THEOSOPHY, Vol. 32, No. 7, May, 1944
(Pages 308-310; Size: 10K)

EXOTERIC AND ESOTERIC

AS the dweller in the body, so is knowledge to the language which speaks it. Words cannot contain wisdom, any more than the form of man can confine his spirit, for all bodies are limitations. Words are lines tangent to the perfect circles of thought. At the point of tangency, the mind can contact both word and idea, line and circle. But how to avoid a fruitless shuttling back and forth on the word-line? How to trace the circle's full circumference, and round out an idea?

The earnest student of Theosophy struggles with the recorded Message, trying to fix meanings, to clarify enigmatical phrases, and to resolve paradoxical statements. At times it seems as if the more he studies, the more do words deceive him. He recognizes the myth of Proteus in a new association. Proteus, a water deity, had the gift of prophecy and also the power of changing his form at will. If those who sought his counsel were capable of being deceived by appearances, Proteus assumed a fearful form and escaped their grasp. But he who was brave and calm enough to hold to his purpose regardless of the god's metamorphoses -- finally succeeded in obtaining the desired prophecy. The theosophist discovers that only by being steadfast in his determination to center attention on ideas -- no matter how they are expressed, and throughout all metamorphoses of word-forms -- will he gain insight into knowledge.

All sincere and studious readers of any holy scriptures are permitted the "valuable privilege of looking for the inner sense." The theosophical scriptures do more than "permit" this privilege: they enjoin the practice. The method of the Teachers, H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge, ever arouses that higher curiosity which urges the reader to look for more than surface-meanings. Learning printed words does not constitute a theosophical education.

Some of the old books distinguish between what are called "Eye" and "Heart" learning, and thus divide seeing externally from knowing interiorly. It is well-known that most ancient religions had two aspects, the exoteric or outer, and the esoteric or inner. The exoteric teaching was that taught to the people, while the esoteric was reserved for the disciples. We are told, for instance, that the writings of Plato are carefully veiled in the symbolical language of initiation. It may be inferred from this that the difference between Plato's esoteric and exoteric doctrines is one of interpretation. To the exoteric reader his words are words; to the initiate, the esotericist, they are symbols of the secret teaching.

Perhaps no Teacher has suffered so much at the hands of exotericists as the Galilean adept, Jesus. His parables have entered the speech of men, but his meaning has not entered their hearts. Theosophy teaches the esoteric character of the Gospels, and restores the lost chords of Christianity. From the legends of the Christ is drawn the moral of the Christos, the "Father within" every human being, and Theosophy further shows the evolutionary process by which all men may attain, as all Saviours have, the stature, nature and dignity of conscious godhood.

From philosophers, poets, thinkers and great teachers, from scientists, agnostics and psychists, from books, doctrines, theories and facts, from her own time, from past history and from pre-historic eras, -- H. P. Blavatsky culled the flowers of genius, tied the perfect blossoms together, and presented men to the secret doctrine, the accumulated wisdom of the ages. Some have argued that Theosophy is nothing new. Thus does the exotericist betray himself as one who looks but does not learn. He who studies from the heart reads the esoteric truth that the string which binds the nosegay is the Sutratman of spiritual knowledge, the "eternal germ-thread" upon which are strung, like beads, the many incarnations of the Wisdom-Religion.

A secret, sacred language was Plato's vehicle for truth. Is the language of modern Theosophy less symbolic? Are H.P.B.'s words to be read as words? Or are the symbols she explains but the words of deeper symbols? Can one really unveil "Isis"(1) for another, or is it that--

Veil after veil will lift -- but there must be
Veil upon veil behind.
Jesus spoke parables to the multitude. To his disciples alone he taught the esoteric doctrine. The mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, he said, are not for "them that are without." Theosophy is a portion of the esoteric science so zealously guarded from the world in past ages. But now that some of the "mysteries" are, as we say, recorded in black on white, is the multitude much wiser, or are they still somehow "without"? And why?

Sacred knowledge is kept from man until he is prepared to deserve it, and strong enough to learn it. However, even when he has the secret teaching before him, and the keys to the mysteries in his hand, he may yet be kept from knowing the Heart Doctrine. External causes may no longer prevent, for he is now an esoteric student; but he finds hindrances within his own nature.

Mr. Judge has written of the Secret Doctrine that its philosophical synthesis is "a thing missed alike by the superficial and the contentious, by the indolent, the superstitious, and the dogmatic." Here is delineated the exoteric attitude, and by reversing the image, we can bring out the esoteric position. Thus, he who looks behind things, people and events to see essences, souls and causes -- cannot be guilty of superficiality. He who attends to the truth in all statements, regardless of their source, and who lays aside prejudices and preconceptions as soon as they are recognized -- soon finds no occasion for contention. He who has intimations of the Wisdom of Life and its Great Goal, who sees the divine power of selfless labor as an evolutionary force -- has passed beyond indolence. He who has a grasp of his own nature, a lien on the godhood within -- finds nothing in life that is fearful, and is no longer a prey to superstition.

For the man who desires spiritual knowledge, or esoteric wisdom, Theosophy points the path. H.P.B. has given many directions for apprehending hidden meanings, and illustrations of and opportunities for esoteric reading occur throughout her works. Mr. Judge has called attention to her purpose and method -- which were also his -- in the series, "Hidden Hints in the Secret Doctrine." Often in his writings he took one of H.P.B.'s phrases and set it to vibrating in his mind, reverberating through his nature, and awakening inner knowledge. "Vibration is the key to it all," indeed, and W.Q.J., in thus demonstrating creative study, rendered not the least of his great services to H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement.

The difference between ordinary seeing and clairvoyance is that in ordinary eye vision the vibrations are given to the eye first and then transmitted to the brain, while in clairvoyance the vibration is communicated to the brain first, and thence to the eye, where it sets up an image in the retina. The distinction between exoteric and esoteric vision may be similarly stated. In exoteric seeing, the brain-mind receives external images, whereas in esoteric vision, the inner light of the higher mind, reflected upon the brain, illumines the thought material which is before the mind's eye. Theosophists know that the eye cannot see, the ear cannot hear, and the brain cannot know, of themselves. It is "the indwelling, informing, hearing and seeing power or being" who is the Perceiver. The perceptions of this esoteric being are what constitute soul wisdom, of which sense-perceptions are but exoteric shadows. Therefore, the esotericist aims to cultivate not the senses, but the realizing sense -- a flame of the fire of spiritual knowledge that burns great ideas into the imperishable soul.



Next article:
Considerations on Knowledge


ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:

COMPILER'S NOTE: I added this footnote; it was not in the article. If it doesn't paint an accurate enough picture, or is incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot it and point it out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Isis" means Mother Nature. So the theosophical book, Isis Unveiled, should be thought of as "Nature Unveiled" or "Mother Nature Unveiled".
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