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461Three Polarities in Yoga, Mysticism and Religion - Swami Jnaneshvara

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Jun 21, 2006
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      THREE POLARITIES IN
      MYSTICISM, YOGA AND RELIGION
      Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

      There are three separate polarities described in the article Yoga,
      Mysticism and Religion. These three polarities are extremely useful
      to understand if one is trying to practice and integrate yoga,
      mysticism and religion. The three polarities are:

      Esoteric -- Exoteric
      Immanent -- Transcendent
      Material -- Efficient

      -------

      From:
      http://www.swamij.com/mysticism-yoga-religion.htm
      (Very useful graphics are shown at this link)

      MYSTICISM, YOGA AND RELIGION
      Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

      Within religion, Mysticism and Yoga are aspects of the Esoteric end
      of the spectrum.

      YOU CAN PRACTICE BOTH:

      It can appear that Mysticism or Yoga (union, from the root yuj, to
      join) are alternatives to religion, as if one must choose one or the
      other. This can lead to the unfortunate view that if seekers practice
      Mysticism and Yoga along with their religion, they are merely doing
      some sort of cut-and-paste process where two different paths are
      being combined.

      It can appear that one must choose one of these:
      Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Other, None

      OR one of these:
      Mysticism, Yoga

      ...but that you cannot have both.

      This is not true. Although you can definitely practice Mysticism and
      Yoga outside of religion, you can also practice them within your
      religion, as they are already there, in the Esoteric form of the
      religion.

      The principles of Mysticism and Yoga are already contained within the
      various religions. It is only because of incorrectly seeing them as
      necessarily having to exist separately from one another, that there
      appears to be solely a joining together. In other words, it can
      appear that one is doing a mere cut-and-paste job of affixing Yoga
      onto one's religion, while the roots of the principles are already
      there, in the religion, in the Esoteric form of the religion.

      Many of the people who practice Mysticism and Yoga do so from outside
      organized religion. However, they can also be practiced from inside
      religion as well, as they are already there, contained within the
      religions. For example, there are the Gnostics and the Sufis, known
      for their inner, mystical focus, while being related to their
      respective religions.

      Surely many people draw specific methods and techniques from the
      independent Mystics and Yogis, but the essence or spirit of the
      practices, as well as the goals of these practices are already part
      of the religions in one or another of their Esoteric forms.

      See also this article:
      Philosophy, Not Religion
      http://www.swamij.com/swami-rama-philosophy-not-religion.htm

      THREE POLARITIES:

      Esoteric -- Exoteric
      Immanent -- Transcendent
      Material -- Efficient

      TWO POLARITIES OF ESOTERIC AND EXOTERIC:

      Within each of the religions there are polarities of Exoteric and
      Esoteric, along with shades of gray between those two. The Exoteric
      is based on belief, while the Esoteric is based on attaining direct
      experience.

      Exoteric religion is the external form of religious practice, and is
      what most of us are accustomed to seeing in the majority of churches,
      temples, or other religious organizations or movements. Exoteric
      religion may sometimes be called either Traditional or Orthodox.

      Esoteric religion, on the other hand, has more to do with the inner
      experience, the subtler practices, and the pursuits of direct
      experience of the spiritual principles. It is the path of saints and
      sages, who have often been considered as deviants or outcasts by
      their own Traditional, Orthodox, or Exoteric religions.

      ESOTERIC IS SHUNNED:

      The Esoteric practitioners are often shunned by the Exoteric
      religionists because the subtler pursuits and practices are simply
      not understood. As one progresses along the Esoteric path, it is ever
      more clearly seen how the Esoteric and Exoteric are different degrees
      of expression and experience within the teachings of the same
      tradition or religion.

      EXOTERIC MISUNDERSTAND THE ESOTERIC:

      However, unaware of these subtleties, the Exoteric people are forced
      to see the Esoteric people as either having strayed away from the
      religion or suffering from some psychopathological malady. In time,
      they too may grow to see the breadth and depth of their own religion,
      but in the meantime, the journey of the Mystic and Yogi is neither
      understood nor accepted.

      TWO OTHER POLARITIES:

      Along with the polarities of Esoteric-Exoteric it is extremely useful
      for the practitioners of Mysticism and Yoga to be aware of two other
      polarities:

      IMMANENT OR TRANSCENDENT GOD:

      There are two views of the nature of God, although different
      religionists or scholars might have vastly different opinions within
      each of those two. God as Transcendent means God as a separate being
      that is overseer of the activities of the world. God as Immanent
      refers to God as being all-pervasive, permeating the whole of
      manifest reality.

      The Mystic or Yogi seeking inner experience often, though not always,
      has a greater leaning towards God as Immanent, while the Exoteric
      religionist often tends exclusively towards God as Transcendent. With
      some reflection, it is easy to see how the Mystic or Yogi may easily
      be able to hold both perspectives in his or her spiritual pursuits.

      Often, however, the Exoteric practitioner is only able to see the
      notion of God as Transcendent, as a separate being, and therefore
      completely rejects the notion of God as Immanent. This is one of the
      reasons that the Mystic or Yogi may feel quite out of place in a
      religious culture dominated by those of the Transcendent God view.

      MATERIAL OR EFFICIENT CAUSE: There are two aspects to the cause of
      any created object. One is the Material Cause, which refers to the
      stuff out of which the objects are made. The other is the Efficient
      Cause, which refers to the question of who caused the creation of the
      objects. For example, flour is the Material Cause of bread, while the
      baker is the Efficient Cause. Similarly, clay is the Material Cause
      of a pot, while the potter is the Efficient Cause.

      The emphasis of the Exoteric religionist is usually almost
      exclusively on the Efficient Cause, whereby the separate being, the
      Transcendent God, is considered to be the creator of the universe and
      humans, much like the baker and the potter are the creators of bread
      and pots. The goals of spiritual life are seen to come as a result of
      the Efficient Cause.

      While the individual Mystic or Yogi may or may not emphasize the
      Efficient Cause called God, following one's own predisposition or
      religion, there is almost always a focus on the Material Cause, which
      is an inner journey, through the levels of one's own being, so as to
      find the core or center, which is underneath all the layers of
      manifestation. Depending on the perspective of the individual
      practitioner, this realization may be variously called Self-
      realization, enlightenment, knowing God, or other terms.

      POLARITIES ARE WELL KNOWN AMONGST ACADEMICIANS:

      It is important to note that these polarities of Esoteric-Exoteric,
      Immanent-Transcendent, and Material-Efficient are well known to the
      academic field of religious studies, as they are aspects of each of
      the more known religions.

      However, they are seldom mentioned, much less emphasized by the
      religionists claiming to lead the public or lay people. Most of the
      religious leaders promote the Exoteric, Transcendent, and Efficient
      polarities through their churches or temples, utilizing a vast array
      of icons and physical paraphernalia, along with external rituals or
      ceremonies.

      The teachers of the Esoteric, Immanent, and Material polarities are
      naturally less drawn to building churches or temples for external
      worship rituals, with any physical forms serving as pointers on the
      journey to the direct experience of the subtler, finer realities.
      Thus, they are far less visible in our societies and cultures.
      Although more hidden, the diligent seeker can find these more subtly
      focused teachings within virtually all of the religions. If you think
      of yourself as having a Mystic or Yogic orientation, the awareness of
      these polarities can go a long way to your understanding why you
      might find yourself to be in a minority, and possibly criticized by
      others.

      MYSTICISM AND YOGA ARE ON THE ESOTERIC POLE:

      Mysticism and Yoga deal with the Esoteric practices and experiences,
      whether or not one follows a particular religion. In fact, the entire
      purpose of Yoga is nothing but the Esoteric pole, seeking direct
      experience of the deepest, subtlest, or highest realities of one's
      own being. (There really isn't an Exoteric version of Yoga, given the
      inherent higher purpose of authentic Yoga. That some might think that
      there is an Exoteric pole of Yoga is one example of the recent
      distortion that Yoga is merely a physical fitness program. See the
      article Modern Yoga versus Ancient Yoga.)
      http://www.swamij.com/ancientyoga.htm

      CONFLICT IS WITHIN THE RELIGION, NOT WITH YOGA:

      Thus, what appears to be a difference between two separate paths,
      such as between a particular religion and either Mysticism or Yoga,
      is actually a conflict within that religion. It is often a conflict
      wherein the Traditional, Orthodox, or Exoteric followers are
      criticizing the Mystics, Yogis, and Esoteric practitioners within
      their own religion, and claiming that the conflict is with some
      outside source, Yoga.

      CRITICISM IS OF THE ESOTERIC:

      In this way, many of the complaints of the modern religionists about
      the Mystical and Yoga movements are not really about some separate,
      new movements that are emerging in our cultures. Rather, they are
      criticism about the Esoteric aspect of their own religion. It is the
      resistance to their own subtler practices that is the source of the
      apparent conflict. Yoga simply bears the brunt of some of this
      confusion.

      LABELING THE MYSTICS AND YOGIS AS "NEO":

      It is common for some who have lost touch with the deeper aspects of
      their traditions to label the Yogis or Mystics in such a way that
      they appear as deviants. It is common for these people to put words
      like Neo, New or Modern in front of the religion or other yogic term
      to try to make the deeper practices sound like newly created
      distortions, rather than the ancient practices that they often are.
      The Exoteric people may also use the term New Age in a derogatory
      tone to describe the Esoteric practitioner. So too, some of the
      recently awakening Mystics and Yogis will adopt these types of terms,
      thinking that they are inventing something new. It is ironic that
      those who are most interested in the authentic Esoteric roots of
      various teachings are labeled as Neo or New by the Exoteric
      practitioners who are not interested in the higher, subtler practices
      of their own traditions.

      REMEMBER THE MYSTICS AND YOGIS OF THE PAST:

      It is useful for the sincere seeker to also keep in mind world
      history, wherein the Mystics and Yogis have often chosen, or been
      forced, to move deep into the mountains, forests or deserts to do
      their practices, so as to avoid the onslaught from others who are
      focused exclusively on the Exoteric perspective. This is not to say
      that the modern Mystic and Yogi should retreat from the world, but it
      can be comforting to recall that others, who have come before, and
      who have also tread the inner path, have experienced the challenges
      presented by the Exoteric people.

      Within religion, Mysticism and Yoga are aspects of the Esoteric end
      of the spectrum.

      EXOTERIC SEES ONLY ONE; ESOTERIC SEES BOTH:

      It is important to note that the further one travels up the Esoteric
      ladder, the more the seeker sees how both the Exoteric and Esoteric
      processes of religion coexist as part of the whole. However, the
      Exoteric follower often does not share this view, and sees only the
      Exoteric, as the upper reaches (the Esoteric) have not yet been seen
      or experienced.

      BEING AWARE OF THE POLARITIES IN ONE'S OWN RELIGION:

      The modern seekers who are drawn to Mysticism and Yoga can benefit
      tremendously by being aware of, and occasionally reminding themselves
      of the Exoteric and Esoteric polarities within their own religion.
      Then they can have much greater freedom in deciding whether or not,
      and how, to practice Mysticism and Yoga in the context of their own
      religion.

      http://swamij.com