Esoteric Christianity &  Esotericism Defined

The Bible itself proves esotericism is the true foundation of Christianity

Here are some short excerpts with supporting Bible verses from Richard Smoley's excellent book, Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition

Figuring things out by yourself
"Rather than being content with secondhand truths, people have begun to ask how they themselves can know the presence of the divine." (Inner Christianity, p.1)

Salvation is boring
[The esoteric Christian goes after enlightenment and spiritual liberation -- not just "salvation".]

Going Within
Knowledge that liberates consciousness is often described as esoteric. …etymologically the word…comes from the Greek esotero, which means "further in." You have to go "further in" yourself to understand what this knowledge is about. (p. 2)

Esotericism teaches that this world within consists of many different levels of being.  Although these levels stand between us and God, they do so not as obstacles but as way stations. Christ said, "In my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). The Greek word here translated as "mansions" literally means "way stations."

Esotericism vs. Mysticism
Esotericism is characterized by an interest in these different levels of consciousness and being. Mysticism is not quite so concerned with these intermediate states; it focuses on reaching God in the most direct and immediate way. The mystic wants to reach his destination as quickly as possible; the esotericist wants to learn something about the landscape on the way. Moreover, mysticism tends more toward passivity: a quiet "waiting upon God" rather than active investigation. (p. 3)

This book [and esotericism investigates] …these different levels between God and the physical realm and to show how you might experience them for yourself. (p.3)

Esoteric Christianity offers the following:

1. A way of self-knowledge - a way, perhaps, to the ultimate knowledge of Self.

2.  A resolution of the age-old dilemma of faith. Faith originally meant conviction or certainty: "Thy faith has made thee whole" (Luke 17:19). But…the term has been watered down into connoting a blind trust in secondhand dogma despite one's own better judgement. For the esoteric Christian, faith is indeed vital, but it is not blind trust; rather, it is "the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Faith in this sense is the conviction, deeply felt and unshaken by whatever the world may say, that something real and vital lies beyond the surface of appearances. In this sense, faith too is a way station. It is the gateway to knowledge.

3.  To Christianity collectively, esotericism offers an outlook that can revitalize the tradition and cut thru difficulties that now seem almost insurmountable. One example is biblical interpretation, which now focuses exclusively on the literal truth of Scripture. [Fundamentalists vs. Moderns, Bible literally true vs. myths and legends] …The liberal perspective…in writing off so much of the central sacred texts of the tradition...tends to weaken and even invalidate the Christian message. The endless debate about the "historical Jesus" versus the "Christ of faith," which has been going on for over two centuries without… resolution…[is the] most obvious example of this impasse. (p.3,4)

Esoteric Christian Tenets (just a few, more to be added)

1.  The Bible is both literal and symbolic
Esotericism…[holds] that the Bible has always been meant to be read on several different levels, of which the literal is only one and in fact the lowest. [Quote from St. Origin] [i.e. the Fall is not a folktale, but symbolic of our human predicament] The story of Christ is not only an account of a historical man but also a figurative representation of the path that each of us must follow to attain liberation. (p.4)

Esoteric spirituality thus differs from exoteric (or outer) religion, which is the form of the faith that is known to the public at large. Esoteric Christianity has long been secret and to some degree inaccessible, but this is not out of a hard-hearted elitism. It is partly because for centuries the mainstream churches looked askance at anyone who did not see divine truth as they did and shunned or hunted down such people. But even in our more open-minded era, esoteric work still requires the effort and sincerity to look within. This is not always pleasant or easy, and the forces of exterior life generally pull one away from it. "Many are called, but few are chosen," said Christ (Matt.22:14). Ultimately this "choosing" is a process of self-selection.

2. Illumination NOW, not Salvation later
Inner Christianity does not deny that there is an afterlife that will be shaped by our actions in the present, but it is less concerned with obtaining salvation in the future than with attaining illumination now.

3. Repentance and Sin not what you think
"Repentance" [which in the bible is spelled] metanoia literally means something like a "change of mind," even a change in attention. [Literally turning toward anothe focus.  Turning away from "sin", that is mistakes, and instead turning within, not outward toward the world]

Inner vs. Outer Christianity
How does inner Christianity relate to Christianity as we commonly understand it? Is it a denomination of its own, a movement within a particular church, or an attempt at reforming the church as it now exists?

The relation between esotericism and exoteric religion is a subtle one. [Exterior, external life, "the world." Legions of religions carping at each other, vs. interior teachings]

Esotericists of different faiths may feel more affinity for one another than they do for members of their own religions who see things only from the exterior. (p.6)

[Because of this feeling of brotherhood between different religions, we have the word Interfaith in our name, Esoteric Interfaith Church]

All denominations have esotericists quietly within their ranks
Those pursuing a path of inner Christianity can be found in all [Christian] denominations, and outside of them as well. This is not because dogmas and doctrines are of no interest to the esotericist, but because no single doctrine ever completely or satisfactorily expresses spiritual truth. … Esotericists have the responsibility of trying to see inner reality as well as they can and expressing it according to the needs and understanding of the time. (p.7)

We are all know this stuff intuitively
More than most forms of discourse, esoteric thought calls upon you to assimilate it, not on the basis of citations and credentials, but by its resonance with your own being. The Gospel alludes to this issue when it says of Christ "that the people were astonished at his doctrine, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:28-29) [Scribes quibble over chapter & verse.] Christ's authority…came from a knowledge that went deeper than the letter of the law. This is what "astonished" the people. At the same time, there had to be some deeper knowing in the people themselves that could recognize this authority, that could hear in it the ring of truth. It is this intuitive knowing (which all of us possess…) (P.7, 8)

Marriage of Heart and Mind
The devotional side of Christianity consisting of prayer, contemplation & mysticism - (the heart, emotions) is necessary on the spiritual path, but it's not enough.

Smoley says, "For the spirit to develop in a harmonious and integrated fashion, the pole of love must be counterbalanced by the pole of knowledge. …. The polarity between love [heart] and knowledge [mind/head] is not a rivalry. These two opposites are like the sexes; they are differentiated to create not strife but dynamism. Left to its own, devotion becomes sentimental and even fanatical, while knowledge becomes dry and pedantic. When the two are connected and integrated, knowledge - which after all arises from a love of truth - begins to feed and delight the heart, which in its turn warms and stimulates the energy for further exploration. A 17th century Englishman named John Pordage expressed this truth by saying that the essence of the esoteric Christian path could be symbolized by the image of an eye in a flaming heart." (P.8)

Esotericism doesn't attempt to "sell Christianity," nor try to bring straying believers back into the fold.

The universal truths of esoteric knowledge are expressed just as much in Christianity as in other traditions; and for many in our culture, these truths will be most clearly and comprehensibly stated in Christian terms. In the current mood of spiritual inquiry and freedom, it may be time to open up the gates of this knowledge for a wider audience.  (p. 9)

If you want to read about or order the excellent book whose Intro is quoted extensively above, click here:  Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition

The Winged Self painted by an unknown esoteric student in the 1930's
The purpose of The Winged Self Symbol is to focus thought in the inner Divine perfection of each individual.
Painting by an unknown esoteric student in late 1930's (this painting is in the New Age Bible & Philosophy Center, 1139 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403, USA)
Source: article in The Winged Self - It's Purpose & Symbology by Rosicrucian Fellowship esoteric students.

Here are dozens of terms Alternative Christians can and do use to describe ourselves.  Can you think of more to add?  Please tell us your thoughts.

• Neo-Christianity

• Alternative Christianity

• Integral Christianity

• Gnostic Christianity, Semi-Gnostic Christianity

• Esoteric Christianity

• Grail Christianity

• Templar Christianity, Templarism

• Magdalene Christianity

• Goddess Christianity

• God & Goddess Christianity

• Magical Christianity

• Occult Christianity

• Pagan Christianity, Christo-Paganism

• Kabbalah Christianity, Kabbalistic Christianity

• Judeo-Christianity, Judeo-Pagan-Christianity

• Primitive Christianity

• Early Christianity

• Buddhist / Taoist Christianity

• New Age Christianity

• Mystical Christianity

Margaret Starbird, a wonderful friend of our work and this website, describes a Christianity of  "divine partners in loving union."  A Church of Sacred Union, would be a Church she might enjoy.

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