“Spiritual Degeneration” is something which can be taken either very specifically or very generally. I have previously, in Part 3, spoken of the relevance and very realness of the spiritual realm, so if the reader is of a more rationalist or empiricist type, then I advise you to look there before seeing this as a wasted effort. As said, we must deal with both broad and specific definitions for “Spiritual Degeneration,” both of which at a later point become one. To do this I must, generally, focus on what I see within the civilization of which I am a part of. For readers not of my culture, I’m sure that if you looked within your civilization – if it is of a modern type – you will be met with a familiar picture, no matter where you are geographically.
Broadly, as touched upon in Part 4, mankind has collectively shifted from quality to quantity. This has happened on the material plane, as already covered; but also on the spiritual plane. The spiritual plane is distinguished from the material plane by essentially being a world of “principles,” “ideas,” “concepts,” “abstractions,” and so on; where the material is a world of the physical manifestations of these things: the material plane is a world of “things,” “people,” “matter,” “reality,” et cetera. So; where politically – materially – ideas such as borderlessness and mass socialism, for example, exist – the political application of the power of the masses, quantity over quality, anti-elitism, and so on – there is the spiritual counterpart which essentially follows the same essence of the collective politicking, but operates on the individual level.
A good example of the individual’s spiritual degeneration, in fact the most obvious example, is the change in individual man’s connection to God, to transcendence, to spirituality in general, over the ages. We, in the West, live under atheism, under nihilism, which is a far cry from previous forms of human civilization. Again, this degeneration over the ages is a very broad phenomenon, and both the material and spiritual sides of it interplay and are very much connected.
To pick, for instance, on a particular spiritual path which has degenerated, one could point a finger at Buddhism. In older times, Buddhism was seen as a warrior’s religion, where through a process of utter self-discipline and self-slavery the individual would carve down into his self, cut through his consciousness and awaken his True Will and achieve a level of being called “enlightenment.” The monk/ascetic would completely detach himself from normal, samsāric existence via a process or state of mind called “vivekka,” where he would be utterly immune to the development of ego. To quote the Buddhist Pali canon:
To persevere steadfastly without wavering, the mind clear and unbewildered, the senses tranquil and undisturbed, consciousness concentrated and unified.
With tireless and unremitting energy, with knowledge present and unshakable, with serene, untroubled body, with consciousness concentrated and unified.
To persist alone, detached, tireless, strenuous, with fervid, intimate earnestness.
The ascetic has given up worldly craving and now rests with his mind free from craving, he purifies his mind of craving. He has given up hate and now rests with his mind free from hate, he purifies his mind of hate. He has given up inertia and accidie; lover of the light, clearly conscious, he purifies his mind of inertia and accidie. He has given up pride and restlessness, with his mind inwardly tranquil he purifies his mind of pride and restlessness. He has given up wavering, he has crossed over from doubtful uncertainty; he has no doubts about what is beneficial, he purifies his mind of wavering.
Need I even begin to compare this doctrine with the modern, Western interpretation of Buddhism which focuses on “love,” “tolerance,” “compassion,” and so on? As someone who has family involved in Western interpretations of Buddhism, I can say very clearly to the reader: the vast majority of Western, modern “Buddhists” are well-intentioned, moral people, but they do not understand Buddhism or its more esoteric, “serious” aspects at all. Buddhism has devolved into a social cult as modern Westerners, hungry for some source of spirituality, have latched onto something which seems approachable and simple. It is deplorable, but unsurprising.
The spiritual state of the West has degenerated to the extent that many Westerners are looking outwards into other parts of the world for their spiritual needs. Western converts to Islam are becoming more and more frequent, as are converts to Buddhism, Sikhism, and various pagan sects and cults, as Christianity has essentially committed suicide in the West. An in-depth exploration into that will happen at another time.
One of the main troubles is how modern Westerners treat everything in rational, scientific terms and measures, and this even extends into spirituality. The mixing of physics and metaphysics is a great tragedy of our times. As one would try and fail to measure time with centimetres, or weight with the speed of sound, so one would try and fail to understand philosophy using politics or spirituality with science. I have already explained how metaphysics operates outside of space and time, anterior to its material manifestations.
The individual in the modern world sees nothing beyond his own there-and-then self; nothing to aim for. Self-overcoming or transcendence are forgotten ideas to the majority of people, let alone achieving a collective social order which also does this; which aims upwards. It must also be kept in mind that we are not speaking of worldly goal-setting, which itself is not a degeneration, but it does become so when goal-setting is for its own sake and remains on the worldly plane.
Why would a man strive to attain peak physical condition? For women? For ego? Nonsense. A man would strive to attain peak physical condition because he is a man; he exists; he is real; he is absolute in his essence and demands of himself godliness wherever he can hope to attain it. Excellence is not a consequence or an end-goal, but a process; a style, whereby man aims to punch above his own weight in everyday life and constantly, untiringly, overcomes himself. When this is put into a traditional perspective, the collective follows suit; not the other way around.
In a traditional collective, man is great, but so are all men. Not because the culture or society demands it, but because he, the individual demands it. Thus the collective is made of great individuals. Under the modern collective, it is the social and cultural; the external, which dominate man’s life. He does things to serve outside causes and goals, and this may well result in a level of greatness – but greatness in this respect is a consequence, not the cause as it is for traditional man. Greatness is what the Gods are made of and what they demand, thus, no man is able to excuse himself from the duty of making his existence truly his and his alone via willpower and the urge to overcome; to, again; transcend.
Again, I will repeat; the shift has happened: mankind collectively has moved from looking upwards to looking downwards; from focusing on quality to focusing on quantity; from being exclusive to being inclusive; from becoming great to renouncing the very concept of greatness.
Further words are needed here, but the next part will bring what has been said so far to the personal level which can be accessible to the reader for use and realization in daily life.