THE REAL AND THE UNREAL
ESOTERIC AND EXOTERIC
The Eastern philosophies speak of the Real and the Unreal. Another way of putting that is Reality and Illusion. They say that this world is Unreal or an Illusion. We have difficulty with that concept because the world around us seems all too real. It’s solid. It has existence. How can they say that it is illusion? Is it all in the eye of the beholder?
There was a very famous tailor living in New York who was said to make the finest suits in the city. In order to get a suit made by Abe, the Tailor, you had to put your name on a very long waiting list. Max was on such a list. He knew that Abe, the Tailor was very expensive, but he thought it would be worth it just to be able to show the suit off to his friends and say, “This suit was made by Abe, the Tailor.” And, of course he would actually have a suit made by the most famous tailor in all the land. If he was the best in New York, it followed he must be the best in all the land. That’s what New Yorker’s say, anyhow.
Finally, Max’s turn had come. He had gone to Abe, the Tailor and Abe, the Tailor had measured him up and had called just this morning to say that the suit was ready and Max should come and pick it up
Max was very excited when he entered Abe, the Tailor’s Shop. Abe held up the finished suit for Max to admire and you could see that it was made of the finest materials. Max went into the fitting room and tried on the suit.
He came out of the fitting room and he could tell that some things were not quite right. “Abe,” he said, the sleeve, it’s a little too long on the right side.” Abe said, “It’s not the sleeve. You have to lift up your shoulder and stretch out your arm and it will fit perfectly.” “But the back,” Max said, “it’s pushed out in the back.” “No problem.” says Abe, “Just hunch up your back and lean forward a little bit.” “But the jacket doesn’t close right in the front.” says Max, whereupon Abe replies, “Just twist your left side forward and down a little bit and it will be perfect.” Max follows these instructions and Abe is now satisfied that it is a perfect fit.
Max is now walking down the street with his new suit on, his right shoulder lifted up with his right arm stretched out, his back hunched up as he leans slightly forward and his left side twisted forward and down a little bit when he bumps into Marvin, an old friend of his. “How do like the suit?” asks Max, “It was made by Abe, the Tailor. Isn’t he a wonderful Tailor?
Marvin walks all around Max and examines the suit very carefully. Finally, nodding his head as he speaks, Marvin agrees, “Yes, he’d have to be to fit a cripple like you.”
What’s real and what’s illusion? Things are not always what they appear to be. To Max, the suit was perfect. To Marvin, Max was a cripple; and to Abe…well, who knows what Abe was thinking? The Eastern philosopher will say, “Who cares what they thought? None of it is Real. It’s all an Illusion.”
Let us take a little mental journey back in time. A time before Television, before Radio, before the Wireless, before, in fact, the discovery of electricity and magnetic fields. Way back in time to primitive man. What is Real to this primitive man? What he can see. What he can touch. (Alright, this goes for the she’s also.) What she can see. What she can touch. (OK if I go back to the he’s?) What he can smell. What he can taste. What he can hear. Basically, whatever he can experience through his five senses. That’s what he can know; what we call the exoteric world, the world around him. Sure, he knows that there are things he doesn’t know: why the wind blows, why it rains, what is thunder and lightning, and any number of other things, but if you were to tell him that people could communicate with each other over long distances, that you could turn on a little box and listen to music, he would think that you were crazy. All of the things that we take for granted would be considered esoteric, part of the things that you don’t know that you don’t know.
We have two worlds then: one exoteric: that which can be experienced by the five senses or extensions thereof, e.g. microscopes, telescopes, etc. in other words, the objective world, that which to some is the only world.—the other esoteric; that which cannot be experienced in that way, a hidden world that may require a sixth sense, a seventh, eighth or greater sense, or other instruments that have not yet been discovered. We may be like the cave man to some future man. There is still so much that we don’t know that we don’t know.