3 out of 4 stars
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"And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day." (King James Bible Online, Gen. 1.16-19, as quoted in Esoteric Christianity Made Simple by Con Trong Bui, original formatting preserved.)
Whether or not you are a Christian, you may be familiar with the creation story cited above. On the surface, the "greater light" seems to be the sun and the "lesser light", the moon. However, as Con Trong Bui notes in the book Esoteric Christianity Made Simple, the moon is not a light. Also, how could there have been three days already if day and night were divided on the fourth? Bui is not arguing that the Bible is nonsense - quite the opposite. He also asserts that there is no need to rely on faith to paper over the logical cracks. He explains that "day", "night", and the other images are examples of symbols scrupulously chosen to enable the Bible's stories to work on multiple levels. This deliberate choice of images based on how they could speak to an initiated audience is called the "esoteric system", which is key to discovering hidden meanings in the Bible.
Bui's book comprises a detailed survey of the esoteric system and its implications. He starts off by listing confusing Bible passages and concepts, which he then discusses in the light of esoteric interpretations. He systematically builds an argument about the deeper message of Christianity. Bui laments that human language is inadequate for conveying abstract or spiritual concepts, but that's where symbols come in. I greatly appreciated the many "Aha!" moments I experienced while reading Bui's interpretations. I loved the way his revelations meshed with both modern scientific discoveries and the beliefs at the core of all religions. (Buddhism is also discussed.) This could assuage some long-standing conflicts. For example, regarding the church's persecution of Galileo for his discovery that the Earth was round, Bui explains how the scriptures show that both parties were right. I encourage you to read the book to understand this and more, including common misunderstandings about crucifixion and resurrection and how to get past these.
As it illuminates the multiple deep meanings in the Bible, Bui's account builds up to breathtaking spiritual insights into what it means to be human and how to live. Although Bui clearly put thought into the structure, the material could still be better organized. For example, the explanation that the esoteric system was for a select few while its exoteric counterpart was for the masses does not come until Chapter 5. It would be helpful to include this nearer the beginning of the book along with other information on esotericism that I had to look up elsewhere. A glossary of the symbols and their esoteric meanings could also be a helpful addition, especially for readers pursuing their own research.
Given the lack of detailed background information, this book is not a primer on the Bible. Nevertheless, I would recommend it to the non-Christians it is aimed at. It could also be of interest to Christians wishing to learn about the esoteric system, especially those who are struggling with taking certain things on faith. Bui cogently argues that all the wording was included for a reason. In doing so, he frequently uses rhetorical questions with a devil's advocate tone. This is a representative example in reference to a verse that appears to imply that one day contains thousands of days: "Is it illogical and absurd? Of course, it is, until we consider the reference and the circumstance in which it is used." This style might not be everyone's cup of tea. Also, this isn't the kind of academic work that includes suggestions for further reading, and the only book cited is the Bible.
That said, care has been taken in formulating this book's valuable insights. It is edited well in general, although there are some errors, perhaps more in the parts that are new in this updated version. As this book's organization and content already work well but could still be improved, I rate it three out of four stars. The esoteric interpretations of the scriptures deserve to be better known.
Esoteric Christianity Made Simple
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