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Home > Esoteric Futures
The Focus of Esoteric Futures
by Rev. Dr. Richard S. Kirby, PhD, Apr 10, 1999
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DaVinci's Vitruvian Man
"Strange, that it seems more, not less, urgent to play some part in this struggle, this brief effort of animalcules striving to win for their race some increase of lucidity before the ultimate darkness."
--Olaf Stapledon, conclusion to Star Maker [London, 1930]

As we consider the field of esoteric futures studies, we can plunge into our subject in media res, [that is Latin for in the middle of the thing], or we can try to expound the subject in a logical way. The latter tactic would be difficult in view of the fact that the future in some senses is terra incognita. So let us instead adopt the former strategy and begin by recalling the statement of Rudolf Steiner, in his book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, where he says, "Is knowledge of the higher worlds possible?" He says, "This is not the right question; the correct question is "How is such knowledge possible?" then the way opens up.

Rudolf Steiner is the one of the latest exponents of the so-called "hermetic philosophy" sometimes called the esoteric philosophy, and sometimes called the Perennial Philosophy, or simply the universal mystical tradition. This group of phrases covers or introduces the idea that there is a deeper reality than meets the surface. This connects with the main theme of so-called exoteric religion as we see in William James' classic book The Varieties of Religious Experience [1901]. In chapter 3, James writes that we are to speak of "the reality of the unseen."

This shared belief that the ordinary senses do not show the whole of reality is the meeting point for so-called exoteric and esoteric religious studies. These heavy-duty words mean little more than "known to the generality of people" [exoteric] and "known to a few" [esoteric].

The very concept of mysticism encapsulates the idea of an esoteric Philosophy. For the word "mysticism" derives from a Greek verb, "to see," mu-ein. This signifies that the mystics or initiates, recipients of a secret teaching not for the profane, received the iniatic knowledge as the result of eyes being opened by esoteric training.

This same esoteric training appears also in so-called exoteric or so-called ordinary religion under the guise of purification, or catechesis, or the amendment of life, or the renunciation of sin.

In the Jewish religion, for example, the prophet Isaiah says, "You cannot see me," says God, "because of your sin." Or then again, 'Cease from your sin and you will know me,' says God."

So the assumption of both exoteric and esoteric religion is that there is a higher knowledge or knowledge of "the higher things" or "things of the Spirit, or "things of God," that can be discovered. Indeed the assumption of all kinds of religion is that we are fundamentally oriented toward these higher things. As St. Augustine said, "You made us for yourself, O God; we cannot rest until we rest in Thee." Or to put it more simply, there is a God-shaped hole in the human heart or mind.

The esotericists work within a series of traditions. There is such a thing as an esoteric tradition of the West, and that of the East, and that of the world. The esoteric tradition of the East appears in such things as Hinduism and in esoteric Buddhism -- and we can see books with titles like that [Esoteric Buddhism] published by A. P. Sinnett in India in the 19th century. In the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875, we have the idea of the Brahma Vidya, or Theo-Sophia or wisdom of God restated for the modern age in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Theo-Sophia is presented by the modern theosophists as a body of perennial philosophy. It deals with Cosmogenesis or world-nature and Anthropogenesis or human nature -- the alleged knowledge of the subtle instruments of the human soul being revealed to the world.

When H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) published The Secret Doctrine in 1888, we had an attempt to write a theosophical treatise on science and religion. She attempted to bridge the gap between the dogmas of science and the dogmas of religion. In fact, the subtitle of The Secret Doctrine is "The synthesis of science, religion and philosophy." This would not have been written had it not been for the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of modern science.

H.P. Blavatsky's work did not go unchallenged. There were many objections to it, one of which was that it misunderstood the Christ-Event. The birth of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) led in due course to his appointment as general secretary of the Theosophical Society in Germany. Early in the 20th century he protested at the Buddhist orientation of the Theosophical Society and parted company with Annie Besant, second President of the Theosophical Society. After the cancellation of the charter of the German Theosophical Society, Steiner postulated an Anthroposophie or Geisteswissenschaft [Spiritual Science]; and led the formation of the Anthroposophical Society.

Rudolf Steiner was someone who saw the increasing presence of spiritual values in contemporary science. His goal as an esotericist was to create a spiritual science of the West. He felt that nothing in esoteric revelation would conflict with modern science and visa versa. Nevertheless he felt that there was a fundamental deficiency in the esoteric philosophy of the East, in that it lacked a specifically Christian perspective. He also felt that there was a fundamental deficiency in Christian theology in that it lacked the esoteric viewpoint born of meditation.

Therefore, the mission of the esoteric futurist, from the point of view of these various traditions, is to harmonize the outer and inner Christianities, to be midwife to a complete Christianity for a complete world. In this respect, the Eastern Orthodox Church offers a useful mediatorial presence. [See books by Schmemann, Losski]

Rudolf Steiner also has successors, in mystical or esoteric Christianity, successors such as Vera Stanley Alder, in such books as The Initiation of the World, and When Humanity Comes of Age, Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Carol Parrish.

The purpose of the esoteric futurist is to introduce spiritual science in a very exact sense into the formation of world culture.

To some extent this involves working with prophecies or with esoteric symbols or myths or realities, such as Shamballa, but that isn't necessarily the case for the esoteric futurist. The concern of the esoteric futurist is to see that the formation of the future of civilization, including particularly scientific civilization, by rational planning, proceeds according to the knowledge that is available in the esoteric philosophies.

Thus Vera Stanley Alder in her book Wisdom in Practice speaks at great length about the remaking of the human individual mind and the world mind through what she calls "personal Armageddon" and "world Armageddon" respectively. These we can see as psychological myths or symbols or metaphors.

But there is a fundamental thrust or trajectory of spiritual and or esoteric science and philosophy. Whether it is regarded as an iniatic science, a secret science or a spiritual science, it has a direction. That direction is summed up in the phrase "the divinization of scientific method and the apotheosis of human culture."

And therefore the task of the esotericist is the same as the task of the exoteric, namely, to see that it is on earth as it is in heaven. To put it another way, the task of Esoteric Christianity is to make a heavenly science, on earth.

Therefore the stock-in-trade of the spiritual scientist or esoteric futurist -- the terms are almost synonymous in many ways -- is to make sure that the spiritual sciences of the world are brought to the roundtable of discussion of exoteric philosophies and their bearing on the civil governance of the world.

All the spiritual philosophies of the world are coming to the great Moot, the roundtable of world religions in dialogue. The United Religions Initiative is one of many associations promoting this dialogue. All the spiritual philosophies of the world are called to the discussion. The spiritual philosophies known as yoga or all the yogas are involved. The spiritual science of the Western Arthurian or Jungian or Alchemical traditions is invited. The Theosophy of the east and the Anthroposophy of the west are summoned to the great Conclave of spiritual science. All of these have a contribution to make.

Perhaps, as Jung and others have prophesied, we can foresee the emerging synthesis of these East-West traditions. We can term this the Christosophy of the 21st century. This could be the great synthesis of science, religion and philosophy of the 21st century. The Christ of the Third Millennium is from this viewpoint the goal, the center and the heart of the focus of Esoteric Futures studies and research.

Carol Parrish, in her exposition of the Christ-Sophia synthesis of masculine and feminine theology, is a leader in this movement of thought and love. She has also drawn from Kabalistic studies to enrich contemporary Christian thought. The Christ of the Third Millennium is approached from three viewpoints at least: theological, esoteric and evolutionary. In a future article I hope to expound these three viewpoints.

The future and present tasks of the esotericist can be described tentatively. One such duty is to lay his or her knowledge at the service of the scientists of the globe. Knowledge of the subtle realities can help a science of compassion govern the technologies of the future.

This science of compassion is the task, which may occupy not only the century that is to come, but also the whole millennium. There is a seat for every esotericist at the table called the esoteric futurist.

The Themes of Future Studies

Meanwhile those esotericists who are not familiar with the essence of future studies may ask themselves, "What the are issues, what are the techniques, what the main themes of future study?"

The whole field came to birth with the Industrial Revolution, and when it was realized that the social construction of civilization and indeed of reality itself was being fundamentally changed. Whereas in the Middle Ages, stasis had been the hallmark of society, change replaced it, just as process replaced substance in philosophy as the 20th century got under way.

In 1900, H.G. Wells published his book Anticipations studying the effect of emerging sciences and technologies on future culture. He was the herald and pioneer of this field. As the 20s and 30s got under way, and the two World Wars showed the effect of military science and aeronautics on changes in warfare and in the whole structure of economic and technological life, other prophets appeared in the field. Pre-eminent among these was Olaf Stapledon [1886-1950] whose fictional Last and First Men defined the science-fiction thought of a whole generation.

In the 40s and 50s, there arrived on the scene scholars such as J.B.S. Haldane, and Dennis Gabor, and in the 60s and 70s Jacob Bronowski, Arthur C. Clarke, studying more and more intensely the reality of ceaseless change. This led to the birth of a professional futurist movement. In 1970, Alvin Toffler published his book, Future Shock, in which he pointed out the shock to the system of the Body Politic of the incessant change wrought by new sciences and technologies. It was the first of a trilogy by Toffler [The Third Wave 1980, Powershift 1990].

Jonathan Schell in his book The Fate of the Earth (1982), made the same point about the innumerable new sciences and technologies and products spewing forth from the mind of society.

So it was by 1970 the professionals in the field [forecasters and scenario planners, prophets, change agents, anticipators of emerging cultures], formed themselves into professional association, such as the World Future Society in Washington, D.C. There are counterpart societies in Finland, Australia and England. They set themselves to delineate the probable, the possible and the desirable lineaments of 21st century civilizations.

The professionalsí hope is that we, the human race would not be like lemmings, but would have some sense of where we are going, what kind of bandwagon we've arrived on, what kind of feelings we have about the sciences of our own making.

In particular the professional futurists look at vast domains of scientific culture such as: computers and artificial intelligence, astronautics, space colonies, genetic engineering, cloning and the like. The professional futurists ponder the consequences of these new sciences on a definition of human nature, on issues of justice and injustice, on quality of life, on longevity, ultimately questions, seemingly, of life and death.

The professional futurists ask, "Are we heading where we want to go?" "Are we getting what we want to get?" "Do we need more?" or, "What should we be doing?"

In the light of all these things, the futurist asks them a fundamental question, "How good is our scientific method?" "How good are our sciences?" "How good are our technologies?" They use that word good to inquire what are the values imbedded in the emerging sciences and technologies, what is their humane effectiveness, what is their quality, what are the results, what changes are we making to ourselves and our societies?

In reading, and sometimes writing, literature like science fiction, the professional futurists look at likely social effects of emerging sciences and technologies. Possible future societies are explored; and our feeling life is enriched as we decide how we want to proceed.

So the professional futurist in a word, is an architect of future civilization, near and far.

The esotericist is a contributor to that architecture. The esotericist helps by bringing in to the discussion mystical facts -- facts about the subtle realities of the spiritual life. The esotericist helps by bringing the specific knowledge of spiritual science and its revelations and/or knowledge and or techniques or spiritual technologies to the roundtable.

The esoteric futurist has an honorable place at this table, the table where people are discussing the scientific and technological civilization that is coming toward us. The esoteric futurist can help 21st century society in a great study of values. The esoteric futurists help in the great moral and scientific task of the new millennium: evaluating, in many senses, the coming future[s]: discerning whether or not it, or they, is/are the future[s] that we want for ourselves and for our descendants.

Further Reading:

  • Ahern, Geoffrey. Sun at Midnight: Rudolf Steiner
  • Alder, Vera Stanley. The Initiation of the World, 1939.
  • Alder, Vera Stanley. When Humanity Comes of Age, 1950.
  • Besant, Annie, Esoteric Christianity
  • William James The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1901
  • Johnson, Paul In Search of the Masters
  • Kirby, Richard The Mission of Mysticism [London, SPCK, 1979]
  • Kirby, Richard, and Brewer, Earl D.C. The Temples of Tomorrow. London, 1993.
  • Losski, Vladimir The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 1957.
  • Schmemann, Alexander The World as Sacrament, 1966.
  • Stapledon, Olaf Star Maker [London, 1930].
  • Steiner, Rudolf Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment.
  • Wilson, Colin, Rudolf Steiner
  • Wood, Ernest, Is this Theosophy? [Autobiography].
Richard KirbyREV. RICHARD S. KIRBY, PhD. is the international chairperson of the World Network of Religious Futurists. He has been a professional futurist for many years and is a regular speaker at the World Future Society and is known as an international lecturer of on issues touching on the survivability of the human race, psycho-linguistics, ethics, theology, philosophy of science and technology, science fiction, hyperintelligence and aspects of genius.



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