Bruce Charlton recently pointed me towards an article by the philosopher Jeremy Naydler in which he describes what he calls the emergence of the Eighth Sphere. This is based on an idea of Rudolf Steiner's concerning the evolution of the Earth. The details are complicated but for our purposes here one just needs to know that, according to Steiner and other esotericists too for that matter, our planet has descended from a pure spiritual state to ever denser forms in which matter has 'hardened' until we have arrived where we are now. This all accompanies, indeed it facilitates, the evolution of consciousness which gradually separates out from unconscious oneness with the whole to a more individual form before returning to the source but with the fruits of the journey which would include freedom and creative ability.
This is broadly in line with what I believe though my belief takes a simpler form. The whole spiritual path concerns re-ascending from matter to spirit though life first had to be brought to the point at which it could do this of its own volition and in full consciousness which means the descent to matter was all part of the evolutionary journey. There would have been times in the distant past when a form of materialism was actually conducive to overall evolution. One can see the mystery of sex as part of that. These times, needless to say, are long past and any return to those ways is atavistic in the extreme.
Now is the time of greatest immersion in matter. It's the nadir of the arc which means reascending is critical. However, it is not inevitable. The reascent can take place either individually or collectively. It should take place on both levels but we can only control the former. This is now an extremely important time in the ongoing evolutionary cycle of the Earth. If enough people reject materialism and turn to the divine we, the human race and the planet as well, can begin to spiritualise ourselves. The environment will respond to that and change, becoming more rarified. On the other hand, if we, or enough of us, do not do that the descent will continue until in Naydler's words 'a "body of slag" will be cast off from the Earth as the latter transitions to a higher spiritual state". What this implies is a kind of split in planetary consciousness with those who are open to God ascending in one purified planetary environment while those who cling to their materialistic ways will descend to a more materialistic, denser environment that reflects their own consciousness. It is a parting of the ways. What matters here is not simply a matter of good and bad as we consider those qualities now. Selfishness is certainly part of it but it is also a materialistic attitude to life. Many who see themselves as upright decent citizens will descend if they remain closed to God. Some sinners will rise if they are sincerely open to God.
Think of human life as a stream moving towards a rock. Part of that stream will go to one side of the rock and continue on its way to the sea. The other part will go to the other side and enter a crack in the ground from where it will descend to a subterranean lake. The rock is becoming visible. We need to start getting ourselves in place so that we do not consign ourselves to the body of slag for note this. Nobody or nothing does this to us. Our own consciousness will determine our external environment.
Slag is the waste product that is separated out from metal ore when it is refined. It is a chilling description for human souls that don't make the grade but while God is love he is not sentimental. The essence of the human condition is that we are free. If we advance a small way towards God he will come a long way towards us but we have to make the initial approach. If we don't we cannot be forced. I would not compare the body of slag to hell, though it may be hellish, because I believe that there will be opportunities to rise again even from that state. But it will be much harder. Souls that find themselves there will be that much further separated from real goodness and truth. Everything will be heavier, darker, duller. The time is coming when the rejection of God will have profound consequences.