Unless we reach the point where we believe nothing except what comes to us through our senses and the intellect, we will be ruled by a compelled belief in some kind of divine source. We have to reach a situation of total materialism order to free ourselves from a belief in the divine that we cannot avoid.
The whole process of human evolution has been geared towards producing a species of conscious entity that can approach the divine but is not compelled to do so. We can either believe in God or we needn't believe in God - it is a matter of our freedom.
That was impossible until we had reached such a point in human evolution that we could actually come to the conclusion that there was no God. If you can't come to the conclusion that there is no divine world, you are not free to choose.
The huge evolutionary step that has been taken over thousands of years in Man's history is that a conscious being now exists in the universe which can arrogate to its own consciousness freedom to decide what is true - to create universes. And this is a perilous and devilish capacity; and is at the same time a capacity that can raise mankind to the level of the gods.
What is the difference between those two possibilities? The difference is whether, in this growth of self-awareness, mankind comes to the realisation that the perceptions of the heart are more fundamental than the perceptions of the brain. That our capacity to know through the heart reaches a more profound and truth-filled level than can be reached by perception, hypothesis and analysis.
Transcribed from a lecture by Stanley Messenger to the Wessex Research Group, probably in the middle 1990s. (For more on Stanley Messenger, see this memorial website.)
The above passage is a very lucid summary of the evolutionary views of Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield; including the way that the necessary materialism of modernity brings us to a fork in the road.
A divergence where one path (which is the one historically and currently taken by The West) leads to a 'perilous and devilish' world (as described by both Steiner and Barfield); and the other path (the 'road not - yet - taken') would leads us towards experiences of higher stages of divinity.
This is our spiritual actuality contrasted with our potential: the actuality is demonic materialism and the inversion of values; the potential is (sometimes) to think and be at the level of 'the gods' (which I take to mean resurrected Men - post-mortal angels) while still in mortal life on earth.
The Good and Loving path is thus necessarily a matter of conscious choice and entails effort, will, work...
By contrast, the devilish path is the default; we take it when we fail to choose; when we are unconscious, passive and absorptive of culture - when we reject freedom and remain unfree.
The Good and Loving path leads to what Barfield termed Final Participation.