Esotericism (XI): Esotericism (C’)

Esotericism (XI): Esotericism (C’)

- in Esotericism


1. The series of these brief papers started after I read the book Ouspensky’s Fourth Way (2015, Starnine Media and Publishing Ltd, Oxford) by G. de Symons Beckwith. In this, the author outlines Ouspensky’s reformulation of Gurdgieff’s system of “fragments of an unknown teaching” and then Dr Francis Roles’s reformulation of that with the aid of  Shri Shantananda Sarasvati (Śaṅkarācārya of the North, Jyotir Math, a guardian of the Vedic tradition of the philosophy of Advaita Vedānta and a kind of Patriarch or Archibishop of Hinduism; he succeeded in 1953 Brahmānanda Sarasvatī, who with other sages or holy men, unknown, decided to release to the world a simple system of meditation which was eventually brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi).

This is one of the very many books on one or other aspect of esotericism and in particular of the teaching of Gurdgieff and Ouspensky’s better known version. They all ignore the fundamental rule that the esoteric teaching is not to be divulged to the multitude. One should not even think of asking one’s master’s permission to do this.

2. An essential feature of a system of esoteric teaching that has for its subject the inner or spiritual development of human beings is that it should not be made public (or given to the common multitude).

As was said in the previous paper, Jesus directs against publicity. So does Shri Kṛṣṇa. The ancient Mysteries in Greece, Egypt and elsewhere, were performed out of the gaze of the public in the inner courtyard or the sanctuary of the temples and vestiges of this tradition still remain in the Christian liturgy.

But even the two most famous teachers, Gurdgieff and Ouspensky, say plainly and repeatedly that the esoteric teaching is given orally from master to disciple(s) and should not, except in very special circumstances, be transmitted by the disciples to others.

Moreover, a teacher of esoteric knowledge makes it difficult for people to approach him and learn from him. They must first show that they want it intensely.

3. But all such practices are no longer held with assiduity. No sooner Ouspensky and Gurdgieff departed from this world than numerous groups/schools mushroomed up (K. Walker, J. Bennett, M. Nicholl who had started earlier in Britain, Pentland in the USA and so on) all implying more or less that they were the appointed successors. And they were followed by others and others in a wild proliferation.

This was bad enough. But it was somewhat contained.

At the same time, many more books appeared presenting and explicating “the System” and “the Work”. Publications appeared thick and fast over the years. Some are quite dry and informative. Some purport to be by Ouspensky or Gurdgieff but were in fact written or compiled by close relatives or associates. One gave us Gurdgieff’s unknown teachers. Another was by a lady who claimed to have had a night’s sexual relationship with Ouspensky back in St Petersburg. And so on…

4. As I said, all this goes against the principles of esotericism. Furthermore, such widespread information and rumour is manifoldly dangerous.

It causes damage to the writer who simply adds to the impediments he will have to face when he takes up this quest more soberly – especially if he/she inserts elements of fantasy or malevolence. And some make money out of it all.

Then, it causes damage to readers who, by reading about esotericism so explicitly, begin to think they “know”. In addition they lose an innocent interest in the subject and the freshness of the surprise should they meet a genuine school with a living teaching.

However, in the end, common people don’t understand what they read, anyway. And all this rise in publications and the spread of inflated information create yet another impediment to test the genuine searchers.

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