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Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology or cosmogony of certain religious or philosophical systems. Emanation from the Latin 'emanare' meaning "to flow from", is the mode by which all things are derived from the First Reality, or Principle. All things are derived from the first reality or perfect god by steps of degradation to lesser degrees of the first reality or God, and at every step the emanating beings are less pure, less perfect, less divine. Emanationism is a transcendent principle from which everything is derived, and is opposed to both Creationism (wherein the universe is created by a sentient God who is separate from creation) and materialism (which posits no underlying subjective and/or ontological nature behind phenomena, being immanent).


Key principles

That complex things are created in nature is not in question by Creationists (Abrahamic religions, etc.), Emanationists, Pagan mystics, nihilists and atheists; rather, the two principles that are in question are the locus for creation and whether a sentient, self-aware Absolute (‘God’) is a necessity for creation. Emanationists such as Pythagoras, Plotinus, and others argued that complex patterns in nature were a natural consequence of procession from the One (Hen, Absolute).

According to Emanationism, the Absolute, its nature and its activity must be inseparably one thing only, namely will, such that the nature and activity of the Absolute is both one and the same (again, will) and by its very nature is also its activity ‘to will’ and wills things to be or occur, thereby maintaining the center of the logical system of Emanationism. In addition, agnosis, or the lack of Subjective gnosis, is a primordial privation which must be corrected before a metaphysical "Oneing" (Plotinus) can occur. Through this process, the transcendent yet immanent will of individuals is made self-reflexive by recollecting back further and further. Eventually it will reach that nature, the Noetic (and real) self, which is antecedent to the phenomenal, corporeal self. The ontologically transcendent yet immanent Self is seen as being one's unactualized nature, and this nature will remain unactualized until contemplation is brought to fruition, thereby bringing into actuality what had been merely potential.

According to this paradigm, creation proceeds as an effulgence from the First Principle (the Absolute or Godhead). The Supreme Light or Consciousness descends through a series of stages, gradations, worlds or hypostases, becoming progressively more material and embodied. In time it will turn around to return to the One (epistrophe), retracing its steps through spiritual knowledge and contemplation.


The primary classical exponent of Emanationism was Plotinus, wherein his work, the Enneads, all things phenomenal and otherwise were an emanation from the One (Hen). In Ennead 5.1.6, Emanationism is compared to a diffusion from the One, of which there are three primary hypostases, the One (hen), the Intellect/will (nous), and the Soul (psyche tou pantos). For Plotinus, emanation, or the "soul's descent", is a result of the Indefinite Dyad, the primordial agnosis inherent to and within the Absolute, the Godhead.

Plotinus (a key expositor of Emanationism) in particular argued that there is no knowledge or sentience in the Absolute, and that all things noetic and corporeal were as well a logos or proportional phenomena of the emanation of and by the One. In Plotinian Emanationism, there are lesser and lesser potencies of will as procession occurs beginning from the One, through the noetic, or the soul, finally ending in base matter, which is generally seen as utter privation.

Relationship to other belief systems

Emanationism is opposed to both Creationism (wherein the universe is created by a sentient God who knowingly creates it) and nihilism (which posits no underlying objective and/or ontological nature behind phenomena). Creation itself is merely a logos of the Absolute which "pours forth" as lesser and lesser potencies of the One, proceeding from the One, to the Nous, then to the Soul, and lastly as utter privation, matter (hule), or, as Plotinus called matter, "an image of an image". Emanationists see this paradigm for the cosmos as the model that most logically corrects the supposed inconsistencies, paradoxes and philosophical incongruities that are found in Creationism and nihilism.


Similar belief systems

Emanationist views are found in:

Emanations are sometimes featured in fiction as well, especially in fantasy fiction. Some examples include:


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EMANATION (Lat. emanatio, from e-, out, manare, to flow), in philosophy and theology, the name of one of the three chief theories of existence, i.e. of the relation between God and menthe One and the Many, the Universal and the Particular. This theory has been propounded in many forms, but the central idea is that the universe of individuals consists of the involuntary "outpourings" of the ultimate divine essence. That essence is not only all-inclusive, but absolutely perfect, while the "emanated" individuals degenerate in proportion to the degree of their distance from the essence. The existence of evil in opposition to the perfect goodness of God, as thus explained, need not be attributed to God's agency, inasmuch as the whole emanation-process is governed by necessary - as it were mechanical - laws, which may be compared to those of the physical universe. The doctrine of emanation is thus to be distinguished from the cosmogonic theory of Judaism and Christianity, which explains human existence as due to a single creative act of a moral agent. The God of Judaism and Christianity is essentially a person in close personal relation to his creatures; emanation is the denial of personality both for God and for man. The emanation theory is to be contrasted, on the other hand, with the theory of evolution. The two theories are alike in so far as both recognize the existence of individuals as due to a necessary process of differentiation and a scale of existence. They differ, however, fundamentally in this respect, that, whereas evolution regards the process as from the indeterminate lower towards the determinate higher, emanation regards it as from the highest to the indefinitely lower.

There is considerable superficial similarity between evolution and emanation, especially in their formal statements. The process of evolution from the indeterminate to the determinate is often expressed as a progress from the universal to the particular. Thus the primordial matter assumed by the early Greek physicists may be said to be the universal substance out of which particular things arise. The doctrine of emanation also regards the world as a process of particularization. Yet the resemblance is more apparent than real. The universal is, as Herbert Spencer remarked, a subjective idea, and the general forms, existing ante res, which play so prominent a part in Greek and medieval philosophy, do not in the least correspond to the homogeneous matter of the physical evolutionists. The one process is a logical operation, the other a physical. The theory of emanation, which had its source in certain moral and religious ideas, aims first of all at explaining the origin of mental or spiritual existence as an effluence from the divine and absolute spirit. In the next place, it seeks to account for the general laws of the world, for the universal forms of existence, as ideas which emanate from the Deity. By some it was developed into a complete philosophy of the world, in which matter itself is viewed as the lowest emanation from the absolute. In this form it stands in sharp antithesis to the doctrine of evolution, both because the former views the world of particular things and events as essentially unreal and illusory, and because the latter, so far as it goes, looks on matter as eternal, and seeks to explain the general forms of things as we perceive them by help of simpler assumptions. In certain theories known as doctrines of emanation, only mental existence is referred to the absolute source, while matter is viewed as eternal and distinct from the divine nature. In this form the doctrine of emanation approaches certain forms of the evolution theory (see Evolution).

The doctrine of emanation is correctly described as of oriental origin. It appears in various forms in Indian philosophy, and is the characteristically oriental element in syncretic systems like Neoplatonism and Gnosticism. None the less it is easy to find it in embryo in the speculations of the essentially European philosophers of Greece. Plato, whose philosophy was strongly opposed to the evolution theory, distinctly inclines to the emanation idea in his doctrine that each particular thing is what it is in virtue of a pre-existent idea, and that the particulars are the lowest in the scale of existence, at the head of, or above, which is the idea of the good. The view of Xenocrates is based on the same ideas. Or again, we may compare the Stoic doctrine of a7roppoeac (literally "emanations") from the divine essence. It is, however, only in the last eclectic period of Greek philosophy that the emanation doctrine was definitely established in the doctrines, e.g. Plotinus.

See especially articles Evolution, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

The doctrine that all existing things have been produced not by any creative power, but as successive outflowings from the God-head, so that all finite creatures are part and parcel of the Divine Being. This pantheistic doctrine, which was the basis of many Oriental religions and was professed by the Gnostics, attained its highest development in the Alexandrian Neoplatonic schools. By it the Neoplatonists endeavored to surmount the threefold difficulties involved in the idea of creation: (1) the act of creation involves the assumption of a change in the unchangeable being of God; (2) it is incomprehensible that the absolutely infinite and perfect could have produced imperfect and finite beings; (3) "creatio ex nihilo" is unimaginable. A vicenna introduced the doctrine of emanation into Arabic philosophy, and Jewish thinkers of the eleventh century, of whom the most authoritative representative was Ibn Gabirol, made it the basis of their speculations (see Ibn Gabirol).

According to Baḥya.

Baḥya, in his "Ma'ani al-Nafs," adopts a scale of emanation: the creating spirit; the universal soul, which moves the heavenly sphere; nature; darkness, which at the beginning was but a capacity for receiving form; the celestial spheres; the heavenly bodies; fire; air; water; earth ("Torat ha-Nefesh," ed. Broydé, pp. 70, 75; see Jew. Encyc. ii. 454, s.v. BaḤya Ben Joseph.

With the development in the twelfth century of the pure Aristotelian Peripateticism the doctrine of emanation was abandoned by the Jewish philosophers. It was opposed not only by Judah ha-Levi, who was adverse to all philosophical speculations ("Cuzari," v. 14), but also by Abraham ibn Da'ud, who professed an unbounded admiration for the theories of Avicenna ("Emunah Ramah," p. 62). Maimonides, too, though attributing it to Aristotle,set forth many objections to it, and showed that it does not solve the difficulties inherent in the idea of creation.

Views of Maimonides.

("Moreh," ii. 22).

"Aristotle holds that the first Intelligence is the cause of the second, the second of the third, and so on to the thousandth, if we assume a series of that number. Now, the first Intelligence is undoubtedly simple. How then can the complexity of existing things come from such an Intelligence by fixed laws of nature, as Aristotle assumes? We admit all he said concerning the Intelligences, that the farther they are away from the first the greater is their complexity, in consequence of the greater number of the things comprehended by each successive Intelligence; but even after admitting this, the question remains: By what law of nature did the spheres emanate from them?"

But while rejected by Jewish philosophy, the doctrine of emanation became the corner-stone of the Cabala. The motive which led the cabalists to adopt it seems to have been, in addition to that furnished by the Neoplatonic conception of God, the necessity of assigning a definite place for the Sefirot in the production of the world, for in the "creatio ex nihilo" hypothesis they are superfluous. As early as the twelfth century appeared the cabalistic "Masseket Aẓilut," in which the doctrine was outlined. It was considerably developed in the thirteenth century by the Baḥirists, especially by Azriel. After having given the Neoplatonic reasons why the world could not have proceeded directly from God but must have been produced by intermediary agents, he expounds his doctrine of emanation, which differs from that of the Neoplatonists in that, instead of Intelligences, the Sefirot are the intermediaries between the intellectual and material world. The first Sefirah was latent in the En Sof (cabalistic term for "God") as a dynamic force; then the second Sefirah emanated as a substratum for the intellectual world; afterward the other Sefirot emanated, forming the intellectual, material, and natural worlds. The Sefirot are thus divided, according to their order of emanation, into three groups: the first three formed the world of thought; the next three the world of the soul; the last four the world of corporeality.

Isaac ibn Laṭif, although upholding the principle of the beginning of the world, still professes the doctrine of emanation of the Sefirot. The first immediate divine emanation is, according to him, the "first created," an absolutely simple Being, the all-containing substance of everything that is. A new element was introduced into the doctrine of emanation by the Ma'areket group. It was the principle of a double emanation. From the three superior spiritual Sefirot, which mark the transition from the purely spiritual to the material, proceed a positive and a negative emanation. All that is good comes from the positive; all that is evil has its source in the negative. This theory is highly developed in the Zohar.

Bibliography, Munk, Mélanges de Philosophie Arabe et Juive, p. 227; Guttmann, Die Philosophie des Ibn Gabirol, 1889; idem, Die Philosophie des Abraham ibn Daud; Joël, Ibn Gabirol's Bedeutung für die Gesch. der Philosophie; Worms, Die Lehre von der Anfangslosigkeit der Welt bei den Arabischen Philosophen, in Beiträge zur Gesch. der Philosophie des Mittelalters, vol. iii., part 4; Franck, La Kabbale; Karppe, Etude sur les Origines et la Nature du Zohar, p. 344; Chr. D. Ginzburg, The Kabbalah, London, 1865; Myer, Qabbalah, Philadelphia, 1888; Ehrenpreis, Die Entwickelung der Emanationslehre in der Kabbalah des XIII. Jahrhunderts.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


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