Iron Fist in a Velvet GloveRay Douglas
Nature is full of instincts, passions, composite sets of vibrations each packaged in a way unique to the living beings, the species, for which they are appropriate. These instincts, we may say, have been devised, appointed and applied by what we please to call the "Plant Forces", the "Animal Forces", even the "Human Forces". Or we might sum them up by ascribing them to the "Will of God", or the Grand Design of an all-knowing Creator. The creatures of nature, we might say, are subservient to a spiritual power that is higher than their own. But, on whatever level they may seem to function, all are held together and ultimately directed by the force of materiality. Even the subtlest of nature's vibrations can exist only by way of the material life forms which they control—material forms made up of atoms and so forth. And, of course, as many of us have come to realise, the material life force is none other than the "Satanic Force" which binds us to the Earth. The creatures of nature, we now see, pay homage not to a "higher" but to a "lower" spiritual power than their own.
If we consider the universe—or at least that portion of it that we know about—then of course we can see that apparently everything in it, however complicated, has this basic nature of materiality: the physical force of gravity; the production and accumulation of matter; the production and distribution of gases. Materiality holds everything together and makes it work. It follows that no creature of Earth could possibly live in the form we know it without this powerful force; it is utterly necessary for all our lives. And yet this is the force that stands in opposition to spirituality. Spirit, we come to realise, is the one force that can function independently of materiality. Spirituality is the state of being that is not limited or controlled by atoms or molecules. Spirit permeates the world of atoms as well as the rest of the universe, and it is Spirit—or so at least mystics claim—that gives the spark of life to every material life form.
In this broad sense, everything we can see and hear, including the people
around us and indeed our own selves, our own thoughts, are products of materiality.
Nevertheless in every sane sense, in common sense, humans are understood to
possess a human nature; animals to possess an animal nature; plants to possess a
plant nature. Individuals of every kind are equipped with their own life force, so we need
to bear in mind this duality of definition. In the present sense we must take "materiality"
to mean the force that regulates apparently lifeless material objects—the laws of
physics, working as though they comprised a set of instincts, such as the instinct which
compels atoms to band together in specific groups. To take the matter still further,
materiality has to provide the means of developing our power of thought, the ability to
use our brains and emotions, and the instincts that give us the understanding to modify
and arrange material objects and raw materials in special ways, to form them into all the
material goods we have come to rely upon, the things we need and desire. From the
material instinct, very obviously, comes the need to make and wear clothes and build
houses for shelter. Animals, being limited to their own animal-type souls, feel no such
need whilst living their natural lives.
Humans have their own special set of instincts within the "Human Forces", but these are largely lost beneath the welter of material instincts, with their obtrusively heavy and insistent vibrations. When these material instincts are allowed to play a strong part in our minds, sometimes to the extent of taking over our lives completely, we tend to behave in ways calculated to increase our supply of materiality; we set our hearts on collecting more and more objects, living in luxury perhaps, becoming wealthy. Constantly wishing to own this or that tends to make us greedy—not necessarily bad or "satanic", though we may sometimes overlook the needs of outsiders in the struggle to satisfy our own needs and those of our families and dependants. Not "bad" in itself; nevertheless this material force is the power that religious people through the ages have called the "satanic power"—the apparently evil force that keeps us close to things, keeps our hearts and minds loyal to the things of the Earth, rather than the intangible world of Spirit.
It is of course a characteristic of civilisation, for humans to possess a spiritual centre of gravity which hovers within the level of materiality. This is not the same as possessing a material-soul. In fact there are whole races of people in the world who, by nature, do have a soul relationship with, or a special predilection for, these material life forces, and we could call them material-soul people. ( We will not name them, for it would be politically incorrect to do so). It is not at all the same thing as having a material centre of gravity. On the contrary, material-soul people tend to be noticeably lacking in material benefits and are frequently forced to live in abject poverty. Their soul type tends to make them see themselves rather as though they too were material objects, and this predilection has persuaded others over the ages to see them in the same way, to be moved around and bought and sold as though they really were mere objects.
This is all a part of the strange and sometimes contradictory power of "Satan", but it is also a part—indeed, the major part—of the world in which we live. The great majority of us are centred one way or another in materiality, so we have to make the best of it. However, if we pay heed to the great religions of the world, for us to simply "leave it at that" does seem to be taking something of a chance. We might think that we do not particularly want to be left to the tender mercies of Satan when our lives are over. In this regard many of us have come to think that it might not be a bad thing to look for a way out—a way up—to find that "hidden path" which should be somewhere at the root of all ways of searching, at the heart of all religions. And if we can do it without first having to lose our worldly possessions, or lead ascetic lives in the wilderness, if we can find a way to have "all this and heaven too"—so much the better.
If "heaven" is our aim, then in this context "heaven" must imply a state of pure
Spirit, free from the influence of materiality. Supposing someone experiences a blissful
"out of body" state and is then able to return and describe it in material terms, if it
featured this or that, sights, sounds, feelings, sensations, then we can be pretty sure
that it cannot really be "heaven". It may well be some sort of "paradise" concealed
somewhere within the world of materiality, and thus still within the sphere of influence of
this material force.
Let us look at the nature of spiritual levels and spiritual decline as they apply to
us humans. One's own life makes the best example, so may I ask you to observe
yourself: When you were born, like all babies you functioned on "human instinct"; you
possessed what we think of as human attributes in potential but they were not as yet developed. Your brain at that time was not able to take in all the sights and sounds and impressions of the world around you, and you lived in "a little world of your own"—but it was a world in which you were very important; you were at its centre. When you needed attention, you demanded it and it usually came running! This was your own truly human spiritual level during your life on earth. But this innocently self-centred state did not last very long before your brain began to develop and understand something of the world, your eyes began to look around more keenly to observe your surroundings. You quickly learnt to appreciate your own family, and more slowly you learnt about your own limitations, your own place in the world. This was your "animal" spiritual level: Think back to your pre-teen years when you probably behaved rather like an animal, sometimes wild, sometimes kittenish.
As you approached your teens you became a little more aggressive, a little more inclined to assert yourself in an arrogant manner, quick to put others in their place. Your classroom at school was a competitive arena, and wherever you hung out with other kids, that was a bit of a battlefield too. This was your "plant" spiritual level, when like a real plant you were in constant competition to find your own place in the sun. Then as your teenage years set in you became more interested in getting hold of some spending money rather than merely asserting yourself, and as you became a young adult your interests were centred on things, holding down a job perhaps, making a living. This was the final stage; your "material" spiritual level. Within this level some individuals shine above others to achieve quite amazing things: to become rich and famous, empirebuilders, or brilliant scientists. These comparative few have reached the easy-getting stage which I call "the light of the material", because it contains a certain sort of spiritual enlightenment, but on the material plane.
The case is similar on a larger scale with the whole human race, or equally with separate civilisations: they start off as a tribal society of simple hunter-gatherers. They may be primitive, but they are truly human, albeit humans without the trappings of clothes or tools or weapons. You could say that a truly pristine "human" is a very helpless creature, naked and defenceless against extreme weather and against the teeth and claws of nature. Blessed with the marvellous human brain, people soon learnt how to build shelters, make clothes to keep them warm, make tools and effective weapons. This is quite unlike the beasts, which can function only within their own narrow instinctually-appointed limits.
Primitive humans observed nature, thought about the animals and plants, and wondered how they might make best use of them, experimenting with this and that until they had achieved whatever they felt they needed. This was the crux of the original human instinct: the capacity to observe and learn to adapt. Understandably, early humans would have felt superior, or even god-like, realising that they could lord it over the world and sit in judgment over nature as they saw fit. Without perhaps realising it, they had imbibed many of the instincts of nature that did not originally apply to them, and adapted these instincts to their own use.
In later times these people, or the members of some particular race or
civilisation, having adopted animal instincts in order to make their own lives more
comfortable, began to behave something like animals themselves, setting out their own
territories, marking, guarding and expanding them, exploiting animals by farming instead
of hunting them. With these newly introduced patterns of behaviour, they began to raid neighbouring tribes and their lands, capturing animals and people as though they too were animals. Some races became very bold, invading neighbouring lands far more extensively and seizing the reins of government for themselves.
Later still, people began to feel that they personally wanted a larger individual share of the world around them. Territorial claims became fiercer and more ruthless. Power seemed very important to them, and they were often inspired to make war on other races, or neighbouring branches of their own race. At this stage, they had acquired something of the instincts of plants, which are obliged by nature to battle for their right to survive, even at the expense of others.
Again, sooner or later, a people, a race, a civilisation, quite suddenly begins to make progress in the material sphere. A sudden surge of new industrial inventions will change people's lives for ever. They become able to travel much more freely, to work much more efficiently, and to accomplish a whole variety of things that would have been impossible before. "Industrial revolutions" change the face of their world, and set an unprecedented standard of luxury for those who find themselves in tune with this new spiritual level, and a degree of exploitation and oppression for those who do not. A new kind of class division becomes the order of the day; but by and large standards of living rise in a quite dramatic fashion, and everyday possessions proliferate. This, of course, constitutes the "age of materiality", during which humans have descended into what many have called the realm of Satan.
And from amongst these spiritually material people, some individuals, or even whole nations, seem to advance more than the rest, shining brightly and proudly in their success of achievement, effortlessly, it seems, acquiring more and more possessions, more money, more new inventions. These few have reached "the light of the material".
Great religions of the world also undergo much the same process, a similar decline taking place through the various "spiritual levels" of nature. There is a definite time-scale to this: a world religion starts high—in the spiritual realms above the ordinary human level—and at first the followers of a new religion are orientated towards that high status, towards the purity of spirit. But as more people embrace it, the body of the religion begins to sink to the ordinary "human" level. This is when human cleverness enters a religion and takes it over, trying to make sense of it. Instead of merely accepting its spiritual influence and submissively living up to it, its adherents begin to theorise, to add bits of their own philosophies, their own sense of morality, glossing over the bits they find difficult to understand, trying to rationalise what should be an abstract, spiritual matter—dumbing it down, perhaps, so that their human brains can understand.
Later on, the religious body reaches the "animal" phase: an expansive period during which its adherents set out to spread its boundaries, extolling it for its wisdom and virtue and cleverness. This is the preaching, evangelising stage by means of which a religion is able to extend its influence, albeit its humanised or, should I say, its "animalised" form of influence.
Later still, the body of a religion reaches its "plant level"—the emotionally fierce
and fanatical level during which its adherents are easily roused to anger and
aggression, even going so far as to believe that this arrogant plant nature is the true
nature of their religion. During this stage of decline religious people may think nothing of oppressing or even killing others in the name of their religion, and are liable to stage holy wars to spread their roots and tendrils ever wider.
Later again, the "material" stage of a world religion sets in. The adherents will thankfully have lost their arrogance and become much more amenable to other ways and other beliefs. This of course is largely because they are behaving rather in the manner of "things": certainly patient, apparently faithful to their principles, but by the laws of materiality their religion can readily become orientated towards the sentimental and intellectual aspects instead of its original high spiritual basis. But people within this materially religious level will still have all the other levels of spirituality within their own being, and depending upon circumstances will be able to call upon their plant soul, their animal soul, and even their human soul, as well as their powerful material soul, to give them a broad base of possibilities.
A few individuals within any world religion may later go on to reach "the light of the material" in regard to that religion. This is a condition which allows them to recapture or re-experience something of its former glory, something of the wonder of true spirituality—whilst still encased, as it were, within the satanic realm, the zone of materiality. When this happens, such people will either become engrossed in the seemingly miraculous supernatural experiences to be found in that strange zone, or, and best of all, they may be inspired to begin the long trek back up the wilderness trail, and seek to regain the original spiritual purity that their religion has lost over the centuries. Those who become engrossed in the magic, the supernatural aspects of the "light zone", though they may not realise it, will have become entrapped by the occult.
Spirituality within the material life force is in fact what we mean when we speak of the occult. Certainly, this supernatural essence within materiality is a reality, but the material world is a world of passion—the antithesis of spirituality—so that success or progress within the occult sphere works in direct opposition to spirituality. There is nothing within the material zone that can lift the soul to a higher level, or put our souls in touch with Spirit—but there is a great deal that will make it feel that way. The deeper we delve into what we consider to be the mysterious nature of materiality, the deeper into the underworld will our inner selves be drawn.
Things cannot be holy. Places cannot be holy. They may induce feelings of awe
—a magnificent cathedral may well do that—or an emotional feeling of peace; they may
induce feelings of mystery, of yearning for some kind of lost values, as a prehistoric
monument may well do; or of reverence, as relics or holy books may well do. But this is
all in the mind. Whole industries have grown up based upon organising the elements,
manipulating the material, reorientating objects, or consulting this and that, and there is
very little difference between the principles involved. Putting one's faith in things can
lead only into the underworld, the subtle side of materiality. Some people, basking
perhaps in the light of the material, come to think that they can command the forces of
materiality, but there is an element of spiritual danger in this attitude. Ancient mythmakers
foresaw the danger and expressed it as a three-headed guard-dog—Cerberus,
which wags its tail and fawns upon those who approach it, welcoming them into its
domain; but once they are inside shows its true nature and will not let them out again.
People who reach the alluring light of the material invariably suppose they have risen or
climbed there, rather than fallen: a fallacy well illustrated by the "World Mandala".
Religious people who attain the misleading light of the material sometimes assume themselves to be spiritually advanced, and, as "holy men", or "holy women", may even attract followers eager to hang on their every word. And of course it is a very pleasant place to be, a broad and bright highway full of wonders. But an alternative name for this zone of light is "The Fall of the Archangel Lucifer". The principle was beautifully expressed in poetic terms by John Milton in Paradise Lost:
Him the Almighty Power Hurled headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky With hideous ruin and combustion down To bottomless perdition, there to dwell...The fallen archangel made his one-way trip, condemned to rule over the dark world of materiality. Between the realms of Spirit and the world of materiality "there is a great gulf fixed" which cannot be crossed by souls who find themselves within this zone of light.
Is this the region, this the soil, the clime, Said then the lost Archangel, this the seat That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom For that celestial light?
This is one way of expressing the principle, and no-one can really be blamed for
being misled, for it is a broad highway full of the promise of worldly delights. But we may
do better to recall its opposite: the lonely, "straight and narrow path" of which it has been
said: "And few there be who find it". Materially based people whose souls have been
touched by Spirit, or who have been "opened" in Subud, may find themselves briefly in
this light zone because they are experiencing the subtle side of materiality. But they will
realise that they cannot stay there like King Solomon in his glory: they must turn their
back on the light of the material and begin the long climb back to their own innocent
childhood, their own human point of birth. That point, that way, and that direction is the
only possible approach to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Also by Ray DouglasAstrology and the Inner Self
The Essence of the Upanishads
The Waters of Babylon
What Time Is It?