The Nature and Consequences of Informational Differences in Exoteric vs. Esoteric Spiritual Practices09/01/2012
Two broadly different approaches to spiritual practice exist within virtually every religious tradition. Though the specific characterization and evaluation of these different practices vary among authors, their general nature is reasonably clear. The exoteric path represents the more conventional approach to religion involving ongoing participation in the practices and activities of an established religious community (church, mosque, synagogue, temple, etc.). Alternatively, the esoteric path tends to be more individualistic and mystical in orientation. Within a given tradition, the two approaches are never in opposition to each other but can nonetheless involve complex, bivalent inter-relations. The present paper examines these two forms of practice in terms of their strategies of information flow. It is primarily concerned with the amount and type of information each style of practice generates and processes relative to a small set of general but relevant scenarios. It shows that each results in highly characteristic differences in the generation and processing of information. In addition, the paper argues that important consequences of these differences concern how they both reflect and impact the practitioner’s religious faith, their sense of self, and their relation to their world.