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Emanation is a word that comes from the Latin emanare, meaning "to flow from" or "to pour forth or out of". It is a cosmological theory held in Neoplatonism, Kabbalah and other philosophies, postulating that all things are derived from the Ultimate Reality. The process of emanation implies a production to a lesser degree than the original source, the emanated principles being less pure, less perfect, less divine at every step. This theory is usually in opposition to creationism.

In The Theosophical Glossary Mme. Blavatsky defines "The Doctrine of Emanation" as follows:

In its metaphysical meaning, it is opposed to Evolution, yet one with it. Science teaches that evolution is physiologically a mode of generation in which the germ that develops the fœtus pre-exists already in the parent, the development and final form and characteristics of that germ being accomplished in nature; and that in cosmology the process takes place blindly through the correlation of the elements, and their various compounds. Occultism answers that this is only the apparent mode, the real process being Emanation, guided by intelligent Forces under an immutable LAW. Therefore, while the Occultists and Theosophists believe thoroughly in the doctrine of Evolution as given out by Kapila and Manu, they are Emanationists rather than Evolutionists. The doctrine of Emanation was at one tine universal. It was taught by the Alexandrian as well as by the Indian philosophers, by the Egyptian, the Chaldean and Hellenic Hierophants, and also by the Hebrews (in their Kabbala, and even in Genesis). For it is only owing to deliberate mistranslation that the Hebrew word asdt has been translated "angels" from the Septuagint, when it means Emanations, Æons, precisely as with the Gnostics. Indeed, in Deuteronomy (xxxiii., 2) the word asdt or ashdt is translated as "fiery law", while the correct rendering of the passage should be "from his right hand went [not a fiery law, but] a fire according to law"; viz., that the fire of one flame is imparted to, and caught up by another like as in a trail of inflammable substance. This is precisely emanation. As shown in Isis Unveiled: "In Evolution, as it is now beginning to be understood, there is supposed to be in all matter an impulse to take on a higher form--a supposition clearly expressed by Manu and other Hindu philosophers of the highest antiquity. The philosopher's tree illustrates it in the case of the zinc solution. The controversy between the followers of this school and the Emanationists may be briefly stated thus: The Evolutionist stops all inquiry at the borders of 'the Unknowable'; the Emanationist believes that nothing can be evolved--or, as the word means, unwombed or born--except it has first been involved, thus indicating that life is from a spiritual potency above the whole."[1]

This doctrine is complementary with that of evolution.


  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 113-114

Further reading