This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Esoterism, exoterism, and religion

We have spoken of the division between the esoteric and the exoteric as if it were universal in the traditional world, but the division is not black and white and in some traditions one or the other element might be difficult to isolate. In the case of Hinduism, where the entire doctrine is colored with metaphysical conceptions, and each is free to approach this doctrine from the various paths available, but all of which are addressed as to a single mentality, it has been said that there is no exoterism at all. This is perhaps an exaggeration, for certainly not every Hindu is a subtle thinker who sees beyond appearances, and all it takes is a few hours browsing the literature to know that this is the case. Even so, we can admit that the line at least fades and what might count as esoteric seems to predominate. The reason for this is, according to Guenon, is that the East never really left the metaphysical point of view behind, and so it is nonsense to imagine it as something preserved ‘in secrecy’ by an exclusive few. The West, Guenon explains (and here we tend to agree with him), reached a point where the general mentality was of such an anti-metaphysical character that the meanings of symbols, the very language of metaphysics, were almost entirely lost. Consider here the fate of alchemy, which was already mentioned. Here was a science of cosmology, the language of which, because symbolic, is today interpreted as nothing more than ignorant and vulgar attempts to create gold. In other words, an embarrassing episode in ignorance and greed, rather than a subtle approach to theosis. Such is the condescension the West has displayed toward metaphysics and its language of symbols, and it was perhaps due to this tendency that the ratio-theological point of view itself became more appropriate for it than a metaphysical view, since this particular style of religious thinking allowed for the transposition of more philosophical expositions of the doctrine. This adjustment came at a cost, but it was, in the end, providential and permitted the Western world to at least remain attached to principles in its own way.

From this same cause there grew a need for a way of speaking and a general body of teaching that could be directed at a civilization whose way of thinking had become antagonistic to metaphysics. The result is a more obvious exoterism which implies, as a corollary, a more definite, albeit less visible and less ‘official’, division corresponding to esoterism. While Western esotericism has become quite diminished and in many respects ‘invisible’ in Christianity (for who, after all, speaks of Meister Eckhart, while every Catholic knows something of St. Thomas Aquinas), it remained present in Judaism in the form of the Kabbalah, and is alive and well in Islam, where it is called Sufism. Esotericism should be seen as the ‘inner room’ of these religious traditions.

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