Originally posted by Metamorphosis
...in spirituality, there are phases [of maturity]. They are basically, exoteric, mesoteric,
esoteric. Outer, middle, inner.
Jesus himself spoke about words "for those who could hear". All great teachers have made
references to levels of comprehension.
Exoteric is religious, in its organized form. It is based on blind acceptance of doctrine.
Mesoteric is the level at which the individual actually attempts to improve their quality as
a person, rather than simply relying on authorities or doctrine.
Esoteric is the level at which you begin to take full responsibility for your mind, and its
powerful capacities for generating illusions. This is the beginning of the enlightenment
process. It's the spiritual equivalent of "growing up". Through it, you learn to filter out
religious distortions and see more clearly into the nature of reality. You begin to grasp
how the wise teachers of history were all more or less saying the same thing, when freed
from the fundamentalist trappings that accumulated around their words over many
centuries of time.
Thich Nhat Hahn does not eschew religious ritual. He says that one who has reached the
esoteric stage of spirituality can still find fulfillment in what ostensibly seems as exoteric
religion. When he is in a church, he communes and is spiritually fed by the symbols of
bread and wine.
He opines that once a person reaches the level of mindfulness which can detach the
fundamentalist trappings from the positive, spiritual aspects of religion, experiencing that
ritual can reinforce spirituality. He writes that one's tradition is a means of coming
to understand the Divine. One can let the external (exoteric) influence the internal
(esoteric) through mindful meditation and contemplation.
And, while a person ought to be opened to the spirituality inherent in all exoteric
religious traditions, he has no objection to a person finding greater ease in achieving a
mindful state in the context of one particular religious medium as compared with another.