An important inspiration for my work on Terranism is a fascination with western occultism’s tradition and ideas. Indeed, an important secondary reason for building Terranism is my fascination with magic, magick, the Craft, and other esoteric practices. However, a central tenet of occultism is the neoplatonic concept of the emanating Absolute, and I took issue with this.
Like many who leave Christianity, I found myself attracted to vocally atheist groups, not the least of which was The Satanic Temple. From their aesthetic appropriation of occultism, I found myself interested in a deeper working knowledge of this old and scary tradition. Emboldened by my ejection from everything I thought was true, I delved into study.
Oddly, I found the occult space eerily familiar. While the aesthetics ignited my imagination, their cosmology and metaphysics struck me as profoundly Christian, perhaps even more so. There is a restraint I felt in Protestantism about the workable value of supernatural belief. Every prayer was performed under the caveat that it would be really wonderful if God did something, but ultimately you had to seek help through practical means. God was far more reliable in subtle, spiritual matters than real physical needs or desires. By contrast, occultism threw that restraint out the window with endless methods for summoning demons, angels, spirits, and the like. The occultist in some ways has more faith than the Christian. Miraculously, God was portrayed more accurately within some occult traditions, becoming an obscured, total, and a truly ineffable entity unlike the cozy anthropomorphized version I was taught. It was a bit anticlimactic for me.
My disappointment stemmed from how I left Christianity. I did not leave Protestantism due to emotional, relational, or even institutional grounds. I left due to philosophical reasons. My study of the Bible brought me to the conclusion that it was an inadequate source of cosmic knowledge, and that naturalism is the most accurate description of the universe. Naturally then, occultism was an ill-fitting tool for me.
However, and perhaps this is where my story diverges from others, I was still convinced of religion’s value. Further, occultism has a deep history that is intertwined with science and a honest search for truth. I found an unsettled comfort in occultism; the water and oil mixture of spirituality and academic inquiry. In many ways I felt, and still do feel, as an occultist who is breaking new ground rather than treading old paths. If atheism couldn’t satisfy my spirituality and occultism couldn’t satisfy my naturalism, I would have to integrate them together into something new.
But what is this new thing? The easy answer is my Syntheist integration, but that is too imprecise. After some meditation about what, exactly, is the difference between my ideas and the traditional occultist ones, I have identified the difference between emanations and emergence as an important change.
I’ll use the Tree of Life to illustrate what I mean. Traditionally, Keter (the highest sephirot) is the Absolute from which the universe emanates. Where a Kabbalist would see the Tree of Life as describing the emanations outward from the Absolute (God), I would reinterpret it as a Syntheist. To me, an accurate reading would be to see it as flowing upwards rather than downwards. The Tree would represent emergence, where Malkuth is the foundation of all reality from which the sephirot above emerge out of. Universe begins with the mundane, with matter, and emerges into greater and greater bodies, each encapsulating the last. So then Malkuth would be re-understood as the Totality of all things. Keter would remain the Absolute, but in a different sense. Where traditionally Keter is primary, a syntheist reading would recognize it as secondary. Keter emerges out of the lower sephirot, and is dependent on them.
I must disclaim the use of The Tree of Life however. I do not feel comfortable appropriating the Tree of Life directly into Terranism (just as I don’t feel comfortable with Hermeticism doing the same). I am currently developing a diagram inspired by the Tree, and once I finish it up I will publish it with some Lore. My reason for using it in the meantime was simply to demonstrate the key difference in my cosmology between emanation and emergence.
All in all, I believe this sufficiently makes my point. What I find exciting about the emergence model is how it allows, and even encourages, all manner of healthy spiritual activity. As a naturalist, there is no need to restrain oneself from spiritual searching or practice when an emergent model of magic is available. What’s more, moral guidance is built into this model of the universe. Pro-social behavior is vitally essential for magic to take root and become effective. Destructive patterns of behavior cannot reliably work when magic is understood as emergent of the people composing it. The Absolute, or Terra in our case, is only possible through goodness, cooperation, and virtue. After all, if the foundation is tearing itself apart, how will the pillars stand?
TL;DR – My model of the universe has reality emerging upwards rather than emanating downwards.