I have been following a spiritual way of life for 42 years now. That sounds rather grand but all I really mean by it is that I accepted the reality of God 42 years ago and have tried to live according to that reality since then. I am painfully conscious of the many ways in which I have fallen short of my aspirations and ambitions, and I understand more than ever now how we are only saved from the sin of egotism and selfishness by the grace of God. We are totally dependent on that. Without it we cannot escape from this world which we carry with us all the time because we are part of it and it, in a very real way, is part of us. But if we genuinely do turn ourselves over to the love and mercy of God then we are saved. I remember reading some time ago a quote from the prophet Isaiah, "All our righteousness is as filthy rags". I was struck by the power of this statement and I recognise its truth more and more. That doesn't mean that we should not try to be righteous (a lovely word, by the way) but we should do it for the love of God not trying to use it as some kind of passport to heaven because it never can be.
All this is a preliminary to what follows. In around 1990 my spiritual teachers told me that we were currently living during a period of greater vulgarity than at any time in the history of our planet. I believe they knew that history and therefore could speak with authority. What on earth would they say now? Most people of my acquaintance genuinely think that things are better than ever today. Only recently I was told that this is the best time to live despite its problems, and this is not just because of greater material ease due to the advantages of a modern technological society. We are kinder, more tolerant and more equal and this makes us better than our forefathers. I don't doubt we are better in some ways but the fact is we are a spirit-denying society and this makes everything about us evil. Yes, I use that word. Not mistaken or in error but evil. Evil is the rejection of God. Certainly it can have more dramatic manifestations as in violence and cruelty but those are just particular sorts of evil. The heart that is closed to God lives as a material being (even if it has some spiritual goals) and this makes it open to all kinds of spiritual (as opposed to material) evil. The behaviour of a material being does get increasingly vulgar (to use the Master's word) because, losing touch with higher reality, it becomes increasingly debased, focused on its material self and the pleasures of that self. Material pleasure is not wrong but it should never be seen as primary let alone all there is. It must always be known in the light of our reality as spiritual beings.
Once you abandon God, you abandon reality. That is what we have done. It explains why the natural way is rejected now and anything that happens to exist in any form is regarded as equally valid as anything else that happens to exist. When the spiritual order, the vertical hierarchy of being, is denied, the horizontal or natural order cannot stand since it has its roots in the spiritual. Now we have no roots. We are blown about in any direction dictated by the worldly powers because there is nothing else against which we can measure truth. We are like corks drifting around on the ocean. Past generations may have lost their spiritual understanding but they still had the worldview built by that understanding and it was the determining part of their experience of what life was. But this worldview has been chipped away at and gradually demolished over the past few decades and the speed of demolition has increased dramatically since the turn of the millennium, coincidentally or not. I feel the solar eclipse in August 1999 marked a definite shift from a time when the old world still had some authoritative power to one in which new ways became completely in the ascendant. They are now the norm.
The only thing we have that is wholly our own is our will, our capacity to make a free choice. This is the part of us that is actually independent of God. That is why what we decide to believe is of critical importance. From the acceptance or rejection of God (and agnosticism is still a kind of rejection) comes everything else. Clearly, it must be a proper acceptance. It must be God we accept not some kind of idea we might have about him, and it must be an acceptance of the heart not just the mind as appears to be the case with so many of the current church leaders whose understanding of God is filtered through a basic worldliness. The present time is the result of a mass turning away of the human will that now seeks its own independent fulfilment rather than fulfilment in God which is the only true fulfilment. The modern world may have been inspired by forces of spiritual evil but it has been chosen by us. We cannot claim innocence. We may have been manipulated and deceived but nothing obliged us to succumb to that. It was a free choice on our part and we will have to live with the consequences of that choice.
Today we are faced with a false good and a true good. The false good is the good of this world. It is political good, humanitarian good. Any good without God. It is the good of the human race considered primarily as human beings and without reference, or with just token reference, to their Creator who is also their properly destined end. It is not just a matter of a different kind of good but of a false good which is actually evil because it redirects spiritual qualities such as love and intelligence into material channels, seeking material good. But it is even worse than that. It is not just spiritually neutral but anti-spiritual. The 20th century was largely spiritually neutral, for the majority of people anyway. The 21st has become anti-spiritual because even the forces that pretend to material good are, as we see now, motivated by hatred and the desire for destruction. We live in a time when evil runs rampant disguised as good. I do not think we can escape this, and even to try to stand against it outwardly, thinking that the tide can somehow be turned, is a mistake. We should always proclaim our opposition to it but not in the hope that this will have any effect other than for those relatively few individuals who look for light in a world of increasing darkness. These are the end times and our hope must be in God and he never fails those who place their hope in him.