Q. You’ve mentioned how we are today more separated from spirit and more deeply entrenched in matter than at any time before as the world moves ever further from its originating point in God and progresses into the Kali Yuga. But is there nothing at all good about the Kali Yuga? It seems strange that God would create a situation that was entirely negative. And on this question of moving, we might say that the world is travelling further from God but isn’t God everywhere so how is that actually possible? Looked at from this way even the Kali Yuga must be part of God.
A. I’ll start with the second part of your question first. Yes, of course, everything is God but there is God as everything and there is God as spirit and matter in which the one is Him in Himself and the other is Him in expression, and the second must be seen in the light of the first to be real. So, in absolute terms we are not travelling at all, and certainly not away from God as that is impossible. But in terms of manifestation which, after all, is the world in which we live, we are travelling away from a connection with unmanifest spiritual life and into increased identification with that in which life clothes itself in order to appear in form.
You might equally well say that the world is a creation of God. It is not God Himself who remains transcendent to it. In its early days it was still close to its Creator but as time passed that connection faded and it became more itself. God is still there as the spiritual force within creation but harder to perceive.
As for the first part of your question about whether anything good can come out of the Kali Yuga, this is an interesting point. As you say, traditional Indian thought posits a descent from a Golden Age, when the gods walked with men and the veil between spirit and matter was thin (a kind of Garden of Eden period), to a time when the gods have departed and humanity loses connection to its source as matter becomes ‘thicker’ or just more material. It’s harder to see through it to what’s behind it. To the point now where the material world is all we recognise. This is called the Kali Yuga. Other traditions have similar beliefs.
Now it may well be that the cycle of manifestation necessarily proceeds in the way it does, going from a pristine original state to increased corruption and decay as it winds down. That may simply be the result of spirit (the real) taking on form (the relatively real). It just is what is. However I think that the Kali Yuga does have a purpose and there is good that can come out of it. At least there is the possibility of good, and maybe even greater good than if it had not occurred. For it is precisely because of the thickening, or coagulation, of the material environment and loss of connection to the soul that human beings can develop two things of great importance to their ongoing evolution. These being a clearly defined sense of self and the power of analytical thinking; that is to say, the mind. It is only as a result of the sense of separation that these two qualities, which we take as defining a human being, can truly develop. Thus only in a time like the Kali Yuga can intellectual knowledge develop the way it has done and the individuality of each person be afforded the value it currently has.
This carries both potential and risk. If the developed mind/self can be subordinated to identification with the whole, with God, if it can forget itself and merge with the Universal Self as the Masters put it, then it can move forward into greater love, greater creativity and more abundant life than would otherwise have been possible. But if it does not do this and remains stuck in itself there is the real possibility that it will become so disconnected from the truth that it will end up a lost soul, leading eventually perhaps, if the situation cannot be redressed, to complete spiritual disintegration.
So you might see the Kali Yuga as a kind of alchemical experiment which provides increased opportunity and increased danger. The closing off of access to spirit as the physical world becomes denser and more opaque allows the incarnate soul the chance to separate out from the group and become a true individual. What it must do then before the process goes too far and individuality begins to set hard is consciously start the ascent back to God (i.e. the process must be self-initiated and self-driven) and finally consciously renounce this individuality for a new and higher realisation of spiritual oneness. In other words, pre-lapsarian Adam can become the risen Christ but only by falling from his state of spiritual innocence and traversing the world of experience first.
Therefore it is in the Kali Yuga that humanity in the mass can develop both a sense of individuality and its intellect, but if the soul does not move on from that self-centred state and voluntarily (through the operation of its God given free will) return these to the Creator then it risks falling into an alienated darkness of spiritual loss and separation. In the Kali Yuga we can rise to a higher state than would have otherwise been possible in more spirit centred times but we can also fall further. We can leave the Mother (a group identification with the material world) and become free individuals, but we must then return to the Father (fully conscious identification with spirit) which we can only do through the sacrifice of this individuality which nevertheless is returned to us, illuminated and transformed.
Looking at the state of the world now it would appear that the omens are not particularly good for an ascent of humanity in anything like a large scale, and it is certainly true that this cannot take place without widespread repentance and acknowledgement of our erring (from the spiritual point of view) ways. But only God can judge the state of a person's heart, and it may be that the increased disorder and breakdown in the world, obvious to anyone who can see beyond surface appearance, will eventually force just such a reaction.