A major field of study for me has been the Shakti/Yogini cults of India, where connection with the divine through the use of powerful mantras is stressed over strict doctrines. Hence, a major drift away from Aryan-Brahmanic Hinduism, which stresses the importance of Vedic literature and external rituals (sans the controversial Atharva-Veda). Therefore, you have a strict doctrinal practice where those not observing such precincts are considered lower/outcastes and are often persecuted, versus a shamanic practice stressing power in the "here and the now" as opposed to an afterlife betterment. It seems these esoteric practices bridge the spiritual realm within the material where immediate results are sought, where exoteric stresses a better afterlife either through a heaven or higher form of birth (including caste).
It is interesting to note that these esoteric traditions stress an "oral" tradition, where a student sits with a master. Prior to my own experiences, I would assume that was due to the fact that the teacher was educated and would provide discourses. In modern times under the age of information, we have numerous sources to seek such information, where almost everything can be considered a "guru". Even in Judaism, the "oral" tradition is stressed where such may be the roots of Jewish mysticism. From my own experiences with Shakti mantras, as well as significant inner movements and expansions felt from listening to psychic channelers, and energy healers, I'm inclined to believe that the "oral" tradition is something much more than simply providing words, but something called in Hinduism as Darshan.
My own interpretation of this Darshan is like an energetic gift provided from a master to a student. Be it shaktipat, reiki, or some other form of chakra work. It's that something extra transmitted telepathically from an individual who has done significant inner work, and has the ability to trigger us in unknown ways that flower within us. Another group that I'm attempting to study include the mystical Christian traditions, where such traditions seem much closer-related to the Shakti cults of India as opposed to exoteric Christianity. From the Moravian Church, to Swedenborg who influenced Sir William Blake, to the mysterious group who many claimed Jesus was more than privy, the Essenes, it appears that many have attempted to come closer to the divine through techniques beyond simple belief and rote reading and interpretation of doctrine.
This whole concept of Darshan, or an oral aspect, where writing would be a corruption of the telepathic transmissions, seems to pervade numerous cultures, where such gifts are only provided to a chosen few deemed worthy. The oral tradition of Judaism is traced to Moses on Mt. Sinai, where such was given to a select few while the masses were provided with the doctrinal 10 commandments. Nonetheless, as historically seen and continuing through our world, this doctrine sans Darshan is taken as law, which then leads to bloodshed on a global scale accusing the opponents as law-breakers. This is seen from not only Muslims who choose a violent route based on corrupted interpretations of scripture, but Christians who refuse to turn the other cheek or treat "the least" of individuals as they would treat Jesus.
In addition, Hinduism holds the same respect, where Brahmins cans be seen as the judgmental Pharisees in the time of Christ, who only look towards doctrine as opposed to following their heart. As an example, the news has been flooded with information of Hindus using violence against Muslims for their use of cattle, given that beef is highly sacrilegious for Hindus. (Do note, I'm still attempting to find the roots of Beef-Prohibition and Cow-Worship in Hinduism, outside of agricultural purposes; If seeking Ma has taught me anything, it's to not be attached to blind devotion). From such conduct, a Cow is considered more sacred than a thought-provoking conscious Human being, typical for a culture raised under a caste-system belief system. However, such is counter to Upanisad philosophy, especially that of Advaita Vedanta, where the same atma that flows through the Muslim, flows through the Hindu, and "all that is", which is the "ocean of consciousness", Brahman-Chit. Nonetheless, the Brahmanic Pharisees would rather have us seeing doctrine or tradition, as opposed to heart-based truth. Hence, the reason why tantriks have been historically persecuted and rewritten much out of Hindu history where Professor B.N. Shastri, in his translation of The Kalikapurana, has indicated in his introduction that much of the tantrik elements have been edited out of the Puranas due to Brahmanic prejudices.
Going back to Christian mysticism, it is important to note that such groups sought a telepathic transmission from the divine itself. Just as tantriks have shaktipat seeking the blessing of Sri Vidya ("Vid" meaning "to know" or "wisdom"), these mystic Christians sought "gnosis" (defined as "to Know") to obtain Sophia ("wisdom"). Such Darshan is well beyond man-filtered, man-made, man-interpreted doctrine, tradition, and culture, which similarly countered and threatened the Pharisees.
In my further seeking of the Essenes, I'm lead to Jodi Magness' The Holy Land Revealed (Greater Courses Plus), where Professor Magness discloses religious political influence over spiritual thought as well as the drastic evolution of the polytheistic Hebrew people. As an example, the ancient Hebrews were highly influenced by neighboring cultures, where it seems that Hebrew monotheism was a result of attempting to unite differing tribes under the deity of King David's village, Jerusalem (City of Shalem, a Canaanite diety; the conquered Canaanite city in the center of the Israel tribes). Moreover, and as a side-note, modern Hebrew script looks nothing like the proto-type Hebrew, but is an adoption of Canaanite script. Professor Magness further hints to my understanding that the olden deities simply become the evil entities of the conquering cultures, where godly deities such as Baal of the Canaanites become a demon to the opponents. Therefore, the lectures show significant political interest influencing religious thought, where one must wonder what of such history and religious practices were an actual attempt to build a spiritual connection.
Moreover, Jesus further continues within the same context discussing the heart-based truth over doctrinal observations, with a similarity to Dr. Wayne Dyers, "How people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours", where Jesus states, ""Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?". (Mark 7:18-19; NASB). Though Christian orthodoxy will interpret this as Jesus supporting an anything goes dietary concern, I feel that such orthodox interpretation misses the point. Jesus constantly references the "heart", which is where I feel the truth is found, where one needs to ask is an individual conducting themselves in a heart-based consciousness, or a doctrinal-traditional biased ridden consciousness. We have the ability to stomach the external world, but we need to respond from our heart. Further, given that our concept of Judgment comes from the Egyptians (adopted by Christians), where one is not judged by their actions or their beliefs, but by the weight of one's heart, I feel that Jesus was pointing towards the stark differences between religious doctrinal guidance and spiritual truths.
In a world where the priestly class attempts to hold a monopoly and superiority over spirituality, these simple spiritual truths as expressed from our real masters seem more necessary than ever, where religion has and is continually being used as a political ploy as it was during our antiquity. It is a continuing cycle which humanity has yet to break free from dogmatic shackles. As I continue seeking differing traditions, I'm left astounded in the numerous similarities between the mystical traditions, while the orthodox continue to manipulate the masses to their detriment. When it comes to our religious guidance, I'm left pondering The Who's statement of the "old boss is the same as the new boss", in a world where it seems very few are actually seeking the truth of these religions.
Overly educated and continuously exploring and revealing more behind the veil.
"It cannot be too highly emphasized that the mystic swims in the same waters in which the psychotic drowns."
-James Wasserman, The Mystery Traditions