Metaphysics is a scientific branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it. On Golarion, metaphysicists study dimensions, planes, the planar substrate that comprises reality, and planar energies; the passage of souls and nature of life, death, and undeath; and the nature of deities, magic, and occult powers distinct from the practices of divine, arcane, and psychic magics.
The mortals of Golarion have several philosophies that attempt to describe the metaphysical relationships of the planes to each other. The most prominent is known as the arcane tradition, also known as the orthodox scheme, which envisions the planes as nesting spheres of realities with the Inner Sphere at the center and Outer Sphere as the infinite exterior. In this model, the Positive and Negative Energy planes govern the powers of creation and destruction in opposition to one another.
An alternative philosophy, known as the esoteric tradition or ancient wisdom, suggests that the Positive and Negative Energy Planes are instead complementary to each other, serving as the source and destination of all creation and forming a cycle that is temporally and dimensionally infinite. All forms of life in this cycle are part of the monad, a transcendental oneness that unites all souls into a single spiritual existence, with aeons existing closest to the source of creation and mortal souls existing further away. This tradition minimizes the role of the Outer Sphere as well as the Elemental and Transitive planes.
The concept of alignment is most directly applied in the metaphysical composition of planes, and by extensions outsiders and other creatures and manifestations strongly associated with aligned planes. A soul's alignment heavily factors into its path on the River of Souls as part of its afterlife.
Patrons and practitioners