictory qualities epitomise the lives of people who by their birth and ancestry are aligned with the plant kingdom. They even tend to treat each other as though they were real plants, sometimes pruning and lopping those whom they wish to curtail. Like the Green Man who has no female counterpart they tend to exalt the masculine and subdue or conceal the feminine element amongst themselves.

People who have this close soul-relationship with plants can be very patient, tolerating equably even the harshest of living conditions. But when their passions are stirred on their own lowest level they will seem arrogant and uncontrollably aggressive. Strangely enough, these "plant people" often tend to live in places, such as desert lands, where real plant life is sparse. It is almost as though the natural life forces that should be clothing the ground with vegetation, its vibrations and instincts, are flowing into the people, being taken up and absorbed by the human population. Look at an ancient, stable forest. Everything is peaceful. Each member of that plant community is managing to co-exist by adaptation, by suppression, by being held in check, by patience. But if a disruption occurs, if a storm causes havoc, or people begin to fell the trees for their timber, the result is chaos. The forest clearing becomes a violent battleground in which every plant struggles to the death: in plant terms, to find its own place in a newly established community; in human terms, to kill or be killed.

"Plant people" in their religious beliefs, perhaps by way of the guidance of their religious leaders, are aware of the satanic nature of the material life forces, and though seemingly fascinated by the thought of the wealth and luxury to be found in this lowest of spiritual zones, the zone of materiality, they are persuaded to stay where they are—at the lower gateway guarded by the Green Man. There they dither over the abyss, envying other races and other religions which have taken the plunge, but at the same time despising what they correctly identify as the realm of Satan. Because of the fierce nature of human-plant instincts, from all the fascinating but despised material benefits potentially available to them, they tend to select some of the more destructive "benefits", such as weapons of war, for themselves.

All this happens, individually, beneath the threshold of conscious awareness, and those onlookers who watch, horror-stricken, can do absolutely nothing to improve the situation. The highest, most "spiritual" passion of the plant life forces is patience, and patience in this context can only be reinstated once aggression and arrogance are satisfied. But established forests take perhaps hundreds of years to arrive at that stable state, the state wherein the principle of struggle balances itself out. In this case it is unlikely to happen: the only reasonable course is to swallow pride and take the plunge— it need not be a lengthy sojourn. Even Satan is a better master than the Green Man.


Copyright© 2006, Ray Douglas

Also by Ray Douglas

Astrology and the Inner Self
The Essence of the Upanishads

Rebirth of a Goddess
Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove
What Time Is It?
Beelzebub's Kingdom
The Waters of Babylon

Copyright© 2007, Undiscovered Worlds Press