Is your religion esoteric or exoteric?

 

For the purposes of this conversation, lets say there are here are two types of religion that can be distinguished, exoteric and esoteric

  • Exoteric religion is the outer form of religion, the unique stories and myths behind each of the great faiths, Chrisitanity, Buddhism, Islam and so on…
  • Esoteric religion is the inner expereinces that one can achieve through the spiritual PRACTICES that are taught by the great religions, and also the less well known ones. Sometimes esoteric religion is termed simply “Spirituality”

Exoteric religion is DIVERGENT. That is to say that generally each of its stories are different. Externally for example Buddhism, Paganism, Taoism and Buddhism all look different. Almost inevitably people who are only familiar with exoteric religion will see their religion as different from and better than other religions. Exoteric religion when misunderstood can  be deeply divisive and result in war, hostility and agression as we all know.

Esoteric religion is CONVERGENT. This means to say that when you study esoteric religion, what you tend to find is common or universal patterns amongst all the different faiths and religions of the world. Esoteric religion, meaning inner spiritual experiences resulting from engaged spiritual practices reveals common, universal patterns that unite and bring together the diverse religions of the world.

Esoteric religion has become known as the “Perinneal Philosophy” or “Perinneal Religion”, meaning the common religion and spirituality that we all share.

What are the basic patterns and insights of the Perinneal Philosophy? Here is a brief summary by Ken Wilber, from his book “Grace and Grit”chapter 11:

“Let me start with a short and simple list. This is not the last word on the topic, but the first word, a simple list of suggestions to get the conversation going. Most of the great wisdom traditions agree that:
1. Spirit, by whatever name, exists.
2. Spirit, although existing “out there,” is found “in here,” or revealed within to the open heart and mind.
3. Most of us don’t realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world of sin, separation, or duality — that is, we are living in a fallen, illusory, or fragmented state.
4. There is a way out of this fallen state (of sin or illusion or disharmony), there is a Path to our liberation.
5. If we follow this Path to its conclusion, the result is a Rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of Spirit within and without, a Supreme Liberation, which
6. marks the end of sin and suffering, and
7. manifests in social action of mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings.

Does a list or something like it make sense to you? Because if there are these general spiritual patterns in the cosmos, at least wherever human beings appear, then this changes everything. You can be a practicing Christian and still agree with that list; you can be a practicing Neopagan and still agree with that list.”

So, which religion and spirituality are you practising? Exoteric or esoteric?

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first!

PS: A brief reminder of this coming Saturday December 11th’s workshop “Three simple steps to managing stress through meditation” Follow the link for full details.

 

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