I’m kind of fascinated with this doctrine called Emanationism. To emanate means to flow forth out of something, and the idea behind this doctrine is that there’s a sort of Universal Absolute — let’s call it “the Godhead” — and the rest of Creation flows forth from out of it. There’s this timeless, spaceless state of being, of maybe perfect Cosmic Grace…and then the Godhead, for reasons we non-Gods probably can’t ever fully get our limited heads around, arrives at a “Let There Be Light!” kind of moment: purposeful Creation.
And from that instant forward, Creation — Being — emanates “downward” from the Godhead, degrading as it travels further and further away from the Source, descending into heavier, denser, more tangible, more “corrupted” states, until finally reaching the state of matter…a.k.a., our familiar homes and lives here on Planet Earth.
The practicing occultist can find this kind of outlook documented in several primary places. For one thing, the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life is actually like a roadmap showing the pathway that emanating Creation Energies take as they travel from Godhead to matter:
So that topmost Sphere is called Kether (“Crown”), and it’s like Everything And Beyond, the kind of Grand Stuff we can’t hope to comprehend…but just go along with the notion that it’s where anything/everything we know had to begin. And once anything has begun, the Energy that enlivens it goes cascading down that Lightning Path spillway, picking up attributes as it travels, being tested, then being refined, gaining substance…until it finally reaches completion in the realm of matter we call home, which is represented in the Tree of Life as the very bottom sphere, which is called Malkuth (“Kingdom”).
One appended notion is that the process “ends” with what we call “death,” the death of the physical form…but that the immortal spirit then has the opportunity to begin the long climb back up the Tree, stripping away all baser attributes as it goes, reversing the process it had undergone while descending along the Lightning Path, re-approaching, and perhaps eventually re-merging with, the Godhead, all the way up at Kether. I find a lot of appeal in this whole concept!
The Tarot also offers a similar take on existence that seems to be of, or at least not totally at odds with, Emanationism. Many Tarot practitioners like to link all of the cards of the Major Arcana into one long, sequential tale: the so-called Fool’s Journey. The idea here is that as the central character in the Fool Card makes that first blithe, carefree, joyous leap off of that cliff…that’s more or less akin to the whole “Let There Be Light!” moment. Everything leaps from the Absolute State into motion and being, toward time and space and matter. Each new card in the sequence of the Major Arcana represents the pure Godhead Energy and Potential captured in the Fool Card, emanating “downward” toward the material, mundane realm that we live in. The Fool, in that Journey, next encounters The Magician, who is about having all the great metaphysical Tools at one’s fingertips, along with the power to use them, and beginning to make choices as to what, exactly, to do with them. The Magician is followed by The High Priestess, embodiment of all the Knowledge there is, both the obvious and especially the secret, and of taking a timeless pause so as to best formulate a course of action, bringing all that arcane know-how to bear, informing one’s choices with a maximum of wisdom. The Fool’s Journey continues on, with the Fool meeting a cavalcade of fascinating characters, each helping to refine the Journey, and to ease the Fool along with ever greater specificity and form, to Journey’s End. And two things to note here: 1) the Fool, traveling onward, is equivalent to the Tree of Life’s Kether/Godhead Energy descending the Lightning Path toward the state of matter in Malkuth; and 2) the final card in the Major Arcana — The World (or The Universe in the Aleister Crowley/Thoth school of Tarot) — can be seen as both a gateway to the Minor Arcana, cards that speak much more directly to our lives here in the realm of matter, and as a turnaround point, a stepping stone leading back to the beginning of a new cycle through the Major Arcana, somewhat like reaching a higher octave in a musical scale.
Obviously, Emanationism is hardly the only take on creation and existence that we humans have come up with during our time here on Earth, and no disrespect is intended if your beliefs are firmly rooted in any of the others. This doctrine does, though, raise some interesting questions for me…
If we accept the premise, just for the sake of discussion here, at least, that Emanationism is really how things are happening in our existence — that is, there’s a “Let There Be Light!” moment, and then Absolute/Godhead Energy courses down toward the material plane where it ends up as us and our surroundings — then is that process still happening during our lifetimes? That is…are we more “solid” now than we were when we were first born? Are we denser and more material than our parents? Are we significantly closer to the end of the entire Universe’s emanation downward than we were a generation ago, or the generation before that? Might we reach the end of the overall Emanation Process during our lifetimes? Is the Process accelerating, or slowing down, or neither one? Could we even tell, locked inside it as we are? And what happens when all of that Godhead Energy reaches the end of the Lightning Path? Sure, when isolated bits of it get there, “death” occurs: people die, flowers die, dodo birds and sabertooth tigers die, disco dies, corporate entities die, Ozymandias dies…but what happens when everything, all of Creation, everything still left standing…suddenly reaches the Finish Line, all at the same time? Is that what Armageddon is really about? Is that the Apocalypse? And if so…then the Apocalypse isn’t an absolute end…it’s just the end of a single cycle in a process that will go on “forever” (or in ways that transcend our own notions of the dimension we call “time”). Sure, a Cosmic Reboot of sorts would be just as catastrophic to the established order as a Cosmic End would be, and anyone present for its onset would be in for some dire unpleasantness, there’s no getting around that, but it still seems a lot more natural and organic and even happy in a way than Four Horsemen riding out to just demolish everything forever and ever, no…?
Anyway, I kind of doubt that even if we are experiencing Emanationism all around us, we’re about to witness the end of our Universe’s descent down the Lightning Path. And if we are, there’s not much any of us can do to fend it off, right? Mostly, I’m just fascinated with the whole concept, and impressed with the ways it seems to appear in different areas of Occult thought. I therefore offer it up here for further consideration — just a little light food for your weekend thought… Emanate on, everyone!!