Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Can there be Esoteric Knowledge?

Parallel to the standard 'exoteric' view of the state (whether of the established church, or of established science), there have long been other esoteric views about mind, spirituality and religion, that have been somewhat different, even radically different. Most of us feel that we are party to one or more of these esoteric perspectives, and, of those, most will also feel a considerable tension between these rare beliefs and those of our universities, industries and government. Furthermore, there are many apparent discrepancies between different esoteric schemes.

Our challenge is unify the inner and the outer, to find our integrity again. We have to creatively resolve, especially within ourselves, the tension between the disparate elements. Standard views will have to be considerably extended, and the esoteric themes will have to be developed into considerably more detail.

Fortunately, we have at least a few illustrious predecessors who give us indications of the way this could possibly be done, by telling us how they resolved these tensions. Here,  I begin with Emanuel Swedenborg.

From different religious and esoteric traditions, we hear general concepts such as that

  • ‘Humans are created in the image of God’, and
  • ‘As above, so below’,

but is there sufficient detail here? It is clear that if we are to develop a new science from these views, then we need considerably more detail about one or more of ‘God’, ‘above’ and/or ‘below’.

For example, if our principal view of the Divine as ‘an unknowable unity’, then it is not clear how to carry on to make a science. Conversely, if we view God as having arbitrary omnipotence, then ‘anything is possible’, and again a rational science is difficult to imagine. Alternatively, we can speculate endlessly, with enormous variation, to form rational schemes which describe the essential features of our physical world combined with some new spiritual features. To induce specific, workable and useful knowledge, I believe that we need some guidance from someone who already knows. Otherwise we are guessing in the dark.

Thus, again we are obliged to consider the knowledge and wisdom of some of our predecessors. We may consider this either as inspiration or revelation, but, whatever the source and whatever the means, we have to decide of ourselves which to consider. In this blog I am trying to develop and apply the knowledge presented by Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg is particularly useful because of his position as ‘rational visionary’ within the Western Christian tradition. Not that he leaves this tradition unchanged, but that, more clearly than does Plotinus for example, he explains in much detail the visionary and mystical contents of many of the outer forms of Christianity.

Are the ideas of theistic science common knowledge? Or are they esoteric? Are they part of ‘science of consciousness’? In the past, only those with esoteric interests have found these ideas. They are commonly only found by going beyond ‘literal meanings’ of religious, to various esoteric texts. But what we want should not be esoteric, but common knowledge! They should be part of everyone’s knowledge who is interested. Just as science is today: so they should be part of science, namely the science of consciousness.

Furthermore, they should not be esoteric because we are somehow ashamed of the new theories. We should be able to tell them to our neighbors without belittling them or their everyday efforts to be friendly, faithful, loving and useful.

We may intuitively agree with the above principles. But Swedenborg gives reasons for them all. Let us follow these reasons, and develop a theistic science to see what must be in the ‘science of consciousness’ for these principles to hold.


  1. What are some examples of science being done with theism in mind?

  2. What are some examples of science being done with theism in mind?

    Might this be one example: "...develop[ing] a theistic science to see what must be in the ‘science of consciousness’"?

  3. There are many scientific research activities which I think can and will fit into theism, but have the feature that the scientists involved in these topics do not see themselves as within theism. At leasta in their papers they would never mention theism, even if they believed it privately. It is similar to biologists being only skeptical of Darwinism in private, not in print.

    The Thomists within Catholicism seem to be trying to work within theism, but I am not sure they are entirely successful. More explicit references to theism exist within counseling and psychotherapy. It is there within Alcoholics Anonymous. I see much within marriage counseling, especially when linked to Christianity.

    Part of the problem is that, though many people are working in their 'small area', they do not have an overall framework in which to place their work. That is why I have written my recent book.

  4. Thanks. That makes it clearer - from AA and marriage counseling I see what you are getting at - science where the scientist actually uses God directly. I wonder if any scientists pray for guidance. I would expect lots do.

  5. I am sure some do, but many do not require consistency between that prayer and their own scientific thought.