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Esoteric Traditions PDF Print E-mail

Christian Gourdain

delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on 
"Religious Freedom and the New Millenium"
Berlin, Germany, May 29-31, 1998

I prepared a paper on Esoteric knowledge but I had to prepare it in the French language. What I am going to give you is just a brief overview so that you will have a quicker idea.

The word esoteric characterizes a hidden language. There is a reason why it is hidden, because it is considered by certain people to be sorcery. We have all sorts of Esoteric traditions. I will mainly talk about divination, astrology, tarot, and geomancy knowledge, which contains biblical esotericism.

Esoteric knowledge is provident in a way, because when Moses unified the 12 tribes, the divination system was very useful in order to unite the creative consciousness into the unity of God. Afterwards, this knowledge was reserved to an elite class. So, this knowledge has been hidden. For example, the Tarot appeared only 400 years ago, but the Tarot existed for a long time.

The divination system of geomancy is a very old system, which is similar to the I Ching system, the theory of yin and yang. This system has mathematical, astrological, astronomical, and sociological connotations. It covers all spheres of knowledge. In a way, you have in the distributed paper, a kind of universal representation of God, but through a theory, which is very important, because it is from an intellectual point of view.

I have been preparing a doctoral thesis at the university, specializing in this kind of esoteric knowledge, especially examining the structural understanding of this divination system, astrology, Tarot, and geomancy. I am studying religion up to the birth of the great monotheistic religions. In the past, esoteric movements have often served as scapegoats for society. More recently, however, we haven’t had so many problems with esotericism, because the scapegoats have been Scientology, Unificationists, and the Krishna people.

I have been working on parapsychology for the last ten years. Once I finished my thesis, I did some field work on popular beliefs. It’s a very interesting field, in which even people who feel they don’t believe in God, have some kind of belief. Therefore, you have no problem dealing with people without speaking about a particular religion. I have a very specialized approach to this kind of theology, which makes it difficult to explain, because I don’t have enough time, and we are not organized for this.

Through my intellectual investigation, I have been studying in Australia. I also studied in the Philippines, and I did most of my doctoral thesis in France. I encountered a theory, which was very difficult to understand. I have found that, in the social field, we have enough elements in order to make sense of esoteric tradition. We could also be more tolerant of all the new religious movements. But, it is not always easy in the university to find the right people to do studies.

When I came to France in 1980, I got into contact with the Scientology movement. I was very interested in what they were doing. I also did a study on Krishna consciousness. In fact, one of my best friends has been in the movement for the last fourteen years, and he gave me instructions in his experience. I came across Unification Church people, and I did research on Unification Theology. In a way, they have an esoteric way of expressing themselves. The Catholic people don’t like them very much, because they don’t understand them. They have been under a lot pressure from the states and especially from the media. French people are very difficult people. They have their own tradition. They need to have a scapegoat. Whoever comes is the scapegoat. It’s called xenophobia, the fear of other people.

Anyway, as we approach the end of this millennium, I find that it is not exactly that we esotericists are oppressed in France, but there is nothing happening among the young people, and so, we have to accept that something new is going to come. I am sure that something new will come within the next few years. I don’t know exactly how it will come, but in my parapsychological studies, I have been experiencing a kind of lethargy.

I think that when “some people” get organized, they disturb “other people,” and this is why there is repression. The field of esotericism is not so much touched, because everybody works for themselves in parapsychology. As long as you don’t have a problem with the taxation office, it’s okay, nobody will bother you. But, if you start gathering people, you could easily have a problem, especially if a journalist comes and reports on you.

There is a kind of fear as soon as you have some ritual or special belief, and you disturb people. So, there is a kind of sociological way to approach the problem. There is schizophrenia in the traditional French consciousness, and the media has made it worse. I am very happy that I was invited to your conference. It inspired me because, for the last ten years, I have been feeling a bit annoyed with the situation in France, where you don’t know what to do. You are just manipulated by the media. It is very frustrating.

Esotericism deals with the secret knowledge of the Bible, and the way we can approach the problem from an intellectual point with a lot of sensibility. You don’t have to get fanatical. You need to be broad-minded. You have to know about psychology, astrology, and sociology. You can approach it from this angle, and feel freedom. In a certain way, to say that everyone has a right to his own religion doesn’t make sense. There is a common form to all religions. You can have a common tool of knowledge. That’s my point of view.