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Introduction to Western Esotericism

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

What is Western Esotericism?

The definition of the term “Western Esotericism” has been created by a Sorbonne professor named Antoine Faivre, and it is a term used in all major academic groups in Europe. It describes all of the thinking waves that show six specific traits and characteristics. Even though it is a broad term, it is academically accepted that every single esoteric wave has at least the first four of these characteristics, and some of them include all six. It is also important to note that by the word “Western” we refer to the Greco-Roman Empire map, from Alexander the great to the present day.

The 4+2 characteristics of Western Esotericism:

  1. Correspondences: both symbolic and real, microcosm and macrocosm, cosmic interaction.

  2. Living Nature: multi-levelled, alive, full of revelations, ruled by a divine flame.

  3. Imagination and Mediation: through active imagination, knowledge of the mediums between nature and spiritual plane.

  4. Transmutation: the absolute esoteric connection between knowledge and esoteric experience, the functions of the mind and of the active imagination.

  5. Identification of Traditions: the belief of the existence of the eternal philosophy, the unbroken chain of knowledge and tradition that overcomes historic discrepancies.

  6. Transmission: the passing of knowledge from teacher to student.

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What is the difference between the terms “Esotericism”, “Mysticism”, “Occult”, and “Metaphysics”?

Esotericism includes these traditions that contain the ideas of correspondences, and mediation. In this esoteric traditions, that also include sympathetic magic, we find the belief that with the use of correspondences one can achieve their goals. If we take for example Silver and the god Mercury, with the use of a silver object that has Mercury’s symbols carved on it, one can focus or draw the influence of the deity in their life and practices. In a similar tradition, one can pray to an angel associated with a specific quality, for example, turn to Raphael for issues related to health.

Mysticism on the other hand, is considered to be a more direct way of communication between human and deity, without the use of any mediums. By following a usually long process of cleansings, banishing, prayer, and mediation, a mysticist seeks to achieve a state of elevated consciousness that will allow them to approach the divine, and through that, have Gnosis been revealed to them.

The Occult, is a general and a bit false term that is used to describe involvement with what is called “hidden” or “forbidden” knowledge. Essentially though, as a term, it has been assigned through the ages to many different traditions such as the combination of Kabbalah, astrology, alchemy, or even mediaeval grimoire magick, and essentially, it includes all forms and parts of esotericism and the various uses of mediums such as symbols, rituals, invocations etc.

Metaphysics, as the etymology of the term reveals, is the totality of the phenomena that are characterised as “beyond the laws of nature” that are accepted by modern science. It is used as a very generalised term that includes all the hard to explain phenomena that are connected to parapsychology and some forms of esotericism and it includes terms such as telepathy, telekinesis, and even cosmological events. Even though it is used as an umbrella term, essentially, it covers subjects that are connected through esoteric traditions and mental abilities. It is essential to understand that these phenomena are commonly portrayed as unexplained because they have their roots in esoteric waves, and are in conflict with modern science.

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