Above is the famous scene from the first Karate Kid movie (1984), in which Mr. Miyagi reveals to his student (whom he always refers to as "Daniel-San") the hidden meaning behind all of the hours of chores Mr. Miyagi has been assigning to him.
This is perhaps one of the clearest and most-accessable examples of the concept known as "the esoteric" that can be found in popular culture. Just about everyone has heard of "wax on, wax off," for the simple reason that it is a profoundly memorable and even moving scene, even thirty years after it was filmed. In this case, waxing the car and all the other tasks (which Mr. Miyagi insisted must be done in a very strict and precise manner) was a way to teach something else: the "hidden" or "esoteric" meaning that lies behind the apparently mundane action of "wax on, wax off."
Although the esoteric is often defined as a "hidden meaning," note that Mr. Miyagi did not select his powerful teaching method in order to deceive Danny, or even in order to conceal something from Danny. Mr. Miyagi taught his student that way because he knew that it was the best way to reach Daniel-San, and to convey something on a deep level to Danny's mind -- something that might have been difficult or even impossible to convey in any other way.
Note carefully in the above scene that even when Mr. Miyagi finally reveals the esoteric meaning behind the mundane tasks, he does not do so by explaining them to Daniel-San: he forces Daniel-San to actually experience how it works, so that Danny knows what it feels like when it works. This is a very different approach than trying to appeal to the rational, intellectual, "left brain" part of our thinking.
If Mr. Miyagi, instead of having Danny spend days waxing the cars, sanding the floor, painting the fence, and painting the house, had tried to explain to his student what to do in order to stop a punch or a kick, then Danny would have had lots of questions as his "intellectual mind" tried to make sense of what Mr. Miyagi was telling him -- and Danny might (or might not) have believed that what Mr. Miyagi was telling him would work. This is a very different approach, and for some very important things it is not at all the best approach (not even a good approach). Believing something with your mind is very different from knowing it because you experience it for yourself, the way Danny did when Mr. Miyagi started to throw punches and kicks at him while yelling fiercely!
As it turns out, there are certain concepts which are best conveyed to our mind esoterically -- and that, in fact, are difficult to properly grasp through any other method besides the esoteric. The martial arts, in fact, are almost always taught esoterically (usually through forms which contain hidden applications that can be appreciated only after their motions are internalized). For a variety of reasons, the sages responsible for the ancient sacred scriptures and mythology systems of the world also chose to convey the ancient wisdom of mankind esoterically, through allegorical stories which could enable the mind to grasp truths which the "intellectual mind" would choke on.
The ancient myth systems of the world were not designed to create belief, any more than Mr. Miyagi wasted any thought asking Daniel-San in the above video clip whether or not he believed in the blocks and hand motions and whether they would be effective. They were designed to create the experience of knowing -- which in the ancient Greek was called gnosis.
My new book, The Undying Stars, demonstrates that the ancient scriptures of the world operate in exactly the same way -- esoterically. They are all a form of "wax on, wax off" which contain an amazing esoteric message that is "hidden" inside. This includes the stories of the gods of ancient Greece, of ancient Egypt, of ancient India, of the Norse, of the Hawaiians and the Maori and the Maya and the Inca and the Native American tribes and nations, and of almost every other culture around the world -- and it also includes the stories found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
The masters who created these stories were not trying to deceive us, any more than Mr. Miyagi was trying to deceive Daniel-San by showing him how to wax the car or paint the fence -- and they were not trying to keep these truths "hidden" so that nobody could ever learn them. Quite the contrary: the ancient scriptures and sacred traditions of the world were intended to lead men and women to consciousness, and to awareness of the truth about the human condition -- in fact, to gnosis.
But something most unfortunate for the human race happened along the way: for reasons of their own, a powerful group of families decided to suppress the ancient understanding and teach that they were not intended to be understood esoterically. They argued that the ancient scriptures were intended to be understood literally first and foremost: that we were to understand the ancient stories as describing the adventures of literal and historical personages or beings, and not as metaphorical carriers of profound esoteric truths applicable to every single man and woman. This approach can be thought of as the equivalent of telling Danny that his efforts of waxing the car or painting the fence have absolutely nothing to do with learning a martial art -- that there is no connection to learning a martial art, and that he should just focus on waxing the car and painting the fence, because that is all that there is to know about the subject.
To be more direct, they taught people to accept the existence of a literal, historical individual called Christ rather than (as Paul says) "Christ in you" (an esoteric truth conveyed by the allegorical stories). The original gnostic teaching of the stories of the New Testament (and the Old Testament as well) were all designed for the purpose of conveying esoteric truth so that men and women could achieve consciousness, overcome illusion and mind control, and experience gnosis. The evidence suggests that those who wanted to suppress the esoteric truths constructed a literalist religion (built primarily upon belief rather than upon gnosis) and they married it to the military and economic might of the Roman Empire, creating an extremely powerful system of mental tyranny: using belief and illusion and propaganda and mind control, backed up by the violence.
The Undying Stars examines the evidence that these enemies of human consciousness and gnosis began a campaign to ensure that those teachers and texts imparting an esoteric and gnostic approach and opposing the literalist subversion were marginalized, burned, buried, or otherwise silenced. Then, they expanded that campaign over the next seventeen centuries into the rest of the world, to eradicate the esoteric and shamanic teachings that had survived outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire.
Many readers of this blog, especially those with deep attachment to the Biblical scriptures or to the teachings of those who say that these scriptures are first and foremost to be understood literally, will no doubt be profoundly dismayed or even angered at such an assertion, and may decide they want nothing to do with any books that examine the evidence supporting such a view. To them, I would say that I do not wish to insult or offend anyone's sensibilities -- I am not an "authority" and I am only offering the results and insights that I have experienced in my own personal walk. There is a "note of caution to literalist readers" at the front of the book, explaining that the book itself examines evidence and arrives at conclusions which may be extremely damaging to the foundations of literalist belief, and some readers may prefer not to examine that evidence rather than threaten a paradigm in which they have significant personal and psychic investment.
Some readers, however, may decide that if the books arguments and analyses are in error, they can be safely read and then rejected, but if they are correct then it might be preferable to know it. The good news for literalist readers is that they likely are very familiar with the ancient scriptures, and this actually gives them a wonderful advantage: they have been "waxing the car" for years and years, even if no one has ever shown them how it relates to actually doing martial arts!
The fact is that the descendants of those enemies of human consciousness, who conspired to steal the esoteric teaching from humanity and get everyone focused on "waxing the car," were most likely careful to keep the ability to "do karate" for themselves! If so, then those enemies of mankind could very well still be "doing karate" today against the rest of us, and getting away with it, because most of the world only knows how to "wax the car," without understanding the meaning behind the motions.