Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Esotericism: A Pascal's Wager

The Straussian theory says that for every text, there is an exoteric (or obvious) interpretation and an esoteric (non-obvious) explanation. Of course, postmodernism has taught us that we can interpret a text any way we damn well choose, given enough time and cleverness. So, there is a theoretically infinite number of esoteric interpretations of a given text.

If we assume that there is an intended esoteric meaning, then the text has an intended esoteric meaning with a given level of esotericism and an exoteric meaning that is likewise intended -- and most (if not all) meanings in-between will probably have been considered by the author. Since the number of intended meanings are finite and concentrated towards the most obvious, while the unintended meanings are more esoteric and infinite, the more esoteric an interpretation the less likely it is to be intended even in the context of an esoteric text.

Of course, esoteric meanings are important outside of author intent. For the most part, it has never really mattered what meanings were and were not intended within explicitly esoteric works, since the goal of esotericism itself is largely the multiplication of meanings within the interpreter. A pleasant experiment that is difficult to dogmatize is to use a text source from which there can be no intended meanings, and assume the existence of an esoteric meaning.

In the end, this is a dual form. One may assume that a given meaning is not intended and lose nothing, and one may assume that a given meaning is meaningful regardless of intent and likewise lose nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment