What is Esotericism?
Philosophical or religious knowledge arises from two different lines of thought, which are complementary, not opposite. One way of describing these two aspects is to think of them as inner and outer teachings: exoteric and esoteric. Thus, Pythagoras communicated an exoteric teaching to all of his students, which he supplemented, orally and secretly, with inner and esoteric teachings restricted to rare and advanced disciples.
The writings of Plato that still exist today express only the exoteric part of his doctrines, while his esoteric philosophy may be deciphered by reading the Neo-Platonic texts “between the lines.”
The advice Jesus Christ gave to his disciples, “Do not throw pearls before swine” (Matt VII-6) shows two post-evangelical lineages: the first one can be found in the official churches and the second one can be called “Gnostic.” The latter was often persecuted. St. Paul warns the Corinthians, “It is milk which I have given you to drink, not solid food; for you could not digest solid food yet, because you are still carnal.” (Corinthians 3:2-3). Paul of Tarsus thus distinguishes between “beings of flesh” and “spiritual men”. It is this same distinction that we are now formulating as exotericists, (carnal men) and esotericists (men of spirit).
The notion of “esotericism” (or “sacred mysteries”) is composed of three steps which correspond to three difficulties to overcome:
The three steps:
• What we receive in silence
• What is forbidden to talk (openly)
• What is difficult to speak about.
The three difficulties:
• Objectivity associated to an esoteric belief
• Imperfect training of the student
• Difficulty to explain an inner spiritual experience. (That explains the use of myths and symbols.)
To take advantage of the esoteric knowledge, it is necessary to be worthy and well trained. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin divided men into three classes:
- The Men of the Torrent are by far the most numerous (also called laypersons). They are reluctant and skeptical about esotericism, have no interest in it or make fun of it.
- The Men of desire are those who are “called” by the esoteric quest. They are those who “have ears to hear and eyes to see.” As you begin this initiatic journey, you are in this group of “beings of desire.”
- The Men-Spirits are the Masters, the prophets, those Esotericism led to the ultimate summit of Knowledge.
What is the origin of this distinction into three groups? The origins are multiple. As you continue your study and initiation, you will find deep reasons which will lead you to consequences, which will be of the utmost importance.
For now, remember that progressively you will feel more and more united with your spiritual guide. First by trust, then by mutual sympathy, which will become a noble friendship that flourishes in mutual brotherhood.
You will get the greatest benefit to meditate the following sentences:
A - If the real meaning of life is invisible and elusive, only your mind in a state of perfect simplicity can do it when he contemplates the central point where the opposites are resolved in a perfect balance. (Y-King)
B - Wisdom yells in public spaces, and what it yells is that it lives on the tops. (Master Eckhart)