All esoteric schools taught and teach the same thing—how to be present to one’s life. Whether it is called mindfulness, self-remembering, meditation, inner yoga, or prayer of the heart, all real teachings—however complicated their outer forms might seem—are based on this simple effort to be present.
Schools have existed as long as mankind. They loom behind the history of humanity—indeed, one could say they are the real history of humanity—recalling men and women in every era to their true, divine nature. We can trace the signature of schools in prehistoric cave paintings, Egyptian pyramids, medieval playing cards, Gothic cathedrals, and Mayan sculptures. The myths and allegories of all spiritual traditions represent the struggle of the hero to resist the temptations and distractions of his imaginary lower self, and recognize his beloved, his Higher Self.
Because this struggle is objective, schools have perfected their knowledge and methods of awakening, and these are passed down from school to school in the form of symbols or keys. As a school slowly crystallizes into a formal religion—Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or Moslem—the inner meaning is easily lost, because understanding the inner meaning requires presence. Then the outer meaning is enacted, as Mayan priests literally “raised the hearts” of victims up to the gods, or Buddhists cut off their hair rather than cutting off thought, or Christian ascetics fast by refusing food rather than by abstaining from mental activity. A real school reminds us to practice the inner meaning, which always points to the same effort: controlling imagination to create a space for divine, wordless presence.