> Many of the most ancient traditions involve deep symbolism that
> is reserved for priests and initiates. The prevailing view is
> that knowledge was hidden in order to preserve it. However,
> when you examine this proposition, it may not really hold
> First of all, ask yourself how many poems you know which are
> over 100 years old. Chances are, the ones you remember are
> nursery rhymes, or poems you memorized in school or during
> religious instruction - such as were taught to virtuall ALL
> children in some cultures. Based on this one example, it would
> seem that it is the widespread teaching of knowledge - not the
> hiding of it - that best preserves it.
> Secondly, in many esoteric religions such as the Dogon,
> virtually anyone could potentially become an initiate, simply
> by asking penetrating and orderly questions of a knowledgeable
> priest. In fact, the Dogon priests are actually obligated to
> answer a question if it is presented in an orderly way (if a
> question is asked out of context or out of order, the priest is
> obligated to remain silent).
> So I post this question to anyone interested: If the primary
> motive for hiding esoteric knowledge was not to preserve it,
> and in particular if the goal was not ultimately to shield this
> knowledge from the view of the average person, then why WAS the
> esoteric knowledge being hidden? And who was it being hidden
You've got the wrong sense of 'preserve'. And you've answered your own question in the process of asking it.
Answer these questions for yourself:
Why does the Dogon priest remain silent when presented with groping, aimless, 'idle curiousity' type questions?
And why is the Dogon priest obligated answer an 'orderly' question?
The answer has to do with the nature of 'esoteric' knowledge. It must be preserved -- that is, maintained -- not merely 'continued' by duplication but preserved in its proper form. And that means true understanding must be maintained, not just the words. How many of those 'nursery rhymes' you mention are understood anymore? Does anyone know for certain what 'ring around the rosey' means anymore? Does anyone know what the 'hey diddle diddle' rhyme with the cow jumping over the moon and whatnot really means anymore? The words have been preserved (or maybe not... we can't even be certain of that) but not the knowledge.
So, the true initiate is obligated to protect his esoteric knowledge from mere curiousity so that it is not corrupted. But is also obligated to give it to those who are able to truly understand it both for the immediate benefit of the individual seeker and so that it may be preserved for the future.