Esoteric cosmology almost always deals with at least some of the following themes: emanation, involution, spiritual evolution, epigenesis, planes of existence or higher worlds (and their emanation and the connections between them), hierarchies of spiritual beings, cosmic cycles, yogic or spiritual disciplines and techniques of self-transformation, and references to mystical and altered states of consciousness.

Such cosmologies cover many of the same concerns also addressed by religious cosmology and philosophical cosmology, such as the origin, purpose, and destiny of the universe and of consciousness and the nature of existence. For this reason it is sometimes difficult to distinguish where religion or philosophy end and esotericism or occultism begins. However, esoteric cosmology is distinguished from religion in its more sophisticated construction and reliance on intellectual understanding rather than faith, and from philosophy in its emphasis on techniques of psycho-spiritual transformation.