Knowledge that liberates consciousness is often described as esoteric. The word “esoteric” is somewhat forbidding, usually connoting something obscure, exotic, and irrelevant to daily life—in short, something “far out.” But etymologically the word means exactly the opposite: it comes from the Greek esotero, which means “further in.” You have to go “further in” yourself to understand what this knowledge is about.
Some thinkers differentiate the esoteric from the mystical, a distinction that can be useful as long as one is not too rigid about it. Esotericism is characterized by an interest in these different levels of consciousness and being. Mysticism is not quite so concerned with these intermediate states; it focuses on reaching God in the most direct and immediate way. The mystic wants to reach his destination as quickly as possible; the esotericist wants to learn something about the landscape on the way. Moreover, mysticism tends more toward passivity: a quiet “waiting upon God” rather than active investigation.

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