August 11

Ep. 0020: Esoteric vs. Exoteric

Having made it through World War I in the past four episodes, today we take a break from historical narrative-type podcasts to do something a little different.

From time to time, I want to talk about theories, concepts, and so on that have helped me to understand the world (past, present, and probably future) more clearly, and that I hope you’ll find interesting and useful too.

These will mostly be concepts from somewhere in the so-called ‘social sciences,’ which are (in addition to history) fields such as psychology, sociology, economics, political science, etc.  I’ll probably also cover the occasional philosophy topic, as well.

Today I’m going to be talking about ‘Esoteric vs. Exoteric,’ two words that, despite being separated by a single word, are actually antonyms.

[BTW, forgot to mention it in the show, but one thing I try to do with the Dangerous History Podcast is to share esoteric history — the true version known only to a select view — with anyone who wants to learn it.  That’s part of what makes it “Dangerous.”]

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • What esoteric and exoteric mean in the context of human society and institutions
  • Specific examples of them in practice, including organized religion, labor unions, political parties & movements (including the Tea Party and the Progressives), governments, and wars
  • Why these concepts matter and can help you see the world more clearly

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(Image “Triangular View” courtesy of ‘dan’ on

Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

Posted August 11, 2014 by profcj in category "Concepts and Theories", "Podcasts


  1. By Rhesa Browning on

    I’ve grown up in a Christian church and still attend now. I can think of any examples of esoteric doctrine. Yes there is a progression of things that people can learn and understanding is something that grows over time. However, I don’t know of anything that is strictly held back from new converts. I have never attended a Catholic church but I don’t think there is anything esoteric there either. Then again I am not high up in their organization. Jehovah’s Witnesses are pretty up front with their beliefs. Mormons however are esoteric, along with Masons and Shriners.

    I can’t speak for all Christian churches but I would be very surprised if any of the large Protestant denominations (Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists) or non-denominational churches are esoteric in nature. Protestantism was founded on the idea among others of Sola Scriptura, meaning it is all found in the Bible. I would be interested to hear contradicting examples.

  2. By Edward Jones on

    Would you consider that the US legal and regulatory systems comprise an esoteric/exoteric institutions. While I believe it’s true the text of all the laws and regulations are conceptually available for any citizen to read, the shear volume and specialized knowledge in the form of a legal degree at minimum is needed to understand or “interpret” much of the texts puts it beyond reach.
    And since boards and judges often must “interpret” the meaning of legislation and laws, how is a mere educated citizen supposed to understands and obey? Yet we are told ignorance of the laws and regulations is no excuse for violation of them.


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