Creationism vs. emanationism

Anthony asked:

I read your article about emanationism:

I got questions.

What’s the difference between emanationism and creationism?

And what do you think about it?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

The real issue here is not what creationism and emanationism are, but why people argue about them. It is a wholly religious question; therefore (strictly speaking) you should stick with religious literature. As far as philosophy qua philosophy can go, neither of these doctrines has a place in it, as philosophy cannot prove the existence of any metaphysical being; and if you can’t do that, you have no pathways towards a sufficient and compelling demonstration.

Nevertheless, to keep it radically simple: Emanation means that the earthly presence of a divine being does not imply his/ her physical instantiation on earth. They are apparitions, and although (unlike ghosts) you might be able to touch them (e.g. “Supper at Emmaus”), your sense of touch involves hallucination. Creationism implies the opposite, namely the conversion of a spiritual energy into physical substance, so that this divine being actually walks on earth and is capable of physical discomforts like being wounded (cf. Aphrodite at Troy), yet destined to ascend back to their own native sphere when they are done with their earthly intervention.

In terms of science, both these notions are nonsense. Only the authority of theology vouches for them; otherwise we would be hard put to believe in them any more than the flying horses, talking trees and other ‘miracles’ of legendry. It leaves one other issue to be considered, of course, which is why some people invent them and others put their faith in them.

The answer is that the human faculties are divided, grosso modo, into perceptual and conceptual orders. The first concerns matters that we perceive, and must perceive in order to equip us for survival in the world. The other concerns ideas, images, thoughts etc., which represent what we have learnt from experience. The conceptual faculty is not in touch with the world, because it relies on the perceptual faculties for its store of information. Therefore when we think, imagine, day-dream and so on, we are not in ‘experience mode’, but in ‘manipulation mode’ with respect to the ideas in our mind. Hence contemplation can evolve anything at all, from the laws of science which enabled us to build flying machines, to creatures that exist only in the mind. And so anyone might also come up with ideas like ’emanationism’ and ‘creationism’ as pure mind constructs — as ‘noumena’ in Kant’s terminology, for which no-one can be obliged to furnish a specimen. But we can talk about them; and for many people this is sufficient to make them believe. C’est la vie!

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