Sunday, October 20, 2019

From Pole to Pole

While doing some research of the origins of the Ethereal Plane as a concept, I came across what I believe to be the origins of the Positive and Negative Energy Planes. The writings of "Christian Rosicrucian" Max Haindel describe the etheric regions composed of four different ethers. Each of these has a positive and negative pole. Though these bear little resemblance to the positive and negative planes (beyond the positive being associated with generativity and vitality) the planes are positioned over the Prime (and the Ethereal) in a manner than would suggest poles.

Of course, it's entirely possible that these were independent creations, but given that Theosophic publications seem to be the primary source of the Ethereal Plane, it doesn't seem like a stretch that that other esoteric writings of the same era might have provided some inspiration.


JB said...

I'd imagine that, rather than a direct influence, Rosicrucian writings influenced some little known work of fantasy fiction that had an influence on the authors. Gygax and Arneson don't display (to my eye) a lot of esoteric occult knowledge in their works or background (unlike many fantasy fiction writers of the 1950s-1970s who appear to have had an impact on the game).

Trey said...

That's certain possible! I am fairly certain the Ethereal Plane came from Theosophy; it just seems too close a match, and I don't know an obvious fictional source (though, of course, there could be) and we know so much about their sources. It's also possible that Steve Marsh was the originator of the Positive and Negative Planes, and he seems to have had a bit more exposure to esoteric writings.

James Mishler said...

There is a TON of pulp fantasy that Gary read that we have no idea of today, as the pulps were only very rarely kept (most ended in the trash) and of those stories that were printed, very, very few survived to be reprinted. So Gary read a lot of science-fiction and science-fantasy that today is simply lost, and never even made it onto Appendix N or his own personal library list.

Theosophy was a huge influence on early science-fiction/science-fantasy. Most notably, on the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but also on other works of that era and in the following era (Lovecraft and REH, among others). Gary was definitely highly influenced by it, the most prominent and sometimes controversial of these influences was division of the human races in the Epic of Aerth source book along what are clearly Theosophically-inspired lines. But whether the influence was direct or indirect I do not know.

As you mentioned, though, Steve Marsh likely had no little influence on the design of the Outer Planes through his early works. He's still with us, so perhaps he can be asked directly?

Trey said...

@james Of course, Jefferson Swycaffer, now that I think of it was the first to introduce those poles, though he called them Good and Evil.

I certainly am not denying the possibility it came a pulp story, I'm just saying I'm not convinced it had to have. I also consider it possible that it's an independent invention that didn't come from anywhere, but Swycaffer (or whoever's imagination).

Trey said...

Oops. I forgot the PHB which had them before Swycaffer's thing.