Foreword: To me, 'the esoteric' pervades all forms of 'philosophy' in its original definition. The distinction between eso- and exo- says more about us than it does about the object in question. All religions have a more or less discreet esotericism, but it should be understood that 'the esoteric' is neither the object nor goal of authentic religion, and a religion that claims to be exclusively esoteric (as certain 'Gnosticisms' do, for example) are also exclusively elitist. Religions appeal to, and enable, all people to aspire to and attain that religion's stated goal. Esoteric then becomes a subsidiary, a component, and not at all necessary for the believer to draw back the veil, as it were, nor necessary in enabling the believer to participate in what lies beyond it. +++ The earliest traditions can be grouped into two schools, the Mythopoeic, such as Hermeticism, Hebraic mystical speculation, and the Logoic, of Aristotle, Plato et seq. As an aside, gnosis, a mode of intellection, is a component of every Religious Tradition, whereas 'Gnosticism' or 'the Gnostics' commonly refers to a 2nd century syncretism, a sort of Christian counter-culture which continues to emerge periodically. Generally speaking they were excoriated by both Hellenic philosophers and Christian orthodoxy. There is a sharp distinction between 'Christian esoterism' and 'esoteric Christianity'. Renaissance Europe saw an increase in interest in many of these older ideas, arising from the influx of knowledge from the Islamic countries, such as the appearance of Greek philosophical texts long been lost in the west. Various intellectuals combined 'pagan' philosophies, the Kabbalah (perhaps itself a mix of newfound Greek and preserved Hebraic speculation) and orthodox Christian philosophy, resulting in the emergence of movements like Christian theosophy. The seventeenth century saw the development of secret and initiatic societies professing to possess such knowledge, such as Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, and later the Enlightenment led to new forms of esoteric speculation deriving from Mesmerism, for example, or New Thought ideologies. The nineteenth century saw the emergence of new trends: an interest in occultism, and the appearance of groups like the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Modern Paganism developed with with movements such as Wicca. What should not be ignored, nor indeed underestimated here, is the impact of the Romance Movement as a reaction to Industrialisation, and the opening up of distance continents with all their exotic appeal. Nor, something which keeps nagging at me, is the dabblings of the 18th/19th century upper middle classes as 'the old order' of wealth and entitlement was slipping away, notably their eccentricities — again this includes occultisms, spiritism, the fascination with Egypt and other exoticisms, etc. In so many cases, heroes of the various movements have common origins, born into religious households, a degree of wealth and therefore independence, a rejection of familial and normative values ... There is a Very English Tradition here, running through the veins of English society, traced right up until current times. Esoteric ideas permeated the counterculture of the 1960s and later cultural tendencies, from which emerged the New Age phenomenon in the 1970s with its Cults, on through the more materialist and consumer-oriented interests in Yoga, meditation, TM etc., through to, on the other hand, flat-earthers, anti-vaxers and various 'conspiracy theories' which are the contemporary secular expression of the 'religious superstitions' of yore.