Esotericism - What Is It?
by Andrew Schneider
The word 'esoteric' simply means that which is inner, contrasted with that which is outer or 'exoteric'. Esotericism is therefore the body of knowledge or wisdom about all aspects of life which are within, behind, or beyond the outer appearance, form, or expression of life's many aspects.
True knowledge or wisdom is not something we can acquire solely by using our minds and brains, learning it in an academic way. It can only be gained by experience. Experience does not imply doing something physically, but rather necessitates a direct contact between one's consciousness and a state of energy. For example, if you meet someone who has just suffered a severe loss and you attune to that person, feeling what they feel, you have an experience that can make you a wiser person, knowing more about the nature of loss and its consequent pain. If, however, you are able to experience that person at a deeper level of being, you will gain the wisdom of knowing the real purpose of the loss and its meaning in that person's life.
To have this deeper experience requires the ability to have conscious awareness of Soul, or Higher Self. To take this example even further, if you have conscious awareness of the Planetary Soul you would be able to experience the person's loss in the light of all losses that everyone experiences and see what place loss has in the unfolding intelligent and loving life of the planet. The wisdom derived from such experience would be very profound.
What is esoteric cannot, as you see, be neatly and simply defined or confined to narrow parameters. There are many levels of what is inner, and many dimensions of energy states that can be experienced.
Behind every phenomenon exists a 'world' of energies. It is energy which produces phenomena or forms when it descends or manifests in the lower three worlds of thought, feeling, and physical matter. Beyond these worlds are other formless but real worlds or dimensions of life energy.
All of that which exists is some type of energy that has its source in ultimate simplicity or purity of formless energy. For reasons beyond our comprehension, we perceive this simple energy manifesting itself by degrees in greater complexity. As it does so, it descends through many levels of expression, first formless and then formed. When it is formed, we experience it with our form nature -- our bodies, emotions, and brain-minds. When it is still formless we can, however, also experience it with the formless aspects of our individual consciousness -- namely our higher minds, intuition, Soul, and Spirit.
Every stepping down of energy from a higher (simpler and more inclusive) state to a lower (more complex and particular/exclusive) state is cause-producing-effect. It is the higher state of energy, being cause, that is the purpose and meaning of every lower state or effect. If we do not relate to or search for the cause, if we do not attempt to experience beyond phenomena, we cannot know the higher purpose or meaning of anything, least of all ourselves.
It is also this level of cause which is the quality of a thing or person. Quantity is a measure of the outer characteristics, such as size, physical features, weight, etc. Quality is an indication of the energy which produces the form. It is through the experience of quality that we are able to direct energy, including our own, and actually become it to the point where we are able to function as conscious causes rather than unconscious effects of life. This ability enhances our power, enables us to love unconditionally, and opens the door to true understanding.
What makes us who we are is our individuality. We usually equate our individuality with our personality (physical body, emotions, brain-mind). The personality is but the outer or exoteric expression of individuality. The Soul is the inner or esoteric expression of individuality. Being esoteric, it is of a higher energy state more inclusive, more creative and causative, and therefore more real and central to our being.
As consciously aware Soul beings, we can and do serve in our capacities as Redeemers, Saviors, and Interpreters. We function as the mediating principle between higher and lower, bringing the energies from higher sources down to earth, anchoring and grounding them. We relate the formless causes to the formed effects; we embrace the form worlds as meaningful creations of our unconditional love, and we bring clarity and purpose to all that happens.
The principal means whereby the higher energies are grounded is by incorporating them consciously in ourselves and expressing them through our thoughts, feelings, and actions as virtues and qualities of being, such as kindness, sharing, sacrifice, discipline, unconditional love, forgiveness, acceptance, patience, etc. -- in short, all quality reflective of truth, goodness, and beauty, producing ever-increasing oneness or unity.
Esotericism as a Way of Life
Esotericism as a way of life is an art. It is the art of living from the inner reaches of one's being. As art it is based on sensitive, intuitive perception, open to inspiration. And as true art it is a creative way of being, expressive of true universality. But it is also a science -- a science of the soul of things. It has its own terminology, methods of procedure, and laws. Esoteric science, for example, reasons from the universal to the particular, as opposed to materialistic, exoteric science which reasons from the particular to the general -- seldom even reaching the universal.
Esotericism involves an effort to live attuned to the inner realities of life. We need to look beyond the quantitative and discover the quality latent within every form. We need to view the apparent meaninglessness of so many events and uncover the meaning behind them. We need to realize that behind every human expression or natural occurrence lies the presence of unconditional love. If we do this, our lives will be immensely enriched, led by the attractive power of purpose which animates every cause and every effect.
To help us live esoterically there are several suggestions that can prove beneficial:
This article was excerpted from the book The Mysteries Revealed: A Handbook of Esoteric Psychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality, published with permission of New Falcon Publications, http://www.newfalcon.com
a. Make a decision to know yourself more in terms of the qualities you are -- that is, discover your uniqueness.
b. Begin a dialogue with your Higher Self, the Soul that you are, to develop discrimination between the personality 'voices' that are limiting and illusory, and that 'still small voice' that is your own inherent wisdom.
c. Conduct a daily review of motives before retiring for the night. Mentally go back over the day (in reverse order, if possible) and acknowledge your motivation in the various things you said or did. Some will have been motivated by selfishness and separatism. Do not label or judge any thought or action as good or bad. The point of the exercise is to become conscious of unconscious motives. By becoming conscious, you increase your freedom and power to choose in the future.
d. Keep a journal in which you make a daily notation about any insights you may have experienced during the day. This practice opens the doorway to further insight gained by intuition and allows the Soul more access to the personality.
e. Practice concentration or focusing the mind. Just as the Soul is the link between life and form, so the mind is the link between Soul and personality. The vast majority of humanity cannot control the mind and direct its searchlight for understanding where it wants. Living more in emotions and the past, the individual usually finds the mind to be controlled or conditioned by these. If the mind is to be the vehicle for higher exploration and deeper penetration, we must learn to control it. We can learn to do this by voluntarily directing our attention to what we choose and holding our attention on it for as long as we decide, always returning to the object of focus when the mind wanders. A simple way of practicing this is to keep your mind on what you are doing.
f. Start a routine of daily meditation.
g. Look for meaningful connections between:
- Apparently unconnected events
- Parts and the whole
h. When you experience something, ask your Self why you are experiencing it -- that is, what is the cause? What is the meaning? What is the purpose? There are many levels of response to all of these questions. Keep asking 'why?' to take you to the limits of your awareness. Do not become overly preoccupied with this exercise as too much questioning will rob you of the enriching possibilities of pure and simple experiencing.