A number of my recent posts have been about the negative aspects of the modern world. You might think this is due to my age (things were better in the past, grumble, grumble, etc), and I can't be sure that doesn't enter into it somewhere. But the main reason is because the world really is further removed from God and spiritual truth than it ever has been. It's not just down to the nostalgia of someone in his 60s who looks at the past through rosy-tinted spectacles (I certainly don't do that), but reflects the dramatic spiritual decline of the last few decades. If you don't see this decline then you don't understand what the spiritual is. Arguments that point to improvements over this period miss the point. Outer improvements just mask inner deterioration.
When I first decided to spend my life seeking the truth behind religion I didn't pay much attention to the external world. I knew it was materialistic and that was that. I wasn't interested in it. What I didn't realise was how much the world then was still living off its spiritual inheritance. But, as time has gone by, that inheritance is almost spent and the world, even the secular, materialistic world, has changed fundamentally. Therefore I have felt the need to talk about that instead of remaining in my cosy spiritual bubble. The world used to be unspiritual in a passive way. Now, it is actively unspiritual. It was a place that just ignored spiritual reality but still functioned more or less naturally. Now it seems not only to have abandoned God but Nature too, and this has consequences when people begin to take an interest in spirituality. It powerfully affects their approach to it because they are not just starting off from a position of neutrality but one of opposition, and they generally don't realise this so take all their prejudices with them. The spiritual is often seen through the lens of the material or the political or the social or whatever it may be, something that has previously arisen from a purely secular ideology, even an anti-God ideology.
No-one can take to the spiritual path properly who does not start off that journey with a deep and sincere repentance. If we are to know God in any way at all we must acknowledge what a sorry and unholy thing we are without him. We must see that completely and it must leave us with a strong sense of unworthiness. This is not self-hatred but an honest recognition of reality. Without God we are nothing. With him we can become almost anything. But what do we find in spiritual circles now? Many people who seek spirituality do so without repentance. They want to add spirituality to their existing self without seeing that it is the existing self that is the barrier to spirituality. What is required is not just an intellectual appreciation. It must be foundational, reaching right down to the roots of what you are. It's no good becoming a spiritual seeker if you are just pursuing some kind of satisfaction or reward. You must have a profound sense of your own sinfulness but that is hard in the modern world because the modern world does not, for the most part, acknowledge sin except for secular sins, sins against political correctness, and these are transitory things, reflecting temporary attitudes. But sins against God, against truth, against nature, against your true self, spiritual sins, sins that are sins at all times and in all places? Not so much. However, without realising that you have sinned in this way you might as well not bother with the spiritual path. Knowing that you have so sinned is the beginning of repentance.
Just the beginning though. Repentance means you renounce your past self. You do not act from the self in the attempt to become spiritual. You refuse it. This is a lengthy process and means that repentance is not a one-off decision. It must be constantly renewed and it is renewed through purification which is the essential requirement of any real spirituality. To neglect the need for purification means you are a spiritual dilettante.
Purification is cleansing the soul of worldliness. It means seeing the world not in its own light but in the light of God, and it demands a complete reorientation of the mind and its motivations. Do not think that believing in spiritual things means you are a spiritual person. You can only qualify for that description when the prince of this world comes and finds nothing in you. And who would dare claim that? Not me.