Before I begin my analysis, let me try to make some clarification towards two different concepts: being esoteric and being mystic. Esotericism is easier to understand in particular in relation to esoteric group behavior. Consumers of mass culture are great suckers of esoteric group behavior, one example being the group sexual rite in the famous novel and movie Da Vinci Code. It can actually be considered as a form of cultural progress: deviant, without bad connotations, behavior is now viewed as esoteric (and interesting) rather than as evil and to be condemned; though law-enforcement, rightfully, will have a different views if the legal boundary is overstepped. Mysticism is different, it is usually considered to be a higher (or the highest) level of experience and/or consciousness related to the Divine however it be defined. Common people are considered unable to fully comprehend, hence better keep it a secret or at least not to be debated upon in public, and definitely out of reach of scientific investigation (though some "worshiper of science" with a taste of mysticism will try, unsuccessfully, to bridge the impossible gap through something loosely named as "evidence based spirituality")
The modern man's acceptance of esoteric behavior (without condemnation, not participation) is high, as long as it is done under an adult's free will and within the bounds of the law, our society simply leaves the regulation of human behavior as private affairs between individuals. Spiritual groups, be they reputable or "cult-like" sometimes do get into trouble with the law. Oftentimes it is caused by an unbalanced power structure and almost complete trust together with weaker personalities of the participants who come to the group for help due to their weakness in the first place (check my previous post on the subject HERE). Still it is let the buyer beware in our society, though more conscientious spiritual groups are seen to have more rules governing the behaviors of their spiritual leaders. On the individual level, anything that depends on an individual's internal feeling will very likely to be esoteric for the uninitiated. This opens a whole arena of discussion that probably is the one the main subject of this entire blog!
What about the mystics? I shall use Carl Jung as an example. His Seven Sermons to the Dead is a document of mysticism. His document, as he presented it and believed it to be so, was supposedly to be a revelation from some higher metaphysical force or power. The special thing about a mystic's document is that it is considered as Divine Revelation and the "writer" is simply an instrument rather than the true originator of the text. In his biography Jung had an argument with one of his lady friend who insisted that Jung's mythical texts were forms of literary art but Jung thought otherwise.
Having said that Jung, the scientist, did cast doubt on the concept of him creating mythical or Divine texts. One indication is that he later regretted printing the Sermons for a limited distribution to friends. And more significantly he didn't publish his Red Book, and in his biography he hesitated to totally acknowledge his Red Book as Divine intervention, rather than simply the psychic map of a person who happened to wander into his inner psyche (he even had times of wondering whether his had a psychotic onset!)
Who then are the contenders of number 1 modern mystic? Those who chant for world peace and hope to a make a difference mystically? Those who practice OBE (ref: my previous post: The mysticism of OBE) or space travel to the Big Dipper as "supermen" whose minds can probably save the world by mere thinking about it? Those who believe can change our Collective Unconscious (as defined by Jung) and made a better world through deep meditation? Those who believe to be the "Chosen" by having been "Divinely spoken to recently" but still figuring out how to do it? Or those who can garner a big group of faithfuls by personal charisma or by Divinely favored?
Probably most are kind hearted, and probably some truly were chosen by the Divine, who know?
In the next post, I shall approach the subject from the "customer's point of view", stay tuned!