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esoteric, a. and n.

(strk, is-)
[ad. Gr. -, f. , compar. of within.
The Gr. word occurs first in Lucian, who ascribes to Aristotle a classification of his
own works into esoteric and exoteric. (Cic. De Fin. v. 5 recognizes such a
classification but uses only the term exoteric, leaving the opposite class
undesignated; Aristotle himself merely uses in the sense of popular,
untechnical.) By later writers the word was employed to designate the secret
doctrines said to have been taught by Pythagoras to a select few among his
A.A adj.
1.A.1 Of philosophical doctrines, treatises, modes of speech, etc.: Designed for, or
appropriate to, an inner circle of advanced or privileged disciples; communicated to,
or intelligible by, the initiated exclusively. Hence of disciples: Belonging to the inner
circle, admitted to the esoteric teaching. Opposed to exoteric.
Esoteric Buddhism: a system of theosophical doctrines, alleged by its adherents
to have been handed down by secret tradition among an initiated class of Buddhists.
165560 Stanley Hist. Philos. (1701) 372/1 The Auditors of Pythagoras were of
two sorts, Exoterick and Esoterick; the Exotericks were those who were under
probation, which if they well performed, they were admitted to be Esotericks. 1738
Warburton Div. Legat. iii. 2 (1755) 98 The exoteric teaching [of the Pythagoreans]
admitted fable and falsehoodthe esoteric only what the teacher believed to be true.
a1754 Fielding Comm. Bolingbroke's Ess. Wks. 1784 X. 310 In rescuing the
esoteric purity of his doctrines from that less amiable appearance in which their
exoteric garb represents them. 176874 Tucker Lt. Nat. (1852) II. 677 These two
classes [the adept and the vulgar] must be addressed in two different languages, the
esoteric and the exoteric. 1817 Coleridge Biog. Lit. I. x. 200, I considered the
Trinityentitled to the rank of an esoteric doctrine of natural religion. 1837 Hallam
Hist. Lit. I. 1. iii. 90. 204 A hidden stream of esoteric truth was supposed to flow
beneath all the surface of Scripture. 1883 Sinnett (title), Esoteric Buddhism.
b.A.1.b absol. (quasi-n.) = Esoteric sense. rare.
1842 Mrs. Browning Grk. Chr. Poets (1863) 52 The esoteric of the most suspicious
turnings of his phraseology is Glory to the true God.

2.A.2 transf. a.A.2.a Of motives, purposes, etc.: Not openly avowed. b.A.2.b
Pertaining to a select circle; private, confidential. c.A.2.c Qualifying a personal
epithet: That is esoterically such.
1866 W. Thornbury Greatheart III. 176 He had two motives in his visit, an exoteric
and an esoteric motive. 1859 Macaulay Hist. Eng. V. 206 His esoteric project was
the original project of Christopher Columbus. 1876 Black Madcap V. xliii, How
could he aid in this esoteric interview? 1876 Fairbairn Strauss 11, Strauss had
hardly the stuff in him to be an exoteric Conservative while an esoteric Radical.
1881 Nature XXIV. 578 There is nothing to hinder them having also more esoteric
meetings at stated intervals.
3.A.3 Phys. (In etymological sense): Applied to things which relate to, or have origin
within the organism (Syd. Soc. Lex.).
1860 in Mayne Exp. Lex.
B.B n.
1.B.1 pl. (after Gr. .) Esoteric doctrines; esoteric treatises.
1711 tr. Werenfels' Disc. Logomachys 99 Aristotle's Books of deep Learning, his
Acroamaticks, Esotericks, Epopticks, and mysterious Writings. 176874 Tucker Lt.
Nat. (1852) I. 430 Our predecessors had their esoterics and exoterics. 1809 Knox
& Jebb Corr. I. 488 Alexander complained to Aristotle, that he had done ill to give the
world his esotericks. 1821 S. Parr Wks. (1828) viii. 353 I must, in my esoterics,
stand aloof from all controversies.
2.B.2 One initiated in esoteric doctrines.
165560 [see A. 1].