EMANATION (Hebrew, ; in cabalistic literature, ):

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.

  • 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.
K. I. Br.
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