The modern world, for all its rhetoric about privacy and self-determination, cannot tolerate secrecy. This goes double for anything that is ‘secret’ by its very nature, which is to say, anything that is the exclusive possession of a minority simply because the majority cannot comprehend its meaning. Anything that claims to be beyond the reach of ‘the average person’ is rejected or suspected, and this follows naturally from the unnatural dogma of equality with which this civilization is enamored. For this reason, the term ‘esoteric’ has taken on a mostly pejorative meaning. At its most basic level it refers to knowledge that is beyond the reach of all but an elite. In the West it is used to describe the beliefs held by ‘secret societies, or else the vague spiritual notions of various ‘new age’ groups. All of this is assumed to be mere quackery, because after all if legitimate knowledge were in question, then everyone would have already accepted it. Legitimate knowledge is common knowledge. That is how democracy works: that which is true is that which is acceptable to the majority. Everything else if fringe.
In other words, it is not generally believed that a form of knowledge that is beyond the reach of almost everyone can be valid. Such a stance is obviously absurd, of course, and that is why it is not openly preached but is more an unspoken presupposition. Such an attitude could only persist due to the denial of reality as we find it, since that reality displays vast divergences in mental and physical aptitudes between individuals; add to this the fact that even if all mental aptitudes were the same, observation would attest that very few people show any desire to cultivate the capacity for thought they actually have; on the contrary it seems that most people harbor an aversion to thought that, even if understandable, is irremediable.
Traditional doctrine, which is immune to the pressures of modern ideology, is structured in such a way as to allow for the inequality of persons, speaking to all without demanding that all conform to the lowest common denominator. The more elementary parts of the doctrine, those that can be readily made available to anyone without much difficulty and without much risk of distortion or incomprehension, we may call exoteric. Teachings of the more profound order, particularly those relating to principles and therefore much more difficult to grasp, make up the portion called esoteric.
The point we wish to emphasize, however, is that the division is one of necessity, based on human nature and manifests the refusal to compromise the integrity of doctrine for the sake of popularization. It is not arbitrary, self-serving, or political; it is certainly not as if esoterism were a collection of ideas being ‘kept secret’ from the rest for the enjoyment of a privileged minority. The door is there and anyone is free to enter, but few seek out this door. The esoteric path is not blocked, but the gate is small and the way is narrow, and few find it. All knocks are answered, but they are seldom heard. This is why the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar could say that ‘the Catholic Church does not abolish genuine esotericism. The secret path of the saints is never denied to one who is really willing to follow it. But who in the crowd troubles himself over such a path?’
 Matthew 7:14.