Another on-going criticism of the Oracle of the Phoenix is that for religionists the book is viewed as being a part of the occult - forbidden by their particular doctrine. The word occult actually means "hidden" which something is, until it is revealed. If this logic applied to church doctrine for instance - all of St. John's Revelation would be representative of the occult until the seals are removed in the text.
Esoteric means reserved for the few - not the many. This is the reaction from the media when I've proposed some media projects around the story - "I'm sorry, this material is too esoteric". Luckily, there is serious scholarship going on this area led by a professor I met in 2008 at a Jewish Mysticism conference in Israel. Dr. Wouter Hanegraaff has been a leading authority in this area.
He writes " Esotericism can be understood as a general label for all those traditions in Western culture that had been rejected by rationalist and scientific thinkers since the eighteenth century, the period of the Enlightenment, as well as by dominant forms of Protestant Christianity since the sixteenth century, the age of the Reformation (Hanegraaff 2012). It has often been assumed that everything that had ended up in this reservoir of “rejected knowledge” belongs to a single great spiritual tradition, imagined as a kind of traditional Western counterculture parallel to a similar tradition of Oriental esotericism. These Eastern and Western esoteric traditions are then supposed to be grounded ultimately in one and the same ancient and universal wisdom. However, such assumptions have much more to do with the personal perspectives and background agendas of modern and contemporary observers and practitioners than with the reality of how various currents, ideas, or practices nowadays labeled as “esoteric” have actually function(ed) in their own specific time and context. In other words, there is often an enormous difference between the “esotericism” of the popular imagination and the “esotericism” of the social and historical realities that are being studied under that label."
I'm attaching a chapter from one of his books " Esotericism Theorized: Major Trends and Approaches to the Study of Esotericism" as well as his concluding remarks posted here as a snippet:
"We have been looking at the five most important theoretical perspectives that are operative in the modern study of esotericism: religionism, sociology, the study of secrecy and concealment, discursive approaches, and historicism. Of course, such neat categorizations are always a simplification: in actual practice, we find that scholars often combine several approaches in their work, and it must be said that there is quite some confusion about the exact nature of these theoretical perspectives, their implications, and their relations to one another. Nevertheless, by being clear about the differences between these five approaches to what “esotericism” is all about, we can learn to perceive the theoretical agendas and background assumptions that are operative in the scholarly literature, and this will help us understand why different scholars make different choices.
Against the background just sketched, the modern study of Western esotericism can be described as having gone through three stages (Hanegraaff 2013c). The first, from the 1970s to 1992, might be called “Esotericism 1.0” and was dominated by a religionist paradigm. Starting with a pioneering introductory textbook published in 1992 by the dominant scholar of this period, Antoine Faivre, the field moved to a second stage that might be called “Esotericism 2.0.” This stage was marked by a move away from religionism in favor of empirical, historical, and discursive approaches. In this period the study of esotericism established itself as a new field of academic research, as shown by the emergence of academic programs, scholarly societies, peer-reviewed journals, an explosion of books and collective volumes, and so on.
Roughly since 2012, the field seems to be moving toward a third stage of development, “Esotericism 3.0,” marked by increasing interdisciplinary debate across the boundaries of the humanities and the social sciences, particularly about how the boundaries of “esotericism” should be drawn. For instance, how should one think about the relation between esotericism and neighboring fields, notably “gnosticism” and “mysticism”? How should one understand “Western” esotericism in view of its spread to Oriental cultures and other parts of the world, or in view of structural parallels in other cultural contexts? What happens to our understandings of “esotericism” when one crosses the boundary from religious studies to other disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, or even such disciplines as cognitive science or evolutionary biology? And if the focus is on esoteric discourses in religion generally, then is it necessary to keep setting the field apart at all, or shouldn’t we rather allow it to dissolve into the general study of religion? Scholars have different opinions about each of these questions, and of course I have my own opinion as well (see e.g. Hanegraaff 2013b; 2015). The field referred to as “esotericism” can be constructed and understood in different ways by different scholars, according to each person’s theoretical assumptions and background agendas.
Regardless of the perspective one chooses, esotericism research is certainly among the most exciting new developments in the study of religion and culture today. In less than two decades the field has overcome its previous status as a somewhat marginal pursuit surrounded by academic prejudice and has become a burgeoning and widely respected area of research that is not limited to religion alone but reaches across the boundaries between all disciplines of the humanities (Hanegraaff 2013d). Solid scholars in this field no longer need to be afraid of being ostracized by their colleagues; on the contrary, they will be welcomed for having something new and important to offer. Precisely because the source materials of esotericism have been neglected for so long, there are few other domains where so many discoveries can still be made, often with implications that challenge traditional opinions about what Western culture is all about. In sum, the study of esotericism is not for the timid-minded but for those who wish to boldly go where no one has gone before."