While fundamentalist incarnations of religions tend to teach that their own holy text is the sole and transcendent standard of all rationality, truth and knowledge, another tradition, common in Western esotericism, asserts that there is a single, true theology that permeates all religions, and which was communicated directly from God to ancient man.
The term appears first in Marsilio Ficino in the 15th century, who tried to integrate Hermeticism, Neoplatonism and the Chaldean Oracles into Christianity. Both within and without Christian, Western esotericism has tended to emphasize this principle, and several others. For Antoine Faivre, Western esotericism should be understood as involving six core elements (the first four of which were intrinsic and essential, the last two which were secondary and thus not universal, but common nevertheless):
- Law of Correspondence — “As Above, So Below,” covered in my previous piece. This principle tended to be paired with the serious study of astrology.
- Living Nature — a kind of vitalist perspective in which the universe inherently possesses a kind of life force, rather than consisting of the dead matter of Western metaphysical materialism.
- “Imagination and Mediations” — emphasis on human imagination and mediation through things like symbols, mantras, intermediary spirits and rituals.
- “Experience of Transmutation” — the practice is fundamentally transformative and leads to gnosis.
- Practice of Concordance — in common with the Traditionalist School, the principle of prisca theologia.
- Transmission — the idea that esoteric teachings were transmitted over the ages through initiation.