Monday, 18 July 2022

The Temptation of the Esoteric

 Ancient mysteries, hidden secrets, the wisdom of the ancients. Whose imagination isn't stirred by the idea of arcane knowledge preserved from initiates of the distant past? The magic of Egypt, the mysticism of India, the occultism of Tibet can all be powerful drugs to the questing mind seeking to penetrate the veil between this world and the next. It's intoxicating stuff and there undoubtedly is a reality behind it all. It's not just dreams and fantasy. There is a real substance to it. But is it what spirituality is actually about, especially for us here and now in the modern West?

It's just a coincidence but esoteric and exotic do sound very similar. And it's not just the words that are alike. They both conjure up the sense of something fascinating and strange that can open up unsuspected new areas of experience. They can take you beyond the mundane and everyday and give you a feeling of superiority over ordinary people if you explore or even possess them. 

Wise teachers have always warned of the difference between magic and religion. The esoteric, even if it is spiritually focused, has much in common with magic in that it is to do with knowledge and power. It certainly appeals to those who hunger for these things and who may be motivated by that hunger. But I am always reminded of something the Masters said to me. Spiritual truth is simple but it is easy to get lost in philosophical speculations which lead nowhere. And not just philosophical speculations. Anything that is not inspired by the love of God is a spiritual sidetrack, and the esotericist is often a long way from simple faith and worship, using the word worship in what I regard as its proper sense which is loving God.

Everything changed with the advent of Christ. I appreciate this more and more as the world sinks further into spiritual darkness and Christ is neglected not just by the people but often by the churches that preach in his name  Before his time there were many forms of spirituality and they could open doors into the unknown for the qualified initiate. But they did not lead to Heaven. Those who go back to the past without fully accepting Christ are not revivifying ancient teachings that will give them access to the Mysteries. The spirit has departed from them. It was once present but is no longer and though you may be able to recreate a simulacrum of the once living and vital truth embodied by these spiritual forms, you will not find the living truth itself. That is now in Christ.

I don't know much about Freemasonry but I suspect this is why it is condemned by the Catholic Church. No doubt there is a kernel of esoteric wisdom behind its ceremonies and rituals, possibly passed down from ancient Egypt though it will have travelled a long way and perhaps been subject to the Chinese whispers effect. Nevertheless, I expect there is something there. But if Christ is not there, and as far as I can tell he isn't, that renders the whole enterprise suspect. Hidden truth without Christ is not truth. Moreover, in the case of Freemasonry, it has always been too concerned with building a New World Order. There is a definite whiff of the Tower of Babel about it.

I am not condemning the esoteric. We are called to knowledge and we should seek it out. That is our destiny and our spiritual duty. Greater knowledge will enable us to interact with both God and the universe on a deeper level. I myself have explored esoteric teachings for over 40 years as is easy nowadays when so much has been published and made widely available to anyone who can read. But I do say that if we do this we should always do it under the banner of Christ or we risk falling into illusion and worse. 


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - This seems to be one of many questions where *both* of the normally-approved 'optional' answers are wrong: i.e mainstream materialism is wrong to regard the esoteric as untrue nonsense; but also wrong is the idea of many Christians that everything 'esoteric' is demonic.

(Some of these latter Christians regard both CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien as dangerous servants of evil, because they write positively about magic - I have watched several videos and read articles arguing this line.)

The Christian exclusion of everything esoteric (and regarding Christianity as purely belief in external revelation and religious practice, without spiritual knowledge or experience) seems to lead back to a de-spiritualized this-world-materialism and alienation of consciousness, but by a different route.

William Wildblood said...

The materialists are wrong and the fundamentalists are wrong and the occultists are wrong but all in different ways! What is called esoteric is simply reality in its non-material aspect and we should know this just as we should know ourselves. We are the esoteric. But all this for us Westerners should be in the light of the over-arching reality of Christ which will guide us to the truth in a pure form.

Chris said...

"Spiritual truth is simple ....."

If only that were so.

William Wildblood said...

it is so in its basics but not in its details! It means don't get wrapped up in intellectual theorising but think with the mind in the heart.

Chris said...

Hey William,

I believe I understand what you're getting at....

Doctrine is important , but without putting "theory" into practice , it's a waste of time at best, spiritually harmful at worst.

High Atlantis said...

Esoterica is a stepping stone to higher thoughts. Better than media or academia falsehoods. The mind has to occupy itself.

Although I get your larger point about spiritual truth the problem is most modern knowledge has no spiritual core at all. By contrast almost all esoterica has some kind of conceptual ladder that takes one from what is studied on the surface to a Higher Intelligence Agency.

William Wildblood said...

High Atlantis, you say "Esoterica is a stepping stone to higher thoughts. Better than media or academia falsehoods. The mind has to occupy itself." Absolutely! As I say, I'm not condemning esoterica at all. It is, after all, higher truth as far as human beings are concerned. This post is just meant as a warning about the potential pitfall of intellectual pride that the esoteric offers to what I might rather highhandedly call spiritually immature minds.