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'esoteric' - you keep using that word...

.... and in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya: "I do  not think it means what you think it means."

At least, that's what I thought when I came across this website (courtesy of PZ Myers & also discussed on various Australian media sites, although I'm not sure that I'm grateful as now I need to rinse my brain).

For Universal Medicine & its founder claim to make one feel better through a range of 'sacred esoteric healing' treatments, including: 'esoteric' massage, 'esoteric' chakra-puncture, 'esoteric' connective tissue therapy, & so on. After reading that list I had to go & refresh my memory of the definition of 'esoteric': designed for, or understood by, the specially initiated alone; limited to a small circle.

Yet massage is surely just that, massage, & chakra-puncture seems to be acupuncture by another name. A lot of people around the world will know something about them, so they can hardly be 'esoteric' in the dictionary sense. Maybe it's just a nice-sounding word? But no, Universal Medicine uses it in a different sense.

As for the connective tissue therapy:

What is Connective Tissue Therapy?

Essentially, it is a deeply stilling form of manual therapy that allows the body to re-instate its deepest form of energetic status. This is achieved by allowing the pulse of the Lymphatic System to symbiotically correspond with the body’s own ensheathing web – the connective tissue. When the two combine, under a specific pulse activated by the practitioner, the body begins to respond and thus there is a certain flow in its deepest and most natural innate state.

Last time I looked, the lymphatic system doesn't have a pulse, & goodness knows how that system is supposed to 'combine' with the collagen fibres that comprise much of our connective tissue. Word salad, yes; energy woo, yes; vaguely science-y sounding, yes: I'm well on the way to completing my pseudoscience bingo card already! UM's 'esoteric' connective tissue therapy is claimed to be supported by research evidence, However, I see that this is 'published' in-house & has not been subject to any external peer-review process. It involved 50 clients in a series of sessions that included 'craniosacral therapy', & the effectiveness of this was 'measured' in the following way:

The Craniosacral Pulse was measured using gentle hand techniques at the skull to measure the time of expansion and relation of the cranio-plates in the skull, as the cranio-sacral fluid moves in and out of the skull in a cyclic rhythm.

In other words, a purely subjective 'measurement' of a non-existent phenomenon: the plates that make up the cranium's bony dome are not normally free to move against each other once individuals reach adulthood, nor is there independent evidence that the cerebrospinal fluid actually pulses in this manner. And it's 'supported' by anecdotal evidence of well-being from the clients.

Research. That word - I do not think it means what you think it means.

 

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The root of the word esoteric comes from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō meaning " within" or "inner well". So the ancients knew that the esoteric was not something only known to a few. It is infact something that we have within us all and can readily connect to. As Jesus said, " The Kingdom of God is within." Perhaps he knew a thing or two. It would seem we in modern times have forgotten this truth and therefor the meaning of the word esoteric has been changed over time. Worth pondering on don't you think?

If I was writing about etymology, perhaps - but no, not in the context of a post about a 'therapy' that can't possibly do what's claimed for it.

Paula,

Given the text Alison is pointing at is written in the present day it doesn't really matter what past meanings of the word were (or were not), even if they might be interesting in their own right. (FWIW, I often think of the word 'meek' in this context, as 'the meek shall inherit the earth' is apparently it's often misquoted using the present-day meaning.)

Alison, have you ever tried any esoteric healing modalities? If you or any of your readers wish to explore this topic further perhaps you might be interested to read some accounts by medical doctors specialists and other helath care professionals who have been combining traditional medicine and esoteric healing modalities for some years at http://medicineandsergebenhayon.com/. Our scientific understandings are always evolving. Don't be too quick to dismiss that which is not fully understood.

you may not have noticed that Serge Benhayon's practices were the subject of my commentary. He can certainly produce a lot of testimonials but the one piece of 'research' that I've seen simply doesn't stack up. It's not so much that these 'therapies' are 'not fully understood' but that their proponents can provide no evidence -beyond anecdote - that they actually work.

Grant, Yes 'meek' is another word with a meaning that has been bastardised over the centuries. Given that the word 'meek' originally meant 'gentle strength' it puts a whole different perspective to the expression, 'the meek shall inherit the earth'. So I disagree with you. It does matter what the past meaning of words were given that in the case of both 'esoteric' and 'meek' the difference between their true meaning and their bastardised meaning it is the difference between empowerment and disempowerment.

Paula, you seem to be walking around the point I was making: whatever the old meanings are, if the text is present-day, you should use the present-day meanings. Old meanings are not "true" meanings, they are former meanings (i.e. no longer used in common language). It's not right to rewrite other's meanings by placing on their words other meanings dredged from history. That's misconstruing or misrepresenting what they are saying.

So the word "esoteric" has an esoteric and an exoteric meaning?
Sadly, no:

The term esoteric first appeared in English in the 1701 History of Philosophy by Thomas Stanley, in his description of the mystery-school of Pythagoras; the Pythagoreans were divided into "exoteric" (under training), and "esoteric" (admitted into the "inner" circle).

It appears that "esoteric" has always been used in the way that Alison used it, and the argument that there was once a similar-sounding Greek word with a different meaning carries little weight.

It's not right to rewrite other's meanings by placing on their words other meanings dredged from history. That's misconstruing or misrepresenting what they are saying.

Quite so.

herr doktor bimler,

Excuse my using this forum to alert you but for some reason Orac's blog is blocking my comments. (Goodness knows why.)

I've quoted one of your comments there in a brief post on my blog - just wanted to give you a heads-up.

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  • Grant: herr doktor bimler, Excuse my using this forum to alert read more
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  • herr doktor bimler: So the word "esoteric" has an esoteric and an exoteric read more
  • Grant: Paula, you seem to be walking around the point I read more
  • Paula: Grant, Yes 'meek' is another word with a meaning that read more
  • Alison Campbell: you may not have noticed that Serge Benhayon's practices were read more
  • paula: Alison, have you ever tried any esoteric healing modalities? If read more
  • Grant: Paula, Given the text Alison is pointing at is written read more
  • Alison Campbell: If I was writing about etymology, perhaps - but no, read more
  • Paula: The root of the word esoteric comes from Greek esōterikos, read more