The problem with esoteric terminology

Posted on October 31, 2010
Filed Under linguistics, Magic, Taylor Ellwood | 2 Comments

So often one of the problems I notice within occult culture is a tendency to couch problems and situations and everything else into esoteric terminology, as if by doing so, it will somehow make everything seem more cool. As you can probably guess, I’m not a fan of using obscure terminology needlessly. Back in my tech writer days, I found that if you wanted to practically explain how to use a product or technology or program, you had to use language that everyone could understand. You rarely used obscure terminology unless you really needed to.

To apply this to magic, I find that relying on esoteric language often just confuses the issue. Sure you can use elemental or different types of energies to handle a situation, but really what does that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I work with elemental energies, entities, etc., but at some point I’ve got to be able to translate all of that to how I live my life and how it effects my life, and doing that usually involves moving away from the esoteric language to the everyday language. For example, instead of coming up with some made up term to describe internal work, I just use the phrase internal work. If people don’t get what you are trying to explain, it’s probably because you’re too invested in using language they could care less about. And how we use language is a magical act sometimes, so if we acknowledge that, it’s wise to use language that is going to have the most significant effect on the target audience we want to reach. This applies as much to yourself as it applies to other people, because you are always your audience.


Pallas Renatus
Pallas Renatus

Esoteric terminology is all well and good as long as you define your terms. So much needless sniping is started by people arguing over what essentially boils down to differences in what they think a word means, when it all could have been avoided by an explanation in simple terms. Never assume your audience knows exactly what you're talking about.

A good principle to live by and a significant point to be made!