What Is Esotericism?

Esotericism refers to the doctrine or practice of knowing the mysteries, or to a state or state of being mysterious. The term may merely refer to any knowledge that is secret or reserved. The term esotericism has informally come to refer to any knowledge that is difficult to comprehend or memorize, for example, theoretical physics, or which is related to the minutiae of a specific discipline, for example, baseball statistics, esoteric. Western esotericism, also known as mystery theory, esotericism, or occasionally as the Western Mystery Tradition, is a term used by scholars to classify the broad array of loosely related ideas and movements developing in Western societies.

The idea of bringing a broad array of Western traditions and philosophies together under the umbrella of esotericism developed in Europe in the late seventeenth century. The idea that these diverse movements might be classified together under the rubric of Western esotericism developed during the eighteenth century, but these esoteric streams were largely ignored as subjects for academic inquiry. In Eastern societies, such as Tibet, however, knowledge of the esoteric was known in general, and was not suppressed by the powers-that-be.

Rudolf Steiner, who broke from Theosophy in order to found his own brand of anthroposophy, spoke about the differences among the late 19th-century esotericists; one branch wanted to make esoteric knowledge available to the public, whereas the other wanted secrecy. Rudolf Steiner’s early books, written during the nineteenth century, avoided all references to esoteric themes, but he saw the twentieth century as the dawning of a new era, when spirituality would become more and more central to human development.

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke was critical of his approach, believing it reduced Western esotericism to a casualty of positivist and materialist perspectives during the twentieth century, and thereby reinforced the view that Western esoteric traditions were historically irrelevant. This approach views Western esotericism as merely a variation on the world-wide esotericism at the core of all religions and cultures of the world, reflecting an unrevealed esoteric reality. In other words, Western esoteric studies is mostly about those traditions and ideas which lost their struggle for hegemony over Western intellectual and cultural history. Research is focused on the history of what is called Western esotericism–the usual term for the entire discipline–from the end of antiquity through to the present day, as well as on the complicated relationships between esoteric ideas and the dominant intellectual and cultural histories.

Many scholars of esotericism have become seen by practitioners in the different traditions of esotericism as respected intellectual authorities. The academic discipline of philosophy has not been exclusively concerned with esoteric ideas, but it has been sufficiently concerned that the term philosophical knowledge may usually be used instead of esoteric knowledge when discussing knowledge concerning the same inner aspects listed above. Yes, philosophy, as with any field where humans engage in advanced study, may be highly technical, and the products of its professional practitioners may appear to be esoteric.

Most practitioners of witchcraft are not very knowledgeable about Western esoteric traditions, and many people have never heard that Western esoteric traditions exist.

Some modern teachings have chosen to call themselves forms of esotericism because they focus on inner aspects of experience (such as self-transformation) or the inner meanings of religious texts (such as Esoteric Christianity and the work of G.I. In modern English usage, the term esoteric does not necessarily mean esotericism in its own right, meaning knowledge, discipline, or practice of the inner knowing. The descriptive term esoteric does not necessarily refer to esotericism per se in the sense of esoteric knowledge, disciplines, or practices, and because of that, esotericists usually prefer to call themselves using more specific terms related to their discipline (such as gnostic, Kabbalist, Sufi, mystic, and so on). Many Eastern Esoteric teachings, or Eastern Esotericism, are also called Eastern Philosophy, though, if many Eastern Esoteric teachings are taught, practiced, or reformulated by Westerners, they are usually considered to be New Age, a term coined by Alice Bailey.

Esoteric elements are found in many religions, including the main world religions, such as Christianity (e.g., Gnosticism) and Judaism (e.g., the Kabbalah), and smaller, more mystical NRMs, such as Theosophical society and Golden Dawn Order. While sharing some elements of esotericism, the New Age movement is composed of an eclectic diversity of groups, which frequently borrow, but function as alternatives to, established religions, philosophies, and esoteric/occult practices. New Agers, however, are perhaps more egalitarian than the more narrowly focused Western esoteric groups, such as Christian gnosticism, and they generally share the humanistic belief that there is inherent spiritual potential within all individuals.

Some overlaps between esotericism and mysticism can occur; but many mysticism traditions make no effort to introduce further spiritual learning, rather they try to more intensely focus a believers attention or prayers on an object of devotion.

Esotericism is the multidisciplinary area of spiritual knowledge contained in all religions that deals with principles and qualities of magic and mysticism. Esotericism refers to a range of traditions, philosophies, and practices which are oriented towards human faith, spirituality, and well-being from the inside out. Esotericism refers to a number of traditions, philosophies and practices, that focus inwards on the human beliefs, spirituality and wellbeing. As a broad umbrella term, it is meant to emphasize connections and developments across long periods, from ancient times until modern times, including such diverse phenomena as Gnosticism, Hermetism, and Neo-Platonic theurgy, astrology, alchemy, and natural magic, Christian Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, Christian Theosophy, and Illuminism, contemporary Occultism, spiritualism, Traditionalism, the New Age movement, neopaganism, ceremonial magic groups, as well as many modern alternative spiritualities and forms of folk culture. Now, Western esotericism refers to what we are looking at, it is a term we use to group together specific beliefs, philosophies and traditions.

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