When, many years ago now, I first became interested in spiritual matters my main focus was mysticism. I was drawn to the mystical teachings of all religions and wanted to know that of which they spoke for myself, what I suppose you could call the state of transcendental awareness in which spirit infuses one's whole being. To that end I sought to dedicate myself to the interior path of contemplation, practised meditation and more or less abandoned the ways of the world. I lived in India for several years on a quiet hilltop and even when I returned to Europe led a quasi-monastic existence.
All that changed in 2000. I went back into the world and have led a much more conventional life ever since. The spiritual path is still central to my existence but the focus has changed and this, I believe, is more generally true as well. Now, things that interested me in the past, meditation, mysticism, esoteric teachings and the like, are less important. They still interest me up to point but in these times I believe the heart of religious life has become something very simple. It is a question of discernment.
The world has entered into a phase of full-on materialism in which even religion, as conventionally understood, has been absorbed by the prevailing ethos. Today the task of the spiritual person is just to be on the right side which is the side of God and Creation as absolute realities. The world is working to deny both and is sweeping everybody up into that denial. If you are to be perceived as a good person in the eyes of the world, you must deny the realties of God and Creation. Of course, you can pay lip service to them but as words only, concepts which take second place to the world. So, the discernment I speak of can be expressed as the discernment between the truth of God and the lies of the world. Or, to put it in a very simple form, between good and evil.
Good is what is allied with the truth of God and the reality of the principles of creation. Evil is what works against those things even if it is presented as good which it generally is nowadays. Gone is the time when evil was obvious. Now, it often comes in a pretty package and only those who see past appearance will be able to perceive the rotting corpse within.
"He who is not for me is against me". Once again, a very simple and clear-cut message which tells us that neutrality is not an option. This is more true now when things are coming to a point than it ever has been. The decent agnostic is a spiritual failure. He has not made the decision to open his heart up to the truth of Christ and, in so doing, he has essentially rejected and denied the truth of Christ. He may not be a bad in a moral sense but evil is anything that works against, or even not with, God and the principles of creation.
Today correct spiritual practice has been boiled down to its basics. You don't have to go to church or spend long hours on your knees or in meditation. It is merely a matter of being on the right side. That doesn't mean you can believe and carry on sinning. If you do that you clearly don't believe. You can fall short and we all do but you must try not to and always you must repent your failures and start again with good intent. But what matters more than anything else now is that your heart is in the right place which means wholly oriented to the reality of God. Note, I say the reality of God. It is not enough to go along with the concept of God. After all, many people do that and remain worldly people. But today the world and God are enemies and you are required to see that and to act on what it means. It means reject the wisdom of the world and not in part but in full. Only those who do will be saved from spiritual corruption.
Added note: I did not make the point of this post as clear as I could have done. It is that the mystic who lacks spiritual discernment, and a surprising number do, can easily be drawn into the snares of this world. If you undervalue the reality of creation and think that truth is 'beyond good and evil' you will inevitably be taken in by evil. Truth is the good and to miss this is one of the penalties of pursuing what one might call abstract spirit.