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.
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 Age movement. The term is also found in some Eastern teachings that have some Western influence, such as the cosmology of Sri Aurobindo ...
The psychical researcher F. W. H. Myers proposed the existence of a “metetherial world”, which he wrote to be a world of images lying beyond the physical world. He wrote that apparitions have a real existence in the metetherial world which he described as a dream-like world. Myers' work on psychical research and his ideas about a "subliminal self" were influential in his time, but have not been accepted by the scientific community.
In 1893 Myers wrote a small collection of essays, Science and a Future Life. In 1903, after Myers's death, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death was compiled and published. This work comprises two large volumes at 1,360 pages in length and presents an overview of Myers's research into the unconscious mind. Myers believed that a theory of consciousness must be part of a unified model of mind which derives from the full range of human experience, including not only normal psychological phenomena but also a wide variety of abnormal and "supernormal" phenomena. William James. Frederic Myers's Service to Psychology The Popular Science Monthly, August 1901, pp. 380–389.
Charles Webster Leadbeater fundamentally described and incorporated his comprehension of intangible beings for Theosophy. Along with him there are various planes intertwined with the quotidian human world and are all inhabited by multitudes of entities. Each plane is purported as composed of discrete density of astral or ethereal matter and frequently the denizens of a plane have no discernment of other ones. Other Theosophical writers such as Alice Bailey, a contemporary of Leadbeater, also gave continuousness to Theosophical concepts of ethereal beings and her works had a great impact over New Age movement. She puts the nature spirits and devas as ethereal beings immersed in macro divisions of an interwoven threefold universe, usually they belong to the etheric, astral, or mental planes. The ethereal entities of the four kingdoms, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, are forces of nature.
Annie Besant wrote that "The mental plane, as its name implies, is that which belongs to consciousness working as thought; not of the mind as it works through the brain, but as it works through its own world, unencumbered with physical spirit-matter. A detailed description of the mental plane, along with the mental body, is provided by Arthur E. Powell, who has compiled information in the works of Besant and Leadbeater in a series of books on each of the subtle bodies.
Sri Aurobindo developed a very different concept of the mental plane, through his own synthesis of Vedanta (including the Taittiriya Upanishad), Tantra, Theosophy, and Max Théon ideas (which he received via The Mother, who was Theon's student in occultism for two years). In this cosmology, there are seven cosmic planes, three lower, corresponding to relative existence (the Physical, Vital, and Mental), and four higher, representing infinite divine reality (Life Divine bk.1 ch.27) The Aurobindonian Mind or Mental Plane constitutes a large zone of being from the mental vital to the overmental divine region (Letters on Yoga, Jyoti and Prem Sobel 1984), but as with the later Theosophical concept it constitutes an objective reality of sheer mind or thought.
Max Théon (1848–1927) perhaps born Louis-Maximilian Bimstein, was a Polish Jewish Kabbalist and Occultist. In London while still a young man, he inspired The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in 1884, but seemed to have little to do with the day-to-day running of the organisation, or indeed its actual teachings (Chanel et al., Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor).
There is some dispute over whether Théon taught Blavatsky at some stage; the Mother in The Agenda says he did, Chanel et al. considers this unlikely, while K. Paul Johnson speculates in The Masters Revealed that the Theosophical adept Tuitit Bey might be based on Théon. The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor claimed to have originated in Egypt in 1870 and been brought to England by Théon in 1884.
In 1885 Theon married Mary Chrystine Woodroffe Ware (Madame Alma Théon), and the following year the couple moved to Paris. In December 1887, the Théons left France for Algiers, where they were later joined by Alma Théon's friend Augusta Roife (Miss Teresa), and acquired a large estate in Zarif, a suburb of Tlemcen, Algeria. However Theon would still go on frequent visits to Paris.
Theon gathered a number of students, including Louis Themanlys and Charles Barlet, and they established the "Cosmic Movement". This was based on material, called the Cosmic Tradition, received or perhaps channelled by T Théon's wife. They established the journal Cosmic Review, for the "study and re-establishment of the original Tradition". Théon stated that his wife Alma was the moving spirit behind this idea, and without her the Tradition and the cosmic philosophy would never have come about.
Louis was a friend of Matteo Alfassa, the brother of Mirra Alfassa (who would later associate with Sri Aurobindo and become The Mother), and in 1905 or 1906 Mirra travelled to Tlemcen to study occultism under Theon (Sujata Nahar, Mirra the Occultist). The Mother mentions that Sri Aurobindo and Theon had independently and at the same time arrived at some similar conclusions about evolution of human consciousness without having met each other. The Mother's design of Sri Aurobindo's symbol is very similar to that of Theon's, with only small changes in the proportions of the central square (Mother's Agenda, vol 3, p. 454, dated December 15, 1962).
The death of his wife in 1908 was a huge blow to Theon, from which he never really recovered. He fell into a deep depression, and cancelled the Cosmic Movement. During this time he was cared for by his followers. He recovered somewhat but never retained his former status. Théon died at Tlemcen on 4 March 1927. [Wikipedia]
Tweet: [The ‘Evolution’ Of Hindu Gods. Decent. Sri Aurobindo's clues on Vedic symbolism will find this familiar] http://t.co/bRn40iNbdu
Savitri - 02: Gods don't go beyond the Overmind | The Light of the ... #6746 narendra on Thu, Aug 06 2015 at 3:25 AM
In the following talk the Mother mentions in context of the difference between Overmind and Supermind that the gods stop at the overmind plane and have no access to the Supermind: (from Mother's talk of September 26, 1962)
Savitri - 20: Mother sees the Divine Body | Savitri Cultural #448 narendra on Thu, Aug 06 2015 at 3:15 AM
Mother had individualised her present body of human birth in twelve bodies formed in climbing levels of consciousness. Mother had the mastery of leaving out one body and entering into the consciousness of the next one by one. After leaving the twelve the Mother glimpsed a thirteenth which Sri Aurobindo confirmed to be "the prototype of the supramental form":
There is also what Theon and Madame Theon used to say. They never spoke of ‘Supermind,’ but they said the same thing as the Vedas, that the world of Truth must incarnate on earth and create a new world. They even picked up the old phrase from the Gospels, ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ which is the same thing the Vedas speak of. Madame Theon had this experience and she gave me the indication (she didn’t actually teach me) of how it was to be done. She would go out of her body and become conscious in the vital world (there were many intermediary states, too, if one cared to explore them). After the vital came the mental: you consciously went out of the vital body, you left it behind (you could see it) and you entered the mental world. Then you left the mental body and entered into…. (from Mother's talk of November 7, 1961)