E – Esoteric Vs Exoteric

The inner vs the outer forms of existence are constantly in flux vying for attention from the  conscious mind which is the fulcrum. The physical world demands action and the metaphysical world demands reflection. Much unhappiness in the world stems from an imbalance in either direction on this scale.


Not only must a balance be struck by our conscious minds but we must also learn to tell the difference between these real and dream worlds. Many mental health problems are the results of misreading and misinterpreting esoteric lives as literal and real rather than as symbolic and imagined. This is not to say we should shy away from the imagined because ‘it isn’t real’. (The nature of reality is a debate far too complex for the context of this post, however, what is important is that the esoteric is a part of our being and it must be recognised and honoured.)

Something that western culture has fostered is this ability to separate and classify things into opposing forces. Duality is part of our consciousness paradigm and it has served humanity brilliantly up to now. It has helped us understand the world and the universe. But it is now time to put things back together.   Discrete polar opposites, such as the inner and outer worlds, work in stasis with each other not in opposition. One is always moving towards and into the other in a spectrum:

The more we act the stronger the message sent to the unconscious about behaviour and belief processes which become our defining character;  the more we reflect, the more we draw outward new influences which modify our behaviour so we can grow.

How does this help writers?

Writing is an Esoteric process. The writer travels within their limitless imagination and attempts to make physical that which is abstract. It’s a translation of sorts from the infinite labyrinth of unconsciousness to the confines of time bound consciousness.

All though creating a story is an Esoteric process, the very act of writing it down is Exoteric, and hopefully this story that comes from the writer’s imagination ripples through the world to touch the hearts and minds of many people thereby having a very tangible and physical effect upon the world.


The cranium is the housing for our esoteric selves, the grey matter is the computer that translates that universal knowledge.

Translation is not easy. Expressing the abstract in concrete terms is complex, especially as there is no linguist or dictionary to help the lone writer. Learning this skill is the ultimate writers’ journey and because each person is different, the translations will vary accordingly.

What does all this mean in practical terms? As writers we need to create a physical world setting, with characters that act upon it. Readers want characters who act and are decisive. Indecision is one of the foibles of human nature so naturally readers aspire to be like characters who act and make the right decisions, or want to learn from characters that make bad decisions.

Creating Believable Characters

Readers have little patience for characters who dilly dally and walk aimlessly allowing events in the story to carry them. But how does a character choose to act? How do any of us make decisions?

Striking a balance between reflection and action is a great way to write a character. A formula for this is someone who reflects, makes a decision, and then follows through. Interestingly, as in life, many of the best stories come from flawed decisions and watching how characters deal with the consequences of their actions.

Henchard, from The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, is one such example of a protagonist who makes a dastardly drunken decision which haunts him for the rest of his life.


“‘Now,’ said Henchard between gasps, ‘Your life is in my hands.'” Robert Barnes. Plate 17, Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge from The Graphic, 24 April 1886.

What are your favourite books?  What stories have changed the way you the think about things? Are there any characters who’ve stuck with you long after because you wished they had made a different decision? Or learned through the character’s decision something you could apply to your own life for the better?


4 responses to “E – Esoteric Vs Exoteric

  1. I resist duality as well. It is a false construct. There are always forces we don’t easily see, other options.

    As for favorite books, my current favorite is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The story is complex and filled with subtlety as well as powerful moments. His ability to write in so many different styles is a treat to read. If you haven’t read it, do it.

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