Exoteric Vs Esoteric

If you were to ask a grown-up what their impression is about the world, the response received would mostly be of a negative nature. Even the few people who have nothing to worry about, not a single complaint about the world, will give an optimistic response that is tempered with shades of grey — in the form of caution, secrecy and doubts about the good times lasting forever.

On the other hand, ask a child about what their opinion is about life, in general, and the answer is most likely going to be a carefree, honest and happy one. The reason behind this is children are true to their own inner self — they speak in an unfettered manner, without having to comply with the various norms, dogmas, rules, theories and guidelines that restrict so many of us in today’s world. A child is like an esoteric person — a person who is highly aware of his inner self and is constantly on the lookout to learn from any source of life; just like babies learn using all their senses in their initial few years. It takes esoteric people complete submission to their inner self, to become aware of all materialistic and external factors which may have an impact on them. Going deep within themselves, improves their awareness to the highest degree and gives them a profound understanding of their true purpose and birth on this planet.

The world is made up of basically two kinds of people — those who are rigid, who conform to the norms laid down by any one kind of body affiliated with religion, society, politics, armed forces, athletics or entertainment industry. It does not mean that such people are wrong. It implies that they have restricted their source of learning and improving their knowledge. An esoteric person takes the same path as an exoteric does initially, but then finds a balance between the two ways of life — one enforced by others and the other uses his intuition to lead him on and opens his mind and soul to the highest form of awareness.

So what is the purpose of this book and how is it relevant to the present day? The goal of this book is to show you why you need to awaken your inner consciousness, attune yourself to the finer feelings and pay heed to concepts such as Gnosis, karma and spiritual awakening, in order to find peace within yourself. Only when everyone on our planet is at peace with him or herself can there exist harmony and overall well-being, irrespective of what their gender or nationality is. The book is going to explain to you what these two terms mean in detail, so that you can understand the difference between them and we'll talk about which way of life is more beneficial to a person and to the society as a whole.

Explaining Exoteric and Esoteric

Osho had once said,“The mystery is here. The mystery is in the trees and in the rocks and in the birds. The mystery is in people — in you, in me. The mystery is in relating, the mystery is in singing, the mystery is in dancing, the mystery is in love, the mystery is in prayer.” This quote perfectly sums up how an esoteric person lives. He finds a source of understanding in everything that surrounds him. He is an open-minded person with no restraints when it comes to sources of wisdom and it is this trait, amongst a few others, which separates him from the rest of the world. While most other people are busy bowing their heads to rules that they don’t necessarily understand or like but which they have to follow anyway, esoteric people are leading a happy life because they derive all the joys from within themselves; they do not “rely” on any external source, body, person or object to enlighten them and make them see what is the ultimate source of inner peace. There is an esoteric saying that will better explain to you how a person who is aware of this way of life thinks: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

So what is the history behind these two words? Let’s have a look at it.


We have a lot to thank the Greeks for. Apart from creating pieces of architectures that are spellbinding and unfathomable, they also had a thing or two to teach us about how an ideal civilization should be run, medicine, religion, physics, astronomy and about the different ways of life that a person can lead. In fact, the two terms being discussed in this book are derived from Greek words. The word Exoteric comes from the Latin exotericus, External, from Greek exotrikos, from exotero, comparative of exo, “Outside" from Ex, "out".

Exoteric is the way of life that depends on exoteric (outwardly) thinking pattern. In comparison with esoteric, the exoteric way of thinking is actually more prevalent in most parts of the world because this derives its importance; in fact even its existence, from external factors. A few examples that have also been mentioned earlier are religion, politics, societal rules, rules set for difference genders, etc.

So what are the features of people who follow this method of thinking?

An exoteric person is one that's restricted by beliefs and faith; that person is in a state of Exoteric. One who is always awake and alert to external stimulation. This person is said to be in his “sleeping/dreaming consciousness” as his mind is only focused on the past, future and materialistic things.

  • An exoteric person knows what norms he must follow and thus has a higher sense of self-importance. Such a person’s mind and beliefs cannot be swayed easily.
  • Finds the basis of his decision on beliefs instilled in him according to the religion or body he is associated with.
  • Bows to external authorities more than heeding to himself. Depending on what the basis of his belief is, he obeys the commandments laid down by the person who heads that body or organization. For example, Christians would consider everything the Pope says to be cast in stone and they derive their faith from the Bible.
  • Finds source from his faith or belief from just that one person, body or book. Any other source of information is shunned, and they are thus very narrow-minded in their opinions as well.
  • Believes that God or the Almighty or the person they worship to be “The One” is an external person who is above us all. They associate various rituals, objects, symbols and texts (scrolls) with their belief and treat the external entity as the Supreme Being.

Let us look at the way such a person thinks. In fact, most of us reading this book may think we are very broad-minded people, but after reading this segment, we might realize that we are in fact an exoteric person.

It is said that all people are born on earth because they have something they need to fulfill — they need to learn various gems of wisdom in their lifetime and attain the highest level of peace within themselves to be ultimately united with the Source of all sources, the creator of all things, seen and unseen, alive or lifeless, everywhere. How does a person attain such a high level of consciousness of awareness is the question? The answer to this question will confirm if you are exoteric or esoteric. Take the world as it stands today — there are hundreds of nations and many more religions in existence.

Depending on local conditions and customs, people get divided according to the religion or faith they need to follow. Based on the doctrines they need to follow, they keep their knowledge about life, learning and death limited only to those sources and only to their way of teaching. When people are taught a set of rules which they need to follow for the rest of their lives, they close their mind to all other sources of information. This makes them not only narrow-minded but also wary about other teachings even if they spark a light of truth within their being.

We have so far talked about religions causing most people to lead an exoteric lifestyle. Let us look at another important and basic part of most human beings which makes them think in a rigid way. Education is a basic requirement and right for everybody. Unfortunately, many are deprived of this right. Those who are able to study are asked to join an educational institution. So children start with kindergarten, then move to a school, then a college and then to other universities if they wish to study further. But this way of teaching only opens their mind to one set of learning. They are imparting knowledge but how well is it being used for that student to become a better person and not just an academic? The teachings of the school confines that student’s learning and he relies only on his texts and the lectures given by the teachers to attain his academic qualifications — but what of the knowledge of one’s inner self? What about the other teachings that life has in store for everyone? This prevents the student from learning from everyday life and relying only on book knowledge. Due to this, the student becomes dependent only on his teachers, textbooks and prescribed educational forums to improve his knowledge; it makes him question anything that is not a part of his textbook.

When an aware person from any walk of life has reached a certain level of enlightenment and begins to teach that awareness to the masses, it may be contradictory to what the public is used to hearing which is why the enlightened one has to gain recognition first. People who run governments or organizations which the enlightened ones raise their voices against, look at such people as anti-socialists or non-conformers. They look at them as threats that can de-stabilize their hold on the public and thus persecute them.

An exoteric person will not pay any heed to the teachings of such great people although they may be telling the truth or may be speaking in the favor of everybody instead of the powerful few. Due to this, they continue to obey the initial rules that they were asked to follow and refuse to support the person who dared to raise his voice against the wrong-doings of the people in power. In fact, some even cheer such decisions made and add to the persecution of the enlightened ones. This clash in ideologies and beliefs is what has led to so much hatred, greed, and horrific actions being taken by one set of people against the other.

When you have people divided in understanding, over standing, or inner standing, one will try to impose their beliefs on the other and this is what leads to a false sense of self-supremacy, power, greed and wars. The on-going tensions between people of different countries and religions, the two most burning issues all over the world, had led to the destruction of so many people’s lives, homes, cattle; it has caused wars, famines and epidemics to occur at alarming rates. When people are unable to bear such severe conditions, they boil from within and then come revolts and sieges that aim at empowering the downtrodden and punishing the oppressors.

There is no peace within people who are exoteric. This is because they are unable to answer the questions that life places in front of them from within their own consciousness; they need to rely on external teachings and guidance to make the right decision. The problem with leading this kind of life is that the people who claim to be leading the people to a better way of life and knowledge misuse the power given to them. They exploit people for their own physical, emotional and financial gains, they become dictators, they consider themselves indestructible and want to take a little bit more of the world under their wings with each passing day. Such people miss the inner divinity within them and only look to appease their body and minds and materialistic pleasures.


As you would have guess by now, esoteric is the exact opposite of exoteric. People who follow this way of thinking are aware that there is one energy that resides in each one of us; the all within all persons, places, and things. All living organisms on this planet are manifestations of this great energy and no person is any more or any less than the other. An esoteric person is mystical because he looks within the outer layers of materialism and tries to find the true inner meaning that will guide him to the level of awareness and ultimately merging with the Source of all sources.

An esoteric person receives wisdom from all teachers of life. He does not restrain himself to just one religion, nation, educational institution or organization. He has an open mind that is willing to learn new concepts while putting them to use always (all-ways). An exoteric person applies logic to all aspects of life and an esoteric does the same but also relies on his inner wisdom, awareness and intuition before making any decisions.

The soul or our spirit never dies, only our body does. An esoteric person takes each lesson that life gives him and understands the true meaning of his existence and of the purity of his soul. Thus, he stays away from materialism and cannot be tempted to make decisions only because they seem right. He judges the true impact of making a decision on not only him but on others. For an exoteric person, God or the Supreme Being is literally above us all in the sky. But for an esoteric person, there Is only One revered being and a part of it lives in every person, place, and thing; solid, liquid, and gas. When a person reaches this level of awareness and understanding, he has peeled away all the other levels of materialism and is intensely aware of the mystical and spiritual beauty that resides within him.

Another important factor associated with esoteric is that they understand the concept of gnosis. This is also derived from a Greek word that means “based on higher understanding”. They look beyond the regular reasoning and logical teachings and ways of interpreting different things in life but rely on their inner strength and judgement as well. So here are a few features of an esoteric person:

  • While an exoteric person stays in a constant dream state, an esoteric person remains in a spiritual or aware state at all times.
  • An esoteric person is not as self-centered, egotistical or narrow-minded as an exoteric person.
  • An esoteric person does not blindly follow the authorities books, figures of organizations that he/she may choose to associate with but will largely rely on their inner consciousness and feelings. Intuition plays an imperative role in the lives of such people.
  • There is a Universal Supreme Being or Consciousness that should be the aim or destination for people all around the world, in an esoteric’s opinion, by learning the various things about life from whatever source of information people come across.


Why the world needs Esoteric

You may be wondering — what is the harm in following things that we see, hear, touch, smell or feel on a daily basis? Are these not the living, truthful things that are happening in front of our eyes and that we should believe in? The answer to these questions would be no.

The present state of the world is that certain people have taken up the mantle of leading people who all under their so-called jurisdiction to do the “right thing”. They believe that only following this path shall lead them to a peaceful life. Knowledge and belief, when used in the right manner, is a very powerful thing. Unfortunately, these so-called leaders in various ways of life are only using the faith that people place in them for their selfish purposes. They grab hold of their powerful status, cling to it at the cost of many people’s lives and wealth and trade it for wealth and for political ambitions. It is the antics of such people that have caused religions to earn such a bad name all over the world.

Let us look at some of the present-day exoteric religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Did you know that the founders of all these religions were persecuted because they dared to oppose the evil rulers of their times, only going by their inner divinity, piety, and goodness? They did not ask for their teachings to be cast in iron-clad rules to give birth to religions but only asked people to realize the goodness that resides within everyone and to lead an honest life. In fact, some of the sects of some religions consist of people who have initially lived an exoteric life and then realized that there is much more to life than following rules and creating negative feelings within oneself.

People who believe in Buddhism, Sufism and in Kabbalah are in fact esoteric people who ruminate over the inner meaning of life, rely on their instincts and worship the goodness that exists within mankind. Such people have a wide path to attain “nirvana” or “moksha” that will free them of all worldly pains and attachments so they can join the Source of all sources at the end of their physical life.

All religious texts and teachers taught about the goodness of one another and stressed spiritual growth. We need this very urgently now because people are so divided amongst each other that there is no peace anywhere; everybody is under pressure or oppression and they cannot express themselves as they want to. The complete and unvarnished truth that will set everyone free is being covered by strict teachings. People who follow such rules are being rewarded and are being pardoned for all the wrongs that they commit but the people who strive to talk the truth and want to spread the message of leading a good and self-aware life are being punished and restricted?

Certain people consider them experts (such as theologians or professors or decorated military or government officials) based on book knowledge but they, in fact, are leading a narrow-minded and corrupt life themselves. This leads them to bully other people to follow their footsteps deceitfully or forcefully, whichever works best for them. If you do not want a misery-filled existence, its time we wake up to our own potential, to our spiritual and only honest calling, so the world becomes a prime place to live in, again.

I would like to conclude this book with a beautiful verse by Osho that esoteric people would appreciate and which we hope will be appreciated universally one day:

“Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that's what maturity is all about.”

published by, all with all - written by William "Yahru" Buchanan

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L.T.L -. Love, Trust, and Loyalty are the three elements that constitute a substantial bond. 


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