Emanation ( emanatio from the Latin " leaks ", " discharge " ) is a term in philosophy and religious studies. He referred to the metaphysical and cosmological models, the " emergence " of something from its origin, which brings it out yourself. This is a continuation of the metaphorical notion of leak of water from a source or the light emission from a light source. Models that use to explain the world of Emanationsvorstellung by attribute the existence of things on emanation from a metaphysical source, are called emanatistisch ( Emanationismus or Emanatismus ). The systems with emanatistischen world models are especially Neoplatonism and influenced by him philosophical and religious teachings.

The term " emanation " is used not only for the emergence, but also for the emergence Gone. In this sense it is said, for example, the ( emanatistisch interpreted ) creation or individual beings are emanations of the Creator God.

The one with " emanation " reproduced ancient Greek term is apórrhoia or aporrhoḗ ( outflow ). In addition, the terms were ( the proceeding ) used probolḗ ( spawning ) and próhodos in ancient Greek literature.

  • 2.1 antiquity
  • 2.2 Middle Ages
  • 2.3 Modern Times

Basics emanatistischer worldviews


The starting point is a central problem of ancient philosophy: the question of the relationship between unity and multiplicity, and this ratio-determining causality. Emanationsmodelle try the whole the people accessible to capture reality as an ordered system ( World Order ). As a criterion for the classification of things into the system applies the given to a greater or lesser extent, the presence of the characteristic " unit " or the opposite feature "multitude ". "Unit" means that something is a general, indiscriminate and comprehensive, with " multiplicity " and the Differentiated complexes and the particular and the individual is meant. All tangible and intangible things get their place in the world order depending on how uniform or vielheitlich they are.

In the ontology ( theory of being ) the emanatistischen systems the overall reality is hierarchically structured. It consists of a certain number of stages ( Hypostases ). The top level is characterized by the greatest possible unity ( lack of differentiation ) and is therefore often called " the One " called. From top to bottom increases the sophistication. At the lowest, most differentiated stage, the development of special reaches its maximum. It shows itself in the most different individual characteristics of particular things. This area is characterized by the greatest wealth of individual features and feature combinations. This maximum the lowest level gets to diversity, but also to scatter and separation of objects, each of which stands on its own and appears as a separate reality.

In hierarchical order, the more general, Broader and More uniform stands (eg a genus ) is always above specifically, club more disseminated and more complex ( for example, a single sensible object). The less differentiated has a higher ontological status. This results from two characteristic for emanatistische models assumptions. The first is that the General is not merely a by the human mind, formed by abstraction and occupied for understanding mental construct, but an objective metaphysical reality. This view is referred to as a "strong realism" in the Universalienfrage. The second basic assumption is that the process of abstraction, which leads from relatively complex to relatively simple particular general ontologically considered advancing the cause of Induced. Thus, one case of something Bewirktem and therefore a minor reaches the Bring about ends and thus the Parent. The relatively undifferentiated includes the assigned Differentiated relatively complete, the Differentiated however, forms only a part or aspect of undifferentiated, to which it belongs as a special case or special manifestation. Thus, the special is always deficient in comparison with the general. The General and Simple requires for its existence the Special in any way, while, conversely, presupposes the existence of the particular that of the general. Therefore, the simpler, comprising complex, the Higher-tier. Expressed in religious language the Differentiated is always less divine than the undifferentiated. This resulted in a sharp contrast to the Emanationsphilosophie to pantheism, God and the world yields declared absolutely identical.

The Emanationskonzept

The outflow of the multiplicity

In order to characterize the causal link between causative unit and caused multiplicity of the term emanation serves. The Differentiated is only the unfolding of something that is completely contained in the undifferentiated to speak enfolded manner. If this unfolding is seen as a temporal process, or at least described as such, one can speak of a coming forth or metaphorically from an outflow ( " emanate "). This " leakage " occurs a number of properties to light that can be seen in the area of ​​diversity. Seen in the range of multiplicity appears as the world of abundance. Since this abundance but no other origin than the unit, it must already be completely present in this, albeit undifferentiated, unified manner. Thus, the unit turns out to be the real wealth, while the individual things each can only have parts or aspects of this wealth. All Gone emphasis is necessarily less than its source. Seen in every emergence of special from general is a production of relatively inferior when comparing the emergence Gone with the source.

Attach great importance to the representatives of Emanationsmodellen on the finding, though emanation means that on top of each subordinate level something is received from the parent, but kick by no means a reduction of the source. At the higher level is changing in the emanation nothing. The " discharge " is not to be understood as meaning that the higher level gives something down, what it lacks even as a result. Respect, there is no analogy to a liquid effluent, but only for light emission ( assuming that a light source like the sun suffers no loss in their broadcasting).

The statement of the problem

If we trace back the existence of individual things on emanation and thus the differentiation and separation as indicated depletion, results in a typical emanatistische systems explanation for the origin of the defect ( in more evaluative terminology of evil or evil ). These systems evaluate the positive world order, they will declare it either in their entirety or at least in terms of ontologically higher levels for good. The original A is considered complete when the (viewed from a human perspective, per se, it is indeterminate ) absolutely the best. As in the Emanationsmodellen everything ultimately comes from the One who directly or indirectly resulting from it things can only have properties that they also come from this source and therefore are good. The evils are thus not real properties of things, but deficiencies due to the absence of certain good qualities. For example, are ethically reprehensible deeds a result of ignorance, and ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Such defects must necessarily result from the course of Emanationsprozesses, since this is a depletion process, which will conclude where the distance to the unconditioned good is the greatest. There, the evil is to be located. The closer something is to the a, the "better" it is, that is the unconditioned good similar.

A particular case is the theistic systems. They identify the original unity from which all had emerged, with an absolutely perfect God who created the world willingly and joints. Thus, they face the problem of theodicy ( explanation of evil ). Here, the emanatistische interpretation of evil approaches to solutions; the evil appears as a necessary consequence of a Emanationsprozesses that forms the precondition for multiplicity and thus also humans can exist at all.

Emanation and creation

The Neoplatonic Emanationsmodell makes statements about the ontological levels fine, do not have a concrete creation or cosmogony process in time. The Neoplatonists held the emanation for over time or - to put it in time - for a perpetual happening. Although Plato in his dialogue Timaeus tells a myth that represents the creation of the world as a finished process, but were the ancient interpreters majority of the opinion that he had done so only for didactic considerations for the purpose of illustration only and are held in reality the world forever. This understanding of Plato's doctrine is probably historically accurate.

For emanatistisch minded philosophers teach their religions, God created the world in a unique act at a particular time, in this case the question was how their Emanationskonzept is compatible with their religious worldview. This problem they have different solved or circumvented. In the treatment of such sensitive issues also played a role, the fact that emanatistische teachings could be considered as a deviation from the revealed faith and therefore a punishable heresy.

Another aspect of the tension between emanation and creation is that the ratio of "out of nothing " or " nothing " created creature seems to be with his Creator of a different nature than the ratio of something Hervorgegangenem to the instance from which it sprang is. In some Emanationsmodellen the distance between the Derived and its origins as a relatively low appears, because the emergence Gone necessarily has the essence of its source " share " (presentation of participation ) and is its image as a more or less similar. This may mean that the human soul is capable on its own to ascend to the sphere of divinity, as in it is something divine that she has received through the emanation. The notion of hierarchical ordering can help to reduce the contrast between originator and Hervorgebrachtem because the levels play a mediating function between unity and multiplicity or in theistic terminology between the Creator and His earthly creatures. In models a creation out of nothing, however, the gap between the Creator and all creation on the one hand is often on the other hand emphasized.

Emanationsmodellen often in the world's existence addition appears as a necessity, since the emergence Bring end " overflowing " things produces because of its abundance in nature, while in theistic creation models, the creation is represented as the result of a specific divine act of will.

In addition, often a two-way communication between the ( highest ) deity, the Emanationsquelle par excellence, and individual emanated beings is considered to be impossible in Emanationsmodellen. It is believed that it would be the highest-ranking instance unworthy to deal with beings who are less perfect than itself This idea collides with the revealed religious teachings emanating from an interaction between God and man.




Even in the pre-Socratic thinkers explanation of nature ( Empedocles, Democritus ) is the outflow of speech. But that does not mean emanation in the later familiar philosophical sense, but there is a flow of matter. Of all the things the changing underlying constantly go from outflows. Any influence of a variable object by another is interpreted as a material outflow from the influencer to influencees. In exercising teachings such as those of Empedocles and Democritus it comes to a material basis of perception over a distance away (seeing, hearing, smelling ). Such sensory perception is attributed to a hypothetical particle from the object of perception to the perceiver. For example, based seeing that the effluent from the visible object particles penetrate into the eye of the perceiver.


A metaphysical meaning given the term of the effluent only in Gnosticism, a religious flow of the Roman Empire. The emanation was apparently the beginning of a major element Gnostic thought and was metaphorically connected especially with the light emission. The Gnostic distinction between the creator god ( demiurge ), which they believed to be an ethically questionable person, and the good "foreign" God who is involved in the creation in any way, but engages as Savior from the outside and people in relationship occurs. In this model, a major difficulty is that the foreign god has nothing to do with the creation of the Demiurge; there is nothing that connects him with her. Therefore, the question arises, how ever between him and the world created by the demiurge, a contact is possible. According to the Gnostic teaching of foreign God is, despite its strangeness able to assert its influence in the creation. This influence is explained as an emanation. From a strange god radiates something that is an expression of his nature, as light shines a light into creation and is recognizable for the people. In order to build a bridge between the alien God and creation, which leaves the sought by the Gnostics salvation, liberation from the world of the Demiurge, appear possible.

The Gnostics are rooted the different types accepted by them, of beings, both pure spirits and the souls of men, at different levels of a hierarchical, caused by emanation order. The sensible world was only in terms of their substance as a result of emanation; their design by the Demiurge summarized the Gnostics than creation. The creative work of the Demiurge thought they were missed or a fruit of his malice, definitely go for something over the Emanationsprodukten inferior.


In Plato, the concept of Emanierens to illustrate a creation or not ontological dependence occurs, but already speaks his pupil Speusippos of a coming forth of the nature of existing things from the One. In the time of Mittelplatonismus that began in the 1st century BC and ended in the 3rd century, it avoided the Platonists to apply the effluent presentation on key areas of their philosophy. Only Plotinus († 270 ), the founder of Neo-Platonism, took up the idea of ​​emanation. However, he made only scanty of words that express an escape, use. It interfered with the risk of misunderstanding in the transmission of pictorial expression " outflow " to metaphysical realities. Because of this problem, he added restrictive " virtually" added. Plotinus was the Neoplatonic model the hierarchical framework that kept it in the subsequent period. At the top he placed the absolutely undifferentiated A from which the Nous ( mind, intellect ) shows ( emanates ), which can in turn result from the soul of the world. The emergence is not time, but only meant in a figurative sense, as Nous and soul of the world belong to the eternal spiritual ( intelligible ) world. Under the intelligible cosmos is the world of the sensible, which is produced and animated by the soul of the world.

In the later Neo-Platonism of Plotinus Emanationsmodell was more differentiated; the Neoplatonists pushed between the One and the lowermost portion of the spiritual world, a series of intermediary stages between a. You used in the description of relations of derivation to avoid phrases such as " leakage " and preferred the term " emergence " (Greek próhodos ). The common in the research literature term " emanation ", which is based on the notion of leak is, therefore imprecise to refer to the emergence in the models of late antiquity Neoplatonists.

The emergence is seen in Neo-Platonism as one of the elements of a triad ( Trinity ), which consists of persistence, emergence and return. Based on the Nous is about the persistence of the Spirit in himself, his emergence into multiplicity and his return to his unit. It is neither displacements nor successive phases, but the opposite movements of emergence runaways and return occur simultaneously and the persistence thus experiences no change. The three elements are interdependent, they make the self-reflection of the spirit. None of them can be isolated.

The late antique Neoplatonist Proclus the concept of the triad works systematically and makes it the basis of his ontological and cosmological model. He teaches everything emergence Gone turn back to its origin. In this system, the end point of the decline coincides with the origin of the emergence gangs, therefore, the three elements of the triad - expressed pictorially - moments of a circular activity. So the reality is replaced by a dynamic structure. The return makes the proceeding of non-reversible, they do not pick it up. The proceeding of the causes of the emergence Its Gone. The return does not lead to loss of this being, but is turning back to its cause. As such, it connects cause and Induced. It gives the Caused His goodness, because turning back the Induced turns slightly to what is more perfect than itself, and focuses its efforts on this. This makes it acquires its proper specific perfection for themselves.

Bible and Church Fathers

The term discharge ( emanation ) in a figurative philosophical and theological sense comes in the New Testament not the Old Testament only in one place, in the Book of Wisdom, where - probably under Platonic influence - the wisdom is referred to as a manifestation of the glory of the Allherschers.

In the ancient Christian Church of the United notion of emanation was initially isolated as a means to illustrate a hierarchy within the Trinity. Some theologians represented Christ or the Holy Spirit as an emanation of God the Father, which meant a subordination among them. This Trinitätsverständnis but could not prevail. As early as the third century, Origen argued against the name of Christ as an emanation of the Father. The influential church father Athanasius († 373) fought the Christological use of the Emanationsgedankens, which was also rejected by the Arians and general condemnation fell prey. In the Greek-speaking eastern part of the Roman Empire, the dam was violent than in the Latin -speaking West, but won in the West, the opponents of emanatistischen Christology. An exception among the Fathers of the 4th century formed Gregory of Nyssa, who held the term " emergence " of the relationship of Christ to the Father admissible, but only in the context of light imagery.

During the Emanationsgedanke was definitely banned from the doctrine of the Trinity, he remained alive in the doctrine of creation. In the very prestigious, highly influenced by Neoplatonism in late antiquity theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the motif of the emergence walking a central position occurs in the interpretation of the relationship between Creator and creation. The church father Augustine, however, one of the leading theological authorities of the West, consistently avoided a emanatistischen language use in the doctrine of creation.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, especially strong Neoplatonic oriented Christian, Jewish and Muslim thinkers used the emanatistische ideas to the philosophical interpretation of the doctrine of creation of their religions.


The Christian authors who particularly stressed the Emanationskonzept belong Erigena ( 9th century ), Eckhart († 1327/1328 ) and in the period of transition between the late Middle Ages and early modern humanist Nicholas of Cusa († 1464 ). The famous scholar Albertus Magnus († 1280 ) was also of a emanatistische teaching. Even the influential theologian Thomas Aquinas, who judged the critical Platonism, called the process of creation is an emanation of all being from the universal cause, but without thereby connecting more neo-Platonic connotations. The Liber de causis, the high medieval Latin translation of a medieval Arabic script, contributed much to the spread of ideas emanatistischen ancient origin in Christian Europe.


In the Islamic world, the Arabic term was used fayd for the emanation. Among the Muslim philosophers, especially al-Farabi and Ibn Sīnā ( Avicenna ) emerged with emanatistischen models. Also, al -Kindi explained the creation emanatistisch. The " Brethren of Purity " represented a highly oriented at the ancient Neoplatonic doctrine of emanation. The Emanationsgedanke spread in philosophical circles, but also ran into strong opposition. Ibn Rushd ( Averroes ) rejected the Emanationskonzept strongly. The most famous opponent of Emanationsdenkens was the theologian al - Ghazali. Fakhr ad -Din ar - Razi argued against Avicenna's theory, Nasir al -Din Tusi aṭ - defended Avicenna's position against criticism ar - Razis.


An important role is played by the emanation in the neoplatonic interpretation of creation -oriented Jewish philosophers such as Isaac Israeli and Solomon ibn Gabirol, in the Ashkenazi Hasidism and Kabbalah. Isaac Israeli and ibn Gabirol accept the Neo-Platonic idea of ​​a gradual emanation which causes the world is hierarchically organized into the appropriate levels of existence. Under this concept, they assume that only the first and highest level of creation has been produced directly from God. When Isaac Israeli this uppermost level is the intellect, which is caused by the connection of the first form created by God with the also created the first ( spiritual ) matter. Ibn Gabirol also has the intellect and character to this position; but it varies with the question of whether the process of emanation from God himself, or by the created intellect emanates. The remaining steps down to the bottom, of matter are, sprung in the opinion of the two thinkers of the next higher level and thus have their origin only in God indirectly. Ibn Gabirol assumes additionally as mediating agency between God and the intellect to the will of God.

A Emanationsmodell also represents the partly Neo-Platonic, partly Aristotelian thinking philosopher Abraham bar Hiyya. After his teaching is the original outgoing light from God - a metaphysical principle - the factor that causes the individual processes of creation and directs. The Jewish Aristotelians Abraham ibn Daud suggested the creation also as an emanation, with only the highest Emanationsstufe seen directly from God. Even Maimonides uses a emanatistischen expression; He uses the metaphor of leak from a water source.

Modern Times

Even modern philosophers have interpreted the creation as an outflow of creation from God. Leibniz said it was " absolutely clear " that God is " constantly brings in a kind of emanation, as we produce our thoughts " the created substances. This emanation held Leibniz but not for natural necessity. Schelling noted that there was general consensus that the deity "infinite Mittheilsamkeit and Ausfließlichkeit is ". In the nature of God necessarily be two principles, " the ausquellende, ausbreitsame to imaging services, and an equally eternal power of selfhood, of going back on itself, the in -itself - Being ". He emphasized the discontinuous character of the emergence walking out of the Absolute, which he took as "jump" or " self- wrenched off ," and criticized the ontological basis of the Neoplatonic stage model. In contrast to the Neoplatonists Schelling pointed the process of proceeding of decline and historically.

Hegel takes up the ancient idea of ​​emanation. He called the Real explicitly as an emanation, but speaks to him from the divine character; the pure immanence of the Absolute in the world he excludes. The world is not an emanation of the Deity, but only as an emanation of the infinite division of the original transcendent unity, which, paradoxically, dividing the original unit let undivided. Plays an important role in Hegel's philosophy originating from Neoplatonism Trinity persistence, emergence and return, which he conceives to Proclus ' doctrine Following the structure of the concrete totality. Hegel starts from Proclus ' understanding that the Trinity is not only a formal organizational principle, but ontological structure and dynamic identity.

The First Vatican Council condemned in 1870 in the Dogmatic Constitution " Dei Filius " any kind of emanation: "Who says that finite things - both the physical and the spiritual, or at least the spiritual - are flowed from the divine substance, [ ... ] the be anathema. "