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 planet in 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.
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].
Planes of existence are sometimes referred to as "eggs". For example, the Sanskrit term Brahmanda translates 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.
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 and some of the later Sant Mat, and also in some descriptions of Buddhist cosmology. The teachings of Surat Shabd Yoga also include several planes of the creation within both the macrocosm and microcosm, including the Bramanda egg contained within the Sach Khand egg. Max Theon used the word "States" (French Etat) rather than "Planes", in his cosmic philosophy, but the meaning is the same.
In the early 20th century, Max Heindel presented in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception a cosmology related to the scheme of evolution in general and the evolution of the solar system and the earth in 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.
"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.