Esotericism, or the word esoteric has a negative connotation for many American exoteric minds. For those minds it's often seen as something involving cults or ritual magic. While those things would certainly apply to the definition of the word they are not what I'll be talking about. When I use the word esoteric, I'm using it in the same vain that Ken Wilber uses it which is to describe spiritual belief based on empirical knowledge. It is secret so far as you can only know it by experience. The proverbial sage monk can tell you about how to find esoteric realities but you have to do the work yourself. This is the difference between esoteric and exoteric.
What I'm interested in exploring is how faith fits into the esoteric. Faith: belief that is not based on proof. As I have said many times before, faith is accepted ignorance. However, that ignorance can be whittled down to the bare necessities with logic. By that I mean that you can experience esoteric states of being to vilify your metaphysical beliefs. Rather than blindly following whatever your status quo happens to be, you can follow a path that leads to spiritual enlightenment. Where faith comes in for me is making the initial decision to believe in spiritual redemption to begin with. I'll share how logic can get to this point of departure.
We evolved from primordial goo. Science seems to support the process of evolution pretty well. God didn't leave all of those fossils buried in the ground as a test of our faith. The dinosaurs existed and so did Neanderthals and Cromagnoms. So where did the primordial goo come from? Here we are at science's answer to where reality came from...The Big Bang. Sciences first dirty little secret. Everything can be explained logically if you first forgive this rather ridiculous notion. Yes...reality comes from nothing, but that is not logical so let's not pretend that it is (And while I'm at it, this whole excuse that our minds can't comprehend God so we might as well believe in flying spaghetti monsters is ridiculous apologetic nonsense as well). So on the one hand we have the universe springing into existence via some magical scientific explosion and on the other we have flying spaghetti monsters. Both are equally ridiculous to my estimation. However, at least the exoteric subscription doesn't have a problem with faith as the scientific one does. Scientific determinism has the same flaw that God has. In order to go anywhere with it you must first accept non-logic. If all of your reason rests on a ridiculous assertion than what does that say about all of your logic? So get off of your high horse you annoying secular humanist atheist! Let's not pretend that quantum physics does not exist. In the end science doesn't even know why the chair I'm sitting in maintains form. Here we are on the other end of the dislogic spectrum. We start with something from nothing and end up with everything falling apart under the powerful microscope. So if we start with nonsense and end with nonsense, well, we are left with nothing but nonsense are we not?
Here, again, is where faith returns. So is believing in flying spaghetti monsters just as ridiculous as science? Well, no, at least science can be proven in between the beginning and ending of it's particular logical nonsense. What one should believe is what one can verify for oneself. This is what Buddhism is all about. You just have to have faith that what the Buddha says is true, but then you promptly find out...hopefully. The work of meditation is the only way you find out about those realities the Buddha talks about. Without actually seeking those truths they will remain largely hidden from you. Thus we have the secret in esotericism. A short anecdote from my own life may work well here:
Around the age of 18 I renounced my faith in Christianity and took to the path of esoteric knowing. I eventually declared myself Atheist and wallered around in that condescending muck for a while. However the worship of logic ended up just as hollow as my old belief that spaghetti monsters could fly. I found myself in deep mental, emotional, and spiritual crisis. My search for ultimate truth thickened to a standstill. Something had to happen because nothing made any sense. Everything became purposeless, lonely, and pointless. The only thing that kept me going was my writing. Through some strange channels I found myself working on some interesting visual meditations. I learned how to move my consciousness outside of my physical body by imagination. I would meditate outside by visualizing myself exploring around my physical location in places that I could not physically see. This worked as a primer for the spiritual breakthrough that was to follow. I was just using my mind's visual capacities via imagination. No different from day dreaming other than it was focused with my will.
One day, shortly after I began this meditation practice, I had an a-ha experience. I had an out of body experience (O.B.E.) and it changed my life irrefutably and forever. Now, I would never attempt to use my experience as proof for anybody else that the metaphysical is not just a bunch of rubbish. I have empirically certified the metaphysical. I was able to do that because not doing it was no longer an option for me. I experienced reality outside of my physical body. Since that day nearly 12 years ago I have had a handful of OBE's. To this day that first OBE was the most real thing that has ever happened to me. The quality of that experience dwarfs what the six senses are capable of providing to you via your body. Not to mention that seeing your body sleeping while you are consciousness floating above it does something very profound to your psyche. So, there I was, 19 with metaphysical reality checked off the list. I couldn't think of anything better to do with myself than to enlist in the U.S. Navy. What better way to locate the dark night of my soul! It worked. I entered the belly of the beast and promptly exited by stabbing my way out. I refused to be digested by the lumbering machine of destruction. The navy, however, is not my point.
Once I verified metaphysical reality for myself I had to fit this into some type of framework. Once the stresses involved in becoming a Navy Nuke pressed hard enough I was able to again find myself in a mental/emotional/spiritual crisis. My next a-ha experience was what is considered Samadhi. In the midst of this mental hell that was Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, I broke away and dissociated myself from ego. As crazy as that sounds, it was very simple. It lasted for a couple of days. The only way to accurately describe the state I was in is to use the word "peace". I was peacefulness. Whether it was actually Samadhi or not doesn't really matter. Samadhi is just the only word I know that accurately applies to the state I was in. In that state nothing stuck to me. "I" was simply "being". Experiences passed through me without anything clinging to them. Negative and positive were both the same thing...experience. For a short time my ego was banished and "I" just floated along with the winds of change and demands with no expectations. This fleeting state imparted a lot of motivation to regain it once it was lost. It also verified the noble path of Buddhism for me.
From that day on my spiritual life was nurtured by the Buddha within. I became a western convert to eastern spirituality. A lot of books followed along with meditation. This culminated into going to a makeshift monastery once a week to meditate with Gen Kelsang Tilopa. This was the only official Buddhism I have ever partaken in. This ended due to my secular life and Tilopa moving his monastery two hours away. Buddhist monasteries set up to embrace Anglo Saxon Irish fellers are hard to find here in the bible belt (or hypocritical belt as I like to call it).
My spiritual path is an ongoing path. I share my story with you to illustrate esotericism better. The point is to find out for yourself what is true and not simply written.
If you want to believe in an anthropomorphic god that is fine, but this belief comes with certain stipulations that you must accept. These stipulations are largely the cause for my own religious renunciation at 18 years of age. Simply put this would segway well into my problems with the tome that is the Bible. That will be the next topic I discuss here.