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The Esoteric Teachings
It will seem strange to people when I say that prehistoric Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ, that is to say, that its religion was composed of the same principles and ideas that constitute true Christianity. - George Gurdjieff

It is not uncommon for esoteric teachings to borrow from known myths and legends and rework them to suit their culture. The parallel themes and imagery--such as climbing mountains, surviving floods, overcoming barriers, struggling against antagonists, communicating with gods and goddesses, creation, death, and rebirth—protected the inner meaning, so although many religions appear to conflict with one another in their outward message and form, the inner message remained constant. Each subsequent esoteric school would recognize the inner meaning and use it in their new formulation of the quest for Divine Presence.

Traces of esoteric school traditions include:
The seas were lower in those days, and there were probably centers of initiation in what is now the Atlantic continental shelf. They left behind them a message that remained undeciphered for twenty thousand years, until Gurdjieff went with me to the caves of Lascaux on the last journey he made before he died. He showed me that the herds of deer depicted as crossing a river represented an initiation rite. The number of antlers on the deer indicated the level of development of the men whose emblem they were. In these and other caves we can see the work of masters of wisdom who lived thirty to thirty-five thousand years ago. – John Bennett

Historically we may never know where and when the struggle to awaken from sleep began. Nevertheless, the discoveries over the past hundred years of prehistoric relics and cave paintings in many parts of the world--some dating as far back as 36,000 BCE--point toward the existence of esoteric knowledge and teaching in prehistoric times. The simplicity of these drawings and artifacts masks a sophistication and subtlety that delivers a wealth of meaning in a few simple lines. The serene depictions of animals at rest or in motion, and the enigmatic icons of stick figures and hands, echo the more elaborate representations of ideas that later found a full expression in Egyptian art and architecture.

I have seen the deathless triumphant, and the Morning Star who walks divinely among them. – The Book of Going Forth By Day

The scale of the Egyptian school, or schools, was vast, spanning three millennia, a conscious impulse that stretches back into unrecorded history, perhaps to a pre-dynastic school that produced the Sphinx and the Osirion of Seti’s temple in Abydos. The Egyptian school developed a symbology of awakening that finds expression in all literary and artistic mediums available to it: hieroglyphs, legends, papyrus, statuary, friezes, painting, temples, jewelry, and funerary objects. The Egyptian school influenced the Hebraic tradition that followed it, taught the Greek and Roman civilizations, and lasted another half millennium to influence the Gnostic Christians and the Desert Fathers of Syria. From the building of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, to the great pyramids at Giza and the temples of Karnak, Thebes, Luxor, and Abydos, the Egyptian school has left some of the greatest monuments to the advent of consciousness and the infusion of the divine in man.

The Sumerian tradition

Prompt God with words at the appropriate time. - Sumerian Text

Sumerian writing dates back to 5000 BCE. The earliest hero in recorded history, Gilgamesh, asked, "What is the meaning of life?" According to historians, King Gilgamesh reigned in Sumer circa 2650 B.C. as part of the Mesopotamian civilization in the fertile crescent that stretched from the Persian gulf to the Mediterranean. The Epic of Gilgamesh depicts the King as two-thirds divine and one third human. The esoteric teaching of his adventures focuses on the internal struggle between Good and Evil, the relationship between man and the gods, the attainment of immortality and includes the cataclysmic inundation of the plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris. This deluge myth would reappear in later traditions as Noah and the Ark.


The world will pass away as a dream and nothing will remain but God. – Zoroaster

Zoroaster or Zarathustra was an ancient Iranian religious figure and poet whose hymns form the basis of Zoroastrianism. The basic beliefs include one omniscient God, the uncreated Creator called Ahura Mazda; a universe that strives for truth and order amidst lies and chaos, with the benevolent forces ultimately prevailing over the malevolent; and concepts of the Immaculate Conception, three Magi, Final Judgment, End of the World and Resurrection where the souls of the dead will be reunited with God. The chief duty of a follower is to defend the Divine Order through acting on what is Good. The intent of Good Deeds and Good Thoughts is the eventual union with the Divine Presence.

The system of the Tarot probably originated in Egypt, and was further developed and elaborated in fifteenth century Europe. What has become the basis for our simple deck of playing cards began as a symbolic map of the journey of the soul from sleep to awakening. Like the ancient Egyptian game of Senet, a set of which was found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb, it charts the many pitfalls and obstacles that await the aspirant.

The breath, the word of God, does not bloom in vain! He has entrusted it to your hands. - Toltec Wisdom

The pre-eminent figure of Toltec mythology is Quetzalcoatl, a divinity who also appears among the other ancient Nahua Indian tribes of the central Americas, including the Maya, K’iche, Pipil, and Zapotec peoples. Quetzalcoatl means "feathered serpent," representing the combination of human and divine, the crawling beast of the earth and the creature of the air. The Egyptian school often used the serpent and snake to represent aspects of divine and earthly qualities as well. Just as the Egyptian school depicted the internal struggle of Good and Evil through the legend of Horus and Seth, so too the Toltec school paired Quetzalcoatl with a worthy adversary named Tezcatlipoca, instigator of discord and war, who challenged Quetzalcoatl, considered the savior of humanity


Arjuna said, "My Lord! The mind is turbulent ... extremely difficult as the wind to control." Lord Krishna replied, "Doubtless, O Mighty One! The mind is fickle and exceedingly difficult to restrain, but with practice and renunciation it can be done." – The Bhagavad Gita

Hinduism is generally considered to be the world’s oldest extant religion. The Hindu Vedic teachings from the Indo-Aryan peoples are roughly distinguished between oral and written texts, a Sanskrit embodiment of a diverse, intricate monotheistic religion, perhaps the first experiment of a school in developing a religious form. The Vedic works are a vast proof of a religious discipline: prayers, meditations, rituals and moral teachings from a flourishing of Hindu kingdoms in the period 900-600 BC. The later Hindu school or tradition used the story form as a transmission of esoteric principles, producing the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita, an insertion into the existing folk epic of the Mahabharata.


Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself. Even the finest name is insufficient to define it. Without words, the Tao can be experienced, and without a name, it can be known. – Tao De Ching

Attributed to a court official named Lao Tzu, court archivist of Chu during the Zhou Dynasty, the Tao De Ching is an enigmatic set of writings that has inspired and perplexed readers and followers for centuries. Traditionally, Lao Tzu lived around 600 BC; tired with the internecine wars of the time, he decided to withdraw into seclusion. A border official would only allow him to leave if he wrote down what he knew. In five thousand characters, Lao Tzu wrote down the Tao De Ching, and then gratefully continued on his way. An astonishingly short work, the Tao is a poem, the enigmatic sayings of a seer, a set of philosophical musings and running paradoxes intended to confound ordinary mind. On another scale, it is perhaps the purest of esoteric texts, neither needing nor referring to a divinity for its authority.


Experience this present moment with full attention. – The Buddha

The Buddha is one of the world’s great religious teachers. An early aspirant on the spiritual path, he found that many of the accepted ways of achieving enlightenment had lost their effectiveness, and pioneered the "middle way," pursuing consciousness without the extremes of self-indulgence or self-mortification. As with many of the great world spiritual teachers, his biography has been transposed into myth as an esoteric parallel to the internal struggles of all aspirants to awaken. The story goes that in his early maturity the Buddha was a prince secluded from life by his anxious parents, until one day he saw in succession examples of Poverty, Sickness, Old Age, and Death. Driven to philosophical exploration, the prince left his comfortable life to seek out the answer to the question, "Why do we die?"

Zen Buddhism

I came to this land originally to transmit the Dharma and to bring deliverance from error. A flower opens five petals. The fruit of itself opens. – Bodhidharma

The Indian sage Bodhidharma journeyed into China around 520 AD, reviving Buddhism by his insistence on practicing meditation, or Zen as it came to be called, in any and all circumstances. His school took Buddhism away from a hierarchical, religious approach, and used common, everyday tasks as a means of achieving consciousness. Practical and non-pretentious, Bodhidharma was aware that the lower elements of one’s being, or "Ego", would rather discuss the Work than perform it, and appear to be an adept rather than actually be one.

Tibetan Buddhism

O nobly born, that which is called death hath now come. Thou art departing from this world, but thou art not the only one; death cometh to all. Do not cling, in fondness and weakness, to this life. Even though thou clingest out of weakness, thou hast not the power to remain here. Thou wilt gain nothing more than wandering in this Samsara. Be not attached to this world; be not weak. – Padmasambhava

It is claimed that the legendary Indian Tantric master Padmasambhava introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the middle of the eighth century AD, conquering and converting all the native demons and deities in the process. This legend also credits him with building the first Buddhist monastery at Samye in Tibet, developing Tantric or practical Buddhism and writing the Bardo Todrol Chenmo, known to the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The title literally means “The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Between.” Although it is now commonly used in Tibet as a ritual for recitation over the deceased, it reads as though it was intended to apply to any moment of one’s life in resisting the thrall of Maya or illusion. “O Nobly Born,” the Bardo Todrol counsels, “whatever you see, do not be afraid.” The teachings of Padmasambhava gave rise to the life and work of the great Tibetan awakened beings Milarepa and his student Gampopa.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. – Moses

The prophet Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt into the land of Canaan, by way of Sinai, where he received his mission from God in the form of the Ten Commandments. This exodus story of a charismatic leader, charged with a divine purpose, who leads a people away from slavery to a promised land became the foundation of the Jewish nation. In reality, the figure of Moses is hard to place in history. He might have existed anywhere between 1300 BC and 500 BC, but his influence and the work of his school are undeniable. Having produced one of the greatest religious books in the world, the Old Testament, the tradition of the law contained within the Talmud, and the mystical esoteric knowledge of the Kabbalah, Judaic teachings continue to instruct man as to his true relationship to God.

The Kingdom of God is within you. – Jesus

The Old Testament predicted the arrival of a great spiritual teacher, a Savior or “Christ,” meaning “the Anointed One”. The stories of the religious figure Jesus of Nazareth as described in the early Christian esoteric texts written in the first century AD inspired one of the greatest religious movements in history. These texts are commanding: the story of a religious leader, worker of miracles, and an advocate of a compassionate religion, who was martyred and then resurrected to impart the Holy Spirit or Holy Breath into his disciples and to lead them to spread the Word of God throughout the world. The teachings of Christ greatly influenced succeeding esoteric school traditions: the Gnostic Christianity of the desert and the Alexandrine sects, the Greek and Russian Philokalia traditions, the medieval monastic movement, and the craft guilds who built the Gothic cathedrals.

In the end, the commandments make man a God. – Peter of Damascus

The title Philokalia, or “Love of the Beautiful,” refers to the collection of texts from the monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, a tradition that continued from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries. These monks wrote on the disciplines of prayer and a life dedicated to God. The unswerving aim of these writers to document their devotion to God and the experience of the resistance to prayer from the lower elements of human nature provide practical guidelines for anyone wishing to learn the Art and Science of Divine Presence.

Gothic cathedral builders
He who is the Alpha and the Omega, should join a good end, with a good beginning, by way of a sound middle. - Abbott Suger

The ethereal yet monumental architecture of church facades and cathedrals that began to spread through France in the 1100s were inspired by Abbot Suger’s vision of a New Jerusalem in glass and stone. Built by anonymous craft guilds on a grand scale, Gothic architecture used carvings and stained glass to display many esoteric stories and references both inside and outside Christianity. Its designs and floor plans hinted at the man’s terrestrial condition and heavenly possibilities, and through the sheer command of upward space, light and sound the interiors elevate ordinary consciousness to a soaring, divine presence.

When you have come to the end of your prayer, search out the grace of God and remember Allah even more. – Koran

Founded by the great religious leader Muhammad in the 7th century, Islam means “submission” or the total surrender of oneself to God. Islamic texts focus on this total devotion to God, the Divine Presence, and the practical methods, such as the daily calls to prayer, by which devotees (“believers”) could direct the mind to God and leave behind worldly concerns. Muhammad as prophet and the Messenger of God is the prime example of man reaching perfection through communication with God, or divine revelation, and the practice of virtues. Few school traditions approach the zealous love displayed in the teachings of Muhammad, or illustrate so directly the relationship between the human and the divine.

The Sufi is he whose thought keeps pace with his foot. He is entirely present; his soul is where his body is and his body is where his soul is. - Sufi Wisdom

A tradition that stretches from the woman Sufi mystic Rabia in the eighth century to the Naqshbandi Order founded in the fourteenth century, Sufism expresses the mystical marriage of the soul with God as the love affair between the lover and the Beloved. In books, discourses, dance, and the world’s most exquisite lyrical verse, the Sufis describe the human yearning for God, transferring human passion and self-sacrifice for the beloved into a true relationship to God. The dialogue between the human and the divine has rarely been so poetically represented.

The Fourth Way
As soon as a man awakens for a moment and opens his eyes, all the forces that caused him to fall asleep begin to act upon him with tenfold energy and he immediately falls asleep again, very often dreaming that he is awake or is awakening. - George Gurdjieff

We have a spirit, which is immortal, and all our efforts at self-remembering are to make a conscious connection with it. - Peter Ouspensky

The Fourth Way system of ideas was brought to the West by George I. Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian mystic, and his student Peter Ouspensky, a Russian journalist and philosopher, in the twentieth century. The system was uniquely developed to suit the modern age with its emphasis on man as a sleeping machine, a cosmology based on laws and energy, the various factories that comprise the machine, and man’s latent higher possibilities to reach a permanent state of awakening. The chief methods of the Fourth Way are self-observation, the non-expression of negative emotions and the practice of divided attention, whereby a person observes both his environment and himself in it simultaneously. This division of attention, if practiced with a third impartial point as reference, leads a person to a higher experience of presence called Self-remembering.