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Esotericism
(555 words)

In antiquity the word “esoteric” was used for knowledge that was imparted only to an inner circle of fully initiated students, while “exoteric” denoted that which in principle was accessible to everybody. In a broader sense the esoteric soon became anything that is entrusted only to a select group on the basis of certain qualities. In contrast to secret societies, whose very existence is meant to be secret, such a circle is a nonsecret order or group that guards a secret. We find such circles in all cultures in the cultic field, as well as philosophical and, increasingly, political fields.

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Cite this page
Hoheisel, Karl, “Esotericism”, in: Encyclopedia of Christianity Online. Consulted online on 22 November 2019 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2211-2685_eco_E377>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004169678, 20080512



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