Occult Spheres, Planes, and Dimensions

Geometric Terminology and Analogy in Modern Esoteric Discourse

Bibliographic Entry

Plaisance, Christopher A. "Occult Spheres, Planes, and Dimensions: Geometric Terminology and Analogy in Modern Esoteric Discourse." Journal of Religious History 40, no. 3 (2016): 385–404.


This is an article on the history of religion and mathematics, which explores the origins and uses of geometric terminology in late‐nineteenth‐ and early‐twentieth‐century esoteric discourses, and inquires as to whether or not such adaptions are instances of the discursive strategy identified by Olav Hammer as terminological scientism. For the situation regarding spheric terminology, I argue that the context is not scientistic, being rather an example of the decontextualised modern appropriation of antique terminologies. In the case of planar terminology, I conclude that while its origin with Emanuel Swedenborg as an adaption of anatomical vocabulary does indeed fit Hammer's definition of scientism, modern usage stripped the term of Swedenborg's scientistic rationale—making the scientistic designation something of a vestigial atavism. In dealing with dimensional terminology, my conclusion is that from Johann Zöllner's initial formulation to the broader Spiritualistic and Theosophical applications, it exemplifies terminological scientism through and through.


discourse analysis, history of mathematics, modern esotericism, geometric terminologies


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