Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Esoteric knowledge - speculations on its nature

Let us assume that there is such a thing as 'esoteric knowledge' - in particular correct information that is accessible via... well, perhaps we could call it supernatural means.

In other words, not by being told it by other people, nor reading it in a book, nor reasoning it out, nor any other of the other usual, accepted, ways of gaining knowledge.

I am talking about the kind of claims, which have occurred in almost all cultures throughout history, and indeed still do occur even in the modern West, that there are sources of knowledge which may become accessible during trances, dreams, by divination etc.


The claimed source of such knowledge may be personal or abstract - personal would be when the esoteric knowledge comes from a supernatural person - a spirit, god, angel, demon or God for example.

The provenance of personally-given information is easily understood - but abstract information less so.

By abstract I mean when the knowledge is supposed to have come from a record or chronicle which is to be found out-with normal reality - for example the 'Akashic' records of theosophy and anthroposophy - which is conceptualized as an account of spiritual realities to be found on the astral plane of existence.


This concept led me to speculate on what properties such a record might have - if it were real.

1. It seems plausible that there might indeed be some kind of spiritual record of all significant knowledge - indeed, most religious people would believe this - although mostly they would assume that such knowledge was in the 'memory' of the gods or God.

2. If such a record was not in personal and private memory, but was more like an annal or chronicle that could be consulted by many people, then it would seem that - since hardly anybody can read it - such a record is not meant to be universally read; at least not as a matter of routine.

3. I would expect that any such record, if accessed, would be difficult to understand and easy to misunderstand - since this is the case with other forms of record, such as multi-volume encyclopaedias or ancient archives of newspapers. Understanding needs contextual knowledge.

4. Such a record would have to be extraordinarily vast and of widely varying comprehensibility - which would presumably mean some parts of it were more accessible than others.

5. Since most people cannot (or cannot consciously) access abstract esoteric records for most of the time, the ability to link to the would presumably be via some sort of sympathy, resonance, special motivation or brooding desire - which would inevitably be specific.

6. Perhaps, access to abstract records is difficult because it is personally controlled (by some higher power, or the laws established by a higher power) - and would only be allowed to somebody judged worthy. The usual situation in a large library is that access is restricted; a given person is allowed access to a specific part of the record only.

7. There is no convincing evidence that I know of where someone has learned by esoteric means anything which is implausibly beyond their interest and competence - except when the person or persons are plausibly prophets or divinely inspired, when there are what seem to be miracles of knowledge, just as there are miracles of healing. Usually the knowledge is very specific, or a matter of filling in gaps; but in some instances more extensive texts have been produced.

8. Overall, if it is accepted that valid knowledge is available via esoteric routes, then it can be seen that such knowledge is not exempted from the constraints of ordinary, mundane knowledge. In other words even if the source it eternal and truthful, the transcription and translation and interpretation of that source can be wrong, can contain errors - is to some extent susceptible to the intrinsic selectivity and bias of the reader; and any further readers of that reader.


Esoteric knowledge can be no more infallible than any other type of knowledge; indeed, since its form is usually reported as very different from mundane knowledge, then esoteric knowledge may be especially prone to error and misunderstanding - reporting esoteric knowledge might be less like translating a foreign language, and more like trying to describe an orchestral symphony by making small clay models; or summarizing a philosophical treatise by dancing.

This would explain why there is often a convergence of basic simple ideas between apparently valid sources of esoteric knowledge, but great differences in detail (and the more detail, the more differences).


Alternatively, it could be argued that everybody accesses eternal abstract esoteric records all of the time (which form some kind of collective unconscious, perhaps; which are perhaps even that which binds conscious beings in unity through Time); but most people are mostly simply unaware of doing so; they do not realise it is happening (because they do not need to know, so long as it just happens) - maybe because such access is like a physiological process (analogous to digestion, of immunity) that just happens unconsciously.


Or maybe access occurs during sleep, and we are aware of it then: but afterwards it is forgotten.

Or, maybe accessing the records is so alien a process to waking consciousness and reason, that we can't make any sense of it  - but just live-by the results.  

If one of the above, then people who claim to access these records may, in fact, simply be becoming more-aware of something - some process - which happens to almost everybody pretty much all of the time.

It could be like a life-support-system undetectably plumbed into us - but only a handful of people have ever noticed.