ADI DA SAMRAJ: The dominant religions of the present-time are, fundamentally, exoteric traditions that exist in order to serve social purposes—the purposes that are of interest to the State and to the human public collective as a whole.
Exoteric religion is intended to inspire human beings to behave well socially—in other words, to behave in a manner that supports order and productivity in society. In one manner or another, exoteric religions have always been associated with this purpose.
In contrast to exoteric religions, esoteric religions (or paths, or Ways) have not been communicated to the public masses. That is why they are called “esoteric”—their teachings were supposed to be kept secret, and, thus and thereby, reserved for the few who were truly prepared to understand and rightly practice them.
Sufism, for example, is associated with the tradition of Islam—yet, many exoterically acculturated Muslims oppose Sufism because of its esoteric tendencies. Some “orthodox” Muslims even regard Sufism to be heretical—yet, Sufism is always there, fully within the total tradition of Islam. Sufi schools exist in all Islamic countries, and they often function quite openly, in direct coincidence with the otherwise exoteric tradition of Islam.
Likewise, in the Christian parts of the world there are mystics—and, historically, the Christian mystics have been suppressed and even persecuted by the ecclesiastical “authorities” to whom they were subject. Some have even had to keep their writings secret. One such mystic, Teresa of Avila, is now a Doctor of the Catholic Church. Yet, in her lifetime, Teresa of Avila was very much suppressed and controlled by her ecclesiastical superiors.
Indeed, mysticism has always been treated with suspicion
(and always made subordinate) by the exoteric “authorities”,
in all times and in all traditions—
and especially so in the West and in the Middle East.
Gnosticism—which is an ancient form of esoteric mysticism, and, in some cases, of Spirituality—was suspect from the exoteric perspective, because even Christian Gnosticism suggested a universal Truth. The Gnostic “Truth That must be Realized” is not merely a Truth about social behavior.
Therefore, it was feared that, perhaps, the mystical experience valued by the Gnostics would lead people out of the social domain and into ascetical practices—and make them so ecstatic they would be unwilling or unable to work!
Chronically, and even inherently, exoteric religion has concerns of this kind about esotericism in general—and, therefore, exoteric religion has, historically, always suppressed esotericism of every kind.
In India, there is, historically, a great deal of esotericism. Traditionally, everyone in India has known that the intensive paths of esotericism were there, among them, and available to anyone who was willing to embrace the difficult requirements of esoteric practice.
Another characteristic of the society of India is that it has, traditionally, taken into account that many people are poor. In traditional India, the fact of poverty was (and is) always accepted as part of the reality of the world.
Coincidently, because possible poverty was presumed to be an integral and irreducible characteristic of human life, anyone (even if living in great wealth) could, as a matter of his or her commitment to esotericism, intentionally choose to be poor (and, thus, to renounce all worldly possessions—and even all worldly relations and worldly modes of self-identity).
Thus, in traditional India, it was (and is) presumed that the social order would not miss a few thousand ecstatics who have put on robes and gone begging. Such a choice, it was thought, is acceptable—as long as it does not catch on like wildfire, such that everybody becomes a religious ecstatic!
Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Excerpts from “Exoteric and Esoteric: Public and Secret Dimensions of Religion”
From the book “Up”
“I regard Adi Da as one of the greatest teachers in the Western world today.”
Sufi teacher; author, “Daughter of Fire” and “Chasm of Fire”
Sufi Teacher Irina Tweedie Speaking–Part One