metaphysicsand esoteric cosmology, a plane, other than the physical plane, is conceived as a subtle state of consciousnessthat transcends the known physical universe.
The concept may be found in
religious, metaphysical and esoteric teachings - "e.g." Vedanta( Advaita Vedanta), Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Kashmir Shaivism, Sant Mat/ Surat Shabd Yoga, Sufism, Druze, Kabbalah, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism(Esoteric Christian), Eckankar, Ascended Master Teachings, etc. - which propound the idea of a whole series of subtle planes or worlds or dimensions which, from a center, interpenetrate themselves and the physical planetin which we live, the solar systems, and all the physical structures of the universe. This interpenetration of planes culminates in the universe itself as a physical structured, dynamic and evolutive expression emanated through a series of steadily denser stages, becoming progressively more material and embodied.
The emanation is conceived, according to esoteric teachings, to have been originated, at the dawn of the universe's manifestation, in "The Supreme Being" Who sent out - from the unmanifested "Absolute" beyond comprehension - the dynamic force of creative energy, as "sound-vibration" ("the Word"), into the abyss of space. On the other hand, it states that this dynamic force is being sent forth, through the ages, framing all things that constitute and inhabit the universe.
Origins of the concept
The concept of planes of existence might be seen as deriving from shamanic and traditional mythological ideas of a vertical world-axis — for example a cosmic
mountain, tree, or pole (such as Yggdrasilor Mount Meru) — or a philosophical conception of a Great Chain of Being, arranged metaphorically from Goddown to inanimate matter.
However the original source of the word "plane" in this context is the late Neoplatonist
Proclus, who refers to "to platos", "breadth", which was the equivalent of the 19th century theosophical use. An example is the phrase "en to psuchiko platei" [Dodds, cited in Poortman, 1978, vol II, p.54] .
Conceptions in ancient traditions
Directly equivalent concepts in Indian thought are
lokas and bhuvanas. In Hinducosmology, there are traditionally seven lokas or worlds, while Buddhist cosmologyhas a much larger number of "deva lokas", identified with both traditional cosmology and states of meditation.
Planes of existence are sometimes referred to as "eggs". For example, the Sanskrit term
Brahmandatranslates to "the Egg of God". In this context, Brahmanda is thought to encompass the Anda (astral or subtle) and Pinda (physical or gross) eggs, in a way metaphorically analogous to a set of Russian dolls — the larger containing the next smaller, which contains the next smaller, and so on.
The ancient Norsemen and the Teutonic mythology called "
Ginnungagap" to the primordial "Chaos," which was bounded upon the northern side by the cold and foggy " Niflheim"--the land of mist and fog--and upon the south side by the fire " Muspelheim." When heat and cold entered into space which was occupied by Chaos or Ginnungagap, they caused the crystallization of the visible universe.
In the medieval West and Middle East, one finds reference to four worlds ("olam") in
Kabbalah, or five in Sufism(where they are also called " tanazzulat"; "descents"), and also in Lurianic Kabbalah. In Kabbalah, each of the four or five worlds are themselves divided into ten sefirot, or else divided in other ways.
The alchemists of the
Middle Agesproposed ideas about the constitution of the universe through a hermeticlanguage full of esoteric words, phrases and signs designed to cloak their meaning from those not initiated into the ways of alchemy. In his "Physica" (1633), the Rosicrucian alchemist Jan Baptist van Helmont, wrote: "Ad huc spiritum incognitum Gas voco," i.e., "This hitherto unknown Spirit I call Gas." Further on in the same work he says, "This vapor which I have called Gas is not far removed from the Chaos the ancients spoke of." Later on, similar ideas would evolve around the idea of aether.
In the late 19th century, the metaphysical term "planes" was popularised by the theosophy of
H.P. Blavatsky, who in " The Secret Doctrine" and other writings propounded a complex cosmology consisting of seven planes and subplanes, based on a synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas. From theosophy the term made its way to later esoteric systems such as that of Alice Bailey, who was very influential in shaping the worldview of the New Agemovement. The term is also found in some Eastern teachings that have some Western influence, such as the cosmology of Sri Aurobindoand some of the later Sant Mat, and also in some descriptions of Buddhist cosmology. The teachings of Surat Shabd Yogaalso include several planes of the creation within both the macrocosm and microcosm, including the Bramanda egg contained within the Sach Khand egg. Max Theonused the word "States" (French "Etat") rather than "Planes", in his cosmic philosophy, but the meaning is the same.
In the early 20th century,
Max Heindelpresented in " The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception" a cosmology related to the scheme of evolution in general and the evolution of the solar systemand the earthin particular, according to the Rosicrucians. He establishes, through the conceptions presented, a bridge between modern science(currently starting research into the subtler plane of existence behind the physical, the etheric one) and religion, in order that this last one may be able to address man's "inner" questions raised by scientific advancement.
Emanation vs. the big bang
Most cosmologists today believe that the
universeexploded into being some 13.7 billion years ago in a 'smeared-out singularity' called the big bang, meaning that space itself came into being at the moment of the big bang and has expanded ever since, creating and carrying the galaxies with it. In 1951, this theoryreceived the blessing of Pope Pius XII. However, in esoteric cosmologyexpansion refers to the emanationor unfolding of steadily denser planes or spheres from the spiritual summit, what Greek mythology described as " Chaos", until the lowest and most material world is reached. As theosophist David Prattemphasizes, at the midpoint of the evolutionary cycle, the reverse process begins: the lower worlds gradually dematerialize or etherealize and are infolded or indrawn into the higher worlds. Thus, outbreathing and inbreathing can refer to the expansion of the One into the many, and the subsequent reabsorption of the many into the One; not to any 'smeared-out singularity' and its subsequent physical expansion as postulated in the big bang theory. [David Pratt, " [http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dp5/cosmo.htm Cosmology and the Big Bang] ", a Theosophic viewpoint, Sunrise - Jun/Jul & Aug/Sep 1993 (last update: June 2000)] According to Rosicrucians, another difference is that there is no such thing as empty or void space.
"The space is Spirit in its attenuated form; while matter is crystallized space or Spirit. Spirit in manifestation is dual, that which we see as Form is the negative manifestation of Spirit--crystallized and inert. The positive pole of Spirit manifests as Life, galvanizing the negative Form into action, but both Life and Form originated in Spirit, Space, Chaos! On the other hand, Chaos is not a state which has existed in the past and has now entirely disappeared. It is all around us at the present moment. Were it not that old forms--having outlived their usefulness--are constantly being resolved back into that Chaos, which is also as constantly giving birth to new forms, there could be no progress; the work of evolution would cease and stagnation would prevent the possibility of advancement." [Heindel, Max, "
The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception" (Chapter XI: [http://www.rosicrucian.com/rcc/rcceng11.htm The Genesis and Evolution of our Solar System] ), 1909, ISBN 0-911274-34-0]
Who inhabits the various planes
Most cosmologies suggest that there are both positive and negative planes. They indicate that an Earth-departed soul is propelled towards the plane that corresponds to the level of its merits or demerits. One example of this understanding can be found in the secular or popular
Christianity, where in afterlife, a departed soulfinds itself in either heavenor hell. Other traditions, including the "inner" or esoteric Christianity, suggest that there are finer differences between various positive and negative planes, and that each plane beyond Earth plane becomes more and more subtle. It is commonly believed that positive planes are inhabited by subtle bodies doing righteous deeds, whereas negative planes are inhabited by subtle bodies doing unrighteous deeds.
* Johannes Jacobus Poortman, "Vehicles of Consciousness. The Concept of Hylic Pluralism", The Theosophical Society in Netherlands, 1978
* Heindel, Max, "The Rosicrucian Mysteries" (Chapter III: [http://www.rosicrucian.com/rms/rmseng01.htm#Chapter_III The Visible and the Invisible Worlds] ), 1911, ISBN 0-911274-86-3
* H.P. Blavatsky, "
The Secret Doctrine", Theosophical Publishing House, 1888
External links (Planes' diagrams)
* [http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/planetarium/index.htm#15 Vedic cosmology - planetarium]
* [http://www.spiritualresearchfoundation.org/spiritualresearch/spiritualscience/afterdeath/#2 Planes of Existence] - Spiritual Science Research Foundation
* [http://www.kheper.net/integral/planes.html Planes of Existence] - Kheper website
* [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/loka.html The Thirty-one Planes of Existence] - according to Buddhist cosmology
* [http://spirits_quest.tripod.com/Genesis.htm Genesis, Planes of Creation, Positive & Negative Powers] - cosmology according to
Radhasoami/ Sant Matteachings
* [http://www.santji.allegre.ca/planes-640.jpg“The Grand Scheme of All Creation”] - part of the [http://www.santji.allegre.ca/ Sant Ajaib Singh Ji Memorial Site] (a small Radhasoami cosmological diagram)
* [http://www.geocities.com/santmat_mystic/ChartPlanes.jpgThe creation according to Sant Mat]
* [http://www.geocities.com/santmat_mystic/Cat.pdf The inner planes of creation] (pdf) - a
Surat Shabd Yoga/Sant Mat diagram
* [http://www.mudrashram.com/GCC2.html The Great Continuum Of Consciousness] according to
George A. Boyd
* [http://www.rosicrucian.com/images/rccen001.gifThe Material World a Reverse Reflection of the Spiritual Worlds] according to Rosicrucian cosmology:
** [http://www.rosicrucian.com/images/rccen002.gifThe Seven Worlds]
** [http://www.rosicrucian.com/images/rccen006.gifThe Supreme Being, The Cosmic Planes and God]
* [http://new-ecopsychology.org/en/books/ecopsychology/eco-3.htm Multidimensionality of the Universe] - based on the philosophy of Vladimir Antonov
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