Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Rejection of the Contemporary World

This is another question relating to the Kali Yuga, that intriguing time in which we find ourselves today when so much is brought to the surface and must be dealt with in one way or another. Despite its difficulties we are fortunate to be alive at such a time because it can require us to make real choices and decisions. It is also an excellent opportunity to learn the prized virtue of detachment. When the outer world falls into spiritual disarray it is easier to take one's stand in the eternal.

I say it's a question but it's really more of a challenge. It came from remarks made to me by someone with no spiritual interests, and I include my response here (suitably fleshed out) as many spiritual aspirants can be called to account for themselves in a similar way. The reply is not designed to convert an unbeliever so much to support a believer, and it's the latter I am talking to here rather than the actual questioner.

Q. You don’t seem very happy with the present day. I don’t mean to be rude but couldn’t your interest in spirituality just be part of an escape from the here and now? You may not think much of the modern world but for most people it’s a vast improvement on the past. You might be accused of taking the benefits of 21st century life for granted while criticising what comes with them.

A. Would you not accept that we live in an age in which the divine presence is either denied or effectively ignored? Of course, from a material point of view there have been enormous improvements over the past few centuries and I don’t discount them though I do question if they genuinely bring real happiness. But the point is that no civilisation that does not acknowledge the supreme spirit can last. In fact, not only can it not last but it rapidly breaks down as ours is in the process of doing, though you may dispute that. If you do, wait and see! Our technological achievements over the past few hundred years have been extraordinary but, while they have brought us greater material prosperity and ease, they have also caused a thicker and thicker veil to be drawn over the divine presence. They have made matter more material and desensitised our consciousness. They have separated us from our source and blinded us to the reality of what we are. Be sceptical when people say you can have the wonders of technology and materialistic science and a full spiritual life also. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot have both God and Mammon. I realise that this opinion might put me in a minority, even amongst spiritual people, and I am not saying that we must retreat to the forest if we are to maintain our spiritual integrity. I’m writing this on a computer after all, and I don’t draw my water from a well. We live in the modern world and shouldn't pretend not to. But I do maintain that the spiritual person must be inwardly detached from all the trappings of modernity and see them for what they are, namely the products of a materialistic mindset that both denies and obscures spiritual reality. They are at once the symptoms and the causes (though probably only secondary ones) of the darkening of the world and the solidification of matter.

You talk of an escape from the here and now but if the here and now, in the sense of the contemporary world, is founded on an illusion, which it is, then it’s better not to be a part of it. And if by here and now you do really mean the here and now as in the ever present moment then the recognition of a spiritual reality transcending and underlying the material world takes you into that more fully than restricting your consciousness to this world ever can.

I do agree with those who say that we are living in the latter days of the Kali Yuga, the final phase of a cycle that unfolds from its earliest stages of matter being perceived as the body of spirit that exists for the manifestation of spirit and for that alone, to one in which it is seen as existent in its own right with spirit as either an imaginary and redundant superstition or as an extension of matter with that as the primary principle, the very reverse of the truth. This does not mean that people are in some sense worse today than they were before but that the environment has degraded, spiritually speaking, and that definitely has an effect on consciousness.

However the fact that the Kali Yuga is inevitable, as the time of breakdown prior to the dissolution of this world in preparation for a new cycle, is not an excuse to succumb to the prevailing mores and opinions. Illusion is illusion regardless as to whether it is inevitable or not, and truth is always truth. Besides, what may be inevitable on the universal scale is not necessarily so on the individual level, and it is as individuals that we are called upon to rise out of darkness and bear witness to the truth in times when it is obscured. Hence, while we cannot prevent the way the world is going, we can and should proclaim the true state of affairs to the best of our ability. We must give those that wish to do so the chance to align themselves with reality. We must also allow those that might reject the truth the opportunity to hear it. Their response is up to them but at least they cannot claim they were left without instruction. They have a choice.

So I say, it cannot be helped that the world will fall into materialism. We have to accept that it will, but we do not have to be part of that. Indeed, we are required not to be part of that. That is the test for those of us alive at the present time. To maintain our spiritual integrity during a period when to do that can be to invite ridicule. Maintaining our spiritual integrity means to love God and seek to do His will (insofar as we understand it) even if doing so puts us at odds with contemporary opinion. However we must take great care not do so in a prideful manner, with the attitude that we are the knowers and the rest are lost souls. We must be firm and true and recognise that, yes, there are spiritual laws (meaning modes of being in line with reality), and to follow them is the way to true happiness while to reject them is the act of ego. At the same time, we must not condemn those who do reject them. It is legitimate to point out the truth but we cannot judge or condemn unless we have arrived at a state where we can do so without a scrap of anger or superiority. Too often those who defend what they think of as God’s laws allow their concern for spiritual truth to cause them to hate others who defy and deny it so they fall into falsehood themselves. But just as often those who claim to seek the good of humanity allow that concern to blind them to its greatest good which is the love of God and desire to do His will. In fact, sometimes that claim is merely a front for what is actually a rebellion against God. ‘In His service is perfect freedom’ is one of the highest teachings I know. How does it make you feel to read those words? Humbly grateful or do they engender a sense of resistance?

We may have improved the world in many ways over the last three or four hundred years as a result of scientific advancements and humanitarian philosophies but we have lost the essential which is the sense of a divine Creator and that our origin lies beyond the material world. If we have that sense, we have all we need. If we do not have it then we have nothing, and that is why I am not very happy with the present day.

I should make one last point. Ultimately, of course, questions of the Kali Yuga and the ascendance of the material pole over the spiritual one at this particular moment in history all belong to the realm of duality. From the highest, and fundamentally only true, standpoint there is never any time when God is not all there is. But this is the world we live in, and until we have transcended it (that is, identification with it), and become fully one with spirit we need to understand it so that we can avoid being ensnared by its illusions.

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