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What is an "Esoterica"?

I've been asked on a number of occasions the last few days, "What exactly is an "Esoterica"? A fair question, as that is actually a fairly prominent word in the name of our business.

It was actually one of my business collaborators, Tracy from Black Pearl Moon, who suggested using the word when we were sitting around trying to come up with a name for our new joint business venture. We had already decided on the name "Divine Echoes", but we wanted something a little 'extra' to more fully describe what we are about. I was actually a little hesitant on using that word at first, as I suspected it wouldn't be a commonly known word. Many people of course are much more familiar with the terms "pagan", "new age", and even "metaphysical", but none of these terms really came close, I felt, to being as all-encompassing as I wanted to project us to be. I didn't want us to be referred to as "that pagan shop", or "that new-age shop". Not that I object to those terms, but I felt they were too limiting. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that "Esoterica" was the most apt description of what I wanted this business to offer the community. But, explaining to the general community what exactly an "Esoterica" is has been a bit of a challenge.

In its simplest explanation, an Esoterica is a venue which features esoteric products and services.

Of course, the next question I get asked is, "Well, what is ESOTERIC??"

I actually looked the word up online in an attempt to see if I could come up with a fairly simple and succinct explanation, and was actually a bit surprised to discover it actually had multiple definitions, and even some of those were open to interpretation. Some of those definitions actually sounded a little 'elitist', which I certainly didn't want to project us as being! So, I was kind of left back where I started from. Here, then, is my 'interpretation' of the term as simply and succinctly as I can come up with:

In a spiritual sense, esoteric simply means "to look within", as opposed to its opposite "exoteric", which refers to looking toward sources outside of ourselves when it comes to establishing spiritual or religious beliefs. Most of the "mainstream" religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc, can easily be referred to as "exoteric" beliefs, as much of them are dependent on creeds and dogma to define themselves. In other words, we rely on sources such as religious texts, priests, ministers, imams, and various other religious "authorities" to define our beliefs for us. In an "esoteric" belief, we look within for those answers, and follow the paths that ultimately make sense to us on a personal level.

That's not to say that the "mainstream" religions and beliefs can't be approached from an esoteric standpoint. In fact, as an esoteric minister, I often encourage many of those I counsel to at least consider doing so. There's nothing wrong with taking a belief system you've grown up with and are familiar with and "tailoring" it to fit what makes the most sense to you on a personal level. In a very real sense, it's what most people have done for centuries, whether they want to actually admit it or not. One of the main issues I have with "organized" religion is they try to come up with a list of rules and creeds that apply to EVERYBODY, which is a blatant exercise in futility. That's why we have so many sects and denominations within the so-called "organized" religions in the first place. (But, that's another topic entirely. ;) )

On the opposite side of that coin, it's also entirely possible for some people to approach beliefs which seem on the surface as more "esoteric" in nature and approach it from a surprisingly exoteric manner. I've come across more than my share of "gatekeepers" among the pagan and alternative spiritual communities, just as I have from the mainstream ones. (Again, another topic entirely..)

Anyway, I hope this helps make it a little more clear what an "Esoterica" is, and why we chose that word for our business. At the very least, I hope it more clearly describes what we're about, and what we attempt to do: Offer products and services to help people discover and follow their own spiritual paths.

"The best teachers are the ones who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see."

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