Monday, 27 January 2014

The Good Old Days

It's something of a cliché that every generation thinks things have gone downhill since their day. Nostalgia for what once was seems to be an integral part of being human, and we assume that's because selective memory makes us idealise the past, remembering what was good and forgetting the bad. As we get older so we get grumpier, losing our youthful enthusiasm for life. That's how the story goes anyway, and it's probably true in the main. But what if there's something more, another reason for this almost universally shared characteristic? Could it be an expression of a genuine sense of loss, something deeply felt but not properly understood?

Looking at the world from a metaphysical perspective we can envisage it as emerging pristine from its source, but then gradually descending from original purity as it travels further from the point of origin. Manifestation is the exteriorisation in time and space of a spiritual principle. It is, therefore, a fall into limitation. As the process develops there is a movement away from the principle, and increasing separation from the centre. The connection to that centre is gradually lost as matter solidifies or condenses, and the material world moves more and more to the forefront of consciousness. Focus moves from the inner to the outer until the latter appears more real than the former, which process has reached a conclusion in our day with widespread materialism, the belief that the inner has no independent existence at all.

This is what occurs. At the beginning consciousness and the world itself are still bathed in the glow of pure spirit which is their origin. But as time goes by there is a progressive materialisation and the world closes in. The spiritual realm becomes more obscured and less accessible until the moment arrives when it is denied any sort of reality whatsoever. That time is now.

An important point to make here is that this is part of a natural cycle and, as such, inevitable. However it is up to us not to become identified with the later stages of the cycle, and to stand outside the process if we would hold fast to truth. Something may be inevitable but its inevitability does not mean that we should go along with it. Indeed, perhaps part of the reason for its existence, or for our involvement in it, is precisely that we may make the choice (based on adherence to the pole of truth which is spirit) not to go along with it, and to remain faithful to the real just when the unreal appears to be triumphing. For your spiritual resolve can only be truly tested and shown to be genuine when you hold to it in spite of everything. If we understand this process as one of progressive spiritual loss we can see that it may be unavoidable from the point of view of the unfoldment of a cycle as it nears its conclusion, but it is no less necessary for us not to get caught up in the external effects of cyclical degradation.

This traces the broad path of what you might call a world cycle, the descent from a spiritual to a material polarisation, with the resulting loss of integrity (meaning here the state of being whole and undivided), and an increasing separation from the originating principle. However to see it uniquely in those terms would be too simplistic, even if, broadly speaking, it would be correct. Superimposed upon the major cycle there are many sub-cycles, and against the prevailing downward trend there appear regular restorations of spiritual order, movements that seek a return to the centre, the appearance of inspired prophets and establishment of divinely ordained religions being the clearest examples of that. There is a general pattern of increasing materialisation, a tendency away from the essential pole and towards the substantial one, like the sand falling through an hour glass, but countering that, though never entirely able to reverse the general trajectory downwards, there are minor cycles within the main one that seek to reorient consciousness to its heavenly source.

So the belief many older people have always had, that the world is getting worse, has some metaphysical justification for it. Even if the conventionally accepted explanation is largely the right one, it is not the only one. Materially there is improvement because that is where human attention is now concentrated, but from a spiritual perspective things are deteriorating as spirit is increasingly veiled by matter. This leads not only to the eventual denial of spirit but also to its misrepresentation, both of which we can see today which is undoubtedly the point in the cycle when it is close to having gone about as far as it can go. From a higher perspective this all follows the natural path of manifestation (which presumably is why it could be prophesied so accurately in various widely separated traditions), and so may be regretted but cannot be regarded as a total deviation. However it is certainly a deviation from truth, and that is why prevailing tendencies must constantly be countered. At the same time, the current condition of the world does not deviate from the expected pattern of a cycle of manifestation, in which the veiling of spirit by matter as the cycle reaches its conclusion is anticipated, and if we can accept this (while never, of course, going along with it) we can save ourselves a lot of pain. It is also true that, even though it is scant compensation for what is neglected or lost, the opportunity now arises to develop previously neglected aspects of the whole which are undoubtedly secondary but still exist.

I say that the cycle has unfolded to the point at which it is near its conclusion, and we can be confident that this is the case because the materialisation of consciousness is almost complete. I mean by this that much of humanity now believes that the outer world is the only real world, the complete opposite of what is actually the case. The sands in the hour glass have practically all trickled to the bottom. There are certainly attempts to restore some kind of spiritual approach but, inasmuch as these are often attempts to revive old forms from which the life has departed, they cannot have a very far-reaching effect. Perhaps they are a reaction to the prevailing materialism, since humanity can never truly lose all contact with spirit, or perhaps they represent intimations of a new cycle. Whatever the case may be, and whatever the effect on those who follow them, the fact is their global effect is limited and they are not going to alter the general trend.  

So what happens next? Well, what normally happens is that the hour glass is turned upside down. One cycle comes to an end and a new one begins. There is a rebirth and a restoration of the correct order of things. How this happens I am unable to say, but traditionally it takes place with a great cleansing of the old, a radical uprooting, and if the hour glass really is turned upside down that would imply the same thing. When it happens I am certainly unable to say, but it may be next year and it may be a hundred years hence or more. All we can do is prepare ourselves for that time by dedicating ourselves to the spiritual path anew each day.

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