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Esotericism (from the Greek. Esoterikos - "internal") or esotericism - a set of secret knowledge about the mystical essence of various objects (man, society as a whole, the planet, the Universe, etc.), accessible only to initiates, i.e. to a narrow circle of people who are able to perceive and store the mentioned knowledge. Esotericists pay special attention to the study of the relationship between the processes taking place in the depths of the human soul, with the perturbations taking place in the Universe.
Esotericism, which originated in ancient times, is not a single tradition, but a combination of individual groups, movements, schools of spiritual development, providing adherents with a set of different methods of self-improvement (sometimes not similar in anything, or even diametrically opposite to the ignorant observer). However, despite the aforementioned variety of methods, the goal of all these disparate groups and trends is the same - a conscious transformation of the personality, as a result of which it becomes possible to expand the essential worldview of an individual.
Esotericism and exotericism are synonyms. Completely erroneous opinion. The term exotericism (from the Greek exoterikos - "external") - usually denotes a generally accessible teaching (philosophical or religious) intended for a wide range of listeners (readers), while esoteric texts were intended only for initiates.
The division into esoteric and exoteric knowledge is characteristic of modern European philosophy. Yes it is. In Europe, the term "esotericism" was first used by the historian Jacques Mate (France), who in 1828 published his "Critical History of Mysticism". Later, many European philosophers and occultists (D. Toland, A. Besant, H.P. Blavatsky, Dion Fortune, etc.) used the above terms. However, the opposition of esotericism and exotericism (exotericism) is also found among the ancient Greeks (for example, in the work "Auction of life" ("Vitаrum auctio") by the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, who lived in the 2nd century AD).
Aristotle's teachings were divided into exoteric (open) and esoteric (closed, to which only some students had access) parts. Aristotle did indeed use the term "eksoterikos" (exotericism), but opposed it not to esoterics, but to "akroamatikos" (translated from Greek - "oral instructions").
Esoteric knowledge in ancient times was called "hermetic" because it was jealously guarded by adepts, and was inaccessible to ordinary people. This is not entirely true. Our ancestors called the secret knowledge "hermetic" (and not "hermetic"), since the treatises containing the mentioned knowledge were called the "Hermetic corpus" (from the Latin "Corpus Hermeticum"). The author of the aforementioned set of treatises (according to some sources there were 18 of them, in others 40 works are mentioned) Hermes Trismegistus (Three times the greatest) is considered - a deity who was the patron saint of sciences and magic, and who combined the features of Thoth (the god of wisdom and knowledge, revered in Ancient Egypt) and Hermes (patron saint of travelers, merchants, magicians and astrologers in Ancient Greece).
Church leaders did not study esotericism. Misconception. For example, the famous German Protestant historian in his works "History and Description of Theosophy" (1702) and "Impartial History of the Church and Heretics" (1729) characterizes in some detail Theosophy and heretical movements of Christianity, while describing a system of knowledge that modern researchers classified as esotericism.
The study of esotericism in the West has been engaged since the mid-60s. last century. It is believed that the beginning of the academic study of esotericism was laid by the research of the cultural historian of the Renaissance, Francis Yates (England). Her work "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Traditions" was published in 1964. However, it should be borne in mind that even before that Western scholars paid attention to the study of esotericism. Their works were published much earlier. For example, Karl Kiesewetter's "History of Modern Occultism" was published in 1891, and the work of Auguste Viat - in 1928.
Universities do not pay attention to the study of esotericism. Until the 60s of the last century, little attention was paid to the study of esotericism in universities. It was only in 1965 that Henri Corbin (Islamic scholar, researcher of Shiite gnosticism and Sufi mysticism) proposed to create in the Sorbonne (France) the Department of the History of Christian Esotericism. Since 1979 (it was at this time that Antoine Fevre, an esotericist and traditionalist came to the department), it was renamed into the department "Histoire des courants ésotériques et mystiques de l'Europe moderne et contemporaine" ("Histories of esoteric and mystical teachings in Europe of the modern era and modernity ").
Twenty years later, the Department of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents was created at the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) (History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents). There are also emerging academic communities dedicated to the study of esoteric knowledge, such as the "European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism", founded in 2005, "The Association for the Study of Esotericism", abbreviated ASE ( "Association of Researchers of Esotericism") USA, "Association of Researchers of Esotericism and Mysticism" (AIEM), uniting researchers from Ukraine and Russia since 2009, etc. It should also be mentioned that there are many publications and periodicals (for example, "Aries" - a scientific journal published in the USA) devoted to esotericism. International scientific conferences, etc. are held in many countries of the world.
There is a constant confrontation between representatives of various esoteric schools. Indeed, there is a confrontation between various societies that call themselves "esoteric". The reason for this state of affairs is that, firstly, many people who consider themselves to be esotericists and form societies, in fact, do not have access to truly esoteric knowledge, and they study only publicly available literary works in which the said knowledge is either considered superficially, or strongly distorted. Secondly, in books knowledge (even true) is set out only partially, a deeper comprehension is possible only under the guidance of an experienced teacher, initiated into one or another tradition and mastering the art of transmitting information "from heart to heart." Otherwise, misunderstandings and distortions of information are possible, which subsequently result in irreconcilable confrontation with representatives of other esoteric societies. It should be remembered that people who learn the secrets of the Universe not from books, but under the guidance of experienced teachers, will never have a negative attitude towards another esoteric school, since they know that mystical experience, even obtained in different ways, is essentially the same. After all, the fundamental structure of the universe and man is invariable, which means there is nothing to argue about.
Esotericism is opposed to religious teachings, in particular Christianity. Yes, on some issues, religious and esoteric worldviews diverge. However, a large part of esoteric philosophical views are drawn from the same sources that served as the basis of early Christianity. In addition, it should be mentioned that within the framework of many mystical traditions and religious movements (mainly Eastern), esoteric practices have been preserved that are available to a limited circle of adepts and are most often of an applied nature. An example of this kind of practice is, for example, Sufism (from Arabic Suf - "wool") or tasawwuf, which is a mystical current in the Islamic religious tradition, neidan (translated from Chinese - "inner elixir") or inner alchemy in Taoism, yoga in Hinduism, dzogchen (translated from Tibetan - "Great Completion") or Zen (from Sanskrit dhyana - "contemplation, meditation") in Buddhism, Kabbalah (translated from Sanskrit "tradition, reception, acceptance") in Judaism and etc.
The information presented in esoteric works can be mastered independently, and in a very short time. Firstly, esotericism is a complex and multifaceted system of knowledge about the fundamental principles of being, the structure of the Universe and man, therefore, one should not hope to master any, even not the most voluminous, work on this topic from the first reading. Really deep comprehension of the mentioned science does not even take months - years, and then provided that a person has the ability to assimilate knowledge of this kind. Secondly, books often contain only a part of the information, in some cases - in an allegorical form. Therefore, to comprehend some aspects of knowledge mentioned in certain treatises, one needs one's own meditative experience. Training of this kind is effective only if it takes place under the guidance of an experienced mentor who has received initiation into the esoteric tradition and has the ability to track the correctness of the work of a student who comprehends esoteric knowledge.
A person who has begun to comprehend esotericism immediately gets rid of any negative character traits. Firstly, in order to get rid of certain negative character traits, one should recognize their presence in oneself, and many people simply do not notice their own shortcomings. And without timely instructions from an experienced teacher (in whom they should have confidence), they can remain in the dark about certain properties of their personality for many years. Secondly, in order to change oneself (not by restraining negative emotions by willpower, but by melting them into positive qualities of character), remarkable perseverance, willpower and the desire for self-improvement are required. But even if you have all the qualities mentioned, the changes will not be instantaneous - it will take years of hard work on yourself.
First of all, people involved in esotericism seek to develop some special abilities (to open the "third eye", to learn lucid dreams, etc.). After all, the emergence of these skills is an indisputable indicator that a person is successfully mastering and putting into practice the knowledge he has acquired. Firstly, the acquisition of special abilities (called "siddhas", translated from Sanskrit - "perfection") is not an end in itself, and in some cases it is even recognized as superfluous and unnecessary, since a person, carried away by his paranormal abilities, can forget about the true goal of self-improvement. Secondly, the mentioned siddhis appear on their own in the process of mastering esoteric practices, therefore there is no need to strive to develop this or that ability at the initial stages of comprehending secret knowledge. In addition, it should be borne in mind that some abilities (for example, the ability to be aware of oneself in a dream or to see the aura of living beings) may be innate, and in this case, one cannot testify about any success of a person in mastering secret knowledge.
Esotericism can be easily recognized in a crowd by its special appearance (glowing eyes, special gait, etc.). Not always. People who have advanced far along the path of attaining secret knowledge gain complete control over themselves, in particular, they can correct external manifestations and look the way they are comfortable or necessary in a particular situation. Therefore, if an adherent of esotericism wishes to get lost in a crowd of ordinary inhabitants, he will be able to do it quite well, and even a person with well-developed extrasensory abilities will not be able to detect him.
Esotericists never get sick. Yes, if a person who began to comprehend esoteric knowledge initially had good health (both physical and mental), and was also a happy owner of an agreeable character, was able to forgive insults, etc. If there were any diseases or "distortions" in the perception of reality, at the initial stages of training, a person will most likely have to go through a period of purification (when diseases for a short time are aggravated, and character flaws are manifested brighter than ever). If the student has patience, then later he will be rewarded with a clear improvement in health and strengthening of immunity. Indeed, most often the causes of the disease are various negative character traits, as well as experienced nervous shocks that destabilize the energy component of a person (which subsequently leads to a decrease in immunity and various ailments). However, it should be remembered that the period of purification can last from several months to several years, and in some cases, when moving to a deeper level of comprehension of esoteric knowledge, it can be repeated.
An exoteric cannot be an esoteric, and an esoteric is unlikely to perform exoteric rites. The open and secret canonical forms are closely interrelated, and are not at all mutually exclusive. Therefore, esotericists of a high level can fulfill the prescriptions and rituals of a particular religion (only with a deeper understanding of the true meaning of certain words or actions), and exotericists can be versed in esotericism.
Astrology and magic are components of esotericism. There is no consensus on this issue. Some researchers classify theosophy, astrology, numerology, palmistry, reiki, chinnelling, feng shui, I-ching, bioenergetics, ceremonial magic, etc. as esoteric directions. Others distinguish between the true (the goal of which is to develop and improve the positive qualities of the individual, harmonizing the relationship of a person with society, himself and the Universe as a whole) and false (having mastered the methods of which a person can harm other people and society as a whole) esotericism. The first direction includes some philosophical movements (Sufism, yoga), close to the sciences of the field of knowledge (astrology, palmistry, graphology), religion (Taoism, Buddhism), some types of oriental martial arts (aikido, karate, etc.), white magic ... Black magic is referred to the sphere of "false" esotericism. Still others believe that, firstly, only a small part of occult and magical teachings are related to esotericism. Secondly, some areas of knowledge are not components, but derivatives of esotericism (for example, astrology was formed on the basis of the esoteric practices of ancient Babylon).